Progressive Revival

There is a great post by Burns Strider today on Huffington about how Glenn Beck is using Fox News staff and resources to run his smear campaign against Rev. Jim Wallis.  I’d encourage you to read the entire thing, but here are some of the key parts:


Personal attacks aren’t uncommon from partisan commentators, but what is especially troubling about this most recent development is that Glenn Beck isn’t just planning to throw insults; he said that he has been using his FOX staff to research everything that Rev. Wallis has ever said or done and to dig up dirt on the people who work with the pastor.

Why is FOX funding research to discredit an American minister?

Clearly Beck knows that he doesn’t stand a chance of winning this debate about the proper application of Christian principles to the public square on Scriptural or theological grounds. And he clearly has no intention of following St. Paul’s command, found in Ephesians, that Christians “not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.” No, sir. Beck is on a mission to discredit and destroy the pastor who dared to question him … and he’s using FOX staff and resources to do so.

FOX needs to be called to account for this. They need to explain how a news organization can possibly justify funding an opposition research effort that has the stated purpose of destroying the credibility of an American pastor?

Does FOX agree with Beck’s statements and command that Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons leave their churches? Will FOX allow Beck to continue to use staff and FOX airtime to conduct his promised week-long campaign to discredit Rev. Wallis? Will they continue to let him use their resources to launch Twitter and blog posts attacking Rev. Wallis and attempting to discredit the power of social justice?

Burns is right.  FOX does need to be called to account.  Spread the word and sign the Sojourners pledge telling Beck and FOX that you aren’t willing to dismiss the Biblical call for social and economic justice simply because it doesn’t fit a worldly ideology.

Following CNN’s evocative 2-part primetime series on the health crisis in Vieques last month, there has been an on-going buzz in the media and blog community about the issue.  Over 60 participants recently joined a press call with scientists and the mayor of Vieques providing updates on research into heavy metal poisoning on the island and outcome of the mayor’s recent meeting with Obama administration officials. 


One of the best summaries of the situation on the ground and clearest explanations of our moral responsibility as Americans to do something about it that I’ve read was just written by Robert Keller and published through the Tribune Media Service.  


We can’t continue to allow our fellow citizens to die through inaction.  With the recent decision by the US government to vacate its former findings claiming there was not a connection between the sky-rocketing sickness and death on Vieques and the US weapon’s testing, there is now virtual unanimous agreement over the cause of the sickness on the island.  We need to speak out and create the political will that will allow the Obama administration to do the right thing by these people.  As I said earlier, I think Keller provides a wonderful explanation why:


We owe the residents of the tiny island paradise called Vieques full compensation for the illnesses they are suffering courtesy of the U.S. Navy – and we owe them so much more than that.

We owe them a full accounting of what was done to their Manhattan-sized island, about 10 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico (the island is part of Puerto Rico and hence part of the United States) between 1941 and 2003, when it served as the Navy’s premiere weapons testing site. Bombs were dropped and guns were tested on the eastern portion of the island at least 200 days out of the year for 62 years; an estimated 80 million tons of ordnance pummeled the island’s fragile, tropical ecosystem over that time, contaminating soil, water and air, and bequeathing an array of serious health problems – cancer, birth defects, cirrhosis of the liver and much more – to the island’s 10,000 residents.

We owe them – how can I put this? – a commitment to sanity in the realm of national defense. What kind of defense involves the commission of war crimes against our own citizens? We owe them a national conversation about who we are and what we’ve allowed to happen in the name of national security and global dominance.

Vieques, one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever visited – its stunning features include what may be the world’s largest bioluminescent bay (microorganisms in the water glow when disturbed, as by swimmers) – was commandeered by the U.S. military as a throwaway site for weapons testing. The Navy occupied three-quarters of the island until 2003; it finally left following four years of protests, which were ignited when an errant bomb killed a civilian security guard in 1999.

The Navy left but, of course, it didn’t really leave. It left behind heavy metal contaminants (arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, aluminum); unexploded ordnance (18,700 live shells or bombs that the Navy itself has identified); barrels of unknown, likely toxic substances dumped into the ocean or stored on ships that were deliberately sunk; depleted uranium; Agent Orange; napalm; secrets, lies and a legacy of irresponsibility almost beyond comprehension.

But it’s irresponsibility in the name of national security. This implicates all of us. The story of Vieques demonstrates that there’s nothing peaceful about preparing for war.

This small, fragile island – sometimes called Isla Nena (Puerto Rico’s “little sister”) – along with its impoverished residents, were, like the Downwinders of Utah, Nevada and Idaho, whose health was compromised by nuclear testing, collateral damage of the Cold War and all the pretexts for perpetual war readiness that have succeeded it. Vieques is proof of the flawed vision of militarism, which uses up the world.

The Navy is in the process of cleaning up its mess, but this too is controversial and problematic. It has detonated about a third of the unexploded ordnance it has identified, thus continuing not only the nerve-wracking explosions but the spread of contaminants, a problem exacerbated by the island’s east-to-west prevailing winds, which carry the smoke to the populated portion of the island. In addition, the Navy has proposed to burn hundreds of acres of contaminated vegetation on its former bombing range in order to facilitate the detonation process. This proposal is vehemently opposed by the islanders, who fear the wholesale spread of pollutants in the process.

Meanwhile, the Navy continues to deny that the pollution left over from six decades of weapons testing, including secret experimentation with biological and chemical weapons, is a health hazard to the residents of Vieques. Ignoring inconvenient science is, of course, standard procedure for the military.

Nevertheless, “The pervasiveness of the contamination and the poverty of most of the population leaves Viequenses with no way to escape the poisonous substances,” according to “The toxins are all around them in the air they breathe, the water they drink, the soil where they grow crops, and the food they eat. . . . Children on Vieques are 25 percent more likely to die in infancy than those on the main island of Puerto Rico.” There are, the site explains, far higher rates of cancer and other illnesses among the residents, and the island lacks even a clinic, forcing residents to travel for hours by ferry (with unreliable service) and bus to get treatment.

The damage done to this beautiful island can never be fully undone, but perhaps a better future – for all of us – can blossom here. This is the vision of John Eaves, a lawyer whose firm represents, and has filed suits in U.S. District Court on behalf of, 8,500 residents. Though he titled a legal update he recently gave about the island “Paradise Lost,” he told me: “We see (the suits) as an opportunity for a global solution to Vieques.”

The redress the law suits are seeking, he said, include a hospital on the island, better transportation, windmills for economic development and a research center devoted to the study of environmental cleanup – indeed, to the development of a new science of environmental reclamation.

Military-industrial contamination is, of course, a worldwide problem: the nightmare legacy of modern war. How fitting if Vieques should become home to its solution.”


The defeat of the Democrats choice to succeed Ted Kennedy in the U.S.
Senate is being treated as though there is a decided shift of mass
opinion to the Right in the U.S.  But it is the Obama Administration,
not the people who supported him in 2008, which moved to the Right–in
the name of being  pragmatists or realists– in the process emptying
their own agenda in regard to health care, environment, human rights,
social and economic justice, and global peace of the critical elements
that made those programs sound hopeful, and leaving many of their
supporters feeling confused, disillusioned, and unable to rally around
the politics that seemed so very far from “the change you can believe
in” that we had been promised.

            Thousands of us saw this coming, and tried to warn Obama, but he wouldn’t listen.

April 29, 2009, Tikkun and our education arm the Network of Spiritual
Progressives bought the entire back page of a special supplement
published in the Washington Post on the occasion of the 100th
day of Obama’s presidency. We warned him that his presidency was in
grave danger. Our point was simple and direct: “Your success depends on
helping people believe that they can count on each other, that they are
not alone in a ruthless world in which people are out for themselves,
and there is a possibility of building a society based on kindness,
generosity, and caring for each other. Unless your programs actually
allow people to feel in their own lives that they are part of build a
new society based on love and generosity of spirit, they will soon fall
back into the older paranoid view-that we are all competing with each
other and have to look our first for number one. And that will likely
them right back into the hands of the most conservative forces in this
society. It’s that simple, President Obama: if your policies do not
give people a personal experience of caring and generosity, people will
quickly succumb to the fearmongers who compete in the media over who
can make people most afraid, most cynical, and most angry. “

add went on to tell President Obama that his supporters were beginning
to feel mobilized because they cannot explain to themselves and others:

you are bailing out the bankers and the Wall Street crowd rather than
prioritizing the needs of people who have lost their jobs and homes

you are not backing single payer (Medicare for Everyone) health reform
but are instead preserving the interests of the health care profiteers
and insurance companies that make our health care system so costly

you are escalating the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, when you must
know that these are no win situations, and when you have even agreed
with Rabbi Michael Lerner that the best way to achieve “homeland
security” is not by attempting to dominate others around the world in
an insane “war on terrorism,” but instead by a Strategy of Generosity
manifested in the Network of Spiritual Progressives’ proposal for a
Global Marshal Plan introduced into the Congress by Congressman Keith

you have failed to bring into your Administration more leaders of the
peace, social justice, labor and environmental movements that gave you
the critical support you needed to win the Democratic nomination for

conclusion: “If the people who made your presidency possible stop
feeling excited about your present direction, the populist energies
that oculd be mobilized for fundamental change will instead by
mobilized by the Right for reactionary goals, and you may find yourself
without the base of support you need even for your scaled down goals.”
And now our worst fears and prophetic predictions are coming true. [
you were one of the many members of the Network of Spiritual
Progressives or subscribers to Tikkun who donated to make the ad we
published possible, I want to thank you for your ability to see what
was ahead–and your willingness to back your wisdom with the money we
needed to publish that ad!]

what could he have really done, many ask, given the way corporate
interests seemed to have bought their way into power not only in the
Republican party, but among Blue Dog Democrats in the House and Senate?

true that if Obama had fought for the kind of change he led his
followers to believe would be possible, he might have lost. But winning
legislative battles is not the highest goal, as FDR and Reagan, the two
most influential 20th century presidents, learned. The most
important thing a president can do is develop a worldview and convince
the American public of that. Obama could have spoken the truth, told
what he saw happening in Washington rather than trying to be a clever
inside manipulator-a game that he was destined to lose. Any legislative
victory won by compromising away the heart of what you are fighting for
isn’t worth much, and in any event, even good legislation can quickly
be dismantled by the next president if you haven’t won over the minds
and hearts of the American people–and to do that you need to speak the
truth and tell people what we are up against in  the system of global
capital and its ethos of materialism, selfisness, and
looking-out-for-number-one,  and what it would take to dismantle it and
replace that system with a more humane and caring, environmentally sane
and ethically and spiritually coherent society. And Obama could have
constantly reminded his supporters that the 2008 election had shown
that their yearning for a world of peace and justice, of love and
caring and community and real solidarity and democracy, were not the
private dreams of an isolated minority but the real needs of the
American majority. By making us visible to each other, he would have
empowered people to fight for programs that manifested their highest
values (if and only if his programs did in fact manifest those values,
which unfortunately they often did not).

it’s up to us,  the tens of millions of Americans who really showed in
2008 the powerful commitment we have to building a world of love,
kindness, generosity, environmental sanity and caring for others. We
have to reconstitute that movement without Obama’s help, before the
disillusionment with Obama’s compromises leads to the resurgence of the
Right’s policies, the surge of a know-nothing Tea Party movement, and
the retreat into despair and self-imposed powerlessness by all those
who are questioning whether there’s any real possibility of replacing
corporate power, materialism and selfishness with a more ethically and
spiritually grounded community of caring.

don’t let your disappointment at Obama lead you or your friends into
political passivity…because the alternative if you do that is Sarah
Palin and The Tea Party extremists and the haters and fundamentalists,
all of whom are now momentarily dressing themselves in the language of
populism, but all of whom will actually only give even more power to
the elites of wealth and power.

why it is so important for you to become part of our efforts to
reconstitute the movement of hope–and we can do that with your help.

We need your ideas and involvement–and so we’ve created two
conferences, a one day event on the Monday of President’s Day weekend,
February 15, at the McLaren Hall on the campus of the University of San
Francisco on Fulton St. near Clayton; and a longer event June 11-14 at
the Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. The
conferences are co-sponsored by The Nation Magazine, Yes Magazine,
Democracy Now, Op-ed News, Peace Action,


the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and speakers will include Chris Hedges,
Bill McKibben, David Korten, Congressman Keith Ellison, Riane Eisler,
Rev. Brian McLaren, Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, Peter Gabel,
Rev. James Winkler, Rev. Conrad Braaten, Robert Thurman, Rabbi Arthur
Waskow, Rev. Gralan Hagler, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Jonathan Granoff,
Marianne Williamson, Paul Wapner, John Dear SJ, John Nichols, Svi
Shapiro, Bob McChesney, Rabbi Michael Lerner,  and many more. 

 Please register for one of these conferences now at


(To plan effectively, we need to know very soon if you’ll be coming!) If
you cannot come, please donate to make it possible for us to afford to
create these events (the amount we are charging will not even come
close to covering our expenses: donate on-line at


or by sending a check to Tikkun, 2342 Shattuck Ave,#1200, Berkeley, Ca. 94704).
Please help us
spread the word–and let us know if you and your friends, colleagues,
community members, would like to help us organize a “Support Obama to
BE the Obama Americans Thought they were Voting For” conference in your
area of the country! Please read the information at our website–this
is not about trashing Obama, but about reconstituting the
movement that made his presidency happen, and then moving together to
bring about the changes that tens of millions of Americans and billions
of people around the world desperately need to have happen.

(cross posted on American Values Network)


Twas a week before Christmas, and all through my city

Politicians were scrambl’n, it wasn’t very pretty.

Health care and climate were up in the air,

But try as Reid might, the votes just weren’t there.


The pols were all dug in, snug in their stances,

Yet more voters cared to watch Tom Delay’s dances!

Tea party protestors were on message and mad,

With poor families suffering, the partisan bickering was sad.


FOX News was lambasting, O’Reilly cried foul,

Palin and Limbaugh continued to howl:

“Obama, the Muslim, will take Christmas away.

He’s destroying our country, and he’ll make your kids gay.”


And so in this environ, I concluded my year,

Desperately searching for some true Christmas cheer.

What I got was a perk of winning, which came to my door,

An embossed White House invite, to their holiday tour.


“For you and a guest,” the invite did read,

So I called up a friend, and she followed my lead.

With spirits renewed, we headed into the cold,

Then my blackberry buzzed, with further instructions in bold:


“The Secret Service requires much, we’re sorry to say,

So bring your social, a picture, and no aerosol spray.

Plus, the delays may be long, security’s tight,

That reality couple last month really they gave us a fright.”


The Metro was slow, but we arrived at the gate,

Hoping and praying that we were not too late.

The cop looked us over, he patted me down,

“Let me see your ID,” he said with a frown.


As we walked through the gate, angry protestors came by,

And with worries and fears returning, I let out a sigh.

How easy it is, to lose track of what counts,

When the pressures and uncertainty of politics continue to mount.


Now the White House is hardly a manger with hay,

But what happened next gave me hope on that pre-Christmas day.

You see, as I started to walk and wander around,

Off in the distance, I heard the most beautiful sound.


Just down the hall was a glorious chorus,

Singing of Bethlehem’s star, and God’s perfect love for us.

Then I turned to my friend and started to tell her,

“You know, I think that singer up there’s my first cousin Keller!”


Up for Carolina he’d come, a trip with his school.

What were the odds he’d be here today?  Wasn’t it cool?

That we’d meet in the White House after a year gone apart,

And he’d be singing of joy and of hope, with all of his heart?


And then it all hit me at once, it became clear as a bell,

A truth for this Season, upon which we should dwell.

Humans will struggle; we’ll fight and we’ll moan.

The poor will be with us; the suffering will groan.


But we all have been promised, that’s not how the story will end.

And so each Christmas we celebrate, with family and friends

A child in a manger, and peace on this earth

As we join those whom we love, to remember Christ’s birth.


So good tidings to all.  I wish you hope and good cheer,

As we await this coming Christmas, and a bright, hopeful new year!