Thursday, August 31, 2006

Olbermann on Rumsfield

Keith Olbermann responds to Donald Rumsfeld's speech to the American Legion:
The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld’s speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For in their time, there was another government faced with true peril—with a growing evil—powerful and remorseless.

That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the “secret information.” It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s -- questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England’s, in the 1930’s.

It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone England.

It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords.

It knew that the hard evidence it received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions — its own omniscience -- needed to be dismissed.

The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth.

Most relevant of all — it “knew” that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused.

That critic’s name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History — and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England — have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty — and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.

Thus, did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.

Excepting the fact, that he has the battery plugged in backwards.

His government, absolute -- and exclusive -- in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis.

It is the modern version of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today’s Omniscient ones.

That, about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely.

And, as such, all voices count -- not just his.

Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience — about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago, about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one year ago — we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their “omniscience” as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire “Fog of Fear” which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies have — inadvertently or intentionally — profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.

And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes?

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion we -- as its citizens— must now address, is stark and forbidding.

But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note -- with hope in your heart — that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a “new type of fascism.”

As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that -- though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.

This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute, I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed: “confused” or “immoral.”

Thus, forgive me, for reading Murrow, in full:

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” he said, in 1954. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

And so good night, and good luck.

There is a growing fascist threat, but it's not Islamic, it's homegrown and being nurtured by our right-wing government.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Former Presidents

Another former President reminds me why I remain a Democrat:
Since he left office more than five years ago at age 54, one of the youngest former presidents ever, Mr. Clinton has made a lasting mark in a cause that he came to only late in his presidency: fighting the AIDS pandemic across Africa and the world.
Carter and Clinton. Two Democrats who, though they were not perfect, governed with integrity and have used their time since to make the world a much better place.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Human Rights Campaign Gets Religion

I read some exciting news this morning! The HRC (Human Rights Campaign) the main nonprofit organization that advocates for GLBT equality is launching a new service on their website "Out in Scripture" to provide assistance with inclusive sermons and Bible study. It's going to be a free weekly feature which can be accessed at

As a part of their Religion and Faith Campaign this program is intended to be a resource for pastors who need more ideas for inclusive sermons and Bible studies as well as "an empowering resource for people in isolated situations or for those who belong to unsupportive congregations".

Maybe a secular organization can do what a religious organization can't. Bring religion and faith to the masses. I'm proud to be a card-carrying member of that new evangelical organization--The Human Rights Campaign!

The Meaning of "Progressive"

We have been running an ad in the City Pages for a new music director at Open Circle Church. In the ad we identified the church as "progressive" but much to my surprise have had a series of theologically conservative people respond who are shocked to find out we are a theologically liberal, glbt welcoming church. So, as you can see if you look at the ad online we have changed the language of the ad. So, what is the meaning of progressive, I wonder?

Government is not the problem

Frank Rich, author of What's the Matter with Kansas, makes a very good point in today's New York Times, about the need to be clear about what is wrong with the politicians in Washington today. It isn't the culture of Washington or something inherent about the machinations of government. It's the politicians who are cynical and corrupt:

Remember how President Reagan claimed to find terror in the phrase, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”? Or how the humorist P. J. O’Rourke won fame by declaring that even the proceedings of a New England town meeting were a form of thievery?

The true scoffer demands sterner stuff, though, and in the cold light of economic science he can see that government is not merely susceptible to corruption; government is corruption, a vile profaning of the market-most-holy in which some groups contrive to swipe the property of other groups via taxation and regulation. Politicians use the threat of legislation to extort bribes from industry, and even federal quality standards — pure food and so on — are tantamount to theft, since by certifying that any product in a given field won’t kill you, they nullify the reputations for quality and goodness that individual companies in the field have built up at great expense over the years.

The ideas I am describing are basic building blocks of the conservative faith. You can find their traces throughout the movement’s literature. You can hear their echoes in chambers of commerce across the land. But what happens when you elevate to high public office people who actually believe these things — who think that “the public interest” is a joke, that “reform” is a canard, and that every regulatory push is either a quest for monopoly by some company or a quest for bribes by some politician? What happens when the machinery of the state falls into the hands of people who laugh at the function for which it was designed?

The obvious answer is an auctioning-off of public policy in a manner we have not seen since the last full-blown antigovernment regime held office, in the 1920’s. Agencies and commissions are brazenly turned over to campaign contributors; high-ranking officers of Congress throw grander and gaudier fund-raisers even after being arraigned; well-connected middlemen sell access for unprecedented amounts.

What really worries me, though, is that our response to all this may be to burrow deeper into our own cynicism, ultimately reinforcing the gang that owns the patent on cynicism and thus setting us up for another helping of the same. This may not be apparent now, with the identity of the culprits still vivid and the G.O.P. apparently heading for a midterm spanking. Recall, though, that while the short-term effects of the Watergate scandal were jail sentences for several Republicans and the election of many Democrats to Congress in 1974, its long-term effect was the destruction of public faith in government itself and the wave that swept in Ronald Reagan six years later.

In the absence of a theory of corruption that pins the tail squarely on the elephant, this is certainly what will happen again. Conservatives are infinitely better positioned to capitalize on public disillusionment with the political system, regardless of who does the disillusioning. Indeed, the chorus has already started chanting that the real culprit in the current Beltway scandals is the corrupting influence of government, not conservative operatives or their noble doctrine. The problem with G.O.P. miscreants is simply that they’ve been in D.C. so long they’ve "gone native," to use a favorite phrase of the right; they are “becoming cozy with Beltway mores,” in The Wall Street Journal’s telling. If you don’t like the corruption, you must do away with government.

Government is not the problem. It's the people who are currently running the government who are the problem. We need to keep our language straight and clear on this lest we feed the anti-government conservative thought machine.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Embarrassing Christian Moment

Another embarrassing Christian moment:
The First Baptist Church (of Watertown, NY) dismissed Mary Lambert on August 9 with a letter explaining that the church had adopted an interpretation that prohibits women from teaching men. She had taught there for 54 years.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Death by Suburb

I'm part way through reading a book titled Death by Suburb written by a former pastor who writes for Christianity Today named David Geotz. The subtitle of the book is "How to Keep the Suburbs From Killing Your Soul". When I read the title of this book online last spring, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I had some ideas. Overconsumption? Probably one theme. Isolation? Probably another theme.

I went ahead and bought the book "on faith" and set it aside when it arrived due to a long list of other books I wanted/needed to read first. But last week I found myself exhausted from being overzealous on commitments to volunteering. Everything I was doing was important for someone or some organization--not that I'm invaluable, mind you--but it was just good causes and good work. Yet, I'd clearly overmatched myself and set myself up for frustration and depletion. As I crammed stuff into a backpack for a mother/daughter camping weekend with my oldest child, I grabbed the book. "What if I can't get to sleep, I worried, I'd better have something to read to keep me sane." Good thing--because the teens in the tents next to us were up past midnight laughing and talking. While our exhausted 9 yr. olds were fine, I was wide awake. So I read. I guess I'd subconsciously saved the book to read it for a time when it could most "speak" to me. The book isn't masterfully written but it has great references and a wonderful bibliography. I plan to read some of the books he references because of his use of them in his book. Geotz's life is not exactly my life, but it's not so different that I can't relate to his points. I carry my own brand of suburban dysfunctionality. I need to address it and I'm hoping this will be a place to start.

More of my "review" and what lessons I'm learning as I get further into the book....

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Benediction

Thanks to the Seeker's Church in Washington D.C. that had a very close--and updated for Progressive Christians--version of this benediction posted on their website under litergies that I found via Google.

I grew up hearing this simple message every Sunday morning at the end of worship. It is now permanently infused into my subconscious and I think it guides me in ways I can't always know. I couldn't remember all the words in my earlier posting this morning. Here they all are:


Go into the world in peace, have courage;
hold onto what is good;
return to no one evil for evil;
strengthen the fainthearted;
support the weak;
help the suffering;
honor all people;
love and serve God,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Bumper Stickers and Hope

Last night I pulled into the parking lot of a local pharmacy with my daughter to fill an Rx to relieve her bronchitis symptoms. There next to our van was an older compact car with some major wear and tear. It had several bumpers stickers on it. One of them read "Losing Faith in Humanity...One Person At a Time". (I believe this is a takeoff on a bumper sticker from the past with an opposite message "Restoring Faith in Humanity...One Person at a Time" or something like that.)

When I read this bumper sticker, my heart sank. How pessimistic, I thought. I wanted to find the owner of the car and give them a hug and ask them about their life. Not that I could solve any problems for them or make their life better, but I wanted to urge them not to lose their faith in humanity and that there are good people out and about who care about others individually and collectively. I wanted to know more about this person's life. I felt sorry for them. I wanted to try to give them some person at a time.

So we went into the pharmacy and there behind the counter was a Muslim woman pharmacy technician with a robe and scarf. She was shy but was helpful to each of the customers. Alongside her was another younger female pharmacy technician with spiked pink hair who was bold and outgoing. Both of these women had some nose jewelry, I believe. Also behind the counter was the middleclass middleaged pharmacist. All of them were polite, pleasant, and helpful to me as I tried to find a substitute for the particular brand of cough medicine the urgent care Dr. recommended which that store didn't carry. The drugstore was a mecca--a cultural crossroads of ages and races and lifestyles all working together in a pleasant way serving their customers. I hoped that whoever had the car with the bumper sticker either worked there and experienced this uplifting environment, or was a customer coming in for helped and was served by one of these pleasant people. Perhaps they had their hope renewed--or at least had the pleasant experience that I had while I was there.

Overall I try to remain hopeful and optimistic about my life and our collective humanity despite the conditions around our world. I try to maintain relationships with people who help me keep my 'float' of optimism going. I also try to "give as good as I get". I try to model good behavior for those who have lost that hope, who don't have good support systems around them, or who never had the situation as a child where there was hope or understanding so they have no frame of reference.

Somedays it seems like an impossible task--just too overwhelming. Somedays the problems of those around me seem to be more than I can buoy. Somedays the best I can do is "do no harm". And then there are the days I just plain fail and have to ask for forgiveness from those I've hurt. But more and more I feel like I fail less and less. And largely that is due to those around me who help me and give me hope. There is no way to thank them enough except to just continue to "giving as good as I get".

We must all do what we can to "Preserve Faith in Humanity...One Person at a Time". It made me think about the simple benediction that I used to hear in church every Sunday when I was growing up. It became my mantra, my prayer. Throughout the week I'd say it to myself sometimes or keep it close to me even if only in my subconscious.

"Hold fast to all that is good.
Return no one evil for evil,
Support the sick and
Help the suffering.
Honor all people."

There is more to this benediction that my aging mind can't remember now. Can somebody help me?

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Message is Sent

In Connecticut this week longtime senator Joseph Lieberman lost a primary election to political newcomer Ned Lamont. Pundits on both the left and the right have had a field day analyzing the meaning of this election. Is the Democratic Party being taken over by "the left wing?" Did voters want to send a message to President Bush about the war? Is Connecticut a fair barometer of the mood of the rest of the country?

I don't know the answer to any of these questions, but I will tell you what I hope is the meaning of this election. Joseph Lieberman was in many ways a great advocate for progressive causes. He was also, as he liked to remind us during the campaign, a senator who worked in a bipartisan manner. He seemed to be a genuinely nice man, well-liked by all who knew and worked with him.

But at a crucial moment in our nation's history Joe Lieberman let us down. He, along with almost all of his Democratic and Republican colleagues in Congress, failed to exercise their constitutional duty to act as a check on the executive branch, the President, in the lead up to taking our nation into war. Instead, he uncritically accepted the reasoning of the President and his advisors. For this he deserved to be held accountable.

Across the country, Americans disagree about many issues. The Congress, appropriately, reflects that disagreement. Democrats and Republicans answer to their constituents and do their best to represent them in making decisions for the country. Although I happen to agree with Democrats most of the time, I recognize that there are good people on both sides of the aisle, and I know good people can look at the same set of facts and come to different conclusions.

But we need something else from our elected representatives when it comes to making decisions about going to war. We are putting the lives of men and women in harm's way; we are threatening to kill others, soldiers, but certainly innocent civilians as well; we are putting our nation's financial health at risk as well, because modern warfare is incredibly expensive; and in an age when war can easily escalate out of control, we are always putting the peace and future of the world at risk when we think about going to war.

We need someone to represent us in government who will ponder this decision with the utmost seriousness. We need someone to ask what it will cost in lives and money, what is the worst case scenario if things don't go according to plan, and whether we have genuinely exhausted every other measure short of war. This is the most important job of our Congress. But it is abundantly evident that in the run-up to the most recent war in Iraq, our Congress failed to ask these questions. In a bipartisan manner, with very few exceptions, they jumped on the bandwagon and marched us off to a war that did not need to be fought, that was not well thought out, and that has had disastrous unintended consequences.

This should not be a partisan issue. Even if Democrats and Republicans and the country itself are divided about the issue of whether a particular war is justified, it is the job of every elected representative in Congress to put aside their partisan differences and join together in the effort to make sure that "this" war is absolutely the only possible response left to us. And when our representatives don't do this than I believe they do not deserve the honor of being our representative.

It is my hope that this is a message that every one of our elected representatives hears this

Brave New World

Sitting at the park with friends and neighbors last night watching our kids play together, we were talking about the arrests of the alleged terrorists in London and what it meant to us individually. Several of the people gathered there travel heavily for their work. For them, they must put aside the fears of terrorism because travel is their livelihood. Instead they focused on the practicality of what the new travel rules will mean for them.

One of them who likes to carry on as everything and check no luggage was upset because he'd have to start checking his luggage. Another was mourning their inability to bring on a bottle of water to drink during the flight. I haven't figured out how to break the news to my kids that grandma will no longer be able to buy them "bath treats" at the airport while she waits for her plane to depart and then give them to the girls when she arrives--as has been her custom (and their delighted expectation) for the past 6-7 years.

While intellectually I know that terrorists in Britain were not hired by Republican operatives to plot this attack at this particular moment in time, I couldn't help but count the days until election and speculate how this international incident would be used for U.S. partisan politics in the next 100 days until the November election.

In an op. ed. piece in the N.Y.Times today one writer was thinking the same thoughts and articulated it very well writing, "Here is what we want to do in the wake of the arrests in Britain. We want to understand as much as possible about what terrorists were planning. To talk about airport security and how to make it better. To celebrate what worked in the British investigation and discuss how to push these efforts farther. It would be a blessed moment in modern American history if we could do that without turning this into a political game plan."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Connecticut Votes Today

Today is a big day for Senator Joe Lieberman, the state of Connecticut, and perhaps the nation. Lieberman has been a good progressive voice on many issues, particularly regarding race, women's issues, and union support. But he is wrong on the war. And it goes beyond the fact that he joined most of his Democratic colleagues in their cowardly refusal to raise any tough questions about Bush's foreign policy before the war. He hasn't learned. And he has either refused or been unable to see how Bush has used foreign policy as a tool of partisan politics:

"The stance that, for a senator, politics ought to stop at the water's edge makes sense if and only if the president isn't playing politics with foreign policy," said William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution, who has often sided with Lieberman on intraparty battles but disagrees with him on the war.

"But this president and this administration manifestly have played politics with foreign policy, and their chief political adviser has been totally frank about that," he added. "I think it would have been permissible and even advisable for Joe Lieberman to conclude at some point that a bipartisan foreign policy has got to be a two-way street. He really didn't."

Because the war has become such a foreign and domestic policy disaster Leiberman needs to go.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The War on Terror is Over; We Won

That is what James Fallows argues in an interesting and provocative article in The Atlantic Monthly (subscription only). The gist of his long article is two-fold: first, although the threat of terrorism has not and will not go away, and the United States is going to remain vulnerable to more attacks, they will likely not be of the magnitude of 9/11. Why? Because there is no friendly place for terrorists to openly meet, plan, train, and carry out attacks. In addition, the United States and other countries have significantly ratched up their surveillance of communications, financial, and arms transactions. Here is how one intelligence expert explained it to Fallows:
Brian Michael Jenkins, a veteran terrorism expert at the RAND Corporation, recently published a book called Unconquerable Nation: Knowing Our Enemy, Strengthening Ourselves. It includes a fictional briefing, in Osama bin Laden’s mountain stronghold, by an al-Qaeda strategist assigned to sum up the state of world jihad five years after the 9/11 attacks. “Any al-Qaeda briefer would have to acknowledge that the past five years have been difficult,” Jenkins says. His fictional briefer summarizes for bin Laden what happened after 9/11: “The Taliban were dispersed, and al-Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan were dismantled.” Al-Qaeda operatives by the thousands have been arrested, detained, or killed. So have many members of the crucial al-Qaeda leadership circle around bin Laden and his chief strategist, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Moreover, Jenkins’s briefer warns, it has become harder for the remaining al-Qaeda leaders to carry out the organization’s most basic functions: “Because of increased intelligence efforts by the United States and its allies, transactions of any type—communications, travel, money transfers—have become more dangerous for the jihadists. Training and operations have been decentralized, raising the risk of fragmentation and loss of unity. Jihadists everywhere face the threat of capture or martyrdom.”
Because of this fragmentation, sympathetic terrorists must form self-starter cells and essentially work from the ground up with no opportunity for coordination. They can, and likely will, carry out attacks, but it won't be easy for them to collect the resources or escape notice if they want to do something big.

The real danger going forward, according to Fallows, is not that we will suffer a major attack, but that we will overreact to the threats and attacks that do come (and this was written before Israel's massive response to Hezbollah's rocket attacks and capture of soldiers):

In its past military encounters, the United States was mainly concerned about the damage an enemy could do directly—the Soviet Union with nuclear missiles, Axis-era Germany or Japan with shock troops. In the modern brand of terrorist warfare, what an enemy can do directly is limited. The most dangerous thing it can do is to provoke you into hurting yourself.

This is what David Kilcullen meant in saying that the response to terrorism was potentially far more destructive than the deed itself. And it is why most people I spoke with said that three kinds of American reaction—the war in Iraq, the economic consequences of willy-nilly spending on security, and the erosion of America’s moral authority—were responsible for such strength as al-Qaeda now maintained.

The longer we stay in Iraq, the more Abu Ghraib type incidents, the more we do the terrorists work for them. On regaining our moral authority, Fallows says:

The final destructive response helping al-Qaeda has been America’s estrangement from its allies and diminution of its traditionally vast “soft power.” “America’s cause is doomed unless it regains the moral high ground,” Sir Richard Dearlove, the former director of Britain’s secret intelligence agency, MI-6, told me. He pointed out that by the end of the Cold War there was no dispute worldwide about which side held the moral high ground—and that this made his work as a spymaster far easier. “Potential recruits would come to us because they believed in the cause,” he said. A senior army officer from a country whose forces are fighting alongside America’s in Iraq similarly told me that America “simply has to recapture its moral authority.” His reasoning:

The United States is so powerful militarily that by its very nature it represents a threat to every other nation on earth. The only country that could theoretically destroy every single other country is the United States. The only way we can say that the U.S. is not a threat is by looking at intent, and that depends on moral authority. If you’re not sure the United States is going to do the right thing, you can’t trust it with that power, so you begin thinking, How can I balance it off and find other alliances to protect myself?

America’s glory has been its openness and idealism, internally and externally. Each has been constrained from time to time, but not for as long or in as open-ended a way as now. “We are slowly changing their way of life,” Michael Scheuer’s fictional adviser to bin Laden says in his briefing. The Americans’ capital city is more bunkerlike than it was during World War II, he comments; the people live as if terrified, and watch passively as elementary-school children go through metal detectors before entering museums.

So the time has come to declare victory in the war on terror:
Very simply: by declaring that the “global war on terror” is over, and that we have won. “The wartime approach made sense for a while,” Dearlove says. “But as time passes and the situation changes, so must the strategy.”
We need to keep war for short-term focused and major military efforts against enemies, where all the nations resources are focused on winning, and where universal sacrifice is necessary and expected from the American public.

In addition, maintaining a wartime mentality keeps us in a heightened state of anxiety that saps our energy and morale. It also predisposes us to look at all threats through the lens of a military response. And it makes it likely that at some point we will suffer a "defeat."

The time has come, Fallows, says for a long-term approach that emphasizes our non-military strengths: our high moral standing in the world as a practitioner of democracy and protector of freedom, and our economic engine of growth and transformation.

It is difficult for me to argue with anything Fallows says. But it will never happen until we have a new administration in place. For one thing, Fallows doesn't address in this article the way the Bush administration has intentionally used the war-time mentality as a political tool for partisan victory at home and as an excuse for using the military abroad. For another, can anyone imagine the response Bush would get if he stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier or in the Oval Office and declared victory in the war on terror? He would be ridiculed out of office; he has the lost the moral intregity to be able to make those kinds of announcements. And finally, it's just not going to happen until Bush is gone because it is beyond his capabilities as a leader to take this country through this kind of transformation.

But after Bush, we can hope for leadership that takes us in the direction that Fallows suggests we need to go.

Companies Going Green

Our federal government may have its head in the sand on climate change, but corporations are catching on fast:

When bank executive Gary J. Saulson told his project team that he wanted to turn a partly constructed operations center in Pittsburgh into a "green" building, they called him "well-intentioned" -- but "crazy."

Five years later, no one is questioning Saulson's sanity. Thanks to midcourse changes in the building's design, materials, lighting, and heating and cooling systems, the 647,000-square-foot steel, stone and curved glass structure overlooking the Monongahela River spends $1.5 million a year on utilities -- 26 percent less per square foot than one of the bank's comparable standard buildings.

Today, Saulson, director of corporate real estate for PNC Financial Services Group Inc., is overseeing the construction of new "green" PNC branches.

Green construction and renovation techniques are spreading in the commercial real estate industry. Innovations -- such as sun-reflecting ceramic dots in windows, giant vats of ice for overnight energy storage, plant-covered rooftops, bigger eaves and compact fluorescent lighting -- are being used in structures ranging from an unassuming PNC branch that opened last month in Ashburn to the new Bank of America building that will soon be New York City's second-tallest skyscraper. The new designs have been spurred not only by concerns for the environment but also by the cold, hard calculation of the potential savings in energy bills.

"It's prudent on many levels," said Kathy Barnes, senior vice president for property management at Akridge, which has 18 commercial buildings in the Washington area. "We all have a civic responsibility." And, she added, "if we're not doing it, we're not going to be competitive in the marketplace."

It saves money and it saves the planet. Imagine what we could do if our government got behind a "going to the moon" kind of effort to support investment in green technologies.

So Long Floyd

Backup tests on Tour de France winner Floyd Landis appear to confirm the presence of elevated levels of testosterone. His team has fired him, and he will likely be stripped of his title. He maintains his innocence, but unconfirmed reports suggest the presence of synthetic drugs. He will continue to fight it, but it doesn't look good.

Landis got the benefit of the doubt from me because he was Mennonite. Growing up in Amish/Mennonite country, there is a certain aura of integrity about the "plain people." But this is just a small reminder that before he was Mennonite he was human, and sometimes even humans who are Mennonite cheat.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Ohio 18 Year Old Apologizes for Dad's Attack on Strickland

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a story about a Republican staffer, since fired, who suggested in e-mails that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland was gay. The staffer's 18 year old daughter wrote a letter of apology to Strickland and his wife:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Strickland:

I wanted to publicly apologize for the attacks in my father's email and the negative media that followed. Although I am a Republican and support Ken Blackwell in this race, I am ashamed of the way my father played his part in the elections. I know first-hand the hurt and anger caused by biting accusations such as these from my father as some have been directed at me. I am so sorry that this email has stained your reputation in this manner. The email my father sent was immature and embarrassing. I am also sorry that his response to the public outrage was further defense, not a humble apology.

Mrs. Strickland, I want to encourage you specifically and give whatever comfort I can. I respect your relationship with your husband and I'm so sorry for the hurt this has caused you. As women, we are called to respect our husbands and be their help-meet (sic); thank you for staying with your husband through his political career despite the public's harsh critiques and impatience.

I have come to understand that as an 18 year old at college and living a life apart from my father, I am not responsible for my father's actions. However, I still want to extend my hand to you even if it is just to let you know I do not agree nor take part in my father's words against both of you. I will be praying for you throughout this election and that God's will be done.

In His grace,

Lauren Lankford

Senate Minimum Wage, Estate Tax Bill Fails

Rarely has the true heart of today's Republican Party been so shamelessly exposed as it was in the Senate bill that tacked a minimum wage increase onto an effort to limit estate taxes. Republicans are so desperate to shield the super-rich from paying taxes that they were willing to throw a bone to the millions of Americans who work for a minimum wage; they believed that after having no minimum wage increase for 9 years, Democrats would jump at the chance to support the bill even if it meant giving away billions more to the rich.

Thankfully the Dems didn't bite. We don't need any more legislation that widens the rapidly increasing gap between rich and poor. There is nothing wrong or immoral about being rich. But there is also nothing wrong or immoral with asking those who have the most, especially those who are exceedingly wealthy, to contribute more for the well-being of society. In fact, it is the right and moral thing for a just society to do.

Pat Roberston a Believer

In global warming:

The Reverend Pat Robertson says he hasn't been a believer in global warming in the past, but this summer's record-breaking heat is -- quote -- "making a convert out of me."

On his "700 Club" broadcast, Robertson said, "It is getting hotter, and the icecaps are melting and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air."Switching sides on an issue that divides evangelical Christians, Robertson said, "We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels."The religious broadcaster told viewers, "If we are contributing to the destruction of this planet, we need to do something about it."
Good for him.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Jimmy Carter Speaks the Truth

Jimmy Carter speaks out on the current crisis in the Middle East:
...Tragically, the current conflict is part of the inevitably repetitive cycle of violence that results from the absence of a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, exacerbated by the almost unprecedented six-year absence of any real effort to achieve such a goal.

Leaders on both sides ignore strong majorities that crave peace, allowing extremist-led violence to preempt all opportunities for building a political consensus. Traumatized Israelis cling to the false hope that their lives will be made safer by incremental unilateral withdrawals from occupied areas, while Palestinians see their remnant territories reduced to little more than human dumping grounds surrounded by a provocative "security barrier" that embarrasses Israel's friends and that fails to bring safety or stability.

The general parameters of a long-term, two-state agreement are well known. There will be no substantive and permanent peace for any peoples in this troubled region as long as Israel is violating key U.N. resolutions, official American policy and the international "road map" for peace by occupying Arab lands and oppressing the Palestinians. Except for mutually agreeable negotiated modifications, Israel's official pre-1967 borders must be honored. As were all previous administrations since the founding of Israel, U.S. government leaders must be in the forefront of achieving this long-delayed goal.

A major impediment to progress is Washington's strange policy that dialogue on controversial issues will be extended only as a reward for subservient behavior and will be withheld from those who reject U.S. assertions. Direct engagement with the Palestine Liberation Organization or the Palestinian Authority and the government in Damascus will be necessary if secure negotiated settlements are to be achieved. Failure to address the issues and leaders involved risks the creation of an arc of even greater instability running from Jerusalem through Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran.

The people of the Middle East deserve peace and justice, and we in the international community owe them our strong leadership and support.

A Pox on Stem-Cell Research

An op-ed writer in today's New York Times likens President Bush's "moral" opposition to stem cell research to religious figures in the 18th century who opposed innoculations against small-pox on religious grounds:

The word “smallpox” once implied all the horror of a murderous infection against which people had little remedy. A 19th-century historian called it “the most terrible of all the ministers of death.”

Smallpox’s legacy of misery obsessed the English doctor Edward Jenner. Born in 1749, Jenner spent years hunting for ways to conquer, or at least prevent, the dread disease. He gathered anecdotal evidence from patients and strangers, including milkmaids, who appeared protected from smallpox by their exposure to a related, but milder, infection called cowpox. He also studied the folk medicine practice of inoculation, in which pus from smallpox pustule was rubbed into an opening scratched in the skin of an uninfected person.

Other doctors were also exploring the idea of inoculation, but Jenner went further, conducting experiments in the mid-1790’s. He designed a procedure using fluid from cowpox lesions to inoculate against smallpox. His approach was untested, but Jenner believed it offered the potential to become “essentially beneficial to mankind.”

The religious authorities of Jenner’s day viewed smallpox inoculation as an affront to God and man. A widely published British sermon was titled “The Dangerous and Sinful Practice of Inoculation.” American clergy warned that inoculation usurped God’s power to decide the beginning and end of life. Only hypocrites would undergo the procedure and still pray to God, one theologian declared.

Jenner responded with a risky demonstration of his idea. In 1796, the doctor persuaded his own servant to allow the man’s 8-year-old son to be inoculated with cowpox material; two months later, Jenner exposed the child to smallpox.

The experiment was a success. Moreover, the child remained immune to smallpox even after the doctor exposed him to it a second time. The doctor himself, however, was reviled. Clerics denounced him as a tool of the devil. Newspapers ridiculed him as “a presumptuous man” overselling his results; one cartoonist portrayed him as a country bumpkin surrounded by patients sprouting cow parts.

Even some of his medical colleagues questioned whether he might have gone too far. In retrospect, one can easily imagine Jenner’s brilliant idea sinking under the combined weight of moral antipathy and scientific disdain.

Instead, the doctor persevered and triumphed. Not by hyping the potential of his ideas, as some stem cell supporters occasionally have done, but by doggedly gathering more evidence based on more inoculations. Fueled by his success, the practice spread, and smallpox rates plummeted. In time, the life-saving merits of inoculation eventually overwhelmed all doubt; the evidence, Jenner wrote, became “too manifest to admit of controversy.”

Let's hope history repeats itself.

Bible Quoting Dems

I caught this article in the Indianapolis Star about Democrats whose Christian faith is informing their progressive politics. But I had to wonder about the blatant bias of the columnist:
It may be puzzling to non-Bible readers, but many Christians and Jews take the Scriptures seriously and look to it for God's answers to the world's problems. Make fun of that assumption if you like, but Democrats are listening to their critics, looking at election losses and learning to take this view of the world more seriously.

That explains why some people in this Democrats-can-have-faith-too movement are appealing to the Bible for a minimum wage hike. The Bible doesn't address the topic directly, but the Scriptures do speak about the principle of just wages and fair treatment of workers.

In Indiana the attempt to revive the Bible among Democrats may take on a little different shape, especially in southern Indiana. Former House Speaker John Gregg of Vincennes is unashamed both of his Christian faith and his Democratic Party affiliation. Since stepping down as speaker, he has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the seat in Congress now held by Republican Rep. John Hostettler. "I'm a Bible-quoting, gun-toting Democrat," he likes to tell people, emphasizing that he can compete with Republicans for the faith and values voters in a conservative state.

Similarly, state Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington, is articulate about her Christian faith and sees reflection of the Bible in her party's traditional stance on justice issues. When she jumped into politics with her first race in 1998, some conservative Republican friends wondered how she could be a Democrat. Isaiah 1:17 became a key passage, "Learn to do right. Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."

"That helped me see that the long-held Democratic Party principles are in the Bible -- to take care of those who can't take care of themselves," she said.

Welch, Gregg and other conservative Democrats in Indiana already tend to side with Republicans on family values issues such as abortion or gay marriage. The challenge for the national party will be whether a faith-based approach will be permitted to challenge the traditional orthodoxy of a right to abortion. Historically, the party has a tradition of standing up for the little person.

Yet until the little one in the womb is recognized as a human being, Democrats are going to have a hard time gaining a strong appeal to this group of voters in national campaigns.
The little one in the womb? Maybe this was an opinion piece. I also liked the "bible-quoting, gun-toting" line.