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Scratching the itch to ruminate, meditate, contemplate and deliberate, then bloviate, perorate, or even objurgate about ministry, music, miscellanea, politics, people, places, the hazardous, the hopeful, the horrendous, the ambiguous, the dubious, the numinous, the nebulous and sometimes even my necrotizing nemesis - Multiple Sclerosis.
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legions of heavenly host,
bright faces covered, praising,
all chanting, voices raising.
chaos yawning, swift and deep,
known, yet unknown. Fear unfurling,
death and darkness churning, swirling.
One last look at golden glory.
The Three part; He is now One.
The Father’s voice says, “Go well, my Son.”
into the abyss.
His next memory will be a Mother’s kiss.
~ Denise Day Spencer, January 1999
On January 20th, President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office using the same Bible upon which President Lincoln was sworn in at his first inauguration. The Bible is currently part of the collections of the Library of Congress. Though there is no constitutional requirement for the use of a Bible during the swearing-in, Presidents have traditionally used Bibles for the ceremony, choosing a volume with personal or historical significance. President-elect Obama will be the first President sworn in using the Lincoln Bible since its initial use in 1861.
Thomas A. Schweich served the Bush administration as ambassador for counter-narcotics in Afghanistan and deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement affairs. In Sunday's Washington Post, he writes, "The Pentagon is muscling in everywhere. It's time to stop the mission creep."
Identifying himself as a "lifelong Republican," the opening paragraph of his opinion piece begins with this stunning statement: "We no longer have a civilian-led government." It ends with this sentence: "Our Constitution is at risk."
Read the entire article here.
Ordinary workers have suffered. It took years to get a lousy little boost in the minimum wage for the working poor. Attempts to expand health insurance coverage were fought almost to a standstill. Guaranteed pensions vanished. And the maniacs who set fire to the economy with their incendiary financial instruments (yet another form of voodoo) were hot to privatize Social Security.
As Andy Stern, president of the huge Service Employees International Union, told me on Friday: "We've had a 25-year experience with market-worshipping, deregulating, privatizing, trickle-down policies, and it has ended us up with the greatest economy on earth staggering, and with the greatest amount of inequality since the Great Depression."
Working people have been treated like enemies, a class to be preyed upon. Labor unions were ferociously attacked. Jobs were shipped overseas by the millions. People were hired as temps or consultants so benefits could be denied.
Deep Thought - Josh Marshall, TPM
It's going to take a lot of money to make the rich people rich again.
A Cast of Thousands - Lillian Daniel, Leadership Journal
The mission of the church is not efficiency, but developing all its people.
The church cares less about getting the job done and more about the people doing it. We are not in the efficiency business. Our business is to make disciples. We want to offer as many people as possible the chance to know Christ in service and in community.
A Tip from Brett of The Hendricksonians
The report, endorsed by Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Armed
Services Committee, is the most forceful denunciation to date of the
role that Rumsfeld and other top officials played in the prisoner
abuse scandals of the last five years.
The document also challenges assertions by senior Bush administration
officials that the most egregious cases of prisoner mistreatment were
isolated incidents of appalling conduct by U.S. troops.
"The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the
result of a few soldiers acting on their own," the report says.
-- LA Times, Dec. 12
But let's be clear. The problem isn't farmers. It's the farm lobby -
hijacked by industrial operators - and a bipartisan tradition of
kowtowing to it.
Modern confinement operations are less like farms than like meat
assembly lines. They are dazzlingly efficient in some ways, but they
use vast amounts of grain, as well as low-level antibiotics to reduce
infections - and the result is a public health threat from
An industrial farm with 5,000 hogs produces as much waste as a town
with 20,000 people. But while the town is required to have a sewage
system, the industrial farm isn't.
An online petition that can be found at www.fooddemocracynow.org calls
for a reformist pick for agriculture secretary - and names six
terrific candidates, such as Chuck Hassebrook, a reformer in Nebraska.
On several occasions in the campaign, Mr. Obama made comments showing
a deep understanding of food issues, but the names that people in the
food industry say are under consideration for agriculture secretary
represent the problem more than the solution.
The most powerful signal Mr. Obama could send would be to name a
reformer to a renamed position. A former secretary of agriculture,
John Block, said publicly the other day that the agency should be
renamed "the Department of Food, Agriculture and Forestry." And
another, Ann Veneman, told me that she believes it should be renamed,
"Department of Food and Agriculture." I'd prefer to see simply
"Department of Food," giving primacy to America's 300 million eaters.
-- Nicholas Kristof, New York Times
WSJ's Dennis Berman tells colleague Evan Newmark that although tens of thousands of people have managed to hold on to their jobs, there isn't much work to go around. Instead, he says, Wall Streeters are working to appear busy.
HT: Barry Ritholtz via The Big Picture
The subtle myth pervading much of ministry holds that we minister most effectively when we are at "the top of our game." I remember a speaker who urged young seminarians to be secure in their faith because they are to stand on the dock and throw out the lifesaving ring to those who are drowning. There is a degree of wisdom in the picture, but it gives the idea that we minister out of our competence to those who are spiritually incompetent. The metamessage we send out is this: Once I was messed up just like you, and now, since I've gotten my life squared away, wouldn't you like to become like me? Over time, that puts intense pressure on the minister to keep looking good so that people will want to be like the minister. And we miss the joy and power of ministering out of our weakness: "Therefore I am content with weaknesses,…for whenever I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10) pg. 87
MCFADDEN: Is it literally true, the Bible?
BUSH: You know. Probably not ... No, I'm not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from it, but I do think that the New Testament, for example is ... has got ... You know, the important lesson is "God sent a son."
MCFADDEN: So, you can read the Bible...
BUSH: That God in the flesh, that mankind can understand there is a God who is full of grace and that nothing you can do to earn his love. His love is a gift and that in order to draw closer to God and in order to express your appreciation for that love is why you change your behavior.
MCFADDEN: So, you can read the Bible and not take it literally. I mean you can -- it's not inconsistent to love the Bible and believe in evolution, say.
BUSH: Yeah, I mean, I do. I mean, evolution is an interesting subject. I happen to believe that evolution doesn't fully explain the mystery of life and ...
MCFADDEN: But do you believe in it?
BUSH: That God created the world, I do, yeah.
MCFADDEN: But what about ...
BUSH: Well, I think you can have both. I think evolution can -- you're getting me way out of my lane here. I'm just a simple president. But it's, I think that God created the Earth, created the world; I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an almighty, and I don't think it's incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution.
Obama said he wants to avoid "groupthink" and signaled that he wants to hear a range of opinions before deciding on the best course.
If he can manage them, it's likely the best way to govern, analysts say. If not, he could be stuck mediating a bunch of feuding egotists unable to coalesce even once he's made a final decision.
"It tells us how he wants to govern, with the best and brightest, with strong, often different and conflicting views helping to hammer out the best option," said Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist and scholar of the presidency at the University of Texas at Austin. "We have to watch to see if he can make it work."
The Supreme Court is expected to announce on Monday whether or not it will consider two cases contending that Barack Obama is not a "natural born citizen," as the president is required to be under Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. One case, referred to the court by Justice Clarence Thomas after Justice David Souter had rejected it, argues that because Obama's father was a citizen of Kenya, at the time a British colony.
At least four of the court's nine judges must approve before a case is heard, and the great majority of the petitions brought before the Court are dismissed without comment. Still, it's further grist for what's been an active conspiracy mill.
"I think there are just a lot of people who just want to believe it," said Paul Waldman, who has studied the conspiracy theories over Obama's citizenship for Media Matters.
Waldman said that like with the claims that the Clintons killed White House Counsel Vince Foster, a certain segment of the population will continue to believe Obama won on illegitimate grounds no matter how often the claim is disproved.
Like a field goal that perfectly splits the uprights. Like 3-point shot that swishes through the net without touching the rim. Like sinking a 30 foot putt, making an eagle on a par 5 or even scoring a hole-in-one. So it is with Obama's master stroke of naming Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Few could make the point better than James Fallows of The Atlantic:
Obama is elevating the man who was right, when Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, et al were so catastrophically wrong -- that is something that neither Obama nor anyone around him need say out loud, ever. The nomination is like a hyper-precision missile, or what is known in politics as a "dog whistle." The people for whom this is a complete slap in the face don't need to be told that. They know -- and know that others know it too. So do the people for whom it is vindication. And all without Obama descending for one second from his bring-us-together higher plane.
Shinseki was Army Chief of Staff who told Congress in 2003 that it would take several hundred thousand troops to maintain peace in a post-war Iraq. His opinion ran counter to the Bush administration's desire to stay lean and mean in carrying out the war. The dispute with Rumsfeld led to the naming of Shinseki's replacement a full year before his term was up. Such an unprecedented move by a vindictive Secretary of Defense effectively cut Shinseki's feet out from under him ending any real effectiveness.
The Washington Post released an excerpt from a 12 page letter the General sent to Rumsfeld at the time of his resignation: People are central to everything we do in the Army. Institutions don't transform, people do. Platforms and organizations don't defend the nation, people do. . . . Without people in the equation, readiness and transformation are little more than academic exercises.
Also, in that same Washington Post article we read:
Juan Cole, a University of Michigan history professor who writes about the Iraq war and Islam, called Shinseki's appointment ironic. If Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and [former undersecretary for defense Douglas J.] Feith had listened to Shinseki, there wouldn't be as many wounded veterans to take care of," Cole said. "I think this is a way of saying, 'Here was a career officer who had valuable insights who was shunted aside by arrogant civilians, and we're not going to make the same kind of mistakes.'"
In recent days, The Washington Times and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review have published op-eds by members of the Heritage Foundation containing the false claim that union autoworkers earn $75 an hour in wages and benefits. In a November 28 Washington Times op-ed, Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner claimed that "UAW [United Auto Workers] employees earn three times as much as an average blue collar worker makes -- $75 per hour on average in wages and benefits." Similarly, in a November 25 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review op-ed, Heritage fellow James Sherk claimed that "UAW workers are among the world's most affluent. They take home an eye-popping $75 an hour in wages and benefits -- triple what the average private-sector worker earns." In fact, autoworkers do not take home an average of $75 per hour. According to General Motors, these claims are based not only on current workers' hourly wages and benefits, such as health care and retirement, but also retirement and health-care benefits that U.S. automakers are providing for current retirees.
HT: Media Matters
Remarks of President-elect Barack Obama
Thursday, November 27th, 2008
Nearly 150 years ago, in one of the darkest years of our nation's history, President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving. America was split by Civil War. But Lincoln said in his first Thanksgiving decree that difficult times made it even more appropriate for our blessings to be -- and I quote -- "gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people."
This week, the American people came together with family and friends to carry on this distinctly American tradition. We gave thanks for loved ones and for our lasting pride in our communities and our country. We took comfort in good memories while looking forward to the promise of change.
But this Thanksgiving also takes place at a time of great trial for our people.
Across the country, there were empty seats at the table, as brave Americans continue to serve in harm’s way from the mountains of Afghanistan to the deserts of Iraq. We honor and give thanks for their sacrifice, and stand by the families who endure their absence with such dignity and resolve.
At home, we face an economic crisis of historic proportions. More and more Americans are worried about losing a job or making their mortgage payment. Workers are wondering if next month's paycheck will pay next month's bills. Retirees are watching their savings disappear, and students are struggling with the cost of tuition.
It's going to take bold and immediate action to confront this crisis. That's why I'm committed to forging a new beginning from the moment I take office as President of the United States. Earlier this week, I announced my economic team. This talented and dedicated group is already hard at work crafting an Economic Recovery Plan that will create or save 2.5 million new jobs, while making the investments we need to fuel long-term economic growth and stability.
But this Thanksgiving, we are reminded that the renewal of our economy won't come from policies and plans alone -- it will take the hard work, innovation, service, and strength of the American people.
I have seen this strength firsthand over many months -- in workers who are ready to power new industries, and farmers and scientists who can tap new sources of energy; in teachers who stay late after school, and parents who put in that extra hour reading to their kids; in young Americans enlisting in a time of war, seniors who volunteer their time, and service programs that bring hope to the hopeless.
It is a testament to our national character that so many Americans took time out this Thanksgiving to help feed the hungry and care for the needy. On Wednesday, I visited a food bank at Saint Columbanus Parish in Chicago. There -- as in so many communities across America -- folks pitched in time and resources to give a lift to their neighbors in need. It is this spirit that binds us together as one American family -- the belief that we rise and fall as one people; that we want that American Dream not just for ourselves, but for each other.
That's the spirit we must summon as we make a new beginning for our nation. Times are tough. There are difficult months ahead. But we can renew our nation the same way that we have in the many years since Lincoln's first Thanksgiving: by coming together to overcome adversity; by reaching for -- and working for -- new horizons of opportunity for all Americans.
So this weekend -- with one heart, and one voice, the American people can give thanks that a new and brighter day is yet to come.
Even if he wanted to make a real run at righting the economy, at this point Bush has neither the energy nor the credibility to make it happen. Frankly, he comes off as less a lame duck than a cooked goose.
The idea that the nation had all but stopped investing in its infrastructure, and that officials in Washington have ignored the crucial role of job creation as the cornerstone of a thriving economy is beyond mind-boggling. It’s impossible to understand.
Impossible, that is, until you realize that bandits don’t waste time repairing a building that they’re looting.
One of the reasons the U.S. is in such deep trouble is that it has stopped being smart — turning its back on excellence, sophistication and long-term planning — in its public policies and corporate behavior. We’ve seen it in Iraq, in New Orleans, in the fiscal policies of the Bush administration, in the scandalous neglect of public education, in the financial sector meltdown, the auto industry and on and on. We’ve lionized dimwits. And now we’re paying the price.
For many years, I believed it was foolish and faithless to acknowledge all that is wrong with my life. I believed I was a new creation, and admitting anything less was not acceptable. I missed seeing a lot that was wrong with my community, my family, and myself because I thought the Christian thing to do was to emphasize the positive, glory be to God.
But Jesus came for the sick, not the healthy--by which he surely meant that he came for those who know they are sick, and not those who, being sick, nonetheless claim they are healthy.
This holiday season, ask the people around you about their lives — it could be your grandmother, a teacher, or someone from the neighborhood. By listening to their stories, you will be telling them that they matter and they won’t ever be forgotten. It may be the most meaningful time you spend this year.
David Brooks, George Will, Ariann Huffington and Bob Kuttner on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, debate steps that the new administration should take to guide the economy back to health.
Listen and consider carefully David Brooks' observations on the different choices that should be made because of the particular needs of a service economy. He makes good points, I think.
Watch Bob Kuttner takes George Will to school on the New Deal on This Week.
I have never been able to make any sense at all of the right-wing claim that the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression by creating a "crisis of confidence" that crippled private investment as American businessmen feared and hated "that Communist Roosevelt." The crisis of confidence was created by the stock market crash, the deflation, and the bank failures of 1929-1933. Private investment recovered in a very healthy fashion as Roosevelt's New Deal policies took effect.
The interruption of the Roosevelt Recovery in 1937-1938 is, I think, well understood: Roosevelt's decision to adopt more "orthodox" economic policies and try to move the budget toward balance and the Federal Reserve's decision to contract the money supply by raising bank reserve requirements provide ample explanation of that downturn.
"For many years, I believed it was foolish and faithless to acknowledge all that is wrong with my life. I believed I was a new creation, and admitting anything less was not acceptable. I missed seeing a lot that was wrong with my community, my family, and myself because I thought the Christian thing to do was to emphasize the positive, glory be to God. But Jesus came for the sick, not the healthy--by which he surely meant that he came for those who know they are sick, and not those who, being sick, nonetheless claim they are healthy. Since I took up the habit of lamenting, my life has not improved, at least not directly. But life improvement isn't the goal. The goal is faithfulness and servanthood--becoming like the image of God in Christ. I've come to believe meeting that goal involves severe honesty, self-awareness, and nakedness. There is power in honesty, because it removes any hint of deception, and puts us before our God as we really are," - Patton Dodd, Beliefnet.
HT: Daily Dish
This Week's Address from the President-Elect: 2.5 million New Jobs
We have an economy that’s crashing and a vacuum at the top. Bush — who is currently on a trip to Peru to meet with Asian leaders who no longer care what he thinks — hasn’t got the clout, or possibly even the energy, to do anything useful. His most recent contribution to resolving the fiscal crisis was lecturing representatives of the world’s most important economies on the glories of free-market capitalism.
Can I see a show of hands? How many people want George W. out and Barack in?
A doxology (from the Greek doxa, glory + logos, word or speaking) is a short hymn of praise to God in various Christian worship services, often added to the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns. The tradition derives from a similar practice in the Jewish synagogue.
- The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best - and therefore never scrutinize or question.
- Stephen Jay Gould
US author, naturalist, paleontologist, & popularizer of science (1941 - 2002)
- We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?
- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, 1953
US science fiction author (1920 - )
The truth is that the chief executives of the Big Three automakers could have hitchhiked to Washington to beg for alms and they still would have been raked over the coals. But the fact that they came in their corporate jets was a bit much.
What, they couldn't have piled into a tricked-out Malibu and taken turns at the wheel?
Richard Wagoner of General Motors, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Alan Mulally of Ford should begin the inevitable cost-cutting by firing their public relations consultants. They left Capitol Hill empty-handed, but they're bound to get some kind of federal help, however grudging.
If not, well, the Big Three execs can always come back to town -- by more modest means of transportation, one hopes.
If there's anything beneficial in this predictable melodrama, it's that contemplating a taxpayer-funded rescue of the auto industry might make Americans realize the extent to which their government already puts its big, fat thumb on the scales of free enterprise. The idea that the U.S. economy is based on unfettered free markets is, and has long been, a cruel joke.
It's more of a joke now, arguably, than at any time since the Great Depression. Our government has already pledged well over $700 billion -- it may go over $1 trillion -- to save the financial industry from its own greed-fueled excesses. That, in the end, is why the automakers have to be given some kind of multibillion-dollar handout. Yes, it's galling to reward industry management that has such a track record of failure -- and that inspired so little confidence while testifying before Congress. But politically it's just not tenable to bail out a bunch of Porsche-driving investment bankers and then slam the door on legions of lunch-bucket-toting workers.
Instead of openly "picking winners and losers," which is anathema to pure-of-heart free-marketeers, we hide our industrial policy in the tax code. The tax code is littered with that kind of targeted largess. This is a big part of what lobbyists do -- get tax breaks for their clients.
Detroit blames its situation on the financial and economic crisis. It's true that demand for cars has fallen off a cliff, largely because many would-be buyers are unable to get financing. It's true that the auto industry claims to have seen the light about making energy-efficient cars. But it's also true that these newly enlightened executives spent years defending their industry's obsession with SUVs -- and pooh-poohing the idea that times, and tastes, would ever change.
They should be given the money -- and then be shown the door to make way for management that can see past the hood.
Blog Itch has been away from the computers today and has depended on the Blackberry and the Axim to feel the comforting connection of technology. (Isn't that sad?)
The forecast was for flurries where I was this morning - the mountains of Western North Carolina north of Asheville. We went up yesterday for a special concert last night at Mars Hill College.
Have you ever known someone so overtaken with their life passion that it seems to even ooze from their pores? Have you ever known someone is so constantly aware of their surroundings that they have the ability to catch and file away in their memory and imagination thoughts and happenings that pass by most of us? Have you ever known someone whose thinking style is so global that they are able to synthesize everything that they are taking in with the passion that inhabitants their being to produce incredible new ideas?
Then meet my son.
The concert we attended last night premiered his composition for low brass ensemble entitled "Landscape." It was a first for him...and us...as he risked a product of his passion...his soul...to others. Understandably, he was excited but apprehensive at dinner before the concert. He kind of reminded me of an expectant father watching his wife receive a Petosin drip to induce labor.
His piece was the second of a four piece set programed for the college's eight instrument Low Brass Ensemble. Three euphoniums, three trombones and two tubas. I had asked him a couple of weeks ago if he planned to conduct. No. He played his tuba. He loves to play music. If it happens to be in the context of performance, that's just a bonus.
What we heard was the fruit of the blend of characteristics I described above. Depicted on the page in lines and dots that make up the written language of music, passing through the air that was vibrating with sound waves, the essence of my son's very being was on display inviting everyone in earshot to join him. To join him for just a few minutes in his deepest conception of imagination, of thought, and of sound.
I'm proud of him. Proud of him for conceiving. Proud of him for imagining. Proud of him for executing. Proud of him for making himself so vulnerable. Proud of him for succeeding.
If you're following the interesting debate over whether Barack Obama is a Christian, one thing to keep in mind is the extent to which heresy of various sorts pervades American Christianity at this point - and, moreover, the extent to which it cuts across confessional, cultural, and political lines. The Obama interview that provided the grist for this conversation does indeed suggest, as Larison puts it, that our President subscribes to some sort of semi-Arian conception of the nature of Christ, which isn't surprising at all given that he entered Christianity through the liberal-Protestant gate.
Now it's true that if he had been asked about Christ's nature, Bush - or Ronald Reagan, to take another conservative President with an idiosyncratic religious sensibility - might have given a more Nicaean answer than Obama did in the interview in question. But then again maybe not! (And God only knows what John McCain, the most pagan Presidential contender we've had in some time, might have said.) Given the muddled way in which most Americans approach religion, and the pervasiveness of heterodoxy, I suppose I'm basically with Alan Jacobs: I think that figuring out exactly what sort of things Obama believes about God and Christ and everything else, and how those beliefs may affect his Presidency, is ultimately a more profitable pursuit than arguing about whether he should be allowed to call himself a Christian. Or put another way: I expect my Presidents to be heretics, but I think it matters a great deal what kind of heretics they are.
I hope the election of Barack Obama allows us to look behind the ugly masks of identity politics to the real American interests that bind us. I hope his election will enable us to truly hear the arguments we offer to the great moral issues of our time and let go of the insulting degradation of those arguments as doctrines of another faith or another people.
When the slaves left Egypt, the Bible (Exodus 12: 37-38) calls them in Hebrew, an "erev rav" which means a mixed multitude. Barack Obama and Marcelo Lucero are both a part of the mixed multitude that is America. My deepest hope and prayer is that we can find each other and hear each other as equal participants in our great but uncompleted exodus to a land of freedom that I believe is this land.
A legend from my teachers, the rabbis: why did God only make one person, Adam, at first? The reason is to teach us that in the time to come no one should be able to say, "My ancestor was greater than your ancestor."
Lord, take this song
and fill it with Your presence.
Let it bring a word of hope
to weary care-full hearts.
Take this song
and fill it, Lord.
Fill it with Yourself.
Lord, take my life
and fill it with Your praises.
Let me speak a word of peace
that Jesus brings in me.
Take this life
and fill it, Lord.
Fill it with Yourself.
Lord, take this place
and fill it
with Your blessing.
Let it be a haven
poor in spirit
Take this place
and fill it, Lord.
Fill it with Your praise.
My conservative friends say, "Obama has the most liberal voting record in the Senate." Maybe. Depending on who's doing the counting and whether Fixed News is your only source of "information" (read 'propaganda'). Only take a look at what liberals are saying:
Obama's going to do a lot of good things. He's going to repeal a lot of Bush's worst executive orders, he's going to close down Guantanamo (though how he'll deal with the inhabitants remains up in the air and is more important than where they're stored); he's going to overturn a lot of the worst orders on the environment, and so on. He'll probably pull out of Iraq, though he may double down in Afghanistan.
But things like giving in to Joe Lieberman; making sure there are no real consequences for Joe, are what Obama's about. Obama keeps telling people who he is. He's postpartisan. He thinks Reagan was fundamentally right about liberalism. He voted for FISA. He hired Rahm as his first hire. He thinks Joe sticking a shiv in his back is no big deal. He not just voted for the bailout bill, but whipped for it. His healthcare plan is not universal.
As Glenn Greenwald notes, its understandable that everyone's euphoric the age of Bush is over and wants to think that Obama is going to be the ultimate liberal pony provider. But there's very little evidence that Obama is liberal in most important respects and if liberals decide that they can take a vacation for the next 4 months, like they did when Dems took Congress, and give him the "benefit of the doubt" I fear the results are going to be the same as they were for the Congress of 07 and 08.
Obama is unique in his warp-speed transformation from obscure state senator to 44th president in just four years. The obvious downside is his lack of experience, but the potential advantage is his unusual proximity to normality. In the isolation chamber of the White House, it can be useful not only to know real people but to have been one yourself in the not-so-distant past.
"I actually think that we are as close to what normal folks go through, and what their lives are like, as just about anybody who's been elected president recently," Obama told Kroft. "Hanging on to that is something that's important."
...In "The Audacity of Hope," he described watching Bush hold forth before a mostly fawning group of senators. "I was reminded of the dangerous isolation that power can bring."
'd argue that Obama should cling to his e-mail as a 21st-century way to pierce the White House bubble. After all, Gore did it as vice president, BlackBerry included.
The arguments to the contrary will pile up like so many unread messages.
The lawyers will wring their hands over the prospect of disclosure down the road, if not sooner, invoking the specter of congressional investigators poring over presidential e-mails. So what? Everyone who uses e-mail should think twice before writing something embarrassing.
Before Obama gets to "Yes, We Can," he has to start with "Yes, I Can." And the only way he can be successful in the presidency is if he can stay connected to the world beyond the "splendid isolation" of the presidency. To succeed, he must be constantly exposed to a wide variety of opinions—not just from advisers, experts, pundits and polls, but from his friends.
Obama's hero, Abraham Lincoln, called it "a public opinion bath." He got it corresponding with ordinary people and by flinging open the doors of the White House to anyone who wanted to come by for a visit. These "baths," Lincoln knew, were critical to his success.
Lincoln's approach doesn't work any more. The world's too big. But technology now offers a way to circumvent the stifling chain of command and help a president get at least a little closer to the truth.
One question a lot of Texans ask these days is, "What happened to the George W. Bush we used to know?" The answer, in part, is that Bush foolishly listened to the security people who made him give up his email account in 2001. The result was that old friends suddenly found they had no way to get through to the president. More than a few watched in horror as he drove the country over the cliff.
Now I'm not arguing that email would have necessarily saved Bush from disaster. It's not as if Bush would have read a message from, say, Brent Scowcroft when the former adviser to Bush "41" was arguing in vain against the Iraq War. But maybe Scowcroft would not have had to infuriate Bush by going public in the Wall Street Journal if he had been able to get through to the president by email. (Scowcroft's efforts to see the president personally were blocked by White House aides).
The Blackberry decision is symbolic of so many calls Obama will have to make. Some official will always be telling him why something cannot be done for this reason or that. His response should be to press them hard on why things cannot be done differently.
Mr. President-elect, hanging onto your Blackberry would free you a bit from the gilded prison of the White House. It would help you keep it real amid the stifling air of unreality that will soon envelop you.
And if you think giving up smoking is hard, wait until you go cold turkey on the Blackberry. You'll be bumming handhelds from your aides all day long. Might as well keep your own.
We are now at a crash site, and our priority should be to save the victims, not change the tires or repair the fender, much less build a new car. In the triage situation that now confronts the president-elect, keeping local schools and hospitals open should be the first concern, rebuilding bridges and expanding ports would come next, and rescuing bank shareholders at the very end of the line.
I met an older African-American man who told me, almost in passing, that the election of Barack Obama as president made him reconsider his hyphen. He said that although he had been identifying himself as African-American for years, he now was going to drop the hyphen and get rid of the qualifier. From now on, he would simply describe himself as "American."
He said he never believed so many white people would vote for a black man for president. Exit polls showed that Obama won 44 percent of the white vote, more than Democrats John Kerry, Al Gore or Bill Clinton received in their presidential bids. So Obama, who also received an overwhelming percentage of the black vote, as well as large chunks of the Hispanic and Asian votes, won with a true rainbow coalition.
Many times I hear people argue that the working class or poor should just stop expecting so much and be smarter with their money. You can't just orphan that thought out there! Such a venture, if it's undertaken with respect and integrity, has to mean real changes to our culture. We live in a culture that doesn't just value material wealth or affluence, but revels in excess, brags about largess and profligacy, makes a virtue of ostentation and a fetish of the most obscene and useless expense. That has to change, if we're going to accept the idea that we should all be happy with less. I know people kind of detest the language of compassion in politics, but it is a cruel thing, a cruel thing, to live in a culture that values wealth and only wealth, and then turn around and tell someone that they are irresponsible and wrong to be bent on acquiring it. It's easy to tell other people to delay gratification. It's much harder to actually be the one delaying it, when VH1 and the E! network are telling you everyday that you're nothing if you don't get that purse or that blouse or that g**d*** enormous television. I'm all for endorsing a modified American dream, but modifying it means a lot more than being a scold.
At the beginning of every recession, there are people who see the downturn as an occasion for moral revival: Americans will learn to live without material extravagances. They’ll simplify their lives. They’ll rediscover what really matters: home, friends and family.
But recessions are about more than material deprivation. They’re also about fear and diminished expectations. The cultural consequences of recessions are rarely uplifting.
In this recession, maybe even more than other ones, the last ones to join the middle class will be the first ones out. And it won’t only be material deprivations that bites. It will be the loss of a social identity, the loss of social networks, the loss of the little status symbols that suggest an elevated place in the social order. These reversals are bound to produce alienation and a political response. If you want to know where the next big social movements will come from, I’d say the formerly middle class.
HT: Mark Bowers
Frustrated by the failure to overturn Roe v. Wade, a growing number of antiabortion pastors, conservative academics and activists are setting aside efforts to outlaw abortion and instead are focusing on building social programs and developing other assistance for pregnant women to reduce the number of abortions.
Some of the activists are actually working with abortion rights advocates to push for legislation in Congress that would provide pregnant women with health care, child care and money for education -- services that could encourage them to continue their pregnancies.
Their efforts, they said, reflect the political reality that legal challenges to abortion rights will not be successful, especially after Barack Obama's victory this month in the presidential election and the defeat of several ballot measures that would have restricted access to abortions. Although the activists insist that they are not retreating from their belief that abortion is immoral and should be outlawed, they argue that a more practical alternative is to try to reduce abortions through other means.
"If one strategy has failed and failed over decades, and you have empirical information that tells how you can honor life and encourage women to make that choice by meeting real needs that are existing and tangible, why not do that?" said Douglas W. Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University who served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Kmiec, a Catholic who opposes abortion, was criticized by some abortion foes because he endorsed Obama.
The Bush administration has told top lawmakers it does not plan to use at least half of the $700 billion bailout fund that Congress approved this fall to aid the financial industry, congressional officials said Monday.
These officials said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson passed the word over the weekend that he intends to leave $350 billion untouched when the administration leaves office on Jan. 20. That would mean the incoming Obama administration would decide whether and how the funds should be spent.
With his latest policy switch to buying stock in banks and other companies, Henry Paulson has more zigs and zags to his credit than a fox trying to escape a pack of hounds.
The fox and the hounds, of course, have a clear idea of what they want to do and how they want to do it, which is more than you can say of Paulson. Sums of incalculable size are being spent or pledged by Paulson and his playmate, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and nobody outside their organizations, or maybe inside them either, knows who got what, how much they got and under what conditions they got it.
In the past couple of months Bernanke has loaned out $2 trillion to unnamed companies under eleven different programs, all but three of which have been slapped together in the past fifteen months of financial crisis. To repeat, we do not know who got this money or what collateral was put up in return for the loans or what conditions were attached to them.
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
You are precious and honored in my sight...I love you Isaiah 43
Go to CaliforniaVolunteers.org(Pictures from the LA Times)
The American Family Association brings back images of the Jim Crow south with this gem of a Christmas decoration. For only $81.85, you, too, can celebrate the season with a five foot replica of a cross set afire by the KKK.
I need some feedback on this. Am I overreacting??
To begin with, talk show hosts such as Charlie Sykes – one of the best in the business – are popular and powerful because they appeal to a segment of the population that feels disenfranchised and even victimized by the media. These people believe the media are predominantly staffed by and consistently reflect the views of social liberals. This view is by now so long-held and deep-rooted, it has evolved into part of virtually every conservative’s DNA.
To succeed, a talk show host must perpetuate the notion that his or her listeners are victims, and the host is the vehicle by which they can become empowered. The host frames virtually every issue in us-versus-them terms. There has to be a bad guy against whom the host will emphatically defend those loyal listeners.
• In the talk show world, the line-item veto was the most effective way to control government spending when Ronald Reagan was president; it was a violation of the separation of powers after President Clinton took office.
• Perjury was a heinous crime when Clinton was accused of lying under oath about his extramarital activities. But when Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s top aide, was charged with lying under oath, it was the prosecutor who had committed an egregious act by charging Libby with perjury.
• "Activist judges" are the scourge of the earth when they rule it is unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the rights heterosexuals receive. But judicial activism is needed to stop the husband of a woman in a persistent vegetative state – say Terri Schiavo – from removing her feeding tube to end her suffering.
To amuse myself while listening to a talk show, I would ask myself what the host would say if the situation were reversed. What if alleged D.C. Madam client Sen. David Vitter had been a Democrat? Would the reaction of talk show hosts have been so quiet you could hear crickets chirping? Hardly.
Or what if former Rep. Mark Foley had been a Democrat? Would his pedophile-like tendencies have been excused as a “prank” or mere “overfriendly e-mails?” Not on the life of your teenage son.
Suppose Al Gore was president and ordered an invasion of Iraq without an exit strategy. Suppose this had led to the deaths of more than 4,000 U.S. troops and actually made that part of the world less stable. Would talk show hosts have dismissed criticism of that war as unpatriotic? No chance.
Or imagine that John Kerry had been president during Hurricane Katrina and that his administration’s rescue and rebuilding effort had been horribly botched. Would talk show hosts have branded him a great president? Of course not.
President-elect Barack Obama is bringing the fireside chat to the Web, using the technology at his disposal to address Americans online in a new twist on the check-in pioneered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Welcome, as The Washington Post put it on Friday, to “The YouTube Presidency.”
It's clear that the people of North Carolina have rejected personal attacks aimed at dividing people of this state instead of bringing them together to solve the problems at hand," said Colleen Flanagan, communications director for Hagan's campaign.
"This lawsuit would just continue the focus on a very personal and negative attack against Kay, instead of focusing on the people of North Carolina."
In the suit, Hagan charged that Dole and her campaign maligned her reputation with an ad that "falsely implies that (Hagan) shares the views of an entity that calls itself the Godless Americans PAC."
Will the 2008 G.O.P. go the way of the 1936 G.O.P., which didn’t reclaim the White House until 1952? Even factoring in the Democrats’ time-honored propensity for self-immolation, it’s not beyond reason. The Republicans are in serious denial. A few heretics excepted, they hope to blame all their woes on their unpopular president, the inept McCain campaign and their party’s latent greed for budget-busting earmarks.
The trouble is far more fundamental than that. The G.O.P. ran out of steam and ideas well before George W. Bush took office and Tom DeLay ran amok, and it is now more representative of 20th-century South Africa during apartheid than 21st-century America. The proof is in the vanilla pudding. When David Letterman said that the 10 G.O.P. presidential candidates at an early debate looked like “guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club,” he was the first to correctly call the election.
The Republicans did this to themselves, yet a convenient amnesia can be found in conservatives’ post-Election Day soul searching. There’s endless hand-wringing about Bush and McCain blunders and Abramoff-Stevens corruption, but there’s barely any mention of the nasty cultural brawls that defined the G.O.P. campaign narrative this year as the party clung bitterly once more to its 40-year-old “Southern strategy.”
In defeat, the party’s thinking remains unchanged. Its leaders once again believe they can bamboozle the public into thinking they’re the “party of Lincoln” by pushing forward a few minority front men or women. The reason why they are promoting Palin and the recently elected Indian-American governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, as the party’s “future” is not just that they are hard-line social conservatives; they are also the only prominent Republican officeholders under 50 who are not white men. The G.O.P. will have to dip down to a former one-term lieutenant governor of Maryland, Michael Steele, to put a black public face on its national committee.
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
3 Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
4 Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103 (KJV)
If you'd asked me a year ago whether the United States is really a center-right nation, I would have said yes -- after pausing for a second to contemplate the GOP's big congressional losses in 2006. At the time, Republicans cheered each other up by assuring ourselves that the worst was over: If you were running for Congress and survived 2006, you could hold your seat forever.
Tell that to Christopher Shays. After 2006, he was the sole surviving GOP House member from all of New England, but he went down this year, 51 to 48 percent. We are now two elections into something big. This month's drubbing is just the latest sign that the country's political center of gravity is shifting from center-right to center-left. Republicans who fail to grasp this could be lost in the wilderness for years.
Here's the stark reality: It is now harder for the Republican presidential candidate to get to 50.1 percent than for the Democrat. My Hoover Institution colleague David Brady and Douglas Rivers of the research firm YouGovPolimetrix have been analyzing data from online interviews with 12,000 people in both 2004 and 2008. It shows an overall shift to the Democrats of six percentage points. As they write in the forthcoming edition of Policy Review, "The decline of Republican strength occurs by having strong Republicans become weak Republicans, weak Republicans becoming independents, and independents leaning more Democratic or even becoming Democrats." This is a portrait of an electorate moving from center-right to center-left.
In 2004, Republicans and Democrats each constituted 37 percent of the electorate. In the 2006 congressional election, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 38 percent to 36 and won big. This year, the Democrats made up a stunning 39 percent of the electorate, compared with just 32 percent for the Republicans. Add the painful fact that Obama outpolled McCain among independents, 52 percent to 48, and you have a picture of a Republican Party that has lost its connection to the center of the electorate.
True, the percentage of voters describing themselves as "liberal" and "conservative" has held relatively constant over many election cycles, with self-described liberals checking in at 22 percent this time around (up one percentage point over 2004) and self-described conservatives at 34 percent (unchanged from 2004). The numbers may not have changed, but the views behind those labels certainly have...In 1980, having a teenage daughter who was pregnant out of wedlock would have ruled you out for the No. 2 spot on the Democratic ticket. This year, it turned out to be a humanizing addition to the conservative vice presidential nominee's résumé.
Those are seven words President-elect Barack Obama is dreading but expecting to hear, friends and advisers say, when he takes office in 65 days.
For years, like legions of other professionals, Mr. Obama has been all but addicted to his BlackBerry. The device has rarely been far from his side — on most days, it was fastened to his belt — to provide a singular conduit to the outside world as the bubble around him grew tighter and tighter throughout his campaign.
Mr. Obama’s memorandums and briefing books were seldom printed out and delivered to his house or hotel room, aides said. They were simply sent to his BlackBerry for his review. If a document was too long, he would read and respond from his laptop computer, often putting his editing changes in red type.
His messages to advisers and friends, they say, are generally crisp, properly spelled and free of symbols or emoticons. The time stamps provided a window into how much he was sleeping on a given night, with messages often being sent to staff members at 1 a.m. or as late as 3 a.m. if he was working on an important speech.
But before he arrives at the White House, he will probably be forced to sign off. In addition to concerns about e-mail security, he faces the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas. A decision has not been made on whether he could become the first e-mailing president, but aides said that seemed doubtful.