Monday, November 19, 2012


 We give you thanks because all creation is blessed with your gifts, oh God.

     Too often, we lose sight of all you have given; mistaken in the belief and pride so much we earned is through our own efforts and will.  It's a pride which puffs us up, but separates us from You and each other and causes our egos to overtake our hearts.  On this Thanksgiving Day, may we be filled with the humility to acknowledge our weakness and recognize with gratitude all we have received from You.

     Thank you for the richness of our land, and the generosity we extend to each other.  This year we endured national calamities of unprecedented scope.  Yet, even at the darkest time, we experience acts of kindness and care, all undeserved, which ennoble none the less.

     Thank you for the gift of family and friends and all who touch our lives.  In a society where loneliness and isolation increase...where we know fewer and fewer of our neighbors...where we long for significant others in our lives, we are grateful for anyone who reaches out to show us an ounce of care and compassion even as it should inspire us to do the same.

     Thank you for the kindness of strangers.  Many of us are separated from our family and loved ones, either because of choices we made or circumstance, and are grateful for the warmth of human contact and empathy.

     Thank you for all who produced the bounty we share today.  Too often we forget that the efforts of those who cultivate our food and sustenance are a gift to all of us.  Thank you for those who prepared the food we share and the fellowship, which emerges around our tables.  Many today will listen to stories repeated year after year...thank you this year for the gift of true listening and the realization of our common humanity and bonds which those stories communicate.

     Thank you for the food on our tables...the clothes on our backs...the roof over our heads...knowing there are so many who lack any and all of this in their lives.  We remember whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters we do for You.

     On this Thanksgiving Day, may we never forget how lucky we are THE WORLD IS ALIVE WITH THE GRANDEUR OF GOD!

Friday, November 9, 2012


Two new blogs from the Lion of the Left:

 Once Florida is declared for President Obama, he will have 332 electoral votes.  He will have won over 50% of the popular vote, and his party will have gained seats in the Senate.   It's too easy.

     Obama, and his team, predicted a close race.  Close races are won or lost by turnout.  In 2008, African American, Hispanic, women and young voters turned out in record numbers and Obama won.  Republicans claimed it was a fluke...a one time phenomenon which can't be replicated...they were wrong.  Election analysis shows African American voters turned out in higher numbers than 2008.  In Ohio, if African Americans had turned out at 2008 levels, Romney would have won the state.  In Pennsylvania and Florida, the same story occurred.  Hispanic voters represented 10% of the electorate.  (It's the first time they have broken into double digits)  They broke 71% for Obama, and once again the percentage of turnout increased from 2008.  60% of voters were women who went for Obama by 12 points and voters under 30, whose numbers were supposed to drop, increased.  The most often repeated political story was that Obama's base was unenthusiastic, dispirited, disappointed and there was no way they would turn out like they did in 2008.  As usual, conventional wisdom failed in the face of reality.  Obama bet they could hold this coalition together and could expand it and he was right.  Their model will be studied by political scientists and operatives for years to come.

     Before a vote was cast, Obama had about 220 electoral votes in his pocket. He knew he could lose Florida and Virginia so they focused all their time and effort on the battleground states of the upper Midwest, in particular Ohio.  If they won Ohio, they win the election.  Not only did they win Ohio, but like Grant through Richmond they steamrolled over Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, creating a firewall to keep Romney from reaching 270 electoral votes even if he won Florida and Virginia.  They saw Nevada, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire as another part of the firewall.  In the end, Obama won both Florida and Virginia and Romney was left wondering about what might have been.  Even if Romney had won Florida and Virginia, he still would have lost the race.

     If this election had been a referendum on the economy, Obama would have lost.  If it was portrayed as a choice between competing visions of the future and competing characters, Obama wins.  Once again it was easy.  All of the effort was put into getting voters to choose between Obama and Romney.  Starting in May, Obama's campaign began spending millions of dollars defining Romney.  A Democratic Super PAC flooded Ohio with ads about Romney and Bain Capital.  This continued throughout the summer.  Their efforts were successful and the election was about choice and not a referendum on the last four years.  Despite voters preferring Romney on the economy, they didn't like him...they didn't feel an affinity for him...they didn't trust him to be on their side...they thought he is out of touch with average Americans and this proved to be his undoing.  (the fly in the ointment was the first debate...had Obama performed well, the strategy of the summer would have turned this into a rout)

     Once they had their coalition in place, and had their ground game model up and running, (in Virginia a story is being reported about how Democratic voters were in a line near Richmond and were being checked off by an Obama volunteer with an iPad.  There was no Republican counterpart) all that was left to do was to get them to the polls.  Oh, one other thing, they seized on early voting and provided registration forms etc. to enable as many Democrats as possible to vote early.  Early voting totals broke to Obama in almost all the key battleground states.

     Republicans claimed they were pouring millions into voter turnout.  Regressive super PACs said they were going to replicate the Obama model and turn out voters in high numbers.  It turns out this was all smoke and mirrors.  There are rumors already spreading about Karl Rove, and his operatives, refusing to share voter information and any voter modeling with anyone else.  It was proprietary information which could not be shared.  The Republican coalition of white voters and senior citizens along with rural voters held together, but it's shrinking and cannot match up against the new voting power of what Obama assembled.

     Therefore what...?  Obama's re-election carries a number of messages.  Obama ran promising to let the Bush tax cuts expire and to have the 1% pay higher taxes.  The voters agree.  Obama ran on the benefits of health care reform.  Once and for all, Obama care is here to stay and will be the law of the land.  Millions of Americans will get health insurance who currently don't have it.  States will have to set up health care exchanges and the mandate requiring everyone to have insurance will be enforced.  Obama ran on Wall Street reform.  Regulations from the Dodd/Frank legislation will now be promulgated including the Volker Rule (a kind of slimmed-down version of Glass-Steagle) in an attempt to rein in risky activity.  It isn't as strong as it should be, but it’s so much stronger than under a Romney administration.  Obama got rid of Don't Ask Don't Tell, which Romney said he would reinstate.  Obama supported gay marriage.  Obama used executive orders to implement the Dream Act, which will serve as a basis for the immigration reform debate soon to start.  The war in Afghanistan ends in 2014. (it should be sooner)
     Elections have consequences.  Those regressives who say there is no mandate for Obama are whistling past the graveyard.  This was not a campaign full of specifics, but where Obama was specific, the election gives him the justification to move on all of these various fronts.

     In the end, it was too easy.  As Obama's coalition grows, Romney's shrinks.  As the ground game for Obama becomes more sophisticated, Republican's efforts came up short.  As Obama courted women, minorities and the young, Romney courted the rich, richer and politically stilted.  As Obama reaped the rewards of an auto bailout, which created thousands of jobs, Romney talked about cars being made in China.  The 47% which Romney predicted would never vote for him, turned out to be an underestimate.  (more like 51% at least in the popular vote) and it is the reason there isn't a Mormon heading for the White House today.


It is impossible to hold a national election, like the one just concluded, without looking at who won and who lost.  Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and it is intended to remind you of some people and issues and it’s the beginning of an analysis which will be going on for quite some time.  The long knives are already out among Republicans, so we will sit back and watch as they pick their own winners and losers.


                   1) Jim Axelrod, David Pluffe, Jim Messina and the rest of Obama's re-election team.  They are huge winners.  They held their 2008 coalition together.  They built a sophisticated turnout machine.  They expanded the size of their base and they built an electoral firewall in the industrial Midwest which crushed the Republicans.

                   2) Joe Biden- you might not think this is obvious since he will still be vice president, but Biden spent a year crisscrossing the country and building support among key coalition constituents.  He is ridiculed and mocked by Republicans, and many in the corporate media, but his blue-collar story, down-to-earth conversations and command of issues served the campaign very well.

                    3)Unions- it is conventional wisdom to declare unions dead and their influence waning. However they were a key component in turning out voters.  The Service Employees Union, the United Auto Workers and other trade unions played a key role in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. (Obama's Electoral College firewall)  Union members and  households, white working males, went for Obama in these states and enabled him to carry the states which Republicans thought would be in play.

                     4)Nate Silver-  The New York Times poll analyst came under withering criticism late in the campaign for consistently calling this contest for Obama.  His models did not see the election as a toss-up or too close to call or a tie which could go either way.  He concluded Obama had a 75% chance of being re-elected.  Even after the first debate, Silver still said Obama’s chances were over 60%.  He never gave Romney more than a 40% chance of winning and most of the campaign said it was closer to a 30% chance.  He predicted President Obama would win at least 300 electoral votes.  (He is currently at 303 and when Florida is decided, he will have 332)  He was excoriated by the punditocracy and political journalists because he wouldn't accept their "guts" vs. his numbers.  Silver was absolutely spot-on and his stock couldn't be higher.

                       5)Women-there will be more women in Congress.  Obama's re-election guarantees the provisions in his health care reform legislation expanding access to contraception will remain.  Equal pay laws will be enforced by the Labor Department as well as other discrimination protections for employees.  Funding for food stamps, affordable housing, head start and other programs which women use in large numbers will be in better shape under Obama than under Romney and Ryan.  Obama's health care reform will be a huge benefit for women and children.


                       1)Super PACS- Karl Rove alone raised over $300 million and what did he get for it?  The Democrats picked up two seats in the Senate, Obama won, and turnout was not better for Republicans.  Gay marriage laws passed in two states as well as two states which legalized possession of marijuana.  There is no issue Rove supported which was successful.  Rove is not alone.  (Rove also is a loser as a political pundit and columnist for the Wall Street Journal.  His predictions and projections and analysis of the campaign supported a Romney rout and consistently missed the same mark Nate Silver hit out of the park.)  B.T.W. of that $300 million which Rove raised, what was his cut?  10%?  He made millions bilking billionaires out of their money with nothing to show for it except his own enrichment.  What do you think happens the next time he comes with his hat in his hand?

                        2)Senator Mitch McConnell-  the Kentucky senator famously proclaimed his goal in the Senate was to deny President Obama a second term.  How'd that turn out senator?  McConnell presided over a Republican filibuster machine which blocked and stopped every Obama initiative, prevented federal judiciary posts and regulatory agency posts from being filled and derailed Obama's jobs bill and other attempts to turn the economy around and get people back to work.  What is his new goal?  Deny Obama a pleasant retirement?

                         3)Paul Ryan-Ryan was supposed to energize regressives who might not trust Romney.  He was supposed to put Wisconsin in play.  He was supposed to imbue youth and vigor into the race in contrast to Joe Biden.  He was going to add intellectual heft to the ticket.  In the end, he turned out to be ineffective and his choice further alienated women and seniors as well as working class white males.

                          4)Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers Adelson gave Romney $52 million and gave more to Rove and his buddies.  The Koch brothers gave a similar amount including $11 million secretly given to defeat Proposition 30 in California.   (which passed)  All that money got them four more years of Obama, a democratic Senate to confirm Obama Supreme Court nominees, a stronger EPA and Consumer Protection Bureau, full implementation of Dodd/Frank and Obamacare and more.  If this is an example of their fiscal judgment, how did they get so rich and who would listen to them again?  (Honorable mention to Linda McMann in Connecticut who spent $100 million in two elections and lost both.)

                           5)Gallup/Rasmussen-  for months Gallup had Romney ahead by as much as 10 points over Obama.  Rasmussen has similar findings.  They are now totally discredited.  (Nate Silver declared Gallup polls to be outliers which were not accurate or consistent)  While regressives continuously sighted Gallup and Rasmussen to prove they were winning and Obama was toast, in the end both polling organizations were totally out of the mainstream and their information almost looked like they made it up.  Whenever you hear about, or read a Gallup or Rasmussen poll in the future, carry a very large saltshaker.

                            6)New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan-  Dolan, and the Catholic bishops, came up big losers in this election.  They screamed bloody murder about having to offer contraception as a part of health plans given to employees of hospitals, schools, and social service agencies they run.  They framed it as a first amendment issue.  They publically attacked Obama, preached against him and called on Catholics to flood the White House with complaints.  The result?  Over 50% of Catholics voted for Obama and those provisions will permanently be a part of the health care landscape.  Even worse for Dolan  They were virtually silent on Ryan's budget which shredded the social safety net for poor and working poor families in this country.  They allowed Ryan to claim his budget was well within Catholic teachings.  It took 5 nuns on a bus tour to call attention to how Ryan's plan violated Catholic social teaching.  (the same nuns attacked by the Vatican for being too progressive.  The Vatican had nothing to say about cutting food programs and shelter in the name of balancing budgets.)

                             7)Hanbaugh/Fox News-despite over 600 radio stations...despite millions of listeners and ditto heads...despite an entire news network devoted to defeating anything progressive...despite no progressive competition and despite four years of constant attacks on Obama, the regressive echo machine come up empty once again.  Thousands of hours of programming filled with lies, attacks, hate and distortions, Obama is re-elected and some of their favorite candidates, who reflected their misogyny the best, were defeated.  Nothing they predicted came true.  No issue they supported actually won.  Issues they claim are opposed by a majority of Americans...abortion, contraception, gay marriage, gays in the military, Iran, Afghanistan, Benghazi...on every one of these they are and were on the wrong side of the electorate.  The growing Obama coalition wants nothing to do with them and is not influenced by them.  Now, Obama just has to require the FCC to mandate, as a part of obtaining a radio license or renewal, a certain percentage of all programming must contain local content and local origination and the competition, which these free marketers all say they desire, will put most of them out of business.

                              8)Tea Party- In the last two elections, the Tea Party has cost Republicans at least five seats in the Senate.  The defeat of the two troglodytes in Indiana and Missouri, Mourdock and Akins, are just the latest examples of how the Tea Party and its adherents are foisting unacceptable and unelectable candidates on their party.  We can only wish them continued success.

                               9)Mitt Romney-Romney tried to invent a new style of politics where facts are unnecessary.  He ran from every political position and was a political windsock.  Romney opposed the auto bailout and demonized illegal immigrants.  He wrote off 47% of the electorate as irresponsible.  He tried to etch-a-sketch himself into the White House.  In the end, his auto bailout position cost him the industrial Midwest.  His immigrant bashing resulted in 7 in 10 Hispanic voters voting for Obama.  His cynicism, that he could say anything, take any position even if they contradicted each other, and voters would still vote for him, was crushed by Obama.  At the end of the day, Romney was an empty suit who failed to connect to average Americans.  He owned the number one issue in the campaign, the economy, and yet couldn't close the deal because of his inability to convince Americans who he was.  His loss is our gain if it results in campaigns where integrity and honesty truly matter.  (Ok, ok, I'm too naive and idealistic, but one can hope!)

Monday, November 5, 2012


  This is a non-political observation.  It will not contain poll information or weigh the relative strengths and weaknesses of Romney and Obama.  Instead, it's an opportunity to write about and remind us all of the power of simple kindness.

     Those who know me, know music has always been a large part of my life.  It is especially powerful when associated with church and worship and liturgy.  All the years of doing Godtalk, there were pieces and artists who played a prominent role setting themes on Sunday mornings.  The opening, Amazing Grace, no matter how tired or unfocused I might be, never failed to center me and open me to whatever would occur that day.  Artists like Jesse Manibusan and Annabelle would add their music to a Sunday when we could share and touch each other.  However, no artist has ever touched and moved and inspired me over the years as much as Sandi Patti.

     I first became aware of Sandi while listening to Jim Eason.  He played a cut of her singing the national anthem and it was the best I had ever heard.  In 1982, my wife and I were away from home in Washington D.C. and at Christmas time we watched a program called "Christmas in Washington" which featured Sandi.  I was knocked out again.  I never forgot her, and when I started on Sunday mornings, I bought her album Let There Be Praise, and I played cuts from it for years.  (I probably overdid it I'm sure.)  Eventually, I saved her for Christmas and Easter.  Her version of O Holy Night sends chills up my spine and her offering, "Was It A Morning Like This?" is perfect for Easter Sunday.  In the four plus years I have been a guest of the federal government, I have had no contact with Sandi or her music.  Until today.  (a Sunday morning ironically)

     Recently, our gracious hosts have allowed their guests to purchase MP3 players.  We can download songs to them.  The player and the downloads are too expensive for me.  I could not justify spending that much money on a luxury like this as I depend on the kindness of friends and family for any money I have.  I use most of it for the phone, emails and mail to friends and family.  I was talking to a friend who is in my Sunday night Godtalk/catechism class.  (it's a very cool group and you would love the talk)  He has an MP3 player and I asked him if he had ever heard of Sandi Patti?  He said no, so I had him look her up in the song lists and listen to some snippets of her work.  One of my favorite songs is called The Name of the Lord.  He listened, and then I left without giving the encounter a second thought.

     This place is a place of extremes.  There is extreme noise which can be mind numbing.  There are extreme personalities, which, if not handled wisely, can explode into confrontation and oppressive tension.  Extreme loneliness is always present even as you live in a barracks with 200 other people with about 3 feet of personal space.  You learn how to navigate among the extremes and the peace or quiet of you daily life depends on excellent navigation.  This is also a place where there is extreme cruelty as well as unexpected and shocking acts of kindness.

     On this Sunday morning, about the time I would have been on the air, with a beautiful sunrise and gorgeous azure sky overhead, I was going out to do my job sweeping the compound.  (or as the re-entry skills program calls it...learning skills to prepare me to work at Disneyland)  My friend called me over and handed me his headphones and MP3 player.  He said,"...don't touch anything...Here is the volume button and I put it on repeat so you can listen to it over and over again as you sweep."  He then turned it on adjusted the earpieces and I heard a live version of Sandi Patti singing In The Name of the Lord.  I walked into the compound with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.  (I was taught very early in here you never, ever let anyone see you labels you as weak and as prey)  I walked faster, by myself, and started sweeping and listening, as I was flooded with memories and images of shows and callers and events which this music was a part of and trigger.

     It cost between $1.25 and $1.50 for him to download this song.  In your world that might get you something off the dollar menu or an extra shot in your half-calf, soy latte with non fat milk, but in here it is 3 letters time with voices who keep you email to your wife or children...part of a meal to supplement the meager offerings given here at breakfast, lunch and dinner.  To spend $1.50 on someone else...use limited download space for a song for someone else...take the time to sit and select the song all so it could provide me with a moment of pleasure, and then, out of the blue, offer it to me to listen to on a gorgeous Sunday morning, is an act of kindness and a glimpse of the grace of God visible in this world.

     This is not the first random act of kindness I've experienced in a system which is by design inhumane, soulless and devoid of the most simple rudiments of compassion, and each time I am struck and stopped by the power and effect they have on me.

     Each night, before sleep, I recall 5 reasons to be thankful for my day.  (By the way, if I can come up with 5 examples from my day in here for which I am grateful, how many can you come up with?)  Giving thanks is one key to persevering and overcoming adversity, and it is also humbling...something I needed badly.  Tonight, I will give thanks to one man and his decision to show me a kindness and be humbled by his graciousness and total lack of expecting anything in return.  To quote a famous French archbishop, "...the miracle is not that God occasionally touches our world.  God is constantly in the world.  The miracle is when we see it."

Sunday, November 4, 2012


The election is only a few days away and where do we stand?  The presidential race dominates everything else, but there are big Senate and House races as well as state contests with national impact.  No matter where you look, contests are tight and outcomes are within the margin of error.

     The best political analyst of polls, Nate Silver, gives Obama a 76% chance of being re-elected.  Silver, who called the 2008 election within one percentage point and accurately predicted 49 out of 50 Senate races, predicts Obama will capture 299 electoral votes.  (You win with 270)  The key to the election is Ohio.  If Obama wins Ohio, Romney can't find a way to get to 270.  Obama appears to be up 2 points in Ohio.  (well within the margin of error)  In every battleground state, the race is close and the outcome will be determined by who has the better ground game.  Obama's advisors have gone all in and spent tens of millions of dollars setting up field offices and putting boots on the ground in order to turn out his base.  Tuesday we will see if the bet paid off.  If Obama can turn out Latinos, African Americans, women and young voters in numbers anywhere near those in 2008 he will win.  If not, he loses.  Romney truly can only sit back and watch.  Obama's turnout will determine the next president no matter what Romney tries in the last few days.

     (There is concern in Ohio about voting machines owned by a company which counts as some of its investors, Romney's son Tagg among others.  Ohio was stolen from John Kerry in 2004.  Had he won Ohio, he would have beaten Bush.  If you want to follow one news story on Tuesday, follow Ohio and turnout and problems and who counts what and when they count them.)

     A step below the presidential contest is the race for control of Congress.  The House should stay Republican, but Republican hopes for taking back the Senate are less optimistic than a few months ago.  They need a net increase of 4 seats to take over the Senate.  They will probably pick up Nebraska and maybe Virginia.  They are close in Wisconsin and Montana.  However, what was thought to be a sure pick up in Missouri is no longer a sure thing.  Sen. Claire McCaskell is benefitting from her opponent's belief in "legitimate rape" and she could hold on to her seat.  In Indiana, the Republican, Mourdock, trails by as much as 10 points due to his belief that pregnancy which results from rape is a gift from God.  In Maine, former governor Angus King should win.  He is an independent but is expected to caucus with the Dems.  This would be another loss for the Republicans. (a seat formerly held by Republican Olympia Snowe)  Democrats should hold on to Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  They still might pick off Arizona and will hold New Mexico.  The bottom line is it does not look likely the Republicans will get the 4 new seats they need.

     In California, there are initiatives to end the death penalty, re-formulate the three strikes law, and raise taxes to benefit schools (two different proposals) among statewide issues.  There is also an initiative to label genetically modified foods.  All of these could cause waves around the country.  Eliminating the death penalty could accelerate this trend nationwide.  A willingness for taxpayers to raise their taxes for schools could spawn similar attempts in other states.  Trends start in California, and if they vote to label genetically modified foods, it will create pressure to do so in various other states and localities.

     Beyond California, you have a number of states voting on legalizing medical marijuana.  This would be in direct defiance of the federal government and could add to pressure to change federal law to allow for medical marijuana and the creation of dispensaries in states all over the nation.

     The presidential race, and who emerges victorious, can affect so much of American life, but Americans seem to ignore or lack concern over an issue that can touch their lives for generations...appointments to the Supreme Court.  Court watchers say the next president could get 2 appointments over the next 4 years.  If Romney wins, he will appoint Scalia clones and Roe v Wade will be overturned and the 4th amendment will finally be eliminated.  If Obama wins, he would be able to maintain the court's ideological status quo as the two vacancies are expected to come from the progressive wing of the court.  Despite its ability to touch the lives of all Americans for 20 or 30 years into the future, the court is almost never in the top 10 issues Americans care about in a presidential election.  Some day someone will explain how that is possible in a nation almost divided down the middle, and where moral and ideological issues will find their way to the court for adjudication, Americans could care so little about who is president and who they would put on the court.

     This presidential race illuminates some serious racial fault lines in the U.S.  While white voters prefer Romney, Latinos and African Americans overwhelmingly want Obama.  Men prefer Romney, while women by a smaller percentage than 4 years ago want Obama.  The Republican Party has clearly become the party of the angry white voter.  It's a fact which South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham says cannot continue since there aren't enough white voters to sustain Republicans as a national party.

     Finally, Hurricane Sandy appears to be this election's October Surprise.  Obama has benefitted from looking above politics and being presidential.  The glowing praise from New Jersey governor Chris Christie boosts Obama's stock.  (if they have any brains and any money left, there is already an ad playing in all the battleground states highlighting Christie's remarks)  Romney and Ryan are on the record in favor of dismantling FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and turning the functions over to the states.  Can you imagine how New Jersey would cope if there was no federal disaster relief money?  Obama has argued government has a legitimate role in our lives while Romney argues for cutting everything from FEMA to the National Weather Service and even food stamps.  Sandy reminds Americans what government can do and Obama is taking advantage of the visuals.  It could be worth a point or two in a race which could be decided by a point or two.

     I'm terrible at predictions, and never bet on anything I say, but I think Obama will win.  I also think he will win the popular vote.  Maybe I'm whistling past the graveyard, but I cannot imagine a Romney Whitehouse and the Darwinian ethos it would bring with it.  I think the Dems will hold on to the Senate.  I hope Californians will end the death penalty, fix 3 strikes and pour funding into our schools.

     None of this happens if you don't vote.  Please do something I would love to do but cannot.....VOTE !!!