Friday, March 21, 2008

Reverend Wright Is Wrong On Race

I honestly do not know whether Senator Barack Obama agrees with the opinions on Race held by his long-time friend and “mentor”, Jeremiah Wright. On the one hand, he might not agree with the Reverend, in which case he played along for two decades while the pretense bought him street credibility. On the other, Obama may be playing down Wright’s hate speech while he chases votes from moderates and white voters. Neither possibility makes Barack Obama look all that mature or honorable, but for here I leave it at that.

Reverend Wright offends me not merely because he is a black racist, a man who sees all Caucasians as evil people. It does not seem to occur to him, that his sentiments mirror those of any slave trader of two centuries ago, the sort of people who figured that blacks were inferior and therefore did not deserve to be treated as humans. That’s what racism really comes down to, in the end – hating someone because of their race, and desiring evil on them solely because of their race. Reverend Wright is an obstacle, a parasite, and a blight on the reconciliation between blacks and other races in America.

I am not saying there is no racial tension, nor am I denying that the crimes against blacks in the past do not go away just because they are not perpetrated anymore. I even agree that there are people and places where the old bad days never seem to have ended. These are real problems that should not be ignored, but must be faced and resolved. But with that said, the progress over the years is real and substantial, and the good people far outnumber the bad. More, people like Reverend Wright are guilty of three kinds of sins which make race relations worse rather than better.

First, as I said many things have gotten much better, and while that does not mean that we should pretend the work is done it does mean that there needs to be recognition of the good. Even if people in general are as selfish and crass as Reverend Wright claims, it is understood that reward of a thing makes more of it. Ignoring progress is therefore the worst way to continue it, besides the dishonorable treatment of people whose work brought us where we are. For example, my family came to America as Anabaptists and determined abolitionists. The men in my family therefore considered Slavery a horrid abomination, and they fought in the Civil War specifically to abolish it and establish equal treatment of all men. Two sorts of fortunes came back to them for this; some died in the war while others merely lost their property, health and fortune. There was no Veterans Administration to care for them, no help from banks or churches to rebuild their farms or help their families. Yet even 140 years later, men like Jeremiah Wright can’t be bothered to respect their sacrifice, simply because they were white. I could also point out that the Civil Rights Act passed a Congress which was overwhelmingly white, because of overwhelming support among white voters. Wright focuses on the minority who resisted the reform, but will not commend those who fought to end that injustice, were they white.

The second sin is fomenting hate through false witness. Whites wanted to kill all the blacks? The United States is fighting in the Middle East because white people hate arabs? AIDs and crack cocaine were white strategies to hurt black people? As absurd as these charges are, when repeatedly over and over they begin to have the same effect as the Klan’s claims that blacks were conspiring to overthrow the United States. It’s the same sick strategy and way of thinking, a conspiracy mindet that locks out any chance of rational discussion and collaborative problem solving. People like Wright start with reasonable grievances, but instead of seeking solutions they use those initial causes as basis for clearly evil actions, killing discourse and civility and driving out solutions in favor of a chosen bloodfeud.

The third sin is what happens to real outrages. Blacks like Wright show rage at imagined offenses as quickly as real ones, blurring the distinction between true injustice and fodder for publicity. Real injustice should not be hidden in a pack of false allegations, which by the way racists can use to defend their rhetoric. Hysterical blacks like Wright undermine the effectiveness of valid protests, because Wright’s sort is too common and gets more media. An industry of fake rage has sprung up, dulling the public from seeing true wrongs when they happen. He will never admit it, but Jeremiah Wright has done as much to hurt blacks as any KKK Grand Dragon, and if he cares at all about his race at all, Senator Obama should be sorely ashamed for his association with Wright.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I am not God - Neither are You

There are two points I want to make, and I have to begin by emphasizing that analogies are not perfect, but they can be valid without being perfect. When we humans discuss the affairs of God, it should not surprise us that we do not understand everything. Despite all the recent hype, we are NOT gods, much less God. Expecting a human being to not only comprehend the thoughts and will of God, but to be competent to judge Him on His work and behavior, is far more absurd than expecting a 1st-grader to correct Stephen Hawking’s calculations. Yet that human arrogance is quite common. How many times do we hear some snot-nosed slacker voice an opinion about his boss which comes from no experience, training, or relevent data, yet he feels his professional opinion is superior to the man who does have the data, training, and experience? Many students imagine they are smarter than their teachers and professors, again even though they have never collected the knowledge and experience their teacher possesses. And many children imagine they are wiser and smarter than their parents. And on and on and on.

When I was very young, I mentally criticized my parents for various things, but as I grew older and saw something of Life I began to realize that they were right, and in those cases where they were wrong in the facts, they were nonetheless right in the practice. The advantage I have in that perception, is that I was able to grow to a point where I reached where my parents had been before. It is, again, a very false presumption for any human to imagine he or she has learned and experienced enough, to speak as an equal to God. I know that moves against the popular philosophy these days, of doing as you please and blaming whatever happens on God, but there it is.

The second point involves the Bible. I don’t just mean the New Testament, though as you may expect I do believe it is true. I mean the Old Testament, which the Jews call the Tanakh. One thing which always impressed me about the ancient writings, is that they had no sugar-coating. Even the good people made mistakes, sometimes said and did bad things. And even the bad people often had some worthy traits. And many things happened, bad and good, when seemed to make no sense. Which brings me to the Book of ‘Job’. Job was decribed as a very good man, almost perfect, so good that when Satan came around God’s court for whatever reason he did that, God bragged on Job to Satan. Well, you know the rest. Scholars have been trying to answer ever since, why God would let Satan do what he did to Job. The answer, I think, whether or not you think Job was a real person or not, is because we know these things really do happen. Evil men prosper while the good and innocent suffer. A lot of petty and bitter people just unload on God and never ask why he might have done that. That is, if God is who we always heard He is, the source of all goodness and hope, then why would He let these sorts of things happen? Instead, they default to the small-minded assumption that God does not exist, or if he does exist then He’s either an incompetent liar who can’t do the job, or a cruel monster who tortures his kids. None of those descriptions, however, makes sense when you think them through, at least I don’t see it that way.

What I mean is, if everything has a source and I believe that is so, then Goodness and Evil have a source. SOMETHING brought goodness into being, and to do so that SOMETHING must have been perfect in its goodness, because otherwise perfection could not exist. If we accept that, then there must of right be some entity who is wholly good, and it makes sense that this source would be God. You see, everything has a source, and we know that good and evil oppose each other. We can also see by examination, that goodness matters more than evil, if only because we encourage goodness; it is in our nature to seek out goodness. That being so, our Creator must also be good, since good and evil oppose, and therefore our Lord is the Good Lord. The whole defense takes muchg longer but would convince no one anyway whose heart was evil and dark, so I simply put it there for this point; God of right is good and loves us. Therefore there must be a purpose to allowing evil and suffering, which is beyond our comprehension.

Going back to my analogy, there are many things we experience as children and young people, which makes little sense until we are grown enough. The first step to comprehension is acceptance of a fact we do not like, but recognize as a fact. And here the first step is accepting that while God does allow bad to happen, it is somehow because He is good that this is so, and in the end it will prove wise, even necessary so we will become full in our promise.

Senescent Campaigns

There is much ado to be heard, about Senator Obama’s long-delayed and half-hearted admission yesterday that he had indeed heard “controversial” statements from his “mentor” and advisor Jeremiah Wright. Clinton supporters hoped the scandal would derail his nomination run, while McCain supporters hoped it would improve McCain’s chances in the fall. Obama and his team, once able to sell Barack as a man above the vulgar manipulation of race in his campaign, are now forced to deal with the revelation to the nation that Obama’s hands are as dirty as anyone else’s and quite possibly worse, and that his connection to Reverend Wright implies a crass racism in his own history which belies his oft-professed ideals. At best a hypocrite, Senator Obama is still exhibiting a clear stage of denial in the process, unaware that excuses and evasion will only make things worse.

With that said, however, no one should assume Wright’s racism, no matter how heinous, will permanently or seriously affect Obama’s candidacy. There was an immediate cost, and it will hurt Obama to some extent, but in the end it is a scandal about the words and behavior of one of Obama’s friends, not the Senator himself. True, Obama’s long friendship with Wright would devastate his career if Obama were white and a Republican, but as he is neither, History shows the cost will be transitory. As long as he does not make things worse, Obama can ride out this storm. Now he is proven no different from so many politicians before him, Barack Obama can relax and follow the script, dropping the pretense that he really represents anything innovative.

So whither Hillary? This time last year, Senator Clinton cast the image of the ‘inevitable’ next President of the United States. Since then, the ‘Smarter Clinton’ has been Clintanic in her campaign, as in a ship that aims for icebergs. The advantage for Clinton is that hitting nearly every possible obstacle during the primary run has helped her map them out for the fall campaign, should she gain the nomination. And no one should count Clinton out of the race, even should it seem impossible for her to come back. If Hillary share’s Bill’s penchant for saying and doing extremely unwise things as political strategy, she also shares his stamina and perseverence, even if those qualities are born of a voracious and ruthless lust for power. Hillary simply never gives up. While I can’t see how Hillary would be able to win the nomination in any normal fashion, I do not doubt she will contend all the way to the convention. Those Super-Delegates should expect a lot of pressure between now and the convention.

All this, we are told, delights the people at McCain 2008. The mental image of Obama having to address the public discovery that he is imperfect, while Hillary boils with the potential end of her rise to Oval Office Omnivoration, creates no end of amusement for the presumptive GOP nominee. But McCain has his own issues, not least the fracture in the Republican Party which McCain has done nothing to heal. Putting it bluntly, McCain has made it clear he neither respects Conservatives, nor intends to work for their support. McCain hopes to win the General Election with the same plan he used in the primaries, to attract self-proclaimed moderates and independent voters, as well as to depend on his reputation as a war hero. He is more than willing to forfeit Conservative support in that exchange, especially as he hopes – somewhat vainly – that they will vote for him anyway in the fall, for fear of Obama or Clinton taking office through their neglect. Which decision brings up an intriguing point which I have not seen addressed anywhere else, yet: The question of grass-roots infrastructure.

The 2004 Presidential Election was noteworthy for its high voter turnout. While this was attrbuted to many causes, one of the most important in my opinion was the intense effort made by Democrats and Republicans during the spring and summer, from building enthusiasm to registering new voters to making sure they got to the polls. The logic is obvious – Democrats heavily vote for the Democrat while Republicans heavily vote for the Republican. So if the candidate consolidates their base and gets a higher turnout from their party at the polls, they are more likely to win. 2004 bore that out, as both Bush and Kerry enjoyed tremendous vote tallies. Therefore, the present situation should concern both Democrats and Republicans. The energy in both the Obama and Clinton campaigns has been strong, but the emotion also threatens party unity when one of the two must give up the fight; there is a lot of bad feeling already present, and while it is a stretch to imagine Clinton or Obama supporters crossing over to actually vote for McCain, the question of how many will stay at home is a very real factor in the race. Not that McCain can relax on that count. Conservatives are traditionally some of the most energetic campaigners, and without their support McCain will find the fall much harder going than he seems to expect. And frankly, Senator McCain has burned too many bridges with Conservatives to think that he can win them over now with a few half-sincere gestures. But again, the Obama and Clinton campaigns are not at all likely to join forces after the nominee is selected; the bad blood is too deep now for that, especially as it has become quite clear that the Junior Senator from Illinois and the Junior Senator from New York do not like or respect each other.

This fall, then, will be turbulent and full of noise. Which, when you think on it, is always the case these days in Presidential Elections. The only chance of a real ‘October Surprise’, would be if this time we were treated to a pair of qualified, mature candidates who respected the voters enough to trust their intelligence and judgment. But since we know the potential candidates, we already know that possibility is not at all realistic. The senescent practice is once again the norm.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Today marks the 5th anniversary of the resumption of the Iraq War. While many folks find it convenient to try changing the facts, it should be remembered at the start that this war did not start with President George W. Bush, nor indeed any American, but by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, for which the cease-fire provisioned clear conditions. In short, Saddam broke those conditions seriously, deliberately, repeatedly and beyond any doubt, so that the war was joined again through his malfeasance and no other.

The United States has suffered almost four thousand combat deaths in the war. While painful and a sad cost which no nation wishes upon its soldiers, in any historical context this cost is light compared to the accomplishments. Indeed, it is the historical context which matters in judging the war. While connections to Al Qaeda were lacking, there is no question that Saddam’s Iraq was friendly to Middle East terrorists of many factions.

This means that a serious war against the infrastructure of Global Terrorism required military action against Iraq. This was indeed one of the conclusions made by the Congress when it approved the use of force against Saddam’s regime, and indeed the basis for the Clinton Administration’s 1998 signature of the act making regime change in Iraq the official policy of the United States.

There are essentially only three paths to consider regarding Iraq’s relationship with the Middle East. If Saddam had not been removed from power and he was as capable as he claimed, Saddam’s support for terrorist groups would have insured another major attack upon Americans and the soil of the United States. If he was as weak as some suppose, not removing Saddam would have left Iraq open to invasion from Iran, who indeed was raising troops in apparent plan to do just that thing; the prospect of a Greater Persia in command of the territories of Iraq in addition to itself would have crippled the world economy in short order, and brought on untold horrors to the people of the Middle East as the vision of such men as Ahmadinejad would have been unrestrained, with bloody Jihad the pitiless assailant of every moderate Arab nation. Nuclear war with Israel would almost surely have occurred. The third road is the one we took, removing Saddam in hopes of creating a stable and more democratic form of government. When the shouting settles down and wiser heads speak, it turns out that while imperfect, the Iraq now in place is a better, safer alternative to what we faced half a decade ago.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Recession Test for Leaders

It looks like we are headed for a recession, might already be in one. OK, so technically a recession is a decline in GDP for two or more consecutive quarters, but all the media seems to be saying we are in a recession, so let’s say we are in one.

This election has many issues, but the Economy is the big one so far. That being the case, it seems reasonable to ask how Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or John McCain would suggest we address this recession. So, let’s see what a Google search with the candidate name and the word ‘recession’ brings up:

Barack Obama – Google News did not have much, except to say that Obama believes we are in a recession; no comment on what he would do as President to deal with that. So, on to Obama’s website, Under his ‘Economy’ section, Barack tells us

“I believe that America's free market has been the engine of America's great progress. It's created a prosperity that is the envy of the world”.

Well, no one would argue with that, but it’s, well, kind of vague. I clicked on a promising tab, titled “Provide Middle Class Americans Tax Relief”. Obama plans to give a tax credit of $500 a person or $1,000 a family to about the lowest half of taxable income. Obama also likes the idea of having the IRS create “pre-filled” forms for us to sign and return. Of course, that ignores that most savings real people get from filing their taxes intelligently involves declaring deductions, and that small businesses would not benefit from this plan.

Not much there that addresses the macro economy, though. Looking through the rest of his economic proposals, Obama wants federal regulation of energy providers, internet service, and mortgage companies, preferential treatment of unions, indexing the minimum wage to inflation and to set collection limits on medical bills and mortgages. Heh, there goes that “free market” he said was so great, hmm?

In the end, I can’t say I saw much that would help end a recession. And several things that could precipitate or aggravate one.

On now to Hillary Clinton. Like Obama, Clinton does not say much about recessions, except that she is sure we are in one. At her site,, I found even more vague platitudes than at Obama’s site. For example, Hillary wants us to know that

“Hillary has a plan to restore America's middle class”

Uh huh. I think the problem there, is that a lawyer who can turn $1,000 of someone else’s loaned money into a hundred thousand dollars in a few months, who can 'donate' book revenue to charity and yet somehow become a multi-millionaire on the salary of a public servant, probably lost sight of us in the middle class a long time ago, and is just assuming we disappeared. Anyway, Hillary promises to “lower taxes for the Middle Class”. Hey, waddaya know, she found us! So, clicking on that link to find out how she plans to lower taxes, I found 2,523 words to describe how unfair things are for Americans, but the only specific mentions of taxes were how Bush is about “tax cuts for the rich”, how the national debt amounts to a “birth tax” (not that Hillary voted against spending while she was a Senator, I note), tax credits for Gore-friendly energy practices, health tax credits for individuals to be funded by new taxes on employers, and higher taxes on “the rich”. Turns out Hillary has no real plans to lower taxes for regular people after all. Can’t say that sounds like a smart way to address a recession. Like Obama, Hillary sounds like she would make things worse, not better.

On to McCain. Well, McCain stubbed his toe this week, admitting the country is “very likely in a recession” after repeatedly saying he did not think one was on the way. Oops. Then again, we are not technically in a recession – yet – so perhaps Senator McCain was transiting between the formal definition and the subjective opinion. But it does not help for a leader to look confused about the situation. At his site,, there is nothing specific about recessions, so I clicked on ‘taxes and economics”. Well, there is another plan for middle class tax cuts. Seems to be de riguer to promise to watch out for the middle class, hmm? Let’s see, McCain’s tax cut would come from eliminating the AMT. Ah, so it’s not really a tax cut, but something else. McCain wants to make it harder for Congress to raise taxes, but last I heard that was up to Congress, not the President. McCain does want to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, but again that would be something Congress does, and while President could propose it I don’t see John McCain getting that one to fly. I like McCain’s plans better than Obama’s or Clinton’s, but then I would say that as a Republican. I have to say that I don’t see any specific plan to addressing a recession. Seems as though McCain, just like Obama and Clinton, has not given that question a lot of thought, which bothers me considering how important everyone says the Economy is to this election.

It’s not as though fighting a recession is all that complicated. The Economy basically runs on one prime fuel: Confidence. If folks have faith in the Economy, they buy things and that drives production and revenue, which gets companies to hire folks and spend money on materials and investment, which in turn gives folks the money to buy things. All a recession really is, is confidence stumbling for a bit of time. No surprise these things happen a lot around election seasons. And no surprise that every President in a recession talks up confidence, tries to get folks to feel good about the Economy. And when you get into it, most of the time the President can’t really prevent a recession, unless he’s Jimmy Carter. All he can do is react when it hits and try to lessen its duration and depth. It’s not easy, not at all easy for a President to admit something that important could be out of his hands. I’m not sure a President ever really does admit that, even to himself. Then again, I want a President who knows what he means to do about the situation, and so it’s a problem that we’re not hearing it from the three people closest to the office.