Levellers

Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Brief Political Updates

I will save more detailed blogging for the weekend. My energy and time has been spent on writing my 2nd book (on progressive Baptist congregations in North America) and with my family. So, these updates are brief.

Good news for Obama. Thanks to his recent 9 point lead in OH, the electoral college predictor now shows him beating McCain, 272 to 266! This is the most common EC predictor used. There are others. I have seen scenarios where McCain wins big and others where Obama wins big. But my guess is that, even though Dems are redrawing the map West of the Mississippi river, that the traditional 4 swing states, MI, OH, PA, nd FL will still be decisive this year. Dems usually need 3 of 4 to win. Well, Obama is leading in OH and PA and is narrowly behind McCain in MI (within margin of error). McCain is currently ahead in FL by about 10 points, but Obama has only begun to campaign in FL (thanks to the pledge made by all Dem candidates early on) and has regularly caught up with opponents who start with 20 point leads. So, this is good news.

Obviously, I am not happy with last Tues. huge victory by Clinton in KY–and especially since exit polls showed a mirror of WV in people openly admitting racist reasons for rejecting Obama. I have said for years that KY needs to seriously address racism and never has–this is exhibit 404 and counting. I have called on Gov. Beshear (D) to show moral leadership and work with the KY Council of Churches to hold workshops on racism and sexism throughout the Commonwealth. This is far more important than any one election.

The real John McCain is finally finding his way into the media. “Mr. Clean Politics” has been shown to have more lobbyists on his campaign staff than any other–with many having lobbying ties to dictatorships like Burma/Myanmar! (Why “appease” murderous regimes when one can simply work for them!) His links to Fmr. Sen. Phil Graham (R-TX), a.k.a. “Foreclosure Phil,” and the housing foreclosure crisis, will certainly not endear him to voters in CA, FL, NV, etc. And Graham’s McCain-Economics plan has been exposed as necessarily leading to the largest deficit since WWII! Then there’s the new revelation that “Mr. Maverick” McCain voted the way George W. Bush wanted 100% of the time in 2008 and 95% of the time in 2007. McCain’s “I care for the environment” line is shown as a lie, too. Whereas 2 weeks prior he supported the Senate bill on global warming, he now opposes it and will skip the vote! That’s on top of his vote against the new G.I. Bill (way to support the troops and vets, John!) and his closed-door fundraiser with Bush and 500 wealthy Republicans. Not to mention all those federal elections violations. By November, McSame will be seen by voters as a clone of George W. Bush.

The Senate outlook for Dems keeps getting better. Conservative (i.e., cautious) forecasts show Dems picking up 5 to 8 seats, but if things keep getting worse, the GOP could actually lose 10 to 12 seats–which would give Dems a filibuster proof majority. If that were to happen, a Democratic president could get much accomplished even of a very progressive nature and a GOP president would find much of his agenda dead on arrival in the White House. Here’s my current handicapping of the most likely Senate races. (Note: Republicans only have one real shot at a pickup–taking Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)’s seat with former Dem. Kennedy, a Karl Rove recruit. But he’s getting nowhere and Landrieu’s seat is looking safer all the time.)

1. Wildly popular former gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) is creaming unpopular former gov. Gilmore (R-VA) for the open senate seat in VA. Virginia, once one of the reddest states in the union, is turning purple–and bluer all the time.

2. Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM) is 20 points ahead of both his GOP challengers for the open senate seat in New Mexico.

3. Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), cousin to Tom, is leading Sen. Bob Schaffer (R-CO) in a Western state turning Democratic. This is also a likely Democratic presidential pickup. Things are so desperate for the GOP here that they are now putting an anti-abortion amendment the Fall agenda. But Coloradans are quite capable of splitting their votes–and may vote to limit abortions and STILL vote Democratic on both presidential and senate levels. At least, current polling shows that trend.

4. Former Reagan official John Sununu (R-NH) is on the way out the door in New Hampshire, soon to be replaced by former gov. Gail Sheehan (D-NH). NH is the only New England state that might vote for McCain in the Fall, but even this doesn’t help Sununu’s chances.

5. Sen. Elizabeth Dole(R-NC) is in the fight of her political career against state Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) who has a slight lead in recent polls.

6. Rep. Tom Allen (D-ME) should be doing better against Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) than he is, but it’s hard for a “moderate” Republican to shake that image even after it is no longer deserved. Since the Dems captured the Senate in ’06, Collins has abandoned her previous moderate views and voted consistently with Bush-McConnell–even on matters that the voters of Maine find repugnant. If Allen can shake her image, he can beat her, but the media in Maine are on her side so far.

7. Rep. Jeff Merkeley (D-OR) is in a dead heat against Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) in a state turning from purple to blue. Smith’s defense of the Iraq war is NOT helping him in Oregon.

8. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), who may be indicted by the FBI for money laundering and other corruption charges before Nov., is behind Anchorage Mayor Begich (D-AK) in latest polls. This would be the first time Alaska had a Democratic senator since 1980!

9. Former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D-MS) is outpolling appointed Sen. Wicker (R-MS) for Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS)’s abandoned seat. Democrats just picked up Wicker’s former House Seat (01st district) in a special election in which Dem. Travis Childers beat a handpicked GOP candidate despite the GOP spending $1.8 million to defend it–and linking Childers to Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and bringing in Dick Cheney to campaign for the seat!

10. To my surprise, businessman Bruce Lunsford (D-KY) is now outpolling Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Obstructionist-in-Chief, in a post-primary bump! McConnell will be hard to beat and I continue to think that we lost our strongest candidate when State Auditor Crit Luallen (D-KY) refused to run and our 2nd best bet when Lt. Col. Andrew Horne was chased out of the race by party insiders. But McConnell’s blocking of expansion for Children’s healthcare and his vote against the new G.I. Bill have made Kentuckians very angry. Even 30% of those claiming to want to vote for McCain in the Fall are saying that they will split their ticket and support Lunsford against McConnell!

11. Comic Al Franken is in a dead heat against Bush defender, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN). This would be a more likely pickup for Dems if Franken did not have a few tax problems!

12. State Rep. Rick Noriega (D-TX), a decorated Iraq War veteran against the war, is in a statistical tie with Bush-defender Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). I actually think this race could become more competitive than the KY race if African-Americans and Latinos in TX join forces in Texas–and if Cornyn is tied fully to Bush who, even in his home state of TX now has only a 45% approval rating.

13. State Rep. Andrew Rice (D-OK), who lost a brother in the Twin Towers on 9/11 and abandoned a career in business to dedicate himself to work for justice and peace, is working hard against the Great Global Warming Denier, Sen. Inhofe (R-OK).

14. Idaho is a very GOP state, but it has Libertarian leanings and is therefore not entirely happy with the anti-civil liberties approach of its GOP leadership. When combined with Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)’s sexual scandals (and his campaigning for his replacement), this helps Larry Roccocco (D-ID)’s “Working for the Senate” approach.

15. Scott Kleeb is taking a longshot challenge for Nebraska’s open Senate seat.

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May 29, 2008 Posted by | U.S. politics | 1 Comment

Prayers for Senator Edward (“Ted”) Kennedy (D-MA)

I have upcoming analyses of race and gender and class in the Kentucky elections, which I will save for this weekend. I have other posts to get to, as well.

But not today. Today, I have to reserve just for asking prayer for Senator Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy (D-MA), the “lion of the Senate,” who has now been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor which is aggressive. It will be treated with radiation and chemotherapy, but the usual life expectancy after this kind of diagnosis is for less than a year, though I pray otherwise. (David Kuo, Bush’s original person in charge of the “Office of Faith Based Initiatives,” who resigned when it became clear that the office was being used for partisan gain rather than truly helping people, has an article on Faith in Public Life, in which he reveals that he has the same kind of tumor, but has been going strong for 5 years, now. I pray Kennedy also beats the odds.)

I was moved by the way that even longtime Republican adversaries like John McCain(R-AZ) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered apparently heartfelt prayers for Sen. Kennedy. (On the other hand, the Rightwing press and blogs, including many from the Religious Right, have been full of hateful, nasty comments, the LEAST offensive of which has been, “This couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy!” Who ARE these people? Who is their god? NOT, the Living God, Incarnate, Crucified, and Risen, that’s for certain!”) This is a testimony to Kennedy’s legendary ability to work across party lines in the Senate even while championing a long list of causes that the Right derides as “liberal,” such as labor rights, civil rights, the environment, public education, universal healthcare, and a non-imperialist foreign policy in which diplomacy and support for human rights are our first moves and military action a last resort.

Ted Kennedy is hardly beyond criticism. Earlier in his life, he apparently copied his older brother John’s womanizing, which, combined with drinking, led to the disaster known as “Chappaquidick,”–an inebriated Kennedy wrecking his car in a river, resulting in the death of a female passenger with whom he was apparently having an affair. (In high school, I told the same “Teddy for Lifeguard” jokes as my friends–and we were Democrats!) His first marriage fell apart. In 1980, he unwisely sought to unseat Pres. Jimmy Carter (D-GA) as the Democratic nominee and this schism, taken all the way to the Convention, was a major factor in Ronald Reagan (R-CA)’s victory that year–followed by a landslide victory in ’84 and the dominance of the GOP in national politics until 2006 (and, in my opinion, the steady decline of the nation’s moral health as regards to the common good). I have criticized Ted Kennedy for all these things and more.

But none of that changes the fact that he has been a champion of the poor (though coming from a very wealthy family), of civil and human rights, of education and healthcare, of working families–of a caring and compassionate society. I believe his passion in this regard stems not just from his family tradition, but from his deep Catholic faith–though his form of that faith is a liberal one. He has been in the Senate since I was born (1962) and I was counting on his influence to help get us universal healthcare. I pray I can still count on that help.

May God forgive your sins and shortcomings, Sen. Kennedy. May a gracious God heal you in body and restore you to us to continue your fight for justice. May we as a people be ready to take up that fight for justice as you face your own mortality and prepare for what may be your final battle. Amen.

May 21, 2008 Posted by | prayer | 5 Comments

Envision ’08: The Gospel, Politics, and the Future

This post is reprinted from D.W. Congdon’s great theology blog, The Fire and the Rose.

On June 8-10, one of the largest evangelical conferences in American history will be held at Princeton University. Entitled Envision ’08, the conference is an attempt at uniting Evangelicals and mainstream Christians together in a conversation about how the gospel and politics interrelate in the current American context. The conference will feature around 60 speakers, including the following:

  • Randall Balmer
  • Rich Cizik
  • Shane Claiborne
  • Brian McClaren
  • Miroslav Volf
  • Jim Wallis
  • Vincent Bacote
  • Bruce Benson
  • David Gushee
  • John Perkins
  • Ron Sider
  • Christian Collin Winn

One of the innovative features of this conference is that in addition to plenary addresses, there will be “learning tracks” in which people will break out into small groups to discuss certain topics in depth. These various tracks will hopefully turn into groups that continue discussing and implementing these ideas for two years until the EnVision conference in 2010. Here is a list of the learning tracks:

  • Arts for Transformation – Explore how faith and arts can be a way to inspire and lead social transformation and learn how to create such art. Led Bruce Herman & Lara Scott.

  • Beyond Consumerism – Discover how faith can help us live simply out of care for our neighbor and the earth. Led by Ron Sider.

  • Caring for the Earth – See what we all can do to care for creation and address climate change and other environmental problems. Led by Alexei Lauschkin.

  • Evangelicals and Empire – Learn how faith helps us to resist the principalities and powers of the world and calls us to work for the Kingdom of God. Led by Bruce Ellis Benson and Christian Collin Winn.

  • Evangelism and the World – Explore how the good news and God’s love can address the needs and injustices of the world. Led by Vincent Bacote & John Tyson.

These are just the first five out of 20 tracks. There should many fascinating and fruitful conversations at this conference.

Michael’s word: I hope this gets excellent press coverage, too. 

May 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Envision ’08: The Gospel, Politics, and the Future

Voter Registration

News stories have told how Democratic (and Independent) Registration is up and Republican down–just as participation in most of the Democratic primaries and caucuses has been twice as large as participation in the GOP caucuses and primaries. Greater turnout is good for our entire democracy. We know the contrasts: in many young democracies in Africa and in former Soviet Republics (and, to a slightly lesser extent, in Latin America, too), citizens line up (that’s “queue” for British readers) for hours on end for the right to vote. In many cases throughout the world voter participation is well above 70% while in the U.S. less than 50% of eligible voters cast ballots. And, until this year, young voters were the least likely to cast ballots.

It’s time to change all that. Democracy is far from perfect–certainly not the Reign of God. Christians’ primary political loyalty is to the Reign of God and to the Church Universal. The Church has carried out its mission under numerous types of government. Democratic republics with full protection of religious liberty for all give the most benefit for the Church, but can also seduce the Church into thinking that it’s primary task is to make democracy work–whether in liberal or conservative form.

But because democracies do give space for the Church and governments with elected leaders are more susceptible to citizen accountability (including the prophetic function of the Church in speaking Truth to Power), they can be temporal vehicles for conditions of relative justice this side of the Eschaton. So, greater participation is a good thing.

So, I am carrying voter registration cards with me everywhere I go from now until October 3 (one month before the election–and the last day citizens can be registered and still vote in this election). I plan on signing up everyone I can, especially young people–because research has shown that if citizens in the U.S. vote as soon after their 18th birthday as they can, they make it a lifelong habit. The older people get before voting, the less their participation is throughout their lives–and democracy suffers.

I will also be concentrating hard on African-Americans and Latinos since they participate less than whites–to the detriment of their communities and the detriment of the common good. Part of the reason for this is a level of cynicism in these communities (and among the young of all ethnic groups) that their vote will count, or that the system is rigged against them no matter what they do. There is good basis for such fears: One need look no further than Katherine Harris, who was Florida Sec. of State in 2000 and simultaneously the head of George W. Bush’s presidential election committee in FL. She deliberately purged the voting rolls of thousands of eligible African-American citizens, claiming falsely that they were felons who had lost the right to vote. Then there are the Diebold electronic voting machines without paper trails that experiments have shown can be easily hacked to change the outcome–and without a paper trail there is no way to do a recount. In ’04, voter suppression in Ohio was accomplished by the simple means of removing voting machines from heavily Democratic districts without warning. And even though repeated studies have shown that voter fraud is miniscule, the Supreme Court has upheld Indiana’s draconian return to the old “poll tax,” requiring a high-tech voter registration I.D. that costs $35–obviously more than the very poor can afford. Other states are now rushing to put such measures on their ballots before Sept., hoping to curb participation in an election that threatens the interests of the super-rich and ultra-powerful (NOT the interests of the poor or the Middle Class!). Since African-American voter turnout is expected to be at record highs in many states in the South, we should also expect greater-than-average attempts at voter suppression, too.

But non-participation just makes these problems worse. Yes, we need more than voting for real change. Yes, people power in the streets is needed to hold elected officials accountable. Community organizing and ‘Net activism are also necessary. We need, as Thoreau said, to vote with our whole lives and not just with a ballot. But the ballot is a powerful weapon of change–or else why would the Powers work so hard to keep marginalized populations from exercising it? One of my few major disagreements with Dorothy Day’s approach to “building a new society in the shell of the old,” was her total apathy and disinterest in voting. In her (pre-Christian, pro-Marxist) youth, she marched and went to jail for the right of women to vote–but never showed any interest in casting a ballot herself.

Yes, build alternative communities of Salt and Light and Leaven. Yes, subvert the dominant order with communities of noncomformity (and conformity to the Rule of God) that resist the dominant values of racism, sexism, plutocratic materialism and the conversion of all values to market values, rape of the earth, militarism and violence. Absolutely. But none of this should be seen as in opposition to voting in elections–even though there are no perfect parties or candidates and one often has to weigh which issues and values must trump others in the election (while not surrendering work for those values in other ways).

Of course, I will also lobby for these citizens to vote for my chosen presidential (and other) candidates, but even if they register Republican and/or vote for the other candidate, the health of the democracy will be better than with non-participation. Democracy is not the Ultimate Good–that’s the Rule of God. But it is a Relative Good and working for its health is not something Christians should neglect.

May 18, 2008 Posted by | citizenship, democracy, U.S. politics | 3 Comments

Huckabee Said WHAT??

Mike Huckabee (R-AR), former governor of Arkansas, defeated candidate for the Republican presidential nomination this year, and ordained Southern Baptist minister, was in Louisville, KY yesterday for the annual meeting of the National Rifle Association (NRA). (For international readers, the NRA began as a club for hunters and target shooters, but has become the gun lobby in the U.S.  This evolved from being concerned to protect individual rights to own firearms–a popular, but dubious, interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which ignores the controlling clause about a “well-regulated militia–to an incredible Right-Wing collection of ideologues which views any and all restrictions on firearms ownership–including owning automatic weapons, armor piercing “cop-killer” ammunition, school zone or other zoning restrictions, background checks at gun shows, etc. as violations of the 2nd Amendment. They regularly endorse the GOP presidential candidate.) The NRA and the obsession of Americans with guns is a topic for another day.

I was horrified to find out that, during his speech before the NRA, something clattered behind Huckabee. He immediately told this tasteless joke–that the noise was Barack Obama diving for cover because someone waved a gun at him! See the video here.  Not only was the joke tasteless (Ann Coulter told a similar one on the air weeks ago.), it may be a violation of “terrorist speech” law passed in the wake of 9/11. 

This is a country in which African-Americans were regularly lynched (killed without trial) for generations. It is also a country with a history of political assassinations, including presidents and presidential candidates. Obama began receiving death threats from racists almost immediately as soon as he entered the race for the presidency.  Huckabee knows all this. It took him five hours to apologize.

Between Bush and McCain accusing Obama of being friendly to terrorists and Huckabee making these kinds of “jokes,” no one will need to worry about whether Democrats will be united after our long primary process and the bruising campaign between Senators Clinton and Obama.  The Republicans are uniting and energizing us all just fine!

These kind of remarks have no place among would be political leaders–and that they would be made by a minister of the gospel is disgusting!

Even though I am opposed to Christians owning handguns (hunting rifles are different) and the gun culture of much of the U.S., I think the NRA members should have been outraged, too.  They are always contrasting “responsible gun owners” with criminals who use guns–and here Huckabee thinks they would find a joke about political assassination funny.

John McCain also addressed the NRA yesterday–and ignored the remark. Is that the kind of candidate the NRA wants for president?

God help us all.

May 17, 2008 Posted by | U.S. politics | 3 Comments

“Moderate” Baptists

Ever wondered how you can keep track of what is being thought and said by non-fundamentalists Baptists? Wonder, no more, Gentle Readers! At ModerateBaptists.com you can find a continually update list of posts from non-fundamentalist Baptist bloggers. I must admit that I have never cared for the designation “moderate” when it refers to anything dealing with my faith–it sounds like “lukewarm” to me.  But here you find a wide range of Baptist bloggers: conservatives and evangelicals who are NOT fundamentalists; emergents (not that I have really ever understood just what the “Emergent” Christian movement is); theological centrists; liberationists; liberals and progressives, etc. 

The number of bloggers on this blog-roll is now so large that if you don’t check close to daily, it is easy to miss much.  Everything from theology to politics to cats are discussed. This is also a good way to find blogs with which one wants to link and to enlarge one’s circle of “net-friends,”–at least within Baptist circles. (I assume no one reading this wants to network ONLY with others of one’s own denomination or theological tradition!)

May 17, 2008 Posted by | Baptists | Comments Off on “Moderate” Baptists

The Evangelical Swing Vote

Here is a major story being ignored by the press and pundits or being misunderstood by them.  Christine Wicker shows that Democrats can win the majority of American evangelicals by being “moderately pious” (her words–I would prefer to say they should advance a moral vision and, if they are people of faith themselves, let it show without making it an implied reason to vote for them; if they are not people of faith, they should let their respect for such be shown) and by emphasizing healthcare, jobs, and clean energy.

I largely agree with this perspective. Wicker’s data comes from evangelicals themselves (as reported in Christianity Today no less!), but I think she underestimates evangelicals in some respects. She suggests that Democrats downplay the war in Iraq because no one knows what to do about it. Wrong. That led to failure in ’04.  68% of Americans want the troops home within 6 months (and 85% of Democrats want this). There is no reason to think that evangelical Christians, who must, at least on some level, know that peacemaking is supposed to be a major Christian concern, are not part of that 68%.  Democrats should be honest in saying that some chaos will probably follow–as it will whenever we leave Iraq.

Evangelicals are also interested in stopping the spread of AIDS, in the environment, in ending poverty, in stopping human rights abuses at home and abroad.  We don’t need to short change them on this.  Neither the Religious Right, nor the Southern Baptist Convention speaks for the majority of “born again” Christians in the U.S.  It’s time we woke the press up to this–and long past time we woke up Democrats to this.

As an Anabaptist-leaning Baptist, I am never sure whether or not to call myself “evangelical.” Like the late John Howard Yoder, I think it depends on the definition and I do not fight it when others put me in the category. I don’t fit well in the Evangelical Subculture (with a capital E) as I found when I taught at Fuller Theological Seminary (but that could have just been my reaction to Southern California). But I can affirm the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds (although my tradition is against creedalism) with no finger crossing and only a few mentle footnotes. I was converted and am evangelistic and Scripture (with Jesus Christ as the interpretive key) is my final authority in all matters of faith and practice.  That seems to be what most people mean by “evangelical.” It’s not a sufficient definition of my faith (Where is discipleship? Where is justice? Peacemaking? Liberty of Conscience?), but it is certainly part of it. 

So, I hope evangelicals continue to break with the Religious Right, not to form a Religious Left voting bloc, but to be an independent voice–a swing vote that is courted by serious moral politicians from all parties, but whose ultimate allegiance is to God in Christ and the Rule of God.

May 16, 2008 Posted by | evangelicals, U.S. politics | Comments Off on The Evangelical Swing Vote

Talking to Enemies is NOT Appeasement!

Well, Bush, who gave up golf as a sacrifice for the troops in Iraq (you can’t make this stuff up!), betrayed the American political tradition of refusing to criticize other politicians while abroad, intervened in the election process after promising not to do so, shamed the presidency (again) and has single-handedly angered and energized and united the entire Democratic Party by going to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and saying that Barack Obama would appease Israel’s enemies like Iran and Hamas, comparing him to appeasers of Nazis!  John McCain immediately echoed this. 

Of course, this is incredibly hypocritical.  Bush’s own Defense Secretary advocates citizen diplomacy with Iran.  And, as that same article notes, in ’04, he urged official U.S. engagement.  McCain advocated talking with Hamas two years ago.  He has also previously backed diplomatic talks with Syria.  (You can see McCain’s hypocrisy in video on those links.) That was when conservatives were attacking then-Sec. of State Colin Powell for going to Syria and McCain’s approval of Powell’s actions came despite his admission that Syria was a sponsor of terrorism!

As Obama has remarked often in his foreign policy speeches, one should never negotiate out of fear (THAT’S appeasement–trying to buy off an enemy as Chamberlain did with Hitler), but one should not fear to negotiate. So, Eisenhower negotiated with Kruschev as did Kennedy. Nixon went to China when it was declared our enemy.  Carter brokered the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty (not one line of which has ever been broken) and continued the SALT II nuclear talks with the USSR.  Reagan negotiated with the USSR (as well as arming Iraq and Iran!). Even Bush II negotiated with North Korea–after being dragged to do so.

UPDATE: A more complete list of enemies that U.S. presidents have engaged in dialogue and debate:

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt (D) talked often with brutal dictator Josef Stalin of the USSR. They even formed an alliance in order to beat Hitler, Mussolini and Emperor Hirohito.  Harry Truman also talked to Stalin.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower  (R)talked to the North Koreans–it was part of ending the Korean War.
  • John F. Kennedy talked to Nikita Kruschev of the USSR both before, during, and after the Cuban missile crisis. Far from appeasement, he combined tough diplomacy with a naval blockade to get the nuclear missiles removed from Cuba without starting WWIII.
  • Richard M. Nixon (R) opened formal diplomatic relations with China–which had urged the USSR to attack Alaska during the Korean War–and secured the Chinese’ help in the long process of winding down the Vietnam War.  His Sec. of State, Henry Kissinger, talked directly to the North Koreans who were killing and torturing our soldiers.
  • Jimmy Carter talked often with Leonid Brezhnev of the USSR–sometimes in mutual negotiation, sometimes in harsh reality checks, such as when the USSR invaded Afghanistan.  He negotiated the Israeli-Egypt Peace Treaty–not one line of which has been broken–ending the only real threat to Israel’s existence, though only beginning the work of making real peace in the Middle East.
  • Ronald Reagan (R) negotiated face to face with Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR–and, if he had not insisted on keeping “missile defense” could have negotiated the complete abolition of ALL U.S. and USSR nukes.  He also secretly negotiated for American hostages to be released from Iranian revolutionaries (terrorists)–but only after Carter lost the election.  Then he sold WMDs to Iraq and then to Iran and used the funds to help the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua–in violation of U.S. law.

No U.S. president has boasted of his Christianity more than George W. Bush–but few have been as ignorant of Jesus’ teachings.  Bush considers talks with the enemy a reward for good behavior. Jesus didn’t. He gave them as a COMMAND to all Christians, MATT. 5:21-26. It is a command that is even to interrupt worship–peacemaking has THAT much priority!  This, of course, builds on the Torah’s command to help an enemy’s ox out of the ditch. 

One may have to tell an enemy some hard truths: negotiating can be tough and negotiations can break down.  There is no guarantee of success.  But dissing talks with enemies as “weak” is sheer nonsense–and absolute disobedience for any Christian.

It is time the Christians of the U.S.A. STOP letting this man smear our faith with his gross misrepresentations of it. It’s also time for the citizens of the U.S., Christian and otherwise, to kick out Bush and deny the presidency to his echoing wannabe, McCain, and restore sanity to our foreign policy!

May 16, 2008 Posted by | peacemaking, U.S. politics | 4 Comments

Roadblock Republicans vs. Combatting AIDS in Africa

Gentle Readers: As you know, I do not think much of the presidency of George W. Bush. However, as a Christian, I also believe that part of peacemaking and loving enemies is working hard to affirm the good they do and/or the valid points they raise, etc.  So, I have told all who would listen that one of the places Bush got things right was with the PEPFAR program–his massive ($15 billion) work to prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa and get low-cost or free treatment for those with HIV/AIDS.  It has been a tremendous success and is a major reason why Bush was so enthusiastically welcomed in his tour of Africa–when he is greeted badly everywhere else in the world.  This was a true surprise because in 2000 then-Gov. Bush, candidate for U.S. Pres., told America that we had no strategic or compelling interests in sub-Saharan Africa and appeared to write off the entire continent.  For whatever reasons (Bono got to him, or Jesus came to him in a dream, or evangelicals wrote him in droves or Condi Rice had a talk or whatever), Bush’s change of heart here was massive and has been an incredible healh and foreign policy success.

So, in a year in which the Republican brand name is sinking fast in America, a year in which too many Republicans have continued to tie their own political fortunes to those of George W. Bush (whose current approval rating is a whopping 28%–lower than Nixon’s during Watergate!), you’d expect the GOP to point with pride to PEPFAR, right? And you’d expect that, with PEPFAR up for renewal, the GOP would rush to renew it (maybe even expand it) and brag in all their reelection commercials about this as a major accomplishment, right? Well, you’d be wrong.  Seven (7) Roadblock Republicans in the U. S. Senate  are STOPPING THE RENEWAL OF PEPFAR! That is, they are ending the most successful U.S. government program against AIDS in Africa ever!

For more on the PEPFAR program by an American Christian who has spent much time in Africa, see hereThanks to Texas in Africa for this urgent alert.

Here are the Seven (7) Roadblock Republican Senators. PLEASE Call them THIS WEEK and tell them that blocking the renewal of PEPFAR is NOT “pro-life!” If you have a Senator on the list, start with that one.  Call the whole list.  Then write your local paper and speak out about this.  Folks, this is too important to play political football. We are talking about 3 million lives to be saved or lost depending on this one action.

  • Tom Coburn, M.D. (Oklahoma) – Senator Coburn is leading the effort to block this program. The fact that he is a doctor makes this all the more appalling. 202-224-5754
  • Jim DeMint (South Carolina) – 202-224-6121
  • Jeff Sessions (Alabama) – 202 -224-4124 Up for reelection this year. Remind him.
  • Saxby Chambliss (Georgia) – 202-224-3521 Up for reelection this year. Remind him.
  • David Vitter (Louisiana) – 202-224-4623
  • Jim Bunning (Kentucky) – 202-224-4343
  • Richard Burr (North Carolina) – 202-224-3154
  • May 16, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

    GOP Bad News: Downticket Races

    Republicans are not going to have a good year in November–even if Hillary’s divisive tactics or the “Obama is a secret Muslim” crap helps McCain squeak out a narrow White House victory.  The “downticket” races for the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives and state and local races look even bleaker for the GOP.  That’s not just my liberal wishful thinking. Karl Rove wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last week that tried to brace his fellow Republicans for bad news.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), architect of the ’94 Republican Revolution, wrote a long letter to House leaders begging them to take emergency measures or risk being the minority party in the House for long years to come! These are not easily spooked men, folks.

    Look at the tough road ahead for the GOP:

    Democrats only have a 1 seat majority in the Senate (which is why Obstructionist Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can block almost everything good the Dems were elected in ’06 to accomplish). So, optimist Republicans could say that they only need a net gain of 2 seats (or 1 if McCain wins and his VP breaks numerous ties as the President of the Senate), right? Unfortunately for the GOP, only a 3rd of the Senate is elected every 2 years and this year, thanks to previous Republican victories, they have to defend 21 seats while Dems have to defend only 12.  Of those 12 Democratic seats, only 2 are remotely competitive: LA’s Mary Landrieu who looked almost as bad during Katrina as Bush did and South Dakota’s  Tim Johnson because of his mild stroke in ’06.  But even Republicans think Johnson’s seat is safe and Landrieu’s seat is looking safer all the time. 

    Meanwhile several GOP senators retired, leaving their seats open (always easier for a pickup by the other side). And the GOP has had difficulty recruiting strong candidates for their races. Further, a death by one Wyoming Senator and Trent Lott’s unexpected resignation means that both Wyoming and Mississippi have TWO U.S. Senate seats up for contention in the Fall. Now, both are GOP strongholds, but just running senate races is expensive–Democratic challengers in WY and MS could force the GOP to spend money there that it needs elsewhere–and this is the one year in recent history where Dems have more $ available than the GOP!

    There is a longshot (EVERYTHING would have to go right for the Dems and wrong for the GOP) chance that Democrats could actually win a net of 10 more seats in the Senate, thereby giving them a filibuster proof majority! More likely is 5 to 8 seats with a 3 seat minimum pickup (VA, NM, & CO). I think we have a great shot at VA (giving it 2 Dem. Senators for the first time in my memory!), NM, CO, NH (Good-bye John Sununu of Reagan infamy), MN, ME (if both NH and ME go, that will turn all of New England, once the most Republican part of the country–but a far different kind of Republican, into Democratic territory), OR, NC.  There is a chance that we pick up Lott’s former seat in Mississippi because it picks Wicker (R) against the very popular former governor Ronnie Musgrove (D). State Sen. Rick Noriega (D-TX), a Marine and Iraq War vet against the war is giving strong challenge to Bush crony John Cornyn (R) in Texas!  I WOULD have had high hopes this year for getting rid of McConnell (R-KY), whose approval rating is at record lows, but our best chance (State Auditor Crit Luallen) declined to run and our second best chance was hounded out of the race. I don’t think either of the two remaining Dem candidates (to be decided a week from tomorrow at the KY primaries) can do it, but I hope I am wrong.

    More bad news: The House is expected to lose more seats to the Dems than the Senate!  In special elections to fill retirements (which have to repeat in Nov.), we are seeing GOP strongholds go down: First former Speaker Hastert’s seat in Illinois. Then, a district in Louisiana that the GOP has held for 30 years! Now, tomorrow may see a third GOP stronghold bite the dust in northern Mississippi! (Even if the GOP keeps this one, they were forced to spend $1.8 million and send VP Dick Cheney to campaign here–in a spot they could have taken for granted even last year.) UPDATE: Travers Childers (D-MS) won yesterday. So the Dems are 3 for 3 on flipping GOP House seats this year.   

    Recent articles have shown what I have been saying for 2 years: White evangelicals are no longer a strict voting bloc for the GOP with the Religious Right in control. See also here. They aren’t automatically voting Democratic and many are registering as Independent, but if this strongest GOP voting bloc splinters in THIS year, it cannot be good news for the Republicans.  Bill Clinton captured 33% of white evangelical votes, while John Kerry only garnered 22%.  If that percentage is swinging back to the Dems, even in only some races, Republicans are in trouble.

    And Catholics are the new ultimate swing vote.

    And, while it may not help Obama (thanks to the “secret Muslim” crap and the controversy over Rev. Wright) in all Southern States, the New York Times notes that bi-racial alliances for Democrats are increasing in Dixie, especially at the local and state levels, but increasingly also at the national level.  Even though race is still a factor in U.S. politics (Duh!?) and will lead Obama to lose WV and KY to Clinton tomorrow(WV) and next Tues.(KY), the time of the “Southern Strategy” of racial politics seems to be drawing to a close.  As the U.S. becomes ever more racially and ethnically diverse, no political party will be able to win with ONLY white support.

    Now, even if everything goes fantastic for the Dems in November and they take the White House and large majorities in both Houses of Congress, plus governorships, state legislatures, etc., this will NOT usher in the Rule of God.  In fact, it could lead to gross overconfidence and swaggering pride for the Democrats–as the GOP victories in ’94 did for them.  Major losses by the Republicans in the Fall could lead them to a major stock-taking and reconsideration–not just of tactics, but of basic message.  Could we see a return of the Eisenhower/Rockefeller/Harold Stassen/Mark Hatfield/Gerald Ford style Republicans? I hope so. That would be good for the country.

    The work for a more just and peaceful world goes on no matter what party is in power. Christians do not give ultimate allegiance to any Party or ideology, just to the Rule of God.  But electoral politics do matter:  politicians and parties can create the conditions in which it is easier or harder to work for justice and peace.  Weigh the issues carefully my friends and vote your consciences–then remember that we trust in God and not in mere mortals, whether the mortals we back win or lose.

    May 12, 2008 Posted by | U.S. politics | 6 Comments