Saturday, August 05, 2006

Open Thread

I'm going to try something a little batty here and put two threads up at a time. I'm doing this to see if it will help keep listener's restful sabbath post (below) remain restful.

The Revolution Is Not Being Televised By Stirling Newberry
Breaking: Lieberman tries the smear by Stirling Newberry
Thank you, Alan in CA, for pointing out these two Newberry articles.

OH-Gov: A daughter's apology to the Stricklands

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Apocalypse by Dood Abides at Daily kos (Related to that, Demetrius has created some Hitchhiker's Guide inspired designs here, and I've created a Douglas Adams tribute lens here.

I've also made some updates to our affiliate page.

I'm going to leave this open thread up throughout the day, so if you find any good links you'd like me to point out to people, you can post them in the comments and I'll "promote" them by adding them to this post a little later on.

Update: Riverbend has a new post.
And a nice post from puddle about the web of caring Tanner has out here on the internets.

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Welcome to another gathering of the Restful Sabbath

from listener

This is our time to stop doing and just be for awhile. More than just being in order to replenish, we are paying attention to being because everything else flows from that deep interior center of who you(we) are in all reality, love and authenticity. So maybe sit back in your chair and slowly take in these bits of wisdom from many quiet, solid voices who have gone before us through the strains and joys of life...

There are really only two things to do: one is to be still and listen, the other is to take spiritually based action. Everything else is bogus activity which only gets in the way of your real understanding. ~ Joy Houghton

I feel the same way about solitude as some people feel about the blessing of the church. It's the light of grace for me. Never do I close my door behind me without being conscious that I am carrying out an act of charity towards myself. ~ Peter Hoeg

Certain Springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. But [we] need solitude in order to find again the fine essence of [ourselves]: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Perfect bliss grows only in the heart made tranquil. ~ Hindu Proverb

Solitude is the human condition, the universal vocation to be human. It is the willingness, with Love indwelling, to go to the heart of pain and find new life and share it with the world even though you may be separated from it physically. It is from this commitment to be focused through the narrow gate of solitude that self-emptying love is outpoured, and the heart of the community, the heart of its pain, is transformed into the heart of joy. ~ Maggie Ross

When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer ... it is on such occasions that ideas flow best and most abundantly. ~ Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

You do not need to leave your room ... Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet. ~Franz Kafka

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Saturday Comics

And my favorite for today: Forgiveness

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Friday, August 04, 2006

from listener: Israel Addicted to Militarism?

From Renee--we've had enough threads today, and this one doesn't have all that many comments, so I decided to post my thread-featuring-a-cute-critter here instead. Or, if you'd prefer some silly videos, scroll to the bottom of this page. 'Night, all.

Israel's Dependency on the Drug of Militarism
By Robert Scheer
Tuesday 01 August 2006

Those who mindlessly support Israel, right or wrong, from President Bush on through the cheerleaders in Congress and the media, betray the security of the Jewish state. They are enablers who have encouraged Israel's dependency on the drug of militarism as a false escape from the difficult accommodations needed to bring peace to the Middle East.

For too many pundits and politicians, bombing just seems so much simpler - until, as happened in Qana, Lebanon, on Sunday, those bombs blow up to your nation's disgrace, slaughtering scores of innocents, whose only crime was to be in the crossfire. The alternative to such excessive violence-an authentic peace process-had been supported by every American president since Harry Truman. Yet it was abruptly abandoned, indeed ridiculed, by the Bush administration, which bizarrely believes it can re-create the Middle East in a more U.S.-friendly form. The president has framed this process with a simplistic good-versus-evil template, which has the Christian West and Jewish Israel on an unnecessary collision course with the Muslim world.

Read the entire article.

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Save the Internet

There's another post from listener set to go live in a couple hours, but I wanted to squeeze this one in before then. If you look at the upper left hand corner of this page, you'll see that there's a new graphic link to the Save the Internet campaign. If you click the link, you can learn more about the campaign and how you can help--and if you like, you can get a graphic link for your own web site or blog.

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from listener

In times like these I turn once again to the collection I keep of my favourite quotes about forgiveness. I am deeply inspired by those persons who have found it in their soul to forgive the undeserving, seeing beneath that act something far greater than their own gain or comfort.

Please share your own favourite quotes on Forgiveness in this thread.

These quotes are excerpted from The Role of Forgiveness in Conflict Resolution by Sis Levin, an article published in the Aug. '91 issue of World Peacemakers Newsletter. Sis is the author of Beirut Diary (InterVarsity Press) about her struggle the year her husband was held hostage in Beirut by Hezbollah. It was later made into a TV movie by Paramount Pictures.

to forgive: the act of remitting, letting off, ceasing to resent, pardoning.
pardon: from the French pardonner; par = equality, donner = to give.
The Oxford Dictionary

"We don't need to talk peace with our friends; we need to talk peace with our enemies."
~ Sis Levin, (Paramount movie) Held Hostage, 1991

"I thought that the only hope for the future lay in an all-embracing attitude of forgiveness of the people who had been our enemies. Forgiveness, my prison experience had taught me, was not mere religious sentimentality; it was as fundamental a law of the human spirit as the law of gravity. If one broke the law of gravity one broke one's neck. If one broke this law of forgiveness, one inflicted a mortal wound on one's spirit and one became again a member of a chain-gang of mere cause and effect from which life has laboured so long and painfully to escape."
~ Sir Laurens VanderPost (former prisoner of war), The Night of the New Moon, 1970

"The exercising of the concept of forgiveness in any conflict situation always begins as a re-action to what is perceived as unfair, unjust suffering. It is a form of surrender of power, a willingness to live with a degree of unfairness; and therefore the hardest 'active' step to take."
~ Dr. Lewis Smedes, Forgive and Forget, 1984

"The act of forgiving is an important part of man's emulation of God, and asking God to teach us how to forgive is to be beneficiary of one of His greatest gifts."
~ Rabbi Elmer Berger

"...the drag of the past on the present prevents the future..."
"In the final analysis of the Hebrew Christian view of the world, broken human beings are more valuable than the laws they break or that break them. Most valuable of all is an act which restores law's authority while also healing the human brokenness. Forgiveness is that act."
~ Dr. Donald Shriver, Forgiveness and Politics

"Nothing worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime...therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history...therefore we must be saved by faith. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint...therefore we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness."
~ Reinhold Neibuhr, The Irony of American History, 1952

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TeaTimeTim Flooding Update, 8/04


I have a few minutes to write an update, so here it is.

Tractor: I drained about 30 gallons of fluid from the tractor, the total fluid it should have is 8 gallons. I'm hopeful that since no fluid got in the fuel that it will be running by the weekend and I can use it in the clean up.

FEMA: Our paperwork is in, and we are hoping for a grant to repair our pond/surface drinking water retention basin.

I have the forester coming September 6th to see if its possible to do a commercial selective harvest of our trees.

Land Survey will be done next week so we know what trees are on our property.

Civil engineer should have as plans for fixing the Pond/Basin.

We will start this weekend to remove debris from the horse pasture, and clean and salvage old barn wood, and recover the two bridges that are now down stream. We will also be cutting up a lot of down tree's and unclogging an area's along the stream that might cause damming.

We are making through, just got to see how we are going to pay to repair the pond and then I will feel better.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

from listener: Pema Chodron on Bill Moyers

Below is a notice from Shambala about Pema Chodron being on the next Bill Moyers show - tomorrow night.

Her new book is wonderful!

Folks --

This Friday, August 4, 2006 Pema Chodron will be interviewed by Bill Moyers on your local PBS television station as part of Moyers' series on Faith & Reason. We thought you would like to know about this upcoming show, so you can check these links for more information:

In addition, Shambhala Publications is glad to announce our new book by Pema Chodron: Practicing Peace in Times of War. This timely book explores the origins of aggression, hatred, and war, explaining how they originate in our own hearts and minds. Pema then explains how to create a new culture of compassion.

This particularly relevant book was based on a series of talks given by Pema Chodron over the past few years. We have also edited those talks into a 1.5 hour CD program also entitled Practicing Peace in Times of War. These CDs can be appreciated alone or make a wonderful companion to the book.

For a limited time we are offering this book or CD program for a 35% discount. Please visit

to read more or to place your order.
Shambhala-news mailing list

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Rules of Engagement: Who Bears Ultimate Responsibility?

crossposted at Disabled Americans for Democracy

Rules of Engagement: "Kill All Military-Age Males"
After two internal inquiries evaluating a mission that had taken place in northern Iraq on May 9, Pfc. Corey Clagett and three other soldiers from the 3rd Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division expected to return to their duties without a stain on their characters. Three of the four have since been arrested, accused of premeditated murder, and placed in a US military jail in Kuwait. In their sworn affidavits, the three accused soldiers, along with others in the unit, say they received unusual but unequivocal rules of engagement for the task ahead. They say that they were given repeated and explicit orders to "kill all military-age males."
If it is true that the soldures being held received the orders they claim to have received, then they are not primarily to blaim for their actions. They did something immoral and illegal. As such, they must face the consequences of their actions. However, it is the officers who developed and promulgated the rules of engagement who are guilty of premeditated murder.

It is they who bear the full burdon of guilt, not only for their decision, but also for the actions they ordered those under their command to commit. One is reminded of mafia bosses who order hits. While the actual hitman is guilty of murder, it is the boss who bears ultimate and full responsibility. Similarly here, those who issued the orders bear far greater guilt than the triggermen. As usual, though, the lowest ranking persons have become the fallguys. This writer would be very surprised if the responsible officers were ever identified, much less tried, convicted and punished for their crimes.

There is another disturbing element to this story: namely, the rules of engagement themselves, Kill all military-age males. These are the rules under which the Serbs operated in Bosnia. They are the rules under which all ethnic cleansings are carried out (or, at least, begin). Will we next see American forces rounding up Iraqi girls and women to staff ad hoc brothels as the Serbs did with Albanian girls and women in Cosovo? Is this what America has sunk to?

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Holding Tanner in the light

Tanner is a little one in puddle's family, and he is undergoing liver transplant surgery today.

See puddle's blog, pyzch, for details and updates.

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Dean: All politicians are "risk aversive" and "rapid adaptors".

Dean: All politicians are "risk aversive" and "rapid adaptors". That means when someone new comes in they usually try what the winner did, but that means if the winner is the opposite party they begin to look like the opposite party.

We sure do know how that happens. Very true. We have seen a lot of that lately.

On June 4 Howard Dean was on a New York Times Magazine forum with Matt Bai. It was the first Sunday With The Magazine. They finally have the audio on this appearance up. It is a very good interview, but there does not seem to be a transcript anywhere. Well worth listening.

Some of it has been transcribed in part elsewhere, but it is very long. Here is a little of it. So Howardly overall. Been a long time since we have heard him speak this candidly. And candid he is.

Matt Bai and Howard Dean interview in New York.

Download mp3 by right click for WMP. Also in Quicktime if you left click, at least that is what I get.

Matt Bai interview:

Very long welcoming ovation for Howard

Bai says this unique politician admits he sometimes says things he should not say. Transformational figure in Democratic politics.A rare bridge between the last era of Democratic politics and the next.

Bai: He is notoriously frugal...some would say cheap. (audience laughs)

This is a guy who searches for his own flights on line because he wants to save the Committee money. He is a chocoholic. He is a junky for sugar. (laughter again as people know that and worry about it)

Bai says he has confided that he has told his kids they can do anything they want in life as long as it is not journalism. (much laughter.)

Bai was traveling with him to Las Vegas, then he went with him to Anchorage, Alaska. From Alaska to Portland, OR, then to Pittsburgh. Flights were grounded in Pittburgh so Dean drove to get to NY for the interview.

Bai asked why he decided to seek the leadership of the party. Dean says he did not get his first choice (joke), a 3rd party would just not work, would be too bloody and divisive. He decided the best way to serve his country was to try to reinvigorate the Democratic Party.

Dean says he wants to put in a real long term business plan for success, win the 2006 elections so at least we can stop the hemorrhaging that is going on in the country and build a base from there.

He then says that if we succeed, which he has every intention of doing is that it is harder to change an institution which is in power than one which is out of power. But he doesn't think the American people can afford to have a weak Democratic party anymore.

The fear is they would say ok now we are back in power, things are ok. His 2nd greatest fear after not winning is that if we do we fail to get health care, we fail to raise the minimum wage, fail to start to balance the budget...

He says the Demcratic party has essentially been "non-functional as party" for about 30 years. The last race that was actually won by the "party" was in 1968.

The functions of the party have been taken over by the campaigns. (he is right about that totally.) He says he thinks Kerry's GOTV effort was terrific, but that was "John Kerry's GOTV effort" and the DNC played a secondary role.

He says the "party" has not really been driving things, but that is true on the Republican side.

Bai asked about the 50 State Strategy, mentioning that many in DC are not very happy about it.

Dean says if you want a real Democratic party that's going to be a national party, you have to be in all 50 states. This idea that you can run a presidential campaign in 20 states, and hope that the math will work out so you can win 19 of them and win by 3 electoral is nonsense.

Dean further says: "And to my friends in Washington, and they are my friends, and we do work together" he says that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result. "Enough".

Dean: All politicians are "risk aversive" and "rapid adaptors". That means when someone new comes in they usually try what the winner did, but that means if the winner is the opposite party they begin to look like the opposite party.

He says the Republicans were Democratic Lite for 30 years and they never won. He mentions Gingrich, says he does not agree with what he believes. However he says Gingrich was transformational because he was not afraid to take risks.

Dean says we're gonna have a 50 state strategy no matter what the folks in Washington worry about.....because like 1994, this is an election where people really want change......people will vote for a party of change. What they will not vote for is a party of "me too."

And that's only about 24 minutes into the audio, just a little over halfway. I am going to listen to the rest tonight.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Happy birthday, cHeRyL! !

Hope it's a good one!

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Leahy speaks out in the Senate on the crisis in Lebanon

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Sen. Leahy with King Abdullah of Jordan

from listener

Here's a clip from Senator Patrick Leahy's statement yesterday (August 1) on the Senate floor:

We are committed to protecting Israel's security and we support Israel's right of self defense, including going after Hezbollah fighters who often launch their attacks from civilian areas.

But for Israel's sake, for ours and especially - especially - for the sake of innocent lives on both sides of these battle lines, it is vitally important to ask whether destroying Lebanon - not Hezbollah, but destroying Lebanon - will make Israel more secure or instead rally Muslims behind Hezbollah and give rise to further hatred and insecurity. I believe that continued bombing of civilian areas in Lebanon will not destroy Hezbollah, but in a perverse way, it may strengthen it.

The fact that these attacks are being carried out with such intensity and are yielding so much death and destruction, with weapons supplied by the United States, and at a time when we are trying to repair our already frayed relations with Muslims around the world, is all the more reason for the United States and the people of Israel to consider and answer this question frankly and honestly. I am concerned, as others have also warned, that a short-term tactical victory - even if possible - could prove to be a hollow victory at great human cost.

We should also reflect on the circumstances that preceded this crisis. For the past five years, the Bush Administration's approach to the Middle East has been either to ignore it or to parachute in for just enough time for a few handshakes and photographs. There has never been an effective strategy. They have never been willing to expend any political capital. Their policy toward Syria and Iran has been erratic and ineffective. Their relations with the Palestinians have stagnated.

It was clear since the earliest days of this Administration that this laxity would define their approach to these tinderbox issues, and the terrible harm of that approach - to our ally Israel, to the Palestinians, and to the prospects for resuming a meaningful peace process in that region - is all the more clear today.

I am not among those who believe that the United States pulls all the strings in the Middle East. There are forces there over which we have only limited influence.

But neither do I believe there can be a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict without the active, creative and sustained engagement of the United States, including direct talks with those with whom we strongly disagree, like Syria and Iran. That has been sorely lacking under this Administration, and we are witnessing the price of that neglect in Lebanon and Israel today.

His statement deserves a full read.

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Let them eat French Fries...

...or, alternately, farewell to the "Freedom Fry". I can't *begin* to tell you how proud I am that an Ohio Senator is one of the goobers who came up with this "culinary rebuke" in the first place. :p

From the Washington Times:

So is the breakfast toast in the congressional cafeterias, with both fries and toast having been liberated from the appellation "freedom."

Three years after House Republicans trumpeted the new names to get back at the French for snubbing the coalition of the willing in Iraq, congressmen don't even want to talk about french fries, which are actually native to Belgium, and toast.

Neither Reps. Bob Ney of Ohio nor Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, the authors of the culinary rebuke, were willing this week to say who led the retreat, as it were, from the frying pan. But retreat there has been, as a casual observer can see for himself in the House's basement cafeterias.

"We don't have a comment for your story," said a spokeswoman for Mr. Ney. Several Republican staffers and lawmakers suggest that the change isn't worth investigating, unlike the eagerness in March 2003 to get into the headlines about patriotism on the menu.
Quick reminder that the Ohio goober in question, Bob Ney, is running for re-election. Check out his opponent Zack Space--you can donate to his campaign via the Howard-Empowered Act Blue page.

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Action-item diaries

Crossposted at My Left Wing, Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media, and Daily Kos

A while back, I tried to have a spot on this page where action-item diaries could be featured front and center. Basically, I wanted current mousepad and shoeleather items to be in a spot where they could be found easily, regardless of how many new posts went up. Unfortunately, that ended up requiring more "tinkering under the hood" with html than I can manage to do on a regular basis, and I gave up on that idear.

But now that I've set up this page, it seems like a good place to post action-item diairies so that they can be found easily. I've only posted one so far, but if you see any you'd like me to add, you can post a comment here.

Also, since this is doubling as an open thread, because, let's be honest, that's what they *all* are, here's the new picture my Mom sent of Holman at 6 months.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Brainstorming, call for contributers, shameless plugs

I've just changed the intro to the Squidoo lens, and wanted to crosspost it here...

A companion page to the Howard-Empowered People blog. If you have any photos you'd like to add to the Flickr section below, please e-mail them to howardempowered at Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the other sections--YouTube videos you think others would be interested in, links to good diaries, etc.
Also, it's dropped off the front page here, but I'd like to remind you to check in on the brainstorming thread I posted last week. Actually, you know what? I'm just going to repost a big chunk of it here, so that you can comment here...

I was getting ready to put out another call for contributors. But not, contrary to what people have sometimes believed, because the workload of this blog is a big deal and I need help. After the big redesign I did a while back, posting to this blog has never been what I would consider a lot of work. If I don't have an idear for a main thread, I can always just post a few interesting links, or something from Cute Overload, or I can use an open thread to shamelessly promote the Cafe Press products that Demetrius has designed.

What I really want is for this blog to be a community blog, where people feel welcome to contribute what they have to offer, and with a variety of interesting, productive, discussion-provoking content that would make people want to link to it elsewhere, even if I didn't ask.

Ideally, I kind of wish that we could be set up more like one of the Scoop-style blogs where anyone can post a diary. But even though I could repeat the words "Scoop is free" in my sleep, I don't know the first thing about setting up that kind of system. I have tried, and it appears to be beyond me. In addition, just because *I* think that sort of setup would be ideal for a number of reasons, doesn't mean everyone else would like it, and I try to be sensitive to those here who are "change-averse".

I'll repeat the basics as far as contributing front page posts. If you are not currently a front page contributor and would like to be, just e-mail me and I can send you a Blogger invite. If you don't feel like making that commitment, or feel like the "technical" aspects are beyond your abilities (or what you have time to learn), then you can always send a single blog entry to that same address, and I can publish it for you.

But I've said those things any number of times before, and frankly I'm beginning to bore myself.

On my drive home from work today, I started thinking about the Freecycle model as a way to start talking about new front page content.

Wanted: what sorts of posts would you like to see, on what topics?
Offer: if you'd like to offer to post on a regular or semi-regular basis about some issue, let us know
Taken: if you see a Wanted post and think, "Hey, I'd like to do that!"

So...let's discuss.

But, (ducking) speaking of promoting the Cafe Press stuff, we have a new section now, featuring Humanist gear to go along with the talk by Melvin Lipman, President of the American Humanist Association, which I just transcribed in pieces at my Religious Left blog, and have gathered the whole thing onto one web page here.

Click the graphic above to visit the Humanist gear section.

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August 1 TeaTimeTim Update

From Renee: I think Tim posted something while I was elbow-deep in working on this transcript, so I lost track of his comment and didn't post a link to it. So, as soon as I saw today's update over at the other place, I figured I should get it online, even though the last thread isn't that old.

We are not waiting on the Government. They did declare our area a disaster area for state funds, and we have begun the process of filling out all the forms. Bush is coming to Kirtland to do a fund raiser for Mike Dewine, and then he is going to declare it a federal disaster. Fact is, the government relief and recover agencies are not designed to be nimble. They are old 20th century Bureaucratic leftovers.

Our solution has been to move at all deliberate speed. We will find a way to get the money needed. At a minimum we need to have all the ducks in place so if we do get a low interest FEMA loan we can make quick use of it.

Today agenda is water eval. I'm waiting on the guy as we speak. We will have our chlorinator inspected, Alum pump, and Chlorine pump inspected, and the Charcoal sand extract tested for viability. We have a small scale version of a water treatment plant in our basement, we just need to know that all is working, and what is the best way to keep it all working.

Tonight we start on the big tractor, and I have family coming this weekend to help dredge the creek bed if we can get in there.

Tomorrow we should have the engineering plans in had for repair of the pond dike. It is looking better, the bad news being we don't know what is in the pond now. So we are going to drag the bottom also to see what we find.

We heard today that insurance will not cover any of the damage.

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Monday, July 31, 2006

Howard Dean sends me letters

...the same letters he sends many of you, of course. Just wanted to make it sound a little more interesting. But since a big part of what we're about here is "having Howard's back", I figured the latest mailing from our party chair was worthy of front page status.

Dear Renee,

We've got a big secret -- and in these next 100 days, it's going to help us win.

Everyone knows that our 50-state strategy has put nearly 200 field organizers on the ground. They've been working nonstop to identify new volunteers and new Democratic voters. Just this weekend, tens of thousands of people took part in the hugely successful Democratic Reunion events across the country (at just one event in Oklahoma, over 500 people showed up).

But what many people don't realize is that in the 99 days between now and the election, we're turning our operation into a 50-state get-out-the-vote effort for Democratic candidates in races up and down the ballot, from city council to governor to congress.

There's a lot to do, but our 50-state strategy means that no matter where you live, you can make a difference in this election.

Here's where we need your help: We have to begin making our resource allocations now so that we can spend the next 100 days organizing to win. So I am asking Democrats to donate $25 a month until the election to ensure we have the necessary resources to win everywhere. That will be $100 for 100 days of nationwide organizing.

This is the simplest, easiest way to make a real difference in the outcome of the election, and it will free us up to spend time talking about the big issues and other important ways to get involved. Please sign up to be a monthly contributor until the election now:

What other kinds of things do we have planned for the next 100 days?

You'll find one answer every day at -- a special web site we've put together to give every American a way to shape our country's future.

Every single day, we will feature a new opportunity to take meaningful action toward winning on Election Day.

Every time you hear something on the news that makes you want to take action to affect this election, head straight to Every time someone asks you what they could possibly do, tell them to visit Everyone can do something, and every day there will be something important to do.

The first action is to plug into the ground operation in your community. You can take the first action here:

You'll hear on the news about a few top races making headlines here and there.

But we're fighting everywhere -- because our party doesn't just need to win back Congress for the American people. We need to win back state legislatures and local offices, and win races for governor and other statewide offices, too.

Today's state senator is tomorrow's Democratic governor, and today's city council member is tomorrow's Member of Congress. We're committed to winning every race we can for Democrats, while building the bench of quality candidates for our party's future.

We have to fight everywhere, because at every level of government people have had enough of the other side. Whether it's a Republican local school board banning the teaching of evolution, a Republican state legislature banning a woman's right to make her own reproductive health decisions, a Republican secretary of state improperly banning people from voting, ordinary Americans have had enough of the right-wing fringe, or a shameless Republican congress that uses the urgent need for a minimum wage increase for 7 million hard working Americans as blackmail to push through even more tax breaks for 7,500 multi-millionaires.

No matter where you live, there is a race where you can make a difference. And when you work to elect a Democratic candidate at any level of office, he or she is going to make a difference now and for a long time to come.

Our 50-state organizing strategy is going to work -- thank you for making it happen.

Thank you.

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

P.S. -- We're still receiving reports from Democratic Reunion events across the country -- you can see some photos and read about all the work that was done here:

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People-Powered Gear has moved

We are in the process of making some new bumper stickers, and it occurred to us that we should really have a small url included on our bumper stickers. That way, if a person sees one on a car and would like to buy one for him/herself, they will know where they need to go online to do that.

The URL or our main store was, as we set it up during the (wistful sigh) primary season running up to the 2004 election. Once the election was over, to justify paying for the premium store, we gradually folded all of our other little stores into that one store. Some of the designs there are political in nature, but others are not.

In order to have one url that we could use, whether or not a product is Dean-oriented, I decided it was a good idear to change the url of the store to this:

I now have a boatload of links to change. I changed the text link in the sidebar of this page, but I still have a lot more to change--like anywhere I linked a graphic to a section of the store. So I'm basically posting this to say "Excuse our dust" while I change all of those links. And also to let all of you know, in case you have shared the link to our store with anyone else, or have it posted on a web site or blog.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Open Thread

This picture is actually *not* from Cute Overload, but from my Dad. He and Mom had been noticing some nibbled apples on the ground around the one of the trees in their yard. They actually caught this one in the act. I wrote back to Dad that I'm impressed, because I can't imagine I would have been able to run into the house and get a camera and properly center the squirrel before it ran away.

While he's not exactly a regular here, my brother, Paul in Illinois, has posted in the comments a few times. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish him a Happy Birthday, just a couple hours early.

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On tolerance and respect

In my diary Being an Atheist in America, there were a lot of thought-provoking responses in the comments. But with over 200 of them, I didn't try to comment back because the responses would be too buried to be able to continue a discussion. One thing that I saw a couple times, phrased in different ways, is some people saying they have no problem with Atheists, but they are not fond of the "religion is a fairy tale and we've grown beyond that" condescension that some display. I saw some of that on display yesterday, and I'm sure I visibly winced a number of times. I think people of all viewpoints, especially those who find themselves targeted, scapegoated, or dismissed by Bush administration policies, would do well to learn how to speak respectfully to and about each other. Because there are some scary, driven, and well organized people in charge these days, and they don't have any of our best interests at heart.

What you see above, is the intro to the diary I posted at Kos today. Immediately I got a comment entitled Religions are dangerous. And, as I've noted in the comments, there is this portion of the talk given by Melvin Lipman, the President of the American Humanist Association:

As Humanists, we are not immoral, and we are not intellectual snobs. We are happy people living complete lives, and doing what we can to ensure the survival of our species. We are mature enough to accept our lives. We are mature enough to accept the reality of our existence without perpetuating imaginary childhood fantasies. We are grownups who no longer believe in Tooth Fairies, or Santa Claus, or imaginary friends, or imaginary gods.

But, we will never get religion to disappear. Religions will always exist, because it's the only way some people will choose to cope with life. But the degree of radical fundamentalism that we are seeing today *will* diminish as our society changes. And radical attacks on religion in general will only polarize and create more fundamentalism. I can coexist with liberal and even moderate religionists. It's the fundamentalists that concern me. Recognizing the existence of religion does not mean accepting irrational beliefs. It does not mean that we must refrain from ever being critical of irrationalism.
It's odd--throughout much of the talk (being transcribe in sections here) he really had me--Atheist and Humanists do receive discriminatory treatment, and that's just *wrong*. And as you can see in this portion, the movers and shakers of the Religious Right definitely have gotten good at speaking with one voice about this "War on Secular Humanism". It's classic scapegoating, and definitely reminds me of the "Terror Management Theory" Al Franken wrote about in his book, The Truth, With Jokes.

And because I think this is the worst kind of dirty pool on the part of the right wing, I feel strongly about the need to oppose it. But in those digs against the "religionists" and their "fairy tale" beliefs, he's not doing the movement any favors. Some of the comments at Kos have been worse, of course.

Well, it's too hot in this room, and a good conclusion to this post just isn't coming to me. You can read more of the transcript here, and see some new bumper stickers that Demetrius has designed. Maybe the conclusion is that there is a desperate need for the center and left, of whatever religion or lack thereof, have much to gain by learning to work together respectfully toward shared goals, and much to lose if we can successfully be turned against each other.

So, now what?

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Navel Gazing

The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior."

"But sir," Gideon replied, "if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian."

The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"

"But Lord , " Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family."

The LORD answered, "I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together."

Judges 6:11-16
Last week I went to Detroit for my family reunion and reconnected with a lot of cousins that I haven't seen in many years. It was an excellent time of affirmation as I had an opportunity to hang out with people who are a lot like me - goofy, opinionated, and exceedingly disdainful of Barbara Bush's firstborn. One thing that I noticed, however - rediscovered, actually - is that within my family my immediate family - my clan, if you will - serves as the facilitators, the organizers and workers who make things happen on behalf of others. My father is the youngest of six boys and my mother is the middle child of nine, but when things need to get done they are the ones to step up to the fore in order to get 'r done, along with my mother's two youngest sisters. This get 'r done mentality has been passed on to me and my sister such that whenever something needs to be done I am there. Whenever someone needs something I am there. Whenever anyone that I know has a problem I am there - I'm Johnny-on-the-spot or Sir-Fix-Alot, but the question that I have never really asked is, "What do I want?"

For as long as I can remember I have been about the business of assisting other people's aspirations, facilitating other people's dreams, serving other people's needs, but beyond my childhood dream of becoming an astronaut I cannot recall ever asking the simple question, "What do I want?" I've done the NASA thing and I'm no longer interested in spending a lifetime preparing for one week in space as a mechanic, but what do I want? I am called to ministry and I enjoy helping others but at the end of the day, what do I want? The totality of my self esteem is tied into my ability. I am confident to the point of arrogance when it comes to my abilities - I know that God has blessed me with the ability to learn and do just about anything, such that if I put my mind to it I can learn and understand anything that I need to know and do whatever needs to be done. However, we are human beings - not human doings - and in my being I have little confidence and even less esteem. I see it manifest in many ways - in the difference between how I treat other people's stuff and my own stuff, in how I prioritize other people over myself, in my penchant for pushing up on sisters like Captain Save A Hostess Ho Ho. I'm partial to the thinking of Jung over Freud so there's no throwing mama under the bus here - my personality is The Duty Fulfiller, I know this already - but I still need to ask what it is that I want.

I've got issues.

Gideon had many of the same issues - he esteemed himself lightly, his family wasn't the most powerful in the region or nation, and his country was in deep caca. Despite this, the angel of the LORD was dispatched to inform Gideon that his nation would be delivered from its trouble and that the deliverance would be enacted through Gideon's hand. The angel said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior." I am certain that Gideon looked around to see who the angel was speaking to since Gideon hadn't had any parts of fighting a war - Gideon was one of those who hid in caves and shelters when war came his way. Picture Gideon, clad in Birkenstocks, his dreadlocks flowing over his tie-died shirt as he's tending to his hash stash, and the angel of the LORD pops up addressing him as a mighty warrior.

Holy hallucinations, Batman!

Gideon's immediate response was to present the angel of the LORD with the evidential problem of evil, saying, "But sir, if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian." One of the most annoying things in life - at least for me - is when you are going through drama or tough times some well-intentioned idiot coming up to you saying, "The Lord is with you" or "The Lord will make a way somehow" or some such similar churcheese nonsense. It may well be true - I know it to be true - but that's not exactly what I'm trying to hear at that particular point in time. That's one big problem with extroverts - too busy talking to stop and think about what is actually proceeding from their lips, but I digress. Gideon said, if I may contemporize and urbanize his words, "How you gonna tell me that the LORD is with us when Midian has its foot square up our behind? If He was with us then we wouldn't be having all these problems that we got! He may have used to did stuff for us but what has He done for us lately? Not a freakin' thing!"

Gideon was a little upset.

Gideon's problem, however, was that he misunderstood the angel's words numerically, existentially, and temporally. First, Gideon misunderstood the number in the proclamation. The angel of the LORD said, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior" - He did not say, "The LORD is with all y'alls, mighty warriors." There's a cliche in the church that says, "What God has for me is for me!" and while I am loathe to encourage selfishness and I hate to propagate cliches it is indeed a true statement - what God intends for you is for you and you only. Where we get it twisted - much like the Israelites of the Old Testament - is that we believe that what God has for us is purely for our benefit. Let me make this plain - when God blesses me with this or that it in no ways means that He will bless you in the same way with the same thing. God blesses me in order for me to be a blessing to others as only I can in that particular place and time, much like God chose Israel to be His special possession for the specific purpose of blessing others, not merely for them to sit back puffed up, proclaiming themselves to be the only ones worthy of God's grace (no one is worthy - that's what makes it "grace"). When God blesses you He blesses you for the purpose of you being a blessing to others, in a way that you and only you can bless them at that place and point in time, so when the angel of the LORD said to Gideon, "The LORD is with you, mighty warrior" that is exactly what He meant - the LORD was with Gideon.

Second, Gideon misunderstood the existential nature of his nation's predicament. God had not forsaken Israel, God was allowing Israel to reap the rewards of its decision to forsake the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for the idol gods of the Amorites. Decisions have consequences, and all too often we make stupid decisions and then get mad at God for allowing us to reap the harvest of the seeds that we have sown. We sow sin and wonder why we're reaping stress. We plant pride and wonder why we're reaping problems. We place immorality in the earth and wonder why the earth provides us with issues. "Be not deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." This applies to families, communities, and nations as well. Israel was reaping what it had sown - broken fellowship with the Creator of the Universe - but God took the initiative to restore the fellowship and to deliver Israel from yet another set of problems that Israel had brought upon itself. God had not forsaken Israel, Israel had forsaken God.

Third, Gideon misunderstood the temporal nature of the angel's statement. The angel did not say that the LORD had always been with Gideon and the angel did not say that the LORD would always be with Gideon. The angel said that the LORD is with Gideon. Rev. Charles Walker preached the sermon, "What You Gonna Do With Your Day" in which he made the poignant point that this is the day that the LORD has made - yesterday is a cancelled check and tomorrow is a promissory note, but today is cash in hand - what are you going to do with your day? The angel told Gideon that at that very moment God was with him and would deliver Israel through Gideon's hands, but Gideon initially couldn't receive that message - it made no sense to him.

Gideon missed the message of God because he was focused on himself and his own problems - his own solitude in the winepress by himself, his own status as the least in his family, his own stature as the least in the tribe of Manasseh - instead of focusing on the God who can change things in the twinkling of an eye. He had heard about how God had delivered his forefathers out of Egypt, how God struck down the enemies of Israel, how God facilitated their entry into a land flowing with milk and honey with livestock they did not raise and crops they did not plant. He'd heard all of those stories, but he'd had no experience himself to buttress that fledgling faith. He hadn't seen God move or operate in his life so from Gideon's perspective there was no God, or if there was one then he didn't care much about Israel. Gideon needed a personal encounter with God, and God made himself known to Gideon in a spectacular way - a personal encounter with the angel of the LORD. God did this not for Gideon's benefit alone, but that others through Gideon might be blessed, namely the children of Israel.

I can relate.

You may recall that last year I was really going through it (q.v. 30 Pieces of Silver, Death Becomes Us, The Divine Conjunction, To Be Or Not To Be), but shortly after that I got a contract position that paid me almost the same thing that I had been making full-time. Today I can report that I have been hired in full-time and that I am now making $25,000 more than I was at the previous job. Considering the fact that the previous job limits you to no more than a 5% annual raise it would have taken a decade or two for me to get to the income level where I currently find myself. What's more is that I am doing exactly the same thing that I was doing at the previous job, only we are starting from scratch the very department that I was part of creating at the old job so I have a good idea of how it should run and what its shelf life is. And I'm being fast-tracked.

The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.

Things are starting to come together for me, I am beginning to see my direction much more clearly. I know that I want a fruit-bearing P31 wife, right now. I know that I want a son to be named after my father and another son to be named after my Uncle Wille. I know that I want to make a difference for the Kingdom of God. And I know that I want the Steelers to win another Lombardi Trophy. I know that once Gideon received that which God had revealed to him Gideon was able to rout thousands of Midianite soldiers with 300 men. I know that God can use the weak to rout the strong. I know that with God all things are possible so I need to spend some time in prayer and meditation to connect my wants, my needs, my desires and my aspirations with the will of God. I just need to spend the next few weeks distilling exactly what those wants, needs and desires are. God has certainly provided the means to achieve those ends, and for that I give Him all the praise, all the glory, and all the honor.

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 be a blessing to others,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

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