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Rockridge Institute: Online "Spiritual Progressives Conference"

Saturday, April 30, 2005
This looks pretty interesting:

Spiritual Progressives Conference:

What is the Spiritual Progressives conference?

An online event to discuss the role of religion in progressivism, and vice versa. We hope to explore the common ground between progressives of different faith, as well as the values shared by progressive religion and secular progressive politics.
Who is invited?

Everyone! We want as many people as possible to participate. All you need is a web browser.

How does it work?

Every weekday of the conference, from May 9th to May 20th, we will post discussion topics (the agenda will be posted shortly). Anyone is free to contribute to the discussion. In addition, guest experts from the progressive religious community will lend their insight and expertise to the mix.

New ABCnews/WP Poll

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
From the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll:

"In a triple hit to the Republicans in Washington, Americans express growing discontent with some of George W. Bush's policies, weak support for Tom DeLay as House majority leader and broad opposition to a change in Senate rules on judicial nominations.

Views in this ABC News/Washington Post poll are most lopsided on judges: Sixty-six percent of Americans oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to approve Bush's judicial nominees, with 26 percent in favor. That would be the effect of the so-called "nuclear option" being dangled by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

On DeLay, views on one level are divided: He gets an even split in job approval, 35 percent-38 percent, with many having no opinion. But given the ethics complaints against him, the public by 41 percent-32 percent says he should step down as majority leader. And among those who are closely following the ethics issue (just over a third of the public), many more — 63 percent — say he should quit his leadership post.

As for Bush, his approval rating for handling Social Security has fallen to a career low, and on the economy it's a scant point away. His overall job rating, at 47 percent approval, is its lowest since August, though still within its yearlong, roughly 50-50 band. But intensity of sentiment is against him, with Americans 13 points more apt to disapprove strongly than to approve strongly of his work in office — the biggest such gap of his career.

Bush's slide on Social Security comes in the midst of his 60-day campaign to promote revamping the system. For the first time in polls dating to 2000, a bare majority, 51 percent, opposes a stock-market option for Social Security contributions. Support for the idea, at 45 percent, has dropped by 11 points since last month, precisely as Bush has tried to sell it.

Moreover, if establishing private accounts means cutting the rate of growth in guaranteed benefits for future retirees, support plummets to 25 percent, with 70 percent opposed. And when asked whom they trust more to handle Social Security, the public picks the Democrats in Congress over Bush by 50 percent-32 percent — another new low for Bush.

Wallis to Join in "Social Justice Sunday

Saturday, April 23, 2005

From the drivedemocracy site:

"There’s so much excitement here about Louisville’s pro-Democracy versus pro-theocracy religious Sunday, April 24 rallies that tonight they’re having the world’s largest fireworks display, Thunder Over Louisville.

Okay, so the fireworks have something to do with a little upcoming event called the Kentucky Derby. Still, the fireworks are coming on the eve of the DriveDemocracy/Clergy and Laity Network rally (at 2:30, Central Presbyterian Church) and the Frist/Dobson Family Research Council telethon Sunday night from a nearby megachurch.

Jim Wallis is coming to our progressive clergy event. He’ll join the roster of religious leaders speaking out against the right wing attacks on the judiciary and the constitution.

We’re adding linear feet to the press risers as all the nets have confirmed, along with other mainstream outlets from around the country.

If you know anyone in Louisville, get them to the church on time. There’ll be a crowd, but crowded is good.

Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist ought to be reconsidering the threatened “nuclear option,” scrapping the traditional filibuster to win confirmation for some of President Bush’s extremist judicial nominees. The public opposes him, Many Republicans nearly all the Democrats oppose him, progressives across the countrying are rallying against him.

Progressive religious leaders are learning that to take back heaven, they’re going to have to raise a little hell. With fireworks, even."

Social Justice Sunday

Friday, April 22, 2005

The national response to Senator Frist’s and the Family Research Council’s cynical “Justice Sunday” telecast will be held at 2:30 pm on April 24, 2005 in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Social Justice Sunday,” as the response event is known, will take place in the Central Presbyterian Church at 318 W. Kentucky St.

Progressive religious leaders from around the country are joining with Clergy and Laity Network and DriveDemocracy to take the fight to GOP Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and the extreme right’s unprecedented attack on the constitution and the judiciary.

All people of faith in the Louisville area who are outraged by the cynical mix of politics and religion must attend this important public gathering. We cannot let the extreme right speak for us.

  • WHAT: Social Justice Sunday - Faith and Freedom Vigil
  • WHEN: 2:30 pm, April 24, 2005
  • WHERE: Central Presbyterian Church
    318 W. Kentucky St. Louisville, Kentucky
  • CONTACT: Clergy and Laity Network and DriveDemocracy

Directions to the event can be found on the church’s website or call them at 502-587-6935.

The latest Social Justice Sunday information can be found at action ALERT!

(Note: This is the most up to date information. For those who may have seen another location sited, that information was incorrect and the correct location is the Central Presbyterian Church.)

More responsible, more progressive, more effective...

From the NDN Blog:

"The federal budget is on an unsustainable path, in which large deficits result in rising interest rates and ever-growing interest payments that augment deficits in future years.”
- Alan Greenspan, Testimony before the Senate Committee on the Budget, 4/21/05

The drumbeat grows louder every day. The current and previous heads of the Federal Reserve, along with leading media, have now seconded the NDN's recent critique of the Bush administration's reckless strategy of reduce, borrow and spend. In that Economic Strategy Memo, "Opening a New Front in the Economic Debate," we called on progressives of both parties to make their highest domestic priority a sustained campaign to forge a new fiscal policy that tackles the budget deficit and a new economic policy that helps the struggling middle class.

Unable to confront the mess they’ve created, the majority is desperately trying to change the subject, distracting us from what is clearly the most important domestic issue of the day – worsening economic conditions here at home. Rather than honest talk and a real willingness to tackle our emerging challenging we get Social Security privatization, Terry Schiavo, right-wing judges, attacks on our judiciary and efforts to end the time-honored filibuster.

Consider where we are today:

A fast-eroding tax base, skyrocketing spending and out-of-control budget deficits. Record trade and current account deficits that have driven down the dollar and vastly expanded foreign ownership of our economy. Four years of falling real wages and the weakest job creation record of any postwar presidency. Rising global competition that is making it tougher for American workers to prosper. Escalating energy and health-care costs. Bankruptcies, the number of uninsured, unemployed, and impoverished all up. $30 billion in money for our schools not delivered. And attempts to cut health care for our poorest citizens and programs that invest in the poorest neighborhoods.

Fellow NDN’ers, one of our goals this year surely must be to expose and defeat the reckless Republican economic and fiscal strategies and replace them with ones more responsible, more progressive and more effective."

Churches Speak out Against Frist and "Justice Sunday"

Excerpt from NYTimes.com article on religous voice against Frist's participation in "Justice Sunday" --

"As the Senate battle over judicial confirmations became increasingly entwined with religious themes, officials of several major Protestant denominations on Thursday accused the Senate Republican leader, Bill Frist, of violating the principles of his own Presbyterian church and urged him to drop out of a Sunday telecast that depicts Democrats as "against people of faith."

Dr. Frist has threatened to change the Senate rules to eliminate judicial filibusters, and in response Democrats have threatened a virtual shutdown of the Senate. A confrontation had been expected as early as next week, but it now appears that the showdown may be delayed.

Religious groups, including the National Council of Churches and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, plan to conduct a conference call with journalists on Friday to criticize Senator Frist's participation in the telecast. The program is sponsored by Christian conservative organizations that want to build support for Dr. Frist's filibuster proposal.

Among those scheduled to speak in the conference call is the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, a top official of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., in which Dr. Frist is an active member.

Support for Bolton Appears to be Weakening

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
From AP News:

"Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee is ``less likely'' to support John Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations because of the allegations he mistreated subordinates, a spokesman for Chafee said.

Chafee's vote against Bolton on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, combined with the united opposition of Democrats, would leave Republicans at least one vote short of recommending his nomination to the full Senate. "

Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, another Republican on the committee, yesterday called the allegations against Bolton ``serious'' and said he might not vote for Bolton on the Senate floor.
Mike Buttry, a spokesman for Hagel, didn't return calls for comment today.
Democrats want the committee to take a fresh look at claims Bolton, 56, bullied intelligence analysts who didn't agree with his views, jeopardizing the integrity of U.S. information gathering. Former State Department official Carl Ford last week told the committee that Bolton in 2002 sought to get two intelligence analysts who refused to sign off on a speech he was preparing on Cuba's weapons capability fired. "

Quote of the Day

As referenced in ESA's latest email:

“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined.

Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.”

- Soren Kierkegaard

Poll: U.S. On Wrong Track

Tuesday, April 19, 2005
From today's CBSNews poll:

"Americans’ slate of national priorities has remained in place for months — the war in Iraq, the economy and jobs among others — with one new addition to the palette: gas prices. But when asked about congressional accomplishments so far this year, fewer than half can name anything Congress has done. For those in the minority who can, the legislation spurred by the Terri Schiavo case (which isn’t mentioned by the public as a priority) stands out as the memorable.

More Americans disapprove than approve of the job the president and Congress are doing, and a majority thinks the country is on the wrong track.

Despite the efforts of President Bush and Republicans in Congress, public support for Social Security privatization remains unchanged this year. Views on the war in Iraq, which Americans see as a top problem now facing the country, remain mixed.

The impression on public opinion of Congress’ association with the Schiavo case seems to have been more negative than positive. Half of those who name the Schiavo matter as the most notable Congressional accomplishment think that what the Republicans have done so far has been bad for the country, nearly two-thirds of them disapprove of the job Congress has done, and six in ten have an unfavorable view of the Republicans in Congress.

President Bush's overall approval rating has changed little since last month: 44 percent of Americans approve of Bush's job as president, and 51 percent disapprove. Mr. Bush's approval rating has been under 50 percent since January of this year, and this is only the third time his disapproval rating has reached 50 percent or higher since he took office.

In addition, seven in 10 Americans express uneasiness about President Bush’s approach to Social Security, which he has attempted to make the hallmark of his second term. More Americans are uneasy about Mr. Bush’s approach to Social Security today than they were in February. Now, just a quarter feels confident that Mr. Bush will make the right decisions regarding the program.

Americans’ uneasiness about the president’s handling of Social Security may stem from their less-than-enthusiastic support for his plan to partially privatize the system. Forty-five percent now say allowing individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes themselves is a good idea, but slightly more — 49 percent — say it is a bad idea. Views on the president’s plan have not changed since January, despite active campaigning for it by the president and other Republicans.

Men, Republicans and those in higher income brackets favor partially privatizing Social Security, while women, Democrats and lower income Americans oppose the idea."

Something Amazing

Snippets from an excellent article by Fred Kaplan on the Bolton push back today:

"Could it be that John Bolton is about to go down?

Something amazing happened at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this afternoon. In nearly 30 years of watching Congress, off and on, I can't remember anything quite like it.

Bolton, the most dreadfully ill-qualified candidate ever to be nominated as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has nonetheless been an odds-on favorite to be confirmed because the committee enjoys a Republican majority and because George W. Bush's White House has a knack for iron party discipline.

The Democrats and assorted lobbyists have been working on two of the panel's fairly moderate Republicans, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. But in recent days, both have said they were leaning toward voting in Bolton's favor. It seemed all over.

A vote was scheduled for this afternoon. The panel's Democrats advanced some delaying maneuvers. The Republican chairman, Richard Lugar of Indiana, swiftly put them down. The vote looked imminent.

Then, at about 4:30 p.m., out of nowhere, George Voinovich, a Republican from Ohio, said that he hasn't attended any of the hearings on Bolton (he claimed to be busy with something or other) but, based on charges that he had just heard today, he would not "feel comfortable" voting Bolton out of committee.

The audio on C-SPAN 2 isn't so great, but the room seemed to go quiet for a few seconds, then to erupt with buzz. Chafee nervously asked if Lugar still intended to stage a vote, given what Voinovich had just said. Sure, Lugar replied, let's vote.

The Republican half of the room started shaking its collective head. Hagel had intoned, a few minutes earlier, that he'd vote for Bolton in committee but might not on the floor (as if that matters, given the Republicans' healthy margin there). Now he shifted.

At the start of the session, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D–Conn., had suggested postponing the vote in order to investigate a recent spate of allegations about Bolton. That was when Dodd's side looked like it was about to lose; Lugar shut the motion down. But now Hagel and a few other Republicans said, ahem, maybe we need to take some time and look into these matters after all.

Lugar and Joseph Biden of Delaware, the committee's ranking Democrat, reached an accord. The Democratic and Republican staff members, working together, will investigate the new charges, calling more witnesses for interviews.

The White House now faces a question: Is it time to pull the rug out from under this nuisance named John Bolton? Bush is usually, by nature, opposed to giving in under this sort of pressure. Here, though, he may have no choice.

The new allegations (click here for some details) are terrible in two senses. First, they make Bolton look like a thin-skinned creep who tolerates no disagreement from anyone around him. This is not an ideal quality for a diplomat, but by itself it probably wouldn't be enough to put off Bush. Everyone who knows Bolton has known this about him from the beginning.

The second factor is the key. An extended investigation can only make things worse. Every time there's been a delay, more and more bad stuff has come out about this guy; more and more officials, present and former, have mustered the courage to come forth and tell more.

So, President Bush must choose between his two most trusted advisers, Cheney and Rice. Cheney is a fairly cold-blooded politico. Maybe even he will realize that the cause is no longer worth saving. Bolton has caused a mess, and it can only get messier.

It's a good guess that one of two things is going to happen in the coming days and weeks: Either Bolton goes down—or we start learning a lot of unpleasant things about Sen. George Voinovich."

Bolton Vote Postponed

With many fights going on worth fighting over -- Bolton, Delay, the Filibuster -- Senate democrats deserve credit for holding together strongly against the Bolton nomination. A postponement of the vote is a good thing. Republicans had tried to rush through a vote trying to cut off any new evidence of him being "imperious or worse."

From AP News:

"John Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador suffered an unexpected setback Tuesday when the Republican-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee scrapped plans for a vote in favor of a fresh look at allegations of unbecoming conduct.

No date was set for a vote, but a delay of at least two weeks seems likely while the committee looks into fresh allegations, including those of a Dallas businesswoman who says Bolton berated her at an international conference a decade ago.

Some Democrats also bluntly questioned Bolton's veracity.

The decision to postpone a vote closed a rancorous session in which Republicans first sought to push Bolton through the Foreign Relations Committee and Democrats resisted.

But Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and George Voinovich of Ohio, both expressed reservations about a quick vote — as did a solid phalanx of Democrats.
Bolton is a harsh critic of the United Nations bureaucracy and thus was a provocative choice to be the administration's representative to the world body.
That was enough to generate some Democratic opposition, and his troubles were compounded by allegations about his temperament and his ways of dealing with subordinates.

Democrats on the committee said they were continuing to receive fresh allegations of Bolton behavior that was imperious or worse. "

11th Hour for the Budget: Write Your Senator Today

From Sojourners:

"Your calls and e-mails proclaiming that budgets are moral documents are working! Now, as a final agreement on the federal budget could be reached as early as this week, we as people of faith must raise our voices louder than ever and speak up once again to defend our values!

Thanks to your calls and e-mails, we've made great strides toward protecting programs such as Medicaid, and we've proven to leaders in Washington that prophetic voices for social and economic justice are alive and well in America today. It is now the 11th hour, and many senators are wavering as to whether they will stand up for our values. We need you to encourage them to do the right thing by protecting Medicaid, Food Stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit, SSI, child care, affordable housing, and countless other programs that serve low-income Americans.

E-mail your senators today and ask them to stand up for the biblical principles of social justice by telling their party leaders they will vote "no" on a budget resolution that is out of touch with our values.

>>Click here to take action"

Quote(s) of the Day

Monday, April 18, 2005
Not new, but new to me. From Mcain and Dole regarding the fillibuster:

Sen McCain:
"I think that there's a problem with a slippery slope. I think that there's a problem with really changing the environment of the Senate and we are different from the House and if we don't protect the rights of the minority, someday history shows that we won't always be in the majority...And by the way, when Bill Clinton was president, we effectively, in the Judiciary Committee, blocked a number of his nominees."

"I say to my conservative friends, someday there will be a liberal Democrat president and a liberal Democrat Congress. Why? Because history shows it goes back and forth. I don't know if it's a hundred years from now, but it will happen. And do we want a bunch of liberal judges approved by the Senate of the United States with 51 votes if the Democrats are in the majority?"

Former Sen. Dole:
"NPR: Your former colleagues in the Senate are debating judgeships pres Bush's judicial nominees, and one thing under consideration is maneuvering to do away with the filibuster.

DOLE: I think you have to be very careful, that's my advice, before you start tinkering with the rules. I mean the rules have been changed before. You want to think down the road. The Senate's going to change. It's not always going to be Republican. It changes back and forth. History shows that."

quote of the day

Sunday, April 17, 2005
Today's quote is about the charge that in any way that the fillibuster has been used irresponsibly by dems over last year:

Senate Minority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) noted "last Congress...approve[d] 204 judicial nominees...reduced the vacancy rate on our courts to the lowest level in 15 years, and outpaced the confirmation rate of Reagan, Clinton and former President Bush."

And have not charity

Saturday, April 16, 2005
From today's posting on Slacktivist:

"It is not possible to endorse the work of charitable agencies -- including "faith-based" agencies -- while simultaneously working to eliminate the estate tax.

President Bush claims he wants to expand the capacity and effectiveness of "faith-based" nonprofits. If he succeeds in eliminating the estate tax, however, his legacy will be that of the president who crippled the nonprofit sector and drove many of those faith-based charities out of business.

The Congressional Budget Office has completed a new study on the impact of the estate tax on charitable giving. It confirms what every previous study on the subject had found: Elimination of the estate tax would result in a decrease in charitable giving of up to 12 percent.

Consider the impact of that decrease.

This is essentially a 12-percent, across-the-board budget cut for every nonprofit and philanthropic agency in the country: Art museums, hospitals, soup kitchens, theaters, health clinics, universities, housing agencies, operas, domestic violence shelters, mentoring programs, dance companies, after-school programs, conservation and preservation groups, homeless shelters, orphanages, adoption agencies, local churches, food pantries, parochial schools, libraries, animal welfare agencies, historical societies, mission agencies, job training programs, group homes, disaster relief agencies, international aid groups. The scope of their work is vast. Their impact is immeasurable.

All of these will have to learn to make do with 12 percent less. They will have to do 12 percent less. We're talking about a 12-percent decrease in the good, the beautiful and the true.

More than 12 percent, actually. Many nonprofit agencies operate with very tight margins. This is particularly true of those agencies that serve the neediest and poorest. When the art museum catches a cold, the soup kitchen gets pneumonia. For many vital nonprofit agencies on the front lines, a 12-percent drop in charitable giving will mean they have to close their doors."

Terrorism Report Halted

Excerpts from Knight Ridder news story:

"Bush administration eliminating 19-year-old international terrorism report

The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.

Several U.S. officials defended the abrupt decision, saying the methodology the National Counterterrorism Center used to generate statistics for the report may have been faulty, such as the inclusion of incidents that may not have been terrorism.

Last year, the number of incidents in 2003 was undercounted, forcing a revision of the report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism."

But other current and former officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office ordered "Patterns of Global Terrorism" eliminated several weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush's administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.

According to Johnson and U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the issue, statistics that the National Counterterrorism Center provided to the State Department reported 625 "significant" terrorist attacks in 2004.

That compared with 175 such incidents in 2003, the highest number in two decades.

The statistics didn't include attacks on American troops in Iraq, which President Bush as recently as Tuesday called "a central front in the war on terror."

The intelligence officials requested anonymity because the information is classified and because, they said, they feared White House retribution. Johnson declined to say how he obtained the figures."

To read past "Patterns of Global Terrorism" reports online, go to www.mipt.org/Patterns-of-Global-Terrorism.asp

Social Justice Sunday III: Family Research Council Ad

I'm not sure if the text or the subtext disturbs me more...

So according to the Family Research Council, if you support the checks and balances of the fillibuster, you are clearly against faith in Christ and against the "people of faith."

This is what we need to pray about in "Social Justice Sunday"...that we not join in using "counter-propaganda," or "counter-slander," as we voice a different way, a different call than the one religious right uses exemplified by the FRC effort.

We can loudly and actively protest this use of faith in Jesus as a political club to beat people with... without beating up people in the process. And it starts with a national prayer vigil on the 24th.

Here's the ad:

"Social Justice Sunday Part II"

Friday, April 15, 2005
From Drivedemocracy.com.. A call to an April 24th day of prayer and protest... please help me in getting this word out as widely and well as we can to progressive faith communties... Here is today's press release:

Senate Majority Leader Frist’s Attack on the Religion of his Opponents “Offensive,” says a Coalition of Religious Organizations

Religious Coalition Appeals to Frist to Put the American Value of Religious Tolerance Ahead of Frist's Partisan Political Agenda of Forcing Senators to Accept Bush's Extremist Judicial Nominees

Friday, April 15 – A coalition of progressive religious leaders and organizations today expressed outrage that Republican leaders are attacking the faith of Democrats and progressives in a cynical, partisan effort to win support for a handful of extremist judicial nominees.

“Such an action is immoral, deceitful, and beyond the pale of even politics as usual,” said Rev. Albert M. Pennybacker, Executive Director and Chair of Clergy and Laity Network and coordinator for the Building the Beloved Community Coalition. “We call on Senator Frist to immediately cancel his plans to attend the event, and we urge all Republicans to condemn this wholesale attack on the religious practices of their political opponents.”

According to the New York Times, Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist will join an organization called “The Family Research Council” in a national telecast on April 24. The Council is calling it “Justice Sunday,” are saying Democrats want to use the Senate filibuster “against people of faith.”

“As people of faith, we protest the religious manipulation of the filibuster issue,” said Pennybacker. “Attacks by Republicans on the religion of those who differ politically are offensive in America.”

The Clergy and Laity Network will sponsor a national prayer vigil on April 24 and is inviting citizens of all faith traditions to protest this unprecedented attack, which is add odds with America's religious traditions

The CLN and DriveDemocracy are the coordinators of a national coalition of more than 65 religious organizations. Their national “Breaking the Silence” campaign kicked off April 4 at Riverside Church in NYC and is continuing with a national tour of America. Details of these and other events can be found at www.clnnlc.org and here.

"Social Justice Sunday" Part I

This was posted by Prof. George Lakoff over at DailyKos, and I could't agree more:

"The right-wing frame is now complete and Bill Frist has signed on with Tom DeLay: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now used against people of faith." This is not just the nuclear option; it is the thermonuclear option. The implicit claim is that every religious person is a right-wing conservative.

The national campaign is on. Sunday April 24 is booked for national TV at a Kentucky megachurch and called "Justice Sunday."

We must respond. We will call April 24 "Social Justice Sunday." We must show that spiritual progressives are alive and well and willing not just to speak out, but to shout out. The Clergy and Laity Network and DriveDemocracy.org are leading the effort.

Religious progressives support social justice, not injustice. We want to protect life all the way from birth up until the edge of death. We will brook no government interference in difficult, even agonizing family decisions. We believe the common good is necessary if we are to pursue our private goods, and that government should use the common wealth for the common good. And we need our judges, and we need to keep them safe.

There are more religious progressives than right-wing fundamentalists. There are more of us than of them. They may be better organized, but this is changing and that change starts April 24. This is our test. Will we stand up to them? Will we write to our ministers, priests, imams and rabbis asking them to join us in speaking out? Will they put signs on their places of worship celebrating "Social Justice Sunday?" Will we organize and hold candle-light vigils and marches on the evening of April 24? Will we invite the media to sermons on Social Justice Sunday and to vigils?

We have already begun to organize - in just hours. Drivedemocracy.org and the Clergy and Laity Network issued a press release and activated their coalition of sixty progressive religious organizations. We called upon every religious organization to join with us.

We are members of Martin Luther King's "beloved community."

Frist and Fillibuster (Part II)

From AmericanCentrist blog:

"Of course, deciding to dismantle an age old democratic tradition in one of our most hallowed Governmental chambers does not come without personal political ramifications. In a move of desperation, Bill Frist has established himself as the Religious Right's candidate for the 2008 GOP Presidential Nomination.

Ordinarily, a move to simply eradicate the opposition in order to push through judicial nominees wouldn't have anything to do with a religious movement. Except this time Frist went one step further and allied himself with the Family Research Council and led credibility to their ridiculous claim that conservative judges are being held up because of their faith. The group even goes so far as to say "[the judicial nominees] are being blocked because they are people of faith and moral conviction."

So it appears that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is poised to take the plunge and take the lead in banning the use of the Filibuster.

I personally think that would be a shame, since the filibuster is one of the tools ways a large minority has to keep polarizing legislation from being rammed through congress by a bare majority. Being a radical centrist myself, I like these sort of internal checks and balances, and would hate to see another barrier to extremism fall.

Haven't these guys ever seen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington?"

As quoted at MyDD:

"The partisan warfare over the judiciary and the filibuster is heating up. The explicit alliance of the Republican Senate Leader to a handful of extremist religious organizations is upping the ante. The rhetoric which claims Democrats and Liberals are against religion and people of faith is an attempt to stoke hatred to win political battles. It's a dangerous game that we must meet head on.

Progressive Churches and Religious Organizations cannot remain silent in this battle. To do so only legitimizes the extremists as the leaders of Christianity in America. Likewise, all Democrats and Liberals must defend themselves and communicate effectively that freedom of religion is one of our highest ideals."

Quote of the Day

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole.

Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

"Teddy Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star", 149May 7, 1918

Fillibuster and Faith

Excerpts from this Bloomberg article:

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid called on his Republican counterpart, Bill Frist, to withdraw from a telecast organized by a Christian group that implies Democrats are blocking judicial nominees on religious grounds.

The Kentucky church event April 24, called ``Justice Sunday,'' seeks to stop ``the filibuster against people of faith,'' referring to judicial nominations made by President George W. Bush that have been blocked by Democrats since 2003.

``To say he's going to participate in this event in Kentucky is really beyond the pale,'' Reid, a Nevada Democrat, told reporters today. ``I really am upset at anyone suggesting that we are against people of faith. I would hope that Senator Frist would rise above this and not participate.''

In a statement, Reid said he was disappointed that Frist ``would exploit religion like this.''
Frist, the Senate majority leader, has threatened to seek a change in the chamber's rules to prevent Democrats from using filibusters to scuttle judicial nominations.
Amy Call, Frist's spokeswoman, wouldn't say whether Frist shared the organizers' views of the Democrats' motives for blocking the nominees.

``Senator Frist is focused on the fact that Democrats are blocking the right of senators to do their constitutional duty to advise and consent on judges,'' she said. ``That's what he will be speaking on'' during the videotaped segment of the telecast. Frist will continue to speak to other groups to voice his concern about judges, she said.

The live broadcast is being organized by the Family Research Council, which promotes a Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free and stable society, according to its Web site.
``Our goal is to reach as many people as possible and to engage values voters in the all-important issue of reining in our out-of-control courts and putting a halt to the use of filibusters against people of faith,'' Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a statement on the group's Web site.

Senator Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and member of the Judiciary Committee, said it was ``outrageous'' to categorize the filibuster as being against people of faith.

``This goes too far,'' Durbin said of Frist's participation in ``Justice Sunday,'' which was reported today by the New York Times. ``I hope Senator Frist will stop and reflect. He's a good man.''

Many of the Democrats favoring the filibuster are persons of religious conviction and faith, Durbin said earlier on the Senate floor. "

An Ecconomic Fact

From the NDN blog:

"Under the President’s plan, U.S. borrowing is more than spending on Medicare and Homeland Security – combined.

CBO estimates borrowing $394 billion in 2005 under the Bush plan, and also estimates a 2005 baseline of $327 billion to be spent on Medicare and total outlays of $37 billion for all 2005 Homeland Security items.

[Sources: Congressional Budget Office, “CBO’s Current Budget Projections: CBO’s Discretionary Spending for Homeland Security,” and, “CBO’s Current Budget Projections: CBO’s Baseline Projections of Mandatory Spending,” March 2005, http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=1944&sequence=0#table8 / Congressional Budget Office, “An Analysis of the President's Budgetary Proposals for Fiscal Year 2006,” Table 1-1, http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=6146&sequence=1&from=0]

Quote of the Day

Thursday, April 14, 2005
From Tony Campolo:
Perhaps my favorite Kierkegaardian story is his parable of the ducks. He describes a town where only ducks live. Every Sunday the ducks waddle out of thier houses and waddle down Main Street to their church. They waddle into the sanctuary and squat down in thier proper pews. The duck choir waddles in and takes its place, then the duck minister comes forward and opens his duck Bible (Ducks, like all other creatures on earth, seem to have their own special version of the Scriptures.) He reads to them: "Ducks! God has given you wings! With wings you can fly! With wings you can mount up and soar like eagles. No walls can confine you! No fences can hold you! You have wings and you can fly like birds!"
All the ducks shouted, "Amen!" And they all waddled home.

Progressive Religous Leaders Speak Out

Excerpts rom the Drive Democracy site:

"Those on the left who are waiting for progressive religious leaders to add their voices to the national political debate need wait no longer. A powerful assembly of religious leaders from a variety of traditions gathered at Riverside Church in New York on April 4. Their message was loud and clear: the militarism of Bush, the widening divide between rich and poor, the failure to provide families with health care, education, safe neighborhoods, even food, demands a revolution....Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., senior pastor at Riverside, is quickly emerging as a powerful new voice in American religion and politics.

The April 4 event marked the 38th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “Beyond Vietnam” speech at Riverside. I think he would have been proud of the gathering at Riverside on April 4, 2005.

Leaders of the progressive religious community are traveling America, speaking out against immoral and inhumane national policies which widen the gap between rich and poor and feed the military and the unjustified occupation of Iraq at the expense of the poor and middle class at home. "

Edwards on Poverty, Dems and Restoring America

Excerpts from a Daily Kos and BOP News posting:

"Senator Edwards is preaching religion, and the text of his sermon at the Kennedy School of Government on Wednesday the 13th of April, was poverty in America, and most specifically poverty among those who work, and the threat of poverty for those who are one accident away from the tender mercies of the new bankruptcy bill. His message was that the Democratic Party has stood specifically for two important principles: first raising the respect of work and the fortunes of working Americans is the most powerful force against poverty, and second that the Democratic Party has battled poverty, specifically and constantly through out its history, and is a moral obligation to fight poverty in America and around the world.

As a Democrat whose stances have grown increasingly progressive, what he found was that across America there are people who are working hard, but for whom the system is hardly working. He found that the programs that we have to lift people out of poverty work, but that more must be done.

His response is one that should be recognizable to Democrats: for the system to work, government must work, people must work, and there must be work for them. He looks at it from a visceral and emotional standpoint, one that uses the language of biblical morality. He found that people in the cities had the same problems as the rural areas he grew up in, he shared with the audience his memories of how he nearly became a statistic because of poverty and pressures.

This moral response allowed authenticity to be at the core of how he speaks of poverty - he has faced it, and believes that poverty is a crushing force - poverty, not only of material things, but poverty of spirit. And because of this he was there to issue a call to arms for the younger generation to fight poverty and exclusion in America - because in his travels he had seen that the same pressures he felt as a child, are being layered on people by where they were born, and by race and ethnicity. He pointed out that the average net wealth of African American and Latino families in the US is 1/10 of the average white family, but that in rural areas, the levels of white poverty resemble those of urban poverty.

This moral response lead him to refer back to FDR, not in the technocratic sense, but in the same way that made FDR say that his philosophy was to be "a Christian and a Democrat".

Video of the event (Real format) is here.

Repubs Repeal Estate Tax for Wealthy, Add 290 Billion to Deficit

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
From AP News:

"The House voted Wednesday to eliminate federal estate taxes in 2010 and beyond, a repeal that Republicans hailed but many Democrats said would reward the richest families at the steep cost of deeper federal deficits.

House lawmakers voted 272-162 to prevent the tax on inherited estates from reappearing after its one-year disappearance in 2010. The bill would end the tax at a cost of roughly $290 billion over the next decade."

50 State Strategy

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
From DNC Chairman Howard Dean:

"Every four years, a few months before the presidential election, the Democratic Party puts staff and resources on the ground in a few battleground states ... and then they're gone. After November the whole operation disappears.

Then, four years later, we do the same thing all over again.
That hasn't worked. And I ran for chairman on a promise to do it another way.

So a few days ago I met with the state party chairs, and we made a decision together. For the first time ever we're going to build for the future by putting staff and resources on the ground early -- starting in 2005, not 2008. The first four states: North Dakota, Missouri, North Carolina and West Virginia.

How soon the next 46 states get moving depends on you -- can you make a contribution now?

You mandated a party built from the ground up, and that's exactly what we're going to do."

"Get Motivated"

Monday, April 11, 2005
Fred Clark at Slacktivist just rules. Here are excerpts from his latest post:

The "Get Motivated" seminar is coming to Philadelphia.

"Attend This Dynamic Seminar to INCREASE Your PRODUCTIVITY and INCOME," reads the full-page ad that promoters of this traveling circus took out in our Sunday paper. The seminar promises: "Motivation! Inspiration! Career Skills! Wealth-Building!"
And, of course, Lots of Exclamation Points!

Among the featured "live and in person" speakers here in Philly will be Eagles coach Andy Reid, speaking on "How to Lead Your Team to Victory [or at least to beat the spread against New England]."

It's the headliners, however, that are particularly notable. They include Zig Ziglar (the "Master of Motivation"), Jerry Lewis (the "undisputed reigning King of Comedy" -- undisputed?) ... and Gen. Tommy Franks.

No, there isn't another Gen. Tommy Franks. The mastermind behind the Mess 'o potamia is traveling from city to city, speaking on "From the Battlefield to the Business World: Strategies that Get Results."

Local business leaders have apparently been sitting around in their chambers of commerce wondering, "How can I make my business more of an insoluble quagmire?" Or "In today's competitive marketplace, how can our company create a situation in which we can never win and never leave?" Or "My employees' morale is at an all-time low after I lied to them into order to launch a massive campaign they now recognize as meaningless -- can I force them to stay and pretend they're happy with some kind of private-sector variation on 'stop-loss'?" Or "Our company controls only a tiny sliver of market share, we're completely reactive and we can't even safely step outside our fortress-like headquarters, what's the best way to pretend we're actually in charge and in control?"

Or maybe even, "We set out to become the No. 1 automotive dealership in the county. After three bloody years and the slaughter of thousands of our potential customers, we've instead created an embryonic form of Iranian-style government. How can we convince corporate that we're meeting our goals and objectives?"

There is a kind of tradition of American generals hitting the lecture circuit like this. That's why Gen. George Armstrong Custer volunteered for duty in Indian country. Custer was sure his tales of victory would make him a popular and well-paid speaker back East after his tour of duty had ended. (That didn't quite work out the way he planned.)

I won't be going to the seminar here in Philadelphia. I don't want to hear somebody lecture on "Strategies that Get Results" when there's little evidence that they have ever: A) had a strategy, or B) gotten results."

DNC Chairman Dean on Faith Voters

Excerpts from this story from the Memphis Flyer.com:

"Show up!" he tells them. "It is disrespectful not to show up." Above all, he and they should take on the "values debate" with the Republicans and address the "faith-based" voter. "We've got to talk to people on our own terms, and we've got to honor them and respect them.

"I do not think the Democratic Party will ever again succeed if we write off any section of the country," the former governor of Vermont says. "We cannot do that, and we will not do that."

"We don't ever have to be ashamed of our values," Dean said at Vanderbilt. He made a point of invoking Holy Writ, championing "paycheck-to-paycheck" working people against the predatory wealthy via the famous passage which says a rich man's entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven is as difficult as a camel's passing through the eye of a needle. He employed scripture to defend civil rights for gays: "When Jesus said 'love thy neighbor' he didn't mean
choose which one to love."

His advice to fellow Democrats: "We have to be here for four years, on the ground, full-time. We can't be here for eight months and hope that we can somehow turn everything around. We've got to concentrate on state senators and county commissioners and road commissioners."

On Christianity and politics: The values of America are much closer to the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. The Bible talks about Jesus reaching out to people who are different than He was, reaching out to sinners, reaching out to everybody and including everybody. I don't see those values in the Republican Party. I see a party that can't balance the budget. There is no moral virtue in leaving a debt to our children larger than the one we inherited."

Mike McCurry Interview on Democrats and Faith

Saturday, April 09, 2005
Excerpts from a Religion and Ethics Interview with Mike McCurry, former Clinton Press secretary...I really agree with his accessment that the Church as one of the few places left where folks with different political viewpoints actually can meet up and connect:

Q. Do the Democrats have a problem with religion?

Photo of Mike McCurry A: They don't have a problem with religion; they just don't know how to dance very well. That's the problem, I think. Many Democrats are not accustomed to speaking of their faith and relating their faith to political action. This is something that's just not part, hasn't been part of the culture of the party. So it's a new vocabulary for many Democrats, and I think that's what we're getting used to.

Q: Is it important that they learn this language?

A: It is because, I think, increasingly, as politics are debates about values and what matters to you, your faith life informs the way in which you approach many issues important in the public domain. And I think communicating that clearly, making it clear that Democrats don't cede any ground at all to the other party when it comes to how religion informs the work we do in politics ... that's a very important part of our debate.

I'm struck by the fact that churches are one of the only places left in America where people of different political persuasions gather under one roof every week and listen to each other and talk to each other. That's very important to preserve. And I think if Democrats can create spaces for healthy dialogue and that happens in and around communities of faith and churches, that's a real opportunity. It's an opportunity to ... get more votes but also an opportunity to make more people aware of the good news that we spread prophetically because that's part of our religious calling.

Q: What are some values, to use a buzzword right now, that Democrats...espouse that might have appeal for people of faith?

A: I think there's talk about war and peace issues.
First, the way in which we use force and take up arms, which is a very troubling and deeply conflicted thing for those who are in the Christian faith. But talking about wars that are just and how you can appropriately defend yourselves, there's a whole rich vocabulary and moral reasoning that I would think is appropriate and would lend some real substance to the debate about Iraq. So that's one place.

Another place is just, if we think prophetically of the Gospels and the Christian tradition and the call of Jesus to minister to those who are poor and dispossessed. If we look at the stories of who Jesus' ministry was aimed at, you know, you can't help but think, "Well, there is really the way in which we Democrats feel like we bring and inform the debate, with our own commitments to the poor and the homeless and the dispossessed." So, you know, those are places where I think we encounter real, live, active faith that would really speak to Americans now, and we ought to talk more about that.

This debate about red state, blue state Americans, the divisions that exist -- I mean, we have too much division in our political life as a country already. And the thing that strikes me about the church and most churches is that they are places where folks of different political viewpoints come together every week. And I think that if we can create a place for dialogue there about important issues, that will be a healing thing in our political system, which is very badly broken right now."

Quote of the Day

From the blog Taking Off and Landing:

"A better term than progressive? I'll vote for one that's gotten a terrible reputation thanks to the Tim LaHayes and the dispensationalists: eschatological. Mouthful? Yes. Trendy? No. Accurate? Absolutely.

To be eschatalogical as a Christian means nothing more than your view of the world assumes that things are not ever in a state of stasis, that things are not standing still in terms of culture or history, but that in some sense, God is drawing things towards an end.

Biblically speaking, this end is that age when all things are revealed, for better or for worse, and God is, as Paul says, "all in all (1 Cor. 15)." It assumes that all our best systems, regardless of tradition and intentions, are finger foods compared to the Great Banquet, and that that which we know and understand is shadowy. It rejects objective, completely obtainable truth in favor of One who is those things, but for the time being is mostly beyond our understanding. It's humbly acknowledging that left or right, conservative or liberal, there is some element of good in their thinking and that that must be drawn out and appreciated for the time being."

Latest Polling on Bush and Congress

Friday, April 08, 2005
Latest AP IPOS Poll on Bush and Republican led Congress:

"The public's dissatisfaction with President Bush and the Republican-led Congress is growing, with ratings dropping amid record high gas prices, war in Iraq, the Social Security debate and the emotional Terri Schiavo case.

The Republican president's job approval is at 44 percent, with 54 percent disapproving. Only 37 percent have a favorable opinion of the work being done by Congress, according to an AP-Ipsos poll.

Bush's job approval was at 49 percent in January, the same month in which he was sworn in for a second term, while Congress' was at 41 percent.

The number supporting Bush's handling of some domestic issues dipped between March and April, to 42 percent for the economy and 38 percent for issues such as education and health care, according to the poll conducted for The Associated Press by Ipsos-Public Affairs.

Support for the president's approach to his top domestic priority, Social Security, remained at 36 percent, while 58 percent oppose it.

The public hasn't bought into the idea of private accounts and the necessity of them," said Charles Franklin, a political scientist who studies public opinion at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Republicans argue that young adults are supposed to benefit the most from Bush's Social Security proposal, but a majority of that group, 54 percent, opposes the president on that issue."

Lieberman: The Real Economic Crisis

From the NDN Blog, Lieberman on the real economic crisis:

"In a major address yesterday, Senator Joe Lieberman eloquently summed up the economic challenges our nation faces:

We are creating a debt both perpetual and crushing that will leave today’s children and their children with enormous interest payments, unmet public needs and a weakened American economy and nation.
If you are worried about the recent oil price shocks to our economy, wait until the foreign debt shocks that will come if lending nations lose faith in the dollar because of our never-ending appetite for borrowed money.

He went on to cite the following alarming statistics:

According to estimates from former Reagan Administration economist Eugene Steuerle, by 2013, at current deficit spending rates, the federal government will have no discretionary funds available to pay for education, veteran’s hospitals, law enforcement, environmental protection and other essential functions after it has paid interest on the debt and met current national defense and entitlement commitments. And according to the U.S. Comptroller’s office, by 2040 all federal revenue will be needed to pay interest on the debt unless reforms are made.

Senator Lieberman's statements underscore the need to make this issue a major priority. If you haven't already, read NDN's recent economic memo and tell us what you think."

WSJ Polling on President's Agenda

Thursday, April 07, 2005

As pointed to by TalkingPointsMemo:

"A bad news
Wall Street Journal poll for the president ...

Almost three months into President Bush's second term, a raft of economic and social issues -- Social Security, immigration, gay marriage and the recent national debate over Terri Schiavo -- is splintering the Republican base.

After winning re-election on the strength of support from nine in 10 Republican voters, the president is seeing significant chunks of that base balk at major initiatives, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows. One-third of Republicans say Democrats in Congress should prevent Mr. Bush and party leaders from "going too far in pushing their agenda," and 41% oppose eliminating filibusters against Mr. Bush's judicial nominees -- the "nuclear option" that Senate Republican leaders are considering.

Also of note ...

On his centerpiece initiative of Social Security, for instance, 32% of Republicans call it "a bad idea" to let workers invest payroll taxes in the stock markets.

Despite Mr. Bush's cross-country tour to sell his plan, that proportion has held steady since January, while resistance among Democrats and senior citizens has driven overall opposition to 55% from the 50% recorded on the eve of his second inauguration. On Social Security, "opinions are hardening in a way that makes Bush's job more difficult," Mr. McInturff says.

On judicial nominations -- a cause of contention between the White House and Democratic leaders -- resistance among rank-and-file Republicans is even higher. Four in 10 say the option of filibusters should be preserved."

Go Anti-Nuclear for the Senate

Tuesday, April 05, 2005
From today's DNC site on the threatened "nuclear" option from the Repubs in the Senate:

"Senate Republicans are going for the ultimate power grab. They're going to give themselves absolute power, silencing Senate Democrats (and the millions of Americans they represent) by changing the rules and traditions of the Senate.

No more debate. No more dissent. No more checks and balances. Nothing stopping the Republicans from ramming the Bush agenda through.

There is no issue more urgent than this one. And we need you to take action right now.
This Wednesday, the Democratic Party and allied organizations will present more than 1 million petition signatures to Senate Democrats as a sign of support and public opposition to the Republican power grab. You must sign our petition today if you want your name presented to our leaders in the Senate: http://www.democrats.org/freespeech

You must take action today. Join the fight and tell our Senate leaders you stand with them in their fight to protect free speech and the checks and balances that make our democracy strong.


Quote of the Day

Monday, April 04, 2005
Quote of the Day...

Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in 1952, predicting the situation that the "winner" of the US/Soviet conflict would find themselves in:

...The victors would also face the "imperial" problem of using power in
global terms but from one particular center of authority, so preponderant and unchallenged that its world rule would almost certainly violate basic standards of justice...

"We were God's "American Israel." Our pretensions of innocency therefore heightened the whole concept of a virtuous humanity which characterizes the culture of our era; and involve us in the ironic incongruity between our illusions and the realities which we experience.

We find it almost as difficult as the communists to believe that anyone could think ill of us, since we are as persuaded as they that our society is so essentially virtuous that only malice could prompt criticism of any of our actions.... "

"To All People of Goodwill"

Be sure to read all of Fred Clark's latest postings on Slacktivist. Here are excerpts:

"My main impression of the late Pope John Paul II comes from reading his encyclicals. These documents are among his most important contributions, yet for all the discussion of John Paul's "legacy" in recent days, these pillars of that legacy barely register.

In his encyclicals, John Paul rarely seems content merely to proclaim -- he wants to argue, to persuade, which makes these documents much more engaging and interesting than you might expect. He seems always to bear in mind that these documents are addressed not only to the members of his church, over whom he bears authority, but also to "all People of Good Will."
His 1995 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) has achieved a recent notoriety thanks to President Bush, who has selectively co-opted its motif of a "culture of life."

Evangelium Vitae is subtitled, "on the Value and Inviolability of Human Life." It is, explicitly, a reassertion and reaffirmation of Catholic teaching on a range of "life" issues.

I would love to have had the chance to talk to the late pope about the implications of solidarity he discusses in EV and how they lead me to very different conclusions from those he reaches about, for instance, stem-cell research. You wouldn't know it from the people who have usurped his phrase "culture of life," but the man who wrote this encyclical seems like he would have welcomed such a conversation.

Laborem Exercens was written on the 90th anniversary of Rerum Novarum -- one of the pillars of Catholic Social Teaching -- and takes as its theme one of the ideas of that earlier encyclical:

"But above all we must remember the priority of labor over capital." John Paul here is taking sides, insisting above all that the worker is a subject, not an object, and must be accorded human dignity and human rights. Throughout LE he grounds this argument in scripture and Catholic teaching and explores its implications in some interesting directions.

John Paul is unambiguous: The state has a special obligation to "condition the conduct" of direct employers in order to ensure "just ... relationships in the field of human labor." (So too do consumers, who also fall under the category of "indirect employers.") This insistence is an essential part of John Paul's papal "legacy" -- yet somehow it doesn't seem to be getting a lot of attention in the current media frenzy.

One more choice passage from Laborem Exercens that the folks on CNN won't be discussing during their weeklong Popeapalooza:

"The workers' rights cannot be doomed to be the mere result of economic systems aimed at maximum profits. The thing that must shape the whole economy is respect for the workers' rights within each country and all through the world's economy."

Social Security: Democrats United

Sunday, April 03, 2005
As I've stated before, this is a long fight and we can't let up for a second, but as this NY Times article shows, Democrats are standing united and tough on this. And so far, so good.

Also, relatedly, here is a new org producing anti-privatization ads http://www.protectyourcheck.org/

Here are excerpts from the NY Times bit:

"Midway through their 60-day coast-to-coast blitz to promote fundamental revisions in Social Security, President Bush and others in his administration have been unable to pry loose any Democratic senators from the solid wall of opposition.

As a consequence, Republican lawmakers are beginning to doubt whether the president can succeed in establishing individual investment accounts under Social Security...

Whatever the reason, people who have worked on Capitol Hill for generations said they could not remember a time when Democrats in the Senate were so unified.

Except for Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who says he has not made up his mind, every Democratic senator is committed to opposing diverting Social Security taxes into individual accounts."

"We have continued to stay together," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, "because the president's plan is so flawed."

Under Senate rules, no legislation can be brought to a vote without approval of 60 senators. There are 55 Republicans in the Senate. So even if all of them backed Mr. Bush's plan, he would still need five more votes."

Guesses at Presidential Race 2008

SwingState Project askes the question: "So who is running for President in 2008?"

"It is hard to tell, but we might as well start keeping score. Here are some names I've heard, please add in the comments anyone who should be included who I've left out. Since we have around 1,000 days until most people start paying attention, we'll have plenty of time to examine them all.

2008 Presidential candidates - Democrats;

  • Evan Bayh
  • Joe Biden
  • Barbara Boxer
  • Wesley Clark
  • Hillary Clinton
  • John Edwards
  • Russ Feingold
  • Al Gore
  • John Kerry
  • Gavin Newsom
  • Barack Obama
  • Bill Richardson
  • Brian Schweitzer
  • Tom Vilsack
  • Mark Warner

2008 Presidential candidates - Republicans:

  • George Allen
  • Haley Barbour
  • Jeb Bush
  • Dick Cheney
  • Bill Frist
  • Newt Gingrich
  • Rudy Giuliani
  • Mike Huckabee
  • Chuck Hagel
  • John McCain
  • Bill Owens
  • George Pataki
  • Condoleezza Rice
  • Mitt Romney
  • Rich Santorum
  • Randall Terry"

Rest in peace, Karol Wojtyla...

Saturday, April 02, 2005
Rest in peace, Karol Wojtyla...

The image of him forgiving his would-be assasin, Mehemet Ali Agca, will forever be one of the iconic images of Christ's love in my head.

Time Magazine wrote back then:

"For 21 minutes, the Pope sat with his would-be assassin. The two talked softly. Once or twice Agca laughed. At the end of the meeting, Agca either kissed the Pope's ring, or pressed the Pope's hand to his forehead in a Muslim gesture of respect. John Paul's words were intended for Agca alone. 'What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.' It was a startling drama of forgiveness and reconciliation. On one level, it was an intensely intimate conversation between two men. But if the Pope spoke in whispers, he also meant to proclaim a message to the world. The Pope's deed spoke, not his words, and it spoke with full authority."
He was a good man, and Christendom lost a great voice for the Kingdom of God, it's peace and it's justice today.

Happy April Fools Day

Friday, April 01, 2005
Originally from Sojourners newsletter (April Fools Edition):

Howard Dean gets religion - the old school kind


"Following the 2004 electoral defeat, no member of the Democratic party showed greater openness to religious and moral values issues than newly elected party chair Howard Dean. His previously best-known comment on religious issues was his embarrassing pick of Job as his favorite New Testament book, and Judas as his favorite disciple. Not only is Job not in the New Testament, but he pronounced it with a short "o" sound, as in, "I need a job." Despite frantic corrections by aides, including assurances that "he meant the other Judas," the damage was done.

But during a dark night of the soul immersed in polling data, demographic reports, No-Doz, and late-night televangelists, Dean recently experienced what he describes as a "touch of Holy Ghost power" as he prayed for God to grant him and his party political success. Friends speculate it may have just been an unusually strong static shock that resulted when Dean knelt before his 56-inch projection television and placed his hands on the screen as instructed by TV preacher Robert Tilton.

But whether zapped by the Holy Spirit or excess electrons, Dean's already boisterous speaking style has been imbued with a religious fervor and a penchant for God-talk rivaling opponents on the Right, as demonstrated at a recent press conference: "Bush's plan for social security is ill-conceived and must be rejected. Puh-raise Gawd! Amen. Hallelujah. Next question - thank you JEE-ah-sus-ah!"

"I'd like to believe he's sincere, but it just feels like one-upsmanship," muttered Rev. Pat Robertson irritably. "I mean, he's already added two extra syllables to his pronunciation of the Lord's name - where most of us settle for a mere JEE-sus-ah. Who's he trying to impress?"
Friends on the Left also have concerns. "True, we wanted Howard to embrace a moral and religious vocabulary," said one NCC operative who declined to be named. "But now he keeps quoting this King James smack from Revelation about beasts and crowns and cups of wrath. We wanted MLK lite - not Oral freakin' Roberts."

While insiders debate his life expectancy as party chair, other members of the progressive religious community are offering their perspective. Jim Wallis' newest book, 'God's Politics II: Why the Right Still Gets It Wrong, and the Left Got Too Much and Is Weirding Out Its Friends and Isn't Invited to Parties Anymore' is already a New York Times best-seller."

The Kingdom of God

An amazing article from Brian Mclaren was posted at Fuller seminary's site. Here are excerpts:

"There was a time in Christian history when one could not become a Christian unless one actually knew a Christian. There were no books, church buildings, television or radio broadcasts, billboards, websites, tracts, films, or other “evangelistic tools.” The only evidences for the gospel were the good lives and good works of people who be-lived the gospel. The church did better in those times than it does in ours.

One of the greatest enemies of evangelism is the church as fortress or social club that sucks Christians out of their neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and other social networks and isolates them in a religious ghetto. There it must entertain them (through various means, many of them masquerading as education) and hold them (through various means, many of them epitomized by the words guilt and fear). Thus Christians are warehoused as merchandise for heaven, kept safe in a protected space to prevent spillage, leakage, damage, or loss until their delivery.

What the emerging culture needs is nothing less than a radical new vision of what life can be, including personal life, family life, community life, social life, and global life in all its dimensions—cultural, business, political, economic, social, recreational, etc. This “vision of what life can be,” along with a way of life that helps bring that vision into reality, is at least a significant dimension of what I believe Jesus meant by the phrase “Kingdom of God.” It is a vision in the truest sense of the word—a gift of seeing that comes from God.

What I believe to be gospel, the gospel, is not just information on how one goes to heaven after death by whatever means (admitting that “by grace through faith” in Jesus is far better than by works, by luck, or by another other way), but rather a vision of what life can be in all its dimensions (not just individual). This is the Kingdom of God"