Thursday, January 24, 2013

What I Liked Best!

I spent much of Monday watching all the pomp and circumstance of President Obama's second inauguration. I picked up CSPAN on my phone upon awakening at 6:30 am and watched the volunteers give directions to people as they arrived for the ceremony.

I followed this with pouring coffee and turning on the TV to watch closely along the parade line for Joe, my Coastie friend, who was standing in the street cordon. I strained and squinted at the appearance of every Coastie uniform to see if I recognized the face below the brim of the cap (this behavior was renewed later in the day during the parade time as well). As the President's limo reached the Capital and the news people all moved to the gathering dignitaries preparing to walk the hallway and stairwell to the Capital steps, I started to get all ferklempt (these things happen to me) as I often do when my innate, though often obscured, patriotism wells up in my chest.

I continued to check the television (and the CNN stream on my computer) throughout the day and by evening I was sitting and working at my computer with two streams from the Inauguration Ball and the Commander in Chief's Ball, waiting to catch a glimpse of the first couple doing their dancing thing.

Yes, I'm a sucker for this stuff.

Out of the whole day there were two stand out moments that grabbed me, held me, and hold me still. Moments that, for me, define the day, and not just the day, but the whole reality of what I find wonderful in this President and the way he moves through his office.

The first of these moments came at the end of the official inauguration ceremony. The President, his family, and the whole rest of the official crowd were walking back up the steps to the Capital and as he reached the top, Barack turned around to gaze out at the crowd to savor this moment and softly said, "I'll never see this again."

What was beautiful about this moment was the simple pause, and the look of what I take to be appreciation; appreciation of the moment, of the responsibility, of the opportunity, of the singular reality of an experience that will not return. It was, as Jon Stewart always closes his show, a "Moment of Zen."

There were other good moments throughout the day, particularly during the parade when it was possible to catch a glimpse of the whole Obama family as a family having fun. These were delightful moments of real humanness that it is rare to see in a president (or a candidate) without, at the same time, catching a glimpse through the bucolic scene and down into the artifice of the carefully crafted photo op.

The second moment came later in the night at the first ball appearance of POTUS and FLOTUS.

Dancing together to Jennifer Hudson's rendition of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together," the two of them (as they have done on similar occasions in the past) looked like they were having their personal private moment. Looking into each other's eyes with a softness and a presence that was the closely touching human moment that was the couple's equivalent of that pause on the steps that afternoon. It was a moment of connection in the midst of a structure and a system consistently, and somewhat intentionally, void of such personal moments. It was a silent statement of "family values" without having to demand that other people's values be trampled on to shore up our own.

I know what it feels like to look at another person with that softness, that presence, that tender hope for good, and that appreciation of the great chance to feel this way. It's a great feeling and it made me happy to see it in my President and his Partner.

These two brief encounters in a day filled with everything else give me hope for the next four years. They give me hope that the humanness can be present more and that the clear tenderness this man feels in parts of his life can be translated, past the Washington jadedness, hypocrisy, and expediency to bring out a more flowing, genuine, loving and appreciative connection in the world. I know it's a lot to expect, but I see a little crack of light there in those moments. You can keep all the broad statements and grand imaginings.

Those little looks and tiny moments... THAT'S HOPE!

Thanks Mr. President.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

WTF have I been waiting for!?

Okay okay... It's less than two weeks to the big election and I've been sitting on my hands for... let me check... TWO AND A HALF YEARS!!!!!

I watched the debate the other night (and the two previous times as well), and like pretty much everyone who wrote a commentary on these debates, I was underwhelmed by both these guys. At least the President actually had some real things to say about what he's done and what he wants to do... Romney mostly sat there like Gomer Pyle going "yep yep... I like that too!" But, just like Dubya before him, the Republican candidate doesn't really know how he feels about the commander in chief 

Unfortunately, even the President wasn't exactly the inspirational, motivational political wunderkind that he was four years ago... It's hard to get excited about someone who doesn't get excited about himself! At the same time I believe that his centered, settled, level-headed approach has actually saved our collective butt more than once during the last four years, so it's hard for me to remain to critical of a style I'm not fond of, but which might just prove to be the best approach.

Now I've been asked by my niece (who lives in the big ass battleground state of Florida no less... Remember the 2000 mis-election??? Butterfly ballots... Voting boxes dumped in the canal (I was there, I saw it!)... Half the Jewish population of Palm Beach County accidentally voting for Pat Buchanan... Katherine Harris... Big protesting groups of Republicans... The Supreme Court!!!  Yeah, THAT Florida!) to tell her who I'm voting for and why.

So I find it a compelling question that I want to take seriously and that I want to answer with integrity and heart.

Then I got this picture (click to view a larger version) here in my email this morning and I read through the list and I thought, Yeah! That's pretty much it!

There is simply no way I can remember the way the wheels were coming off the vehicle of government all the way back BEFORE 9/11 and the way some of the Republicans responded to that disaster with hubris and inaction and lies that took us into an unnecessary and disastrous war in Iraq and not have difficulty voting for a man who has largely decided to resurrect that same old gang of pirates for his foreign policy development. 

There is simply no way that I can remember evacuating New Orleans as Katrina was blowing in from the South, and sitting in exile for weeks (and then months) as I watched people dying in the black water, and people suffering from a lack of anything to sustain life, and remember the callous disregard of the Republican led government that drove a stake through the heart of what had become my home and even imagine a follow up to that kind of horrible travesty.

There is simply no way I can remember the last five years with a clarity that seems to be lacking in the current accounts of our recent economic history and not be thankful that the President walked a difficult and balanced line between spending and saving, between supporting the bankers and regulating them at the same time; that he chose to push forward on things like healthcare (something no one has been able to accomplish in all of U.S. history), on fair pay for women, and on equal rights for all, and not want to see what four more years might help bring to fruition. 

It's not for nothing that this year's campaign slogan is FORWARD. If you watched any of the television coverage of the conventions its real easy to see the differences this election represents. The Republican convention looked and sounded like an America replayed in the 1950s black and white TV universe of Leave it To Beaver and Father Knows Best. The Democratic convention looked and sounded like the America that I live in, and want to live in!

Has President Obama done everything I wish he had in the way I wish he had done it? No and no. But... to ask that question the Republicans seem to be fond of asking... Do I feel like I am better off than I was four years ago?  Absolutely! The reason for that isn't necessarily based on the details of my present situation at this very moment (no doubt to be further detailed in a future post), but more on the fact that there are things that have been put in place and that are coming to fruition that will make this country, my life, and the lives of all I care about to continue to get better and I absolutely REFUSE to go back!

And just in case you still need convincing... Give a listen to The Boss (skip the first five minutes, but be sure to listen to what he says about voting from about 10 - 15 minutes in... the music's great too).

No Retreat Baby! No Surrender! 


Monday, March 15, 2010

Looking for my check!

The guy in this picture here, David Bradley of the Texas Education Agency made an offer last week... one of those proverbial "offers that you can't refuse."

Now $1,000 isn't all that much, but it's a nice a mount if your expectations aren't too high, and since Mr. Bradley (along with much of the rest of the TEA) is actively engaged in gutting a significant amount of the Texas educational program it would seem that keeping one's expectations in check would be the order of the day. So... I decided to set the Constitutional record straight for Mr. Bradley and request that he remain true to his word and cut a check to one of MY favorite charities.

Dear Mr. Bradley,

As a matter of introduction, I would like to let you know that I am formerly a Southern Baptist preacher. I am ordained and hold a Masters of Divinity with major in Social Work from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary - A Southern Baptist Institution. I am presently a member of Glide Memorial Methodist Church in San Francisco and a regular attendee at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco. I am a member of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, and a volunteer with (and the web administrator for) Churches Supporting Churches, an organization dedicated to the rebuilding of houses of worship in post-Katrina New Orleans.

With respect to your offer of a $1000 check to the charity of choice for the person who can find the principle of Church/State separation in the Constitution, I offer this.

It's in the very first line of the Bill of Rights ( a part of The Constitution, just in case you missed that). "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

This would indicate that Congress cannot make a religious principle (prohibition of abortion or gay marriage for example) a mandate of the government. That would represent a "law respecting an establishment of religion." It would also represent the prohibition of free exercise of religion by those (like myself a Methodist and Episcopalian) who personally believe, and whose church believes, in the religious right of gay persons to marry (marriage being a religious, and not a governmental, construct).

In contrast, Congress is (and since the specifics of Amendment 1 give this authority to the Congress, through the authority of the 10th Amendment, the states are) denied the right to prohibit " the free exercise..." of an establishment of religion. Thus, any legislation prohibiting the FREE EXERCISE of the religious belief of persons who wish to marry for whatever reason, is by definition "prohibiting the free exercise..." of religion.

To put it in simpler terms... The government cannot make laws that favor, or disfavor, the free exercise of any specific religious establishment. This would include both forcing a specific religious function (required prayer in school for example) onto a person or persons with beliefs that do not allow for the public expression of prayer (you might be surprised to realize that according to Matthew 6:5-6, this would include Jesus, who specifically spoke against public praying) AND the limitation of someone who wanted to pray privately in their own tradition. It would also preclude - as I mention above - any legislation that would outlaw the free expression of the religious institution of marriage, regardless of the persons being regulated.

Thanks very much for this opportunity to write to you and set the record straight (so to speak).

Please make my check payable to the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America - Katrina Fund. You can find information on where to send it at and/or

Grace, Peace & Education,

Rev. Thom Butler
3 Fair Street
Petaluma, CA 94952

Note to blog readers: It's been over 8 months since something moved me enough (or at least in just the right way) to return to the Washingtons Cousin Blogspot.

I'm thinking this may be a watershed moment, because as I wrote this email, several other types of things like this came to mind. 've got some more thoughts on this church/state issue but I'll save those for a future blog... so please stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month... This is the time we honor the end of "The War to End All Wars," which later became known as World War One, when the mission to end war, by war, failed.

Since that time the wars have gone on and the men and women, of all nations, have been wounded and have died in them over and over and over again. Twenty-three years ago, during the Reagan led conflicts with the Soviet Union and the illegally funded and illegally waged contra war in Nicaragua, I helped to create a recording on the subject that unfortunately still holds very much true today.

Then, the war was largely to the south of us where we claimed a sort of divine right to control the lives of those who lived in the same hemisphere as we do. Today our men and women battle over dusty ground on the other side of the world because there are those in our country who believe that the economic interests of oil companies (which actually means the economic interests of themselves and their friends) are the "vital national interests" of our government and country and people. They return home (if they return at all) to inadequate medical care, lying bureaucrats with no interest in their needs, and broken contracts over proper benefits. They also return home to fractured families and soul numbing woundedness that is left untreated and hidden away. They receive neither glory nor honor, but are largely left to fend for themselves by the very same lying thieves who sent them into harms way to begin with.

Our truly vital national interests do not reside under the sand in Iraq... or Kuwait... or Saudi Arabia; they reside in the flesh and blood, hopes and fears, soul and heart of the men and women who are sent as a sacrifice for our benefit, and the families, lovers and friends who suffer without them while they are far away, or gone forever.

Shortly, I will be getting up from my computer and walking down to the city center of Petaluma where the annual Veteran's Day Parade will soon begin. I am not going there to protest. I am not going there to proselytize for peace. I am going there to stand and witness to the heart, and the hope and the bravery of the men and women who have been asked to serve the country.

I am going there to honor their dedication, their commitment, and their service.

I am going there to pray (to whatever God, Goddess, or Flying Spaghetti Monster that is out there) that they and theirs will be kept safe and whole and that those our "leaders" claim are "the enemy" will also find safety and peace because they believe with all their heart that they are in the right as well.

I am going there to say "thank you"... and to say "no more."

"There is no way to peace... Peace IS the way." - A. J. Muste

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Pain of McCain

With the latest in attack dog politics from the pit bull in lipstick and the whisper but wave a big ass club Neanderthal proclamations of the pit bull’s running mate (“The Presidency… so easy a cave man can do it”), I can no longer stomach the soft, respectful, reverent tones used to describe John McCain as a “Great American.”

The truth is that the “Maverick” is just a self-righteous, self-inflated, permanently angry, lying, cozener who respects very little besides his wife’s money and the fantasy that he suffered “righteously” in that hell hole he was stuck in because to acknowledge its worthlessness, pointlessness, immorality and servility would be to make his suffering there, and even his entire life afterward, meaningless.

John McCain’s primary claim to fame is that he spent years in a North Vietnamese prison after being shot down while on a bombing run over civilian areas where, as part of the general Johnson/Nixon campaign to “bomb them back into the Stone Age” he obliterated the homes and lives of thousands of innocent Vietnamese people whose only crime was being on the wrong side of American Imperial interests in the South East Asian peninsula.

The truth is that John McCain should not have been in Viet Nam to begin with, because WE should not have been in Viet Nam to begin with. This fact is common knowledge, and has been common knowledge ever since Daniel Ellsberg showed the moral fortitude to apprehend and then make public The Pentagon Papers, documents which reveal in depth the illegal and immoral ways that our government violated international law, lied to the American pubic, subverted agreed upon Vietnamese elections and finally plunged head over heels into the destruction of a country and a society for the sole purpose of achieving control of the government, the people, and the natural resources (even a Republican like Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about this). It is the story of how we turned a former ally (Ho Chi Minh) into a monstrous dictator and sold him to the American people as a threat to U.S. interest and universal world peace.

Any of this sounding familiar?

Now… it is John McCain’s life goal to see that thousands of American soldiers – the people he claims to value and respect – along with hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, suffer and die in order to redeem America’s image as WINNERS, for one reason only… so that John McCain can finally lay to rest the ghosts of the Hanoi Hilton.

On the way, his campaign has recently decided to wage a vicious attack on Barack Obama for being “a friend of terrorists.” This being a reference to former founder and leader of the Weather Underground, Bill Ayers. Ayers, who is now a college professor, was never associated with Obama in his radical days (Obama was, after all a kid in Hawaii at the time). McCain, and now the Pit Bull, insist on declaring him a “terrorist who targets innocent people” while during the same period of time, John McCain was targeting a far greater number of innocent people and killing and maiming them in “Shock and Awe” of American flash and fire, because he was commanded to do so by his superior officers, and because he personally thought it was a good idea. Even after he knew that the war was both wrong, and illegal, McCain continued and continues to suggest that those innocents who died in Viet Nam (Vietnamese innocents AND American military draftees) could have been redeemed by killing and killing and killing until the war was finally WON.

Now… he insists that this is the strategy we must have in Iraq, another war set up to topple a former ally after he became inconvenient to American interests, begun under direct deception and criminal conspiracy against the Congress and the American public, and waged in a fragmented, ineffective, directionless way because there’s no other way to fight a war you should never have started in the first place.

The terrorist is NOT Bill Ayers… The terrorist is NOT Barack Obama… The terrorist is John McCain. He is willing to send the very military personnel he claims to revere into harm’s way for a war with no purpose and no direction in order to do one thing and one thing only… to redeem HIS PERSONAL SUFFERING of 40 years ago. Along the way, he is willing to sacrifice not only those young men and women who offer their trust, their dreams, their bodies, and their lives to protect us - on the assumption that they will not be asked to sacrifice themselves for no reason – but he is also willing to sacrifice any and all of the best interests of the country he claims to value, love and protect.

He’s got a lot of support on that one, because there are a lot of people in the country who have suffered with the same agony as John. They cannot accept the fact that in Viet Nam (or now in Iraq) the sacrifice they made and are making is anything but honorable. And don’t get me wrong… I believe that it IS honorable, because as someone said recently (I actually think it was Joe Biden, but I'm still trying to find the exact quote), when a soldier makes the sacrifice of their body or their life, the value of that sacrifice is inherent in their dedication; it is NOT DEPENDENT ON ANYTHING ELSE. It doesn't matter whether or not the commanders they trust and believe in were in fact trustworthy. It doesn't even matter if the cause is just. The sacrifice and service, the dedication and commitment should be honored… but NOT by sending more people to kill and die for a lie… for a scam… for a mistake.

This election… and ending this war… is not about John McCain’s 40 year old suffering. It is about US. It is about soldiers who have been lied to and asked to sacrifice for a scheme and a nightmare, as if mistakes of the past can be remedied with mistakes in the future. It is about a nation that has been fed like cheap dog food to the fevered money grubbing greedheads, and the need to snatch that nation, its history and its ideals, back from those fevered jaws that would snap it up and swallow it whole. It is about personal fortune and self-inflation and the need to stop these robbers and liars before they wreck the country completely.

It is about finding John McCain a better way than the Presidency to relieve his personal pain.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Other Shoe Finally Drops...

For the past several weeks I have been struggling to comprehend the silence of the main stream media, and for that matter even the Obama campaign, around the most basic connection of John McCain to the present financial crisis... The Keating Five.

My best guess regarding why nothing was ever raised regarding the collapse, in the late 80s, of Arizona's Lincoln Savings and Loan, was because most of the senators involved in the scandal were Democrats (including three of my personal senatorial heroes... just for the sake of full disclosure). In another one of his "Maverick" ways, John McCain was the only Republican to "cross the aisle" to become involved in accepting large campaign contributions, major perks, and lovely Caribbean vacations from John Keating in exchange for keeping Keating and his pack of lying pirates safe from Federal regulation until they could loot the treasury of $3.2 Billion (mid-80s dollars!).

This, of course, was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of late 80s Savings and Loan failures, something that took place after the rabid de-regulation Reagan years, and under the presidential watch of the last President Bush. Ultimately, the Savings and Loan bailout cost taxpayers $125 Billion (again that's 80's dollars of course) in a pail shadow of the last two weeks on Wall Street, K Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Despite this complete collapse of the home loan industry of the time, McCain and fellow Republicans chose to push even more de-regulation, fighting over and over for a financial industry process that not only allows for, but absolultely attracts, the same kind of intentionally deceptive thieving behavior that McCain supported in the 80s and which he continues to support despite the complete disaster of the concept as demonstrated y the last three weeks in the world of finance.

Well... FINALLY... McCain's true colors are beginning to see the light of day. Rosa Brooks, in the LA Times recently provided a detailed reminder of the Keating episode and its McCain connection to today. She does a really good job of detailing the real estate loan roots of the present crisis as well, detailing how dicey loans were repackaged and resold by those seeking to avoid liability and maximize personal profit, a tactic that worked pretty well for John Keating.

In addition, over the weekend The Seattle Times provided a revised and republished story, also from the LA Times, that details much of the McCain involvement with Keating, including a shopping mall project that Cindy McCain hooked into with both Keating and her father.

The Obama campaign has finally showed up to the party with a full website and 10 minute video documentary on the scandal, and McCain's roots deep inside it. The video is definitely worth the 10 minutes it takes to watch it (below), and the site itself provides some excellent, in depth background on the subject.

All I can say is that it's about damn time!


I received an email about the new McCain/Keating site in the same batch that also delivered an article from a right wing friend of mine declaring that the real source of the financial crisis is Barack and The Association of Community Organizations for REform Now (ACORN). Of course we've known for several weeks what the McCain/Palin campaign thinks of community organizers, so it's not really surprising that this weird diversionary tactic should arrive at this time.