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Play the Game Better

Sunday, January 29, 2006
Good article in Slate that is a realistic and sober analysis of the state of the Democrats...Michael Kisley argues that the main issue Democrats face isn't ideas, but in simply playing politics better.
How dire is it for the Democrats? George Will noted on TV the other day that they have lost five of the past seven presidential elections. This baseball-like statistic—"Democrats have lost X of the past Y elections"—has been one of Will's favorite tropes over the generations. But why now five out of seven? Two out of the past four would be equally accurate, and not nearly as grim.

And then there is election of 2000. We can argue forever (and will) about who won that election, but if the question is whose views attracted more voters, there is no dispute that the answer is the Democrats. Attributing 2000 to the Democrats means they have won two of the past three elections, three of the past four, and a non-apocalyptic three of the magic seven.

The official illustration of the Kick the Democrats movement is a map of the United States, showing huge swaths of red with just a few tiny accents of blue. Of course this gives an unrealistic advantage to big states with few people. But then so does our electoral system. The deeper flaw is the assumption that everybody in red states is red and ditto the blues. A map showing red and blue people, not states, would look a homogenous purple. John Kerry got 43 percent of the vote in states that went for George Bush, and Bush got 45 percent in Kerry states. Liberals are not nearly so rare and so culturally isolated as the official map would suggest. This is little comfort to Democrats when it comes to the math of winning elections. But it does suggest that endless self-flagellation about their values and beliefs may not be the best strategy for turning things around.

This is not an argument for complacency. Obviously the party that has lost the White House, both houses of Congress, and now the courts needs some new ideas and new energy. But it seems undeniably true to me—though many deny it—that the Republicans simply play the game better.

"A Total Lack of Reason in Political Decision-making"

Saturday, January 28, 2006
"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD." - Isaiah 1:18

God seems to value reason in his interactions with the Prophet Isaiah, but a new studys hows how far we are from this idea in our own "hashing things out" politically.

A study on the brian activity of both Republican and Democrats during political debate:

"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts."

Bias on both sides

The test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not rationally be discounted, Westen and his colleagues say.

Then, with their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions such as disgust. But activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix, Westen explained.

The study points to a total lack of reason in political decision-making."

ChristianityToday: "5 Reasons Torture is always Wrong And There Should be No Exceptions"

Friday, January 27, 2006
Read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt from the most recent Christianity Today magazine:

"5 Reasons Torture is always Wrong
And why there should be no exceptions."

...We do not want to expose our policies, our prisons, or our prisoners to public view. We deny that we are torturing, or we deny that our prisoners are really prisoners. When pushed against the wall, we remind one another how evil the enemy is. We give every evidence of the kind of self-deception that is characteristic of a descent into sin.

It is past time for evangelical Christians to It is past time for evangelical Christians to remind our government and our society of perennial moral values, which also happen to be international and domestic laws. As Christians, we care about moral values, and we vote on the basis of such values. We care deeply about human-rights violations around the world. Now it is time to raise our voice and say an unequivocal no to torture, a practice that has no place in our society and violates our most cherished moral convictions."

Study Finds Rich-Poor Income Gap Growing

The gap seems to be widening, as found in this latest study:

"In most states, the gap between the highest-income families and poor and middle-income families grew significantly between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, according to a new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute. The study is one of the few to examine income inequality at the state as well as national level.

The incomes of the country’s richest families have climbed substantially over the past two decades, while middle- and lower-income families have seen only modest increases. This trend is in marked contrast to the broadly shared increases in prosperity between World War II and the 1970s.

In addition, while income inequality declined following the bursting of the stock and high-tech bubbles in 2000 — both of which were quite costly to the highest-income families — early national-level data suggest that inequality began growing again in 2003. Incomes at the top have rebounded strongly from the stock market correction, while the negative effects of the recent recession on low- and moderate-income families have lasted longer than usual. Thus, it appears that the two-decade-long trend of worsening income inequality has resumed.

The study is based on Census income data that have been adjusted to account for inflation, the impact of federal taxes, and the cash value of food stamps, subsidized school lunches, and housing vouchers. Income from capital gains is also included. The study compares combined data from 2001-2003 with data from the early 1980s and early 1990s, time periods chosen because they stand as comparable low points of their respective business cycles.

Income inequality increased rapidly during the 1980s. During the 1990s exceptionally low unemployment produced relatively broad-based wage growth during the latter part of the decade. This broad-based growth ended with the 2001 economic downturn. Growth in real wages for low- and moderate-income families began to slow and by 2003 wages began to decline."

Quote of the Day

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
"Osama bin Laden released his first new audiotaped message in over a year. While there is some new material in the message, insiders say it's mostly a Greatest Threats collection. A White House spokesman says they plan to check out the message in its entirety, but they're too busy listening to your phone calls."

---Tina Fey

Lindy Scott Videos

Monday, January 23, 2006
Video of Lindy Scott in the debates:

And individually being interviewed:

"It Could Happen"

I've said before, the Lindy Scott Campaign for Congress (IL-06) is one to watch, to support and to learn from:

From local blog Wurfwhile:

"The Lindy Scott campaign in the 6th Congressional District raised over $103,000 by the end of last quarter (December 31) and has about $80,000 cash on hand for the upcoming primary. By traditional standards this is not a ton of money - but Scott's campaign is not a traditional campaign, and in the end it might be enough....

The Scott campaign has a 12 member Latino sub-committee devising strategy and outreach, scores of Spanish speaking volunteers walking heavily Latino precincts and dozens of posters in Latino businesses. Beyond Latino endorsements, the Scott campaign has also reached out to and received endorsements from Pakistani Americans, Filipino Americans and Indian Americans among other groups.

Independent of my own analysis, when one reads or hears descriptions of debates and forums where Scott is easily compared with the other Democratic candidates in the race, the presumed frontrunners Christine Cegelis and Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth, what strikes one is how often supporters of other candidates praise Scott's performance and find that, sometimes with reservations because of his religious background, they nonetheless could support Scott for congress. That says a lot. In a three-way race with neither candidate a natural attraction for Scott's evangelical, Latino and "Democrats for Life" base, that mainstream appeal may even say enough.

Traditionally Latinos do not vote heavily - and the 6th District is only about 12.5% Latino. But a quarter of the district doesn't speak English at home and almost 20% of it is foreign born. The combination of Lindy's extensive religious and Latino connections, his years spent living abroad in Mexico and his unassuming, charismatic and winning personality could take the Scott campaign pretty far.

Lindy Scott is by far not a likely winner in the 6th District Democratic Primary - but if he can turn out his Latino, ethnic and non-traditional Democratic base, attract cross-over votes (presumably mostly from evangelicals and alienated GOP voters attracted to his religious background and/or abortion stance) he might do a lot better than most people think. With limited funds, Scott volunteers will need to cover the district in shoe leather instead of paper mailers - and organizational ability will be key. If Scott's organization is up to the challenge, it could happen."

By Contrast, Back Down to 36%

From the latest American Research Group poll:

"George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has returned to its lowest point in Bush's presidency as Americans again turn less optimistic about the national economy according to the latest survey from the American Research Group. 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, 34% approve and 60% disapprove."

48% and Growing

Progress is progress. From the latest Gallup national polling:

"Democrats made gains in party identification on the national level and more U.S. states had Democratic leanings in 2005 than any time in the last four years.

Gallup conducted more than 42,000 interviews in its multi-day polls in 2005, and asked each American who was interviewed whether he or she identified as a Republican, independent, or Democrat. If respondents identified as independents, Gallup asked whether they leaned more toward the Democratic or the Republican Party. The large number of interviews allows for an analysis of partisanship at the state level, which Gallup has done in each of the last four years.

Overall, in 2005, basic party identification was even -- 33% of Americans each identified as Republicans, independents, and Democrats. When independents' leanings are taken into account, the Democrats gain an advantage -- 48% of Americans either identified as Democrats or leaned to the Democratic Party, while 43% identified as Republicans or leaned to the Republican Party. That represents the largest Democratic advantage since 2000.

Additionally, the number of states where the Democrats hold an edge in partisan identification grew last year for the second year in a row. Twenty-eight states plus the District of Columbia now have a Democratic advantage in party identification of more than three percentage points, while 14 have Republican advantages, and six can be considered competitive (Gallup does not normally interview in Alaska and Hawaii).

In 2002 and 2003, more states had Republican advantages than Democratic advantages."

Historic Progressive Quote of the Day

With this historic quote, I choose to include more of than is often repeated. It is an amazing example of Kennedy not letting his opponents define liberalism, and his restating the true definition, including as a core part of that defintion responsible, lean, smart and effective governence.

"What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by 'Liberal' they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of 'Liberal.'

But if by a 'Liberal' they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a 'Liberal,' then I'm proud to say I'm a 'Liberal...'

For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man's ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind.

I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others.

I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.

Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor.

I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies."

John F. Kennedy, September 14, 1960

Democrats and "Bridge Values"

A really good article from American Prospect on research from a company Environics, that supports that US voters are looking for "bridge values," rather than politcal policy... If you remember Kerry's oft quoted "I have a plan..." for various issues (including many where clearly Bush had no plan), this would show one reason why that was less effected than expected. We need, according to Environics, less stressing on "policy statements" and more on "belief statements."
I'd suggest reading the whole thing, but here are some excerpts below:

Rather than focusing on reframing the Democratic message, as Berkeley linguistics and cognitive science professor George Lakoff has recommended, or on redoubling Democratic efforts to persuade Americans to become economic populists, as another school of thought suggests, the American Environics team argued that the way to move voters on progressive issues is to sometimes set aside policies in favor of values. By focusing on “bridge values,” they say, progressives can reach out to constituents of opportunity who share certain fundamental beliefs, even if the targeted parties don’t necessarily share progressives’ every last goal...

Democrats have had a tremendous amount of difficulty in recent years recognizing the central role of cultural factors in the life of the polity and in their own demise. This is finally starting to change. In the year since election-night exit polls put the fear of God -- or the fear of people who fear God -- into Democrats, there has been a slow but marked shift within the party, and within progressive circles more broadly, in terms of approaching values questions.

Even those who have been most focused on populist economics have started coming around to this new view. Shortly after the 2004 election, the Center for American Progress launched a series of meetings with liberal religious leaders that ultimately gave rise to a new project on religion and values, which will work closely with Shellenberger and Nordhaus.

Post-election, the Democratic National Committee’s pollster, Cornell Belcher, preached the wisdom of situating traditional Democratic appeals in the language of values, while DNC Chair Howard Dean traveled the country teaching the new talk. Progressive actions on the ground reinforced the utility of the new approach, and in 2005 Tim Kaine took the statehouse in Virginia, where nearly half of state residents attend church at least once a week, by running a campaign that presented him to voters as a person of faith...

In the spring of 2005 Kaine’s pollster, Peter Brodnitz, of the polling firm Benenson Strategy Group, decided that the campaign needed to develop a strategy to handle such charges. It convened a focus group of white, conservative, religious voters, and explored different ways Kaine could reach out to them. The result was startling. Brodnitz found that once Kaine started talking about his religious background and explaining that his opposition to the death penalty grew out of his Catholic faith, not only did charges that he was weak on crime fail to stick, but he became inoculated against a host of related charges that typically plague and undermine the campaigns of Democratic candidates.

“Once people understood the values system that the position grew out of, they understood that’s he’s not a liberal,” says Brodnitz. “We couldn’t even convince them he was a liberal once we’d done that.”

Strategists who had been predicting Democratic success with a more values-based approach considered themselves vindicated. Virginia elected its second Democratic governor in a row, and its first one to survive opposition to the death penalty in an electoral fight.

"People appreciate that I have a moral yardstick, and, even if they don’t have the same one, they appreciate that I have one and it’s not all about what a speechwriter puts in front of me or what a pollster tells me,” the governor-elect told the Prospect. That moral yardstick may be just the tool Democrats need.

10 Words

Thursday, January 19, 2006
Here is my stab at "10 Words" or less that define the Democratic message, and actually I got it in 9:

"Smarter, effective government protecting, uniting and empowering it's citizenry."

If you like it, vote for it here.

It is a simple but useful exercise from the Gov. Tom Vilsack PAC. What are yours?

Democrat Declaration

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Virtually the entire Democratic Party leadership - Governors, House and Senate and local State leaders just signed a pledge for sweeping reform. Sign it too... Show your personal support for this plegde to honest, open leadership...

"Today, Democrats across America—including those in the U.S. House and Senate, our governors, mayors and state legislators—are declaring that it is time to end the Republican culture of corruption prevailing through all levels of government. We are committed to immediate change to lead this country in a new direction, to put an end to Republican business as usual, and to make certain this nation's leaders serve the people's interests, not special interests. For us, this commitment spans our lifetime, as we were elected to represent the people, not the powerful.

Our goal is to restore accountability, honesty and openness at all levels of government. To do so, we will create and enforce rules that demand the highest ethics from every public servant, sever unethical ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, and establish clear standards that prevent the trading of official business for gifts.

Honest leadership is not a partisan goal. It is the key to a stronger union. We must all work together to put progress ahead of politics. Together, America can do better. We can change this government, and the American people deserve nothing less.

Our government must reflect the absolute best of the people it serves. With honest leadership and open government, America’s leaders can once again focus on the urgent needs of the American people: real security overseas and at home, economic strength and educational excellence, affordable health care, energy independence, and retirement security.

In 2006, we, the undersigned, hereby declare that we will once again provide honest leadership and open government for all our citizens and put the Republican culture of corruption behind us, so we can make progress on the real issues facing America."

MLK Quotes of the Day

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I' m reposting this from last year's post on MLK day. (This may become a tradion on this blog) ...How I wish he were still here as a mentor, spiritual guide and political voice alive today.

"I've been reading a lot of Martin Luther King's writings and sermons and especially today though I should highlight two passages from two different sermons. One much more personal but both deeply moving to me. We have so much still to learn from from Martin. Had he not been killed he would be 76 this month.

Here is the first quote on what we might call today a holistic view of the Gospel:

"And what I’m doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man. Not merely his soul, but his body. It’s all right to talk about heaven. I talk about it because I believe firmly in immortality. But you’ve got to talk about the earth. It’s all right to talk about long white robes over yonder, but I want a suit and some shoes to wear down here. It’s all right to talk about the streets flowing with milk and honey in heaven, but I want some food to eat down here. It’s even all right to talk about the new Jerusalem. But one day we must begin to talk about the new Chicago, the new Atlanta, the new New York, the new America.

And any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men (Well) and is not concerned about the slums that cripple the souls—the economic conditions that stagnate the soul (Yes) and the city governments that may damn the soul—is a dry, dead, do-nothing religion (Yes, Amen) in need of new blood."

And from another sermon, this very personal story:

"But I never will forget one night very late. It was around midnight. And you can have some strange experiences at midnight. (Yes, sir) I had been out meeting with the steering committee all that night. And I came home, and my wife was in the bed and I immediately crawled into bed to get some rest to get up early the next morning to try to keep things going. And immediately the telephone started ringing and I picked it up. On the other end was an ugly voice.

That voice said to me, in substance, "Nigger, we are tired of you and your mess now. And if you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow your brains out and blow up your house." (Lord Jesus)

I’d heard these things before, but for some reason that night it got to me. I turned over and I tried to go to sleep, but I couldn’t sleep. (Yes) I was frustrated, bewildered.

And then I got up and went back to the kitchen and I started warming some coffee, thinking that coffee would give me a little relief. And then I started thinking about many things. I pulled back on the theology and philosophy that I had just studied in the universities, trying to give philosophical and theological reasons for the existence and the reality of sin and evil, but the answer didn’t quite come there.

I sat there and thought about a beautiful little daughter who had just been born about a month earlier. We have four children now, but we only had one then. She was the darling of my life. I’d come in night after night and see that little gentle smile. And I sat at that table thinking about that little girl and thinking about the fact that she could be taken away from me any minute. (Go ahead)

And I started thinking about a dedicated, devoted, and loyal wife who was over there asleep. (Yes) And she could be taken from me, or I could be taken from her. And I got to the point that I couldn’t take it any longer; I was weak. (Yes)

Something said to me, you can’t call on Daddy now, he’s up in Atlanta a hundred and seventy-five miles away. (Yes) You can’t even call on Mama now. (My Lord) You’ve got to call on that something in that person that your Daddy used to tell you about. (Yes) That power that can make a way out of no way. (Yes)

And I discovered then that religion had to become real to me and I had to know God for myself. (Yes, sir) And I bowed down over that cup of coffee—I never will forget it. (Yes, sir) And oh yes, I prayed a prayer and I prayed out loud that night. (Yes)

I said, "Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right. (Yes) I think I’m right; I think the cause that we represent is right. (Yes) But Lord, I must confess that I’m weak now; I’m faltering; I’m losing my courage. (Yes) And I can’t let the people see me like this because if they see me weak and losing my courage, they will begin to get weak." (Yes) I wanted tomorrow morning to be able to go before the executive board with a smile on my face.

And it seemed at that moment that I could hear an inner voice saying to me, (Yes) "Martin Luther, (Yes) stand up for righteousness, (Yes) stand up for justice, (Yes) stand up for truth. (Yes) And lo I will be with you, (Yes) even until the end of the world."

And I’ll tell you, I’ve seen the lightning flash. I’ve heard the thunder roll. I felt sin- breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul. But I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No, never alone. No, never alone. He promised never to leave me, (Never) never to leave me alone."

As threatened an bomb was detonated on Dr. King's front porch 3 days later. No one in his family was killed, and King later said: "My religious experience a few nights before gave me the strength to face it."

Christians Against Pat Speaking

Saturday, January 14, 2006
Sign Up:

To: Pat Robertson

Dear Rev. Robertson,

We appreciate all your hard work and dedication to ministry over the years, but we are now asking that you please retire or at least stop making unfounded, insane-sounding comments and trying to pass them off as mainstream Christian thought such as:

1. Calling for the assassination of foreign heads of state (Hugo Chavez).
2. Telling people God will abandon or punish/destroy them (Dover, PA residents) because they exercised their right to vote against intelligent design supporting school board members.
3. Saying that morbidly overweight, elderly heads of state (Ariel Sharon) have strokes as the result of punishments from God for seeking peace rather than simple cardiovascular disease.

Seriously Pat, you're embarrassing the rest of us Christians who are trying to demonstrate God's love and mercy to a broken world already suspicious of religion and religious people.


The Undersigned

quote of the day

Friday, January 13, 2006
"Francis Schaffer said that the church should be co-agitators with different organizations but we should never align ourselves with any political party and I would add that I think it’s nearly impossible to follow Jesus if you are following a party line.

Jesus would not have walked a party line, and he didn’t. In our Western culture, we have a two-party system. So it’s like one position and then a caricature of that position; one extreme and then a caricature of that extreme. It’s two ideas pushed in as opposite directions as you can possibly go and nobody in the middle—that’s what we have politically. And there are moments where Jesus says things that are very conservative and other moments where he is a flaming liberal.

If you’re going to follow him, you have to be willing to go back and forth. You have to be willing to be called liberal one minute and right-wing the very next. Unfortunately, the church has become so predictable in its politics that I think this whole thing has really tied the hands and feet of the church to be able to follow Jesus. Jesus was not predictable in his politics and we shouldn’t be either."

-- Derek Webb

State of Belief on Air America Radio

Thursday, January 12, 2006
Check out this new show on Air America Radio... (HT to StreetProphets)...

"State of Belief is based on the proposition that religion has a positive and healing role to play in the life of the nation. The show explains and explores that role by illustrating the vast diversity of beliefs in America – the most religiously diverse country in the world – while exposing and critiquing both the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes and the religious manipulation of government for sectarian purposes.

Each week, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy offers listeners critical analysis of the news of religion and politics, and seeks to provide listeners with an understanding and appreciation of religious liberty. Rev. Gaddy tackles politics with the firm belief that the best way to secure freedom for religion in America is to secure freedom from religion. State of Belief illustrates how the Religious Right is wrong – wrong for America and bad for religion.

Through interviews with celebrities and newsmakers and field reports from around the country, State of Belief explores the intersection of religion with politics, culture, media, and activism, and promotes diverse religious voices in a religiously pluralistic world."

Their blog can be found here, and the show airs Sundays at unday - from 5-6 PM eastern on the Air America Radio network.

"A King and a Kingdom", and "A New Law"

Two good reasons to check out Derek Webs new album are these two tracks...
Lyrics below:

A King & A Kingdom

(vs. 1)

who's your brother, who's your sister
you just walked passed him
i think you missed her
as we're all migrating to the place where our father lives
'cause we married in to a family of immigrants

my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it's to a king & a kingdom

(vs. 2)
there are two great lies that i’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him



but nothing unifies like a common enemy
and we’ve got one, sure as hell
but he may be living in your house
he may be raising up your kids
he may be sleeping with your wife
oh no, he may not look like you think

A New Law

(vs. 1)

don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for

don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music

don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law

i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me

i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law

(vs. 2)

don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice

don’t teach me about loving my enemies

don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law


what’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid

Intelligent Design as Laziness

Wednesday, January 11, 2006
From a friend of mine's blog, I really like his insight that perhaps part of what is motivating the ID movement is a form of "laziness" in in this sense:

It shows a desire to mass project a theological belief upon a population though inclusion in a science ciriculum where it doesn't belong, versus the long hard work of indivudial conversations -- one on one -- and forming actual spiritual friendships where religious topics like God as Creator are vetted out.

"Can a religious person advocate against intelligent design? I do. As an orthodox Jew, I believe in the divinity of the Bible and I subscribe to the idea that God created the world and everything in it. To me, science is a process of unlocking God’s perfection for the betterment of humanity. God wants us to learn how to heal the sick and improve our environment, so God endows us with scientific knowledge and a quest for scientific truth.

When the time comes for my sons to learn biology, I hope that they will learn just the latest science and nothing else. If my sons have to learn that God created the world by taking a science class, then I will have failed as an orthodox Jewish parent. Alternatively, if my sons’ faith in a Creator can be shaken by the content of a biology class, then I will also have failed in my efforts to instill in them the foundation beliefs of the Jewish religion...

The whole exercise is pointless, in my opinion, because I do not think that the religious Right’s vision of mass indoctrination will even work. In my experience, any meaningful personal embrace of values has to be voluntary to be effective. Values only take hold on a societal level when there is broad adoption of values at the personal level. The religious Right is attempting to force a process that can only be done one person at a time, one choice at a time."

Epiphany and Epiphanies

Tuesday, January 10, 2006
From author Lauren Winner on Epiphany...here is an excerpt but read the whole thing:

"Epiphany — the word comes from the Greek for manifestation, or to appear or to show forth — is the season the church devotes to seeing who Jesus is. Many churches begin their observance of Epiphany with a recitation or even reenactment of the three wise men bringing their gifts to the baby Jesus.

The gifts help us to see who Jesus is: gold is a gift one gives a king; frankincense, a special incense with curative powers that was used by the Israelites in front of the Tent of Meeting, shows us that Jesus is the true tent of meeting, the place we go to meet God; and myrrh, an embalming resin used to prepare bodies for burial, shows us that Jesus was born to die.

The wise men's gifts, in other words, make something about Jesus manifest — and the wise men themselves, as the first people who will take word of Jesus to a larger audience, show forth the infant king to their corner of the world."

During Epiphany, churches also read about Jesus' baptism, a dramatic event at which God "showed forth" something of Jesus' uniqueness. This time of year, I am often reminded of a minor character in the movie Amistad, a slave who becomes a Christian; after coming to faith, he sees crosses everywhere he looks. That is what Epiphany invites us into: a new kind of seeing...

Epiphany is a season of Light. After we have packed away the Christmas lights with which we strung our trees, we find the church calendar giving us still more time and space to consider Jesus, the Light of the World, and to consider the way that we might get our own lights out from under all those bushels, and manifest Jesus to the world..."

Counting the Cost

From this CSM article on the latest estimates of the cost of the Iraq war. The lowball figure is $2 Trillion. Or as it says in the article "Direct operating costs" of the war are around $4.5 billion a month according to the Marines, $7.1 billion according to Stiglitz and Bilmes."

"A new study by Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001, and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes concludes that the total costs of the Iraq war could top the $2 trillion mark. Reuters reports this total, which is far above the US administration's prewar projections, takes into account the long term healthcare costs for the 16,000 US soldiers injured in Iraq so far.
"Even taking a conservative approach, we have been surprised at how large they are," the study said, referring to total war costs. "We can state, with some degree of confidence, that they exceed a trillion dollars."

The higher $2 trillion amount takes a 'moderate' approach. Both figures are based on the projection that US troops will remain in Iraq until 2010, with steadily decreasing numbers each year."

The BBC story on this same topic calls out the health costs that Steiglitz and Blimes factor in, sayting that of the approximately 16,000 US wounded that: "20% of injured US personnel have brain injuries, 6% have had amputations and another 20% have other serious injuries."

Quote of the Day

Monday, January 09, 2006
This is actually an older quote, advice written shortly after Bush's re-election on how the Dems should handle future Supreme Court Nominees:

"...Here is a rule of thumb: if an otherwise qualified Supreme Court Nominee would turn the clock back 10 years, approve; back 25 years, vote no; back a half century, fillibuster."

-- Nicholas Kristoff, Pulitzer Prize winning Columnist, NY Times


Bipartisan Report: Warrantless Wiretaps Illegal

Highlights from this bipartisan Congressional report, covered by this Post story...in essence, this was an illegal act by the Bush admin, and a clear overreach of executive power.

"A report by Congress's research arm concluded yesterday that the administration's justification for the warrantless eavesdropping authorized by President Bush conflicts with existing law and hinges on weak legal arguments.

The Congressional Research Service's report rebuts the central assertions made recently by Bush and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales about the president's authority to order secret intercepts of telephone and e-mail exchanges between people inside the United States and their contacts abroad.

The findings, the first nonpartisan assessment of the program's legality to date, prompted Democratic lawmakers and civil liberties advocates to repeat calls yesterday for Congress to conduct hearings on the monitoring program and attempt to halt it.

The 44-page report said that Bush probably cannot claim the broad presidential powers he has relied upon as authority to order the secret monitoring of calls made by U.S. citizens since the fall of 2001. Congress expressly intended for the government to seek warrants from a special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before engaging in such surveillance when it passed legislation creating the court in 1978, the CRS report said.

The report also concluded that Bush's assertion that Congress authorized such eavesdropping to detect and fight terrorists does not appear to be supported by the special resolution that Congress approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which focused on authorizing the president to use military force.

"It appears unlikely that a court would hold that Congress has expressly or impliedly authorized the NSA electronic surveillance operations here," the authors of the CRS report wrote. The administration's legal justification "does not seem to be . . . well-grounded," they said...

"This report contradicts the president's claim that his spying on Americans was legal," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), one of the lawmakers who asked the CRS to research the issue. "It looks like the president's wiretapping was not only illegal, but also ensnared innocent Americans who did nothing more than place a phone call."

Cool Idea, and Good Wiki

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Pretty cool. An innovative way for this Senate candidate to engage with (and evangelize his positions to)the people he hopes to lead...Dem hopefull Pete Ashdown has set up a compelling looking campaign wiki... (This may well have been done in other races, but I'd not seen it before...)

You can check Ashdown's Campaign wiki here, and here is a description of it from the American Press Insitute site which I excerpt from below:

"Pete Ashdown’s campaign against incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch takes a revolutionary approach using wiki technology to enable his supporters to become a true political community with a real say-so in his campaign platform.

This is not your father’s opinion poll

Ashdown has fully embraced the notion that Senators are delegates, not trustees. In order to determine what the voters want him to do if he gets elected, he has created an issue collaboration wiki on his campaign Web site. According to Wikipedia, the most famous wiki, a wiki “is a group of Web pages that allows users to add content, as on an Internet forum, but also permits others (often completely unrestricted) to edit the content.”

Ashdown begins each issue topic in his wiki with a brief statement outlining his core position and then opens the discussion up to anyone visiting the site. He participates in this discussion and uses the comments from voters to further develop his position and his plan of action. In addition to commenting on issues Ashdown has listed, voters can raise new issues not listed. Further, he hosts a chatroom on his site where voters can discuss the issues and the campaign in real-time, often with the candidate participating."

progressive quote of the day

Sunday, January 01, 2006

In addition to the topical "quotes of the day" and the ocassional "conservative quote of the day," I'm adding a feature to the blog which is for lack of a better term a "historic, progressive quote of the day."

This is supposed to be key quotes from political progressives that resonate with me, and that I think speak to the heart of what it has meant and continues to mean to be a Progressive and a Democrat.

Many have spoken about the need for the Democrats to "rebrand" themselves. And to shake off the negative brand associations labeled upon us by our political opponents. Maybe some of that can come from this exercise...And as always, feel free to post in the comments quotes that you find inspiring and/or important.

And given the focus of the blog, often times quotes will show an anchoring to a specific Christian position or worldview.

Starting with a quotation about the role of government, and an early cirtique to what would later be called "trickle down" economics... This isn't specifically a "Christian" quote, but it comes from an evangelical (some would call fundamentalist) who was a lay pastor, a 3 time Democratic Presidential nominee, a Democratic Congressman, and later Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of State, Williams Jennings Bryan.

It speaks to a core Progressive emphasis on "The Common Good."

"Upon which side will the Democratic party fight: upon the side of the 'idle holders of idle capital' or upon the side of "the struggling masses?" That is the question which the party must answer first, and then it must be answered by each individual hereafter.

The sympathies of the Democratic party, as shown by the platform, are on the side of the struggling masses who have ever been the foundation of the Democratic party.

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them."

-- Williams Jennings Bryan, 1896

Nancy Pelosi on the Immoral Federal Budget

From today's Democratic Radio address by Nancy Pelosi...Note that the protest she refers to can be seen more over at the Sojourner's site... It involved 115 religious activists including Jim Wallis and Brian Mclaren in the act of civil disobedience protesting the latest Federal budget.

"2006 is a year of decision.

"One of the first decisions Members of Congress will make is reconsideration of the Republican budget. The federal budget should be a statement of our national values. Sadly, the Republican budget fails that test.

"That is why leaders of every religious denomination have led the fight in Washington and across the country to defeat it. Religious leaders told Congress that they are drawing a moral line in the sand against the Republican budget's misplaced priorities.

"They reminded us that the Bible teaches that to minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us. Religious leaders stated that our religious tradition teaches us that society, through government, has an obligation to meet the needs of the American people.

"In December, in the last days of this last session of Congress, the religious community descended upon Washington in peaceful protest - in the freezing cold. Over 100 were arrested while calling the Republican budget a moral failure, empty of spiritual hope and nourishing resources.

"Clearly, America can do better.

"Democrats have proposed a budget which protects the middle class, reduces the deficit, and reflects our American values. The budget decision is clear.

"We can expand opportunity by investing in education and promoting American competitiveness or we can drive students $6,000 deeper into debt on their student loans.

"In the spirit of fairness, we can expand health care to America's children and veterans, or we can limit it. Our American sense of community requires that we subsidize home heating for America's families instead of subsidizing record profits for energy companies. And we can declare our energy independence.

"We can promote prosperity by investing in innovation, small business and job creation for the many, or have budget priorities that benefit the privileged few.

"We can promote real security by truly investing in homeland security instead of having a Homeland Security Department in disarray. And as we protect and defend the American people, we must not lose sight of our duty to protect and defend the constitution and our civil liberties.

"We can demonstrate responsibility by having a Democratic pay-as-you-go budget instead of a Republican budget which increases the deficit. In recognition of the Republican budget's increase of the deficit, the Secretary of the Treasury this week sent a letter to Congress for urgent authority to increase the national debt.

"Again, the decision is clear. We must draw a fiscal line in the sand. And we must join the religious community in drawing a moral line in the sand."

First 2006 Quote of the Day

From Joshua Micah Marshall at TPM:

"For folks of my political persuasion, last year ended on a very bleak note. But things started going badly for the president from the beginning of 2005 and went down hill from there. Looking toward next year, a lot of stars seem to be in alignment for the Democrats. And history, scandal and the comeuppance of past mistakes and villainies all seem stacked against the president and his party.

A moment so pregnant with possibility has inevitably turned to speculation about how the Dems could blow it -- which is a possibility well worth considering. And that leads to all the questions of which issues should the Democrats pursue, which will position them better, should they have more new ideas -- those and a thousand other questions that, together, all amount to paralysis and a morbid self-indulgence and introspection.

I say let's forget about all of that. Far better to concentrate on two things.

First, attack!

Saying that amounts to a lightning rod in itself, hoisted up for battering from all sorts of scolds. But it's nothing to be ashamed of. The point of a political opposition is to oppose -- if there are no grounds for opposition, then there is no reason for such an opposition to exist. Better to join the president's party or go out of existence. And certainly, for those who share the perspective of this site, there is plenty to oppose. To say 'attack!' simply means to maintain the initiative in the debates of the day -- always. And when it's lost to get it back as soon as possible.

Second, you can't be an opposition without knowing what you oppose and what you're for.

Bad writing is usually imprecise writing -- and its badness usually stems from the bad writer not having taken the time to think through just what he or she means to say. The cobwebs and vagaries of their minds are revealed in bad prose.

Bad politics usually stems from people not having a clear idea of what they're trying to achieve, where they're trying to go. Once you know where you're trying to lead the country, strategy and tactics and optics and gutting the other side all tend to fall into place. If not perfectly, then a whole lot easier. Where do we want to take the country? Forget the rest and think about that. That's the guiding star.

Enough of my sermonizing. Happy New Year!"

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