Where are the grassroots of the Left?

Richard Fernandez notes that grassroots conservatives have mobilized, what with all of the Tea Parties and the surge of political activism. But where are the grassroots leftists, the ones that raised all of that money and that did all of that organization for Barack Obama during his campaign? We learn that those grassroot organizations have been subsumed into the official Democratic party apparatus. They are directed from the top. Whereas the conservative groups are directed from below, to the point of defying the Republican party when necessary.

Similarly, in yesterday’s elections, the young people and minorities who surged to the polling places to elect Barack Obama just didn’t turn out in big numbers. Social conservatives, though, did.

Conception without male or female

Scientists have used stem cells to generate both sperm and egg. This opens the way for conceiving a child without either a father or a mother. See No men OR women needed: artificial sperm and eggs created for first time .

Election Day

Today is Election Day. Here in Virginia, in one of the contests of national interest, I voted. (No, I’m not going to tell you who I voted for!) Here are some of the elections worth watching:

Heading into Tuesday's elections, Democrat gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds was trailing Republican Bob McDonnell in polls by double digits in Virginia. In a three-way race in New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine was in a close race with Republican Chris Christie and independent Chris Daggett. And in the race to fill the vacant 23rd Congressional District seat in New York, Democrat Bill Owens was in a tight fight with conservative Doug Hoffman after the GOP's hand-picked candidate bowed out over the weekend.

Elsewhere, California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi is expected to maintain the Democratic Party's hold on the open 10th Congressional District seat near San Francisco, while New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to cruise to a third term. Atlanta, Houston, Boston, Detroit and Pittsburgh also will elect mayors, while voters in Maine and Washington weigh in on same-sex unions and voters in Ohio decide whether to allow casinos.

One question the Virginia election might resolve: Is early involvement in the Christian right the kiss of death for a candidate? The Democrat gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds uncovered his Republican opponent Bob McDonnell’s master’s thesis that he wrote when he attended Regent University years ago. It contained politically incorrect ideas opposing abortion, critiquing feminism, and taking other socially conservative positions. Deeds thought he had found a silver bullet that would kill McDonnell’s candidacy. McDonnell disavowed some of what he said back then, though not his pro-life convictions. Apparently, Virginians don’t recoil from such ideas as Deeds expected them to, since McDonnell has a double-digit lead going into today’s election. (Still, I must tell my students: Be careful what you write in a term paper, lest it come back to haunt you.)

Meanwhile, in the New York election, the Republicans had nominated a liberal, pro-abortion candidate. Party leaders were aghast that conservatives, including conservative Republicans like Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty, campaigned for the Conservative Party candidate instead. Where is your party loyalty? But the Conservative Party candidate surged in the polls, causing the Republican to drop out of the race. Whereupon she endorsed the Democrat! Where is your party loyalty?

At any rate, if you have elections where you are, if only for local officials–who are much neglected but are very signficant– do remember to vote! It’s a duty of your vocation as a citizen!

Muhammad: The Movie

In the “you don’t know what you are getting into” department, one of the producers of The Lord of the Rings movies is planning on making a movie about the prophet Muhammad:

Producer Barrie Osborne cast Keanu Reeves as the messiah in The Matrix and helped defeat the dark lord Sauron in his record-breaking Lord of the Rings trilogy. Now the Oscar-winning American film-maker is set to embark on his most perilous quest to date: making a big-screen biopic of the prophet Muhammad.

Budgeted at around $150m (£91.5m), the film will chart Muhammad's life and examine his teachings. Osborne told Reuters that he envisages it as "an international epic production aimed at bridging cultures. The film will educate people about the true meaning of Islam".

Osborne's production will reportedly feature English-speaking Muslim actors. It is backed by the Qatar-based production company Alnoor Holdings, who have installed the Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi to oversee all aspects of the shoot. In accordance with Islamic law, the prophet will not actually be depicted on screen. . . .

The as-yet-untitled picture is due to go before the cameras in 2011. It remains to be seen, however, whether it will be beaten to cinemas by another Muhammad-themed drama. Late last year, producer Oscar Zoghbi announced plans to remake The Message, his controversial 1976 drama that sparked a fatal siege by protesters in Washington DC. The new version, entitled The Messenger of Peace, is currently still in development.

A Hollywood non-Muslim is going to teach the world “the true meaning of Islam”? Either he will offend actual Muslims or he will present a white-washed version, one that possibly will inspire Westerners to embrace a new Westernized and sanitized form of the religion. (See what some Americans have done to Hinduism, Buddhism, and paganism [below–note the lack of sacrifices].)

The earlier movie “The Message” offended Muslims to the point of violence, but this remake looks like it will atone for that insensitivity by rendering the prophet as “The Messenger of Peace” for this religion of peace.

Shooting the movie without showing the main character, though, will be an interesting challenge. “Ben Hur” managed scenes with Jesus that never showed Him, but that was only for very short sequences. And the point of view shots that replaced the visual depictions of our Lord (which still bother some Christians to this day) show a degree of adoration that would probably also violate Islam.

Stimulus spent $160,000 for each job

Calculating the number of jobs created for the number of dollars spent for that purpose in the stimulus plan has come up with different figures, including as much as $250,000. But using the administration’s own optimistic figures that 1 million new jobs have been created, that still comes to $160,000 Per Stimulus Job:

The White House argues that the actual job number is actually larger than 640,000 — closer to 1 million jobs when one factors in stimulus jobs added in October and, more importantly, jobs created indirectly, such as "the waitress who's still on the job," Vice President Biden said today.

So let's see. Assuming their number is right — 160 billion divided by 1 million. Does that mean the stimulus costs taxpayers $160,000 per job?

Jared Bernstein, chief economist and senior economic advisor to the vice president, called that "calculator abuse."

He said the cost per job was actually $92,000 — but acknowledged that estimate is for the whole stimulus package as of the end of 2010.

So the White House insists that the stimulus spent $92,000 per job. That doesn’t, of course, mean that the new jobs paid that kind of money. They are mostly construction jobs that pay way less than that. But it shows how much the government spends in administration and its own trickle down processes. In the meantime, despite this job creation, the unemployment rate continues to climb, approaching 10%.

Related: According to consumer car site Edmunds.com, the Cash for Clunker program cost taxpayers $24,000 for each car. This for an average $1600 rebate on a car that cost an average of $26,000. (This was calculated taking into account the number of cars that would already have been bought anyway whose buyers needed no incentive. This was the cost of the extra cars that were purchased due to the federal program.)

The mainstreaming of Paganism

The New York Times reports that paganism in its different guises is becoming just another religion. From Paganism, Just Another Religion for Military and Academia;

From academia to the military, in the person of chaplains and professors, through successful litigation and online networking, Paganism has done much in the last generation to overcome its perception as either Satanism or silliness. . . .

Because the federal census does not ask about religious affiliation, and because ridicule or discrimination tended to keep Pagans closeted in the past, statistics on the number of adherents in the United States are imprecise and probably too low. Still, the recent growth is evident in surveys done in 1990 and 2001 by the City University of New York.

Over the course of those 11 years, the survey went from tabulating 8,000 Wiccans nationally — that branch of Paganism was the only one to turn up — to 134,000 Wiccans, 33,000 Druids and 140,000 Pagans. (Others identify as Heathens.) The sociologist Helen A. Berger, who is doing research on Pagan demography, said she believed that a more accurate current number would fall between 500,000 and one million. . . .

In several ways, though, Paganism was waiting for modernity to catch up with it. The emphasis on the worship of nature in virtually all variations of Pagan faith, and the embrace of a female divinity in many, situated the religion to mesh with the environmental and feminist movements that swept through the United States in the 1970s.

In the 1970s, Wiccan groups began seeking and obtaining tax-exempt status from federal and state authorities, said the Rev. Selena Fox, the founder and spiritual leader of an early, influential Wicca church, Circle Sanctuary in Barneveld, Wis. By the decade’s end, Wicca was included in the handbook for military chaplains and had been written about in such popular books as “Drawing Down the Moon,” (Penguin, 2006), by Margot Adler.

Since then, Wiccans have served as chaplains in prisons and hospices, as well as in the armed forces. Just this week, Ms. Fox supplied the invocation for the daily session of the Wisconsin State Assembly. And, of course, the popular culture of the Harry Potter books, the television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the current zombie vogue have defanged Pagan religion for a mass teenage audience.