Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Around 40 Dems line up against federal abortion funding in healthcare bill


Around 40 Dems line up against federal abortion funding in healthcare bill - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room


Around 40 Dems line up against federal abortion funding in healthcare bill
By Jordan Fabian - 10/24/09 03:02 PM ET

Approximately 40 House Democrats are prepared to block healthcare reform legislation from coming to the floor should the bill include federal subsidies for abortions, said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) Friday.

Stupak, who is conservative on social issues, told CNS News that he has organized the voting bloc to support his amendment that would strip the abortion provisions from the legislation. House Rules Committee chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), according to Stupak, said that there is "no way" her panel would provide a vote for his amendment.

The group of 40 would join House Republicans in voting against procedural measure that would draft rules for debating the bill on the House floor. Passage of the measure is necessary for the House to hold a floor vote.

"There’s about 40 like-minded Democrats like myself -- we’ll try to take down the rule," Stupak said. “If all 40 of us vote in a bloc against the rule -- because we think the Republicans will join us -- we can defeat the rule. The magic number is 218. If we can have 218 votes against the rule, we win.”

With 177 Republicans in the House, Stupak would need at least 41 Democrats to cross the aisle and vote against the rule. Stupak's amendment was originally defeated by the House Energy and Commerce Committee during mark-up.

Under language in the Energy and Commerce proposal, one health plan in each health care "exchange" that sells public health insurance must provide coverage for abortion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is currently in the process of merging the House's three health bills.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Kinks - "Destroyer" & more....

Enough of all of this seriousness. Let's hear some Kinks!







Ralph Nader on the Performance of the Obama Administration So Far

I could elaborate more, but Ralph says it all better than I can. This is his latest blog entry. I have some additional comments of my own that follow.

http://www.nader.org/index.php?/archives/2145-Rhetoric-and-Reality.html

I just received a letter from President Obama. Right there on the outside envelope are the words “I need you.” After not answering several letters which I have mailed and faxed to him, I was, for the briefest of moments, curious about this personal plea for help. Then, of course, I realized that it was a form letter from Mr. Obama via the auspices of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). I started reading the two page, single-spaced missive. His words prompt responses.

He opens with undeniable declarations, to wit: “There are times in the life of our nation when America’s course can only be set by the concerted effort of citizens determined to pull our country through. This is one of those times—and your personal involvement in moving America forward is absolutely essential.”

Just what this “personal involvement” is all about is unclear, other than to make a “contribution of $25, $35 or even $50 to the Democratic National Committee” which is somehow supposed to make sure that “America’s families are actively engaged in the critical decisions that lie ahead.”

This money will fund something called “Organizing for America” under the DNC which will unleash “volunteers and activists” to “carry our message…all across this great country of ours.”

The “message” includes “reforms that will bring down the cost of health insurance for families.” But Mr. Obama has taken the one reform—single payer, which he used to support—off the table and replaced it with a bill over a 1000 pages that will do just the opposite—to the delight of the drug and health insurance industries (see singlepayeraction.org).

Continuing into the letter, Mr. Obama emphasizes that “in communities all across America, people are worried about whether they’re going to have a job and paycheck to count on.”

But he has done nothing to support the card check reform to facilitate workers forming unions—an objective he supported during his presidential campaign. Still no push on Congress, no ringing statement of support, as he has uttered numerous times in promoting his various bailouts of Big Business.

One way to help low income workers to pay their bills is to elevate the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour which is what the minimum wage was in 1968, adjusted for inflation. The federal minimum wage is now $7.25. Adding $2.75 per hour would increase consumer demand in our faltering real economy.

The Democrats and Republicans, who gave bailouts in the trillions of dollars for the paper economy of the mismanaged, speculating, reckless big banks, big investment firms and insurance giants like AIG, should provide some economic assistance to workers on Main Street and not just Wall Street.

Mr. Obama writes: “Let’s put America’s future in the hands of people who are willing to work hard, willing to take their responsibilities seriously….” Perhaps Mr. Obama should read the short book by one of his Harvard Law School professors, Richard Parker, titled Here the People Rule. Professor Parker makes a strong case that the government has a constitutional duty to facilitate the political and civic energies of the people. An important pathway toward this objective is to provide facilities whereby the people can easily band together in their nonprofit civic advocacy associations which they would fund themselves. Mr. Obama can start this process now by supporting a provision to establish a financial consumer association (FCA) with the pending legislation to start a consumer financial regulatory agency.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) supported a Financial Consumer Association in 1985 when he was in the House of Representatives. Remember the savings and loan bailouts?

A similar provision can be included in the pending health insurance legislation. These facilities help to redress the present severe imbalance of power between the unorganized people and the corporate power machines which are often taxpayer subsidized and able to deduct lobbying expenses.

These consumer facilities have some precedents. In Obama’s home state of Illinois thousands of consumers of electric, telephone and gas companies voluntarily pay their membership dues to their private advocacy group: the Illinois Citizens Utility Board.

He asks for our “personal participation.” Well why doesn’t he meet with the leaders of consumer, worker and poverty groups in the White House with the frequency with which he meets with the CEOs of giant corporations in the banking, insurance (Aetna), oil, gas, coal, auto and other commercial interests? Instead he has turned his back on the very constituencies which gave him most of his votes. These are the people who remember Mr. Obama’s campaign promises and all his intonations of “hope and change,” including moving to reform the privileged tax laws for the rich and corporations and revising the notorious trade agreements.

Since Mr. Obama wants “personal participation,” how about moving for D.C. statehood or at least his expressed desire for voting rights and Congressional representation for the residents of the nation’s capital? As the months drag on with a Democratic Congress and a Democratic White House, people are losing hope for any change in their present state of political servitude. _______________________________________________________________

The only thing I have to add to all of this is it would be very interesting to read the Richard Parker book he recommends, above. It could be the ammo needed to exploded all the Right-wing rhetoric along the lines of "government doesn't work," "you just want the government to help you and do nothing," "keep government out of business," etc. etc. I tend to feel that this is simply a ploy to dumb down people so they wont exercise their citizenship and work for real change. As Ralph has pointed out many times in speeches I have heard, the reason why Europe and Canada have such robust Social Health Care Services is because the people worked for them. They got out and demonstrated, organized, had made it happen. I've heard Ralph say before that the Constitution actually calls for the Government to mobilize people to action. This would set the who Lassaiz-Faire approach to society on its ear! As much as I like Ron Paul and feel he's at least a man of his word, I think this "you can't fart unless the Constitution says so" canard has worn out it's welcome.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Should We Expect Much From The Blazers This Year?




I'll be damned if I know.

Just call me a Burned Blazers fan who's by now used to having high expectations kinda blunted. And then there' the fact that I can't shake the feeling that there's serious favoritism given to NBA Superstars. Gotta make sure that Shaq goes all the way when he has that great endorsement contract with Burger king, ya know. Game 6 of the 2002 Lakers- Kings NBA Semifinals will haunt many people for years to come. Oh and how about the fact that Kobe Bryant has been a little free with his elbows, and has gotten off Scott free for it? Ask Mike Bibby about that one! And he's done it many times, on many occasions. Other sports fans seem to agree with me that the NBA may be rigged.

However, I do feel like Kobe really worked hard & earned his title last year. I saw to many games where the sweat was pouring off him and the opponents weren't letting up on him to think otherwise.

But I digress...

Getting back to the Blazers, their performance so far in the current preseason has been less than sparking. They have 1 more chance tomorrow at Phoenix to at least come out 50-50 in the exhibition games. Then the real season starts with an opener at home against Houston, who blew us out of the 1st round of the playoffs last year. I take comfort int he fact that this is still a young team and that it was their 1st playoff run, and the Rockets just blindsided them. Portland almost got it back, too. Yao Ming is just no Sabonis.

I predict we'll know soon how it's going to go. If by the halfway season mark, Greg Oden hasn't shown he's finally come out of his beginners fog and is ready to play Basketbell, I say trade him. He's already proven less then the expectations people have had for him. It the Blazers aren't' at least No.1 in the division by then and being recognized as a terror in the West, don't get your hopes up. But they could at least go to the second round of the playoff this year if they work hard at it. Time will tell.

Some buzz has been created by the trade of Shaquille O'neal to the Cleveland Cavilliers. Here's my prediction on that: Shaq gets inured and is sidelined for the rest of the season.

Who do I think will be the terror this year? Boston. With Rasheed Wallace in their camp now and KG healthy, expect them to explode. Should be very, very interesting.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Prodigal Son: Why No One Is A Hero

Luke 15:11 [Then Jesus] said, There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me. And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself, he said, How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants. 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. 22 But the father said to his servants,Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate. 25 Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound. 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him! 31 And he said to him, Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.

Why can't we just read the Bible for what it says?

I'm getting tired of every time I mention this parable in connection to God's incredible love that goes beyond our ability to comprehend, people watering that down by trying to comprehend it. I still have a mental picture of my late Grandmother wagging her finger at me with a smile and saying "But..! He really repented!" Did he?

Earth to Those With Ears To Hear: You are trying to make the Prodigal Son into a "Hero," and he most certainly was not.

The other day I got into two disputes with 2 different Brothers in Christ on 2 opposite poles in their view of things. One of them is a self-styled champion of Grace, and views anything even a little bit discipleship as veering into "legalism" and "performance." He subscribes to a Dispensationalist view that tends to
regard following the teachings of Christ as not for this age & steers the believer towards selected passages Romans & Galatians. The other discussion was on the Prodigal Son parable that Christ told, and involved a Brother who quotes from Jesus' call to discipleship a lot (nothing wrong with that, really) and uses phrases like "easy repentance" "to denote anything that may be just a simple acceptance of the truth as it is seen in Scripture: We would never find God if he had not come to us first. Well, suffice it to say that I view the former view as rank heresy and the latter as just a bit misguided, but today, my gripe will be with the latter view. Why? because I'm quite frankly tired of Christians trying to make the Prodigal Son in any sense of the word, a Hero. Let's face up to reality: He was not.

Per the discussion that inspired this blog, we were talking regarding to what extent a Christin is supposed to be "Radical" or "On Fire For God." My response was that I don't know many people who are, but it's not a requirement for Salvation. I still say that. If it were, the Prodigal Son would have to be left outside the gates of his Father's place.

I could agree on this: Belief in the Father in an unbelieving world is "radical" in a sense- because the world would rather deny his existence and their responsibility before Him. But the Prodigal Son didn't exactly have a clear understanding of who his Father is, thus the surprise ending. It didn't take "Radical Faith." It just took the faith of a Mustard Seed.


I doubt that the Prodigal had any notion that he was giving anything up because it was the right thing to do- if his Stocks had all returned good investments and/or the Government Bailouts had kept him afloat, he'd still be out there, partying down. I don't think he really got hit with the lesson that the story is meant to convey until he actually arrived home. When I think of "radical," "on fire for Jesus," I think of George Fox or Mother Teresa. "Radical giving, radical loving, radical repentance, radical sacrifice." just doesn't look anything like the story he lived. The Radical one in the story is the Father. Naturally, we go by his example.


But let's skip the small talk. To unpack this, take a look at the son's personal turning point. After spending his Father' inheritance and going from Riches to Rags, he wound up getting a job on a Pig Farm. Here's what he says to himself :

How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!


Now, take a look at a New Testament description of the way Jesus lived his life, and the Mentality a Follower of Jesus Christ is supposed to have:

Philippians 2: 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Notice any difference?

The First is a person who says "Well, what I tried didn't work, and I really have gotten myself into a huge mess over this, so maybe if I go back and apologize and suck it up, I can at least get in better circumstances."

The Second is Someone who never left the Father's Presence, had no need of anything else the World had to offer, and set out to humble himself from the get-go. He was always on Plan A, because it never failed and there was no need for a Plan B.

Does the Prodigal really have the Mentality of Christ?

Adam Clarke
, a centuries -old old Methodist Bible teacher, and as such not one certainly to shy away from the "Cross" aspects of Christian life, has this to tell us in his commentary on this parable:

Verse 21. Make me as one of thy hired servants, is added here by several MSS. and versions; but it is evident this has been added, merely to make his conduct agree with his resolution, ver. 19. But by this a very great beauty is lost: for the design of the inspired penman is to show, not merely the depth of the profligate son's repentance, and the sincerity of his conversion, but to show the great affection of the father, and his readiness to forgive his disobedient son.


I don't k
now if Clarke is correct about the early manuscripts not having "make me your servant." But I don't care, because he clearly is reading the text for what it says. The "son" in this story cannot in any sense of the word, be said to have been living a "sold out' or "radical" life. He more fits the picture of the person who repented at the end of his/her life to avoid dire consequences. Of course, that's not ideal. But God loves those people too.


But what about the repentance that he actually offered? Here's the Speech the missing son had concocted in his head that he was going to give to the Father:

I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.

It must be said that we really don't know just how heartfelt this was for him. The 1st thing he says to himself is his personal realization: "I'm in dire straits & where I came from was more comfortable." The 2nd is a speech he put together to say when he saw Dad: "I screwed up and I'm sorry." How much of the 2nd thing was actually his true attitude, and not just a concocted mia cupla, is unknown.

Noted that the Father's welcoming of his Lost Son began when he saw him coming home "from a long way off" and that when they met up, the former didn't even let the latter finish his spiel!

Adam Clarke concurs:

His tenderness of heart cannot wait till the son has made his confession; his bowels yearn over him, and he cuts short his tale of contrition and self-reproach, by giving him the most plenary assurances of his pardoning love.

He sought "fire insurance" and was more sorry that he got caught than anything else. When he "came to himself" as in Jesus' parable, there was no thoughts of how it's better to live an ascetic life free from the worldly pleasures that he just spent the last several years indulging in. It was how he can get a free meal & a place to stay that was better than slopping hogs.

What's "radical" about this parable isn't the Prodigals repentance, it 's the radicaness of the Father's embrace. Every "common sense" person would tell the Father that he was unwise in accepting back a son that hadn't done anything but spit in his face. We get hit with a very "radical" notion, however- the Brother thought he deserved better and -surprise- he did not. God pays you the same whether you start at 6am or at 8:45pm. We don't have any thing in the son in this parable that's worth modeling a Christian life after. We have the example of the Father.

But we have one more spiel to take a look at here. And it's that of the Angry Brother:

Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.

What's this? "I have never disobeyed your command?"

The entire parable is the result of the situation that is described in verses 1 & 2 of Chapter 15: That of Jesus' allowing Tax Collectors & Sinners to come near him, and the fact that the Pharisees complained about it.

Following this, Jesus tells 3 parables: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and the Lost Son. All of which reveal the heart of the Father in finding That Which Was Lost. Not so much on the ability of What Was Lost to get found. Or of how sincere the Found was behaving.

I have to ask: Just how likely is it that in the face of the Pharisees' criticism, Jesus is replying with an apologetic for the Sinners, telling critical people to ease up because they don't see the "Radical Repentance" these people are engaged in?

It can't be proven by the Father in the Parable of the Lost Son. After his Angry Son threw a fit and insulted the Old Man by not going into his house, the Father gives the Angry Brother this rejoinder:

And he said to him, Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.

"He was lost and now is found." That's it. Same reason for rejoicing that's offered in the 1st 2 parables. Not "Well I know he screwed up royally, but he promises from now on to be a good boy." Jesus means to tell us 3 stories of something that was lost and now is found.

And the Brother? He's a picture of the Pharisees, complaining of the guy who got off easily. Well actually not, because the Lost Son got beat up by life in the process. And he's lying through his teeth when he says "I did everything you told me to."

Really? Just how compliant with the commands of God were the Israelites, if the truth were to be known and the tack were down to brass? He's saying two things here "Father, you are letting this guy off easy" and "I deserve better." No you don't. Israel spent as many decades as it could trying to stretch every limit of the Covenant as possible, even going beyond the Covenant if possible.

It seems like we have a story of 2 Sons whom God invited into fellowship in his household, without making an issue of their less than exemplary performance.


I have a "Radical" idea: Let's stop trying to make every verse fit the grid that we overlay on it. Let's just admit there are exceptions to every rule, and no one knows the reason why except the Inscrutable Mind of God. Otherwise, we wind up committing the Opposite Extreme error of Martin Luther, who wanted to throw out the Book of James beacuse it didn't fit his undsertanding of Grace. Certainly, we ought to teach Following Christ as it is, something that calls us to count the cost. But when I see Brothers and Sisters In Christ repeatedly stumbling in their attempts at getting "On Fire For God" and falling back into sin and self- conmdemnation, then I say it's time to call for a different strategy:

Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

In this story, the One who Jesus asks us to be like is The Father. That's the only cast member in this play that's at all the picture of the Christian life as it was meant to be lived, and the only real Hero of the story. But -and this is where it gets tricky- part of the character of the Father was his Radical Acceptance of someone who most agree was a Selfish Shmoe. That's where he teaches Selfish Shmoes- and those who would cast them out- a thing or two about Radical Love, buy doing the unexpected for the undeserving.

And while I'm at it, since this blog is partially aimed at those who have interest in Mennonite thought, just
how can God expect us to love our Enemies, if it was up to them to get their hearts right before we showed them kindness? John Drescher is a Mennonite Bible teacher who has a great quote about this, and as soon as I find it, I'll edit this entry to add it later.

The converse is to fall into the trap of the Angry Brother and demand more than the Father does, and not be happy with the Kindness the Father shows, since he really doesn't have to show any kindness at all!
Romans 2:4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?
May the Father help the heart of those who will consider these things.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The GOP Record on Race & Gender: IS Racism a Part of the Problem With Obama?



Definitely.

Call me daffy, but if racism still does exist in this country, then I would say that it has to be ipso facto at least part of the problem here. If Jimmy Carter knows anything at all about the part of the country he grew up in, then I suspect that much of the animosity still exists. And if it exists, you can bet it is rearing it's ugly head in this hour when we have a Black Man as President.
 





What will we say if- God forbid- there's an assassination attempt on Obama's life because of all of this? If some whack job tries to off him because they have been stirred up by all this "Obama is gonna take this country down" talk, then you will see the cracks show & how much animosity bubbles up to the surface! When I see these pictures floating around in even my own highly Liberal City -of Obama made to look like an evil clown, I know what's behind it. Wake up!

Think about it for a minute: Just how honest is the rhetoric that Obama's Health Care Plan is Socialist in nature, when it is
SO pock-marked by Coproate Special interests, and is not near the overhaul of our Health Care System that the Single Payer Method would be, if enacted in this country. Or how about the highly discredited, yet persistent Obama Birth Scandal? Would such inaccuracies have even arisen if he were not African-American? Doubtful, since John McCain was born in Panama & no one has said squat about that.

George Bush' policies weren't exactly healthy for the nation either! Did any of those same fine individuals utter a peep when he tried to destroy Social Security, lie us into a needless war, & committed an frontal assault on civil liberties? Nope, because a White Male Republican can do that & it's ok.

But take a step back for a minute & consider the long history the Republicans have had on Race & Gender. What can these things tell us about what we see today?

Lots of Republicans like to bring up the fact that the Democratic Party was at one time home to many of those who supported Slavery & Segregation. That's actually only part of the story. "The Democratic Party evolved from Anti-Federalist factions that opposed the fiscal policies of Alexander Hamilton in the early 1790s. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison organized these factions into the Democratic-Republican Party. The party favored states' rights and strict adherence to the Constitution; it opposed a national bank and wealthy, moneyed interests." (Source here and here.) 

  
Concurrently, there has been a movement of Democratic Progressives who opposed Slavery and Segregationist policies as far aback as 1848, with the Free Soil movement (many of whom joined the Republican Party upon is formation in 1854.) The remainder of the Democrats actually split over whether or not to support Lincoln's military polices during the Civil War.

But in the latter half of the 20th Century, profound changes began to occur.

The Separatist Southern Democrats bolted in 1948 when Hubert Humphrey denounced segregation & the party nominated Harry Truman. They formed their own party -The "Dixiecrats" or States Rights Party & nominated Strom Thurmond. There's been a GOP-ward migration of Racist whites to the Republican party ever since, culminating in 1980 when Ronald Reagan announced his run for President in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Along the way, Robert Byrd & George Wallace lost their respective bids for the Democratic nomination. David Duke, former head of the KKK was a Republican Presidential candidate in 1990. Bob Jones University, until very recently a school that disallowed interracial dating & marriage, was major bastion of Christian Conservativism. Most of my fellow Christians let them get away with it, if they were a true partner in what they saw as a political struggle. The Separatists Whites left the Democratic party in droves, and the Republicans welcomed them with open arms.

But that's still only part of the story!

Anyone notice how the Republicans have almost never had a Woman or African-American Candidate run in their primaries that was very successful? Alan Keyes runs & he's ignored. They parade Colin Powell & Condi Rice & then neither of those enter the primaries. Liz Dole announces but pulls out before the primaries. Then in a desperate attempt to cover up their tracks they nominate Sarah Palin as a sort of "me-too-ism" when the Democrats nominated Obama (they already nominated a woman VP candidate in 1984, Gerry Ferraro.)" The last even slightly successful woman in the GOP primaries was Margaret Chase Smith in 1964, but the results were hardly newsworthy. The Dems have had Chisolm, McCormack, Jackson, Clinton, Schroeder & Obama. Who really today is the party of White Male privilege? The Republicans are, and they don't seem to be interested in changing. The only GOP Candidate for President in 2008 to show up for an event put on by the NAACP when invited, was Tom Tancredo.

OK so now after all of that, what were we talking about?
Oh, yeah - the fact of this current trend of Obamaphobia being somewhat racist in nature. Does it necessarily have to be racist in order for it to be a lot of scare-mongering by irresponsible Right-Wing demagogues? Certainly not. I still remember my friend Troy sitting at his computer, pontificating that with Clinton "We have a Hitler In charge! Now we're going to know what it feels like!" None of his - or anyone else's prognostications of Clintonesque doom came true.

And yet, when Rush Limbaugh gets on his bully pulpit and declares an incident of Black kids beating up a White Kid a result of "Obama's America," I have to conclude that somebody is wanting a Race War. Rush, as I have stated on this blog before, has no room to talk. When Glenn Beck can get on Fox News and play the Reverse Racist card, I have to surmise that somebody wants to stir up animosities. When I start
hearing honest debates about what's wrong with Obama's Health Care Reform that's not couched in rhetoric, such as the Ralph Nader links I posted above, I'll believe that the Politics of Hate aren't a huge part of this that the Republicans are aiming to profit from. History has shown they have done it before.

Jim Wallis adds some other thoughts to the whole issue on his Sojouners blog.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Is Capitalism Christian?

I haven't written anything pertinent to Christian Faith in quite awhile, so I wanted to get back into it with a couple of blog entries that have been brewing in the back of my head for awhile.

"I never been to the Sem-in-air-ee, but I been to Cal-va-ree." So goes the main line to a song by the Reverend Dan Smith, a Gospel Blues Singer/Harmonica Player from the South who passed away in the Mid 90's. I've tried in vain to find a way of posting his song "I Never Been to Seminary" for all to hear, but I did find out that you can hear a snippet of it if you go here. Such a neat sentiment, y'know? If someone was deprived of the privilege of a good education, it's great that they can say that they have been at the most important place, at the foot of the cross.

Of course, it would seem to me that he should also pay attention to that fact that if it weren't for "Sem-in-air-ee" training people to translate the Hebrew and Greek texts into readable English, perhaps Dan Smith wouldn't even have ever been able to hear about Calvary?


Here's the problem : What happens when we devalue education altogether, and make a lack of education a virtue? After all, there was a time when being a well-trained Theologian got you somewhere in life. At least, a guy named John Calvin seemed to do very well in his career as an Attorney/Theologian/Magistrate. More recently, American Theologian Reinhold Niebuhrwas featured in the 1900's on the cover of TIME Magazine's 25 Anniversary edition.

We live in an age where "folksiness" is a virtue - or at least has been. Somehow having an education is held up as suspect and a thing to be feared as part of a greater cabal to undermine society's cherished values. Folksiness is considered next to Godliness. But what have we traded on, in coming to this? Is the Church as a whole being listened to? Well if you have taken the temperature on how we are doing on the debates on homosexuality and abortion, you'd have to agree: not very well.

You are no doubt by now wondering what Rev Dan Smith, John Calvin, Rienhold Neibuhr and Folksiness all have to do with the title of this essay? Well I'm getting to that through a sort of long route series of thoughts. Bear with me.

Speaking of "Calvary" -it was in a local expression of the organization known as Calvary Chapel that I ran into "Get out of Bible college" sentiments, from the Pulpit no less. I think they relished that in the timber and farming industry town in Klamath County, Oregon. It's less threatening. An area that went almost 70% for Ronald Reagan in 1984 is most likely to be made up of meat-and potatoes thinkers who have no time for deep theological questioning.

And the local college there? It's a technical school with little tolerance for liberal arts. Get your education in something that will make you money is the mantra there. When I moved away from the area and started attending a community college at the other end of Oregon, I was surprised to hear a woman who dropped out of the major we were in exclaim that she wasn't bothered at all by not finishing her degree. As she said with robust pride: "Why? I now have a whole vast area of knowledge that I didn't have before!"


Why is knowledge not valued for it's own worth?


Why is anti-intellectualism such a deeply entrenched part of American life?


I don't pretend to know all the answers to those questions but I will definitely try to offer a few good clues before I'm done writing this. One better question to answer is: how do we get back from this long and winding road of hayseed-edness being so highly regarded?

Perhaps if Education were considered a basic human right, even up through the University level? After all, we consider it a basic human right up through grade 12, and society foots the bill. Then people would spend more time getting educated and gaining knowledge for it's own sake, not for it's sake as a commodity that produces financial results. And thing such as theology and philosophy will be more highly regarded as fields of study. Not that they aren't now, but face it: whens the last time TIME has put a Bible Scholar on the cover?

I like getting ahold of magazines and books that libraries often throw out. You never know what little gems can be found that will be of great use down the road. I recently came across the 12/11/2007 issue of Christian Century magazine, and was stimulated to though by an interview with Nicholas Lash, a Catholic theologian I'd never heard of before. You could say that this entire essay was stimulated by my having read this interview.

On page 32 is the following hot potato question by the interviewer and Lash's response:

CC: You’ve also written sympathetically about Marxism. After the collapse of communism, is Marxism still a philosophy that Christians need to engage? Why is it that some viable Christian version of socialism is so difficult to imagine in England and America?

Lash: "Those who doubt that Christians still need to engage with Marx are as foolish as those who doubt that we still need to engage with Aristotle, Kant or Hegel. At the heart of Marx’s analysis of the capitalist mode of production was his insight that it led, with almost mechanical inevitability, to what he called "the universalization of the commodity form," the transmutation not only of all things, but also of all relations, into commodities.

"I can understand why, in a culture as driven and absorbed by messianic capitalism as is the United States, versions of socialism of any kind are hard to comprehend with sympathy.

"As millions of destitute Americans continue to be deprived of adequate access to good health care, people of all parties in the UK regard the retention of the National Health Service, "free at the point of delivery," as essential to our cultural health."

"All things... all relations" ...turned into commodities. Health Care being charged an arm & a leg for because of the justification of an earned income that reaches the stratosphere. Degrees pursued because of their monetary value in "getting a job." Pastors of churches taking outside jobs, and the community is impressed that they are willing to work with everyone else, even though in Biblical times that situation of life was considered an albatross. Such a thing really points up the lowered esteem of the Church in our day and age.

Back to what I was stating earlier: Ever wondered why The Church is losing the debate on Homosexuality and Abortion?

Have we accommodated the language of democracy too deeply into our self-understanding?

Can we really tell that Doctor that he or she can be free to make $3 million per year and not just a paltry $1 million? And then out of the other side of our mouths tell that woman she can't have an abortion? Or that Gay Couple "you cannot marry?"

No. Not in a society that regards relationships as commodities and values individual freedom above all else. The only arguments we will soon be engaging is the Rush-Limbaugh-like "good old fashioned middle class values" dribble. Those don't hold up very well in a society where autonomy is sacrosanct.

Any arguments to the contrary regarding the assumed freedom of terminating a pregnancy or marrying a person of the same sex should be rooted in Communitarian understandings. The fact is, every culture which has held together throughout time and even mass immigration to other parts of the world has honored the sanctity of traditional marriage and the unborn. The Eastern Orthodox, Conservative Jewish Faith and even Old Order Amish and Mennonites tend to come to mind. Split of these communities happen when toleration of dessent leads them to conclude otherwise.

How did God go about keeping society in Ancient Israel from devolving into a mess of commodity-worshipping free for all? The year of Jubilee was one way. It didn't matter if you still owed money on the cusp of the 7-year period, and you had sold yourself into slavery to pay off your debts & feed your family. Your debts were to be forgiven and you were to be set free if you wanted. That kept the economy form freefalling into the type of financial mess much like today's Subprime Mortgage Crisis. And it was Redistribution of the Wealth, a cornerstone of Socialism. Today, if you get a debt forgiven it is income to you. The Government sends you a 1099C in the mail.

In this day and age where lawlessness and disregard for management of God's creation extends beyond personal reproductive morality, and into how we manage our fiances on a mass scale affecting society as a whole, this is a timely debate. Let the Church enter into a debate: Just how in line with the Judeo-Christian God's values is our Economic system?

Oh, I'm well aware that this would be an issue that would touch on so many things that couldn't possibly be covered in a single blog entry. But I'm ready and willing to engage it. One immediate question comes to mind: How would life in Christian perspective look like when implementing such changes as I am doing? Or what might get to the heart of what some may be thinking: Am I advocating a return to unhealthy church/state liaison's of the past that caused untold oppression & bloodshed?


In point of fact, advocating an "other-centeredness" about life, which is at the heart of my advocating a Christian-based repudiation of Capitalism, is exactly what will address these issues quite nicely. The Church ought to think of itself as like The Red Cross (an apt if imperfect analogy I cant remember where I heard): As a separate entity from Government that engages with society, challenging everyone towards implementations of peace & justice, as much as is humanly possible.

And what if future generations feel the need to go to war on behalf of the Secular Nation? Try the best to talk them out of it. but if they must go, make sure that when they come back, they are handed 2 things: A Bible and a Shovel. One for preaching to the lost and the other for rebuilding. And then send them back into the field from which they just came. And then begin to think about where else we can implement other-centeredness at the heart of Christian life.


Some other issues need ot be addressed in regards to this. No doubt people will talk about the simpleness of the disciples and Paul calling all his accomplishments in the flesh as refuse for the sake of the Kingdom as a rebuttal to my pro-education stance. That will be taken up soon, in anothe rentry.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Unjust Sex Offender Laws and Prosecutions: YOU could be the next victim!

Trailer for the Sean Penn Documentary "Witch Hunt"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0C2aQprdIM&feature=player_embedded

I've seen this documentary and it's very good, if also very disturbing. It's scary to think we live in a country that allows such "Cowboy Law Enforcement" -as they call it. Except my Dad, God rest his soul, was an actual Cowboy and he wouldn't be anywhere near as stupid. Good that this movie was made, and that Sean Penn is lending his name and clout behind raising awareness of this travesty- of falsely accusing adults of sexual crimes against children. More can be learned about it at http://www.witchhuntmovie.com/.

Speaking of false or specious accusations, the blog ConstitutionalFights has this to say about the Sex Offender Registry and why many who are on it don't belong there:

1. Romeo and Juliet liaisons, false accusations of vindictive teens against an older teen (18 or 19).

2.False accusation by vindictive parents in child custody cases and/or family feuds- There are more of these than most people would believe. There are many reports of people who admit to having lied about being molested when they were younger. Now they would like to have the person wrongly convicted on their testimony set free.

3.Mutual consensual sex- but being 3 yrs. and 1 day older than the willing teen (can bring and has brought multiple felony indictments).

4. Sex between consenting teen prostitute (who looks older and even may have lied about her age) with an adult male.

5. Criminal charges that later are dropped for insufficient proof but not appealed in time, so still on registry.

It's a good thing that Jesus wasn't born in 21st Century America, or Joseph would be in jail right now for supposedly getting 14 -15 year old Mary pregnant. Nice thought, eh?

I realize there should be some limits on personal freedom or society will be in chaos. But when I compare US laws to age of consent laws around the globe, I gotta think we are way too Draconian.

Some more good resource websites:

Reform Sex Offender Laws Dot Org

Corrupted Justice For those who think Perverted Justice and "To Catch A Predator" are a blight on society. Reports regularly on civil Suits being brought against PJ, and Dateline NBC.

Cyber Stalking Law A state-by-state compendium of links to cyberstalking laws around the country.

http://www.freedommarchusa.org/ Infortmation about the upcoming June 27th 2009 march for awareness of wrongful convictions.

http://falserapesociety.blogspot.com/

http://www.falserape.net/index.html

http://moraloutrage.net/

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What Ralph Nader Was Right About (So Far)

Well a few of my friends who voted for Obama thought I was just "throwing my vote away" by supporting the Oregon Progressive Party candidate for President in 2008, Ralph Nader. It's true, I am bullheaded and voted for Mr. Nader three times. But in previous times, the loyalist Democrats could accuse us "Nader-traitors" of delivering the election to George W. Bush and denying Gore & Kerry the election. This despite the fact that it could be argued both men defeated themselves.

Well, they still do that. Last year while out campaigning for Nader, I met a motorist who told me that Nader had "millions of dead at his feet," for stopping Al Gore. Of course, this ignores two facts 1) Joe Lieberman was Gore's VP running mate and 2) Gore himself said Iraq had ties to terrorism and Weapons of Mass destruction:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Chn1qAn1f3w



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFBl0fnMUVc



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JE48XHKG64



Well the dreaming is now officially over. A Democrat is in the White House. So instead of talking about how much better off we COULD have been, we can now get to more important buisness at hand: The fact that we most certainly are not better off at all.

The following is a breakdown of some of the issues raised or touched on by Ralph Nader during his 2008 bid for the Presidency, and how he and we tried to warn you all. Obama is looking ore and more like Bush's 3rd term all the time.


HEALTH CARE:

As Nader put it, Canadian Style Single-Payer Health Care Insurance was off the table according to Obama. So far Mr. Obama has refused to allow single payer advocates to speak at conferences he's held with Health Insurance Industry officials on Health Care reform. Mr. Nader was in support of Single Payer during the 2008 election, and he and his supporters continue to speak out in favor of it.




IRAN:



Accoring to Counterpunch.org, Obama is talking doublespeak on Iran. On the one hand, pomises of dialogue, on the other, rhetoric about Iran developing Nuclear bombs and supporting intenational terrorism very similar to his predecessor, George W. Bush.




According to an interview with Nader on Democracy Now!, the longtime Consumer Advocate stated:

"The point is that we are exaggerating that threat instead of using diplomacy, number one. Number two, Iran does not have nuclear weapons; they're nowhere near nuclear weapons, according to intelligence estimates. Number three, Israel has 250 nuclear weapons. Does Iran really want to commit suicide? And number four, two major national security experts in Israel have been reported as saying Iran is not a problem." "Ralph Nader on Barack Obama: 'It is Quite Clear He is a Corporate Candidate from A to Z'," "Democracy Now!" interview, June 18, 2008.

FAIR TRADE:

On the Nader/Gonzales website, a call was made to replacing NAFTA with "open agreements that pull up, rather than pull down... environmental, labor and consumer standards." Evidence is that the current administration may be talking out of both sides of it's mouth as far as renegotiating NAFTA goes, as evidence in the recent debacle over trucking restrictions with Mexico. This is a shift from Obama's having campaigned on supposed intentions to renegotiate NAFTA.


WAR IN IRAQ:
Accoring to Votenader.org: "The current political strategy of pre-emptive war in the Middle East is a disaster... It has bloated the already wasteful military budget and has cost at present over 4,000 American lives, nearly 100,000 American injuries, and over a million Iraqi civilian lives. Nader/Gonzalez propose a rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq. A target of withdrawing troops in six months will be set. The war is costing taxpayers nearly $4,600 every second — and that doesn’t include the long-term reconstruction costs."
Obama originally promised a 16-month timetable for withdrawl from Iraq, then fudged on that goal. It is thought that what our government may be correuntly pusrsung is not withdrawl, but long term occupation of Iraq. According to a recent Bill Moyers brodacst, the US is maintaining a fortress that passes itself off as an embassy in Bahgdad, and a similar project has been in the works for a fortress-like embassy in Pakistan, all run by independent mercenary contractors such as Blackwater. In fact, such projects have been underway since the Bush administration.
WALL STREET/AUTOMOTIVE FINANCIAL MELTDOWN:
Ralph Nader predicted the recent Wall Street meltdown, stating that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were on track to follow the same path to financial ruin the savings and loan industry headed down in the 80's & 90's. He opposed the vary same bailout that both Senator McCain and then Senator Obama voted for last year, and laid out a 10 point plan for dealing with the crisis and potential future bailouts.
Concerning a General Motors bankruptcy, Mr. Nader has said it would launch "a conclusive Death Star to tens of thousands of jobs, thousands of small businesses and adverse effects to hundreds of communities around the country." He also blasted Obama's automotive task force for forcing Crysler to cut 789 dealerships that will cost jobs and put more people in need of the government dole, costing taxpayers more to support the unemployed.

PRE-CONCLUSION:
Well, I've about burnt myself out doing this particular blog entry. I will likely pick up on these same themes as I continue to blog, and anyone can look at what I've already written for more info. It appears there is so much to talk about, and that others have does similar research to critique Obama's record and have readily avilible breakdowns of the issues at hand. Consider visiting the following:
Nader.org - Not to be confused with Votenader.org, this is Ralph's ongoing blog where you can view open letters he's written to the current adminsitration regarding various issues of the day. Suffice it to say, he lets them have it!
The Trail of Broken Promises - Written last October by Matt Gonzales, Ralph's Vice Presidential running mate. He details a long history of captulating ot the Republicans by Obama, even going back to his record as an Illinois Stare Senator. Pelosi and Reid get some of his side-swipes as well.
All I can say at this point, in regards to how much we are being taken down the primrose path- beleive me it depresses me to even type these very words- but it needs to be said:
TO BE CONTINUED...