A typical day is probably from about 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., but no two days are the same. This weekend I was meeting with veteran groups in Bedford and Halifax and Albemarle County and I was meeting with displaced workers in Danville. Where there’s a place I can be helpful, I try to get there.That's working a double-shift. Earlier today, I posted on what an "average" day looks like for him.
But we also have the same work ethic with my staff. In our district work week a few weeks ago we covered over 10,000 miles as a staff in one week in the district. There’s a very deep sense on our team that we’re blessed to have jobs and that we’re blessed to have the chance to spend our days trying to help protect other peoples’ jobs. That gets you up in the morning and keeps you up at night.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
I argue that psychiatry, and its hand maiden, clinical psychology, now constitutes an amorphous system of beliefs, behaviors and attitudes whose functions and doctrines are unsettlingly similar to those held by conventional religions. Are psychiatrists the new priests? Are clinics the new confessionals? Are pills the new prayer? ... [N]ow may be the time to proudly add ‘psychiatry’ to the pantheon of world religions.According to Whitley, like religion, there is a strong proselytizing campaign to educate others about the "one true system" and to help people with their problems. Like priests, psychiatrists receive extensive training in order to treat the general public (laity), and they deal with an ephemeral, nebulous concept of the mind, similar to the soul. Psychiatrists have their sacred text in the DSM-IV and ICD-10, guiding them through "thought and deed." Like religious adherents attend weekly spiritual activities, psychiatrists encourage weekly visits, and therapy is similar to confession. Concludes Whitley:
Whatever, if Karl Marx resurfaced today, he maybe more circumspect in concluding that religion is the ‘opium of the people’. He may decide there is no need for clever metaphorical poetics in describing the people’s penchant for diminishing the pain, distress and suffering concomitant with the human condition. Today, psychiatry, and its panoply of psychotropic medication, maybe the literal ‘opium of the people’.Vaughan at Mind Hacks isn't sold:
The 'psychiatry is a religion' argument is weak, however, as despite similarities in some functions, none of these are core features of religion. As identified by cognitive anthropologist Pascal Boyer, the single common feature of all religious is a preoccupation with unseen sentient beings, of which psychiatry says nothing.Boyer's definition of religion, the "preoccupation with unseen sentient beings," is simply absurd, but we could have a lengthy debate over the inclusion or exclusion of the core characteristics of religion. I, however, think we could agree on several legitimate characteristics. First, religion posits a coherent worldview, wrapped in narrative and grounded in an epistemological foundation, that answers our deepest existential yearnings: Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? What is our purpose? Is there life after death? Psychiatry does not posit a set of answers to these existential questions, nor should it. Second, religion asks believers to transcend the self - our ego-centrism - in order to commune (or live in relationship) with a larger, greater, and more mysterious power. Finally, religions generate a system of values and a relational ethic. It would be a stretch to say that psychiatry offers these last two characteristics. I typed this quickly, so I might have missed some more qualities and characteristics of religion.
In fact, mainstream psychiatry remains firmly materialist - usually re-explaining experiences that many people attribute to spirits, forces or unseen influences as biological dysfunction. So, in the most fundamental sense, the practice of psychiatry is typically contra-religious.
In agreement with Vaughan, it is apparent to me that Whitley, because of his scientific background, looked only the quantifiable and actionable functions present within religion. He missed the deeper purpose and value therein.
(h/t Andrew Sullivan)
Sunday, March 29, 2009
... [M]uch of what gets taught in the classroom doesn’t make it to the pulpit. Of course, the sermon as an art form is not the same thing as a lecture. However, what gets taught in the seminary classroom also often doesn’t seem to make it to the Sunday school, the youth group, the confirmation class, or even the bookshelves of your local Barnes & Noble. What does seem to make it to all of these - especially those bookshelves - is a form of Christianity that is all about feeling a personal relationship with Jesus and minimally about thinking about the Christian faith. That’s bad enough for those inside the church; those on the outside end up getting exposure to Christianity almost exclusively via anti-theistic screeds or Christian pop and porn.
I’m not trying to suggest that Christianity is not, on some level at least, about a personal relationship with the divine, but we have, in many ways, lost the connection to our heritage that built universities and the American public school system; that inspired education for the poor and enslaved; that inspired the abolitionist and civil-rights movements; and on, and on, and on. I think it’s reasonable to make the demand that churches - with the help of public, academic theologians - reclaim this history and engage the world in conversations about Christianity as though it is something more than a vague feeling. As though, in short, it is something serious.
(h/t Andrew Sullivan)
"I'm not doing that in the primary," says Rep. Perriello. "We do have strong candidates, and some home grown ones here as well,l and we'll see how that plays out. I really think it's a strong field."
A retired police chief said he was robbed by "probably the dumbest criminal in Pennsylvania," at a police officers' convention on Friday morning. John Comparetto said as he came out of a stall in the men's room, a man pointed a gun in his face and demanded money. There were 300 narcotics officers from Pennsylvania and Ohio at the gathering.
When a reporter asked the suspect for comment as he was led out of court, he said, "I'm smooth."
High-profile tournament players attending included professional poker players Cowboy Kenna James, Andy Bloch and Lee Childs; Senator Begich; former U.S. Senator Alfonse D'Amato; and U.S. Representatives Joe Barton, Cynthia Lummis, Tom Perriello, Nick Rahall, and Shelley Berkley. Tournament chairs were Ben Affleck, Kyle Petty and Montel Williams. (emphasis mine).Senator Begich (D-Alaska) came in second, losing a ticket to the World Series of Poker to an intern from the Pokers Player Alliance. It is rumored, however, that Begich might have lost on purpose.
Because inquiring minds wanted to know (read: me), I asked Rep. Perriello how he fared. He apparently finished middle of the pack, yet he was happy with his play. He had top pair on the flop with a possible flush draw. He hit the flush on either the turn or the river but lost to a higher flush. There you have it. That's journalism at its finest. And to editorialize, I'm happy that Rep. Perriello's uses his "down time" to promote and help a great cause.
Add it all up, and it’s clear that the safety of a uranium mine and mill are only part of the equation — albeit the most important part. The Coal and Energy Commission is right to put every possible issue on the table for this study that so many people and politicians are looking at to decide the future of this project.
But the Dan River Region doesn’t need to have another dying industry. That’s why the economics of uranium mining must be studied by the state.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
In a profound conflict of sacred and secular traditions, thousands of Christians who are urged to solemnly commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday (April 10) afternoon are being tempted by an alternative spring ritual: the cry of “Play ball.”I wonder if these same religious leaders get upset that NBA, NCAA football, and NFL games are played on Christmas.
Four Major League Baseball teams—the Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals and Milwaukee Brewers—have scheduled games during the midday time window that’s considered by many the most solemn period of the Christian calendar.
Religious leaders say they don’t expect Americans to return to an age of shuttered shops and businesses on Good Friday, but they question whether baseball teams could not have been more respectful of religious sensitivities.
"So I'm looking around for somebody to pray with, I just need maybe a little help, maybe a little extra," she said. "And the McCain campaign, love 'em, you know, they're a lot of people around me, but nobody I could find that I wanted to hold hands with and pray." As the crowd laughed, Palin grinned and said she meant no disrespect to the McCain campaign. She said she ultimately prayed with her daughter Piper.I am not in Palin's mind here, but to me, there are two possibilities at work here: (1) There is a vulnerable element inherent within prayer, the opening up into relationship with a higher power. Palin might have been looking around for people she was comfortable with to share that sacred space. Personally, I would feel uncomfortable praying with a person I don't know well. (2) Palin was acting spiritually superior, and couldn't find any staff person worthy of participating in prayer with her. I would be happy to entertain other possibilities.
I want to give Palin the benefit of the doubt here, but all signs point to no. 2 as the unfortunate conclusion. Several elements of her speech here underscore this. She says "love 'em" to lift them up before tearing them down rhetorically (and spiritually). She didn't "want" to hold hands and pray with any of them, and after the comment, she quickly offered that she meant no disrespect, rhetorical cover after she said something disrespectful. Finally, several McCain staffers have replied angrily to this statement:
"It's about us people who were on the plane, who showed extreme loyalty to Palin, continually getting thrown under the bus or slapped in the face by her comments, whether she means it or not," the staffer said, adding that Palin's remarks "cause you to question not only your loyalty but her judgment as a leader."This statement highlights the strained relationship between Palin and staffers, and this reaction coupled with the rhetoric in her speech point to a sense of spiritual superiority. I don't remember Jesus preaching this mentality, but quite the opposite. Although taking the opportunity to slam Republicans, Americablog takes the hand-off:
Considering Jesus reached out to even the harlots, that's quite a charge from Palin.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Congressman Tom Perriello today announced that he has introduced legislation to increase and make permanent veterans’ benefits for on-the-job and apprenticeship training. He also announced the formation of a Veterans Advisory Board comprised of veterans from across the 5th district who will make legislative recommendations to the congressman.Awesome quote by Perriello:
The legislation (H.R. 1098, also known as the VET-WORK bill), would provide 570,000 unemployed veterans and members of the Guard and Reserve more assistance in securing employment in today’s challenging job market. On-the-job training and apprenticeship programs typically lead to full-time, permanent employment at their conclusion.
“Similar to how the GI Bill allows veterans to pursue higher education, this bill will allow veterans to pursue vocational training and trade jobs, a key component of my economic revival plan and a crucial option for veterans re-entering the workforce. With the recent news that the jobless rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars now stands at 11%, this legislation is needed more urgently than ever,” said Perriello. “Those who fought to serve our country deserve economic opportunity when they return home, whether they want to go to college or learn a trade. I pledge to work with my colleagues from both parties to pass this legislation.”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.
With all of this in mind, I kinda cringe when I read articles perpetuating untrue twin stereotypes, like this TimesOnline article on twins and their sixth sense. After a long article detailing intriguing examples of a psychic connections between twins, the article provides theories of this connection (i.e., social and genetic). The article, however, concludes with, in my mind, a more plausible possibility:
For Professor Chris French, head of the anomalistic psychology research unit at Goldsmiths, University of London, the explanation is more prosaic.While I don't rule out, by any means, the possibility of a sixth sense between twins, I want to underscore that it is a rarity within a rarity. Hope that clears things up.
“People will always have concerns about those they love - so it's bound to happen that at some point they will have these feelings and they'll turn out to be true. But most of the time it doesn't,” he says.
“These anecdotes are pretty common between mothers and daughters and ebtween [sic] twins, and if we have a physical pain we are likely to follow it up. The problem is, we have no data about people ringing up where it's not the case - so we don't know how much of it is an intriguing coincidence, but one that proves nothing.”
Commence with the interrogation of a twin.
Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff is a lucky charm for one New York City construction worker. Queens resident Ralph Amendolaro said he saw Madoff's prison number in a newspaper and had a good feeling so he played the last three digits of it in the state lottery's Numbers game. It hit March 15, paying $1,500.
Lottery officials say other people had the same idea. The number combination 0-5-4 produced 501 winning tickets the Sunday after Madoff's guilty plea, up from 120 winners the previous day.
Madoff's prison registration number is 61727-054.
At least some people are making money off of Madoff these days.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
In the early days of his administration, President Barack Obama has developed an unusual pattern as he talks about religion: He regularly puts nonbelievers on the same footing as religious Americans.
It is a rare gesture for a U.S. political leader. But what makes Mr. Obama's outreach especially remarkable is that it is accompanied by public displays of faith that sometimes go beyond even those of his religiously oriented predecessor in the White House.
The outreach toward both ends of the religious spectrum makes for a complicated balancing act, one that runs the risk of alienating one group, the other, or possibly both.
From inviting all sides of the religious prespective to discuss policy, to his executive orders on embryonic stem cell research, to his recognition of non-believers in his Inaugural address, Obama, while not always in agreement, recognizes and respects the plurality of voices in America. As the article mentions, this approach derives from his life experience:
Part of the explanation for Mr. Obama's references also may lie with his own story. He wasn't raised religious and only became a Christian as an adult, when working with churches as an organizer in Chicago.
"I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist; and grandparents who were nonpracticing Methodists and Baptists; and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion, even though she was the kindest, most spiritual person I've ever known," he said at National Prayer Breakfast in February. "She was the one who taught me as a child to love and to understand and to do unto others as I would want done."
In response to the article, a Baptist Joint Committee blogger asks rhetorically:
If the President is a man of faith personally, but chooses public rhetoric that is respectful of all Americans, and refrains from using his government position to impose his religious beliefs on others, doesn't that just mean he is fulfilling his constitutional duty? And not necessarily playing political games or trying to pull the wool over the eyes of one side or the other in church-state culture wars?Discuss.
Reader Katie passed on this article in which this over-used theme, sans the apocalyptic hostility between robots and human, has turned into a mathematical and technological spirituality. Premised upon the exponential rate of the acceleration of technological advancement, some day a singularity will arrive, upon which nifty things, like immortality (via the downloading of our memories into robots), will be possible. Money quote:
[Inventor and Singularity Prophet Ray Kurzweil] is attempting to travel across a frontier in time, to pass through the border between our era and a future so different as to be unrecognizable. He calls this border the singularity. Kurzweil is 60, but he intends to be no more than 40 when the singularity arrives.I have nothing to offer. I tuned out at the part where the guy was 60 going on 40. Okay, I didn't for the sake of this post, but you should have.
Kurzweil's notion of a singularity is taken from cosmology, in which it signifies a border in spacetime beyond which normal rules of measurement do not apply (the edge of a black hole, for example). The word was first used to describe a crucial moment in the evolution of humanity by the great mathematician John von Neumann. One day... von Neumann began discussing the ever-accelerating pace of technological change, which, he said, "gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs as we know them could not continue."
He argues that while artificial intelligence will render biological humans obsolete, it will not make human consciousness irrelevant. The first AIs will be created, he says, as add-ons to human intelligence, modeled on our actual brains and used to extend our human reach. AIs will help us see and hear better. They will give us better memories and help us fight disease. Eventually, AIs will allow us to conquer death itself. The singularity won't destroy us, Kurzweil says. Instead, it will immortalize us.
[McAuliffe] emphasized the need for tax incentives for industries to deliver high-paying jobs to economically depressed Southside Virginia, as well as strengthening existing small businesses.The Martinsville Bulletin offered more detail on McAuliffe's plan for the Southside:
“I will not be satisfied until every part of Virginia sees economic growth,” McAuliffe said.
“The best opportunity to create jobs now is in Southside,” McAuliffe said in a telephone interview later Monday. “You’ve got the land; you’ve got the work force. I can do this faster in Southside than in any other part of the state.”In both parts of McAuliffe's business plan, he recognizes the need to bring new (industrial) jobs to the area, and he believes that the Southside can be on the cutting edge of the new energy economy. I dig it.
McAuliffe said the kinds of jobs he would bring to Henry County and Martinsville probably would be in the alternative energy field. He offered as examples factories to build wind turbines or hybrid cars.
Those kinds of jobs would be “good-paying jobs with health care and benefits,” McAuliffe said.
“Every job we get is important,” he said. But Southside’s soaring unemployment rates — unemployment in Martinsville hit 18 percent in January — and the availabilty of large tracts of land mean “we need and want to focus on bringing in new industry, new businesses where at least 1,000 jobs would come,” he said.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Just as NASCAR teams work together to improve a car's performance in Pit Row, God has provided all we need to drive a victorious race. Lemons points out that we have a pit crew-other believers-and a crew chief in God. By making frequent pit stops for God's Word, Worship, Fellowship, Prayer, Accountability, and Encouragement, we equip ourselves for ultimate performance. He explains how these are like fuel, new tires, a strong battery, receiving instructions from the Crew Chief, listening to your spotter, and receiving a refreshing drink during a NASCAR event.For some reason, Jesus isn't part of this theology. But it's obvious, like the bumper stickers say, that Jesus is my co-pilot. Or is Jesus the "spotter?" I'm confused. But not all, apparently, is good:
Lemons also warns of accidents resulting from debris that Satan throws our way; Satan wants to put us on the "dnf" list-did not finish. Lemons forewarns of wreckage that can disqualify us. NASCAR teams understand that having the best car does not guarantee victory on every race day. Forty-three cars begin each race, but not all will finish.While I'm a universalist, at least according to this theology salvation is for those who merely finish the race and not solely for the person who finishes first. That's at least something. But did you notice how Satan has powers over and within the world, while God is just a consummate supervisor or Crew Chief? Satan has a more immanent and pro-active role in creation, while God is transcendent and only relationally engaged during worship, the pit stop of everyday life. Or said differently, Satan is involved in the race - in order to disqualify or wreck us - but God is on Pit Row. Yikes.
(h/t Andrew Sullivan)
Democrat Terry McAuliffe wouldn’t say whether he’d back uranium mining in Virginia as he expanded what he calls his business plan for the state.He effectively punted here, but I haven't heard Moran or Deeds on the issue.
... McAuliffe said he’d await the results of a study on health and environmental effects of the proposed mine near Chatham.
When asked whether Virginia Uranium Inc., which stands to make billions from mining, should pay for the study, McAuliffe had no objection to it.
Virgil Goode is of particular interest for several reasons. He filed paperwork last week to seek a rematch against Rep. Tom Perillo [sic] as a Republican. However, Goode has a history of being trans-partisan; He started his congressional career as a Democrat, became an Independent in 2000, and then joined the Republican Party. He is also rumored to be a prospective candidate for the Constitution Party’s presidential nomination in 2012. (emphasis mine)(h/t John Cosgriff)
Saturday, March 21, 2009
According to Los Angeles psychotherapist Nancy Irwin, a foul economy is prompting more outbursts of foul language.
“There are a lot of elements that are out of our control right now and as a result, there’s a lot more frustration, a lot more fear and anxiety,” she says. “When people feel that, many cuss. Swearing is something that gives us an instantaneous release.”
The article goes on to explain the cathartic, psychological, envolutionary, and cultural make-up of cursing ... that is, if you bleepin' care.
Friday, March 20, 2009
As a veteran, I was stressed to hear that the Obama Administration was considering a proposal that would force veterans to use their private insurance to pay for the treatment of combat-related injuries. During the campaign, Obama made several promises to veterans including “Fully Fund[ing] Veteran’s Administration Medical Care” and “Allow[ing] All Veterans Back into the VA health system.” It was strongly implied that when he became President, he would ensure proper health care to those returning from war.
In less than two months since being inaugurated, President Obama almost broke a sacred promise to those that have served our country. He considered limiting payment for our medical care for combat-related injuries. This would have not only broken his campaign promises to veterans, but would have fundamentally brought into question his administration’s commitment to the men and women still in uniform, those in harm’s way ensuring our freedoms and liberties. One of the reasons many veterans voted for Obama for President was his promises to not fail those in the uniformed services, like the previous administration had done so often. With the horrors of the Bush Administration dumping Reservists and National Guard personnel back into the Pay-As-You-Go Civilian Health Care system, rather than providing proper treatment of their injuries, wounds and amputations after deployments, veterans turned to then Senator Obama for real and permanent change. It appears that what we got for our support was the same disregard we received from former President Bush. Although we applaud our President for reversing course in favor of support for veterans with service related injuries, he should be aware that he will have to earn our full trust back, and it will not be won easily or cheaply.
Veterans, however, can praise, without reservation, the 70 members of the House of Representatives, from both political parties, who sent a letter to President Obama to urging him to abandon his proposal that would have forced veterans to use their private insurance to pay for the treatment of combat-related injuries. They were lead by Representative Glenn Nye (D-VA 2) and wholeheartedly supported by Virginia Representatives Tom Perriello (D-VA 5) and Rob Wittman (R-VA 1).
Congressman Perriello’s strong and vocal support was especially meaningful to veterans, because he is a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. To underscore his commitment to veterans, Representative Perriello stated:
We saw a threat to our veterans, and joined across the aisle to produce immediate results. That is what our brave veterans deserve from Washington.It showed great courage and leadership for Representative Perriello, a freshman, to challenge the new President. Perriello honored his pledge to veterans, and it is good to know that people of Virginia’s 5th Congressional District are represented by someone who supports us. Veterans have fought and died to ensure our national security and fragile freedoms remain safe. It is heartening to be reminded by our Representative that our actions are not forgotten. He has shown himself to be a true friend of Veterans.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Obama's bracket upset Coach K of Duke for his selection of UNC as National Champions. Saith Coach K:
Somebody said that we're not in President Obama's Final Four, and as much as I respect what he's doing, really, the economy is something that he should focus on, probably more than the brackets.It has been theorized that this was a political response, as Krzyzewski is a devout Republican, but Obama responded graciously and knowledgeably:
Coach K, I think, is a great coach, and you know Reggie Love, my assistant, played for Coack K, and so, you know, it's not surprising--I didn't take them to go to the finals. Look, you know, he's a competitive guy. I just don't think they've got the inside game to go all the way, but I look forward to him proving me wrong.Picking up on this non-controversy, Congressional Republicans have agreed with Coach K's sentiments, mocking Obama for taking the time to fill out a bracket and go on Jay Leno's show in the midst of the AIG scandal and economic distress.
Update: The Christian Science Monitor, after reviewing both sides of the blogosphere and looking at the actual video, believes that Coach K was having a light-hearted moment.
Goode said that he has been going to local Republican committee meetings in the district. He’s also looking at major issues coming before the House of Representatives. The biggest, at present, have involved spending, although Goode notes that it is still early in the session.
“I was concerned, like every other Republican, about the size of the stimulus,” Goode said.
Along with the size of the $787 billion package, Goode questions its value as a stimulus. He said it contains items that have been on some House members ‘wish lists for several years.
President Barack Obama’s budget proposal is also a concern.
“It’s huge, too,” Goode said. “It calls for the biggest deficit we have ever had. It’s pushing up debt.”
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
With that said, yesterday's statement by the Pope on condoms and AIDS was absolutely ludicrous:
Benedict also said the Roman Catholic Church was at the forefront of the battle against AIDS.
"You can't resolve it with the distribution of condoms," the pope told reporters aboard the Alitalia plane heading to Yaounde. "On the contrary, it increases the problem."
For the life of me, I can't figure this out. Of course, the first part of his statement rings true. Condoms alone can't prevent the spread of AIDS, and those wearing condoms are not immune from catching the disease; condoms break, etc. In this mindset, it seems like air-tight logic to conclude that condoms decrease the spread of AIDS. But, according to the Pope, condom's increase the spread of the disease!?! The NYT has a good editorial questioning the sanity of this statement. Money quote:
From a national perspective, condom promotion has been effective in slowing epidemics in several countries among high-risk groups, such as sex workers and their customers, but less effective in slowing epidemics that have spread into the general population, as in much of sub-Saharan Africa. That is probably because far too few people use condoms consistently and correctly.Even so, health authorities consider condoms a valuable component of any well-rounded program to prevent the spread of AIDS. It seems irresponsible to blame condoms for making the epidemic worse.
"I'm not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena," Bush said. "He deserves my silence."Cheney on Obama:
"I love my country a lot more than I love politics," Bush said. "I think it is essential that he be helped in office."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that President Obama had made the country less safe, asserting that the new administration’s changes to detention and interrogation programs for terrorism suspects would hamper intelligence gathering.(h/t Andrew Sullivan and Marc Ambinder)
“He is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack,” Mr. Cheney said of Mr. Obama in an interview on the CNN program “State of the Union.”
Today, Rep. Perriello helped pass the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act. Further explanation from his press release:
The GIVE Act would more than triple the number of volunteers, from the current 75,000 to 250,000, and increase the education reward they receive to $5,350 for next year. The education award can be used to pay for college, graduate school, or to pay back qualified student loans. Some national service members may also receive a modest living allowance during their term of service.Money quote:
“In our nation’s history, every crisis comes with a call to service. This bipartisan bill will expand opportunities for all Americans to serve their communities and country. As someone who grew up in the community service generation, I believe full-time national service is a great option for graduating high school students, young people looking to jumpstart their careers, and even displaced workers and seniors,” said Perriello.Importantly, Rep. Perriello added an amendment to the bill to create a National Service Reserves Corps, which passed with stunning bipartisanship, 339-93. Here is video of Perriello explaining his amendment. Notably, he was a volunteer buildinging a green house during the filming of the video.
He added: “I’m proud of my proposal to create a reserve corps, which will tap into the skills and talent of our service alumni in case of a national emergency.”
Volunteerism is important to Perriello. He has spent his life at service to his community and nation, from Boy Scouts to working overseas to help end war and genocide. During his campaign, Tom, staff, and volunteers tithed 10% of their time to help strengthen local communities, from domestic violence shelters to soup kitchens; from reading to underprivileged youth to adult day care centers. This bill and his amendment are a natural extension of his behavioral ethic.
Committing to building new generations of volunteers that give back go their communities, both locally or nationally, positively strengthens civic engagement and responsibility, the sense that we are all in this together. And, as Tom said in the top video, volunteers now become volunteers later.
Thank you, Tom!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Unlike strict Christian creationists, who assert the world was created in six days around 10,000 years ago, Mr. Oktar allows for a far longer time period stretching back billions of years. But he agrees with those Christians who insist life didn't evolve, asserting that animals and plants now are exactly as they were at the dawn of time.To which Dawkins replies:
His "Atlas of Creation" produces thousands of pictures of fossils of birds, snakes and other creatures side by side with what he says are their identical modern kin.
"He is a complete and utter ignoramus."Touche.
On a similar but separate note, Canada's Science Minister, Gary Goodyear, is dodging questions about his views on evolution and creationism. Because of budget cuts in scientific researchers, some in the research community are accusing Goodyear of being suspicious of science. When asked a straightforward question about his beliefs on evolution, Goodyear dodges and invokes vague Christian beliefs:
Canada's science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won't say if he believes in evolution.
"I'm not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate," Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.
Now, I am not going to mock anyone for holding creationistic beliefs, whatever my disagreements, but if you are the Minister of State for Science and Technology, I would expect - heck, demand! - a full-throated endorsement of evolution and a scientific-based understanding of the world. That's just me, I guess.
This is the same newspaper that defended Perriello against the vicious NRCC attack ads. Go figure.
“This decision by AIG is offensive to the American taxpayer and at odds with the free-market principles they claim to support. I opposed the bailout for these banks as bad policy and I oppose these bonuses as bad morality. I am outraged that middle-class taxpayers who have worked hard and played by the rules are watching their retirement savings and home values shrink, while those who caused our economic pain continue to prosper."Update: Jim White has a video of Rep. Perriello and other congressional representatives standing together to block the AIG bonuses.
“AIG hides behind claims of contractual obligations, but the car companies who received bailout funds found a way to cut wages to line workers. Why is it okay for companies to force cuts on workers but not scale back million dollar bonuses for the executives who knowingly caused us this mess?”
Sunday, March 15, 2009
The overall unemployment rate of Virginia is 6.4%, while the country suffers from an 8.5% unemployment.
Frank Rich, op-ed columnist for the Washington Post, alluded to this yesterday, although not his main point. Using Roosevelt's ending of prohibition a guide, Rich believes Obama's stances on embryonic stem cell research, and the future issue of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," have met/will be met with little uprising; we are more concerned with the financial crisis. Money quote:
Here, at last, is one piece of good news in our global economic meltdown: Americans have less and less patience for the intrusive and divisive moral scolds who thrived in the bubbles of the Clinton and Bush years. Culture wars are a luxury the country — the G.O.P. included — can no longer afford.This all doesn't mean the culture wars are dead. They are higher order concerns, and currently the nation is suffering from lower order problems: safety before self-actualization in Maslow's terms. When these are "resolved," I am sure the issues of abortion, gay marriage, and/or the new moral value issue will re-emerge. Rich agrees:
History is cyclical, and it would be foolhardy to assume that the culture wars will never return.
Who you got in the tourney? Final Four?
ReligionDispatches has an article discussing the religious violence employed when defending against gay marriage. The author, John Pahl, believes that Defense Of Marriage Acts (DOMA), currently present in 37 states, are forms of religious violence. He argues six reasons DOMA's are violent. Here I offer Pahl's argument ledes (in blue), with abbreviated justification:
- DOMA Laws violate sacred texts. The use of biblical texts (i.e., Genesis, Leviticus, Romans and I Corinthians) project twentieth century, alien understandings of homosexuality onto ancient Jewish and Helenistic cultures.
- DOMA Laws elevate heterosexual marriage to idolatrous status. In some religious communities the defense of marriage is all-consuming. This honors heterosexual relationships, the majority, with special privileges, privileges not available to the minority.
- DOMA Laws scapegoat gays and lesbians. Real threats to heterosexual marriage and civil society are scapegoated onto a voiceless and powerless group, who only seek the similar rights of the majority.
- DOMA Laws sacrifice homosexual rights, and damage civil society, in the interest of religious purity. The exclusion and discrimination of a "dangerous" few, constructed around a purity interest (the purity of marriage and normal sexual relationships), invariably damages our understanding of trust, the most important practice in civil society.
- DOMA Laws confuse legislation with religion, and violate the First Amendment .... It is a violation of the First Amendment protection of free association to inhibit, by law, who can associate with whom, when that association does not harm the common good. Also, it violates the establishment clause, when religiously-implicated exclusion is legislated.
- DOMA Laws perpetuate an association of sex with power, and thereby do damage to any sacramental sensibility that might remain in association with even heterosexual marriage. These laws establish hierarchies of relationships and give heterosexual relationships power and dominance in the public sphere, losing the sacramental nature and deep trust inherent in loving relationships.
People who wish to “defend” corrosive influences on marriage – and I count myself as one – might actually find allies among gays and lesbians who desire public recognition for their pledges of fidelity and their commitments to share resources and responsibilities with one another. A true defense of marriage would not involve mean-spirited exclusions, but would embrace practical policies that strengthen deep trust and support families facing economic challenges. (emphasis mine)I couldn't agree more. Defending the sanctity of marriage is one thing, but doing violence to our sisters and brothers is quite another.
Note to self: Beware the Ides of March.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Shunning all forms of birth control, Quiverfull women accept as many children as God gives them as a demonstration of their radical faith and obedience as well as a means to advance his kingdom: winning the country for Christ by having more children than their adversaries. This self-proclaimed "patriarchy" movement, which likely numbers in the tens of thousands but which is growing exponentially, bases its arguments on Psalm 127: "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They shall not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate." Quiverfull women commonly give birth to families of eight, 10 and 12 children, or more.Nevermind the blantant patriarchy and the demeaning subordination of women to men - that's bad enough - but to have that many children, like the Octomom, only stunts the development, possibility, and opportunity of each child. As the father is at work, the mother only has a finite amount of attention and stamina she can offer, and spreading her resources (economic, relational, etc.) around to a dozen or so children diminishes and starves their potential. I understand the pro-life argument, but having this many children, in an oppressive environment, is just not healthy to mother and children. To me, the morality is questionable.
[S]ince academic success is determined almost exclusively by the number and prestige of research publications, the incentives to generate results are exceedingly powerful and can encourage investigators to see patterns that may not exist, to disregard contradictory observations that might be important, to overvalue data that might be preliminary or unreliable, and to embrace conclusions that deserve to be viewed with far greater skepticism.Shaywirtz ends with these words of wisdom:
Does all this mean the system is broken? Surprisingly, no. Ultimately, science tends to be self-correcting, and flawed ideas are eventually recognized and disregarded. There really does seem to be a marketplace of ideas, and many good ideas eventually gain traction and persist, while many attractive but incorrect hypotheses eventually fall under the weight of compelling evidence. The system is far from perfect -- especially with regard to the exploitation of the most junior (and most vulnerable) researchers, who support much of this ecosystem -- but like capitalism, it may represent the best available option.
Researchers are unlikely to become less self-serving -- just as reporters are unlikely to become less opportunistic in their hunt for news. Ultimately, it is up to each of us to develop a more skeptical ear, to approach received wisdom cautiously and to pay more attention to data than to narrative.
Only by discovering our inner scientist can we fully delight in the hope of new research without being seduced by its charms.
“If you’re thinking about it, you should file the papers,” [Goode] said. “ ... But that doesn’t mean I am running.”What does mean your running? Gallivanting around the district holding photo-ops with poster-sized checks?
“I’m going to look at the situation, explore the possibilities and see how things go,” he said, “but I’m certainly not making any announcement.”
"For the good of the Republican Party of Virginia, we write today asking that you step aside as chairman," the congressmen wrote. "Clearly it is the sentiment of the grassroots members of the party to move in another direction. . . . No one will benefit from a protracted battle over the leadership of" the Republican Party of Virginia.If Frederick doesn't resign, he will likely face a vote of no-confidence next month at the Republican state central committee meeting. The Congressmen urged is resignation before the April 4th meeting to minimize the damage to the party. Frederick, however, remains defiant, and he is supported by a small group of loyalists, a group who sent robocalls out this past week calling McDonnell and Frederick-detractors "elitists" who take orders from "tax-raising, anti-gun, pro-abortion officeholders in Richmond." Conservative blogger Shaun Kenney has an excellent post showing some other Frederickian antics and the resulting blow back on the Right.
In an election year, a self-marginalized Republican Chair is doubling-down on his right to power, however flimsy, and is supported by a group trashing the presumptive gubernatorial nominee. And, I thought Democrats were prone to circular firing squads:
Until now, Democrats were fearful that they would be the ones fighting with each other. For the first time in three decades, there is a contested Democratic primary for governor. Now it's McDonnell, with no primary opponent, who is bogged down by an intraparty feud.Hopefully, we can learn something from this debacle. Republicans will likely have their Frederick-problem solved next month, we still have until June.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Our analysis suggests that there might be fundamental health differences between individuals who identify with a conservative political party and individuals who identify with a liberal political party. Specifically, individuals affiliating with the republican party report lower rates of poor health. Crucially, this association does not seem to be due to republicans, on average, having higher socio-economic status (SES) than democrats. The observation that republicans enjoy better health status may reflect the core republican value of individual responsibility, which could translate into increased adherence to health-promoting behaviours. This is indirectly supported by our analysis, which shows that, on average, republicansTo the study's conclusion, Silver is very skeptical, but he acknowledges that the study likely points to some significant underlying truth:
are less likely to be smokers compared with democrats after accounting for several factors including race/ethnicity and SES. It may also be that republicans exhibit greater religiosity (beyond attendance) compared with democrats, which may lead to
health promoting social conditions such as enhanced social ties and networks.
Whether one’s political ideology is an independent risk factor, or a marker of something else, clearly requires further research. It does not seem implausible, however, that conservative values at the individual level may be health promoting. (emphasis mine)
But, whatever ultimately comes of these findings, I'm supportive of the general idea of looking at correlations from these databases. There are lots of possible dead ends and wild goose chases (and this might be one of them) but it's certainly a step up from the bald speculation we often see, and it can sometimes lead somewhere interesting.Actually, I'm not that surprised of these findings, as it is similar to studies showing the benefits of religion. And, I have already suspected that Republicans are happier than Democrats. Health and happiness go hand in hand. It does appear, however, that being religious and being conservative do provide people with physiological and psychological benefits.
But being right has its own cross to bear. :-)
“The unique policy matters faced in rural America include, but are not limited to, specific concerns regarding agriculture, conservation, economic development, education, health care, information technology, and transportation infrastructure, among others. We are sure your administration would benefit from an office devoted to the effect of federal regulations on rural Americans and our communities ...”Rep. Perriello's money quote:
“An Office of Rural Policy would be an effective way to make sure rural areas have a seat at the table when it comes to national policy,” said Perriello. “I’m pleased to join with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle who understand what rural America needs and what it has to offer to the rest of the country.”The Danville Register & Bee picked up the story, and the editorial board applauded:
It’s easy for most Americans to discount the problems — and potential — of rural America. That’s because most Americans live in cities and suburbs, not rural communities.
To many of them, rural America is “flyover country” or “the sticks."
If an Office of Rural Policy will do on the national level what’s been done here in Virginia for rural issues and concerns, it will be well worth the effort.
It’s important for Washington to understand rural communities. Our issues, problems and potential deserve no less.
I haven't lived in rural Virginia long, but it was quickly apparent how more urban areas of Virginia, and I imagine those nation-wide, get all of the attention and the love. Developing an Office of Rural Policy that respects, understands, and fights for the issues that matter to us is crucial. Otherwise, to use a state-issue as an example, the NoVa's of the country get all of the money for their traffic problems, and the RoVa's get stuck with the bill.
MRI scans revealed the regions that were activated are those used every day to interpret the feelings and intentions of other people.This study reinforces previous research in the area and concludes that no one part of the brain is utilized to understand God and religion. There is no "God Spot," as many parts of the brain are implicated:
'That suggests that religion is not a special case of a belief system, but evolved along with other belief and social cognitive abilities,' said Jordan Grafman, a cognitive neuroscientist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland.
'There is nothing unique about religious belief in these brain structures,' Professor Grafman said.I'm sure that theologians and scientists will point to this study as proof of their understandings of the developmental nature of religion within an individual (i.e., divinely created, biologically predisposed, sociologically developed, etc.). But for me, I just think it is cool to learn about how our brains work when we think about and discuss God and religion. Amen.
'Religion doesn't have a 'God spot' as such, instead it's embedded in a whole range of other belief systems in the brain that we use every day.'The networks activated by religious beliefs overlap with those that mediate political beliefs and moral beliefs, he said.
'Religion has so many different aspects that it would be very unlikely to find one spot in the brain where religion and God reside,' Dr [Andrew] Newberg [Director of the Centre for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania] said.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Thousands of jobs would be created as renewable green projects, such as wind, solar, biodiesel and bio-mass technologies, get under way, McAuliffe said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters.I have to admit, if more than just campaign promises, I am heartened by this ... very heartened. Anything - and green jobs, taboot! - to help get us out of the economic quagmire in this area.
And, with property already zoned for local industrial parks, Martinsville and Henry County could again become a manufacturing hub, producing wind blades, turbines, towers and other equipment needed as the state goes green, he said.
McAuliffe also supports four-laning U.S. 58 “all the way out to the Ohio Valley” to provide an attractive route for traffic generated by vessels coming to the coast from the Panama Canal.
Martinsville has been hit especially hard in the uncertain economy, McAuliffe said, and he pledged to devote “resources and efforts” to the region if elected.
The "very first" Christian symposium on aliens will touch down in, where else? Roswell, N.M. this July.
Malone's Alien Resistance organization is devoted to looking at UFO's and alien abductions in "biblical" ways.
Goode filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) — a move that allows him to raise money for the race — but he told The Hill that he hasn't made a final decision about running again in 2010.Note that technically, he hasn't stated whether or not he is actually going to run against Rep. Perriello. He is just legally required to report the donations to the FEC, a requirement that also allows for the possibility of fundraising for a new campaign. The Washington Post offers their take, as does Channel 19 News in Charlottesville.
Once a candidate receives $5,000, he or she must file a statement of candidacy with the FEC.
“I’m filing that because a few people have sent me donations,” Goode said.
Goode said he’s not sure when he’ll decide about a rematch and that he’s more concerned with helping the GOP win state assembly races this year.
As a quick aside, this quote freaking kills me, read here for a reminder:
Much of the reason for his loss appeared to be extraordinarily high turnout in the Charlottesville area, which is home to the University of Virginia. The southern Virginia district has long been a conservative stronghold.
Reaction was quick around the progressive Virginia blogosophere to a possible Goode re-run. Fellow friend 220South isn't surprised at the news, yet he feels that there are more worthy Republican candidates on the bench. Roland the HTG posts at Blue Commonwealth and New Dominion Project reminding us to donate to Tom's campaign. Jim White thinks that Goode is a tired, old loser, who needs to be reminded of the Perriello-Goode debates; Tom's victory wasn't luck, Tom was clearly the better candidate. Heartland of Virginia blogger Mark Brooks argues that Goode is "done" and that Goode created a conspiracy in order to frame his defeat, a conspiracy beckoning the possible rematch. Missing Goode, Lowell believes that, this time around, there will be more ammunition to use against Goode. Finally, I Had No Right thinks that Tom's legislation will help him with voters, especially Veteran voters with his new bill, and she, like me, is concerned with the facile explanation of Tom's victory.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.I don't really know how to respond to the article, because it seems like the journalistic equivalent of the big-city homeless guy wielding a "The End is Near" cardboard sign.
Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. ... In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.
This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.
Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.
I would love it if you could read the entire article and could give me your thoughts.
"Because she said she doesn't have a husband and because she is not a Saudi, conviction of the defendants of illegal mingling has been confirmed," the court verdict read.I am generally concerned with the mainstream media's reporting on stories like this, because I think they unfairly and poorly characterize the Islamic religion as a whole, like all Muslims are overly fanatical in their religious interpretation; not all Muslims are Wahhabi-ists; most Muslims are peaceful, thoughtful, and compassionate people, like you and I. With that said, I think it is important to speak truth to power and speak out against this type of injustice and oppression.
Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islam prohibits men and women who are not immediate relatives from mingling. It also bars women from driving, and the playing of music, dancing and many movies also are a concern for hard-liners who believe they violate religious and moral values.
(h/t Andrew Sullivan)
Monday, March 9, 2009
A survey released today by American Religious Identification Survey, Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, found that the number of people identifying themselves as Christians fell in the last two decades, from 86% in 1990 to 76% in 2008. The survey, the largest of its kind, interviewed 54,000 people from February to November last year. The only group that increased in the last two decades was the non-religious group, now 15%, almost double since 1990. Money quote:
The survey substantiated several general trends already identified by sociologists: the slipping importance of denomination in America, the growing number of people who say they have "no" religion and the increase in religious minorities including Muslims, Mormons and such movements as Wicca and paganism.On the note of the "slipping importance of denomination[s],"the study found that among Christians there is a growing lack of denominational identification; those self-identifying as Christians specified that they were non-denominational, evangelical, or born again - all very generic terms. The researchers charge the lack of denominational branding:
"What seems to be happening is there is a decline in what we might call traditional brand loyalty to the old denominations, specific churches," said Barry Kosmin, a principle investigator for the American Religious Identification Survey.Dem Bones readers already knew this, as Christians have the same loyalty to toothpaste and toilet paper as they do with their denominations.
(h/t A Faithful Reader)
The economy is in full-blown recession. Home values are dropping. The commonwealth is shedding jobs. State and local services are being cut to the bone. During these dark days, Virginians needs a distraction. They need the comical antics of state GOP Chairman Jeff Frederick.
Some Republican leaders have had it with Frederick, who took over the party less than a year ago. On his watch, Democrats have fared well. Barack Obama carried the state, Mark Warner won an open Senate seat, and the Ds now have a majority of the commonwealth's congressional delegation.
After listing five Frederick-ian blunders, the editorial concludes:
Virginians need a laugh these days more than ever. The GOP shouldn't deny them Frederick.
You've got to want the president to succeed. You're irrational if you don't want the president to succeed. Because if he doesn't succeed the country doesn't succeed... I don't think anyone should want the president of the United States to fail. I want some of his policies to be stopped. But I don't want the president of the United States to fail. I want him to learn new policies.(h/t Andrew Sullivan)
Sunday, March 8, 2009
As International Women’s Day is celebrated, the Vatican had a novel message for the women of the world: give thanks for the washing machine. This humble domestic appliance had done more for the women’s liberation movement than the contraceptive pill or working outside the home, said the the [sic] official Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano.It amazes me that the Catholic Church, an ecclesiastical and hierarchical structure chalked full of dudes, has the audacity to speak about what does or does not constitute women's liberation. And we weren't exactly expecting the Vatican to glorify contraception by any means were we?
“In the 20th century, what contributed most to the emancipation of Western women?” questioned the article. “The debate is still open. Some say it was the pill, others the liberalisation of abortion, or being able to work outside the home. Others go even further: the washing machine.”
(h/t The Huffington Post)
The Supreme Court was right to hand down (though not on stone tablets) a ruling against a religious group that demanded that its precepts share space in a public park with the Ten Commandments. But the controversy never would have arisen if the court had adopted a consistent attitude toward religious displays on public property.The editorial points out the potential problem with the Summun case:
Writing for the court, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the park wasn't a public forum. Rather, the Ten Commandments and other monuments in the park were "government speech," which needn't be balanced against other points of view. The principle is a sound one. No one would suggest that critics of President Obama's stimulus plan have a 1st Amendment right to commandeer White House printers to run off fliers stating their objections.The editorial ends discussing the pair of 2005 rulings on Ten Commandment displays (McCreary; Van Orden) and how these rulings, combined with the Summun case, will affect next year's Salazar v. Buono case, a case that could clear up the confusion and inconsistency:
The problem is that the Ten Commandments convey an essentially religious message, albeit an older and more familiar one than the Seven Aphorisms. Alito was emphatic that the decision didn't undermine language in the 1st Amendment prohibiting a government "establishment" of religion. Still, the practical effect of the ruling is that a text sacred to Jews and Christians is displayed in a public park, but not the teachings of a minority religion.
In a pair of 5-4 decisions, the court in 2005 struck down the posting of the Ten Commandments in courthouses in Kentucky but upheld a display on the grounds of the Texas Capitol. ... The decision in the Texas case encouraged some religious activists to believe that the court was stealthily lowering the wall separating church and state. They may also take comfort from last week's decision. The way to dispel that impression is for the court to make clear that permissible "government speech" doesn't include endorsing a particular religion.
The court will have an opportunity to do that when it rules, probably next year, on a challenge to the constitutionality of just such a message: an eight-foot-tall cross in the Mojave National Preserve commemorating war dead. Californians who insist that such a display is innocuous should ask themselves how they would feel if the cross were replaced by the Seven Aphorisms.