Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin, Who Is She?

Here's one take, with plenty of comments from Alaskans ... check it out here.

Dick Cheney in drag?

Check out Maureen Dowd.

The gov and her daughter and a dead caribou - better shot than Cheney?

Apparently very good at wedge politics ...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Awesome ...

On vacation ... so this will be brief.

Thought Bill's speech knocked it outta the park for bringing the party together ... Kerry was Kerry, but better than usual; appreciated the way he went after McCain ... and then Obama ... what can I say?

Brilliant, incisive, forceful - on the attack without being vicious or mean-spirited.

This is a man who can lead, command and guide.

We hear too much about experience ... we've had many a fine President with limited experience ... after all, what can prepare anyone for the office of the Presidency?

It's not about experience, but character and intelligence, both of which Obama possesses in unusual amounts.

Now that the DNC is closed, let's see what the Repubs can offer. We have a hint: with Palin, it's all about pandering to who knows what interests. Palin is a gun-totin', creationist, right-wing shoot-'em-dead, drill-drill-drill small-town Alaskan mayor - to what interest group is McCain appealing? Will Hillary supporters be impressed?

Oh well ... all they can promise is four more years of the last eight.

Obama and Obiden ... all the way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hillary's Speech

“This is a fight for the future, and it’s a fight we must win together.”

“No way. Now how. No McCain.”

I know how many folks put heart and soul into Hillary’s campaign, and what a day it could have been to have a women of such distinction be our president, and I would have voted for her without question. Hillary would have taken this hurting land and returned us to health. She would have restored our international reputation and gotten us back on course with providing a safe society for every citizen.

The transition to Obama for Hillary has been made.

I know her constituency will rightly answer her question, “Were you in this campaign just for me, or for the people?”

Isn’t that what Democrats are all about?

Not the favored few, but all the people, especially those who put their backs into it – the working poor, the working middle class right on the cusp of poverty should a corporate board room decide to sell out, outsource, or just grab a little more for themselves.

How is it that corporate minions are rewarded for cutting pensions, reducing benefits, and thousands of layoffs?

How sick and sad had the American business community become.
How distorted and dysfunctional with the lies created by Reagan and perpetrated by subsequent Repub administrations and the neo-con dreamers.

Yes, it’s time for America to regain its balance.

“We don’t need four more years of the last eight years of failed policies.”

“Which is why Bush and McCain will be together in the Twin Cities next week, because it’s hard to tell them apart.”

“Before we can keep going, we’ve got to get going, by electing Barack Obama our next President.”

Hats off to Hillary for a rip-roaring speech that told the truth and brought the Democratic Party together.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Oh my, what a speech ... what a man ... what a dream.

Oh for this nation to be great again, great in faith and hope, in compassion and vision, mercy and kindness.

And for a Commander in Chief who will never commit fine American soldiers to a mistake.

Not a mistake, but a lie. A terrible lie concocted in the unstable minds of the Neo-Cons leading the way for Wall Street profits and some bizarre, misguided, image of American power.

God save us from such fascist minds.

And God give us once again a president worthy of the title, and a White House that can once again command respect here and around the world.

Enough of the little mind, the little heart, the little men and little women who pander to the worst in human instincts, who can only imagine larger bombs and more planes, and sending more American soldiers to their death, for want of statesmanship, vision and real courage.

Teddy gave the speech of a lifetime - there were tears all around the auditorium, and tears in my eyes, too.

I was so moved to see Carolyn tearing up - what memories she must have, what hopes for our land.

And Maria Shriver - tearing up - hats off to her for helping my governor keep his balance and guide California through some turbulent times. Can Arnold not listen to Maria? Do they never talk? Of course they do. She may save the Governor yet!

My heart is so full of hope right now.

I have languished for many a decade now, with few exceptions, ever since Reagan introduced poisons into the American bloodstream - terrible and subtle, and may American awaken to the distorted views of self and world engendered by these poisons of pride and power.

Kennedy promised to be there in January when President Obama takes office. He was there tonight, and he's been there for his entire life, fighting for the average American, for children and their health care, and for a better future.

God bless this remarkable Senator, a Senator for the whole nation.

Disaster Capitalism

A friend of mine told me about Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Here's are some reviews ...

In thinking a wee bit about all of this, Friedman and his neo-cons have created a vast mess of unrelenting corporate greed pulling Washington's strings. Will it require decades to undo Reagan's jolly evil and Bush's cowboy diplomacy?

McCain won't help a bit. Will Obama/Biden?

This is a book I'll have to read.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Big Biz Welfare

Would someone please tell me the difference between an oak tree 75 feet high, and one three-years old and three-feet high?

Other than age and size, is there any difference?

Both are oak, trees, right?

To disregard the small oak, to neither care for it not protect it, while lavishing all of our energies on the mature tree, jeopardises the future, though at the time, the small tree appears insignificant in the shadow of the larger.

Ever since Reagan (the Evil President) introduced numerous lies into the American psyche regarding the sanctity of big biz and the worthlessness of "welfare moms driving Cadillacs," we've been neglecting the little tree - while pouring billions into government bailouts for the big ones - including now the prospect of a bailout for Freddie Mae and Fanny Mac, done in by their own greed and lack of foresight.

Once again, we see how big biz is anything but a savior, and hardly to be trusted with the nephews and nieces. Big biz, like strange uncle Howard, has no sense of boundary and will feed only its own appetites.

Without government regulation (Reagan and his deregulation), big biz does what's natural - it devours everything around it.

At a recent conference on economics, it's been suggested that government listens too closely to Wall Street, that Wall Street is coming to rely upon Uncle Same to clean up the mess, a la Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae.

"The Fed listens to Wall Street," said Willem Buiter, professor of European political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. "Throughout the 12 months of the crisis, it is difficult to avoid the impression that the Fed is too close to the financial markets and leading financial institutions, and too responsive to their special pleadings, to make the right decisions for the economy as a whole," he wrote in a paper presented to the conference.

Critics like Buiter worry that the Fed's unprecedented actions — including financial backing for JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s takeover of Bear Stearns Cos. — are putting taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars of potential losses. They also say it encourages "moral hazard," that is, allowing financial companies to gamble more recklessly in the future.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who spoke to the conference on Friday, defended the Fed's actions, saying they were "necessary and justified" to avert a meltdown of the entire financial system, which would have devastated the U.S. economy.

Yet, Bernanke also acknowledged that mitigating moral hazard is one of the critical challenges policymakers face as they weigh steps — including strengthening regulation — to make the financial system better able to withstand shocks down the road.

"If no countervailing actions are taken, what would be perceived as an implicit expansion of the safety net could exacerbate the problem of `too big to fail,' possibly resulting in excessive risk-taking and yet greater systemic risk in the future," Bernanke said.

Their failure would be a hardship for millions of investors and pension funds, but with the right kind of support for individual homeowners (who need to stay in their homes), and a recovery of the principles of Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, we'd go a long way toward preventing these catastrophic meltdowns brought upon us by mismanagement and poor planning.

And with billions no longer going for our expansionist war in Iraq and adequate regulation of the greed factor, we might once again reweave the social security net, create more jobs, bolster the American working family, boost education, provide universal health care, rebuild our aging infrastructure and create mass transit.

Greatness is measured, not by the success of Wall Street, but rather by the way we care for the little trees.

One of these days, we may learn: a just society is a profitable one!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama and O-Biden

A great team ...

How about Obama and "Obiden."

His opening volley - a finely honed attack on McCain ...

And, by the way, "Vote Obama. One house. One spouse."

And listen to the Repubs ... critical of Biden because he's too old ... "looks like change is out the window."

And if Obama had chosen someone younger, you can guess what they'd say: "Too young, not enough experience; can't be trusted to run the nation."

That's the way it goes. Ah well ...

Biden VP

Biden - a solid choice ... who can punch out his thoughts, with lots of foreign policy experience.

Will this help Obama?

Likely, but not significantly. Biden will strengthen Obama's appeal to older voters, but Obama remains his own best draw for younger. Will this ticket reach into traditional Republican minds? Can anything reach into such minds? Is there a mind there to reach?

In the last few days, I was hoping for Hilary ... originally a Hillary supporter, I changed my mind in the primary voting booth. Afterward, when "dreamteam" was tossed around, thought Hillary would be a very difficult VP, but as the polls narrowed, thought H might be the key in some of the swing states where she did very well.

Biden doesn't bring the same clout as H would, but neither does he bring the baggage.

I've always enjoyed Biden - a good man, and surely an asset to Obama.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rick Warren and the Presidency

Krista Tippett (NPR's Speaking of Faith), writes about Obama and McCain appearing in a forum with Rick Warren at the Saddleback Church. Tippett is concerned, as I have been, over the inability of the "mainstream media" to intelligently reflect upon the roll of religion in America.

She has a great regard for Rick and Kay Warren and their efforts to be bridge builders, and I share her regard. The Warrens have a chance to shape American Evangelicalism and move it into some new and necessary directions, away from nitpicking dogma to a compassionate regard for the "least of these" (Matthew 25).

What I found striking were the responses to Tippett's blog - by and large, thoughtful and comprehensive, some agreeing with Tippett, others expression reservations about the separation of church and state, and how we've shifted the role of a candidate's faith from the periphery nearly to the center.

I, too, would prefer a candidate of ability - and frankly, as a Christian, and one for the 64 years I've lived, much to much has been made of "being a Christian," especially an "evangelical" one. The system trades in spectacular conversions and before-and-after stories. The evangelical community, though loosely organized, thrives on the constant proving of evangelical superiority to other Christian expressions and to all other faith-traditions. In other words, everyone else has to be wrong in order for them to be right.

No one has to be wrong in order for anyone to be right, and I believe the Warrens have some of that in their blood. But they have to walk carefully. Evangelical leaders are not free to speak openly on the issues. Their constituency remains stubbornly rooted in certain ideologies - thanks to the older generation of evangelical leaders - e.g. James Dobson, Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy and Jerry Falwell.

Evangelicalism has settled on ideology over thought - ideology easily defined, easily stated, promoting along the way absolute conformity - another need of the evangelical community - numbers prove right, allowing for no questions, deviation, or critique. "If God said it, it's good enough for me."

Hats off to Krista Tippett and NPR for being a serious and gracious forum dealing with religion in the public square. Whatever one's personal views might be, there's no doubt that religion plays a tremendous role in America and throughout the world, and it behooves the media to pay attention.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Polls Tighten

So McCain and Obama are statistically tied ... or at least that's what the polls suggest.

Oh well, it was bound to happen as summer wore on.

McCain's attack strategy works, and it's time for Obama to come out swinging. The election is not a sure bet, and his acting presidential was a bit premature, might I say? The campaign has entered the trench phase - close combat and little ground gained or given.

Like Kerry, Obama suffers from lack of precision. I have no doubt he'd make the better president, but Americans love sound-bytes. McCain delivers, but Obama plods. His stump speeches early on had energy; I think now the energy needs to be found again, with stories and slogans.

Let Obama tell us about himself, and coin some new phrases. I know how hard this is, because I preach most every Sunday, and have done so for 40 years.

The Republicans generally have a rhetorical edge - they speak directly and simply, a plus for TV. That most of what they say is dead-wrong escapes the electorate, however.

Once again, we confront the American boogieman - our lack of intelligence, if you will. We're not a nation of thinkers, but status-, pleasure- and comfort-seekers; we want to to feel good about ourselves, we want to feel powerful and in charge of the world, and above all, we want to be "innocent" - we went into Iraq, of course, for democracy, not oil. Yeah, sure, you betcha!

Yesterday, there was some chatter about Obama inviting Hillary to be VP. She carries weight with working-class voters, she has a great track record on key issues - though the wild card here seems to be Bill. But then, McCain has his Cindy.

When Kerry ran, I kept waiting for him to put on the boxing gloves and come out swinging. He never did. Can someone of intellect and depth do this? Time will tell.

Monday, August 18, 2008

When I Was a Prisoner

"When I was a prisoner ..." - how many more times will we hear this tired phrase from McCain?

That was a long time ago ... and who knows the real story.

After all these years, McCain no longer remembers in detail - just the shadows of memory, and sanitized. We all play with our memories; rearranging the details, like a child playing with blocks.

We omit and shade, adjust and delete - everyone "manufactures" the past to paint a better picture of the self, heal hard memories, and just make ourselves feel better.

If McCain's reliance on this "story" is tiring, what I find more difficult to imagine is how many folks latch on to the hero story.

Especially in a nation that cannot admit the truth about itself ... about anything ... so we tend to look for reasons to feel good about ourselves, because we have a crippling need to be good, to be innocent, to be right and righteous.

McCain is a tired, angry, old man living on the laurels of a story that has more luster than fact, the patina of age. I hope and pray that America will find something better on which to live.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Something sad is happening to my country ... and something necessary.

I'm saddened by the gibberish of the fearful - revealing deep and dark undercurrents of racism in my nation's character, all dressed up in right-wing clothing, pretending to raise serious questions about Obama's religion - "Isn't he Muslim?" - and political insight - "Why, he's nearly a Communist when it comes to health care."

I'm old enough to remember when there were "Colored Drinking Fountains."

And I remember my own racism - and the college professor who opened my eyes, my mind and heart. Yet there are stains on the soul that never go away.

How stained is the American soul. Though "we've come along away," the stain remains ... especially in the ignorant, the unlettered, those for whom thought creates emotional dissonance and headaches. All decent folk, of sorts, but with narrow loyalties and clannish behavior. Decent folk, of sorts, who are mostly frightened and easily swayed.

But what of the folks who ought to know better? The educated, the well-trained, the safe and the secure. Suddenly, the specter of Obama triggers ancient fears. And engineers and teachers are suddenly sweating rednecks cheering on the latest lynching, eyes glazed with hatred so deep, so total, it defies understanding.

It's a demon! And by that, I mean something hideous, something utterly irrational, something that rarely reveals itself for what it is, simply because it's afraid of discovery, yet when it feels safe, it pulls off the mask and we see its hellish visage.

I suppose this latest convulsion of spirit is needed.

How else to confront it?

We've a long way to go. Nations, like people, take a long time to grow up. In reality, most nations never become anything more than adolescents with a credit card and a car.

Yet our prayers remain:

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self control,
Thy liberty in law.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lecturing the Russians

Okay, so now Bush is lecturing the Russians for ignoring world opinion and running roughshod over Georgia.

Well, I guess he's right.

Just wish he'd understand that if the shoe fits Russia's foot, it fits ours, too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Presbyterian Lay Committee

As the reader may or may not know, I'm a Presbyterian pastor and have been in the ministry for 38 years. During that time, I've been in a lot of different places, geographically, emotionally and spiritually.

I'd like to believe that as I now write, I do so from the perspective of experience and thought.

Well, who knows, but for now, here goes.

I just finished reading the latest edition of the The Laymen, a poisoned-pen publication of the worst kind, twisting facts, omitting vital detail, telling only one side of a complicated story, and telling it in the glorious tradition of all yellow journalism.

They have the money to publish a slick paper and mail it to millions of Presbyterians who are not likely to read with a critical eye, but a gentle heart, all too easily swayed by malicious suggestions and slanted reporting.

That Christians should behave this way is unconscionable. That they should then vilify anyone who raises a question against them, claiming the high moral ground for themselves in all matters of faith and life, is beyond all moral, theological and human boundaries.

Shame on the Presbyterian Lay Committee ... their specious arguments have taken a toll. Doesn't the one rotten apple spoil the whole barrel? Sling enough mud and constantly cast aspersions and, sooner or later, the mud sticks and the doubts take root.

Have they harmed the Presbyterian Church?

Of course they have, and proud of it they are.

But in such harm are the seeds of grace.

God's goodness prevails in the worst of times.

Good and wonderful things are happening throughout the Presbyterian Church. We've taken our hits in recent years, and we've needed to get our act together on a number of fronts, but we are, and we have been, a brave denomination, tackling tough issues and holding before our world the gospel of Jesus Christ, intelligently and compassionately.

As a denomination, we have learned that no one has to be wrong in order for us to be right. We've learned to be one denomination among many, and one faith among others.

In my 38 years of ministry, I've seen and heard it all. I've watched the Lay Committee slouch toward their appointed goal - to split the church, to form a new group and be little kings in a little kingdom.

Are they interested in the gospel? World mission? Evangelism? That's what they say, but their cantankerous, proud, arrogant rantings point in another direction.

I gratefully receive their embittered diatribes. They bear witness against themselves, and in time, the sheer weight of their own self-righteousness will bring down the house of cards.

The sun is already setting on their fiefdom - they've had their day and are likely to spend the remainder of their days fighting with one another over pin heads and angels.

My denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is good and faithful, not perfect. Yet God remains present in our midst and the Spirit bears witness to Jesus through us. The winds of change are blowing gently - new leadership is emerging, new congregations are being planted, conservative and liberal groups are converging in a movement called Emergent, we're learning how to talk to one another, we're recovering our sense of the sacred text, doing good theology and looking to God for life and hope.

I'm proud to be a Presbyterian, and I'm more than happy to tell the Presbyterian Lay Committee how wrong they are and how twisted they've become. Lord have mercy upon them.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Russian Invades Georgia

Excuse me, did I miss something?

Didn't the US invade Iraq, thousands of miles away, no threat at all, except in the skewed minds of Bush and Gang who cooked up the nonsense about WMD and links to Al Qaeda?

I hate war, but surely Russia has a greater reason to invade Georgia then we had to go into Iraq.

But I wonder - what would Russia have done if we had stayed home and worked the diplomatic channels? What would have happened if we had kept the war genie corked in the bottle? Have we taught the world that it's okay for powerful countries to ride roughshod over the rights of others? That might makes right?

I find it ironic, no, I find it darkly humorous, that Bush lectures Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, telling him "Russia's gone too far."

Yeah, right.

If they've gone too far, we've gone waaaaaaaaay too far.

It's time for the US to lead the way on the higher road. And we won't do that, I guess, until we have a high-minded president and a congress and courts inclined to support the better way.

And McCain, by the way, ain't capable of high-minded thought. He's a gun waiting to fire, a WMD - excuse me, a Weapon of Mortal Danger.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympics - Opening Ceremony


That's all I can say - Wow!

They did it. The opening ceremonies were over the top in the very best of ways. As one commentator put it, "Retire the trophy!"

The Chinese showed the world they are on their way to becoming a great nation, a superpower of superpowers - 1.4 billion people proud and ready ... and what a history they have.

Bush's half-hearted attempt to criticize China's human rights was poorly timed and, frankly, useless. If ever there were a time for an American President to be a statesman, to build upon the positive, to praise China and celebrate its achievements, encouraging them to even greater heights, this would have been the time.

But small minded people are always that, I guess.

And, by the way, is Laura on Prosac? Both of them seem dazed most of the time.

It's good for Americans to see China emerging - to see greatness somewhere else, and to witness the patriotism and pride that others have in their flag, their national anthems, their land and their people.

For so long, Americans have perceived themselves on top of the heap, and such thinking has harmed our character.

I've heard all my life the silly statement, "We're the greatest country in the world."

What the hell does that mean?

What about the Netherlands?
Or Japan?
Or the Roman Empire?
Or the British Empire?
Or Greece?

The kind of boasting found so often in America is just plain unhealthy, and perhaps represents a poorly formed ego masking serious doubt.

Anyway, hats off to China, and if we're smart, we'll start teaching Chinese to our children and grandchildren.

And may this help America grow up, to see itself as one nation among many, with gifts and greatness, but not the sole owner of such things.

And Laura, change your perscription.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sharon Stone Sued

Sharon Stone is being sued by 1000 Chinese and a New York attorny for an offhand (?) remark that China's recent earthquake was bad karma for China's stance on Tibet.

Her comments remind me of Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson who blamed Katrina on liberals. They also blamed 9/11 on gays and abortionists.

Fundamentalists are quick to take selected Old Testament passages and pull from them an application to suffering, always locating it in punishment for sin.

Of course, the sin is always "someone else's sin."

Whether it be a Buddhist or a Christian thing, it's just plain foolish to speculate on the mind of God in someone else's suffering.

There is, in most of us, I suppose, a superstitious notion that if our neighbor falls on hard times, they probably deserved it, but if hard times come our way, we're "innocent victims" of fate or someone else's cruelty.

When I teach on delicate and difficult issues, I remind the student, "speak softly on the things we're not sure about, but speak boldly on things we we know. And what we know is this: God is good all the time, and all the time God is good."

I know and trust mercy, grace, kindness and love.

And if there's suffering, what good does it do speculate on it's ontological origins - like, how many angels can dance on the head of a pain - a question that once occupied the minds of the best and the brightest?

If there's suffering, offer help and consolation.
If there's hurt and pain, provide healing and support.
Where there are tears, bring solace and the money and energy to rebuild.

Let God, or the gods, determine the more subtle pieces of the cosmic puzzle.
Our job is simply to be merciful to one another.

Friday, August 1, 2008

McCain and the Republican Philosophy

I can often see both sides of an argument, but not this one.

The Republican enterprise has failed the nation - economically, morally, environmentally and strategically.

Could it be any worse?

What I don't understand is how so many Americans can close their eyes to the debacle, and how so many of them would give John McCain even a moment of their time.

Can they not see that McCain is Bush all over again?

That offshore drilling is a short, very short, term strategy that, if undertaken, would have no lasting impact on our oil-dependence, and even if the new supplies were to slightly alter the picture, it would be short-lived at best.

We don't need offshore drilling; we need a new strategy to limit oil consumption and rebuild our economy on restraint rather than maniacal consumption.

Though I am hopeful about our nation and its future under new leadership, I am stunned by America's dreamlike state - like sharks overfed on a whale carcass - having eaten their fill, they become lethargic and oblivious - virtually drunk on their full bellies. Americans have sliced the carcass and consumed madly since Reagan. In our feeding-frenzy delirium, we have lost our capacity to think beyond the immediate "need" to purchase the next item on our list and to enjoy the next adventure of consumption. Nationally, we borrow money from China to buy oil from the Saudis, mortgaging our future and the welfare of our children and grandchildren. At best, this is idiocy, and we've swallowed it, hook, line and sinker.

Lord have mercy!