Monday, February 28, 2005

Compassionate Confusion - Compassionate Confusion

Conservatives talk a lot about closing the educational achievement gap between the races and helping African-American students succeed in school.

But the plans they put forward---like school choice---are of little help when schools are drastically underfunded and the Bush administration is cutting college aid for needy students.

Here, Earl Hadley and Troy Peters of the Campaign For America's Future on why it'll take more than just dedicated families and communities to ensure educational success for all children.

Earl Hadley is the education program coordinator and Troy Peters is a policy fellow at the Campaign For America's Future.

When "compassionate conservatives" gathered at a planning meeting recently, they raised the question of how their vision would help "the least of God's children."

One participant, Pierre "Pete" du Pont, a board member of the Lynde & Harry Bradley Foundation, said, "if you gave them the opportunity to go to a school of their choice and opened the market up to creating those schools, there's a practical thing that you could do that would help the lower-income and the disadvantaged people in the country, and it would be individualism as opposed to the collectivism of the education system."

While some conservatives may genuinely believe this rhetoric, Bush's woefully underfunded education initiative increasingly makes conservative "solutions" look like cynical attempts to woo black voters.

Conservatives point to school choice as a "silver bullet," even as the Government Accounting Office reports that only 1 percent of eligible students transferred schools during the 2003-2004 academic year under No Child Left Behind Act provisions.

If Bush truly wants to address African-American children's needs, he would demand that Congress fully fund No Child Left Behind, which has been underfunded by $39 billion since enacted.

Promising choice when there are no schools to transfer to is nothing but a cruel joke.

Then there's the hoax of conservatives' appeals to black voters by talking about reducing the educational achievement gap through No Child Left Behind.

Black families---and communities at large---must rededicate themselves to making education the top priority for our children.

Earlier this year, Bush said, "We will reform the student aid system and increase college assistance for low-income students."

But despite rising college costs, the president's 2006 budget freezes or kills funding for a slew of programs that help low-income students prepare for and afford college.

Once again, conservatives don't provide the resources to match their rhetoric and "the least of God's children" are left out in the cold.

It should be the government's commitment to provide all children with quality schools in every neighborhood and an affordable college education for all who qualify.

For black families specifically, this is the basis of a covenant we must establish between parents and the government.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


The Republican Playbook

... very interesting reading. plk
Frank Luntz, who next to Karl Rove and Ralph Reed is probably the most dominant conservative strategist in the last 20 years, has produced a fascinating 160-page detailed blueprint on how to keep Republicans in power based on the lessons learned from 2004. Very interesting stuff. (Special thanks to Kos for hosting the very large file.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Private Accounts -- Tried And Failed

Private Accounts--Tried And Failed
by Political Animal, Washington Monthly 
Private accounts failed to catch on in several states because people like guaranteed benefits better. Of course, if you cut those enough, Bush's plan might start to look better...and he knows it.

PRIVATE ACCOUNTS AROUND THE COUNTRY....The excellent Peter Gosselin has an interesting piece in the LA Times today about states and counties that have experimented with private accounts over the past couple of decades.

When Nebraska's state and county workers were given do-it-yourself accounts, they made so many investment errors that they ended up making less than colleagues with fixed-benefit pensions --- and less than what analysts have said is needed for old age.

Their poor performance led the Nebraska Legislature two years ago to junk the accounts for new employees.

While Americans are just beginning to grapple with the president's proposal for private accounts, employees and retirement officials in Michigan, Montana, Washington, West Virginia and other states have discovered that the accounts can fall far short of their promise.

West Virginia board officials are debating whether to drop the state's private account plan as Nebraska did.

Generally speaking, people prefer guaranteed benefits and don't trust their ability to manage their own retirement investments.

Of course, if you slash guaranteed benefits enough, that would probably motivate people to sign up --- and as near as I can tell, that's Bush's plan.

It's not his public plan, but it appears to be his plan nonetheless.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Abused Children Are Found Entitled to Legal Aid

Abused Children Are Found Entitled to Legal Aid
Read the entire story:


ATLANTA, Feb. 8 - A federal judge here said on Tuesday that abused and neglected children have a constitutional right to legal representation, a ruling that lawyers who represent such children said was an important first step in establishing that right nationally.

The organization, Children's Rights, also sued Fulton and DeKalb Counties, which together encompass the Atlanta metropolitan area.

It accused them of failing to provide adequate legal counsel to children, saying court-appointed lawyers in Fulton County had an average caseload of more than 400 children, or four times the recommended number.

If an appellate court agrees with Judge Shoob, thereby creating case law, "it would be one of the biggest steps toward justice for children that we could make," said Marvin Ventrell, the president and chief executive of the National Association of Counsel for Children, who appeared as an expert witness for the plaintiffs.

While the Supreme Court has ruled that indigent parents must be assigned lawyers when the state seeks to terminate their parental rights, only about half of all states require that courts appoint lawyers for abused children, according to a survey conducted in 2003-4 by First Star, a nonprofit organization in Washington for abused and neglected children.

In Georgia, children in the welfare system are assigned lawyers only in cases where the state is seeking to terminate their parents' rights.

"While there is a right to counsel in delinquency cases, ironically, abused and neglected children don't have that right," Mr. Ventrell said.

Lawyers for Fulton County declined to comment on the case, and a lawyer for DeKalb County said he had referred questions to someone else in his office.

Ira Lustbader, the associate director of Children's Rights, said the organization could find no previous federal ruling that children have the right to a lawyer in child welfare cases.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Major Issues of the Day

Public Agenda Alert -- Feb. 17, 2005
* Kyoto Climate Treaty Goes Into Effect
* Behind the Headlines: Negroponte Named Intelligence Director
* Kyoto Climate Treaty Goes Into Effect

The Kyoto Treaty on global warming went into effect this
week, seven years after it was first completed. Most
industrial nations have adopted the treaty's restrictions
on greenhouse gases, but not the United States, which
argues the treaty will cost too much and fails to
control emissions in emerging nations like China.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has
said persuading the U.S. to act on global warming is
his main goal as chair of the G-8 conference this year.

Surveys find nearly three-quarters of Americans say
they believe in the theory of global warming and
nearly six in 10 Americans say climate change is
having a serious impact now, but it is low on their
list of environmental concerns.

Overall, Americans give mixed signals in surveys on
just how important protecting the environment is to them.
Majorities say the environment should be an important
priority, but it is well behind concerns like terrorism,
the economy and Social Security. Seven in 10 also say
they feel good about the environment where they live and work.

When surveys ask people to choose between the environment
and the economy, answers change depending on how well
the economy is doing. Many resist the choice even
during prosperous times. When the economy was doing well
in 2000, two-thirds of Americans said they favored
protecting the environment even at the expense of
economic growth. But during the sluggish times of 1992
and 2003, less than half of Americans favored giving
priority to the environment. Even during the boom of
the 1990s, however, most Americans said it's not necessary
to choose between protecting the environment and economic growth.

There's a similar pattern with survey questions on
energy consumption versus conservation. There is evidence
that the public does not see this as an either/or choice.
Survey questions asking Americans to choose between more
energy production and more conservation tend to show a
slight preference for conservation. But questions that
specifically offer Americans the choice of a combined
approach show a healthy majority saying the country
should stress both equally.

Find out more in our Red Flags on The Environment:

* Behind the Headlines: Negroponte Named Intelligence Director

President Bush announced today that he would name John Negroponte,
currently the ambassador to Iraq, as the new national
intelligence director. Creating the post was a recommendation
of the 9/11 commission, although the job won't have all the
powers the commission wanted. Surveys find Americans say the
situation in Iraq and terrorism should be the top legislative
priorities in 2005. But surveys also find the number who say the
U.S. is winning the war on terrorism (and those worried about being
a victim themselves) fluctuates over time. Fewer than one in four
say the government should be able to prevent all attacks, but
most are at least somewhat confident the government can protect
its citizens.

Read the full article with links to news articles and additional
data in our Behind the Headlines blog:

Other topics covered Behind the Headlines this week include
Social Security reform, aid to New York City schools and attempts
to form a coalition government in Iraq.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Social Security Bankruptcy?

Bush's State of the Union: Social Security "Bankruptcy?"


In his State of the Union Address, President Bush said again that the Social Security system is headed for "bankruptcy," a term that could give the wrong idea. Actually, even if it goes "bankrupt" a few decades from now, the system would still be able to pay about three-quarters of the benefits now promised.

Bush also made his proposed private Social Security accounts sound like a sure thing, which they are not. He said they "will" grow fast enough to provide a better return than the present system. History suggests that will be so, but nobody can predict what stock and bond markets will do in the future.

Bush left out any mention of what workers would have to give up to get those private acounts -- a proportional reduction or offset in guaranteed Social Security retirement benefits. He also glossed over the fact that money in private accounts would be "owned" by workers only in a very limited sense -- under strict conditions which the President referred to as "guidelines." Many retirees, and possibly the vast majority, wouldn't be able to touch their Social Security nest egg directly, even after retirement, because the government would take some or all of it back and convert it to a stream of payments guaranteed for life.

Click the link below for the full article:

If the link does not work, copy and paste this link into your browser and hit "ENTER":

Reform Social Security -- Check Yes or No ... or Maybe?

Public Agenda Alert -- Feb. 3, 2005

* Bush Launches Campaign for Social Security Plan

* Bush Launches Campaign for Social Security Plan

President Bush is following up his State of the Union speech with a five-state tour to campaign for his plan to revamp Social Security. The president's plan to allow people to invest some of their Social Security taxes in personal retirement accounts was the centerpiece of his speech and is likely to be the most bitterly contested proposal facing the new Congress.

Surveys on Social Security show many of the classic warning signs of unsettled public opinion, where the public has yet to reach firm conclusions. There are many conflicting and inconsistent findings in surveys on questions ranging from the urgency of the problem, people's expectations for their financial future and their views on investing their Social Security taxes in stocks.

Although majorities tell survey researchers that they believe the Social Security program is in trouble, few can agree on proposed ideas for changing it. About half of Americans say the government needs to make changes to the system sooner than later, but other legislative issues such as Iraq, terrorism, education, health care costs and the economy rank even higher.

While government statistics show Social Security is the main source of income for seniors today, majorities of non-retired Americans believe they will rely mostly on their own savings and Social Security will be a minor source of income. Younger Americans are notably less likely to be concerned about their retirement finances, however, they are more likely to say Social Security will no longer be available to them by the time they retire. Although less than one-quarter of Americans believe Social Security will be able to pay them full benefits when they retire, majorities say they're confident about having enough money to live comfortably. Yet surveys find few have calculated how much money they will actually need.

Public opinion on proposals to allow individuals to invest some of their Social Security contributions is also uncertain and unsettled. Prior to the State of the Union, very few Americans said they had heard a lot about this idea. In addition, support wavers when questions are rephrased or include new aspects of the issue, usually a signal that people either do not understand a proposal or have not thought carefully about its implications.

Some poll questions find majorities support a stock-market option.

But support declines when questions refer to possible risks, such as the unpredictability of the stock market, reduced benefits and the possibility of the government borrowing trillions to set up the program. Similarly, the number of Americans who say they would personally invest some of their Social Security tax contributions declines when the question refers to the risk of lower benefits. And a survey of investors finds their support for the proposal has significantly declined since 2000. If the proposal were to become law, four in 10 Americans seem to believe it would have no effect on them.

At least one overnight poll conducted by CNN/USA Today/Gallup found a substantial majority believe President Bush made a convincing case for his plan. But it's important to note that overnight surveys are less reliable than surveys taken over several days, for two basic reasons: First, polls conducted entirely in one night reflect people's top-of-the-head responses, which can change after they have had some time to think through an issue. The other reason is that pollsters can only question people they can reach in that one night.

And at that hour, it all depends on who is answering their phone, who is home and who watched the speech. Overnight polls are just skimming the surface compared to polls over a longer period that are able to reach a more representative group of people.

For more on these areas of uncertainty, read our Red Flags on Social Security:

Remember that placed called Somalia



Somalia: Don't Cross the Mogadishu Line

Nairobi/Brussels, 9 February 2005: The decision by African regional organisations to send troops to Somalia risks destabilising Somalia's fragile transitional institutions and jeopardising the peace process.

At an emergency session of the African Union Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa last week, the Horn of Africa inter-governmental organisation IGAD received the green light to send 7,500 troops in response to a request from Somalia's interim President to help him return to the country and disarm its warring factions.

The Somali transitional government is deeply internally divided over the issue, and the parliament has not yet approved any foreign military deployment. Various Somali leaders and groups have threatened to oppose such an intervention by force.

"By forcing the issue at this critical stage, IGAD's members risk crossing the 'Mogadishu Line' where peacekeepers become party to a conflict - as they did during the U.S.-led intervention of the early 1990s," said Matt Bryden, Director of Crisis Group's Horn of Africa Project.

Two years of peace talks have produced the first Somali government in fifteen years with a realistic chance of restoring peace, security and order to the country. A broadly representative parliament has been formed and an interim president elected in October last year. Most major faction leaders have signed on to the initiative and received posts in the new cabinet. Progress has been made in negotiations for the demilitarisation of Mogadishu and its environs. Although the transitional government is still based in Nairobi, Kenya, donor governments are cautiously beginning to pledge start-up funds for reconstruction programs.

Somalia's peace process will certainly need the support of some foreign troops: a modest peacekeeping force from the African Union (AU), possibly in collaboration with the Arab League, should now be deployed to assist in monitoring ceasefire arrangements, supervising the process of disarmament and demobilisation, protecting infrastructure and institutions, and training the new Somali armed forces.

Unconvinced by the Somali President's initial demand for 20,000 African troops, and stretched by peacekeeping commitments elsewhere, the AU has so far been dragging its feet, leaving IGAD to step into the breach. But Somalia's neighbours -- Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya -- should be excluded from a Somali peacekeeping force. All seek to project their own strategic interests in Somalia and have backed rival factions during the conflict.

"Having Somalia's neighbours lead and constitute such a force, especially Ethiopia, would be unnecessarily inflammatory and could jeopardise the entire peace process," said Suliman Baldo, Director of Crisis Group's Africa Program.

Instead, the AU and Arab League should jointly take responsibility for mustering international backing for a broad-based peace support operation in Somalia. Donor governments should encourage such an initiative, and offer to cover the costs of the Somali government's relocation to Mogadishu, while making it clear that they will not meet the costs of an IGAD deployment. And no foreign troops should set foot in Somalia unless the transitional Parliament first endorses the plan.

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) 32 (0) 485 555 946
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) 1 202 785 1601
To contact Crisis Group media please click here

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, multinational organisation, with over 100 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.

Monday, February 14, 2005


In 2001 the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota didn’t know where to turn. Charles Murphy, the chairman of the tribe said, "In the words of some of our respected spiritual leaders, Standing Rock Sioux Reservation was attacked by the ‘spirit of suicide.’ As a result, we lost many of our young people which also traumatized the families and friends they left behind." Spiritual leaders, counselors, teachers and others laid the blame at high divorce rates, alcohol and drug abuse, verbal, physical and sexual abuse, gangs, and family problems.

Standing Rock Reservation lies on Lake Oahe, 34 miles south of Mandan, North Dakota. Along with the Cheyenne River Reservation, it was at the center of the "Ghost Dance Uprising" among the Lakota in 1890. It was also home to Sitting Bull, whose murder by Indian police ignited a panic that led to the Wounded Knee Massacre. While there are 10,859 enrolled members, the reservation population is 6,171. Unemployment is officially at 70 percent, but in actuality stands at 87 percent. Per capita income is about one-quarter of average income in the United States. A lack of industry and businesses keep unemployment figures high.

While tribal social agencies deliberated, one family began to pray. The American Horse family asked God for guidance and felt they were to contact a minister of the Gospel, Dr. Jay Swallow from Geary, Oklahoma.

A Southern Cheyenne/Sioux, Jay Swallow was born in 1939 in a tent on the Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation in N. E. Oklahoma. After five years in the Navy, where he says he was "on a path of self-destruction," he came home to find his parents had received the Lord. His father, who had been completely blind since Jay was four, had been completely healed at the age of 70. Through the influence of his wife Joan, a believer in the Jesus Way, Swallow gave his heart to the Lord in 1961 and was immediately called to the ministry. For 44 years Dr. Swallow has pastored, preached, taught and prayed for Native people from the Arctic Circle to Central America. He is the spiritual warfare strategist for the Oklahoma Concert of Prayer, a member of C. Peter Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles, and co-director of Two Rivers Training Center. As one of The Sentinel Group’s Transformations Associates, he traveled to Fiji in September 2004 as part of Fiji 2004.

Summit on Suicide

Dr. Swallow went to Standing Rock and held a summit on suicide on December 26-28, 2001. Representatives from law and order, social services, schools, churches, tribal programs, drug and alcohol treatment programs, and concerned families gathered to hear him speak. In March of 2002, Jay Swallow came back to pray and take authority over the evil forces seeking to destroy the Sioux young people. He called it "dismantling the spirit of suicide throughout every corner of the Standing Rock Reservation." The result? Charles Murphy, the tribal chairman said in a letter expressing his gratitude, dated April 23, 2003, "There has not been a suicide since."
For nearly three years this was the case. When contacted for an update, Jay Swallow said, "I am sorry to say that we have experienced the first suicide in two years and 10 months." He says he has identified the breech and is following up. Swallow is heading up a building project at Standing Rock that will serve as a base of ministry. He says, "When finished this center will be used for a multi-purpose center with the ability to host and house many teams from across the nation to develop a source of hope and salvation throughout the reservation. This is the first of its kind and I believe it will spearhead transformation on that reservation." Severe winter weather (as low as -39F) and lack of funds has halted the project for the time being. Swallow plans to return to Standing Rock soon to strategize for the spring and summer. He says, "Keep praying for this out-of-the-way reservation."

Have You Thought?

"The fields are white unto harvest" right here in North America. We don’t necessarily have to travel across the sea to find an opportunity for prayer, ministry and outreach (IJL).

Transformations Moment

According to the U. S. Center for World Mission, there are 586 Native nations in North America. At least 200 of these have not been reached with the Gospel. Over 95 percent of the 3.5 million Native Americans in the United States have not accepted the Gospel message.

By Inger J. Logelin

© 2005, The Sentinel Group Reproduction and/or distribution for non-commercial purposes is permissible providing that this document is left fully intact. Please do not modify this document in any way without prior written consent.
Thursday, February 10, 2005


(Washington D.C.) – Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) today strongly condemned U.S. House passage of Rep. Sensenbrenner's "Real I.D. Act" as a disturbing step toward dismantling the rights of asylum seekers. The human rights organization noted that an amendment that Sensenbrenner made to his own bill, just one day before it bypassed committees to go straight to the House floor for a vote, would make it even more difficult for refugees to find safe haven in the U.S.

In the latest version of the bill, Sensenbrenner strengthened language requiring credibility determinations based on "demeanor" and also mandated complete consistency in oral and written statements "made at any time and whether or not under oath." The revised amendment allows a judge to deny asylum based on any inconsistencies or inaccuracies, regardless of whether they go to the heart of a claim.

"As if the original bill wasn't offensive enough, Sensenbrenner's amendments add insult to injury, implying that all asylum seekers are dishonest, malevolent forces who want to take advantage of this country's good will," said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of AIUSA. "It is patently unfair to punish refugees for reasons of culture, fear, desperation, confusion or trauma, which often render them reluctant or unable to tell their full stories immediately and in a manner that is consistent with a distinctly American style of communicating."

One addition to the bill, which stipulates lifting the cap on asylee adjustment, would improve the system by allowing more than the current 10,000 asylees a year to receive green cards. However, "the provision does not make up for the many detrimental provisions that would keep people from receiving asylum in the first place," said Susan Benesch, Refugee Advocate for AIUSA. "U.S. government officials should not be fooled by this one bone being thrown to asylees."

Amnesty International criticized the initial version of the bill for its stance on credibility determinations and demeanor, noting that they would have a particular impact on traumatized women and girls who find it difficult to tell their stories, such as accounts of rape, to strangers. The organization also voiced its opposition to the requirement that an asylum seeker prove that "a central reason" for his or her persecution was or would be his or her race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social group.

Since the introduction of the bill last week, the organization has mobilized its 300,000 strong membership to write Congress and express opposition to "The Real I.D. Act." Numerous other organizations, including Human Rights First, the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, as well as at least 43 nongovernmental organizations and 66 law professors also oppose the bill.

# # #

Looking for a little light reading material? Well this isn't it. But if you're looking for something thoughtful the following stories from TomPaine.common sense might fit the bill.

Failing Grade
Robert Gordon

Just how are today's children going to earn enough money to squirrel away into their private accounts if George Bush decimates the public education system? Robert Gordon looks at Bush's education budget and sees an end to what little education reform the No Child Left Behind Act eked out, as the administration chose to fund the program at only one third its proper level. There's a vision for America: dumb, impoverished and indebted.

Black History Month, Bush Style
Dr. Maya Rockeymoore

Just in time for Black History Month, President Bush recently made the argument that his private retirement savings accounts would really benefit African Americans, whose shorter life expectancy means they don't get as many years of Social Security benefits. But the president is purposely missing the point, says Maya Rockeymoore of Black Commentator. Blacks have a shorter life expectancy because their access to good health care is severely lacking. If Bush really wanted to improve African Americans' chances for a stable retirement, he'd improve our health care system—so they could live to see it.

The Case For Waiting
David R. Francis

When Alan Greenspan fixed Social Security in 1983, the program was months from having to dip into general revenues. David Francis says there is no reason why we can't do the same thing again...that is, if we have to. With 75-year economic projections being highly inaccurate, there is no way we can predict what will happen by 2042. Thanks to Greenspan's example, we don't have to.

So Long, Erin Brockovich
Amanda Griscom-Little

Class-action litigation is important to an array of public interest issues. Here, Griscom-Little looks at how the Class Action Fairness Act—passed yesterday by the Senate—will affect environmental justice. At a time when the White House is weakening environmental defenses across the board, the bill would remove yet another avenue for citizens to keep corporate polluters in check.

For more stories go to

A Man of Honor & Conviction

In case you missed it...

From Motor Racing Outreach -- Tuesday January 25, 2005


Who is David Smith? Why is this, the lead story?

This past Monday morning, I was writing this week’s “Pit Note” concerning leadership without knowing about David Smith’s most recent decision. His commitment to live out his personal faith in Christ, even leaving the only place he wanted to be, provides the perfect illustration for this week’s message.

Last week, David Smith resigned from RCR after 25 years as a member of this team. He was a six-time all-pro jack man on Dale Earnhardt’s crew. He rose to be Crew Chief for Dale, and then became team manager. Over the past 25 years, he has performed every other duty on the team. He started with Richard Childress in 1979, being there even before Earnhardt. Not long after, he left a life filled with drugs and rebellion. His repentance of his sins, acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as payment for his sins, and surrender to Jesus Christ was what changed his life. For the past 25 years, David has consistently lived out and spoken of his faith, everyday and everywhere he has traveled. He has been as comfortable telling of the power of Jesus to change lives in the NASCAR garage, as he is in the many pulpits that he has graciously given his time to fill. David and Ned Jarrett were the two men in NASCAR who always boldly shared the gospel when asked to give the pre-race invocation before MRO was even formed.

Why is he leaving? Jack Daniels Liquor will be the sponsor on one of the RCR cars. David said his decision actually was made years ago when he gave up his wayward ways to become a Christian. "I trusted the Lord with my life, and He changed it around for me," Smith said. "I went to work for Richard in 1979 and told him when I went there that I'd work for him as long as he didn't have an alcohol, dirty magazine or gambling sponsorship on his car. And, he was OK with that." He went on the say, "The absolute hardest part of this deal was to tell Richard that I was leaving after 25 years. I had a great job, the best anybody could ask for. I may never have a job as great as this again, but I'll have peace of mind from knowing that what I did was the right thing to do. That's worth more than money." Childress said that although he and Smith are on different sides of the liquor issue he still highly respects him. "I've admired David Smith for years," Childress said. "I've always said I wish I could have been as strong a man as he was many, many years ago." (Quotes from the (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) (1-21-2005)


This week, many changes in personnel among the NASCAR teams can be found in the Daytona garages, but none were made out of conviction like David’s. None were based on a commitment made to God over a quarter of a century ago like David’s. None would be so consistent with one’s faith. Consistency in seeking more money, position or prestige would be the general reasons for changing teams.

So, while the media documents the speeds on the track, talks about the rule changes and the effect they will have on the season to come, another important element will be mostly overlooked: leadership. Teams have owners, general managers, competition directors, crew chiefs, car chiefs, engineers, department heads, etc. Many titles, many different job descriptions from team to team, but all teams seek to find a management structure that will allow their teams to work together smoothly, resulting in success on the track. Seldom is there success on the track without good leadership throughout a race team. Never is there long term, lasting success without leadership. But which player in the leadership team is the lynch pin who set everything in motion is seldom ever totally known. It is even possible that the key figure may not even have a title on the team.

The purpose of Motor Racing Outreach (MRO) is to introduce the racing community to personal faith in Christ, to growth in Christlikeness and to active involvement in the church through relationships that provide care in times of stress, knowledge of God’s word and assistance in development of leadership skills.

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Having the courage to vote --

Commentary by Kathleen Parker

Daily Telegram Thu, 03 Feb 2005 1:04 PM PST

"No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women." -- Ronald Reagan

Like most Americans, I've never had to be brave to vote.

I just show up at the polls, negotiate the ballot and grab an "I voted" sticker and drive home satisfied that the world will continue to turn on its axis in the usual way.

Piece of cake, democracy.

Then again, not really.

As I was pondering the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq -- and wondering whether I'd have had the courage to vote under such circumstances -- I was reminded that not so long ago one group of Americans had to be that brave.

It was just 40 years ago in the United States that many African-Americans were prevented from voting and some killed for trying, as were whites who tried to help them. It was only after numerous acts of violence and, yes, terrorism against blacks that the 1965 Voting Rights Act passed.

Imagine that.

In Iraq, terrorists and insurgents loyal to the former Baathist regime tried to terrorize men and women who wished only to exercise their right to control their own destiny.

In the South of the 1960s, terrorists loyal to segregation and Jim Crow hid behind white sheets while they burned crosses and terrorized blacks who wanted only to control their own destinies.

They behead; we lynched.

Imagine that.

It's interesting that when suicide bombers blow up a building and kill innocents in Iraq, we know to call it terrorism. When bombers detonated their evil in a Birmingham, Ala., church, killing four little girls, that, too, was terrorism.

It was also terrorism when members of the Ku Klux Klan kidnapped and murdered three voting-rights activists in Philadelphia, Miss.

There is at this historic juncture a certain poetic symmetry as events unfold. With the elections in Iraq, our own history is circling back on itself.

Just a couple of weeks ago, former KKK leader Edgar Ray Killen, 80, the man accused of orchestrating the 1964 murders of civil-rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney, was indicted and faces trial March 28.

Forty years.

Justice is not always swift, nor is the march to freedom easy. Democracy, as we seem to relearn each election season, is hard, messy work.

So that witnessing the birth of democracy in Iraq, counting the painful contractions from afar, is both breathtaking and awesome.

I imagine that Iraqis walking to the polls Sunday -- anticipating the possibility of violence, a car bomb or a stray bullet -- must have felt what American marchers, black and white, felt on March 7, 1965, as they started across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., toward the state capitol in Montgomery.

Like today's Iraqis, all they wanted was to vote.

They, too, must have felt their stomachs knot, knowing that armed state troopers at any moment might rain violence on their unprotected heads. Which, of course, they did. Insurgents in Iraq; state-sanctioned terror in America. We have seen this before.

We've come a long way.

And so have Iraqis. In less than two years, they've been invaded, liberated, occupied and faced their first election, with some 7,000 candidates and 111 political parties.

Americans could follow the election through the a team of Iraqi bloggers, who were reporting real-time from the ground, thanks to Jim Hake and his Spirit of America, a nonprofit, nonpolitical charity that donates money and resources to advance democracy.

Working with Friends of Democracy in Iraq, Hake recruited some 15 Iraqis -- including journalists, a naval officer, students and a psychiatrist -- who are blogging from different cities and provinces at the Friends of Democracy site (

Whether or not one agrees with the war that brought Iraq to this point,

no American can watch these proceedings without wonder and respect. We've been there.

We've had our own revolutions and our own demons to pursue. More than anyone else on the planet, we should be cheering them on.

I don't know how those Iraqi men and women, some of whom reportedly had sworn a last will and testament in preparation to vote, made the trek from their homes to the polls.

Just as I don't know how those marchers in Selma made it across the bridge with their heads split and their shirts bloody.

But they did.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Public Agenda Alert - Religious Americans Less Likely to Support Compromise

Survey Shows Religious Americans Less Likely to Support Compromise
* Religion and Public Life, 2000-2004:
This new survey, a follow-up to Public Agenda's "For Goodness'Sake,"
compares how Americans' views of religion in public
life have changed since 2000. The survey found a
smaller number of Americans who believe that deeply
religious elected officials sometimes have to
compromise in the political arena (although slim
majorities still do). There are major decreases
among those who say they attend religious services weekly.
In 2000, 84 percent of Americans overall
said "even elected officials who are deeply religious
sometimes have to make compromises and set their convictions
aside to get results while in government." In 2004,
that number had dropped to 74 percent, with even sharper
drops among those who attend services weekly
(82 percent in 2000 vs. 63 percent in 2004) and
evangelicals (79 percent in 2000 vs. 63 percent in 2004).
On abortion, gay rights and the death penalty, the majority
of Americans who attend services weekly now say that
deeply religious politicians should stick to their own
religious beliefs rather than be willing to compromise.
Remaining unchanged since 2000 is Americans' belief that
the U.S. political system can handle greater interaction
between religion and politics. The survey asked Americans
whether the system would be threatened if religious leaders
and groups got a lot more involved in politics. About six
in 10 (63 percent in 2000 and 61 percent in 2004) believed
that the political system could "easily handle" this. A
third of Americans, however, continue to believe the political
system would be threatened.
Not surprisingly, Americans who say they are non-religious and those
who never attend services are far more likely to say the
political system would be threatened by religious leaders
and groups getting a lot more involved. But from 2000 to 2004,
there was a significant six-point increase in the number of Americans
who think it is "negative" for religious leaders to take public
positions on legislation and to encourage congregations to
adopt certain points of view.
To find out more, download free copies of the press release and
survey questionnaire at:
You can also take selected survey questions and compare your views
to the national sample in our "What Would You Say" feature.