I was at first very open to Pastor Jeremiah Wright.
I felt some of the clips playing over and over on TV made sense.
I felt in some respects Pastor Wright was mirroring Martin Luther King in asking if America was in many ways a wicked nation that possibly merited judgement.
Beyond the public issues, Pastor Wright also reached me on a personal level.
At least according to family lore, I’m descended from people who were on the Mayflower.
People on the Mayflower were not at home with the society they were born into.
In my late teens and and early 20′s, I was a 1980′s Midwestern hardcore punk rocker.
Without exaggerating the bent of people who—for the most part—lived as others do, this was a crowd that had little affection for the tone and temper of American society.
There was definitely a Puritan tendency among punk rockers—A rejection of what was taking place around them.
I have a measure of sympathy for homeschoolers and Black Muslims.
They look around and are repulsed. Why wouldn’t they be?
So I welcomed Pastor Wright. I thought he might be a new voice. I thought he might have the discipline and personal austerity to reject the culture and add a new and needed dimension to the public discussion.
Jeremiah Wright is just another Andy Warhol ( photo below) 15 minutes-of-fame media hog. He says he hates the culture, but really he loves it. He found himself in the glare of lights cast by the bigots and idiotic cable channels, and he could not resist the starring role.
Not only that, he acted out of anger at Barack Obama instead of simply making his case for good or ill in a calm and disciplined way.
Pastor Wright has no obligation to help Barack Obama. But it is hard to see how he is serving his God or anybody else with his current conduct.
Please see the picture of Pastor Wright at the top of this post with another man who lacks discipline and self-respect.
Below is Jeremiah Wright’s secular idol along with Jimmy Carter. After a rough Presidency and rejection at the polls, Jimmy Carter made a patient step-by-step case that he was in fact a man of decency and vision.
Pastor Wright could still follow that better course–final judgement is not up to me–but he sure does not seem like a prophet or a leader of any kind at this point.
Senator Hillary Clinton wants to repeal the federal gas tax for the summer.
This is a bad idea.
(Senator John McCain also supports this idea. But I expect nothing from Mr. McCain.)
I’ve advocated a Fonz-like cool as we select between Senator Clinton and Barack Obama. The bottom line is winning in November.
But this is a policy difference and a fair topic for discussion.
The money collected from this tax goes into repairing roads and bridges.
Senator Clinton says a windfall profits tax on oil companies could make up the lost revenue.
Do you see that idea getting 60 votes in the Senate?
Senator Obama correctly opposes this tax “holiday.”
If lower prices make for more summer driving, than supply will be restricted and prices will go up.
Paying taxes isn’t a penalty or even a burden. It’s the price we pay for living in a society.
With support of this gas tax holiday notion, Senator Clinton undermines the principles of the Democratic Party and, one supposes, her own principles.
Also, she risks taking away money for needed infrastructure programs.
Barack Obama is the candidate showing leadership on this issue.
In my trips back home to Cincinnati, which is where I’m writing this post from tonight, I’m lucky to have many friends I visit.
These are people who in many cases I’ve known for 20 years or longer.
My friends and I talk about how things are going and we discuss people we know.
Some are doing well, while others might be having a rough time for the moment.
I spoke with a friend today for the first time since he had gotten married.
I found out that someone I met a very long time ago had sold the business she had run for the last six years.
I spoke to the 82 year old aunt of a friend. The aunt now has Alzheimers. She was sharp when I spoke with her often 15 years ago.
When you talk to these people and you hear the stories, you trust that people have responded to life as best they can, and you respect whatever circumstances, for good or ill, they now find themselves in.
You see that people’s circumstances in life all have meaning and merit equal respect and a full hearing.
Above you see a picture of Pastor Jeremiah Wright goofing around with Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. ( Pastor Wright is on the right and Mayor Kilpatrick is on the left.)
One thing he is saying is what Martin Luther King often said—That America can at times be a wicked and sinful nation, and that if a transcendent moral power exists in the universe, he or she may wish to consider what judgement should be passed.
But what is Pastor Wright doing playing around here with disgraced Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick?
Mayor Kilpatrick had an affair with an aide, exchanged racy text-messages with her, lied about it, cost the City of Detroit nine million dollars in a whistle-blower suit resulting from his actions, and is under indictment.
This is not what Detroit needs.
The Detroit City Council–majority Black and Democratic–has called on Mayor Kilpatrick to resign.
Pastor Wright had the opportunity to admonish Mayor Kilpatrick at the NAACP dinner. That would have been closer to a prophetic course.
Keeping company with a man of power and corruption is less than a prophetic course.
I want to believe Pastor Wright is a man of vision. I did have to wonder though when he canceled his guest sermons in my hometown of Houston a few weeks ago due to death threats.
What kind of prophet cancels a call to to preach because of death threats?
Which is more frustrating? Those who are bitter in the white working class, or the do-nothings within the black middle class?
It’s a close call.
While Senator Barack Obama must do his best to win over all potential voters, there is a point where you say about some that if you’ve not gotten the idea of the harm done after years of voting for Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes, than maybe you’re just not going to be reached.
For our black middle classes, when will we see political and social action on the behalf of the urban and rural black poor and others need in help? It took political action to create a black middle class in the first place. The need for activism did not stop just because some were able to do well.
There are people of all kinds who do good things every day. Many working class whites vote Democratic and many middle class blacks do a lot to help others.
Yet it’s also the case that many in our society are going to have to make the call to put aside their anger and assume a greater role in the lives of people who could use some help.
I was in the White Castle drive-Up line at 2 AM this morning and I heard a man in a car behind me order the “fish nibblers.”
This was at the Central Parkway White Castle in Cincinnati.
I thought to myself–” Does that cat really need to be ordering fish nibblers at 2 AM?”
There were 7 cars in line at 2 AM.
I was in one of those cars. I ordered a cup of decaf coffee.
There was a lot of action at the Central Parkway White Castle at 2 AM.
I recently read a quote by Charlayne Hunter-Gault that goes as follows—
“If people are informed they will do the right thing. It’s when they are not informed that they become hostages to prejudice.”
I don’t believe this is correct. I wish I did, but I don’t.
Beyond differences people might have on what the “right thing” might be, I feel that some intentionally choose an evil course.
Others know that things such as racial prejudice, or not assisting the vulnerable, or on a more minor note, driving in a rude manner, are seen by many as bad actions.
Yet these behaviors and many other bad behaviors show no sign of ending.
Progress is always possible in society. But it will be initiated by just some people instead of by all people.
And the lessons of progress will be practiced only by some and not by all.
The information needed about decency to others is always out there for all to learn and act upon.
Some, because they are evil, or selfish, or lazy, are never going to listen.
So while I believe that decent people working together can make life better, I do not believe that information or education will lead the many people committed to bad acts to reform themselves.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault was one of the first two black students at the University of Georgia and is a former reporter for the New York Times and the McNeil/Lehrer Report. She had to sue for entrance to the Univ. of Georgia. Ms. Hunter-Gault currently is a reporter in South Africa.
Here is a review of Continental Express flight 5627 which left Houston April 24, at 10:10 AM and arrived in Cincinnati at 1:45 PM.
It also landed on April 24. It was not a 27 hour flight.
The ticket cost $561.50. Can you imagine all that money to get to Cincinnati?
Above you see a picture of flight # 5627. Needless to say, all the passengers were surprised to be boarding such a plane.
The flight started well because boarding required walking outside and walking up a staircase-on-wheels. I always find this exciting. I pretend I am Charles De Gaulle boarding a plane to Algeria.
I mentioned feeling like General De Gaulle to the flight attendant. By her response, I did not get the impression she shared my excitement.
Once on board, the glamour was gone.
The plane smelled. I can’t quite classify the smell beyond being slightly yucky. The plane smelled from take off to landing.
Also, my seat was filled with crumbs.
I followed the trail of crumbs down to the floor. There I found my own feet. It must be what an out-of-body experience is like.
I was lucky in that nobody sat next to me. I often wish to be left alone.
I guess the thumb tacks I put on the seat next to me sent a clear message.
A ”light snack” was served. This snack consisted of a turkey sandwich, a bag of potato chips and a tiny little Milky Way bar.
I felt the sandwich had been at least recently refrigerated. If I don’t start throwing up within the next 36 hours, we can say it was okay.
The fold out tray for my seat had a red substance on it. Sitting alone, I was able to use the tray from the next seat over. It had no blood-like substance on it.
Below the plane was the Earth.
I saw Lufkin, Texas and Little Rock, Arkansas. At least those are the places I think I saw.
I also saw the Mississippi River and the Ohio River.
I would term both rivers as “muddy.”
The plane landed in Cincnnati without incident. My baggage was right where it was supposed to be and I was on my way.
I would give this flight a thumbs up in that everybody landed in one piece.
It’s really all you can ask.
I’ll be posting each day for the next few days, but the posts may be short.
Above you see a picture I took of a ship in Corpus Christi Bay.
Enjoy this world ship tracker web page. It has the location of many of the world’s big ships.
What is America?
I believe America is the rule of law, the acceptance of the results of free and fair elections, and the inclusion of people of all kinds in the national life.
What America is not is any specific religion, skin color or language.
This does not mean people should not learn English. It does mean that if America is a majority Spanish-speaking nation in 100 years, that it could still be an America of laws, democracy and inclusion.
America is both a political state and a product of the imagination.
This is my view of America.
I watched a U.S. Trade mission to Colombia a few days ago on C-Span.
You can watch it by clicking the link that says Vignette on U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The video will remain up on C-Span for another week or two.
The roughly half-hour I watched of the show involved U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives touring Medellin, Colombia and meeting with various officials.
The photo above is of Medellin. 2.4 million people live in the city and 3.2 million people live in the area of the city. Here is a brief history of the city.
My friends at the AFL-CIO oppose this agreement. They say that union workers are routinely killed in Colombia and that the deal will result in lost American jobs.
This blog, Plan Colombia and Beyond, is opposed on human rights grounds.
I have little doubt that the right-wing government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is on the wrong side of many basic human rights questions.
Currently, the deal is stuck in disagreement between the Democratic House and President Bush.
Of the nine House members on the trip, there were seven Republicans and two Democrats.
I was intrested in the presence of the two Democratic House members in the trade delegation.
In his profile in the 2008 Almanac of American Politics , Rep. Etheridge is portrayed as slightly left-of-center on economic issues. He is also listed as a Democrat in the minority in his party in that he reliably supports free trade agreements. He was elected to Congress in 1996.
Mr. Etheridge represents some agricultural areas and some of the Raleigh-Durham high-tech research areas. The Almanac says that some farmers and high-tech executives have supported trade agreements. Mr. Etheridge says North Carolina has lost some jobs from these agreements, but that ”we’ve been a net winner.”
Many in North Carolina feel that many textile and furniture making jobs have been lost to foreign competition.
Is Mr. Etheridge sincere, or is he simply responding to powerful forces in his district? Who can know? He may not even know himself.
Hank Johnson represents a majority Black portion of the Atlanta suburbs. He is a freshman member of the House. He is also one of two Buddhist members of the House. ( More on the two Buddhist members in an upcoming post.)
Mr. Johnson opposes the deal. Here is what it says on his House web page–
Hank opposes the deal due to President Bush’s refusal to sign into law trade adjustment assistance for Americans threatened by international trade, the FTA’s insufficient labor standards for Colombian workers, and the deal’s potential effects on poor Afro-Colombians who may be driven off of their land as multinational companies seek to exploit Colombian natural resources.
Mr. Johnson seems like a peaceful man from what I saw of him on C-Span.
I have mixed feelings on our international trade agreements.
On one hand, I have zero faith in the Bush administration to protect rights of workers and the environment in the countries we do business with.
Nor I do I believe the Bush people or Republicans in Congress have any real concern for American workers.
On the other hand, we are a big powerful country in an interconnected world. As such, we have both an obligation and a practical need to help others live decent lives and to be part of a world economy.
Also, we can’t blame people in other countries for the fact that don’t educate out kids well and that we often seem to live far beyond our means.
I wish I could trust the people in the United States who negotiate these deals to be both economically just and socially moral. Hopefully, some trust will be possible if a Democrat replaces President Bush next year.
While I’m frustrated Senator Hillary Clinton is staying in the Democratic nomination race, please allow me to restate my view that I will support the final nominee of the party.
My own view is that if Senator Clinton could win, or if she were a message candidate like a Jesse Jackson or a Pat Buchanan in recent nomination fights, then she would have a reason to keep going.
It feels that she is staying in for her own good and not for the good of the party or the nation.
Still, Mrs. Clinton has the right to continue and we have to respect this fact.
Polls, to the extent they are worth anything, continue to show Senator Barack Obama running slightly ahead of John McCain. Mrs. Clinton runs basically even with Mr. McCain.
I’m playing this all cool. Very cool like the Fonz. There is plenty of time before November.
The bottom line is winning in November.
We have to always keep in mind that either Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton would be much better than Mr. McCain.
We will we win if we stay cool like the Fonz.
With the Pennsylvania primary finally over, Senator Barack Obama is now one primary closer to winning the Democratic nomination.
Senator Obama has the edge because of votes and delegates he has already won.
The six week Pennsylvania campaign has had the excellent result of bringing Barack Obama six weeks closer to the nomination.
Above you see Mr. Obama with Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.
Indiana will holding a primary on May 6. North Carolina will vote the same day. Guam votes on May 3.
With this being the schedule, after May 6, Senator Obama will be three contests closer to the nomination.
Mercifully, it is finally Pennsylvania primary day.
It had been nearly six weeks since the last primary day.
Who thought such a schedule would be a good idea?
I’m so glad I won’t have to hear much more about this contest after this week.
Why discuss issues like the world food crisis, when you can have weeks and weeks of so-called pundits going on and on about the Pennsylvania primary? Do any of them say anything that the average engaged citizen does not already know?
For people who follow the news, getting to this day was like crossing a long stupid desert of arid nonsense while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama fought like scorpions.
I had a dream last night that Howard Dean had become President.
In my dream, Governor Dean became President after Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could not end their campaign.
John McCain was never in the dream. Mr. Dean simply became President when the Democratic race got log jammed.
In this dream I had last night Republican don’t even exist.
It was a pretty good dream.
Though I wish it had gone on longer to the point where the first President from Vermont ordered that all citizens should receive free maple syrup.
I once had a dream that Mary Tyler Moore had become President.
This was a disappointing dream because it turned out that she was a Republican.
Though in reality—not to suggest that my dreams are not reality—I’m pretty sure Mary Tyler Moore is a Democrat.
Below is what a Mary Tyler Moore administration would look like.
President Moore is in the center and is surrounded by her cabinet.