Greetings from Beijing!

Special guest post by Mike Irwin, lightweight rowing head coach at the University of Pennsylvania, and currently the U.S. Olympic rowing team’s boatman. Irwin contributed this blog to from 12 time zones away:

Greetings from the rowing venue in Shunyi!! After two weeks of training and acclimatization in China the racing is well underway and Team USA is hopeful to place a number of boats in the ¬ĎA Finals

140 Clergy Appeal to Obama to be Obama and reject the Inside-the Beltway Logic

Dear Senator Obama,

As strong supporters of your campaign to become President of the U.S.
in our own personal lives and as leaders in the religious communities
in the U.S., we understand well the pressures you must be facing to
tone down your message so that you can win the election and then later
be more courageous in challenging major assumptions in American public
discourse that have been inserted there by a powerful conservative
assault for the past thirty years by conservatives and champions of the
elites of wealth and power in this country.

Others have articulated elsewhere why "toning down" or "moving to
appeal to the Center" is a politically disastrous strategy, not only
because it causes disillusionment and passivity among the youth who
momentarily thought that something new was happening in American
politics and who might otherwise return to apathy when they perceive
you as "playing the game" the same old way, but also because it
generates despair among all sections of the population that had
momentarily allowed themselves to hope that America might become under
your presidency a society that unequivocally supported a politics of
peace and justice. People who thought that they would vote for you as
their peace candidate who seemed more unequivocal than others about
ending the war in Iraq, for example, may become less enthusiastic about
a candidacy that now calls for escalation of the war in Afghanistan and
talks about giving Iranians ultimatums to be followed by green lights
for military attacks.

We are writing you from a different angle, not as your election
strategists, but as people of faith whose primary allegiance is to be
prophetic witnesses to the ethical vision articulated in the holy texts
of our religion and the elaboration of those religious traditions over
the course of the past two thousand years.

It is our view that America needs "a New Bottom Line" so that both
corporations and non-profit institutions, social practices,
legislation, government activities, and even our own personal life
activities should be deemed "rational, productive, or efficient" not
only to the extent that they maximize money, material security, power
or gratification of our sensual desires but also to the extent that
they maximize love and caring, kindness and generosity ethical and
ecological sensitivity, enhance our capacities to see others as
embodiments of the sacred and enhance our capacity to respond to the
universe with awe, wonder, and radical amazement at the grandeur of

It is from that perspective that we appeal to you to fulfill the
promise and the hopes you raised in the early months of your campaign,
and to sharpen the distinctions between you and past politics by
articulating new principles that would govern your presidency. In
particular, we call upon you to (unequivocally and persistently in your
public appearances and ads) call for:

*Replacing the "Strategy of Domination or Power Over Others" (that
has shaped too much of American foreign policy in the past) with a new
approach that gives at least equal weight to "A Strategy of Generosity
and Caring for Others" (for example as manifested by the Global
Marshall Plan suggested by the Network of Spiritual Progressives You should not allow the public
discourse to push you into having to prove who will be the most
effective candidate for running the next set of wars, but instead
insist strongly and make this central to your campaign that that
strategy for achieving Homeland Security is seriously flawed. Effective
security strategy must rely on two legs, one the strong military
defense of our interests, and second on the strong commitment to ending
global (and domestic) poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate
education, inadequate health care, and repairing the global environment
(please see House Res. 1078 introduced by Keith Ellison and endorsed by
nineteen other Members of the House for some helpful language in this
regard-it endorses our version of The Global Marshall Plan). Those who
are ill-equipped to articulate and implement the Strategy of Generosity
are "weak on national defense."

*Rejecting the notion of armed struggle with Iran and opposing any
military blockade of Iran (universally understood as an act of war)
would then give the Iranians a reason to attack, which in turn would
provide the pretext for a war, either before or after the U.S.
elections. You should publicly call on the Bush Administration to
refrain from taking any such provocative actions that might lead to
military conflict before the next Administration takes office.

*A commitment to sign a Presidential Order that forbids and
criminalizes torture and the direct or indirect aiding or abetting of
acts of torture on the part of the U.S. , directs the U.S. military to
abandon Guantanamo prison and end the activities of the School of the
Americas related to training people in South and Central America in the
techniques of counter-insurgency and torture, and directs the next
Attorney General to explore criminal charges against those who have
violated US or international law in regard to torture.

* A commitment to make saving our global environment a top priority
not only through encouraging individual and corporate environmental
responsibility, but by alerting the American public to the full
scientific evidence about the degree of threat to the survival of the
planet that is likely unless we make major changes in the way use the
resources of our planet, how we decide what products should be produced
and how, and how we decide what items to consume. Tell the American
people what the planet faces if the US and other countries including
China don’t make a huge global effort to reverse the patterns of
destruction that are already endangering our planet.

* Affirming the need for an American health care system that is
based on the principle that we have an obligation to care for each
other, not on the need for the health care profiteers to make a good
return on their investments.

*Affirming as a guiding principle for American society in the 21st
century that we have an obligation to care for each other, and that
this obligation requires a rethinking of many aspects of American law,
American corporations, government programs, education, and persona
life, and that you will use your time in office to encourage this new

* Calling on schools to actively engage in teaching students the skills
of caring a.for each other b. for those stuck in poverty or
homelessness or hunger c. the disabled d. our senior citizens. e. for
their own health and their bodies g. for the environment. This should
include teaching about "non-violent communication" and positive
negotiation skills, but also teach about the various religious and
secular traditions that have made "caring for others" central to their
teachings, or have made awe and wonder at the grandeur of creation part
of their approach to protecting the environment.

We are firmly convinced, Senator Obama, that these are ways of
thinking about what is needed in America that are unlikely to succeed
unless you build a strong foundation of support for them during your
campaign. By articulating this kind of thinking now, you will not only
strengthen the possibility of mobilizing parts of the electorate who
have given up on politics altogether, but you will also be serving God
in a way that is necessary at this historical moment.

Your advisors may warn you of political dangers. We think the
opposite. But as we say, our calling is not to be your political
practitioners, but to provide you with the kind of ethical and
prophetic voices that you need to hear.

Finally, if you are elected, as we very much hope you will be, and as
we ourselves will try to help make happen by building support for you,
we urge you to meet with us during your presidency to hear the voices
not of religious cheerleaders, but of those who dare to speak truth to
power even when that power, as your own, is mostly for the good and
mostly in service of the God of the universe. It is precisely because
we believe in you and your strong ethical and religious commitment that
we are daring to write this to you, even though we know that its impact
might be to make it less likely that your advisors will ever allow us
to connect with you directly once you are elected.

With respect and blessings,

(all organizations listed for identification purposes and do not imply organizational endorsement of this letter)

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun and Chair, The Network of
Spiritual Progressives and author of The Politics of Meaning and of The
Left Hand of God

Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, Executive Director of
Benetvision: A Resource and Research Center for Contemporary
Spirituality, and author of Welcome to the Wisdom of the World, and of
The Gift of Years, and dozens of other books on Christian Theology

Rev. Tony Campolo, Chair, The Evangelical Association for the
Promotion of Education, and author of dozens of books including Red
Letter Christians and The God of Intimacy and Action.

Father John Dear, S.J. is a Jesuit priest and author of Jesus the Rebel and A Persistent Peace

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Chair, The Shalom Center and author, Seasons of Our Joy and These Holy Sparks

Imam Zaid Shakir, Zeytuna Institute, California

Rev. Graylan S. Hagler, National President, Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice of The United Church of Christ

(above are the initiators of this effort plus 140 others)

Will Evan Bayh Be Obama’s VP Pick?

Time flies in presidential races, it seems like yesterday that a good friend of mine met with Barack Obama about running the online portion of his campaign. He didn’t want the job after the interview, sensing, correctly, that Obama was centrist, maybe even centrist-right and my friend is more of a Democrat.

I remember the exact quote so well: "If he ran as a true Progressive, he’d run away with this thing."


Now, we are anticipating the announcement of Barack Obama’s running mate and the rumor mills were churning and turning and then the water seemed to settle down when Evan Bayh’s name came up a while ago. I am pretty good at watching tea leaves inside the party and at this point, it would shock me if Bayh was not the VP nominee.

I, like millions of Americans, will learn about Barack’s choice via text message, standard rates apply, and when I get that text, if it’s not Bayh’s name, it will be someone equally centrist, maybe even further right.

Howard Dean grabbed and held dear to the technology of the day in 2004 because he had no choice; he had no legacy power or mainstream media to help him, so he went outside their web to the Internet where a thousand points of support gathered together and propelled him to the front of the race.

This time around, all of the top six who ran for the Democratic nomination used the technology of the day to far greater lengths than the Kerry Campaign did in 2004, but none really captured the outside in, the power of the people inherent in the technology and that’s a shame.

In fact, the more Barack Obama uses the technology, the clearer it is that he has not captured the soul of the party and now he fails to ignite the passions of the left.

Does it date to when he threw General Clark under the bus? Or when he flipped on FISA, or guns, or Iraq or Public Financing? I actually think it goes back farther than that.

Hillary Hatred was a very real blinding rage that consumed so many Democrats. Anyone But Her became I love Barack. We overlooked his lack of experience, his policies, his love of Joe Lieberman. The warning signs were there and those, like Taylor Marsh or Kristen Breitweiser, who suggested we look at those signs, well, shouted down is far too polite a term for what they endured.

Barack is the nominee, and our country will be far better off if he wins versus John McCain. Like many, however, I am more interested in beating McCain and helping Congressional Candidates. McCain is very dangerous, I have said this for months, and he understands one fundamental political reality that Obama has missed so far.

McCain does just enough to keep his "maverick" label slightly in tact. He did do McCain-Feingold. He did stand up on Global Warming. He did turn down secret service protection earlier this year.

His positions don’t stand up to any scrutiny but he understands in the broad media narrative world we live in, every so often, you have to throw the narrative a bone.

Barack and his mantra of change remains boneless. When he opted out of Public Financing, he could have said he would change the law to be $100 maximum contribution for all Americans, real public financing.

But he didn’t.

With Iraq, the economy, global warming, anything, Barack needs to show there is some reality to the rhetoric, he hasn’t done so yet.

And if he picks Evan Bayh, the son of a political family, the ultimate legacy politician, a supporter of the Iraq War, a centrist / centrist right politician and if it is Evan’s name that comes through the phone that day to you, it will mean that once again, change is how you talk the talk.

But when you walk the walk, it’s the same old path.