Saturday, December 02, 2006

Rev. Jim Wallis Delivers Dem Radio Address

This week, Reverend Jim Wallis delivered the Democratic Radio Address.

To listen to his remarks, click here.

I'm Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics. I was surprised and grateful when Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid called to say his party wanted to set a new tone and invite, for the first time, a non-partisan religious leader to deliver their weekly radio address and speak about the values that could unite Americans at this critical time.

So, I want to be clear that I am not speaking for the Democratic Party, but as a person of faith who feels the hunger in America for a new vision of our life together, and sees the opportunity to apply our best moral values to the urgent problems we face. I am not an elected official or political partisan, but a religious leader who believes that real solutions must transcend partisan politics. For too long, we have had a politics of blame and fear, while America is eager for a politics of solutions and hope. It is time to find common ground by moving to higher ground.

Because we have lost a commitment to the common good, politics is failing to solve the deepest crises of our time. Real solutions will require our best thinking and dialogue, but also call us to transformation and renewal.

Most Americans know that the important issues we confront have an essential moral character. It is the role of faith communities to remind us of that fact. But religion has no monopoly on morality. We need a new, morally-centered discourse on politics that welcomes each of us to the table.

A government that works for the common good is central. There is a growing desire for integrity in our government across the political spectrum. Corruption in government violates our basic principles. Money and power distort our political decision-making and even our elections. We must restore trust in our government and reclaim the integrity of our democratic system.

At this moment in history, we need new directions.

Who is left out and left behind is always a religious and moral question. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the health of a society was measured by how it cared for its weakest and most vulnerable, and prosperity was to be shared by all. Jesus proclaimed a gospel that was "good news to the poor."

I am an evangelical Christian, and a commitment to "the least of these" is central to my personal faith and compels my public actions. It is time to lift up practical policies and effective practices that "make work work" for low-income families and challenge the increasing wealth gap between rich and poor. We must find a new moral and political will to overcome poverty that combines personal and social responsibility with a commitment to support strong families.

Answering the call to lift people out of poverty will require spiritual commitment and bipartisan political leadership. Since the election, I have spoken with leaders from both parties about creating a real anti-poverty agenda in Congress. We need a grand alliance between liberals and conservatives to produce new and effective strategies.

This week, President Bush met with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq, seeking solutions to the rapidly deteriorating situation in that civil-war torn nation. Nearly 3,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died. The cost and consequences of a disastrous war are moral issues our country must address. Leaders in both parties are acknowledging that the only moral and practical course is to dramatically change the direction of U.S. policy, starting with an honest national debate about how to extricate U.S. forces from Iraq with the least possible damage to everyone involved.

Our earth and the fragile atmosphere that surrounds it are God's good creation. Yet, our environment is in jeopardy as global warming continues unchecked and our air and water are polluted. Good stewardship of our resources is a religious and moral question. Energy conservation and less dependence on fossil fuels are commitments that could change our future- from the renewal of our lifestyles to the moral redemption of our foreign policies.

A culture that promotes healthy families is necessary to raise our children with strong values, and the breakdown of family and community in our society must be addressed. But we need serious solutions, not the scapegoating of others. And wouldn't coming together to find common ground that dramatically reduces the number of abortions be better than both the left and the right using it as an issue to divide us?

We need a new politics inspired by our deepest held values. We must summon the best in the American people, and unite to solve some of the moral issues of our time. Americans are much less concerned about what is liberal or conservative, what is Democrat or Republican. Rather, we care about what is right and what works.

The path of partisan division is well worn, but the road of compassionate priorities and social justice will lead us to a new America. Building that new America will require greater moral leadership from both Democrats and Republicans, and also from each and every one of us.

I'm Jim Wallis. Thank you and God bless you.

Who Knows Why Cambone Goes?

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights charged, in a lawsuit two years ago in Germany, that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for the torture of U.S. detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and the U.S. Navy prison at Guantanamo by approving illegal interrogation techniques. His undersecretary of Defense, Stephen Cambone, who resigned yesterday, was also named in that lawsuit.

The Washington Post leads us to believe Cambone has quit because of the spying he's previously authorized on Quakers and other non-threatening American citizens who were involved in anti-war groups. That was bad enough, but I think it's something else. I think Bush is now trying to distance himself from the Defense Department people he kept on for too long while trying to shield himself and his Vice President (Cheney) from political attack about the Iraq mess - the torture, the post-war disaster, et al. If Bush had canned these people when they should have been canned (in Spring 2004 when Abu Ghraib scandal first erupted), Bush would have lost the people's confidence (the little confidence he still had in 2004 about Iraq) and my bet is that he knew he would have lost the 2004 election. So Bush kept all of his administration's "errors" close to his circle, where they could continue the string of failure and deception.

In the most current news, it's said that eleven Iraqis who were held at Abu Ghraib prison and other U.S.-run facilities in Iraq and a Saudi detainee at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would file a criminal complaint on Nov. 14, according to Michael Rattner of the Center for Constitutionals Rights.

At a May, 2004 Senate Armed Services committee hearing on Iraqi prisoner abuse, the undersceretary of Defense Stephen Cambone said:
"...with respect to the application of the Geneva Convention to detainees in Iraq, from the outset of the war in Iraq, the United States government has recognized and made clear that the Geneva Conventions apply to our activities in that country. Members of our armed forces should have been aware of that."
We know now that his statement isn't true at all. Former Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski has said that the case of prisoner abuses in Abu Ghraib wasn't just a case of a few bad apples and that the knowledge and responsibility clearly "goes all the way to the top of the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and to the Vice President, Dick Cheney."

The Center for Constitutionals Rights' spokesman Mr. Rattner has said,
"Now that Rumsfeld has resigned he no longer has the type of immunity typically given to heads of state and high-ranking government officials."

Since the Military Commissions Act signed by Bush last month gives immunity to U.S. officials in connection with detainee interrogations, "the German courts no longer have the excuse of saying these cases are going to be prosecuted in U.S. courts," Rattner said.
A TIME magazine article has more on the German lawsuit. I don't see any way that Cambone could have remained welcome to stay in a White House that will likely want to make this entire Iraq mess look like it was always (and solely) the Defense Department heads' fault. We know better - we followed Dick Cheney's role in the "shadow-CIA" Office of Special Planning all throughout the lead-up to the biggest mistake our nation has ever made. Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may also be taking a lot of heat if this lawsuit has any legs - and perhaps a permenent vacation.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

World AIDS Day -December 1

When asked to write something for December's International Carnival of the Pozitivities, a cooperative blog effort to help others understand how HIV/AIDS effects real human beings, I immediately agreed. I've lost (and am losing) too many friends and loved ones to a disease that no one talks about because of pride, fear, embarrassment, depression, or pain. We need to open up and talk about HIV/AIDS and how it effects our lives and the lives of those around us.

December 1, 2006 is World AIDS Day. On this day, I'll tell you about Chuck, a boy I grew up with and called a close friend. He was always a joyous person. A gifted musician and a gay male living in a town where his prospects for happiness with openness about his true self were dulled by prejudice and fear, he moved to San Francisco in the late 70s. Chuck was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the days when the public barely knew what the heck it was. Those were the days when President Reagan's response to the easily forseeable oncoming public health crisis was "halting and ineffective," according to his biographer Lou Cannon. "Those infected initially with this mysterious disease -- all gay men -- found themselves targeted with an unprecedented level of mean-spirited hostility." [source of quote]

I knew Chuck's mother and father all my life. They were good friends to my own parents and Chuck was more to me like family than just a friend. He was like a big brother to me. An only child, Chuck was luckier than some others of his time. He was "out" from the beginning. None of us who knew and loved him ever questioned his personal choices. He had wonderful, loving and supportive parents.

The disease took him quickly once the opportunistic infections begin to emerge. At that time, medicine could do little for him. There just wasn't enough known about the disease except what you'd hear from the so-called "moral majority" - that it was a punishment from God for the sin of homosexuality. When I speak about real values today on this blog - love, compassion, understanding, human rights, justice - I speak about the memory of the lack of compassion and the outright fear-mongering of the Religious Right toward a disease that stole someone I knew and loved.

Looking back, I wish I could have been mature enough to have been an effective listener in the many times when Chuck and his mother must have needed to talk to someone confidentially. I wasn't old enough, nor was I educated enough at the time. I remember my own parents explaining it all to me. I didn't learn about HIV/AIDS from my own government. Instead, I learned it the hard way, and believe me, I realize it was a lot harder for those who had to suffer the night sweats and the never ending body pains - hardly realizing what was slowly killing them. I made a journey West ten years ago just to visit Chuck's grave. I wish to God Chuck could have been standing there - alive. Thankfully, there has been good progress in medical research that allows for HAART (anti-retroviral therapy) that can improve the quality and length of life for many HIV-positive people. The importance of early detection is key to survival. If you are not sure, please go and get tested today.

On December 1 - World AIDS day - I see that there are many people in this world who have taken up the cause because our leaders abdicated their responsibilities so long ago. President Reagan could have chosen to end the homophobic rhetoric that flowed from so many in his administration. Dr. C. Everett Koop, Reagan's surgeon general, has said that because of "intradepartmental politics" he was cut out of all AIDS discussions for the first five years of the Reagan administration. On June 1 1987, after being booed at an AIDS conference, then-Vice President George HW Bush wondered aloud in front of a live mic: "Who was that? Some gay group out there?" We're way behind the eight-ball, but I give former President Clinton credit for really opening up the gates of knowledge about HIV/AIDS during his administration. With a foul scent of the old "moral majority" foolishness, the current Bush administration seems to have closed some doors and brought back some of the fear and ignorance about birth control and how it can stop the deadly disease in our own nation as well as overseas.

A leader who understands values from the most human perspective would scramble to push an agenda that would include real and complete sex education for the protection of the children of this world. If you think that frank talk about sex causes children to lose their innocence, just wait until you see what the effect of AIDS will do to their sense of innocence. I was no more than an innocent child when Chuck died of AIDS-related complications. It is realizing that Chuck was an innocent child that makes me so sad as I write these words today. We're all innocent children.

Break the silence.
If we want to know all we can about HIV/AIDS, go to the World AIDS Day website.

Please say a prayer for Chuck and promise me you'll teach your children well.


See Royce Hardin's moving, honest and beautiful testimony to the trials of HIV/AIDS, along with the mysteries and wonders of love, life, death, and the spirit.

See outgoing UN secretary-general Kofi Annan's statement for World AIDS Day.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Cindy Sheehan on The Draft

"Why would we force feed this monster that steals our children and bleeds our pocketbooks dry? We should never force our children into the mouth of the behemoth, but we should also do everything in our power to stop them from volunteering for the same duty. Putting more of our bodies under the control of irresponsible maniacs, is just, well, irresponsible!"

- Cindy Sheehan on the topic of military conscription in the age of the Bush Wars

I got a note from Cindy Sheehan on MySpace today with her opinion of the recent chatter about reactivating the draft. Here's an excerpt:

Although, I admire Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), who himself, served during the Korean conflict and has been serving America , honorably, as a Congressman for many years, I am 100%, categorically opposed to forced conscription and think that Mr. Rangel is seriously misguided on this issue.

First of all, we had forced conscription during the entire outrage that was the Vietnam War. That war lasted 13 years and cost the lives of millions of people. A draft didn’t stop that war and, in fact, provided fresh and continual cannon fodder for the war profiteers. Escalation of that conflict was horrific as the proposed escalation of Iraq will only beget new slaughter on a heretofore unprecedented and unimaginable scale. Forced conscription deals out the death and destruction at a greater and more deadly pace.

Secondly, a draft will never be fair and balanced. The children of the wealthy (who oftentimes are war profiteers themselves) will always be able to get out of war. Children of presidents, future presidents, Congressional Reps and Senators will never be forced to serve in the wars that their fathers and mothers commit other children to. A draft will not equalize what we have for the most part in our country, now, a poverty draft. The children of the poor and marginalized of our society are the ones who always have to pay for the greed of a very few.

Finally, a draft will only give the war machine more of our children to consume to generate its wealth. As Rep. Rangel said, we can’t fight wars in North Korea and Iran without a draft. I say “Amen!” We can’t fight wars in North Korea and Iran without a draft! More bullet sponges for two more needless wars: Please, God, no!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Jacksonville Daily News Boldly Defends Goliath Wal Mart

I give the editors at The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C. credit for at least not letting Wal Mart's spreading of a false and misleading story about John Edwards last week go any further with more lies. Too many newspapers shamelessly jumped on conjecture borne of smear propaganda that was initiated last week by Wal Mart's coroporate headquarters after Edwards fiercely criticized their policies toward their employees.

I have a big problem with the Jacksonville Daily News editors' rationale regarding Senator Edwards support for the American worker.

I'm trying to figure out why these editiors would choose to defend the corporate behemoth with such lame rationalizations.

First example:

Employees in this nation have choices. If a Wal-Mart employee doesn’t think he or she is getting paid a fair wage, the employee is free to negotiate better pay and benefits. If that doesn’t work out, the employee can seek employment elsewhere.

Perhaps these news editors are out of touch because they make a decent wage and enjoy company benefits and forget that they're speaking about Wal Mart jobs with inadequate health care benefits for the employee and their children - - sometimes no health benefits at all.

In essence, this is what these editors are suggesting for the Wal Mart employees with horrible (or no) benefits and inadequate pay:
- Love your job - you're lucky to have it, you low wage peons. Ask, then shut up and accept it when Wal Mart tells you "no" and don't complain about the inequity. (This is not the American tradition.)
- Let the little Davids try to fight the corporate giant alone with no moral support from their government leaders, (This is not the American expectation.) or
- Leave your job if you dislike the pay and beneifits so some other David can come and be used up by Goliath. (This is not the American way)

Those kinds of ideas sound too close to pre-labor union America to sound "American" to me. Moral leadership is necessary in this particular situation. Wal Mart isn't some small business - they are a giant and they've rolled over small businesses and reduced choice in this nation (for shoppers and job seekers) in the name of low prices (which really aren't all that low if you consider the negative value of the dumb-down trade offs in our communities, with Wal Mart destroying or driving out the local classes of entrepreneurs and community leaders.) Our government has been sitting back and letting it go on for too long. The low wage American worker feels morally abandoned by their leaders. Is it any wonder they have become resigned to having to keep these economically unfair job packages? To argue had been hopeless for those with no voice..until leaders like Senator John Edwards came along and spoke for them.

..which brings me to the next decidedly misbegotten theory from the Jacksonville Daily News editors: claims that many of Wal-Mart’s practices are un-American. Of course, millions of Americans who shop at the retailer would beg to differ.

That's a hoot. What makes an American innately and undeniably "American" is certainly not Wal Mart and we should be aware of what they are implying and resent and reject the ridiculous implication. The Smiley Face is not the Red, White and Blue.

Here's another hoot: these editors speak as if Americans have a wider choice on where to go these days for their sundries and household needs. The strangest part, for me, is to see the editors assuming the playing field is even for Wal Mart and the few "moms and pops" that are still left competing with Wal Mart stores in this country. Mom and Pop have been steamrolled - flattened like pancakes by Wal Mart.

I'd wager, if you explained to the son of a recently-hired Wal Mart worker who'd lost his textile mill job and health benefits to "outsourcing" (and who can't even afford to get his son to the doctor when he's sick) that people are buying goods made of textiles from Pakistan at a low price because Dad no longer works for the American textile company that once supplied his own family with all the benefits and pay they'd needed to get by, the young son would "get it." The son would "get" the fact that Dad will no longer be able to afford college for him while those shoppers save a few pennies on those towels that were made in a faraway place of which he can't pronounce the name. If a kid can get it, why don't the editors of the Jacksonville Daily News get it? Perhaps the publisher had best get off its own anti-community right-wing because it's looking mightily ravaged from scraping bottom.

They say:
Businesses in the United States, whether they are corporate giants such as Wal-Mart or small mom-and-pop shops on Main Street, need less interference by government and politicians. if the moms-and-pops ever had a choice or a chance against Wal Mart under the eye of a government who sat back and watched American choices fade with the sunset of globalization. Globalization will continue and I wonder when some of these ideological snails who call themselves "American" will catch up with the fact that regulations have been and will be (now more than ever) required in a democracy where American work, entrepreneurship, and leadership are still valued highly by the community and by the government that represents community members who work so hard and aspire to something greater.

It is very "American" to support the American worker and the American small business. Don't you forget it!

I think The Jacksonville News editors had best forget worrying their corporate-giant-loving heads about WakeUpWalMart and concentrate on "WakeUpJacksonvilleDailyNewsEditors".


See WakeUpWalmart's latest ad.

Note: The editorial in today's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is not simply constructive in its criticism, it is viscerally anti-Edwards. When an American leader generates this kind of reaction from newspaper editors, you can't help but wonder why they are defensive of Wal Mart to the point of outright political attack. It couldn't be because they have a right wing history, could it? Am I living in an alternative universe? I thought we, the people, voted against Bushworld last November 7, yet I can still smell Bushworld in these editorials.

Update: November 27 - The New Hampshire Union Leader continues the tradition of American newspaper editors oddly defending a corporate giant with what one rationally scrutinizing reader calls undisciplined logic. Senator Edwards provides a rebuttal in an AP article on November 28th appearing in the same newspaper (the same paper that endorsed Steve Forbes for President
in the 2000 election and Bush in 2004.)

Sunday Reflection

A Living Prayer
by Alison Krauss