Democratic viewpoints on politics, policy and activism

It Ain't Easy Being a Prophet

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Someone once said that conservatives have an easier task persuading people that conservatism is right compared with liberals. After all, a conservative’s pitch is either that things are okay, just the way they are, or that we have gone too far in our society and we need go back to the way things used to be. A liberal, on the other hand, has to say that we need to make changes in the way we are living in order to make them better for everyone.

I cannot say that this is true for all issues of contention between liberals and conservatives. As with all blanket statements, it cannot cover all circumstances. However, when we consider the issue of Global Warming, I believe we see this maxim in action.

Consider these responses to a question from the Newsok.com website:

Humans “very likely” are the cause of climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released this morning (Friday). For this group, “very likely” means the scientists have more than 90 percent confidence that human emissions of greenhouse gases have caused observed warming over the past 50 years. Will you change your behavior as a result? Does the responsibility for change fall to individuals or the government?

Here are some of the responses:

I believe volcanos and the heating of the crust of the earth has more to do with the warming of the atmosphere than with manmade activity. Although, regional brown clouds, paving of farm land, artificial irrigation, and other things like eastern red cedar trees cause temprature rise in localized areas. I think it is vain of mankind to think we have a worldwide impact on the weather. The water is warming in the artic causing the ice shelf to break apart. The ambient temp. of the air is way below freezing but has risen from 32 below to 30 below zero, a two degree rise in air temp, won’t cause the ice shelf to break apart..
Doug , Madill

Can you say 1500 year cycle?? Man has been using fossil fuels for less than 200 years, and the EU bunch (including Al Gore)want us to believe that we are responsible for the weather? What a sad bunch of egotists. Folks, man doesn’t have that much stroke!!!
Don, Oklahoma City

I could limit my trips to Walmart to once per week.
Stan, Guthrie

No one wishes more than I that Global Warming would just GO AWAY! I am a child of the 50’s and 60’s, and I have a nostalgic wish that we could just go back to the “good old days” of unlimited, cheap gasoline. I miss the muscles cars (giddyup, giddyup, 409, 409). I long for bright, blue, smog free skies. I wish I could make the inside of my house feel like Hawaii during the warmest summers and the coldest winters. And I miss the sight of oil derricks pumping their black gold out of the Oklahoma hills as I cruise along Route 66.

But those days are over. In reality, they never should have been. We cannot continue to live beyond our planetary budget simply because this is what we are used to. Like it or not we must change, or future generations will curse the memory of this generation.

There is no “profit” in being a “prophet”. Just ask Amos from the Hebrew scriptures. He was a shepherd to came to the town of Bethel, and did not like what he saw. So he began to tell the people there that if they did not shape up, the Lord was going to ship them out. Finally, a leader of the established church, Amaziah by name, came to tell Amos to shut up and quit stirring up trouble.

We read in the book of Amos:
Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel: “Amos has conspired against you here within Israel; the country cannot endure all his words.
For this is what Amos says: Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be exiled from its land.” To Amos, Amaziah said: “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel. Now hear the word of the LORD!” You say: prophesy not against Israel, preach not against the house of Isaac. Now thus says the LORD: Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city, and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword; Your land shall be divided by measuring line, and you yourself shall die in an unclean land; Israel shall be exiled far from its land.

So as Amos was unafraid to speak truth to power, we Liberals should not be afraid to tell the truth to those who counsel ease and comfort while signs and portents of global disaster appear all around us.

People who fortell disaster are often dismissed as “Cassandras”, people who make predictions of disasters which no one will believe. The trouble is, we forget that in the Greek stories about her, Cassandra was always right!

Repeal the "Military Commissions Act" NOW!

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Kaled el-Masri is a German citizen. On December 31, 2003 he was on vacation in Macedonia. When the bus he was traveling on reached the Serbia-Macedonia border, he was detained by Macedonia authorities and turned over to the CIA. They suspected him of being linked with terrorist organizations. Mr. el-Masri was held for 23 days before being beaten, drugged and flown on a plane leased by our government to Afghanistan where he was detained in the notorious “Salt Pit” prison.

The trouble is that by this time, the CIA knew that he was innocent. He was a victim of mistaken identity. Five months after being kidnapped, Mr. el-Masri led out of his cell, blindfolded, handcuffed, chained to the seat of a plane, flown to Albania and–without explanation–abandoned on a hillside at night.

President Bush first denied that the US engaged in rendition, kidnapping another term. He denied we used torture. When cases like Mr. el-Masri’s came to light, his lie was exposed. He then successfully got the Republican Congress to pass the Military Commisions act to give him the right to continue the practice of denying basic human rights to anyone he believes to be guilty of terrorism. The law allows among other things to:
1. deny prisoners the right to habeas corpus so that a prisoner can be locked away without charge or without the right to an attorney.
2. use force to gain evidence against prisoners and convict them on the basis of statements made under coercion.
3. keep prisoners locked up indefinitely.

The claim is always made that 9-11 gives us the right to use means above the Constitution to defend ourselves, that we are dealing with very dangerous people. But as Sen. John McCain said in his debate against the use of torture, this is not about who they are, it’s about who we are. If we resort to kidnapping, torture, forced confessions, indefinite imprisonment, denial to laws of law, then what have we become? How can we say that we have the moral right to defend freedom around the world, when we can’t exercise it at home?

Congress must repeal the Military Commissions Act. Our national soul is at stake here. For how can we ask the brave men and women of our military to sacrifice themselves if America has become little better than the tyrannies we oppose. To paraphrase a famous statement of Abraham Lincoln I assert that as a nation, we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it “all men are created equal, except those we declare to be enemy combatants.” When if this is allowed to continued, we will say “all men are created equal, except Muslims and others we dislike.” When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty so that my tyranny can be take pure, and without hypocritical lip-service to the ideal of liberty and justice for all.

The Last Act of the Bush Tragedy

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When I witnessed Bush’s performance in during his delivery of the “State of the Union” message, I was reminded of a story about a young preacher who delivered his first sermon. The young man was very full of himself and it showed in the manner in which he ascended to the pulpit. However, his sermon was very poorly delivered. One could tell that even he knew this by the humbled way he descended from the pulpit. An older minister who had been the young man’s mentor came to him at the end of the service and said, “If ye had gone up the way ye had come down, ye woulda gone down the way ye had come up.” Bush has been humbled by the events in Iraq and in the Fall elections. Had he approached his presidency in the spirit he displayed last night, he would have the unity he absolutely needs now. But, it is too late for that. The Bank of Political Capital is bankrupt. We are seeing the last act of the Bush tragedy.

The People Need a New DA by Lynn Green

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We need a change of leadership in the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office. Actually, what we have in our DA’s office is a nearly total lack of leadership. In his tenure as DA, Wes Lane is frequently absent from duty and provides little direction to the assistant prosecutors who have the responsibility of representing the people of Oklahoma County in criminal cases. Due to the rudderless direction in the DA’s office, Oklahoma County has in the last year seen over 50 prosecutors leave the office, many out of sheer frustration. Lane’s predecessor, Bob Macy, never experienced anything near the current attrition rate during his tenure in office. This means that taxpayers have had to pay for the retraining of new prosecutors who lack the experience of those they replace. These new prosecutors receive only the briefest of orientations, and no mentoring, before they are thrown into their important tasks. This often has led to new resignations and the cycle of retraining new prosecutors begins anew.

This has had a detrimental effect on criminal prosecutions in the county. Current, there is a backlog of approximately 14,000 unprosecuted felony cases in Oklahoma County. Cases are taking well over two years to get to trial. This means that criminals able to make bail are out on the street committing new crimes while their trial is repeatedly postponed. Those accused who are unable to make bail remain in the county jail, at taxpayer’s expense, awaiting trial. Imagine if you have been arrested for a crime you did not commit and having to wait 2 years before you have a chance to establish your innocence. Imagine being the victim of a crime and having to go through the trauma of reliving molestation or assault and then finding out that the prosecutor has had to file yet another continuance because a new attorney has had to replace the one who quit. During this time victims are revictimized, memories fade, and errors creep in to the prosecution. All too often the solution to this is for the prosecutor to plea bargain for lesser sentence. Truly justice delayed is justice denied.

Clearly we need a change in District Attorney. David Prater, a former police officer and prosecutor, has promised Access, Accountability, and Action when he becomes our new District Attorney. He will be accessible to his employers, the citizens of Oklahoma County. He believes that the one in charge of the office should accept accountability for the production of that office. He will take action to fix problems rather than just let them slide. Pious platitudes sounded when election time comes are no substitute action and accountability. I urge my fellow citizens of Oklahoma County to vote for David Prater as our new District Attorney so that the people can finally obtain adequate counsel in our criminal courts.

A Follow-Up to My Previous Diary

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Those responsible for the underhanded attack on Andrew Rice, need to heed the words of the man from Nazareth. Jesus once said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his own soul.” I believe that this applies to this heinous political tactic. Those who have committed it have sold their soul to try to amass power.

Shortly before his death from a brain tumor Lee Atwater, who employed these type of tactics to help elect Republicans like Ronald Reagan in an act of repentance, issued a number of public and written apologies to individuals whom he had attacked during his political career, including Michael Dukakis who was a target of several vicious, unwarranted attacks. Of course, by that time, the damage had already been done and it was too late to erase the stain he had foisted on the body politic. Whoever is responsible for this act needs to seek forgiveness and offer restitution before he or she meets a similar fate.

A Campaign Without Conscience, A Betrayal of Faith

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I saw my friend, Andrew Rice, in church at Mayflower today.  What I am about to say does not constitute an endorsement of his candidacy for the Oklahoma Senate. I feel that my position as a Democratic Party official precludes me doing that.  However, I believe that what he told me about a campaign tactic being used, in nearly all certainty, by the Republican Party reveals a party operating without a regard for morality in its grab for power.

Several of the voters in Andrew’s district, Oklahoma Senate District 46, have been getting phone calls whose callers claim that Andrew favors terrorism.  First, you have to understand that Andrew and his family are one of the victims of the worst terrorist attack in American history. On September 11 2001, investment banker David Rice was killed when the World Trade Centre collapsed. Later, a group called Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation were contacted by the mother of the alleged 20th hijacker, Zacharias Moussaoui. She had a unique request. She wanted to meet some of the families of the victims and ask for their forgiveness. Andrew, along with several other victims’ families, met with, this grieving Madame al-Wafi, who begged their forgiveness for her son’s hatred.  Andrew forgave her because he felt that to return hate for hate dishonored his brother’s “spirit”, and I feel Andrew knew he was following the commandment of the man from Nazareth who comanded us to forgive though we are wrong 70 times 7 times and who forgave those who were responsible for his execution.

This act, done in the spirit of Christ, is the very deed that some group, headquartered in Indiana, paid $300,000 by a Republican organization, is trying to use against Andrew Rice.  The cry that Robert Welch uttered against Joesph McCarthy echoes down to our time, “Have you no sense of decency?” You claim to be the party that defends the practice of Christianity in the public arena, the party of values, the party of morality.  Where are your morals now?  In Oklahoma, we have seen candidate after candidate in their political ads extol their Christianity, their time spent teaching Sunday School, their donations of land to build churches. I have no doubt of their personal sincerity, but I demand in the name of the one whom they claim to serve that they denounce this discipable act in no uncertain terms, that they honor this most Christian act of Andrew’s, or all their claims of faith ring hollow to me.

If you wish to read about Andrew’s act of forgiveness, you can go to http://www.theforgivenessproject.com/stories/andrew-rice to read his remarkable testimony.

Justice for All,
Lynn Green

Thanks Kurt, Cheap Citizenship

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I want to thank Kurt Hochenauer for this opportunity to be a part of this blog.  I have long admired Kurt’s writings and commentaries. I am honored to be associated with his efforts to bring a sense of justice and balance in a state which sorely needs it.

I would like to make my first observations on the political posturing going on in present campaigns.  The German pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned of something he called “Cheap Grace”.  He described this as Christianity without suffering, without a cost.  I see many politicians in America and particularly in Oklahoma offering a similar type of citizenship.  We are being offered easy patriotism, cut rate democracy , and self-serving stewardship. 

Beware of the politician who tells you everything you want to hear, who appeals to what you “feel” is right.  Beware of the person who claims he or she know the “pure and simple truth” not recognizing that truth is rarely “pure” and never “simple.”

Take, for example, politicians who rail against the “gay marriage” claiming that they wish to “protect the sanctity” of the one man-one woman monogamous relationship. First, looking at the marriages that people like Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gringrich, Strom Thurman have had, I worry that the institution needs to be protected from its protectors.  However, we have to recognize once we consider the economic and social implications of family units, things get a bit complicated.

Consider that businesses like AT&T, for example, offers generous benefits, including health insurace, to “domestic partners”.  The catch is that for an AT&T employee to include his or her partner as a beneficiary, some type of legal documentation for their partnership may be required.  Can someone say “Catch-22”? 

So when Brad or Ernest or Todd or Denise or whoever says that s/he wants to “protect” your marriage from those wicked gays, be aware that they may be asking you to pay for someone’s health care or the healthcare of her child through your taxes and/or higher health costs. Afterall, those hospitals have to recoop those unpaid emergency rooms visits somehow.

Remember also to be one your guard when Joe or Joesphine Politico offers you the obvious solution to the latest problem that has caught the media’s attention. Or, as my papa the preacher told me, “Son, if it sounds too good [or to simple] to be true, it probably is.”

I will deal with more examples of “Cheap Citizenship” because I believe this is a real threat to our Republic in later diaries.

In Solidarity,