Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday Comics

And my favorite for today: A More Perfect Union

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Open Thread

After I posted the thread for prayers and vibes for Subway, and the second, rantier thread about healthcare in America, I moved on to less noble endeavors.

I've got it posted in this section of our Cafe Press shop called "Etc.", which is where I've been doing a lot of my experimenting with Photoshop.

Every now and then I did peek in and see the messages people left for Subway. I wonder if Howard Dean has any idear how many lives have become intertwined because of his campaign.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Practical matters

Please continue to post your positive message to Subway here. I'm sorry, but I just *had* to put up a separate thread--I'm flashing back to all the comments I've gotten in the past about how that is confusing and cumbersome. But these are ususual circumstances, and I'm hoping you all will understand. But I just A) *have* to say something about this right now and B) want desperately to keep this stuff out of the "prayers and well-wishes" thread.

This comes from the comments to the brief Kos diary I posted.

puddle posted that this is scary on a couple of accounts...

Subway's a street musician, and where I live that means no work, no income. Plus I'd be startled if he has insurance.

There are a couple of places you can leave "something" in his virtual guitar case

My favorite song of his is: Red Line Blues. Listen:
I responded:

Thanks for adding this, puddle. I was crossposting and discovered that it had already been posted, with some detail that we hadn't seen.
After some very odd and awkward symtoms, my father was finally persuaded by friends and neighbors to go to the hospital. He was immediatly addmitted to Staten Island University Hospital, a biopsy was performed and he is scheduled for pancreatic surgery sometime in the next 36 hours.
David is the sole caregiver of a disabled wife and, as you mention, a subway musician. After reading the piece quoted above, I am literally shaking with rage and despair and a few other emotions I haven't identified yet. This is what happens when you don't have guaranteed healthcare for all citizens, and not tied to employment. People feel that they have no choice but to keep putting off a trip to the doctor, and can only finally be persuaded when things get really bad.

In a country as wealthy as the United States it is f*cking obscene (we're talking *real* obscenity here--not just "naughty words") that people are unable to access basic wellness care *before* a crisis occurs.

Rant off, for now...

And it's back on. Our troll chose *this* thread to show his/her sorry self again, and spammed the comments with garbage that I had to delete. I've saved the IP address. If anyone sees Tim, I'm hoping he has some good recommendations for how best to proceed.

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Holding Subway Serenade in the light

Image of Subway Serenade courtesy of jc's "Who are Howard Dean's Supporters?" pages

Hello Friends,

I know that you havent heard from me in a while, and I regret that the news that brought me back here is as destressing as it is.

My father, "The Subway Serenade" was admitted into Staten Island University Hospital yesterday. They have taken a biopsy and will be performing pancreatic surgery in the next 36-48 hours.

My father is a big part of this movement and I know that you all appreciate his music and words of wisdom. He wanted me to let you all know that he thinks he will be ok, and that your support and prayers in this very awkward and scary situation would be comforting to him.

I wish that I had more information to give you at the moment, however I can tell you that my father has always been and always will be the happiest person on the planet. Listen to his music and share it with your friends. I will do my best to keep you posted on his progress.

Thank you all for everything,

May the compassion that knows no boundaries fill your soul with the happiness that you deserve.

Conspiracy Secretary

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Friday link roundup

This morning I'm working our page at Zazzle, adding a few Pluto designs. So, for now, I'm just going to share a few random links with you--any of which could generate some good discussion. Mostly, there were some really good links in the comments yesterday, but if you didn't read the comments, you missed them.

Corinne has a diary at Daily Kos. You know the, recommend if you're a member, go crosspost it if you're multi-blogal.
US Cold War Gift to Iran: A Nuclear Plant

Corinne also posted this in the comments yesterday morning, but I never got around to clicking, as I was working on other things.

Did everyone get a message from Howard?

Howard Dean - Playing Offense

Jim Dean is going to NYC to show his support for Chris Owens. Chris and his dad, Congressman Major Owens were among the first to endorse Howard:

Jim Dean, Chair of Democracy for America and brother of Howard Dean, will be our featured speaker at an event next Monday, August 28th, at Cinema Classics/Rafifi in the East Village! The Cinema Classics/Rafifi location has been a frequent meeting place of progressive activists since the Dean days. Democracy for NYC and New Democratic Majority are putting together a fun filled evening!

Details here

Finally, Subodh Chandra has an article over at the American Prospect over the whole "macaca" nonsense.

Click through and you'll see some adorable children (Subodh's triplets?) wearing "macaca" t-shirts. (SusanD confirmed that they are indeed Subodh and Meena's boys--they sure have grown since the pictures I posted a while back.

Oh heck, I'll include the picture.

Just saw this on Booman Tribune... Dave Chappelle as "Black George Bush" I missed this when it first ran, and then saw people referencing it later and couldn't find it. Thank goodness for YouTube.

Speaking of which, Kos posted about "The YouTube Effect" on the front page yesterday. Here's the article he was referencing: Booby-trapped: Politicians get caught on candid cameras

Matt Taibbi nails it with this artcile in Alternet: Firing Squad Looms for the Dem Party Oligarchy (You really want to read this one.)

And, in case you missed it--I nearly would have were it not for The Daily Show--an article about that guy who traveled to D.C. in his (fake) FEMA trailer "in the hopes of meeting with President Bush. Ugh--that was *such* a set-up, but the "real" press totally fell for it, as far as I can tell.

More to come.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

"No safer with Saddam captured" and other truths spoken.

Crossposted at Daily Kos and Booman Tribune

It is quite shameful what we have done to our truth speakers in this country, and even by our own party. The Bush administration used so many glittering generalities, so many talking points that pandered to the least among us intellectually. We did not hear the truth at all. Everyone was trying to be more patriotic than all the others, and they fell into the pattern of not even recognizing truth when it was told.

Two things lately have been sticking in my mind about things that Howard Dean said that were perfectly obvious. He was roundly attacked for saying them, though we all knew they were true. Just simple everyday sensible truth was attacked. There was so much of that, even from his fellow Democrats. When they attacked Dean as they did, it made others think twice before speaking up. Very unfortunate.

The first one that comes to mind was was his remark about being no safer with Saddam captured. He was giving a speech on foreign policy, December 15, 2003 to the Pacific Council. You would have thought the world as we knew it ended that day.

Saddam's capture 'has not made America safer'

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In a major foreign policy address Monday, Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean hailed the capture of Saddam Hussein as good news for the Iraqi people and for the world, but also claimed that his capture could have taken place six months ago.

'The capture of Saddam has not made America safer' Dean also said in the speech.

That remark drew a caustic reply from one of Dean's rivals for the Democratic nomination, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman.

'Howard Dean has climbed into his own spider hole of denial if he believes that the capture of Saddam Hussein has not made America safe,' Lieberman said. 'Saddam Hussein is a homicidal maniac, brutal dictator, supporter of terrorism, and enemy of the United States, and there should be no doubt that America and the world are safer with him captured.'

Also John Kerry asserted a few days later:

On December 16, at Drake University in Iowa, Kerry asserted that "those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president."

More critical words

Well, Dean was right, we are most certainly not any safer at all.

Another incident.

In March, 2004, on Meet the Press, he raised eyebrows again. He called Saddam what he was, a pathetic old man whom we had under control.

DEAN: If they had simply said Saddam Hussein is a bad man and we should go take him out, the American people would have said no, we don't think that's worth the war. Now, there have been a lot of justifications for attacking Iraq. Most of them have turned out not to be true. The argument is: Did the capture of Saddam Hussein and the attack on Iraq make us safer? I said no during the campaign. I think it's very clear that the answer is no. We've spent 566 American lives and $160 billion when we should have been going after Osama bin Laden. And that is why I think this president is weak on terrorism, not strong.

MR. RUSSERT: Dr. Rice said that Saddam Hussein was the most dangerous regime in the world.

DR. DEAN: "That was ridiculous. This is a pathetic old man who we'd been containing for 12 years by overflights. We had sanctions on him that were paralyzing him. It turned out that there were no weapons of mass destruction, as the administration--although the administration said otherwise. It turned out that there was no relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda or the killing of the 3,000 Americans at the World Trade Center, even though the administration tried to lead us in an opposite direction. The administration simply did not tell the truth about Iraq. The debate is not about whether we should fight terrorism. I supported the war in Afghanistan because I think we did the right thing in Afghanistan, although I think the conduct of the war is not being very well-managed, after the fact. But fighting Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism."

MTP transcript from March 14, 2004

This was a low point in our history, a time when talking points ruled supreme. A time when our side became so afraid of their side that we pandered and tried to be like them.

Somedays now I feel like we are coming out from those dark times. I hope so. We got there because there was no one standing up and saying what needed to be said. Unfortunately our side was almost as guilty in putting down voices of truth in that dark period.

We are no safer at all with Saddam on trial. We all knew it back when. I am glad someone said it, the obvious...though many are still publicly in denial.

I found this today at the Rutland Herald. It lifted my spirits. I notice that Harriette Draper who made the video about the end of the Dean campaign called "Take it Back" posted in the comments there. I ordered the video finally, maybe enough time has passed that I have things in better perspective. Be sure to read her comments.

From the Rutland Herald:

Dean was right after all.


Watching the unfolding disaster the United States has helped create in the Middle East, I look back and think of Howard Dean.

Three years ago, Dean was running for president, and his campaign was stunning people with its ability to organize support and raise money over the Internet and to tap into the deep disillusionment over the Bush administration's decision to abandon the pursuit of Osama bin Laden and start a war in Iraq. By late summer in 2003, he was in the top tier of candidates. A month later, he was the front-runner.

Dean was repeatedly attacked by a group of self-appointed spokespeople from the self-defined "center" of the Democratic Party, the Democratic Leadership Council. On May 15, 2003, DLC founder and CEO Al From and DLC president Bruce Reed wrote a memo entitled, "The Real Soul of the Democratic Party," the first public strike against Dean. It drew a distinction between "real Democrats" and "activist elites," a distinction Republicans were happy to pick up and run with. It warned that Dean — known up here as a moderate, even a conservative — was, by his persistent criticism of the Iraq war, leading the party to a November 2004 disaster:

"What activists like Dean call the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party is an aberration: the McGovern-Mondale wing, defined primarily by weakness abroad and elitist, interest-group liberalism at home. That's the wing that lost 49 states in two elections, and transformed Democrats from a strong national party into a much weaker regional one."
And my heart smiled when I read this statement from the op ed.
Howard Dean, scorned as naive, wacky, out-of-step, was right, and his critics were wrong. We have squandered hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives, and the situation in Iraq is more dangerous than ever. American troops, sent to that country under false pretenses and without adequate equipment or planning, are now being hoarded around Baghdad to confront a civil war. Twenty-five hundred Marines are being called up for duty because the Pentagon couldn't find enough volunteers. The awful situation in Lebanon and Gaza is, in part, a product of the administration's decision to abandon America's previous role as broker in the area and tilt heavily towards Israel.

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Pluto demoted

UPDATE: Hesiod, over at Daily Kos, shares Pluto's concession speech. And you can find more Pluto designs here.

And I thought I was having a rough week. From the comments, Demetrius posted:

Astronomers say Pluto is not a planet

PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.
Much-maligned Pluto doesn't make the grade under the new rules for a planet: "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."

Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's.

Instead, it will be reclassified in a new category of "dwarf planets," similar to what long have been termed "minor planets." The definition also lays out a third class of lesser objects that orbit the sun -- "small solar system bodies," a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites.

Demetrius added, "However, Pluto has filed paperwork to run as an "Independent Planet" in the Solar System for Pluto Party..."

So I thought I'd take a shot at a bumper sticker.

Pluto 2006: Running as an independent planet

jc, your turn...

On an unrelated note, listener pointed out this article: Republicans battle the blogs

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Open Thread

Burnout. Attitudes are contagious. Mine might kill you.

Talk amongst youselves.

If anyone is thinking about doing a front page post, this might be a good week for it.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blogger Conference Call with Ted Stickland,Part 3

Last section of the transcript. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Lisa Renee from Glass City Jungle stated that in Lucas County an issue of major importance is school funding, and that she hoped during the campaign and the debates, Ted Strickland would drive home the difference between what Blackwell is suggesting and Ted's plan.

Ted Strickland: I think this education issue is the most serious issue facing our state. And Mr. Blackwell's approach to education is that he wants to siphon multiple billions of dollars out of our public schools to reward for-profit charter schools that are not performing as well as public schools are performing, and not held to the same accountability. And I think it's undemocratic. I think when public tax dollars are used, there ought to be public oversight.

So, I am strongly opposed to vouchers--talk about undemocratic! Taking public tax dollars and turning them over for use as vouchers, where the public has absolutely no oversight as to how those dollars are used, I think is reprehensible.

Regarding schools and school funding, I'll talk about three levels, early childhood, elementary and secondary education, and college. We are going to invest millions of dollars, at least 15 million additional dollars a year above what we are currently investing in early childhood education--I'm talking about 1, 2, 3, and 4 year olds. We're going to have universal voluntary screening for our children so that early problems can be identified quickly and appropriate interventions, hopefully so that we can keep those small problems from becoming lifelong chronic problems. And I want to jump to college, and then I'll get back to elementary and secondary education.

Ohio is in serious trouble. We have an education deficit in this state, in that we are 39th among 50 states in the percentage of our adults with a college degree. And yet, under this Taft/Blackwell leadership in Columbus, we now find ourselves where a 4-year college or university education in Ohio costs 45% more than the average in the nation. And our two year schools cost 52% more than the average nationally. So at a time when we are most in need of encouraging post-secondary education, we're making it increasingly difficult for a kid from an average working class family to afford an education. And we want to turn that around in several ways, and we've got that in our TurnAround Ohio plan.

One of the things we want to do is to enable every parent to begin a post-secondary education account for their child, that the state will invest in on an annual basis. Modest sums, but we want to encourage family members and employers and foundations and churches also to contribute to these savings accounts. We're going to insist that these institutions of higher education cooperate with us in terms of holding down tuition, and we're going to do it by using state funding as a leverage. And we want tuition predictability, so that once a young person enrolls in a particular college or university, they have some predictability as to what the tuition will be throughout at least the four years of their education there.

In terms of elementary and secondary education, this is what I say, and I mean it. When I take the oath of office as governor, and I *swear* to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America *and* the Constitution of the State of Ohio, I'm not going to have my fingers crossed. I'm going to *mean it* when I utter that oath, and swear allegance to that oath. And that means that I'll be a law-abiding governor, and I'm going to work to make Ohio a state that is constitutional in its school funding mechanism. And we will follow what the courts have told us, and that's that we *must* stop relying so heavily on the local property tax. And we must come up with a system that is more equitable and broadly based, and where the resources are more appropriately shared.

And those are the principles that I will follow. I will first of all ask for cooperation from the legislature, and if I don't get it, I will go to the people and carry out a continuous campaign against any legislator that refuses to come to terms with our obligations to develop a constitutional system of school funding.

Russell from Buckeye State Blog asked the next question, noting that it would be about the politics of being governor, rather than the policy. "We're certainly seeing a more organized Democratic party this cycle than we have in many, many years, with your campaign, and Sherrod Brown's campaign, and the coordinated campaign." He asked how we can build on that, to increase the chances of taking back at least one of the chambers in 2008.

Ted Strickland: Well, I think your observation is a correct one. One of the reasons that I think we currently have what you describe as a more energized party, Sherrod Brown and I are just dear personal friends, and so we are absolutely committed to each other, and to trying to make sure that the entire ticket works together in a unified, cooperative way. And that's why over this past weekend, all the statewide candidates, including Sherrod and myself, were together as we went into these thirteen different counties. And there will be more of those sorts of activities as we try to show unity and coherence. And I think the people are responding to that more positive, less splintered approach coming from Democrats.

It is also true that right now it is hard to see how we can capture total control of either chamber in Ohio. I do believe, though, that we are going to pick up House and Senate seats, I don't know exactly how many, but if the climate remains the way it is now, we could possibly pick up a number of House and Senate seats. And when the margins become narrow, it makes it more likely that I could peel off some moderate Republicans in an effort to pass legislation that is good for our state.

Certainly my first effort will be to reach out to Republicans in the House and the Senate, and ask for their help and cooperation, but I don't know how hopeful I should be that that will happen. But I am determined that, if I win this election, that we go to work immediately in trying to consolidate our efforts, and to continue to build a Democratic party structure that will make us stronger in 08, help us elect a Democrat to the presidency, and, as you say, work toward the eventual achieving of majority status in the legislature. And that will be my responsibility, as well as all of our responsibilities, if I win the election. And I'm committed to doing that.

Russell from Buckeye State Blog asked the final question, noting in discussions of '08, one of the names being mentioned for vice president is Governor Strickland.

Ted Strickland: (Laughing) Well, I tell you, my brother, I am 65 years old, I am committed to Ohio. I fully expect, if I win this election, that being the governor of Ohio will be the terminal point in my political career. But I am committed to seeing that we get a Democrat elected to the presidency, and so I will work diligently to make sure that Ohio is a blue state in '08. I don't know if this country can stand another administration like the one we have in Washington D.C. It is a calamity . Our foreign policy is in a shambles, and one of the things that I am really proud of is that both Sherrod Brown and I, as a gubernatorial candidate and as a senate candidate, have opposed this president's war from the beginning, and I am absolutely committed to trying to see that we bring some maturity and credibility back to the presidency, and that's my goal for '08. But certainly, I have no thoughts of being on anyone's ticket. If I am elected governor, I will remain governor in Ohio.

Ted ended by thanking us for what we do as bloggers, and what we contribute to this great political debate. We, of course, responded with, "Thank you!"

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blogger Conference Call with Ted Strickland, Part 2

Click here for Part 1

Piggybacking off of Cindy's question about short, catchy messages, I raised the issue of different types of persuasion. Like Ted, I have a background in psychology, although unlike Ted, I have never been a practicing psychologist. But I've taught it to undergraduates for a number of years, and one of basics you learn when introduced to social psychology is the difference between the central and the peripheral routes of persuasion. I kind of fumbled this part, because it only popped into my head when Cindy was talking, and, as I mentioned in the previous post, I was nervous. But here's a quick, straightforward summary of the difference between the two routes:

The Central Route to Persuasion occurs when the attitude of the audience, or individual, is changed as a result of thoughtful consideration of the message.

The Peripheral Route to Persuasion occurs when positive or negative cues (such as images, sounds, or language) are associated with the object of the message.

Obviously, "be scared of terrorists!" and "taxes and gay marriage--booga booga!" are prime examples of the peripheral route. I pointed out that I'm seeing a lot of that sort of thing from the Blackwell campaign--the "Ted equals tax" web site, telling voters "Ted Strickland would have voted against the marriage amendment", etc. I asked how we can counter that, and get people to realize that if they allow themselves to be swayed by these "straight for the gut" persuasion tactics--keeping them afraid of terrorists or married gay couples living down the street, they are voting against their pocketbooks and their interests.

Ted Strickland: Well, I think the Republicans have gained and held onto power nationally and here in Ohio by using two things, fear and hate. And I'm trying to emphasize as we're going around the state--we were in 13 counties this past weekend, had enthusiastic crowds in every county, and I'm talking about hope and optimism for a better future. And I would contend that the proof at this point is in the polls.

My campaign is not going to live or die based on polls, but polls can give you very significant information. And our polling shows--and I think this is consistent with other polls--that Mr. Blackwell's negatives are as high as his positives. And so, he may be using these cute phrases and so on, but I think a lot of people are recognizing this as a superficial attempt to be trite about serious matters.

And I've had the "Ted equals tax" thing used against me in congressional races as far back as eight years ago, so I expect that--I expect a lot of other nasty, dirty stuff, but I think people ultimately respond to the sense of hope. And Ohioans certainly need a more positive, hopeful attitude toward their futures. And that's what we're trying to give them.

I ended with a comment that it is second nature for people to treat taxes as a sort of "boogeyman", but the reality is that taxes provide needed services, and that when you talk about cutting taxes, you inevitably are going to be cutting services, and that people need to hear that, and be aware that real human lives are impacted by these decisions.

Scott from Pho's Akron Pages asked the next question, noting that Blackwell is making a big deal of going into inner city Black communities, taking off the "conservative hat" and presenting a very different image. He's not talking like Reagan did that "You've got to get by on yourself and stop relying on the state". He's saying that we should look at the Massachusetts healthcare plan, which is about as unconservative an idea as there is. Scott asked if there are any plans to call Blackwell on this habit of showing a different face to a different audience.

Ted Strickland: Well, I've said, and I will continue to say that he is consistently inconsistent. And I hope that some of these things will come out in our debates--we have some three or four debates planned. I believe that he is *filled* with contraditions. The TEL Amendment--the constitutional amendment--he backed away from that. What Petro revealed in his commercials, investing money in the company that makes slot machines while being opposed to gambling, investing in a company that makes the morning after pill while being opposed to abortion--even to save the life of the mother. That's an issue that I believe ought to really worry the people of Ohio, that there is a man running for governor that's indicated that abortion should not be available to a woman if here *life* is in danger.

His proposal regarding the turnpike is totally lacking in specifics. He has said in his book 4 to 6 billion dollars, he said yesterday in Columbus with Governor Mitch Daniels, 6 billion would be a conservative amount--it probably would be more. He has said nothing about the terms of the contract. The 65% solution for schools discounts school nurses, discounts food service workers, bus drivers and transportation, tutoring, after school programs, libraries, and that's why even conservative Rodney Paige said it's a gimmick that could make matters worse for our schools.

But regardless of what he's saying or doing, it is *not* working. He says he's going to get this high percentage of Black votes. Mayor Mallory in Cincinnati, McLin in Dayton, Jackson in Cleveland, Coleman in Columbus, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, they all are supporting me big time.

And this is what I'd like to point out about Mr. Blackwell's current behavior. Over the weekend, I was in 13 counties, and at least 10 of those counties were predominantly Republican counties. I am going to *his* base. Over the weekend, he was in Fayette County. My goodness, if Ken Blackwell has to go to Fayette County to shore up conservative support, he's in trouble. And he's going to the African American community, but I see no evidence that he's being successful, other than what he's saying. A few high profile African Americans have indicated support for him, but the vast majority, the *vast* majority of the respected elected African American leaders in the state are appalled by his policies and offended by his attempts to disenfranchise African American voters. And so, I think he's whistling in the graveyard. I don't think there is any hard evidence at all that he is significantly penetrating the African American community. I just don't see it.

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Blogger Conference Call with Ted Strickland

I've been doing so many layers of multi-tasking today that I completely forgot my manners. A big thank you to Jesse Taylor for setting up this conference call, and thank you to Ted Strickland for taking the time to talk with the bloggers and answer some of our questions.

As I mentioned in the comments earlier, today I was scheduled to participate in my first ever blogger conference call. I've heard of these in the past, but had never been invited to participate. Figured I just wasn't one of the "cool kids" in the blogosphere, or something. So I was pretty jazzed about being invited to participate in this one.

As the conference call approached, that thrilled to be invited feeling gave way to "Oh crap--I agreed to take part in a conference call!" Telephone isn't exactly my medium, as I'm sure I've noted in the past.

On the bright side, it wasn't as scary as if it had been, say, radio. Hopefully nobody decides to upload audio. :p I did actually record it myself, and will begin, with this post, to publish a rough transcript, including the gist of the questions, and Ted's answers. I will, as I always do, mercifully edit out any "ums" or accidental word reversals that are corrected by the speaker. My hope is that my fellow bloggers will be as kind to me. :)

Anyway, here's the gist of what I asked...

Renee: As a blogger, when I post anything about the governor's race in Ohio, I am routinely met with pessimism/cynicism.

"Blackwell's got it in the bag--it's a done deal!" More optimistic people, like myself, will just respond that we need to make sure that the margin is big enough that the election can't be stolen.

I won't go through the litany of election irregularities from 2004, but I'm sure we're all familiar with them (not enough machines, challenging voters, Blackwell's dual role as Secretary of State and chair of Bush campaign, voters turned away...)

Dems often seem squeamish about discussing this, as if the sting of name calling ("Sore Loserman") was worse than voters loss of confidence in the electoral process

What are you doing to counter this--and what can I tell readers when they voice these concerns?

Ted Strickland: Well, let me say first of all that I am also concerned about the integrity of our voting system. I think its' a legitimate concern that people have. And I think that there is no question in my mind that Ken Blackwell has used his Secretary of State's position to take actions, to issue opinions that resulted in the vote being suppressed, the people being discouraged and, in some cases, intimidated to vote, and that's a big issue.

One of the things that is available to us now that was not available in the past is early voting. We're going to make a huge effort--I think all the Democratic candidates as well as the coordinating campaign will make an effort to get as many of the people to use early voting as possible.

We also have a very significant number of attorneys who almost on a daily basis are working together to try to make sure that decisions that are made between now and the election--decisions coming out of the Secretary of State's office--are reasonable. And they will be available throughout the campaign, especially as we get to Election Day, to try to be a support to those who feel as if there is an intent to interfere with their right to vote.

We're trying to make sure that the Democrats on the local Boards of Election are aware of the potential problems, and that adequate training is available to them.

So, there are a number of things that are being done, but I continue to be concerned. I think what happened in Cuyahoga County during the primary, and the result of the analysis thta was done by the independent group, raise incredibly serious questions. The inability to verify the vote, and the difference between printed receipts and the votes registered by the machines is a huge problem.

And so, unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation where we've just got to be as vigilant and as aggressive as possible. And I'll just end my comments by saying this. I, and others, have called upon Ken Blackwell to relinquish decision-making over this election, and we suggested that Attorney General Jim Petro, or some retired federal judge, someone that has the capacity to be objective in their decision-making, should be given these responsibilities. We can't force Ken Blackwell to do that, but we will continue to call attention to his behavior, and try to embarrass him into doing the right thing.

The next question came from Cindy of As Ohio Goes, who referenced Blackwell's ability to get his message out there in gimicks and catch-phrases. She asked if Ted Stickland could quickly sum up his TurnAround Ohio economic plan, which she read about on his web site, and which is a rather complicated plan.

Ted Strickland: And our problems are complex, complicated problems. Well, Cindy, let me say this. I am not a sound bite candidate, I'm not a sound bite kind of person--

Cindy interjected that sound bites are easily sold, and asked how we can compete with that.

Ted Strickland: Well, you know, Mr. Blackwell has his 65% solution that has been panned and criticized even by the former Secretary of Education under President Bush. He has his sale of the turnpike solution which I think Ohioans are rejecting. And, you know, he's a glib and talented communicator--I wouldn't discount my opponents ability to communicate in ways that are interesting and attractive perhaps. But, what I really think Ohioans want and need is a candidate that's mature enough to understand the complexity of our problems, and will lay out a plan to deal with them.

But, the heart of our TurnAround Ohio, obviously, is the connection that we believe exists between education and job creation, and I don't think our plans lend themselves to sloganeering--

Cindy mentioned that she was talking to Sherrod Brown on Firedoglake, and that he was talking about becoming the Silicon Valley of the Midwest, which sounds like a great idea and makes a lot of sense for revitalizing the region. She asked if he had any ideas about, for example, alternative energy or other examples of revitalizing regional sectors.

Ted Strickland: Well, certainly alternative energy--I've got a very comprehensive alternative energy proposal. In fact, it was the very first proposal that I revealed, and I did that last December. I am committing 30% of our federal bonding authority, which is likely to be about 250 million dollars per year, to be devoted to encouraging alternative energy research, innovation, and production. And I really think if we look at what can and should be done in terms of energy in Ohio, it's easy to see how our state, because of where we're located, and because of the vastness of our agricultural productivity, because of our significant reserves of coal, because of the manufacturing base that continues to exist in our state, because of our heavy use of ethanol fuel products--we are the third leading state in the use of ethanol fuel products--

So, I think that the potential for Ohio to have an economic renaissance based on our pursuing renewable fuels is *unlimited*. Parts of Ohio are ideal for wind power. I've committed to making sure that our state fleet of vehicles is made up of energy-efficient vehicles. I'm committed to working to see that E 85 filling stations are available across Ohio. And, so I think the potential is incredible. Ohio is getting a late start--other states are farther along than we are--but one of the first things I want to do after being elected is to call a state-wide energy conference that will be more than an afternoon two hour session. This will be a serious attempt to bring together every stakeholder in Ohio, every part of the Ohio agricultural community, the academic community, the business community, to help Ohio devise a plan and timetables in much the same way that John Kennedy said we're going to set a timetable for getting a man on the moon within 10 years.

I don't want to pretend that what I'm doing has that kind of grandiose challenge, but it is a challenge. And we're going to set a timeline, and we're going to do everything to make Ohio a cutting edge state when it comes to renewable energies. I am personally convinced that one of the reasons we're in a war right now is because of our overreliance on Middle Eastern oil for our energy needs. And we can change that and Ohio, I think, can lead the way.

To be continued, as I transcribe more of the conference call. In the meantime, you might check out Ted Strickland's campaign web site, make a donation to his campaign via our Howard-Empowered Act Blue page, or browse some of the Ted Strickland for Governor designs that are now available at Cafe Press.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Update on the Ohio Governor's Race

Ages ago, back when I was following the stories about irregularities in Ohio in the 2004 presidential election, I signed up for Yahoo's "keyword news". Any time an article mentioned "Ken Blackwell", I received an e-mail notification. Since I never took the time to un-sign up, I continue to receive these updates, but now they are about the gubernatorial race. I suppose that's a good thing, because a lot of the time I am too busy to check news sites and blogs, but this way, if the Evil One is up to some new snake-in-the-grass" tactics, I'll still find out about it. Which brings me to today's article, which is from the Akron Beacon Journal

These tactics not for weak of heart
Blackwell fires, Strickland responds as negative campaigning, `swift-boating' begin in governor's race

Ten days ago, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland said he was waiting for the "swift-boating" to begin.

In the race for Ohio governor, Strickland, the Democratic nominee, has been consistently ahead in the polls over Republican Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell -- as much as 20 percentage points in some. And Strickland said his own polling told him that his negatives were running low and his positives high.

That's why he was certain Republicans would go on the attack.

"I know how mean it will be," Strickland said. "We are ahead. They're going to have to become quite negative."

Within days, the attack began.

On Wednesday, the Ohio Republican Party launched a Web site,, attacking Strickland's record in Congress on taxes.

Then Common Sense Ohio, a Republican-leaning nonprofit group, launched TV ads attacking Strickland's positions on abortion, gay marriage and taxes.

The ads show a zebra creeping across the television screen and question whether a zebra can change its stripes.

The term swift-boating, as a verb, was born out of the 2004 presidential campaign, when Republicans attacked Democratic Sen. John Kerry by questioning his military service as a swift boat commander in Vietnam.
For Kerry, the attacks proved fatal; his campaign was slow to react and rebut the allegations.

Strickland said slow reaction isn't a mistake his campaign would make. "I know how to fight," he said.

Glad to hear it, Ted. We sure can't afford a repeat of 2004. Click here for the Strickland for Governor web site. You can find some Strickland bumper stickers here. And if you'd like to donate to the campaign, you can do so through the Howard-Empowered Act Blue page.

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Open Thread

If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

A picture post and quotes from the DNC meeting

Governor Dean at the DNC meeting in Chicago. Just some pics and captions. The meeting replays at 2:03 ET, and Dean's speech starts half an hour in. It was a tremendous speech, record it. Don't forget. It will also replay just Dean's speech after Road to the WH on C-Span tomorrow...I think at 6:30 and 9:30 but you need to check on that.

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Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, left, applauds Rev. Jesse Jackson after Jackson addressed members of the DNC during their summer meeting in Chicago, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006. The DNC is expected to add Nevada and South Carolina to the early presidential voting states. The change is designed to address a nagging problem for Democrats: How to give a greater voice in selecting a presidential nominee to minorities who are
among the party's most loyal supporters.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean addresses members of the DNC during their summer meeting in Chicago, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006. The DNC is expected to add Nevada and South Carolina to the early presidential voting states. The change is designed to address a nagging problem for Democrats: How to give a greater voice in selecting a presidential nominee to minorities who are among the party's most loyal supporters.(AP
Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

And one more picture just for fun.
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And a favorite quote from the Hotline blog today, he really went after Iraq and Bush.

"Iraq is sliding into civil war," Dean said in his address to the DNC general session this morning. "Iran is about to obtain nuclear weapons. North Korea has four times more nuclear weapons than they did when Bush took office. The Taliban is coming back in Afghanistan partly because we don't have enough troops there, partly because they're in Iraq. And five years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still free."

Dean said the "occupation" of Iraq "comes at great cost" to American voters, "a majority of whom oppose the war and agree with the Democratic position that we should begin a phased redeployment of our troops by the end of the year." [JOHN MERCURIO]
I am glad to see the word "occupation" used in connection with Iraq now. Howard Dean did a super job today presiding. Record it at 2:03. Worth it.

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Theocracy vs. Democracy

I got caught up in a discussion last night with an atheist on DailyKos (believe it or not, there are indeed one or two atheists on DailyKos) about Christians in politics. It is abundantly clear to me that we need to get two things straight - specifically, what is a theocracy and what does the 1st Amendment mean when it states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion"? Additionally, should Christians even engage in politics and if so, how?

I am about tired of this straw man being thrown around any time a Christian advocates laws that reflects Christian values. Christians are trying to do is the same thing that non-Christians are trying to do politically - have our views and preferences reflected in the law of the land. Everyone who is involved in politics gets involved for the purpose of having their beliefs and preferences reflected in the laws and policies of the nation. That's the nature of democratic politics (small "d" democratic) - everyone brings their preferences, desires, hopes, and fears to the public square and we collectively establish laws and policies to govern our society via majority rule (Diebold notwithstanding). This is not about Christians trying to make this a Christian nation any more than is it about farmers trying to make this a farming nation or gays trying to make this a homosexual nation.

Moreover, it might be helpful if people actually looked up the definition of the word Theocracy. From Webster's:
Main Entry: the oc ra cy
Pronunciation: thE-'รค-kr&-sE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -cies
Etymology: Greek theokratia, from the- + -kratia -cracy
1 : government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided

Any proper understanding of Theocracy - including Webster's - connotes and denotes God as the source of authority. That is why this straw man accusation can not stand - Christians are not seeking to make God the authority of the government of United States of America through politics, and without the authoritative component you do not have theocracy. After all, if one were to say that a government run by religious officials constitutes a theocracy then you'd have to claim that America was founded as a theocracy - the overwhelming majority of the founders were pious men of faith.

The truth of the matter is that by any proper use of the word Theocracy, even the northern kingdom of Israel or the southern kingdom of Judah in the Old Testament couldn't be called "theocracies" - neither of them were governments of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided, the possible exceptions being the reigns of David, Solomon, Hezekiah and Josiah. Even then, according to the Old Testament text itself, these were not theocracies: "And the LORD told [Samuel]: Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.'" "The LORD answered, 'Listen to them and give them a king.'"

Rather difficult to have a government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided when the Israelites had rejected divine guidance.

Many secular people appear to reject the idea of Christians having our thoughts reflected in the laws of the land, but their problem is with Democracy, not with some straw man that they call Theocracy.

Seperation of Church and State
What does this phrase mean, and why does it get so much pub when it's not even found in the Constitution? The original intent of the 1st Amendment was to keep the government out of religion, to keep the Episcopalians and Congregationalists from outlawing Baptist expressions of worship. THAT is the seperation of church and state, from Thomas Jefferson's own pen. It is not the separation of religious thought from state legislation.

What is the basis of American laws? The obvious and pithy response is, "The will of the people" and ultimately, that is indeed all that matters (Constitutional prohibitions notwithstanding). If Ms. Cleo informs the thinking of enough people to affect the laws of the land then there will be some phony-Jamacan accented laws on the books. If the flight trajectory of migratory swallows affects the thinking of enough Americans then there will be some bird-brained laws on the books. If the will of God affects the thinking of enough Americans then there will be some Godly laws on the books. That's not theocracy - that's democracy, and like President Andrew Shepherd said:
America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've got to want it bad, because it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil who is standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the 'land of the free'? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the 'land of the free.'"
Naturally, many people who object to Christians bringing our Christianity to the public square will try to find some hook to hang their hat upon, but their problem is not with theocracy, their problem is with Democracy.

Christian Politics
So how should Christians interact with politics? That is a question with which Christians have wrestled since Jesus walked the earth. Jesus' response is well-known to Christians and non-Christian alike in the western world, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." (Matt. 22:21) But beyond paying taxes, do we owe anything else to "Caesar"? What about our allegiance? Do we pledge allegiance to the flag or to the cross? One fundamental problem that American Christians have is that we confuse our nouns and adjectives: are we Christians who live in America or are we Americans who believe in Christ? There is a world of difference between the two, and that difference is life and death (Matt. 7:21-29). Christians who live in America pledge our allegiance to Jesus Christ - if there is a difference between the commands of America and the commands of Jesus Christ then Christians who live in America will obey Jesus Christ's standard instead of the American standard, while Americans who believe in Christ will follow the American standard instead of Jesus' standard. It is a question of submission - to whose authority do we submit? Jesus said that no man can serve two masters - either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other (Matt. 6:24). Jesus' immediate context was money, but the same is true of ultimate allegiance - if there is a conflict in commands and expectations, will we side with America or Jesus? Everyone must choose for themselves whom they will serve, as Joshua told the children of Israel (Josh. 24:15). Paul tells us that this world in which we live is evil and that we must not be conformed to this world - we must be transformed by the renewing of our mind, setting our minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. Yet, as Jesus' ambassadors to the world, Christians must be in the world but not of the world so that we may transform the world. That means that we must be involved in the world and its politics - even though politics cannot in and of itself transform the world - and we must do that in such a way that God is glorified and the Kingdom is advanced.

A Christian political philosophy must flow from and be informed by our theology - our perspective on the nature and character of God. God created all that is ex nihilo - out of nothing - including earth and mankind. Mankind was created good but, through man's disobedience to the will of God as revealed through the Word of God, mankind fell from that good state such that it is now natural for us to choose that which is opposed to the nature and character of God (i.e. sin). Nevertheless, God demonstrated His own love for us in this - while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. The Just died for us, the unjust, to bring us to God - such that to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God (Rom. 5:8, 1 Pet. 3:18, John 1:12-13). Accordingly, the only way that a Christian can view the world is through the lens of the Great Commission which says:
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
There are a number of implications from this passage that should inform any policy position that a Christian takes:
  1. All authority comes from God through Jesus Christ
  2. Christians are to make disciples of all nations
  3. Christians are to baptize these disciples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
  4. Christians are to teach these disciples to obey everything that He has commanded
  5. Jesus is with us Christians until the end of the age
All authority comes from God through Jesus Christ
Democracy is the best structure within which human beings may be governed by human beings. Likewise, capitalism is the best system for exchanging goods and services. However, neither of these systems is infallible or indispensable. They are useful - exceedingly useful, but merely useful. The secular world views capitalism and democracy (in that order) to be that for which they would fight and die. Democracy and capitalism are to Americans what grace and mercy are to Christians - the means of interacting with our sovereign and each other. Americans believe that power is wielded legitimately only by the consent of the governed. Jesus, however, posited the source of legitimate authority elsewhere. When Pilate wondered why Jesus wouldn't answer his inquiries, he asked Jesus, "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above." Pilate was a governor, appointed by Caesar. You would think that Pilate's authority came from Caesar - Pilate certainly thought so - but Jesus posits ultimate authority in God. Jesus retorts earlier, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28) This antithetical parallelism that Jesus employs emphasizes the fact that our loyalty to God should outweigh our loyalty to the "gods" of this world such that it seems like we are ignoring Bush and his GOP. It does not mean that we should ignore the government or our stewardship of our civic responsibilities - we must render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's - and in our cultural context that is political involvement as well as paying taxes.

The failure to be involved is similar to the failure to pay taxes - the effective operation of our government as it was designed is dependent upon our participation as well as our tax dollars. While Jesus' teaching does not imply - or even allow for - isolation from the world, it does mean that we must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, such that all other things will be brought into line. This means that whenever we begin to think about an issue that faces this society we must remember where the source of authority lies - it is not in the consent of the governed; it is not in an act of Congress; it is not in an executive order; it is not in the latest ruling of the Supreme Court. All authority is in Jesus Christ - all authority - and while we must respect and operate within the civil authority of the state, the starting point of any Christian discussion of political issues must begin with the authority of Jesus Christ.

Christians are to make disciples of all nations
In 1992 James Stockdale, Ross Perot's running mate, opened the Vice Presidential debate with the humorous quip, "Who am I? Why am I here?" It was humorous because he was not a politician, relatively unknown, and yet he was in the political spotlight. The question, however, is quite profound, and we need to ask ourselves, "Who are we? Why are we here?" This question drives philosophers to dream and minstrels to sing - each inquiring about that one thing: "Who are we and why are we here?" Africans throughout the Diaspora who are separated from the land of our ancestors have struggled to sing the Lord's songs in a strange land, and we struggle for an identity, for collective self-esteem. We need to answer the question, "Who are we and why are we here." To answer that question we must look to our Creator. David inquired of God, "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man that you take thought of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" Who are we and why are we here?

Christians are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light. This language that Peter used to describe the Church is taken from Exodus 19:5-6 when God cut a covenant with the children of Israel. Israel was chosen, elected if you will, for a purpose - namely to reconcile the world back to God in fulfillment of Genesis 12:1-3, which was fulfilling Genesis 3:15c. Israel, however, failed to fulfill the purpose for which she was elected. Israel did not minister to peoples in order to share the grace of God that was given to them - they separated themselves from the rest of the world and considered themselves to be something special that the outsiders - the Gentiles - could only hope to be. They wholeheartedly embraced the "chosen people" and "a people belonging to God" while rejecting - or terminally neglecting - the "royal priesthood" and "holy nation" parts. This rejection caused the northern kingdom of Israel to be destroyed by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom of Judah to be destroyed by the Babylonians.

Today, salvation is free to you and me - even to us Gentiles - since in Christ Jesus there is neither Gentile nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female, circumcised nor uncircumcised. Our situation in life is not the determining factor in our relationship with the Father; it is our relationship with the Son, and our primary purpose as Christians is to make all nations - all people-groups - disciples of Jesus Christ. We must extend a horizontal connection to our neighbors in order to facilitate their vertical connection to the Father through the authority of the Son in the power of the Spirit. Any position that we take on a political issue must keep this primary purpose in mind - reconciling the world back to God must remain the main thing.

Christians are to baptize these disciples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
This is the point where Baptists have historically emphasized baptism by immersion. While that is indeed the mode of baptizing employed by the apostles in scripture, it is not the emphasis of this passage. The emphasis of this passage is bringing people into the community of faith by a public declaration of their faith. In whom is this faith placed?
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of the Father, that is, from the substance of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, through whom all things were made, both in heaven and on earth, who for us humans and for our salvation descended and became incarnate, becoming human, suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended to the heavens, and will come to judge the living and the dead; And in the Holy Spirit.

- From The Nicene Creed
As we ponder public policy we must remember to keep our mission of global reconciliation back to God as the main thing, and we must remember by whose authority we operate. Our mission is to facilitate people coming into relationship with God. Our mission is not to get people to live moral lives, although that should be an outworking of people coming into a relationship with God (Matt. 5:16, Gal. 5:22-23). Our mission is not to create a just society where people can realize their full potential, although that should be an outworking of people coming into relationship with God (Rom. 12). Our mission is to facilitate people coming into relationship with God through Christ in the power of the Spirit, and to bring them into the community of faith. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg the nations on behalf of Christ, "Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:19-20). That is our mission. That is the main thing.

Christians are to teach these disciples to obey everything that He has commanded
What has He commanded? The first and foremost command is for explicit faith exclusively in Jesus (John 14:6). It is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone that we are saved (Eph. 2:8-9). All of human destiny centers on the person and work of Jesus Christ, and apart from Him there is no salvation (Matt. 10:32-33). We are first of all commanded to publicly place our faith in Jesus for the salvation of our soul. Jesus summed up all other scriptural teaching in Matthew 22:37-40 when he answered critics by saying:
"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets.
The Jews of the 1st Century AD referred to the scripture as having three parts: the law, the prophets, and the writings. Sometimes they would refer to the whole of scripture as the Law, or the Law and the Prophets, while other times they would refer to the individual sections. In this text, Jesus is referring to the whole of scripture hinging on these two commandments - love God and love your neighbors. Jesus was asked what the single greatest commandment was - they asked for one commandment - but Jesus gave them two. The vertical and the horizontal are intricately linked - you cannot separate the two. If we love God with all that we are then that will manifest itself in our love for the people who God loves, namely everyone. (John 3:16) If we don't love God fully and our neighbors unreservedly then we will quickly fall into legalism - just following a list of rules - such that on that day Jesus will say, "I never knew you." (Matt. 7:21-23) The vertical relationship cannot be decoupled from the horizontal relationships - we cannot emphasize personal piety over social concerns or social concerns over personal piety. The two are intimately linked, and what God in Christ has joined together, let no man tear asunder.

One thing that we cannot forget is who it was that Jesus commanded us to teach to obey all that He commanded. It is those from all nations who, by the authority of Jesus Christ, have been made into disciples and have publicly professed their faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we are to teach to obey all that Jesus commanded. We cannot expect those who are not Christ's disciples to act like Christ's disciples. We must stand up for what is right and stand against that which is wrong in society, but we cannot expect people to abide by the commands of One to whom they have not pledged allegiance, to whom they have not submitted. That would be like the Russians expecting Americans to abide by Russian law here in America. As we consider public policy, Christians must strive to create an environment in society that facilitates the furtherance of the gospel - keeping the main thing as the main thing. All else should be considered as a pile of fecal material (Phil. 3:8).

Jesus is with us Christians until the end of the age
Jesus said that there would be wars and rumors of wars, but we must see to it that we are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes, but all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver Christians to tribulation, and will kill us, and we will be hated by all nations because of Jesus' name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the son of man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth his angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matt. 24:6-14, 29-31)

People often wonder just how soon the end will be. Christians are facing tribulation in many places in the world, even death. Even in America Christians are hated as being intolerant zealots. Many of us know people who used to profess faith in Jesus Christ and are now agnostic or functionally atheists. There has been a significant falling away from the truth already, such that we even have to argue about what is epistemological truth. Theological conservatives often display animosity toward theological liberals who hate the conservatives right back. As to false prophets leading people astray, TBN (sometimes pejoratively called "Twisting the Bible Nightly" or "Totally Bogus Network") is proof positive. The law in America - and especially in international relations - works on a sliding scale in favor of the haves against the have-nots, with cronyism and cynicism currently more common than breathable air. These are not the best of times.

One may wonder if the end is coming upon us as a thief in the night, but we are called to persevere to the end - something that we can do because He promised that He would be with us until the end of the age. He delivered on His promise to send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who helps us to stand firm in the struggle (John 14:26). We understand that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, we must take up the full armor of God, so that we will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm then, having surrounded yourself with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:12-17). For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5). As we consider public policy we must understand the nature of the warfare into which we have been thrust so that we can maintain our focus on the main thing - facilitating people coming into relationship with God through Christ in the power of the Spirit, growing them up within the community of faith to stand firm in this evil day.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to fulfil the Great Commission,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

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