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Praying Liberally: Looking at the Obama Plan

Obama's new plan to create a Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, that would increase funding to grassroots religious groups to solve problems ranging from closing the achievement gap in education to fighting global warming has turned into quite the news story. Although some say that this is Obama's expansion of Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Obama attacked Bush's "Office" as a flimsy "photo-op", saying that the office has failed to provide support for meaningful faith-based initiatives.

This new proposal has reasonably drawn quite a bit of criticism from the left. Some say that this is just another example of Obama moving to the right for the general, a Sistah Souljah moment if you will.

I disagree. For starters, grassroots faith-based activism is at the core Obama's experience. As many of you know, Obama started his public service career as a community organizer, working with Chicago churches to fight for worker's rights and provide job training to those who had been laid off. Obama knows firsthand the possibilities of how faith-based programs can initiate social change.

Obama also rightly criticizes Bush and the Republicans for treating these religious groups as props instead of partners in the fight for a better world, and frames the need for faith-based efforts in an inclusive and liberal manner. While Bush created his OFBCI because he felt that people of shared faith could better communicate with each other, a divisive rationale, Obama argues that it is important to engage faith communities because they are the rootsy-est of the grassroots. The sense of local community they foster exemplifies Obama's bottom-up strategy.

To add to that, I agree with Obama (and this is one place where many readers might disagree, get your blockquotes ready) that "The challenges we face today ... are simply too big for government to solve alone." Part of a progressive strategy must be empowering those who are able to effectively make specific types change. There are certain issues that a Church is more equipped to deal with than the government. Some people might be more motivated to "Go Green" if doing so were part of a moral responsibility. A Church-based program might also be a good introduction into the environmental movement, for people not already familiar. Also, religious programs like soup kitchens and homeless shelters are already some of the most effective.

Finally, if you really look at it, Obama's plan doesn't break the barriers between church and state. The funding only goes towards secular programs, and the money can't be used "to proselytize to the people you help and you can't discriminate against them - or against the people you hire - on the basis of their religion."

I am really glad that Obama has continued his emphasis on bottom-up change. This is a program that might win Obama some votes in November, but more importantly, I believe, could help him make real, substantive change, once he's elected.

McCain's Secret Plan for the "Internets" Leaked to Press

Laughing Liberally to Keep from Crying
by Lee Camp

Blind Item

Which Drinking Liberally chapter has been "Kayaking Liberally" with The Swamp Girls?

I don't know.

White House Bounces EPA Reality Check

Last December, the White House simply refused to open an e-mail from the Environmental Protection Agency because it contained the unwelcome conclusion that greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to public health and therefore need to be regulated. The EPA finding was a response "to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment," the New York Times reported last Wednesday.

Faced with the proverbial inconvenient truth, the White House not only refused to open the e-mail, they ordered Jason Burnett, the EPA official who sent the document, to "recall it," according to the Washington Post.

Burnett, who has, not coincidentally, since resigned, told the Post:

"In early December, I sent an e-mail with the formal finding that action must be taken to address the risk of climate change...The White House made it clear they did not want to address the ramifications of that finding and have decided to leave the challenge to the next administration. Some [at the White House] thought that EPA had mistakenly concluded that climate change endangers the public. It was no mistake."

I'd accuse the administration of foot-dragging, but that implies some kind of forward movement, however glacial (now, there's a word that's headed for extinction, thanks to climate change.) The dinosaurs who've been dictating our energy policy in this country are as encased in asphalt as the fossils at the La Brea Tarpits, and just as unlikely to budge.

Jon Stewart highlighted this new low point from the Petro-Pusher-In-Chief on the Daily Show last Wednesday with a segment called "Be Patient - This Gets Amazing":

What Wins Championships?

Defense!... and gay marriage, apparently.

In a post, yesterday, Hugo Schwyzer pointed out that indeed, the legalization of gay marriage seriously benefits local sports teams.

For those of you haven't been paying attention to the awesomeness that was European Cup, Spain just beat Germany in the cup final to win their first EuroCup title since 1964! Spain, Schwyzer points out, just legalized gay marriage a few years ago.

Canada, our mature younger brother to the North, made the deed legal back in 2005 and the next winter at the 2006 Winter Olympics they won more medals than ever before. A similar situation occured in South Africa that same year and in 2007 they won the RUgby World Cup!

But could it work in America? Well, let's take a look at Massachuetts where only the legalized love of two same-sex partners could break the curse of the bambino, lead the Pats to an undefeated regular season, and bring the Celtics their first 'Ship since Larry Bird.

Now, it's up to you, Californians: Do you want budding Center Andrew Bynum to recover from his injuries? Do you want the Lakers to bring the NBA Championship back to LA? You came close this year, and with a little Luck of the Gays, you guys might just be able to pull it off next June.

All you have to do is make the right decision in November.

June's Featured Chapter: Springfield, IL

With the start of the new Living Liberally Blog, we've decided that each month, we want to highlight one of our over 260 awesome chapters.

And so... for the month of June... we've decided to featured... drumroll please... well not really since the answer is in the title... time for you to look at the title... Yes, you guessed it: Springfield, Illinois!

Just this month, Springfield, home of our buddy Abraham Lincoln, celebrated their third anniversary, and it has been quite an exciting first three years. Will Reynolds started Springfield DL in June 2005 with high ambitions. In fact, Will made a try for a Sangamon County board seat.

Since its inception, Springfield DL has outgrown two venues and now meets every Thursday at Brewhaus, right down the block from the old State Capitol where Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President last year. In addition, they meet to Drink Coffee Liberally (Buzzing Liberally?), two Saturdays a month at the Trout Lily Cafe.

Springfield DL, and its current host Kathy Mehuys, epitomize the intersection of culture and politics that Living Liberally seeks to create. They've been visited by local and congressional candidates, including one who tried to unseat "Bush yes-man John Shimkus (Dimkus)" in 2006. They've also attracted local musicians, including a member of America's premiere psychedelic cowboy band New Riders of the Purple Sage.

Springfield DL, we want to thank you for exemplifying local liberal leadership and contributing to the national cause.

And now... some good ol' psychedelic cowboy rock'n'roll:

Contribute to the national network here!

Man, I Wish I Had One of These

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Food & Farming Event: New Amsterdam. Sunday. Be there.

KAT: NYC's real food fanatics are gearing up for a gala event this Sunday down at Lower Manhattan's legendary Seaport. Guest blogger Leslie Hatfield from the Eat Well Guide's Green Fork blog tells why:

“Old New York…was once New Amsterdam…”

Back then, a widely diverse population of city dwellers bought their food at the market, not at the Quizno’s.

If you are in New York on Sunday, come join thousands of other foodies, farmers and activists at the New Amsterdam Market. This is the third New Amsterdam gathering so far–the last event got hit by a snow storm but 5,000 people still showed up, so this weekend’s market is expected to be major. We’re excited about the implications of a market in the Seaport area, as is Robert LaValva, the Director of the New Amsterdam Market Association:

“The participants we have gathered for New Amsterdam Market on June 29th represent a shift in thinking. With its four century legacy as a market district, the Seaport and its empty public market halls offer New Yorkers an unprecedented opportunity to anchor the food system now emerging from this change.”

And the lineup of vendors looks amazing. I’m especially intrigued by Wild Foods (cattail hearts?!), and I hear there will even be sustainably-produced popsicles. Don’t forget your re-usable bags–you’re going to want to bring some food home.

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