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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

A Very Merry Christmas Note From a Madman

December 24, 2008


Gifts for the Un-Gifted

Toymakers are reporting/ complaining that the new lead-testing in toys laws are too costly made me think.

Too freakin'' bad!

It reminds me of CNBC's "Money-Honey", Erin Burnett's comments about the same subject:

"Ya know, if China were to revalue it's currency or China is to start making say, toys that don't have lead in them or food that isn't poisonous, their costs of production are going to go up and that means prices at Wal-Mart here in the United States are going to go up too,"

Small American toy manufacturers might be hurt by the cost of sending their toys to private testing labs to clear them for market; and there is an exemption made for toys comprised of natural products, but most feel that they simply can't take that chance. Certainly something must be done to keep these American companies viable and their employees employed, but we can't trust big business to do the right thing and "voluntarily" keep their Chinese (and elsewhere) manufactured toys safe for our children.

That being said, the news got me to thinking of what gifts I would want to see under the Christmas Tree of some of our current (and out-going) elected officials along with some other politicos in need. Here's my list:


George W. Bush: A conscience
Dick Cheney: Three visits by three ghosts
Condoleezza Rice: Imelda Marcos' shoe collection
The Iraqi people: Imelda Marcos' shoe collection
The Bush Interior Department: Collective spaying
Karl Rove: A soul
Alberto Gonzales: An orange jump suit
Mitch McConnell: Someone to blame everything on
Al Franken: A Win
Norm Coleman: A one-way ticket back to Minnesota
The People of Minnesota: An end
David Paterson: Some respect
Patrick Fitzgerald: Another conviction
Rod Blagojevich: A giant electro-magnet and the location of the Fitzgerald tapes
John McCain: First prize in the Alaska sweepstakes (one week in Wasilla as the guest of Governor Palin)
Cindy McCain: Second prize in the Alaska sweepstakes (two weeks in Wasilla as the guest of Governor Palin)
Sarah Palin: Joe the Plumber
Joe the Plumber: Sarah Palin
Hillary Clinton: A Mulligan
Mike Huckabee: A better time slot for his Fox News Channel show "Huckabee" (what time is it on again?)
Joe Lieberman: Too late - Harry Reid already gave it to him
Alan Colmes: A Job
Sean Hannity: Nothing - he already has it all
Jeb Bush: Alka-Seltzer
Arnold Schwarzenegger: A US birth certificate
Louisiana: Fifteen foot high levees
Michigan: "The jobs of tomorrow," today
The US Middle Class: A much-needed break

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

Millions received two unwelcome Christmas presents this week.

The first was the news that Barack Obama had chosen a renowned hate-monger, Rick Warren, to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. The second was the Christmas Papal Address from Pope Benedict XVI in which he said that homosexuality was an equivalent threat to the world as rainforest destruction and climate change. The Pope said saving the world from both was equally important as both would lead to “man’s [sic] destruction.”

The Pope’s comments put a big “you’re not welcome” sign on the door of the church for hundreds of millions of Catholics worldwide who are lesbian and gay.

It’s difficult to imagine how the Pope, despite his fixation on homosexuality, which in October his spokesperson referred to as “a deviation, an irregularity, a wound,” could equate the lives of gay men and lesbians with destruction of the planet. This retrogressive commentary is reminiscent of the Pope’s previous anti-Muslim statements which caused mass rioting among Muslims throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Conversely, Obama has repeatedly stated that part of his change agenda is bringing people together. That makes his choice of Warren for the invocation especially confusing. Why would the President-elect who has repeatedly said he doesn’t want the “distraction” of divisiveness choose such a divisive person for such a unique honor? Obama will be the first African-American president and his inauguration will be a moment that millions of people will be watching. Why would Obama choose to share that historical moment, which for many will repudiate the hateful legacy of slavery and racial discrimination, with someone who fosters hate and discrimination in his ministry?

Warren, a popular evangelical pastor known for his best-selling self-help book, “The Purpose-Driven Life,” runs the Saddleback Church, a California mega-church with an estimated 400,000 members.

Warren was also a major proponent of and contributor to California’s hate-campaign, Prop 8, which sought to invalidate the existing marriages of same-sex couples and also eliminate same-sex marriage in California, where it was legal.

The Prop 8 measure was on the Nov. 4 ballot and was narrowly voted in. While lawsuits have been filed to overturn the ballot initiative, it currently puts more than 20,000 same-sex marriages in legal limbo and prevents other same-sex couples from marrying, leaving many–and their children–devastated.

Warren said in a recent interview that homosexuality is equivalent to bestiality, incest and sex with children. In addition, he has repeatedly said that abortion is the “modern day Holocaust” and referred to women who have abortions as child murderers. For Warren there is no common ground on the “issue” of homosexuality, which he considers a sin that must be repented, even though there is science that shows that homosexuality is genetic.

Obama has been inundated with questions regarding the controversial choice of Warren. Combined with his previous problems with pastors Jeremiah Wright and James Meeks, the controversy presents problems for the President-elect among his own loyalists.

Thus far Obama’s response to why he chose Warren has been woefully insufficient, particularly for those who voted for him. The votes of women and queers gave Obama the edge he needed to win–without those votes he would have lost the election to John McCain. It’s a vicious slap in the face to millions who voted for Obama because they believe in equality for all for him to choose such a divisive person to lead the invocation.

Obama said that Warren invited him to speak at Saddleback and that’s why he chose him. He said that it was important to have dialogue with people with whom we disagree.

That response is not only insufficient to explain the choice, it is also disingenuous. Obama himself is against same-sex marriage, so he does not disagree with Warren at all. The choice of Warren looks like Obama’s imprimatur on discrimination, even though Obama said he opposed Prop 8.

What’s more, Warren invited many of the presidential contenders to his church to speak, including Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and John McCain. Obama and McCain debated there during the general election. After that event in September, Warren made it clear that not a single parishioner’s mind had been changed by Obama. So what does Obama owe Warren? Warren didn’t bring Obama any new voters. But the gay and lesbian community and women’s groups–including numerous endorsements from pro-choice and gay rights groups–did. So if the issue is paying a political debt, Obama owes gays and lesbians, not Warren.

If this were a matter of returning favors, which Obama’s weak response implies, then Obama should invite Warren over to his house for dinner, or to whatever new church Obama has become a member of since he tossed Wright under the bus when it became politically expedient to do so.

But this is not a matter of returning favors. Giving the invocation at the inauguration is a singular honor and there are many religious leaders in America who don’t have the controversial baggage Warren has and whose places of worship are open to everyone, which Warren’s is not. (Saddleback’s website specifically notes that only homosexuals who have “repented of their life-style [sic]” are welcome as members, not “practicing” homosexuals.)

There’s no need for Obama to curry favor with hate-mongers, nor to give them his blessing. If he’s using the invocation as a reward, then choose from any number of religious figures who supported him who are not hate-mongers, including heads of gay and lesbian religious groups like Metropolitan Community Church. Had Obama chosen a black Muslim with ties to Louis Farrakhan or who shared Farrakhan’s view that Judaism is a “gutter religion” to give the invocation, do we imagine that the Jewish community would not be as outraged as the gay and lesbian community is over the choice of Warren? And if Obama had chosen a white religious figure with a history of racist commentary from the pulpit? African Americans would be as hurt and offended as lesbians and gay men are.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center in Mount Airy, sent out a letter about the choice, which he decries. Waskow, a strong supporter of Obama during the general election, said he was “deeply disappointed” by Obama’s decision. Waskow said of Warren," Someone who uses the power of the state to deprive people of their right to the religious celebration and legal protection of their loving relationship is a bully–no matter whether he smiles and smiles, he's still a bully.”

African-American lesbians and gays are no less outraged by Obama’s choice. Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Director of Religious Affairs for the National Black Justice Coalition said, “We agree with President-Elect Obama that we should talk to everyone about ideas and beliefs that are different from our own. We believe in dialogue, that is how the conversation about change happens.”

“But,” Rhue continued, “there is a difference in engaging people in dialogue about poverty and AIDS and elevating Rick Warren, a rigorous opponent of LGBT rights to the position of the nation’s pastor in the inaugural prayer. He does not represent change but a status quo of discrimination. He is symbolic of a tone-setting circumstance that does not bring us together in spiritual terms.”

Rhue could not be more right. The invocation is about bring people together, not about division.

What Obama, Warren and the Pope all fail to acknowledge or even comprehend is that when people preach hate, that gives others permission not only to hate, but to translate that hate into discrimination and violence.

Violence was certainly the reaction to the Pope’s comments on Islam. It seems equally likely that it will be a response to his latest comments on homosexuality. Hate crimes are on the rise in America and elsewhere.

As an African-American, Obama should know better than most where the legacy of discrimination against a particular group can lead. Rabbi Waskow as a Jew and Dr. Rhue as a black woman have experienced discrimination and thus are speaking out against fomenting it against any other group.

The inauguration of the nation’s first black president should be a day of joy and hope. It should be emblematic of change in every way. The stage should not be shared with someone who is the moral equivalent of a KKK Imperial Wizard to ten of millions of Americans and millions more worldwide who are looking to the new president for ideological as well as political change from the current administration.

Warren is a figure of almost unparalled divisiveness on the American religious landscape as he offends many more Americans than not with his narrow religious and socio-political views masquerading as religious dogma.

The Pope marred Christmas with his hateful analogies. Obama mars what should be a unique and historically pure moment with a figure of controversy, division and hate. Historians will note that while Obama’s ground-breaking election was cause for immense celebration, the event of his inauguration was disrupted by the cat-calls, booing and protests against his woefully wrong choice for the invocation. Because protests there will be. And what should have been a day of Americans coming together will instead represent one more rift in the American system of values which exalts hate and division.

Obama has said he accepts Jesus Christ as his lord and savior. There is not a word about homosexuality that ever passed the lips of Christ. Obama would be best served by having Warren withdraw. Warren is an embarrassment and will mar one of the most historic moments in American history. Obama needs to rethink his choice which says only one thing: that he approves of hate and discrimination. That isn’t change at all, but the same status quo that kept men and women of Obama’s race from equality for centuries.

There may be no hope for the Vatican save a new Pope and a new perspective on the Church. But for Obama, there is time to fix his mistake. Obama can and should do so. For himself, for all Americans and most importantly, for equality.

In response to:

The Banking Bill and Its Aftermath

We taxpayers spent several fortunes to keep the banks running and they refuse to tell us how they used the money?? Let me tell you, I OWN you now because it was my money that went to you sorry thieves and liars. So you better start coming up with a very visible accounting of how that money has been spent. I employ you now so you need to start sending monthly reports to me about how my money was spent. You better account for every dime of that money too. I really didn't want to give you my money - if you couldn't keep your business running correctly without my help, why would anyone think you'd clean up your act when you got the welfare check? All Americans need to start asking LOUDLY what they did with our money that changed how they do business and what changes they made so they don't come to us again. We own them and they need to show some humility about that.

-Sheila Burleson


Has it always been this long between election day and inauguration day? Cheney tore apart the Constitution and Bush can't even SPELL Constitution. In eight short years, these two not only killed AMERICA they helped start a GLOBAL depression the likes of which we have never seen before. I hope we never see or hear from BushHitler or CheneyHitler again after their regime loses control. The world will benefit greatly when these two step off their thrones. Good riddance to two men who broke apart America, invaded Iraq and never once really looked for Osama bin Laden. What does that tell you??

-Sheila Burleson


Oh how Bush and Cheney are trying to look like heroes. The news from Iraq is that fewer and fewer American troops are murdered there every day. I don't know if that is TRUE but it is certainly what the terrible twosome would have you BELIEVE before they leave office. I never trust anything that comes from this administration. I'd like to hear from a real soldier in Iraq who would KNOW about casualties. We have lost over 4,000 great American men and woman because these two wanted that oil. I have no idea how many innocent Iraqis died so these two could get some oil - thousands. But now that we are finally getting rid of two of the most hated men in America, they say casualties are down. I don't believe them. I've learned the hard way - they lie.

-Sheila Burleson

The following is a short blip of Dana Perino tangling with Helen Thomas at Tuesday's White House press briefing regarding the shoe-throwing incident in Iraq, as presented by David W.:

Thomas: Why not worry about it? Does it reflect the feelings of the people?

Perino: I don’t think that you can take one guy throwing his shoe as representative of the people of Iraq. And I will tell you that Prime Minister Maliki and the journalists who were there in the room, who apologized on behalf of the Iraqis, saying this is not how they would treat a guest.

Thomas: But he (President Bush and the US) wasn’t a guest. We’re occupiers.

Perino: No, we’re not. We are absolutely a guest.


In response to, "Join me and fight the idea that Christmas can only be enjoyed by buying presents and getting stuff. Don't go to the mall and buy anything unless it's for a kid," David W. writes:

Waaaaay ahead of you there!

After my work of 10 years ended (owner sold it so he could retire) I worked for/with my brother for most of 2007 until that went bust and I returned to my home and family $8000 poorer. I got lucky and found a job that is paying me a fraction of my old salary. (a fraction, Yes ...but a good fraction nothing like 1/2 which would suck, more like one of those 13/15 fractions) So basically, even though they've cut back hours at work from 40/week to 36, I'm lucky to even be working in this economy and I know it! My brother's business recently folded, he's losing his apartment and will be moving in to my crowded little hovel.

This year will be the sparest Christmas I've ever celebrated, but celebrate I will. Because through out it all I know it could be so much worse Like the folks at Republic Windows or the Chrysler workers who are being furloughed for months...

Yeah... I'm one of the lucky ones.

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-Noah Greenberg