Last Thursday night in New York we hosted a small event for an author who has had a profound impact on my thinking, Vali Nasr. Photos of the event can be found here.
We connected to Vali through my writing about his book here on the blog. Some of you may remember that I commented at the time that this was one of the most influential books I've read in recent years, and has helped me, more than any other thing I've read, understand what is happening in the Middle East today. If you haven't read it, it is called the Shia Revival, and a new paperback edition comes out this month. Buy it.
In person Vali did not disapoint. His knowledge of the region is extraordinary, his insight fresh, his vision I think correct. I felt lucky to have spent 90 minutes listening to him the other night.
In the process of connecting with Vali we also learned that he was a teacher of mine at Tufts when I was an undergraduate. He was too was an undergraduate and taught a course on Islam for other students. It was an excellent class, and he was a very good teacher. Who knew that I would connect with him again all these years later in this way. He is moving to Boston this summer and will be once again be teaching at Tufts, this time at Fletcher, Tufts' International School of Law and Diplomacy. My guess is that it will be tough to get into his classes.
Look for a notice soon about a talk Vali will give to NDN in DC in May. We are still working out details, and will announce it soon.
More oversight than legislation in Democrats’ first 100 days in power By By Jonathan E. Kaplan and Elana Schor April 17, 2007
Democratic leaders have racked up impressive numbers in their first 100 days: 189 recorded votes in the House; 53 days, including a Saturday, in session for the Senate; and an approval rating 15 points higher than last year’s Republican-controlled Congress.
But by GOP measurements, the Democratic majority has had zero impact. Republicans note that the president signed none of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) vaunted “Six for ’06” priority bills by April 14, the 100th day of the new majority’s tenure.
Democrats have, however, overturned the capital culture that set in on Sept. 11, 2001, with vigorous oversight of the Bush administration and an Iraq policy putting pressure on Republicans to challenge the White House.
“The energy of the first 100 days has been a repudiation of the Bush era,” Simon Rosenberg, founder of the centrist New Democrat Network, said. “They have changed the agenda. Momentum has shifted......"
WAPO/ABC News poll shows that 2/3 of Americans support the core idea of comprehensive immigration reform, a number that has been constant over the past 18 months.
28. Do you think illegal immigrants who are living and working in the United States now (should be offered a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status), or do you think they (should be deported back to their native country)?
The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law is holding a hearin on Shortfalls of 1986 Immigration Reform Legislation this Thursday at 3:00pm in Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building. It's open to the public and another sign that Congress is getting to work on this pressing issue.
Join...Senator Russ Feingold Rep. Brad Miller Rep. John Hall Rep. Jerry McNerney YearlyKos Convention Executive Director Gina Cooper
...activists, organizers and on-lookers as we drink, laugh and carouse liberally to celebrate the progressive blogging community and prepare for the 2007 YearlyKos Convention at a grassroots fundraiser...
Washington, DC on April 17, 6:30 - 9:00 PM, at the Stewart Mott House at 122 Maryland Ave., NE
...(at the corner of Maryland Avenue & Constitution Avenue.) It's about as close to the Capitol as you can get without being elected, a few blocks from Union Station & Metro. Best of all, you don't have to be a lobbyist or even a Republican to afford it. We are asking for a minimum donation of $35 per person. Light snacks and soft drinks will be available. A modest donation will be asked for beer & wine. Parking is hard to come by in the immediate vicinity but should be available on the street within a few blocks or at Union Station.
NDN needs your help to update our agenda. Two weeks ago, we began the important process of updating the NDN Agenda for Hope and Progress, the document that defines our governing philosophy and is at the center of all our advocacy work. This week we are asking for your feedback on the foreign policy and homeland security sections of the NDN agenda "Assert Responsible Global Leadership" and "Protect the Homeland." After you read the sections below, sign-up for an NDN Blog account, if you haven't already, and share your ideas with us in the comments section.
From NDN's Agenda for Hope and Progress...
Assert Responsible Global Leadership: Win the war on terrorism and end international conflicts that threaten our interests and values; foster security and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan; ensure that America's military is the strongest, most agile, and best equipped in the world and our nation honors the service of our veterans; combat AIDS and other pandemics that threaten global stability; and work together with our allies and international organizations to advance democracy, human rights, liberty, free markets, opportunities for women, and rising standards of living across the world.
Protect the Homeland: Implement a comprehensive homeland security strategy; improve our nation's counter terrorism intelligence capabilities and performance; ensure that those on the frontlines have the very best tools, training and support to protect our communities; secure our nation's borders and ports without impeding the free flow of goods and people; and fight to protect the civil liberties for all Americans that have long been the envy of the world.
Simon gave the keynote address at Tufts University’s annual Issues of the Future Symposium. Coverage from the Tufts Daily is here and excerpted below.
Concern about immigration is "one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century," Rosenberg said.
But a "durable and sustainable" approach is necessary, he argued, since migration is unlikely to let up. "As the pain of immigration is lessened due to the ease of travel and transition, migration will increase globally," he said.
In this climate, the United States' current stance leaves a lot to be desired, he said. "No one is happy with our current stance on immigration," Rosenberg said.
Passing progressive legislation, he said, is a necessary step in reforming current policies.
He said that an example of such legislation is the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill that made it through the U.S. Senate last year. He called it "an oasis of sanity."
In the debate prior to Bush's decision to "surge," there was a remarkable campaign by our military leaders to pursuade the Administration to head the warnings of the ISG report and invest greater energy in diplomacy and regional politics. In the Post today, retired Marine Corps General John Sheehan repeats this criticism of the Administration in an op-ed about why he did not take a new position with Bush:
The third strategy takes a larger view of the region and the desired end state. Simply put, where does Iraq fit in a larger regional context? The United States has and will continue to have strategic interests in the greater Middle East well after the Iraq crisis is resolved and, as a matter of national interest, will maintain forces in the region in some form. The Iraq invasion has created a real and existential crisis for nearly all Middle Eastern countries and created divisions among our traditional European allies, making cooperation on other issues more difficult. In the case of Iran, we have allowed Tehran to develop more policy options and tools than it had a few years ago. Iran is an ideological and destabilizing threat to its neighbors and, more important, to U.S. interests.
Of the three strategies in play, the third is the most important but, unfortunately, is the least developed and articulated by this administration.
The day-to-day work of the White House implementation manager overseeing Iraq and Afghanistan would require a great deal of emotional and intellectual energy resolving critical resource issues in a bureaucracy that, to date, has not functioned well. Activities such as the current surge operations should fit into an overall strategic framework. There has to be linkage between short-term operations and strategic objectives that represent long-term U.S. and regional interests, such as assured access to energy resources and support for stable, Western-oriented countries. These interests will require a serious dialogue and partnership with countries that live in an increasingly dangerous neighborhood. We cannot "shorthand" this issue with concepts such as the "democratization of the region" or the constant refrain by a small but powerful group that we are going to "win," even as "victory" is not defined or is frequently redefined.
It would have been a great honor to serve this nation again. But after thoughtful discussions with people both in and outside of this administration, I concluded that the current Washington decision-making process lacks a linkage to a broader view of the region and how the parts fit together strategically. We got it right during the early days of Afghanistan -- and then lost focus. We have never gotten it right in Iraq. For these reasons, I asked not to be considered for this important White House position. These huge shortcomings are not going to be resolved by the assignment of an additional individual to the White House staff. They need to be addressed before an implementation manager is brought on board.
The Times has a fascinating piece on the increasing secularization of Hispanics in the U.S. It starts, of course, with the Hispanic immigrant's passion for soccer:
RICHMOND, Va. — On Sunday afternoons, when the local Roman Catholic church holds Mass for Spanish-speaking Catholics, Edgar Chilín is playing soccer in a league with hundreds of Hispanic players.
“Church is not very popular,” said Francisco Hernandez, a pastor for a Pentecostal congregation in Richmond, Va.
As a child in Guatemala, Mr. Chilín attended Mass every Sunday. But after immigrating to the United States 25 years ago, he and his family lost the churchgoing habit. “We pray to God when we feel the need to,” he said, “but when we come here to America we don’t feel the need.”
A wave of research shows that increasing percentages of Hispanics are abandoning church, suggesting to researchers that along with assimilation comes a measure of secularization.
Several studies show that Hispanics are just as likely as other Americans to identify themselves as having “no religion,” and to not affiliate with a church. Those who describe themselves as secular are, without question, a small minority among Hispanics — as they are among Americans at large. But, in contrast to many of the non-Hispanic Americans who identify themselves as secular, most of the Hispanics say they were once religious.
The Roman Catholic Church, the religious home for most Hispanics, is experiencing the greatest exodus. While many former Catholics join evangelical or Pentecostal churches, the recent research shows that many of them leave church altogether.
“Migrating to the U.S. means you have the freedom to create your own identity,” said Keo Cavalcanti, a sociologist at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., and a co-author of a recent study that found a trend toward secularization among Hispanics in Richmond. “When people get here they realize that maintaining that pro forma display of religiosity is not essential to doing well.”
A separate study of 4,000 Hispanics to be released this month by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Hispanic Center found that 8 percent of them said they had “no religion” — similar to the 11 percent in the general public. Of the Hispanics who claimed no religion, two-thirds said they had once been religious. Thirty-nine percent of the Hispanics who said they had no religion were former Catholics.
Hispanics from Cuba were the most secular national group, at 14 percent, followed by Central Americans at 12 percent, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans at 9 percent, and South Americans at 8 percent, the Pew poll found. Mexicans in this country were the least likely to say they had no religion, at 7 percent.
A larger survey, called the American Religious Identification Survey, a study of 50,000 adults, including 3,000 Hispanics, found that the percentage of Hispanics who identified themselves as having no religion more than doubled from 1990 to 2001, to 13 percent from 6 percent....