Sunday, December 31, 2006

Cheney, Nixon, and Ford

According to VP Cheney, Pres. Ford did the right thing in pardoning Pres. Richard Nixon immediately after taking office after the disgraced President resigned. Hmm. Spoken like a man threatened with his own impeachment. If you want to hear from a bunch of Republicans about the virtues of 'healing' and getting on with it, check out this story from Yahoo! News: Otherwise, suffice it to say that this obviously not true. Looking at what Nixon's criminal activities while in office has made the entire country skeptical of the position. Instead of indicting, prosecuting, and convicting a president resigned from his post, he has been excused of his bad behavior. This isn't healing--healing would be in allowing us to see Nixon as a bad seed that was corrupted by power. Instead, we are left to suggest that all presidents are likely to be bad seeds. Take a look at the first elected president after Nixon: Jimmy Carter. Carter was the most respectable and appropriate president of the last fifty years, for sure, but we weren't allowed to appreciate those virtues.

You know, Dick, it isn't about making the right decision at a time, it is the right decision for all-time. Gerald Ford was courageous in his decision: too bad the repercussions have not been what he had hoped. Now as for you, Mr. Cheney, perhaps you will be saved from impeachment, but I’m sure you’ll be fighting legal battles for the next decade. Hey, you made your own bed.

Friday, December 22, 2006

No surge is a good surge...

The political topic de jour is “the surge”. Yes, Mr. President, like your advisors, you want to boost troop levels the same way you passed 'the middle-class tax cut' in 2001: by forwarding service personal that they would ordinarily hire later. So, we’re talking about adding up to 30,000 more soldiers for the Iraq Conflict and for what? So that we can produce a “surge” that would certainly overwhelm the insurgency and the civil war will instantly stop, peace would break out throughout the Middle East and trees would produce chocolate chip cookies.

And what happens when this (like everything else) doesn’t work? John McCain and Colin Powell have asked for years now for a boost in troop levels, but they are talking about 100,000 or more. They first were talking about big, overwhelming numbers to crush the spirit of any insurgency that may develop. Well, we came in with few troops and the insurgency showed up. Big surprise. That MO now, cannot possibly work, because we aren’t invading again.

And has anyone explained to you George, that this morass is not ‘winnable’? There is no win-win. There isn’t even a win-lose scenario. There is only lose-lose. The U.S. will not save face in this. Democracy will likely not hold, let alone spread. None of our stated objectives (including the updated ones) will be achieved. As for the Iraqis, their country is in ruins, is impoverished, and desperate. They are not likely to come out of this kind of devastation for decades at the earliest. It will remain a breeding ground for discontent, because that is what poverty does. We have turned Baghdad into Detroit.

The U.S. has no stated opponent and according to military definitions isn’t at war in Iraq. I have stated this before, and I’m going to suggest it again. Bush, your only option is to proclaim Mission Accomplished (again) and move the U.S. out of Iraq. Since this is a war of perception more than bombs, anyway, why don't you take control of the message? We all know you're a liar, so what is one more white lie? The people will eat it up, desperate to hear that we didn’t waste time, energy, money, and human lives in an Iraq invasion. This isn’t cutting-and-running since we will declare that we have defeated the enemy. The Iraqi people can finally try to stand up, and whether they do or not isn’t really a problem—look at the response we gave Afghanistan at the 2004 Olympics—“our newest democracy” we said—all the while, the country is in shambles, is devastated, and is under the control of warlords. Now that sounds like some tasty democracy!

So George, declare victory already! What are you waiting for? The sooner you get the media out of Iraq, the more of your face is saved. Some media sources are sniffing around the Iraq Study Group’s report that says that over 1,000 attacks occur daily, while we hear about fewer than 10% in our news. People are starting to realize that the figure of Iraqi deaths from last month topping 600,000 isn’t actually off—if anything it’s low. You don’t want people to know how bad this mistake is. Pull us out, cover it up, and encourage us to move on already so you can save your presidency. Then we’ll listen when you unveil No Child Left Behind II: the Reckoning.

Millen, don’t draft Brady Quinn!

Or Troy Smith! Yes, I am a Michigan fan, and no, I’m not a Quinn or a Smith Hater, but I think drafting the best player in college football, quarterback Brady Quinn, would be a disaster for the Lions.

Yes, Brady Quinn is the best player in college football. In fact, he had a better year statistically than Troy Smith, and had Quinn been the QB at Ohio State, you might have seen him push for 4,000 yards. Notre Dame was weak, and the Heisman Trophy voters were dazzled by what Troy Smith didn’t do—run like Vince Young, even though he has that talent. And don’t forget that 12-0 record. If the roles were reversed, Troy would not have won as QB at Notre Dame.

The truth is that the performances of Joey Harrington in Miami and Jeff Garcia in Philadelphia prove that Detroit is a quarterback Hospice—it is the place that they go to die. John Kitna isn’t a washed-up veteran; he has a lousy offensive line. If Millen drafts Quinn (or Smith), it is lights out for another year. The Lions might improve to 3-13.

The Lions are assured of getting a top three pick, and they appear to have a good shot at the top pick, so here is my advice for the general manager. Trade it away! Get rid of that top pick (if you get it). Trade down. Look at the draft strategy of a genius like Mike Shanahan in Denver. Watch the draft board and trade down, but also, be willing to trade back up. A trade for a star is as good as a pick (WR Javon Walker went to Denver for a second rounder last year). The Lions not only have too many needs to waste it on a quarterback (that will get pushed out of town in four years anyway), but they could take care of several with some good trades. If they play their cards right, the Lions could have new starters on the offensive line, fullback, defensive line, linebacker, and cornerback from the first three rounds alone.

Now, Matt, I know what you are thinking: “if I take an offensive lineman (or two) in the first round, the fans won’t be happy—they aren’t a sexy enough pick.” Well, the Jets took two OL as their first picks and they are 8-6. I also know that Detroit is the one place where OL may be sexy enough. Think about it—we give up way too many sacks as it is, you could transform the quarterback position by giving Kitna more time to throw the ball, and you could pave the way for Kevin Jones (when he comes back). This is a win-win scenario.

With the Kevin Jones injury, you will no doubt be tempted to use the pick on a running back: don’t! There won’t be many options unless some of the elite go pro early. Adrian Peterson may be the exception—he is likely to pull a Willis McGahee—but know that your replacement/insurance player is coming off of an injury (not to mention way too many carries at the college level).

Key picks may be at middle linebacker, anywhere on the defensive line (Lamar Woodley, perhaps?) and the OL. Waste no picks in the first three rounds that don’t shore up the offensive line (that has been awful for a decade) or the DL. Picking Rod Marinelli’s guys isn’t really a bad call, either. Just don’t waste the pick on a “playmaker” that we will end up cutting in three years for “under-performing”. Wake up and realize that it isn’t Kitna or Roy (or Mike) Williams or Kevin Jones’ fault that the Lions lose. As a parting shot, Jerry Jones, the obnoxious owner of the Dallas Cowboys suggested that the success for his team in the 90’s was paying big for playmakers and filling in around them. That was fine for him to say when Aikman, Irvin, and Smith were protected by one of the top offensive lines in league. The Lions have comparable talent at those positions, so what’s the real difference?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Why Revolt?

In an article in the New York Times entitled “Episcopalians Are Reaching Point of Revolt”(the link is
  • here), Laurie Goodstein examines the articulations of some of the church’s ex-pats’ reasons for breaking from the church.
  • This began several years ago, but is newsworthy now because two big, wealthy churches in Virginia are voting this weekend to leave the church.

    “The Episcopalian ship is in trouble,” said the Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, one of the two large Virginia congregations, where George Washington served on the vestry. “So we’re climbing over the rails down to various little lifeboats. There’s a lifeboat from Bolivia, one from Rwanda, another from Nigeria. Their desire is to help us build a new ship in North America, and design it and get it sailing.”

    What seems strange to many of us is that this ship is not only a serious ocean-going vessel, but an ice-breaker, tugboat, and ocean liner in one. We haven’t hit an iceberg and are taking on water, but we smashed through the iceberg and came out clean on the other side. The problem is that the conservatives are attempting to blow a hole in the hull and call it “irreconcilable differences”. The Anglican Communion is based on bonds of affection: you can come and go as you please, you just can’t steal someone else’s sheep. Ahh! There’s the controversy!

    Last week, conservative priests in the Church of England warned [the Archbishop of Cantebury] that they would depart if he did not allow them to sidestep liberal bishops and report instead to sympathetic conservatives.

    This is similar to what is going on here, as well:

    In Virginia, the two large churches are voting on whether they want to report to the powerful archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, an outspoken opponent of homosexuality who supports legislation in his country that would make it illegal for gay men and lesbians to form organizations, read gay literature or eat together in a restaurant.

    Not to mention making it illegal to be a hetero supporter of gay rights.

    Anglican rules and traditions prohibit bishops from crossing geographical boundaries to take control of churches or priests not in their territory. So Archbishop Akinola and his American allies have tried to bypass that by establishing a branch of the Nigerian church in the United States, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America.

    But how can this even be perceived as “getting around this” since we are still in the United States? Would Akinola stand for a U.S. presence in Nigeria, ordaining our own priests in his territory? Of course not. See, this isn’t an actual loophole, but apparently, if you shout loud enough, it can pass for one.

    Archbishop Akinola and some other leaders of provinces in developing countries have said they will boycott their primates’ meeting in Tanzania in February unless the archbishop of Canterbury sends a second representative for the American conservatives.

    Which is actually the first appropriate step on their part—previously, there case was to threaten walking (which they will do anyway) unless the U.S. sent no one to Lambeth. Our abiding by their desires in 2004 was a grave mistake.

    Do you recognize this tactic? Churches of many stripes began refusing to share the Holy Eucharist with churches they perceive as not being in line with their version of tradition. This sacrament of the Church is our great sign of unity, and by its very nature cannot be a weapon of division. Similarly, it is not a tool of exclusivity either. Roman Catholics have been battling over this since the despicable Conservative attacks on Sen. Kerry during the 2004 election.

    “It’s a huge amount of mess,” said the Rev. Dr. Kendall Harmon, canon theologian of the Diocese of South Carolina, who is aligned with the conservatives. “As these two sides fight, a lot of people in the middle of the Episcopal Church are exhausted and trying to hide, and you can’t. When you’re in a family and the two sides are fighting, it affects everybody.”

    But the truth is that it really isn’t a question of sides: there aren’t “two sides fighting”. There is one group breaking canon law for its own purposes and the rest abiding by the Church’s teachings and traditions. For several years now, conservatives have cast themselves as the last vestiges of a pure and faithful people: it is as if they are the ‘civilized’ Romans overrun by disgusting barbarians, and their only hope is to make a desperate plea across the Atlantic. In reality, this is an unconscionable act of desperation by several conniving men that respect only small bits of scripture over the mass that do not deal with sexual politics or ethics.

    Despite what you may think, I have a deep respect for conservative ideals, but this is a gambit of power and an act of egotistical human origin. Conservative traditions that encourage us to be wary of change, and if it necessary, move slowly are not only appropriate, but truly gallant. It is too bad that these acts by a power-mad African bishop and his glory-hound allies in the U.S. are in all actuality sheer cowardice. Has it occurred to no one that this is a big case of sour grapes that is being used as a case for civil war?

    Monday, December 11, 2006

    I'm a religious heathen!

    After taking an entire semester with a conservative professor, a new way of thinking of myself has emerged. For this, let me lay the groundwork.

    My placement is in an older church in downtown Saginaw, Michigan. It is a relatively urban/suburban mixed environment that is racially diverse and has a big manufacturing and logging history. My church is across the street from Jimmy John's sandwich shop, and I often walk there for lunch. Traditionally, the impact of reading something religious in public has left me wondering what kind of religious zealot freak I must appear to be; however, after hearing all semester about our overly-secularist society and the elimination of any bonds of affection between church and state, a different feeling has overtaken me: I may not be religious freaky enough for people here.!I was reading Anglican Identities by Archbishop Rowan Williams, and as I sat there, it occurred to me that to some, I must be a barely-Christian heathen.

    In reality, I don't think that my professor is inherently wrong about the church and society, but instead inherently flawed—religious people today are only thinking theologically and are choosing to not be biblically and historically literate, let alone astute. Because the source of antagonism is not a secular society suppressing a theologically rich Christianity, but is a cabal of zealous fundamentalists against the mainline protestant churches for the soul of the Church. Secular humanists and atheists don't even realize that they are no longer even part of the equation!

    The call to the priesthood isn't simply a call to liturgical action, but true leadership. If we are to believe this is the case, then we have decades of weak leadership to overcome. Shh! Don't tell anybody I said that!

    Never listen to economists

    These people are just plain wrong. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Iraq conflict is going well.

    What they are wrong about now is their devotion to “market forces”. The truth is that markets aren’t infallible: far from it. Markets aren’t really free, since the market is nothing but a shell. Think of it as a church. The laws that rule the church dictate how it is set up, what types of windows to put in, where the altar and pulpit go, what type of materials to use at Eucharist, etc. The people in the congregation actually make up what is church. The building is only the set of conditions that aid in the worship of God. So it goes with our capitalistically motivated market. The market is useless if the individuals that buy and sell products within the market aren’t behaving according to normal behaviors.

    Having said this, we should stop thinking of the market and the ‘health’ of the American dollar and any other condition of the market as something that simply ‘happens’ or that the impact isn’t human, but a product of the marketplace. The truth is that the market is wholly dependent on actors. The Dow goes up when people are buying high, and it goes down when people sell low. This really has nothing to do with the economy, but that people act in response to their fears or joys about the economy and allow those influences to direct their actions.

    This morning, I heard that the American dollar is tanking, in no small part due to the fact that oil-rich nations (OPEC) have reduced their holdings in U.S. dollars by 2%--from 67% down to 65%. In this case, the dollar is replaced by the Euro. Think about this for a second: our economic health is wholly dependent on Saudis’ owning enough of our currency: if they trade it in for Euros, our economy tanks. Does this have anything to do with the mythical Market? No! Does this have anything to do with politics? You bet your ass!

    So never listen to Market Place and never read The Wall Street Journal without realizing that the Market doesn’t have a life of its own. The people, as always, are the real actors.