Tuesday, December 29, 2009

On Kwanzaa - a statement from the Obamas


Michelle and I send warm wishes to all those celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season. This is a joyous time of year when African Americans and all Americans come together to celebrate our blessings and the richness of our cultural traditions. This is also a time of reflection and renewal as we come to the end of one year and the beginning of another. The Kwanzaa message tells us that we should recall the lessons of the past even as we seize the promise of tomorrow.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa -- Unity, Self Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith -- express the values that have inspired us as individuals and families; communities and country. These same principles have sustained us as a nation during our darkest hours and provided hope for better days to come. Michelle and I know the challenges facing many African American families and families in all communities at this time, but we also know the spirit of perseverance and hope that is ever-present in the community. It is in this spirit that our family extends our prayers and best wishes during this season and for the New Year to come.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Women & Slavery

The following article comes from Christians for Biblical Equality, reminding us that there is no greater confidence than ignorance. Christians have hurled Scripture-grenades at one another for some centuries now - every since the Protestant Reformation and it's sola scriptura principle emerged, as if one verse or two might settle the matter. Anyway, the following note is terrific. Read and ponder.

The great error of history
"So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them"(Genesis 1:27, TNIV).

A noted church historian once observed that the great error of history is presumption—presuming that one has grasped the necessary facts related to a person, a group or situation when in reality one is largely uninformed. Perhaps you can recall a time in your own life when presumption led you into deep waters. I certainly can.

Some of the deepest waters in American history are the result of acting on presumptions rather than facts. Consider the presumption that created and legitimized American slavery. Slavery in the US was based on the mistaken belief that Africans as an ethnic group were inferior. In his towering book, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, historian Mark Noll said that “so seriously fixed in the minds of white Americans, including most abolitionists, was the certainty of black racial inferiority that it overwhelmed biblical testimony about race, even though most Protestant Americans claimed that Scripture was in fact their supreme authority in adjudicating such matters” (Noll p. 73).

There were, however, some who cried out for the facts concerning race. Noll highlights one missionary working in Africa who said that nowhere in his experience had he observed evidence of the “native inferiority” of Africans “which many good and learned [people] suppose to exist.” According to this missionary, the deplorable ignorance ascribed to African culture was created by the slave trade (Noll p. 118)!

Like slavery, the presumptions made about women from nearly every philosophical and religious tradition have had deep roots. They have muddied our biblical clarity regarding gender and have led to the oppression and marginalization of women.

Presumptions are also responsible for the ignorance ascribed to the female gender. Conscious that if you control for opportunity you also control for ability, missionaries likePandita Ramabai and others led the way to educate andempower women. They believed that women are equally created in God's image and equally gifted by God, and therefore equally capable of extraordinary service. Like those who opposed the presumed inferiority of Africans, so too missionaries like William Carey, Mary Slessor, Amanda Smith, Amy Carmichael, Lottie Moon, Gladys Aylward and Katherine Bushnell challenged the gender prejudice that furthered the gross mistreatment of women around the globe.

May we always allow God's Spirit to challenge our presumptions and enable us to interpret Scripture consistently. May we honor every human being as created in God's image.
In Jesus,
Mimi Haddad

Thursday, December 3, 2009

News Stand

Opinion journalism has exploded with the rise of cable TV and the blogosphere. What seems to be disappearing in the fog of opinion is accountability journalism.

Now, I understand clearly that pure “objectivity” doesn’t exist, and every effort to report anything will reflect the touch of the reporter. History is replete with even the biggest and the best news organizations being influenced by owners who have a political bias.

However, the large newspapers and news-gathering associations like Associated Press had a bevy of talented investigators and sleuths who knew how to dig around the bins of a state capital, nose around city hall and ferret out information from the local precinct captain.

And they were generally held accountable by editors who were hard-hitting and demanding, not only about style, but content and accuracy.

Though flawed, it was a remarkable means by which Americans would receive the news and have a chance to ponder their own point of view in light of information, mostly factual in nature.

Hannah Arendt noted: “Freedom of opinion is a farce unless factual information is guaranteed.”

It’s the “guarantee” that seems in jeopardy these days. When in a heartbeat, an emotional display will influence millions with pat phrases and appropriate appeals to whatever the ideology of the day might be, that , upon closer examination, is as empty of content as last night’s cereal bowl.

I regret that our nations news industry is on the ropes, and no one cries out, “hold the presses” for breaking news – it’s all done now digitally.

I’m part of that revolution. I haven’t subscribed to a newspaper for some years now. But every time I buy one, for breakfast at the local diner, I’m amazed – so much news in so little space; so much that I would otherwise not immediately find on my Google Homepage.

I’m thinking of subscribing to a local newspaper, just because I want to see the print news media remain a player in the flow of factual information, the essential element in freedom of opinion.

Perhaps we all need to pony up for the news – because the old adage may well hold true: we get what we pay for. And if it costs nothing, well, maybe, that’s what it's worth.

I don’t know for sure. But maybe if we want to maintain the flow of factual information so that reasoned opinion can be independently formed, we might have to put a little more into the kitty.

Thanks to the Christian Century, December 1, 2009, p.7

Afghanistan and Obama

Posted by my good friend and colleague: The Rev. Bob Orr ...

Kathie and I sat and listened to our President speak at West Point Tuesday evening on our nation's plans for Afghanistan.  While I don't want to see more of our country's treasure come home in coffins, it all comes down to this:  Do you believe those who want to do us harm are still in that part of the world and do they pose a national security risk to the United States?  The President took his time to do a complete strategy review and listened to all the key people involved, civilian and military.  Obviously he's convinced that the terrorists continue to desire to attack us and will use any means to do so. So the war expands. Our nation's efforts to keep militant, corrupted Islam at bay will continue throughout our lifetime. So I support the President.  I'm happy that for the first time, our country has an exit strategy, and 2011 will put pressure on the corrupt government in Afghanistan to get their act together. President Obama has two wars on his hands and an anemic economy at home.  We have so many problems within our borders that to be expending so much energy and resources beyond our borders is tragic but necessary. It may mean Obama will be a one term President though I hope not. He's the best and the brightest we've seen in a long while. Pray for our President, our Congress and our country.  The world seems engulfed in darkness.  We need more light and this is the season of Light coming into our dark lives.  Lord, how we need it!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pray for Obama - Psalm 109:8

By now, some of you have probably seen the promotion, “Pray for Obama” with a reference to Psalm 109:8, which reads: “May his days be few; may another seize his position.”

Rather cute, if you’re unhappy with Obama.

But no verse in the Psalms can ever be read out of its context: verse 9 reads, “May his children be orphans and his wife a widow.”

Verse 10 goes even further: “May his children wander about and beg; may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit.”

And if you really want to read some exciting stuff, it goes on:

“May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil.
May there be no one to do him a kindness, nor anyone to pity his orphaned children.”

In other words, this is a prayer for Obama to die and for his children to suffer misery.

There’s nothing funny here.

To use this as a “prayer” is to slander everything Jesus gives us when he instructs us in prayer – e.g. “when you pray, pray like THIS” and then gives us “The LORD's Prayer” or the “Our Father” as it is called in the Roman tradition.

To take the Scriptures and to use them for such a mean-spirited political campaign calls anyone who cares about Scripture and prayer to raise the alarm.

It’s one thing to express political disdain for the President – this is a proud American tradition; but it’s another thing to pray for his death, that his children be orphaned and left penniless on the streets.

Yes, this in the Bible.

Everything is.

But Jesus reminds us that just because it’s there, doesn’t mean it’s of God. God, with infinite wisdom and trust, sees to it that everything is there in the story, and it’s up to us to read it carefully. With Jesus in our hearts, to choose a course of life that is filled with love and kindness, and even when we’re politically frustrated, to yet pray for one another, including our “enemies” – because God sees to it that needed rain falls on everyone (Matthew 5:43-48).

If you should see this “pray for Obama” campaign in an email, please don’t pass it on, and please don’t laugh, and please pray for the one who sent it to you.

We do well to heed Peter’s counsel (1 Peter 2:16): “Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor,” and the guidance of 1 Timothy 2: “I urge that supplications and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Would Really Happen?

What would really happen if we cleared the way and began to ordain, without question, GLBT persons, who, like all the rest of those ordained, would answer the basic questions of faith in Christ and vow a willingness to work with their colleagues to promote the gospel and to stand for justice?
What would really happen?
Would it be the end of the world as we know it?

Would the Bible fall and cease to be an endless source of wonder and challenge, bewiderment and blessing? Would folks no longer turn to its pages to see a mirror in which the horrors and hopes of the human journey are reflected? Would the 23rd Psalm no longer sing in the heart? Would the ageless promises of God's faithfulness and love no longer thrill the beleagured soul and tired traveler?
Would the gospel cease to be of value? Would the cradle and the cross become meaningless? Would the Apostles' Creed no longer tease and torment the proud human soul with a vision of life and God beyond our silly presumptions and arrogance?
Would the truth of Christ crucified, buried and risen no longer hold the heart and spur the imagination of humankind? Would no one ever again stand in the temple and proudly assert their superiority, and would there never again be sinner beating the breast in sorrow?
Would people stop praying and singing and loving and serving?

Would women and men no longer be called to ministry? Would there be no more deacons and elders and pastors and priests and rabbis and imams?
Would folks stop writing theology? Would there be no more sermons? No more worship? No more love?
What would really happen?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

GLBT and Me

It's been some years since I worked my way through the questions and relevant Scripture and all things pertaining thereto ... well, not all, but a lot.

I made my decision prayerfully and, I hope, thoughtfully.

Yet, I find, upon reflection, that the values and experiences of my life played a role. For a number of reasons, I've always felt myself on the "outside" of things - as a child, we moved a good many times, I had a lot of allergy-related issues, I was overweight and a lousy athlete.

Oh well ...

Out of that was forged a sensitivity to the "outsider." Whatever else has shaped my life, this awareness has played a huge role in how I think and feel about justice and kindness and humility (sound familiar?).

Yes, yes, I know - some will suggest that I am giving much too much credence to my story, while they give the greater weight to Scripture and tradition. Yet, I disagree. For everyone I've ever met and known, the personal story is huge. To suggest that we surmount and transcend the personal is to engage in some slight-of-hand, and a contradiction of the manner in which God works in our very real lives.

My earliest memories are of God, and then, like C. S. Lewis, Christ became a part of that that mix in high school and was deepened considerably in college and seminary.

My life has revolved around God for ever, and Christ stands in the very center of my thinking and living ... though I very much appreciate Abelard, Anselm, as per Tillich, has the guts to address some of the deepest issues of the heart - alienation.

That we might no longer be alienated from God, and from one another.

So, without belaboring the point, I made my decision, and though not particularly adamant about it at first, the growing voices of ordination-opposition prompted me to speak out, because I wanted the world to know that Christians have a variety of views on this, and that some Christians favor GLBT ordination even as some oppose it.

I love the Lord and give thanks for my salvation.

And with that selfsame love, I try to welcome all who come my way.

I hope and pray that "my" church can resolve the issue - don't know how it'll be done, but I think the word "welcome" says it all for me.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fox News?

A good friend of mine wrote the following note about Fox News, posted with his permission.

The Pros are the Cons!

The insinuation that Fox deserves equal time reveals the sophistry of their coverage. Relentless verbal conceits carve our attention away from priorities. See Capitalism. See Frontline: The Warning. We can pursue priorities or waste time chasing Fox phantoms?

My lesson from law school is: There is no  law. There are louder mouths and deeper pockets. Because governments have been displaced by corporations it is accurate to say that Rupert Murdock embodies a foreign empire draining treasure from those still under the misconception that citizens of the United States of America are protected from exploitation by corporations. The fracas over Fox is the ring in our nose that takes us away from the rape of the Greatest Generation, the usurpation of rewards from $87 Trillion in taxpayer funded R&D and IP by a handful of bonus bandits who have already sold it to the lowest bidder. (sic.) Instead of paying taxpayers a fair return on their investment the corporation con men default on employee retirement contracts and drain social security to cover their crimes. The Pros are the Cons.

Fox is the wolf in sheep’s clothing that keeps 300 million Americans from asking why their houses are now worth 20% less than they were in 1979. The entire housing inventory is now worth less than $6 Trillion. Last year’s (grossly understated) federal bailouts alone would have paid off all our mortgages. So where did the money go? It went to indemnify a handful of super-rich scoundrels from direct personal liability in their $58 Trillion unfunded insurance liability. But that was Warren Buffet’s estimate last November. Frontline totals the mortgage bank blended insurance fraud ten times higher than that. The Pros are the Cons. What does Fox say about fiduciary responsibility?

Until our feet are on the ground with this conversation and its consequences I consider any time given to Fox is more wasteful than smoking dope. I don’t inhale.

I stand with Obama.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sarah Palin and Oprah

Now on Oprah ...

Good grief ... the Palin PR machine hard at work.

Reminds me of the balloon boy ... a balloon floating high in the air, but no cargo!

Wonder how long she can keep it afloat ... until we're all clear that it's just a giant political hoax.

But then there's a lot of hot air money out there - a whacko-capitalist-Jesus-in-your-face-Blackwater-let's-have-a-little-war kind of money, the result of Reagan tax cuts and tons of money borrowed from China to keep the balloon inflated and a stock market skewed to feed the greed of the few at the expense of the many.

Palin will continue to draw two kinds of folks: flat-out crazies who love to shoot wolves and other living things and the powerful elite who see her as a tool to further their cause of power for the powerful and wealth for the wealthy.

Does she have a clue that she's being used?

Or is her ego so bloated as to miss the reality?

Whatever ... sad, sadder, saddest.

Ohhh, what's that hissing sound?

Is the balloon leaking?

BTW, Palin has been invited to College of the Ozarks ... a fine school with a fine heritage ... but why Palin?

Check out my note to the school, and if you agree, send your own note.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Labor Unions for the Wealthy?

The economic news is shameful ... no, I'm talking about the crisis at hand, although that's a part of the picture - I'm talking about the rape of America: yes, a brutal word, for sure, but that's exactly what has happened in the last 40 years, as the wealthy have sucked the nation dry, draining off tons of money for their foolish life styles, extravagant investment schemes, furthering their strangle-hold on politics, the economy and even religion.

This fascist-like rape of the economy has resulted in the greatest transfer of wealth ever seen: from the pockets of the many to the pockets of the few.

America has suffered the downsizing of the means of production in our nation - starting with seamless pipe in Pittsburgh - in the mid-70s, when we were building the Alaska pipeline, America had already lost the capacity to manufacture 60-inch seamless pipe, and I ask why?

The sad mantra of big biz has been to blame the unions. This is just a bald-faced lie! Their greed is fault! And with the take-over of big biz by Wall Street, the pace of greed has accelerated to the speed of light, I'm afraid.

And along the way, our titans of business have feathered their own nests at the expense of The People. Yes, the People. What a quaint idea - The People. Of the people, by the people, for the people. Yeah, and the moon is made of cheese. Big biz and its government toadies have been at war with The People ever since FDR won a few rounds The People. Big Biz and its government goons set about dismantling the middle class for no other reason than Haman's decision to kill Mordecai and eliminate all the Jews in Persia. Why? Because Haman didn't bow and scrape before Haman, so Haman's pride was injured. Big Biz has always hated the unions, and it's a matter of foolish pride driven by a distorted sense of entitlement and greed.

The assault on the middle class is nearly complete, and America is more vulnerable than ever!

I write as a religious person, specifically a Christian.

And from the perspective of faith as I see it, all of this is shameful.

And now the latest news from the Census Department - the income gap widens even further.

This is a crime, and if it were committed by some little sleazeball on the street, we'd haul 'em off the hole and lock the door.

But these criminals are lionized and admired, although they've taken a few hits lately.

But they're well-protected; they sit on one another's boards and take care of each other. Talk about unions. THE WEALTHY HAVE THE MOST POWERFUL LABOR UNION IN THE WORLD, and they have a huge chunk of Congress and the Courts coming to their defense - check out how FedEx had laws passed to protect FedEx from organized labor.

The American economy will never recover until we bring justice to the table.

And what's justice, you ask?

The Apostle Paul had it all figured two millennia ago:

The one who had much did not have too much,
and the one who had little did not have too little.

There's always going to be gaps, but it doesn't have to be this wide. Indeed, it shouldn't be this wide.

An economy so badly divided against itself is fractured, and it's failing, and until we address this shameful injustice, the economy will continue to deteriorate overall and we'll witness the further decline, if not the disappearance, of the middle class.

We can do it.

We must do it.

Justice calls for it!

The Associated Press: US income gap widens as poor take hit in recession

The Associated Press: US income gap widens as poor take hit in recession

Posted using ShareThis

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Obama is right: the current fight over health insurance reform isn't about racism.

It's about a deeply entrenched patterns of big biz looking our for its own interests defended by conservative lapdog politicians.

But let's not be naive ... racism remains an ugly smear on our national character. And lest someone object that other nations deal with their own versions of it, I say: quite right!

Racism is a human flaw ... or from a Christian perspective, the largest possible kind of sin that grips humankind and promotes hideous things, not only on the personal level in terms of crude language and discrimination in the work place, but the mob mentality that is always just a few beats away from lynchings.

Racism is in all of us, in some form or other.

But certain areas of the country seem particularly affected by it. Am I unfairly picking on some sectors of the nation by saying this?

The voting record of southern states clearly reveals how fewer southern whites voted for Obama by a significant margin compared to the rest of the nation. Is a factor like this irrelevant? I think not.

What I am most saddened about is that the South is also the bedrock of fundamentalist Christianity, proponents, so they claim, of family values. Yet within their ranks there brews an evil of monstrous proportions and they are seemingly incapable of addressing it.

Whenever we look at another human being, and we see a race before we see a person, that's the stuff that quickly leads to racism, wherein we perceive the other to be less than we are, or even a threat to us, simply because of their race.

Racism is part and parcel of the American story - from our steadfast effort to wipe out Native Americans, finally "reserving" them on useless lands, to the long and bloody history of slavery and the Jim Crow decades that followed and remain emotionally in place to this very day. The folks who protested racial integration in 1954 are mostly long gone, but their sons and daughters carry the dark torch of hatred, and for many in the south, it's all dressed up in Jesus talk with Bibles carried in hand.

There's a lot more to the current story than racism, but racism is a part of it, and no small part of it to be sure.

We don't want to overestimate it, and thus miss other factors that need to be addressed.

But to ignore it does a huge disservice to those who harbor its hatred and to those who pay the price for it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Note to Joe Wilson

I left a note at Joe Wilson's website a few days ago, and today, I received a note extolling his virtues and decrying the evils of liberal Democrats.

To that note, I sent the following:

Chuckle, chuckle ...

I R one of those liberal Dems who think your behavior is bad, really bad, but your ideology is even worse.

I am a Christian, I am a pastor, and there isn't anything for which you stand that I find consistent with Christ or the great truths of Scripture, though I know that some folks in SC see it differently ... but then segregation and lynching was a part of that picture for a long time. No encouragement in the track record that truth will emerge from all the bitter t-bagging nonsense.

I know that folks are rallying to your side - but don't be deceived - the truth is still the truth, and the right-wing in this country has utterly abandoned truth for the sake of angry politics and (using Proverbs 1) a bitter scoffing, shying away from the big issues and settling for simpleton ideas.

I will pray for you for 40 days ...


Pastor Tom Eggebeen
In that liberal city, Los Angeles

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Vetting the Prez?

I'm all for "protecting" our children and rearing them sequentially - that is, with age-appropriate experiences and knowledge, but no one can totally control it - whether it be a peasant family during the Black Plague, a pioneer family in 1880 Arizona, or any of us today - death and sorrow have always been a part of the human story.

But all that aside, does the Prez have to be vetted? Is the Prez so dangerous, so unpredictable, that our children are threatened?

As I've said before, he's the Prez. Not some punk down the street peddling drugs, or a whacko with AK-47 stuffed in his trunk. Nor is he a CEO trying to convince us that the water is clean and the air is pure, even as we choke on our own pollution.

To even think that we have to vet the President's words as a potential danger to our children is a thought beyond my grasp.

The Furor, or Fuhrer, Over Obama

Check out what my good friend and political analyst, Darren King, wrote about Obama's school speech and all the noise surrounding it - click HERE to read.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"Let's Privatize Social Security, Shall We?"

At the height of the Reagan-Bush economic bubble, Wall-Street Jockeys and the young and the restless were championing the end of Social Security and the onset of an entrepreneurial new world of privatization, and everyone-for-himself under the ever-present, watchful eye, of the glorious no-one-can-lost stock market guided by Big Brother, I mean Big Biz.

Who needs the government? they asked!
Government is the problem.
Government is inefficient and Big Biz knows how to run the country.
Less government, and more unregulated free-market driven capitalism, driven by the needs and interests of the “ruling class.” After all, their position and power reveal the rightness of their ideas, if not the righteousness of their souls. They’re different than the rest of us. Smarter. Better. And we’d better do as they as they say, and there’s enough greed in all of us to spin our heads and make us think, hope, that maybe, just maybe, we, too, can be stinking rich.

And, then, the House of Cards comes crashing down.

The vaunted Wonder Kids of Wall Street prove to be just as dumb as the rest of us – dumb for ever believing the lies and illusions of the ruling class: that they know better than the rest of us how to govern life and run the world – that if we just listen to them, fancy their needs, and do as we’re told, we all get rich.

Any talk lately about privatizing Social Security?

I haven’t heard a whisper, have you?
What happened?

The vulnerability of an unregulated free-market system reared its ugly head.

The curtain was pulled aside, and the wizard in the cloud proved to be an ordinary little man pulling levers and working smoke machines to frighten the peasants and manipulate the world into thinking that the rich and the powerful are different than everyone else, and the rest of us can just take a hike on their magnificent coattails.

What we’ve discovered, in the nick of time, is our need something better and brighter than Wall Street and the machinations of Board Rooms forty-stories removed from the real world.
We need something reliable in the best of times and the worst of times.
We need a real cushion, a safety net.

For millions who aren’t rich, who will never be rich, and millions more who are likely to spend most, if not all, of their life on the margin.

In other words, we need a mutual assurance of brother/sister-keeping responsibility.
We need a moral framework that’s real and dependable.
We need good government.
We need a federal conscience.

The rich and the powerful have always hated this.
And most will continue to hate it.
They, too, have bought their own fabrications.

A family like the Kennedys had a higher vision.
They proved the exception.

But there are plenty of people of wealth and power who buy into the bigger and better picture of the United States of America.
Yet in recent years, their faithful voices have been drowned out by the shouting of the right wing, accusing them of disloyalty to The Republic, being hare-brained, bleeding-heart, liberals and generally unfit to govern anything.

James Dobson and “The Family” and the likes of Beck and Dobbs won the day, but, thank God, they lost the battle.

Yet millions of dollars, our hard-earned dollars, are being poured into the smoke and mirrors of their house of horrors, and the peasants are responding, as they always have – even as the master of the manor takes the women and children, even as the lord of the realm impresses the peasant into service and hangs him from the highest tree, the peasant bows and curtsies, for the master knows better what’s right and what’s good.

There is a sickness in the land, a sickness created in the early days of American industrialization when millions were made in steel, coal and railroads, creating an entitled class of people who forgot their roots and the basic biblical truth:

The rich and the poor have this in common:
the LORD is the maker of them all.

We’re all in this together.
It’s terribly hard to remember.
It’s vital that we do!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Few More Judges Like This????

New York Judge tough on banks trying to foreclose ... hats off to this guy for telling the big boys to take a hike!

Click HERE to read more.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy

A good friend wrote:

Ted Kennedy, the lion of the senate, has died! It's a sad day. I hope all the forces for health care reform will redouble their efforts and we'll see a good bill by Christmas. He worked so hard all his life for health care and the rights of those with no voice and no power in America. His life was one of privilege but he was raised to give back. "To whom much is given, much is expected". He lived it. I shall miss him. God's peace be with his family and all who work for a better America.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Will Whole Foods' Plan Work?

Ever since the post WW2 era when America linked health insurance to employment, the system has been slowly deteriorating. Now, with the demise and/or globalization of our largest corporations and changing employment patterns - from a single job to at least seven jobs in a life-time, it's crashing and burning. Sure, hats off to Whole Foods for trying, or whatever. But it's not going to work. It, too, will fail, either from management's end (see FedEx) or it will be crushed by costs.

The American worker needs a safe and reliable source of health insurance for herself and her family. Every American needs this and deserves this, because we are, at heart, a great and generous nation, and we can do this, as have most of the other civilized nations of the world.

The wealthy will always be able to afford their own programs - and they can opt out if they wish, just like folks can opt out of Social Security at the first signing.

Beneath all of this is a simple notion inherent in democracy - that we're all in this together. When my sister and brother are safe, I'm safe, too. It's a simple reality wired into our DNA. Or as the Bible suggests, we really are our brother's keeper, and when we fulfill these basic obligations, our heart is relieved, and we feel better, not only about ourselves, but our nation, too.

Kindness and generosity are always the healing energies of the soul.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Whole Foods Health Care?

For now, Whole Foods offers, a good health insurance plan for its workers, even as its CEO has come out against President Obama's plan.

Here's a note I posted to Smart Money and an article touting Whole Foods:

All fine and good, but for how long? FedEx in the beginning, was a similar model, but that all evaporated in the last five years.

The real flaw is our post-WW2 link of employment with healthcare - sort of like a roller coaster ride, too many ups and downs, and then it all ends one day, again.

A second flaw - the middleman insurance companies who are bound and driven by Wall Street to make a profit, and the bigger the better. Like the rest of the world, we need a single-payer health insurance system. Is this so hard to figure out?

The billions now being paid into the insurance pit would be dramatically cut when we begin paying into a single-payer system. We talk about efficiency all the time while supporting the most inefficient and expensive health-insurance industry in the world (inefficient for us, but highly profitable for them).

Until we correct these flaws, the system will continue to fail the American family, and more and more Americans will find themselves without health insurance or so poorly insured they might as well be without it.

Protecting Our Freedom?

A friend sent me one of those lovely emails filled with gripping pictures of our soldiers in Iraq – sitting on a ring of sandbags in the rain; sleeping on the road beside their tanks, boots off; obscured in a dust storm … with some thoughtful questions about the ease with which we complain while they struggle on in the hardship of war.

But, then, this: As they protect our freedom!

That’s the question, isn’t it?

Are they protecting our freedom…?

Or were they sent to Iraq to fight and die for a tragically misguided foreign policy driven by the illusions of the Neo-Cons bent on American Empire and world-domination?

Our freedom has never been at stake, except when threatened from within by the Neo-Con/Fundamentalist/Right-wing/The Family conspiracy to undermine our Constitution and create a fascist/fundamentalist-Christian theocracy ruled by the wealthy for the wealthy and the powerful for the powerful.

If this group were to have it’s way, abortion would be utterly outlawed, and the death penalty enacted for abortion providers; homosexuals stripped of their rights, harassed, persecuted, imprisoned and worse; the middle-class disenfranchised; unions busted; high walls erected on our southern border, while protecting wealthy employers who hire and abuse illegals; Israel’s madness would be used to destabilized the Middle East and continue the war against Islam (see Blackwater and Erik Prince), and world-domination, of course, all in the name of Jesus, or was that oil? Or is it strangely, both?

I strongly support our soldiers, so let’s bring them home now!

Let’s provide for their training, their health, their families 24/7, for we now have an all-volunteer professional army.

The day of the citizen-soldier is gone, except for the National Guard, but so many of them are on their second or third tour of duty they’ve become professionals as well.

Yes, provide for them, protect them, train them – give them everything they need to be the professionals they are (see The Hurt Locker), and let’s be rededicated to the sparing used of military power, for the lives of our soldiers are precious.

Politically, let’s tell the truth: Iraq was a misguided decision made by a failed administration driven by dark ambitions, and administration willing to fudge the facts in order to convince Americans and the world of the righteousness of our cause.

Lies and deception were the tools of the Bush Administration, that’s the truth, the dark truth underlying this tragic moment in our story. And if we can’t tell the truth, the lie will only grow darker, harder, leading to more lies piled up like barnyard manure.

As for our soldiers?

May God protect them, even as we pray God could forgive us, and with a lot of God’s help, restore our national dignity and rebuild our national character.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Income Inequality Is At An All-Time High: STUDY

Income Inequality Is At An All-Time High: STUDY

Posted using ShareThis

Who Wants More Taxes?

Charging down the street, sirens wailing, horns blaring, lights flashing ... cars pulling out of the way ... fire engines: pumpers and ladder trucks and rescue vehicles ... turning onto a side street.

My daughter and I were on foot heading for Trader Joe's, so being old fire-truck chasers, we walked up the side street a few blocks. There was no fire, so the firefighters took off their heavy coats. Was it a false alarm or did the homeowner put it out? We'll never know.

But what I know is this: I looked at all of that heavy equipment called out to a 4-story apartment house - millions of dollars worth - and the firefighters - their skill and bravery, willing to put themselves into harm's way for all of us - and I suddenly realized I was looking at our tax dollars at work.

That's right, tax dollars!

I mailed a letter the other day - these days a rare moment as more of us use email - but my letter traveled cross-country and was safely delivered to the right address on the third day (sounds almost religious, doesn't it?), and this happens millions of times a day.

I brought my son to LAX for a flight to KC.

I drove along the 105, the 405, the 110 ... later in the day, along the 5 and the 2.

All of this, and more, paid for with our tax dollars.

Here and now, I want to dispel a terrible lie ... here and now, it needs to be said, loudly and clearly and accurately and passionately: GOVERNMENT WORKS, AND WORKS VERY WELL FOR ALL US!

To suggest that "government is the problem," that "government is wasteful and inefficient" and "that big biz is the answer" - these are hideous lies.

I have had the pleasure (gulp!) of getting to know several industries rather well over the years - coal and steel in Pittsburgh, oil in Tulsa and autos in Detroit.

These massive and important industries were and often are poorly managed, with billions wasted on boondoggles and corporate perks, with tons of inefficiency and the blind-leading-the-blind when it comes to so-called innovation. In recent years, just ask an insider, billions have been shifted from R&D to advertising - unions have been busted, pensions slashed and benefits cut to the bone - to fuel corporate profits and to keep the Wall Street jockeys happy!

As we've seen with the financial meltdown, designed and driven by the big boys of American biz, along with the debacle of Enron and Bernie Madoff, big biz is anything but efficient, and hardly to be trusted with the welfare of this nation and our children.

Yet the lie of government failure continues to be spun a thousand different ways by the likes of Beck and Fox, big biz interests, Reaganphiles, and a host of gun-totin' wackos who love to tromp around in the woods, eating raw deer hearts, pretending they're fighting socialism, or some other imaginary enemy of true-blue White America!

America, wake up!

The next time you receive a letter, drive anywhere, get on a plane and turn on your faucet, you're celebrating the power and efficiency of our government.

In huge systems, there's always going to be waste and inefficiency - such is built into the DNA of life.

But to jump all over the exception is to miss the point - government is amazingly efficient, and, shall I say, real Americans support taxation - the heart and soul of democracy, and it's time we told the greed-peddlers and the wasteful big-spending corporate giants to take a hike.

We're betting on good government, not big biz, to run this nation, and run it well and bring us to the future. In the hands of the powerful and the wealthy and their corporate interests, our nation has nearly been ruined, brought to the brink of national and international disaster. Yes, big biz did this with it's headstrong drive for profit and it's entitled mentality, fostered in America by years of pampering and kowtowing to CEOs and their entourage, with the worst kinds of greed-inspired books and motivational speakers encouraging us to pillage the world for profit and the American Way!

Yes, I support more taxes ... to build schools and pave roads, pay our soldiers and support their families, providing our injured soldiers with the best of care - and a whole lot more. 

Americans have gotten themselves upside down and backwards on the importance and necessity of taxes - greed rules the day, fueled by the constant drumbeat of advertising to buy this and to buy that, along with the lie - government is the problem. We've been driven to buy the biggest and the best, to have the latest trinket, gizmo and gadget, filling our homes and our rental storage units with the detritus of greed.

American, government is not the problem.

Big biz is the problem; it's always been the problem (just ask Teddy Roosevelt or the maid turning beds at the Hilton LAX) ... big biz without restraint, without adequate government-imposed regulations and government salaried watchdogs, and, of course, our own greed-inspired gullibility.

And who, you might ask, will watch the watchdogs? We the people, who go to the ballot box and write our letters, who read the newspaper, listen to NPR and surf the internet and occasionally think. We the people have made it work since 1776, and we the people will keep it working well into the future.

Hats off to good government and America's democracy! And pay your taxes with pride and gratitude!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bad Teachers?

Just heard something on NPR - folks dissing teachers, blaming teachers for failed schools.

Wish it were that easy.

Blaming teachers for failed schools is like blaming the faucet for bad water.

So, blame the teacher; kill the messenger - feels good and absolves us of blame for a little while longer.

Sadly, in America, the mantra of the conservative press, a servant of the privatization of schools (???), has been a constant condemnation of our teachers, their unions and school administrators.

Once again, the issue calls for critical thinking, and it seems that Americans are terribly short on the necessary skills ... meanwhile, the real issues are ignored - like family life and the values we give to our children via TV and music - "American Idol" and "Fame," and all the other glitz and glamor, not to mention the junk food we're dumping into their bodies and brains - massive amounts of salt, sugar and fat in processed foods.

The teacher is at the end of the pipeline, just like the faucet. Neither harsh discipline at that point (like spanking the faucet - either the student or the teacher) or replacing the faucet (like getting new teachers) will solve the problems of classroom discipline, ADHD, the lack of ambition distorted by dreams of fame and fortune and chaotic family life - the craziness of the rich and the famous, and all their wannabees, driven by poverty of soul, and the desperate effort of the poor just to survive, driven by a poverty of the flesh.

Bullying and fighting, drugs and cheating, emotional and physical lethargy - this is the stuff of the life we chosen for our children - Enron and Madoff, needless prescription drugs, power and domination, to hell with the poor and, please, cut my slice a little larger; honk, honk, get out of my way; all the non-sense of being self-made and being bigger and smarter than all the rest; American militarism, saber rattling and tough talk. Our children have learned all of these lessons very well; they are a mirror of the American soul!

Shame on those who add to the problem by leading our attention away from the problems that make millions of students ineducable.

It's time to quit spanking the faucet and replacing it with newer models.

It's time to support our teachers, their unions and school administrations.

It's time to deal with the real issues confronting American education ... I think Jesus said, "The judgment of God begins with the church" ... we might well, say the judgment of God begins with American culture and the values we have nourished in our children for the last fifty years.

Painful as it is, that's worth looking at it!

Monday, August 10, 2009

More About Terri Schiavo - by Anne Neumann

The Resurrection of Terri Schiavo
By Ann Neumann
Posted on August 10, 2009, Printed on August 10, 2009

I remember exactly where I was the day Terri Schiavo died. I was in my Brooklyn apartment crying my eyes out and making arrangements to go home to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for the funeral of my beloved 94-year-old grandfather, who had died two days after Easter.

But the funeral the next day would be more about my father than my grandfather; one week before, on Palm Sunday, my sister and I had gathered around the family table to hear our dying father read the contents of his own will. As we grappled with the ramifications of this gathering, the US Senate was passing by unanimous vote—a vote the future president would regret—the Palm Sunday Compromise. The bill (later found unconstitutional) was intended to wrest federal custody of Terri Schiavo, who had been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, from her husband, Michael Schiavo, who had won a Florida court order to have his wife’s feeding tube removed.

The TV blared the Senate’s frenzied speeches as my father told us how, after nine and a half years of living with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, of brutal chemotherapy, hip and knee replacements, lost hair, wavering health and looming death, he had exhausted all avenues of treatment and was ready to die. We cried ourselves through the week, just as Terri Schiavo’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, her siblings, and her husband, Michael, must have cried, knowing that Terri was slowly losing her life. Two days after Easter, when news of Schiavo’s death came, I got the call from my father that his father had died. I knew the one question I wanted to ask him but couldn’t: What is it like to lose your father?

The intertwining of Terri Schiavo’s life, death, and media frenzy with my family’s own grief and loss had an extra poignancy. My father—a hearty, capable working-man, a gun owner, a flag flyer—had repeatedly threatened throughout his diagnosis to hang or shoot himself should he become unable to live alone, should the pain become too much to bear. Fear and a dear friend pushed me to read Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying, a bestselling how-to book. If Dad was going to kill himself, I hoped that I could encourage him to do it in a less violent way. I read about starvation and dehydration as proven painless methods of assisted suicide, while my father protested the Republicans’ overreaching attempts to prolong Schiavo’s life unnecessarily. They should have no hand in her death, he said, nor in his.

That week, Dad’s doctor recommended an injection of prednisone to keep him comfortable and miraculously, we embarked on a glorious, unexpected summer together. His thin blond hair, untouched by gray, was golden in the summer sun as he mowed the grass or cut firewood. I watched him smell the warm air of our wooded hollow and study the birds in the feeder with relish. I rode along on the back of his bulldozer as he graded the long farm lane one clear morning in July; he looked over his shoulder at me with a great smile of profound joy to be alive.

Schiavo as a Health Care Talking Point

Once again the death of Terri Schiavo is in the news. In an effort to mobilize “pro-life” activists and the elderly, Republicans and the medical industry are working together to stop the Obama administration’s proposed reform of health care. On June 24, the same day that House Minority Leader John Boehner misleadingly announced that article 1233 of the reform bill could lead to government-sponsored euthanasia, Republican National Committee president, Michael Steele, told Washington News radio that reform would “make Terri Schiavo look like a walk in the park.” Boehner’s statement is a call to mobilization for those who found the death of Terri Schiavo a tragedy; Steele’s statement is an erroneous warning that government intervention may disrupt private health care decisions. Together, they illustrate the contested nature of Terri Schiavo’s legacy in the United States.

“Pro-life” groups have long viewed the removal of Schiavo from artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) as court-ordered murder. As Wesley J. Smith (a “pro-life” bioethicist and speaker) wrote on his blog, SecondHandSmoke, on March 31, 2009 (the fourth anniversary of Terri Schiavo’s death), “This cruel end was not a necessary death. It was forced upon her by judicial fiat even though she was not terminally ill, did not require a respirator or kidney dialysis, and had a loving family eager to care for her for the rest of her natural life.”

In an article titled “The New Euthanasia” in The American Conservative on Monday, Patrick Buchanan (long-time Republican commentator and strategist) referred to the growing prevalence of what the last Pope called “the culture of death”:

Revulsion to Nazism led to revival of the Christian ideal of the sanctity of all human life and the moral obligation of all to defend it. But the utilitarian idea—of the quality of life trumping the faith-based idea of the sanctity of life—has made a strong comeback.
The failure of Republicans to stop the “premature death” of Terri Schiavo was yet another indication to “pro-life” advocates that the country has moved farther toward institutionalization of unethical practices, of denial of medical rights to the disabled, the elderly, and the sick. As I wrote last week, this belief (and strategy, pointedly couched in Nazi overtones and loaded terms like “euthanasia” and “bureaucracy”) is proving helpful to the activation of the Republicans’ decreased constituency. That the concerns expressed by the increasingly radicalized base are predominantly, at least regarding “euthanasia” and “rationing” of services to the elderly, against government intervention in health care is proving a challenge to the Right’s existing Schiavo narrative. They are hoping that those who thought the Bush administration’s actions in 2005 were political overreaching have, in the intervening four years, forgotten what a partisan issue Terri Schiavo’s death was and agree with the Republican (and medical industry) talking points that government intervention is undesirable, and indeed, deadly. It’s a big gamble. Froma Harrop writes, “This carnival to discredit adult end-of-life care consultations brings them back into dangerous Terri Schiavo territory… The public was appalled, and Republican fortunes started their slide.”

Last week Bobby Schindler, Terri’s brother and a co-founder, along with Terri’s parents, of the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, reacted to Steele’s statement. In a post titled, “Michael Steele: Right on Rationing, Wrong on Reasoning,” he writes “Perhaps Mr. Steele has fallen victim, along with so many others, to the same media spin that implies Congress was intruding on a “private” matter, rather than applauding them for stepping in to protect a disabled woman...”

Indeed, if this perception of Republican action in 2005 is media spin, the media were highly successful. News polls from March of 2005 from both ABC and CBS show overwhelming public disapproval of Republicans’ actions. Eighty-two percent of those polled felt Congress and the president should not have been involved in the matter.

Only 13% felt Congress intervened out of concern for Schiavo, while an astounding 74% felt it was for political reasons. Congress’ and the president’s approval ratings pointedly dropped. When asked if Schiavo’s feeding tube should be removed, 62.1% said yes. When asked if the federal government should intervene, 59.4% said no; although whether this represented disfavor for Republicans or government intervention in general is impossible to determine. 94% of those who agreed that Schiavo’s tube should be removed said they would want the same for themselves in a similar situation, while those who opposed removal were split 45% to 41%, with the former wishing for their own removal. ABC’s reporting noted that the elderly particularly opposed federal intervention in the case and favored removal of Schiavo’s tube. In the aftermath, Americans rushed to complete their own living wills, also called advance directives, in the hopes that they would not be the next Terri Schiavo.

Seemingly aware of public opinion regarding his sister’s case and echoing the current Republican talking points on health care reform, Schindler writes later in his “rebuttal” to Steele, “We are in danger any time health care decisions are taken out of the hands of individual patients and their families and placed into the hands of government bureaucrats whose decisions are based on cutting costs rather than valuing the dignity and equal worth of every human life.” He does not acknowledge that indeed the decision to remove Schiavo from feeding tubes was made by her family: her husband, Michael Schiavo, who opposed the Schindlers’ “pro-life” views of end-of-life issues.

Choice as a Slippery Slope

Opponents to assisted suicide like Wesley J. Smith, who has spoken at anti-euthanasia symposia with Bobby Schindler, argue that here and now, as technology is so quickly transforming our world, we must be unequivocal in our decisions and laws regarding preservation of life. He writes, “Once we agree that society should facilitate the suicides of some people, suicide prevention as an effective intervention is effectively over.” That our society is not unequivocal, that we prepare our children for sex and tell them not to have it, that we find issues like unconsciousness as “excuses” for assisted suicide, proves that we are an unenlightened people. (In a separate post, referring to a quote from the writer Jane Brody, he remarks that only unenlightened society would label Schiavo a vegetable. “Terri Schiavo was not a carrot or a turnip.” The use of the term “vegetable” for unconscious people is, he writes, like using the “N word”.)

Smith states that what most pained the Schindler family was watching what we can assume he would call equivocal America “slowly dehydrate [Terri Schiavo] to death by court order to the applause of much of society.” The implication is that the pro-life movement is morally superior to general society, persecuted by the likes of those who put to death the innocent, and outside of or above our nation’s democratic processes.

What separates Terri Schiavo’s death from other assisted suicide cases is, of course, personal choice. Even Smith, who opposes choice, has noted that Terri Schiavo’s wishes regarding life-support and artificial nutrition and hydration were unknown, hedging the choice argument much as Sarah Palin (also opposed to choice) did when she publicly praised her daughter, Bristol, for “choosing” to have a child out of wedlock, or when she herself “chose” to have a Down Syndrome baby. While personal choice implies equivocality to Smith, Palin and others who support the “pro-life” platform, speaking to it allows them to perpetuate the “superiority” of those who eschew it. It also broadens their political constituency.


Our glorious stolen summer with Dad turned to fall. “I just want to go home and die,” he told his doctor of nearly 10 years. That afternoon, a hospice nurse began her weekly visits. I left my job and prepared to care for Dad until, I hoped, he would peacefully die in his sleep in our family home. He had a living will and hospice visited us regularly, and yet, his was a grueling death. Terminal Restlessness, a common affliction of the dying, prevented us from keeping Dad in bed. He didn’t know where he was. He swung his arms and kicked his legs at us. The morphine hospice had given us was not strong enough to calm him. When the nurse arrived, my sister and I cried with exhaustion. She insisted that we take Dad to hospice where stronger drugs could be administered. A day later, in a private room at the hospice center, after calming drugs, Dad looked out through unseeing, foggy eyes and died. It was not the death he had wanted, nor the home death we had planned for him. Six weeks later, I filled out my own advance directive.

Ann Neumann is currently writing a book about death, grief and travel. She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

© 2009 Religion Dispatches. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/1747/

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Health Care - Breaking Back of Small Biz

If a small company makes a serious effort to underwrite healthcare for it's employees, it's biting off more than it'll easily chew, if at all. And it's breaking the back of giant corporations, too.

We have to separate health insurance from employment - this was one of the goofiest moves ever made in our history, and it has put a burden (thanks to rising costs induced by the insurance industry) on all American business, large and small.

Is it any wonder that the auto companies have moved a lot of plants across the border to Canada? They all know that health insurance in Canada costs a lot less than here and is a whole lot more effective and efficient, covering everyone with quality care.

But why are the auto companies silent now?

The coalition of big biz and the insurance-pharmaceutical behemoth is real - the board room guys and gals all stick together, pretty much like flies caught on flypaper. Covering each others back, they're not about to break ranks.

But the auto industry could save billions, not by cutting jobs, reducing pensions for the retired and/or forcing workers to take a lower wage, but by helping this nation build a first-class, single-payer, health insurance program.

First proposed by Truman and supported, in some form or fashion by every administration since, a national health insurance program is clearly the answer to a huge set of ills associated with the current status, but whether the American people can join hands with our elected officials and buck the powers of the board room remains to be seen.

Americans are easily bamboozled by power and wealth, and driven unrealistically by an individualism ideology which blinds us to the common good so essential to the well-being of the Republic.

We are becoming a nation pitted against itself in our striving for material prosperity and security, neither of which will ever be ours as long as we refuse to be our brother's and sister's keeper.

We can do better by one another. Health insurances systems around the world work so much more effectively and efficiently than ours right now. We spend tens of thousands more per person than any other country in the world, yet our numbers are horrendous - we're ranked 37th by the World Health Organization, a notch below Costa Rico and one above Slovenia.

Friends, can we not do better?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blackwater Debacle

Goodness ...

The Scahill article about Erik Prince and Blackwater is mind-blowing ... uh, wait a minute, not mind-blowing at all.

For anyone who's been paying attention to folks like Pat Robertson (whose daddy was a hyper-conservative senator), Ralph Reed and the C-Street Gang, this makes perfect sense - a world under the iron fist of Jesus-people, a world free of Islam and all such perversions, including abortion providers and all GLBT people.

This is serious stuff and not to be sniffed at by liberals.

This is what it's been all about for a long time - underground, secretive, Jesus-people, yes, Jesus-people, with a sense of entitlement bought by their wealth and power.

But more to the point:

1. If there's ever an argument against privatizing critical services, this is it.
2. If there's a clearer proof needed to maintain the highest of all possible walls between church and state, show me.

Going back to 1953 when Abraham Vereide (anyone know his name? Read Jeff Scarlet's book) organized the Presidential Prayer Breakfast (now the National Prayer Breakfast) and began to build a network of hyper-conservative Christians, most of whom opposed civil rights for African-Americans, hated unions and held misogynist views of women, with Pentagon (prayer cells) and big biz interests around the world to further power for the powerful and wealth for the wealthy through an American Empire, this cabal has sought to undermine the American Constitution and replace it with a hybrid theocracy - America under the dominion of powerful interests (try a google on Rushdoony and the Wikipedia article) - it's called Reconstructionism, and they're serious about it.

They despise our democracy, they use homeschooling to further their cause, and preach a constant message of Christian supremacy.

Anyway, hats of to Scahill for this remarkable expose of a black, murky, and secretive group called, how appropriate, Blackwater.

Beware the enemy within!

Managed Health Care

Hmmm, let's see - health care managed by the government?

Or by private companies ...

Who siphon off billions of our hard-earned dollars to fund corporate jets, junkets to expensive resorts, training seminars at places most of us will never see, tens of millions of dollars in salaries and bonuses, millions more for lobbying Congress to protect them ... millions more for advertising ...

Who then charge us for everything, who deny health care to millions, forcing millions more into under-coverage with impossible deductibles ... driving many into medical bankruptcy ... cutting hospital stays and threatening health follow-up ... telling doctors what procedures and tests they can and cannot offer ... restricting our health care at every level, while telling us the government is wasteful, terrible, untrustworthy and out to get our money ... while they, on the other hand, are efficient, reliable, and wanting only to serve our best interests.

P.T. Barnum said, "There's a sucker born every minute," and how right he was.

We're suckers to buy this kind of propaganda ... a long-established ploy of big biz to blind us to how they're robbing us and how the government is the real enemy. Wrong. Check with Teddy Roosevelt and how he busted the Trusts. Didn't take long for them to recover. FDR made a difference. Eisenhower, at the end of his term, recognized the terrible power of the industrial-military complex, but then it was too late for him to do anything about. Reagan bought it hook, line and sinker and spoon fed it to us with an "aw shucks pardner" down-home style; the Bushes, part of the elite, bought it and so did Clinton.

With Obama, we have a chance to clear the air and set things right for all Americans.

We have a chance.

But billions are being spent right now to mount one of the largest lobbying and advertising efforts we've seen in a long time - to convince us all over again that government is our enemy and big biz is our friend.

We're the laughing stock of the world, but as long as we keep believing we're the best, no matter how costly and perverted our health system is, and the rest of the world is crazy, I guess we'll keep on believing the spin doctors hired by the health insurance industry to fool us and fleece us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Reply to Solveig ...

Solveig, that's just the point ... we're at a moment in time when big biz has had its way with so much of our life, shrinking the moral role of government, while screaming constantly that we need less government, that big gov is the enemy (talk about double speak) and big biz our friend, our savior, etc..

There is no substitute for good government, and I'm weary of the anti-government rhetoric crafted by the big biz interests. Our Federal government is far from perfect, but if you want to know imperfection, try a big biz board room, visit General Motors, or listen to how the health insurance industry will build a campaign to keep things the same.

I would rather put my money into government which has a far better chance of regulating it for the common good of all.

We do this with defense.

We'd never think of privatizing defense, although Blackwater might like that.

For 40 years, and going back even further to the union busting tactics of Boeing after World War 2, and their nefarious racist efforts to keep African Americans out of the unions, and the efforts of big steel and the coal mines - we've been living with certain well-financed myths that vilify government. Why?

So that big biz can keep a strangle hold on our lives. See the Fricks, the Carneigies, the Vandebilts ... and the Enrons and Madoffs and health insurance executives and Wall Street traders, and on and on it goes. This is the way it's been from the earliest days of industrialization, as Americans moved from the farms to the cities.

Yes, pit them against one another, but we must at least recognize that big biz in America has hoodwinked us - as they did when they tied health insurance to employment to prevent the government from getting involved. Big biz has squeezed government out, and government, for much of the last 40 years, was more than willing to surrender its constitution and moral responsibilities, because too many folks in Congress are in the "employee" of big biz. Where's Teddy Roosevelt when we need him?

It's time for real balance, and I can't think of a better place to begin that a government mandated and administered single-payer health insurance agency. The billions spent on administering thousands of plans more complicated then sending men to the moon would go for health care. The $14 million dollar annual plus salaries paid to insurance CEOs would go to health care, hospitals, nurses and research.

I don't see thousands of Europeans and Canadians flocking to our shores for medical help. No system is perfect, but ours is so seriously flawed right now as to make us the laughing stock of the world.

We can do better, and I believe we will.

Every American needs access to good medical care, and no one ever need delay medical work because they have to pay next month's rent or pay for pills they're already using.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The "American" Way

I am slowly learning, after 65 years, just how frightened American big biz is of government.


Woven into big biz's DNA is an overwhelming conviction that it's way is the right way, that its wealth and power proves moral right, that American workers are their unruly children, and if the workers only knew how nice big biz really was, they'd knuckle under and buckle down, being grateful for the crumbs that fall from the table.

The history of labor and management in this country is abysmal.

It is throughout the world, but in much of the world, big gov has come to the aid of the worker, enabling them to unionize and bargain for more than crumbs, insuring workers' rights and lowering health care costs while boosting health care results by tying health care into the gov's side of things with a single-payer system.

Nowhere else in the civilized world is medical insurance linked to employment, but big biz agreed to this in the post-WW2 years to forestall the gov from doing it.

We will NEVER resolve the issue of health care as long as we leave it in the hands of big biz. Health care belongs in the hands of the government - this will immediately lower the huge administrative costs presently "enjoyed" by the health insurance industry - 30% of every dollar is sucked up into the pockets of the companies - the average CEO salary is 14 million, not to mention the endless perks engineered into their contracts.

And now the commercials begin - funded by the mega billions of the health insurance industry highlighting the evils of Canada's health care and touting the wonders of America's healthy industry - because it's NOT health care in America, it's an industry making billions for its managers while:

DENYING insurance to 50 million Americans.
INADEQUATELY insuring millions more.
SADDLING many with impossible deductibles.
RATIONING HEALTH CARE to all the top echelons of our society.

The simple reality: you and I are a cash cow for the industry, at the expense of our health.

Is this the American way?

It is if you're big biz.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bubble Up Economics

Money, like hot air, rises.

Eventually ending up at the top.

Some have suggested that, once at the top, it trickles down.


Once at the top, there it stays, as we have witnessed in the last 40 years, with the growing hyper-concentration of wealth in upper ranks of American families.

The wealthiest 1 percent of families owns roughly 34.3%  of the nation's net worth, the top 10% of families owns over 71%, and the bottom 40% of the population owns way less than 1% (Click HERE for more info).

Trickle-down economic theories are one of the biggest lies ever perpetrated on the American public. The fact is: once it bubbles to the top, as all money does, it stays there. Period.

Unless the federal government does what good government should do - tax the wealth at the top and put it to work by infusing it into the lower reaches of our society - pumping it into the renovation of our schools with good salaries for our teachers; improving our roads and light-rail systems for our cities; supporting our cities; funding the arts; promoting research on global warming; cleaning up the environment; wind turbines; alternative fuels, and with single-payer health insurance, the money would go directly to the providers of health-care rather than the billions currently siphoned off by the insurance companies and their high-salaried CEOs.

Money always bubbles up.

Unless appropriate taxation helps return billions to the lower reaches of a society, the poor will only grow poorer and the wealthy, of course, will only grow wealthier.

The United States stands alone with its infantile fixation on trickle-down economic theories and its fear of taxation.

We have to pay attention to how the rest of world handles its wealth,  by sustaining a positive flow of cash from the top to the bottom, and letting it bubble up through all the layers of a society, and when it returns to the top, appropriate taxation starts the cycle all over again.

In a such a society, there are still wealthy families, and there are poor, as well, but the gap is smaller, as it should be.

The terrible and growing gap in our society between the wealthy and the poor is an affront to God, the deepest kind of violation of justice. If Christians are biblical (and what's the alternative?), they have to face these alarming trends, and as followers of Christ, work to keep wealth flowing throughout a society rather than allow it to rise to the top and stagnating there, even as more flows upward, finally starving the economy for 90% of the population.

As Paul the Apostle wrote:

I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,
      “The one who had much did not have too much,
      and the one who had little did not have too little.”

Monday, July 6, 2009

Iquitarod - Sarah's Pattern of Quitting

Geoffrey Dunn writes in the Huffington Post:

Sarah Palin quit five colleges in her otherwise unremarkable collegiate career, before finally graduating from the sixth. She quit her job in television. She and Todd quit their snow machine dealership in Big Lake. She quit her job as Mayor of Wasilla to run for lieutenant governor. She quit as chair of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission. Now she has quit the governorship of the state she supposedly loves. Sarah Palin is a quitter. When the going gets tough, Sarah Palin quits.

To read more, click HERE.

A part of me says, "So what?" and "Who cares?"

And if Sarah Palin were Sarah Palin, private citizen, it wouldn't make a hill of beans.

But she's Sarah Palin, politico, aspiring after high national office, including the presidency, and apparently, for a hard-core bunch of right-wing groupies, she's the shine light of the future Republican Party.

Her life and her record: manifestly erratic.

And this is someone who aspires to lead the nation, if not the free world?

Hmmm, I don't think so.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Drill Baby Drill

So long Sarah.

Not likely to disappear entirely - there's still a nut-base out there willing to buy her empty-headed world-view - "I can see the Russians from here" and a religious right-wing that would support Attilia the Hun if he opposed abortion and hated gays.

Oh no, as I sit here, Pat Buchanan is comparing Palin to Nixon - like Nixon, she'll find a couple of good speech writers, nail down some good lines and emerge, then, as the front-runner for 2012. Uh huh. You go Pat.

Palin claims she didn't want to be a lame duck governor. How about just lame duck.

I feel for her. I really do. Her ego has outstripped her ability by light years. She was primed and pumped by good handlers who crafted her lines and gave her an in with the far right. But in the short run, it became tragically apparent to most everyone, even Republican insiders, that here was a person unfit for the office.

It'll be fun to watch. And if not fun, maybe just sad.

Sadder, still, to watch the Republicans continue their much-deserved downward spiral, not that I mind. But our nation is served best when both political parties are healthy, and their respective good health is very much like the biblical observation, steel sharpens steel.

As of this moment, the Republicans are anything but sharp. In fact, downright dull, verging mostly on the edge of buffoonery. Their social agenda against abortion and homosexuality has proved bankrupt. Their extreme economic theories have brought this nation to the brink of depression. All in all, they're a tired and beaten group fumbling around in the dustbins of the past to find themselves, while ignoring the future and dismissing the new normal in which we all now live politically and economically.

What will Sarah do?

Maybe take a break. Grab her rifle, climb into a plane and shoot a few wolves from the air. The loonies in the lower 48 will love her for it.

So long Sarah. It's not been so nice knowing you.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Dose of Reality for the Republicans

Nothing like a dose of reality to change one's mind and create the possibility of kindness toward others in similar straits.

Gov. Mark Sandford's extramarital affair knocks one more contender out of the ring.

But this is no time for cheering; this is a time for grieving - for his family, for the man, and for the State of South Carolina.

But it's also a time for the Republicans to take stock, those who love to scramble to the top of the moral high ground, throwing their caustic remarks at “lesser human beings.”

The GOP - the Greedy Old Party, has become the party of smoke and mirrors, guided by the religious right, which seems to lack in the body-politic what we used to call an "honest bone."

Jesus has been turned into a scam for success, popularity, white teeth, winning beauty pageants and body-building championships, not to mention wealth, health and power, and, even heaven, for heaven’s sake - what a deal.

But as Peter DeVries once observed, down deep, it's shallow - very shallow, indeed.

Sin happens! For Republicans and for Democrats (see Monica Conyers in Detroit) alike, the flesh is weak - and so shall it remain.

So I hope, likely against the current in the GOP right now, that a new humility and a new compassion might emerge:
* For the GLBT community and their quest for marriage equality.
For the right of the mother to make basic decisions about her own body.
* And a fresh awareness that “family values” are all about education, work-place safety and benefits, environment, the reduction of global warfare, a single-payer health care system to rid us of a $400 billion industry bent on profits and not health.

It’s not likely to happen.

But I can hope.

I feel for Mr. Sanford.
He’s just a human being after all.
But as a member of the GOP, he has to pretend, as they all do.

Too bad!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

GOP Foolishiness Persists!

Are the Repugs incapable of working with the Prez? Has their right-wing DNA been irreparably damaged by the last 40 years of Reagan economics and military drumbeating?

And what DOES McPain want for Iran?




The Repugs did it to Carter, they did it to Clinton, and now the same old strategy with Obama - charge the Prez with timidity and weakness on foreign policy.

It worked with Carter, sad to say.

It worked partially with Clinton.

But it won't work at all with Obama.

Times have changed. It's a brand new world, with a new normal. Though some still love to wave the flag and get goosebumpy with thoughts of war, the vast majority of Americans realize that diplomacy is the only reasonable way.

We simply don't have the military might to do much more than we're presently doing in Iraq and Afghanistan; we have to work with our allies and rely on the international community.

And with the limits of American military power having been reached, it's a God-send for us - to learn how to take our place in the family of nations and how to talk responsibly to the world.

Thankfully, we have a Prez who can do this.

For those who thrill with tough talk and muscle flexing, it'll never be enough.

But for those who want America to be genuinely strong and truly great, it will be more than enough.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

McCain Shows Real Colors

For a long time, I've considered John McCain a decent man.

But his recent rant about the President and Iran is shameful.

McCain and the Repugs are using the people of Iran to further their own perverted ideology of power and domination, an ideology that has proved utterly bankrupt.

On the other hand, Obama's restrained and patient approach bodes well for the future. We can't and we don't control the world. We are but one nation among all the others. Though larger than most, and surely one of the most powerful, we're not the king of the hill, though such a thought utterly galls a poor man like McCain who is, and this I've contended for years, still fighting Vietnam, trying to reclaim a glory he perceives us to  have lost in Vietnam.

That the Repugs have sunk this low is hard to imagine.

The party of Lincoln, not to mention Eisenhower, has sunk very low, indeed.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Has Gingrich Slipped A Cog?

Has Gingrich slipped a cog or two?

He now has religion, something he’s been working on for some time now, trying to rehabilitate his relationship with the far right so that he can use it as a campaign base for the next presidential gig in 2012? I think so!

Converting in May, 2009, from his Southern Baptism heritage to his wife’s Roman Catholicism, Gingrich recently said: "I am not a citizen of the world. I am a citizen of the United States, because only in the United States does citizenship start with our creator."

Echoing the nonsense of a group of so-called Christian “scholars” who claim our Founding Fathers to be “evangelical” Christians in the late 20th Century mold (they were, in fact, mostly Deists; several would hardly qualify as believers) seeking to create a “Christian” nation.

Not so. Our Founding Fathers and Mothers all knew the horrors of a “Christian” Europe, and here in this land, they sought to create a nation free of such politicized religion, so that religion might be freely chosen and politics be secular. The separation of church and state remains one of America’s greatest contributions to the world of ideas, but it’s being threatened now by the far right who would like to see an American theocracy.

Gingrich is savvy – he’s learned his lessons well. For the last 40 years, the road to the Republican presidential nomination began with far right Christians who, in the last two presidential runs, propelled Dubya into the White House.

The following quote from the Washington Post says it well:

Gingrich seems to have learned what George W. Bush showed John McCain in 2000, and what James Dobson helped McCain understand in 2008: The path to the Republican Party presidential nomination begins at the church -- in this case, Rock Church in Virginia Beach.

"Lord," Engle [the pastor] prayed as Gingrich bowed his head and opened his hands, "extend his influence for righteousness in this nation, lay your supernatural hand of God upon him and deliver him from the evil schemes of the enemy."

Not quite the "every form of witchcraft" from which Palin's pastor sought to protect her, but then positioning for 2012 has just begun.

Yet sun has set on this kind of “Christian” thinking. With the killing of Dr. George Tiller, we see where the road ends in a dark and dangerous place for this kind of self-righteous, fascist-like, theological gobbledygook. Though many such Christians “decry” the killing, I get an uneasy feeling that it’s mostly rhetoric rather than a responsible distancing from such violence. And I’ve yet to hear a anyone in that camp admit the possibility that fiery pulpit rhetoric might contribute to the further unsettling of an already unstable mind.

Indeed, violence has a special place in these congregations – their bloody end-of-the-world scenarios (see their Halloween haunted houses and their lurid images of hell), revival services with plenty of threats, ”Jesus Camps” for their children, the lionizing of athletic violence, the easy division of the world into good and evil, the love of guns and warfare images, and a violent god who kills his enemies with gusto (everyone cheer now).

Playing upon all sorts of half-truths, god and country are fused together into some sort of anguished creature (see “The Fly” – “Something went wrong in the lab today...something very wrong...”).

Something has gone very wrong in the far-right lab – as we see paralleled in the worst examples of Islamic extremism and in the terrors of the Middle Ages where religion and state are fused together into some hideous alliance, with the state punishing those who violate the established religion, and the church establishing and crowning the head of state.

Is this the kind of world we wish to have?

But this is exactly the kind of world proposed by the far right and regularly preached from the pulpits of its churches.

If you really want to know what’s cooking under the counter in such places, do a Google on “Christian Reconstructionism” – begin with the Wikipedia article. I can promise you this: Gingrich reads and knows well this bizarre world of twisted ideas.

As much as this form of Christianity has dominated the news in recent years, it’s a hybrid born in America.

Like hybrid grains and fruits, it’s highly productive, needs enormous amounts of water, fertilizer and endless tending, with a long shelf-life, but with none of the flavor you remember from childhood. If a strain of mold should evolve, or some new bug emerge, it will quickly succumb. This hybrid religion has none of the genetic heartiness of historic Christianity (see Diana Butler Bass’s fine books, “Christianity for the Rest of Us” and “A People’s History of Christianity”) or any real saving power.

The greatest impediment to the future is ignorance of the past, and to listen to far-right preaching and to read their books is to hear a vast restless army of ignorance ready for “the next war” – whatever that war might be as determined by James Dobson or Rush Limbaugh or a host of other extremist voices ready to “slay their enemies and conquer the world for Christ.”

How I yearn for the mainline church in America to recapture the power of faithful thinking, to love God with the mind as much as some folks claim to love God with the heart. To love God with the historical perspective – knowing well how folks in other times and places sought to love God – where and how they succeeded and where and how they failed, and working well (read intelligently) with Scripture. We have to know our faith thoroughly; we have to know our Bible better than they do. We have to be equipped with logic and conviction; clear thoughts and our own version of a passionate Christian rhetoric, but grounded in the command to love and the welcoming vision of Jesus.

It’s a tall order for thoughtful, progressive folks of faith, but it can be done. And more than that, it must be done.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

This Is Not My Christianity

This is not my Christianity!

Though this expression of the faith has found favor with the media in recent years, and for many who have other faith-traditions, it's the only expression of faith associated with the word "christian," it's not my Christianity, nor that of millions of good and decent folk who take Jesus seriously and want to live their lives constructively in a difficult world.

The picture says it all:

These groups have fallen victim to something Emerson noted years ago: a truth, even a big truth, when held in isolation from others truths, becomes a lie.

Their narrow focus blinds them to the larger world around them. Filled a highly dangerous form of self-confidence, the kind of confidence that comes from talking to one's self endlessly, and with those who hold the same views - reinforcing the point, until, like feedback, all we have is a hideous screeching.

They are relentless and cruel, and share with extremists all around the world the same pattern of utter confidence in their own take on things and an complete disdain for others, if not an outright hostility that strangely turns the christian world upside down - that in the defense of life, as they so claim, the life of the opponent has no value.

In this church sign, we see everything that's wrong with this form of Christianity, and though some of generous nature might want to defend them as merely wayward brothers and sisters, this expression of the faith has to be exposed for what it is - a vicious contradiction of everything upon which Jesus stood, picking out of the tradition the very worst examples of power and violence (and there are plenty from which to choose) and twisting and distorting the Bible to suit their own agenda.

This is not my Christianity, and it's time for women and men of faith who follow Jesus and seek justice, who strive for peace and walk humbly with God, to stand up and be counted.

This is not our Christianity.

There is a Christianity rich and good - just as strong, but not violent. Focused on God and seeking justice, but without disdain for the other.

Read Marcus Borg or Bishop Tom Wright, Diana Butler Bass or Dominic Crossan, Barbara Brown Taylor or John Ortberg, Rob Bell or John Buchanan - all of these pastors and writers represent a coherent and loving expression of the faith, a faith devoted to lifting up the name of Jesus and lifting up the world with it.

There are many varieties of the faith, but the expression of faith represented in the cold and careless sign above is on the boundary at the farthest reaches of thought and behavior.

Has it crossed the boundary?

Into some sort of dark never-never land filled with pain and anger?

Has it gone too far into it's self-congratulating cave?

That it would dance on Dr. Tiller's grave?

Whatever it is, it's not my Christianity, and for that I give thanks to God every day!