29 October 2004

Voting on Taxes/Social Services

This one seems pretty clear to me too. There are two ways for the government to give you back your tax money. The first is in tax breaks. The second is in services ranging from food stamps to health care to social security and much more.

While I'll admit this is based purely on anecdotal, "gut feeling" evidence and no hard research at all, I would still bet that there's a pretty good chance that the ones who make off with the most cash from tax breaks are the upper brackets and corporations.

On the other hand, the ones who usually benefit the most from social services are the poor and disadvantaged. That seems to make the choice pretty clear to me.

Since GWB has kicked off his fancy tax cut plan, my taxes have pretty much stayed the same, Ken Lay with his millions has gotten off scot free, our social security system has taken a nosedive and a whole lot of children have been left behind.

28 October 2004

Voting on Foreign Policy

DO UNTO OTHERS... It's pretty simple, really: We aren't the only ones on this planet and I'd like a president who understands that. This is my biggest problem with GWB, who seems to function at a certain distance from reality. Did he think the mess he left in Afghanistan was going to clean itself up? While we were gearing up for war in Iraq, Hosni Mubarak (along with host of others) said, "When it is over, if it is over, this war will have horrible consequences, instead of having one bin Laden, we will have 100 bin Ladens." I wonder if anyone in the Oval Office even gave his words a second thought. Reading the news over the past month, it seems that the fall harvest of bin Laden wannabes is just hitting the market.

And I'm not a big fan of GWB's methods either. As far as I can tell, the current U.S. foreign policy manual reads something like this:

  • Pick some bad guy (If he is Middle Eastern, go to step 2. If not, ignore him.)
  • Try to blow him up
  • Tell everyone who criticizes you to take a hike
  • Rig an election and call it democracy
  • Tell everyone who criticizes you to take another hike
  • Rinse and repeat.

26 October 2004

How I Will Vote This Year

I've decided that I will vote for John Kerry. This will most likely be no surprise to some, but, in honest fact, it is a decision I've come to only in the last few days. I'll admit that I'm voting more with the purpose of removing Bush than installing Kerry. Not that I dislike Kerry. I would even say that I'm on the positive side of ambivalent, which, if you know me, is pretty good. But I think Bush has made enough mistakes for one presidency and I am hoping that his time has come.

Before I explain myself, here is some background: There are a small number of issues that I care about when it comes to electing the president, maybe five on which I usually base my voting. These are roughly based on areas where I perceive the president to have real influence. The ones that immediately come to mind are foreign policy, taxes/social services, the environment, abortion, and education.

I've got a bit to say on each of these categories and a die-hard Republican reader or two who will most likely provide you with a vociferously opposing view. Make some popcorn, turn off the TV and stick around for the fun...

25 October 2004

I've Been Out...

I've been working on a long and challenging project at work which has been going on since the end of August. This last week has been the worst of it -- most of my waking hours have been dedicated to finishing it. And now I'm almost done, which is a relief, and I'll be back around more often. I'm sorry about the silence. I've got some more thoughts, like you might expect, about the upcoming election. I've also been thinking some about church and the things we -- some of us anyway -- believe about God. I'm thinking I might write about that in these coming weeks. In any case, if you're interested, stick around. I'm finally going to be free to play a little.

20 October 2004

Admit It...

...We all saw this one coming a mile away.

19 October 2004

The Wind In/Out Of My Sails

I'm back now from the adventure which was this past weekend. We explored the desert island on foot (two Peregrine falcons on the lighthouse!) and by sea (by kayak into the dark cave filled with riotous water but fortunately no Medusa!). The miracles of the Channel Islands never cease to amaze, challenge, and satisfy me.

This time we had some rain. We were warm and dry in our tent as the wind gusted and the rain poured. Some of our intrepid colleagues weren't so lucky. JO spent most of the night huddling in his raincoat watching his tent flailing rabidly above his head. That was because it was shaped more like a parachute than a tent. It finally went over at around 4am (fortunately it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the trip – since returning he’s already picked out a much sturdier replacement). The good thing for all of us is that by the time the morning came, the wind had shifted and the clouds had begun to break up. We ate breakfast and swam in the ocean under a nearly clear, bright blue sky.

And now I’m back home and happy. Strangely, or maybe not so, the time away has made the whole fixation of the past few weeks on the election season seem a little tiresome. I am continuing to pay attention, but for today, at least, I’m not too concerned. All the buzz and the jostling for position and the endless reams of opinion and commentary and opinions about the commentary seem very far away from the stillness which descends, which can be found without too much effort, if you only take a step outside the circle of noise. We live so much of our lives inside the circle and we fool ourselves into believing that there is nothing more. Thank God for the things that remind us of the truth.

14 October 2004

Time For A Break, addendum

...oh, and did I mention the ocean kayaks that we're taking? No, I didn't? How could I have forgotten to mention the OCEAN KAYAKS?!

Time For A Break



This is where we'll be tomorrow night. Are you jealous? You should be.

12 October 2004

A Beautiful, Beautiful Story

It's one of those things that you stop and scratch your head, and you think that 'Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?'" said the police captain.

That pretty much says it.

Behind The Music: Saddam Hussein

Read all about here (and it's QUITE a read.)

What was Saddam REALLY thinking? It's pretty surprising. And, strangely, it makes a lot of sense. I just wish someone in Washington had been paying attention. In the world we live in now, we can't afford to make these kind of mistakes.

On Saddam and the United States:

"Saddam did not consider the United States a natural adversary, as he did Iran and Israel, and he hoped that Iraq might again enjoy improved relations with the United States, according to Tariq ‘Aziz and the presidential secretary."

"In 2004, Charles Duelfer of ISG said that between 1994 and 1998, both he and UNSCOM Executive Chairman Rolf Ekeus were approached multiple times by senior Iraqis with the message that Baghdad wanted a dialogue with the United States, and that Iraq was in a position to be Washington’s 'best friend in the region bar none.'"

On Saddam's tightrope act:

"The Iran-Iraq war and the ongoing suppression of internal unrest taught Saddam the importance of WMD to the dominance and survival of [his] Regime. Following the destruction of much of the Iraqi WMD infrastructure during Desert Storm, however, the threats to the Regime remained; especially his perception of the overarching danger from Iran."

"In order to counter these threats, Saddam continued with his public posture of retaining the WMD capability. This led to a difficult balancing act between the need to disarm to achieve sanctions relief while at the same time retaining a strategic deterrent. The Regime never resolved the contradiction inherent in this approach. Ultimately, foreign perceptions of these tensions contributed to the destruction of the Regime."

"Saddam wanted to avoid appearing weak and did not reveal he was deceiving the world about the presence of WMD. The UN’s inconclusive assessment of Iraq’s possession of WMD, in Saddam’s view, gave pause to Iran. Saddam was concerned that the UN inspection process would expose Iraq’s vulnerability, thereby magnifying the effect of Iran’s own capability."

$100 says George W. doesn't ever bring any of this up in his stump speech. Because we all know that, apparently, a commander-in-chief doesn't make mistakes, or admit them anyway (except maybe in a few appointments here and there).

[SORRY. Sorry. BAD biased blogger. Bad. 50 laps for me.]

11 October 2004

Props II



My brother Jon climbed this last week. He said the summit is a little chunk of rock 4 feet wide with 800 foot vertical drops on either side.

What am I doing sitting here on this chair in this brown cubicle?

Remember that Kyoto Treaty?

Too bad we decided it was all hooey.

Here's another article.

10 October 2004

The Unbiased, Completely True Debate Result, Revisited

I've thought a little more and come up with three things rather than two that were true of the Friday night debate:

- George W. played fast and cheap with the rules. He did. For all of the pages and pages of rules that his campaign insisted on for the debate, he seemed to feel remarkably free to re-write them on the fly. Which has sort of been my problem with him all along.

- For all of his purported ideas, John Kerry seemed remarkably free of them during the debate. When we don't hear them expressed, it leaves us to decide based on intangible 'feelings' about him, rather than facts. Which forces us to decide based on our like or dislike of him as a person. Which is a terrible way to pick a person to run the world.

- And, yes, in my opinion, if we're thinking purely in terms of 'winning' and 'losing', George W., completely and without question, walked all over John Kerry on Friday night.

Politics & Religion



In the words of a famous scholar: "You gotta keep 'em separated."

09 October 2004

The Unbiased, Completely True Debate Result

Ignore all those polls. Here are the two things that were true of last night:

George W. played fast and cheap with the rules.

George W., completely and without question, walked all over John Kerry.

Derrida Discovers The Absolute

French philosopher Jacques Derrida, the founder of the school of deconstructionism, has died of cancer at the age of 74.

I wonder if he's changed his mind about anything yet.

08 October 2004

Adventure

This guy must be a little crazy, but I am still in awe. Check out the Six Summits Project. It all seems so simple when he says it. For example, one bullet point of his plan reads "row to India, bicycle to Nepal, climb Everest, then return to the boat by bicycle." Of course. Why not?

See For Yourself

The second Presidential debate is tonight. Tomorrow the news will be all spin on spin on spin. If you want to get at anything near the truth of what happens tonight, you're going to need to watch it for yourself. Everything else is going to be smoke and mirrors. Everything, of course, except this blog...

04 October 2004

Six Of One, Half A Dozen of the Other...

How about this angle...

Such is the state of our presidential politics: an evangelical President flummoxed at any suggestion of his own fallibility, and a Catholic candidate who sidesteps his church's teaching authority. And in both our political parties, concern for justice often serves as cover for self-justification; righteousness curdles all too quickly into self-righteousness.
So I've decided that my own vote will be less about endorsing a platform or person than discerning the potential for change—in biblical terms, for repentance. Is it more likely that the party of justice can repent of its indifference to righteousness, or that the party of righteousness can repent of its deafness to justice? I have to choose one, but I will pray for both. Some things aren't meant to be separated. [Andy Crouch]

There's more where that come from right here.

James Fallows on Fresh Air

There are 38 good minutes of interview with James Fallows (Atlantic Monthly) on the Fresh Air website. The interview was recorded before last week's Presidential debate and adds history and background to the story that we're seeing unfold. He also has some well-informed and thoughtful comments about US foreign policy in the Middle East.

I'd suggest you make a cup of tea and link up.

01 October 2004

In Which I Am Surprised and Go On Blathering About Politics

So. Just to kick things off, let me say that I turned on the Presidential debate expecting to be disappointed by both of the candidates...

Thoughts:

-- My expectations for George W. are usually not very high, especially in these kind of situations. To me, he often sounds loud and demanding, like the tourists that make me embarrassed to be an American when I'm traveling overseas. Don't get me wrong. I think he'd make a great neighbor and a pretty good church youth group leader. My guess is that he's a great dad. He was at his best on that pile of rubble at Ground Zero in September of 2001 when that toughness was just what everyone needed to hear. But I've never been very excited to see him at the podium. I get a little nervous and embarrassed for his family.

-- Until last night, I had never actually heard John Kerry speak in anything resembling an unscripted situation. With all the news about him waffling and the little bits of campaign prattle that I've heard from him in the last few weeks, I was not expecting much. Kinda like Gore four years ago but worse. I expected him to be unimaginative and vague and mean and undignified and full of political campaign-speak.

-- I was surprised. In fact, I sat there with my mouth open for the first half hour, quite surprised by Kerry's focus and articulate responses. You can call me biased if you want, but he actually seemed to know what he was talking about. In contrast, the President seemed to be at a loss for words, or, at best, unsure and on the defensive. And here's the thing: I like a leader who knows what he's talking about. I don't like to wonder whether or not he has done his homework. (I still haven't gotten over that Colin Powell in the United Nations incident. Were those outright lies they gave him to say? Or was it the result of plain ignorance? Either way, the Bush administration obviously didn't know what they were getting into. Rather, the whole thing smelled of some other agenda being played out that had very little to do with the so-called "War On Terror." They pretty much lost me for good that day.)

-- These aren't partisan words. At least, I hope not. I'm working hard to be fair. I'm not registered with any particular party. This is just how I feel: I am ashamed to hear our current president talk when I realize that people all around the world are listening. What can I do about that? Does he know how he sounds?

-- He's run the country for almost four years now. Can't he come up with a more nuanced foreign policy than "you'd better have a president who chases these terrorists down and bring them to justice before they hurt us again."

-- But all of that wasn't the surprise last night. The surprise was Kerry. I didn't think he had it in him. I'm anxious to see how things go in the next debate.

-- On a not-so-small side note: if the Democratic Party could just get over the whole abortion fixation, which I think is an inconsistent and immoral plank in their platform, I might actually consider giving up my Independent status, but that's not today's conversation...

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.