30 March 2008

Churches: Tone Down Those Praises!

The Faith Baptist Church of Waterford Michigan is simply too loud. All that "praising the Lord" stuff is really starting to annoy their neighbors. And they are not alone. Al-Islah Islamic Center in Hamtramck Michigan was playing their call to prayer a couple of years ago and found themselves in a legal wrangle over how loud is too loud when it comes to reminders of God.

Now, I've always supported the concept of removing mandatory prayer from the public schools, but do they need to be removed from churches as well? In a Footloose reversal, Faith Baptist found the police raiding their sanctuary to silence the crazy rock-n-roll tunes those nutty Baptists were playing. Apparently their neighbors expected monastic stoicism on high holy days and weren't ready for Slash meets Jesus. As for the Al-Islah Islamic Center, the problem revolved around their call to prayer being played over loudspeakers. I suppose the locals thought they should be seen but not heard. Word of warning to the uninitiated: a mosque is not a library.

I happen to live close to a Catholic Church. I'm not a parishioner there, but I actually enjoy the Sunday morning bells that ring a call to worship. It reminds me that, in a world fraught with skepticism, there are those gathered in the spirit of worship in the hope of a better world. The same is true of a mosque's call to worship. I may be crazy, but I want to sense God through both sight and sound. However, the next time the guy next door cranks his snow blower at 4:00 am . . .

29 March 2008

You Won't Be Meeting Gorbi At Those Pearly Gates

The story seems so beautiful. The man who won the Nobel Peace Prize then rolled the tanks of oppression into the Balkans. The man with a stained pate and a calculating eye. The man who lost the cold war. He is the man who just last week knelt before God at the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi and proclaimed his devotion to the Lord. The last communist leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, is a Christian.

Well, hold the hallelujahs. It seems that Gorbi is still clinging to the Godless precepts of that old evil empire after all. As he put it: "To sum up and avoid any misunderstandings, let me say that I have been and remain an atheist.” Sounds like somebody is determined to hold a ticket on the hell express. Oh, and when Gorbachev gets there I hope he tells Saddam that he was right about the God thing, but the devil is in the details.

The Movie, The Media, And The Religion Of Peace

By now you may have heard about the Muslim protests surrounding the Dutch Film, Fitna. The short film takes a hard look at Islamic extremism and has received a predictable reaction from the religion's radical fundamentalists. According to reports, the Internet movie has been pulled from it's primary home after threats were made against the site's staff. Shocked? Probably not since this follows on the heels of a recent report that even the Pope had to be careful in keeping his rather tall and pointy lid on the Easter baptism of a prominent Muslim who converted to Catholicism. The Vatican was concerned about an attack. While every religion and organisation protests slights against its doctrine and traditions, there is no other religion that employs this level of worldwide intimidation to enact its will. Imagine if others did.

What I find most amazing is how the media reacts to this intimidation. They often twist and bend to cover stories surrounding Islamic extremism in a serpentine effort not to offend the extremists. Here's the latest example from AP writer Toby Sterling (emphasis added):

Hundreds of angry Muslims marched Friday in Pakistan and denounced a Dutch
legislator's film that portrays Islam as a ticking time bomb aimed at the West. Dutch Muslims were more restrained, saying they had expected worse.

The 15-minute film -- titled "Fitna," or "Strife" in Arabic -- was made by anti-immigrant lawmaker Geert Wilders and was posted on a Web site Thursday. Employing elements and symbols calculated to offend Muslims, it draws on recycled footage of terrorist attacks and anti-Western, anti-Jewish rhetoric meant to alarm the native Dutch.

Rather than focus of the threats of violence against the film's distributors, Sterling elects to provide excuses as to why that violence should be expected. After all, this anti-immigrant film maker used footage that people have already seen to prove his point. And on top of that, his film was calculated to offend Muslims. Given that, what else should we expect?

It's an odd angle for a journalist given the circumstances.

Meanwhile, American Imams continue to profess that Islam is the religion of peace. If that is the case, then they are the ones who need to step up and confront the constant threats to anyone who might give offense. Most of the world's governments won't do it for them. The media won't do it for them. It is up to them.

28 March 2008

Bush Aide Resigns . . . Check Your Wallet

On March 1st Felipe Sixto was promoted to Special Assistant To The President For Intergovernmental Affairs. On March 20th Felipe Sixto resigned as Special Assistant To The President For Intergovernmental Affairs.

According to an Associated Press report:

[White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said Sixto resigned] after learning that his former employer, the Center for a Free Cuba, was prepared to bring legal action against him. Stanzel said the alleged wrongdoing involved the misuse of money when Sixto was an official at the center. The matter has been turned over to the Justice Department for investigation, Stanzel said. He said Bush was briefed on the case and felt that the appropriate action was being taken. The Center for a Free Cuba describes itself as an independent, nonpartisan institution dedicated to promoting human rights and a transition to democracy and the rule of law in Cuba. Sixto joined the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in July 2007 and was assigned to deal with state legislators, Native American groups and Hispanic officials on issues such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, health, labor, transportation, the environment and energy, Stanzel said.

"Mr. Sixto allegedly had a conflict of interest with the use of USAID funds by his former employer," Stanzel said. He said he did not know how much money was involved or the particulars of the allegations.

While the specifics of Mr. Sixto's misuse of Grant money has yet to be released, one thing is clear: another U.S. President is leaving office so it might be time to nail down the White House furniture. Doesn't it seem that when it's time for a President to bid farewell his aides suddenly think it's a swapmeet in D.C., pocketing funds and collectables like '77 F-150 owners on trash collection day? In the case of the Clinton's, even the first lady/senator/presidential candidate got into the act. Check your wallets, America, there's about to be changing of the guards in the Oval Office.

27 March 2008

A Visit To McCain Blogette

OK, I admit it. I finally broke down and surfed the invisible waves to http://www.mccainblogette.com/, the blog headed by Meghan McCain, daughter of Republican presidential nominee John McCain. I'd been avoiding this for weeks, but after AP released a positive review of the site I felt obligated to check it out. Besides, how could I continue to take a pass on the blogette after learning that Meghan "reveals" for her readers "that her mother, chairwoman of a family beer company, knows if a beer is fresh depending on the taste."

I expected the site to be a thinly veiled political ad, shilling support for McCain's agenda with a faux Disney starlet appeal (minus the sex, drugs and child custody lawsuits). I was wrong.

The blog doesn't shy away from unabashed support of the Arizona Senator, but it is less about the politics than the man, his family and their friends as they travel the campaign trail. And Meghan McCain has an authenticity about her personae and approach that makes you feel as though you are connecting with the real McCains, regardless of the production values in the presentation. The fact is that I intended to quickly breeze through the site with a couple of Ctrl+F "Beer" searches, then head off to something I might find more entertaining, like the latest infantine insight from Keith Olbermann. But after a few minutes I felt an awkwardly addictive impulse to roll and read through the pages. It's not Walden Pond, but this site is a page turner that is worth a visit. Or several visits.

Case Closed On Detroit Mayor

Judge Mathis calls for mayor's resignation, says he's not supporter.

Well, I guess that settles it. I mean, Judge Mathis is on TV for heaven's sake.

26 March 2008

Media Coverage Of The Kwame Kilpatrick Affair

Like most of you, I’ve been watching the national media flapping about the Kwame Kilpatrick affair like rabid bats in an echo chamber. Research-free insight, vacuous experts and simple but sonorous interviews have been bouncing and bumping about CNN, FOX, MSNBC and their ilk for a couple of days now, displaying a vegan sensibility concerning meat and substance. I was expecting Gene Gene the Dancing Machine to appear at any moment just to give their coverage some much needed credibility. One notable exception was last night’s piece on Greta Van Susteren’s On The Record. In a relatively short segment, Van Susteren was able to interview the prosecutor, one of the defense lawyers and provide some direct and digestible analysis. Perhaps most importantly, she was aware of some of the critical details of the case, including the fact that this is far more than a sex scandal.

Well done, Greta, I hope there’s more. Can I call you Greta?

Barack Obama’s Bedfellows

Vodkapundit has an interesting (read: troubling) take on yet another of Barack Obama’s advisors. This time the focus is on his military advisor and campaign co-chair General Merrill “Tony” McPeak, who apparently has a history of less-than-favorable comments concerning Israel and the "Jewish influence" in America . No, it’s not “Hitler” troubling, but certainly “Obama has the judgment of a lipless call girl” troubling. What screening process does the Senator use while choosing advisors? Does it involve shades and cowbells? Check it out here.

For the original story on ynetnews.com:

25 March 2008

Who Is Kym Worthy?

High profile court cases tend to destroy existing celebrities while creating new ones. The seminal example, of course, is the O.J. Simpson trial, where even the not guilty verdict resulted in destroying the defendant's image and mercifully ending his acting career. At the same time Johnnie Cochran and Kato Kaitlin became household names.

I expect the upcoming trial of Kwame Kilpatrick to follow the same model. The mayor had been a rising star in the Democratic Party and a voice of hope for both the city of Detroit and the state. But his image has been tarnished by the scandals of his administration, and that existing tarnish will be nothing compared to what will happen once the national media has the mayor and the city under a microscope. Detroit is already treated like the stinky uncle who likes to scratch his crotch during church. Once this trial starts, even the mayor's staunches supporters may stagger under the abuse the city will take from the rest of the country. And don't expect things to improve if the major networks decide to trot out the likes of Monica Conyers and Sharon McPhail as representatives of the city.

But there is hope. There are prominent Detroit leaders who have the ability and strength to step forward and restore the city's pride and image. One is Detroit City Council President Kenneth Cockrel Jr. We've been watching another for the past couple of days: Kym Worthy.

Soon the nation will be asking, "Who is Kym Worthy?" Who is this woman who stood calmly at the podium and professionally delivered the first felony indictments on a Detroit mayor since . . . since Fred was courting Wilma? Who is this prosecutor who handles interviews as deftly as God handled Old Testament blasphemers? Like every bio, hers could be condensed to bullet points
  • She is a graduate of the University of Michigan (Go Blue) with a law degree from Notre Dame.
  • She is an experienced litigator
  • She has been a judge
  • She is a controversial prosecutor.
  • She is a mother
  • She is a community activist

But when she is center stage people won't see the bullet points. People will see a strong woman with a clear message. People will see somebody who is calm under pressure. People will see intelligence melded with insight. People will see Detroit.

She will not prosecute the case in the courtroom, but I have a feeling that Kym Worthy is about to become a star and Detroit's image will be the better for it.

Is Perjury Really That Bad?

Good question. I wouldn't say it's on par with rape or murder. In most cases it might not even rank as high as removing mattress labels or failing to follow the shampoo directive to wash, rinse, then repeat. However, when somebody has taken an oath of office they become subject to the public trust. For those chosen few, perjury is no longer a matter of prosecutor's preference but about the will of the people. And that will is doubly important when it carries the burden of a multi-million dollar payout.

Click here for The Detroit Free Press story on the Kwame Kilpatrick charges.

24 March 2008

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Charged . . . But It Ain't Over

After years of hating the New York Yankees, ridiculing the New York Times and rolling my eyes at the New York state of mind, I finally understand why so many people love New York. Their politicians know when to step aside . . . well, except Hillary, but then she's a Clinton and not really a New Yorker. But when New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was accused of illegal actions centered on sex he didn't wait for nationally embarrassing criminal charges to resign from his position. No, he stepped aside for the next sex-burdened politician to rush into the breach.

That's not how we roll in Detroit.

Today Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was booked on eight felonies, including perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office. His former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, scored seven counts of her own. The charges stem from the couple (alleged couple) claiming under oath that they were not having an affair. It probably wouldn't have been a big deal save the fact that they were under oath in a whistle blower trial for the wrongful dismissal of police officers; a dismissal that would eventually cost the the city an $8.4 million settlement (a whole lotta tax-payer lettuce just so the mayor could catch his groove).

Mayor Kilpatrick has thus far used his forceful personality to skillfully sidestep fallout from his scandal-ridden ride in the motor city, causing many to wonder if anyone would or could bring a semblance of accountability to his administration. They didn't need to wonder with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy now on the case. During her press conference today she firmly leveled her assessment of Kilpatrick's actions, explaining that her "investigation has clearly shown that public dollars were used, people's lives were ruined, the justice system was severely mocked and the public trust trampled on." And just in case the mayor missed her point, she calmly noted that “Even children understand that lying is wrong.”

The case against the mayor seems increasingly strong with thousands of text messages buttressing the accusations, so how likely is he to step aside like a good New Yorker might? Not very. As I pointed out weeks ago, Kilpatrick is guided not by the heart and desire of his city but by the hubris in his soul. It is his fatal flaw. His kryptonite. And I am not alone in this observation as Lou Dobbs used the same word (hubris) tonight to describe Kilpatrick's rush to destruction. Hey, does that mean I can insist that Dobbs is a secret but ardent reader of The Khaki Elephant? Anyway, Kwame Kilpatrick will fight on because it is who he is. He has already defied the will of the Detroit City Council. He has verbally attacked it's President, Kenneth Cockrel Jr. He has played the race card to silence the local papers. And he will now face off against Kym Worthy.

In his mind, Kilpatrick was on a mission from God to take leadership of Detroit. With such a high calling, how could he possibly fail? And if divine intervention should fall short, he seems to have summoned strength from Bill Clinton's example: dodge and delay until you finally parse the issue down to determining what the word "is" is? But be careful, Mr. Mayor. Kym Worthy is certainly no Kenneth Starr.

22 March 2008

Vice President Mike Huckabee

It sounds to me like Mike Huckabee is setting the stage to be viewed as the ideal V.P. on the McCain ticket.

We all know that John McCain needs the conservative wing of the Republican party for any hope of winning the White House. Right now the far right are about as comfortable with Mac as the frog with a scorpion on his back. They see him as the party's venomous vermin, ready to poison their grip on policy with his crazy history of compromise. So the quickest way for McCain to assuage their fears is to pick a running mate who they know and love; a legitimate conservative with the constitution in one hand and a Bible in the other.

There are a host of conservatives to choose from: Mitt Romney (though his Bible is the expanded version), Marsha Blackburn (hotter than Hillary), Haley Barbour (forget Katrina, I just like saying his name), Charlie Crist (just an 'h' away from Christ), Jim Demint (Determined & Defeisty), Tim Pawlenty (even knows what 'uff da' means), etc., etc., etc. Naturally, Mike Huckabee is on that list. He showed strength in the primaries and has a fairly strong following among the evangelical faithful. He also has that charismatic Southern wit. I mean, this is the guy who told us that "we've had a Congress that's spent money like John Edwards at a beauty shop." Ah, still makes me laugh.

Of course, Huck also had one huge negative: he's been seen as a Bible-thumping ideologue with little tolerance for opposing views; an image he needed to dispel in order to make him palatable to the general public and worthy of serious consideration from John McCain. Based on his campaign, he may have been able to lure some conservative vote, but would undoubtedly repel a host of independents. Enter Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Frogs . . . I mean blogs (sorry, still on that frog analogy) and [some] networks have shown disgust and despair over the words of Barack Obama's Pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Conservatives in particular have been unforgiving about Wright's overt racism. So when Huckabee stepped forward during an interview on MSNBC with a tone of understanding, the shocking shock waves rippled across the politiscape. “I grew up in a very conservative south," Huckabee explained, "and I think that you have to cut some slack, and I think I’m probably the only conservative in America who is going to say something like this, but I’m just telling you, we’ve got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie you have to go in the backdoor when you go the restaurant.” He went on to say, “Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and have resentment, and you just have to say, I probably would too.”

Pundits have been abuzz. Maybe this Huckabee guy isn't as closed minded as everybody thought? Maybe this Huckabee guy understand the world as it is. Maybe this Huckabee guy would make a great V.P. Maybe Mike Huckabee is relevant again.

Now, Huckabee wouldn't be my choice but he's making a case for himself, despite his claims to the contrary.

21 March 2008

Terrelle Pryor Chooses . . . Ohio State???

Oh, how I hate Ohio State.

But I pity Terrelle Pryor. This top rated prep football player from Pennsylvania has selected Ohio State over my Alma Mater, The University of Michigan. Now he will never play for the winningest program in NCAA football history, never wear the winged helmet, never experience the support of 100,000+ in the Big House, never attend one of the country's premier academic institutions or sing "The Victors" from his heart. Instead he will be attending an open enrollment institution who's mascot is a worthless nut, who's biggest "football" tradition is performed by the band, and has a head coach who's scandals at both Youngstown State and Ohio State have them one witness away from probation. More's the pity.

Pryor said he had liked Michigan but chose Ohio State because it gave him a better shot at getting to the pros. Um, is that because the Buckeye's have produced so many pro-level QBs? It's an odd comment by Pryor, unless he considers playing for Ohio State playing professional ball. I just hope for his sake that the Buckeyes are paying him as well as Maurice Clarett revealed they were paying him.

19 March 2008

Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - 2008)

Rest With God

"Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories."

"The inspirational value of the space program is probably of far greater importance to education than any input of dollars... A whole generation is growing up which has been attracted to the hard disciplines of science and engineering by the romance of space."

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

"If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run - and often in the short one - the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative."

"The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale."

"It may be that the old astrologers had the truth exactly reversed, when they believed that the stars controlled the destinies of men. The time may come when men control the destinies of stars."

"It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value."

"The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible. "

18 March 2008

Barack Obama And The Art Of Political Expediency

I don't know that I have much to say about Barack Obama's speech today. Did he successfully simmer the racial rage surrounding his campaign? Did he quiet the critics concerned about his associations? Did he reinvigorate his worshipful followers enough to send them out proselytizing the red states. I think it will take a few weeks for us to really see how this will play out in the polls.

The question then is, who else will Obama need to disavow in the next few weeks? What other radical connection from his past will surface? To date, the senator has displayed absolute mastery in the art of political expediency. Rarely have we seen one so skilled in casting aside friends or associates with such forthright eloquence. Can it continue? Perhaps we're not far away from Obama justifying his wife's writings with, "I never shared her world view. I just married her for the sex."

Detroit City Council Votes: "Kwame Kilpatrick, Resign!"

To paraphrase President Gerald Ford, "our long local nightmare is over." Or maybe not. Today the Detroit city council voted overwhelmingly for a resolution asking Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to resign. Since the vote isn't binding, the Mayor wasn't impressed, complaining that "they spent a whole day on it," when in his humble opinion, "there are more important things."

The vote was a lopsided 7 to 1. Those in favor of the resolution were Ken Cockrel Jr. (Council President), Barbara-Rose Collins, Brenda Jones, Kwame Kenyatta, Alberta Tinsley-Talabi, Sheila Cockrel, and JoAnn Watson. The single vote in opposition was cast, predictably, by Council President Pro Tem Monica Conyers who's husband, U.S. congressmen John Conyers, says "aye" to more bad bills than a pirate with a willie fetish. Councilwoman Martha Reeves (yes, as in "Martha and the Vandellas" Reeves) was absent due to illness.

The resolution gave us 33 reasons why the mayor should resign. Click here if you'd like to read them all. If you're just interested in the highlights: lying, incompetence, obfuscation and losing the city's trust. No mention of his hats or having a head disproportionately small for his body. And if that weren't enough, they also tacked on an addendum to have independent council “explore the proceedings by which the mayor may be removed from office” just in cast the mayor doesn't take their advice.

It is unlikely the mayor will take their advice. As he told a gathering of the press, "My reaction is, OK, now since it's over, it has no effect." Of course his tune may change next week when a decision is expected by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy on whether she will file criminal charges against the mayor for perjury. Then again, this is Kwame Kilpatrick.

As for the council . . . for now they can speak through the final words of their resolution

RESOLVED, That the Detroit City Council, in the interest of preserving the integrity of city government, hereby calls for Kwame M. Kilpatrick to resign as Mayor of the City of Detroit forthwith.

16 March 2008

Political Trump Card: Race Or Gender?

Some recent posts on Ambivablog have had me thinking more about the role of race in both national and local elections. We'd all like to believe that the overwhelming majority of folk are beyond considering the color of a man's skin when they pull the electoral lever, color in the arrow, fill in the dot, punch the chad, or step to one side of the room to nominate a representative. And as I considered the possibility that race still plays a major role, it struck me that the consideration here may really (and truly) be about the color of a man's skin. The color of a woman's skin may be irrelevant to most people in most cases.

When the Clinton campaign sent Geraldine Ferraro on what I hope is a one-way ticket back to insignificance, I remember telling a friend, "I don't think Obama is leading in delegates because he's black. I think he's leading because he's a man. With her political machine, if Hillary Clinton were a man she would have wrapped up the nomination seven primaries ago." The fact is that women (or chicks, if you prefer) have long gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to intellectual respect, though most men will gladly acknowledge female superiority when it comes to fetching beer or making sandwiches. While the media is trying to decide whether or not Obama's race is a political positive, there is little doubt about Clinton's gender. Could Ferraro or any other forgotten player sanely attempt to claim that Clinton is only where she is because she's a woman?

Most of the current turmoil around Barack Obama focuses on his unsavory connections, his lack of experience, or his extremely liberal voting record. His race, considered solely in and of itself, does little to inform those conversations. In contrast, talk about Clinton is more likely to revolve around her cankles than her connections. Pundits seem concerned about how horribly she will age in the White House rather than what she might do once she is there.

Women have come far, but America's sociopolitical undercurrent continues to supply a constant, subtle drag on their aspirations. Just look at the subtleties. Racist jokes are always offensive to decent folk while jokes about blonde women can usually get a chuckle in the same crowd. Jabs at minorities are unacceptable, but start a sentence with "my old lady" and you can get away with saying just about anything. What is the best way to mock a man? Call him a sissy, a wussy (or it’s more graphic “P” sister), a pansy, a girly-man or any other comparison to the feminine. And don’t worry; these slights are protected by a long standing tradition of American sexism. Little wonder the sons of former African slaves were legally (if not actually) given the right to vote in this country before white women.

The role of Obama’s race may be debatable, but that is clearly not the case with Clinton’s gender. I am calling on this country to take a new direction. Stop talking about Hillary’s looks no matter how difficult that may prove. Stop referencing her visits from “Aunt Flow.” Strip away sexist stereotypes and start asking Hillary Clinton the same type of questions you asked her husband during his campaign. I will begin here and now!

My first question for you, Senator Clinton:
Panties or thong?

Oops, I think I just did it again.

15 March 2008

Detroit The Beautiful

My wife and I went to see Jesus Christ Superstar at the Fox Theater this weekend. It was a spectacular show and nice to hear that Ted Neely still has those fantastic lungs (though there may be a need for serious botox if he wants to continue pulling off a 33 year old messiah).

When we walked out of the theater I looked across Woodward to Comerica Park, then down the street at the wonderful cityscape. Beautiful. Simply beautiful. Despite her troubles, Detroit remains an amazing city.

Cool & Classy Kenneth Cockrel (Detroit City Council President)

I wonder if everybody is as impressed with Kenneth Cockrel Jr. as I am. Here is a man who, given the important role his late father (Kenneth Cockrel Sr.) played in social justice issues, has always had to carry the weight of his name on broad shoulders. But he doesn't shy away from the duty his name requires. He grabs it, and the city should be grateful. Whether you agree or disagree with him, this guy is an intellectual powerhouse who handles himself with cool class.

Cool. That's exactly what I thought when the camera flashed to Cockrel after Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick took a shot at him during the 2008 State of the City Address. Cool like John Wayne in True Grit (minus the guns and eye patch). He didn't flinch or scowl, just sat there with a control that seemed the perfect contrast to the mayor's rant.

Class. That's exactly what I thought when I heard Cockrel's response to the State of the City Address. Class like Denzel Washington in . . . most movies he's been in. He didn't buy into the rhetoric. He simply explained that he would support the mayor when he thought he was right and challenge him when he thought he was wrong. His job is not to be a cheerleader.

I feel pretty good knowing this guy is helping to guide the city.

14 March 2008

Rev. Jeremiah Wrong . . . I Mean, Wright -- Barack Obama's Pastor

Videos of the ole Reverend have been bouncing all over the web so I feel it's my obligation to post one on the Khaki Elephant as well.

The Reverend Jeremiah Wrong . . . I mean, Wright has been Barack Obama's pastor for twenty some years. The senator credits him as the man who led him to Christ (which may make you wonder where the word "led" led). He married the Obamas and baptized their children. He has functioned as their spiritual advisor and mentor for all these years.

So why has Obama suddenly decided to begin criticizing his father in the faith? Why, after sitting in the pews listening to this man for twenty years, has Obama stepped away from his alter? Why is Obama now telling the media that he disagrees with "some" of the things the Reverend Wrong . . . I mean, Wright has to say?

I suppose it has something to do with the public seeing some of the Reverend's sermons for the fist time. So, for your spiritual edification, here is a taste of the preacher Barack Obama felt at home listening to for all those years (This video was posted on YouTube by NASCARTango).

"Don't sing God bless America. Sing God damn America."
-- Rev. Jeremiah Wrong . . . I mean, Wright

13 March 2008

Eliot, Phone Ho

"Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
-- Ronald Reagan

And the frequent overlap between the two professions is uncanny.

Division By Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick

I'm not sure why I was surprised at the closing words of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's 2008 State of the City Address. After all, this is not the first time when faced with political danger that he played the I-am-a-victim defense. When his re-election bid seemed over in 2005 he rallied Detroit voters with baseless claims that the suburbs were out to get him (complete with all of the implied racism he could muster). He even successfully painted his opponent Freman Hendrix, a fellow African American Democrat, as . . . well, white. But I thought things would be different this time.

Perhaps my thinking was influenced by what's been happening on the national scene. America's future seems headed toward an ideology of racial unity as we've seen with Barack Obama's struggle to distance himself from the separatist rhetoric of his church and any connection to racist supporters like Louis Farrakhan. Or perhaps I just thought the mayor would step up and admit his failings, trying to move forward for the sake of the people and city he so vehemently claims to love. I was wrong.

But I still find myself believing that the mayor took the wrong tact. Does he really believe that Detroiters are as gullible as his speech implies? Does he think playing "us against them" will wipe away the stains from his scandal-plagued administration? I know that he understands Detroit politics better than a suburbanite like me, but is it possible that his supporters don't ask the same questions about this man that the rest of the country is asking?

The mayor began his speech noting that for "more than 300 years . . . Detroiters [have] answered the call to greatness." There is no doubt about that. But shouldn't his constituents ask why the mayor hasn't answered that call himself? Especially when he had so much promise as a leader. And when Kilpatrick went on to deliver a list of "people who fought on behalf of the dispossessed and the disenfranchised" didn't city residents wonder how that list rolled so easily from his lips after countless allegations that he has lined the pockets of family and friends with the money, hopes and dreams of those same dispossessed and disenfranchised?

"Sometimes," Kilpatrick continued, "Sometimes we may not see our own time for what it truly is . . . years from now another mayor will stand here . . . they will look back at this time as the time when our community decided to transform our city. They will remember this as a time we thought not only about us, but about the future." That future mayor will certainly look back and see that trait in most Detroiters who live and sacrifice to create a better place for all of us. But did anybody watching this speech really believe that Mayor Kilpatrick is thinking about the future rather than himself?

As I have previously written, I firmly believe that Kwame Kilpatrick has done some good for the city of Detroit. The bulk of his speech dealt with what his administration has accomplished and their plans for the future. But for every bit of good I sensed the failure of what could be. Here was a man that I believe could have been great for the city, the state, perhaps even the country. Yet he seems either unable or unconcerned with controlling his impulses, a fact that was again exposed in his closing words.

Of course, as the mayor predicted, it was those closing words that have sparked the most controversy. Rather than look for hope, he attacked his critics. Instead of seeking unity, the mayor decided to protect himself through division. Rather than helping the community reach toward the future, the mayor laced his finale with every code word he could deliver to inform his supporters that he is the victim. For those who did not hear his closing, read it and weep. Weep for those who are working to build a better Detroit. Weep for those who are fighting for racial harmony. Weep for the dispossessed and disenfranchised who have suddenly become pawns in the struggle for power.

The challenge for all of us in public office is to rise above our differences -- to rise above our human frailties – and maintain our focus on working together to move this city forward. Ralph Waldo Emerson said big jobs usually go to the people who prove their ability to outgrow small ones.

President Cockrel [Detroit City Council President, Kenneth Cockrel], we have much more serious issues affecting the future of this city than whether we’re going to attend a speech.

I love you and I love what you've done for our city.

At this moment in our history, we must turn to each other, and not on each other.

And finally tonight, and this may be the most talked about part of the speech after laying out all of that. But I feel that I cannot leave this auditorium with my wife and my sons sitting there without addressing this issue.

In the past 30 days, I've been called a n----- more than any time in my entire life. In the past three days I have received more death threats than I have in my entire administration. I've heard these words before, but I've never heard people say them about my wife and children.

I don't believe that a Nielsen rating is worth the life of my children or your children.

This unethical, illegal lynch-mob mentality has to stop.

And it's seriously time. We've never been here before. And I don't care if they cut the TV off. We've never been in a situation like this before where you can say anything, do anything, have no facts, no research, no nothin and you can launch a hate-driven, bigoted assault on a family.

I humbly ask members of council. I humbly ask the business community. I humbly ask the religious community. I humbly ask the brothers and sisters of the city of Detroit. I humbly ask that we say no more together. I humbly ask that we say no more together.

I love this city with every part of my being and I will continue to stay focused on building the next Detroit.

God bless you.

Detroit, I love you.
The Detroit Free Press and other news sources have reported that, despite the mayor's claims of threats against himself and his family, there is no evidence, nor has the mayor requested a police investigation into any threats. If those threats are true it should lead to arrests. If they are not true, then we bear witness to a man who would destroy a city for the lust of power. Either way, I believe the future mayor that Kilpatrick mentioned in his speech will have a lot to say about this time and this mayor.

View Mayor Kilpatrick's entire State of the City Address here.

12 March 2008

Ready To Leave The Left

I've seen several bloggers refer to David Mamet's essay in The Village Voice explaining how he, a lifelong liberal -- as shown through has pen, has had a change of heart. It reminds me of the quote oft attributed to Winston Churchill "Any 20-year old who is not a liberal doesn't have a heart and any 40-year old who is not a conservative doesn't have a brain."

With age comes the wisdom of reality. Click below to read Mamet's essay

David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'

(And pray this doesn't mean that his writing will start to suck)

10 March 2008

Where's McCain's Money Train?

The last time I checked John McCain had raised some $60 million in campaign contributions. To date, Hillary Clinton has doubled that figure and Barack Obama has more than tripled it. Not a good sign for McCain and his supporters.

As the official Republican nominee, there is little doubt that John McCain will get some much needed assistance in raising funds, which means he will finally be able to pay all of his campaign advisers -- though that doesn't address the question of whether or not he should. But that help may not be enough, especially if he is eventually facing off against Obama, who seems to attract money like a hooker in a lumber camp (or a New York Governor's hotel room).

I believe that most of the conservatives who have threatened not to vote for McCain will eventually change their minds because of the alternative. But will they send him money? Will "the base" be willing to part with their hard-earned cash for a guy they believe has consistently undermined their power in the party? I have my doubts. And that could spell disaster for a candidate who needs to draw the attention of independent voters to make his way to the White House.

09 March 2008

Kwame Kilpatrick: More Mess from Messages

When the Michigan Supreme Court decided to uphold the decision to release text messages that Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his chief of staff placed on city owned pagers, I knew this was going to get nasty. I just didn't know how nasty this would get for the mayor or the city. And I'm afraid that the entry below from today's Detroit Free Press may just be the beginning.

A close friend of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick won millions of dollars in city contracts while secretly consulting with the mayor's top aide, according to records and text messages obtained by the Free Press.

The text messages, from 2002 and 2003, show that Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty, his chief of staff at the time, provided their friend Bobby Ferguson inside information on potential projects, discussed whether he would be in or out of certain jobs and helped Ferguson get paid promptly when he urgently needed a check from the city.

Ferguson and firms he partnered with have collected at least $45 million in contracts since Kilpatrick took office in 2002. In at least one instance, the mayor was directly involved in discussions about Ferguson's bid strategy.

"Awarding contracts to supporters and friends is problematic," said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University professor and ex-federal prosecutor. "If there's benefit being derived from it, then that's a classic case of public corruption."

Ferguson said he got the contracts on merit. "I work hard for everything I do," he said Friday after reviewing text messages. "Nobody's never given me anything." In a statement released Saturday night, Ferguson called the Free Press report a "fishing expedition grounded purely on circumstantial anecdotes and unrelated half-truths that attempt to connect purely unrelated issues for purposes that do not involve the truth or the facts."

Kilpatrick's spokeswoman, who was also shown text messages involving Ferguson on Friday, did not provide a response from the mayor. Beatty's legal advisors said she did nothing improper.

George Jackson, the city's top development officer, said Saturday he was not aware of any political interference with contract decisions made by the city's various development agencies. "This is a completely public and transparent process," he said.

Since Kilpatrick took office in 2002, Ferguson's business dealings with the city have broadened. He took a key role in an agency leading the downtown redevelopment effort. His companies -- which have generally received solid marks for their work and have been among the lowest bidders on projects -- have been involved in some of Detroit's signature developments, including Comerica Park, Ford Field, renovations at Cobo Center and the Book-Cadillac Hotel restoration downtown.

Text messages from Beatty's city-issued pager show that Ferguson communicated directly and repeatedly with her about pending projects. The Free Press did not find any other vendor with such access to Beatty in her text message records. But Beatty's attorney, Jeffrey Morganroth, said Beatty spoke with other contractors face-to-face or on the phone. "It just so happened that Mr. Ferguson, in addition to having phone conversations and in-person meetings, had her text pager and would text her from time to time."

One exchange, on April 16, 2003, took place after a board meeting of the Downtown Development Authority, the agency charged with reinvigorating the city's core business district. Beatty and Ferguson both served on the board.

Beatty sent this message to the mayor about an unspecified vendor: "So," she wrote, "he's a front?"
"No question," Kilpatrick responded.
Beatty then wrote: "Who put all of these black folks in the deal?"

It's unclear who they were talking about, or what contract was discussed. But the term "front" is typically used to describe the illegal practice of a having a minority group bid on a contract set aside for minority-owned firms when the actual group seeking the contract is not minority owned.

Jay Stewart, executive director of the Better Government Association, a civic watchdog group in Chicago, said the conversation about the front is troubling. "When the word 'front' is used in context of minority contracts, that's a huge, huge red flag," Stewart said. "There is no bigger red flag."

Beatty then messaged the mayor about a deal under discussion and asked, "Why not Bobby in this?"
"Bobby," Kilpatrick responded, "wanted to strategically lose a major bid. He will be on this one at bid time."

Apparently the mayor wasn't just screwing Christine Beatty, but every contractor who was bidding on a Detroit project and wasn't part of his inner circle. Check here for more on this story from the Free Press. And let's pray that mayor Kilpatrick's people are right and things aren't as they appear, because right now things appear pretty bleak.

08 March 2008

Prisoner John McCain

Tigerhawk provides an interesting read concerning the honor of John McCain:

Rereading Vietnam and John McCain's legacy

The Anti-Peninsula Movement In The Democratic Party

The talks continue as to whether or not the Democratic party is going to permit Michigan and Florida "do-over" primaries so their votes will count at the Democratic convention. Now imagine that. The voters of these two states might have another chance to vote for Clinton or Obama! This bold opportunity may even allow them to be disenfranchised yet again when the final decision is actually made by the Super Delegates who aren't necessarily interested in who their constituents supported. Huzzah!

I recently posted a comment on the VodkaPundit suggesting that this all started after the Dems invalidated the Michigan and Florida votes because the party is anti-peninsula. I received a note back from a reader who said that I was just being "ridiculous." Um. OK. Yes, I suppose that I should apologize to the Democratic Party for my ridiculous statement. Perhaps the real reason is that they are anti-Great Lakes, loathe the American auto industry, or never liked the MoTown sound. Maybe they are gator haters, anti-blue hair, or are seeking revenge for those cursed hanging chads of 2000. Or maybe, just maybe, they are exposing a national nominating process that is completely wack.

Due to the tight race we have been able to witness some ugly flaws in this process. Instead of sanity's semblance, the Democrats have provided us with a mishmash of primaries and caucuses that are about as easy to follow as Ted Kennedy's car after happy hour. And Texas gave us the added bonus of having both a primary and a caucus on the same day (a right I suspect they earned by being home to Lance Armstrong) Naturally, this hodgepodge process has provided ample opportunity for both the Clinton and Obama camps to make daily accusations about voter fraud, intimidation and downright double-secret meanness.

I suppose the Democratic party can try to defend this nomination debacle as a display of states' rights within their defined framework. Each state has the right to decide how they will vote. But states' rights can only extend so far. They can decide how to vote, just not when. The party simply couldn't allow Michigan and Florida to "break the rules" and move their primaries to an earlier date. Why? Perhaps having a couple of populous swing states vote earlier might just impact the voting pattern of subsequent states enough to reduce the influence that Democratic party leaders have on the direction of the nomination. Hmmm. Luckily, they had a back up plan. Enter the STDs (Super "Talented" Delegates).

I know what some of you may be saying. Michigan and Florida knew the rules and decided not to follow them. True, but can anybody blame them for wanting to avoid irrelevance for yet another primary? Yes, this election is so close that they would have had a powerful impact had they just done what they were told and not been naughty states. But one election hardly makes up for three decades of insignificance and apathy during the primaries.

Ultimately, the Democratic Party needs to find a way for voters in Michigan and Florida to participate. If they need to demonstrate authority, punish the party leaders for each state, not the people who just want to be heard. Silencing the vote in these states may lead to exposure the party doesn't want and they may find themselves hoping to sell an explanation as simple as "we're just anti-peninsula."

Oh, and for those of you who voted Republican in Michigan and Florida: not to worry, your votes counted.

07 March 2008

Barack Obama's Church

There has been a lot of talk lately concerning Barack Obama's church, the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Bloggers and pundits have called the church everything from racist to unifying; from separatist to community centered; from Christ-driven to Christ-free. One thing is certain -- as long as Obama is in the race his church will be a provocative element in the political dialogue. Why?

Here are a couple items from their website (http://www.tucc.org/) that are gaining political traction.

We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian... Our roots in the Black religious experience and tradition are deep, lasting and permanent. We are an African people, and remain "true to our native land," the mother continent, the cradle of civilization. God has superintended our pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism. It is God who gives us the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people, and as a congregation. We constantly affirm our trust in God through cultural expression of a Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.

The Pastor as well as the membership of Trinity United Church of Christ is committed to a 10-point Vision:

  • A congregation committed to ADORATION.
  • A congregation preaching SALVATION.
  • A congregation actively seeking RECONCILIATION.
  • A congregation with a non-negotiable COMMITMENT TO AFRICA.
  • A congregation committed to BIBLICAL EDUCATION.
  • A congregation committed to CULTURAL EDUCATION.
  • A congregation committed to LIBERATION.
  • A congregation committed to RESTORATION.
  • A congregation working towards ECONOMIC PARITY

"Mission Statement: What Trinity Is About
Trinity United Church of Christ has been called by God to be a congregation that is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ and that does not apologize for its African roots! As a congregation of baptized believers, we are called to be agents of liberation not only for the oppressed, but for all of God’s family. We, as a church family, acknowledge, that we will, building on this affirmation of "who we are" and "whose we are," call men, women, boys and girls to the liberating love of Jesus Christ, inviting them to become a part of the church universal, responding to Jesus’ command that we go into all the world and make disciples!

We are called out to be "a chosen people" that pays no attention to socio-economic or educational backgrounds. We are made up of the highly educated and the uneducated. Our congregation is a combination of the haves and the have-nots; the economically disadvantaged, the under-class, the unemployed and the employable.

The fortunate who are among us combine forces with the less fortunate to become agents of change for God who is not pleased with America’s economic mal-distribution!

W.E.B. DuBois indicated that the problem in the 20th century was going to be the problem of the color line. He was absolutely correct. Our job as servants of God is to address that problem and eradicate it in the name of Him who came for the whole world by calling all men, women, boys and girls to Christ."

06 March 2008

If The Khaki Elephant Posted A Quote Of The Day . . .

I would pick this one.

David Axelrod, a Barack Obama strategist, made this observation concerning the way the media has treated Hillary Clinton: "She hasn't gotten the scrutiny [from the press] that other candidates like ours have gotten."

You may think that you misread that so I'll write it again in bold italics.

"She hasn't gotten the scrutiny [from the press] that other candidates like ours have gotten."

Now that's what I call spin!

05 March 2008

Super (Talented) Delegates Really Might Decide: Clinton or Obama

Well, Hillary is back again. Just when you thought you'd heard the last of her spine-severing pitch, along comes Texas and Ohio. While Obama still retains the overall delegate lead, the race is a tight one and there are growing indications that the Democratic nominee will not be decided by the vote of the people, but by the will of "Super Delegates" who have been given this power because they apparently posses a talent beyond the scope of mere mortal voters that will allow them to override the people's choice if deemed necessary.

Many of these "Super Talented Delegates" (henceforth referred to as "STDs") have already attached themselves to one candidate or the other (though we have recently seen that when a candidate catches an STD they might quickly pass to somebody else). The remaining STDs are biding their time, presumably waiting to eventually infect themselves on the candidate who either wins the popular vote or is identified as most electable.

Winning the popular vote will take care of itself, but determining which candidate is most electable may prove a tricky proposition. But then it's tricky propositions that attract STDs.

There are certainly some electability negatives to consider concerning each candidate. For Hillary, well, the name "Clinton" will have Republicans opening their checkbooks faster than a revival sinner on Easter Sunday. And her forced smile is enough to send even the most loyal follower to confession ("Forgive me, Father, for what I am about to do in the voting booth"). And Barack, oh his inexperience consistently demonstrates a foreign policy naivety that makes Pebbles Flintstone seem worldly wise. And just wait for those charming I'm-for-change policy quips to fall under the scrutiny of Republican shock troops who are immune to Obamamania.

As for their positives . . . well, I guess the big one is that both of them are guaranteed to be running against a Republican.

So what will the STDs decide given the daunting nature of the task? Strike that. Why will the STDs decide? We now have a relatively small group of people who may well be making a decision that will impact the future of this country. I don't know about you, but I've tried to practice safe politics and it seems there is nothing I can do to protect myself from this. The STDs are here. The STDs may decide our future. Lord, I need medication.

02 March 2008

Letter To Anne Coulter

Dear, Anne

You are intelligent. You are funny. You are attractive. You have worked hard for the Republican party. Now, shut your pie hole.


Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's Kryptonite

You have to admire Superman. The guy is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Most impressive of all, he's not self-conscious in tights. But for me the truly interesting element of the Superman saga is kryptonite. Here we have a guy who can fly and catch bullets with his teeth, but is rendered powerless as a puppy by a little green rock. Kryptonite. When Lex Luthor found it he delivered an ink-framed message for the ages: even those bound for greatness can be destroyed by their weakness.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick entered the office carrying hope on his broad shoulders. At 31, he was the youngest Mayor in the history of the city and displayed all of the strength and vigor promised by his campaign. He showed the tenacity required for accomplishment and the intelligence to defend his political decisions. Even his harshest critics must admit that he has done some amazing things for the city. During his tenure he has effectively cut property taxes, overseen the addition of 3,000+ new jobs, renovated forgotten city parks, produced the lowest crime rate in the city since the 60s, and helped attract the Super Bowl and MLB All Star game to the area. While he doesn't wear tights, this mayor should be flying high.

Enter kryptonite

. . . oops, sorry, had to take a moment to shake the image of Kwame Kilpatrick in tights . . .

And like many in positions of power, the mayor's Kryptonite is hubris.

It didn't take long for the mayor's accomplishments to be overshadowed by scandals, each connected by a string of hubris sewn by the mayor's internalized belief that he can do as he pleases with the power he holds. Among the headline scandals:

  • Spending city funds to lease a luxury family vehicle
  • Excessive cronyism
  • Using a city credit card for vacations and costly spa visits
  • Alleged parties at the Manoogian mansion followed by murder
  • Firing city employees as a cover up
  • Having an affair with his chief of staff
  • Perjury
  • Causing the financially strapped city to settle a $8.4 million whistle-blower lawsuit

The young mayor who soared with the hope of a city and the ability to fulfill his promise is now grounded by the weight of his indiscretions. Detroit is at a crossroads. Many are asking for the mayor to step down with dignity. Others are calling for the city to remove Kilpatrick and wipe away the scandel-plagued administration. And everyone must face the reality of failing to reach what might have been.

Such intelligence. Such Promise. Such hubris.
Such is the way with kryptonite.