Friday, October 31, 2008

Thank You Martin Luther!

On this evening, exactly 491 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. The "95 Theses" concerned the sale of indulgences (forgiveness of sin in return for a certain amount of money) which, given his shift in theology, particularly his doctrine of salvation, Luther thought was reprehensible.

I have sort of resisted saying that this act "started" the Reformation because I usually like to give some credit to "pre-Reformation" reformers like Hus and Wycliffe. Nevertheless, Luther's protest against the sale of indulgences was the spark that was needed that set off the powder-keg in the 16th century called the Reformation.

And so, this evening, I think it is good to remember and celebrate the life and work of this great man, Martin Luther!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It Is a Sad Day For Me

I've been in a melancholy mood today. My mother and father are moving today from the home they have had since 1967 on Trexler Avenue in Rockwell, NC. They have made a decision to move to Aldersgate, a Methodist retirement center in Charlotte. They are getting along in age and although still healthy, they are thinking about the future. There are many reasons why this is the right thing to do. And, I have no doubt about that. In fact, their house sold in 1 week without even having to list it with a realtor! And that was in this current real estate market! It is the right thing for them. They will have a very nice apartment and when they need it, they can transition to a room in the nursing home. Furthermore, it is probably the last really big gift my parents can give to me and my sister (who lives in Charlotte). We will not have to be faced with the terrible question of "what do we do with daddy?" or "what do we do with mama?" So, this definitely is the right thing to do.

Still, I am sad today. For 41 years that little house on Trexler Avenue was my "home." There have been 41 Christmas gatherings there. From sleepy Christmas mornings that suddenly became magical when we realized that Santa had visited, to Christmases of recent years when "mom" and "dad" have become "maw-maw" and "paw-paw." I brought my first high school sweetheart over to that house to meet my parents. I brought friends from college home for weekend visits to that house. I brought my wife Pam to that house 20 years ago all the way from Texas to announce that we were getting married. Every inch of the backyard and the field beside our house still bears the marks of sandlot baseball or football games or lazy summer days playing with neighborhood friends. The walls in that house bespeak many, many happy times. There were also times when we cried together when grandma died or when granddaddy died and other deaths that touched our family. There were stressful times when mom and dad worried about how the next bill would get paid or how they were going to have the money to send my sister and me to college. But, overall, that house is testimony to a wonderful childhood with the best parents that I could have ever hoped for.

I dialed my parents' phone number last night for the last time. I wanted to see how mom and dad were doing. "I don't know if I'm going to get to bed at all tonight," my mother said. "There is still so much to do!" I'd heard those words before. Late nights doing laundry so that we would have clean clothes to wear. Late nights grading papers so her students would have an idea of how they were doing in her class. Late nights cooking for a church covered-dish lunch. Those words were familiar sounding. But, for me, calling the phone number for the last time was emotional. And, talking to momma over the phone was emotional as well. I remembered the week I went to basketball camp the summer of 1969 when I got so homesick that I had to put quarters in a pay phone and call momma. I remembered all the nights from college that I called home to share what was going on in this new academic community I had joined. I remembered calling from Texas so homesick when I first went to seminary in Fort Worth. I have a lifetime of memories calling that number.

A few weeks ago, I moved some furniture to our house which became bedroom suits for my daughters. I was last at the house a few days after that for some more things. I loaded up the van with as many of my dad's tools as I could get and carried them home to Buies Creek. As I put them all up in my toolshed last Saturday, I couldn't help but think that one day my daughters will be gathering my things and splitting them up as well. And one day my daughters will be saying good-bye to the old homeplace also. I guess that's how life goes. We move from one stage to another.

Still, I'm a bit melancholy today.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Elizabeth Dole's "godless" ad

Today, the Elizabeth Dole campaign put up an ad that is sleazy, makes false claims, and is beneath the dignity of a United States Senator. But, she's behind in the polls and facing possible defeat from State Senator Kay Hagin so the ad smacks of desperation. The fact that Elizabeth Dole is one of the least effective senators in North Carolina history should be what voters are focused on. The fact that even though she grew up in North Carolina, she has lived her adult life outside of the state except when she moved back here to run for Senate should be a matter for the voters to focus upon. The fact that during the six years she has been in the Senate she has hardly visited the state of North Carolina and done absolutely nothing for the state should be the focus of the voters. But instead, in order to hide a shameless lack of effectiveness as a senator, she pulls out a sleazy ad like this.

See the ad for yourself here:

Now for the facts:

(1) Kay Hagan is a devout Christian who teaches Sunday School and is an Elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro, NC. Furthermore, she lives out her faith in practical ways. A family tradition with her husband and children every Christmas morning is to go to the Bell House in Greensboro, a residential facility for severely mentally retarded adults where they cook Christmas morning breakfast for the residents and staff.

(2) The fundraiser in question was held in September and was hosted by more than 40 hosts including Senator John Kerry and furthermore, Hagan has never in her life heard of the "Godless PAC." This is more "guilt by association" that Republicans are playing as desperation "hail Mary" passes.

Don't let Elizabeth Dole get away with this sleaze. Vote for Kay Hagan and put a North Carolinian in the Senate who will truly work for our state.

Friday, October 17, 2008

John McCain "Pals Around" With Terrorists

Most intelligent Americans think that the McCain/Palin suggestion that Barack Obama "pals around with terrorists" (in reference to several professional contacts with William Ayers) is simply put, a bunch of horse hockey. The story has been investigated thoroughly by major, reputable investigative journalists and there is simply nothing there. Ayers does not advise Obama. Ayers is not going to have a role in his administration. He is, at the very most, simply someone that Obama knows from Chicago.

Using the McCain campaign's twisted "guilt by association" tactic though, let's talk about G. Gordon Liddy. Those of you that are my college students may not know who he is. He was one of the Watergate conspirators, in fact, the only one that was "unrepentant." He was a true believer in Nixon and what Nixon was doing in the White House. He was the chief operative of the "White House Plumbers" group organized out of the Nixon White House to do domestic and political "dirty tricks" on political opponents. Ultimately, this is where the Watergate break-in came from.

But let's look at bit closer at G. Gordon Liddy. He spent 4 1/2 years in prison for his role in the break-in. He is a convicted felon. Furthermore, he admits in his own autobiography that he once planned to assassinate liberal columnist Jack Anderson with his Watergate co-conspirator E. Howard Hunt. On his radio talk show during the seige on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco in 1993, he made this statement to the Branch Davidians, "Now if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms. Go for a head shot; they're going to be wearing bulletproof vests. ... Kill the sons of bitches." And, perhaps worst of all, he once conspired to fire-bomb the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. where the classified documents leaked by Daniel Ellsberg were being stored.

Yes, you heard it right. G. Gordon Liddy was convicted felon, Watergate conspirator, who plotted to kill another American and plotted to fire bomb a Washington, D. C. building. And, he advocated the use of violent force against the American government at the Waco Branch Davidian seige. There are other things about him as well. He is not a nice person to say the least!

And now the clincher. In 1998 G. Gordon Liddy hosted a fundraiser in his own home for the re-election campaign for ???? You got it! John McCain!!! (here's the source: Kamen, Al (March 9, 1998), "A Host With Conviction", The Washington Post: A17) And, over the years, he has referred to McCain as his "old friend" and has contributed thousands of dollars to McCain's campaigns, including at least $1000 in 2008.

So, if Barack Obama "pals around with terrorists" for his supposed association with a man who is a "domestic terrorist," what makes John McCain's association with G. Gordon Liddy any different?

(For a good source that pulls these facts together, see

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Need a Caption for This Picture

This photograph was captured last night at the end of the debate between Senators Obama and McCain. You supply the caption.

Friday, October 10, 2008

McCain Has Not a Shred of Decency Left

After a week of whipping up his supporters into a Nazi-style frenzy against Barack Obama, McCain has nothing but points lost in the polls to show for it. It has not helped his campaign at all. In fact, it has hurt his standing in the polls.

McCain has spent a week raising doubts about the character of Obama, a campaign tactic that is tried and true and quite frankly fair game. However, what McCain has done is that he has gone far beyond standard campaign rhetoric. He and Palin have manipulated the anger of their die-hard believers into focusing their wrath, not on the problems of the economy and how they were created, but on Barack Obama himself. They have done this by portraying him as a dark and sinister character who can't be trusted. They have played into the ignorance of the "low information voters," the folks out there who work hard, obey the laws, try to pay their bills, and have been hit hard by the economic woes. But nevertheless, these people are prone to believe the internet rumors and urban legends about Obama such as the outlandish claim that he is a Muslim. If people believe he's a Muslim, the McCain camp knew that it wouldn't take much to get them to connect the dots by associating him with William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. They have now, for this small segment of the electorate, created a dangerous brew of leading these people to believe that Obama is somehow un-American, an Arab, someone who consorts with terrorists, or even worse, a terrorist himself who is a part of an American sleeper cell.

This has got to stop. Bob Shrum today on the Huffington Post, has a good article about this. He recalls the McCarthy Hearings which ran out of steam when Boston attorney Joseph Welch said to McCarthy, "You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir? At long last have you left no sense of decency?"

Shrum says that someone should say those words to McCain. Indeed the wrath and anger generated at the McCain/Palin events could cause violence. That's why I say something "Nazi-like" is in a surreal way taking hold. Shrum ends his column tonight with this paragraph:

"The reality is that in an America facing two wars and a mounting economic crisis, these despicable appeals aren't working. Obama's lead is mounting, nationally and in the battleground states. But there is a threat here too that is all too real. When I heard someone in a Palin crowd yell out "traitor" as the candidate lashed out at the Democratic nominee, I thought of the full-page ad that appeared in a Dallas newspaper on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963. The headline -- "Wanted for Treason" -- was sprawled across a poster-sized photo of President John F. Kennedy." (Here's the link:

God help us!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"I Want My Country Back!"

As he did in 2004 for John Kerry, Bruce Springsteen is on a short tour through swing states working to get Barack Obama elected as president. Here's his short speech in Philadelphia this weekend. I don't know if it has an official title but I have titled it after a phrase in the speech: "I Want My Country Back!"

"Hello Philly,

"I am glad to be here today for this voter registration drive and for Barack Obama, the next President of the United States.

"I've spent 35 years writing about America, its people, and the meaning of the American Promise. The Promise that was handed down to us, right here in this city from our founding fathers, with one instruction: Do your best to make these things real. Opportunity, equality, social and economic justice, a fair shake for all of our citizens, the American idea, as a positive influence, around the world for a more just and peaceful existence. These are the things that give our lives hope, shape, and meaning. They are the ties that bind us together and give us faith in our contract with one another.

"I've spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. For many Americans, who are today losing their jobs, their homes, seeing their retirement funds disappear, who have no healthcare, or who have been abandoned in our inner cities. The distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful.

"I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. I believe he understands, in his heart, the cost of that distance, in blood and suffering, in the lives of everyday Americans. I believe as president, he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning. After the disastrous administration of the past 8 years, we need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project. In my job, I travel the world, and occasionally play big stadiums, just like Senator Obama. I've continued to find, wherever I go, America remains a repository of people's hopes, possibilities, and desires, and that despite the terrible erosion to our standing around the world, accomplished by our recent administration, we remain, for many, a house of dreams. One thousand George Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down.

"They will, however, be leaving office, dropping the national tragedies of Katrina, Iraq, and our financial crisis in our laps. Our sacred house of dreams has been abused, looted, and left in a terrible state of disrepair. It needs care; it needs saving, it needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for power or a quick buck. It needs strong arms, hearts, and minds. It needs someone with Senator Obama's understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again. But most importantly, it needs us. You and me. To build that house with the generosity that is at the heart of the American spirit. A house that is truer and big enough to contain the hopes and dreams of all of our fellow citizens. That is where our future lies. We will rise or fall as a people by our ability to accomplish this task. Now I don't know about you, but I want that dream back, I want my America back, I want my country back.

"So now is the time to stand with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves, and come on up for the rising."

Monday, October 06, 2008

McCain and Palin Clearly on the Dark Side

John McCain's campaign is looking more and more desperate. It has been happening ever since he made the statement that the "fundamentals of our economy are strong," then spent the rest of the week bouncing around the economic issue like a pinball bouncing off of rubber bumpers before it finally slides by the flippers. Quite frankly, two weeks ago, McCain scared me to death. At the end of the week, desperate to gain the "upper hand" on the economy issue, he suspended his campaign to go back to D.C. and whip up the Congress into action. Some leader! After he'd been there for a day, one Senator publically begged President Bush to tell John McCain to go back on the campaign trail so that they could get some work done.

So, here we are two weeks later. McCain's dream of being president is clearly slipping away from him. Independents are now polling toward Obama in large numbers. Obama now has a solid lead in all the "Kerry" states and he could possibly turn some solid red states into battleground states. This weekend, Sarah Palin was in Nebraska of all places. When a Republican v.p. candidate has to campaign in Nebraska 30 days before the election, you can bet the party is in trouble.

And then she started the talk about William Ayers. She finally read a newspaper, the New York Times, and saw the story about Obama's very casual connection with Ayers, a 1960s radical who is now a citizen in Chicago. Did he do some very bad things in the 1960s? Yes? Should he have been prosecuted? Yes. But the fact is that (1) He hasn't done any "terrorist" acts in at least 40 years and (2) There is no evidence that Obama has anything more than a casual acquaintance with him. So, here's what Governor "Perky" said about him:
"Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country." And then she said this: "This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America."

Do you see what's happening here? They are trying to create suspicion about Obama. They are trying to create a narrative about him. They are trying to "swiftboat" him. By saying that he's connected to a 1960s radical, (a terrorist) they lead people to go mentally to his name "Barack Hussein Obama." That then leads to the Jeremiah Wright stuff with the thought that maybe Obama "hates his country." Or, perhaps it plays into the silly paranoia that he's really a Muslim.

Sarah Palin ought to be ashamed of herself. This is sleaze to the power of 10! The McCain Campaign is out of options. So they are slinging mud against the wall hoping something will stick. Here's the thing. Our nation is in perhaps the worst potential crisis of my lifetime. We are fighting a war on two fronts that has no end in sight. Our economy is very close to a deep recession, if not depression. The Dow fell today more than 800 points. People are losing their jobs. Banks are failing. And instead of the McCain Campaign inspiring the electorate with hope. Instead of making voters feel like as Americans we can be strong again. Instead of offering solutions and reasons why they should vote for him, McCain and his surrogates spend the last 3 days talking about a 1960s radical who did dispicable acts when Obama was 8 years old! Talk about out of touch!

Here's what Barack Obama ought to do tomorrow night in the debate. He needs to find the moment when this crap about Ayers comes up. And he ought to say this:

"John, you and I have served together in the U.S. Senate for several years now. We are colleagues. Are you saying that you truly believe that I have been consorting with terrorists who want to destroy our country? Do you stand by that statement? If so, that is a monumental charge to make against a fellow U.S. Senator duly elected by the state of Illinois. If you truly believe this, why are you not calling for hearings? And if William Ayers is so dangerous, why has not the Department of Homeland Security called him in for questioning under the Patriot Act? Do you truly believe this about me? Do you stand by those comments?"

That would put McCain on the defensive and it would electrify the press. Tomorrow's debate should be interesting.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

McCain Missed a "Golden Opportunity"

Last night, the Senate passed the "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008." That is the formal name of the "Bailout" package that Congress has been working on since last week.

If you read my blog, you will know that I am a partisan Democrat. I just need to say though that I am outraged at what happened last night. The bill was "sweetened" with more than $100 billion in tax cuts mostly for businesses and the middle class. In other words, "PORK!" Now, I am not opposed to tax cuts for the Middle Class and for small business. Neither is Barack Obama. But such things had no place in this bill! Let's get the economy working again and then talk about such things.

Have you heard of some of the things in the "sweetener?" Tax breaks for rum producers in Puerto-Rico and the Virgin Islands? It's in there! "Exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for use by children." That is actual language in the bill! Amazing!

But, here's the big picture. If John McCain was truly the "Maverick." If he truly wanted to "shake up Washington" and "take a pen to earmarks." If McCain truly wanted to cut spending, why did he vote "yes" for this bill?

I know we needed some kind of bill to get credit flowing again. And, I'm upset about the pork in this bill. But, wouldn't it have completely shaken up the campaign if last night McCain would have come into the well of the Senate and said something like this:

"My friends, I rise today to register my disapproval of the pork that is in this bill. At the time when our nation is suffering its worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, when the nation is looking to us for leadership, we want to pass a bill with $100 billion of extra spending. I have been campaigning all over the country and telling the nation that when I become president I am going to cut out the wasteful spending in Washington. Well, I'm starting right now by voting against this bill and its pork. And, I call on you Senator Obama to do the same!"

Now, I'm an Obama supporter. But, a speech like that would have been a game changer for McCain. It would have put Obama on the defensive and the press would have still been talking about it today. But McCain missed it. Once again, a sign that he is not what he says he is. McCain is not a Washington outsider (like he's been trying to tell everyone).

So, you take away McCain's "Maverick" persona, what do you have left? An angry old man with 20th century solutions to 21st century problems.