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8 Trillion

From an article in the San Francisco Chronicle: In October, for the first time, the national debt passed the $8 trillion mark.  The federal budget deficit is $319 billion.  Not only is this situation unsustainable, it also greatly increases the vulnerability of our economy: since taking office Bush has borrowed $1.05 trillion from foreign banks and governments.  Maybe we should roll back those tax cuts.


God's Politics

Krister recently mused about a speech by Jim Wallis (author of God's Politics).  I can relate.  A few excerpts:

His main premise had to do with the fact that in our country we have created a great divide in politics over religion. The right uses religion to polarize a nation while the left leaves religion behind despite the fact that they are historically associated with many movements started by faith communities. I'm not going to lie here; it felt unbelievable to be in a building with people who are passionate about the same things I am passionate about. Wallis talked about how the religious right act like they own God and have narrowed faith down to a couple key issues: abortion and gay marriage. The problem, however, comes when you look at the entire witness of scripture and see that there are over 3,000 verses that speak to poverty. And what are we doing about it? Not a heck of a lot from a religious standpoint. Sure we give and are charitable, but poverty will not be overcome through charity. That's like blowing out a trick candle. Eventually the flame sparks up again and poverty is back in full effect because we've not gotten at the heart of poverty and the systemic influences that allow it to flourish... Wallis believes that the time of the religious right is up and that a new movement is beginning that is listening to the center of the country that does not feel represented by televangelists or family values promulgators or by wishy washy liberals who don't stand for much of anything. Instead, he believes that religion will be the tool that serves as a bridge to bring both "conservatives" and "liberals" together over the big issues that affect not only our country but our world as well... One of the most insightful comments he made was that the big choice to be made is not between belief and secularism. The real choice is between cynicism and hope. It is entirely easy to fall into the trap of believing that things are terrible and should get better but will never really change. The cynic thinks thus, but those who hope are compelled by a vision of the realized future that can only be fueled by faith. This hope is what makes things like eliminating poverty possible...

Janis Karpinski

She was the Brigadier General in command of US prisons in Iraq (including Abu Ghraib) who, along  with a handful of worker bees, has been scapegoated for the Abu Ghraib scandal.  There's a bunch of info in her Wikipedia entry.  It doesn't bother me that she's been held accountable, but it doesn't seem quite right that the accountability stopped with her (yes, I'm talking about you Rummy).  Karpinski is selling a book and, if you trust what she says, there's plenty of other blame to go around.  You might want to watch or listen to her lengthy interview on the Democracy Now! tv show. 

The fact that's there's debate about abusive treatment/torture of terrorism suspects baffles me.  From an article in USA Today:

Bush and Cheney oppose the measure because they say it would limit interrogators' ability to get information from terrorism suspects. Congress shouldn't interfere with "what we are trying to do to detain and interrogate the worst of the worst," says Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., a supporter of the administration's position.

We're better than that.  There are some principles that shouldn't be violated even if it places a limit on our info gathering.  Even if you can't be bothered with principles, you must realize that we have a PR problem.  Those pesky hearts and minds.  This isn't helping.  That's what John McCain thinks too, from another article in USA Today:

Terrorists are "the quintessence of evil," he said. "But it's not about them; it's about us. This battle we're in is about the things we stand for and believe in and practice. And that is an observance of human rights, no matter how terrible our adversaries may be."

Ann Coulter non grata

This is old news, but I just heard about it.  Harding University had invited "vitriolic" right-winger Ann Coulter to speak at its annual Distinguished Lecture Series (previous speakers have included Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher).  However, various blogging Harding graduates mounted a campaign to have her uninvited.  When Harding officials were made aware of some of her extreme, un-Christian statements, the campaign succeeded, and she was replaced in the schedule with Jose Maria Aznar, Spain's former president.

It was probably a good decision, but let's not forget that listening to someone speak does not necessarily imply approval.  In this case, though, the speaking engagement is probably considered a special honor, and Ann is probably not someone they would want to honor.


Bad Spirit of Rebellion

In the midst of a tight re-election campaign, Detroit's mayor Kwame Kilpatrick recently made a highly significant personal change to avoid giving off "a bad spirit of rebellion."  He stopped wearing his trademark diamond earring.  Who said we don't have strong, courageous leaders in this country?


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