Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My brother, my pastor

I don't know about you but there are plenty of times I have listened to a sermon at my church and disagreed with the priest. Heck, I disagree with the Pope on any number of issues but these disagreements don't prompt me to leave my church or my faith.

It would be a rare find indeed to locate a parishioner who agrees with everything that they have ever heard spoken during a sermon by a presider. The world is full of opinions and interpretations of the bible and world events and priests are no different.

Pick any bible passage and ask a bunch of priests to interpret and a I can guarantee that there will be vast differences. Some priests look at the passage in the context of the time in which it was written while some attempt to bring the passage forward to modern times and shoehorn it's message into current events. Neither is wrong or right. Just an opinion from a person of faith who has thought long and hard about what it all means in the context of the spiritual journey we are all on (agnostics and atheists included).

Reverend Wright is certainly on the radical side of the fence right now and Senator Obama is right to repudiate those ideas that don't aid in his own faith and go against his personal beliefs.

But I take issue with the thought that the words of Reverend Wright can be assumed to be the words of Senator Obama or that the ideas and thoughts that accompany those words are an integral part of the Obama creed.

Hillary Clinton claims she would leave a church that preached the sermons of Rev. Wright. That is her choice. But if disagreeing with a sermon means you have to find a new church you'll be switching churches every month.

I listen to a sermon and I reflect on what I hear. I discard those things that I disagree with and I hold onto the words that help me and strengthen my faith. That is what I expect from my priest. No more, and no less.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

There can be only one!

Satistics are flying fast and furious as the Pennsylvania voting is tallied and Hillary crows about her 10% win over Barack. The statistic that matters most is completely unknown at this point and no amount of polling in my opinion can discern what the voting public will do when there is a single nominee on the Democratic side to go up against John McCain.

Sure you can ask the question but the answers are all viewed through the prism of two candidates competing for the prize. If you're a Hillary fan you're already predisposed not be enamored with Barack and vice versa. Would a Clinton supporter cast a vote for Obama if he is the nominee? My bet would be yes, in most cases.

It's going to come down to "more of the same" or "something different". McCain's positions continue to evolve and change to reflect the current administration thinking as he tries to pander to the Republican base so as much as McCain hopes to avoid the "Bush" stigma, I think he's going to have to wear that stink around his neck during the runup to November. If you liked the last 8 years and you think that the country is on the right path, check the (R) box. If not it's going to be a (D).

Put me in the "something different" column.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Safe at any cost! Safe at $5000 a second?

The current statistic for the Iraq war cost is that American taxpayers are paying $5,000 dollars a second to fight this war. President Bush argues that the cost is well worth the security that it affords the United States. I can't see it. If we spent $5000 a second here at home to increase security we could secure all the shipping ports, inspect all the shipping containers, put the best screening technology that money can buy in every single airport in the country, put antimissile technology on all the airliners, build the best darn wall money can buy across the southern border and the list goes on and on.

I don't see where I am safer with a Hussein-less Iraq. If we drive Al-queda out of Iraq won't they just setup base somewhere else? Why isn't oil revenue from Iraq financing this fight at this point? Why are we using our money to rebuild? We claim (the administration claims) that the sorry state of Iraqi infrastructure is the result of 35 years of baathist/dictatorial rule. Isn't the U.S. at least partially responsible for the deplorable conditions in Iraq?

The Vice President says that it doesn't matter what the people desire of their government and I for one am appalled at that cavalier attitude toward American democracy. The Presidential spokesperson says that the people had their say in the 2000 and 2004 elections and after that we leave it in the hands of the elected officials. I didn't realize that our system was supposed to work that way.

I don't feel safer. I think the financial cost (not to mention the human cost) incurred by our Iraq occupation far exceeds the illusion of safety that this administration tries to tout. We should look after ourselves and use that money domestically. January 20th, 2009 cannot come soon enough for me. Anybody in the oval office has to be better than the current occupant.

Is compromise really that hard?

Another chance to demonstrate either my political naivete or my ability to see the obvious when all around me are blind. It's probably the former but let's pretend it could be the latter.

The President wants a trade agreement with Columbia. He doesn't bother to work with Congress on an acceptable agreement (which is his right) but instead works it out and sends it to Congress for consideration. The Democratic Congress balks at tying the hands of the next President (which they assume will be a democrat) and delays consideration. The President pulls out his "you're not a patriot card" and accuses the naysayers of endangering the deal, all future trade deals, damaging our economy (as if the economy needed any more help in it's freefall), damaging our national security as well as damaging our relationship with Columbia. Basically the standard kitchen sink approach that this Administration uses to pooh-pooh anyone that opposes their heavy-handed approach to an issue.

Is this really that hard? Can't the trade agreement run through January 20th 2009 with clauses to allow renegotiation or dissolution by the incoming administration? What am I missing here?

It seems to me that the aim of this administration is to ratchet up the us vs them mentality and brand the naysayers as traitors as well as questioning their intelligence. This is one of it's biggest faults (among many). This administration believes that their way is the only way and should be followed unquestioningly. Differences of opinion and alternate scenarios are highly discouraged in the oval office. The President wakes up every day and put on his rose-colored sunglasses (much like the citizenry of the Emerald City of OZ who view their world through green prisms) so that his optimism and certainty about the country's direction will remain intact regardless of all evidence to the contrary. The cadre that surround this President ensure that all appearances are populated by those that agree with the administration so that Mr. Bush won't be subjected to any negativity that could mar his rosy outlook.

This administration does not believe in compromise. It's all or nothing. The damage to our country is self-inflicted and starts in the oval office. Until an administration is in place that will restore the word compromise to the political lexicon we are doomed to spin our wheels in all the things that Washington tries to accomplish. Without the word compromise, it really is that hard.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Iraq: Wasteland or Oasis?

Over 5 years of war and 500 billion plus dollars have now been invested in Iraq, costing over 4000 American lives and close to 100,000 Iraqi deaths (this number is in dispute and represents the low end of the scale). How does the country of Iraq look after this "investment."

Every picture I see in the paper of downtown Baghdad shows bombed out buildings, rubble, impoverished civilians, broken windows, armed troops in the streets and burned out cars. Every interview with the citizenry is filled with woe, citing limited food, electricity and basic necessities as well as dodging rocket attacks and bombs. I saw a picture of a line of cars waiting for gas in an extremely oil-rich country. I don't see the success and the improvement in Iraqi lives that this administration trumpets. I don't see the rebuilt schools, the feeling of safety to walk in the streets or an environment to raise children that is safe and nurturing. The violence appears to continue unabated.

Senator McCain is the new Bush cheerleader, brimming with optimism, begging for more time to win this war for democracy in a country that does not seem to want what we are struggling to provide for them. He sees an oasis in the desert.

Senators Clinton and Obama are the antithesis of the war optimists and appear to be more realistic about what has been accomplished and what is still possible. To them the oasis is a complete illusion masking the wasteland that is the Iraq of today. Sure, they point to the worst images to make their point just as the other side crows when an Iraqi family finds enough bread to eat for a day or gets enough electricity to light a bedroom so that their child can have a bedtime story read to them.

Are we safer today then we were five years ago? I don't think so. The terrorists will find safe havens no matter what happens in Iraq and continue to threaten us. We're close to losing Afghanistan back to the Taliban. And that will be the foreign policy measuring stick that will be used in the fall campaign.

I grind my teeth imagining what 500 billion dollars could have bought in this country in terms of safety. Better airport screening, complete screening of all maritime imports, radiation detectors for all major cities and the list goes on and on.

Has the surge helped? Yes. Can we somehow eek out a result that we can really label a "success?" No. I'm sure we will find some political way to claim success but it will be an illusion. We can't help those who don't want to help themselves and the Iraqis do not appear to want to work through the growing pains of a fledgling democracy.

Spend the money at home. Pull back the troops from combat roles and fall back to supporting roles. Give Iraq to the Iraqis and let them take the lead in the direction their country takes as it struggles to find its place in the world. More money and American lives will not buy success and make an oasis in the desert.