Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hallelujah: Obama wins Presidency

Hi Newshackers,

As you probably know, I'm thrilled with the result!! The original plan was that I party the evening away with friends. Instead, I'm stuck at home with a cold that I don't want to give to anyone. So, here's my virtual celebration of a historic election!


Update at 12:45 AM: I was thrilled, but I had no one to cheer with. My wife had been skeptical. She had been bracing for disappointment all night, and already in her nightgown. I wanted to cheer, she was just relieved.

Our dear neighbors, Cindy and Holden, ran our bell at 11:00 PM EST with a bottle of champagne right after I sent the message above. They didn't care that I was sick, they wanted to celebrate and they just didn't kiss me. We celebrated the win, the joy and hope it represents, and the future. We could hear cries of joy and support coming from apartments all around us. It was amazing.


Friday, October 24, 2008

From HuffPo: Jim Wallis: My Personal 'Faith Priorities' for this Election

Hi Newshackers,

Today's sermon comes from the book of Huffington. You can read Jim Wallis' post today, My Personal 'Faith Priorities' for this Election, there and I have included the entire text below. I sent the entire text to my mailing list to forward around, and I think Jim and Ariana will forgive the breach of property rights in this case.

Wallis' book "God's Politics" has become a classic of political thought in the years since its release in 2005. I believe his book has re-awakened the moral thinking of millions of Christians and Jews, and Muslims and followers of other faiths, as well. Succinctly, it calls on all people of faith to vote for all the Biblical moral values, not just those that politicians can twist for their own purposes.

If you know any independent or conservative people of faith, send them this post and ask them to really read it once before they vote. At worst, they won't. But, they probably will because people of faith are inherently curious about religious viewpoints. Imagine what may happen...


Jim Wallis: My Personal 'Faith Priorities' for this Election

In 2004, several conservative Catholic Bishops and a few megachurch pastors like Rick Warren issued their list of "non-negotiables," which were intended to be a voter guide for their followers. All of them were relatively the same list of issues: abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc. None of them even included the word "poverty," only one example of the missing issues which are found quite clearly in the Bible. All of them were also relatively the same as official Republican Party Web sites of "non-negotiables." The political connections and commitments of the religious non-negotiable writers were quite clear.
I want to suggest a different approach this year and share my personal list of "faith priorities" that will guide me in making the imperfect choices that always confront us in any election year -- and suggest that each of you come up with your own list of "faith" or "moral" priorities for this election year and take them into the polling place with you.
After the last election, I wrote a book titled God's Politics. I was criticized by some for presuming to speak for God, but that wasn't the point. I was trying to explore what issues might be closest to the heart of God and how they may be quite different from what many strident religious voices were then saying. I was also saying that "God's Politics" will often turn our partisan politics upside down, transcend our ideological categories of Left and Right, and challenge the core values and priorities of our political culture. I was also trying to say that there is certainly no easy jump from God's politics to either the Republicans or Democrats. God is neither. In any election, we face imperfect choices, but our choices should reflect the things we believe God cares about if we are people of faith, and our own moral sensibilities if we are not people of faith. Therefore, people of faith, and all of us, should be "values voters" but vote all our values, not just a few that can be easily manipulated for the benefit of one party or another.
In 2008, the kingdom of God is not on the ballot in any of the 50 states as far as I can see. So we can't vote for that this year. But there are important choices in this year's election -- very important choices -- which will dramatically impact what many in the religious community and outside of it call "the common good," and the outcome could be very important, perhaps even more so than in many recent electoral contests.
I am in no position to tell anyone what is "non-negotiable," and neither is any Bishop or megachurch pastor, but let me tell you the "faith priorities" and values I will be voting on this year:

With more than 2,000 verses in the Bible about how we treat the poor and oppressed, I will examine the record, plans, policies, and promises made by the candidates on what they will do to overcome the scandal of extreme global poverty and the shame of such unnecessary domestic poverty in the richest nation in the world. Such a central theme of the Bible simply cannot be ignored at election time, as too many Christians have done for years. And any solution to the economic crisis that simply bails out the rich, and even the middle class, but ignores those at the bottom should simply be unacceptable to people of faith.

From the biblical prophets to Jesus, there is, at least, a biblical presumption against war and the hope of beating our swords into instruments of peace. So I will choose the candidates who will be least likely to lead us into more disastrous wars and find better ways to resolve the inevitable conflicts in the world and make us all safer. I will choose the candidates who seem to best understand that our security depends upon other people's security (everyone having "their own vine and fig tree, so no one can make them afraid," as the prophets say) more than upon how high we can build walls or a stockpile of weapons. Christians should never expect a pacifist president, but we can insist on one who views military force only as a very last resort, when all other diplomatic and economic measures have failed, and never as a preferred or habitual response to conflict.

"Choosing life" is a constant biblical theme, so I will choose candidates who have the most consistent ethic of life, addressing all the threats to human life and dignity that we face -- not just one. 30,000 children dying globally each day of preventable hunger and disease is a life issue. The genocide in Darfur is a life issue. Health care is a life issue. War is a life issue. The death penalty is a life issue. And on abortion, I will choose candidates who have the best chance to pursue the practical and proven policies which could dramatically reduce the number of abortions in America and therefore save precious unborn lives, rather than those who simply repeat the polarized legal debates and "pro-choice" and "pro-life" mantras from either side.
God's fragile creation is clearly under assault, and I will choose the candidates who will likely be most faithful in our care of the environment. In particular, I will choose the candidates who will most clearly take on the growing threat of climate change, and who have the strongest commitment to the conversion of our economy and way of life to a cleaner, safer, and more renewable energy future. And that choice could accomplish other key moral priorities like the redemption of a dangerous foreign policy built on Middle East oil dependence, and the great prospects of job creation and economic renewal from a new "green" economy built on more spiritual values of conservation, stewardship, sustainability, respect, responsibility, co-dependence, modesty, and even humility.

Every human being is made in the image of God, so I will choose the candidates who are most likely to protect human rights and human dignity. Sexual and economic slavery is on the rise around the world, and an end to human trafficking must become a top priority. As many religious leaders have now said, torture is completely morally unacceptable, under any circumstances, and I will choose the candidates who are most committed to reversing American policy on the treatment of prisoners. And I will choose the candidates who understand that the immigration system is totally broken and needs comprehensive reform, but must be changed in ways that are compassionate, fair, just, and consistent with the biblical command to "welcome the stranger."

Healthy families are the foundation of our community life, and nothing is more important than how we are raising up the next generation. As the father of two young boys, I am deeply concerned about the values our leaders model in the midst of the cultural degeneracy assaulting our children. Which candidates will best exemplify and articulate strong family values, using the White House and other offices as bully pulpits to speak of sexual restraint and integrity, marital fidelity, strong parenting, and putting family values over economic values? And I will choose the candidates who promise to really deal with the enormous economic and cultural pressures that have made parenting such a "countercultural activity" in America today, rather than those who merely scapegoat gay people for the serious problems of heterosexual family breakdown.

That is my list of personal "faith priorities" for the election year of 2008, but they are not "non-negotiables" for anyone else. It's time for each of us to make up our own list in these next 12 days. Make your list and send this on to your friends and family members, inviting them to do the same thing.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Best Recent Political Comment: Governor Mike Easley of North Carolina

Hi Newshackers,

The most powerful TV political quote I've heard recently came from Governor Mike Easley (D) of North Carolina, in his appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show last night.

The Obama campaign should leap on this line, and Governor Easley's smooth delivery of it, and run it to death. It could trigger the Obama landslide for which many of us are hoping. It crystallizes the economic imperative for Obama and embraces conservative voters, who like McCain as a person, but can't accept what he has become politically.

Responding to Rachel's question about whether he was worried about a Bradley Effect on voters in his state, where people will say they are for Obama but then won't pull the lever for him because of his race, Governor Easley gave a great answer. Instead, he saw a high likelihood of a Reverse Bradley Effect.

"I was Down East in my state the other day and I saw a big pickup truck with shotgun in the gun rack, and two big Obama stickers in the windows. I think the message here is, 'I like McCain, but I love my job!'"

Rachel's interview with Governor Easley is about half way through this video

It's worth watching.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Candor About McCain and Conservatism: "A Conservative For Obama", by Wick Allison

Hi Newshackers,

All the uproar over our failing financial markets, and the political posturing and sloganeering from both parties about it, have focused the mainstream media on "the emerging crisis." I suppose this is to be expected. However, this seems to have obscured coverage of what I think may be the most important political news item I saw in the past week.

Thanks, Ann, for sending me this. Ann doesn't know any Republicans or conservatives, but was struck by the idea of a conservative supporting Obama for President. I was further struck that Wick Allison, the author, is a well-known, dyed-in-the-wool political conservative, a former Publisher of William F. Buckley's National Review, among other conservative bona fides.

I have heard and read occasional news reports speculating that Obama was gaining support among Independents, true pragmatic conservatives, and Libertarians, but until now I have dismissed these reports as just wishful thinking. However, after reading Mr. Allison's post, I'm wondering whether there is more to this trend than meets the eye?

Once you read this posting, you'll see why you should try to get the Independents, Conservatives, and Libertarians you know to read it. Allison reminds us what conservatism really is, and what it isn't. I know a number of people who say they are conservatives and I'm going to try to get them to read this article.



A Conservative For Obama
by Wick Allison

Mr. Allison is Publisher of D magazine in Dallas, Texas, and is a former Publisher of the National Review.

Quotes from Mr. Allison's post:

"But today it is so-called conservatives who are cemented to political programs when they clearly don’t work. The Bush tax cuts—a solution for which there was no real problem and which he refused to end even when the nation went to war—led to huge deficit spending and a $3 trillion growth in the federal debt. Facing this, John McCain pumps his “conservative” credentials by proposing even bigger tax cuts. Meanwhile, a movement that once fought for limited government has presided over the greatest growth of government in our history. That is not conservatism; it is profligacy using conservatism as a mask."

"...Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read The Federalist Papers."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

GOP campaign twisting small-town values

Hi Newshackers,

The title and link above lead to a wonderful Op-Ed letter from the heart of small-town America, that I received from a friend who knows the author. (Thanks, John) Rosemary Weathers Burnham's letter smacks of home, middle American values and hopes, and an innate sense of political hypocrisy when presented with it.

Here are two quotes to encourage you:

"...until the marketing gurus of the Republican presidential campaign launched their "small town USA" spin. Unfortunately, the tinselly "small-town values" glittering in their marketing blitz don't seem to have much to do with the real values of my hometown."

"I wonder, what has happened to our country's sense of decency that even John McCain can't seem to stop referring to his POW experience 40 years ago?", unfortunately, has buried this excellent Op-Ed letter so far from the home page that it's not likely to get much notice. This cross-posting is an effort to see that it does.


Congratulations, Rachel Maddow, & texting acronym hell

Hi Newshackers,

I just sent a fan letter to Rachel Maddow, along with a hot tip about a list of what all those text messaging acronyms really mean. Enjoy.



Hi Rachel,

Congratulations on your new show. I'm a big fan. Keep telling it straight, with courtesy, and inviting guests that make the audience think, and I'm sure you'll be a big hit.

I really liked your guest tonight, Senator Amy Klobuchar. Her ending statement about how her daughter thought she was cool because she was appearing on your show was very real and charming. She thanked you for restoring her coolness, which she had lost because she couldn't keep up with all the chat and text messaging acronyms - and you got it back for her.

Of course, no one who has a real life to live can keep up with them. To aid us out-of-it, non-chatting, non-texting folks, my friend, Lionel, has posted an exhaustive list of these arcana on his blog, Miscellaneous Reports.

Check it out. It's interesting and funny because you can just read the list and don't have to remember them all. Forward it to the Senator, with my compliments, and maybe Kent Jones will be interested, too.

Best regards,

/Dick Jones

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Alaska Women Reject Palin" Rally HUGE!

Hi Newshackers,

Been depressed about how the mainstream media keep characterizing Sarah Palin's outrageous positions and outright lies as being credible statements and normal campaign rhetoric? Here is the antidote to your political malaise!

Visit the Mudflats blog for the headline story, and to see a video and still shots of the recent Anti-Palin rally in Anchorage AK.

Quotes from the Mudflats blog:

"Never have I seen anything like it in my 17 and a half years living in Anchorage. The organizers had someone walk the rally with a counter, and they clicked off well over 1400 people (not including the 90 counter-demonstrators). This was the biggest political rally ever, in the history of the state."

"So, if you’ve been doing the math… Yes. The Alaska Women Reject Palin rally was significantly bigger than Palin’s rally that got all the national media coverage!"

A great, hopeful story.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Is John McCain REALLY a War Hero?

Hi Newshackers,

The mainstream media are finally challenging Senator John McCain's practice of constantly injecting his time as a prisoner of war into every non-related question he answers, and I'm thankful for that slowly emerging trend. There is, however, another mainstream media reporting habit that is much more insidious, and which I have not seen challenged anywhere. It is the continual mis-characterization of John McCain as a war hero.

Calling McCain a war hero gives him powerful political and emotional appeal he does not truly deserve, and it erroneously reinforces public belief that "I WAS A POW" is a valid answer to every difficult question he faces on the issues.

May we all, citizens, Democratic spokespeople, and especially journalists, please stop referring to John McCain as a war hero? He does not meet the commonly understood definition. He is an honored veteran, and he suffered terribly as a prisoner of war, but he wasn't and isn't a war hero. There's an important difference between war hero and prisoner of war that McCain, the Republicans, and the mainstream media have completely glossed over, much to McCain's benefit politically.

Since the beginning of Senator McCain's Presidential campaign, every time one commentator on any news panel refers to his time as a POW, another panelist (often a Democratic spokesperson) calls him a war hero. This happens any time McCain is discussed, and it irks me no end becase I know the difference, and so should the moderators of our public discourse.

Unfortunately, many news people, and even Democratic spokespeople, say war hero simply to differentiate themselves. They say war hero in these situations not because they believe McCain is a war hero, but because it's a bit of conventional wisdom that the media and many people subscribe to, and by saying it, they won't have to say "POW" like the other discussant(s). Even more unfortunately, this careless habit has brought us to the place where, when people hear "POW," they also subliminally hear "war hero."

The media's tendency to mis-use, and then over use, catch-phrases is always dangerous, but it is especially dangerous in this case. The words war hero are magic words, not to be trifled with. They are such powerful words that they must be used correctly, and sparingly, or bad things will happen. They cast a halo of glory over anyone to whom they are attributed.

As a matter of fairness and balance, any person the media calls a war hero ought to be a war hero. Otherwise, war hero will lose all the special meaning it historically holds.

War hero has in the past, and should be, properly reserved for those who, in a blinding instant of pure courage and love of fellow and country, undertook desperate risks without hesitating despite the likelihood they would die doing so. War heroes are Congressional Medal of Honor, Silver Star, and Medal of Valor award winners. They are men like WWI's Sergeant Alvin York, or WWII's Audy Murphy. Men who, careless of their own safety, charged into a hail of bullets and shrapnel to take a key enemy position or to save their comrades-in-arms from death. That's a war hero.

High ranking military leaders occasionally attain "heroic" status through their brilliance in the defense of freedom. Men like Dwight D. Eisenhower, who led the Allied western invasion that led to victory over Germany. But this is a symbolic heroism, not the real blood and guts thing. That's why, although he was showered with medals and awards by a grateful America after WWII, and even elected President, Eisenhower never got the Congressional Medal of Honor.

As a war hero, John McCain doesn't measure up!

I certainly honor Senator McCain's loyalty to America during his incarceration in Hanoi, and have sympathy for the horrors he endured. However, in the context of history, which is where the concept of heroism lives and breathes, he was really just another guy fighting for America who was captured during an attack. One of the many thousands of American servicemen captured during Viet Nam.

He endured his torture because he didn't die, and so his only choice was honor or dishonor. Being from a old military family, he could not bear dishonor, so he chose honor. He deserves every American's respect for that honorable and difficult choice. But, deserving respect for upholding the oath of allegiance he swore as an officer, even under such awful circumstances, is not the same thing as being a war hero.

The Great Generation, those we now honor and remember with gratitude, was comprised of men (Mainly, sorry ladies.) who endured despite the horrors of war and the death of good friends. Sometimes they were captured, imprisoned, and even tortured. They fought beside their comrades and served their country for the safety and freedom of us all, without question or expectation of reward.

In my experiences with veterans, those who suffered most in war don't want to remember their war experiences or talk about them. My Uncle John was one of those. I know that, as a Navy Seabee, he fought in the island hopping Pacific campaign against the Japanese. But, I know nothing about his experiences. He wouldn't talk about them. After a number of attempts over the years, I stopped asking. All I know for sure is that my sister, Kathie, asked him about his war experiences once, about twenty years ago. He told her, "I have nightmares enough. There's no reason you should have them, too."

My uncle, and most of these men, never claimed heroism or considered themselves heroes. They were just good people who endured what had to be endured to insure our freedom - and survived because the alternative was death. I don't think John McCain should be allowed to claim a heroism beyond theirs just because he endured, too.

Feel free to honor Senator McCain's military service and loyalty to America. I do. But, war hero? No.

/Dick Jones

Monday, July 21, 2008

On Blogosphere Day: Still no WTC Memorial after seven years

Hi Newshackers,

I've been quiet for awhile, busy with other demands and absorbed with following the presidential race and the decline and fall of our financial system. But lately, something has been nagging at me. There is still no World Trade Center Disaster Memorial site.

Yesterday, I heard 1010WINS air another news report about the wrangling that has delayed start of the World Trade Center Memorial project. This is a terrible commentary on the workings of our society. Seven years after that terrible day, there is still no memorial.

It's blasphemous, and yet predictable. All the power blocs: politicians, the Port Authority, real estate moguls, victims' families' organizations, and the State, all had to get their say and give their opinions about the project design. What has delayed things most is that certain of these groups want to secure their control of their piece of the enormous economic development deal that building the memorial site has become. It's no longer a memorial, but a chance to make money. If this had not been so, a memorial could have been completed and dedicated years ago.

Then, I began to wonder, "In this most improbable political season, is it too late to float a completely different idea about how to deal with this power logjam? Would the public pick up on it and support it?"

I believe we could resolve this whole problem in short order, if we could wring most of the profit out of it. I say, "Don't rebuild any commercial space where the Twin Towers stood. Condemn the whole area and make it a national monument, like the Statue of Liberty and the Arlington National Cemetery. Build on any of the surrounding land, but leave the Twin Towers site empty."

I have thought for years that the most sincere expression that could possibly be made to symbolize our national and municipal grief about the attack, and the thousands of lives lost, would be to maintain the destroyed site as an open space. What more powerful statement could be made about the magnitude of our loss than to leave the site empty in the midst of some of the most expensive real estate in America?

There would be an orientation building with a multimedia retrospective of the site before, during, and after the attack. There would certainly be memorials to the victims who died that day, and to the police and fire fighters and other public service personnel who lost their lives. There would be also be amenities, like food stands and sitting areas, encouraging visitors to sit and contemplate the open space. Colored brickwork outlines would enable people to walk around the areas formerly occupied by the two buildings, so people can walk around and internalize the size of the site. So they will contemplate the enormity of our loss, and the power of unreasoning hatred.

What do you think? Is there time to turn this wayward behemoth around?