Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rapping Conservative Principles

The "Young Cons," two college guys rapping conservative principles, are, to my knowledge, the first official pioneers of Michael Steele's hip-hop-itazation of the Republican Party.

In a "battle," a head-to-head loser-go-home rap contest, between progressives and conservatives, I'll take our skillz - with the likes of will.i.am - over theirs every day of the week.

Martinsville Bulletin Endorses Deeds

The Martinsville Bulletin endorses Creigh Deeds for the Democratic gubernatorial primary, employing both the experience and the electability (i.e., the rural candidate) memes. Money quote:
Time and time again, partisanship has blocked progress, and even common sense, in Virginia. It is time for that to end, and we believe Sen. Creigh Deeds is the person who can make that happen.
[...]
Of the three Democrats, only Sen. Deeds has served in both the state House and Senate. That gives him experience and a perspective that can be essential to bringing key players in both chambers to the table to resolve critical issues such as transportation.

Of the three, only Sen. Deeds has ties to rural Virginia. He lives in Bath County and formerly lived in Danville. Yet he was endorsed by The Washington Post on May 9 in an editorial that called Sen. Deeds the right candidate for Northern Virginia — and the rest of the state.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Gone Fishing

So, I am leaving this morning to go to a wedding in South Carolina for the weekend. I'll be back Sunday some time. I hope that you all have a restful and relaxing weekend.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Del. Poindexter Draws Challenger

A couple weeks ago, I stated that Del. Poindexter (R-Franklin County) was unopposed, Democrats could not find a challenger. The Franklin News Post reports that Poindexter has drawn a challenger, Sherman Witcher. Witcher, who will run as an Independent, ran for the State Senate seat against Robert Hurt, recieving only 25% of the vote.

Independents, in general, have a difficult time garnering and mobilizing both support and campaign donations - no help from a political party - and this is a tough, though not unwinnable, district for non-Republicans. With that said, I am thankful that Witcher has taken the step, the courage to (re-) enter the political process. Providing voters with a choice is always healthy for democracy

Fear! Perriello and Pelosi are BFF's

The NRCC is going up on the offensive in several congressional districts trying to tie 'vulnerable' incumbents to Speaker Pelosi. According to the ad, as Pelosi claimed that the CIA lied to congress, "Pelosi's Crowd," of which Perriello is apparently one, voted to protect Pelosi. They are setting out radio ads in six districts, including Perriello's, and are doing robocalls in 11 other districts.

As Pelosi conjures immediate visceral disgust among Republicans, this ad attempts to create a classically conditioned guilt-by-association response. Simply put, the ad is a partisan hit piece - naturally, it's the NRCC - evidenced by the fact that they targeted only 'vulnerable' Democrats.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jesus and a Beer

As several denominations are increasing their advertising efforts to attract new church attendees (i.e., a $20M rebranding effort from the United Methodist Church), one group is taking a different approach. This group, in Billings, Montana, is meeting at a local brewery for their church services - bar stools instead of pews, beer menus instead of hymnals. Money quote:
"Don't read this the wrong way," said Minister Ryan Tucker before the start of Sunday's Theology on Tap gathering at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company. "There's nothing wrong with church. I just sensed that there was more room at the table for people who aren't into the conventional, traditional church."
The article describes the reasoning behind meeting at a bar:
The decision to hold church services at the brewery was not made to attract a beer-drinking crowd or to repel Christians with a strict churchgoing background.

"We want to be there for people who wouldn't ordinarily come to church - for whatever their reason," Tucker said.

From the start, Tucker and Hall decided they wanted worshipers at The Well to meet in common or public spaces. They believe that by not having a building more resources can be returned to the community.
[...]
"For the old model of church, a building was certainly needed, but our culture is shifting, so it's not as necessary anymore," Tucker said.
How much of this has to do with the fact that drinking a brew can be a meditative practice? Seriously though, expanding the definition of sacred space beyond beyond our traditional understandings (i.e., church and worship buildings) is a good thing, and, to head off any possible objections, drinking beer during spiritual practice should not be viewed as overly problematic; Jesus oftentimes taught over a meal and wine.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

An 'A' for originality, a 'C' for taste in beer:
Police in Nebraska are looking a man who stole cigarettes while disguising himself with a beer carton on his head. Lincoln police Capt. Bob Kawamoto said the man walked into a Kwik Shop convenience store before dawn Monday wearing an empty Bud Light box on his head as a mask.

Kawamoto said the man also had wrapped something around one of his hands, suggesting he was armed. But the man never showed a weapon.

Follow-up: Liberty University and the Young Democrats

In a follow-up to my follow-up on Liberty University's debacle concerning the Young Democrats, there have been a slew of editorials published. First, Jerry Falwell, Jr., wrote an op-ed clarifying Liberty's rationale to un-endorse the Young Democrats and to clear up any misconceptions printed in the press. Saith Falwell:
The University has not banned Democrats from campus. Nor has the Democrat club been banned from meeting. And, never has the University or its' officials said that a person cannot be a Christian and a Democrat. Sorry for those who want to run with these titillating soundbites, but these are the facts.
The President of the formerly recognized Young Democrats, Brian Diaz, offered his own thoughts on the incident. Diaz begins with the short history of the formation of the group and thank supporters, from around the state, for their thoughts; it has raised their spirits. Money quote:
But in all of this sadness, it seems as if we have been making progress! In our first email from Mark Hine, Liberty University VP of Student Affairs, he informed us that we would not be able to meet on campus, and now it has changed otherwise. At first, they did not want to work for a compromise and now they want to do just that.

Although we have been making progress with the Liberty University administration in our request to reinstate us as a club, their offers are not enough. We wish to be fully reinstated as if we were in the first place. We wish to advertise, hold events, hold meetings, and have free speech, without the administration having a hold on our organization, or its actions.

We want freedom.

To point out, Diaz believes that Hine kicked them off campus, per the original email, but Falwell seems to disagree; in his mind, they were never kicked off campus, rumors spread by the media. In due fairness to both, the infamous email says that recognized clubs are allowed to meet on campus, distribute materials, advertise for advents and use campus facilities, implying that an unrecognized club is not allowed to meet on campus. In this light, and in response to Falwell, Jan Dervish, a club officer, writes this in an op-ed:

In addition, it is our understanding that Liberty banned Democrats from conducting any activities on campus. Vice President Hine’s email clearly stated that “Student clubs or organizations must request and receive permission from the Liberty University administration before they may meet on campus, advertise, distribute or post materials, or use any University facilities for their activities or events.”
[...]
We hope to resolve this dispute as soon as possible, and we are currently in communication with the chancellor to allow us to once again be recognized while acknowledging and respecting the University’s mission.

Seeking resolution, these students met with Falwell to discuss a compromise, a chance to regain their former recognition by the University. Out of this meeting, the club is to draft an apology to Falwell and the University for statements they made in the media, particularly the statement that, attributed to Hine and the University, you can't be a Christian and a Democrat. They are expected to draft and deliver the apology within the next 48 hours.

The group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State argues that the IRS should revoke Liberty's tax exemption status because they denied recognition to Democrats while providing recognition for Republicans:
"Liberty University is a tax-exempt institution and isn't allowed to support one party over another," [Executive Director, Barry] Lynn said. "If the school insists on pushing policies that favor Republicans over Democrats, it should have to surrender its tax exemption."
[...]
But Lynn said campus political clubs often endorse and work on behalf of candidates, amounting to an in-kind contribution. By allowing students to support only one party, Lynn said the university appeared to be taking sides.

"As a tax-exempt institution, Liberty is barred from intervening in elections or showing preference for one political party over another," Lynn said in a letter to the IRS. "By banning a Democratic club while permitting a Republican club to exist and offering funding to the latter but not the former, university officials appear to be operating in violation of federal tax law."

Falwell argues that the Young Democrats weren't "banned" but that they revoked its official recognition.

Perriello: Initiatives to Increase Access to Health Care for Rural Veterans

Yesterday in Franklin County, Rep. Perriello, with his Veterans Advisory Board, announced several legislative initiatives he will proprose to increase access to health care for rural veterans. Money quote:
Congressman Tom Perriello is ramping up efforts to expand health care access to veterans in rural areas. He is proposing a series of legislative initiatives to give rural veterans more health care options: increasing access to care at Community Health Centers and Community Based Outpatient Clinics; expanding telemedicine and home visits by nurses and health aides; and assisting with transportation to medical facilities.
Saith Perriello:
“Our veterans who fought to protect our freedom deserve nothing less than world-class healthcare when they return. But for veterans in rural areas, care can sometimes mean driving long distances or limited options,” said Perriello. “I want to ensure veterans in our small towns and rural communities have increased access to community clinics, better transportation, and telemedicine.”
According to the Danville Register & Bee, Perriello then visited Veterans in the Danville area community to discuss these ideas, which derived from earlier meetings with the Veterans Advisory Board.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Profiling the Youngest Congressmen, Perriello and Schock

American Progress profiles Rep. Perriello and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL), the two youngest members of their respective parties in Congress, to look at where each party is heading. I think this piece does a good job highlighting some of the difficult tensions inherent to their position: working across the isle and working with leadership; working for your district and working for your party. Its a good read if your interested, although there are, in my mind, some points of contention.

Current Religious Make-up of the Supreme Court

Hypothetically speaking, if Judge Sonia Sotomayor were to get nominated to the Supreme Court, there would be six Catholics on the bench, relative to 24% of the overall population. Historically, however, there has been a lack of Catholic representation on the bench, 11 total nominated of which 5 are currently sitting. Needless to say, in recent decades, nominations to the Supreme Court have skewed Catholic.

Of the three other Justices, 2 are Jews, and the remaining, Protestant (Stevens).

(h/t Josh Marshall)

Summer Blockbusters, Revenge, Forgiveness, and Jesus

Ryan Parker, a fellow classmate and founder of PopTheology - providing theological reflection to cinematic features - reviews three blockbuster movies (Wolverine, Star Trek, Angels and Demons) and ponders the notion of revenge and forgiveness. He begins intriguingly:
Jesus is a disappointing superhero ... at least by Hollywood blockbuster standards. Sure, he had a host of super-powers, but he never used them to hurt anyone or save himself from danger. All Jesus did was walk around and heal people, forgive sins, preach about love and the Kingdom of God, and, oh yeah, rise from the dead.
The three highlighted movies center on notions of revenge, revenge of loss of loved ones, revenge for wrongful past actions. Forgiveness, however, as history concludes, is a positive force political reconciliation, and, assumedly, the same is true on a personal level. But the summer blockbuster movies neglect the element of forgiveness. Money quote:
Much of the violence that necessitates forgiveness in our world centers on otherness. The violence in the films discussed here certainly does as well. Somehow, difference has been equated with evil: mutants or different alien races must be eradicated while different worldviews (scientific or religious) cannot co-exist. In his book, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Worldview of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation, Miroslav Volf brilliantly outlines this crisis and provides a way forward by looking back at salvation as reconciliation. If we as humans are plagued by exclusion, then we must combat it with embrace. In the event of reconciliation, God embraces us, and in turn, we must embrace the other if we are to be reconciled with one another. For Volf, forgiveness is a central, and most difficult, component of this embrace.

Thus, it seems that to truly be human beings, according to Shriver and Volf, we must be forgiving beings. In the first three blockbusters of the summer, forgiveness appears to be light years away. Instead, we have super-humans who use their super-powers to exact revenge that destroys the self and the other. In the end, these characters often prove to be prime examples of super-humans, but disappointing examples of humans. It is also frustrating that our filmmakers and script-writers are more creative in thinking up elaborate fight scenes and revenge plots that employ impossible acts of violence, but fail to apply that creativity to imagine what forgiveness and reconciliation might look like in the face of evil. (emphasis mine)

Despite, Mel Gibson's christological perversity, where the humanity of Jesus is reduced to a recipient of immense human violence, Jesus does provide great theological insight into forgiveness. Concludes Parker:

Perhaps the Jesus of scripture, the Jesus who cried from the cross, "Forgive them Father, they know not what they do," is quite simply more human than any of us dare to realize.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Gender of a Child Affects His/Her Parent's Political Ideology

Two British economists, Andrew Oswald and Nattavudh Powdthavee, found an intriguing correlation, having daughters tends to make parents more progressive, while having only sons makes parents more conservative. While their study focused mainly using British data, they did find similar results, with smaller amounts of data, in Germany and America. From their soon-to-be published study:
The paper finds evidence that having daughters makes people more sympathetic to left-wing parties. Acquiring sons, by contrast, makes individuals more right-wing. Ceteris paribus, in our panel data, every extra daughter (or son) leads a person to be approximately 2 percentage points more likely to vote Left (or Right). Our data come principally from Great Britain, but we show that the basic result can be replicated on German micro data.

A long-standing idea in western society is that parents influence the behavior and psychology of their children. Following previous research, the analysis suggests the reverse idea, namely, that children shape their parents.
In a Telegraph article, the study's authors argue that parents, especially fathers, adopt sympathies for women's issues and social equality:
Professor Oswald said that having daughters made men "gradually shift their political stance and become more sympathetic to the 'female' desire for a ... larger amount for the public good".

"They become more Left-wing. Similarly, a mother with sons becomes sympathetic to the 'male' case for lower taxes and a smaller supply of public goods," he said.

But one scientist believes this is overly simplistic, perpetuating gender stereotypes, and offers his own biological interpretation:

However Arthur Mayne, a biologist with three sons, dismissed the approach as "simplistic" and said the idea that women were "more likely to be softer politically than men" could be seen as a stereotype.

"Recent studies seem to prove that women with higher levels of testosterone – who are more likely to display dominant, positive behaviours – seem to produce more sons than daughters," he said.

"Women with lower levels of testosterone, who are more likely to be empathetic and better listeners, tend to produce more daughters.

"It could be that the women who are most likely to produce daughters pick a partner who is closer to her more empathetic attitude to life.

"Hence people who are already more liberal may produce more daughters and those who are already conservative may produce more sons."

Andrew Gelman, guest posting at FiveThirtyEight, offers his thoughts on this study.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

In-depth Look at American's Religious Beliefs

This is somewhat dated, about a year old, but it is still a great interactive site detailing American's religious beliefs, broken down by religion and denominations. The data comes from a Pew Forum of Religion and Public Life data set, 35K individual interviews, asking 13 questions ranging from the influence of Hollywood on our lives to the factors that most influence thinking about politics.

On the other topographical tab, you can view the religious and denominational breakdown of each state. Of note, Virginia is 31% Evangelical Protestant, 20% Mainline Protestant, 10% Black Protestant, 14% Catholic, and 18% Unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic, 'nones').

Take a sec and check it out.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Papal double-take

A couple months ago, the Pope warned against the overuse of social networking sites. Social networking sites can "foster friendships and understanding," but overuse can potentially create unfortunate systems of isolation, exclusion, and marginalization:
Benedict welcomes as a "gift" new technologies such as social networking sites, saying they respond to the "fundamental desire" of people to communicate.

But he also warns that "obsessive" virtual socializing can isolate people from real interaction and deepen the digital divide by excluding those already marginalized.

As mentioned, the Pope, however, does view social networking sites as a "gift," tapping into our innate, relational characteristics. With this latter point in mind, the Pope recently has encouraged fellow Christians to use the internet to promote the gospel:
The pope promoted the use of the digital world as a means of making the Gospel known in remarks to 20,000 pilgrims at his weekly audience Wednesday.

He says that the Internet has brought about change in the way news is distributed and how people relate to each other. Benedict urges young people to use the potential of the Internet to build a better world through bonds of friendship and solidarity.

And, in an attempt to "woo" young believers, the Vatican has launched a new Facebook application, Pope2You:
Under a papacy that has suffered communication woes, the Vatican is taking new, technologically savvy steps to bring its message to social networking sites and smartphones.
[...]
The new Web site is the latest update in the Vatican's efforts to broaden the pope's audience and reach out to young people.
Just don't stay on the site obsessively.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Quote of the Day

State Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) on the Liberty University/Young Democrats incident:
The point is not that either Dems or Repubs are closer to the message of the Gospel. No, the real point is that political parties -- like any human institution -- are necessarily imperfect. Because people are imperfect. In a democracy, we put forward these two (or more) imperfect options and let the voters decide.

Neither party has an exclusive hold on the truth. You've got to have both sides. Because without an opposition, there's no point in having a political process.

Most importantly from the faith perspective, the school is precluding its students from engaging in public life as Christians. Jesus met and spoke with everyone in his world. Did he distinguish based on social position or political party? Of course not. He met with tax collectors, prostitutes and lepers.

I get tired of seeing Christians ridiculed as right-wing drones. We come in all shapes and sizes. But Liberty University is perpetuating this stereotype with its actions. (emphasis mine)

Follow-up: Liberty University Bans Young Democrats From Campus (updated)

I just wanted to provide an update on Liberty University's banishment of the Young Democrats. The Richmond Times-Dispatch offers clarity to Liberty's position via Jerry Falwell, Jr. Money quote:
Falwell said yesterday that the school never has allowed Democratic clubs on campus because of the school's pro-life policy.

"Last fall this group was approved by an administrator who really didn't check with anybody else, and he misread the policy. Now, we have a more specific policy."

Falwell said the school "did not disband the club, but we can only endorse a club that supports the university's doctrine and mission."
It's still a weak retraction from their earlier position, and in effect, Falwell throws Mark Hine, the Vice President of Student Affairs, under the bus.

Yesterday, to my knowledge, McAuliffe and Deeds responded to the incident, but, again, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that all four gubernatorial candidates responded to the event. Brian Moran's spokesperson, Jesse Ferguson, said that Moran is "deeply concerned that Liberty University is stifling choice and freedom of speech." From the McDonnell campaign:
Tucker Martin, a spokesman for Bob McDonnell, the all-but-official Republican nominee for governor, said that as a private institution Liberty can make its own decisions about officially recognizing clubs and organizations.

But "Bob McDonnell personally disagrees with this specific decision by the school because our political process is strengthened by the free and robust exchange of ideas," Martin said.

Echoing a similar tone, The Roanoke Times offered their thoughts on the incident, sternly warning Liberty not to earn a reputation in which education comes at the expense of the exchange of ideas.

Brian Diaz, President of the formerly recognized Young Democrats, was on The Rachel Maddow Show last night, and you can view his interview with Rachel here. The Democratic Party of Virginia made a video with the contact information to Hine, if you are inclined to voice your disappointment. Also, the Virginia Young Democrats have a petition - please sign - asking Liberty University to support the First Amendment rights of the Young Democrats on campus.

While the outrage of Democratic bloggers has remained constant since yesterday (with excellent new posts by Anonymous is a Woman and Fake Virginia), unfortunately the prominent and respected Republican blogs within the state have remained silent, outside of saying the Left is having a hissy fit.

Update: WSLS reports that Falwell is trying to compromise with the Young Dems, willing to reinstate their organization if they re-charter under the Democrats for Life, a single issue pro-life Democratic organization. Falwell got this advice from Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bob McDonnell (hunh?!?). Diaz and Childress, appreciative of the spirit of compromise, are inclined to reject the offer, as they wouldn't be able to help pro-choice Democratic candidates under this compromise.

Update 2: Falwell writes this op-ed clarifying Liberty's rationale.

(h/ts Lowell, Barry Butler, Fake Virginia)

Atheist Advertising Campaigns

In January, atheists, led by Richard Dawkins, advertised their non-religious message on the local bus transit system in England. Now, this advertising campaign has started stateside, led by the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign and partially funded by the American Humanist Association. Currently, in Chicago, buses are going around sporting "In the Beginning, Man Created God" signs, and soon, in South Bend, buses will carry "You can be good without God" signs. Bloomington's bus service rejected similar advertisements prompting a lawsuit.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dave Guill for District 60 House Open Seat

I just received a press release announcing Dave Guill's candidacy for the House of Delegates in the 60th district. Currently on the Board of Supervisors for Charlotte County, Guill's career path includes being a state trooper, a teacher, principal, and he currently holds the position of the Director of Transportation of Halifax Public Schools. Saith Guill on his nomination and his legislative priorities:
“I am proud and humbled to have been chosen as the nominee,” said Dave, “this campaign is about making sure that citizens of Southside Virginia get their ‘share of the pie’. As your delegate I will fight for education, small businesses and jobs, among other things. Richmond needs strong leaders that will stand up for Virginia’s families. That is why I was hurt when Richmond decided to block much needed unemployment funds. That decision was clearly a political move made by Republicans in the House of Delegates.”
[...]
“I believe that as a community we must provide the best possible education for our children from Pre-K to College. This means better funding of schools, help for college and vocational training programs. We also need to invest in affordable access to healthcare for all Virginians. Job creation is another priority of mine and I believe that bringing jobs to this area will start with education and healthcare. At the same time we must support employers that are already here and encourage new ones to come,” said Dave Guill.
The 60th district covers Charlotte and Halifax counties, and parts of Nottoway and Prince Edward counties. This is an open seat, vacated by a retiring Clarke Hogan.

Liberty University Bans Young Democrats From Campus

The Lynchburg News & Advance reported that the Young Democrats were kicked off of campus because the platform of the national Democratic Party was at odds with the moral principles of the university, despite the fact that the campus chapter was against abortion and held traditional views of marriage. In an email, the President of the Young Democrats, Brian Diaz, was told that the goals of Liberty University and the Democratic Party "run in opposite directions:"
“The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the “LGBT” agenda, hate crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc.)”
Liberty officials say this was not a suppression of free speech, and also that the group, specifically, was not being punished; they were part of a larger, offending organization. As such, the club could no longer carry the University's name, meet on campus, and advertise for events. According to faculty advisor Maria Childress, implicit in this message is that you cannot be a Christian, a representative of Liberty, and a Democrat all concurrently.

Since the article ran, Democratic reaction has been strong and fierce. Statewide bloggers picked up the news early (Jim White, Barry Butler, Lowell, CobaltVA, StarCityHarbinger), many of which questioned the legality of the move, while one leading Republican statewide blog stated that Democrats were having a hissy fit. Gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe held a conference call with Diaz and Childress, in order to stand up for the banished youth. In an updated News & Advance article, Gov. Kaine, another gubernatorial contender, Creigh Deeds, and LG candidate Mike Signer all released statements condemning Liberty's behavior. University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., also released a statement, somewhat of a retraction:
"That club still has the right to exist,“ Falwell said, although it cannot use the university’s name in its activities.

“They still can meet on campus,“ in certain rooms, he said. “There is absolutely no animosity at all toward any of these kids.

“They are good, Christian kids who sit with me at ball games. I just hope they find a pro-life family organization to affiliate with so they can be endorsed by Liberty again.“
I asked a childhood friend and now the state's Young Democrat's Executive Director, Christie Ann Bieber, for her reaction. She states:
I am deeply saddened by the University's position that Christianity and the view of the Democratic Party are diametrically opposed to one another. The Baptist church I grew up in taught me the principles of love, tolerance, and helping those that are less fortunate. Democrats are not more or less sinful than Republicans. We are all sinners, and we will all be held accountable for our sins by God. Choosing to shut out the Young Democrats on the Liberty campus will not stop students from questioning how their faith aligns with politics. In fact, I believe it will lead to them asking that of themselves even more. Through questioning our beliefs and seeking the truth our faith will grow stronger.

There can be not doubt that Liberty suffered a black-eye today, and in reaction to the public backlash, they went into damage control mode, half-heartedly rescinding their banishment. I, however, get agitated when Christianity is boiled down to the issues of abortion and homesexuality - while there are legitimate disagreements therein - despite the more pronounced biblical and gospel calls for a loving, peaceful, and tolerant behavioral ethic. And, I can't wrap my mind around why the campus chapter, who broke with the national party over these issues, was punished for the "sins" of the national party, if not for outright political motives. Both are shameful actions, and the younger generations, because of these types of actions, are leaving the Christian faith - becoming 'nones' - and the Republican party in droves. Actions like this, fairly or unfairly, are long-term losing strategies for the conservative movement and the Republican party.

This past weekend, Obama called for open hearts, open minds, and fair-minded words when dialoging over these issues. Liberty University, sadly, missed or misunderstood this point.

Washington Post Endorses Deeds

The Washington Post editorial board today endorses gubernatorial candidate, Creigh Deeds, for the Democratic primary. Money quote:
Our judgment, though, is based on who would make the best governor in the Warner-Kaine tradition, not who would be the strongest candidate. Like those Northern Virginia senators who have endorsed Mr. Deeds ... we believe that he understands Northern Virginia. We also believe that he has the character, experience and savvy to be a successful leader of the entire commonwealth.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

How a messy room can wreck your political career:
An Ohio man who argued with his grown son over a messy bedroom said he overreacted when he called 911. Andrew Mizsak called authorities Thursday after his 28-year-old son _ who's a school board member in the Cleveland suburb of Bedford _ threw a plate of food across the kitchen table and made a fist at him when told to clean his room.

The son, also named Andrew, lives in a room in his parents' basement.
[...]
The son, who also works as a political consultant, said he's lucky to be living in the house rent free. He also promises to keep his room clean.

Martinsville Activists Blog on Obama

Three Martinsville residents, who volunteered for Obama (and Perriello) were selected by Newsweek to discuss topics related to Obama: "what it's like to work, live, and learn in the age of Obama." Doug and Telisha Williams and Crystal France, all good friends of mine, were selected during an "informal" nationwide search. The blog is called Generation O. The purpose:
They have been posting commentary and videos about current events since the blog launched two weeks ago, and the project is slated to continue for three months.
[...]
The Generation O blog is dominated by Democrats, but contributors also include a self-described Republican and an independent. Bloggers hail from both coasts and the Midwest and range in age from 19 to 34. The common thread is that all voted for Obama, said Aku Ammah-Tagoe, the Newsweek.com intern and Princeton University student who is coordinating the project.


“I think that’s what makes Generation O so interesting — and that’s why we wanted to start this blog — because you had people rallying around a candidate from all over the political spectrum,” Ammah-Tagoe said.

One of the blog’s goals is “to get a sense of how the Obama administration is living up to its promises,” she said. Also, she described it as “kind of an experiment for how we can get people across the country talking about these issues.”
You can follow the Doug, Telisha, and Crystal here, and I encourage you to book mark the site or add it to your RSS feed.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Perriello Quick Hits

Rep. Perriello's amendment to limit credit card promotional rates, part of the Credit Cardholder's Bill of Rights Act of 2009, is set to become law. Saith Perriello:
I’m proud to have authored this amendment to protect consumers because I’ve talked to too many 5th District families who have been blindsided by these teaser rate gimmicks and unfair fee hikes. This common-sense legislation is a major victory for those working families who play by the rules but are struggling to make ends meet.

Perriello voted for HR 2352, the Job Creation Through Entrepreneurship Act. This bill is:
a major effort to give established small businesses and entrepreneurial start-ups the needed tools and resources to thrive, create jobs and drive economic growth.

The Hill has a Q&A with Rep. Perriello, his likes and dislikes of Washington, weirdest constituent request, least favorite household chore, guilty pleasure, etc.

The Missing Link, Google, and Angry Christians (updated)

Great catch by Chad over at Homebrewed Christianity.

Yesterday, scientists announced the discovery of a 47 million year old fossil, nicknamed Ida, a predecessor to homo sapiens. This fossil is being heralded as "the missing link," definitive proof of evolution.

Google, notorious for changing their logo to match events and festivities, changed their logo to celebrate the discovery.

Some Christians, however, were angry and disgusted with Google over the logo.

Update: Hopefully Christians can celebrate this discovery, a 3,000 year old jar handle, the oldest pottery shard with a Hebrew inscription found on the Mount of Olives.

Cynthia Neff to Challenge Del. Rob Bell

This is a bit late, but I just got the press release (sorry no link). Last week, Cynthia Neff was nominated by the Albemarle Democratic Committee to challenge Del. Rob Bell (R-58). Neff's background is business and non-profit heavy:
Cynthia Neff spent over 25 years in the private sector, running a small business and working her way up the ladder at IBM. Since moving to Albemarle County, she has been active in the non-profit community, serving as the Chair of the AIDS Services Group Board of Directors, working at Legal Aid Justice Center, serving as a Court Appointed Special Advocate working with abused children, as well as several other charitable organizations.
Saith Neff on her job-focus:
“There are a lot of things that we say are priorities, but it doesn’t do any good to just talk about priorities; we need to get back to business,” Cynthia said. “I know how to make tough business decisions, and I’ve spent my whole life getting paid for performance.”
While Bell is a well-entrenched incumbent, his district voted comfortably for Perriello, Warner, and Obama. The 58th district covers Greene County and parts of Albemarle, Fluvanna, and Orange Counties.

Perriello, Goode Get Another Challenger?

On their blog, the Roanoke Valley Republicans discuss a rumored candidate to possibly run against Virgil Goode and, if victorious in a primary, Rep. Perriello thereafter. They begin discussing that Perriello, because of Obama and Warner's electoral coattails, is the most vulnerable incumbent in the nation; Obama and Warner, the logic goes, pulled Tom across the line, and since they aren't on the ballot to draw out voters, Perriello will lose badly. I have dismantled this theory before, but truth be told, Perriello's re-election will be tough. Republicans, despite their erroneous argument, have already started their assault on Perriello (1, 2), to which conservative-leaning newspapers have even defended Tom (1, 2). VCU's Dr. Bob Holsworth, however, thinks that Perriello will fair much better than Republicans expect.

Back to the rumored candidate. Saith the Roanoke Valley Republicans:
His name is Cordel Faulk. He's a lawyer, Virginia political commentator and Richmond Times Dispatch columnist. He's a 33-year old, conservative African American with degrees from Virginia Tech and UVA Law. If elected, Faulk would be the first black Republican to represent Virginia in Congress since Reconstruction (how embarrassing is that fact?).

Here's my take on Faulk's candidacy. First, the 5th is shifting away from Franklin County towards Charlottesville and this is Faulk's "neck of the woods." Second, Faulk is very accomplished and, at only 33, brings an energy that would be exciting. Third, let's face it, the African American turnout, especially in Southside, was a HUGE factor in 2008. I hate identity politics but it's just a fact that an African American R would, at the very least, add a new element to the equation.
With Virgil Goode strongly rumored to be re-running (1, 2), Bradley Rees throwing his name in the hat, and several other potential rumored candidates - not including Faulk - this Republican field is quickly becoming a party ... well at least in rumors.

Quote of the Day

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) on cap and trade and climate CO2 emissions:
And something that the Democrat sponsors do not point out, a lot of the CO2 that is created in the United States is naturally created. You can’t regulate God. Not even the Democratic majority in the US Congress can regulate God.
Awesome.

(h/t Andrew Sullivan)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dan Brown's Theology and Christology?

Ross Douthat, the new conservative columnist for the NYT, offers his thoughts on the theology and christology of Dan Brown, in light of the new movie, "Angels and Demons." Saith Douthat:
In the Brownian worldview, all religions — even Roman Catholicism — have the potential to be wonderful, so long as we can get over the idea that any one of them might be particularly true. It’s a message perfectly tailored for 21st-century America, where the most important religious trend is neither swelling unbelief nor rising fundamentalism, but the emergence of a generalized “religiousness” detached from the claims of any specific faith tradition.
[...]
[H]e serves up a Jesus who’s a thoroughly modern sort of messiah — sexy, worldly, and Goddess-worshiping, with a wife and kids, a house in the Galilean suburbs, and no delusions about his own divinity.
I would add that one of the central themes of "Angels and Demons" is the modern compatibility of religion and science, a disconnect between the two is potentially harmful. I don't think that Dan Brown is assaulting of religion per se, but he is critical with many of the historical claims of Christianity, especially Catholicism. The truth of the matter, however, is you should read his books for entertainment purposes alone, not for any historical truth claims about the Jesus Movement and the Early Church; Brown does play fast and loose with history. To which, Douthat harshly concludes:
For millions of readers, Brown’s novels have helped smooth over the tension between ancient Christianity and modern American faith. But the tension endures. You can have Jesus or Dan Brown. But you can’t have both.
I wouldn't go that far, but I do think he offers a valid point.

Goode Endorses for RPV Chair

Apparently, Virgil Goode has endorsed Bill Stanley for RPV Chair. Not a shocker, as Stanley is currently the chair of the Franklin County Republican Party, and Goode is from, and still resides in, Franklin County.

Del. Merricks Challenged by Democratic Newcomer

The Danville Register & Bee reports that Del. Don Merricks (R-Pittslyvania County) will be challenged by Shawn Palmer, 27, for the 16th District House seat. Palmer was nominated by the Pittslyvania County Democratic Party last week and was the only challenger to file for the Democratic nomination. Money quote:
“I think that Mr. Palmer is a very enthusiastic gentleman,” said [Pittslyvania Democratic] committee chairman Robert Neals. “He’s young and inexperienced but he’s willing to try. He knows Mr. Merricks is a formidable opponent, and (Palmer) has no previous political experience but with the passion that he has I think he’ll do a good job.”
Palmer's campaign priorities include:
He vehemently opposes uranium mining and generally agreed with the current practice of dealing with felons and voting on a case-by-case basis.

“I run not to oppose any one man but to oppose policies,” Palmer said. “I am convinced that the 16th District is on a perilous course of lawlessness, intimidation and interrogation … The people aren’t properly being represented.”
[...]
He supports farmers’ unions and local sharecroppers and pushed for education reform.

“It’s sad to say but some kids are going to slip through the cracks and be the next felons,” he said. “I want to put a pre-emptive strike on that and get Richmond to see what is going on here in Pittsylvania County.”

The 16th District covers parts of Pittslyvania County, Henry County, and Martinsville, and is seen generally as a tough district for Democratic challengers. But as we learned last year, it can be done.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Striking Juxtaposition: Steele vs. Gallup

Maybe it's just bad timing or more Michael Steele lunacy, but Steele writes at Politico that Republicans have "turned the corner" on the exact day that Gallup releases a poll showing Republican losses in every demographic, over an eight year span, but frequent church-goers. Saith Steele:
That is why I believe America needs the Republican Party now more than ever before. We may be America’s minority party at the moment, but Republicans represent the views and concerns of a majority of Americans.
Republicans have turned the corner because they are forward-thinking, are not shy from voicing opposition, and will seize upon the momentum currently underway in states and local levels. To which he concludes:
The Republican Party has turned a corner, and as we move forward Republicans should take a lesson from Ronald Reagan. Again, we’re not looking back – if President Reagan were here today he would have no patience for Americans who looked backward. Ronald Reagan always believed Republicans should apply our conservative principles to current and future challenges facing America. For Reagan’s conservatism to take root in the next generation we must offer genuine solutions that are relevant to this age.
Gallup, however, offers a less rosy outlook, born of a long-term trend:
The Republican Party clearly has lost a lot of support since 2001, the first year of George W. Bush's administration. Most of the loss in support actually occurred beginning in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina and Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court -- both of which created major public relations problems for the administration -- and amid declining support for the Iraq war. By the end of 2008, the party had its worst positioning against the Democrats in nearly two decades.

The GOP may have stemmed those losses for now, as it does not appear to have lost any more support since Obama took office. But as the analysis presented here shows, the losses the GOP has suffered have come among nearly all demographic groups apart from some of the most ardent Republican subgroups.

Of course, these losses aren't Steele's fault, but his ineffective spokesmanship for his party seemingly exacerbates the problem.

Quote of the Day

James Harrison, NFL Defensive Player of the Year and member of the National Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, on the team being invited to the White House:
This is how I feel -- if you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don't win the Super Bowl. As far as I'm concerned, [Obama] would've invited Arizona if they had won.
Hunh? I'm sure the President is too busy with the economy, etc., to spend time with a theoretical 8-8 football franchise, and yes, if Arizona had won, President Obama would have invited them. That's just it, one of the perks of winning the Superbowl is meeting the President; no other team gets to do it.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Apparently this just happened while I was in Winston-Salem:
Authorities in North Carolina say a store owner and a patron thwarted a teen accused of trying to carry out a robbery by concealing a banana beneath his shirt to resemble a gun.

Winston-Salem authorities say 17-year-old John Szwalla entered the Internet cafe Thursday and demanded money, saying he had a gun.

The owner, Bobby Ray Mabe, said he and a customer jumped Szwalla, holding him until deputies arrived. While they waited, Mabe says the teen ate the banana.

... Forsyth County Sheriff's office spokesman Maj. Brad Stanley says deputies joked about charging Szwalla with destroying evidence.

Perriello's Straw Poll

Yesterday, Rep. Perriello held a straw poll in Charlottesville, the proceeds going to his annual internship program, "Common Good Summer." Democrats from throughout the 5th District participated in the event.

Creigh Deeds, the State Senator who represents Charlottesville, received 91% of the vote, followed by Moran (6%), and McAuliffe (3%). Mike Signer won the LG vote with 66%, with Jody Wagner earning the remaining 34%.

Del. Poindexter Unopposed

I knew this was a strong possibility, but the Franklin News-Post reports that Del. Charles Poindexter (R-Franklin County) will go unopposed this election cycle. The deadline for candidate filing was last week, and Democrats passed on offering a candidate. The 9th House district covers Franklin County, Floyd County and parts of Pittslyvania County, generally not friendly turf for a Democrat.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Obama's Notre Dame Graduation Speech

I wish that I could have seen Obama's graduation speech at Notre Dame this weekend, and I am sorry I missed it. While reading his speech (text here), I thought Obama hit two important notes. First, in recognizing that his presence, because of his pro-choice stances, caused controversy, Obama discusses how well-intended people can have legitimate and profound disagreement over issues:
And yet, one of the vexing things for those of us interested in promoting greater understanding and cooperation among people is the discovery that even bringing together persons of good will, men and women of principle and purpose, can be difficult.

The soldier and the lawyer may both love this country with equal passion, and yet reach very different conclusions on the specific steps needed to protect us from harm. The gay activist and the evangelical pastor may both deplore the ravages of HIV/AIDS, but find themselves unable to bridge the cultural divide that might unite their efforts. Those who speak out against stem cell research may be rooted in admirable conviction about the sacredness of life, but so are the parents of a child with juvenile diabetes who are convinced that their son's or daughter's hardships can be relieved.

The question, then, is how do we work through these conflicts? Is it possible for us to join hands in common effort? As citizens of a vibrant and varied democracy, how do we engage in vigorous debate? How does each of us remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without demonizing those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side?
Obama's answers to these questions, seen through personal email conversation between he and a pro-life doctor, is not to demonize and caricature opponents, but to approach respectful dialogue with "Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words."

Next, while discussing the historic levels of uncertainty within our future, Obama calls us to hold to the values and faith that makes us strong. He adds:
But remember too that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It is the belief in things not seen. It is beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us, and those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.

This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, and cause us to be wary of self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open, and curious, and eager to continue the moral and spiritual debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame. And within our vast democracy, this doubt should remind us to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works, charity, kindness, and service that moves hearts and minds.
Doubt is not anathema or mutually exclusive to faith, and it is a healthy part of our spiritual journeys. Doubt, however, should lead us to humility, especially given the premised incomprehensibility of the divine. In an ever-shrinking world, bombarded with a plurality of voices and ideas, however, we should hold fast to faith and not approach the diversity of thought with imperial and hegemonic certainty. Instead, we must appeal to reason and change hearts through good deeds.

Did you listen to or read the speech? What did you think?

Church Sign Sweetness

Victory Baptist Church somewhere in East Tennessee

(h/t WataugaWatch)

Onward Christian Soldiers

Reader Jesse sent me this great slideshow by GQ showing internal memos from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delivered personally to President Bush. These intelligence reports, from March 17, 2003, to April 11, 2003, all contain bible verses on the front page. Saith GQ:
In the days surrounding the U.S. invasion of Iraq, coversheets like the ones in this exclusive GQ.com slideshow - began adorning top-secret intelligence briefings produced by Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon. The sheets juxtaposed war images with inspirational bible quotes and were delivered by Rumsfeld himself to the White House ...
Sing with me: Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war ...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Gone Fishing

I've traveled more than my fair share this past week, and it continues through the weekend, except this time for play, not work. I'll be heading down to North Carolina to see several of my close friends graduate from Wake Forest Divinity School. I want to be there to celebrate with them.

Sorry for the lessened number of posts this last week, and sorry for the weekend off.

Be well, and have a restful and relaxed weekend.

peace,
Drew

The Congregational Effects of a Struggling Economy

While teaching the transcendent and metaphysical, churches are still somewhat dependent on the material. The NYT today articulates this unfortunate truth, as the current economic conditions are forcing churches to lay off, to cut back, or to freeze hiring, thus affecting the livelihoods of pastors and trained clergy. Money quote:
A contracting national economy has led congregations across the religious spectrum to cut or downsize clergy positions, hire part-time laity instead and delay filling existing vacancies. Veteran clergy, watching their retirement accounts wither, are postponing retirement.

Boucher endorses key Climate and Energy legislation

Politico has an article highlighting Rep. Rick Boucher's agreement to back Rep. Waxman's important climate and energy legislation. Boucher's endorsment is integral for this viability of this legislation, as he is seen as a leader on this issue. Money quote:
But Waxman and Markey eventually got what they wanted: an emphatic yes from Boucher, a coal country Virginian whose backing is critical for the ambitious global warming measure.

The meeting was the culmination of several months of tough negotiations, where Boucher — who became the chief negotiator for roughly a dozen skeptical Southern and Midwestern Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee — pushed California’s Waxman and Massachusetts’ Markey to include special protections for manufacturers, automakers and other industries in their bill.

“I intend to vote yes, and I intend to encourage all other members of the committee to do the same,” Boucher said.

An Exit Strategy for Afghanistan?

Congressman James McGovern of Massachusetts, unable to stop the wartime supplemental passed yesterday, offered legislation that would require the Obama Administration to outline a definitive exit strategy for Afghanistan by the end of the year (text here). Saith McGovern's spokesperson:
"After 8 years, he is getting a sinking feeling that we are getting in deeper and deeper into Afghan without any idea how we are going to get out," said Michael Mershon, a spokesman for McGovern. "He feels very strongly that no matter who the president is, or whether he has a 'D' or an 'R' next to his name, if you believe our military efforts need to have a clearly defined strategy, then that's what you have to fight for."
A number of representatives, a bipartisan coalition of over 70 - and rising - congresspersons, rushed to support McGovern's bill. With yesterday's Perriello money quote in mind, it is no surprise to see our Congressman signed on as a co-sponsor to this bill.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rep. Perriello on Obama's National Security Policies

The NYT has an article today on the growing unease among Democrats, seen especially in today's spending bill, with the Obama administration's approach to national security policies, namely its "open-ended commitment" to Afghanistan and the complicated task of closing of Guantanamo Bay. Within the article, there is this quote from Rep. Perriello:
The difference between the last administration and this one is the difference between night and dawn,” said Representative Tom Perriello, a freshman Democrat from Virginia. “But we’re looking for day.” (emphasis mine)
The intertubes loved this quote, and it seemingly went viral. Presumably out of praise, The New Republic and Andrew Sullivan each highlighted the quote, as did one Republican blog praising Perriello for his sanity ... I think.

Marketing Faith

With the rise in religiously unaffiliated (1, 2), "nones" is the new trendy word, churches and faith groups are looking for ways to market religion. The atheists are doing it, and in a similar fasion, religious organizations are realizing the power of marketing - good thing since denominational brand loyalty is at an all-time low (1, 2). As such, according to this article, marketing is the source and solution to the growing number of "nones" in America. Money quote:
"Look at the parallels between religion and marketing, and it's almost identical. People become attached to a religion in the same way someone takes on a brand," said Mara Epstein, author of "Brands of Faith," and associate professor of media studies at Queens College. She and others contend that it is marketing, and our consumerist society, that has given people the idea they have a divine right to choose whatever they like -- and to treat faiths just like they'd treat any other brands, switching religions or choosing to have none.
[...]
Marketing alone isn't to blame for religions' faltering -- an influx of new religion choices via immigration, the rise of the megachurch and widespread criticism of organized religion all play a role -- but marketing is increasingly the tool of choice for religions seeking to reverse the trend.
Many denominations are looking to market their brands, using television and new social media websites (like this), targeting specifically the "nones" in the younger generations. The article concludes with the following discussion:
Ultimately, the question is: Can marketing work for any religion?

"Marketing is sort of a necessary evil. It's part of our culture at this point, and if faiths want to be part of the culture, they're going to have to do marketing, or they'll get lost in the conversation," Ms. Epstein said.

As a general idea, I'm okay with it, as I've said before:

I also do appreciate using [new strategies] to communicate your religious message and try to bring people into your religious community.... Church attendance is dwindling, and meeting people where they are at ... is a perfectly legitimate strategy to develop and draw in the next generation of religious adherents.
Anything is better than the mysterious, annoying knock-on-the-door marketing strategy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Off to DC

Dear Dem Bones readers,

I'll be making an all day trip to DC for an important meeting, leaving very early and coming back very late. Please consider this an open thread for whatever is on your mind or whatever thoughtful advice/constructive criticism you have for this blog. What topics/subjects would you like me to post on?

Be back tomorrow.

peace,
Drew

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Scapegoating Social Conservatives?

Here is an interesting article on the social conservatives leaders resent being scapegoated, a time-honored tradition apparently, for GOP electoral losses. Money quote:
Despite their loyalty to the GOP, traditionally, after national losses, social conservatives feel like the whipping boy of GOP critics.
[...]
"That's the pattern that has emerged over the last couple of decades," said Perkins, who heads the Family Research Council. "People want to find an easy excuse for the GOP's failures and they try to point to the social conservative issues and by extension social conservatives."
This scapegoating, according to the article, is somewhat peculiar and unfair, seen most recently in Miss California's and Obama's similar views on same-sex marriage. The article, however, ends with this dose of reality:
In the end, the GOP leadership will likely not move away from social conservatives anytime soon. They are aware of the coalition math. A divorce between the Christian right and the GOP would leave Republicans in ruin.

This is why, despite the heightened rhetoric today, [Gary] Bauer is skeptical of any divide between the GOP and its largest bloc.

"I'm not concerned that they could actually be that stupid," Bauer said. "There are whole areas of the country where the only reason the Republicans are competitive are because of values and social issues."
Sen. Snowe is absolutely correct that the Republican party cannot survive without conservatives, and logically, social conservatives. The problem, however is that in the current political climate, fairly or unfairly, independents and moderates are not as interested in socially conservative issues - they are not priority concerns. At the same time, the progressive nature of the younger generations will only heighten this disconnect.

Sigh

RealClearPolitics implies that Perriello couldn't win without Obama's coattails:
Obama's coattails - something we haven't seen at the Presidential level for quite some time - also present a problem for Democrats. Obama's candidacy drew numerous African American and college-age voters to the polls in 2008, and this likely proved critical for successful Democrats in close races such as AL-02 (Bobby Bright), VA-02 (Glen Nye) and VA-05 (Tom Perriello). These voters may still turn out in 2010 without Obama at the top of the ballot, and Obama may decide to expend enough political capital on 2010 to place himself virtually at the top of the ballot (assuming he has capital to spend at that point). (emphasis mine)
If you believe Obama dragged Perriello to victory, then in 2010, without Obama on the ticket, Perriello will lose handily. Or so the argument goes.

Good thing, however, I reject this argument outright. I'll be a broken record soon enough.

Former Newspaper Editor Praises Perriello

Bernard Baker, a retired editor for the Danville Register & Bee, wrote a letter to the editor praising the hard work and dedication of Rep. Perriello. Baker begins:
Some people in the Danville area still haven’t gotten over the stinging upset that took place in the 5th District congressional race last year.

Like it or not, Rep. Tom Perriello is our new representative, and he has spent his first few months in office tending to the needs of the 5th District. He wants to make sure we’re not left behind. And he’s off to a tremendous start.
Baker, then, bullets Perriello's early accomplishments: record stimulus money coming to Danville - with emphasis on the Robertson Bridge - his hard work for area veterans, his criticality of the earmark process, his efforts to bring green jobs to the area, and his work to fight credit card companies. To which Baker concludes:
Rep. Perriello has accomplished a lot for our area during his first 100 days, but he said he would work a double shift in Congress.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Pope's New Nano-Bible

Coolest gift ever:
President Shimon Peres will present Pope Benedict XVI on Monday with a unique gift that requires an electron microscope to appreciate: the text of the Jewish Bible in vowelled Hebrew inscribed on a nanotechnology particle about the size of a grain of sand.

The 0.5-square-millimeter particle - much smaller than a pinhead - was prepared at Haifa's Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Russell Berry Nanotechnology Institute, and was the brainchild of institute director Prof. Uri Sivan.
[...]
The nano-Bible was set on a transparent base only one centimeter high, accompanied by Hebrew and English text explaining how it was produced.

Quote of the Day

A couple weeks ago, I posted on an article by Robert Wright on religion and globalization. It turns out that the article was a prelude to a upcoming book - out next month - The Evolution of God. Andrew Sullivan reviews Wright's new book, and his review is worth the read. Sullivan concludes with these thoughts:
My own view, as a struggling and doubting person of faith, is that truth matters in whatever mode we find it — but ultimate truth, because we are not ultimate beings, will always elude us. The search for this truth is the point, illuminated in my own faith by Jesus. Humans cannot live without this search, never have and never will. Our consciousness asks questions to which there will never be a complete answer; we are religious because we are human. And the challenge of our time is neither the arrogant dismissal of religious life and heritage, nor the rigid insistence that all metaphysical questions are already answered or unaskable, but a humble openness to history and science and revelation in the journey of faith.

This vision is beleaguered now both within religious life and outside it. But if we are to survive this era of technology with the potential of mass destruction, if we are to endure past the darkness of the Taliban and the religious right, this process of religious reform is not an option. It is a necessity. ...

Amen. Tripp likes this quote also.

Perriello on Southside Green Jobs

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has an article in which Rep. Perriello discusses climate change legislation. I, however, gravitated to Rep. Perriello's hopes for the economic possibilities for the Southside. With our industrial workforce and our agricultural strength, the 5th district can be a leader in the new energy economy. Money quote:
"I believe the new energy and energy efficiency [industry] is one of our greatest chances to bring jobs back to Southside Virginia," he said. "I see this as a great opportunity to create jobs and rebuild some of the manufacturing bases in this country."

Job creation is high on the mind of Perriello, who represents some of the state's most economically depressed areas, including Martinsville, which registers the highest unemployment rate in Virginia.
Sign me up. Let's get it done.

Women and the Republican Party

Politico has a provocative article on women in the Republican Party, a "minority in a minority." As such, the party contains a diminished number of female leaders - only 4 women Senators and 17 Congresswomen! According to the article, there is a geo-cultural component at work here - the South, the remaining Republican stronghold, is traditionally not as receptive to female candidates - and, naturally, this gender disparity has strong political implications:
According to the center’s analysis of exit-polling data, women backed Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden over Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin 56 percent to 43 percent. Male voters split their votes much more evenly, with 49 percent voting for Obama-Biden and 48 percent choosing McCain-Palin.

Snowe says there’s also a political dimension. As the Republican Party sheds moderates, it also sheds women.
[...]
“It is going to be critical,” [McMorris Rodgers, who is helping lead the NRCC’s candidate recruitment team] said, “that the Republican Party has a face that includes women of all ages and backgrounds and experiences.”
Democrats, traditionally, have been better at recruiting and training women candidates, and the Republicans, for the growth and future of the party, must learn to better develop female talent and be more inclusive in their candidate searches.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Quote of the Day

Pat Robertson, during an interview last week, answered a question on the legalization of gay marriage:
Lee, we haven’t taken this to its ultimate conclusion. You got polygamy out there. How can we rule that polygamy is illegal when you say that homosexual marriage is legal. What is it about polygamy that’s different? Well, polygamy was outlawed because it was considered immoral according to biblical standards. But if we take biblical standards away in homosexuality, what about the other? And what about bestiality and ultimately what about child molestation and pedophilia? How can we criminalize these things and at the same time have constitutional amendments allowing same-sex marriage among homosexuals. You mark my words, this is just the beginning in a long downward slide in relation to all the things that we consider to be abhorrent. (emphasis mine)
Sigh. While I recognize the profound and legitimate disagreement between some of us here, I am thankful that we have risen above this ludicrous and grotesque slippery-slope argument.

Younger Americans Losing Religion

Almost two weeks ago, Pew Forum on Religion and Public life released a study examining Americans, the fluid nature of religious affiliations, and our growing lack of religious affiliation. Robert Putnam, a Harvard University professor who conducted the research, also notes that younger Americans are less likely to go to church or participate in organized religion than older generations. According to Putnam, historically the overall percentage of religiously unaffiliated is always low (5-10%), but in younger Americans that number currently swells to 30-40% - there seems to be, in my mind, a positive correlation between age and religious identification. It would be incorrect, however, to say that these Unaffiliateds are atheists, as most are disillusioned with organized religion:
"Many of them are people who would otherwise be in church," Putnam said. "They have the same attitidues [sic] and values as people who are in church, but they grew up in a period in which being religious meant being politically conservative, especially on social issues."

Putnam says that in the past two decades, many young people began to view organized religion as a source of "intolerance and rigidity and doctrinaire political views," and therefore stopped going to church.
Putnam argues that this fact will affect the political sphere for years to come. He also believes this will heighten the debate about the decline of a Christian America, he believes (like me) that religion will adapt:
Given that today's young "nones" probably would be in church if they didn't associate religion with far-right political views, he says, new faith groups may evolve to serve them.

"Jesus said, 'Be fishers of men,'" says Putnam, "and there's this pool with a lot of fish in it and no fishermen right now."

In the end, he says, this "stunning" trend of young people becoming less religious could lead to America's next great burst of religious innovation.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Epitome of cleverness:
Police found a man accused of shoplifting because he put his address on a job application before leaving the store. ...

Police said the man stuffed the items under his shirt and the waistline of his pants before going to the checkout counter to fill out a job application. The items set off an alarm when he left the store.

Police said the man wrote his actual address on the job application, and police arrested him there while he was ironing a pair of jeans he was accused of stealing.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Seward Anderson, 14th House District Democratic Nominee

With the passing of the filing deadline, Democrats have their official nominee for the 14th House of Delegates district. Seward Anderson, former mayor of Danville, will challenge Republican incumbent Danny Marshall. Saith Anderson on his nomination:
“It’s certainly an honor,” Anderson said of his nomination. “I was on city council here 14 years, the final 10 of those as mayor. We were pretty successful because there was no partisan bickering. It was that type of leadership that allowed us to build two industrial parks and provide jobs for the community.”
To Anderson, effective leadership, the economy, education, and to fully fund the Governor's Opportunity Fund are the major campaign issues.

The district covers Danville and parts of Pittslyvania and Henry Counties. Democrats view this as a potential pick-up opportunity, as this district went heavily democratic during last year's election cycle.

Obama to Address Muslim World

Next month, in a long-awaited speech, Obama will address the Muslim world in order to enunciate our current and future American-Islamic relationships. The speech will occur in Egypt, a strong American ally in the Middle East. Saith Robert Gibbs:
“This is a continuing effort of the president’s to engage the Muslim world,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, adding that the president has “high hopes for a stronger relationship.”

He said that Obama would expand on previous remarks to Muslim audiences, including a speech in Turkey where he declared that the United States is not at war with Islam, despite the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
[...]
“This is a speech to many, many people, and a continuing effort by this president and this White House to demonstrate how we can work together to ensure safety and security ... of the children of this country and of the Muslim world,” Gibbs said.

Just War vs Justifiable War (updated)

Through studying in the relationship between religion and violence, I became enamored with the just war theory. The just war theory originated during an era where there was not distinction between the church and the state, and it provided theological rationale and criteria for those times when armed conflict could be seen as a moral response to political crisis. Although traditionally credited to Augustine, several just war concepts were developed earlier by Plato, Cicero, and Athanasius, before Augustine expounded on these ideas - thoughts scattered over numerous letters and books - and Aquinas codified the theory into one treatise. As such, the theory has been around, in some part or another, for around 2500 years.

The theory can be broken up into two parts. Jus ad bellum designates the moral criteria (legitimate authority, just cause, right intention, last resort) for engaging in a just war, and jus in bello designates the moral criteria (proportionality, avoiding non-combatants, weaponry) for the appropriate behavior during a just war.

With this hyper-concise background in mind, I read this post by Richard Haass, the President of the Council of Foreign Relations. He believes that the just war theory no longer a helpful device because of the make up of modern military conflict. His major claim against the just war theory is that it is too subjective:
One problem with just war theory is that it is too subjective. What constitutes a just cause is in the eyes of the beholder, as are the probability of success and any estimate of likely costs and benefits.

Just war theory is also too confining. Is the United Nations Security Council the only competent authority, or was NATO's approval enough to make the Kosovo war just? Waging war only as a last resort means risking the lives of many while other policies are tried and found wanting.

Haass, on the point of subjectivity, is correct, as more hawkish theologians have less and loosened criteria for warfare and dovish theologians have more and stricter criteria - there is no universal, agreed upon list of criteria.

To compensate for just war's shortcomings, Haass offers a new theory, the justifiable war theory. First he makes a distinction, wars of necessity and wars of choice - he, unfortunately doesn't define the terms in this post, but it appears this post is a synopsis of his book, War of Necessity, War of Choice. Wars of necessity, by definition are justifiable, but wars of choice, perhaps:

Justifiable wars undoubtedly include wars of necessity, that is, wars in which the most vital interests of a country are threatened and where there are no promising alternatives to using force. World War Two and the first Iraq war of 1990-1991 following Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait would qualify, as would wars of self-defense

The question is whether wars of choice can also be justifiable. By definition, wars of choice tend to involve less than vital interests and the existence of alternative policies. Vietnam, Kosovo and Bosnia were all wars of choice. So, too, was the second Iraq war begun in 2003.

Are wars of choice ever justifiable? The answer is "yes" when using force is the best available policy option. The argument that the goal is worthy and that war is the best option for pursuing it should be strong enough to garner considerable domestic and international support. More important, the case should be persuasive that using military force will accomplish more good for more people at a lower cost than diplomacy, sanctions, or inaction.

Haass believes that, under the justifiable war doctrine, the second Iraq War was not justifiable. To which he concludes:

But what about the future? The concept of justifiable war is not simply one for history. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan -all are potential theaters for new or intensified U.S. military action. The question is not whether they would constitute just wars. That is too impractical a standard. The question in the real world is whether they would be justifiable--to Congress, to the American people, to the world. It is a question President Obama will have to answer.
While I haven't read the book, so my criticism is somewhat unfair, I still find value and worth in the just war theory, despite its ambiguity and shortcomings. All theologians should receive with skepticism any theory that does not stall the inertia towards warfare, and it seems, to me, that the tacit approval of "wars of choice" can also be subjective and abused, like the just war theory. The just war theory, however, was conceived thousands of years ago, and its conceivers could not have imagined our globalized context and our current military systems and weaponry. As such, a modernizing of the theory must happen (past conceptions of nuclear warfare into the age of extremist, terrorist cells), but whether just war theory maintains theological prominence or gets scrapped for a new theory, like the justifiable war theory, remains to be seen.

Update: Theologians have long mourned humanity's tendency towards warfare but found warfare an inevitable part of the human condition. As such, the just war theory was meant, ideally, to provide a framework of justice to this tragic action. The more I think about the justifiable war theory, the more I am troubled about a movement away from justice and towards a justification of warfare. The issue isn't just one of semantics but one of a profound and differing theological approach to warfare.