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Prayer of the Day

Wednesday, August 31, 2005
LA Governor Blanco Announces Day of Prayer:

"As we face the devastation wrought by Katrina, as we search for those in need, as we comfort those in pain and as we begin the long task of rebuilding, we turn to God for strength, hope and comfort.

"I have declared August 31, 2005, a Day of Prayer in the State of Louisiana.

"I am asking that all of Louisiana take some time Wednesday to pray. Pray for the victims and the rescuers. Please pray that God give us all the physical and spiritual strength to work through this crisis and rebuild.

"Please pray for patience for those anxiously waiting to hear from family members or to get word about their homes. Pray for the safety of our hard-working rescuers and those they are bringing to safety.

"I know, by praying together on Wednesday, that we can pull together and draw strength we need; strength, that only God can give us.

"In my prayers, I will also thank God for the strong and resilient people of this state and how they are working to meet this challenge."

"We are at a Beginning"

This news story below speaks to what is a common theme here:

That it is to the Dem's detriment to appear aloof, uncomfortable, or unfriendly to issues of faith and morality and values...

The party should be and I believe is trying to be actively supporting religious candidates at local, state and Federal races, should get good at framing it's historic positions not as just policy but as tieing them to core values. And when we oppose the positions on the Religious Right, we should find ways to be clear that we are opposing bad ideas and bad values, not opposing religion itself, or folks who are religious. Christians who are Democrats have a key role here I think. A key place to be "salt" and "light" within the party.

With that said, here are the details of a Pew Poll that show that over the last year, Dems have been increasingly seen as "unfriendly" to faith. Some of that is the loud voices of the Religious Right trying to define us, and Dems letting that go without sn effective push back. Some of this is likely self-inflicted.

"We're at the beginning..." The DNC is quoted as saying, relating to religious engagment and the DNC. Fine, but by all means, let's get moving.

"Fewer people see Democrats as friendly to religion now than felt that way a year ago, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

That number has dropped from 40 percent in August 2004 who thought the Democrats were friendly to religion to 29 percent now.

"The change is seen across all groups," said Scott Keeter, director of survey research for the Pew Research Center, which conducted the poll for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

After Democrats fared poorly with religious voters in the 2004 election, the
Democratic National Committee initiated numerous efforts to strengthen its standing with religious voters.

The DNC hired someone to coordinate religious outreach, encouraged state parties to work more closely with the religious community, and had Chairman
Howard Dean meet with clergy and others in the religious community during his travels around the country.

"We're at the beginning," said Democratic spokeswoman Karen Finney, who said religious voters share many of the values of the Democratic Party. "But we know we need to do a better job of talking about our values in a way that people see we share their values."

More than half of those polled, 55 percent, said the Republican Party is friendly to religion.

A majority of political independents, 54 percent, said religious conservatives have too much influence over the GOP. Fewer than half of independents said those who are not religious have too much impact on the Democratic Party."

AP News: Poverty Rate Rises to 12.7 Percent

Tuesday, August 30, 2005
For every year since Bush has been in office, the number of poor people in the US has gone up, and this year is no exception. We are now at 12.7% of Americans -- 37 million of us -- are living at or below the poverty level, 1/3rd of them are children.

You can find the entire report online here...and the AP news summarizes that:

"...the number of Americans who fell into poverty rose to 37 million — up 1.1 million from 2003 — according toCensus Bureau figures released Tuesday.

It marks the fourth straight increase in the government's annual poverty measure...

'America should be showing true leadership on the great moral issues of our time — like poverty — instead of allowing these situations to get worse,' said
John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate. He has started a poverty center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Overall, the nation's poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent of the population last year. Of the 37 million living below the poverty level, close to a third were children.

The last decline in overall poverty was in 2000, during the Clinton administration, when 31.1 million people lived under the threshold. Since then, the number of people in poverty has increased steadily from 32.9 million in 2001, when the economy slipped into recession, to 35.8 million in 2003.

10 Things Progressives Should be Saying about Iraq

Sunday, August 28, 2005
Really, really good stuff from Democracy Arsenal:

"Rather than splitting hairs on drawdown [of forces in Iraq] progressives should be clear and forceful where they can be. The Center for American Progress has done a fantastic memo to the President outlining what we're up against in Iraq. A great follow-up would say what conclusions can be drawn and what ought to happen next. Here are 10 things the progressives ought to be saying on Iraq.

1. This Iraq operation was a mistake - The American public needs to hear it from those progressives who haven't yet admitted it.

2. The Administration's actions have brought us to this point - Bad intel, poor planning, inadequate international support, and faulty decision-making all played a part; and the Administration's to blame for all of these. Whether a hypothetical war, done differently, might've gone better is not the issue. For those who supported the war, the biggest mistake was trusting an arrogant and blinkered Administration to do such a tough job right. There's no need to apologize for not calling the problem sooner. Progressives have demanded mid-course corrections at every turn.

3. We'll never win without a strategy, and the Administration doesn't have one - The Iraq operation has been lurching without direction for months, and none of Bush's public statements have come close to filling the gap.

4. Any strategy needs to start by facing the facts on the ground - The Administration is in deep denial, and the public is growing uneasy about it. Acknowledging the strength of the insurgency, the failure to achieve a constitution that enjoys Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish support, and the toll the effort is taking on American troops will not come off as defeatist, since even the most casual observer is painfully aware of all of these.

5. Any strategy will end with American withdrawal - We never intended to be in Iraq forever, so there's no shame thinking about how and when our men and women come home. The difficulties we're facing and the absence of an Administration strategy make the question more pressing.

6. Our objective is pure and simple: to leave Iraq stable - Security and stability are the main concerns of Iraqis, and the leading U.S. interests when it comes to Iraq's future. They are also prerequisites for liberty and democracy. But rather than utopian visions of Iraqi freedom, our focus is on the precondition for US withdrawal, and that's stability -- meaning a weakening of the insurgency; law and order; a functioning Iraqi authority and a stable dynamic between Iraq's major political forces.

7. We need to quickly determine how to achieve success - Right now we don't know if the war is winnable. We should take a finite amount of time -- say through the end of 2005 -- to figure that out. Doing so should entail the following:

- - a coherent counter-insurgency strategy - Yet another major lapse in the Administration's conduct of the war has emerged publicly in recent days: we have no counter-insurgency strategy and the most basic lessons of major past insurgency battles, like Vietnam, aren't being heeded. A variety of proposals have been forward for counter-insurgency approaches. The Administration needs to adopt one and fast so that by December we can judge whether its gaining traction or not.

- - an independent audit of the training effort - it's hard to get straight facts on how the training of Iraqi troops is going (estimates of capable Iraqi troops range from 2,500 to 21,000). Without accurate information, it's impossible to know whether we stand a chance of turning Iraq over to homegrown security forces.

The audit (by the Government Accountability Office or another qualified body) should focus on four questions:

1) how many Iraqi troops are now capable of keeping the peace and fighting the insurgency?
2) how many more do we need so that the US military is no longer the only thing between Iraq and full-on civil war?
3) how long will it take to get to that number? and
4) what - meaning tactics, resources, equipment - will make it happen faster and more reliably? The audit should be done by October 30 so that we can judge by late December whether the results are being put into practice.

- - direct engagement of Iraq's neighbors - Iraq's neighbors will play a key part in what happens once we leave. As Wesley Clark and others have suggested, we ought to be talking to them now about political and economic relationships with Iraq, and about the insurgency. Even if we get the cold shoulder, we'll at least know we can't count on them.

- - a strict border control regime - This is essential in every scenario, to keep Iraq from being both a magnet and a source of insurgents. Lighting, night-vision equipment, weapons detection equipment and radars are all part of the package, as are cooperation with Iraq's neighbors and ample trained personnel.

- - expedited reconstruction projects - According to CAP, only $9 of the $24 billion allocated by Congress for reconstruction projects for FY 2003-2205 has been spent. Security is an impediment, but if our goal is to be out sooner, the pace of reconstruction needs to be stepped up, even if the cost of projects gets inflated due to the need for extra protection. The Administration should be charged with devising a list of reconstruction projects that deserve priority because they can play a role in getting us out sooner.

8. Progress on each of these points should be reported monthly - If there's no significant headway being made by year's end once the next round of Iraqi national elections take place, withdrawal timetables may deserve the center stage some are giving them now.

9. Meanwhile, we need to do a better job supporting our troops and veterans - When it comes to benefits, equipment, schedules, etc.

10. And keep leveling with the American public - Since the Administration seems bent on keeping the truth from the public, progressives can play a key role making sure the debate is well-informed, and that the public stays engaged."

Prayers, Katrina and the Red Cross...

call to action
Please join me in praying for Louisiana and the surrounding areas as they are about to endure the force 5 hurricane winds and flooding as Katrina hits land...again.

The best way to practically help is by giving to the Red Cross...Give by following this link, or donate by phone at 1-800-HELP NOW.

Religious Right's Effect on Church Attendence in America

Saturday, August 27, 2005
In this weeks Newsweek article on the state of American spirituality, I thought this was particularly interesting:

It's the percentage in change in American church attendence that the "rise of the religious right" has effected -- looking at today vs 1966. Which would be zero:

"Whatever is going on here, it's not an explosion of people going to church. The great public manifestations of religiosity in America today—the megachurches seating 8,000 worshipers at one service, the emergence of evangelical preachers as political power brokers—haven't been reflected in increased attendance at services. Of 1,004 respondents to the NEWSWEEK/Beliefnet Poll, 45 percent said they attend worship services weekly, virtually identical to the figure (44 percent) in a Gallup poll cited by Time in 1966. Then as now, however, there is probably a fair amount of wishful thinking in those figures; researchers who have done actual head counts in churches think the figure is probably more like 20 percent."

(Jon Stewart to Chris Hitchens) Quote of the Day

Friday, August 26, 2005
In response to Christopher Hitchens comment that Iraq War dissenters were suggesting that the United States was primarily to blame for inciting terrorism:

"Stewart: But there are reasonable disagreements in this country about the way this war has been conducted, that has nothing to do with people believing we should cut and run from the terrorists, or we should show weakness in the face of terrorism, or that we believe that we have in some way brought this upon ourselves...

They believe that this war is being conducted without transparency, without credibility, and without competence..."

Hitchens: I'm sorry, sunshine... I just watched you ridicule the president for saying he wouldn't give...

Stewart: No, you misunderstood why. . . . That's not why I ridiculed the president. He refuses to answer questions from adults as though we were adults, and falls back upon platitudes and phrases and talking points, that does a disservice to the goals that he himself shares with the very people needs to convince."

Watch the video here.

"Don't Fake it"

"Don't fake it," is the clear primary message from this article from John Brummett in the Arkansa News...but there is a secondary message as well: If Dems can field candidates that can connect naturally to reglious folks, they de-fang faith as a the wedge issue often used by the Republican side.

"The only Democrat to unseat a Republican member of the U.S. Senate in the last two cycles, Mark Pryor of Arkansas told a gathering of frustrated centrist Democrats a couple of years ago that one of his out-of-state consultants did some research and concluded that Pryor ought to talk about his religious faith in every speech.

Pryor said he was wholly comfortable doing that, and pretty much did so. He also ran a television commercial showing his family with bowed heads around the dinner table.

He got 54 percent of the vote while Democrats were getting their clocks cleaned everywhere else, especially in other parts of the South.

Pryor's advantage was that he appeared not to be faking anything, most likely because he wasn't.

A serious cancer scare in early adulthood had influenced him to membership in an interdenominational and evangelical church. The preacher in that church interviewed him in a dubious and challenging way about Pryor's hairsplitting position on abortion...he thinks it's wrong, but that repeal of Roe v. Wade would be an impossible mess and published the transcript on the church Web site. The published dialogue showed that Pryor held his own with the minister on Christian theology, both in terms of Biblical passages and modern literature.

So, last week the Democracy Corps, an alliance of Democrat strategists founded by old Clintonites like James Carville and Stanley Greenberg released findings of focus group studies among disaffected George Bush supporters in Colorado and Kentucky and rural voters in Arkansas and Wisconsin.

They found that nearly all economic issues work among those rural voters to the benefit of Democrats, but that it doesn't matter because cultural issues are defining.

Particularly among noncollege rural voters, there was little awareness of differences between Democrats and Republicans on health care, prescription drugs, economic policy and retirement security. Those voters assumed that the party closest to them on cultural issues would be closest to them on other issues as well...

Unless a Democrat can connect with that fellow naturally, he'd best not try it. Howard Dean recently went to Arkansas talking about how Jesus preached more like a Democrat than a Republican, and it was fairly laughable.

Dean met in Arkansas with Tim Wooldridge, a Church of Christ lay preacher who is running as a Democrat for lieutenant governor. "I told him you have to be real, to be bona fide," Woodridge said, "because if you?re not, you're going to smack of hypocrisy and gag people."

1st Peter 2 on Chrisians and the State

Thursday, August 25, 2005
From Scott McKnight's blog:

"1 Peter is (perhaps) the first sustained statement on how the emerging Christian movement of the 1st Century should relate to the State.

Here is the fundamental principle for Peter:

1Pet. 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.

First, the Christians are socially-oppressed. “The aliens and exiles” is seen by many... to be the social status of the Christians rather than seeing them as “pilgrims on earth.”

Second, the Christians are exhorted to be holy. This is a theme in chp 1 and throughout the letter.

Third, they are to be good citizens. 1 Pt uses a term “to do good works” (2:15, 20; 3:6, 20) that is important here. Bruce Winter, in his book, Seek the Welfare of the City, demonstrates that Peter would have had in mind here doing benevolent actions for the good of the city: helping build buildings, monuments, etc..

Fourth, these principles are to work themselves out in every relationship: State, employment, wives, husbands, church (2:13–3:12).

Fifth, the “beachhead” for this work is the community of faith — a theme very important to 1 Peter.

We need to ask why Peter saw it this way? Did he want to be good to keep Rome off his back? Did he want to be good so he could have a chance to witness? Did he want to be good in order to impact society for the Kingdom? Yes for each question. But one thing is sure: he didn’t give up the idea that God’s Kingdom would fill the world."

Dear Pat: An Open Letter to Pat Robertson

Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Blog or WebsiteGreat, just great...excerpts from this open letter to Pat from Michael over at Addison Road blog:

"Dear Pat,

Here’s the deal. We know you’re in a difficult position. The ensuing crap tornado from your statements early in the week have finally caught up to you, and you realize that your credibility is on the line. You have to find a way to quell the outcry, without losing the support of your regular viewers (and financial supporters), many of whom see nothing wrong with the Manifest Destiny of the Judeo-Christo-American Empire, and think your statement was right on the money.

So I offer this advice, not so much out of any sense of pity or compassion, but because we work for the same guy, and your words seem to keep sullying his reputation. You’re looking for middle ground. You’re trying to formulate an apology that says, “I didn’t mean kill” and “but it might be a good idea” and “the biased media misinterpreted my words” and “but it did draw attention an important issue” and “I obviously misspoke out of frustration.” This is known as the shotgun approach. It doesn’t work...

...It’s an awful idea. Look at how quickly everyone from the State Department to other Evangelical leaders have distanced themselves from your comments. Note their tone of voice. It’s not just political expediency, it’s actual repugnance. People are disgusted by the idea.
Nobody misinterpreted your words. Know why? Because we all saw the video. We saw the whole thing. We watched you speak them, we saw the earnest fervor on your face, and we knew what you meant. Unless you mean that the 700 club accidentally replaced you with an animatronic robot who made certain statements with which you disagree, in which case, you might be OK, because robots are cool.

Yes, it certainly did draw attention. I’ve got two problems with this. The first is that it drew attention, and gave newly minted international political clout to a petty dictator from a country that would barely register on the radar if not for the fact that they have the hookup for our national sweet sweet crude jones. You don’t think he’s politically savvy enough to work this thing up into a stronger following in Venezuela?

The second problem is this: you seem to be justifying an ethical error by means of a consequentialist solution. I know some of those words are a bit long, and you got your degrees in an era when Christianity was scared of philosophy, but it means this: you’re saying that something bad can be made good if enough good things happen as a result. Kind of like saying that it’s OK to cheat on a medical school entrance exam if it lets you get a medical license to go treat sick people in poor urban areas. Consequences are not sufficient justification for ethical errors...

Maybe you did say something out of frustration that you didn’t intend to say, at least not in a public forum so easily disseminated around the web. In fact, I think your best play here might be to embrace this, to gather up any remaining benefit of the doubt among your followers, and to say that is was a mistake. Say it often, say it loud. Here’s the problem, P-dawg. You can’t say this, and dilute it with any of the other statements. You can’t say “I made a mistake, but is was a good mistake.” You can’t say, “I made a mistake, and I was misinterpreted by the liberal media.”

This is your line. Stick to is. Take every interview, speak to every reporter, and say this, and only this, every single time.

“I was wrong. I was wrong morally, biblically, and politically. Whatever differences we may have with Chavez’s leadership in Venezuela, assassination of political leaders is never a justified response. I apologize to Chavez, to the State Department for making their position more difficult, to the Evangelical church that the public erroneously assumes I am a spokesman for, and to the American people, for perpetuating the global perception of an American Evangelical Imperial junta. Please forgive me for my grievous error.”

Pat, this is what those of us in the industry call a “Real Apology.”

Here’s the thing that public personalities can’t seem to understand; it works. It works in a way that half apologies, qualified withdrawals, and public stonewalling don’t. Admitting error regains some credibility. Refusing to deliver a real apology crumbles any remaining public trust that you may have engendered.

Pat, do it for our sake. Do it for those of us who have to disassociate ourselves from you before we can do kingdom work. Do it for the children. Do it for the sake of that guy whose name you wear, and whose reputation you impact every time you get on the TV screen. Do it, because I can only think of one reason why you wouldn’t:

Love, Michael"

Creation Care: 9 States Break with Bush on Greenhouse Gases

Interesting Reuters news story on 9 states who in spite of Bush's refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol, will voluntarily move to abide by it's standards. You can check out the site for the initiative here...And kudos to Republican Gov. Pataki for his role in this, and of course, also to the other 8 Governors.

"Nine northeastern U.S. states are working on a plan to cap and then reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the first U.S. deal of its kind and one which would see the region breaking with President George W. Bush who refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol

The move comes as California, Washington and Oregon are considering a similar pact -- a dynamic environmentalists say could pressure the federal government to adopt a national law. Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, the greenhouse gas reduction plan already adopted by over 150 countries.

Under the plan being worked on, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont would cap carbon dioxide emissions at 150 million tons a year -- roughly equal to the average emissions in the highest three years between 2000 and 2004.

Starting in 2015, the cap would be lowered, and emissions would be cut by 10 percent in 2020...

The United States is the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide. The Bush administration wants cuts to be voluntary and resists mandatory measures it says would hurt economic growth.

Many international leaders have criticized Bush's refusal to sign Kyoto, which is meant as a first step toward braking a rise in global temperatures from a build-up of gases from fossil fuels emitted by power plants, factories and cars.

In the absence of national control on emissions, Schain said: "This seems to be the appropriate course of action."

The so-called Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative would explore a market-driven cap-and-trade system where businesses must trim emissions under set limits or buy credits from companies that have complied with the limits.

Environmentalists praised the proposed plan.

'It moves the United States further toward doing something about the problem,' said Kert Davies of Greenpeace in Washington, D.C. 'That eventually allows us back into the global solving of this problem.'"

Harris Polling on Bush and Congress

Yet another poll, this time the Harris poll, showing Bush at lowest point yet in his presidency with a 40% approval rating, with 58% negative disapprove...And the Republican Congress also faired pretty terribly with Republican Congressmen getting a 32% positive approval, and a 64% negative, dropping 5% since June.

Pat Robertson's Quotes of the Day

Now: From CNN, Pat Robinson saying that his remarks about assasination of Chavez were taken out of context:

"I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP, but that happens all the time..."

Then: From his 700 Club broadcast, Moday:

"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it..."

Beliefnet: 12 Tribes of American Politics and How They Voted

Very good study on the 2004 election and religious voters turnout, and implications of what it means for the Party NOW, and of course in 2006 mid terms and of course, 2008...Very clear guidance for the "religious left" to better organize, for Dems to speak to progressive issues from a framework of their morality, and for the Democratic Party to welcome and grow comfortable with religious communities, politicians, and grassroots activists.

"Since the 2004 presidential election, Democrats and Republicans have operated on the assumption that one of the reasons for the Bush victory is the massive size of the Religious Right. Religious conservatives have spent the year pressing for legislative victories, such as confirmation of Bush's judicidal nominees, to reward them for their clout. Democrats have been debating internally whether they should be less secular.But a new look at Beliefnet's popular "Twelve Tribes" analysis shows something surprising: the religious left is just about the same size as the religious right.

This is one of the most intriguing findings surfacing from the new data that's part of Beliefnet's "Twelve Tribes of American Politics," a typology created last year by combining data about religious affiliation, practice, and political affiliation. These groups cut across old denominational boundaries, and often have unique relevance to U.S. politics, in terms of how they vote and the issues that are most important to them.

The rise of the Religious Left was a major factor in the 2004 election:
  • The Religious Left made up 14 percent of the electorate, an increase from 11 percent in 2000. By comparison 15% came from the "Religious Right."
  • 69% of this group voted, compared to 51% percent in 2000 (and 69% of the religious right.)
  • 21% of John Kerry's votes came from the Religious Left, not that much less percentage-wise than the 26% of Bush's votes that came from the Religious Right.
The political awakening of the Religious Left carries several implications for the Democratic Party. For one thing, Democratic leaders cannot view the party as primarily secular. Add up the numbers of the Religious Left, Democratic-voting Latino Christians, Black Protestants, and the modest support from conservative Christians and you have 52% of Kerry's vote. Secular voters did vote in record numbers for Kerry but only accounted for 16% percent of his vote.
More worrisome for Democrats is the fact that Kerry lost in spite of record mobilization of the Religious Left.

Was that because the Left was out-hustled by the Religious Right? In part. Bush did do well among the most conservative religious voters, increasing turnout from 62% to 69%. But the share of the total Bush vote from the Religious Right actually declined slightly (from 16% in 2000 to 15%).

But where Bush showed the most improvement was among the "Heartland Culture Warriors," mainline Protestants and Catholics with traditional beliefs and practices. In 2000, Bush won 66% of the Heartland vote; in 2004 he won 72%. Turnout was also up for this group.

The Heartland Culture Warriors viewed social issues as the most important. In other words, Bush's positions on gay marriage and abortion likely helped him even more with this group than the Religious Right.

These social issues also helped Bush make some gains among the more traditional Latino and black churches.

Clearly, Democrats who are planning a comeback for 2008 or in the 2006 congressional elections need to absorb both the impact of the Religious Left and the devastating effect of having lost the moderate Catholic vote. It will be very hard for a Democrat to win without realizing that a big chunk of the party is not secular."

Empire and Christians

Another quote I like a lot from Chuck at the Imitatio Christi blog...he doesn't miss the irony of Christians (who had shall we say a "mixed experience" with the Roman Empire) now singing it's praises and calling for an American Empire... Chuck writes:

"I found this article odd enough--the writer is encouraging us to improve our concept of empire and embrace the notion that America is and should be one. Then, when I got to the bottom, I discovered that this author teaches at Liberty University (connected with Falwell) in Lynchburg. The article became, then, even more bizarre for at least two reasons.

First, can one really argue that it is possible to make empire into a Christian notion? In other words, can we as Christians, who are called most pre-eminently to be 'for the other,' think of empire as a good thing? Second, notice that the author thinks that Rome was an example of how empires can be 'good.'

Am I the only one who finds this a very strange claim for a Christian to make?"

Theocracy Part III

Tuesday, August 23, 2005
From today's New York Times on the Iraqi draft Constitution and Islamic law:

"Some secular Iraqi leaders complained Tuesday that the country's nearly finished constitution lays the groundwork for the possible domination of the country by Shiite Islamic clerics, and that it contains specific provisions that could sharply curtail the rights of women.

The secular leaders said the draft, which was presented to the National Assembly on Monday, contains language that not only establishes the primacy of Islam as the country's official religion, but appears to grant judges wide latitude to strike down legislation that may contravene the faith. To interpret such legislation, the constitution calls for the appointment of experts in Shariah, or Islamic law, to preside on the Supreme Federal Court.

The draft constitution, these secular Iraqis say, clears the way for religious authorities to adjudicate personal disputes like divorce and inheritance matters by allowing the establishment of religious courts, raising fears that a popularly elected Islamist-minded government could enact legislation and appoint judges who could turn the country into a theocracy.

The courts would rely on Shariah, which under most interpretations grants women substantially fewer rights than men...

'This is the future of the new Iraqi government - it will be in the hands of the clerics,' said Dr. Raja Kuzai, a secular Shiite member of the Assembly. 'I wanted Iraqi women to be free, to be able to talk freely and to able to move around.'"

Meet Tony Campolo

Blog or Website
Amazingly good article in the Progressive on Tony Campolo...Here are excerpts but be sure to read the whole thing:

"Meet Tony Campolo:

He says it's time to "take the gloves off" and compete against the religious right. He has clashed openly with Jerry Falwell, Gary Bauer, and Rush Limbaugh, and he served as a spiritual adviser to Bill Clinton during the impeachment scandal.

Campolo is currently the associate pastor of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in West Philadelphia. He's also an emeritus professor of sociology at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. On that campus, there is the Campolo School of Social Change, which consists of graduate programs "aimed at developing Christian professionals who will use their skills to transform urban communities around the world."

That school is part of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, which Campolo founded. It serves inner city schools as well as AIDS hospices and Christian service programs in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Africa, and Canada.

"Our goal is to help build the Kingdom of God by combining evangelism and social justice in the name of Jesus," the association says...

"When I call people to commit their lives to Christ," he says, "it is primarily in order that God might use them in this life to do the work that needs to be done. I try to get people to give themselves over to Jesus so that Jesus can take them and put them into law, business, the arts, and to government, to be agents of change."

For him, the Kingdom of God is a place of justice. When his students ask him to "spell that out," Campolo says he refers to Scriptures.

"I go to the Bible, and the sixty-fifth chapter of Isaiah is the passage I often refer to, starting with the seventeenth verse, in which the Kingdom of God has certain characteristics," he says. "First of all, children do not die in infancy. I want to go to work around the world to do something about the infant mortality rate, the fact that 30,000 kids die of hunger every day. It says that old people shall live out their lives in perfect health. I want to see elderly people cared for, as they should be. It goes on to say that everyone should have decent housing to live in. I've been on the international board of Habitat for Humanity for years, for that reason. It says that everybody has a job, to work in the vineyard out there, and earn a living. I want to see people get a job."

He also finds respect for the Earth in the Bible. "The last verse of the sixty-fifth chapter of Isaiah says, ‘Neither shall they hurt the earth anymore.’ Environmentalism is in there," he says.

Campolo is aghast at the way the right captured the term "moral values" during the 2004 campaign. "It's horrible," he says. "Jesus refers to the poor over and over again. There are 2,000 verses of Scripture that call upon us to respond to the needs of the poor. And yet, I find that when Christians talked about values in this last election that was not on the agenda, that was not a concern. If you were to get the voter guide of the Christian Coalition, that does not rate. They talk more about tax cuts for people who are wealthy than they do about helping poor people who are in desperate straits."

He blames religious broadcasting. "The major factor influencing the evangelical vote was Christian radio and television," he says. "But they did not do what their charters tell them to do, namely preach the Gospel. What they were doing was becoming surrogates for the Republican Party."

And this, he believes, is a treacherous path to take.

"What scares me is that Christianity in America today sees nothing wrong with being allied with political conservatism," he says. "Conservatives are people who worship at the graves of dead radicals. Stop to think about that. The people who started this country, George Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, these were not conservatives; these were the radicals of the time. In fact, conservatives always look back on people who they despised and make them into heroes. If you were to listen to the religious right today, they would make you believe that Martin Luther King was one of their flock. In reality, they hated him and did everything they could to destroy him."

Campolo opposes abortion and gay marriage, but believes that "social justice is the primary purpose of government." And he faults the Democrats for doing a poor job of framing the issues in 2004.

"When you deal with these issues that are plaguing this country," he asks, "do you frame them as moral issues, or as economic issues? The Democratic Party made a very serious mistake. All the issues were framed in economic terms: How many jobs are we going to create, how much money is it going to cost to do this, that, and the other thing. What they should have been saying is, ‘This is what is right, and we're going to do it, because it's right.’ When we begin to frame the issues, as liberals, in moral terms, talking about what is right and what is wrong, rather than what is pragmatically efficient, I think the American people, who are looking for moral leadership, will flock to the side of those who can give it."

Jesus's Reputation

Blog or Website
Interesting reaction from Patti Davis, daughter of Ronald Reagan, on the Robertson assassination comments. Evangelical Christians often talk about being persecuted for Jesus sake, as if it was purely due to our allegiance to Christ that we are suffering this or that from "non-believers." On the contrary -- as this article shows -- it fascinates me to see how often Jesus actually has a pretty good reputation. I'm impressed with how accurately people see His character --even if only in a distant way -- and see it as for lack of better words, as Holy and Good.

On the contrary, I suspect that it is OUR reputation that often causes our own problems with folks when we feel religously persecuted, and most of the time because people see things in us that make them feel like Patti did in this bit: "You know what, Jesus would never do what you are doing!"

"I'm no Biblical scholar but I am absolutely sure that Jesus never suggested assassinating anyone.

When I lived in New York City, I used to give money to a homeless man who stood on the same corner of Columbus Avenue every day, rain or shine. He was never pushy, he was always polite, and I just felt like giving him money. One day, I saw a man in a business suit getting right in this man's face, waving a Bible at him and telling him he was a sinner and he had to accept Jesus and ask forgiveness for his sins. I walked up, gave the homeless man a five and said to the sidewalk preacher, 'You know, Jesus would never do what you're doing.' I walked away quickly before he could hit me with his Bible. And I walked away feeling very sorry for Jesus. People keep doing things in his name that are so un-Christianlike.

Well, if I felt sorry for Jesus then, I feel like weeping for him now. Shouldn't people like Pat Robertson just go start their own religion and leave Jesus out of it?

I found another quote of Robertson's from several years ago. He said that feminism encourages women 'to kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.'

I would respond to this but I have to go boil some eye of newt, lizard tails and pig blood. And I am so behind on my schedule to bring down the bastions of capitalism. I got delayed because I was flirting with this cute girl down the street."

US Senators: Pat Robertson Statements "Incredibly Stupid"

From Bloomberg news on the reaction to Pat Robertson's call for assasination of the Presdient of Venezuela...folks are already calling it a Christian "Fatwa," I think that the Senators comments below sum it up better...:

"Venezuela reacted with outrage to a call by television evangelist Pat Robertson for the U.S. to assassinate President Huge Chavez, and two U.S. senators called the remarks 'irresponsible' and 'incredibly stupid.'

'It's the height of hypocrisy for the U.S. to continue talking about the war against terrorism when at the same time you have someone making obvious terrorist declarations in the heart of the country,' Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said at a news conference in Caracas.

Robertson, a former U.S. presidential candidate who claims 1 million viewers a day for his '700 Club' program,' said on the show yesterday that Chavez is a 'dangerous enemy' and that the U.S. should ``take him out.'' He said killing Chavez would be cheaper than going to war with Venezuela to remove him.

The comments may add to anti-U.S. sentiment among Chavez supporters in the South American country. Chavez, who has threatened to cut off Venezuelan oil exports to the U.S., is setting up a people's militia to help defend against a military invasion he says the U.S. is planning.

Robertson's statement was 'incredibly stupid' and 'has no reflection on reality,' U.S. Senator Norm Coleman, a Republican from Minnesota who is chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations subcommittee on the western hemisphere, said while on a trip to Rio de Janeiro.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said at a press briefing in Washington that Robertson's views 'do not represent the policy of the United States.'

'Any allegations that we are planning to take hostile action against the Venezuelan government are completely baseless and without fact,' McCormack said."

Theocracy Part II: C. S. Lewis on Theocracy

C.S. Lewis on Theocracy:

"I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments.

If we must have a tyrant a robber barron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point may be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely more because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations.

And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be."

Iraqi Theocracy Before, During and After


AP News 2003:
"The defense secretary also said in the AP interview that the United States will not allow an Iran-style religious government to take hold in Iraq. And he said Syria and others in the region will not be permitted to influence Iraq's future. 'If you're suggesting, how would we feel about an Iranian-type government with a few clerics running everything in the country, the answer is: That isn't going to happen,' he said."


Voice of America News Aug 2005:
"Officials said Saturday they were nearing agreement on a Shi'ite demand to enshrine Islam as the only source of legislation...But negotiators say the United States may be prepared to drop its objections to having Islam as the sole basis of a new Iraqi government."


Full text of the draft Constitution from AP News, from Today:

"Article Two, Section One
Islam is a main source for legislation.
a. No law may contradict Islamic standards."

Hmmm... Looks awfully similiar to this from the Iranian Constitution:

"Article 2
The Islamic Republic is a system based on belief in:
1.the One God (as stated in the phrase "There is no god except Allah"), His exclusive sovereignty and the right to legislate, and the necessity of submission to His commands;
2.Divine revelation and its fundamental role in setting forth the laws."

Lindy Scott: Environmental Care and Policy

Blog or Website
Lindy Scott on care of the environment:

"This week let's look at our environment.

Environmental policy is at a crossroads. Decades ago, recognition of such problems as acid rain spurred the development of many effective policy mechanisms for their abatement. Air and water quality improvements have been among the most significant achievements of federal environmental management efforts since that time. But recent concerns about the burdens of environmental management have created a quite different regulatory atmosphere.

Many complain that environmental regulation is onerous, and with the government’s increasing commitment to free trade, some corporations have chosen to locate operations in countries with lower environmental standards, spoiling the international environment while further burdening laborers at home and abroad. But environmental and economic concerns need not be at odds. Indeed, many important environmental policy achievements have also been significant economic accomplishments. The establishment of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards was originally intended both to reduce harmful air pollution and to promote competitiveness on behalf of the United States auto industry. But while such past accomplishments of federal environmental policy are significant, important environmental issues remain to be addressed. And we must do so with concern for both stewardship and justice—between generations and among members of this generation..

Climate change. Due to the emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, the average surface temperature of the earth is increasing with important implications for the global climate. Left unchecked, climate change will have significant negative effects both in the United States and abroad. But while it is a truly global phenomenon, its burdens fall largely upon the poor of this generation and upon our children and grandchildren. Climate change is also one of the primary causes of the extinction of certain species and signals the certain demise of some of the world’s most charismatic landscapes. The United States emits more greenhouse gases than any other country in the world and therefore shares the responsibility to reduce emissions and stabilize climate. For this reason, we should couple domestic measures with a renewed commitment to international negotiations for a binding emissions reduction strategy. A recommitment to multilateralism in environmental policy should be buttressed by a robust domestic policy. Fortunately, many state and local governments have developed climate change action plans and taken other measures that may prove instructive in planning for national strategies. Reform in energy and transportation sectors can be an important contribution to a climate stable future and are among priorities in this regard.

Biological diversity. A biodiverse future is equally important to the environment we leave to our children. Unfortunately, research shows an estimated three species are lost every day. And while this is clearly an issue of environmental stewardship, its social consequences are significant. Biodiversity is the linchpin of ecological integrity and many environmental goods and services are dependent upon it. The Endangered Species Act is the most significant federal mechanism for promoting domestic biodiversity. Strengthening the act and promoting the integrity of protected areas are important means by which to ensure a biodiverse future in the United States. Attending to the emission of greenhouse gases—thus supporting a climate stable future—will also promote biodiversity at home and abroad by addressing two of the most important causes of extinction: climate change and increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Air and water quality. Setting minimum air and water quality levels has been an important function of the federal government’s environmental policy agenda for decades. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act remain significant tools for promoting public health and environmental integrity. Policies such as these, which regulate pollutant levels, help to secure a better environment now and for the future. Such regulations also advance equity in environmental quality between states and localities; without common minimum quality levels, states and municipalities could be caught in a ‘race to the bottom,’ attracting investment through the elimination of environmental regulations. These policies provide for environmental integrity while being sensitive to issues of economy and social equity.

Environmental justice. Social dimensions of environmental quality are among the many important facets of environmental policy. Marginalized and vulnerable communities continue to suffer disproportionately from environmental hazards. The federal government can play a significant role in the promotion of environmental justice. But environmental justice should not simply be a matter of fairly distributing environmental ills. Rather, we should carefully consider the ramifications of any policy for the distribution of environmental quality, ensuring access to a healthy environment now, as well as in the future.

These issues are complex and challenging. The role of the federal environmental policy should be to orchestrate a harmonious relationship between environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic interests. Policy measures should be sensitive to all three concerns, reflecting their potential concurrence and taking advantage of mutual gain at every possible occasion.

My policies are definitely a team effort. Special recognition goes to my colleague Noah Toly, Ph.D. candidate at the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Delaware, for his excellent work on this issue."

Online Action: Vote for "God's Politics" for the Quills Book Award

Monday, August 22, 2005
call to action
Jim Wallis's book "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" is nominated for a prestigious new award, The Quills Award, that is open to public voting over the web.

"The Quills Awards are a new national book award that honors excellence in writing and publishing, including consumers in the voting process. Designed to inspire reading while promoting literacy, the Quills will honor winners in more than 15 different categories, including Book of the Year, Debut Author Of The Year, and Lifetime Achievement."

This has been a key book in opening up the religious political dialog beyond the "monologue of the Religious Right." Opening a lot of people's minds.

Please, vote for Wallis's God's Politics here....

quote of the day

"I'd like to thank everyone for your thoughts and prayers during the last few days. I'm happy to report that I've undergone a full battery of tests, and my doctors assure me that I'm fine. I feel great and look forward to getting back to work in the Senate after Labor Day.

We all have much for which to be grateful. I am more aware than ever of life's blessings, and I am thankful for your support. We are in this together."

-- Sen. Harry Reid

What will it Take?

Blog or Website
Thanks to Kate who pointed out the following blog posting from Imataio Christi blog, a site I hand't been aware of but will definitely watch... And Dems will need to remember this same lesson for the next Democratic President in 2008. Here are excerpts:

"In recent posts, I have been writing about the captivity of our imaginations, how the tyranny of current perceptions creates boundaries around our ability to imagine that things could be significantly different. Note that I say “current perceptions” rather than “current realities,” because those who would seek to keep our imaginations bound often do so by trying to create a false reality that serves their interests.

Over time, we may come to embrace these perceptions of reality, and we become increasingly bound by them as if drawn irresistibly into their orbit. They become “our reality,” and we can easily become the supporters and defenders of things that we should know better than to support or defend. When this happens, the question becomes how bad things will have to get before we awaken.

A form of this question is the one I have for my evangelical sisters and brothers: how long will the support for the Bush administration continue in light of its increasingly significant betrayal of the core commitments of Jesus? What will it take to demand either that they stop wrapping themselves in the mantle of Christian faith or that they begin to live up to the obligations that attend that mantle?

Frankly, while I have at least a passing grasp of church history, I am speechless pretty much on a daily basis due to the audacity of this administration and the deafening silence of so many evangelical leaders....

At any point in this sad story, we should have arrived at the point where all Christians would demand accountability. Yet, here we are facing all of these outrageous circumstances, and evangelicals remain the strongest supporters of this administration. What will it take?

My guess is that the answer is just this: as long as this administration talks up its opposition to abortion and homosexuality, then they can do whatever else they please and too many will remain quiet. I can only give thanks that the One we claim to follow did not have such a stilted view of morality..."

Philadelphia 1787 vs. Baghdad 2005

Blog or Website
Excerpts from an excellent Slate article:

"When things go particularly badly in Iraq—anarchy, insurgency, and now the delays in crafting a constitution—President George W. Bush and his top aides point reassuringly to the turbulence surrounding our own Founding Fathers' exertions to forge a republic...

In other words, so this argument goes, the United States of America took 11 years to go from the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution; therefore, don't be surprised that Iraq is still writhing a mere two years after the fall of Saddam—or that the delegates to its constitutional convention are experiencing difficulties.

There's something to this, of course, but why does Bush keep bringing it up? Far from easing our concerns about Iraq (ah, well, this is just how things go in the transition to democracy), comparing its plight with that of late 18th-century America—and likening the roundtable in Baghdad's Green Zone to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia—should only intensify the hackles and horrors.

The real inference to be drawn is that the American colonies were as well-fit for a democratic union as any society in human history—and they took more than a decade to get their act together. Today's Iraq enjoys almost none of their advantages, so how long will it take to move down the same path—and how long will we have to stay there to help?"

Bush's Approval Drops to the 30's

In this American Research Group Poll it shows the first example I've seen of Bush's popularity dropping down into the 30's...Interesting also how it points out that an "improving economy" is not helping everyone and is mostly being felt by Bush's base...Also amazing is that other than Republicans (who continue to approve at 77%?!) everyone else is alligned. For instance independants Bush has a 72% disapproval rate!

"Among all Americans, 36% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 58% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 33% approve and 62% disapprove.

Among Americans registered to vote, 38% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 56% disapprove, and 36% approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 60% disapprove.

This is the second month in a row when improving economic ratings have not been matched by higher job approval ratings for Bush. A total of 24% of Americans now say their personal financial situations are getting better, up from 17% in July, and 27% say they believe that their personal financial situations will be better off a year from now, which is up from 21% in July.

The increases in the personal financial ratings, however, are coming mainly from those approving of the way Bush is handling his job."

Iraq, Truth Telling, Deception and Self-Deception

Sunday, August 21, 2005
Blog or WebsiteHat Tip to Jesus Politics, for this essay by Baptist Center for Ethics Exec Director, Robert Parham, on deception, truth telling and Iraq:

"The president’s claim of progress [in Iraq], however, is misdirection—misdirection is a polite way to say deception.

Deception is one of the oldest of human sins. It has biblical roots in the creation story when the man and woman hid themselves among the trees of the garden from God. When God asked where they were, the man answered deceptively that he was afraid because of his nakedness. When God asked if the man had eaten the forbidden fruit, the man replied with more deception. He blamed his actions on the woman, given him by God, who had led him to eat the fruit.

On first reading, the text shows clearly that the man tried to deceive God. On second reading, the story creates speculation about the man’s own self-deception. Did he at some level see himself as innocent, the victim of what God had done to him with the woman who led him into sin? Did he think that he bore no responsibility for disobedience?

The sin of deception cuts two ways. One is misleading others, hiding the truth and covering up wrongful behavior. The other is misleading oneself about what really happened and avoiding one’s own accountability for it.

Misleading the nation about progress is one thing. Self-deception through repetitive claims is another, maybe even a more dangerous problem."

quote of the day

Saturday, August 20, 2005

"In U.S. politics, the party that most quickly absorbs the latest technology often dominates. F.D.R. dominated radio and the fireside chat; J.F.K., televised debates; Republicans, direct mail and then talk radio, and now Karl Rove's networked voter databases.

The technological model coming next - which Howard Dean accidentally uncovered but never fully developed - will revolve around the power of networks and blogging. The public official or candidate will no longer just be the one who talks to the many or tries to listen to the many. Rather, he or she will be a hub of connectivity for the many to work with the many - creating networks of public advocates to identify and solve problems and get behind politicians who get it."

-- Author Tom Friedman

"Hope had Two Children"

The Lindy Scott for Congress campaign announced it's official kick of rally on August 26th, in this Lindy wrote:

"Why do I want to serve you in congress? My motivation is summed up in an illustration used by Saint Augustine. “Hope had two beautiful children, Anger and Courage: Anger at the way things are and Courage to make them better.”

Our country is not living up to our ideals. While tax cuts benefit the very rich, many of our neighbors have lost their jobs, their educational opportunities, their healthcare and their dreams. Our foreign policy mistakes have caused needless death and suffering for millions. Let us have the courage and the determination to do better. Join me in making our highest aspirations become reality. We need a new voice to represent the 6th District in Washington, DC.

If you elect me to be your next Congressman, I will put my thirty-five years of experience, my integrity, my faith, and my passion for fairness at your service. My goal as your public servant is quite simple: to seek the well being of all of our neighbors. I will strengthen the social fabric of our communities by implementing policies that promote and cherish life for everyone, a “seamless garment” that covers all aspects of our society.

· Well funded education that meets the needs of our children
· Efficient healthcare available for all Americans
· A strengthened Social Security Program: both now and for the future
· Responsible foreign policy based upon human rights and mutual respect
· Wise and careful stewardship of our environment
· Fiscal responsibility: right priorities that do not put our children in debt

JOIN US AT 6:00 PM ON AUGUST 26TH AS LINDY KICKS OFF HIS CAMPAIGN WITH A RALLY IN MEMORIAL PARK, DOWNTOWN WHEATON. Live music, snacks, and testimonials from 6:00-7:00, with a short speech from Lindy at 7:00. Press conference to follow at 7:30."

Prayers for Harry

Friday, August 19, 2005
As you may have heard, Senate Minorty Leader Reid suffered a "mini stoke" and although it left no damage, he is recovering and going through treatment for this.

My father this year had exactly the same type of temporary stroke, or TIA, and is doing well, with almost no effects from this. Harry Reid, also has shown no signs of anything beyond the temporary effects of the mini stroke...

But please join me in remembering to pray for the Senator...

The Process of Shedding Unreality in Iraq Part II

In the middle of a scary report at MSNBC about rumored rise in Iraqi insurgant attacks around the time of the Constitution, comes this statement:

"At the same time, some Pentagon officials now acknowledge that the two-and-a-half-year insurgent war has turned Iraq into a terrorist training camp.

U.S. intelligence indicates Islamic militants from several African nations — Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan and Somalia — travel through Syria into Iraq, where they get hands-on training in roadside and suicide bombings, assassinations and kidnappings as well as counter-surveillance and counter-intelligence against military targets, constantly changing their tactics to counter American defenses.

“They can change within seven to 10 days,” says the U.S. Marine commandant, Gen. Michael Hagee, “That’s pretty darn good. We’re going against a thinking enemy.”

And Pentagon officials now fear those freshly trained terrorists are taking the deadly lessons they learn in Iraq to other countries. U.S. intelligence indicates many of the militants are returning home or slipping into Europe, where they may join existing terrorist groups or create and train new cells of their own.

That’s exactly the opposite of what the Bush administration had in mind when it invaded Iraq.

“Instead of going in to eliminate Iraq as a source of terrorism, Iraq now has a stronger terrorist presence than it did when Saddam Hussein was in power,” says NBC News terrorism analyst Roger Cressey.

A new army of terrorists now being trained could remain a threat long after the U.S.-led war in Iraq is over."

More on the Lindy Scott Run for Congress

As I've blogged before, I think the Scott campaign is worth attention and support...

I think that his run has the potential to show a more wholistic blend of progressive politics inspired by a religous faith.

Here is an article describing the updoming kick off rally for the Scott for Congress campaign from SuburbanChicagonews.com

"Earlier this month, Wheaton College professor Lindy Scott became the third Democrat running for Henry Hyde's open congressional seat in 2006.

Later this month, he will make it official — with an evening rally surrounding his Aug. 26 announcement at Memorial Park in downtown Wheaton.

He is new to politics, which he sees an advantage over his Democratic opponents. Christine Cegelis ran against Hyde last year, and Peter O'Malley ran for DuPage County Board in 2002.

For the past 10 years, Scott has worked as a professor of Spanish and Latin American studies at Wheaton College and is serving as director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics. Additionally, Scott volunteers and serves on the executive board of the Lydia Ministry, which serves neglected children in the Chicago area and empowers women and men to strengthen their families.

"My faith does influence my thinking on many issues, but it's more of the basic principles, the basic ethics of Jesus, that are common to most major religions — loving your neighbor as yourself," he said Monday. "So that would govern my thinking (in Congress)."

After 16 years of teaching in Mexico City, he said has a unique understanding of immigration policy.

"Rightfully, they're wanting to come to our country to seek a better life," he said. "A large number are not documented."

He disagrees with Bush's immigration plan. He would rather see the success of the Democratic plan moving through both houses of Congress, a plan in which, he says, illegal immigrants "come out of shadows ... and are encouraged to get involved in society."

Scott is also concerned the rising cost of the war in Iraq is coming at the expense of domestic health care, education and the environment.

"We look at $3-a-gallon gas prices, and we feel the pinch," he said. "I feel foreign policy is to blame. We need a domestic energy policy that gives incentives to production of hybrid cars. The legislation President Bush signed last week doesn't deal with that."

Scott said he was undeterred after Hyde endorsed state Sen. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, as his successor.

Illinois' 6th Congressional District stretches from Wheaton across northeast DuPage County into Cook County."

The First Two Years

Thursday, August 18, 2005
To the previous post, Kate responded:

"Yikes! And he has three more years yet."

True. And who knows where he goes from here? It may well depend largely on how Iraq transitions, how long how many troops are needed, and many other things....But I think this number also does come from folks realizing that much of Bush's second term agenda, really hasn't been about them.

Polls keep showing how outside of his base, independents view nation wide is as negative towards Bush's performance as are the Democrats.

And the ability for Democrats to highlight how Bush's Social Security privatization, environmental efforts and tax policies REALLY have, the better. Specifically Democrats strong stance on Social Security has been heartening to me.

And these first two years of his term will be crucial ones.

If you remember back to 2000, when Bush was speaking to a room of wealthy donors:
The New York Times quoted him:

"I'm going to come out strong after my swearing in," Bush said, "with fundamental tax reform, tort reform, privatizing of Social Security." The victories he expects in November, he said, will give us "two years, at least, until the next midterm. We have to move quickly, because after that I'll be quacking like a duck."

Dems should be finding common ground where we can, but we must also be showing how large parts of the Bush agenda for what they are: bad for our poor, bad for our elderly, bad for our environment, bad for our security, and bad for our economy. And when the time is right, we should be proposing better alternatives.

And Bush being in the mid to low 40's approval levels is a sign that people are seeing Bush's performance and agenda for what it is.

This helps for battles in Congress, where folks may be less anxious to allign with those policies given the poll results showing the strong view from across the nation -- from everyone that isn't a partisan Republican -- that we are on the "wrong track."

And the first two years are crucial.

Latest Bush Polling

From the latest Rasmussen poll, Bush's approval drops to it's lowest they ever recorded, and STRONGLY DISAPPROVE is the highest subgroup outnumbering STRONGLY APPROVE by 2 to 1:

"For the second straight day, just 43% of American adults approve of the way George W. Bush is performing his role as President. That's the lowest level ever recorded by Rasmussen Reports.

Fifty-six percent (56%) disapprove, the highest ever recorded.

The President's Approval Rating has fallen to 39% among women and 47% among men. Seventy-six percent (76%) of Republicans still give the President's Job Performance their Approval. That view is shared by 15% of Democrats and 35% of those not affiliated with either major political party."

(conservative) quote of the day

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

"In voting on whether or not to confirm a nominee, senators should not have to gamble or guess about a candidate's philosophy, but should be able to judge on the basis of the candidate's expressed views."

- Arlen Specter, on the Supreme Court nomination vetting process, in his book: Passion for Truth

Edwards: Poverty a Key Democrat Issue

Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Good story on John Edwards talking about Dems, the theme of standing up for the poor, and the new Progressive Leadership Action Network...Excerpts from the AP News story below:

"Democrats can build the party's national strength by pushing their policies in statehouses around the country, 2004 vice presidential candidate John Edwards told a group of legislators Tuesday.

Edwards, speaking at a luncheon for a new liberal policy group, said voters will reward lawmakers who advocate a cornerstone of Democratic ideology: fighting poverty and standing up for the poor.

"We know what we believe. We know what we stand for. But the American people need to hear it from us," the former U.S. senator told a group of about 300 at a waterfront convention center.

Edwards' speech highlighted a program put on by the Progressive Leadership Action Network, a group that aims to rival the clout of established right-leaning think tanks such as the American Legislative Exchange Council...

The group is hoping to raise $1.5 million in the next year, and is planning to target its work in a select group of states with legislative sessions in 2006...

Democratic Missouri state Sen. Patrick Dougherty said the new policy group's focus would help legislators feel they aren't alone in critical policy battles at the statehouse.

"It helps us to reach a lot of Americans who, I think, feel forgotten by a lot of politicians," he said.

The Action Network is made up of a research organization and a lobbying group. Officials said they also plan to develop networks of state legislators to exchange ideas and a roster of experts to help further left-leaning policies. The group hopes to expand into all 50 states by 2015.

Edwards praised the new group's focus on growth from the state level and deemed it a worthy effort for Democrats even if it takes time to yield major results.

'I think it can have an immediate impact, but we should view it as a long-term effort,' he said."

Blogger's Hippocratic Oath

Blog or Website
A writer friend of mine, Rob Asghar just wrote a collumn on bloggers, in which he cricizes many (most?) blogs as good at propoganda, but bad at truth telling, and things like accountability or attempts at "objectivity." Stinging criticism, but to me it has a ring of truth all too often. He makes a great suggestion of a Hippocratic oath of sorts for bloggers, which I happily subscribe to for the TalkingDonkeys blog...and invite comments pointing out where I fall short. Here is his bit:

"Blogging is primarily the place of the propagandist, of the partisan who is not held accountable for distortions. Bloggers should not attempt to have it both ways, boasting about how they are transparent and public in their biases, while coveting the journalistic status that goes to those who aim, however clumsily, to rise above personal bias.

"Reporters have to be able to stand in someone else's shoes and really understand their perspective," Dan Cray, a colleague who works as a contributor to Time and other publications, says. That is precisely the gift of intellectual honesty and empathy that most bloggers lack.

A Hippocratic Oath could separate the journalistic sheep from the goats. Borrowing from the old physician and from the codes of ethics of some professional journalistic organizations, let's try one out:

"I swear by whatever is dear and holy to me that I will fulfill to the best of my ability this oath:

-- 'I will endeavor to keep a free citizenry informed and educated so that it might make wise decisions regarding its internal and external affairs.'

-- 'While acknowledging the difficulty of objectivity, I will endeavor to bring a humble quest for truth in my work, characterized neither by arrogant dogma nor by cynical relativism.'

-- 'I will not be the tool of progagandists, who care less for honest debate and more for manipulating others into their desired course of action.'

-- 'I will not be a propagandist myself. I will not manipulate the flow, style or content of my reporting in order to subtly represent one point in a debate as being more enlightened than other. I will endeavor to rise past my inbuilt biases and assumptions, so that I might represent reality as well and fairly as I can.'

-- 'I will avoid professional conflicts of interest. I will be a respecter of confidences. I will not entrap people into self-incrimination. I will disown sources who trade in partisan rumors and innuendo.'

-- 'I will be cautious with the reputations of others and will give an opportunity for others to respond to allegations. I will also be bold in speaking truth to power, and I will not be ideologically selective in when I choose to question authority.'"

quote of the day

“Shedding unreality,” is a good first step:

"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground …We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

-- A senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion, as quoted in a Washington Post article on the future of Iraq

Dog Whistle Politics

Hat tip to PolticalWire for this...This same Business week article cites a study that "looks at voting patterns in U.S. Presidential elections from 1972 to 2000. For any given gender, age, race, and income level, a person who attends church at least monthly is 10 percentage points more likely to vote Republican."

Hmmm. But the study goes on to show how this seems not to be related to Democratic party policy, but based in part on personality. Perhaps based on how many of our candidates were percieved as being uncomfortable or unsupportive of religion. But when we did field a candidate that bucked that trend, the Republican advantage disappeared:

"But this relationship has changed over time. Because Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980 was perceived as strongly religious, churchgoing had only a small impact on Republican support. "

Lastly the article goes on to use a great phrase that I'll let it define: "dog whistle" politics:

"A Business Week piece by Robert Barro looks at a new study explaining why religion and politics "are so intertwined." With religion, politicians can easily cater to people with extreme positions -- "such as the ardently pro-life views of the Religious Right or the ardently pro-choice views of the secular left" -- but do so in a way that is still somewhat private.

In the recent British election campaign, this was termed dog whistle politics, 'a high-pitched political message that excites a receptive audience but is unintelligible to the rest of us.'

Used successfully, this strategy delivers a big response by the targeted group, in voter turnout or campaign contributions, but doesn't trigger a negative response by the group on the other side of the issue. 'One might have thought that the Internet's free flow of information would crimp the ability to keep messages private. The reality is that evangelicals do not want to read Web sites aimed at atheists, and vice versa. So, the political cleavages based on religious differences are likely to be a permanent feature of American and international politics.'"

Bad Theology, Bad Science Part II

Blog or Website
Once again covering the bad theology of Intelligent Design, but this time from Fred Clark at at Slactivist.

"Miller is, like me, one of those "not many people" who believes in both God and evolution. He's quite accustomed to dealing with Weisberg's assertion that these things are incompatible but, also like me, he's more accustomed to fielding such blanket assertions from the other side -- from the "scientific creationists" and their repackaged heirs in the "Intelligent Design" movement.

Miller sees the Intelligent Design argument for what it is: Bad theology.

They claim that the existence of life, the appearance of new species, and, most especially, the origins of mankind have not and cannot be explained by evolution or any other natural process. By denying the self-sufficiency of nature, they look for God (or at least a "designer") in the deficiencies of science. The trouble is that science, given enough time, generally explains even the most baffling things. As a matter of strategy, creationists would be well-advised to avoid telling scientists what they will never be able to figure out. History is against them. In a general way, we really do understand how nature works.

And evolution forms a critical part of that understanding. Evolution really does explain the very things that its critics say it does not. Claims disputing the antiquity of the earth, the validity of the fossil record, and the sufficiency of evolutionary mechanisms vanish upon close inspection. Even to the most fervent anti-evolutionists, the pattern should be clear -- their favorite "gaps" are filling up: the molecular mechanisms of evolution are now well-understood, and the historical record of evolution becomes more compelling with each passing season. This means that science can answer their challenges to evolution in an obvious way. Show the historical record, provide the data, reveal the mechanism, and highlight the convergence of theory and fact.

There is, however, a deeper problem caused by the opponents of evolution, a problem for religion. ... They have based their search for God on the premise that nature is not self-sufficient. By such logic, only God can make a species, just as Father Murphy believed only God could make a flower. Both assertions support the existence of God only so long as these assertions are true, but serious problems for religion emerge when they are shown to be false.

If we accept a lack of scientific explanation as proof for God's existence, simple logic would dictate that we would have to regard a successful scientific explanation as an argument against God. That's why creationist reasoning, ultimately, is much more dangerous to religion than to science. Elliot Meyerowitz's fine work on floral induction suddenly becomes a threat to the divine, even though common sense tells us it should be nothing of the sort.

Bad theology is incompatible with science, but that's not the biggest problem facing it. The more immediate problem facing bad theology is that it is incompatible with good theology."

quote of the day

Monday, August 15, 2005

"My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don't let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that's my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love...

There's nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is...

… [I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s--- and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it."

-- Bono, in "Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas"

More than a Watchmaker

Blog or Website
Great posting over at "I Am A Christian, too" over "Intelligent Design" as bad science and poor theology...as diminishing the role of God as the True Creator of time and space and "being" itself... Read the whole thing, but here are excerpts:

"The LA Times has an opinion piece today by Michael McGough on intelligent design titled Bad science, bad theology. In it, he explains why Christians do God a disservice by insisting that God is the designer and maker of the universe....

'God’s self-disclosure in creation, therefore, is not like the traces of the watchmaker in his watch. God is revealed in the world first of all not through the ‘whatness’ of things but through the ‘isness’ of things. That anything exists at all is the primordial mystery that points us to God...

For atheists, the distinction between these accounts of the doctrine of creation and intelligent design might seem a distinction without a difference. After all, they both see a God of some sort behind or under (pick your metaphor) physical reality. Yet for many Christians, it is not only possible but necessary to reject the idea of God as the watchmaker, the mere Intelligent Designer, who walks away from his work...'

...Time is a creation of God’s, along with the spatial dimensions of the universe. The Big Bang does not imply that God stretched out a finger at some point in the past to start the universe and then retired. In a single creative act, God created the universe from the very beginning of time until the very end of time. We are now living in the midst of God’s creative act, and through God’s grace, are allowed to be co-creators with God.

Science has clearly demonstrated that evolution is part of God’s creation. But humans didn’t arise as a mere random event, as a non-theist would have it. And evolution didn’t require God’s constant tinkering with its mechanism over time to make sure it led to us. Humans arose because God created, or rather creates, a universe that seamlessly and inevitably stretches from the Big Bang to the formation of stars, planets, the earth, complex organic compounds, single-celled organisms, vertebrates, humans, and God only knows what’s next, until literally the end of time....
Intelligent Design completely misses this incredible wondrousness of creation.

Like McGough, I think that Intelligent Design turns an omnipotent God into a tinkerer, an artisan in a workshop. God is so much more than that."

AP News: Bush Approval a Low for Recent 2-Termers

Sunday, August 14, 2005
From AP News:

"President Bush's standing with an American public anxious about Iraq and the nation's direction is lower than that of the last two men who won re-election to the White House — Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton — at this point in their second terms.

But solid backing from his base supporters has kept Bush from sinking to the depths reached by former presidents Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Bush's father. Truman decided not to run for re-election. Nixon resigned. Carter and the first President Bush were defeated in re-election campaigns.

'This president should be glad he's not running for re-election,' said Karlyn Bowman, a public opinion analyst from the American Enterprise Institute. 'But the president is clearly holding his base. It's very important for him to keep the base support in terms of getting things done.'

Indeed, Republicans in Congress already are starting to fret about the 2006 election. If Bush's approval ratings sink lower, more of them may be unwilling to go along with his major initiatives for fear it could cause backlash for them with voters.

Bush's job approval in recent polls ranges from the low- to mid-40s. It was 42 percent in the latest AP-Ipsos poll. His ratings on everything from handling Iraq to the economy to Social Security and other domestic issues are at their lowest levels so far.

Reagan was at 57 percent at this stage of his presidency and Clinton was at 61 percent, according to Gallup polling at the time."