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Make History

Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Just looked at the DNC page and over 820,000 have volunteered for this weekends 50 State Canvas....

Strongly encourage you to join in this, the first ever 50 state wide canvasing

Join in what will help reach out to 1 million doors, starting a million converstations about changing the direction of this country....the next step in the campaign to take back Congress, Governorships this year, and the White House in 08!

The Common Good

Friday, April 21, 2006

I totally agree with this American Prosect essay:

"What the Democrats still don’t have is a philosophy, a big idea that unites their proposals and converts them from a hodgepodge of narrow and specific fixes into a vision for society. Indeed, the party and the constellation of interests around it don’t even think in philosophical terms and haven’t for quite some time. There’s a reason for this: They’ve all been trained to believe -- by the media, by their pollsters -- that their philosophy is an electoral loser. Like the dogs in the famous “learned helplessness” psychological experiments of the 1960s -- the dogs were administered electrical shocks from which they could escape, but from which, after a while, they didn’t even try to, instead crouching in the corner in resignation and fear -- the Democrats have given up attempting big ideas. Any effort at doing so, they’re convinced, will result in electrical (and electoral) shock.

But is that as true as it appears? Certainly, today’s Democrats can’t simply return to the philosophy that was defeated in the late 1970s. But at the same time, let’s recognize a new historical moment when we see one: Today, for the first time since 1980, it is conservative philosophy that is being discredited (or rather, is discrediting itself) on a scale liberals wouldn’t have dared imagine a few years ago. An opening now exists, as it hasn’t in a very long time, for the Democrats to be the visionaries. To seize this moment, the Democrats need to think differently -- to stop focusing on their grab bag of small-bore proposals that so often seek not to offend and that accept conservative terms of debate. And to do that, they need to begin by looking to their history, for in that history there is an idea about liberal governance that amounts to more than the million-little-pieces, interest-group approach to politics that has recently come under deserved scrutiny and that can clearly offer the most compelling progressive response to the radical individualism of the Bush era.

For many years -- during their years of dominance and success, the period of the New Deal up through the first part of the Great Society -- the Democrats practiced a brand of liberalism quite different from today’s. Yes, it certainly sought to expand both rights and prosperity. But it did something more: That liberalism was built around the idea -- the philosophical principle -- that citizens should be called upon to look beyond their own self-interest and work for a greater common interest.

This, historically, is the moral basis of liberal governance -- not justice, not equality, not rights, not diversity, not government, and not even prosperity or opportunity. Liberal governance is about demanding of citizens that they balance self-interest with common interest. Any rank-and-file liberal is a liberal because she or he somehow or another, through reading or experience or both, came to believe in this principle. And every leading Democrat became a Democrat because on some level, she or he believes this, too....

This is the only justification leaders can make to citizens for liberal governance, really: That all are being asked to contribute to a project larger than themselves....

The Democrats need to become the party of the common good. They need a simple organizing principle that is distinct from Republicans and that isn’t a reaction to the Republicans. They need to remember what made liberalism so successful from 1933 to 1966, that reciprocal arrangement of trust between state and nation. And they need to take the best parts of the rights tradition of liberalism and the best parts of the more recent responsibilities tradition and fuse them into a new philosophy that is both civic-republican and liberal -- that goes back to the kind of rhetoric Johnson used in 1964 and 1965, that attempts to enlist citizens in large projects to which everyone contributes and from which everyone benefits.

Arguing for it is the only way that Democrats can come to stand for something clear and authoritative again...."

Emergency Rooms and Easter Week

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I spent last weekend -- a mere 9 days after my 39th birthday -- in the UCLA cardiac emergency center.

Before I go any further, I should say that I'm fine. But at the time I felt three of the five symptoms of a heart attack: tightness in my left chest, shortness of breath and nausea. A bad trifecta of symptoms -- especially with my family history of a grandfather and a myriad of uncles having died of heart attacks.

After feeling these three in combo, I was ready to go. No additional motivation needed...my wife Laura drove me to the emergency room -- which in retrospect was the one dumb move I made...not just dialing 911 mostly out of a sense of pride that I wasn't "that bad" off.

Once there they moved me into the emergency cardiac ward, checked out my blood pressure (which was pretty high, but that is not uncommon during emergency room experiences) EKG, chest X-rays, the whole 9 yards. Nothing definite, but from the first it did not appear to be heart failure...at he first X-ray would show an odd smudge on my heart. They'd need to take another.

To my direct left was a poor older woman who was both a stage 3 chemo patient, and DEFINITELY suffering a major heart attack. To my right was a motorcycle accident victim, who seemed to drift in an out of consciousness, and had many tubes in his mouth and face keeping him breathing.

After midnight I sent an exausted Laura home. She was so tired and brave and scared for me. By 2 AM that morning they decided to move me into a semi private room, that still had nurses watching nearly every minute. I was woke up every hour for a blood test, a EKG, or a blood pressure test.

I shared the room with Carlos who is a 17 year old who was recovering from being shot four times in a gang drive by shooting in Inglewood. Amazingly for him none of the bullets most of which went through his body hit any vital organ critically.

That next morning we shared a TV, I let him choose the TV -- which everything he choose had guns and people being shot: Aliens, Dirty Harry, Platoon. None of those viewing choices really helped my nausea, but I figured the dude had just gone through enough, and I just zoned out from things and tried to sleep.

Shortly I was carted down to take the second X-ray. Before I left I wished Carlos good luck on top of the luck he had already seen. It went quickly --although I still felt light headed a bit even then -- and soon was back resting, as Carlos' parents came to take him home.

Alone for the first time during this whole ordeal: as I just rested, practiced slow breathing, and watched it as the monitor showed the calmer heart rate. I figured the second X ray results would be a few hours away at the soonest. Try to rest. Tried not to worry.

I tried some of the meditation and prayer techniques we did in church: "Breath in Jesus, breath out fear."

At that point something that was a sheer act of grace occurred: a volunteer brought a dog in. The dog's name was Lucy, a rescue Mutt, that was the gentlest and kindest animal.

There were many others like her in the center she said, with other friendly dogs, just visiting sick folks, giving them a dog to pet. After putting a sheet up on the bed, Lucy curled up near my feet. I petted her, and remembered my old family dog. After a long while, I was feeling really tired again and I wished them well and thanked them for such a kind visit.

Not long afterwards the second X-ray results came back fine and they said they would be releasing me to go home. Yesterday I took an EKG/treadmill stress test, that pretty much excluded ANY chance that what I was dealing with was heart related. Could be stress over leaving my work after 14 years, could be a pinched nerve which I may have had -- and does account for each of the symptoms I faced. Everyone all along the line said what a good decision I made to go in, and that for most people the first signs are ignored to their peril.

I'd been to emergency rooms and hospitals before. I was aware of the crisis and pain there, but I hadn't ever been there as a patient.

I slowly got back to normalcy this week, and resurfaced to see Easter this weekend.

It is impossible for me not to think of my wounded roommate, the poor cancer stricken heart patient, or the motorcyclist and think about how fragile a thing it is to be human. How when Jesus became one of us, pitched his tent with us, really experienced what it means to be human, including the suffering and pain and worry and crisis of it...what an amazing act that was.

I also think of the friendly volunteer and her calm happy doggie Lucy. What a gracious, Christ-like act that was. "I was sick and you visited me."

And lastly how great it was to be home that night to see my 2 year old son Cammy and Laura again, and to rest and be well.

Somehow those images seem like hyper-real icons of Easter to me this week. The pain, the grace and the homecoming of it all.

Tim

quote of the day

Q. What is the one question that you wished you were asked more often about the Emergent Church, and how would you answer it?

A. Brian McLaren:
I wish people were more interested in the question of how the Religious Right has changed our evangelistic context.

The name "Jesus" is heard differently now than it was thirty years ago because of the amazing "success" of the Religious Right. If I say "Jesus" to many of my friends, they don't think of someone who came to forgive sin; they think of people who want to shame people for their sins. They don't think of someone who had special good news for the poor; they think of people who want to give every possible advantage to the rich because they think the poor are to blame, largely, for their poverty. They don't think of someone who overturned the status quo, but of people who represent the status quo.

They don't think of someone who talked about turning the other cheek, but of people who defend preemptive violence. So, I wish people would seek to understand the rising dissatisfaction surrounding how the Religious Right has "rebranded" Christianity, and how Emergent and other conversations like it are seeking to rediscover the Jesus of the Scriptures and fairly represent him and his message to our world.

quote of the day

Monday, April 10, 2006
Good comments, good reminder from today's quote of the day from historian Gary Willis:

"Some people want to display and honor the Ten Commandments as a political commitment enjoined by the religion of Jesus. That very act is a violation of the First and Second Commandments. By erecting a false religion — imposing a reign of Jesus in this order — they are worshiping a false god. They commit idolatry. They also take the Lord's name in vain.

Some may think that removing Jesus from politics would mean removing morality from politics. They think we would all be better off if we took up the slogan "What would Jesus do?"
That is not a question his disciples ask in the Gospels. They never knew what Jesus was going to do next. He could round on Peter and call him "Satan." He could refuse to receive his mother when she asked to see him. He might tell his followers that they are unworthy of him if they do not hate their mother and their father. He might kill pigs by the hundreds. He might whip people out of church precincts….

It was blasphemous to say, as the deputy under secretary of defense, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, repeatedly did, that God made George Bush president in 2000, when a majority of Americans did not vote for him. It would not remove the blasphemy for Democrats to imply that God wants Bush not to be president. Jesus should not be recruited as a campaign aide. To trivialize the mystery of Jesus is not to serve the Gospels.

If Democrats want to fight Republicans for the support of an institutional Jesus, they will have to give up the person who said those words. They will have to turn away from what Flannery O'Connor described as "the bleeding stinking mad shadow of Jesus" and "a wild ragged figure" who flits "from tree to tree in the back" of the mind.

He was never that thing that all politicians wish to be esteemed — respectable. At various times in the Gospels, Jesus is called a devil, the devil's agent, irreligious, unclean, a mocker of Jewish law, a drunkard, a glutton, a promoter of immorality.

The institutional Jesus of the Republicans has no similarity to the Gospel figure. Neither will any institutional Jesus of the Democrats."

Thank You, Harry Taylor

Friday, April 07, 2006
Tell Harry Taylor Thank you...

466 pages of people have done so already...

Slate: "The Religious Left: It is Fruitful and has Multiplied"

Thursday, April 06, 2006
Great article, here is a snippet:

"Lo and behold, there is a religious left. The Catholic Church is helping to lead the fight against immigration restrictions. A week doesn't seem to pass without some group convening a conference on religion and liberalism. Last year, Rev. Jim Wallis' progressive manifesto, God's Politics, became a best seller; now Jimmy Carter's book attacking the religious right is on the list.

According to research by professor John Green, white religious voters made up 21 percent of Kerry's tally, compared to 11 percent for Al Gore in 2000. If you add African-Americans and Latinos, who as a group are also very religious and liberal, the religious left amounted to about 40 percent of the Kerry vote. Not surprisingly, the religious lefties are seething over the religious right's political dominance. But they're also frustrated by their secular ideological comrades. The political left "often sees religion not merely as mistaken but as fundamentally irrational, and it gives the impression that one of the most important elements in the lives of ordinary Americans is actually deserving of ridicule," complains Rabbi Michael Lerner in his new book, The Left Hand of God. "The Left's hostility to religion is one of the main reasons people who otherwise might be involved with progressive politics get turned off."

Bible-thumping liberals: Many Democrats consider the term "progressive evangelical" to be an oxymoron. But that's ignorant. Instead, evangelicals break into three groups. The fundamentalists (think Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson) are solidly Republican and represent about 15 percent of the electorate.

The moderates represent another 9 percent. They generally voted for Bush because they agreed with him on foreign policy and abortion and gay marriage. But the ones who cared most about economics preferred Kerry, a sign of how the Democrats could win over more of them.

Finally, there are the liberal evangelicals, who make up about 3 percent of the electorate and tend to vote Democratic. They're especially concerned with poverty and the environment. All told, then, between 7 and 10 percent of the electorate are white evangelical Christians who either vote Democratic or could. That's a voting bloc equal in size to African-Americans."

"Our Faith is Offended..."

Sunday, April 02, 2006
This is from last April 2005, but I just came accross it and like it a lot. It's from a Pew Research Center: Faith, Politics & Progressives: A Conversation with John Podesta who is the CEO, Center for American Progress; and former Chief of Staff to President Clinton... Here are exceprts:

John Podesta:

"It's tempting to look at that and believe, as I think many opinion leaders do, that whatever common ground there is between the walls of faith and politics, it's generally on the right. I think that enhanced the belief that American politics is polarized into two warring factions: a religious right that promotes government intervention in all areas of private life, so long as it doesn't interfere with the free market, and a secular left, which would be content to do the opposite. I think that's a simplistic assessment and it may explain why it's so widely held, because it is so simplistic. But obviously, I think, as particularly people here know, the reality of this is far more complex...

Historically, whether we're talking about Frederick Douglass or Dorothy Day or Rabbi Heschel or Dr. Martin Luther King, or the millions they helped to lead, there's an America that expressed its faith by fighting for abolition and for women's suffrage, by walking picket lines, by marching for civil rights, by protesting the war in Vietnam. The progressive religious tradition not only predates the Dobsons and the Robertsons, it certainly continues to this day and I think – and this is my plea to you today – that it is something that is highly under-reported in the coverage of religion in public life today.

But we do see it in local campaigns to win a living wage for low-income workers. The Center was involved with ACORN – and a broad religious coalition – in trying to raise the minimum wage in Florida, the ballot initiative that was successful in the 2004 election. We see it in efforts to protect voting rights, we see it in the campaigns to provide debt relief to the most impoverished countries on earth, we see it in the movement to promote peaceful conflict resolution both at home and abroad. But I would argue that where we need to see much more of this and much more of this conversation is right here in this city – in the media and in every forum where the spiritual dimension of public policy is considered...

We began last June when we brought together more than 400 clergy, advocates and scholars who attended our first faith and policy conference. It was dedicated to a faith agenda aimed at bringing people together, not stigmatizing them, not dividing them. It crossed sectarian lines because our faith is offended. And people from all those traditions, I think, shared this.

Our faith is offended when our nation allows 1 in 6 children to live in poverty – we're 45 million Americans; 19 million lack health insurance – when disease, hunger, poverty and war ravage 2 billion people on the planet, when our leaders deny the damage that their policies are plainly doing to God's earth and our own society.

I don't think we had all the answers at that conference, but we started with the belief that whether you're a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim or a Buddhist, you loved your neighbor and you recognized your responsibility to your community and to the nation. The people who came together, I think, truly believed that progressive governance is not only more fair and effective, but it is the right thing to do in a profoundly moral sense.

Another important thing that we did was we didn't try to teach politicians how to talk the Bible, but we did try to bring the voices of the progressive religious community into the public debate. One of the people who attended our conference and who has become quite prominent in the media these days was Jim Wallis. We had Jim Forbes, Bob Edgar, Sue Thislewaite; we had a range of religious voices that we tried to lift up, to give them the support that they needed....

We obviously need to do more than just remind people of the history of progressive social change. We have to provide a forum for a new generation of religious activists. So people sometimes ask if what we want to achieve on the left is what religious conservatives have already created on the right. I think we can probably do better than Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed, Tom DeLay and the others. What we're about, I think, is renewing and restoring a progressive religious tradition that for most of our history helped make ours a more benevolent, a more compassionate, a more caring society.

I'm Catholic, as I said earlier. I attend Mass, I take communion. It's a source of strength for me. I think it's really what makes me a progressive. And while – and I'll close with this – like many Catholics, there are issues where I disagree with my church, I could not help but be touched by what I think really all Americans experienced recently – the life and works of John Paul II.

He once observed that America today has what he called a heightened responsibility to be for the world an example of the genuinely free, democratic, just and humane society. That is as clear and precise a statement of what faith has to say to politics, I think, as anything I could come up with.

Those moral values not only help define me as a Catholic and as an American; they're the reason why in this time of conservative power, and particularly at a time when I see a conservative abuse of power, I'm standing my ground as a progressive and I am willing to get engaged in this fight and this debate for the direction of our country.
"