Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When is the time?

Michigan is my home. I have lived (nearly) my whole life in the state. But coming across this article about the fate of Great Lakes water has revealed something to me: that point of no return.

Do you ever wonder what the breaking point is? That point where you may have to call the game on account of rain? Put your hands in the air and say "I've done all I can?" For the United States, the issue of water is so obvious. It's about preservation and sustaining our resources. Full stop. The problem is that other interests come in and try to have some influence. The economic conditions in the Midwest, extraction technologies, and the buying habits of consumers seem to be all vying for more important. Their argument is not just which is more important (comparing apples to oranges), but they argue as if this has to be done. Think about it a second. Instead of dealing with the issues as they are, we pretend as if we can not only ignore those issues, but we can declare them less important than one company's bottom line.

We have been watching it with ANWR for years now, where the argument is framed this way: oil prices are high, so we should drill more. There is oil here and those mean environmentalists won't let us get it. We must stop them from driving our prices up with their foolish crusade to save polar bears. Only one company would get this contract, only a few new jobs would be created, only one or two year's worth of oil is introduced into the world economy, most of which won't appear for a decade. All of this greed and central impact (we would see a whopping $0 price break from this endeavor), with the environmental degredation, habitat destruction, and migratory path decimation are the cost and the people not only receive virtually no economic benefit, we have to pay for the ecological impact.

Great Lakes water is the same. Nestle, Pepsi, or Coke wanting to empty the lakes the way they are stripping aquafirs throughout the world is not only an unsustainable impact, but it is not about Midwesterners and Canadians being mean--its about standing up to what is important. Its about preserving 20% of the world's fresh water as we suck up the rest. There is a very real possibility that in the next few years one of the above companies will be able to raid the Great Lakes as if they had the right to do so. Unless we change are view--they will.

And when that day happens? Well, I've always wanted to spend time in northern Europe.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Damned if you do and if you don't

Sen. Barack Obama was in a tight spot about his choice of runningmate. The McCain camp was prepared to attack him for picking a liberal or a moderate, an old guy or a young one, a woman or a man, another minority or the white guy. They had all of these in their back pocket and were just waiting for the chance to use them.

To be fair, the public short list (not confirmed by the campaign, so it was all speculation) was three white guys and one white woman. Two of the men were moderates, whose only real appeal was that they were from supposed "swing" states. The woman (Kathleen Sebelius) was the popular governor of Kansas, and the other guy was Sen. Joe Biden.

In reality, the pickings for a VP were slim: Senators John Edwards and Hillary Clinton were out from the start, but for different reasons. Edwards is now too "tainted" by scandal and Clinton typifies the need for change. Regardless of any perceived need to broker a deal, Clinton would compromise Obama's ticket completely. But we've already covered that.

This is the real reason that pickings are slim: there aren't many high-profile Democrats that could help float the ticket. To suggest that Evan Bayh or Tim Kaine have any national reputation is absurd. Neither is a particular darling of the Democratic Party, nor is either particularly appealing to the base. The suggestion that either would work is more of Obama throwing a bone to the establishment than anything else in picking a party loyalist and moderate. Ms. Sebelius, on the other hand, was a truly intriguing pick. She was the second female to become governor of Kansas and provided a stunning upset of a Republican incumbent. She would have served as a truly historic VP choice and her positions would be popular with the base and moderates alike. But perhaps the ticket shouldn't be too historic...

So that really only left Biden. The most capable, recognizable, healthy, appealing option. He represents an Obama-style Democrat in being able to make some compromises for a greater victory, and is as politically mainstream as they come.

So here is the real issue: Biden doesn't "complete" Obama. The media is all over this "shrewd" move by Obama in picking a "balancing force" to the ticket and "shoring up a weakness". They look at it as Obama acknowledging a shortcoming or that he is tired of being beaten up about foreign policy: despite the fact that both Bush and McCain have actually adopted Obama's policy. Biden is another voice.

But the worst charge, which betrays the media's lack of understanding, is that Biden is the "ultimate insider", the current description du jour. Discussing the need for change in Washington as if Washington has always been bad not only misunderstands the argument, but seems to ignore the subtext: the post-Reagan years, and specifically, the Clinton Democrats and Bush Republicans, are the true problem. Biden not only pre-dates Bush and the Clintons, but Reagan as well. When "conventional thinking" is bandied about in this discussion, it isn't everybody in Washington, it is pro-corporate agenda, deregulation, and perpetual tax-cutting that represent the 90's and 00's that is truly at issue. It is the offspring of "trickle down" that need to be kicked out of control. In this way, Biden is more appealing that Clinton, but he is still "tainted", if you will. In this way, Biden represents, not an equal or superior, but an inferior--someone that has made mistakes and has had a lot of time to make those mistakes.

Is Biden the best bick? Of these options, maybe. But he was the only real option. In a world where the media's favorite thing is to find the bright, new, shiny toy and then tear it to pieces, scraping and clawing away, smashing it with a hammer in hopes of opening it up, and then staring at its coveted guts in hopes of gleaning some insight, Obama's pick was going to cause too much criticism. Now let's see if McCain's choice gets a fraction of that criticism.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Check out the 'Blowback'!

As of this morning, my letter to the editors of the Los Angeles Times was printed on their website, in the "Blowback" section. Take a look at it here.

The gist of it is this: it seems as if the LA Times was attempting to shoehorn the issues of the Anglican Communion into the "Culture War", a one-sided crusade on the part of the Bill O'Reillys of the world to change the way we think. In truth, the church is nowhere near this stuff and the theological and missional discussions of the church shouldn't be relegated to the smut-driven Right-Wing trash-talkers.

Perhaps you should just read the letter yourself!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bishops return!

The bishops have returned from Lambeth. The Record, the newspaper for the Diocese of Michigan, conducted an interview with the three bishops of the lower peninsula of Michigan, found here.

I am very hopeful for where the church is in the midst of our economic adversity.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Look at the crazy in the cage!

Make sure you stare!

After dealing with the media circus surrounding the FBI’s investigation of seemingly Public Enemy #1, Bruce Ivins, it occurred to me that the word circus is less accurate than another place you are likely to see domesticated animals: the zoo.

Evidence linking Ivins to the Anthrax attack in 2001 was circumstantial, which they even admitted, but recent findings have called into question nearly every aspect of the case. Currently, microbiologists have come forward to question 1) the science the FBI used, 2) that Ivins could even process the Anthrax alone, and 3) the FBI’s potential to even isolate the strain so definitively. More response here. At the same time, investigative journalists such as Gerald Posner and Glenn Greenwald have poked tremendous holes in the evidence, including the credibility of the star witness and the credibility of the FBI’s investigation.

Then there are the obvious issues that don’t compute. Either Ivins is a meticulous researcher and devious plotter or he is crazy, depressed, and reckless. Either he is dangerous and needs to be pursued or he is not dangerous and maintains his work with Anthrax. Either this is an open-and-shut-case or there really is nothing there!

Personally, I am less interested in whether or not Bruce Ivins was the “lone mad scientist” or not (though I’m certain he wasn’t based on the evidence) and more interested in the rush to judgment. What is the purpose that has the FBI flooding the news agencies with all of this circumstantial evidence, thereby flooding the public opinion with stories about sorority obsessions and strange e-mails? And what purpose could the FBI have in closing this investigation?

I am reminded of a Hollywood example of this. My wife watches The Closer and I caught the end of the last episode in which the title character uses her fiancĂ© from the FBI to get information so that she could close her case. In so doing, she jeopardized the FBI’s investigation of a much bigger criminal (as well as her relationship). The funny thing in this is that this exposes the criminal investigation agencies’ obsession with closing a case over determining the truth or helping achieve justice. In naming a now dead man as the only operative in an elaborate crime, the FBI will be able to close the case and move on. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that this doesn’t fit. It doesn’t seem to make a difference to them that significant parts of the investigation have all but proved he couldn’t have done that part by himself.

It is almost as if they know they would never get a conviction with this. They hounded him and warned him that he was being investigated. His apparent suicide (conveniently-timed as it is) only adds to the story. It is almost as if they have learned nothing since the JFK assassination and Monica Lewinsky—cover-ups and half-truths have a life of their own. Wouldn’t an honest investigation be more fruitful?

This leads to the primary reason for interest: how easily this is taken and amplified in the media. This case makes a mockery of the FBI, and yet, they are going to continue to get credit for a “win” here. And the people will be able to sleep soundly knowing that a criminal got the ‘sweet justice’ of death. Perhaps it is the half-listening, the partial attention paid by the casual TV news watcher that is the true target, after all. Perhaps the FBI, politicized under Bush as any other agency is in the business of marketing: pitching their product to ignorant consumers. Their technique isn’t just to sway us, as a lawyer sways a jury, but to play off both our ignorance and our laziness. They have put forth a flimsy case with severe inconsistencies knowing half of us won’t get it and the other half won’t even listen.

But it is the media zoo in which they have placed this poor man for millions to ogle that gets me. They’ve put a sign next to his cage that may read something like this.

Bruce is an homosapien, found here in his natural habitat. Notice the contents of his desk, the lab coat, and the vial that was most certainly his murder weapon. He works at Fort Detrick in Maryland and otherwise lives with a wife and adopted children.

It is believed that he is solely responsible for the 2001 Anthrax attacks that resulted in five deaths. Though there isn’t a great deal of definitive evidence against him, he has the crazy eyes, doesn’t he?

Onlookers would no doubt chant "murderer" outside of his cage as they visit to get a glimpse of such a "monster". It is like a car wreck--you have to not only slow down, but go well out of your way to get a glimpse!

Oh, and then there would be note taped to the sign.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but Bruce recently died and his cage is being emptied. We encourage your continued ogling and derision while we take our time in replacing him with another specimen.

What a team the FBI and Big Media make! I’m so glad I live in such a repugnant environment!