Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Our government makes no sense, unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith - and I don't care what it is. - Dwight Eisenhower

Or, looked at from the other direction: A religion that takes no account of practical affairs and does not help to solve them is no religion. - Gandhi Most of you agree with Eisenhower (a Jehovah's Witness) and Gandhi (a Hindu). Good. This, alone, gives me great hope. The question posted here for the last few days was: Should faith inform your vote? - 72% of you said you try to incorporate faith teachings into your political decision-making - 18% of you said you never mix your church and your politics - 9% of you said you don't know enough about your faith or your politics to answer the question I was among the 72% who try to hold onto the teachings of my faith as I examine my choices for elected leaders. I lean heavily into Jim Wallis' book, God's Politics (http://www.sojo.net/blog/godspolitics/) to guide me through political seasons and politician reasonings. Wallis reminds us, first, that God is not a Republican or a Democrat. He then suggests that we "measure candidates by: - whether they enhance human life, - human dignity, - and human rights; - whether they strengthen family life - and protect children; - whether they promote racial reconciliation - and support gender equality; - whether they serve peace - and social justice; - and whether they advance the common good rather than only individual, national, and special interests." Zowie...that's a lot of legislative voting in the Senate to review. Especially if you're examining a 26 year record (Senator McCain's). Perhaps that's why the political spinners have isolated a few loud and hot topics to define the "faith vote." One in four U.S. adults is considered an evangelical voter. The historical issues for these voters are abortion and gay rights. When the list of issues expands - as it has in some evangelical circles this season - still missing are peace, social justice, gender equality, human dignity, the common good. Instead we find add ons like euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and human cloning. Is it easier to define gaps on these matters than concern for the poor? Grief over war? Equitable distribution of economic gains and losses? We must think for ourselves on things that are important to us. The spinners and headline writers and debate question-writers should not be defining our issues. But, oh...it is so muddy. Because once we define our template for casting a faithful vote, we still can't really know with factual certainty what we're getting, can we? This presidential campaigning, debating, proclaiming and pontificating is determining something of a "virtual president"...isn't it? Every answer to every question posed is a hypothetical ,"If I were president blah, blah, blah." What happens when the unions are striking, the red phone is ringing, the Congress is cranky, and the approval ratings are in the tank? What then Mr. President-to-be? Will you cast your lot with the poor and marginalized? Will peace be your first and last plan to success? Will all Americans be treated with fairness and dignity? Bottom line, people of faith...we are looking for a like-minded decision maker. Someone who we believe in simply by looking at what he has lived, how he has lived it, what he has learned from it, and who he trusts now. Because we all know, when the going gets tough, Mr. President - like all of us - will fall into the "ground zero" of his gut to find the answer. Maybe we should find out how the candidates treat their pets... The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. - another Gandhi gem There's a new survey posted. A PhD student at Indiana Univeristy thinks he can predict how you'll respond. See if you can make his mother proud. Sleep well. And, peace.

Monday, September 29, 2008

It's a Big Ol' Goofy World

Sing along with John Prine (my words, John's tune)...you'll feel better. Up on the Hill They're tryin' to get a bill To help all the bankers Who've fallen really ill... The vote's been taken It didn't make it through Seems everyone's thinkin' Who's red and who's blue... We seem to understand The feds let us down And we can't throw our taxes Willy nilly 'round town... But the jar's tippin' over The well's run dry The answer isn't coming And we need to know why... Oooooo baby, it's a big ol' goofy world! The who-can-comprehend-this-much-money $700-billion bailout bill lost by 25 points this afternoon in it's first time out in the House of Representatives. The stock market fell a record 7oo+ points, the biggest one-day point drop ever. There will be no more action on The Hill for a few days...congressfolk have recessed for Rosh Hashanah. The news pundits are telling us "the people have spoken" .... apparently we collectively swamped the phone lines and filled the email inboxes in our elected representatives' offices with our insistences that lawmakers show us the money before they spend it. Coming up with $700-billion in an account overdrawn $9.5 trillion seems like pretty easy math. We've lost our trusting natures with these people. Imagine that. The vote went down Blue and Red lines like this...if this interests you: For the measure - 69% were democrats, 31% were republicans Against the measure - 58% were republicans, 42% were democrats http://www.nytimes.com/ref/washington/ROLLCALL.html?currentChamber=house&currentSession=2&currentCongress=110&currentRoll=674 Really...who would want to be President of the United States now? In my neighborhood, John Carter, a republican, voted against the bill. Lloyd Doggett, who represents much of the rest of my town (and my interests) also voted against the bill. I find myself wanting to comb congressional records to uncover the last time Lloyd Doggett and John Carter voted the same way on a piece of legislation... this seems like a "wow" moment. Take a look at Lloyd Doggett last week as he questioned Ben Bernanke at the joint economic committee hearing on the bailout plan: http://revolutionarypolitics.com/?p=167 Today Doggett said, "now is not the time to call on people across the country to bail out Wall Street." He said the proposal was "fueled by fear and hinged on haste" like the Iraq war. Send Lloyd Doggett a thank you note for speaking about this in our language. And if you know a trader on the NYSE, flowers and a bottle of scotch would be appropriate. It's been a bad day. Peace.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Oh My...Tally Up!

Debate #1 is done. I drank some wine and dozed off before Senator McCain mentioned Alexander the Great (whaaa?). When I woke up, Keith Olberman was making fun of John McCain for stumbling over the pronounciation of Ahmadinejad. And I thought, who cares? There was much to care about in the conversation between our candidates tonight, though: the economy, the bailout plan, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, national security. All hail to Jim Lehrer for doing his best to cut through rhetoric and point the two men seeking the highest elected office in our land to the question at hand: What kind of president will you be? Per that question and the debate scoring sheet that you can click on above...I give the night to Obama. Obama was present, listening, engaged, well prepared, and quite determined. McCain was over-anxious, self-important, a bit mocking, and tiresome. We all know if these guys were on a high school debate team, Obama would have gone home with the ribbon. But, I think we knew this before the bell rang at 8 PM CST. Barack Obama is an extraordinary statesman. McCain, to his credit, was amazingly passionate for a 72-year old. This is not a dottering old man here. This is a seasoned senator who used to know why he wanted to be president. I think I saw a bit of the old John McCain tonight, which probably had Karl Rove & Co. peeing in their pants in the spin room. He occasionally returned to his script, of course - enough to make me tire of the rhetoric - but he came out standing on his own two feet for the first time in a while. Good for you, Senator. The net result was less decisive than I expected it to be. I figured Obama would hit it out of the park, and McCain would spend the night chasing the ball. I guess when it's all said and done, I'm happy that one candidate didn't emerge as the "show biz" winner. Let's settle this contest on issues. Round two October 7 in Nashville. (And who will want to miss the vice presidential candidates October 2 from St. Louis?) Peace.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eating The Ice Cream Right Out Of The Carton

It's been that kind of day if you've tried to think about what's going on in our nation's capital. Things are so wacky, I've consoled myself with a spoon, my very own carton of ice cream, and my favorite chair in front of reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond. I don't know what else to do. We have a $700-billion dollar economic crisis. We have a president who seems to believe this came out of nowhere. We have congress-folk who won't sit together until a reasonable and cooperative solution is designed. We have a presidential candidate who seems to have moved completely out of a zone of political propriety and sanity. We have another presidential candidate standing by and watching his world turn blue. We have a presidential debate actually hanging in the balance and we're 39 days away from an election. About the only thing on that list that really matters, I suppose, is that crazy $700-billion deal that most of us don't really understand. Is there a middle-class American capacity to fathom $700-billion? We certainly are smart enough to understand that a national debt of $9.7-trillion is more than $700-billion. I know we have the intelligence to wonder...where does $700-billion come from when we're already $9.7-trillion in the hole? Take a deep breath. Give in to the call of the ice cream (at least spend a few zen moments creating some ice box poetry-click above). And, sleep well. "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in, forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day, you shall begin it well and serenely." -Ralph Waldo Emerson Peace. Peace.

National Priorities

Please take time to visit the website above. If our only perspective on 700-billion bailout dollars is what we hear from the White House and Capitol Hill...we are not thinking for ourselves. Wander through this website...take a look at quick reports. Check out the statistics on poverty in our country. John McCain and Barack Obama may have been invited to pow-wow on the economic bailout proposal, but they still have only one vote each in the US Senate...same as your senator and mine. Don't be afraid to call your elected representatives today and tomorrow to speak your mind. www.congress.org/congressorg/home/ These calls make a difference. You might suggest: - that throwing $700-billion into the buckets that seemed to empty without warning (the surprisingly large house of cards, as President Bush described it) is like giving your teenager $1,000 when she just spent her entire savings on lottery tickets - a moritorium on mortgage foreclosures while they are all reviewed for the potential to write the note down to affordable payments for homeowners (rewriting mortgages was done during the Great Depression...it helped) - loan the money to Wall Street businesses at a high interest rates or with a plan to capture a percentage of business profits that ultimately go back to taxpayer coffers And don't forget to mention a few stats from the National Priorities site. We are the change we've been waiting for. Peace.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Real Clear Politics?

It's a website. (click above) It's not a bad one if you're obsessed with polls and percentages and point spreads and the very latest news that is news, as most of us seem to be. The site seems balanced...with pieces posted from every news outlet you can imagine...CNN to Salon.com. But, it makes my head hurt. I can click and read for hours. One story leads to another. I begin surfing my way to other websites, and before I know it I'm opening articles like "Top 5 Motherhood Myths" and "Odd Facts About the Dollar"... Which makes me understand why we'd all just like someone to tell us how to vote. It's so much easier if we don't have to figure this out the hard way...thinking and reading and listening to our own inner longings. "Someone just tell me how to vote." I should confess....this is how I ended up voting for Richard Nixon. I should also say that I am not undecided about my vote in the upcoming election. I am so decided, in fact, that lights and bells have been installed on my front lawn to protect my yard sign from random walk-by theivery. Still, I am eager to be clear and concise in my conviction for my candidate. I want his story to connect with my story. I want to go to the issues that concern me most...war, economic injustice, education...and find evidence that my vote on November 4 will be a vote for a nation "indivisible...with liberty and justice for all." Wow...how's that for some real clear politics? Thanks for taking the survey, by the way. I'd like to hear your thoughts on the question, if you have some time to write here. I've got a brainy PhD student in social psychology working on the questions for upcoming surveys...so come back to the blog often. Peace, all.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Take Time While There's Time....Think!

41 days...991 hours from this particular hour...59,519 minutes from this very minute... The polls will open and Americans will vote for a new president. Black, white, brown, red, blue, conservative, moderate, liberal, rich, hungry, happy, stressed...we will go. Empowered by our freedom to choose and our right to speak our minds without fear we will put aside the projections about the winner and the presumptions about the vote counting and the pondering on things that really don't matter...and we will vote. By the time 42 days have passed, it will all be over. Someone will have 270 electoral votes. Swing states will go back to being called by their given names. A senator, or two, will return to the senate. A governor may go back to Alaska. What then? Can you imagine it yet? What really are your highest and best hopes for our brand of democracy over the next four years? Have you taken a moment...don't wait to be given a moment...to think for yourself about this? Or have you been swept into the frenzy stew of each day...a recipe created by candidates and their spinners, newscasters and their graphics, email hogs and their alarming daily data? Who are YOU? What do YOU value? What do you fear? What do you...to coin a phrase...HOPE for? From the core of your being, what kind of leadership are you dreaming about in the United States of America? Is there time left to think? I believe there is. 59,476 minutes still left, in fact. Stop. Look. Listen. Think. It's your vote to do with what you will. Know what you want...choose that. I'd love it if you'd take the quick survey on this site. There will be a new question every week, generated by our thinking together here. You're also welcome to cut and paste the countdown link above (click on this post title) onto your own computer...a reminder from time to time that you still have a few minutes to think and dream and hope. And by all means...let me know what's coming to you in those moments of contemplation by posting a response here. Peace.