Tuesday, August 30, 2005


I'm sitting here in Cleveland and I'm waiting to hear news, real news about what's happened in the south... I'm a southerner and my family and many of my friends are there... Everybody seems to be ok, just no power or gasoline... It's raining here now. They say it's what's left of Katrina... this water that falls softly on us now, yesterday changed the lives of too many people...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

To the City of New Orleans, et.al...

We love you. We're thinking of you... All our prayers are with you. May the dawn find you well.

New Posts...

It's fall and my schedule always gets busy this time of year so my posts will undoubtedly be less frequent. I'm hoping though to do at least one a week, probably on Sundays...

On American Patriotism...

David asked me why “Traveling to Casablanca…”

In the film, Casablanca is a fictional place, therefore a place of the mind… it is a weigh-station, a point of transition on the journey to a hoped for freedom…


Politics is about the exchange of power, whether that exchange is granted willingly or through force. Everyday we play political “games.” We make deals in even our most intimate relationships. Very rarely can we enter into a conversation without these exchanges taking place… When I speak… if you listen, then you relinquish power for a moment. I do the same when I choose to listen to you.

To whom will we give power, and from whom will we take it? What is to be gained or lost? It is this exchange which forms the basis of the social contract. The “social contract” exists in theory for some, but in the United States it is an explicit contract. The People’s right to dissolve and/or to establish such a contract was first instituted by the Declaration of Independence and it is in this document that the ideals of our national character were first put forward.

As school children in Government classes we studied this document but perhaps without absorbing its true meaning and the responsibility it places on us as citizens:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security…

This eloquent document remains strikingly relevant. It has implications for U.S. affairs both domestic and foreign. Civil rights are laid bare—the pursuit of happiness, not for some, but for all, as simple as that. The question of “nation building” as a foreign policy “… it is the right of the people (any people)… to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

And just as striking as the relevance of these phrases is that, in this time of flags, we find written between this document’s lines, just what it means to be a patriot. We are given to understand that to be an American patriot is to assist in the perfection and ensure the continuation of the political experiment Lincoln called a “… government of the people, by the people, for the people…” Our founders understood what was required to guard against despotism and the misuse of power. They carefully articulated the mechanisms to do this in the Constitution and its amending Bill of Rights. Imbedded in these rights are the responsibilities of citizenship… an outline of the requirements for the stewardship of our liberty.

The exercise of these rights and their ability to function as a check on the power of government presupposes an educated and well-informed population. A free citizenry is an informed citizenry with the capacity to critically evaluate that information. Patriotism requires the active pursuit of knowledge, a willing awareness of the doings of one’s government and an objective analysis of governmental policies as they relate to the ideals set forth by our founders.

A very real part of our ability to maintain freedom is the critique of government. A government existing without dissent is despotism. It is undoubtedly with this understanding that Article III of the Bill of Rights was written…

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

As citizens we must hold ourselves accountable… We must ensure that our sources of information are objective and thorough and yet the “news” we listen to is too often cluttered with the sensational and the superficial. It is sanitized for our protection. We do not know, and few ask, how many in addition to our own, have died in this war in Iraq… We digest the sound bite; the easily remembered string of words that is a response to the questions we cannot answer… but Who are we as a people, and what is it that we will stand for? We consume, we consume, we consume, we tear down and build again and spew forth and worry about how to pay for it all… We tie education to property taxes and those professions that most guard our future security, those of educator and care giver, are our least valued and most underpaid. We are tittering on the edge…

We are a kind and generous people living in a country founded on great principles … but we have been misled by those that would make us hard and intolerant… We have lost the rebellion of our founders and have been diverted on our path toward realizing the possibilities of the great experiment.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pat Robertson

Is it possible that any person other than Pat Robertson could more fully embody the dangers of Fundamentalist Christianity?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Revolution has Begun

A revolution is in order, one that replaces the current culture of consumption and profit-taking. What is valued… what constitutes a life worth living, must be adjusted. From buildings to people, we tear down and destroy to suit our momentary whims. How can we feel secure in a world without continuity; without concern for our fellows. It is a big picture… The short term, the pragmatic decision is not always (is rarely) the right decision.

Let us fight the good fight…

Determine to preserve… Make war with your pocket-book… Don’t support companies whose practices you disagree with. Support sustainable culture…

If you really want to fight terrorism… cut fuel consumption.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Why does he keep saying that?!

Bush keeps tying the war in Iraq to 9/11...

The U.S. congress brought impeachment proceedings against Clinton for sex... How much more obscene is this? At least be honest about why our soldiers and countless Iraqis are dying...

Friday, August 19, 2005

Bush and the Reasons for the War in Iraq

The U.S. goal for Iraq, which is, by anyone’s assessment, to establish a democratic, western-style state, that, rather than acting as a breeding ground for terrorists, is a secure ally… is a goal that cannot possibly be met in the near term. What is currently being established in Iraq appears, fearfully enough, to be a state that, on some level, will be heavily influenced by Iran and fundamentalist Islam.

George W. Bush believed that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, had weapons of mass destruction.

Of course he did… everyone believed it. Probably because Hussein wanted other countries to believe it… Undoubtedly Hussein thought that such a notion would provide a deterrent against invasion. The flaw here is not in what Bush believed or didn’t believe (whether or not he lied about WMDs), but what he chose to do with that perceived information. Other world leaders chose to deal with that perception in a very different manner. Europe, for instance, was willing to follow a path of containment… A path President Clinton had followed as well.

Bush’s “lie” was not in whether he believed that Hussein was a ruthless despot who had victimized his own people… He did not “lie” about Hussein’s desire to obtain Weapons… The lie was in how this perception was presented to the American people and the rhetoric leading up to the war that consistently, and unrelentingly, coupled Hussein’s name with the attacks of 9/11.

The lie was also in why we were going to war. It was not because Hussein presented a direct threat, but because Iraq seemed, based on the intelligence provided by Chalabi (and others), ready to overthrow Hussein, welcoming of an American presence and modernized to a degree that would make it sympathetic to Western interests. Iraq was a prime piece of real-estate that, if an ally, could provide a base for the U.S. to operate in the Middle East.

Bush didn’t present these reasons for going to war because the ideas were too complicated, he thought, for the American people to understand. Bush is a firm believer in the sound-bite. He believes in speaking to the American people on a seventh grade level in an accent that suggests a working class background and in invoking language reminiscent of Baptist sermons. (How on earth did such a working-class Texan come from a father who didn’t know what a scanner in a grocery store was or how to eat a tamale and whose family has a long Northeastern history? Why doesn’t anyone else in his family share George W.’s accent?)

Bush is guilty not so much of lying to the American public as he is of a catastrophic failure in judgment. He was naïve about the political situation in Iraq before the start of the war. He didn’t understand, and did not take the time to find out, that Iraq was, and is, a factionalized country and that it was this factionalism that allowed Hussein to maintain power. There was no unified resistance to Hussein.

The Bush administration seems equally naïve about what is currently driving the struggle between radical Islam and the West. Underlying terrorism is a conflict in ideologies. Our failure to examine what motivates a terrorist is the very thing that renders our efforts against terrorism only partially effective. Why are these people willing to die in order to kill those who they see as the enemy? Is it a reaction to globalization; to the gangrene like spread of Western music, video games, movies and perceived values; to our desire to spread our “way of life”… Does the American image really reflect America? Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Grand Theft Auto… is this who we are?

And what about the image of Christianity? Does the politicizing of religion and the rhetoric that goes along with it… does that help or hurt our cause? (Does it do Christianity any great good or reflect accurately its tenets?)

How do we reconcile the violence and intolerance of our own culture, as well as the aims of capitalism/consumerism with the values we profess to uphold?

Bush believes in his rightness. He believes that he hasn’t made any mistakes… He leveraged the loss of the lives on 9/11 to promote an ill-conceived war in Iraq. He doesn’t question the course of his actions, but I think maybe we should…

Let us do what is difficult…let us be leaders in peace…

Friday, August 12, 2005

ways of life...

Ok, does anyone remember when George W. Bush said that global warming was based on shaky science? Does anyone still believe that?

We seemed to have slipped into blissful ignorance. Ignore it and it will go away… Bush’s reason for not going along with the Kyoto, it will harm the U.S. economy. Can the road we’re on lead to anything but economic and environmental disaster? What will our economy look like when we’ve destroyed the environment?

CNN report on Bush’s position on the Kyoto Treaty…

BBC report on U.S. gas consumption…

What would happen if we each adopted one or two practices to reduce energy consumption? Instead of taking on the whole thing individually, we could each do those things we’re comfortable with…

Energy saving bulbs…
Take public transportation once a week, twice a month…
Perhaps walk to work…
Take two days a week and turn down the air conditioner (the heat)…

Pressure our government to adopt the Kyoto Protocol…

When do we accept responsibility? When do we lead?

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Of interest…

Fresh Air: Terry Gross’s interview with Rusty Sachs, a Vietnam veteran who participated in the anti-war protests that also included John Kerry. Sachs is one of the vets featured in the 1971 documentary Winter Soldier that dealt with these protests and which is being re-released.

Winter Soldier site

It was terribly frustrating during the last presidential election to hear John Kerry vilified for condemning U.S. Vietnam War atrocities during 1970s’ war protests. His critics acted as if he had been unpatriotic to speak out and implicit in their criticisms was the fiction that such atrocities never occurred. I respect John Kerry for his courage in the 70s. I am disappointed that Kerry stayed on the defensive during the elections and didn’t have the same balls he had as a younger man. Of course, in retrospect, it’s easy to say he made a mistake by distancing himself from his earlier anti-war activities… He was trying to get elected afterall…

What I find most disturbing, however, is our ability to forget: 300 years of slavery, a policy of genocide against the American indigenous peoples, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and (in light of the war in Iraq) Vietnam… Is it unpatriotic to hope we will uphold those ideals of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” that we claim as our own? If we allow ourselves to believe it is wrong to hold our government to a higher standard through our speech and our actions then we will never be the people we hope to be…

My Lai massacre…

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Iraq... a culture of life?

In 2003 I spent time knocking on doors for “moveon.org.” My instructions were to ask people who they were voting for… (A waste of time if you ask me. I should have been asking them to vote FOR Kerry.) Those who told me they were voting for Bush invariably said it was because he was a Christian. Many went on to tell me they hoped “Roe v. Wade” would be overturned. The edge that allowed Bush to reach beyond the Republican base was “Christianity.”

A culture of life…


Whenever I hear the latest casualty reports,… whenever I wonder how many Iraqi civilians have died… I think about Cheney and the seemingly endless interviews he gave leading up to this war. Does anyone remember how smugly he assured us that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? Who remembers his relentless linking of Iraq to 9/11…


Bush and Cheney thought the Iraqi people would welcome us with open arms… A simple plan… if we could set up a modern, stable, democratic, U.S. friendly state in the middle-east, then the U.S. would have a base to operate from and it would be easier to stabilize the area. A happy extra would be the possibility of breaking OPEC’s control of oil prices. The administration made no plans for a post-invasion Iraq… choosing to believe expatriates such as Ahmed Chalabi, now Iraq’s interim minister for oil and a deputy prime minister, who assured them the Iraqi people would be so grateful to be relieved of Hussein they would gladly support the U.S. invasion… a short war, no need for a post war plan. Much of the U.S. pre-war intelligence on Iraq came from Chalabi. (– a quick look at his resume should have given us a clue how dependable he was.)

The problem, of course, is that we are now embroiled in an ongoing conflict which has not only distracted us from the real “war on terror,” it has served as a rallying point for those that would vilify us. A country that was previously dominated by an egomaniacal dictator, is currently destabilized, with fluid borders and American and British soldiers providing ready targets for the zealots of Islamist fundamentalism.

And now, can we really leave that we’ve created a haven for terrorists? Can we, in all good conscience, leave? Is there an answer to this? (I think I’ve finally decided that leaving is the only option.)

The only way we can win the war on terror is by being the “good guys.” When will we turn our attention to the problems of the world… If we take the high road… If we had rehabilitated Afghanistan… If we attacked genocide wherever we find it… If we follow a course of generosity and true leadership… How can we be vilified?

Imagine a culture that protects (existing) life.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Politics of Jesus... aka: scary rant

Politicized Christianity is a very real and powerful tool that operates within the machinery of contemporary U.S. power struggles. It is a movement that is frequently acknowledged by pundits and taken advantage of by politicians. Yet very rarely is this “Christian” agenda publicly scrutinized to determine how closely it reflects what it purports to represent, the teachings of Jesus. In an odd sort of way it has become the elephant in the living-room. It’s there. Everyone knows it’s there. Yet, probably as the result of a cultural hypersensitivity to religion, Christian issues are rarely directly evaluated. The only question posed involves determining whether a given issue is or is not part of the accepted Christian agenda. Since Christian faith is the determining factor for how many Americans will vote, then perhaps current issues should be considered directly in relation to the teachings of Jesus. It would seem that an important question for Christian voters to consider would be, based on his words as recorded in the New Testament, what stance can it be safely assumed that Jesus would take in relation to any specific issue? Of course the question ultimately arises, is it even possible to argue that Jesus would support direct political involvement?

In terms of the fundamental question of direct political involvement, it is interesting to note that there seems to be no place in the Bible where Jesus calls on the government to act in a particular way. He never asks the government to enact laws to change behavior. He seems, in fact, to support freewill and Jesus, rather than legislating behavior, calls for individual/personal change and a concern for how people act toward one another. When He speaks of government, He does so as a true outsider. He is in no way a part of an earthly power structure nor does He seek a position within that structure and, alternatively, He does not seem to advocate that His followers seek such positions. His statements, concerning worldly government, are generally along the lines of those found in Matthew 18, verses 25 through 27, and Matthew 22, verses 17 through 21; in which He tells Peter that tribute (tax) is collected from those that are “strangers” to the “King(s)”, and not from the “children” of the “King(s)”. He asks Peter, are not the children of the King free? He goes on to say “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” What we get from this is that the children of God are strangers to the earthly Kings, but not to the Heavenly Ruler, and they are free in that they are the children of this greater King. Consequently the children of God owe nothing of real value to the earthly Kings. The value of the money used to pay taxes comes from the authority of the worldly government that issues it, in this case Caesar. Its value does not come from God and is therefore not a thing of God. This has interesting implications for Christians concerned with taxes, and the distribution of resources.

Assuming that Jesus would support direct political involvement, there often seems to be an inconsistency present in much of current American Christian Politics, an inconsistency emphasized in the preceding citations. Somehow the ideals of a market-based society have become intertwined with what is considered a Christian agenda. The “bottom-line” is seen as being as important as the right or wrong of many social issues. The lines between economic conservatism, political conservatism, and capitalism have become increasingly blurred. Voters, whether Christian or otherwise, will often vote based on their “pocket-books”. Frequently the same political platform that is “Pro-life” will oppose certain environmental or health care initiatives on the grounds that the cost will be too great.

Over and over again in His teachings, Jesus admonishes His followers not to trust in worldly riches (Mark 10, verses 17 through 27), not to value too much the wealth of the world, for it is fleeting. He directly tells one follower to sell everything he has and give it to the poor, in order to receive eternal life – such an act could not be described as economically conservative. If Jesus can be said to have a political agenda then it is based on the need to care for the poor. No where does he say this more clearly than in Matthew 25, verses 34 through 40; where essentially He tells His followers that anything they have done for the poor (the “least”), they have also done for Him and it will be remembered. If this approach is to be applied to a larger political agenda; where would statements like this put Jesus on issues such as Universal Health Care or Social Security?

If we are to look at homosexuality or other questions of lifestyle – not to debate the rightness or wrongness of these choices – but to discuss how tolerant we should be of those who might make these choices, what did Jesus say that applies? Matthew 7, verses 1 through 4: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” In Mark 10, verses 26 and 27; when asked who can be saved? Jesus replies, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” This suggests that human beings are incapable of being sin-free and as a result are unable to “save themselves.” According to the teachings of Jesus, it is only through God’s forgiveness and tolerance that humans are capable of being “saved.” If we want to be forgiven – to be accepted by God – then Jesus would suggest that we had better forgive and accept as we would have God forgive and accept us (Mark 11, verses 25 through 26). In Jesus’ teachings no distinction is made between the severity of types of sin – merely an acknowledgement of the inherent sinful nature of all humans; an admonishment to try to do better and above all to take care of one another. In other words, it seems that Jesus would have us not be so concerned with the sins of others, but with our own sins and our treatment of our fellows.

And what would the Prince of Peace say about Pre-emptive war? How would He feel about our invasion of Iraq? Luke 6, verses 27 through 38 says, in part, “… Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away they cloak forbid not to take they coat also…” And when Jesus was being taken by the Romans, he said to Peter (Matthew 26, verse 52), “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” What sort of foreign policy does this offer?

No one, of course, should be persuaded by these tentative examinations of current issues but it suggests that religion has too often been used to promote political ends. If Christianity is to be used as the source of authority for any political agenda, then this is a relevant and necessary public debate. We need to ask ourselves what can we do to foster an environment in which this sort of discourse might move forward unencumbered and with a place for all voices – Christian and otherwise. Are not pluralism, tolerance, and an open forum for debate, among the central principals on which the United States was founded? If we are true patriots, then these are the ideals we should strive to attain.

* All Biblical references taken from the King James Version of the New Testament.

Monday, August 08, 2005


There is a space between the Romantic and Pragmatic in which it is possible to live a life that is worthy of the human soul.

Television, movies, entertainment; something to think about so we don’t have to think; I wonder how did we get here? How did it happen that a few hold power and the many don’t question? Looking back on history it seems it has always been so – those in power have always benefited from the unwillingness of the many to look beneath the surface. The powerful have always benefited from those who find comfort in a leader who will tell them that the course they follow is right, justified and good. As long as the masses do not suffer overly much, as long as those that benefit can put out of mind the “others” that might be repressed, as long as there is something to think about that is not too dark and that does not disturb too much the tranquility, then power remains where it is.

How can it be wrong if so many others believe as I do?

I wonder how many leaders have invoked the name of their god or the fates to justify their actions. "We are called to… We have a divine task before us…" When do we question?

What would society look like if it aspired to some higher ideal? To care for – to preserve – to value the lives and accomplishments of even the most humble; shouldn’t that be our goal? How can anyone argue that we have a democracy when the legal system, the health system, the educational system works most effectively for those possessing wealth? Who has access to power? How rare and determined must a poor person be to rise up in the ranks – to gain education, to be elected? At what point will we question this status quo?