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Showing posts from January, 2008

Debating Thoughts

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I must confess I didn't catch the Debate. I expect that this will be true of most Californians. I was out doing hospital visitations and eating dinner. Most Californians were probably on the road heading home for work. I guess I could watch a replay, but the big season opening episode of Lost is on tonight.


I've caught up with a couple of accountings of the debate. I enjoy the headlines. Yahoo says "Obama, Clinton trade Barbs." The NY Times puts it differently: One on One, Democrats Set Aim at G.O.P. Then there's the LA Times: Clinton Seeks to Upstage Obama in Hollywood Debate. CNN's Headline: "Clinton, Obama Debate with Less Fingerpointing."

So, from my headline spotting, it seems that this was a generally congenial debate, though it got "testy" at times. It doesn't seem like anyone made any big gaffs. So, we move on. I still think that by the end of Tuesday things will likely end in a draw. So, this thing is far from over…

More Obama Endorsements

In a week that gave us endorsements by Caroline and Ted Kennedy and Toni Morrison, now comes word of some more interesting ones. First there's the vote of confidence from a respected econimist -- former Fed chair, Paul Volker. Volker notes that he's been reluctant to venture into political waters, though he's a Democrat (having been appointed by Jimmy Carter in 1979 and serving until turning things over to Alan Greenspan in 1987). He concluded: “It is only Barack Obama, in his person, in his ideas, in his ability to understand and to articulate both our needs and our hopes that provide the potential for strong and fresh leadership. That leadership must begin here in America but it can also restore needed confidence in our vision, our strength, and our purposes right around the world.”
The question in the air concerns the opinions of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House. Although she maybe reluctant to speak openly, because of her unique position as Speaker, one could d…

Anti-Semitism, Old and New -- Sightings

Anti-Semitism has been a problem of long-standing in the Western World. It has led to pogroms and the Holocaust. It spurs stereotypes, discrimination, and violence. Sometimes it becomes deeply engrained in our societies, perhaps to the point that we don't even see it. In recent years there has been another issue that has difficulty -- the issue of Israel. Thus, we have, we're told, the old anti-Semitism, which is racially, culturally, religiously based, and a new anti-Smeitism, which is more an anti-Israeli position. Sarah Imhoff, suggests that the debate over the definitions has led to an ignoring of the ongoing persistence of the "old" Anti-Semitism, seen in the ADL poll that found that about 15% of Americans can be defined as distinctly anti-Semitic. As one who has strong friendships within the Jewish community and worked for the ADL, I stand with my friends. I'm a bit more ambivalent about Israel, but whatever our view of Isrrael, we need to hear this reminde…

Santa Barbara Imam Forced to Leave the Country

Back in 2001, on two occasions I had the opportunity to meet Abdur Rahman, then the recently arrived Imam for the Santa Barbara area Islamic Community. This was in the months prior to 9-11, and then when 9-11 occurred, I invited him to join in an interfaith service of Remembrance and Prayer. He graciously accepted that invitation, serving as one of three speakers. He would reprise that role a year later, and appeared at countless events interpreting Islam to our community. We had a number of opportunities to sit and share about our respective faiths. A relatively young man, he showed wisdom beyond his years. I consider him a friend and have appreciated his willingness to go where needed. Sometime last year he asked me to help him in an INS matter, which I did by sending a letter of reference. We hoped that his immigration status would be cleared up -- he had come into the country on a religious worker visa. Unfortunately the government has ruled against him and he must return t…

A Two Horse Race

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As we get ready to go into February 5th the process has winnowed the choices down to just a few on each side. On the GOP side, its down to three, though John McCain seems to have the upper hand. But more about that in a later post, perhaps.
It's on the Democratic side that things have gotten stark. John Edwards is dropping out today. He's not, apparently signaled his readiness to endorse anyone, so it's not known how this will affect things. It could help Obama or it might not. Edwards has largely drawn his support from white male union folk. The question is, where will they go. If Edwards offers an endorsement, that might help. If he were to endorse Obama, which I hope he'll do, that could be the edge Obama needs.
February 5th will not be decisive, but it could prove to be a catalyst for either candidate. Looking at the map, Obama doesn't need to win either California or New York, he just needs to do well. Besides these states there are lots to pick from. Illinois …

Changes in the the LDS Leadership

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Even as LDS member Mitt Romney battles John McCain for the nomination of the Republican party, Romney's church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- or the Mormons) is about to see a change in it's own leadership. With the death of President (and Prophet, Seer, and Revelator) Gordon B. Hinkley on Sunday (January 27, 2008) at the age of 97, a new leader will be anointed.
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, which keeps us in suspense, the LDS church has a simple method of selecting their next leader. No white smoke necessary, because the senior member of the Quorum of Apostles (not necessarily the oldest -- but the longest serving) is elected President. That next person is 80 year old Thomas Monson, a long standing fixture in the LDS church. The expectation is that Monson will continue Hinkley's policies that have tried to mainstream the LDS church. Whether totally successful, the LDS church has not only grown, it has become much more acceptable. Although some se…

Obfuscating on Waterboarding

In his Senate confirmation hearings, Michael Mukasey said he could answer the question of whether waterboarding is torture because he'd not read classified memos. Now he says he can't rule on this issue because it's not currently being used by the CIA. I'm sorry, but I don't quite understand. It is either torture and thus banned by US law or it's not. That there's disagreement on the part of a few Senators is hardly reason not to rule. He suggests that making a determination would signal to other nations what our methods of interrogation are. My response: why not tell the world that clearly inhumane actions will not be perpetrated by our country. I watched on DVD The Bourne Ultimatum the other night. Though fictional (I hope), the movie suggests a scenario where the CIA has essentially become a rogue agency, creating brainwashed agents of death, killing without conscience and without knowing why. Our nation's top judicial figures need to offer g…

WOW, Hillary wins uncontested primary

Hillary has shown us the kind of person she is. She likes the rules as long as they favor her, she doesn't like them when they don't. If she thinks that she'll need the Michigan and Florida delegations, both of which had been banned by the party from being seated, she will. The party says, don't campaign, but in Michigan she kept her name on the ballot and beat uncommitted and Dennis Kucinich. Now she's won Florida, again, a contest that is without value. She'll crow about her victory -- a non-victory. She winks at the ban, but of course got votes by saying I'll seat your delegation. Shame on You!!

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius Endorses Obama

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Yesterday it was Ted's turn, now, a day after delivering the Democratic response to George Bush's final State of the Union Address, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has endorsed Barack Obama.
Sebelius is an important endorsement for several reasons.
1. As a woman she is a reminder that one can be a woman and not support Hillary's campaign -- it's okay. This is the same as with Janet Napolitono of Arizona. 2. She is a Red State Governor, having been re-elected with 58% of the vote in a state with 27% Democratic registration, a state that hasn't voted Democratic in a Presidential election since LBJ. 3. She is the current head of the Democratic Governor's Association. In her second term, like Napolitono, she is a likely possibility for the VP sweepstakes. So, good news!!!

Clinton's Myth -- Black/Latino Disaffection

A while back a Clinton pollster and their Latino vote expert suggested that Latinos won't vote for a Black Candidate -- that there is historic disaffection. And not only didn't Hillary fire him, she agree with him. Gregory Rodriguez begs to differ with this analysis, which has since become "conventional wisdom." So why these statements about Latinos not voting for Blacks --which Rodriguez notes isn't true. Tom Bradley received large Hispanic majorities, as did David Dinkins in NY and Harold Washington in Chicago? So, given all this evidence, why did this notion get repeated so nonchalantly? For one, despite the focus on demographic changes in America, journalists' ignorance of the aspirations of Latino America is pretty remarkable. They just don't know much about the biggest minority in the nation. And two, no Latino organizations function in the way that, say, the Anti-Defamation League does for Jewish Americans. In other words, you can pretty much s…

Ted says Yes We Can

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As expected Ted Kennedy has given his endorsement to Barack Obama today -- standing with his niece Caroline and his son Patrick (D-RI).
Here is a brief clip from the LA Times account:


In a rousing speech at American University, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) called Obama, a freshman senator from Illinois, a leader "who can lift our spirits ... who has the power to truly inspire and make America great again."
While Ted Kennedy was offering his support to Obama, Bill Clinton further denigrated himself by casting Obama as simply the "Black Candidate" -- suggesting that he hadn't done anything different than Jesse Jackson. Excuse me but Obama's coalition is much larger, Jackson didn't win Iowa or come in a close second in New Hampshire. But this seems to be the Clinton strategy, divide and conquer -- quite Rovian, don't you think?
Wake up Democrats and smell the roses!!!! On February 5th stand up to politics as usual, politics that divides us against one a…

Virginia and Religious Freedom -- Sightings

Martin Marty is one of the most insightful interpreters of America's religious history. He will turn 80 shortly, so he has been a participant in much that has gone on these past four or five decades. And so when he speaks to the matter of faith and the Public Square, I do pay attention. Describing himself as not being a "strict" separationist, he none the less insists that America works best and has worked best when faith is voluntary and not imposed. Today he reflects on the Virginia "Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom," which was set forth in 1777 and became part of the Virginia Constitution in 1785. I think you'll find this informative, even if you're not in complete agreement. *************************


Sightings 1/28/08



Virginia and Religious Freedom
-- Martin E. Marty

In January of 1777 in Fredericksburg, Virginia, a committee met to revise Virginia's laws as it was becoming a state. Thomas Jefferson then and there drafted a "Bill f…

Yes We Can!!!!!!!

Barack Obama calls us forth to embrace the future, to believe that our divisions can be healed -- not that we will have uniformity, but that in our diversity we can find unity -- and in that unity we can overcome what is set before us. As he says in this stirring message, "change won't be easy," but change is possible.

He stirs us with the reminder of the choices standing before us. It isn't that there aren't other fine candidates, it is a question of perspective: "This election is about the past versus the future." And so, here we are called to embrace the message: YES WE CAN CHANGE!


A Pair of Kennedy Endorsements

In the wake of Barak Obama's overwhelming victory in South Carolina, a victory that was not only fueled by African-American voters but a significant number of white voters, both Caroline Kennedy (daughter of JFK) and Senator Ted Kennedy have endorsed or will endorse Obama's candidacy. This is a considerable coup for Obama. The Kennedy name still holds considerable power in the Democratic Party. Of course, Hillary will downplay this endorsement, but it will provide considerable heft in a number of primary states.

I especially appreciate the words of Caroline Kennedy in a NY Times editorial (the same paper, remember that endorsed Obama's rival). She opens by saying:

OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack O…

Affirming Life's Sanctity

Faith in the Public Square
Lompoc Record
January 28, 2008

There are several events that coincide with each other this month. There is the birthday of Martin Luther King, the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,” and something called “Sanctity of Life Sunday.” All of these events have come and gone, so I’m can’t invite you to join me in the observance. I mention these three events because I see in them a common thread; it is the attempt to uphold the value of life.
Martin Luther King sought to lift up those caught in deplorable conditions, whether brought on by racism, poverty, or war. The aim of “Sanctity of Life Sunday” is to highlight an anti-abortion message – though I consider myself pro-life, I also believe it’s appropriate to keep abortion as a legal option for those women who find themselves in difficult situations. Having said this, I believe strongly in the sanctity of human life. As for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – it might not seem to f…

Obama Wins South Carolina

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Taking 57% of the vote in South Carolina it would seem that Barack Obama won in a run away. Far back ran Hillary with 29% and Edwards with that 13% that he seems to be drawing everywhere he goes. The headlines will tell us that he won a racially charged election. But while Obama did take around 80% of the Black vote, he couldn't have taken 57% of the vote if he didn't have significant white votes as well.

We must be careful that we don't allow this to be about race and gender. No matter who wins the nomination or in November, that person must be the President of all Americans -- not just whites, blacks, Latinos, men, women, young or old. The Rovian message is divide and conquer. It may win elections, but it's not good for the nation.

So, I say to the press, the pundits, and to the Clinton camp especially -- watch what you say about this win.

So today, I'm thankful that my guy won. And I'm a white male in California! Update: 6:50 PST I just checked things again, an…

Family Values

Barak Obama's half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng speaks of her big brother, his growing up and his valuing of family. I think you 'll find it as informative as did I!



Thanks to Kentucky Fried Politics for clip.

Michelle Obama -- Obama's Secret Weapon

CNN commentators say, Michelle is a big asset, a bigger asset than the other leading candidate's spouse!


Is the Religious Right In Hibernation?

Many of us concerned about the over reach of the Religious Right have breathed a sigh of relief at its seeming demise. But perhaps we shouldn't relax too quickly. Philip Jenkins writes in an LA Times piece today entitled: "Apocalyptic politics: The religious right has splintered, but hard times could bring it back," that there are factors that could lead to its rebirth. We just don't know what form it might take. Jenkins points out that the Alliance with the Republican party has always been more one of convenience and therefore it's surprising it's lasted so long. The GOP tacked on Moral Values to its platform of military strength and economic leadership to create a sort of three headed dog. As you look at the current candidates none of them quite fit the profile. They're all over the map -- so things look in disarray. Economics is currently taking the front seat, and people are disturbed and confused about what's been happening the past 8 yea…

Two for the Price of One

Yesterday I took a break from my politically oriented blogging. I needed a respite so that I could keep my sanity. But that respite shouldn't lead you to believe I've given up on the political season, only that I need to keep my focus -- a focus on matters of faith. So, renewed, I look out at the situation before us. I've raised this concern before -- a concern about dynasties, something that isn't in line with the American sensibility. We're just finishing up with Bush 2, and so the question is -- do we want to return to the Clinton era. Now the Clinton era wasn't as bad as the current one, but it wasn't perfect. In fact, it was an era marked by political gridlock and ill will. We had a President who decided to govern by manipulating ideas of the other party. Bill and Hillary accuse Barack Obama of praising the GOP as the Party of Ideas, but if you think back to the 1990s, Bill Clinton adopted and reworked many of those ideas for his own benefit. I remembe…

Dispatches from Home

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Ah, to live in paradise, even in winter. Here it is, late January, and winter has come. Oh, I know, you who live in the Upper Midwest or New England, you who are shoveling snow out of your drive ways and all (I know what it's like, I've lived in snow country), my report of winter weather in Southern California won't impress you. Indeed, it's a study in contrasts. Atop this post is a picture from my street of the snow covered mountains behind us. And though it's cool (cold for us), here is a bird of paradise blooming colorfully in our midst. Such contrasts, it's one of the reasons why I must confess to enjoying living in this neck of the woods!

In the Confessional

I was thinking about things this morning. I thought about the name of this blog -- Ponderings on a Faith Journey -- and also the weekly column I write -- Faith in the Public Square -- for the local newspaper. And thought, a confession was in order. As I pondered things, I realized that by and large my recent posts have been heavily charged with political content -- more a "faith in the public square" kind of thing, than a "faith journey" thing. Michael Westmoreland-White is bound to agree! I'm a political junkie -- I'll admit to that -- though I'm more words than action. I've gotten into the debate, defended my candidate, took shots at the opponent. There's nothing wrong with that, but what about my faith journey? Now, I'll not be stopping the posting of political commentary, that's part of what I do here, but perhaps I should attend to the spiritual side of the journey a bit more. It's just that arguing politics is so fun -- …

The Experience Quotient!

One of the issues in the current Presidential campaign is experience. How much importance do we give to experience. Hillary has been making much hay about her greater level of experience as compared to Barack Obama. The question is -- how important is experience? And if experience is the most important criteria, then why are the three candidates left standing (yes I know that Dennis Kucinich hasn't dropped out yet) are the least experienced of the Democratic candidates who have run this year. Obama is starting his 4th year, Hillary her eighth. John Edwards served one six year term. How does that compare to those already discarded -- Dodd, Biden, Richardson and Gravel? And if Hillary wants to make experience her hallmark, she'd better hope John McCain isn't her opponent in November. Nicholas Kristoff has analyzed this question of experience in a NY Times op-ed, and noted that some of our greatest Presidents of the 20th century had little political experience. TR wa…

Emerging/Emergent -- What's the Church Coming too?

There are new voices emanating from the church -- some on the Evangelical side and some on the so-called "Mainline" side. We call this emerging or emergent, though what and who that is one can't easily defined.

Tony Jones is Coordinator of Emergent Village -- he's at least to some degree Evangelical and he talks about Emerging Church stuff. Marcus Borg also talks about emerging Christianity. The word is the same, but the meaning may not.

I just finished listening (finally) to the Emergent Conversation at the recent AAR meeting that included Tony, Diana Butler Bass and Scot McKnight. You can find the podcasts at the Emergent Village site. Here is the link for part 1. There were some fireworks -- but nothing like Obama and Clinton last night -- over the Mainline and its future. Tony doesn't have much faith in our survival, but Diana begs to differ. He's right in parts, but I think Diana has the best insights on this.

The Emergent Movement (Conversation) is an intr…

I'm No Geek!

I may spend my life at the computer -- mostly blogging (so my family says) -- and I like The Big Bang Theory (CBS) -- watch Star Trek. But according to one of those many quizes out there -- I'm not a Geek!

Whew! That's a relief.

23% GeekFree Louisiana Personals



In fact, I'm so ungeekish I'm not sure how to get rid of this Louisiana personals thing! But, with all that poltical stuff -- need a breather. Thanks to my friend Roy for his tip.

A South Carolina Slugfest

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I didn't watch the debate, but have caught snippets of it in the news. The parts highlighted of course are the points of strong personal disagreement between Obama and Clinton. I'm sure that viewers came away thinking nicer things about John Edwards, who seems to have had both a difficult time getting a word in and when he did tried to play the more mature partner in the "conversation."
I'm sure that supporters of both Obama and Clinton (and I'm supporting the former) look at this differently. Hillary says that Obama is speaking out of frustration because he's losing (you can see that she's back as the "establishment" pick -- which is probably good for Obama). But the reason he's frustrated is that he has the former President constantly attacking him. Hillary's comments about Michelle and Elizabeth also participating in this misses the point. Neither of them are the former President of the United States. But the real issue here is th…

Pipe Down Bill!!

I realize this an unprecedented event in our nation's history. The spouse of a former President is running for President. It's different even from the Father/Son relationship of the Bushes. If Hillary becomes President, the former Mr. President moves into the White House as well. And spouses generally stand by their partner in times like this. All the wives are campaigning hard for the husbands. In many ways Bill Clinton is in a no-win position. That being said (and yes I'm biased) the tone of his campaigning has been a problem. I like Bill and think that by and large he was a successful President, but he was known then and is known now to get a little out of control. His attacks on Barack Obama have been unseemly and un-Presidential. He may think it worth the price to use up his personal capital to support his wife, but I'm not alone in finding this problematic. According to a Newsweek article, a number of key party leaders, including Ted Kennedy have given …

Unity is the Great Need of the Hour

Here is Barack Obama's sermon from yesterday at Ebenezer Baptist Church. I say sermon, because that is what it is. It's a political speech, but it's rooted in Scripture and speaks of God's vision.

Take a listen:


Unfulfilled Dreams -- Thoughts for Martin Luther King Day 2008

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Unfulfilled Dreams — Thoughts for Martin Luther King Day --> Cross published at Faithfully Liberal.
By Pastor Bob Cornwall


It is Martin Luther King Day. I’m sitting at the computer, while my 17 year old son is participating in a rally. I could be there too – probably should be – but I’m letting the written word speak instead.
I went web surfing this morning, looking for something from Dr. King’s own words that I could share with you. I found a site that posted some of his sermons and found one entitled “Unfulfilled Dreams.” Now, we know his great speech of 1963, delivered on the Mall in Washington. It is a brilliant and powerful statement that carries the name – “I Have a Dream.” I quoted it and posted it on his birthday. In some ways, this sermon is the next chapter.
It’s a sermon he preached on March 3, 1968. That would have been my 10th birthday. At that point in my life, I don’t think I knew much about Dr. King. I didn’t know that in a few weeks after this sermon was delivered he …

Unjust War -- Sightings

The War in Iraq will soon conclude it's fifth year of engagement, longer for us than the Civil War, World War II, or WW I. I think many Americans hoped it would be kind of like the Spanish-American War. Quick in and out -- big victory -- Rah! Rah! Many of us, however, knew deep down that this wasn't going to be a short stop in Baghdad. Sure the initial combat phase might be quick -- we had the fire power, but we knew things wouldn't turn out well. Indeed, it didn't take long to see that this was true. Martin Marty speaks today of a new book by Andrew Greeley, a collection of columns dealing with the Iraq War entitled A Stupid, Unjust, and Criminal War: Iraq 2001-2007. Marty points out that Greeley isn't a pacifist and doesn't oppose war in general (he defends WWII as just), but as you can tell by the title, he doesn't deem the Iraq War to be in the same category. The point that Marty wants to make, as you'll see, isn't that we should all go out and re…

Obama's Words at King's Church

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Today Barack Obama was at Ebenezer Baptist Church -- Bill Clinton apparently will be there tomorrow, while Hillary was up at New York's Abyssinian Baptist Church getting an endorsement from the church's pastor.

Anyway, from Ben Smith's Politico Column, I was able to find a passage from Obama's remarks that is important. Although, like all politicians he's not immune from a little pandering, but for the most part Obama has been willing to speak truth to important constituencies. So, here it is:


For most of this country’s history, we in the African American community have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays – on the job, in the schools, in our health care system and in our criminal justice system. And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own commun…

Opening Our Eyes to Homelessness

Faith in the Public Square
Lompoc Record
January 20, 2008


“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). This is Jesus' description of his own living situation. If we take this passage at face value, it suggests that he was homeless.
A follower of Jesus, I've never known true homelessness. Living for a time in the Pasadena YMCA is as close to being homelessness as I've ever been. After paying the first month's rent, I had less than a $100 in my pocket and no job. My situation was difficult, but there were prospects for a job and a family who would have helped - even if they lived out-of-state. As brief as my stay on the edge of homelessness was, it gave me a glimpse into what it must be like to not know where the next meal will come from or not have a roof over one's head. It was only a glimpse, but for many it's a daily reality.
People are homeless for different reasons. Though incomprehensible to …

Division, Diversity, and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

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I'll admit it, I almost forgot about the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity." In fact, despite our strong commitment to Christian Unity, I can't say that this observance is strongly pushed. Here in Santa Barbara, it was one of my Catholic colleagues who would talk about it each year.
In this centennial observance of the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity," the question is why it is that ecumenism no longer seems to have the cache it once had?
Peter Steinfels notes that one reason might simply be that ecumenism is the victim of its own success. A century after the event was launched there is less urgency about inter-Christian efforts at unity. But besides being the victim of its own success, Steinfels offers 3 other reasons for the change of focus in a New York Times essay.
1. What was once seen as the scandal of division is now seen as the virtue of diversity. In other words, all that dialogue made the divisions look less like tribal warfare than different …