Archive for February, 2008

Trust Me

Friday, February 15th, 2008

“Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” Eph 5:6 

The President was on television again today telling half the story about the wiretap bill that the house refused to pass. 

Here’s the rest of the story. 

This is all about extending the President’s power to wiretap US citizens without court approval.  The President says that this is only about looking for terrorists, but the whistleblowers which brought this who issue to the public’s attention have testified that the equipment installed by the government at the phone companies allows the government to listen to all traffic that goes through the Internet.   

There is a law on the books which gives the President the ability to request spying on US citizens, but requires court approval.  The spy activity can begin before the approval is obtained, but the agency doing the spying must send a letter to the supervising court letting them know that they have begun the activity and will be seeking approval.  The FBI has already admitted that it so fumbled this process that it lost track of how many requests it had made, and as a result could not confirm that it was in compliance.  In other words they have already proven that they can’t be trusted to follow the legal process. 

The last shoe to drop in this whole process is immunity for the Telco’s which cooperated.  They knew that this was against the law, and are seeking immunity for breaking the law at the government’s request.  By the way, they didn’t all cooperate.  Qwest refused and lost some government contracts as a result.  The President had the gall to suggest that Congress had to provide immunity to make sure that these companies would cooperate in the future.  We don’t want them cooperating if it involves breaking the law.  We want these companies to be held liable, and as a result to hold the government liable to prove that all requests are compliant with the law.   Otherwise this all comes down to the big lie that this government has been telling for the past seven years.  Trust me.  I can’t tell you what I’m doing, but I’m doing it to protect you from terrorists. 

Democracy requires transparency.  Democracy requires that no one is above the law.  Democracy requires accountability.  

Without those things we have what we’ve been living through the past seven years.  Invasions based on “cooked” intelligence.  The VP insisting that Saddam was connected to al Qaeda when even the President was admitting that this was false.  Billions of dollars funneled to administration-connected companies.  Our President telling the world that we don’t torture only to later discover that his definition of torture didn’t include waterboarding.  Our Secretary of State telling the world that we didn’t have a secret interrogation process only later to admit that renditions continue to be a standard practice.  US Citizens imprisoned without access to lawyers or the ability to defend themselves against their accusers.  Widespread violations of human rights.  Widespread domestic spying.  The wounded and dead snuck back into this country under the cover of darkness.  The rich getting richer and the poor and middle class getting poorer. 

Trust me.  I can’t tell you what I’m doing, but I’m doing it to protect you from terrorists.       

Politics of Hope

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” I John 3:3 

I posted something earlier about the Republican race.  It’s probably appropriate to post something about the Democratic race too. 

The obvious historic nature of this race aside, there is something else special going on here.  This is a battle between the establishment forces of Senator Clinton and the “new world” forces of Senator Obama. 

Forty years ago, when the Viet Nam war was at it’s peak, I supported Eugene McCarthy in a similar run against an incumbent democrat, Lyndon Johnson.  The success that McCarthy had in New Hampshire led Johnson to announce that he wasn’t going to run for another term.  The way the party shut McCarthy out of the race in favor of Hubert Humphrey and our collective grief over Bobby Kennedy’s assassination sent many of us into the streets in Chicago for the famous police riots during the Democratic convention of 1968. 

This time things appear to be different.  This time there is real hope that the insurgent candidate, Obama, may actually have enough support from the party establishment to overcome the inherent bias for preserving the current order.  This time he seems to have enough money.  This time he seems wise enough to stay above the fray.  This time he not only has the support of the young, but also their parents, and minorities, and those who oppose the Iraq war.  This time he could very well do what McCarthy, and Anderson, and McGovern were unable to do in their runs for the White House.  He could win both the nomination and the Presidency.

Then we will see what sort of a President he will become. 

The Washington establishment will not take kindly to a wholesale dismantlement, but if he does win, he will bring that mandate of change with him.  The time may finally be over for attack politics and insider cynicism.  Maybe it is time for that old guard to step aside.  Maybe hope can foster change. 

We will know soon enough. 

In the meantime, the country will benefit from another generation of idealistic college kids investing their hearts and souls in the possibility that they can make a difference. 


Double-Minded Man

Friday, February 8th, 2008

“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:8 

I continue to marvel at how well our political system seems to be working this year.  The voting public appears to be taking their responsibilities seriously.  They consistently demonstrate that they are going to make their decisions based on solid analysis of the candidates rather than the opinions of experts. 

The buzz word for this election cycle appears to be “authenticity”.  This is just another word for character and integrity. 

The latest candidate to fail this test is Mitt Romney.  In his case, it wasn’t because he was a bad guy.  From everyone that I’ve talked with, in his personal life, he is everything that he appears to be – a good husband, father, Mormon, and public servant.  The problem is that his ambition for public office led him to listen to his advisors regarding his public positions.  His clumsy attempts to appeal to the conservative wing of the Republican party made him appear opportunistic and hypocritical. 

The moderates and independents flocked to John McCain and the religious conservatives embraced Mike Huckabee.  Romney lost in a character contest to McCain.  He lost in a conservative religious contest to Huckabee.  He was vulnerable to attacks from both on his movement on the issues. 

Pundits are saying that Romney’s strategic error was to position himself for a fight against Giuliani which never materialized.  I think his strategic error was his fear that he had to become someone else in order to be elected.   

It is doubtful that Huckabee is going to be able to mount much of a campaign against John McCain, but stranger things have already happened, so it’s probably best to continue to let the rest of the primaries play themselves out. For his part, Romney will have at least four years to contemplate the mistakes that he made this time around.  If the Democrats win in November, I’m confident that we will see Mitt take another run at the Republican nomination in four years.  It will be interesting to see what he does over that time to improve his credibility with the voters.

Greater Love

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

 Well I guess it was inevitable. The CIA admitted waterboarding three al Qaida suspects during 2002 and 2003. The new attorney general will not open a criminal investigation. VP Cheney thinks that it was a good thing then and would be happy to do it again if necessary. CIA Chief Hayden thinks that waterboarding is now likely illegal under laws passed by Congress.

This is all coming out now because the next President (John McCain, Hillary Clinton, or Barak Obama) will enforce the law and finally establish for all agencies that this country does not torture and that waterboarding is torture. So those who have used this technique want to make it perfectly clear that they did so only with the authorization of the President.

What has happened to us?

We used to be a nation of laws.

We are now a nation of lawyers.

We used to be a nation founded on principle.

We are now a nation of fear and self-righteousness.

We call ourselves a Christian nation, but there is no Christ in this policy.

It is tempting to try to justify torturing a person to save the lives of others, but that cuts to the very core of moral principle.

God gives us simple choices. Love Him and love all of those around us.

We are the ones who try to make these choices complicated.

We make them complicated because we fear that doing what we know is right will somehow leave us vulnerable. It’s at that point that we have stopped listening to God and have started listening to our fears. Unfortunately our fears can drive us to the ultimate absurdity, we kill to save lives.  To my mind that is the ultimate act of cowardice.

Here’s how Jesus defined courage, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13.  What that means to me is that the greatest demonstration of love and courage is willingness to confront your own fears and remain commited to your values.  

My sincere hope is that the next election cycle delivers a leader who understands and can demonstrate this quality.