2008
06.27

OKGreens4Obama Email discussion list

This discussion list is for members and friends of the Greeen Party of Oklahoma, who are supporting Obama for President, but who are also proud to be Greens and are fighting for Ballot Access reform in Oklahoma so that all political parties can be on the ballot.

Civil discussions of the Obama campaign and Green politics are welcomed.

Please note that while this list is supportive of BOTH Obama and the Green Party, this list is NOT an official Green Party of Oklahoma email list and is not endorsed or sponsored by the Green Party.

I’m hoping this will be well-received. I know some Demos love to hate Greens and blame them for the losses in 2000 and 2004 (instead of blaming themselves for picking crappy candidates) and some Greens will see this project as being divisive (but to me this election is very different than 2000 and 2004).

At the very least I hope this project is seen as what it claims to be, Greens (who see a future in an independent Green Party) who are supporting a decent candidate for President, who happens to not be Green, even though he shares many (but not all) of our Green values.

2008
06.27

CNN: Stunned silence followed nuke plant implosion

YONGBYON, North Korea (CNN) — North Korea blew up part of its Yongbyon nuclear plant Friday, in full view of CNN and a handful of international broadcasters invited to witness this dramatic and symbolic event.

U.S. State Department official Sung Kim also attended, and called the move “a very significant disablement step.”

The move came just 24 hours after Pyongyang handed in its long-awaited nuclear declaration, and after President Bush responded by lifting some sanctions and removing North Korea from the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism.

Such tremendous good news. And I’m very glad to see Bush respond so quickly to this news.

CNN: North Pole could be ice-free this summer, scientists say

(CNN) — The North Pole may be briefly ice-free by September as global warming melts away Arctic sea ice, according to scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

“We kind of have an informal betting pool going around in our center and that betting pool is ‘does the North Pole melt out this summer?’ and it may well,” said the center’s senior research scientist Mark Serreze.

It’s a 50-50 bet that the thin Arctic sea ice, which was frozen last autumn, will completely melt away at the geographic North Pole, Serreze said.

The ice retreated to a record level in September when the Northwest Passage — the sea route through the Arctic Ocean — opened up briefly for the first time in recorded history.

“What we’ve seen through the past few decades is the Arctic sea ice cover is becoming thinner and thinner as the system warms up,” Serreze said.

Specific weather patterns will determine whether the North Pole’s ice cover melts completely this summer, he said.

. . . “Five years ago, to think that we’d even be talking about the possibility of the North Pole melting out in the summer, I would have never thought it,” he said.

The melting, however, has been long seen as inevitable, he said.

“If you talked to me or other scientists just a few years ago, we were saying that we might lose all or most of the summer sea ice cover by anywhere from 2050 to 2100,” Serreze said. “Then, recently, we kind of revised those estimates, maybe as early as 2030. Now, there’s people out there saying it might be even before that. So, things are happening pretty quick up there.”

Serreze said those who suggest the Arctic meltdown is just part of a historic cycle are wrong.

“It’s not cyclical at this point. I think we understand the physics behind this pretty well,” he said. “We’ve known for at least 30 years, from our earliest climate models, that it’s the Arctic where we’d see the first signs of global warming.

“It’s a situation where we hate to say we told you so, but we told you so,” he said. . .

We (as in the whole world) are in so much trouble. It is hard to even fathom the seriousness of this situation. To think, we as humans may be able to dodge nuclear holocaust but instead end up destroying human civilization as we know through global warming. As a child of the 80’s, this is hard to even imagine.

2008
06.26

CNN: High court strikes down gun ban (thanks to Sinister for alerting me to this story)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a sweeping ban on handguns in the nation’s capital violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The justices struck down the ban in a 5-4 decision, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing the opinion for the majority.

Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty said he was disappointed in the ruling but will give the district’s police department 21 days to implement a process for registering handguns. It still will be illegal to carry handguns outside the home, and all pistols must be registered with police.

. . . At issue in District of Columbia v. Heller was whether Washington’s ban violated the right to “keep and bear arms” by preventing individuals — as opposed to state militias — from having guns in their homes.

“Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security and where gun violence is a serious problem,” Scalia wrote. “That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”

I agree with Scalia (one of the few times you’ll ever see those 4 words on this blog). I think the second amendment does guarantee an individual right to bear arms and was written with the understanding that our nation wouldn’t always have a standing army, so that an armed citizenry would be necessary to provide for the common defense.

I also (assuming that the CNN story is correct, I haven’t had time to read the actual decision) think that the court did a good job of setting an appropriate balance, by allowing states to enact reasonable regulations on gun ownership but not allowing states to ban a class of guns outright.

I know that some of my liberal readers won’t agree with me on this, but I’m against gun control as long as the cops and military have their guns. I myself don’t believe in the morality of the use of lethal force against human beings, but I still believe in the right of others to choose to own a gun for the purpose of defending their families or their communities. (I myself have owned guns before, but now would only use them for recreation)

On a related tangent, it always surprises me that Scalia can be so literal in interpreting things like the 2nd Amendment, but yet pretty much ignores the 4th Amendment’s protections on search and seizure. It doesn’t make sense to me at all.

2008
06.25

I do want to elaborate on one thing from my previous blog post.

I don’t think I made it clear, but I do not have a “faith” litmus test in picking candidates. There are many people of different faiths than mine own, or not of faith, who I would love to see in office some day.

However, I would say that in elected officials I would like to know that not only do they have intelligence, but also a compassionate heart and the ability to hear and respond to their conscience. And if that conscience is shaped by a faith tradition, that’s great, but it doesn’t have to be.

In the case of Obama, I knew that he publicly expressed the fact that he is person of faith. That’s great, but it doesn’t answer all of my questions. Bush also was very open about his faith journey (which early on, as in pre-2000, I really admired, even though I didn’t agree with his politics), but it was hard to take his seriously, as his decisions did’t seem rooted in the faith tradition that he claimed to believe in.

So, when Obama started backing away from Rev. Wright, that was a big red flag to me. While some of Wright’s statements seemed unnecessarily caustic, for the most part they seemed true and certainly within the Judeo-Christian prophetic tradition. So, if Obama would back away from him, it made me wonder if his faith journey was genuine and if he was in fact open to hearing even harsh criticism that is rooted in the language of faith and conscience.

Since then, I have come to understand why Obama felt he had to distance himself from his church (even if I think he was dead-wrong), particularly after the sermon by Rev. Pfleger that was over the top in its mockery of Hillary Clinton (and again seemed to confirm the rampant sexism she faced in her campaign. I should also note that Rev. Pfleger said that his remarks weren’t made out of a sexist intent and I believe him (because of his history of publicly attacking sexist speech in rap music), but his choice of words was still awfully reckless and unfortunate. And given the controvery going on, I can see why Obama felt he had to make the break.

Then after that, I heard Dobson’s assinine remarks. Since I generally think Dobson is full of it, I decided to read the Obama speech that set Dobson on such a tirade. Wow! In reading it, I realized that Obama’s faith journey was for real. I also was struck by the fact that Obama (unlike Bush) was willing to engage with his faith and conscience, not just with simplistic emotions but with his mind too, and that he was the kind of person who would use his mind to find ways to bridge the gap with people who are from other faith and philosophical traditions.

And, I should also say that to the extent faith and politics do connect, I think Obama has heard clearly the ways that the teachings of Christ truly touch on politics – namely on the issues of poverty relief, social justice and non-violence. I know that Obama is ready yet to take the radical approach of the Anabaptists (Mennonites, Amish, Brethern and related denominations) who say that “Yes, the Sermon on the Mount means what it says, and yes, the department of defense should be abolished,” but at least Obama understands that the idea of war is contrary to the teachings of Christ, which is light years away from Bush’s view or Dobson’s view.

So, imperfect as he is, I feel comfortable supporting Obama. I’m not quite sure yet if I’ll get involved in his campaign, but I definitely plan to vote for him and I feel good about being public about it.

And lastly, with regards to the Green Party, I am and remain a Green Party member. If the Democrats had put out a candidate as lousy as Kerry again, I would have left my ballot blank in 2008. But this time it’s different.

Here’s another way of putting it — on a scale of 0-100 (with zero being George Bush, and 100 being Eugene Debs come back from the dead), I would say Kerry would have got a 25 while I would rank Obama as a 70. Still very far from perfect, but good enough to do some good.

I’m ok with the Greens having a candidate (who it looks like will be Cynthia McKinney, not Nader as folks seem to think. Nader is running again as an indy), but I hope that she would be open to running a “safe states” strategy, or better yet negotiate at the last minute to support Obama, if Obama came out in favor of a national standard on ballot access reform and/or appointed her to his cabinent.

I might try to start a Greens for Obama group. If that happens, you’ll hear about it on the blog in the near future.

2008
06.24

Dobson accuses Obama of ‘distorting’ Bible”

(CNN) — One of the country’s leading evangelical leaders is accusing Sen. Barack Obama of deliberately distorting the Bible and taking a “fruitcake interpretation” of the U.S. Constitution.

In comments to be aired on his radio show Tuesday, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson criticizes the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee for comments he made in a June 2006 speech to the liberal Christian group Call to Renewal. . .

“I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology,” Dobson said, later adding that Obama is “dragging biblical understanding through the gutter.”

I decided to see of for myself and read what Obama said in the speech in question…

Obama.Senate.gov: ‘Call to Renewal’ Keynote Address
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Such a powerful, thoughtful address. Here are a few parts that I though were worthy of special attention (but I recommend reading the whole thing if time permits) . . .

I think that we should put more of our tax dollars into educating poor girls and boys. I think that the work that Marian Wright Edelman has done all her life is absolutely how we should prioritize our resources in the wealthiest nation on earth. I also think that we should give them the information about contraception that can prevent unwanted pregnancies, lower abortion rates, and help assure that that every child is loved and cherished.

But, you know, my Bible tells me that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. So I think faith and guidance can help fortify a young woman’s sense of self, a young man’s sense of responsibility, and a sense of reverence that all young people should have for the act of sexual intimacy.

Obama has expressed what I believe about abortion and sexuality, but only far more eloquently.

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

Amen!

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their bibles.

This is the part that got Dr. Dobson all worked up, and if you read it in the context of his addresss, Obama was not saying “look at the Bible and how ridiculous it is” but rather that the Bible is only useful when it is interpreted, and that interpretation is something that is best done in an individual community of faith, not on the national level. (however, I got to say that I like his take on the Sermon on the Mount, and agree wholeheartedly with his interpretation of it!)

I can only assume that Dobson didn’t understand what Obama said here or he is purposely trying to confuse and mislead his audience.

This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example.

We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.

Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God’s test of devotion.

But it’s fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason.

What a good example!

I guess I should thank Dr. Dobson for pointing me to this speech. I previously had doubted Obama’s sincerity of his faith (particularly after his leaving his old church), but now I must say that not only am I convinced of the depth and thoughtfulness of his faith, but also am convinced that he has the kind of faith I am down with.

I am still not 100% happy with Obama’s stands on some issues, but I think I can now be ok with voting for him.

2008
06.20

I have been torn about the Olympics controvery for some time and haven’t said much here because of my contradicting concerns.

Generally, I believe that the concept of the Olympics has merit. The original Olympics was an actual time of truce in which all of the wars stopped for the games. Today, the wars continue on during the Olympics, but at least in principal there is the idea that the games provide a chance for all nations (even enemies) to come together and compete against each other in a context other than war. And as a child of the 80’s, I felt that dueling boycotts of the USA and USSR of the games were an unfortunate thing.

However, the situation in China is atrocious right now. I understand that not all of my readers will agree with me, but from my perspective (as a person of a Democratic-Socialist political persuasion), China is currently on a horrible path. It has adopted the worst of both of the dominant political systems of the last century: from the USSR model a repressive and totalitarian political environment, and from the USA model, a cut-throat capitalist system that is widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

More precisely, the PROC (People’s Republic of China) regime is committing the following wrongs as I see it…

1. It imprisons independent journalists and anyone who dares to ask too many questions.

2. Contrary to the rosy views of some (including my alma mater, OCU School of Law) it is now cracking down on the rights of Attorneys.

3. It horribly censors the Internet.

4. It persecutes people of all faiths (including Buddhists, Christians and practioners of Falon Gong).

5.  It is treating the rural poor like dirt, while allowing the upper classes to become filthy rich.

6. It has “one-child-only” policies that force parents to abort pregnancies after their first child’s birth.

7. It continues to enslave the people of Tibet.

8. It continues to imprison many of the brave young men and women who protested at Tiannenmen Square in 1989.

9. It is rapidly arming itself to the teeth (of the USA is a far bigger wrong-doer in this regard, but the USA being wrong doesn’t make the PROC right).

This is only the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even touched issues such as environmental justice, the rights of other ethnic minorities in China besides the Tibetans, etc.

The more I think about it, the spectacle of the Olympics is just that, a spectacle. I wish it actually represented the values of fair sport and peace, but it doesn’t today. Instead it is big money-making racket that is being used to give legitmacy to one of the most represive regimes on earth.

For me, reading this website (HRICHINA.org) is what pushed me to the point of deciding to publicly protest the Beijing Olympics. Things are not only bad in China, but are getting worse, and that worsening of the situation I think is in large part due to the Olympics.

So that’s why I’m taking the stance that I am. I encourage all of my readers to follow the link on the side of this blog to the Reporters without Borders website to read more about the situation and planned actions of protest.

2008
06.16

MSNBC/AP: Ex-Rep. J.C. Watts starting black news channel — Comcast will begin rollout in key markets for black audiences

Given Watts’ right-wing politics, I think this will go over with a dull thud.

2008
06.14

No blog of significance: One of the Reasons Homosexuals Agitate for “Marriage”

I’ve said for the longest time that one of the biggest reasons that homosexuals agitate for homosexual “marriage” is that it gives them a platform from which they can orchestrate efforts to shut down any criticism–to limit, in other words, the free speech of others. And I’ve also said that as regards many of the hot-button issues facting the nation, one need not speculate about the results; one has only to look to places where policies have already been put in place to see the results.Apparently, in homosexual-marriage-friendly Canada, homosexuals are on the verge of criminalizing traditional Christian teaching on the morality of homosexuality 

I’m sick of hearing conservatives miscontrue what the law is in Canada. Here is a little blurb I wrote about the law in Canada last year in response to an email I was sent by another Mennonite minister…

I did a little research on the situation in Canada. As it turns out, there is an exception under the Hate Crime law for religious speech.

According to: http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/hatecrimes/, the law says…”No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2) . . .if, in good faith, he expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject;”

In other words, a minister could say that that “homosexuality iss a sin” without fear (subsection 2 refers to “inciting hatred”), however a minister could be punished if he/she said “homosexuals are sinners and should be killed” (subsection 1 of the statute refers to inciting violence against people. Subsection 1 does not include an exception for religious speech).

In fact there was a case in Canada in which a person put an advertisement in the newspaper that quoted some of the scripture that he believed said homosexuality was wrong. Initially the man was prosecuted but on appeals the courts ruled that the man’s alleged hate speech was of a religious nature and as such could not be punished.

To me the Canadian law seems pretty reasonable. It allows people to express themselves regarding their religious beliefs even if those beliefs might be seen as hateful by many, but does not allow people to use religion as a cover to incite acts of violence.

 

I also do want to add that the law in Canada wouldn’t fly if enacted in the US. US First Amendment law would protect non-religious hate speech too (Canadian law only protect religious hate speech), but the provisions of using hate speech to incite violence would likely be legal here.And over the last few months since I wrote that blurb above, I have changed my mind on one aspect of the Canadian law. As a free speech advocate, I’m not in favor of the Canadian law as written. I would prefer that non-violent hatemongers be ridiculed by the tolerant, than for the hateful to be in jail, but I do think it is important to note that the law is not nearly as broad as the conservatives would have you to believe. (I am of course 100% behind criminalizing hate speech designed to incite violence)

2008
06.13

CourageToResist.org: PFC Jose Crespa questioning Iraq deployment

This morning Jose was given orders to fly out to Iraq and he declined to go. He is back at his post on increased restrictions but no charges have been filed yet.

2008
06.10

On the road again

I’m traveling with a friend (a delightful woman I met online, who seems like a long-lost sister) right now. She and I are in one vehicle (accompanied by 2 cats and a hedgehog), and her parents are in another car, as the whole family is moving from Illinois to Oregon. (I’m only going with them as far as Boise, Idaho)

So far, we’ve gone from Central Illinois to Des Moines, Iowa on the first day, and then today from Des Moines to Sidney, NE (out in the far west, in the panhandle of Nebraska). Over the next few days we’ll go into Wyoming and Idaho, as those (along with NE) are new states for me to visit.

Blogging will be sporadic at best over the next few days, but I’ll be at the hotel in Boise on Thursday night and will plan on catching up on anything I can’t do from the road (work and blogging wise then).

Also I wanted to say for my regular readers, I’m sorry the last post was so brutally sad. Yes, the things I was writing about are worth being upset about (I’m still amazed that CNN wastes hour upon hour talking about the ridiculous Hulk Hogan family saga when the Iraq war is going on), but nobody should stay in that place all of the time. I was very, very depressed on the day I wrote that post, and it seemed like venting online was a better choice than more hurtful outlets for my negative emotions.

I am doing much better now. I am praying a lot more and realizing that I can’t get every soldier out of the Army, but that i can do my part to free as many people as I can from the machinery of death and destruction. I also am finding some time here and there to take care of myself and do little things that bring me happiness and joy. I’m taking lots of pictures and have even been painting on this trip (I think I’m finally getting the knack of watercolors!), and have enjoyed just spending time with my new friend and her family.

Anyway that’s the news from the Days Inn in Sidney, Nebraska tonight. Thanks for reading 🙂