The money’s (not) there

Someone found my blog today by googling the search term “Nathan Myers Fannie Mae.”  As random as that search is, it connected me to an important question I asked in this this post September 17, 2008,

“How is it that any time we talk about safeguarding Social Security or national health care, we’re told, “The money’s not there,” when in the last couple weeks, the government has extended hundreds of billions of dollars of loans to wealthy Wall Street firms?”

I think I would ask a similar amended question today,

“How is it that any time we talk about safeguarding Social Security or national health care or public education or assistance for poor people, we’re told “The money’s not there,” when in the past week, we’ve spent over 1 billion dollars dropping bombs on Libya?”

Why I’m voting for Steve Driehaus

I listened to an On Point episode the other day where a Utah voter said, “On any other election I’d probably vote for Bennet (Democratic candidate).  But I think this election is a referendum on Barack Obama, so I have to, HAVE TO vote for Ken Buck.”

I don’t get that.  I don’t get how Obama has been so vilified as an extremist for the things he’s done so far.  I mean, for all the “socialist” rhetoric Limbaugh and Beck have been throwing around, you’d think the guy was more red than the Japanese rising sun.  But Obama’s got folks on the far left screaming at him that he hasn’t done anywhere near what they expected from him, and Solidarity US (a socialist organization) said flat-out,

“(The Tea Party) has particularly succeeded in branding Barack Obama and his policies as radical leftist – while the real Obama, as we know, is far from the “left wing” of the Democratic Party let alone the socialist left.”

Look, I’ve got my issues with the policies of the Obama administration, but he’s far, far, far from the leftist he’s portrayed.

I’ll simply say this.  I think this election should be a referendum on Wall Street’s power and the deregulation that led to it.  It was the breaking down of walls between savings and investment banks (see Glass-Steagle Act) that allowed them to play with people’s money so openly over the last number of years without fear of retribution.  And a number of persons made money hand over fist both before the financial collapse and afterwards.

But the impatience and short memory of the American people has  made the fundamental reasons why the American economy collapsed a distant memory.  In fact, Ohioans are so Alzheimers-affected that John Kasich, a Lehman Brothers exec not only chose to run for governor but currently is polling a point ahead of incumbent governor Ted Strickland.  I’ll tell you, that blows every circuit in my brain.  Which leads me to why I’m voting for Steve Driehaus.

I met Driehaus for the first time on the first floor of our building.  I talked with him either by myself or with Matt Dawson for twenty minutes straight that evening.  We questioned him on his view of the healthcare bill, his view of regulation, and his responsibility to listen to the common person.  More than any other politician I’ve ever met, Driehaus impressed me.  Flat-out impressed me.  Why?

First, I care deeply about the issue of abortion.  Driehaus does too.  In fact, he cares enough that he joined with a group of other Democrats who refused to vote yes on the health-care reform bill until they had assurances that no federal money would be spent on carrying out abortions.  For doing this, they drew the ire of liberals like the powerful Nancy Pelosi.  And as a freshman representative, Driehaus surely lost some possibility of plum assignments or some classic Washington back-scratching because he decided to have integrity and stand up as a moral leader.  I was encouraged by Ron Sider’s call from ESA before the vote that healthcare is a human rights issue and that abortion is a human rights issue and to not yield in our convictions and advocacy for either.  Driehaus stood up for both, and I deeply respect him for that position.  And his position cost him with the Democratic leadership.  He dressed up what he said a little in our conversation, but I saw/heard it in his eyes.  He took a shot for that one from both sides.

We also talked about financial regulation.  Driehaus stated that he’s committed to “sensible regulation.”  He explained that businesses need the ability to run without punitive regulations, but also need the leavening hand of public policy to encourage them to act for the common good…or at least to have some real discipline when they inevitably get selfish. He wasn’t calling us to go read the Little Red Book or occupy the GE plant in Evendale for socialist purposes.  He was simply saying that business is a necessary part of our economy, and they need limits.

I see Steve Chabot signs around here that say, “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” and “Revitalize the economy!”  I agree with those vague statements, but I ask, “Chabot, I’ve only been around this district for about two years, but do you think I have amnesia? Do you think that if you say something three times, I will magically forget that you participated in the sweeping deregulation of the financial services sector, which was the primary reason people lost their “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” and entered “Unemployment! Unemployment! Unemployment!”? I know you’re counting on Ohioans to be so dense and puffy-eyed from the last Extreme Makeover Home Edition that we don’t remember this, but I do.

I really really hope people in our district somehow magically remember Chabot’s role in this terrible mess, because if he wins tomorrow, a very very good man with great leadership integrity and moral rooting will leave Washington.  Driehaus is a politician sorely needed in Washington; one with the guts to stand up and be counted on the great issues of our day, backslaps from Pelosi and Hoyer be damned.  After Driehaus spoke at the Faith and Values Summit here in Cincinnati, Matt turned to me and said

“Driehaus is a stud.”
I responded, “No, Driehaus is an absolute freaking stud.”

Please, Ohio 1st Districtans.  Remember.  For the good of our country and a leader we can be proud of.

Vote Driehaus tomorrow.

A Charleston day…

In the lectionary today,
I read in Psalm 145.
It is a prayer of thankfulness.
It is a celebration of God’s character.

The author proclaims,
“The Lord is good to all,
he has compassion over all He has made.”

As I read this,
it seems the Lord is concerned for ALL the relationships he put into place.
Yes, the breath the human draws in and out.
Yes, the longings of the human, the dreams for success.

But also,
the trees that filter the air the human draws in and out.
The limestone that filters the water in deep underground streams.
The deer that stand,
statuesque,
in that stand of trees,
over there.
The water that flows, intended to provide life.

So God cares about the human,
but he also cares about
the tree,
the limestone,
the deer,
the streams.

Because they nurture the human, yes,
but even more, because He MADE them,
and CARES for them.

Today, we travel to Charleston to state:
“Massey Energy and other mountaintop removal cohorts.
Your actions are not reflective of a humble awareness of your Creator.

You are being judged as you swim in cash,
and unless you alter your industry,
you will be judged on a great and terrible day.
Embrace the sustainable future where you are merely a part of an ecosystem,
NOT
standing alone, destroying your neighbors in selfishness and greed.

The Iroquois remind us,
“In our every deliberation, we must,
we MUST consider the impact of our decisions
on the next seven generations.”

You can change, Massey.
You can govern with the leavening hand of justice and wisdom, EPA.
Join the compassionate call of your Creator.

Nader on patriotism…

“Highly charged exchanges take place between those who believe patriotism is automatically possessed by those in authority and those who assert that patriotism is not a pattern imposed but a condition earned by the quality of an individual’s or a people’s behavior…It is time to talk of patriotism not as an abstraction steeped in nostalgia, but as behavior that can be judged by the standard of “liberty and justice for all.” Patriotism can be a great asset for any organized society, but it can also be a tool manipulated by unscrupulous or cowardly leaders and elites.”

Ralph Nader, “We Need a New Kind of Patriotism,” in The Ralph Nader Reader.
Originally published in Life magazine in 1971

Nader on the deep need for citizen action…

The empowerment and widespread exercise of citizenship is a pre-requisite for a sound, democratic society.  Leadership that empowers more people, that reduces the severe concentration of power and information, and that lifts a nation into missions of accomplishment which will increase justice, happiness, and opportunity- that is the leadership citizens must demand by involving themselves in a national political campaign.  So too, the media should rise to their higher responsibility to report the White House and not just mimeograph its rhetoric.

Our history has demonstrated that the well-being of society springs from the growth of daily, active citizenship that provides an enabling environment for good leaders to come forth.  Every significant social movement in this century has sprung from active citizens fighting for their cause- women’s suffrage, worker’s rights, civil rights, environmental and consumer protection, peace.  Put in today’s terms, citizens in our country need to spend more time being citizens.  That is the bottom line.”

Nader, pg 91, “The Corporate State and the Corporatizing of America,” in The Ralph Nader Reader

To put it bluntly, turn off or drastically reduce the amount of hyper-reality shows we watch and time-consuming thoughtless games on the Internet (e.g. Farmville, Mafia Wars, Bejeweled) and on video game platforms, and choose to express basic concern for our neighbor by joining citizen groups and volunteer organizations and lobbying policy-makers…and even *gasp* taking the simple step of spending time with, writing letters to, and calling those we need to invest in relationship with.

All of these activities start rebuilding the web of relationships that every successful society needs in order to seek justice, transparency, honesty, and the common good.

Who’s Ralph talking about?

“So extreme is the President’s corporatism that he is finding more genuine conservative groups taking sharp issue with his policies.  In a little reported evolution that may change the future complexion of American politics, organizations that call themselves conservative populists are teaming up with their progressive counterparts to oppose corporate bailouts.  Last year this coalition defeated the breeder reactor boondoggle- a high _________  priority.  In _____, it nearly defeated the legislation regarding the Alaska gas pipeline that would coerce consumers into paying for the pipeline even if the project isn’t completed and consumers did not receive any natural gas.  The synfuel industry’s welfare project is under similar pressure, though its predicted mismanagement and awful economics appear to be self-dismantling.  This new coalition put up a strong fight against the _______-ite bailout of the big U.S. banks that made such imprudent loans at skyhigh interest rates to foreign countries.  ________, who spent years lecturing around the country from General Electric on the virtues of sink or swim free enterprise, has become the most prominent advocate of big business bailouts in American history.

If this all goes against his philosophic grain, it demonstrates the contrary power of giant business over his government.  His formerly strong belief in states’ rights is surrendered when companies want his backing for a weaker federal law replacing the adaptable common law in the fifty states that gives people injured by dangerous products rights to sue and recover compensation from manufacturers.  It is surrendered when the banks demand that his agencies preempt stronger state regulations designed to protect depositors and borrowers.  It is surrendered again when the nuclear industry wants him to strip state and local governments of their police power over the transportation of radioactive materials through their communities.  Corporatizing the ex-conservative _________  __________ is a routine matter these days, even when Wall Street’s economic and tax policy demands result in placing Main Street, with its small businesses, at a comparative disadvantage.”

Ralph Nader  “On the corporate state and the corporatizing of America”

Obama’s wise truth-telling on peace in Israel/Palestine

I continue to be further swayed by President Obama that he is more wise, more of a leader, and more of a moral voice than I believed he was in his campaign. On the morning of the election November 4th, as I wavered on how to vote, I finally decided to vote for Obama based on his great capacity to bring disparate parties together to listen, to speak honestly to one another, and move forward after hearing one another. It is this capacity for building trust and respect that I found most necessary following the disastrous foreign policy of George W. Bush and the continuing political acrimony in America.

This week, Obama gave an address that should be much-quoted, listened to, and discussed. It sets the table for greater cooperation and understanding between the Middle East and the West, better interfaith dialogue (especially between Muslims and Christians), and a more deep respect for our fellow human beings outside the borders of individual nations. I quote the segment of the speech on Israel/Palestine because of its profound wisdom.

 

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed — more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews — is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It’s easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. The obligations — the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist.

At the same time Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines continued efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer.

President Barack Obama
Cairo, Egypt
June 4, 2009