Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Current Southside Unemployment Rates (updated)

Another month, another set of abysmal numbers for the Southside. For the month of May, Martinsville leads the state with an unemployment rate of 21.9% up almost 2%, followed by Henry county at 15.2% up about 1%. Danville has an unemployment rate of 13%, the highest for a metropolitan area.

To put these numbers in perspective, Virginia hosts a 7.1% jobless rate, while the country as a whole is 9.4%.

For trend lines, here are January's numbers, February's numbers, and March's numbers for the Southside. Note: I did not catch any contemporary articles citing April's numbers.

Update: Kenton Ngo, with distressing visuals, argues how Martinsville suffers from the GOP's anti-stimulus posturing.

Quote of the Day (updated)

Responding to how his vote on the American Clean Energy and Security Act will illicit NRCC attacks, Rep. Perriello said:
“If I have to choose between national security and reelection, for me that’s easy. It’s national security,” he told POLITICO. “I can deal with losing reelection. I can’t deal with being a coward.”
Amen. Thank you, Tom!

(h/t Lowell)

Update: Here is an article on the NRCC planned television attack ads.

Archaeological Finds of the Apostle Paul

The Vatican just announced several amazing Pauline discoveries. First, archaeologists have uncovered the oldest known image of the Apostle Paul, over 1600 years, uncovered in Roman catacombs. This fresco is was discovered during restoration work on the Catacomb of Saint Thekla.

Second, tradition has long held that the remains of Paul lie beneath the main altar of the Basilica of St. Paul. Several years ago, archaeologists excavated parts of the floor of the basilica and found a large white marble sarcophagus. Recently, archaeologists opened a sarcophagus, believed to hold the remains of of Paul, and they found surviving bone fragments. After doing DNA tests, the Vatican has confirmed that the bones are actually those of the Paul, as the bones date back to the first century.

Whether or not you are skeptical with the claims of these discoveries, you still have to find them somewhat remarkable.

Podcast: Interview with Robert Wright

Our interview with author Robert Wright is up over at Homebrewed Christianity (the audio player is at the bottom of the post). Tripp and Chad have a little fun in the introduction, and then our good times roll with Bob. I hope that you enjoy the interview.

It seems that I have picked up a Southern draw from my time here in Southside - very long, drawn out vowel sounds.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Obama's New Church (updated)

Fun fact: Obama has chosen his church. Obama has chosen to worship at Camp David at the non-denominational Evergreen Chapel, generally open to military personnel and camp staff. The Chapel, dedicated by Bush I and attended by Bush II, provides a spectacle-free opportunity in which a president can worship. Money quote:
A number of factors drove the decision - financial, political, personal - but chief among them was the desire to worship without being on display. Obama was reportedly taken aback by the circus stirred up by his visit to 19th Street Baptist in January. Lines started forming three hours before the morning service, and many longtime members were literally left out in the cold as the church filled with outsiders eager to see the new President. Even at St. John's, which is so accustomed to presidential visitors that it is known as the "Church of the Presidents," worshippers couldn't help themselves from snapping photos of Obama on their camera phones as they walked down the aisle past him to take communion.
White House aides say that security measures required by the Secret Service have become stricter since 9/11 and would cause significant delays for parishioners - and at significant cost to taxpayers - on Sunday mornings. Given Obama's popularity within the African-American community, the President also worried that if he chose a local black congregation, church members would find themselves competing with sightseers for space in the pews.

Update: According to Press Secretary Gibbs, there is not much truth to the fact that Obama has chosen his church. He is still in process of deciding, but, it is true, that he does not like to disrupt worship services.

The Political Underpinnings of The Transformers

Michael Yglesias points out that Hollywood director/producer Michael Bay uses Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen as subtle anti-Obama political commentary. Bay, according to Yglesias, hits hard on Obama's political appeasement of enemies, now the Decepticons, and how Obama's strategies have destroyed our international allies. Money quote:
After all, though the film doesn’t dwell on the point, one critical turn in the storyline comes when a heroic Major in the United States Army (or possibly Air Force) decides to disobey orders and mutiny against a civilian operative specifically sent by POTUS to take command of the operation. But what’s more, this is no rogue special forces officer, he’s clearly supported in his action by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who elects to turn a blind eye, and leave President Obama (who’s named specifically) in the dark as he cowers in fear in an underground bunker. Obama, you see, has ordered American forces to attempt to appease the Deceptecon threat by halting all collaboration with the Autobots, and agreeing to turn Sam Witwicky over to the forces of evil. By defying Obama and staging what amounts to a coup, the military saves the day.

What’s more, the film appears to indicate that Jordan and Egypt share a border right near the tip of the Gulf of Aqaba. For this to be the case, of course, Israel would have to be wiped off the map. The film doesn’t specify how this horrific turn of events took place, but I think we can take for granted that Obama’s cowardly of a settlement freeze is ultimately responsible.

I haven't seen the movie - I enjoyed the first - but everything I have read gives this sequel less than stellar reviews. Now, I am even less inclined to go.

Similarities in Religious Belief Between Straights and Gays

A new poll found that, in general, gays and lesbians hold very similar religious beliefs with their straight counterparts. Although there are some significant differences in belief between the two populations, the Barna Group, a conservative evangelical polling firm, found that many religious assumptions about gays are, in fact, unsubstantiated. Saith George Barna:
“People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts,” declared the best-selling author of numerous books about faith and culture. “A substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life, consider themselves to be Christian, and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ active in their life today.
“Although there are clearly some substantial differences in the religious beliefs and practices of the straight and gay populations, there may be less of a spiritual gap between straights and gays than many Americans would assume.”

I'm not surprised at all with the results of this study, but I am shocked that there was even a need to commission the poll. Responding to these results, one ReligiousDespatches contributor, a lesbian, while offering strong criticism to the analysis, says, "Well, duh."

Cantor's 2010 VA Predictions

Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-7th) predicted that Republicans would pick-up three House seats here in Virginia next congressional cycle, specifically those of Nye, Perriello, and Connolly. Of course, Cantor must speak as if from a position of strength, but the ease in which Republicans believe these districts will flip is naive at best, laughable at worst.

Within the Fifth District, as we well know, all eyes are on Virgil Goode:
Another possible rematch could be brewing in Perriello’s 5th district where Cantor said former Rep. Virgil Goode (R) — who was defeated in one of the biggest upsets of 2008 — is close to making a decision on whether he’ll try to win back his old seat.

Reached on Tuesday, Goode would only say that he hopes to make a decision “in the not too distant future,” but most Republican insiders expect he’ll eventually join the race.

And, the end of this fundraising quarter (June 30th) will provide better clarity on Goode's position to run against Rep. Perriello.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Will Recent Scandals Turn Off Conservative Voters?

The Los Angeles Times speculates how recent scandals among leading Republican officials will disillusion conservative evangelicals with politics in general. Money quote:
A series of sex-related scandals over the last few years has undercut the party's assertions of moral authority and, worse, may serve to reinforce the doubts that many evangelical voters have traditionally harbored about the unholiness of the political realm.
Republicans have been successful reaching out to religious voters, not just with their focus on conservative social issues but "by promoting an image of greater virtue and more godliness." With the confessions of Sanford, Ensign, Larry Craig, and Mark Foley, among others, however, conservative evangelicals feel betrayed:
"Episode after episode like this makes it relatively difficult for Republicans to say with a straight face that they're a party that stands on moral issues that evangelicals care about," said Dale Kuehne, an associate political science professor at Saint Anselm College and a pastor in Nashua, N.H. "You look at Mark Sanford and Larry Craig and say, 'Is there anyone we can trust?' "
But, obviously, this does not mean that Democrats will see a windfall of disaffected voters:
A sudden and overwhelming shift of Christian conservatives from the GOP to the more secular-minded Democratic Party appears unlikely. As Laura Olson, an expert on religion and politics at South Carolina's Clemson University, put it: "The Republican Party is still going to be, at a minimum, the lesser of two evils."

But in politics, subtraction can be just as important as addition. If large numbers of evangelicals were to stay home on election day, or channel their activism into outlets other than politics, the GOP could suffer grave consequences; over the last generation, devout churchgoer voters have become an increasingly vital part of the shrinking Republican base.
One Republican congressman offers his thoughts on how the party can regain the trust of voters:
"We really do need to cut loose this stinkpot of self-righteousness," said Bob Inglis, a GOP congressman from South Carolina who once served alongside Sanford on Capitol Hill. "I see a real opportunity for a more accurate presentation of the Gospel in presenting fact rather than the fiction . . . that we're paragons of virtue."
However you want to theologically intimate human sinfulness, the recognition of our flawed and broken natures necessitates Inglis' call for humility. We inevitably fall, and as such, the trumpeting of moral superiority becomes a double-edged sword - the negative effects, in light of scandals, being an increased intensity of public anger, charges of hypocrisy, and legitimate threats of voter abandonment.

I wonder, however, contrary to the LA Times, how much Republicans have to worry about the latter effect. The one factor providing potential cover? The political realtime between now and the next election cycle. An eternity. In the end, I think, voters will care much more about the economy, jobs, threats of religious extremism, and other unforseen circumstances. And, while a politician's funny-business is newsworthy, this is how it should be.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

No Ociffer, you're looking for the other naked ex-mayor:
A former mayor found sitting naked and holding a beer at a Rabun County campsite told police he wasn’t the same naked man seen walking around earlier.

Mark Musselwhite, 43, said he was hot and had been in the creek, according to a Georgia Department of Natural Resources incident report. He apparently didn’t think he was doing anything wrong.
[DNR Ranger Brandon] Walls and a deputy sheriff went to the campsite Saturday evening after a complaint of a man walking naked in Earls Ford Road, according to the report. Musselwhite appeared to be intoxicated, and several alcoholic beverages were at the campsite, Walls said.
“I said the complainant had specifically said his campsite, and the fact that he was still nude made me think it was him,” Walls wrote.

Musselwhite denied that he was the nude man identified in the complaint.
(h/t TalkingPointsMemo)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Southern Baptist Church in Decline, Affects Republican Party

Rueters has an interesting article on the decline of the Southern Baptist Church. Currently, the SBC comprises over 16 million members and is the second largest denomination behind the Catholic Church, if Catholicism can be considered a denomination. But the SBC leadership is alarmed by current trend lines:
[The SBC's] research arm LifeWay Research released the following projections this week at the convention’s annual meeting in Kentucky: it said its numbers would fall nearly 50 percent by 2050 “unless the aging and predominantly white denomination reverses a 50-year trend and does more to strengthen evangelism, reach immigrants, and develop a broader ethnic base.”

“Using U.S. Census projected population figures, SBC membership could fall from a peak of 6 percent of the American population in the late 1980s to 2 percent in 2050,” said LifeWay director Ed Stetzer. (emphasis mine)
The author, Ed Stoddard, believes that this denominational decline would seriously affect the growth and stability of the Republican party:
If the SBC is in decline, one also has to wonder what the long-term political implications could be for the Republican Party. Conservative white evangelical Protestants have become its most reliable base. In recent election cycles it has relied on this base to deliver the vote in part by galvanizing opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage.

And the conservative SBC, one could argue, is the core of that base.
But Republican strategists will probably not take comfort by the fact that the SBC’s demographics in many ways mirror that of the party itself. Old, white, and Southern (one could add male and rural), with expansion dependent upon attracting immigrants and other ethnic groups, notably Hispanics. It is perhaps no coincidence that the core of the Republican base looks a lot like the party itself. (emphasis mine)
Both the flipside to and the result of these trends is that younger generations are becoming, religiously speaking, increasingly unaffiliated and, politically speaking, increasingly Democratic.

Rep. Perriello, ACES, and the Anatomy of a Smear

The American Clean Energy And Security Act (ACES) just passed the house, 219-212. Rep. Perriello voted for the bill. In a statement released by Perriello, he emphasized the positive effects of the bill with special recognition of the Southside. Saith Perriello:
Today we declare America’s energy independence and provide a blueprint for building the energy jobs and technology of the future right here at home. America can still out-innovate any other country on earth, and we cannot give in to those who doubt America’s ability to lead once more. Perhaps once in a generation we have the opportunity to revolutionize our economy in a way that creates for future generations the kind of jobs and opportunities that we inherited through the sacrifices of our parents. Today we reverse not only the hemorrhaging of energy sector jobs, but also the flood of our citizens’ dollars to those who would threaten our security.
Southside Virginia will be one of the winners under this bill, accelerating its ascendance to being the future energy capital of Virginia. In a carbon-constrained economy, we will see a resurgence of nuclear power. We can convert former tobacco farms into future biomass producers. And we can see farm and municipal waste turned into power. This bill, particularly the elements those of us from rural districts negotiated, will spur investments in biomass fuels that can flourish on former tobacco farms. We can convert manure on our cattle and poultry farms into power and finally get some profits back to our hard-working farmers. We will not turn this economy around by hiding from our problems, but by having the courage to reinvent our competitive advantage.

Today is a vote for America over petro-dictators. It is a vote for innovation over the erosion of our jobs. It is vote for demanding American leadership rather than settling for a slow slide behind India, China and other competitors. A vote against this bill is a vote to weaken this country, put our people at risk, and sit on the sidelines while we hemorrhage jobs. A vote for this bill is a vote for America’s security, her innovative spirit, good jobs for our citizens, and the future of our country.

Perriello's statement also included quotes from a local green energy businessman, the President of the National Farmers Union, and an Iraq war veteran who works for Veterans Green Jobs. Because of the proximity to my house and the location here in Southside, I want to highlight one other quote. Dean Price, owner of Red Birch Energy, a closed-loop biodiesel gas station a couple miles from my house, said:
“This legislation will allow more American entrepreneurs and farmers like me to grow and sell our own energy. These kind of jobs can’t be outsourced and will be a huge part of a new economy and business model in Southern Virginia. I applaud Congressman Perriello for his brave stance and leadership to make our nation energy independent.”
On a similar note, Lowell and Lloyd Snook dissect today's development of a right-wing smear against Perriello, specifically regarding Perriello's vote on ACES. I can't really offer more than them, except to say that, while I was listening to Rush Limbaugh today, I actually heard Limbaugh regurgitate this claim.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bradley Rees Officially Announces Candidacy Against Rep. Perriello (updated)

I attended Bradley Rees' announcement for the Republican nomination to challenge Rep. Perriello. I, unfortunately, could listen in for the first 15 minutes, as my co-worker had a time-sensitive emergency. So, fairly, I can only offer my initial impressions and my thoughts on his lengthy speech, as I was handed a hard copy.

For his announcement, Rees chose a small park in Danville, a block or two away from the closed Dan River Mills industrial complex. Walking up, you couldn't help but notice that Rees, presumably unchanged from work, was wearing blue jeans, a t-shirt, and a button-up shirt ... to the official announcement of his candidacy. These images, naturally, symbolized Rees' desire to be seen as a working man, one of us, fighting against the "pretension of politics" and the (governmental) ills affecting our families. Rees and his campaign manager, Michael Ernette, who has commented on this blog before, were very cordial and easy to get a long with, guys with whom you would want to grab a brew.

In an unorthodox start to his speech, Rees declared his relative distaste for the current political landscape. His message, in my opinion, was seemingly (or better?) fit for an Independent candidacy, especially given his previous thoughts on a third party candidacy and his reluctance to claim the Republican party as his own. Rees begins:
I can't stand politics, or most politicians. There are a few statesmen left, but not nearly enough to stem the erosion of core principles that has been taking place for nearly a century. Americans are tired of the same old choices. And you shouldn't have to hold your nose when you pull that lever in the voting booth.
Rees never aspired to office and has not held office, though his employment history "is replete with accolades from former employers, supervisors, et cetera." It wasn't until last year's campaign cycle, that Rees was agitated enough to consider public office:
In televised ads last October, Congressman Perriello, in typical political-posturing fashion, blatantly lied about the FairTax, an issue I've dedicated the last 5+ years of my life to. That and my years of research on the subject of the FairTax were my initial reason for running.
At this point Rees highlighted the major platforms of his campaign, the FairTax and reversing the onslaught of governmental intrusion, and he circuitously navigated between these two issues. To his latter platform, Rees stated:
Our political system has created a bureaucracy so large, pervasive, and downright insidious, that the average working family feels helpless to stop the wrecking ball that is swing toward them. our entire political structure has been reinforced over the last several decades, not to serve the people who foot the bill, but to reign over us in perpetuitiy.
On the FairTax, Rees existentially argued:
Why do I enthusiastically endorse the FairTax? Because a human being's life span is finite. You only have so many minutes, hours, and days on Earth. When you go to work, whatever time you spend there is a portion of your life that you can never reclaim. You are trading those hours of your life for a monetary compensation, with which you can purchase whatever you choose to enhance and/or sustain your life, and that of your family.

When your government forcefully confiscates any portion of that money, before you can even use it for sustatining the life of yourself and your family, your government is, essentially laying claim to a portion of your life. The framers of the Constitution knew this, which was exactly why they expressly prohibited direct taxation of a person's income. The 16th Amendment changed that. It's time to get rid of that amendment. And, yes, you guessed it: the FairTax will do that too.
Rees reiterated his anger at the current political atmosphere, aimed at both parties, and how his previous political organizing, complemented with new technology, can overcome this disenfranchisement:
Through the social edia revolution, massive numbers of ordinary people are being mobilized ot take on the corruption of the political machines run by both major parties, and their crony counterparts in Congress.
Through paralleling his rhetoric with his intended image, Rees concluded:
The paradigm must shift, but it will take some loud voices raised in opposition and some heavy lifting. Luckily, I'm bringing a bullhorn and a forklift with me.

Update: Catherine Amos, of the Danville Register and Bee, reports the event. Notice the interesting quotes from Ernette and Tucker Watkins.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Quick Perriello Points

It's hard to keep up with my congressman these days. Come home from work and my inbox is flooded with news of new legislation he writes and supports. This is from the last two days.

On veteran's issues, Perriello first voted for two important bills and introduced legislation. He voted to improve how VA's get funded, thus allowing for better transparency and planning purposes, and he voted to expand and improve VA healthcare benefits for the women who have bravely served our country. Perriello also introduced legislation to extend healthcare benefits from the VA to family members who act as caregivers to disabled veterans.

Today, Perriello announced his support for the Trade Act, which will review existing trade negotiations and will reform our country's approach to such negotiations, specifically with four higher standards. You can watch his press conference here.

Tomorrow, Thursday, Bradley Rees will officially announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Congress in Danville. I actually have a meeting there earlier, so time permitting, I'm going to try to check it out.

Tweeting Religious Principles

Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University, twitters the basic premises of each religion, as well as athiesm - 140 character theological bombshells. Prothero, author of the new book Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, argues that while America is a deeply religious nation, our literacy of the basic tenets of the major religious faiths, even Christianity, is grossly inadequate. Saith Prothero:
“Part of what I’m trying to do is to get people to understand that religion matters, that it’s a huge political and social force. We’re seeing that play out now in Iran,” he says. “You can open the newspaper and see how important religion is.”

While the tweets are a lighthearted effort to share basic information, they also contribute to Prothero’s ongoing effort to break down barriers between academia and “the so-called real world."

Prothero's twitterfeed is here, but I here are some of his tweets on the major religions.
Xianity140: Adam&Eve hungry so we=sinners. JC died&rose so we=saved. Is God3in1/Bible true/Kingdom coming/Pope Catholic? Believe/Love! Ahh!

Judaism140: 1 God, 1 chosen people. Do the Law (all 613), tell the story (Egypt to Zion, exile to return), repair the world. 2010 in 97500!

Islam 140: Allah told Gabriel told the prophet Muhammad (PBUH): Just 1 God, pray to Him 5x day, give alms, fast, hajj to Mecca. Submit! Ahh!

Atheism140: Warning: religion=hazardous 2 ur health. There is no uknowwho but Freud & Marx is his prophet. Faith=D’oh. Be good w/o god(sic)!
He also tweets on, among others, Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism, Confucianism, and the religion of Red Sox fans.

What do you think of those 140 character religious assessments? Two gold stars to whomever can do better, with either these or new religions.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Seward Anderson and Virginia Veterans

Last week, Seward Anderson, Democratic nominee for the 14th district House of Delegates seat, held a press conference to announce several proposals to help Virginia veterans. His proposals:
If elected, Anderson said he’d work to provide tax relief for veterans, prevent foreclosures on any active service member’s home, ensure returning veterans have quick and easy access to their benefits and deregulate veteran’s organizations, which would allow them to use revenue for improvements on their posts and other necessities.
Saith Anderson:
“I believe it’s our solemn duty to repay them for what they’ve given to this nation,” Anderson said.
“We should do everything we can to thank our vets and meet their needs,” he said.
You can watch video of the press conference here. Importantly, Anderson served six years in the Virginia National Guard, his father served in WWII, and his son is currently in the Air Force. Del. Danny Marshall responded to Anderson's proposals by highlighting his pro-veteran credentials.

Obama Fears the Culture Wars?

ReligionDispatches has a provocative article alleging that the Obama administration is adverse to tackling the divisive issues of the culture wars because of the potential political fallout; Obama, the logic goes, could lose support among the cherished Independents, and he wants to use his political capital on other legislative priorities. According to the author, Daniel Shultz:
It seems fairly clear to me at least that Obama's Faith-Based Advisory Board, among his other religion-minded partners, has been tasked with neutralizing the president's right wing in order to protect his political capital when it comes to legacy issues like health care.
Shultz concludes:
Now is not the time to hedge bets. The Obama administration ought to be pressing its advantages and racking up some victories, not hemming and hawing and worrying about who it might lose when the inevitable fight comes.
I can't articulate how I feel about this, if true - a swirl and confliction of emotion. Thoughts?

Del. Poindexter Unopposed. Again?

First, Del. Poindexter (R-Franklin County) was unopposed. Then he drew an Independent challenger, Sherman Witcher. Last week, however, the Franklin News-Post reported that the State Board of Elections has not (yet?) certified Witcher as a candidate, and as such Poindexter may be unopposed ... again. Of course, Witcher could start a write-in campaign. Stay tuned.

Baptists in the Current Religious Landscape

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life just released this graph highlighting the percentage of Baptists in America, a number to me that, at first, seemed surprisingly high. But after interviewing 35K people, it's hard to quibble with the results.

Notice that, though still a big percentage of Baptists, Southern Baptists aren't the majority denomination. As a Baptist, I say this to remind everyone that Baptists come in all shapes, sizes, and theological persuasion, progressive to conservatism, every point in between.

(h/t RNS Blog)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Follow-up: Fear! Perriello Hides Terrorists Under Your Bed

We are in the midst of quite a stir. Here's the background: three days ago, Thursday, JR Hoeft at Bearing Drift wrote a piece hitting Rep. Perriello for an no vote on an amendment prohibiting funds to close Guantanamo Bay. That night, Aznew responded calling Hoeft's post "patently absurd," and in like manner, I wrote trying to shooting down the emerging Republican memes to the story (1, 2, 3). On Friday, Lowell wrote two posts, the first echoing Aznew's sentiments, the second defending Perriello from a Christian and a national security perspective. AnonymousIsAWoman, in a great post, argued against the fear-mongering, and, the following day, Hoeft pushed back on her blog, to which Aznew again painstakenly replied. Republican blogger Shaun Kenney, in an otherwise good post, picked up AIAW's blog and offered a sleight-of-hand-don't-pay-attention-to-the-real-issue comeback, prooftexting me to partially build his argument against AIAW. Today, Lowell applauds AIAW's post and Aznew's recent post. Although I could have missed some posts, that's just within the Virginia blogosphere! At the state and national levels, the RPV, the NRCC, and the DCCC, somewhat comically, exchanged blows over Perriello and this issue. Phew! Got that?

Although the debate over the closing of Guantanamo is necessary and important, to be sure, I want to refocus the conversation back to the actual amendment vote, hopefully exposing the disingenuous nature of the Republican faux outrage - or is it gotcha-induced giddiness? - against Perriello. Again to recap: Last Thursday, Perriello, joined by 212 mostly Democratic colleagues, voted against Rep. Jerry Lewis' (R-CA) H.Amdt 220 added to HR 2847. Here's the amendment:
An amendment numbered 118 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit the use of funds to implement Executive Order 13492, issued January 22, 2009, titled "Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities".
ically, Republicans did not want to release funds to shut down Guantanamo Bay, to fund the President's executive order to close the base. The amendment was voted down, 212-213, mainly along party lines, and Republican's jumped on Perriello for being arm-twisted by Pelosi, for casting the deciding vote to bring detainees to Virginia.

Just two days prior, however, the house voted for a war supplemental bill (HR 2346), and it passed, 226-202, also along party lines; Democrats generally supported the supplemental, Republicans generally didn't. There, within the bill, are several important provisions disallowing the release of detainees on US soil. Click this text link, scroll down (about a fifth or a sixth of the way) to Title III: General Provisions, This Act and let's take a look:
(Sec. 30004) Prohibits funds from this or any prior Act from being used to release an individual who is detained, as of April 30, 2009, at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, or the District of Columbia. Prohibits any such release for the purpose of detaining or prosecuting any such individual until two months after Congress receives from the President a comprehensive plan regarding the proposed disposition. Requires the plan to include: (1) the risk to national security posed by the transfer; (2) costs associated with not transferring an individual; (3) the legal rationale and associated court demands for transfer; (4) a certification by the President that any national security risk associated with a transfer has been mitigated; and (5) a certification by the President that the President has certified to the governor and state legislature of a state to which the President intends to transfer an individual that such individual does not pose a security threat to the United States.

Prohibits any funds from being used to transfer or release such an individual to the country of such individual's nationality or last residence, or to any country other than the United States, unless the President submits to Congress, at least 30 days prior to such release or transfer: (1) the name of the individual and the country involved; (2) an assessment of the risk to U.S. national security posed by the transfer or release; and (3) the terms of any agreement with another country for the acceptance of such individual, including any financial assistance related to the agreement. (emphasis mine)

Okay, there is a lot there, and though it's relatively self-explanatory, it's still pretty dense. First, no funds can be used to release Guantanamo detainees onto US soil. Period. If the President, however, wants to prosecute or detain a prisoner on US soil, the President must first submit a plan for approval by Congress, especially assuring, among other things, against threats or risks of security. This supplemental goes further: no funds can be used to release detainees in any other country unless the President runs it by Congress.

Again, the language within the war supplemental bill, voted for by Perriello and Democrats, prohibits the release of detainees into the US. On the other hand, the gotcha-game amendment proposed by Republicans would have only prevented the closure of Guantanamo. The war supplemental bill passed and, of course, the prohibitions therein, although Republicans voted against the bill and its prohibitions.

In a fever of political gamesmanship, however, Republicans - knowing that two days prior Perriello voted to close these possibilities - have tried to create trumped-up charges against Perriello. And, in light of the supplemental, Republicans are now equally accountable to the same charges levied against Perriello. If I wanted to be similarly dishonest, I could say that Republicans, in voting against the war supplemental, voted against prohibitions - thereby either allowing or in favor of - releasing detainees onto US soil.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Just Another Day

Since my entrance into this world, today marks another successful orbit around the sun. Reward me with well-wishes, food, and gifts.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fear! Perriello Hides Terrorists Under Your Bed (updated)

So, today Rep. Perriello voted against an amendment (H.Amdt 220 to HR 2847) that would have prohibited the use of funds to close down Guantanamo. Here is the actual amendment, introduced by Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA):
An amendment numbered 118 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit the use of funds to implement Executive Order 13492, issued January 22, 2009, titled "Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities".
The amendment failed, 213-212, mainly across party lines. So, the Republicans, along with 30 Democrats, were basically voting to keep Guantanamo Bay open, and Perriello and others voted to fund its closure. President Obama campaigned on the base's closure, an election he won, you might recall. Guantanamo Bay is a stain on our international reputation, the mere existence of which fuels terrorist recruitment. Closing this base sends a strong and clear signal to the Muslim world and strengthens our relationships overseas, both providing national security implications.

Two Republican blogs picked up this vote and several memes transpired. Tom voted with his BFF, Nancy Pelosi, to bring terrorists to Virginia, and Tom cast the deciding vote on this amendment. Here's Bearing Drift, emphasis mine:
Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA05) has just cast the deciding vote to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to Virginia. According to a Capitol Hill source:

Rep. Perriello just voted with Speaker Pelosi on an amendment to allow for funds to close Guantanamo Bay facility and move those detainees to Virginia. Perriello voted against an amendment, offered by Rep. Lewis of California, that would have prohibited the closure - the amendment failed 212-213 with Mr. Perriello casting the deciding vote.

Next up, Virginia Virtucon with a little more commentary, emphasis mine:
Soon-to-be-one-term-former U.S. Reps. Tom Perriello and Gerry “The Big Doofus” Connolly just cast the deciding votes on an amendment offered by Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), H.AMDT.220 to H.R.2847, that would have prohibited funds to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and prevent those detainees from being move to places like, oh… VIRGINIA!!! The Lewis amendment failed 212-213 and Perriello and Connolly voted with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the people of the Commonwealth. ... How someone like Perriello who describes himself as a “National Security Analyst” could cast such a boneheaded vote is beyond me. ...
Now that's message discipline, almost like they read the same talking points.

You read the amendment. It doesn't necessarily mention bringing detainees to the United States, let alone Virginia. We are in negotiations with other nations to take some of these detainees (1, 2, 3), but likely, many will end up within our borders. In super-max facilities. You know the facilities that hold terrorists like Timothy McVeigh (before his execution), Terry Nichols, Ted Kaczynski, and Richard Reid. They never escaped, and we haven't heard from them since. For a party that relishes in its tough-on-crime credentials, this Republican fear-mongering belittles both our prison facilities and our prison guards, as if they are sleeping imbeciles guarding a lego fort.

With a cast of 213 Congresspeople, all 213, it could be said, cast the deciding vote. To lay the ultimate and final vote on Perriello is disinginuous and plays opportunistic political gotcha games to try to damage the reputation of a seemingly vulnerable incumbent. Doubly so, when Republicans tie Perriello to "super-liberal" Pelosi, the dream foil of the party. Nevermind that 211 other Democrats voted similarly.

This vote, to be sure, will rile up Republicans, and this vote could become a campaign issue next year. Defiantly, I welcome that opportunity. Tom is right. Last year, if we only learned one thing, we learned that when potential voters are treated like adults, given more than emotional and fear-inciting sound-bites, voters respond positively. I'll conclude with Aznew's thoughts on the matter:
This dynamic can win the GOP a local House of Delegates, or even congressional, election in Virginia, but the GOP's days of dreaming about sustainable political leadership or change are in the past.

Over the long run, however, I am confident that Republican reliance on arguments like this have been and will continue to erode the credibility of the GOP because they are insulting to voters.

Update: RPV Chair Pat Mullins sent out an email, copied in full at The Virginian Federalist, providing the same talking points listed above. Beautiful.

Update 2: Crystal Clear Conservative hits all the major talking points and has to mention twice the Pelosi and the "cast the deciding vote" memes. I'm done tracking them, you get the point.

Perriello's Online Healthcare Forum, "Your Health, Your Voice"

Today, Rep. Perriello introduced his "Your Health, Your Voice" online healthcare forum, a place where constituents can come and provide input, relay stories, and dialogue with constituents over healthcare reform. You can find the actual forum here. Saith Perriello:
“I’m excited to use technology to make it easier for people around the Fifth District to inform my work on healthcare reform,” said Perriello. “Through my town hall meetings in the District, I have learned a great deal from patients and medical experts about the strengths and shortfalls in our current system. I’m hoping this forum gives people a place to be heard and to share ideas about how reduce costs, protect patient choice, and ensure quality, affordable care for all Americans.”
Finally, here is an introductory video by Perriello introducing "Your Health, Your Voice."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Quote of the Day

The Las Vegas Sun on Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) admittance of an extra-marital affair:
The Republican Party didn’t make a deal with the devil.

It made a deal with God, or at least people who said they were God’s representatives — a certain class of very political and ideological preachers.

The deal, engineered by Republican operatives such as Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, went like this: Be against gays and abortion and for prayer in the schools, and in return, those preachers would proclaim the GOP the party of God and deliver millions of suburban and rural voters — enough to win elections for three decades.

But the deal carried a risk: Any behavior by Republican officeholders or public figures that seemed at odds with a certain kind of Old Testament morality — a tryst in an airport bathroom, a painkiller addiction, a sexual harassment lawsuit — and voters might feel betrayed and manipulated.

And the deal would collapse.

I don't think calls of hypocrisy in these situations are entirely constructive, as they only increase the polarized nature of our political and religious landscape. Under the public microscope, politicians of all stripes and parties have shown their flaws and personal failures. Democrats, to be sure, have had our share of the less than perfect role models (John Edwards, Bill Clinton).

As the quote highlights, the marriage relationship between the Religious Right and Republicans is a double-edge sword - especially as issues of sex, sexuality, and family values are central tenets to the party plank. When those trumpeting moral and political righteousness, however, fail to live up to those standards, people - not just the other party - are doubly angry. So while both sides have their share of disgraced politicians, the failure of conservative politicians - those who espouse and vocalize these central tenets - incites a special kind of indignation from the public.

And, as a result, the public lashes back. The Mark Foley scandal singlehandedly cost Republicans seats, if not the majority, in the House during the 2006 election cycle.

(h/t Taegan Goddard)

Sabato on Possible Perriello-Goode Rematch

UVA Professor Larry Sabato weighs in on the possibility of a Perriello-Goode rematch next year. Money quote:
"And rematches are fun. They attract a lot of attention nationally. They attract a lot of money nationally, because naturally both sides assume they have a reasonable chance of winnings. They both have someone who served in congress," said Sabato.
This all assumes that Goode will run and get the nomination, to which Sabato opines:
Larry Sabato says if Goode wants to run, he would assume Republicans would give him the nomination.
If Virgil Goode decides not to run, Sabato says Republicans have the challenge of finding a candidate who is strong enough to defeat an incumbent.
"So the Republicans are divided. You know some of them want Virgil to run. Some of them want a new nominee, but of course, if they go with a new nominee, they have to actually find somebody who has the money and the name ID to win an election," said Sabato.
On the other hand, according to Sabato, Perriello has been campaigning for re-election since day one. I'm not entirely sure about that, but I will concede he is working a double-shift.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quick Perriello Points

Rep. Perriello has decided to open a fourth district office in Martinsville today, the first congressional office located in the city during "modern times." Current Vice-Mayor Kimble Reynolds will be his Martinsville/Southside area representative. Given the large economic problems in the Martinsville community this a good choice, and Reynolds' knowledge of the community is a huge asset. Jim White likes the moves also.

Perriello will be the featured guest speaker this year during the Independence Day celebration at Monticello, naturally on July 4th. Pres. Bush was given that honor last year.

The National Catholic Reporter has a great article on Tom highlighting his previous Catholic activism. (h/t @robertpjones)

Republican Candidate and possible challenger to Perriello, Bradley Rees, has a new campaign website and he now offers a Friends of Rees twitter account. Make sure you bookmark the site and follow him, respectively.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Robert Wright and Andrew Sullivan

This is the final opportunity for you to listen to Robert Wright before Tripp and I interview him on Wednesday. Do you have an aching question to ask him, to win a copy of his new book, The Evolution of God?

Here Andrew Sullivan interviews Robert Wright about his new book - a short, five minute clip.

The Current Ideological Landscape in America

A new Gallup poll released today surveys the current ideological landscape in America. According to the poll, 40% of Americans consider themselves conservative, 35% moderate, and 21% liberal. This percentage of self-identified conservatives has increased since last year, while those liberals decreased marginally. When asked about political parties, reinforcing the Democratic Big Tent meme, Gallup noted:
There is an important distinction in the respective ideological compositions of the Republican and Democratic Parties. While a solid majority of Republicans are on the same page -- 73% call themselves conservative -- Democrats are more of a mixture. The major division among Democrats is between self-defined moderates (40%) and liberals (38%). However, an additional 22% of Democrats consider themselves conservative, much higher than the 3% of Republicans identifying as liberal.
Their data shows that 36% self-identify as Democrats, 28% Republicans, and 27% Independents (who lean 51% Democratic, 39% Republican, and 9% purely independent).

In a gender breakdown, women are more likely to be liberal and moderate, less likely to be conservative compared to men. And, among the age groups, older generations skew heavily conservative, but in the youngest age group (18-29), Americans are split evenly between conservatism and liberalism.

Finally, according to the Gallup, America is slightly more polarized today then during the 1990's with increases in both the conservative and liberal bases and shrinking among moderates at large.

Anybody find any of this surprising?

Perriello, Possible Challengers, and Television Appearances (updated)

This past weekend, while I was away, the Daily Progress had an article on potential challengers for Rep. Perriello. On the list, people we have talked about here (1, 2, 3, 4): Virgil Goode, Del. Rob Bell, State Sen. Robert Hurt, Cordel Faulk, and Bradley Rees, the only candidate actually in the race at this time. I am struck by the amount of deference Bell and Hurt are paying to Goode, who is still deciding on a run (1, 2). While I have heard of at least one other rumored candidate, this article provides the most comprehensive list of possible Perriello challengers to date.

On a somewhat related note, Perriello was on MSNBC today, and one of the anchors called Tom the "Republicans worst nightmare." He is also a "rising star" in the party, and he "speaks truth to power." Here's the clip:

Waldo, Lowell, and Jim White offer their thoughts.

Update: According to Swing State Project, the NRCC considers Perriello, along with fellow Virginia freshman Glenn Nye, one of their top-tier pick-up opportunities. While I have no illusions that Tom will skate to a re-election, I think there is an element of wishful thinking involved here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gone Fishing

So, I'm out of town again this weekend. Be back Sunday. Behave yourselves.

And come up with awesome questions for Robert Wright so I can give you a free book. Many have already done so. Have you?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Republicans Hope 2009 Sets Up Strong 2010 in VA

Here is an article by The Hill on how this year's gubernatorial race could help set up next year's congressional races. As such, Republicans are hoping this year's election will be seen as a referendum of Obama (sigh), thus electing Bob McDonnell and laying the groundwork to unseat the Democratic freshmen congressmen (Nye, Perriello, Connolly). Money quote:
Republicans, in particular, would like revenge against Perriello, who upset six-term Rep. Virgil Goode in one of the closest elections of 2008.

The GOP also think they have a good shot at unseating Nye, and some say he could overtake Perriello as the party’s No. 1 target in the state. Nye knocked off two-term Rep. Thelma Drake last year by five points in a district that barely went to Obama.

If Republicans sense a trend breaking their way, they’ll add Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly to their target list. But they admit it could be a long shot.
They highlight that the Fifth District was cut for strict Republican incumbency, a matter that I would nuance. Yes, in 2001, the district had a strong Republican majority, but with the influx of population in the strong urban areas, like Charlottesville/Albemarle and the Roanoke suburbs, this district, while still perhaps Republican-leaning, no longer steadfastly votes for a single party, if they ever did (the truth, naturally, is more complex). Neglecting this demographic trend, the article states:
Perriello’s district, warned James Madison University political scientist Bob Roberts, was gerrymandered so it would always be held by a Republican. “There is no reason they wouldn’t take back this district,” he said.
But Perriello outperformed Obama in the district, is part of the DCCC's Frontline program, and "has launched aggressive outreach and fundraising programs," seen in his last quarter's haul. In terms of Republican candidate recruitment, this part is very interesting on several levels:
If Goode passes on the race, and some Republicans believe he will, the GOP is excited about either Virginia Del. Rob Bell or Virginia state Sen. Robert Hurt. Bell has met with the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). And Hurt said he would only consider the race if Goode opts to stay out of it.
Most, that I've talked to at least, think Goode is going to run, but also, this nugget officially gives voice to long-standing rumors of other potential candidates, namely Bell and Hurt. In a similar vein, recruitment efforts against Nye are also underway by national Republicans, but seriously challenging Connolly, they admit, is a pipe-dream, given that district's Democratic strength.

If Republicans think Rep. Perriello is easy pickins, they are in for a rude awakening. As for now, let's take it one election at a time, but naturally, strong campaigning, activism, and turnout for Deeds/Wagner/Shannon will only help strengthen our chances of retaining these congressional seats next cycle.

Ward Armstrong: Very Excited about and Confident in Dem Ticket

The Martinsville Bulletin interviewed House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D-Martinsville) on his thought on Tuesday night's primary results. Armstrong, who endorsed Moran during the primary, had "nothing but praise" for Deeds and LG candidate Jody Wagner, whom he did endorse. He praised Mike Signer as a rising star in the Democratic Party and hoped that Signer and Moran would stay in active in Virginia politics. On the entire Democratic ticket, Deeds-Wagner-Shannon, Armstrong said that he is excited about the line-up and confident that all three will win their respective races.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Southside Newspapers Report Primary Results (updated)

Here are some quick links to Southside newspapers, at least the ones I follow:

The Martinsville Bulletin wrote two articles on yesterday's results - an article on Deeds' overall win and an article on Deeds and Signer's local victories - while the Franklin News-Post collapsed Deeds' victories, statewide and local, into one article. The Danville Register & Bee focused on Deeds' local numbers. The Appommattox News reports on Deeds and Wagner's overall victories, and tangentially speaking, it is surprising, in a good way, to see this:
Appomattox News endorsed Deeds on 1 June, and we stand behind him in the race for governor. We hope that Deeds continues to stand for rural Virginia, for the environment and for Virginia’s children and their safety.

Update: The News and Record out of South Boston on Deeds' victories.

Robert Wright: A Divine Code for Peaceful Interaction Between Abrahamic Traditions

To help with our Robert Wright Interview Contest, I want to offer another great article written recently by Robert Wright. Also, if you are interested, Tripp discovers an conversation, in which Wright is apart, on God, evolution, and divine action.

Robert Wright, noting biblical and Qu'ranic precedent for peaceful non-zero-sum interaction between the religions, offers his thoughts on how the Abrahamic traditions, specifically, Jews and Muslims, can co-exist peacefully. Looking at the Hebrew Bible and the Qu'ran, Wright highlights passages where the relational approach of one religion to another was belligerent, but he also finds passages highlighting peaceful harmony between religions - an underlying Divine code:
If you juxtapose the Abrahamic Scriptures with what scholars have learned about the circumstances surrounding their creation, a pattern appears. Certain kinds of situations inspired tolerance, and other kinds inspired the opposite. You might even say this pattern is a kind of code, a code that is hidden in the Scriptures and that, once revealed, unlocks the secret of God's changing moods.

And maybe this code could unlock more than that. Maybe knowing what circumstances made the authors of Scripture open-minded can help make modern-day believers open-minded. Maybe the hidden code in the Bible and the Koran, the code that links Scriptural content to context, could even help mend the most dangerous of intra-Abrahamic fault lines, the one between Muslims and Jews.

Wright then provides a socio-historic reading of these sacred texts, pointing out general trends in ancient Judiasm and Islam from polytheism to monotheism, from zero-sumness to non-zero-summness, from belligerence to toleration - sometimes with fluctations between and betwixt:

In neither case had the growth been smoothly progressive, and in both cases, there would be backsliding. Still, in both cases, God spent enough time in benevolent mode to leave the Scriptures littered with odes to tolerance and understanding, verses that modern believers can focus on, should they choose.
These non-zero-sum keys can help with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to Wright:

The key, it suggests, is to arrange things so that relations between Muslims and Jews are conspicuously non-zero-sum.

Sometimes this may mean engineering the non-zero-sumness — for example, strengthening commerce between Israel and the Palestinian territories. Other times it will mean highlighting a non-zero-sum dynamic that already exists — emphasizing, for example, that continued strife between Israelis and Palestinians will be lose-lose (as would escalated tensions between the "Muslim world" and the "West" more broadly). Enduring peace would be win-win.

But as we know, this peace cannot be assumed, to which, Wright concludes:

It can take time for people, having seen that they are playing a non-zero-sum game, to adjust their attitudes accordingly. And this adaptation may never happen if barriers of mistrust persist.

But at least we can quit talking as if this adaptation were impossible — as if intolerance and violence were inevitable offshoots of monotheism. At least we can quit asking whether Islam — or Judaism or any other religion — is a religion of peace. The answer is no. And yes. It says so in the Bible, and in the Koran.

Thoughts? Any questions you would like to ask Wright to win his new book?

What 2009 Means for 2010, 2012

Even before last nights results flooded in, national prognosticators were speculating on what this year's gubernatorial race (as with New Jersey's) would mean in the grand scheme of things. To head off any over-analyzation, several news outlets warned not too read too much into the tea leaves. The pre-set meme to be utilized, voiced here by the Washington Post:
But White House and Democratic Party leaders know that a loss in either state this fall will be interpreted as a setback for Obama. Republican victories in either state will boost a beleaguered party that is searching desperately for signs of renewal.

Virginia and New Jersey will be important for another reason. A lingering question from the 2008 election is whether the enthusiasm surrounding Obama's candidacy was singularly focused or transferable to other Democrats when he is not on the ballot. His candidacy was fueled by the passions he engendered among his followers and by the strongly anti-Bush sentiment in the country. To what extent did the results in 2008 signal affirmative endorsement of the Democratic Party?

But as the Post article opens:

Off-year elections rarely predict the future -- except when they do. That's why Democratic and Republican leaders will be closely watching the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and especially Virginia between now and November.
Echoing that voice, Salon's Mike Madden believes that off-year elections provide only little help, if any, to make larger claims for or against the Obama Administration:

Local elections can provide small glimpses of what each party is doing right – or wrong – but looking for a deep national significance in the result is just the latest example of the Washington political establishment's thinking that everything that goes on around the country has to do with something happening inside the Beltway.
In a similar manner, NPR admits the political obsession to make transcendent claims from the results of these elections:
But we, the political cognoscenti, have this ingrained and annoying habit of over-interpreting elections. That's especially true of off-year elections, like this year's gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, or special elections ...
Sometimes, off-year elections or special elections do signal larger trends, but generally we should not over-analyze the results:
So sometimes we do learn something in these isolated elections. But for the most part, attempts at reading tea leaves and extrapolating results into a BIG MESSAGE are often just silly.
Mental note.

Perriello's VET-WORK Bill Clears Committee

Today, Rep. Perriello's Veterans Worker Retraining Act of 2009 cleared the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and the bill will now come before the entire house for a vote. This bill would increase on-the-job training benefits for veterans. Saith Perriello:
“The bipartisan vote by the full committee is a huge boost for my bill to support vocational training for our returning veterans,” said Perriello. “The 570,000 unemployed vets in our country could benefit from this program, and I think the full support we generated on the committee offers a great chance to build support from the entire Congress.”
My earlier thoughts on the bill when Rep. Perriello introduced the bill:
Notably, Tom is fulfilling his campaign promises here (i.e., his economic revival plan), however, with a positive twist. As I understand it, this bill will provide assistance to those veterans who, in terms of vocation, do not view a college degree as an option or a necessity. Not everyone needs to go to college, and people completing vocational training, obviously, provide positive and valuable contributions to our society. America needs welders, nurses, and mechanics. With that principle in mind, this bill provides a parallel option to the GI Bill. Good stuff.
Of note, the legislation has been endorsed by several prominent veterans groups.

As a freshman, Perriello already has written one law and passed several important amendments (1, 2), with more legislation in the works (1, 2, 3, 4) - not to mention his proactive help and constant presence within district. That's a double shift.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Poll: A Third of Republicans View GOP Unfavorably

This was just passed onto me. According to a USA Today/Gallup Poll, one in three self-identified Republicans view their party unfavorably, compared to 4% of Democrats who view the Democratic party unfavorably. More:
Asked by Gallup "what comes to mind when you think of the Republican Party," 25% of those surveyed said "unfavorable" and another 1 in 4 offered negative assessments including "no direction," "close-minded" and "poor economic conditions." Sixteen percent said conservative and 7% "favorable."

For the Democratic Party, the most dominant impression was "liberal," mentioned by 15%. One in 3 used positive phrases such as "for the people" and "socially conscious." The most prevalent negative judgments saw the Democrats as "big spending" (8%) and "self-centered" (4%).

This poll "underscore[s] the perilous state" of the Republican Party:

Over the past three years, Republicans have lost control of the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate, and they're now struggling to forge a unified response to the popular new Democratic president.

Adventures in Republican Typos (updated)

The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) has an on-line pledge for people to vote Republican in this year's upcoming election. They, however, misspelled one word, unfortunately playing into memes of the party's racial insensitivity, fair or unfair. The offending quote, unbolded:
If the Democrats win control of the Virginia General Assembly it will be absolutely disastrous for you and other taxpayers!

With the State Senate already under their control a Democratic win would mean that tax-and-spend legislators would be able to ram through a costly, high tax, big government, left-wing agenda that would racially [sic] change Virginia's future.
I'm pretty sure they meant "radically change," but that's unfortunate.

Update: The RSLC has updated their typo, sometime this morning (6/10/09).

Obama, Jesus, and Atheists

Politico has two great articles today about the Obama administration and religion. First, Obama invokes the name Jesus Christ more than his predecessor, Pres. Bush. Money quote:
More than four months into the Obama presidency, a picture is emerging of a chief executive who is comfortable with public displays of his religion — although he has also paid tribute to other faiths and those he called “nonbelievers” during his inaugural address.

Obama’s invocation of the Christian Messiah is more overt than Americans heard in the public rhetoric of Bush in his time in the White House — even though Bush’s victories were powered in part by evangelical voters.
Conservative evangelicals (i.e., Tony Perkins), somewhat happy with the language, call the language a "thin veneer" to anti-Christian policies, while those favoring a strong separation of church and state are nervous with the rhetoric. But, according to Politico, there are political reasons for the frequency of Obama and Bush' invocation of Jesus:
But there are different political imperatives driving the two presidents. Obama has every incentive to broadcast his Christianity, while Bush, for other reasons, chose to narrowcast his religious references to a targeted audience.

For Obama, Christian rhetoric offers an opportunity to connect with a broader base of supporters in a nation in which 83 percent of Americans believe in God. What’s more, regularly invoking Jesus helps Obama minimize the number of American who believe he is a Muslim — a linkage that can be politically damaging.
For Bush, invoking Jesus publicly was fraught with political risk. He was so closely politically identified with the Christian right that overt talk of Christ from the White House risked alienating mainstream and secular voters.
At the same time, Politico has another article highlighting current atheist reaction to Obama. While upset with the use of religious rhetoric by Bush, atheists are currently willing to give Obama a pass despite his frequent use of similar language. Their thinking:
Nathan Bupp, director of communications for the Center for Inquiry, says that many nonbelievers view Obama’s invocations of faith as nothing more than a “symbolic gesture” used to aid his quest for social justice.
“They realize [Obama] is not doing what he’s doing for Pat Robertson-type reasons.”
Although there is some unease, atheist groups are generally pleased with some of Obama's policies and are pleased that they have been invited to the White House to offer their thoughts on a wide range of issues. Concluding atheist quote:
“The one important thing to recognize,” says Harris, “is [Obama] is so much better than the last guy in the Oval Office, and everyone is feeling so much relief for the change he has brought, that they are inclined not to gripe too much about all the delusional stuff he may be paying lip service to or holding over from the previous administration.”

Webb and Warner Help Save D-Day Memorial

Sens. Webb and Warner introduced legislation into the Senate to save the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, a move to bring legislation before both Houses as Rep. Perriello introduced legislation last week. The D-Day Memorial is at risk of closure, due to decreased donations, and these Congressmen are moving to turn the memorial into an national park. Saith Warner:
In a statement released Monday, Warner said Bedford’s story of sacrifice on D-Day “is representative of many small towns across the nation.”

“Park Service stewardship of the Memorial will ensure that this sacrifice continues to occupy a permanent and prominent place in the story of America,” he said.

Primary Day

Hey, Virginia Democrats! It's Primary Day, polls open at 6AM and close at 7PM. If you don't know where you vote, you can look it up here.

If you are interested in sharing, who are you voting for and why?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Interviewing Robert Wright: Help Needed and Contest

Tripp and I have been lucky to land a podcast interview with the brilliant Robert Wright, author of the new book The Evolution of God. I have have been a long-time fan after reading his books The Moral Animal and Nonzero, and although I am still not very far in The Evolution of God, I have been impressed so far.

Tripp and Chad at Homebrewed Christianity have a weekly podcast where they interview theologians and scholars about their theological systems and world views (archive here). They have had some big names on their podcast, and a listenership that literally spans the globe. I am thankful to Tripp, Chad, and Robert Wright for this opportunity.

We are going to be interviewing Robert Wright next Wednesday. Importantly, we are soliciting questions from you to ask him. Mr. Wright and his publicist have been gracious enough to give us several copies of his new book, so those who offer the best question will not only get their question asked in our podcast interview, but will receive a new copy of The Evolution of God. Importantly, you can ask your question here, you can email me your question (email on the top-right of blog) or you can call into the Homebrewed Christianity caller hotline and ask it there (210.787.1057). Please remember to leave your name and contact information so that we can contact you if/when you win.

If it helps, we have discussed Robert Wright several times on this blog before. We discussed an article on religion and globalization, pointed out a great quote of Andrew Sullivan in Sullivan's review of The Evolution of God, and we highlighted a NYT's Q&A with Wright. Please read through these previous posts for more sources and information.

Do you have any questions that you would like to ask Robert Wright?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Deeds' Commanding Statewide Lead (updated)

PPP released their final poll tonight, showing a commanding lead by Creigh Deeds over Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran:

Candidate Statewide
Creigh Deeds 40%
Terry McAuliffe 26%
Brian Moran 24%
Undecided 10%

This newfound commanding presence isn't localized to any one region. In fact, Deeds now owns leads in every area code but the 757 area code (McAuliffe):

Candidate 276 434 540 703 757 804
Creigh Deeds 43% 49% 56% 38% 30% 34%
Terry McAuliffe 34% 27% 23% 20% 33% 27%
Brian Moran 12% 14% 14% 35% 20% 25%
Undecided 11% 10% 7% 6% 17% 14%

The PPP blog offers their thoughts on why previous undecideds "broke almost exclusively" for Deeds.

Update: The final Survey USA poll bears similar results: Deeds 42%, McAuliffe 30%, Moran 21%.