Last month, Rabbi Michael Lerner--the founding editor of Tikkun magazine--convened a Conference on Spiritual Activism in Berkeley. It was there that he launched a new organization called the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP).
Lerner describes it as "the most significant inter-faith effort" to bring together "religious, secular and spiritual-but-not-religious progressives." Thirteen hundred people--Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and "spiritual but not religious people"--turned out for the conference to network and hear talks from Dave Robinson, the Executive Director of Pax Christi USA; Michael Nagler, founder of Berkeley's Peace and Conflict Studies Program; the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine and Mahatma Gandhi's grandson.
The Network, Lerner explained in an interview last week, is seeking to transform our nation's institutions and culture by addressing the American people's "spiritual crisis." This crisis, he argues, stems from "an excess of selfishness and materialism" associated with American capitalism, and the fledgling organization wants to change society's bottom line by de-emphasizing "money and power" and reinforcing values like "love and caring, ethical and ecological sensitivity and behavior, kindness and generosity, non-violence and peace."
New York Senator Hillary Clinton has always looked like a good bet to win re-election in 2006--probably by a margin wide enough to jumpstart the 2008 presidential campaign that many Democrats want the former First Lady to make.
With the decision of Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro to seek the Republican nomination to challenge her, however, Clinton's fortunes have taken a dramatic turn for the better.
Pirro, a hyper-ambitious publicity hound who frequently turns up on the Fox News Channel as a "legal affairs" commentator, had been weighing races for governor, attorney general or Clinton's Senate seat. With the fortunes of the state Republican Party in decline (even the conservative New York Post says that "New York's GOP is withering--fast"), Pirro was unlikely to win any of those posts. So she opted for the showcase contest: a challenge to the woman Republicans around the country love to hate. Pirro's announcement garnered homestate headlines, enthusiastic coverage on Fox and conservative talk radio and promises of hefty campaign contribution checks from Hillary-haters nationwide.
Words such as "conscience" and "honor" have pretty much disappeared from the American political lexicon in this age of Bush Administration lies and leaks. But when the histories of this time are written, it will be remembered that those precious characteristics were not wholly absent.
When British Prime Minister Tony Blair was maneuvering Britain into Bush's Iraq War coalition, one of the most prominent leaders of his Labour Party--a former foreign minister who then served as the party's leader in the House of Commons--resigned from the government and took a place on the back benches to deliver a blistering condemnation of the irrational arguments that Bush and Blair were making for an unwise and unnecessary war.
Robin Cook, who made international headlines with that act of conscience, died Saturday at age 59. To his last days, he remained an ardent foe of the war. Britain's Observer newspaper called him "the most incisively potent of the war's opponents."
It is not often that this column pays tribute to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. But the man who in 1994 played a pivotal role in putting the Republican Party in control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years -- and in developing the strategies that have kept the GOP in control -- has a sharp political mind. And he used it this week to analyze the unexpectedly strong showing of Democrat Paul Hackett in a special election to fill the southern Ohio U.S. House seat vacated by U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman.
Hackett won 48.3 percent of the vote in a district where no Democrat had ever gotten more than 28 percent against Portman. In the most Republican House district in the state of Ohio, the Democrat, a Marine veteran of the Iraq war, lost by barely 3,000 votes. And he did that after a campaign in which he said the U.S. should not have invaded the Iraq in the first place and condemned the administration's approach to the occupation. Unlike more cautious Democrats, Hackett was unapologetic about calling President Bush an "SOB" whose actions endangered Americans, and about referring to members of the administration as "chickenhawks."
Of course,most Republicans and their media allies were quick to dismiss the significance of Hackett's showing -- despite the fact that it was the best finish for a Democrat in the district since the Watergate election of 1974. The rules of spin these days are such that reality is rarely allowed to intrude on discussions of politics.
Saturday, August 6, marks the fortieth anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's signing into law of the Voting Rights Act, considered by many to be the most comprehensive civil rights law ever passed. The act provides protection for voters against actions taken by states to limit participation in the electoral process, actions most often targeted toward black, Hispanic, and low-income citizens. The law banned literacy tests and the other barriers that southern states had erected since blacks won the vote in 1870. And in the three years after it passed, more than a million new nonwhite voters cast ballots in southern states.
As The Nation's unsigned editorial said this week, "By tearing down the barriers to equal opportunity at the ballot box, the act removed the essential political mechanisms that maintained segregation and white supremacy." Several key provisions of the act expire in 2007, however, and Rev. Jackson, the NAACP and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition are taking the lead in campaigning for their renewal.
NAACP Convention SpeechRev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.July 12, 2005
To Chairman Julian Bond, a legendary force in the last half of the 20th century, whose work, vision and sacrifice, and whose call to conscience lifted a generation - we thank you. Of our generation of activists who survived the bullets and the lynchings, there is no brighter light, no keener mind, than Julian Bond.
To Bruce Gordon who now assumes the awesome responsibility to guide our civil rights mother ship - we share with you in your daunting task. You have the integrity, the intelligence and the strength of reasoning to take us another rung up freedom's ladder. Be assured that the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition stands with you. The entire civil rights community will be served well to rally, close ranks and join with you in partnership.
In an age in which corporate malfeasance abounds, too much of the mainstream media has been unaccountably lax in covering the abuses of big business. Luckily for us--and unluckily for would-be white-collar criminals--one indispensable journal has kept a watchful eye on corporations for the last quarter century.
In 1980, Multinational Monitor was founded by Ralph Nader and a rag-tag band of socially conscious reporters who felt that corporate power was "undergoing a transformation, mutating into something more fundamentally global in scope and profoundly more dangerous." Published nine times a year, the Monitor is not glamorous or immediately recognizable outside of activist and political media circles. But its hard-hitting stories on corporate environmental abuse, health and safety violations, and exploitation of developing nations have long held the feet of executives to the fire.
The Monitor's most widely publicized feature in recent years has been its annual list of the "Top Ten Worst Corporations," compiled by Robert Weissman (who also serves as editor) and Russell Mokhiber of Corporate Crime Reporter. This past year, Coca-Cola, Merck, and--you guessed it--Wal-Mart all made the list, which spread through the blogosphere like wildfire and caused migraines for corporate PR firms.
Vice President Dick Cheney, who predicted on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, that Americans would be "greeted as liberators," has in recent weeks been peddling a new line of spin.
If Cheney was not in charge of U.S. foreign policy, he could be dismissed as a ranting lunatic. But, because of his title, and because the former Secretary of Defense is the dominant player in the Bush administration when it comes to military policy, Cheney has to be taken seriously -- as seriously, that is, as his bizarro worldview permits.
Unfortunately, the primary reason to take Cheney seriously is the fact that Americans and Iraqis are dying because of the policies he has promoted. And, of course, because those same policies are emptying the U.S. Treasury into the quagmire that is Iraq.
The Entergy Nuclear company of Jackson, Missippippi, with the blessing
of the Bush Administration, is seeking preliminary approval to add one
or two new nuclear reactors to its existing reactor
Days after Bill Frist, the White House's choice for Senate majority leader, turned his back on religious conservatives to support federal funding for stem cell research, President Bush threw his evangelical base a bone. He came out in support of public school science classes giving equal standing to "intelligent design," the belief that life forms are so complex that their creation can't be explained by Darwinian evolutionary theory alone, but rather points to intentional creation, presumably divine.
Was this sequence of events random? Or the design of a higher intelligence, say The Boy Genius, perhaps? Unless special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald investigates, we'll never know.
But what we do know is that when it comes to intelligence and the designing of it, the Bush Administration is not to be trusted. Its "slam dunk" evidence on Iraqi WMD was a concoction of deliberate lies and false hopes. Its democratic designs on the Middle East are bleeding to death in the sands of the Sunni Triangle. And its theory that we fight the terrorists "over there" so they won't attack us "over here" is small comfort to the victims in Madrid and London.