Daily Archives: February 12, 2008

Bill Kristol: Obama's path to victory

Then there’s over a month until the next contest, in Pennsylvania on April 22. That stretch of time could be key. It could be the moment for many of the uncommitted superdelegates to begin ratifying the choice of Democratic primary voters, and to start moving en masse to Obama.

Many of these superdelegates are elected officials. They tend to care about winning in November. The polls suggest Obama matches up better with John McCain. And the polls are merely echoing the judgment of almost every Democratic elected official from a competitive district or a swing state with whom I’ve spoken. They would virtually all prefer Obama at the top of the ticket.

All of this will move the superdelegates to Obama – perhaps as early as just after March 4, or perhaps not until April 22, or perhaps not even until the last match-up on June 7. But the superdelegates will want to avoid a situation in which they could be in the position of seeming to override the popular vote, or of resolving a bitter battle over whether and how to count votes from Florida and Michigan, at the convention.

And there are, as a final resort, two super-superdelegates (so to speak) who would have the clout to help Democrats achieve closure: Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi. If they stepped forward at the right time, they would earn the gratitude of their party. And they might also enjoy contemplating a derivative effect of their good deed – the fall of the house of Clinton.

Read it all.

Posted in Uncategorized

U.S. Hispanic population to triple by 2050

The U.S. population will soar to 438 million by 2050 and the Hispanic population will triple, according to projections released Monday by the Pew Research Center.
The latest projections by the non-partisan research group are higher than government estimates to date and paint a portrait of an America dramatically different from today’s.

The projected growth in the U.S. population ”” 303 million today ”” will be driven primarily by immigration among all groups except the elderly.

“We’re assuming that the rate of immigration will stay roughly constant,” says Jeffrey Passel, co-author of the report.

Even if immigration is limited, Hispanics’ share of the population will increase because they have higher birth rates than the overall population. That’s largely because Hispanic immigrants are younger than the nation’s aging baby boom population. By 2030, all 79 million boomers will be at least 65 and the elderly will grow faster than any other age group.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A.

LA Times: A suicidal epidemic

Iraqi militants strapped explosive belts onto two mentally disabled women last week, sent them into two crowded Baghdad markets and blew them up. Authorities said the two women had Down syndrome and may not have understood what they were about to do. Their belts were detonated remotely, 20 minutes apart, killing dozens.

Neither the Islamic nor the Western worlds have come to grips with acts of such evil. Media accounts of the attacks focused on the sense of shock felt by Baghdad residents who had come to believe that security was improving. Destroying that sense of progress and trust in the Iraqi and U.S. governments was doubtless the terrorists’ goal. Equally horrifying, however, is what did not follow the barbarity in Baghdad: no outpouring of disgust from the Muslim world.

What does this moral numbness mean? It appears to signify that terrorists have succeeded in forcing the public to view suicide bombing as an inevitable, unstoppable, even ordinary tactic of warfare. In truth, because the technique has proved so spectacularly successful at instilling chaos and despair — and because it is so cheap and difficult to deter — it has metastasized to societies that had never heard of such horrors before. Suicide bombings have now occurred in more than 30 countries. The traditional rationale — that suicide terrorism is the last resort of an occupied people against a far more powerful oppressor — no longer holds true. Everywhere, suicide terrorism has thwarted traditional military and counter-terrorist solutions.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Terrorism

A BBC Radio Four Sunday Porgramme Audio Segment: Sharia law followed by live discussion

It would be an understatement to say that there has been much heated debate since the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments regarding Sharia law, and the extent to which the adoption of some aspects of it in the UK seem, in his words, to be “unavoidable”. The media coverage has focused on what the Archbishop himself called “the darker side of Sharia” such as beheadings, amputations and the secondary role of women. But is this what Sharia really means and how unacceptable is it to suggest that it should have the same rights as other religious legal systems already recognised by UK law? A report by Kevin Bocquet was followed by a live discussion between the Rt Rev John Goddard, the Bishop of Burnley, the Rev Giles Fraser, Vicar of Putney, and the religious commentator and broadcaster, Paul Vallely of the Independent, with reaction from Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone.

Listen to it all (over 24 minutes).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Cono Sur [formerly Southern Cone], England / UK, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture

Washington Post: Interfaith Movement In America Digs Deeper

For more than a decade, interfaith efforts have been on the rise in the United States, fueled by the growth of newer religious minority groups and by post-Sept. 11 interest in Islam. But participants and experts say a new credo is changing the movement: Go deeper.

Meeting for months in small dialogue groups. Running a joint anti-gun violence program. Taking educational trips together.

This growing wave represents a significant change in the movement called “interfaith,” a transformation driven by the belief that efforts have been too feel-good, not concrete or effective enough. It favors intimate group projects and community service over largely anonymous and safe group settings, such as lectures and joint worship services that happen once a year.

That philosophy made the small back room of the D.C. club Busboys and Poets feel even smaller one night last month, when a few dozen people listened to an imam interview a rabbi and then broke into groups for discussion. The assigned questions: What traditions of your own do you hold most dear? What could you learn from other groups you don’t agree with?

People made soft, general comments. But by the time the whole group rejoined for a Q&A, they were more frank.

“How do you deal with a fanatic, a person who wants to kick you out of your home?” a Christian man originally from Palestine asked in a sharp tone, from the front corner of the room.

Read it all.

Posted in * Religion News & Commentary, Inter-Faith Relations

Kenya’s Middle Class Feeling Sting of Violence

George G. Mbugua is a 42-year-old executive with two cars, a closet full of suits and a good job as the chief financial officer of a growing company.

His life has all the trappings of a professional anywhere. He recently joined a country club and has taken up golf.

But unlike anywhere else, this executive has to keep his eyes peeled on the daily commute for stone-throwing mobs. When he gets home after a long day, he has to explain to his daughters why people from different ethnic groups are hacking one another to death. Even his own affluent neighborhood has been affected. Some of the Mbuguas’ neighbors recently fled their five-bedroom homes because of the violence that has exploded in Kenya since a disputed election in December turned this promising African country upside down.

“Nobody’s untouched,” Mr. Mbugua said.

Of all the election-related conflicts that have cracked open in Kenya ”” Luos versus Kikuyus (two big ethnic groups), The Orange Democratic Movement versus the Party of National Unity (the leading political parties), police versus protesters ”” none may be more crucial than the struggle between those who seem to have nothing to lose, like the mobs in the slums who burn down their own neighborhoods, and those who are deeply invested in this country’s stability.

Read it all from the front page of yesterday’s New York Times.

Posted in * International News & Commentary, Africa, Kenya

Al-Qaeda leaders admit: 'We are in crisis. There is panic and fear'

Al-Qaeda in Iraq faces an “extraordinary crisis”. Last year’s mass defection of ordinary Sunnis from al-Qaeda to the US military “created panic, fear and the unwillingness to fight”. The terrorist group’s security structure suffered “total collapse”.

These are the words not of al-Qaeda’s enemies but of one of its own leaders in Anbar province ”” once the group’s stronghold. They were set down last summer in a 39-page letter seized during a US raid on an al-Qaeda base near Samarra in November.

The US military released extracts from that letter yesterday along with a second seized in another November raid that is almost as startling.

That second document is a bitter 16-page testament written last October by a local al-Qaeda leader near Balad, north of Baghdad. “I am Abu-Tariq, emir of the al-Layin and al-Mashahdah sector,” the author begins. He goes on to describe how his force of 600 shrank to fewer than 20.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Terrorism

For Clinton, Ohio and Texas Emerge as Key States to Win

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and her advisers increasingly believe that, after a series of losses, she has been boxed into a must-win position in the Ohio and Texas primaries on March 4, and she has begun reassuring anxious donors and superdelegates that the nomination is not slipping away from her, aides said Monday.

Mrs. Clinton held a buck-up-the-troops conference call on Monday with donors, superdelegates and other supporters; several of them said afterward that she sounded tired and a little down, but determined about Ohio and Texas. And these donors and superdelegates said that they were not especially soothed, saying they believed she could be on a losing streak that could jeopardize her competitiveness in Ohio and Texas.

“She has to win both Ohio and Texas comfortably, or she’s out,” said one Democratic superdelegate who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to share a candid assessment. “The campaign is starting to come to terms with that.” Campaign advisers, also speaking privately in order to speak plainly, confirmed this view.

Several Clinton superdelegates, whose votes could help decide the nomination, also said Monday that they were wavering in the face of Mr. Obama’s momentum after victories in Washington, Nebraska, Louisiana and Maine last weekend. Some of them said that they, like the hundreds of uncommitted superdelegates still at stake, may ultimately “go with the flow,” in the words of one, and support the candidate who appears to show the most strength in the primaries to come.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Ruth Gledhill: The intellectual arrogance that pervades the heart of Lambeth Palace wisdom

The Archbishop of Canterbury rarely lets anyone amend his speeches. Unlike his predecessor, George Carey, Rowan Williams is confident enough of his intellectual gifts to consider that he does not need the wisdom of others in guiding the public expression of his thoughts.

This illustrates the divergent backgrounds of the two men ”” one is working-class, self-taught, rooted in the simplicity of an evangelical faith, the other is Oxbridge to the depths of his complicated soul, espousing a Christianity at once liberal, catholic and ascetic. Lord Carey reads the News of the World, and likes to write for the paper. Dr Williams prefers Dostoevsky, and is writing a book about him.

Dr Williams was advised before his speech on Thursday evening that the content could prove controversial. He heeded the warnings but went ahead anyway. He was “taken aback” by just how controversial it then proved but remains “chirpy” and unrepentant about his comments because he believes that they needed to be made.

Although he is a holy and spiritual man, danger lies in the appearance of the kind of intellectual arrogance common to many of Britain’s liberal elite. It is an arrogance that affords no credibility or respect to the popular voice. And although this arrogance, with the assumed superiority of the Oxbridge rationalist, is not shared by his staff at Lambeth Palace, it is by some of those outside Lambeth from whom he regularly seeks counsel.

Read it all. One of the many things made clear by this whole recent ruckus is that people do not know who Rowan Williams is. He was at Oxford when I was there in the early 1990’s and I say to people often you will not understand him unless you understand that he is a scholar, a Trinitarian and catholic Christian, a mystic and an iconoclast. No portrait that does not have all these four elements will do justice to the complexity of the man; and this recent episode has a heavy dose of #1 and #4 in evidence, but it is as if people forgot or never even knew this is part of the way he works. He likes to push the envelope, he likes to challenge so-called accepted wisdom–KSH.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Archbishop of Canterbury

D. Michael Lindsay: A gated community in the evangelical world

Why are these leaders so disconnected from their local churches? Executives and politicians are often distressed by the way churches are run. James Unruh, who served as the chief executive of Unisys, was also at one time an elder at his Presbyterian church in California. He has since decided he will never serve again. He couldn’t stand the inefficiency of church meetings, a common refrain among those I interviewed.

“It’s very frustrating to be patient and not to try to run things because that’s what you’re doing all day in your business,” Unruh told me. Others described local congregations as “inefficient,” “unproductive” and “focused on the wrong things.”

These factors are driving evangelical leaders into the arms of fellowship groups that exist outside the churches, often called “parachurch” organizations. The shift began in the 1950s, but it grew dramatically over the past 20 years as the parachurch sector became more professional and well-resourced. Nearly three-fourths of the leaders I interviewed serve on the board of at least one parachurch organization, such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. They prefer these groups because they have a broader reach and a bigger impact.

David Grizzle, a senior executive with Continental Airlines, told me, “I’ve intentionally pulled back involvement at my local church level and focused more on activities of a broader scope. … I get to the same place, but through a different pathway.”

Pastors and religious leaders ”” not just among evangelicals, but also among liberal and mainline Protestants, Catholics and Jews ”” are concerned about these developments.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

From the Wall Street Journal: James Dobson's Choice

Mr. McCain’s harshest critics argue that his judicial picks could easily be as bad as anyone tapped by Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama. This is caricature, but even if it had merit, the likes of Mr. Dobson would be trading the risk that Mr. McCain picks moderates for the court for the certainty that his opponent would appoint liberals.

It’s always possible Mr. McCain would make a bad Supreme Court nomination, just as Ronald Reagan picked Anthony Kennedy, who later affirmed Roe v. Wade. As we recall it, social conservatives at the time promoted Mr. Kennedy because he was Catholic and let it be known that he personally opposed abortion, while they frowned on Judge Laurence Silberman because he supported abortion rights as a personal matter even as he opposed Roe as a matter of law. Justice Kennedy has been a catastrophe for cultural conservatives, while Judge Silberman recently wrote the landmark appellate decision favoring gun rights now being heard by the Supremes.

The conservative coalition has learned a lot about picking judges since 1987, and especially since the nomination of David Souter by another Republican President. As the Harriet Myers interlude proved, another mystery pick by Mr. McCain or any other GOP President is far less likely than it used to be.

Mr. Dobson and other social conservatives may decide they can’t vote for Mr. McCain for any number of reasons. What they can’t do with any credibility is claim that helping to elect a liberal President will further the causes that these conservatives claim to believe most deeply in.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture, US Presidential Election 2008

The Latest from Intrade

The Obama contracts increased their lead considerably over the weekend, now trading at 70.0 vs the Clinton contracts price of 30.0. On Friday the Obama contracts were trading at 56.7 and Clinton at 42.0. Both contracts were actively traded over the weekend. McCain’s dominance of the Republican field continues, with his contracts last trading at 94.4.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, US Presidential Election 2008

Synod backs Archbishop in Sharia controversy

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, this afternoon apologised to the Church of England for any unclarity or “misleading choice of words” when he delivered his controversial speech on Islam and the law.

Resisting the temptation to blame anyone but himself for provoking a debate that surprised him by its ferocity, the Archbishop said he took responsibility for anything he had said that had caused “distress or misunderstanding among the public at large, and especially among my fellow Christians.”

But in his speech to the Church of England General Synod today Dr Williams remained unrepentant for putting the subject on the agenda

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Provinces, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE)