The Common Good

The Democrats' Success

Sojomail - February 18, 2004

Quote of the Week It takes courage to admit you were wrong
Hearts & Minds Jim Wallis: The Democrats' success
Politically Connect Iowa activists fight federal subpoena
Biz Ethics The military-industrial-vice-presidential complex
Soul Works Bucket of hope
On the Ground Palestine Journal: 'I knew the bomber'
Black History, Black Present A tragedy rooted in fear
Action Alert Ending Iraq's odious debt
Web Sitings More fair trade chocolate
Boomerang Readers write

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"I was wrong. I am not pleased about it at all, and I think all Americans should be concerned about this."

- Conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly, who had promised rival ABC last year he would publicly apologize if weapons were not found in Iraq. O'Reilly also said he was "much more skeptical about the Bush administration now" since former weapons inspector David Kay said he did not think Saddam had any weapons of mass destruction. Source: Reuters

The Democrats' success
by Jim Wallis

Preaching the Word
Jim WallisWhen the 2004 presidential campaign began many months ago, the Democratic field looked weak and, frankly, uninspiring. By contrast, President George W. Bush seemed strong and almost invincible. Yet after only a month of primaries and caucuses, a startling thing has happened. The Democratic challenge to the White House has become strong, the Bush administration seems on the defensive, and the issues that could be in play for the fall election are being shaped more by the Democrats than the Republicans. Of course, as Republicans will tell you, that is to be expected during a time when the Democratic contenders, debates, and contests are center stage. But it could be deeper and more significant than that.

The Democrats have done a good job taking on the president, connecting with many voters on key issues. They are now offering a credible alternative to a Bush second term, which only weeks ago most political pundits thought they could not do.

As an obscure former Vermont governor, Howard Dean was a real long shot at the outset of the race. Up against better-known and supported opponents, Dean had little choice but to take a risk. So he followed his instincts and decided to really run against George Bush (how's that as an idea for Democrats?) and see how far the anti-Bush energy in the country would take him. It took him right to the top of the race, surprising many people, perhaps even Dean himself. Dean also pioneered use of the Internet as the new political tool for fund raising and organizing, with the help of other people and groups. And he took aim at previously uninvolved voters, especially young people, whom others had ignored. The Dean campaign became a legitimate phenomenon and showed, among other things, that the war in Iraq is a huge issue for many Americans and will be in this election. His stump slogan - "Take America Back!" - became a battle cry for a new army of militant populist citizens. Dean has established economic populism as a major force in this election year, making every other candidate, including himself, more populist than any had ever been before.

One pundit offered the picture of Howard Dean as the "starter bunny" in the presidential race, one who won't finally win but sets the pace. It may not be an altogether flattering metaphor, but it is an apt one. In the end, too many people liked the message more than the messenger, and Dean suffered from a combination of unremitting attacks from the Democratic establishment and his campaign foes, along with his own missteps and temperament flaws. But Dean and his supporters have much to be proud of in how they defined the terms of the 2004 presidential debate thus far.

General Wesley Clark became the general who challenged a Commander in Chief on national security. Because Clark was both credible and articulate, he began to erode George Bush's near monopoly on national security as an issue after 9/11. And if you think Clark was a one-issue candidate, look at his refreshing tax reform proposals. Clark clearly has helped Democrats diminish the Bush advantage on national security issues, obviously helped by the revelation of Bush's own inspector that Iraq's famous weapons of mass destruction simply weren't there. George Bush may not understand why it matters that the main justification for the Iraq war has been exposed as untrue. But many Americans think it is very important, and Bush's credibility is now a campaign issue.

John Edwards is the truest populist in this race, because of his family origins, his record, and his compelling and visionary speeches during the campaign. Check out Edwards' "Two Americas" stump speech and you'll think you were reading an article in Sojourners. Nobody has as effectively and convincingly spoken for low-income and working people better than Edwards, including making lost American jobs a major issue. He also appeals to independents and Republicans. Edwards' populism is optimistic and hopeful, not demagogic, and he made all the candidates take the high road and not the low road of negative campaigning. Bush's biggest weakness is an administration of, by, and for the rich; Edwards is potentially a bigger threat to Bush's economic cronyism than anybody else.

Dennis Kucinich has run a principled campaign and pushed the other candidates toward tougher positions on the war, trade, jobs, and the environment. I really admire Kucinich's convictions and determination, even though he never had a real chance of success. And Al Sharpton, the most interesting and entertaining speaker in the debates, has kept the issue of race in this campaign, while Carol Moseley Brown kept the issue of gender alive. Joe Lieberman kept the language of faith and morality in the Democratic discourse, while Dick Gephardt made everyone focus on the need for health care. Both, however, were diminished by their strong support for the war in Iraq.

With his Wisconsin victory last night, John Kerry has won 15 of 17 primaries and caucuses, and is the clear front-runner. Kerry's primary attractions have been his record as a war hero in Vietnam, followed by his opposition to the war as a leading spokesman for veterans. But even more important has been the perception (by the media and in the minds of many primary voters) of Kerry as the most "electable" candidate in the general elections - in a year when most Democrats are passionately united by the commitment to beat Bush. ABB - "Anybody but Bush" - has become the rallying cry. But the candidate most likely to beat George W. Bush this Bush himself.

A strong finish by John Edwards in Wisconsin keeps his campaign alive and we may now see a two-man race, with Dean effectively dropping out today. That should be interesting. Stay tuned for a perspective on the emerging Republican campaign.

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Sustainers Circle

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. - Matthew 5:9

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Iowa activists fight federal subpoena
by Ryan Beiler

No Sweat
Imagine this: You're a university student who attended an anti-war forum last November. The day after the forum, a group of activists staged a civil disobedience action at a local military base - but you decided not to go. Now, your name is on a list subject to grand jury subpoena by federal prosecutors delivered by an agent identifying himself as a member of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. Scared? Don't worry, you haven't done anything wrong...have you?

This is just what happened at Drake University, in Des Moines, Iowa, where a federal judge issued a subpoena for detailed information on a November 15 anti-war forum, asking for "all requests for use of a room, all documents indicating the purpose and intended participants in the meeting, and all documents or recordings which would identify persons that actually attended the meeting." The subpoena also targeted the school's chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which sponored the forum, seeking information on members, officers, guild meeting agendas, and annual reports since 2002. Individuals served with subpoenas also included the leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry, the former coordinator of the Iowa Peace Network, a member of the Catholic Worker House, and an anti-war activist who visited Iraq in 2002. On top of all this, the judge ordered a gag order forbidding university employees from discussing the subpoena.

Read more at:

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The military-industrial-vice-presidential complex

Sojourners Job Opportunities
Vice President Dick Cheney "has been both an architect and a beneficiary of the increasingly close relationship between the Department of Defense and an elite group of private military contractors - a relationship that has allowed companies such as Halliburton to profit enormously," writes Jane Mayer of The New Yorker in her extensive investigative article, "Contract Sport." Mayer reveals that in a top-secret document dated February 3, 2001, a high-level official of the National Security Council directed the NSC staff to cooperate fully with Cheney's newly formed Energy Task Force as it considered the "melding" of what she calls "two seemingly unrelated areas of policy," which the document describes as a "review of operational policies toward rogue states" and "actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields." Mark Medish, a senior official at the NSC under President Clinton, tells Mayer, "If this little group was discussing geostrategic plans for oil, it puts the issue of war in the context of the captains of the oil industry sitting down with Cheney and laying grand, global plans."

Halliburton, the energy company that Cheney was the CEO of for five years, has received contracts worth some $11 billion for work in Iraq, Mayer reports. Now it has come under scrutiny for overcharging the government for fuel it imported from Kuwait into Iraq. Halliburton has denied any criminal wrongdoing, blaming the high costs on an obscure Kuwaiti firm, Altanmia Commercial Marketing, which it subcontracted to purchase and deliver the fuel. Halliburton has claimed that Kuwaiti officials pressured the company to hire Altanmia, but, Mayer reports, "a previously undisclosed letter, dated May 4, 2003, and sent from an American contracting officer to Kuwait's oil minister, plainly describes the decision to use Altanmia as Halliburton's own 'recommendation.' " Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel who has taught at the National War College, says that the procurement process in Iraq has become a "patronage system."

Read more at:


Sometimes you don't even want to read the morning paper: war, executions, abortions, poverty, the arms race, racism, euthanasia. Many good groups oppose one or more of these outrages on life. One organization, CONSISTENT LIFE, works against ALL OF THEM. Please join CONSISTENT LIFE. Send $25 to Consistent Life, P.O. Box 792, Garner NC 27529, (919) 779-1912.

Bucket of hope

We're just a drop in the bucket, and that's meaningless.
But we say,
'No, wait a minute.
If you have a bucket, those raindrops fill it up very fast.

Being a drop in the bucket is magnificent.'

The problem is we cannot see the bucket.
Our work is helping people see that there is a bucket.
There are all these people all over the world who are creating this bucket of hope.
And so our drops are incredibly significant.

Source: "Hope's Edge," by Frances Moore Lappe. Found on the "Daily Dig" at:


Looking for books noted in Sojourners? Frustrated that many bookstores don't understand the kind of titles you want? Want to support a small independent business trying to offer a radical Christian witness in the marketplace? Order through Hearts & Minds, . We do new book reviews each month - see our rave of Lauren Winner or our passionate critique of the sexist Wild at Heart. From Henri Nouwen to Wendell Berry or Walt Brueggemann; Ron Sider to Marva Dawn; John Perkins, Joan Chittister, or Dan Berrigan, we stock books to inspire the mind and enlarge the heart.

Palestine Journal: 'I knew the bomber'
by Bob May

Abundant Earth
BETHLEHEM, West Bank - When I first heard about the recent suicide bombing in Jerusalem, I was angry. I'm 100% opposed to the bombings, because I think that there are much better options for resistance. When I heard that the bomber was from Bethlehem, I was even more angry. That meant that the Israeli army would probably invade, and invasion makes life for the community more difficult. When I realized that I knew the bomber, I didn't know what to think. Actually, I had met the young man, Ali Ja'ara, only once...

Today I met Abu Ali, Ali Ja'ara's father. The men in Ali's family were receiving visitors paying condolences. There was no celebration in the hearts of the family. I saw no joy in the eyes of the men. Ali's father looked crestfallen and demoralized. I shook Abu Ali's hand and told him I was sorry. I was sorry that he had lost a son.... I sat with the family for awhile. I sat thinking of a situation that would drive a reasonable, personable young man to do such a horrible act - a situation I still can't entirely understand. I sat thinking of victims - both Israeli and Palestinian. Knowing that in my mind a bombing is wrong, I still felt a great compassion for these men who had just lost a son. It was the same feeling I had for the Israeli victims of the bombing.

Read more at:


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A tragedy rooted in fear

On a highway in Muscogee County, Georgia, four black men are pulled over by sheriff's deputies, have guns pointed directly in their faces, and are then thrown to the ground. The men are unarmed, there are no drugs on their persons or in their car. But before the ordeal ends, 39-year-old Kenneth Walker is dead from two gunshots to the head.

No, this isn't 50-year-old history; it's two-month-old history. Though many of the details remain clouded by official statements and allegations by community members, a few facts are clear: Walker was not involved in any criminal activity. He did not have a criminal record. He was not armed and did not resist arrest. According to the sheriff, Walker was shot after failing "to follow a direct command from the deputy" to show both of his hands. The deputy felt his life was threatened and therefore he fired two bullets into Walker's forehead. After the shooting, the other three men were taken away in separate patrol cars and held for more than four hours. It was only after they were released that they got the news that their friend was dead. The Sheriff's Department has since admitted that a grave mistake was made - that they were acting on an informant's tip that four heavily-armed drug traffickers were driving a similar vehicle. The deputy involved in the shooting has been placed on administrative leave with pay.

Read more at:


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Books for a Better World, by Mike Palecek, former federal prisoner for peace, congressional candidate, and newspaper reporter.

" inspire us all, because it looks beyond the false gods of our time, the ruthless political leaders, the timid intellectuals, the stars of People magazine, and tells the story of the bravest people in America." - Howard Zinn

Ending Iraq's odious debt

"Odious debt" - the bills racked up by governments to oppress their own people - is a charge-the-victim problem faced by peoples around the world who have suffered under dictatorial regimes, and who are nevertheless forced to pay those regimes' international creditors. Iraq has the potential to be a test case that could finally change the system. Now members of Congress from New York and Iowa have introduced a bill to pressure the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to cancel Iraq's odious debt.

Find out more, and read how you can encourage Congress to take action at Jubilee USA:


by Charles Dickinson

If Christianity - without losing its soul - is yet to avoid losing touch with the world, it must constantly update itself by dialogue with all the intellectual currents of today. To this end, the author proposes a necessary two-way dialectic between theology and the world, an ongoing dialectic ultimately essential to both church and world. $25 hardcover. To order call (313) 624-9784. Dove Booksellers, 13904 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan, 48126.

More fair trade chocolate

In response to our action alert on M&M/Mars' labor practices, we received several more suggestions for sources of fair trade chocolate, which we'd like to share with you - too late for Valentine's Day, but Fat Tuesday is right around the corner...

Divine Chocolate:

Shaman Chocolates:

Newman's Own Organics:

Readers write

Dennis Sadowski writes from Avon, Ohio:

Thanks, David Batstone, for your comments on the lack of sportsmanship in youth sports [SojoMail 2/11/2004]. It's a sad society indeed if our youngsters - supposedly our next generation of leaders - have no respect for the people on the other side of the field. As a Little League coach myself, I have not seen the kind of disrespect you describe. Fortunately, the coaches and managers in our league (I've been coaching for five years now) have kept things under control and have stressed sportsmanship and having fun over winning on every team my son has played.

Unfortunately, this type of behavior is far too common among our children. But they are emulating what they see by the adults who get all of the play on TV - the million-dollar athletes, the vulgar performers, and yes, the current generation of politicians. None of these people care that they are role models for our children nor that we are expected to show tolerance for others. I think their actions come because the millions of dollars we throw at them makes them untouchable in their own minds. How sad and arrogant to think that way. It's imperative for those of us who hope our children grow up to be responsible, loving adults to speak out when these kinds of actions are at hand and to say "We just aren't going to tolerate it anymore."


Betsy Maples writes from New Tazewell, Tennessee:

In my experience, the vast majority of the negative behaviors that I have witnessed were instigated by the adults involved, not the children. Cursing occurs so often as to seem commonplace, and yelling derogatory comments at other children (both on the opposing team and your own) is the exception rather than the rule. My experiences with trying to intervene or stand up to such behavior usually has ended with being screamed at or cursed by the adults involved, but I cannot just stand by and watch without trying to let these children know that not all people condone such bitterness and vile behavior, all in the name of activities that are supposed to teach children cooperation, working together for the good of the group, and treating others fairly. What has happened to us?


Simon Aglionby writes from London, United Kingdom:

I'm challenged by David Batstone's article. My sons (11 and 8) play soccer each week, including against other local teams. I am pleased to say that only occasionally do we meet the kind of sportsmanship described - because the coaches we meet come down hard on bad behaviour. Sure, we get unpleasant stories back from the (less supervised) school playground, but the organised events are generally "safe." But, because we want to play on a Saturday (rather than the more prevalent Sunday leagues), we have chosen a group organised by a local church. Have we not therefore selected ourselves out of meeting, addressing, and trying to change inappropriate values? Are we being too chicken to tackle the issue? What would Jesus have done?

I want to imbue my children with good life values, and I'm certainly not advocating using them as pathfinders in my own skirmishes with the world. We need to be by their sides as they grow up and inevitably discover that life is not all roses. Hopefully by letting them see what is good, and what is not, they can in time see how to be light and salt in their generation.


David J. Colley writes from Los Angeles, California:

After reading all the Boomerang comments about the Super Bowl this week and finding one small comment at the end tacked on about the Israeli soldiers, I felt a bit like I did when Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died within close proximity chronologically. At the end of most "in-depth" broadcasts featuring the tragic death of Di, the attitude was almost like, "in other news, some obscure woman of God died in India today."

I recently had the opportunity to converse with someone from Finland who was in the states for the Super Bowl. She could not believe the hype that this scene got.

What is the real fight here? Maybe our nation is so weak spiritually from the lack of real education from both liberal and conservative sides, that an act of public indecency is cause for us to tremble at our pitiful state.


Charlie Northcroft writes from Goulburn, Australia:

David S. Rupke, in his article "Mars Madness" [SojoMail 2/11/2004] says, "...many argue that our money would be much better spent on the immediate concerns of earth-bound people, rather than on sending someone to Mars. Why bother with space at all?" I would have thought it was obvious! It's the one place George Bush and his cronies can invade where there's no inhabitants to object and fight back!


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views that do not necessarily represent those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Include your name, hometown, and state/province/country in a concise e-mail to: . We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

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