The Joys and Sorrows
of U. S.
News and comments on
Election 2008 >>
Stories on U.S. politics from 2006 are archived >>
Items from 2003 through 2005 are
archived on their own page.
Presbyterians urged to register for Ecumenical Advocacy
from the Washington Office of
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),
February 22, 2009
The eighth annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days gathering
will take place in Washington DC March 19-22, 2010.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) helped to found
this event and continues to provide leadership, each
year registering over 100 participants, including
many youth and young adult attendees. Presbyterians
attending Advocacy Days will have several
opportunities for denominational networking and
community-building, including a lunchtime meeting on
Saturday and a dinner on Saturday night.
The theme for this year's conference is "A Place to
Call Home: Immigrants, Refugees, and Displaced
Peoples". Policy makers, expert speakers and
representatives from global regions will join church
leaders and grassroots activists in reflecting on
this theme, while a variety of workshops and
training sessions will focus on shaping U.S.
immigration and refugee policies and doing advocacy
at home on these topics. The program will also
include visits to Capitol Hill and meetings with
Members of Congress and their staffs.
Speakers and preachers confirmed to date include:
|The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister
and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of
Christ) and a member of President Obama's Advisory
Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood
|Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the United Methodist
Church Desert Southwest Conference; and|
|Sister Helen Prejean, Anti-Death Penalty
Activist and author of Dead Man Walking.|
In addition, D. Paul Monteiro,
Associate Director of the White House Office on
Public Engagement, will be speaking at the
Presbyterian Dinner, Saturday, March 20th,
6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a program
of the ecumenical Christian community and its
recognized partners and allies which is grounded in
biblical witness and shared traditions of justice,
peace and the integrity of creation. Its goal,
through worship, theological reflection and
opportunities for learning and witness, is to
strengthen the Christian voice of citizens mobilized
for advocacy on a wide variety of U.S. domestic and
international policy issues.
Registration and more information
about Ecumenical Advocacy Days is at
http://www.advocacydays.org on the Web. You may
also contact Mary Cooper at the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) Washington Office,
if you have specific questions.
|Don’t Forget to
Register for Ecumenical Advocacy Days
From Witness in Washington Weekly, published by
the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),
February 11, 2009
Register Now for
Ecumenical Advocacy Days -
"Enough for All Creation" - March 13-16
"The Thief comes only to steal and kill and
destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
Join us at the 7th annual Ecumenical Advocacy
Days, as we explore ways to bring about a world with Enough for All
Creation. Learn about the connections between climate change,
migration and poverty in the U.S. and around the world. Come
together with faith-based advocates and activists from across the
United States in the nation's capitol March 13-16 as we discuss the
abundance of our world and how it can be allocated in a way that is
fair and just for all creation.
We live in an increasingly interconnected world
and have an enormous impact on each other and creation. As the
earth's temperature rises we see a strain on resources. Food, while
plentiful for some, is desperately scarce for others. Lack of clean
water makes children sick and burdens women. Global warming and
growing resource deprivation forces some people to migrate and
others to wage war over food, water and oil. Our increasingly
co-dependent economies lift a few individuals up to great heights
while keeping others living lives of destitution.
This year, Presbyterian delegates will again have
the opportunity to gather for dinner on Saturday night, as well as
for lunch and a special “denominational” time earlier that day.
Don’t miss it!
For more information and registration go to
|A letter to Obama calls for human rights action
Human rights leader and professor urges Obama:
“.... you must act quickly and decisively if you are to get human
rights back on track.” [11-20-08]
Julie Mertus is a Foreign Policy In Focus
contributor, a professor at American University, and the author of
the award-winning book Bait and Switch: Human Rights and U.S.
Foreign Policy (2nd ed. 2008). She is also a member of Towson
(MD) Presbyterian Church.
She urges in president-elect to take four concrete
steps to restore the standing of the U.S. as a supporter of human
|“Create a relationship with U.S.-based human
|“Repair your relationship with human rights
bodies at the United Nations.”|
|“Do something that unequivocally demonstrates
that the United States will no longer act as if it is above
|“In your first week in office, get out your
pen and begin signing some long overdue international human
For the full text of her letter >>
Thanks to Witherspoon member Mary Louise Ellenberger,
of Glen Arm, Maryland, for this suggestion.
Pondering a Forbidden Possibility
Gene TeSelle takes on a subject that's being
discussed frequently, but that many of us would prefer to ignore:
The many expressions of hatred toward president-elect Barack Obama
and those who support him, based largely on racial resentments and
TeSelle views these threats as part of a wider effort
to "delegitimize" Obama as the newly elected leader of the U.S.
We encourage you to read his essay, consider how well
it does or doesn't match your own impressions of our society today,
and offer thoughts about ways communities of faith might respond to
this climate of fear and threat.
|Greed gets blamed for our Wall Street woes
– but hey, is it really that bad?
Everybody is blaming greed for our
current financial crisis. But if you’d like to think a little more
deeply about the subject of greed, you might take a look at a blog
on the Utne website, which gathers together bits from a number of
perspectives, and links you to them the original sources – including
Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun, and Dr. Rebecca Blank, who says in
an interview on Religion & Ethics Newsweekly that greed does have
its value, too.
Click here for the story and the links >>
|America’s values are changing — and will change
our politics [9-18-08]
Writing on the Op Ed page of the New York Times,
Mark Mellman, who is a Democratic pollster, says:
Voters not only express a desire for change in the
coming election, they themselves have changed, and their shifting
values are likely to alter the course of future policy debates.
For more than 25 years, three core questions have
animated our political discourse:
• What should be the role of government?
• Should moral absolutism or moral relativism
guide our actions?
• Should our foreign policy primarily pursue
unilateral interest through military power or a multilateral
approach grounded in diplomacy?
Almost every major policy controversy in the past
quarter-century involved at least one of these fundamental values;
more often than not, conservatives prevailed by convincing Americans
that their positions were in sync with voters’ ideals.
But it could be different in 2009 and beyond.
Public commitments have shifted, most profoundly on the role of
government, but also on morality and unilateralism — transforming
the trajectory future policy disputes will follow.
The rest of his essay >>
|Has McCain been studying Napoleon on scamming
working people? [9-9-08]
Berry Craig, long-time Witherspoon member and
frequent contributor to this website, has just sent an interesting
reflection on John McCain’s use of religion to oppose labor rights –
and compares him to Napoleon in the process.
His essay >>
|Two comments to brighten the current campaign
Two friends have
shared with us this observation. One reports seeing it as a bumper
sticker, the other as a comment from a community organizer:
Jesus was a community
Pontius Pilate was a Governor.
And a for a painfully funny little video in the
style of the “jib-jabbing” of a couple years ago, take a look at
time for some campaignin’ ”
|With John McCain’s choice of Gov. Sarah Palin as
his running mate, 'creation science' enters the race
In October, 2006,
the Anchorage Daily News reported on Republican Sarah Palin’s
affirmation that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in
the state's public classrooms.
Here's the story >>
Thanks to John Shuck, and to The Clergy Letter
Project, for calling attention to this interesting bit of
Washington Report to Presbyterians July-August issue highlights ...
The Hospitality of Housing Policy
Is not this the
fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the
thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break
every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and
bring the homeless poor into your house? - Isaiah 58:6-7a
The stories of the
Hebrew Bible place a tremendous emphasis on the idea of place – of
having a place to call home. It is not such a surprise, really – it
is a collection of stories produced by the descendants of people who
wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Of course home was
important to them. And likewise, the concept of hospitality, of
inviting others into their homes, was a foundation of society,
because they had once been strangers / sojourners / resident aliens
/ immigrants / refugees, and they knew what it felt like to be
strangers in a strange land.
returns as a central theme in the ministry of Jesus, the length of
which is marked by acts of hospitality. His hospitality knows no
bounds as he welcomes those at the margins of society. He shares
meals and communes with those to whom no one else will even speak.
The conduct of his own ministry is dependent upon the hospitality of
others. Think of all the events that take place in people’s homes.
Both the hospitality of Jesus and the hospitality that Jesus
receives are pervasive and enabling throughout the Gospels.
The Rationale for the
218th General Assembly’s (2008) new statement, “From Homelessness to
Hope” discusses God’s hospitality:
God makes a home
and a place for all at the table, but humans, through sin, have
excluded particular groups of people… Due to human sin,
hospitality too often becomes a matter of sharing our crumbs
rather than offering an abundant loaf… In contrast, true
hospitality is equated with justice. Each person is provided not
only a chair and a meal, but a bed and a place of shelter,
indeed the opportunity to become an ongoing part of the
community. True hospitality requires emancipation of slaves and
economic redistribution, so all may find a place to be at home.
Click here for the full GA statement >>
question of hospitality for the stranger is a question for the
church, but what about U.S. national policy? The question of U.S.
hospitality is the concern of this Washington Report to
Presbyterians. Whether the issues concern immigration and family
reunification, refugee policy, or the homelessness and affordable
housing crisis at home, U.S. policies have much for which to answer
when it comes to hospitality.
The July-August issue
of Washington Report to Presbyterians provides very helpful
surveys of three areas in which Christians are discerning the call
to welcome the stranger and the homeless:
Also -- plan for
ECUMENICAL ADVOCACY DAYS – "Enough for All Creation”
The program for
Ecumenical Advocacy Days (March 13-16, 2009) will focus on the
world’s abundance and how it can be allocated to address concerns
regarding climate change, immigration and migration, and poverty.
Religious advocates and activists will gather in Washington DC for
worship, issue briefings, workshops, advocacy skills training, and
lobbying with Congress. Information and registration forms will be
available soon at
And -- join the Washington Report e-list!
If you want to
receive Washington Report to Presbyterians,
just click here.
you’d like to receive it electronically, send your name, mail
address and email address to
Members who subscribe electronically to Washington Report will also
receive Witness in Washington Weekly, an online weekly update of
legislation before Congress, with related Presbyterian policy and
links to more information.
Mix of politics, religion appears a recipe for disaster
Peter S. Canellos,
Washington bureau chief for the Boston Globe, takes another
look at the current mixing of religion with politics, and sees a
fairly ugly picture. He begins:
The 2008 primary election campaign began with
candidates scrambling to embrace religious leaders, and it's
ending with candidates rushing to repudiate them. An election
cycle that was supposed to usher in the marriage of religion and
politics may be hastening its divorce.
From the evangelical ministers who questioned
the fitness of a Mormon to be president, to the religious-right
activists who denounced John McCain as godless, to the
McCain-backing radio preacher who said Hitler was fulfilling
God's will, to Barack Obama's longtime minister who blamed the
United States for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to
Obama's Catholic adviser who last week mocked Hillary Clinton,
the clergy haven't just made a bad show of it: They've behaved
like small-minded bigots.
These preachers have managed the amazing feat
of making all the politicians involved in the campaign seem, by
comparison, more tolerant, more reasonable, and less
What do you think?
Please send a note
with your own analysis of the faith-and-politics issue
as you see it today --
and we'll share it here.
Witness in Washington Weekly
April 21, 2008
Find helpful information for expressing your views
to Congress on:
with other nations in the Middle East to move toward peace in
pay for women|
still unconcluded Farm Bill debate|
For more on any
of these issues,
scroll down to the link for April 21, and download the newsletter in
This very helpful newsletter is published by the
Washington Office of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Isaiah 42:1-4 - The Servant, a Light to the Nations
Here is my servant, whom
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a
month away! [2-11-08]
The 2008 Advocacy Days: Claiming a Vision of
True Security is March 7 – 10. Don’t forget to register for
Ecumenical Advocacy Days before the cost of registration
increases on Feb. 15. Visit
http://www.advocacydays.org to register today. Room rates at
the conference hotel will increase on the 11th. Please book them
now! Visit the website above for more information.
This year’s conference promises to be an
exciting event. The vision statement states, “As people of faith
and hope, we believe our nation is entering – and must enter --
an era of renewal and re-creation. The conviction is now
widespread that it is time to envision and act on a new pathway
to true human security – one which seeks not only the absence of
tension, but the presence of justice (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr.) The 2008 Ecumenical Advocacy Days assembly will
explore new visions of security in our homes, neighborhoods,
nation and world.” More
information below >>
Wars, Lies, and
Google’s News service to
get a fresh page of news headlines on my laptop every day,
updated through the day. I get reports on US and international
news, medicine, business, the arts and entertainment (today, yet
again, featuring Britney Spears), the PCUSA, and various other
topics. This morning’s news provided a trio of stories right
next to each other, that I feel compelled to share with you all.
First, the New
York Times report headlined:
Assembles U.S. Prewar Claims
how the Bush administration led the nation into the Iraq war
can now go online to browse a comprehensive database of top
officials’ statements before the invasion, connecting the
dots between hundreds of claims, mostly discredited since
then, linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda or warning that he
possessed forbidden weapons.
The database is
The rest of the Times' story >>
that was the headline from Alaska Report, leading
a brief report on the same database. The headline -- a
little less subtle than the Times', read:
administration officially called liars over Iraq
And in the column
right next to them was the headline for a very long Wall
Street Journal article by Norman Podhoretz, one of the
leading “neo-con” figures behind Administration policies for
invading Iraq, next Iran, and then who knows? He is
Editor-at-Large of Commentary magazine. His new book is
entitled World War IV: The Long Struggle Against
column is titled:
The full essay >>
Why the case for military action still stands.
wonders of the World Wide Web.
an ugly word.
Rabbi Jack Moline, The Board
Chair of The Interfaith Alliance, offers some cautions on the
way legitimate concerns about the faith of presidential
candidates are easily being exploited into scurrilous attacks.
Those attacks, he says, are often effective because they exploit
the bigotry that is still part of our national culture.
One Nation, Many
Click here for the Interfaith Alliance website.
Bigotry is an ugly word, beyond prejudice and
stereotype. So I want to make it clear that I have chosen it
purposely, knowing that some people who read this message will
be insulted. To be clear again: the insult is intentional.
Religious belief has emerged as a central
issue in the campaign for president, though it has been just
below the surface for many years in local, state and national
contests. As the chair of The Interfaith Alliance and as a
congregational rabbi in Virginia, I have a particular interest
in this issue. It is right and proper to understand what role
deeply-held convictions will play in the decision-making of a
candidate for public office. A candidate who makes a point of
his or her religious life should be expected to respond to
questions about the intersection of public policy and the tenets
of a tradition. Virginia's current governor, a devout Catholic,
addressed just such questions surrounding the state's death
Likewise, integrity and credibility ought to
be central to public service. While it is not always the case,
in the race for president, there is ample evidence in each
candidate's record that the men and woman running for the
highest office in the land have little to hide. Moreover, what
little there may be to hide is almost certain to be ferreted out
by responsible journalists and investigators. Recall the failed
candidacy of Senator Gary Hart and the resignation of Vice
President Spiro Agnew.
A phenomenon that violates both sensibilities
while pretending to promote each one has emerged in a campaign
that includes a group of candidates whose backgrounds are as
diverse as America. Governor Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister,
Governor Mitt Romney, a Mormon, and Senator Barack Obama, who is
part African and whose father and step-father were Muslim, have
been subjected to wild speculations about the extreme nature of
their true beliefs and accused publicly of concealing their
genuine loyalties. Senator John McCain and Senator Hillary
Clinton have been challenged on their "religious credentials."
The kernel of accuracy in these public broadsides does not
excuse the exaggerations, fabrications and manipulations of the
truth within them. They constitute hate crimes and would be
treated as such if leveled against you and me in our private
Of greatest concern to The Interfaith Alliance
is the fertile soil these attacks have found around the country.
From my own vantage point within the Jewish community, I have
seen my rabbinic colleagues asking about documents circulated by
groups claiming to be disinterested politically that call into
question the RELIGIOUS beliefs and identities of the candidates,
with the overt purpose of frightening Jewish voters. The
candidates, Republican and Democratic alike, have been accused
of supporting proselytization from the White House, polygamy,
Wahabi-sponsored terrorism, and the eventual disenfranchisement
of Jews from the benefits of United States citizenship.
Generally written in breathless style and
peppered with quotations from people of renown taken out of
context, these attacks are as objectionable to people of
conscience as the notorious "Sturmer" of pre-WWII Germany, which
caricatured the Jews and "proved" their untrustworthiness and
corrosive influence on society.
If you write such material, you are a
criminal. If you distribute such material, you are an
accomplice. And if you believe such obvious tripe, you are a
Support the candidate of your choice. Vote as
if your life depended on it. Donate time, money and advocacy to
the causes you endorse. But the life of the body politic is a
dirty enough business as it is. Do not sully it further with sin
of bearing false witness.
And now that I have insulted some of you,
allow me to insult the rest of you: broadsides like these are
being distributed because of the presumption that they will have
resonance. Too many in this country have been thoroughly
effective at communicating our distrust of Mormons, or Islam or
atheists or evangelical Christians, the list goes on. The result
is that political operatives sense fertile ground for exploiting
our prejudices to their advantage. I ask that if you see similar
materials distributed in your communities,
let The Interfaith Alliance know so that we are prepared to
respond when necessary.
We have some deep self-reflection to
undertake. And we have some changes in behavior to consider. As
I think about the history of the Jewish community, I recall that
we felt secure only when reassured by the first president of the
United States that America offers "to bigotry no sanction, to
persecution no assistance." Every faith community needs that
reassurance. But the standard must be private as well as public.
Rabbi Jack Moline
The Interfaith Alliance
The Evangelical Rebellion
Hedges, who graduated from Harvard Divinity School and is the
author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War
on America, analyzes the rise of Mike Huckabee’s standing in
the Republican primary campaign as showing “a seismic shift in
the tactics, ideology and direction of the radical Christian
Huckabee may stumble and falter in later primaries, but his
right-wing Christian populism is here to stay. Huckabee
represents a new and potent force in American politics, and
the neocons and corporate elite, who once viewed the yahoos
of the Christian right as the useful idiots, are now
confronted with the fact that they themselves are the ones
who have been taken for a ride. Members of the Christian
right, recruited into the Republican Party and manipulated
to vote against their own interests around the issues of
abortion and family values, are in rebellion. They are
taking the party into new, uncharted territory. And they
presage, especially with looming economic turmoil, the rise
of a mass movement that could demolish what is left of
American democracy and set the stage for a Christian
The full story >>
Why the Democrats could lose in 2008:
Pragmatism is not enough
Faith-based progressive groups such as the
Spiritual Progressives and
Sojourners have been developing political voices proclaiming
(in the tradition of the prophets) ridiculously unpragmatic
values such as justice and decency and human rights and mutual
respect. Now Robert Parry, author of the new book
Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the
Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq,
is developing a very similar critique of the current campaigns
of the Democratic Party candidates.
Voters want more
than a few new (or revived) social programs, he argues. They
want a clear reaffirmation of constitutional values and human
rights, respect for the values of truth and accountability, and
real steps toward peace.
He concludes: “More than anything, many in the Democratic base
want to send a message to the Democratic leadership that
–regardless of what the professional pollsters might say --
principles do matter to Americans.”
The full essay
An Overdose of Public Piety
Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer criticizes what he
considers the excessive use of religious rhetoric in the current
campaigns, noting that “there's nothing wrong with having a
spirited debate on the place of religion in politics. But the
candidates are confusing two arguments. The first, which
conservatives are winning, is defending the legitimacy of
religion in the public square. The second, which conservatives
are bound to lose, is proclaiming the privileged status of
religion in political life.”
declares, "Freedom and religion endure together, or perish
opens his speech at his South Carolina Oprah rally with
"Giving all praise and honor to God. Look at the day that
the Lord has made."
explains his surge in the polls thus: "There's only one
explanation for it, and it's not a human one. It's the same
power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves
feed a crowd of 5,000 people."
This campaign is knee-deep in religion, and it's only going
to get worse. I'd thought that the limits of professed
public piety had already been achieved during the Republican
debate when some squirrelly looking guy held up a Bible and
asked, "Do you believe every word of this book?" – and not
one candidate dared reply: None of your damn business.
whole article >>
God, guns, gays, gambling and a
Are the old appeals losing their fright
By Berry Craig
Mayfield, KY. -- It was almost election day,
and Ernie Fletcher, Kentucky's Republican governor, was way
behind in the polls.
Some of the GOP faithful rallied in Lexington,
his hometown. They were hungry for rhetorical red meat. They got
a big hunk of homophobia.
"Do you want a couple of
San Francisco treats, or do you want to reelect Gov. Ernie
Fletcher?" the Louisville Courier-Journal Internet
blogsite quoted Robbie Rudolph, the Republican candidate for
lieutenant governor. Of course, the crowd got the implication:
the Democratic ticket is gay.
Rudolph had to know that. But he figured the
homosexual innuendo would pay off on election day.
Fletcher and Rudolph lost by almost 184,000
"I don't think the Three
Gs resonate in this state like they did in the past," said
Charles Wells, a Kentucky labor and Democratic Party leader. He
meant God, guns and gays.
"I think a lot of people
have come to realize that they are being duped and manipulated
by politicians who use these so called 'values' issues to get
elected," Wells said. "Even people of faith understand now that
they are being taken advantage of."
The governor-elect is Steve Beshear. The
lieutenant governor will be state Sen. Dan Mongiardo. They ran
as moderate Democrats, at least by Kentucky standards, polling
almost 59 percent of the vote to about 41 percent for their
Fletcher and Rudolph campaigned as "family
values" Christian conservatives. They are for God and guns. They
are against gay rights.
Fletcher added a fourth "G," gambling. He
doesn't want casinos.
An ex-lay minister, Fletcher must have hoped
the Three Gs -- make that Four Gs - would cause voters to forget
he is evidently the only Kentucky governor indicted while in
The voters remembered.
"The election was
clearly a repudiation of Fletcher, who was seriously damaged by
a scandal over his administration's hiring abuses in the state
merit system," said the Courier-Journal, the state's
largest newspaper. "Fletcher refused to testify before a grand
jury, was indicted on three misdemeanor counts -- later
dismissed -- and pardoned those around him who had been
From start to finish, Fletcher trailed Beshear
in every opinion poll. The closer the race got to election day,
the harder he ran on God and gays.
A day before Kentuckians went to the polls,
the governor ordered a copy of the Ten Commandments "and other
historical documents" displayed in the state Capitol in
Frankfort. At the same time, the GOP revved up the gay-baiting.
The Fletcher campaign pounced on a state gay
and lesbian rights group's endorsement of the Beshear-Mongiardo
ticket. State Rep. Stan Lee, the Republican candidate for
attorney general, joined Rudolph in branding Beshear and
Mongiardo "San Francisco treats," Joe Gerth, a
Courier-Journal reporter, wrote on the newspaper's blog.
Lee lost by more than 213,000 votes to Jack
Conway, the Democratic winner. Conway got more than 60 percent
of the vote to less than 40 percent for Lee.
The state GOP backed up Rudoph and Lee's
double-barreled bigotry with a flood of automated "robo calls"
linking Beshear to the gay rights group. Gerth got one.
He heard the recorded voice of Pat Boone, the
famous 50s crooner who is a conservative Christian and a
Republican. "Boone told me that he is concerned about the
upcoming governor's race and that I should vote for Ernie
Fletcher," Gerth wrote. He quoted Boone: "[Fletcher's] opponent
is so ultra-liberal, he has just been enthusiastically endorsed
by C-Fair, a prominent gay rights advocacy group. Do you really
want Kentucky to become another San Francisco?"
Other Kentucky phones rang with similar robo
calls. "For the first time in 20 years the homosexual lobby
proudly endorses a candidate for governor, Steve Beshear," the
message said. "Beshear is receiving major support from
out-of-state gay activists."
The Fletcher campaign denied any connection to
these calls, the source of which is still a mystery.
Wells thinks the robo calls -- from Boone and
from whomever else -- backfired, further energizing already
pumped-up Democrats and possibly causing some moderate
Republicans to vote for Beshear, too.
"I know plenty of Republicans who are hanging
onto their party affiliation by a thread," claimed a post on
BluegrassReport, probably the most widely read Kentucky
political blog site. "Pronouncements such as these by Rudolph
and Stan 'I am not an extremist' Lee should induce them to sever
ties once and for all."
I wouldn't bet the farm that "family values"
Republicans like Rudolph and Lee -- and some conservative
Democrats -- will stop pandering to Kentuckians' prejudices.
But maybe this election means that most of our
citizens don't think bigotry is a "family value." And maybe the
next time a Bluegrass State politician is tempted to pander he
might ponder "One Term Ern," the Democrats' nickname for
Fletcher that came true on election day.
-- Berry Craig
is a professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and
Technical College in Paducah. He and his wife, Melinda, are
members of the Witherspoon Society.
Another lament for the U.S.A.
Where have all the leaders gone?
Remember Lee Iacocca, the man who
rescued Chrysler Corporation from death throes? He recently
published a book with the title above. Here are a few choice
Am I the only guy in this country
who's fed up with what's happening?
Where the hell is our outrage?
We should be screaming bloody
We've got a gang of clueless
bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got
corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean
up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car.
But instead of getting mad,
everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians
say, "Stay the course"
Stay the course? You've got to be
kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you
a sound bite: Throw the bums out!
You might think I'm getting
senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But
someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country
anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass
to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war
on a pack of lies.
While we're fiddling in Iraq, the
Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And
the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions.
I'll go a step further. You can't
call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight
I'm ready and willing to have.
These are times that call for leadership.
But when you look around, you've
got to ask: "Where have all the leaders gone?" Where are the
curious, creative communicators?
Where are the people of
character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense? I
may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.
Name me a leader who has a better
idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in
airports and throw away our shampoo.
We've spent billions of dollars
building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is
react to things that have already happened.
Name me one leader who emerged
from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina.
Excerpted from Where Have All the Leaders Gone? Copyright (c) 2007 by Lee Iacocca.
All rights reserved
Thanks to Jim Atwood
WITNESS IN WASHINGTON WEEKLY
The Washington Office of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
October 22, 2007 [posted
This week's issue brings some important
messages and helpful resource material:
Save the Date: March 7 - 10
Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2008:
Claiming a Vision of True Security
Last year, nearly 900 participants gathered
showing the strong commitment of the ecumenical community to
seek justice through effective advocacy on public policy. In
2008, our conference theme: 2008: Claiming a Vision of True
Security hopes to encourage broad participation and asks for
movement toward a new vision of true human security – one which
seeks not only the absence of tension, but the presence of
justice (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).
This new vision is based on a song of praise calling God’s
children to trust in him, "Some trust in chariots, and some in
horses, but our trust in the name of our God" (Psalm 20:7, New
King James Bible). In the language of today, Psalm 20:7 might
read: Some trust in violence and take pride in technologies of
war, and some in military power, but our trust is in the
unfailing love and faithfulness of our saving God. The 2008
Ecumenical Advocacy Days assembly will call upon our government
to conceive new visions of security in our homes, our
neighborhoods and our world.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) Washington
Office has been a sponsor of Ecumenical Advocacy Days since its
inception in 2003. Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a movement of the
ecumenical Christian community and its recognized partners and
allies. The annual gatherings include plenary sessions and
workshops organized into eight tracks: Africa, Asia, the Middle
East, Latin America, the United States, Global Economic Justice,
Environmental Justice, and Global Security issues. Its goal,
through worship, theological reflection and opportunities for
learning and witness, is to strengthen the Christian voice for a
more just and peaceful world and to mobilize for advocacy on a
wide variety of U.S. domestic and international policy issues.
Please save the dates on your calendar. More
information on how to register will be available soon.
in Search of a Party
Witherspoon member Dr. Ray
Heer has shared with us the results of his concern for our
nation. Rather than expressing his outrage at the situation (and
our political parties) today, he has tried to put on paper "a
positive vision of policies for a better future." He has put it
in the form of a "platform in search of a party," since he
recognizes that no existing party is likely to adopt it. It
reflects, he says, his effort to let his life "be influenced by
the teachings of Jesus."
The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America is a
For anyone interested in where the American
public really stands on the big issues that distinguish
progressives from conservatives – including the issues at the
forefront of today’s political debates – "The Progressive
Majority: Why a Conservative America Is a Myth" offers hard
facts and analysis based on decades of data from some of the
nation’s most respected and nonpartisan public opinion
researchers. This is the evidence that political leaders have a
mandate to pursue bold, progressive policies.
This report by the Campaign for America’s
Future and Media Matters for America shows that in study after
study, solid majorities of Americans take progressive stands on
a full spectrum of issues, from bread-and-butter economics to
the so-called "values" issues where conservatives claim
some highlights of the report >>
the full report >>
Democratic candidates talk about faith
This past weekend was brightened (or
burdened, depending on your point of view) by an important step
in the current Presidential campaign. Initiated largely by Jim
Wallis of Sojourners, the three leading Democratic
candidates – Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards –
appeared together on CNN, where each responded to several
questions from journalists and religious leaders about the
intersection of faith and politics. The stated topic was "Faith,
Values and Poverty," reflecting Wallis’ conviction that poverty
must be seen as the major issue in this campaign.
So, how did it go?
We bring you comments from Jim Wallis himself,
Peter Steinfels of the New York Times,
Brian Lewis wrote in the
Springfield, MO, News-Leader, and Sister Joan Chittister
-- with perhaps the most provocative of the responses.
Witness in Washington Weekly
This weekly bulletin, produced by the
Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), focuses
this week on some issues about which the PC(USA) has stated
policies, and which are now wending their way somewhere through
the halls of Congress:
• Tell Your Members of Congress to Vote NO on
Fast Track Renewal!
• Housing Vouchers: an important support for
• Stated Clerk's Letter to Congress Opposing
Free Trade Agreements
• Clarification of Presbyterian Policy Related
to the Supreme Court Ruling on Late Term Abortions
Here are the opening
paragraphs of each of the items; to read the rest,
Click here, and scroll down the page to that point.
Tell Your Members of Congress to Vote NO on Fast Track
The 215th General Assembly (2003) asked the U.S. trade
representative, U.S. senators and representatives,
congressional committees with trade jurisdiction, and state
legislators to oppose any extension of "Fast Track"
Presidential Trade Negotiating Authority, which limits the
role of Congress in negotiating or amending the terms of the
FTAA and other proposed trade agreements."
Housing Vouchers: an important support for low-income
In 1966, the 178th General Assembly of the UPCUSA "support[ed]
the establishment of national programs of housing subsidies,
. . . which would enable low-income families to obtain
standard housing, give freedom in selecting their own units,
and enable them to rely primarily on the private housing
market to provide satisfactory housing" (Minutes, 1966, p.
Stated Clerk's Letter to Congress Opposing Free Trade
TO: United States Congresspersons
I am writing to you on behalf of the General Assembly of
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to urge you to oppose the
current Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) coming before Congress,
which include the U.S.-Panama FTA, U.S.-Peru FTA,
U.S.-Colombia FTA, and U.S.-Korea FTA. The 216th General
Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.) declared its
opposition to free trade agreements negotiated under the
current trade model since these agreements fail to
adequately protect workers’ rights, human rights, food
security, and environmental standards. Nor do they extend to
governments and indigenous peoples the ability to regulate
corporations to protect the common good.
Clarification of Presbyterian Policy Related to the Supreme
Court Ruling on Late Term Abortions
In the April 23, 2007 issue of Witness in Washington
Weekly, the Washington Office informed readers about the
Supreme Court decision Gonzales v. Carhart concerning late
term abortions. The article has generated questions across
the church about the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s stance
on abortion. The current policy on this matter includes:
"We affirm that the lives of viable unborn
babies—those well-developed enough to survive outside
the womb if delivered—ought to be preserved and cared
for and not aborted. In cases where problems of life or
health of the mother arise in a pregnancy, the church
supports efforts to protect the life and health of both
the mother and the baby. When late-term pregnancies must
be terminated, we urge decisions intended to deliver the
baby alive. We look to our churches to provide pastoral
and tangible support to women in problem pregnancies and
to surround these families with a community of care. We
affirm adoption as a provision for women who deliver
children they are not able to care for, and ask our
churches to assist in seeking loving, Christian,
adoptive families."- (Minutes of the 217th General
Assembly (2006), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), p. 905.)
Wolf's heart is in the right place but her
head is elsewhere
By Berry Craig
I like Naomi Wolf’s books. But if a
story posted elsewhere on the Witherspoon
website is an example of how she writes history, she should stick to other
The headline is a grabber: "Fascist America, in 10 easy steps." The story is
Wolf claims history proves it takes "10 steps" to turn a democracy into a
dictatorship. "... Each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today
in the United States by the Bush administration," she added.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t vote for the
Union-Buster-in-Chief (or his daddy). My candidate in 2000 was Al Gore, whom
Wolf worked for.
Wolf’s heart is in the right place. Her head is somewhere
else if she thinks "George Bush and his administration are using time-tested
tactics to close down an open society."
Bush is not a big fan of the Bill of Rights (except for
the Second Amendment).
But that doesn’t make him a Fascist.
Wolf would do well to lay off the "F" word when writing
about the president. (There are some good substitutes at
www.bartcop.com. "George the
Lesser," "Panderer-in-Chief" and "Toxic Texan" are my three favorites, with
"Kennebunkport Kowboy" earning an honorable mention.)
History teaches that dictators grab power with bullets.
American presidents get the keys to the White House with ballots, admittedly
not all of them counted fairly. (Like Wolf, I haven’t forgotten Florida in
’00 and the "Family values means having your little brother steal the
election for you" bumper stickers.)
Wolf’s story reminds me of loopy John Birch Society
pamphlets somebody used to leave in my hometown post office. They said LBJ
was turning America Communist.
More recently, anti-Bill Clinton bumper stickers had the
letter "C" in Clinton morphed into a hammer-and-sickle.
Equating Bush with Fascism is just as ridiculous.
I've spent most of my adult life reading, writing and
teaching history. History shows that Bush couldn't make us a dictatorship
even if he wanted to. Nowhere on earth has a home-grown dictator closed down
a long-running democracy like ours.
Before Lenin, Stalin and the Communists, divine right
czars ran Russia for centuries. Hitler and the Nazis toppled the Weimar
Republic, but it was short-lived. For most of its history, Germany was ruled
by Kaisers, kings and Holy Roman emperors.
Mussolini and the Fascists grabbed power from a weak
Italian parliament and a king who was less than enamored of democracy.
China wasn’t a democracy before it went Communist. Neither
was Cuba, South Vietnam or what became North Korea.
Wolf’s story is filled with dubious historical
comparisons. Probably the worst one is where she links the USA Patriot Act,
bad as it is, to infamous German legislation that made Hitler dictator.
It took World War II to get rid of Hitler. In 2009, Dubya
won't ring the White House with tanks and troops and refuse to go home. He
will depart (hopefully succeeded by a candidate Wolf and I will back).
Wolf would do better to compare Bush to Presidents John
Adams and Richard Nixon. Like Bush, Adams – dubbed "King John I" by his
detractors – and Tricky Dick believed in government of the rich, by the rich
and for the rich. They also figured anybody who opposed their policies was
Adams got Congress to pass the Alien and Sedition Acts. It
became a crime to criticize the president.
The Alien and Sedition Acts were even worse than the
Patriot Act. But they didn’t make Adams a dictator. They cost him his job.
Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801. The Alien and
Sedition Acts went away, and the republic got stronger.
Like Adams and Bush, Nixon was obsessed with security. He
got the government to spy illegally on Vietnam War protestors – he called
them "bums" -- and drew up an "enemies list."
Facing almost certain impeachment and removal from office,
Nixon resigned in disgrace. Remember the "Jail to the Chief" buttons?
To be sure, between "King John I" and "George the Lesser,"
we have had other politicians –Democrats and Republicans -- who trod hard on
Attorney Gen. A. Mitchell Palmer trumped up the "Great Red
Scare" after World War I. Sen. Joe McCarthy resurrected Red-baiting after
World War II.
Neither Palmer nor McCarthy made us a dictatorship. Like Nixon, they made
the rogue’s gallery of American history.
My guess is history won’t be kind to Dubya either.
The voters weren’t last November. The Republicans wrapped
themselves in Old Glory and implied that a Democratic sweep would be a
victory for the terrorists. Republicans love to impugn the patriotism of the
loyal – disloyal to Dubya – opposition.
The Democrats retook the House and Senate. Bush admitted
the GOP got a "thumping."
I suspect the Patriot Act is on borrowed time.
Anyway, the '06 election was a headline-grabber. Wolf must
have missed it, because she wrote, "Right now, only a handful of patriots
are trying to hold back the tide of tyranny" in George W. Bush’s America. No
doubt, whoever left the John Birchers’ fliers in the post office would have
insisted he was a patriot, too, "… trying to hold back the tide of tyranny."
Implying, or saying flat-out, that a conservative like
Bush is Fascistic is as asinine as implying, or saying flat out, that a
liberal like Wolf is a Communist "fellow traveler" (The Birchers especially
liked "fellow traveler" – "Comsymp," too.). Washington under Bush isn't
going to become Berlin under Hitler or Rome under Mussolini, not by a long
We are no more goose-stepping toward Fascism under Bush
than we were marching toward Communism behind LBJ.
Real Fascists and Communists put pesky scribes like Wolf,
union-activist history teachers and religious dissenters like Witherspooners
behind barbed wire, or shoot them. Fascists and Communists make sure their
guys don't get thumped at the polls.
– Berry Craig
is a professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical
College in Paducah. He and his wife, Melinda, are members of the
America, in 10 Easy Steps [4-25-07]
See a contrary point
of view from Berry Craig, above.
A recent article in
The Guardian/UK advances a harsh word of warning to the people of the
United States: that this nation (or at least the current administration) is
taking many of the steps toward dictatorship that we have seen before under
such rulers as Hitler and Pinochet.
These "ten easy steps" include invoking e a terrifying
internal and external enemy; creating a "gulag," a prison system outside the
rule of law; developing a "thug caste" of private paramilitary forces, that
we now call security contractors; setting up an internal surveillance
system; harassing citizens’ groups; engaging in arbitrary detention and
release; pressuring key individuals such as academics and civil servants to
go along; controlling the media; equating dissent with treason; and
suspending the rule of law.
Sound familiar? Yet this is a serious
charge, and you may want to
the article and offer your own response.
Just send a
note, to be shared here.
The author, Naomi Wolf, has recently written The End of
America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, which will be published
by Chelsea Green in September. A political activist, she worked with the
Clinton team on his successful 1996 re-election campaign, and for Al Gore’s
2000 election bid. Wolf has written several other books, and is a co-founder
of the Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership.
Her closing paragraph:
"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive,
and judiciary, in the same hands … is the definition of tyranny," wrote
James Madison. We still have the choice to stop going down this road; we
can stand our ground and fight for our nation, and take up the banner the
founders asked us to carry.
Can Left and Right
join to oppose the war and defend the Constitution?
For years Jim
Wallis of Sojourners has called for a new faith-based
approach to politics in which liberals and evangelicals can unite.
Now others, from different
perspectives, are saying the same thing.
Jon Basil Utley, associate publisher of
The American Conservative, says that some conservatives are becoming
more critical of the war. Even if their opposition is rooted in different
thinking from that of the liberals who oppose the war (and he notes that
many of them, including many Democratic Party leaders, are really not
standing against the war), the two sides need each other if they are to have
any impact on the growing trend toward Empire. And, he says, they can work
together for some goals that both sides value, such as true national
security, a return to use of negotiations to settle problems, and avoiding
further spread of the war, which would among other things be "bad for
His essay is on the Foreign
Policy in Focus website >>
And from the Left, John Nichols,
Washington correspondent for The Nation, writes of a group of
conservatives which is advancing a so-called "American Freedom Agenda,"
which calls for such radical measures as ending the use of military
commissions to prosecute crimes, prohibiting the use of secret evidence or
evidence obtained by torture, and ending National Security Agency
warrantless wiretapping. (And lots more!)
He quotes conservative fund-raiser
Richard Viguerie as saying, "Conservatives must not fail to oppose the
massive expansion of presidential powers out of fear they will be aid and
comfort to the Left. Concern about one branch of government acquiring
excessive power should not be the providence of liberals, moderates, or
conservatives. It must be the concern of all Americans who value liberty…"
More on apologies [3-15-07]
We received this good note yesterday from Dean Lindsey, a
Witherspoon member in Salem, VA
In reference to the recent article "Is
it Time for a Presidential Apology?" I would like to mention an
outstanding book by Psychiatrist Aaron Lazare called On Apology.
It's the kind of book that any preacher could use as the basis for three or
four good sermons. Lazare analyzes why we have trouble apologizing and what
makes for both good and bad apologies.
For instance, apologies that are conditional, make excuses
or shift blame simply cannot hit the mark. Examples would be "I am sorry if
my remarks hurt your feelings" or "I am sorry that I hit you, but I thought
you were planning to hit me." However, a genuine apology – ordinarily it is
simple and to the point – is a completely cleansing and freeing thing both
for the person who apologizes and the one who receives the apology.
If the United States, or more specifically the President,
could make an apology for what we have done both to ourselves and Iraq these
past four years, it would be an amazing step toward healing and correcting a
disastrous state of affairs which currently exists. Such an apology would
require, first of all, that we recognize and acknowledge the damage we have
done, and that could be painful for us all. I have considerable doubts that
the President is able to make such an apology or is able to engage in the
kind of self-examination that ordinarily leads to apology. However, that
does not mean that the rest of us can't do anything in the meantime. I
believe that we can all apologize to God, to one another, to our own
soldiers, and to the people of Iraq for our silence and our indifference,
among other things. As Presbyterians, we confess our sins each week. We
should be accustomed to admitting our weaknesses and faults. We shouldn't
have to wait for the President to do it for us.
Is it time for a Presidential apology?
By Daniel Malotky,
Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy, and Director of Ethics
across the Curriculum at Greensboro College.
President Bush has acknowledged on several occasions that
mistakes have been made in Iraq. His statements, however, have been framed
to present him as a strong leader who is willing to take responsibility for
his actions. None of his public remarks has constituted an apology, and he
scrupulously avoids any suggestion that the invasion as a whole was a
In these non-apologies, we confront the tragic gap between
the ideal and the real. Repentance is at the heart of the faith this
president so publicly espouses; the intersection of spirituality and
morality, for Christians, lies in the ironically positioned capacity for
admitting one's moral failure. The redemption that the President surely
desires is only possible by shedding the sense of his own — and, by
extension, America's — inherent righteousness by admitting wrongdoing.
The rest of the essay, from Sightings, published by The
Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School >>
From the Presbyterian Witness in Washington Weekly:
Federal Budget: a Human Needs Budget?
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
– Matthew 6:21
The Presbyterian Washington Office is posting very helpful
analyses of the proposed federal Budget, from the perspective of our
church's views on social needs and social justice. These are being
posted as part of the office's Witness in Washington Weekly, with the first
section appearing in the February 12, 2007 letter, and the second in the
February 19 letter. They are authored by Leslie G. Woods, staff person for
Domestic Poverty and Environmental Issues. More articles will be posted in
the near future.
section offers a general introduction to the budget process, and some of
the major issues and concerns. The
second part deals more
specifically with funding for hunger and nutrition programs, home energy
assistance, and conservation.
We reprint them here with the kind permission of the
Washington Office. If you find these analyses helpful, you can receive them
yourself only by subscribing to the e-list for them, since they are not
normally posted on the Washington Office web-site. Just go to
http://capwiz.com/pcusa/mlm/signup . And we encourage you to
do just that!
America's Holy Warriors [1-2-07]
Chris Hedges, the former New York Times' Mideast
Bureau chief, warns that the radical Christian right is coming dangerously
close to its goal of co-opting the country's military and law enforcement.
The drive by the Christian right to take control of
military chaplaincies, which now sees radical Christians holding roughly
50 percent of chaplaincy appointments in the armed services and service
academies, is part of a much larger effort to politicize the military and
law enforcement. This effort signals the final and perhaps most deadly
stage in the long campaign by the radical Christian right to dismantle
America's open society and build a theocratic state. A successful
politicization of the military would signal the end of our democracy.
Hedge's full essay >>
Stories on U.S. politics from 2006 are archived >>
Items posted here from 2003 through 2005 are
archived on their own page.
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
for Life" website
Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck,
a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens
neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City
Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon
board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!