Wednesday, May 28, 2008

But which prayers?

I received another one of those e-mails urging me to back prayer in the schools. This one began with a take off of the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb and so I got sucked into reading it.

I usually delete these e-mail campaigns but because this one was forwarded by a friend in Australia I found myself writing a reasoned reply. You want prayers in the schools? But what prayers? Do we rotate to give equal time to all or base it upon the majority of kids in the classroom?

I frankly have nothing against prayer at various events. I frankly find invocations comforting at the beginning of conferences where weighty issues are going to be discussed. And I have attended many a twelve step meeting that ended with the holding of hands and the recital of The Lord's Prayer. I love attending churches of different denominations and bowing my head in reverence along with everyone else.

Unfortunately the people that are most advocating prayer in the schools are not just about these moments of shared quiet or inspiration. Prayer in school campaigns have noting to do with the belief in God. They are the about the desire of certain fundamentalist Christian sects that want to make our government a theocracy. In that theocracy it would be a capital offense (death penalty) to utter any prayer but the one they approved. In fact texting OMG would be taking the Lord's name in vain and get you hauled before a tribunal.

All other religions but theirs or any prayer to other than Jesus would be a capital offense. So no Zen mediation. No Muslim bows to the east. No Shaloms. It would be a death penalty offense to call God Allah or any other name used currently by the many religions of this world. It would be a crime to be a Hebrew or a Buddhist or a Gnostic or a Wiccan.

I found it interesting that this particular e-mail campaign chose Mary had a little lamb. It's fleece was white as snow . . .
In their perfect world where prayer was back in the schools there would be no other colors of lambs. All the black and brown and red fleeces of lambs would be gone. Doesn't this sound a lot like Hitler and his chosen Aryan people?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Let's hear it for intolerance

I was speed reading through the political news on the Internet this morning and ran across the following item:

Despite his call for the U.S. to win the "hearts and minds of the Islamic world," Sen. John McCain recruited the support of an evangelical minister who describes Islam as "anti-Christ" and Mohammed as "the mouthpiece of a conspiracy of spiritual evil."

McCain sought the support of Pastor Rod Parsley of the World Harvest Church of Columbus, Ohio at a critical time in his campaign in February, when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was continuing to draw substantial support from the Christian right.

At a campaign appearance in Cincinnati, McCain introduced Parsley as "one of the truly great leaders in America, a moral compass, a spiritual guide."

Campaign aides positioned Parsley right behind McCain for photographers, apparently unconcerned about Parsley's well-established denunciations of the Islamic faith in a book "Silent No More" and on DVDs of sermons about Islam.

After all the fuss made over Rev.Wright and Obama I felt I just had to know more about this and so I Googled the Rev.Parsley. He is evidently not merely anti Muslim but anti-Jewish. And he is anti almost everything else. In fact he preaches intolerance. He was a major endorser of the G.W.Bush campaigns and wants to turn the United States of American into a theocracy. And not just a Christian theocracy but only his brand of that Christianity.

McCain calls this man
"one of the truly great leaders in America, a moral compass, a spiritual guide." I think that makes John McCain a truly scary person. And one of the last individual we would want to see in the highest office of this land.

Now I want to see CNN and ABC and all the other talking media heads giving this the same play time they gave Rev. Wright.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Personal Reflection

In the coming weeks and months I am sure there will be a lot said about Senator Ted Kennedy and his legacy. As a child of the 60's generation that watched the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and then his brother Robert it is hard to explain what it means to possibly lose this last of the three princes of our time.

Yes, they were by no means perfect. Though I certainly thought so when I attended my first political rally with my mother and got to shake John Kennedy's hand. And when I watched his brutal murder over and over and over again it seemed like a fairy tale with a horrid ending.

Later when I moved to Washington, D.C to try and effect change in our political direction through work within the system I was lucky enough to be hired by Senator Charles Goodall, who had been appointed to fill the term left vacant, and work with the team of young people that had been Senator Robert Kennedy's staff. It was there I first met Senator Ted Kennedy. And during my brief time in the nation's capital I would have more exchanges with him and his staff.

I came to judge political leaders by the nature of the loyalty of their staff. Not the insane goose stepping of the staff of President Nixon but loyalty to the man (or woman) and the direction they were taking - and leading the country. Political integrity is not a phrase you see a lot these days. It seems that we believe every political leader is bought by the time he takes office. But in the 60's and early 70's there were some amazing leaders with political integrity that inspired loyalty. You may not have always believed in the stands they were taking but you could acknowledge that they had taken that position for all the right reasons. We need more of those.

And we need them today. Seldom has our country been in such dire straights and I believe we are there because we started electing politicians and not statesmen to positions of trust in our government. We need people that vote their conscious and believe what they are doing is for the good of all the people of the United States and for the citizens of the world.

You hear a lot these days about global economy but not a lot about global integrity. Or integrity period. Senator John McCain said that Senator Ted Kennedy was one of the last liberal lions of the U.S.Senate. Liberal, conservative or moderate I believe he is one of the last great members of our congressional body with political integrity. What does that say about our country?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Airing the Dirty Laundry

G. W. Bush, a man I refuse to acknowledge as a duly elected head of state of this country, spoke before the Israeli Parliament yesterday in honor of the 60th Anniversary of the founding of that democracy.

Frankly I would not have invited him but they did. And he did not disappoint. He inserted both feet into his mouth and winked at the audience and gloated when they stood up to applaud him in response to what must have been a sign off camera to do so.

That is the trouble with this video age any of us gets to view and review all the little minutes that are recorded in daily life. I applaud the camera man that panned the audience. And of course all of those that watched that video get to blog about it this morning. We have come a long way from the pioneer days in Cimarron, New Mexico where the picture above was taken. And we have obviously come a long way from good manners as G.W. proved yesterday.

It has been a standing rule, all be it unwritten, that an American President is never criticized by the press while on foreign soil. And by the same token no American President every airs the dirty laundry of the United States while on foreign soil. Now mind you in this day of instant mass communication this may be a small point but I do think it is one of good diplomatic manners as it were: protocol if you will. Mother always expected from me and my siblings the best of manners when we were eating out and especially at the home of another. Elbows on the table which I could get by with at Wednesday breakfast were a strict no no at the neighbors. My mother and father taught me well.

So I if I were to say anything bad about the first President Bush and his wife it is that they clearly neglected the teaching of manners in their house. G.W. got up before the Israeli Parliament and maligned the intelligence of a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. He compared Obama to the misguided government officials of the past that tried to talk to Adolf Hitler before the opening of hostilities. Bad Georgie. Bad boy.

And then the Democratic leaders of course responded. Two wrongs do not make a right. My mother would have just flashed me that look which led me to know that I was in deep trouble immediately upon our return home. "He started it," I learned as a child was not a viable defense.

But Georgie you also missed the major point here. It is never wrong to try to talk before slinging bombs. It is wrong rather to not talk before slinging bombs. And I think it totally inappropriate to stand on foreign soil and use the podium provided for celebration as a vehicle for a political speech or to denounce the countries in the neighborhood. I was so embarrassed.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

American Values?

Senator Barack Obama and former vice-presidential candidate John Edwards stood on a platform today and spoke of change that went to the very roots of America.

It got me thinking of what American values really are. The current administration of GW Bush would have us believe that Americans do not want to work and so we must have the illegal immigrants which sneak into this country work for us. If we don't want to work how is it we get the money to pay for these undocumented workers to work for us?

Nobody answers that question but I have heard that we are lazy and just want to live off welfare or worker's compensation often. I heard it just recently from a man that used to own a restaurant near here. And you hear it from the owners of the resort as the reason they import temporary workers every year to run the ski lifts.

But a trip by the post office bulletin board always yields a wide number of locals that are willing to split firewood, clear trash, do odd jobs, shovel snow, put up fence. . .just about anything you want done. But the unspoken message here is "for cash." And more and more Americans are quitting their jobs and starting small businesses where "they will get back what they put into it."

So maybe the message here is not that us Yanks do not want to work but that we want to get somewhere if we work. We don't want to receive a paycheck where a third of our wage is already gone to taxes. And we are a bit upset with working for companies at 6.25 per hour for 39 hours with no paid days off or holidays or health insurance while the CEO is making millions - literally millions. And if he chooses to not work he has a golden parachute worth more than the highest prize on the lottery.

Maybe it is not that we don't want to work but that we are tired of the disparity between the haves and have nots in this country. Tired of working hard and getting nowhere. And hearing that the money being paid into Social Security will not be there to take out for very much longer. Tired of hearing that if you get wounded in Iraq you have to fight for care and disability benefits. Tired of paying through the nose for gas to go to a job where we will maybe not earn what it took to fill the tank. Tired of not being able to afford to miss a day of work let alone health care. Tired of paying $100 for a doctor's visit where he could not remember our name and only stayed in the same room for six minutes.

And just how long do you all think it will take the illegal immigrants to get just as sick and tired of it once they are legal citizens and can gripe like the rest of us. So then do we import (or allow to sneak in) more illegal immigrants? Do we continue to export jobs Americans will not do to foreign countries so they can make goods which are bad and which we will not be able to afford because there are no jobs here any more but hauling trash, or shoveling snow, or cleaning the stables?

So if we are going to change things down at the base and not just up at the top let's start with giving American's jobs they will want to work at. Let's take corporate profits and not give it all to the CEO but let some of it trickle down to the workers that made the company profitable. Let's give Americans health care and good schools and bridges that don't collapse on them.

And those pork barrel projects that McCain wants to eliminate. Some of them are bridges. And they all are not in Alaska. And to get those bridges built you need to hire workers. Here. You cannot outsource the building of a bridge to China. So let's build bridges. Rebuild the railroad system so we have other ways of travel besides airplanes and our gas guzzling SUV's. Let's build factories to manufacture solar panels and wind generators that we can all afford to install on our homes and cut energy costs. Let's pork barrel America up to her former glory. And we can afford it if we let Iraq rebuild its own country with its oil reserves.

And bring our troops back to our soil and give them all the medical care they need. And resupply all our National Guard Depots with the equipment they need to fight against fires and snowstorms and clean up after hurricanes and tornadoes. That is the American values I love.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Super Delegates?

Chicago 1968 Democratic Convention

What's that wonderful line? If you can remember the sixties you didn't do them. Well, technically I didn't in that sense. I was this terribly serious student that got involved with the political issues of the time but not the sex, drugs, and rock and roll part. I came very late to that party. So I really remember the 1968 Democratic Convention. The party of inclusion blew it and called out the cops . . . or as we referred to them in those days . . . the pigs.

The end result was long lasting. The Democratic Party ended up deeply divided. Many of us young Democrats defected to the SDS, the Communist party, and later alternatives like the Green party. We are not easy to get back in the fold. I worked for Republican Senator Charles Goodall in the 70's because he was against the war in Vietnam. To this day my party registration depends upon the demographics of where I live. I like to vote in primaries so I register with whatever party gets me the best slate of candidates. Here in northern New Mexico that is Democratic.

But I vote my conscious. Which is a phrase I am sure both the Republicans and Democrats do not like hearing. And I align behind candidates because of issues I am deeply concerned about. Since McCain's stance on illegal immigration effectively nullifies that issue in the Presidential campaign I am in the Democratic camp because of Iraq and the economy and gas company profits.

But I digress. The subject of this blog was to be Super Delegates. After the disastrous 1968 convention and the subsequent lost White House to the Republicans the Democrats, to give them some credit, decided to mend their ways. And that was basically to oust the smoked filled room way of choosing a flag carrier and give more people a voice in picking standard bearer for the party. Ergo our current, and evolving, primary system. Mind you there is nothing in the constitution regarding primaries and they do not have to be democratic, small d. In 1982 the Democrats, capital D, came up with the super delegate concept but it has been largely under the radar until this election.

Last night I tried to explain this to a slightly younger friend of mine who did do the 60's. And is still endowed with that moral outrage that led to the fighting in the streets of Chicago. He wants this whole process to be transparent and democratic, small d. What are super delegates? Personally, I think they are the vestiges of those smoke filled rooms buffed and fluffed to be presentable. Will they ignore the popular vote, elected delegates, states carried, and will of the people? Only if they want 1968 all over again.

And the Democrats have been so great thus far this election. They conducted every primary with paper ballots or machines with a paper trail. The Republicans continued to use the electronic ones with no backup. They have let all the candidates play this out long after it would have once been called up short. And those voting in the primaries have turned out in record (and thus far peaceful) numbers. But as we near the end it is all going back to that smoked filled room of the party bosses - the Super Delegates. The ball is in your court. Are you going to play fair?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

From the Bottom Up

Obama won in North Carolina last night and won by a big margin. And in Indiana he came within 2% points of carrying that state. Just when some of us were counting him out.

And not just him. We were also counting any chance of real change in this country. I personally was counting out the United States because if we don't change I personally think we are done. What the last seven years has done to our economy, our respect in the world, our military, our freedoms, our democracy and most importantly the hope of the citizens of our country was frankly looking like a death blow. Too many people had tuned out of the process that once made this country great. And for me the most hopeful sign of the two primaries last night was the record number of voters that turned out to vote.

Joan Baez toward the end of the long and difficult fight against the war in Vietnam decided to step out of the public eye. Our ballad singer for peace was leaving us. And she said in one interview that she had come to believe that it was not the surfer on the crest of the wave that could change the direction the wave was taking but the molecules of water within the base of the wave. And they are doing just that in this election.

The least of us is contributing to Barack's campaign for change. And the little voters that once said they did not matter (with lots of evidence to back that up given the last two presidential election debacles) came out to cast a vote.

And the polls are saying they do not like the sound bytes that had become the way to win an election. The ratings on the various presidential debates which CNN, ABC, Facebook and others mounted was significant. The American people care about the issues, not the terms like Flip Flopper and Up or Down Vote. They are tired of a dictatorship for idiots and want to change the direction the wave is going.

We want a country where the least of us count. Hillary says she has proved she can will the big states. As a citizen of a small state I find that offensive. We are electing someone to be a president of all the states. California, New York, Ohio and Florida have stolen our voice too many times. There are fifty states and we deserve to be counted. If we cannot change this process through the primaries that are being run this year then we need a movement for a constitutional convention to change the election process.

And only the people can call for a constitutional convention. It takes petitions to get it on the ballot of as many of the states as possible. And then we have to vote for it. If our elected officials will not address issues like shortening the election process, setting some real limits on the money so someone cannot buy a presidency, and take a long hard look at the electoral college then we the people. Those little molecules of water need to take control of the direction this country is heading.

Let this be the last election where we are fighting so hard not just for a candidate we can believe in but for the very idea of democracy and one person, one vote that counts. Not to the highest bidder goes the highest office.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Presidential John McCain says he slipped up when he said in an economic policy speech that he was going to lessen our dependence on foreign oil when elected so "...we do not have to send our sons to war."

Many of us have been saying for some time that this war was about oil and the Bush administration has denied that ad nausea. It was about Saddam and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Saddam is dead and the WMD never existed.

The other argument about going to war was to make the Iraqis free and democratic and beyond an initial election or two that has not happened while the democracy in this country takes a major nose dive because of the war on terror and our need to water board and spy upon our own citizens.

And Iraq was going to pay for this war with its oil reserves. A little seen news story reported that they have a large stockpile now and could pay for the war to give them their freedom. Or rebuild what the insurgency has destroyed. But they don't.

But I think the largest ooops in this whole McCain sound byte is that it was not given much air time. Not the kind of air time we gave the Obama elitist statement and not nearly the air time given to Reverend Wright. Whether it is the truth (and many of us think it is) or a senior moment (another) by an aging candidate it is important that the American people hear this and any prolonged analysis of it. But the media remains largely mum.

If it is a misspeak it is probably no big deal unless you lump it together with all his other misspeaks and the fact that he gets irate when called on them. It looks like we are running for the highest office a senile old man with a bad temper. Just as if we lump together all the slips of the tongue and "remembered it wrong" of Hillary's which make her look like a person always going for the convenient lie. Or all the times GW has leaned on the podium and slurred that it is the fault of Congress that his stubborn, egotistical cowboy diplomacy isn't working.

So CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS how about some honest analysis out there and don't just sweep the next "ooops, you caught me" under the table. And make no mistake: It is a war for oil which we don't seem to be getting.