Alaska is Small

Of course it's a big state. But when we talk about leadership experience, about executive experience, we are talking about people, not land. How do you lead people? How do you manage competing interests of the population? Certainly, a small-town mayor has to deal with competing interests, but we generally believe that you need to know how to manage something bigger than a small town- like a state.

But Alaska, let us remember, is about 680,000 people. Riordan, mayor of Los Angeles, city of over 3,800,000, would have been a better pick- a city more than four times larger than Alaska. Certainly, George II won with Cheney, from a state with fewer people than Alaska. But let us remember that not only did Cheney have ample experience leading on the national level, but also that he was not being touted as bringing executive experience to the ticket, as George II had already been governor of Texas.

Truly, people vote the top of the ticket, not the bottom. But the argument that she brings executive experience is baseless. We now have a candidate who has more international experience than any other Presidential candidate in history. Obama has grown up overseas and in the multiethnic state of Hawaii. He is the son of Kenyans. He uniquely understands the needs of the rest of the world, and we have seen that he can uniquely restore America's positive perception in the world. It's about international Hawaii, and not Alaska. Obama: the voice of leadership and experience.


What a Hero is.

I must confess that I am somewhat in a moral quandary. I am adamantly against engaging in war in any form. Thus, a candidate who has been to war and bombed others does not appeal to me, on this basis if no other. Yet, McCain is considered a hero not for his bombing but for his steadfastness. And yet, this steadfastness is supposed to have made him able to effectively wage war, and engage in battle, and lead troops.

I totally get how impressive it is that McCain stood up under torture for those many years. I don't support his lying to his captors, but I think it totally laudable and inspiring that he persevered. Suffering, after all, is a central tenant of Christianity- it builds endurance, character, and finally hope- as long as we approach our tormentors with love.

Somehow, though, this has been transferred into McCain being more ready to lead, and more ready to lead the military. Don't get me wrong. I'd totally love a guy who wasn't capable of leading the military, except for leading them to withdraw, except for leading them to disband. (Wishful thinking, but I'm an Idealist.) But McCain's approach towards the military was to bomb civilians and soldiers from afar, and to be shot down, and be caught. As far as the whole being-a-good-soldier thing, he failed. And rather magnificently. He lead while in the camp, as Obama has lead as a community organizer and in running a campaign, as both have lead as Senators- none of that being the kind of leadership necessary to win battles or win a war, per se. This says nothing about McCain's abilities as a human being, for often times excelling as a human is diametrically opposed to excelling as a soldier.

So he was a bad soldier, and bad at warfare, and limited in his ability to lead. What of the results of his time in internment under torture?

Suffering builds endurance, endurance character, and character hope- but it's not guaranteed. That happens only depending on how we approach the suffering and torture. Is McCain a hopeful man? Is he more filled with love and hope because of his time under torture?

I fear the opposite. I do not know if he went into therapy after his time of torture. I know that he should have, as should anyone in those circumstances. I fear greatly if he did not, and seeks to be President. And, if I assume he did go into therapy, I am still given pause. Years of imprisonment and torture can have a great toll on a man. Nelson Mandela and Ghandi came out ahead on that score, because of the way they approached their captors. They were men seeking justice, reconciliation, and peace. Is McCain such a man?

I think we can all say, shouting from the mountain tops, a resounding, "No!" We saw this in the Rick Warren Ambush, where McCain galvanized the troops at Saddleback Church in his calls to war and to totally defeat the enemy. This is not a longsuffering man, who has learned the value of patience and love and turning the other cheek. (This is not to say he does not forgive at times, or has not forgived his captors in Vietnam.) I have this deep and growing fear that this is a man who has taken all of the wrong lessons from his captivity. McCain has learned that violence works. He has learned the value of torture.

Walter Wink speaks of the Principle of Violent Mimicry: that we become that which we hate. Thus the Israelis return the same actions upon the Palestinians that were perpetrated on the Jews by the Nazis. Thus America engages in the civilian bombings it once condemned under those same Nazis. Thus a man who once heroically stood up under torture in Vietnam learns to approve the same principles to torture others, but no longer calling it torture.

A hero is not one who kills in war. A hero is not one who bombs civilians in the air. A hero is not even one who stands up under torture. A hero is the one who stands up under torture, learns to forgive and love, and learns the value of never again resisting those who do evil, but rather learning to find the common ground in all, and that of God in all.

What we need is a hero.


What Happened to Carter?

I was sitting watching the Democratic Convention on MSNBC, the place for politics, and suddenly discovered that they were doing an extended interview with Nancy Pelosi, rather than showing President Carter's speech. How irritating! I had heard he was actually going to speak, and was so looking forward to hearing him. I immediately started doing a web video search for the speech.

And could find nothing. I started searching for text, and then finally discovered that there had been no speech. Because of Carter's call for justice in Palestine, he was deemed politically inconvenient, and there was no speech. There was a video tribute, a brief wave on stage, and the former President of the United States was whisked off the stage.

How could they?! He is the finest President I've had in my brief tenure on this Earth. He was an early supporter of Obama in the primaries, albeit with a wink and a nod. Carter came out for Obama long before it was definitive. Carter's commitment to human rights and social justice make his values far closer to those of Obama than the other former Democratic President who will be speaking tomorrow.

The Hidden Carter was an insult, and a mistake.


Where Your Money Comes From Matters

I'm not a teetotaler. I'm not into beer, but I love a good glass of red wine. I can't stand grape juice for communion; give me the warmth of Christ going down the gullet any day. But I stand strongly against alcoholism, drunk driving, or even drinking to excess. I think most people stand with me on that.

What your wife does for a living matters, and where the money that funds your life, and your campaign, comes from matters. Cindy McCain is worth 100s of millions, and by extension so is John McCain. That money comes from her inheriting the wealth of her father, invested in Hensley & Co., one of the largest distributors of Anheuser-Bush. She remains the owner of that company.

There is nothing wrong in selling alcohol, or being a large distributor of it. It is technically drug dealing, but only technically, because alcohol is a drug, but nothing like marijuana or cocaine. But would I want to have that as my job?

I can say, yes, I would be okay in selling alcohol, as long as I could control who drank it, and how much. I've heard of a guy who bought a tavern in a state that allowed only one bar per county, a long time ago. He cut everyone off before they could be drunk. He'd sell two or three beers per person, and then stop.

We have a moral obligation for every single act in our lifetimes. I have a responsibility for everything I do, and everything I produce. And I could not in good conscience sell something that I know a substantial proportion of my customers would become addicted to, and an even larger number would abuse. Those who are controlled by alcohol lead a life of hopelessness, going from one binge to the next, with damaged relationships and a bottle as king. Prohibition was a failure, but it was based on a sincere desire by progressives to defend women from the attacks of abusive husbands. There are too many ways that alcoholic abuse hurts not only the abuser, but their entire family, their friends, and the rest of society.

Thus there is something troubling about McCain building his campaign and livelihood on the back of wealth created through alcohol sales, and alcohol consumption. If there were some way for a distributor to end abuse, or even severely curtail it, this would be a different matter. But there is not. McCain seeks to be the leader of our country. Regardless of our last Democratic President, we desire a man who will have high personal ethics as much as high corporate ethics. McCain's campaign and livelihood have been built on the sale of alcohol, and therefore upon the misery of others. This I cannot countenance.


Obama Ambush

"That was an ambush," my father said, after watching Rick Warren's interviews of the two Presidential candidates. I am forced to agree.

Rick Warren said he was good friends with both candidates. Yet it is our actions that speak truth, more than our words. He asked the same questions of both candidates, yet those questions were quite definitely biased towards one candidate over another.

For many, many years, Christians and particularly Evangelicals have been defined by a few pivotal issues, most notably homosexuality and abortion. But of late we have seen a definite shift, especially among younger Evangelicals, towards accepting that, while abortion and both homosexuality are wrong, there are a number of other pivotal issues. Of late, we have begun to recognize that Christians as a whole have long cared about other issues, in addition to the traditional defining values.

As Christians, we also care about a number of other Life issues. We care about the environment, and the death of other organisms, and the probability of human lives lost as the environment degrades. We care about the death of those charged with crimes, justly or unjustly. We care about the plight of the poor, the oppressed, and minorities, because our Lord did. And we affirm that war and peace are Life issues as well. When people are killed in a war, this not only violates the most basic precepts of Jesus Christ, but it affirms the Pro-Choice values over the Pro-Life- that we have a right to choose to go to war, rather than the belief that no war is just, and no murder can be countenanced.

So imagine my chagrin to hear the questions that were asked of both candidates- asked equally. Both were asked about homosexuality and both were asked about abortion. Neither was asked about the poor or the oppressed (with the exception of Warren's desire to assist orphans). There was a question about who the wealthy are, but not about assisting the poor. Neither candidate was asked about the death penalty. Neither candidate was asked about the environment. Neither candidate was asked how they would stop war, because war is against the will of God.

And so, yes, McCain had a much better night than Obama. He seemed much more sure of himself, much more relaxed. Not because he is more comfortable with the Christian worldview- far from it. Rather, he is more comfortable with that narrow Christian worldview held by a minority, that of traditional evangelicalism. Obama tried very hard to remind us of the Christian values of caring for the poor and the oppressed, but Pastor Warren seemed to have forgotten to ask about these central issues. Thus a born-again candidate who finds Jesus central to his life (Obama) seems to be missing on the Christian issues, while the candidate who finds the whole notion of faith uncomfortable (McCain) had a shining night.

McCain's lack of understanding of the basics of Christianity took some rather sinister turns at times. He sat in a church, devoted to a man who died rather than lift a finger to attack his enemies, and spoke glowingly of how we would defeat evil. Lacking the nuance of Obama's speaking of the need to confront evil, and recognize the evil within our own society, McCain followed his master Bush II in seeing evil as wholly the other, in other countries. True, neither candidate spoke of Jesus' words "resist not evil"- that we should not fight against evil people, but rather look for that of God in the other person, seeking to love them at all times. But McCain's approach was decidedly sinister, in which he saw a Christian approach as defeating the enemy at all costs. He sat in a church and boldly called for us to go to war and smite all our enemies, utterly.

McCain's deeply sick understanding of Christianity goes further. He told the story, again, of his standing with one of the prison guards who drew a cross in the dirt. Whether or not this story actually occurred or if rather McCain stole the story from another, his approach remains disturbing. Not because there was no humanity in the prison guard, or that there was not that of God in the guard, but rather, because McCain spoke of him as a Christian. For McCain, a man who runs a concentration camp and actively participates in an institution that tortures, this man represents Christian values. For McCain, this is the kind of thing that a Christian does, and should do. A Christian might engage torture, and might boldly pursue war.

In truth, many have believed the latter. The significant new, frightening step, is that McCain evidently believes that Christianity as an ethic is in accord with war. It is not merely, as many have said, that Christians can go to to war, and fall short of Christ's ethics. The bold statement that McCain made, by preaching for war in a church, is that Christianity is completely compatible with warfare.

And, if the applause from the audience is any indication, many of the Evangelicals agreed with him. (Tickets were supposed to be available to the public, but long before the day that they were to be made available, the church website was stating that all tickets were sold-out, leading me to conclude that the audience was selected from those who attend Saddleback Church.)

Thus, I do believe McCain had a better night than Obama. But the big loser last night was not Obama, but Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, Evangelicals, and Christianity as a whole. What we saw last night was not any religion I recognize, or follow. It was a religion devoted to the god of the Roman Eagle, the standard raised when the Roman Empire went to war, at a time when Christians universally rejected an ethic allowing them to participate in battle or killing. No man can serve two masters. Last night, McCain, and Saddleback Church, showed us which master they follow.


How Dare He?!?

Now I'm angry. I get that McCain doesn't do email, doesn't know what the internet is, probably thinks computers are still made out of vacuum tubes. But how dare he walk all over this institution, basically taking a dump on it and everyone who actually uses the world wide web and enjoys the opportunity to use it?

New policy from the McCain campaign: Spam the internet. He is paying his supporters with rewards points if they go on to websites, Democrat or Republican or neutral, and post McCain talking points. They don't identify themselves as with the campaign; they just post it under their own names. They don't put in their own views per se; they cut and paste from the campaign talking points. They don't post something germane to the article they are commenting on; they just post whatever they want. In all cases these are unethical practices, or rather, violations of netiquette. Yes, such a thing exists. It has existed from when the internet was first formed, back in the 1960s, long before there was a web. It has been built up over the years, but the basics have not changed. You do not spam. You do not troll. You do not pretend that you are an individual when you actually represent a corporation.

Why do we have these guidelines? After all, the beauty of the internet and it's subsidiary web is that there is no enforcement, so the guidelines aren't enforced. The internet is the purest form of anarchy ever invented, and inherently anti-corporation. It is individuals, not big government, or big business. We do this because we are a community, here on the world wide web, centered around one issue. We disagree on everything. Except that we like to use the web, and want to keep on using it. Anything that infringes with the free use of the web (like Google helping the Chinese censor the web) is frowned on, is considered the worst of violations. Spam hinders the web. Yes, people do it. Every society has its gutter scum, its riff-raff, its lowest of the low. And every time they do it, it makes it harder to use the internet. It slows down processing speed, but more than that, people don't like spam. They don't like hearing random expressions that have nothing to do with what they are looking at. They don't like to be taken advantage of. They don't like a company- or a campaign- coming along to pretend it is one thing when it is another. And since people don't have to be online, when they run into more and more of what they don't like, they come online less and less. And since the internet is anti-corporation but the epitome of cooperation, fewer people means far less enjoyment for us all.

The Straight Talk Express is now anything but. It is the equivalent of the Truth Division in 1984. It is encouraging people to pretend that their ideas came from themselves, instead of a campaign.

I welcome any Republican or Fascist to post here. Just two guidelines. Keep it civil. And make sure it's your own thoughts, and not a "ctrl c ctrl v" from a campaign. I get that McCain is more comfortable with telegraphs than with the internet. But don't you dare come and infringe on my right to enjoy the internet.


Do you remember when the environment was a going concern?

Ah, halcyon days. When we cared about the environment. When we were concerned about Global Warming. When we didn't want another Hurricane Katrina, and we cared about New Orleans.

Now it would seem that the majority of Americans are in favor of off-shore oil drilling. We are in favor of it, evidently, so that we can fix the energy crisis by becoming energy independent. These are the buzz words these days.

Evidently, it is a good thing to be energy independent- to not rely on other countries for energy. This way, we will become more isolated from the rest of the world. We can become more elitist, more parochial, more isolationist. This will likely help the rest of the world like us more. It will also keep more of our money in our hands, and continue the unfavorable trade imbalance begun in the early 1800s, where the wealthiest countries take from the poorest countries of the world. For Venezuela and Yemen should be put to shame for hoping that their oil reserves might help the general populace.

We need to drill because we need oil. We need the psychological support of pretending that oil reserves are going to last forever. We need to be able to pretend that the reserves that are present on America's coasts are more than a drop in the bucket. We need to be able to pretend that that oil is a renewable resource. (Of course, it is. Just over the course of 100s of millions of years, when a lot more animals and plants die and decompose and become oil. And our current environmental policy is actually well structured to increase oil supplies dramatically in 300 million years, at the rate that we are killing off other species.)

We need a way out of this mess. We need to pretend that new oil drilling will produce a drop in prices now, or at least ten years from now. We need to pretend that that future drop in prices will be more than a few cents, more than offset by the increase in inflation. We need to pretend that oil companies aren't using all of their allotted prospecting areas, and need another bailout from the federal government.

But the greatest make-believe that we require is that there is no environmental crisis. That there is no Global Warming. That Katrina never happened. All we have to do is say it three times and click our hands, and the world is black and liquid again, without giant killer storms, intense heat and permanent dust bowls, rising sea levels and countries disappearing, and 100s of millions of people made refugees.

In all the talk about how Americans want oil drilling, no one- not the press, not McCain, not Obama- is talking about how dangerous it is to continue oil drilling at all. Yes, we need oil to run cars and make plastics. But our goal should be the removal of any need for it at all. Practically, we will be forced into this in about twenty years, as oil reserves dwindle completely. Environmentally, we can't wait that long, because Global Warming's tipping point is now. This isn't some left-wing-environmental-freak thing. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) It's the issue that people are dying, and will die, in dramatic, horrifying numbers, if we do not stop Global Warming now.

That's incorrect. They will die, in horrifying numbers, no matter what we do. We have a choice, however, of stopping a logarithmic escalation of those numbers. Good on you, Obama, for rejecting the failed policies of oil drilling, and offering a $7,000 rebate to new hybrid purchasers. But let us remind the voters, America, and the world that this is this is a matter of stopping the failed policies of the last 100 years, destroying our home. This is a matter of life and death, without hyperbole.

What Happened to Africa?

Obama is very cool. I support him because of his experience. For the first time, he has the experience of growing up overseas. For the first time since the days of Thomas Jefferson, he has a parent from another country. For the first time, that country is Africa. No one can match that.

So, what happened to Africa? In this election cycle, about that continent, I have heard . . . nothing. I've heard a lot about Europe, and the Middle East, and a bit about South America. And that's as it should be. But Africa is a country in great need, and usually ignored by this nation. I kind of thought that we would hear more about it with a President who is half-African. Not half African-American; rather, half-African.

I don't think Obama needs to worry about white voters or the electorate in general turning on him if he discusses Africa. Maybe if that was all he focused on, or if he focused on it too much. But the occasional mention would not injure, and would greatly help us in remembering the Forgotten Continent, where there is today so much misery. Barack Obama, where is your Africa Policy Statement?

Why We Don't Want an Old Guy

Paris Hilton's ad brought this to mind. There has been this stigma against bringing up McCain's age in this campaign, as if the issue was the same as racism, or sexism. It's not. Someone who's white can do just as good of a job at being President as someone who's black. A man can be just as good at leading the nation as a woman. The same does not apply for someone who's elderly.

Potentially, they can be just as good. But let us consider the last rather youth-challenged President that we had. Many people loved Reagan. (This is a liberal blog. Do not be surprised that I was not one of them.) But Reagan had a regular ploy with the press. He would pretend not to remember things. Not to remember nearly everything. That allowed him to get away with the Iran-Contra affair, where, in the early Clinton years, we learned that the Reagan-Bush administration was actually culpable.

Now, it is possible that he actually didn't remember. For tragically, as we all know, Reagan was afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease shortly after he left office. Looking back, most experts feel that it was actually setting in in the final years of Reagan's second administration. Perhaps it was some sort of judgment of God, where if you lie enough about forgetting, God allows you to be in the state of forgetting; perhaps in truth he wasn't forgetting, but was afflicted by a disease.

This is not to say, of course, that McCain will lie to us, or will get Alzheimer's Disease, or simply forget a lot. But it is to say what doctors and scientist's well know- with age, the chances of getting a debilitating illness dramatically increase, and the older you are, the more those odds increase. And with extreme age, the odds of getting Alzheimer's are much higher than with someone who is younger. Unfortunately, as with Reagan, we will not necessarily know that the disease has set in, and there is no constitutional provision for removing someone from office with the beginnings of dementia. And already, we see signs of McCain stumbling over his words. Maybe he's just a bad speaker. Maybe not. Do we want to risk it?

McCain. He's old. Is he worth the risk?

The Finest Political Ad Ever

We must begin with one of the worst ads of this year. I have to say one of the worst, because McCain has had a string of outright lies recently, most egregiously claiming that Obama did not support US troops, lying that Obama had not visited injured troops because he couldn't bring cameras, when in fact Obama didn't visit them because he didn't want them to use them for political gain. (We now know that, if Obama had visited the troops in Germany, McCain was prepared to launch an ad stating that Obama had used them for political gain.) That commercial claimed that Obama instead went to the gym, and it uses footage of Obama playing basketball with US troops, but conveniently blurs out the troops themselves- a rare hat trick of taking advantage of US troops and Obama at the same time.

One of the other worst ads of the year is one suggesting that Obama isn't ready to lead because he is too popular. I've previously dealt with the blatant racism in this ad, but now want to focus on the use of Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears. The McCain campaign wants to pretend that there is no racist element to combining two young beautiful white women with a black man- as if they are completely ignorant of the history of the South and African-Americans.

It is of course rather ridiculous to suggest that, if someone is popular, we shouldn't elect them. McCain must think you become President by being selected by an elite cabal, rather than a popular vote. He must think that people all over the world are so stupid that they like someone for no reason, and not because they think he would make a good leader. Obama has responded with his own remarks. But I believe Paris Hilton has come up with by far, the finest response, and the finest ad of this political season.
See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die


The Racism of John McCain

I believe racism is not always against people of colour. I believe it is possible to be racist against someone who is white. I further believe it is possible to be racist against someone who is the same skin colour as yourself, as long as you are attacking a different group, a different ethnicity.

Let us witness the racism of John McCain:

This is not playing the race card because Obama is black. This is racism, because John McCain hates Europeans.

It is clear from McCain's ad that we are supposed to disapprove of Obama because he is loved by 100s of 1000s of Europeans. Sure, McCain could be saying how wonderful it is that Obama is "the biggest celebrity in the world". Somehow, I don't think McCain is saying that. We are treated to an image of 100s of 1000s of Germans, chanting Obama's name, and that is supposed to send a chill down our spine. We are supposed to consider that it is dangerous to elect someone if the whole of Europe is really into him. After all, if the Europeans like him, there must be something wrong with him, right? We can't trust those Europeans to act justly, or make wise decisions. That's why we kicked their asses in that war. (No, not that one- the first one McCain probably remembers, the Revolutionary War.)

Evidently, McCain doesn't see a problem with the world's perception of America at present. He thinks that it's okay that the world generally detests what America is now doing overseas. McCain evidently doesn't feel a need to rehabilitate America's image. That's all that I can conclude, when the subliminal message of a campaign ad is that it is bad to elect someone that the rest of the world loves.

Perhaps you disagree with me that this ad is profoundly disturbing, profoundly racist. Consider if Obama had visited Africa, as he could easily have done, and been greeted by 100s of 1000s of cheering fans, as he would undoubtedly been greeted- albeit probably more than 200,000. Now consider the exact same McCain ad, but with 500,000 Africans. McCain's reasoning is the same in both cases. Only the colour of the faces change. Racism is racism, whether or not the people are a people of colour. Racism is when we insinuate something negative about an entire people group that is not our own, or claim that there is something wrong with them because they are not us.

John McCain, when you say you approve this message, just which message were you approving?