Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Recruiting in high schools

Last night, a local news show broadcast a segment on the Marines' recruiting effort at a San Jose high school. It was an upbeat segment, showing the popular Marine recruiter, with a bar besides him, urging eager students to show how many pull-ups they could do. He knew many of the students by name. One of the students, a Vietnamese-American, said that although he had a 4.0 GPA, he wanted to join the Marines and go to Iraq to pay back the debt he felt his family owed to our country.

These are very noble sentiments, and in the post-election era we live in, where much emphasis was placed on one's military service during the Vietnam war, who can object to this recruiting effort? But it bothers me, maybe because I feel these kids are too young to make an informed decision, or maybe because the war itself seems like a big mistake. How many of our young are we to sacrifice for this mistaken adventure? I am not one to urge an immediate pull-out, but I still wonder how many lives will be lost and destroyed for this cause -- Americans, Iraqis and others of various nationalities.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Jerry Falwell vs. PETA

It has been said, often, that President Bush won this election largely because of the "moral values" issue, which refers mainly to his willlingness to amend our Constitution in order to prevent gay people, even Dick Cheney's daughter, from getting married. It was the conservative Christian vote which made the difference on this issue, and who else but Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority and chairman of the Faith and Values Coalition, better represents that viewpoint?

As reported by Media Matters for America, Falwell has made some recent statements which migh offend a few of us liberal types: he described NOW (National Organization for Women) as the "National Organization of Witches"; he referred to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, headed by Rev. Barry Lynn, as "an anti-Christ" group; and, in a November 21 televised service, broadcast from his Thomas Road Baptist Church, he said of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) : "And we're going to invite PETA [to 'Wild Game Night'] as our special guest, P-E-T-A -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. We want you to come, we're going to give you a top seat there, so you can sit there and suffer."

Presumably he is joking at some level, but even so I find his reference to PETA particularly offensive and even sick. PETA may go further than I would in some respects (I am neither a vegan or vegetarian), but their basic purpose is good, to prevent animal cruelty. Recently a PETA member was arrested outside a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Vietnam, protesting how the company boils chickens alive, and makes them so fat their legs break if they stand up. This seems like something worth protesting. Here in Berkeley on my local access channel, animal rights documentaries are sometimes aired about the cruelty toward animals in slaughterhouses. I find these too hard to watch.

What is evil about protesting this kind of animal cruelty? Or is it evil to defend this kind of behavior? It has been said that children who commit cruel acts against animals often grow up to become sociopaths. It is too bad that Jerry Falwell and his followers do not seem to understand this but instead believe it is their Christian duty to oppose those fighting animal cruelty.

International jailed journalists support day

Reporters without Borders has announced today (Nov. 24) as "International Jailed Journalists Support Day," in honor of the 128 journalists and 70 cyber-dissidents imprisoned around the world. Of these 80% are detained in six countries: China (26 journalists and 62 cyber-dissidents), Cuba (26 journalists), Iran (15), Eritrea (14), Nepal (12) and Burma (11).

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Shooting the messenger

The recent Marine shooting of a wounded Iraqi combatant in a Fallujah mosque has stirred some outrage. Caught on videotape, the Marine is seen shooting the wounded, barely alive man, after stating he believed the man was pretending to be dead. In the Mideast, the outrage is directed against the U.S., but here in America, much of the outrage is being directed against Kevin Sites, the NBC freelance journalist who videotaped the event. Sites presents an eloquent reply at his own blog site. Concluding his open letter to the Marine unit, he says: "So here, ultimately, is how it all plays out: when the Iraqi man in the mosque posed a threat, he was your enemy; when he was subdued he was your responsibility; when he was killed in front of my eyes and my camera -- the story of his death became my responsibility."

We live in a strange political climate when those who chronicle atrocities committed by U.S. troops then become themselves the object of attack from the pro-Bush wing of the media. I have added Sites to my blogroll.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Regressive Ethics in the House

It is said the President Bush was elected because of his moral values, yet Republican members of the House of Representatives have voted to renew suspected felon Tom DeLay as House majority leader and revoke a rule that said House leaders under criminal indictment would have to step down from their posts. The party is also making it more difficult for House members to file ethic complaints, and according to today's New York Times editorial: "Rumors also abound that come January, when the next Congress is seated, all five Republican members of the ethics committee, including its current chairman, Representative Joel Hefley, may be replaced."

Bush's echo chamber

Commenting on Colin Powell's departure Bob Herbert of the New York Times writes:

"History will show that the Bush crowd of incompetents brought tremendous amounts of suffering to enormous numbers of people. The amount of blood being shed is sickening, and there is no end to the grief in sight...

"...As I watch the disastrous consequences of the Bush policies unfold - not just in Iraq, but here at home as well - I am struck by the immaturity of this administration, whatever the ages of the officials involved. It's as if the children have taken over and sent the adults packing. The counsel of wiser heads, like George H. W. Bush, or Brent Scowcroft, or Colin Powell, is not needed and not wanted.

"Some of the world's most important decisions - often, decisions of life and death - have been left to those who are less competent and less experienced, to men and women who are deficient in such qualities as risk perception and comprehension of future consequences, who are reckless and dangerously susceptible to magical thinking and the ideological pressure of their peers.

"I look at the catastrophe in Iraq, the fiscal debacle here at home, the extent to which loyalty trumps competence at the highest levels of government, the absence of a coherent vision of the future for the U.S. and the world, and I wonder, with a sense of deep sadness, where the adults have gone."

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Blogging and digital knowledge

C-Span aired a Library of Congress sponsored conference on "Digital Future: Blogs and Knowledge". For those unable to view it on cable, it can also be seen via livestream at its web site.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

The scandal of global warming

Two scientific reports released last week highlight the danger and current reality of global warming. As summarized by Matt Crenson of the Associated Press:

Overall, the reports say, Earth's climate has warmed by about 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1900. In the Arctic, where a number of processes amplify the warming effects of carbon dioxide, most regions have experienced a temperature rise of 4 to 7 degrees in the last 50 years.

That warmth has reduced the amount of snow that falls every winter, melted away mountain glaciers and shrunk the Arctic Ocean's summer sea ice cover to its smallest extent in millennia, according to satellite measurements. Swaths of Alaskan permafrost are thawing into soggy bogs, and trees are moving northward at the expense of the tundra that rings the Arctic Ocean.

These changes seriously threaten animals such as polar bears, which live and hunt on the sea ice. The bears have already suffered a 15 percent decrease in their number of offspring and a similar decline in weight over the past 25 years. If the Arctic sea ice disappears altogether during the summer months, as some researchers expect it will by the end of the century, polar bears have little chance of survival.

One of the reports, said Crenson, "was commissioned by the Arctic Council, an international commission of eight countries, including the United States, and six indigenous groups. It was written by a team of 300 scientists."

Nevertheless, the Bush administration was at best noncommital in its response, as Crenson reports:

"The report will be a valuable contribution to the literature on potential regional impacts of climate change, and the United States government will take its findings into account as it continues to review the science," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in a statement released Tuesday.

The United States faces a potential showdown with other members of the Arctic Council on Nov. 24, when representatives of the organization's members are scheduled to meet in Iceland to consider climate change policy recommendations.

The other report was released by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change:

"Responses to climate change are being seen across the U.S.A," said Camille Parmesan, a biologist at the University of Texas in Austin. She is the co-author, with Hector Galbraith of the University of Colorado in Boulder, of "Observed Impacts of Global Climate Change in the U.S." The report was released Tuesday by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a non-partisan but not disinterested research organization dedicated to providing sound scientific information about global warming.

Parmesan and Galbraith acknowledge that nothing in the report would strike the average person as particularly alarming. They also allow that some of the past century's warming might have happened even if humans hadn't been pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But they argue that the changes they describe should be taken as a "very clear signal" that climate change will have significant effects in coming decades.

And what has been the response of the Bush administration? Over the last four years, it has pursued a policy of increased destruction of our resources, rolling back hundreds of environmental regulations. And there is no sign that these two reports will in any way deter our government from speeding our planet toward the brink of environmental catastrophe. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer concluded in an editorial today:

The United States must be at least a part of the solution to the problem it does more than any other country to create. Fresh from an election victory, the administration may well think it can engage in four more years of calls for better science and voluntary "action." When a Scripps Howard News Service reporter asked White House science adviser John Marburger about the possibility of regulating greenhouse emissions, he said, "Not in this administration."

The swagger in the White House walk will face the persistence of Sen. John McCain. Last week, the Arizona Republican and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., responded to the release of another report, on dramatic warming in the Arctic, with more calls for passage of their bill for reducing global-warming gases.

Most other economic powers have decided to join the Kyoto agreement on climate change. With each major scientific study, the need to limit global warming becomes more obvious. Domestically and internationally, pressure should force action by Congress and a president who came into office promising to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Confessing Christ in a world of violence

A group of 200 Christian theologians, many of them affiliated with evangelical seminaries and organizations, have signed a petition urging American Christians to follow the teachings of Jesus, particularly to love our enemies, at a time when our culture is wrapped up in an atmosphere of militarism and nationalism. It begins:

Our world is wracked with violence and war. But Jesus said: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:9). Innocent people, at home and abroad, are increasingly threatened by terrorist attacks. But Jesus said: "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). These words, which have never been easy, seem all the more difficult today.

Nevertheless, a time comes when silence is betrayal. How many churches have heard sermons on these texts since the terrorist atrocities of September 11? Where is the serious debate about what it means to confess Christ in a world of violence? Does Christian "realism" mean resigning ourselves to an endless future of "pre-emptive wars"? Does it mean turning a blind eye to torture and massive civilian casualties? Does it mean acting out of fear and resentment rather than intelligence and restraint?

Faithfully confessing Christ is the church's task, and never more so than when its confession is co-opted by militarism and nationalism...

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The evangelical factor, my perspective

It has been said that 75% of "born-again" Christians voted for Bush in this presidential election, as opposed to 25% for Kerry. Bush also managed to double his support among African-Americans in Ohio from 8% to 16% (still not very impressive) apparently because of his stance on the "moral" issues, namely outlawing gay marriage.

I am among those who has had the born-again experience, so I guess that would count me among this population. Although raised in a liberal Methodist church, I reached a point in my life where I felt estranged from God and my closest friends were devout fundamentalist Christians for whom their faith was very real -- not just a religion, but a relationship, as they told me. So on a summer day in 1971 I prayed the "sinner's prayer", asking God to forgive me for my sins and to come into my heart to be my Lord and Savior.

It was a turning point in my life, but maybe not in the same way as for others who have been through this experience. I remember getting into arguments with my parents over my newfound faith, and visiting various churches. Later that summer, I attended a Billy Graham rally, which helped solidify my decision. That fall I started at a new college, Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, to finish my liberal arts education. There I visited various churches, pentecostal and baptist, but it was the student Christian group, the Willamette Christian Body, in which I felt most comfortable. It involved Christians from a wide variety of backgrounds, so there was more of a ecumenical spirit there, even while we shared our basic faith in Christ.

Over the next few years I attended a variety of churches but I could never really find a church in which to settle, and eventually my church attendance dropped almost to zero. Meanwhile, with the end of the Vietnam war I came to know many Vietnamese friends, mostly Buddhist, Confucianist or Catholic, and worked with them for the cause of human rights in Vietnam and the Vietnamese boat people. So that became the center of my life, as opposed to my religious faith. Eventually, however, I came back.

I am still a Christian, but am no longer fundamentalist, as that term is commonly understood. That is, I do not believe that only born-again Christians will go to heaven, or that Darwin's theory of evolution is untrue. It took me some years to find the right church, one where I could grow in my faith in fellowship with others while not sacriificing my intellectual integrity. In visiting a local Catholic church, I learned that the weekly Catholic mass is basically the same as what occurs when one becomes a "born-again" Christian -- to confess one's sins, accept God's saving grace, and to dedicate one's life to following Christ. I almost became a Roman Catholic, but in the end decided to join the Episcopal Church instead, its liturgy being virtually the same as the Catholic mass but with less doctrinal baggage.

In doing a Google search for "Willamette Christian body" I came across the name of Joe Fuiten. I knew Joe, but not very well, at Willamette. The son of two Assembly of God ministers, Joe became student body president at Willamette and also helped to start the Willamette Christian body. Today, he is pastor of an Assembly of God megachurch ministering to 5,000 people in Bothell, Washington and active in political affairs. In fact he launched a successful effort to register 60,000 evangelical voters in his state this year, to the obvious benefit of the Republican party. Lest there be any doubt, Joe heads the Social Conservatives for Bush campaign. But, since IRS regulations forbid churches from engaging in partisan politics, he cannot actually tell the congregation how to vote, the church ushers would just hand out voter registration forms during the service. Joe is also president of Washington Evangelicals for Responsible Government, a political lobbying organization and the convener of Positive Christian Agenda, a collection of 35 Christian organizations that coordinate political action in Washington State.

In Joe's view, the war in Iraq is part of a holy war between Christians and Muslims, a war instigated by Muslim extremists, who were in turn instigated by Hollywood portraying our country as a degenerate society.

It was through his opposition to gay marriage that Joe and oher evangelical leaders managed to inspire so many evangelicals to register this year to vote. That was the big issue this election year, but Joe's opposition to gay rights goes deeper: he believes the Supreme Court was wrong to overturn the Texas anti-sodomy law. As he stated in a sermon:

I am sure that many ministers will criticize the Supreme Court’s recent deplorable decision to overturn the laws of Texas with regard to Sodomy. It was a terrible decision partly because it gives governmental approval to sinful behavior. On an even larger scale, it is the wholesale destruction of representative government in America. The people of Texas passed that law. Only by inventing a “right to privacy” in Amendment 14 of the US Constitution were they able to overturn previous Supreme Court decisions and impose their own social views on us all. Nine judges rode into Texas, captured the Legislature, disarmed the police, and made two men sovereign over all others.

Subsequently, he said he did not believe homosexuality should be outlawed, but what is the difference between that and allowing states to outlaw homosexual activity between consenting adults?

In his July 4th sermon this year, Joe featured a picture of Bush and his cabinet solemnly praying together before a meeting, even Karl Rove. It was presented in the context of defending the idea of America as a Christian nation, yet another clear message that came through is that Bush is a man of God, that he has God on his side and we should support him. Although he cannot openly allow his church to campaign for a political candidate, Joe seems to cross that line here. Commenting on the upcoming election, he said:

I have never seen this level of motivation among the church people. They perceive a genuine threat to the American way of life, to the Christian way of life as they've known it in this country now for over 200 years. They see a genuine threat, and so they want to get involved. They're registering to vote in larger numbers than we've ever seen before.

And what is the way of life that is threatened? At the website of Joe's Washington Evangelicals for Responsible Government is a list of position papers, almost all of them concerning homosexuality, abortion, pornography, etc. One paper also opposed a state bill to outlaw school bullying. There are genuine differences between Bush and Kerry on these issues, also between Bush and his vice president (on a federal amendment to outlaw gay marriage). But what is sadly lacking in these various position papers is any reference to other moral issues that threaten our way of life. For example, the destruction of our environment for the benefit of corporate interests, the huge and increasing federal deficit largely because of tax cuts that mostly benefit the very wealthy, and many aspects of our war on terrorism and the war in Iraq, with the killing of civilians and the torture of prisoners, many of whom -- according to the International Red Cross -- were innocent of crimes. What happened to the Sermon on the Mount?

I remember Joe as a very intelligent and good person, and I am sure the same is true today. But it seems to me that he represents one end of the spectrum between those who believe our nation should indeed be one nation under a Christian God, and those who believe we live in a pluralistic society and recognize and appreciate a diversity of views. And I wonder how far he or other evangelical Christians want to go in opposing gay rights. Is it just gay marriage, or as the above passage indicates, does he want to outlaw homosexual practices altogether, or at least allow states such as Texas to do so? And about Iraq being part of a holy war, if that is the case it is of our own making. However brutal Saddam Hussein may have been, he was more secular than his neighoring rulers, and kept the Muslim extremists in check.

Recently, I saw a documentary on a local educational station on the rise of the religious right. Three scenes from the early 1970s struck me. One showed Bill Bright, and a song troupe of his organization Campus Crusade for Christ led by Pat Boone. The singers were dressed in a kind of 60s day-glow ersatz hip uniforms. They were trying to appeal to youth caught up in the hippie movement but they seemed kind of like robots. Then came on Bill Bright, with his pencil-thin mustache telling us how this new Jesus movement would supplant the anarchy of the counter-cultural movements with a real message of hope. I remember Campus Crusade for Christ, and was briefly involved with them, once sharing a leaflet titled "The Four Spiritual Laws" with strangers in a shopping mall.

Another scene in the documentary had quite a different flavor. This was of a 1974 protest movement started in a West Virginia school district over school textbooks that seemed too liberal. There may have been some legitimate grievances at the beginning, but the preacher-led protest quickly got out of hand, with violence (no one was killed), and a wildcat strike organized by miners. A wide range of books were considered unacceptable to these people. Many today still feel scarred by the conflict.

The third scene was of Billy Graham with then President Richard Nixon at Graham's Christian rally. That was a time when Graham was known for being close to U.S. presidents, particularly Republicans. After Watergate, Graham became shocked and disillusioned with Nixon, and in the late 1970s after visting Eastern Europe he came to urge a less confrontational approach in our relations with the Soviet bloc. To his credit, Graham's primary interest all his life has been in saving souls, not promoting a political agenda.

When I knew Joe back in 1971-72, the "Jesus people" movement in which we were both involved was a movement among young people, many of them burned out on the hippie movement, who felt an emptiness in their lives and sought to bring God into their lives and fellowship with others who had the same aspirations. At least on the surface, it was non-political. But even then the seeds were being planted for this movement to become integrated within a larger hardline politically conservative movement.

There are evangelical Christians such as Jimmy Carter or Sojourners community who still promote a more comprehensive and tolerant view of the role of the Christian in our society. It is unfortunate, though, that for most evangelical Christians, supporting a hard-right political agenda is considered God's way.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Voting without the facts

Also in today's New York Times is an op-ed piece by Bob Herbert, in which he speculates that ignorance is a major reason why Bush won, and suggests we should have teach-ins in order to make the American public better informed. He cites particularly a Univ. of Maryland study which found that "70 percent of President Bush's supporters believe the U.S. has come up with 'clear evidence' that Saddam Hussein was working closely with Al Qaeda."

Herbert also cites the comments of a Christian radio talk show host on the dangers of liberalism:

If you don't think this values thing has gotten out of control, consider the lead paragraph of an op-ed article that ran in The LA. Times on Friday. It was written by Frank Pastore, a former major league pitcher who is now a host on the Christian talk-radio station KKLA.
"Christians, in politics as in evangelism," said Mr. Pastore, "are not against people or the world. But we are against false ideas that hold good people captive. On Tuesday, this nation rejected liberalism, primarily because liberalism has been taken captive by the left. Since 1968, the left has taken millions captive, and we must help those Democrats who truly want to be free to actually break free of this evil ideology."
Mr. Pastore goes on to exhort Christian conservatives to reject any and all voices that might urge them "to compromise with the vanquished." How's that for values?

When the personal shouldn't be political

Gary Hart, the former presidential candidate, wrote a very thoughtful op-ed piece in today's New York Times on the dangers of mixing faith with politics in political campaigns. Raised in the Church of the Nazarene, Hart also points out that the Christian faith includes social justice and helping the poor, and it does not give the U.S. a mandate to invade Iraq or other countries.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Iraq and the state of the evidence

Human Rights Watch has released a detailed report, Iraq: State of the Evidence, commenting on the materials to be used in the upcoming trials of Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials accused of crimes against humanity. According to the report, much of the evidence was destroyed with the U.S. invasion because we did not take proper safeguards to secure the material.

In the chaos that ensued with the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, U.S.-led coalition forces, Iraqi opposition groups, and individuals seized hundreds of thousands of Iraqi state documents from government buildings, Ba`th Party headquarters, offices of the former intelligence and security apparatuses, military garrisons and other premises across Baghdad. Sensitive documents were later found in public buildings such as schools, as well as in private homes, apparently having been removed by officials of the former government, ostensibly for safe keeping, and then abandoned as military defeat became imminent. Similar scenes were witnessed in other cities and towns across the country. Former Iraqi government officials shredded, burned, or otherwise destroyed many documents during the preceding weeks, while countless others were destroyed as a result of the wartime aerial bombing campaign. The widespread looting and wanton destruction of government property by Iraqis in the days and weeks after the war led to further destruction of documents that had survived the war itself...

Despite the potential value of Iraqi state documents in yielding information that could assist in bringing to justice perpetrators of serious past crimes, U.S. and coalition authorities apparently put no effective plan in place to secure them in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Hussein government. While U.S.-led coalition forces claimed to have since seized very large numbers of documents, many others were pilfered, looted, or otherwise destroyed needlessly, resulting in the loss of potentially vital information. Some of this destruction took place in the context of the widespread general looting in Baghdad and elsewhere. In many cases, the looting was carried out within sight of coalition military forces, which had apparently received no instructions about securing government documents or protecting the premises in which they were found. Additionally, other documents that survived or were not subjected to looting in a number of locations lay strewn about for days and sometimes weeks without being taken into coalition custody.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Secrecy in the Bush administration

The House Committee on Government Reform - Minority Office, headed by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), released a report last September on secrecy in the Bush administration. The report finds that there has been "a consistent pattern in the Administration's actions: laws that are designed to promote public access to information have been undermined, while laws that authorize the government to withhold information or to operate in secret have repeatedly been expanded."

In the New York Times, Nov. 1, editorial observer Dorothy Samuels commented on the report:

The report lists many other troubling examples as well. Mr. Bush and his appointees have routinely impeded Congress's constitutionally prescribed oversight role by denying reasonable requests from senior members of Congressional committees for basic information. They forced a court fight over access to the Commerce Department's corrected census counts, for instance, withheld material relating to the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib and stonewalled attempts to collect information on meetings and phone conversations between Karl Rove, the presidential adviser, and executives of firms in which he owned stock. The administration has also taken to treating as top secret documents previously available under the Freedom of Information Act - going so far as to reverse the landmark act's presumption in favor of disclosure and to encourage agencies to withhold a broad, hazily defined universe of "sensitive but unclassified" information.

Under a phony banner of national security, Mr. Bush has reversed reasonable steps by the Clinton administration to narrow the government's capacity to classify documents. Aside from being extremely expensive, the predictably steep recent increase in decisions to classify information runs starkly counter to recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission geared to strengthening oversight of the intelligence agencies.

Not one for self-criticism - or any kind of criticism, for that matter - President Bush says he's content to leave it to historians to assess his presidential legacy. What he fails to mention is that he has seriously impeded that historical review by issuing a 2001 executive order repealing the presumption of public access to presidential papers embedded in the 1978 Presidential Records Act.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Post Election Blues

Continuing from yesterday, I went to the local Democratic offices, called some people in Florida, reading from a script, and left after about two hours. Not much, but I felt I had to do something, especially with all the emails I had been receiving over the last few months from various offices asking for my support.

As I was listening to Air America radio in the afternoon, the hosts and their guests seemed quite giddy from the exit polls. It appeared that Kerry was going to win decisively. But of course, things changed, and it was Bush who won.

So what went wrong, who is to blame, who should lead our party in the future? Some conservatives say there will be a civil war within the Republican party between old line conservatives and the neo-conservatives, the former feeling that their party has been hijacked. But turmoil will probably be stronger within the Democratic party. In fact, the party seems to be in a state of disarray. We lost big time.

Part of the problem is that "liberal" has become a dirty word in our national political scene. I chose the term "liberal values" for this blog, because it seems to me that really is the heart of the problem. The Republicans were seen by most voters as the party of values, the Democratic party the party of economic and foreign policy reform. The job ahead involves more than just finding the right candidate, or building up better organizations, it involves reaching out to the masses of people in the "red" states and convincing them of the moral values behind our positions, not just that it is in their self-interest to support us. We need to convince people that "liberal" has value as it did during the New Deal and the Civil Rights movement.

We also need to reach out to Republicans and conservatives who are becoming disaffected with various aspects of Bush's policies, and find ways to work with them. And there are a growing number of such people, likely to become ever larger if Bush pursues a hard right agenda.

In any case, the Republican party now has control over Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House. We are almost a one-party government at the federal level. So whatever goes wrong in our economy, our environment, or our foreign relations, Bush will have no one to blame but himself and his party. I am thinking particularly of Iraq.

Some predictions:

- Bush will cut back on government spending in order to bring the budget under control, and most of the slashing will be aimed at public and social welfare programs. But given the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Homeland Security, and permanent tax cuts, the main effect will be to hurt poor people, with little actual budget balancing.

- Iraq will further descend into anarchy, to be quelled only if Bush decides to bomb the smithereens out of the country or reinstitute the draft and send in more troops.

- Republicans will continue to minimize the role of Democrats in Congress and exclude them from various meetings that minority party members normally attend.

- Environmental destruction will increase as more land and sea is opened up to corporate interests. Less controls over pollution will lead to more public health problems.

- Bush will pick several Supreme Court justices and appoint a new Chief Justice.

Anyone want to add predictions?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Day II

I just voted. At my polling place in Berkeley, the line was not that long, but it took about 45 minutes before I could vote. Fortunately I had an election guide with me so I could read up more on the local measures and candidates. We had touchscreen voting. Unfortunately, my screen was green print on a turquoise background, so it was difficult to make out the smaller print. Since I had already checked off the names and measures on my sample ballot, I was able to get through it. But I complained to the volunteer there. She said my touch screen was the only one with this problem, the others were purple and black on a white background. But they were keeping it in use because there were so many voters. I wonder if there are other touchscreens around the country with this problem.

In any case, after a quick snack I will head off to the local Democratic offices to call some people in Ohio and Florida.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Election Day

I went to the local Democratic headquarters this evening to do some phone bank work. I did not do much, but hope to do more tomorrow. This is the kind of election where for many of us simply voting is not enough. Strong feelings exist on both sides.

The Kerry/Democrat side believes that President Bush has been a disaster as president and extremely short-sighted in policies such as the war in Iraq, the economy, environment and civil liberties, that these policies are extremely harmful to us and to our children and grandchildren.

The Republican/Bush side believes that Kerry is a traitor and that it would be a mortal sin to vote for him. I am exagerrating a little bit, but not by much. In fact, we have this highly organized and effective campaign by a group of Vietnam veterans and their non-veteran supporters to tear down Kerry on everything he did during the Vietnam war and in the antiwar movement. The latest charge is that he took his orders from Hanoi in advancing a peace proposal, that he is the Manchurian Candidate.

Then there are the few conservative Catholic bishops who have declared that it would be a mortal sin to vote for Kerry or anyone who does not accept the position of the Vatican on abortion. (And maybe gay marriage too.)

I canot recall in my lifetime ever witnessing a presidential candidate, or any candidate being attacked in this manner.
Whoever wins the election tomorrow will find it difficult to govern this nation while conducing a war in Iraq and trying to bring the deficit under control. If Kerry is elected, he will likely face a Republican congress; certainly the House will stay Republican, and probably the Senate too. That means, like Clinton, his biggest challenge will be to overcome the partisan hostility. He will be unlikely to achieve his more ambitious goals, such as health insurance, but he can turn our country away from the radical direction in which it is headed.

If Bush is elected, we can expect his policies to become stronger and more forceful, but in the wrong direction -- polluting our land, giving to the rich, perhaps more foreign wars, and greater threats to our civil liberties.

That is one of the main reasons to vote for Kerry -- not so much for what he will do but what he won't do. He will have to move more slowly than Bush; in a sense Kerry will prove himself to be more conservative than Bush if he is elected -- conservative in the genuine sense, not as the term has been abused by the Republican right.

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