September 30, 2004

Debate conclusions?

I think Kerry did fine. Actually, I think he did better than that. Bush may not have lost any from his base, but I think there might be those in the undecided camp that found Kerry pretty strong on foreign policy.

Kerry, on the other hand, I think did a great job of invigorating his base. He may have singlehandedly stopped some of the hand-wringing that dems have been doing for the last month or so. We can win this, and this guy is smarter and better then their guy.
Bush lying continued and frequent

Of course Bush doesn't know what "pass the global test" means. He hasn't passed a fucking test in his life.
The Washington Monthly: "9:37 — Bush: 'You forgot Poland.' That line could end up as fodder for Leno and Letterman.

9:35 — Overall, Bush seems more defensive than usual tonight...."

Bush is such a liar. "You can't switch positions when you are fighting a war on terrah."

perhaps the biggest lie of the entire Bush administration and one that keeps getting repeated.

"We will provide troops or remove troops when the generals on the ground say so."

This administration has never listened to the Generals on the ground.

Dirty goddamn rotten liar.
Dirty Rotten Liar continued goddamnit

More dirty rotten lying

Have I said that I am not fond of Bush?
Live blogging continued

Not really news, but Bush is a big fat liar. LIAR, LIAR, LIAR, LIAR.

"I didn't need anyone to tell me to go to the UN. I went there because I thought I needed to."


"We do have strong alliances!"

"We are keeping wmd away from terrorists."


Damn, it is going to be a long debate.
Live Blogging

Best line for Kerry so far. "Bush didn't use American troops to kill Osama Bin Laden. He relied on Afghan warlords and outsourced that job too."

Obsidian Wings: Legalizing Torture

This blog entry discusses an effort in congress to legalize the practice of Extraordinary rendition," which, evidently, is the practice of sending suspected terrorists to countries that practice torture. Think about it. We are saying that it is wrong to torture, we badmouth terrorists for their extreme methods, yet we are willing to send suspects (not convicted or sure bad guys, but suspected) terrorists to a place where others will do the torture for us. Unbelievable.

Question: if you believe that killing is wrong, but put the object of your hatred in front of someone who is willing to do the killing, are you any less morally responsible?

I go back to one of my ongoing questions as well. This administration and the Republican dominated congress are big on their Christian faith. How does torture fit in there? It is one thing to believe that Jesus supports bombing efforts, but can you really see Jesus of Nazareth sitting in the corner while someone hooks up a Philistine to battery cables? Is Jesus the one smoking and smiling while the suspect shudders as the shock hits his body?

Our moral sense is fading and going fast. And it isn't the porn industry that is doing it. It isn't the liberal pro-abortion people who are doing it. It is the moral majority--family values crowd who are promoting, supporting, or tolerating the biggest moral relativism in recent memory. Someone in Bush's Justice office wrote a memo earlier this year justifying torture. Bush responded by saying hadn't read the memo (duh), but then appointed the memo writer to the appelate court.

Evidently, according to President Jesus, torture in the pursuit of global power is no vice.

I am sick to my very core.
To Debate, or not to Debate?

This appears to be a pivotal day in the Presidential election, yet I am unclear if I am going to watch or tivo King of the Hill. These debates are supposed to show us the candidates and their grasp of the issues. Yet, instead, we seem to get yet another "reality" show that isn't real. The candidates have negotiated and scripted so much of the debate that you wonder if any of this is real. Both sides do this, but there was one line I found the most telling:

"The biggest question mark had been the middle presidential debate, which could put Bush in the unusual position of facing questions from critics. Bush campaign aides had been reluctant to agree to the St. Louis debate, but with the president commanding a solid lead in many polls, especially in Missouri, they decided it did not present much risk.

Are you kidding me? This "democracy" and the leader of this "democracy" does not want to face questions from critics? How do the American people tolerate this?

Speaking of democracy, I am struck by the conversation over at the Parish where Greg's wife relates a story on how many fundys see the election. Concerns about life seem to be very limited to abortion and not reflective of other, very important moral issues.

This made me think of a story on NPR the other morning. Being one of the few "liberal" voices, they do periodic stories about soldiers killed in Iraq and interview their families. This one, as I recall, was a soldier from Oregon. His father spoke of the war in eschatalogical terms. He said it wasn't a war between Iraq and America The Coalition of the Willing, but a spiritual battle between God and, I guess, Satan. "The people who don't understand this, need to dig into their bible and read about it. It is predicted, it is predestined." The father goes on to say that his son knew that Bush was a devout Christian and understood that he needed to go because Bush understands this spiritual war that is going on. This struck me how that it took Bush's individual actions or character or choices or morality completely out of the equation. Bush then becomes God's man for the job--period. He is fighting some apocalyptic battle described in the Bible and so the fact that Bush doesn't act like a Christian is irrelevant. I am certainly aware that this family was speaking out of grief as well, and it would be much easier to address a loss that has a divine calling than a meaningless death in a hopeless war.

This (from Jesus Politics) goes along with this thread. We see a President who is more than willing to use and abuse his religious affiliation in any way possible to get elected. / News/ Boston Globe / Opinion / Op-ed / Kerry's Catholicism: "The Republican attack on Kerry's religion goes hand in glove with George W. Bush's exploitation of religion for narrow political purposes. Bush salts his public statements with religious references as a way ofpreempting challenge, a tactic one expects to see in the debate this week. If Jesus is his political philosopher, or if the heavenly father is his adviser on Iraq, then Bush has to explain neither his despotic politics nor his disastrous Iraq policy.

Bush sponsors 'faith based' social projects to disguise his agenda of dismantling structures of government that provide basic human needs. Bush cites religion as a way of justifying a politics of exclusion --wanting America to be a place that bans gay people, keeps women subservient, suspects religious 'outsiders' (whether Muslims or atheists). Such religion is the ground of the 'us versus them' spirit that defines Bush's foreign policy.

Bush uses religion to justify his penchant for violence, which is manifest in nothing so much as his glib use of the word 'evil.' Once an enemy is demonized, transcendent risks can be taken to destroy that enemy. We see this apocalyptic impulse being played out in Iraq today. If in order to obliterate 'evil' it proves necessary to obliterate a whole society -- so be it. A divinity seen as willing the savage murder of an only son as a way of defeating evil is a divinity that blesses an America that destroys Iraq to save it.

So will the debates matter? Will people really care if Bush is a fumbling, bumbling idiot or if he smirks and does that little shoulder shrug at all the inappropriate moments? Will people see God sitting smiling behind Bush? I don't get it. What do people see in this guy?

September 26, 2004

Twisting the Truth (
"A very intelligent political reporter I know said the other night that Republicans simply run better campaigns than Democrats. If I were given a free pass to stretch the truth to the breaking point, I could run a pretty good campaign, too."

Exactly. When truth doesn't matter, Bush looks great.

The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Republicans Admit Mailing Campaign Literature Saying Liberals Will Ban the Bible:
"The Republican Party acknowledged yesterday sending mass mailings to residents of two states warning that 'liberals' seek to ban the Bible. It said the mailings were part of its effort to mobilize religious voters for President Bush.

The mailings include images of the Bible labeled 'banned' and of a gay marriage proposal labeled 'allowed.' A mailing to Arkansas residents warns: 'This will be Arkansas if you don't vote.' A similar mailing was sent to West Virginians."

At least they admit it. But the question still remains: how do people of faith support this garbage? How do they nod while the GOP says directly that liberals can't be Christian?

September 25, 2004

A Meditation on Personal Violence

College football fans know that the nationally ranked Oklahoma Sooners dismissed one of their best players last week. He was, by all accounts, a great football player and a good student. But last week, he (and details are still pending or unclear) put a friend of his in the hospital. This event brought to light other similar events and revealed not a good kid who lost control, but one who has a history of off-field violence.

One of my good friends noted that he heard football fans discussing this case--but all from the perspective of the football player. The injured kid was ignored. I did some of that myself. But other events in my life (no details yet, at least right now) make me far more sensitive to the issue of personal violence. This event now seems far more troublesome from a societal perspective. It isn't just our President who jokes about violence. It is our entire culture.

Personal violence is a very powerful idea in American culture. I teach a course on Western Film and spend a lot of time talking about masculinity and violence. John Wayne's character in Stagecoach saves three bullets for his battle with the evil Plumber gang (they killed his pa). In My Darling Clementine Wyatt Earp faces down the evil Clanton's in a showdown--a test of personal masculine virtue. This theme is ubiquitous in Western film. To truly be a man, you must prove yourself in some kind of physical contest. Violence, and the ability to handle violence, is a good thing. When Jimmy Stewart's character in The Man who Shot Liberty Valance finally tires of John Wayne's bullying, he punches the Duke in the mouth--knocking him down. Wayne shakes his head and grins--later telling Stewart that he had thrown a good punch.

Yet in the real world, these things have real consequences. My brother once (many years ago) got into a fight with a man at a movie theater. My brother was not much of a fighter, and this was over the stupidest of things, but he pushed a little, and this person he didn't know hit him, and my bro spent the next few months eating through a straw. Over what? Nothing of significance, I can tell you. I relate that story in my class when we watch Hud. The film includes a great scene where Hud's (Paul Newman) nephew (Brandon Dewilde) looks at a cute girl in a bar. The girl's companion takes offense, and the bar fight breaks out. In the film it is all good fun. In real life, people actually die in these stupid fights. I ask the class about that scene and mostly get thoughtful responses. Young women usually find the boyfriend's behavior boorish and reflecting insecurity. Young men often are surprised, because they think they are expected to act that way--that women want to be rescued. One student told me that I was completely wrong and that he knew for a fact what women wanted, and his girlfriend would expect him to fight. Sigh.

I remember during my childhood my father telling me that he would never punish me for fighting unless I started the fight or ran from one. I don't actually think he believed that, but it was part of his culture and he thought he had to make me a man. In little league, I had a run-in with some twin boys on my team. Their dad was my coach (and actually a nice guy) but they were the meanest little kids I remember, and for some reason during practice they told me I would get a beating after practice ended. I got out of it by asking their dad for a ride home. I remember sitting in that car with those two kids glaring at me as their dad took me to my home outside town. My wife always compliments me on getting out of a sticky situation (and I agree) but at the time I felt great shame for not fighting. What stupidity.

How does all this relate to a football star's woes? It makes me think how much we absolve violence and laugh it off. It makes me realize that there are many angry, angry people who feel a great entitlement to their anger. When you cross them (drinking or not) they feel the right to hurt you. And we often just sidle. We talk about the drinking, or perhaps that the other guy caused it, or whatever. But most of us don't work that way. We don't hit those who anger us, even if we briefly consider it. We don't feel that right. We get angry, but we don't hurt others.

This violence issue goes well beyond bar fights. That might be for another post.

September 24, 2004

Bush worst thing for Evangelicals since, well, Moral Majority

Those who read this blog and/or know me, know that I have little good to say about this president. I find him arrogant, short-sighted, and anti-intellectual. I think his John Wayne-like foreign policy has created a horrible mess for America. I think when the dust has settled, historians will find Bush at the bottom of the Presidential ladder--making us long for the days of Harding and Grant.

But his worst sin is to the evangelical church.

I have not attended church for 12 years. But during much of that time, even as I disagreed with my friends and relatives in the church, I believed they had a depth of moral and theological thought. I found the Moral Majority annoying and self-righteous, but ultimately powerless. I never minded religious people engaging in politics, though I rankled at the Christian Coalition meddling in churches and mischaracterizing liberals. But I respected those people even as I disagreed. I understood that there was a depth of moral thought behind their opposition to abortion. I disagreed with their stance on the death penalty and homosexuality, but felt that they were earnest in their beliefs. My friends and relatives who shared these beliefs were serious people, who didn't just throw these things around. They tried within their ability to live up to those ideas.

But now we have W. People I respect; who try very hard to treat their coworkers with respect; who try very hard to be honest in their dealings with friends and adversaries alike; who have deep regrets about past racism and a modicum of humility about present bias. All of these people I respect. All of them now in the situation of defending someone who acts in ways that they would not allow in their children. They are forced to defend a man who allowed his campaign to allege an opponent had a black baby out of wedlock. The operative word in South Carolina was always black more than wedlock. This man who claims to follow Jesus Christ belittled a woman condemned to die; he took pleasure in the deaths of enemies; he taunted those who would fight against the American troops. He strutted, he brags, he displays embarrassing arrogance and pride, while showing no humility.

And that may not be the worst. Bush has made his Christian faith a big selling point for his presidency. During the 2000 race he noted that Jesus was his favorite political philosopher. While most people winced (is Jesus really a philosopher?) Bush won great acclaim throughout evangelical Christianity for daring to publicly acknowledge Christ. During the march to war he talked about the importance of his faith. While speaking to Christian audiences he has taken every opportunity to speak "Churchese" in a way they understand. He even worked a Christian hymn (or his speechwriter did) into the most recent State of the Union address. In the Bob Woodward book, he claims that he doesn't ask his earthly father for advice (despite having the unique position of an ex-president father who went to war in this very region), but turns to his heavenly father. After all, not only is Christianity a big selling point, it is the only justification he has for his character. Think about it. If Bush wasn't "Born Again" then what character would he have? He is simply a person with a famous name who drank his first 40 years through failed business and irresponsible behavior. He has nothing to offer.

In my days in the church, I was taught that Christians would be known by their actions. People understood very well that it is easy to speak certain ideas, but much harder to act on them. I have asked my conservative evangelical friends to give me an example of Bush acting as a Christian. If you didn't hear him tell us he was Christian, would you know? Any humility? Any treating enemies or adversaries differently than the "world" does? Anything? As of yet, I have not received any evidence of Bush's christianity beyond his own words and have observed numerous examples of him acting contrary to the faith.

So, Bush has taken a couple of thousand years of Christian theology and turned them into campaign moments and talking points. Even worse, he has turned some key Christian ideas on their head. "Turn the other cheek" has become "bomb them first before they bomb you." "Love thy enemy" has become "love thy friends and spite thy enemies." War is good, peace is unattainable. Poverty is unavoidable, and wealth is not only attainable but preferable and good. Would Jesus (as Bush sees him) feed the 5000 richest Americans and lecture the poorest on their work ethic? Would this Jesus scoff at environmental destruction and dismiss science? People who believe in truth and justice are justifying Bush's actions with the "Kerry does it too," or "Clinton was less moral than Bush." Huh?

I can handle Bush. At least partially, anyway. I can manage with a President who is cynical and manipulative--who has not thought his theology through. I am having a bigger struggle with my friends and family who contort their heartfelt faith to make allowances for this guy. I have lost all sorts of respect for the evangelical approach. It seems much less rigorous than I thought. It seems more content to take a tax cut and ignore serious theological problems. It seems more relativistic and less clear. It is willing to look the other way while Bush savages his opponents and detractors. It seems more concerned with power than with principle.


September 23, 2004

Bush Slogans

Thinking about Bush (or more accurately anti-Bush) slogans. Read one today that I liked: "Kerry/Edwards: Bring Back Complete Sentences."

Here is my suggestion: Bush: All Hat and No Cattle

September 21, 2004

Thinking about church and stuff

Micah has a great post about a Jesuit ministry that puts ex gang members to work and Micah connects that to the current worship movement. He notes that one of the problems with that type of worship is that it is mostly singing about God and how great he is rather than actually trying to BE more like him. As one of the comments put it, that kind of worship service acts as if God is incredibly insecure and has to be soothed with his worshippers telling him how great he is. This is a great contrast between religious faith that actually, tangibly changes people and one that makes the attendees feel good, period. Is that really what faith is about?

Then, in a related vein is a fabulous post by Greg over at the Parish about what the cross means in Christian life. He notes that this stark symbol of sacrifice and obedience has become yet another symbol of self-centered religion. As in Micah's post on worship, the cross no longer calls us to BE anything, since it has all been done for us. Church is rapidly becoming a place where people consume their own ego and call it faith. A place where you sing about how great God is, but don't try to actually do anything to make the world a better place. A place where you can nod "amens" to the sermon about Jesus feeding the 500 and see no irony in your own affluence.

Brandon over at Badchristian has a nice rant going on how his worship leader has graded volunteer worship leaders into categories. The thought of it gives me the willies. The next day he went to church and saw a cheezy drama (in the service) about this binary challenge between good and evil. Church as entertainment, I guess. I am reminded of a church in OKC that was advertising on tv that they would give away a motorcycle at their church service, but you had to attend to be eligible. It all feels for sale.

And finally, a weird and probably common scene. On our way to Austin to the music festival, we glimpsed a church off the interstate in Oklahoma. Not uncommon, and neither was the American flag pole in the front driveway. Circled around this flagpole was a group of people holding hands and (if you can tell from 70 mph) praying. I have heard of the Meet at the Pole movements and suppose this was something like that. But it was the very first time that I ever saw how clearly that looked like people praying to the American flag. But that is what they are doing, right? God=America=GWB=Democracy=Capitalism=SUV, right?
Republicans say that Liberals will ban Bible

WTF? This is the most obvious appropriation of God and the Bible that we have seen in recent years. After all, if Liberals are willing to ban the Bible, they must not be Christians like the good old GOP (God's Own Party?). Disgusting. : GOP Mailing Warns Liberals Will Ban Bibles: "Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November.

The literature shows a Bible with the word 'BANNED' across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word 'ALLOWED.' The mailing tells West Virginians to 'vote Republican to protect our families' and defeat the 'liberal agenda.'"

September 19, 2004

Austin City Limits music fest 2004!

Well, I am surviving ACL 2004!

Don't get me wrong, the music is great, but the heat is almost scary. And the crowds! Probably twice as many people as last year. Heard some great stuff though. Friday it was Roseanne Cash who really impressed us. Terri Hendrix was very interesting, and Sheryl Crow was much better than expected. Ryan Adams (unbelievable voice) is still an ass.

Saturday was a short one for us. Too much leftover heat and fatigue. Heard the Old 97's and they were well worth the heat. Then heard Bruce Robison (married to Kelly Willis and in-laws with a Dixie Chick) and he was really good.

Today we have a long day on tap. Kelly Willis (maybe), Mindy Smith (for sure, dude) Centro-matic, Ben Kweller Jack Ingram, and Drive-by-Truckers. Then, if we can last till then; Wilco. That will be all for us.

It has been really interesting so far. Lots and lots of half-naked people, both those who intrigue you and those who disgust. I am constantly amazed a the beer bellied dumbass frat boys who feel compelled to share their upper torso with the rest of us! Dude!

Ok, that is it for now. The blogging has been on hold since the hotel is internet deprived (bastards!). Probably a good thing since the news seems to be still bad and stupid.



Sunday was indeed one of the hotter days at the festival. We were used to it by then and it didn't seem so bad. Mindy Smith was very impressive, Ben Kweller was so-so, and Elvis Costello was good. Jack Ingram suprised me, and the Drive-by-Truckers sounded very good as we were waiting for Wilco. Wilco was great. They played a lot of stuff off their new album as well as a few of my favorites off YHF. "Poor Places" was great. Ended the show with "Spiders." That was cool.

Then dinner at the Chili place and an early drive back home the next morning. All in all, a very successful festival.

September 13, 2004

Defective Bible

Just too damn funny. Thanks Jape!

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: This Bible You Sold Me Is Clearly Defective and I'd Like to Return It, Please.: "THIS BIBLE YOU SOLD ME IS CLEARLY DEFECTIVE AND I'D LIKE TO RETURN IT, PLEASE.


- - - -

The printer must have run out of black ink, because a bunch of it is in red.

At no point does it tell what the middle initial 'H' in our Savior's name stands for.

It seems to only sort of implicate the Jews in the Crucifixion, and instead suggests by way of self-deprecating irony that humanity as a whole is to blame.

I could not find the part where Moses says, 'You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you all to Hell!'

My understanding is that Noah is supposed to be a large, talking cucumber.

This has got to be a bad translation because the Book of Revelation, instead of very clearly explaining the end times, the Rapture, and the final war with the Antichrist, doesn't make a damn bit of sense. It's full of a bunch of obscure symbols that are so open to interpretation, they could be applied to anything.

I'm pretty sure the real Bible mentions Attorney General John Ashcroft somewhere in it.

- - - -"

September 12, 2004


What the hell is this?

I grew up in a church, and in a church-going family.

I heard about forgiveness my entire life.

I still don't know what it means.

In most situations, this is what it seemed like. Person A did something bad to Person B. According to the church, Person B was supposed to, no FORCED to forgive. No choice involved. I am fine with that, but I still don't know what it means? In this above scenario, it often worked out as Person B giving up any future right to every complain about Person A. To do so would mean that Person A could pull out that chit and say "hey, you can't criticize me anymore. You already forgave me."

I am dealing with this for a reason. Tough stuff, no need for details here. But one person has asked me if I can forgive, and I don't know what that means. Am I holding a grudge? Not really. I am observing a situation where the behavior that I am most grieved by continues. In many ways, it is more disappointment than resentment or grudge. I am disappointed that good people continue to act in ways I find unhealthy. I am trying to keep my perspective here. The asking if I can forgive seems more about control than about forgiving a grievance.

What I do know about forgiveness is that it is often more about me than the person I am supposed to forgive. If I resent people, I am the one who hurts.


September 6, 2004

Do modern churches value women?

Very interesting post below from someone who suggests that the contemporary church consistently elevates male voices above female. I don't attend church anymore, but it certainly reflects my growing up Baptist in Colorado.

a badchristian blog... - my misogynistic worship experience--a longish treatment: "At our church I think that women have been lied to. Men have told them that their voices are more valuable than men's in certian areas. These areas are often child care, secretarial duties, and general baking tasks. Men are left with caring for the flock, leading worship, and generally being in charge of the structural issues of the church. It doesn't take long to do the math and figure out if the church is segmented into male and female roles where males do an inordinate amount of the leadership in 'malish' tasks and women do the 'femalish' tasks--EVERYTHING QUICKLY BECOMES LESS THAN IT COULD BE IF WOMEN AND MEN WERE ON EQUAL FOOTING IN OUR CHURCH. EVERYBODY LOSES!"

September 4, 2004

Bush and Company annoy me

Seriously. They are killing me with their fake Christianity and fake compassion. So I am taking on some other topics. Namely the Death Penalty--something I have opposed in earnest for sometime. I oppose it because I believe the process is riddled with racial and class problems. The poor and non-white are most likely to end up with the needle. DNA evidence showed a lot of convicted killers were wrongfully convicted. I think that the numerous documented problems with the death penalty really require its abolition.

But that was before I learned of the "brutality effect." A discussion with someone in the sociology biz suggested something that I have long suspected. It turns out that people in the business talk about "stranger homicides" v. well, you know, the crimes of passion and stuff like that. States without the death penalty have a steady stranger homicide rate. Those with have a higher rate. What? And it isn't just the higher rate, but a higher rate of homicides, abuse, etc, associated with the execution dates. Streak's partner and I suspect that this makes sense--it is the stoking and encouraging of rage and hatred. The state says that killing is ok and extends to victim's families the false idea that executing someone else will make them feel better and ease their pain. Instead, it stokes the rage and hatred and encourages violence against others. The death of others is held out as a solution. This not only externalizes the health of the hurting, but repeats the idea that violence solves things. It may in certain situations. Certainly if someone is physically attacking my loved-ones I would endorse violence to save their lives. But as an after thought in some death house miles away? No. My hatred will live on unless I deal with it. Killing someone else will not mollify that hatred or rage. And the state is wrong to sell it as a palliative. And doubly wrong if capital punishment encourages the very behavior that they say they want to stop.

The death penalty becomes much like a "bug zapper" supposed to kill the disease carrying mosquitoes that actually kills the wrong bugs and fails to accomplish the intended goal of stopping the mosquitoes. But it looks dramatic and convinces the beer drinking slugs under its light that they are better off. Likewise, the death penalty sells the public a fake sense of security, but makes them less safe, and less moral.

More research on this later.

September 3, 2004 Audience boos as Bush offers best wishes for Clinton's recovery: "WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) _ President Bush on Friday wished Bill Clinton 'best wishes for a swift and speedy recovery.'

'He's is in our thoughts and prayers,' Bush said at a campaign rally.

Bush's audience of thousands in West Allis, Wis., booed. Bush did nothing to stop them. "

Exactly. Why not? WWJD anyway?

UpdateAP now backing off that story. My apologies for believing it so quickly. Republicans dont' impress me very much right now, and I find that easier to believe than I should.