Wednesday, February 21, 2007

525,600 Minutes...

As part of the year long celebration of our restored building St. Mark's Lutheran Church here in San Francisco held a special screening of the motion picture musical "RENT".

What made it really cool was we showed the film in the church sanctuary, one of the actual locations used in the filming the movie. The funeral scene (reprise of "I will cover you ",) was filmed at St. Marks.

It was a great evening with the profits from admission going to the ELCA worldwide Hunger campaign.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

From Today's New York Times

Not Supporting Our Troops
Published: February 15, 2007

How do you explain to the thousands of American troops now being poured into Baghdad that they will have to wait until the summer for the protective armor that could easily mean the difference between life and death?

It’s bad enough that these soldiers are being asked to risk their lives without President Bush demanding that Iraq’s leaders take any political risks that might give the military mission at least an outside chance of success. But according to an article in The Washington Post this week, at least some of the troops will be sent out in Humvees not yet equipped with FRAG Kit 5 armor. That’s an advanced version designed to reduce deaths from roadside bombs, which now account for about 70 percent of United States casualties in Iraq.

The more flexible materials used in the FRAG Kit 5 make it particularly helpful in containing the damage done by the especially deadly weapon the Bush administration is now most concerned about: those explosively formed penetrators that Washington accuses Iran of supplying to Shiite militias for use against American troops.

Older versions of Humvee armor are shattered by these penetrators, showering additional shrapnel in the direction of a Humvee’s occupants. The FRAG Kit 5 helps slow the incoming projectile and contains some of the shrapnel, giving the soldiers a better chance of survival.

Armor upgrades like this have become a feature of the Iraq war, as the Pentagon struggles to keep up with the constantly more powerful weapons and sophisticated tactics of the various militia and insurgent forces attacking American troops. But the Army, the National Guard and the Marine Corps have been caught constantly behind the curve.

Unglamorous and relatively inexpensive staples of ground combat, like armor, have never really captured the imagination and attention of military contractors and Pentagon budget-makers the way that “Top Gun” fighter jets, stealthy warships and “Star Wars” missile interceptors generally do.

The Army says it is now accelerating its production of FRAG Kit 5 armor and handing it out to Baghdad-bound units on a priority basis. But it acknowledges that the armor upgrading project will not be completed until summer. Right now, it’s February, and the new American drive in Baghdad has already begun.

That’s a shame, if not an outright scandal, because up-to-date armor is essential for saving American lives.

Congress Debates Iraq... Again.

“I'm just a bill.
Yes, I'm only a bill.
And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill.
But I know I'll be a law someday…
… At least I hope and pray that I will,
But today I am still just a bill.”
- Schoolhouse Rock

A threat to morale of our troops? A source of aid and comfort to our enemies? An attack on our own soldiers and their families? What could the United States House of Representatives possibly be debating that would warrant those dire predictions from House Republicans? Is Congress debating an instant whole scale pullout from Iraq? No. Is the House urging that the United States negotiate with Osama Bin Laden? Nope. Then it must be a debate over impeaching the President of the United States right? No, not even close.

The House of Representatives is debating HR 157. A non binding bit of political theater that does nothing more than say that a simple majority of the members of the House feel that the current plan to send 20,000 plus additional troops to Iraq is a bad idea.

As my nephew would say …. Well Duh!

I watched the debate on CSPAN as did many Americans and what struck me was how both sides of the aisle in congress basically want the same thing. They want to blame the other side for Iraq. Democrats won the 2006 midterm elections on this issue. The American people issued a loud and clear vote of no confidence in President Bush’s approach to and leadership of the war in Iraq. The message was clear, the message was unambiguous and it was unmistakable. Get our troops out of Iraq.

Over 70% of the American people say they are opposed to proposed troop surge and the current strategy in Iraq. Yet Speaker Pelosi can’t bring a bill to the floor that simply says the President will have no money to send additional troops and he must start to redeploy the troops currently in Iraq.

Over the course of the debate on HR 157 I heard a parade of Republicans say that to have a debate in our legislative branch of government on the issue of this war emboldens our enemies. Yet for 5 years those same Republicans kept saying that the terrorists attacked us because they “hate our freedoms”. So now our freedoms are emboldening the terrorists so we better not exercise them? Which is it?

Over the course of the debate on HR 157 I heard the same parade of Republicans say you can’t support the troops if you don’t support their mission.

If the mission is wrong, if the mission is fatally flawed , if the mission is ill-conceived, poorly planned and failing then the only true way to support the troops is to oppose the mission. The only true way to support the troops is to change the mission.. To continue to support a failed strategy is to deliberately place our troops in harms way. It is to deliberately and knowingly sacrifice the lives of America’s bravest and best to avoid admitting a mistake.

To support the proposed troop surge in Iraq is to attack our troops and their families not support them.

But rather than stand up and say that, the congressional Democrats promptly danced around the issue. They want to stop the surge, but they don’t want to stop the money, because stopping the money can be spun by Republicans as cutting off support to our troops. And make no mistake, for the Republicans that is their holy grail. This debate is not about winning the “War on Terror”, it isn’t even about Iraq. For the GOP it is about campaign ads in 2008 where they can claim the Democrats didn’t support our troops. It is not about winning the war, it is about winning back a congressional majority.

And sadly, the Democrats fell for it. For the Democrats in Congress it isn’t about Iraq either. It is about a paralyzing fear of those potential GOP campaign ads in 2008. It is not about ending this absurd misbegotten war, it is about a fear of losing their congressional majority.

Never before in American history as there been such a pronounced absence of rational leadership in our federal government. Congress is fiddling while Iraq burns, fueled by a sectarian civil war and American lives. The President of The United States, who twice swore a oath on the bible to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, has made his legacy one of ignoring it.

The time has come to stand up. The time has come to pull our government, our nation and our democracy back from the cliff that this Administration would lead us all off of, and which Congress would follow like lemmings to the sea. The time has come for leadership.

Then maybe we will get actual solutions, instead of just another bill.">

Saturday, February 03, 2007

It's Time To Stand Up.


John Edwards at the winter DNC meeting.