The Conservative Divide

June 26, 2014

Researchers call it “internal consistency.” It is the quality of a theory whereby the basic principles lead to a predictable outcome consistent with those principles.

It is a quality profoundly lacking in the current version of American Conservatism, and in full display at the “Faith and Freedom Coalition” convention in Washington this week. There, among the “Christians” in attendance, was an attempt to bridge the divide among Conservatives between the Tea Party Christian version and the Christian Veneer version.

They are having a real problem pulling it off. The ideological battles are being fought from the restrooms (where the Christians put figurines of President Obama in the urinals) to the podium. The Christian Veneer advocates attempted to bring the fold into the version of conservatism that mouths compassion toward the poor and bemoans the deepening differences in the “Two Americas” of economic injustice, while at the same time advocating the same policies that have created a society with the greatest amount of economic inequality in modern history.

These are the same fellows that coined the phrase “compassionate conservatism” and then went on to start several wars and reverse a decades-long trend of decreasing poverty rates.

On the other side are the Tea Party Christians, who are unapologetic in their hatred and threats of violence. They demonstrate that the veneer of “compassion” among Christian conservatives is very thin indeed. If one wants to gain a vision of their America, take a tour of rural Texas sometime, where angry men armed with assault weapons hang out in fast food restaurants (the major employer in their communities) making thinly veiled threats of what they would do to anyone who wants to restrict their firepower.

Anger and hatred are the operative words for these conservative Christians: hatred of the government, hatred of immigrants, hatred of liberals, hatred of the President, hatred of “those people” …

It’s a scary proposition when the Coalition of Faith and Freedom produces little more than an argument between those who want to dress up their movement in empty words for the poor and those who would rather line them up and shoot them.

Media Begins Second Campaign for War

June 20, 2014

Déjà vu.

I turned on the television to watch the Sunday morning news shows a couple of days ago and it was like watching the same goblins from 2003 spouting their gobbledygook. Crystal, Wolfowitz, Bremer, McCain, Feith, Cheney … the same guys who were wrong about everything concerning Iraq calling for us to invade Iraq (again).

They are even using the same rhetoric (e.g. “the seeds of another 9/11 are being sown again”). That’s doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that the same media who enabled these war mongers in the past are giving them a platform to spew their lies once again.

The entire national media that failed us last time around (miserably) is doing it again. I suppose this means we really can’t trust the media (even the so-called “liberal media”) to play a critical role in telling the truth to power.

Maybe it’s because much of the media has been consolidated to ownership by a few powerful men who view the news not as a public service, but as a entertainment vehicle to sell advertizing. Maybe it also means that if enough of us raise our voices in a collective “no, not again”, they might banish the war goblins out of fear that they might lose advertizing dollars.  


Bergdahl and the Real Threat to Americans

June 18, 2014

Jon Stewart got it exactly right with his Daily Show routine on the conservative media mania over the Bergdahl exchange with Taliban leaders from Gitmo. He called it “Home is Where the Hate Is” encapsulating the hatred being expressed toward Sgt. Bergdahl and President Obama.

We’ve talked before about my feelings about Bergdahl (we don’t leave troops behind and we don’t convict people without a trial – well we aren’t supposed to), but let’s reflect for a moment on the men who were exchanged for his return. None of the men released has ever been associated with attacking the United States. The chief prosecutor of Gitmo detainees has said they weren’t even on his radar (in contrast, the driver of bin Laden was tried and convicted even though he never participated in any attack anywhere).

They were leaders of the Taliban who were Afghans fighting in Afghanistan, which makes them enemy combatants, not terrorists. They were bad guys no doubt, and I have no doubt there is a drone with their names on it, but no more evil than the hundreds of Vietnamese exchanged for our POWs, or any other enemy combatant in every war we have ever fought.

In contrast to these Taliban leaders who never attacked the United States, the Southern Poverty Law Center has been documenting dozens of terrorist attacks on American soil from right wing groups. The most recent was the attack was the slaughter of police in Las Vegas by two white supremacists.

In fact, in the time that these Taliban leaders have been imprisoned in Gitmo since Bergdahl’s capture there have been no attacks on America by Taliban and at least 35 deaths of Americans by American right wing terrorists. If the chicken hawks in Congress were really concerned about our national security, then they would be going after right wing extremists.

I would be a lot more worried about the right winger next door than a Taliban in a cave 8,000 miles away. 


June 18, 2014

Many of you have seen my series of commercials “My America.” In them, I try to emphasize the values and liberties that make our country so special in the world and in history.
Since we are having another “America” moment created by the media on the return of Sgt. Bergdahl from captivity in Afghanistan, I thought I should weigh in on what my America stands for.
We don’t leave troops behind and we don’t convict and condemn people without a trial, especially men who have volunteered to serve in a time of war. He has earned at least that much.
I feel that people who have never served in the military should have nothing to say about the soldier and what he may have done or not done in the field. Period.That includes the chicken hawk army of conservative politicians who weeks ago were condemning President Obama for not doing “everything in his power” to get Bergdahl back, and now condemn President Obama for using his power to get Bergdahl back.
It should offend everyone that men who had neither the patriotism or the courage to serve the country in the military are condemning a man’s behavior in combat, even as no one is clear about any of the facts surrounding his capture. However, clearly the hottest place in Hell has to be reserved for men like John McCain.
He was set free from captivity after Nixon cut a deal with North Viet Nam to withdraw American troops from the South.Of all people he should be the last to advocate leaving a troop behind.The Vietnamese couldn’t take it from him, but apparently McCain has voluntarily sold his soul.

Islamic Reformation

June 15, 2014

The headlines from 1560 in Europe could have looked exactly like those from the Middle East today: “Religious Warfare Kills Thousands!” 

In Iraq, the Sunnis are slaughtering the Shia’ in a religious civil war at a rate even more prolific than when the Shia’ slaughtered the Sunnis after the fall of Sadaam (and not coincidently similarly to the 8th century).

Christianity had its own period of mutual slaughter in a shared history based less on theology than on the nature of religion itself. If there is a lesson for us in this chaos it is in the destructive mixture of religion and politics. (I say this on the eve of a man who believes the universe is only 10,000 years old and that the theory of evolution is the handiwork of the devil is about to become the Republican whip in the House of Representatives).

Now Iran (Shia’) is asking if the U.S. would like to partner in fighting off ISIS – which I guess would make us an ally in the axis of evil and we would then have to bomb ourselves under the Bush Doctrine. Now the same fools who got us into Iraq in the first place want us to go back.

The truth is that the Kool-Aid most Americans drank back in the heady days of the “Bush Doctrine” is long gone, and after thousands of lives lost, tens of thousands of lives broken, over a trillion dollars spent we now know that Muslim countries given the “gift” of capitalism and democracy will not become civilized, let alone democratic.

Let’s be smart for once and stay out of it.


Something Right — and Here in Detroit

June 14, 2014

So much in the world seems to be going wrong, and there is so much anger and division in our society that it can be difficult sometimes to focus on what is going right.

Even I can get caught up in defending victims to the point where I despair unless I can be reminded that not everything is an angry battle. Sometimes, there are joyous battles. Take for example, the Detroit Capuchins.

The Capuchin Order was founded on the ideals of St. Francis and in 1883 they took root in Detroit. Since then they have been living up to their ideals of happy service to the poorest and least wanted of Detroit.

Every day they help treat drug addicts, reintegrate former prisoners, feed hundreds of the poorest, and generally spend time and conversation with people we tend to avoid when walking on the streets. Their Monastery was built on the East Side at Mt. Elliott, which even in the 1920s was known as a very rough neighborhood.

They go to places and help people we never see who are in desperate circumstances that would shock most Americans to know it existed within miles of their homes.

The amazing thing that one learns when working with them, is that they actually enjoy the work.  And after volunteering time at the Soup Kitchen or other services, and they help you to realize that the people you have helped have actually helped you far more. It will put the madness in perspective.

If you would like to support them or volunteer, contact them at:

The Capuchin Service Center
6333 Medbury St.
Detroit MI 48211


GOP and Sexual Dysfunction

June 12, 2014

The GOP is the party of sexually dysfunctional men.

That was NOT a reference to old white men (and the problem of ED per se). Rather it is a reflection of their obsession with sex and misogyny. The most recent example among many was the column of George Will (the wannabe intellectual heir to William Buckley) in the Washington Post asserting that being the victim of rape was a “coveted status” on American college campuses. Does he really believe that women intentionally get raped so they can obtain “status”? Yes, he does, and so do many conservatives in the GOP.

The evidence of misogyny in the GOP is abundant and you have to acknowledge that the Tea Party element of the GOP is at least open and unapologetic about it. Add to the Will assertion that women want to be raped to obtain “status” to the many comments essentially blaming women for either being raped or falsely claiming raped, to their refusal to let women earn equal wages for the same work and you have the foundation of the party of misogyny.

However, the dysfunctional sexuality of the GOP is not just limited to degrading and devaluing women.  Add to that character an obsession with homosexuality and you have two corners of the conservative tent (racism/xenophobia and corporate pandering are the other two corners).

For a political party that claims to be the party opposed to big government they sure advocate a lot of government interference in our sex lives. For millions of American women, gays and minorities the GOP is less of a libertarian liberator than the boogeyman in the bedroom closet.


D-Day Considered

June 6, 2014

Today is the anniversary of D-Day and the focus has been on the men who sacrificed so much to preserve liberty. They deserve our gratitude, but more than gratitude they deserve our efforts. The fight for liberties continues, not just in the mountains of the Hindu-Kush, but in the courtrooms of our country. Our liberty is threatened less by Taliban running around in caves 7,000 miles away than it is by the corporate lobbyists in Lansing and D.C.
If you think I am joking, ask yourself this: what would those men who died on the beaches of Normandy think about a government that illegally spies on its own citizens? Or a government that has killed its own citizens without a trial? What would they think about a government that denies citizens the opportunity to have their day in court? Or a government that tortures prisoners?
Maybe the best way to honor their sacrifice is to offer our own.
Make an effort to change our government back from one which serves corporations to one that serves the people, with the same values and ideals that generations of Americans have fought for — on the beaches of Normandy or the streets of Birmingham.