Tom's Thoughts

Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Oh, one more

Another thing I just remembered. Both liberals and conservatives say they are concerned about fair elections. The difference is in where they place their emphasis.

Liberals want every eligible voter to be able to vote. Conservatives want to keep every inelegible voter (except Ann Coulter) from voting, even if it means some (especially if it means some) elgible Democratic voters are illegally disfranchised.

More on Liberal vs. Conservative

I've been thinking more about this subject, and I have some more to say.

Liberals believe we're all in this together vs. the conservatives' every man for himself.

Except that this idea doesn't apply to rich people, corporations, or the CEOs that run them. For them it's the socializing of risk and privatizing of profit. Liberals oppose this; conservatives support it.

For conservatives, responsibility and accountablity apply only to welfare mothers. For liberals, they apply equally to CEOs and Administration officials.

Conservatives tend to believe "right to life" ends at birth. Liberals believe the woman whose body is involved also has a say-so in the situation.

Both sides give lip service to reducing the rate of abortion. Conservatives want to lower the abortion rate by outlawing abortions (except for rich women who can afford to travel to where it is legal, or else get the doctor to change the medical record to read, "D & C" instead). Liberals want to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies.

Conservatives emphasize Paul's condemnation of homosexuality; liberals emphasize Jesus' teachings on taking care of the poor. And by the way, the New Testament records many more words of Jesus on money and the exploitation of the poor than it does of Paul condemning what he regarded as sexual immorality.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On Israel

I haven't taken on foreign policy much here, beyond objecting to the Iraq War.

But something is going on with Israel now, and I feel compelled to say something. Anything(?)

I have strong, yet mixed, feelings concerning the whole Mid-East situation. I believe Israel has a right to exist and to defend itself. Yet I also believe the Palestinians have a right to a peaceful home nation. The way Israel is laid out, the Palestinians have two pieces of land allotted to them, much the way Pakistan had it when the Indian sub-continent was divided. One country in two parts so far divided by hostile territory would have a hard time keeping itself governed. Thus, the existence of Bangladesh.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, which may be too small to form its own country, unless you look at Andorra, Monaco, and Montenegro. It would need a lot of help from outside, but what it is getting is hostility because they had the temerity to elect a government our government and the Israelis disapproved of. Thus, hostilities continue.

Now, Hezbollah is attacking from Lebanon, and Israel is pursuing hostilities there, too. The majority of the world, it seems, wants Israel to dissolve and disappear. But the United States is not going to let that happen. I don't believe it should happen, either.

That said, I also believe that Israel is forgetting some of the lessons of history. They are treating the Palestinians almost the way Hitler and Stalin treated the Jews, which caused the formation of Israel in the modern world to begin with.

Yes, Israel has committed some atrocious actions, and yes, they still are. On the other hand, the Palestinian leadership doesn't seem to know what to do except keep pushing Israel's buttons so they have something to struggle against. What's the matter? Are they incompetent when it comes to actual governing?

It seems to me that if the Palestinians had followed the example of Mohandas (Mahatma) Ghandi, using non-violent resistance to achieve their ends, then by now they would be enjoying peacefully their own nation.

But that doesn't seem to be what the leadership on either side wants.

Radicalism in whatever form, from whatever side it comes, can't stand peace.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"Politics Ain't Beanbag"

If you know who first said this, I'd appreciate it if you'd remind me.

Yesterday on "Fresh Air" NPR aired an interview with two men who have published a book about the Republican campaign to take over and make the United States a one-party country. They outlined the strategy and tactics used. I was in my car most of the time, and my antenna is broken, so I didn't hear it all. I'll probably just read the book.

But I was noticing how Karl Rove appeals to his base, how they bring all "conservative" groups together for a weekly breakfast strategy meeting to put out a unified message, and how they take charge once elected, acting as though they have a mandate when they won only a squeaker.

As the saying is, politics sure ain't beanbag. But the DLC has been acting as though it is, they have been playing by the Marquis of Queensbury rules, and have lost the last four elections. Yet they were on NPR again this morning arguing that you have to appeal to the undecided middle in order to win. They cite the victories of Bill Clinton and Al Gore as evidence that what they do works. Well, Clinton's last victory was four elections ago, and they have come out on the losing end of every election since.

Of course the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen, and both Gore and Kerry gave up too quickly. I e-mailed them in 2004 that Karl Rove wouldn't have given up that easily. But then Karl Rove had already done his manipulation in advance. The purge of the voter rolls in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, the inconvenience imposed on Democratic voters, and the uncounted ballots showed his handiwork before the election took place. Still, an honest counting would have given the victory to the Democrats, even with the miscounting of votes on Diebold's part.

Yet the party leaders rolled over. In Mexico the people took to the streets demanding an honest recount. Maybe it's time for us to take to the streets again.

We took to the streets to stop the Vietnam War. It took a number of years, but they finally listened. Now Vietnam is an ally.

We took to the streets to prevent the Iraq War, but we didn't have enough leadership in power to back us up. But we will win if we keep our hearts full, our blood boiling, and our prayer lives active.

We don't necessarily have to stoop to Karl Rove's level, but we can learn from his ruthlessness and determination, from his appeal to his base.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

On Campaign Finance Reform

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ivory -Tower Theories

One thing conservatives used to criticize liberals about was substituting "ivory tower" theories for "hard-nosed" reality. They claimed the "War on Poverty" was based on such thinking, and that good old-fashioned hard work would lift people out of poverty. Yeah, if the minimum wage were high enough, it could. That's no longer true in the world of hard-nosed reality.

Nowadays it's the conservatives (or more specifically neo-cons) who are indulging in ivory-tower theories that have the same validity as the theory that bumblebees can't fly.

Take the minimum wage. I got a letter from my Congressman in response to an e-mail I sent him in support of an increase in the minimum wage. His reply recited the same old tired theory about how having to pay higher wages would cause small businesses to have to lay off people, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Out here in the world of hard-nosed reality, every time the minimum wage goes up, unemployment goes down. Unemployment rates went way down in 1997 after the last federal minimum wage hike and stayed down until Bush's tax cuts brought on the recession in 2001.

Add to that the fact that states that have raised the minimum wage above the federal minimum have stronger small-business growth than their neighboring states that have not.

How does that fit into an ivory-tower theory? Try adding in some extra factors the conservative economists like to leave out, such as demand. When people start earning more money they spend it, driving up sales, driving up the need for more staff, driving up employment, driving up prosperity.

Of course prosperity for working people is outside the realm of conservative concerns. If it isn't the prosperity of the top layer of society, then it isn't prosperity to them.

How to survive until January when a new Congress takes charge?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Liberal vs. Conservative

Generally, I dislike these labels. They usually substitute for the thought process. If we can pigeonhole a person with a label like that, we can dismiss what they say rather than engaging the idea. As I've probably quoted before, Sydney J. Harris said, "The first one who starts throwing labels such as 'liberal' or 'right-wing' is the one who has lost the argument on its merits and is now falling back on name-calling."

Still, once in a while it's useful to define terms. I remember reading back in the 1970s that if a conservative saw a man drowning 50 feet from shore he would throw him a 25-foot rope and urge him to swim the other 25 feet for the good of his character. Whereas, if a liberal saw a man drowning 50 feet from shore he would throw him a 100-foot rope, then drop his end to go off and help somebody else.

To that I would add, if a neocon saw a man drowning 50 feet from shore and there was a rope nearby, he would take that rope and give it to a CEO to use on his yacht.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A New Declaration, Part III

Reading the Declaration of Independence, I am struck by the parallels between George III and George W. This is the third and final comparison:


He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Blanton: While engaging our troops in a war he knew to be unwarranted by the supposed evidence he presented to the American people George W. Bush has reduced the money spend on security here at home. He has left our ports unguarded and open to sneak attacks by terrorists. He has endeavored to sell the operation of some of our most important ports to known friends of our deepest enemy, Osama bin Laden. He has reduced support for local law enforcement instituted by his predecessor.

In all these he justifies every action by claiming "national security," even though the nation is less secure because of these actions.

He has divided the nation into the most bitter factions we have been divided into since the Vietnam war.

Such a leader is unfit to lead a free people.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

New Declaration, Part 2

Prefacing today's post, I want to share something that occurred to me as I listened to NPR this morning: They talked about Mobutu in the Congo, who took the name Mobutu Sese Seko and changed the name of his country to Zaire. They said he took one of the richest nations in Africa and sent it down the tubes. I realized that any time too much power is vested in the executive the same thing happens. Look at North Korea. No need to say more there. Look at Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union under Stalin, Spain under Franco, and the list goes on and on. With history screaming this at us, why do we want to vest more power in our executive?

Now, on with today's post:

The Declaration of Independence has eerie parallels with today's world. Continuing with the previous post:


He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

Blanton: Even though the Bush Administration has cut support for the upkeep of the troops and slashed the budget for maintenance on their bases, he still refers to himself as Commander-in-Chief more than he does as the civilian President. The military is superior to the civilian in American life now thanks to the saber-rattling and fear-mongering of the Cheney-Rove Administration.

Having taken office on a pledge of smaller government, he has increased government intrusion on American lives. He has ignored the Constitution and even Constitutionally questionable laws (FISA), to snoop as he pleases into the private affairs even when it would have been absolutely convenient to be legal and get a warrant.

When war crimes have been committed, blame falls on a few low-ranking soldiers while the real war criminals in the Pentagon and the Administration go scot-free.


For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

Blanton: George W. has signed treaties that weaken environmental and labor protections to the end that Americans have lost their jobs to underpaid, even slave, workers overseas.

He has increased the taxes on working Americans while cutting those on the rich to then end that our economy is in decline, and even coming out of a recession there are fewer jobs than there were before his tax cuts on the rich triggered the recession.

He has ignored laws as his whim dictated, and even when signing laws has declared a right to ignore them in 750 instances. For declaring himself above the law and giving "national security" as an excuse, George W. has shown himself to be no better than George III.

More later.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A New Declaration

The Declaration of Independence lists a number of violations of international law, ethics, and human dignity committed by George III. I was stricken by the parallels with George W. Some (most?) of the outrages committed then are being committed again. Let's look at some.

Jefferson's words:

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

Blanton's words: George W. has opposed and threatened to veto laws that are for the public good, laws that benefit working people while signing laws that benefit the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class.

George W. has written out "signing statements" that assert an imagined "right" of the President to ignore any laws or portions of laws that he deems inconvenient to him.


He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

Blanton: This actually sounds more like Tom DeLay. Although his gerrymandering to disenfranchise the majority of Democrats in Texas was blessed by Bush's appointees on the Supreme Court.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

Blanton: I don't need to get into the immigration debate.


He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

Blanton: The people George W. has presented for confirmation as judges have been more interested in promoting ideology than in applying the law, and his flunkies in Congress have been more interested in putting them into office than in establishing justice. Meanwhile the Democratic opposition have been more interested in playing politics than in publicizing these appointees' true motives.

That's enough for today.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth of July!

In 1776, the liberals in Congress adopted this declaration that the Limbaughs and Hannitys of the age denounced as treason.

Nowadays, we need to read and heed our founding documents more than ever. This morning on NPR (where 60% of the commentators are Republican, by the way) heard the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence, and as I listened I thought about the parallels between George III and George W.

After the reading Judy Muller gave her commentary on how tyrrany slips up on a people. I see tyranny trying to establish a foothold in America today. I don't feel like taking the time to examine every clause of the Declaration of Independence today, but I intend to go through it.

Today, let's look at some of the opening language of the Declaration:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Is the current government deriving its powers from the consent of the governed? With the Supreme Court allowing (blessing?) Tom DeLay's gerrymandering in Texas, it seems that the governed have less say all the time over who governs them. See my previous post, "On Living in a Pocket Borough."

As for altering or aboloshing our government, we have the ballot box, as long as the people behind Diebold don't manipulate it, rather than raising armed militias. You see how far that got in the 1990s.

As we look forward to November's election, let's give prayerful consideration to the candidates most likely to help effect our Safety and Happiness.

Again, happy Fourth!