Saturday, April 01, 2006

Spring forward

Don't forget to "spring forward" tonight and set your clocks ahead one hour.

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It's daylight science time again

Infoplease article on Daylight Savings Time

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Friday, March 31, 2006

Howard Dean: Donors are the ones to instill party discipline.

Crossposted at DailyKos

It is good to see people getting on board with the 50 State strategy. It is good to see Bill Clinton approve of what should have been being done for years in our party, building it up in all the states. Glad to see him aboard.

I am transferring many of my video tapes to DVD format, and last night I ran across Howard Dean's hour-long interview on Tim Russert's CNBC show in early October 2004. It was like a long sit-down, how are you, kind of conversation...Russert was genuine, Howard Dean was candid. I consider it one of his best at describing the goals he had for the Democratic Party, but he had not even run for chairman yet. I will keep that interview for sure.

One thing he said that stuck with me. He said you needed to "decentralize your campaign." He went on to expand that further, that we need to stop powering things from the top down in all areas. He said politicians needed to trust the people.

His talk of decentralizing led to the topic of small donors and their importance. I thought of an online interview he had about the same time.

This interview of his from 2004 at Mother Jones was a defining moment of how he feels about donors and their influence on the party as a whole.

Taking Back Democracy But how do you instill that party discipline while remaining a big-tent party?

HD: I think, ultimately, the donors have to do it. The donors have to say, "We're not going to fund every single idea. We're only going to fund the ideas that we think are really important." Now what that's going to do is allow those who are really capable to get funding. And those who have strong grassroots efforts will get funding. Like ours, because we don't depend on big donors. Big donors are very helpful and we welcome them, but our real support comes from grassroots people who give small amounts of money.

This is a very important political statement, one that should not be forgotten.

DFA pretty much works on this premise now. Many of the DFA candidates are determined according to the level of local support.

This was a prescient interview, and this part about the 50 states is a classic. Again, this was before he ran for chair. He is most definitely following through on this idea. You also talk about the need for Democrats to rebuild in the so-called "red states," where Republicans dominate.

HD: The idea that we should write off Texas or Mississippi is ridiculous. We need to be down there, and we need to be making our case. How are you going to get somebody to vote for Democrats if hardly any of them are running? We need to make the progressive case. White, Southern voters are the most abandoned people in America right now. They keep voting for these right-wingers who go up and stick it to them. Their college tuitions go up, their health insurance -- if they have health insurance -- that goes up, their jobs go to Mexico. White voters in the South ought to be voting Democratic, because that's their economic interest. That's why the Republicans always talk about guns, God, gays and abortion instead of health care, education, jobs and a moral foreign policy. Because they lose on those issues, and they win on divisive issues. But we can compete with that in the South. And we are; Democracy for America is. We're going to have some candidates in the South who are going to win.
So all party leaders are welcome on board the 50 state strategy. We all know that big money will still have the advantage for a long time to come. But not forever, and I think they are beginning to realize that big money does not necessarily buy votes anymore.

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John Conyers to Bush: Release the Hadley Memo

U.S. Rep John Conyers has a post on Huffington Post, which includes a letter he sent to George W. Bush.

March 30, 2006

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I write to ask that you publicly release an October 2002 memorandum that informed you that the Energy Department and State Department disagreed with assessments that Iraq was seeking to acquire nuclear weapons materials. The memorandum was submitted to you by then-Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley.

Throughout the past several years, you have claimed frequently that Saddam Hussein had been attempting to acquire the materials necessary to build nuclear weapons. In fact, during your 2003 State of the Union Address, you stated, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." Shortly after this speech, the United States invaded Iraq, but no nuclear weapons materials have been located.

According to the National Journal, you were aware prior to the 2003 State of the Union that Iraq did not possess such materials. In summarizing a National Intelligence Estimate for you in October 2002, Mr. Hadley noted that, while many agencies believed the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons." In short, these two intelligence agencies disagreed with your State of the Union assertion.

I am certain you would agree that, as we enter the fourth year of the invasion, it is important for the American people to understand exactly what set of circumstances led to your authorization of military action. For that reason, I ask that you release Mr. Hadley's memorandum.


John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member

Also, In case you missed The Daily Show last night, it was a good one. Talked about the story in the New York Times that Bush was planning to go to war no matter what the weapons' inspectors found or didn't find. And then showed a lot of clips of Bush saying "No president wants to go to war" and stuff like that.

Video here.

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Holman has landed!

Just checked my e-mail and found a message from my mom with the title "Holman has landed!" And it had a photo attachment--goody! Holman, the sixth Canine Companions for Independence my mother will be raising, has finally arrived at his Chicago-area destination.

In other news, check out Corinne's post Dean wins a convert over at We've Got Howard Dean's Back. And Firedoglake has several posts about today's censure hearings.

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Friday Morning Quick Links

Here's a link to an article about Obama "rallying Democrats, and throwing his support behind Lieberman". (Ned Lamont Ned Lamont Ned Lamont)

Addendum from Corinne:
According to the Hartford Courant, the state party organization was less than hospitable to Ned Lamont. "Lamont was excluded from a roped-off compound of a dozen tables reserved by the podium for party leaders. He and his wife, Annie, sat at Table 96, by the entrance to the kitchen.

"He was joined by James Dean, who runs the liberal advocacy group Democracy for America. Dean is the brother of Howard Dean, Democratic Party chairman."

It's all about the company you keep, isn't it?

And a couple articles about Paul Hackett, who will be hosting Jerry Springer's show on Air America this morning:
Hackett's Happy
Hackett's Battle

Article about Subodh Chandra: Making the Primary Grade: Without his party’s endorsement, Chandra depends on real qualifications

Quick reminder: Censure hearing set for Friday at 9:30 a.m.

Some articles and audio clips about election reform on Bob Fitrakis' site (the Green candidate running for Governor in Ohio)

Finally, last night I posted more about the Jim Wallis event that recently took place in Columbus over at Faithful Ohio.

Happy Friday, everyone!

That's a picture of Mom's next puppy that she's raising for CCI. He should be arriving today.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Having to start doing stuff...remembering a Danziger cartoon.

Short post, just thinking about a cartoon by Danziger last year. My husband and I have been deluged with actions locally, our Democrats are getting active. Voter databases, meetings to compile, veterans' committees. Then the mail from Howard Dean at the DNC about the 50 State Canvassing, Door to Door.

50 State Canvassing

Thanks to the overwhelming support from thousands of Democrats, who donated to get the literature for the canvass printed and shipped, we're on schedule and gearing up for the unprecedented Neighbor-to-Neighbor Organizing Day on April 29th.

On that Saturday, thousands of volunteers will recruit hundreds of thousands more Americans committed to changing the status quo this year during door-knocking events in communities across America.

Democrats have a clear vision for America, and we're going to get the word out by making personal contact with our neighbors. And along the way we will build new relationships among volunteers on the ground, a network that will have an impact beyond a single day.

You can print your own door hanger, or have them sent...but the work has to be done locally.
Printing Your Own

They even have canvassing tips:
Canvassing Tips

Ok, now for the cartoon. Howard Dean always said the change would come from us. Guess he means it.

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Notes from the Jim Wallis lecture

Some pieces from the lecture/discussion that took place on March 28, closely paraphrased. More to come later.

We have been engaged in a dialog, across the country. Many people are unhappy with the way religion has been used in elections, and the one-sided way religion is being portrayed in the media. People are saying, "Wait a minute, I am a person of faith too, and that is not my faith." I have good news tonight--the monologue of the religious right is over, and a new dialog has begun.

I believe there are two great hungers in the world today. One is for spiritual integrity. The other is for social justice. And the connection between the two is what the world is waiting for. And I see crowds like this across the country who don't know there are so many other people who feel the way they do, who are thinking the same things... and I hope you go away tonight feeling "I am not alone any more."

Conference today in Washington D.C. sponsored by leaders of the religious right and the most right wing leaders of the Republican party, and it was called The War on Christians. I'm concerned too--I've got a 7 year old and a 3 year old. My son called me on my cell phone earlier and said, "Dad, I want to talk about baseball." Wallis coaches son's Little League team and there's a game on Saturday. Says "I am concerned about the moral pollution of this culture. Parenting indeed in this culture has become a counter-cultural activity whether you are liberal or conservative. I care about the dignity and sacredness of human life. I care about family values. But you know what? It seems funny to me that the richest and most powerful religious leaders in America were in Washington, with their allies who are running the government of the world's most powerful nation, and they said there's a way, against them.

The real war is against half of God's children. Three billion people who live on less than two dollars a day, who are not on our agenda, and were certainly not on the agenda today at that conference.

We need to hold both sides accountable to a moral vision.

The religious right was created by the political right. Organize for power, political power. Religion became a wedge to divide us.We should not become the mirror image of that on the other side of the spectrum.

The country is not hungry for a religious right or a religious left, the country is hungry for a new moral center to our public life--not an ideological middle, but a moral center. Don't go left, don't go right--go deeper. The right is comfortable with the language of religion, faith, values, God, so much so that it seems like they think they own the territory. But then they narrow everything to one or two hot button social issues all day, every day in Ohio. I have been asked every single day about abortion and gay marriage, so let me start there. If I was an unborn child, and I wanted the support of the far political right, I should stay unborn as long as possible. Because once you're born, no child care, no health care... (couldn't hear the list over the applause, but )

Cardinal Bernadin talked about a consistent ethic of human life, a seamless garment. All of human life was of concern to him--that's what I want to do.

"I care about the family, and I'm worried that families are really unraveling in this nation. So I went to Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. And I had a discussion with them. I said I'm with you on the breakdown of the family as a critical moral crisis. My neighborhood has 80% single parent famiies. You can't overcome poverty with 80% single parent families--it's too hard. But please explain to me how gay and lesbian people are the ones responsible for all of that.

They said, okay, we concede that family breakdown is due much more to heterosexual dysfunction than it is to homosexuals, but that doesn't help with our fundraising.

Family is too important to be used just to scapegoat the wrong people. We can be pro-parenting, pro-marriage, pro-kids, pro-family, and pro-gay civil rights at the same time.

We can build common ground. I think pro-life and pro-choice people ought to come together to do something about the tragic and shameful abortion rate in this country, if we work on dramatically reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies. Let's not just keep fighting over symbols, let's do something about decreasing the abortion rate in this country.

We can work on common ground on those two issues, but I want to say, those are not the only two issues, Ohio. They're not the only two issues, because, as an Evangelical Christian, when I find two thousand verses in my Bible about poor people, I insist, fighting poverty is a moral value."

Wallis tells of someone from the National Association of Evangelicals who had a wonderful statement a few months ago. Talking about intelligent design and creationism: "When we meet God, I doubt if God will ask us how we think he created the world. He'll ask us whether we took care of it or not."

The ethics of war--when we go to war, whether we go to war, and whether we tell the truth about going to war are religious and moral values.

Meeting young people on the book tour. Seventeen-year-old at an airport said, I want to shake your hand--you're the only minister I see on tv that I don't throw up after!" High praise from a new generation.

Doing a lot of tv appearances. So, some nights you're on the O'Reilly Factor, and other nights you have fun. Says, actually, I get along well with O'Reilly--we have a rapport. But the next night was a lot more fun--was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He's changing American media. He's funny, but he's also pretty serious. He's smart, he's savvy--he cares about so many issues. Asked smart questions backstage, and said, "I'm afraid when I get out there, I'm going to ask silly questions" and I said "John, that's your job."

Wallis goes on to describe the interview (which I think you can still watch on The Daily Show web site) saying he has gotten lots of e-mails since then, which really affected him. From thousands of young people, many of whom have never been to church. They haven't gotten near our churches, but they have impressions of us nonetheless. Said things like, I lost my faith because of television preachers , bad religious fundraisers, pedophile priests, cover-up bishops.... Other e-mails said, I didn't know that you could be Christian and care about poverty, or the environment, or the war in Iraq. They didn't know--and when they heard, they liked it, and he meets these kids all over the country.

I was visiting my home town, Detroit, Michigan, staying at a Days Inn. And the desk clerk, a 21 year old African American woman says, "You have an upgrade." Who gave me the upgrade? She said, "I did. I saw you on The Daily Show--it was awesome!"

Every major social reform movement in our nation's past, abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, child labor laws, civil rights has been fueled and driven in a large part, by religion and by faith--the progressive side. We've surrendered values and faith to the right and they've turned it into a partisan wedge--we must never make that mistake again.

A whole new generation is now ready to step up. I meet them all over the country. I see them wanting to do something big in their lives. The churches ask for the edges of people's lives, and that's just what they get. A new generation wants an agenda worthy of its time, energy, gifts. When I think of the older generation in the peace and justice movement, I think of Habakkuk...

Habakkuk's Complaint
2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, "Violence!"
but you do not save?

3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.

4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

Habakkuk is practicing the politics of complaint. He's a liberal. He is like so many who are lamenting, complaining, "Why is is so bad?"

The Lord's response--write the vision, make it plain, so that a runner can read it. Protest is good, but alternatives are better.

Describes the fact that, in the run-up to the war in Iraq, he was one of a group proposing a 6-point plan to disarm Saddam Hussein and remove him from power, but without bombing the children of Baghdad. For a while the plan got some serious discussion, especially in Britain. But he describes how he got the news that his son was about to be born a month early and he rushed home, got home just in time, and had his cell phone on. Went into labor and delivery room and got calls from British parliamentarians, saying, "Is this a good time to discuss the 6-point plan?" My wife is a woman of peace. She said, "Take the calls--I'm not pushing yet!"

Sojourners and Call to Renewal are going to put out their plan in a few months, called A Covenant for a New America.

The young people are ready to go, they're ready to run--do we have a vision for them?

I was asked to speak at Sing Sing prison in upstate New York. I asked, when do you want me to come, and the prisonerer rep said, "Well, we're free most nights! We're kind of a captive audience here!"

I was given a room in the bowels of Sing Sing, this infamous prison, and I was left in a room alone for 5 hours with 80 guys. One of the prisoners said, "You know, Jim, all of us at Sing Sing are from just about 4 or 5 neighborhoods in New York City. It's like a train you get on in my neighborhood when you're 9 or 10 years old, and the train ends up here, at Sing Sing.

But he had a spirtual conversion inside those walls. The New York Theological Seminary offers a Masters of Divinity program inside the walls of that prison. You become a preacher inside the joint--you graduate when your sentence is up. And he looked at me and said, "When I get out, I want to go back and stop that train!"

I was in New York a few years later, and guess who I saw, back home, leading a town meeting on poverty, trying to stop that train. That's what *I* mean by faith-based initiatives.

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Another Markos temper-tantrum

I really was about to shut down my computer for the night, but then after seeing this diary at My Left Wing, What Happened to Daily Kos? about some recent kerfuffle having to do with blogger anonymity, I decided to go to Daily Kos and see if there was any front page mention of that. Didn't find anything, but did see this gem from Markos in an open thread. And since I was recently trying to explain to someone recently in an e-mail what it is that bugs me about that dude, this seems to be a teachable moment. From the Mid-afternoon Open Thread:

This morning I've scanned some of the going ons of the last few days (I'm completely out of touch when on the road), and I noticed the dustup over long front page posts. Here's my "official" response: tough shit. If 400 words is too much for you to handle, then you've got a coupe of options: 1) Read the funnies. Not a lot of words there; 2) learn to scroll down a page; 3) get an RSS reader and set it to read just headlines. No extraneous words in headlines; or 4) find a site that better suits your style.

The irregulars are under orders from me NOT to use the extended copy box. So if you've got a problem with that, your problem is with me, not them. And I won't change my policy on that. My god, what would some of you complainers have done back in the Billmon era? Now there were some epic FP posts!

What a charmer. Temper-tantrums, sometimes peppered with profanity, are his standard mode of response when challenged. See the "pie wars". See his dismissive treatment of the "fraudsters".

Look, good for him that his site became so successful, to the point that many big name politicians post there. I don't begrudge him that. I do, of course, wish that if politicians were going to do the "grassroots" thing, they could be flocking to a site that was truly collaborative and "democratic". Don't know what that would be--maybe a new thing that is more of a consortium. Some sort of group effort rather than one guy's blog.

Oh, and one more thing. I'll buy his book when the weather forecast is partly cloudy with a chance of ass-monkeys.

This post was brought to you by Renee's "bad wolf", who sometimes just insists on getting a word in. Easy, girl...

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Major networks refuse to run inclusive mainline church ad

I've seen posts about this all over the progressive blogosphere, so I figure I would be remiss not to mention it here as well. Below are some screen captures (via Americablog) of the latest United Church of Christ ad, which major networks are, once again, refusing to air. We seriously need to call them on this.

As John in DC of Americablog says:

If that isn't a civil rights law suit, I don't know what it. The religious right would be suing these networks for violating the civil rights act, in a flash. TV networks like ABC simply cannot pick and choose which religious groups they let advertise - religious right good, United Church of Christ bad. Where are our lawsuits?

Anyway, check out this ad. Then go to the action alert and tell ABC and the other networks to stop the war on Christians.

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Open Thread

Since I have to work today, I won't be able to attend the workshop that is scheduled as a follow-up to last night's Jim Wallis lecture/discussion. Hope I can find out the details from someone.

Follow-up Workshop: Prophetic Advocacy 101

I just downloaded the audio from last night's event from my voice recorder to my computer, and hope to be able to write up a summary tonight. One thing I can tell you is that last night was meant to be the energizing event to get people of faith in Ohio working together on issues of social justice. Jim talked about the Let Justice Roll campaign, which is working to raise the minimum wage. More later--have a great day, everyone.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

C-Span, Air America and my Mom

In the last few years, my enthusiasm for my trip to Florida has been diminished by the anticipation of what condition I would find my mother's health in. Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease five years ago, my mother knew her health would take difficult turns. She always held the Pope's long survival up as an example of her possible path. After his death last year, we stopped using him as a comparison but my mother continued the math. She had always subtracted two years from the Pope's present state and then arrived at what she should be like. The Pope is no longer part of our conversation.

My yearly trips have increased into bi-annual, and now they are "whenever possible." My mother had requested that my sisters and I come and help her decide how to disperse her collection of three generations of family jewelry. While none of us sisters are very materialistic, I felt that my claim needed to be represented, and besides, winter in Chicago-land did not seem to be giving up and the Florida sun would be appreciated.

It had been less than three months since my last visit but the Parkinson's disease had marched forward. She didn't rise from her chair as I entered my parents' home. Both arms bent upward from her elbows and her left leg extended at the knee waving in a tremor. Her eyes gave me a loving greeting followed by a soft "How are you?" This quiet spoken. frail woman gave no hint of her previous vivacious personality. This yoga teaching, health food eating, Berkinstock wearing, Democratic leaning. Howard Dean voter (sorry I can't help but add this) quietly waited for my hug as I stooped down.

My father still loves to entertain his visiting children and scheduled a back-waters fishing trip. My parents' routine consists of having a helper come in two days a week so my father can get out. My mother enjoyed the young Haitian aids but we couldn't figure out why she gave my father excuses to cancel the new middle-aged American helper. She finally revealed her hesitation. "That woman is a right wing Republican and she doesn't like the TV and radio that I have on." She finally agreed to have her come when she decided, "I am going to watch C-Span and listen to Air America any way. Maybe I will enlighten her." She grinned with that spark in her eye she always had while she raised me.

Whenever I entered her bedroom she would be either looking at the TV that was two feet in front of her face or leaning to the left listening through the static to Air America. "Look at that, those Californians are upset about the new laws on immigrations" or say. "Isn't that Randi Rhodes great? Do you know she is really a pretty? I saw her on TV. I would never have guessed that because she sounds so tough on the radio."

We don't really use the "D" word much. She prefers to talk about "going to the other side" or "passing through the door." We have both gotten discouraged with the way our democracy is going. She thinks if she keeps learning about what is happening she can help, meanwhile I do my part by organizing another meetup or peace rally. Yesterday while listening to a senate debate, she looked up to me and said. "When I am on the other side, I will be working to help you make a better America." I smiled and said, "Yes mom, you will be in good company along the side of Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King."

As I fly home in the plane, I look down at my mother's wedding ring that barely fits my pinky finger. I know that I have inherited more that a few pieces of jewelry. While my younger sister has my mother's passion for shopping and my older sister carries on her love of sports, I can see I am the one that inherited her fire in the belly to fight for a better America.

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Tuesday Morning Roundup

It's rainy here in Columbus today, and this kind of weather makes me want to crawl back under the covers and, uh, "meditate". Okay, nap...

But there are some posts/articles I'd like to point out, so, in a minimalist way, here goes:

Citizen Action Steps: Phase Two From Firedoglake, on having Russ Feingold's back with the censure issue.

'Herald' Says Justice Scalia Makes 'Obscene Gesture'
Sources disagree on *which* obscene gesture, but it was definitely rude, and he made the gesture in church. Tsk, tsk.

Media Bias on Iraq? Nah... Via Plunderbund, a great video clip of Lara Logan responding to Bush administration "blame the messenger" claims that the media is only reporting the bad news in Iraq.

The Perfect Candidate: From Ohio 2nd, Mrs. Editor's enthusiastic endorsement of Subodh Chandra

Ohio's Constitutional Amendment Banning Gay Marriage Undermines Domestic Violence Law Hmmm-...didn't some of us predict that this was coming if that amendment passed. Yeah, I think we did.

Here's the link to last night's interactive blogging session at My Vote is My Voice. It was about the immigration march in L.A., and about the problems with Senator Frist's immigration bill.

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DemocracyFest Update

THE Bloggers' Breakfast is returning to DemocracyFest this year!

It's not a brunch, Kos won't be there, no need to protest ;-)

Darrell asked me to share the following with you:

It started out simple enough...nothing more then an off topic discussion on the Dean For America blog about the homemade apple butter that was simmering in my kitchen. It was just another of those occasional digressions from the serious topics of politics that made the blog a "community" in cyberspace. Before the night ended, an invitation had been made and accepted by several bloggers to come to Iowa to help the Dean Campaign, where I would serve up a home cooked Iowa breakfast featuring my apple butter.

Several months passed and on a cold January, 2004 morning in Des Moines, Iowa, bloggers from 29 states gathered at the first "Bloggers Breakfast". Although the numbers who came made it impossible to make the entire meal myself; yes, it did include my homemade apple butter. It was the first real face to face gathering of the Internet driven grassroots community that was developing from the Howard Dean candidacy.

It was an emotional high point for many of us who had been working so hard in the campaign and who knew each other only by names like, "Darrell in Iowa" for much of the previous year. We repeated the breakfast again at the first DemocracyFest with even greater attendance and with equal enthusiasm and emotion.

Since those days many have continued very involved and others have taken time to stand back and reflect, myself being among the later. With another important election year before us it seems time for those of us who stepped away to join again with those who have kept our "blog" community alive.

I hope to see all of you again in San Diego at the Third Annual DemocracyFest and particularly hope you join me for breakfast.

- "Darrell in Iowa"

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Thoughts on the political-religious "spectrum"

This post can also be found as a podcast here. If you want to go directly to mp3 download, click this link.

I opened the paper this week, looking to see if there was any coverage of the new We Believe group, or of the upcoming lecture/discussion with Jim Wallis. I was terribly disappointed to find, instead, that The Other Paper had a cover story entitled "The Dwindling Religious Middle".

Isn't that a bit premature? In my experience, there isn't even widespread awareness yet of faith voices speaking out from a point of view *other* than the far right. I am sure, for example, that many more people were aware of the Justice Sunday events than the diverse, interdenominational events that were held in response to them. I have often heard secular progressives complain that people of faith are not being vocal enough in countering the message of the religious right. I find that very frustrating, because the truth is, there are, and always have been such voices, but they simply don't get as much press. The Other Paper, which *has* given front page, in-depth attention to pastors like Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson, seems intent on being part of the problem. When they finally do get around to acknowledging the people of faith who are advocating a more compassionate, neighborly way of putting faith into action, it is only in the context of describing the plight of the "religious middle". In my mind, the fact that a letter Rev. Tim Ahrens sent out to dozens of area pastors in November has blossomed into a new organization built around the common ground shared by diverse people of faith should be, by itself, front page news. But the Other Paper article glossed over that news on its way to covering the plight of ministers who do not want to be political.

There are a number of things I find troubling about this article. The first is that, even though it is an "alternative" publication, the article falls into the same tired black and white way of seeing the world as most mainstream news sources. Right versus left, with us or against us...can't we please just *try* to have some dialog that doesn't force a dichotomy where one doesn't exist?

From the article: Wallis would like to position himself as a moderate, but the fact that he is embraced by the left probably gives away his proper place in the political-religious spectrum.

Well, thank you for speaking for him. Without translating the words *he* chooses into stark, black and white terms, people might be forced to grapple with the notion that the political-religious spectrum is just that--a spectrum, with a whole range of hues and gradations.

But you notice what the writer just did--he conveyed the message that Wallis is *really* aligned with the left, but didn't *quite* say it is so many words. He left himself some wiggle room--some plausible deniability.

Getting back to the idea of a spectrum, there really is a full continuum of viewpoints, from liberal to conservative on any number of issues. Someone may be more conservative on issues of personal liberties, but more liberal on economic issues, for example. Or vice-versa. Of course, when you step into the voting booth, you typically are faced with a series of either-or decisions. Do I vote for this candidate or that one? Yes or no on this particular issue?

In a time when this country has a president known for such stark statements as "You're either with us or against us", and when the religious leaders who get the most media attention frame political issues in similarly stark terms, it is easy to fall into that type of black and white thinking. But that doesn't mean that they *should*. Certainly, anyone who wishes to call him or herself a *journalist* should be able to see that issues are more complex than that, and, if they are worth their salt, they should be able to find a way to communicate these complex issues to the public in a way that can be understood.

We *must* learn to find common ground and work to create win-win outcomes. The We Believe group, in my opinion, is on the right track. Look at the home page--the tag line is "Uniting diverse religious voices to achieve social justice". By implication, David Niven casts We Believe as liberal, even though they represent a broad range of positions on the spectrums of faith and public policy. I'm sure there are members who, on the "hot button issues" of homosexuality and abortion, have views that are similar to those espoused by Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson. But they disagree with them on other issues, and have covenanted with the rest of the membership of We Believe to work together on issues where they share common ground. The group, as a whole, shares the "strong belief that we must act and speak in public ways to support the poor, the children, and those who are voiceless and unrepresented in our times".

And that is precisely who suffers if we continue to perpetuate the myth that issues of faith and politics are black and white and center around a couple highly divisive issues. It pained me and, yes, even angered me, to see the needs of those Jesus called "the least of these" go unaddressed while people of faith were persuaded of the dire need to vote for a constitutional amendment to make same sex marriage even more illegal in Ohio than it already was. Sometimes it's okay to be angry, and injustice makes me angry. It also angers me, with so much at stake, to see people who purport to be journalists taking their cues from people who, for their own political purposes, want to paint issues of faith and politics in stark, black and white, "with us or against us" terms. They need to do better than that, and, as much as I don't need something else on my to-do list, it's our job to call them on it when they start dumbing things down to the point that they are misrepresenting the truth.

Oh, and did I mention that I *really* have enough to do already, thank you very much. But then I hear about people like Maggie Kuhn, and I feel inspired, humbled, and a little sheepish that I'm not doing more...

Maggie Kuhn, the Gray Panthers charismatic leader changed the face of society with regard to the elderly. She was a committed, hard-working woman who at age 65 began an organization that continues her tradition of fighting for a better life for all. Her advice for those who want to make a change in the world is, "Go to the people at the top - that is my advice to anyone who wants to change the system, any system. Don't moan and groan with like-minded souls. Don't write letters or place a few phone calls and then sit back and wait. Leave safety behind. Put your body on the line. Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind--even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants."

Okay, *fine* Maggie. You do make a compelling point. Guess I just need to "keep on keeping on". Now, I just *know* that slingshot is around here somewhere...

UPDATE: Please check out the whole article and share your thoughts with the writer if you feel so inclined. You can select David Niven from the drop-down menu here

Something I mentioned in the podcast that didn't make it into this post is the fact that the other big issue I had with this article is the portrayal of ministers "staying out of politics" as a positive or desirable thing.

There IS NO getting away from politics. It touches everything. It is, in fact, "made of people". And if we just keep trying to respond with charity to the new ways the far right finds of trashing every safety net we have, there's no way we'll ever be able to keep up. The "least of these" will be much better off if they get *justice* than charity, but we can't work for justice without getting some politics on us.

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MViMV Guest Blog

Tonight's MViMV Guest Blogger will be Kety Esquivel from 8:00 - 8:30pm EST

Kety has over ten years of experience in the domestic and international non-profit, private and political sectors. Currently, Kety is the Communications Director for Latinos for America. She is the founder of CrossLeft, a grass roots organization created to provide a voice for Progressive Christians. In addition to Hispanic/Latino outreach for the Wesley Clark for President campaign, her domestic experience includes a three year stint with Eastman Kodak Company's United States, Canada and Latin American regional operations, where she coached executives on issues of human capital and diversity. Her international work experience includes three years in China working in higher education, management and consulting and prior to that a brief stint in Ethiopia working for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

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The Unity Campaign

By now, we've all heard of Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and the politics of "divide and conquer". It is time now for a "Campaign of Unity". It's a winning philosophy, a way to heal our country and appeal to our better nature rather than our baser instincts. It's also one that's rarely tried.

Those of us who were involved saw the unity approach in the Dean campaign, in which he appealed to "all Americans regardless of party to join this movement to take our country back." The result was thousands of devoted Republicans who crossed lines to join the Dean movement. In fact, I know of a gentleman from here in Alabama who jumped ship to support Dean after more than 20 years of voting Republican, from Reagan to George W. Bush in 2000. To this day, the gentleman remains one of the most zealous supporters of Dean. So, the 'open hand' approach is a winning approach, but the same people who still think it's smart for Democrats to run an 18-state strategy ignore it.

As a Democrat since I first registered to vote in 1984, I honestly think that it's time that candidates stopped emphasizing party labels and run as Dean did, as an American. Talk to the American people about how certain political, religious and monied interests have made it part of their strategy to exploit differences in ethnicity, wealth, gender and sexuality for their own gain, then put policies in place that undermine us all, and our country. Talk about how that strategy has prevented us from making progress in a whole range of areas, and how much better we are as a country when there is true spirit of unity. Speak about this to Christian conservatives. Let them know how their faith has been exploited in the divisive strategy and present them the better course.

We may win some elections here and there by running simply as Democrats, or on other matters, but we will really win as a country when the American people are presented with an alternate vision to '"divide and conquer", one which bring us together. And isn't that we really want in the long run?

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Reframing censure

From Firedoglake:

"The question isn't 'should the president be censured? The question is, 'Why does it take a censure resolution to get the majority party to pay even lip service to fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide oversight with respect to the actions and policies of the executive and judicial branches of this government?' It's time for the Congress, and particularly the Republicans, to decide whether choosing to protect the president instead of choosing to protect the interests of the American people, is the wisest course of action, and whether that choice is truly serving national security, or political power."


Or, discuss something else. I don't do the cat-herding thing. ;-)

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Faith and Politics Event in Columbus Today

Crossposted at Faithful Ohio

Two Evangelical Perspectives: Jim Wallis Debates Russell Johnson Today (March 26) in Columbus
When: 3:30-5:00 pm
Where: Capital Theater 77 South High St. Columbus, OH 43215
Who: Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and best-selling author of God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It and Rev. Russell Johnson, chairman of the Ohio Restoration Project.

Thanks to Upper Arlington Progressive Alliance for the heads-up about this event. I won't be able to attend, but would really like to be able to post first hand accounts from people who do. If you do attend the event in Columbus this coming Sunday and would like to submit your own summary and thoughts about it, you can e-mail me at ohiorenee at

More about the event, and some relevant links:

What: A one-hour dialogue between Jim Wallis and the Ohio Restoration Project chairman Russell Johnson on the role of faith in politics followed by a Q&A session.

Why: Our nation is hungry for an open dialogue on moral values and their role in the public square. The goal of this gathering is to discuss how various social issues - including abortion, poverty, the environment, advancing peace, and promoting strong families - are all critical moral and community values that can be approached from differing evangelical perspectives.

Update: I clicked the link that was provided for ordering the tickets, and found that it is now "sold out". Since the tickets are free, I wonder how many people ordered them on spec, not being sure yet if they would be able to attend. The notice reads: This event has reached capacity, and we are no longer accepting registrations in advance. So, can people still get in at the door? I suspect that's possible. I also wonder if some churches have ordered blocks of tickets for any of their parishioners who might want to attend. There is another event with Jim Wallis on Tuesday, March 28, and as far as I can tell, that one does not require a reservation.

The cover story on this week's edition of The Other Paper (a local alternative news weekly) is entitled "The Dwindling Religious Middle". My first thought is that such an article is horribly premature, as I think many people still aren't aware that there is even such a thing as the "religious left". Many other thoughts (none of them complimentary toward the article) followed my first thought, and I am in the process of fleshing them out into a post. But in the meantime, check out the article yourself and see what you think.

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