Archive for June, 2009

Southern Baptists confront shrinking numbers

Writing in the AJC, Christopher Quinn documents the continuing decline of the Southern Baptist Convention:

“Membership in the 16-million strong denomination is dropping. They lost 38,000 members between 2007 and 2008, the last of four stagnant years, according to Convention numbers. Donations to missionaries fell $30 million short of a $170 million goal this year…..

David W. Key Sr., director of Baptist Studies at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, said Southern Baptists blamed their own moderates and liberals for problems in the past. The Convention shed its moderates as it became more socially and theologically conservative in the last two decades. Now, they are beginning to look inside for fault, he said.

Southern Baptists’ narrowing definitions of who Christians are in a society that is diversifying is one reason the group is losing membership, Key believes.

“You no longer have the luxury of saying that everybody has to look the same,” he said.”

… Danny Aiken, …

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We may kill fewer Taliban, but it’s the right thing to do

This is a difficult but absolutely necessary change of policy in Afghanistan:

From the AP:

KABUL — The U.S. commander in Afghanistan will soon order U.S. and NATO forces to break away from fights with militants hiding among villagers, an official said Monday, announcing one of the strongest measures yet to protect Afghan civilians.

The most contentious civilian casualty cases in recent years occurred during battles in Afghan villages when U.S. airstrikes aimed at militants also killed civilians. American commanders say such deaths hurt their mission because they turn average Afghans against the government and international forces.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pressed U.S. forces for years to reduce civilian casualties, but his pleas have done little to stem the problem. The U.N. says U.S., NATO and Afghan forces killed 829 civilians in the Afghan war last year.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who took command of international forces in Afghanistan this month, has said his …

Continue reading We may kill fewer Taliban, but it’s the right thing to do »

Judicial strike zone depends on where you’re standing

With the Supreme Court term coming to a close and decisions on major cases starting to flow, Walter Dellinger at Slate takes a look at Stafford United School District v. Redding, a case centered around a 13-year-old girl strip-searched by school officials who suspected she might possess prescription ibuprofen, and links it to the debate over Sonia Sotomayor:

Did this violate her constitutional rights? The relevant constitutional text says: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons … against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

You can stare at that text for hours, hold it up to the light, even study it under a microscope, and it still won’t tell you which searches are or are not “reasonable.” Precedent is helpful but not dispositive: Prior cases say that school searches cannot be “excessively intrusive.” In making that determination, it is surely useful for a judge to have some ability to understand how intrusive a “pull up your bra and pull …

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Cancel the missing person alert

Has anybody seen this guy?

Because he apparently went missing on Thursday and was last reported here in the Atlanta area. Calls to his cell phone went unanswered, and his wife said earlier today that she had no idea where he was.

However, officials now say that he has been located, although they still won’t say where.

And oh yeah, one more thing. He’s the governor of South Carolina.

From The State:

The whereabouts of Gov. Mark Sanford was unknown for nearly four days, and some state leaders question who was in charge of the executive office.

But Sanford’s office told the lieutenant governor’s office Monday afternoon that Sanford has been reached and he is fine, said Frank Adams, head of Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer’s office on aging.

Neither the governor’s office nor the State Law Enforcement Division, which provides security for governors, had been able to reach Sanford after he left the mansion Thursday in a black SLED Suburban SUV, said Sen. Jake Knotts and three others familiar …

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On this one, the NRA is correct

I’ve never been a fan of the National Rifle Association. To my mind, the NRA has been one of the more dishonest, manipulative and even dangerous lobbying groups in the country.

But on the matter of the government’s “terrorist watch list,” I’m with the NRA all the way.

According to the New York Times, the Government Accountability Office will release a study this week reporting that “people on the government’s terrorist watch list tried to buy guns nearly 1,000 times in the last five years, and federal authorities cleared the purchases 9 times out of 10 because they had no legal way to stop them.”

At first glance, that seems an egregious oversight. Common sense says that suspected terrorists should not be allowed to buy firearms. As the Times reports, one person on the watch list “was able to buy more than 50 pounds of explosives,” which seems shocking. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat from New Jersey, plans to introduce legislation giving the federal government the power to …

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Goldman Sachs to pay biggest bonuses in 140 years

I guess you can file this under “someone’s loss is someone else’s gain.”

According to the Observer newspaper in London, Goldman Sachs is now poised to pay the biggest staff bonuses in the company’s 140-year history. With other investment banks driven out of business, Goldman and other survivors have much less competition and are making record profits.

“Staff in London were briefed last week on the banking and securities company’s prospects and told they could look forward to bumper bonuses if, as predicted, it completed its most profitable year ever,” the Observer reports.

“Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank are among the European firms expected to register bumper profits, along with US banks JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley following the near collapse and government rescue of major trading houses including Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, UBS and Royal Bank of Scotland.

In April, Goldman said it would set aside half of its £1.2bn first-quarter profit to reward staff, much …

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Happy Father’s Day, everyone!

My own dad, J.J. “Bo” Bookman, long ago retired the title of Best Father Ever on This Planet. But the rest of you are certainly free to propose your own candidates for the title of Second Best.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t suggest you read this, first-hand reporting out of Tehran.

Continue reading Happy Father’s Day, everyone! »

The brave patriots of Iran continue to press their case

People are dying in Tehran and probably elsewhere in Iran. The videos of brutality and murder are stunning. One of the more heartbreaking is here, documenting the death of a young woman apparently shot on a rooftop. It is too graphic to be posted here.

Iranian officials have managed to suppress mass demonstrations but the public is apparently continuing to protest in a variety of fashions. Gov’t thugs are collecting names of those taken to hospitals, so some foreign embassies have opened their doors to those seeking shelter and protection. A Google map has been posted of embassy santuaries.

President Obama has released a statement, which follows:

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek …

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If it’s only 3,000, it’s over in Iran. But it’s a brave 3,000.

From AP:

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Police beat protesters and fired tear gas and water cannons at thousands who rallied Saturday in open defiance of Iran’s clerical government, sharply escalating the most serious internal conflict since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Eyewitnesses described fierce clashes near Revolution Square in central Tehran after some 3,000 protesters, many wearing black, chanted “Death to the dictator!” and “Death to dictatorship!” Police fired tear gas, water cannons and guns but it was not immediately clear if they were firing live ammunition.

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More on the inspector general firing

The folks at Politico have spoken with at least one member of the Americorps governing board about the firing of inspector general Gerald Walpin. Here are the crucial grafs:

“It was a very emotionally draining meeting for me and the rest of the board members,” a panel member told POLITICO Wednesday. “There were several periods of time where there were one- to two-minute pauses where he clearly was confused and was not able to respond to questions and was just going through his notes…..It was painful.”

The board member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that part of Walpin’s initial presentation at that meeting was about the investigation he conducted into alleged misuse of AmeriCorps funds at a school run by a former Phoenix Suns point guard, Kevin Johnson. ….At the May 20 meeting, Walpin “made reference to the fact that he was planning to issue some kind of statement later that day related to that matter,” the board member said. “At the conclusion, several of us …

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