Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hillary Clinton's Former Pastor: White America Should Heed Jeremiah Wright

At the risk of keeping this old horse alive for the sole purpose of beating it to death, and at the further risk of playing into the hands of James Carville, Lanny Davis, Paul Begala, and the loathsome Terry McAuliffe, I'd like to invoke the name of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright one more time.

Right-wingers love to play (and play and play) that "God damn America" soundbite. But as many have pointed out, Jeremiah Wright was pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ for 36 years, and in that time said an awful lot of things that somehow never made it to the attention of the mainstream "liberal" media. Even the sermon in question -- the "God damn America" sermon -- is compelling when you listen to more than the six-second sound bite.

This is, however, a sound-bite world we're living in at the moment, and the right wing certainly knows how to exploit a good sound bite (exploitation, it must be said, is one of the right's areas of expertise). But Trinity's current pastor, Rev. Otis Moss III, skillfully defended both his Church and its former pastor by reminding anyone who is paying any attention (not the "liberal" media, of course) that reality is more than a six-second sound-bite:

Now comes word that Bill and Hillary Clinton's former pastor while in the White House, Dean J. Snyder, Senior Minister of the Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, DC, says that white Americans should listen carefully to Jeremiah Wright and heed his words. And we should not be so quick to distort the words of others for political gain.

Those of us who are white Americans would do well to listen carefully to Dr. Wright rather than to use a few of his quotes to polarize. This is a critical time in America's history as we seek to repent of our racism. No matter which candidates prevail, let us use this time to listen again to one another and not to distort one another's truth.

You can find his entire statement on the Foundry United Methodist Church's website.

The Crisis in Tibet

The crackdown against protestors in Tibet has led to the deaths of over 100 Tibetans, at the same time that the U.S. government has removed China from its list of top 10 human rights violators.

Tibet was illegally invaded and taken over by China in 1951. In 1959, The Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people, was forced to flee to India to escape impending imprisonment. Since then, the Chinese government has systematically closed Tibetan monasteries, pillaged the once pristine Tibetan countryside, and impose its own poiltical, cultural, and economic order upon the country.

What China has been doing in Tibet over the past 50 years is nothing short of cultural genocide. And yet, the world community--and the U.S government in particular--remains strangely silent. When it won the bid to host the 2008 summer Olympics, China made a promise to the world community to improve its human rights record. They clearly have reneged on this promise.

I think that the only thing that could possibly get the Chinese to grant a greater degree of autonomy to the Tibetan people is the threat of a boycott of this year's Olympics. I for one have
already contacted my elected officials in Congress and told them that I demand that the U.S. withdraw from the 2008 Olympics unless human rights abuses in Tibet are stopped immediately. If enough of us do this, the U.S. government might eventually be shamed into taking action on this extremely important issue.

Free Tibet Campaign

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Barack Obama for President

I've been thinking about this a lot, and I've come to a decision: For me, it's Obama, or no one.

I'm not kidding myself, deluding myself about the neglible impact this blog has: in about three and a half years, about 39,000 pages have been read by about 23,000 people, of whom 16,000 have returned at least once; several dozen people read the blog regularly, returning at an average of four per day. So what I'm about to say should not be read in the sense that I believe it will make any sort of difference. It's not about that. It's not about me. It is not about this blog. It is merely a statement of conviction.

Unless Hillary Clinton wins the not only the superdelegate count, but the delegate count, the greatest number of states, and the raw vote total, I will not vote for her in the upcoming election. I will not be a party (if you will) to the high-jacking of democracy. I've had it with political gamesmanship, horse races, strong-arm tactics, and cynicism. I think Bill Richardson has had it with all those things, too, and that's why he took an enormous chance (if Obama loses, does Richardson have much of a future in a Clinton-dominated Democratic Party?) and endorsed Barack Obama. I hope Al Gore, John Edwards, and more prominent Democrats do in the days to come.
If, at the end of this process, Hillary does legitimately win the Democratic nomination for Presdident of the United States of America, I will, of course, vote for her. Even though I thought Bill Clinton was only a good President and not a great one (and he was more a Republican than a Democratic President), I am not a mindless Clinton-hater. I voted for Hillary Clinton as my Senator when I lived in New York in 2000. And I felt proud and privileged to do so.
But if Hillary Clinton wins this nomination without the greatest number of votes, the greatest number of states, and the greatest number of delegates, but because of some residual power of the spineless DLC faction within the Democratic Party, because of deal-making and arm-breaking, because of the sort of back-room politics that tainted the Democratic image in the last century, you can count me out.
I will not vote for Hillary Clinton.
I've seen too much excitement in the Democratic Party in the last year -- too many new voters, too many younger voters, too many first-time voters, too many voters who were, not long ago, too jaded and cynical to even trust the system -- to have it destroyed by political maneuvering and shenanigans. To be sure, some of the excitement is the result of our first female candidate for President of the United States. But there is more than a little evidence (see, for example, here, here, and here) that her candidacy is getting help from Republicans who are mortally afraid of a Barack Obama candidacy.
But the numbers, as of now, are on Barack Obama's side. And that's where I am standing. If the numbers continue to favor Obama, but he is not nominated, I will not vote for McCain. I Will not vote for Hillary Clinton. I may vote for Ralph Nader.
Note: Please tell your Democratic Party leaders in your area that you don't want any nonsense. The nominee of the Democratic Party should be the person who wins the primary campaign -- the whole campaign. If you feel the way I do, that to give the nomination to anyone who doesn't win it outright is wrong, and that you won't vote for an illegitimate nominee, please tell them that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama Takes the Racial Bull by the Horn

It is a long address (37 minutes) but worth listening to in its entirety. Some significant excerpts:

The man I met more than twenty years ago (the Rev. Jeremiah Wright) is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much a she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

...we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies. We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

The man is exceptional and remarkable. I wonder if we are ready for him? I wonder if we deserve his leadership?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The REAL Story of the Primaries in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island

Okay. First things first. I am one-for-two regarding yesterday's primaries. I was wrong about this, although I still believe I am right about this.

But once again I think the "liberal" media are missing the big story of the day -- and, in fact, I think, of the year -- and that is the raw vote totals in these primaries (something I made note of right after the New Hampshire primary).

In Ohio yesterday, 1,203,924 Democrats voted for Hillary Clinton, and 976,368 for Barack Obama. The total Democratic vote was 2,180,292. On the GOP side, 632,575 Republicans voted for John McCain, 323,074 for Mike Huckabee, and 48,742 voted (for some reason) for Ron Paul. The total GOP vote was 1,004,391, less than half of the Democratic vote. Way less than half.

Now, this is significant because in 2000 (the last year there was a primary without an incumbent running for re-election) the Democratic vote total was 978,512. The Democratic candidates yesterday saw an increase in voters of over 110% from 2000. In 2000, the GOP vote total was 1,397,528. The Republican vote yesterday was down from 2000 by more than 390,000 votes. (Source for all 2000 data: The Federal Election Commission)

Even John McCain's vote total was down: in 2000, he garnered 516,790 votes, roughly 190,000 votes more than he received yesterday.

In Rhode Island yesterday, Clinton received 106,471 votes to Obama's 73,609, with another 1,012 uncommitted, totaling 181,092 Democratic votes. McCain got 17,342 votes, followed by Huckabee with 5,766, Paul with 1,761, and another 565 uncommitted, totaling 25,434 -- about one-seventh the Democratic vote.

In 2000, it was a lot closer. The GOP racked up more votes eight years ago -- 36,149, about 40% more than they received yesterday -- but the Democratic vote in 2000 totaled only 47,085. They increased their vote total yesterday by more than 300%.

And John McCain got about 4,000 fewer votes yesterday than he got in 2000.

In Texas last night, 1,452,776 Democrats voted for Clinton and 1,354,553 for Obama, totaling 2,807,329 Democratic votes, while 707,622 Republicans cast votes for McCain, 521,951 for Huckabee, 69,824 for Paul, and 17,611 went uncommitted, totaling 1,317,008 Republican votes, somewhat short of one-half the Democratic total.

In 2000, 786,890 voted for Democratic candidates, so last night's vote total represented an increase of more than 300% over eight years ago. In 2000, 1,126,757 Republicans voted, so they too saw an increase last night over eight years ago, but only of about 15%.

And finally in Vermont last night Obama won with 86,924 votes to Clinton's 56,456. Together, their vote total was 143,380. On the GOP side, 26,976 voted for McCain (less than a third of Obama's vote), 5,268 for Huckabee, and 2,490 for Paul, for a total of 34,734 (less than a quarter of the Democratic vote).

By the way, the twin headlines this morning from Vermont: "Obama wins with 59% of the vote" and "McCain wins with 72% of the vote." Gee. McCain did a lot better than Obama...

In 2000, by the way, the GOP kicked the Democrats' butts, receiving 81,355 votes (more than twice what they received yesterday) to the Democrats' 49,283.

The message is clear, and it becomes more clear with every primary vote: This election is the Democrats' to lose. The vast majority of the people want change. The Democratic party is energized and, frankly, the GOP is discouraged, disheartened, dis-spirited.

Now, the only question I have is this: