December 31, 2004

This is better

Yahoo! News - Bush Raises Tsunami Aid Tenfold to $350 Million

I am glad to see Bush respond better. I have been reading the blog world on this issue and see a wide ranging discussion. Many conservatives have been very angry at the criticism, and some of their points are not bad. The US does pony up a lot in disaster relief, though the percentages are still worth noting. We can be better about how we respond to the world. Too many conservatives treat global poverty as a result of weakness, rather than looking at the broader issues of the global economy. We should be far more active in addressing these issues. And Bush's lackluster response to this disaster is in contrast with his rhetoric of Christianity.

But $350 million is a much better response.

I also want to address my most recent post. Critics over at Chuck Curry's blog pointed out that many other websites including and other lefty groups were also not advertising the tsunami. That is a good point. Unfortunately, it echoes with what seems like a standard conservative response to criticism--the other side is doing it (or not doing it) too. This works on the playground, but still obscures the point that people who wrap themselves in the mantle of Christianity are incredibly shallow. I know that many people on the right are doing good work and are actually putting up their own money to help out people in need. But make no mistake about it; Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy and James Dobson are not good people. Nor are they good models of Christian faith.

December 30, 2004

This is exactly what I expected

The Family Values crowd is shockingly silent on over 100,000 deaths. What kind of God do they worship?

WorkingForChange-Christian right's compassion deficit: "These powerful and well-funded political Christian fundamentalist organizations appear to be suffering from a compassion deficit. Organizations which are amazingly quick to organize to fight against same-sex marriage, a woman's right to choose, and embryonic stem cell research are missing in action when it comes to responding to the disaster in southern Asia. None of their web sites are actively soliciting aid for the victims of the earthquake/tsunami."

Update The more I think about this the more I resent it. How can anyone call themselves Christian and not be stunned by this? How can political agendas not fade to the background? Maybe they aren't about faith at all. Maybe they are about power.

Private donations are big! That is good.

Yahoo! News - Rush of donations from USA is immediate and immense

Now, if Bush takes credit for this.......

America Stingy? That's Unpossible!

Thanks again to Black Sheep Christian comes this editorial from the NYT. I am glad to see this story have some legs and now respectfully wait for the conservative evangelical community to express their outrage that we are not helping more than we are. Right?

Couple of key points from this editorial:
"According to a poll, most Americans believe the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent."

That is very interesting when you add it to the fact that we give less as a percentage of our GNP than any other industrial nation. Americans, I think, have so internalized our superiority, that they simply assume that we give more than others. Kind of like the joke about everything being bigger in Texas, Americans just assume that we are better. But we aren't.

The sad part is that there is much good in this country. But Bush isn't it. And those who support him are not helping our cause. In fact, Bush has been playing with your perception of your own superiority. Our so-called moral superiority is more about show than about reality--especially under the brush cutter.

"Bush administration officials help create that perception gap. Fuming at the charge of stinginess, Mr. Powell pointed to disaster relief and said the United States 'has given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations in the world.' But for development aid, America gave $16.2 billion in 2003; the European Union gave $37.1 billion. In 2002, those numbers were $13.2 billion for America, and $29.9 billion for Europe.

Making things worse, we often pledge more money than we actually deliver. Victims of the earthquake in Bam, Iran, a year ago are still living in tents because aid, including ours, has not materialized in the amounts pledged. And back in 2002, Mr. Bush announced his Millennium Challenge account to give African countries development assistance of up to $5 billion a year, but the account has yet to disperse a single dollar."

This does not take into account some of the great things that individual Americans have done. We can and should do more as a country. But we can also give of our own wealth.

December 29, 2004

Amazon: this is more like it

While our Prez cycles (to show how fit he is) and clears brush (to show how much of a fake cowboy rugged son of wealth individual he is, some of the rest of society is stepping up. Amazon has put a 1-click donation page front and center.

Streak's other friend noted this from MSNBC's blogger just to show that we aren't the only ones ticked off:
MSNBC - : "The United States government is the wealthiest on the planet. At this time of worldwide horror and grief for the more than 60,000 people killed by the tsunami, and the millions of others who are now homeless, why not start with a billion dollar pledge? Compared to 35 million dollars, a billion would generate worldwide headlines and amazement... and it would  immediately give people across this earth a reason to be thankful for the United States.  And given recent polls showing that hatred for the U.S. is at an all-time high, we could certainly use a better image.

Besides, to put the 35 million dollars in context, consider this: To 'help' the citizens of Iraq, our government is spending 5.8 BILLION dollars each MONTH.  That translates to more than 8 million dollars an hour. Or put another way, the $35 million we have pledged in disaster aid for Southeast Asia is less than the amount the U.S. military spent during the six hours it took on Sunday for the tsunami to cross the Indian Ocean.

I can hear some of you complaining about American 'priorities.'  Hmmmm.  Let's look at our 'priorities.'  Last year, Congress appropriated the following:
$3 million for 'shrimp aquaculture research.' (Since 1985, this program has received 61 million dollars.)
$3 million for the Utah Public Lands 'Artifcact Preservation' program.
$50 million for an 'indoor rainforest project' in Iowa. Yes Iowa.

I could go on and on about our government's 'priorities,' and in 2005, I promise that I will.  But in the meantime, it's embarassing that at the moment, a disaster affecting more than a million people is only ten times more important than preserving artifacts in Utah or studying the behavior of shrimp, and is valued less than building an Iowa rainforest (or occupying Iraq for 6 hours.) 

I'm sure our government will eventually readjust this... and I know the generosity of the United States will exceed that of any other nation.   I just don't understand why we aren't making that statement right from the start, when the message of hope is needed most.  The United States I know is the one that leads and sets an example for the rest of the planet — not one that sits quietly and waits."

And Black Sheep pointed us to a great point about the missed opportunity:
Aid Grows Amid Remarks About President's Absence: "Noting that the disaster occurred at a time when large numbers of people in many nations -- especially Muslim ones such as Indonesia -- object to U.S. policies in Iraq, he said Bush was missing an opportunity to demonstrate American benevolence.

'People do watch and see what we do,' he said. 'Here's an opportunity to remind people of the good we do, and he [Bush] can do it without changing his policy on Iraq or terrorism.'"

Time for America to step up. Yes, Bush should do far more. But we can't wait for him to clear that ranch in Crawford. That place must be infested with brush. We have to do what we can. Take that tax cut and put it to some good use! Go to Amazon, or Doctors without Borders or one of the many other great organizations out there trying to help. Do what you can.

Christianity--another version

This one seems good enough to include the whole thing. Thanks to Black Sheep for this one.

Scary Times


Scary Times, Even for a Preacher
Steve Lopez

November 10, 2004

In my lifetime, there's been one constant in American culture. We've always needed a good target — someone to blame for all our fears and unmet dreams.

African Americans, hippies, communists, Mexican immigrants, homosexuals.

I missed a couple of groups, but you get the point. And the reason I bring this up is that I met with a retired preacher the other day, and he put it all in perspective.

The Rev. John H. Townsend, pastor emeritus of the First Baptist Church of Los Angeles, had dropped me a line after the election. He was grieving over what he called the current "corruption of Christian faith."

I drove to Townsend's house near Hancock Park to hear what he was talking about. Townsend, a slight and soft-spoken man with spectacles, greeted me at the door along with his wife, Carol, a retired schoolteacher.

The retired pastor began by explaining that when he joined First Baptist near the Bullocks Wilshire department store in 1962, the adjoining neighborhood wasn't yet known as Koreatown. Both the church and the neighborhood were still going through wrenching changes.

Before Townsend's arrival, the predominantly white congregation was bitterly split over the acceptance of African Americans into the parish. Some members walked away when First Baptist decided to open the doors to one and all.

Under Townsend, the church went United Nations, passing out headphones for Spanish-language interpretation of services. Then Townsend brought in a Korean minister, followed by a Filipino minister, and the church became a beacon in a time of racial division, celebrating cultural differences in God's name.

So it should come as no surprise that Townsend wasn't too happy with the role "Christianity" played in the recent presidential election. From where he sits, Christianity was used to divide and conquer.

"This is a scary time," he said. He wonders if the spreading stain of hypocrisy will drive some people away from faith, because under the guise of morality, bigotry was used to get the vote out for President Bush.

"I felt manipulated," Pastor Townsend said in reference to the "hubbub raised by the religious right" over homosexuality in particular. "There was this attitude of triumphalism."

Townsend said he was having a conversation with colleagues before the election when someone asked what they should say about the gay issue.

"The answer was that we should say what Jesus said about it. Nothing."

One corruption of the faith, Townsend says, is the selective use of biblical passages by the religious right. Interpreting literally, he pointed out, you can use the Bible to perpetrate all manner of horrors.

"In Psalms, there's a passage about when the enemy comes, you should bash the heads of children against the stones," he said, going on to cite several more examples.

"The Bible must be read contextually, and the real test for us today is: What would Jesus say or do? If he's our touchstone, and Jesus says love your neighbor, that seems more Christian to me than judge your neighbor."

On the very day I write this column, the Rev. Jerry Falwell has launched something called the Faith and Values Coalition to capture the momentum of the Nov. 2 election.

The idea of this "21st century Moral Majority," as Falwell called it, is to "maintain an evangelical revolution of voters who will continue to go to the polls to vote Christian."

One might question the wisdom of an evangelical uprising at a time when we're trying to convince the Arab world we're not anti-Muslim oil raiders. It also seems fair to ask what exactly it means to punch a ballot like a true Christian.

Is it Christian to vote for a man who is pro-life and yet calls himself the war president; who gives tax breaks to millionaires while 40 million people have no health insurance; and who has not exactly been the most faithful steward of a fragile planet that was ostensibly the work of the creator?

There's nothing wrong with vigorously debating Christian values, Townsend says.

"Absolutes escape us."

But President Bush has left no room for that discussion.

"This business of Bush's about reporting to a higher authority, well, I don't say he shouldn't feel that way. But why does he have to tell us? That's what I mean by triumphalism. How can I answer his claim if he's getting this from direct revelation? It pulls the plug on reasonable discourse.

"Isaiah said, 'Come, let us reason together, says the Lord.' "

So how exactly does one reverse the tide of an evangelical revolution and the cheapening of Christianity?

"By lifting up other voices," Townsend says. Last Sunday, he gave the sermon at Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa and called for "a new hearing of the gospel."

"As has often been said," he told the congregation, "the ground is level at the foot of Jesus' cross. No one is superior there; no one is inferior."

Townsend ended his sermon with the same simple idea he shared with me at the end of our conversation — an idea that has guided him since he began his L.A. ministry more than 40 years ago. "Jesus laid it out when he said, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' "

Steve Lopez writes Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at and read previous columns at .

RIP Jerry.

Again, The New York Times > Arts > someone I didn't know died. But it feels me with great sadness. I have watched him for a long time and will miss his work. Sometimes, the death of someone hits you hard, and this is one of those. I am sad.

Comparative costs

As of my last reading, the US had doubled its initial pledge to 35 million dollars for flood relief. Roughly the same amount, as the RLP noted today, the Bush Inauguration will cost (minus security costs!). But that isn't all. The last

Republican National Convention cost upwards of $150 million while the DNC did hardly any better costing $95 million to put on their dog and pony show. If, when it is all said and done, and we spent more on these stupid conventions than helping the poorest in the world, I will hang my head in embarrasment for my country. We are the richest. We should do better.

December 28, 2004

US donates A-Rod's salary to Tsunami victims--almost

Streak's other friend alerted me to this, and we both hope that we are wrong about this. We hope that this is just the first payment and there will be millions and even billions to follow. We can afford tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, the continued use of Hummer's that pollute and show off waste, but can't give the poorest and most devastated nations more than our pocket change. - Donations to tsunami relief 'generous,' U.N. says - Dec 28, 2004: "Powell told CNN's 'American Morning' that the catastrophe was 'unprecedented in scope and scale.'

He said the United States had responded to an appeal by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent by providing $4 million of the $7 million it initially requested worldwide.

The U.S. State Department said an additional $20 million in aid will be added to the $15 million the United States has already pledged for nations hit by the tsunamis."

This fucking pisses me off. I was just writing somewhere else about the whole Christian nation controversy. Well, if we want to be a Christian nation, this looks bad.

Now, contrast that with this little story (I will add the link later):

"Franklin Raines, who was forced out as Fannie Mae's chief executive after five years, is slated to receive a monthly pension of more than $114,000 for life, according to documents the mortgage lending giant filed Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission."

This asshole gets over $100,000 PER MONTH for the rest of his life! Are you fucking kidding me?

December 27, 2004

Democracy may not work very well

Some of you will remember this post where I wrote a letter to my congressman regarding the CRA. Well, he wrote me back. I opened it with a certain anticipation--remembering a similar letter I got from Don Nickles that was surprisingly responsive and decent. Well, Tom Cole wrote a letter about CHANGES TO ETHICS RULES. That's right, he responded to a concerned letter about red-lining with a justification for his support for Tom Delay. This doesn't make me think too highly of our democracy.

I know, I know. It wasn't Representative Cole. it was one of his idiot staffers. But think about it. Some Poli Sci major read a hand-written letter about access to capital and thought, "I don't know what this is about, so I will just send our form letter about Tom Delay." Which is worse? Our education system that provides the idiot staffers for these geniuses? Or the geniuses that make up our elected officials?

I am saying it is a push.

December 23, 2004

Christmas indeed

Natalie posted some of Oscar Romero's writings and they are worth reading at this time. It made me think of Pura Vida and their work in Costa Rica. We found them through Sojourners and have bought a few pounds of their Fair Trade coffee. They make a difference in people's lives. They reduce environmental destruction and help those coffee farmers actually profit from their labor. Their mission statement says it all: "To create good by using capitalism to empower producers, motivate consumers, inspire business leaders, and ultimately serve the poor. We believe in a different approach to business. One driven by good than greed."

Indeed. If you are looking for some hope in this world, there are many good people out there doing good work. Order some coffee or just send them a little money.

December 22, 2004

I didn't know him, but I am sorry

Welcome to Ethics!: "Roy Honeycutt, who championed women in ministry as president of Southern Baptists’ oldest seminary, died Tuesday at age 78."

I didn't know his name, but heard a lot about this controversy during my slow move away from the church. Ultimately, this was the biggest thing for me. I am not sure where I got the feminist impulse. This was before grad school and my exposure to the great issues that feminists worked for. My family was adamant on this issue, as were so many that I admired, and they would have nothing to do with women in ministry. I even remember holding sexist views. I thought I was supposed to be that head of the family. Somewhere along the way, however, I realized that at 5-7, 130 pounds, I was hardly some prototypical male defender. I also had the luxury of spending time with smart women. I eventually married one of them. Ideas of male superiority just became less and less logical until they became offensive.

I am sorry that Roy Honeycutt was pushed aside by the likes of Al Mohler. The SBC has turned into an object of ridicule. It ignores and rejects the intellect, and now has its own Mullah as head. It didn't have to be this way.

Iraq war and Morality

Interesting discussion over at the Jesus Politics. I entered into a little debate about the morality of the war. "Christy" was mad about a post criticizing the American war and asking where the Prince of Peace was this Christmas. She wanted to know if the writer was as upset about Saddam's rape rooms, etc. I responded that all of us agreed that Saddam was bad, but how did that justify our actions? She was unimpressed. I decided to put it in a different way.

"Let's put this in little morality play. Say that your children are playing at a local playground (not the hated and evil government school) and there is this one Bully who likes to humiliate and beat up certain kids--including friends of your children. Now, he has stopped beating up new people, but continues to humiliate certain kids. Your children band together and stand up to Bully and make him stop.

[Now, so far, this morality play represents how you see Iraq, I believe, but not necessarily how I do. But I am giving you the benefit of the doubt here. Like I said earlier, this is how many people see the Iraq war.]

But here is where the story takes an odd turn. Your children and their friends not only have stopped Bully, but they have decided to turn their sights on people who supported Bully. But they really don't know for sure which of the other kids did that. So they start humiliating (making them eat bad stuff, pulling down their pants, punching them in the stomach) these other kids--most of who were also victims of Bully. They come back home and tell you what they did. They say that they stood up to Bully and you are proud of them. They then say that since Bully had humiliated kids, they had decided to also humiliate other kids--but weren't sure if they were really guilty kids or not.

How do you respond to this? Do you pat your kids on the back and tell them that as long as other people started acting evil, it is okay for you to? Or do you say, well, you weren't as bad as Bully, so you are ok."

That is with the generous interpretation of the Iraq war. For the rest of us, it looks more like a really big bully comes along (let's call him Tex) and decides that while he had enjoyed and tolerated Bully in previous years when the victims had been people Tex didn't like either, now Bully has to go. So Tex dismisses the concerns of other, older kids, and smacks Bully down. In the process of the Bully beat-down, many of Bully's victims are caught in the swinging fists and kicking feet. Tex tells them that they are better off and should thank him. Then he appoints a different Bully to act as their playground leader. When some object, Tex starts doing some of the very same acts of intimidation and humiliation that Bully had enjoyed doing--to the very same kids. Then Tex wonders why the kids who had been bullied by Bully don't like him. Of course, if we are true to the story, Tex believes that these kids do like him and admire him even as his henchmen abuse them.

December 19, 2004

To: Conservative Christians. RE: WWJD? CC: Your Conscience

Streak's friend L reminded me of this. She was so mad she was nearly in tears. Me too. Most of my adult life I have been lectured by conservative Christians about morality--mostly from the perspective that their belief in the Bible and their stance on abortion and homosexuality was moral, and my hippie friends were taking our country to hell. Well, the next conservative Christian who lectures me on morality better be wearing a mouth guard.

Case in point. Race in America. Conservative baptists like to talk about their racial sensitivity now. Richard Land brags about his support of the SBC apology on race in 1995. Nevermind that when civil rights workers were dying over race, these same smug bastards were in support of segregation. Nevermind that the entire SBC came into existence because of their support for slavery. Nevermind that even when my friends grudgingly acknowledged that segregation was wrong, they still clung to their opposition of interracial relationships.

Well now we have something is really about economics. You know, putting your money where your mouth is? From Bruce Prescott's fine blog is this story about redlining. Please read it. For those who didn't know, banks used to practice red-lining quite widely. This excluded certain neighborhoods and people from credit. Remember your President Jesus? Well, his administration--deeply steeped in their Christian faith, remember--is now trying to undermine the government efforts to curtail this racist and evil policy.

"In October, a set of proposals by Bush administration appointees threatened to raise the minimum asset level of banks before they are required to participate to $1 billion, up from $250 million, freeing nearly 90 percent of all banks from complying with CRA. For leaving working-class Americans completely on their own, this proposal earns a place in this year's 'Worst of Public Policy.'"

That's right. Mr. Bush and his "very important faith" is trying to make it harder for poor people to get access to credit. Yeah, the same president who has been talking nonstop about the "ownership" society where he wants to encourage home ownership. He must mean for his friends in the wealthier suburbs.

Here is a news flash. This isn't Christian. Not even close. This is easy. No deep philosophical discussions about when life begins or whether your sex inclination is inborn or learned. Simply about access to the American dream. Is your adoration of the market so deep that you really think that racist bankers will extend credit to these people of color on their own?

You voted for him. You told me he was a good Christian man. You assured me that you hated racism and that my cynicism of the suburban church was unwarranted. Read this story and tell me that this is Christian. I dare you. Justify this by any moral standard that wouldn't make the Klan proud.

But Streak, you say. Unlike liberal blogging dogs, I don't have access to the policy makers. What kind of magic can I do? I live in a red state and these things aren't going to change. What can I do?

Write a letter to your congressman. Not an email. Not a form letter. Take out a pen and piece of paper. Right now. I am going to do it as I finish this blog, and I am going to do it in a very old fashioned way, with my Cross fountain pen given to me by my Anglican friend. But I don't know who my congressperson is, you say? I could be really derisive and point out that you have no difficulty finding a theater showing Mel Gibson's snuff film, so I think you can find your congressperson if you want. Go here and put in your zip code. Then write that name down and go to the link for representative offices. Find this person's name and then their address. Mine is Tom Cole from Oklahoma.

But what do I say? Here is what I just wrote:
December 19, 2004

Dear Representative Cole,

I recently read about efforts by the Bush administration to adjust the CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) provisions to let 90% of the lenders off the hook in their efforts to extend credit to the poor. Need I remind you of the irony of the President's push for an "ownership society" while removing some of the access needed?
Nor should I have to remind you of the horrible legacy of racism in this country. We can do better. Please do what you can.


December 18, 2004

Church v. Bars

Several have contributed great comments here on my post on the magical moments. I think some clarifications are in order, because Chloe brings up some good points about the violence that often accompanies drinking. As I noted in the original post, alcohol isn't the magical elixir here. I have also experienced terrible bar moments. But Brandon makes the point clear in his own followup, noting that he and others "have been put off by the fact that it feels like we both find community more forthcoming at places of meeting other than churches." That is the point. It isn't that you need to add alcohol to church, but somehow get that sense of honest exchange and community that can happen in a bar or coffee house.

One other story. I have Episcopalian friends and one invited me to something called "wild man." Every month, the guys in the church met on Friday night and grilled steaks and had a cooler of beer in the fellowship room. One night, we did get into a rather vocal argument about race, American foreign policy and politics. A much older man looked like he wanted to challenge me to a Zell Miller-like duel for my criticism of our Latin American policy. The priest and another man had a shouting match on the nature of racism (the priest thought everyone is partially racist--the other man really objected). All in all, I would say that it was a rough night, but many of them included great conversations.

Story addendum: I told family members about this monthly ritual--family members who are Baptists. One looked concerned, but said something about moderation and how he agreed that Baptists had gotten overly uptight about drinking. The other one looked at me and said, "if it were cheap beer, it would be wrong."

December 16, 2004

Bars and magic

Brandon over at Badchristian mused about what makes bars better than churches. I kind of agree, though with one caveat. I have experienced the same kind of exclusivism and backstabbing that we all hate about church. Some of my former friends have treated me about as bad at our favorite bar as I was ever treated in a church.

But that isn't Brandon's point and his post reminded me of a story from Robert Fulghum's Everything I needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten. I read that book a long time ago (and need to pull it out sometime) and remember a couple of essays that really worked. One was about raking leaves, but the other one was (I think) called "Bar Story." In that one, he describes the kind of loose and honest experience that can happen in a good bar. The alcohol is only one part of the magic--the connections and honesty of the people is the biggest part.

I remember a wedding in Colorado. My cousing was married outdoors at about 8,000 feet. His wedding party rode in on horses and the bridal party came in a horse-drawn wagon. There was a keg of beer and barbecue. A country band started up and the dancing began. It was mostly stilted and awkward at first. Then we had one of those Colorado summer showers that are so common in the mountains. Only rained for 20 minutes, but everyone stopped and headed for cover until the rain lifted. The band started back up and something magical happened with that rain. The dancing after that was real. My folks danced with a kind of pleasure I hadn't seen in a long time. Others took to the dusty yard. It was truly magical.

My family has some problems with alcohol, and that was there too. I have seen that ugly part in bars, of course. But I don't think I have ever felt that kind of magic in a church setting. Never that kind of gleeful honesty where you see people being so clearly themselves.

Air America might have something going for it after all

The Original Unofficial Steve Earle Site

I have not thought well of Air America even though I certainly share more of their political views than I do with fat boy over on the EIB network (or whatever it is called). (Speaking of which, Jon Stewart showed a clip of Jerry Falwell last night and I think he has turned into either Jabba the Hut or his own Fast Food Nation!) I don't like the style of talk radio regardless of the content and wish we could go back to a day when stations had to balance their content.

But, I found this thanks to Jeanne over at Body and Soul. I am a big huge Steve Earle fan and think that Transcendental Blues is one of my all-time favorite albums. I also appreciate his politics and his dedication to fighting the death penalty. Well, Air America gave him a weekly radio show to talk music and politics. As Steve put it: "Oh my God, what is the world coming to? They're giving commie hillbillies radio shows." Many of his shows are available in mp3 format here. I listened to the show with Emmylou Harris (another favorite) and heard her talk about the protest music that informed her own career. Very nice, and some great music. From the Byrds "Turn, Turn, Turn" to a really biting song by Kris Kristopherson, to a Woody song I had forgotten about a plane wreck carrying migrant workers.
Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To die like the dry leaves and rot on my topsoil
And be known by no name except "deportee."

Josh Rubin: Cool Hunting: SHHH!

Ohmigod this is funny. I printed one out and am ready and primed for the next loudmouth! The pdf includes several with check boxes to account for the various conversations we overhear, and one that has in big letters: "The rest of us Don't Care what he/she said to you."

December 14, 2004

"It's not Racist"

Alex, What is known as great way to identify racism.

JS Online: News:: "Custom Now, a store in the River Hills Mall, has been selling a bumper sticker that reads, 'Save a Hunter Shoot a Mung.'

Though misspelled, the slogan was seen as a reference to last month's shooting in Wisconsin. St. Paul resident Chai Soua Vang, a Hmong man, has been charged with murdering six deer hunters after a dispute over a deer stand.

Shopper Jessica Flatequal said she complained to management and was told the store sells many offensive items. 'When I asked to talk to someone about it, they said it's in reference to the hunting incident,' she said.

Flatequal said she was then asked to leave the store.

Some local Hmong residents said the bumper stickers disturbed them.

A store manager who declined to give his name said the word 'mung' in the bumper sticker was actually an acronym for 'minuscule unseen naughty gnat.'

'It's not racist,' he said."

December 13, 2004

Yahoo! News - Wal-Mart Sued Over Evanescence Lyrics
: "The complaint, filed Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court, seeks an order requiring Wal-Mart to either censor or remove the music from its Maryland stores. It also seeks damages of up to $74,500 for each of the thousands of people who bought the music at Wal-Marts in Maryland.

'I don't want any other families to get this, expecting it to be clean. It needs to be removed from the shelves to prevent other children from hearing it,' said plaintiff Trevin Skeens of Brownsville."

That's right. They are suing because of the f-word! Forget suing over the kids that work to manufacture Walmart's cheap crap. Forget worrying about the environmental damage that is harming your kid's future and health. You will sue over the fucking f-word! Are you kidding me? But hey, if they were able to score 75,000 because their poor stupid kid was exposed to the f-word, shouldn't they? I am sure their kid has never heard that word before!

This pretty much seals the deal on how stupid people are. Not that I had any doubts, but good holy god!

December 12, 2004

Best Ornament Ever!

Cold in Laramie will remember this from a trip to San Antonio.

December 10, 2004

Centers and peripheries

I just sat in on a highly technical IT meeting. Gbics, single-mode fibre channel, Brocade switches, SAN fabric, etc. I understood a little. Very little. But I knew what they were talking about.

Walking home I was thinking about all the different groups that I have had at least a partial membership. In high school, I took an AP course, but was not one of the AP "nerds." I remember some of my fellow class mates laughing loudly at a cartoon someone had clipped out of a magazine. The cartoon showed some people exiting a theater, saying "cliches, cliches." The play was Hamlet. I got the joke. But I didn't think it was nearly as funny as my fellow classmates. But the top students in my graduating class knew me, and I knew them.

I was in the band. But the core band people--the serious ones who went on to play in college bands were a different group. They knew me, and I knew them.

I was an athlete. I lettered in tennis and gymnastics; wrestled for a year. The jocks knew me, and I knew them.

But I wasn't really a full member in any of those groups. I kind of feel that way now. I know the full-out IT geeks, and they know me. They laugh when one of my historian friends refers to me as a techno-geek. They know true geeks, and I don't even come close. I am comfortable in academic settings. In fact, that may be my biggest membership now, but since I don't have a full-time teaching job, I am still only a partial member. When I am around fundamentalist Christians, I understand the language. I don't like it, but I understand it. I understand it a little more than I think they realize. But I am also quite comfortable around so-called "unbelievers" and completely understand when they wonder aloud why the fundies believe in a 6,000 year old earth. I understand the pro-life and pro-choice conversations. I am comfortable in mac and windows environments. :)

I really don't know what this means. I know there are numerous groups that award me no affiliation or understanding or comfort level. I know there are groups that I am largely intolerant of. I guess, I feel a certain outsider status today. What that means, I don't know.

December 9, 2004

The more things change...

From Cold in Laramie, this historical quote that sounds suspiciously like GWB or Ann Coulter on our current war with terrorism:

Stephen F. Austin wrote, “a war of barbarism and of despotic principles, waged by the mongrel Spanish-Indian and Negro race, against civilization and the Anglo-American race.”

December 8, 2004

Capitalism and Christianity

Greg plugged Natalie's blog and she raises some very good questions about capitalism.

"In light of the reading I've been doing for a paper about liberation theology, I have been doing a lot of thinking about capitalism and the American church. I was raised to believe that capitalism is the only way to go. I never knew until recently the grave injustices that occur as a result of this system. Why is that? Shouldn't the church be the place where the voiceless have a voice, where we get energized to fight for justice?"

Yahoo! News - Bush Asks Americans to Support Soldiers
: "'In this season of giving, let us stand with the men and women who stand up for America, our military,' Bush said."

Nice little speech, Mr. President. What makes you think that we don't support our troops? I think you would show more support if you had listened to experts in the field, fully funded their effort, provided the number of troops that the "real" military said, and not undermined veteran health benefits. How do conservatives still get the pro-military badge?

December 7, 2004

Christianity and the environment?

I have been grappling with this issue for some time. I grew up in a conservative (though moderate in many ways) Baptist home. My parents read Hal Lindsey and Tim Lahaye. I grew up learning pretty negative things about environmentalists (hippies) and liberals (also hippies). I remember very well the debate over the snail darter, a small fish that held up a dam project. In my family, we found that ridiculous. Some little fish that we didn't even know existed could not stand in the way of human progress.

So, it is with that background that I read Bill Moyer's essay on the religious right and the environment. It is a disturbing vision of the future, but worth the read.

This issue of the environment used to be more on the front burner. 9-11 pushed it back. I am afraid that it will take some catastrophic disaster to move it back. After all, with what we know about global warming and the future depletion of oil, how do Americans drive a Hummer without punching themselves in the face?

I have asked and continue to ask, however, what the Christian community is doing about the environment. As my friend Anglican reminds me, the Christian community includes a lot of different people. That is a good point. This community includes people like Sally Bingham, an environmental minister in California. She is pushing churches to be more enviro-friendly.

Unfortunately, more well-known are the Jerry Falwell's who once famously bragged about driving a Suburban and said his next vehicle would be a Hummer. Oh if he would only punch himself in the face. He better pack a lunch, because that is one pretty large face!

But back to the question. Why do the same people who believe evolution is an unproven theory and Creationism is somehow proven, also oppose attempts to save that same Creation? If God created this world, then why do so many of his followers not care about its destruction? Moyer speaks to part of it--the belief in an imminent rapture making environmental care unimportant. But I don't think all conservative Christians think that way. So, why do they drive their Hummers and live in their polluting suburban neighborhoods and vote for Republicans who make it easier for business to destroy our environment? Anyone?

To be continued.....

December 6, 2004

Sympathetic imagination

Just reading Bruce Prescott's blog this morning and ran across this. I have often wondered if the key thing that kids have to learn is the ability to have compassion for another person's experience. Bruce puts it pretty plainly as his definition for a conscience. I think that is very interesting. If more people had this, they might not park in handicapped spaces!

Mainstream Baptist: "A few years ago I wrote an essay with that title in which I defined conscience as the ability to put yourself in the place of others (in technical terms, sympathetic imagination) and look at yourself through the eyes of an Other (in technical terms, reflexive self-consciousness). I derived this definition from my exegesis for a sermon I gave on what some think is the central biblical text for an understanding of conscience -- 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 (I'll post that sermon and link to it Monday morning)."
Dinosaurs on the Ark?

Monday morning humor, though this is not intentional humor. Thanks to Boing Boing for this Creation Museum | Walk-through.

My favorite: "A real Survivor story. How did Noah and his family survive 371 days alone on an animal-filled boat? Equip yourself with answers through a revealing video."

Evangelicals, you should know that this doesn't help your case.

December 4, 2004

Bring back the public stocks

I don't mean trading IBM openly. I mean the puritan's choice for public humiliation. Seriously. Now.

Why? I will tell you why.

This has happened most at Starbucks. They have a handicapped parking space (actually 2) out front. In the civilized world, we recognize that there are some people who need the access. It is not a big thing for the rest of us to walk the extra 50 feet--especially in Oklahoma where parking is plentiful.

But not everyone abides by that. At the Starbucks we frequent, I have seen this occurrence at least three times. Two times it is the same rich woman driving a big-ass luxury SUV. She keeps the engine running with her rich bitch friend sitting in the passenger seat while rich bitch number 1 goes in to get her coffee. I guess in her mind since she is idling, she doesn't have to worry about taking up space in the handicapped spot. Yesterday, at the beginning of a rather frustrating day, I see another woman just pull into the spot. I glance for the sticker or tag. I even walk around to the back of her car while we are waiting to see if I am missing something. She is large, grant you, even fat-ass as she orders her Carmel Machiatto (that has more sugar in it), but hardly handicapped. I wanted to say something, but also didn't want to make a scene.

Here is my plan. I will print up some stickers for "tagging" (like the fake tickets for SUV drivers) the back of people's car. It should say something like "I park in Handicapped spots, because I am an asshole." or "I park in Handicapped spots because the world truly revolves around me." Maybe just a simple "I hate the handicapped and will take their parking spaces."

I know, I know, this is a dangerous plan. What if someone has a legit permit but isn't displaying it that day? I am not sure I want to actually do this, but it just makes me angry. The biggest problem I see with today's society is the inability to consider how another person experiences their world. That is the problem with homophobia, racism, dismissal of the poor, etc. And if you cannot have compassion for someone who has a real physical handicap, then you better take that fucking fish off your bumper!

December 3, 2004

UCC and Big Media

I received an email from a friend wondering if I was going to blog on this issue. Some other bloggers have weighed in on this, and they have some good observations.

At GetReligion they are largely critical of the media decision, though note that during the 80s, gay activists successfully stopped advertisements concerning gay people converting to straight. At The Parish, and Mainstream Baptist, the word is pretty negative on the lack of inclusion in our religious world today. For me, I agree and see this as symptomatic of broader themes in America. Tolerance is out. Certainty without doubt is in. If you have Ann Coulter rehabilitating McCarthy and Michelle Malkin rehabbing Japanese Internment, one can only speculate if slavery and segregation are next on the table. Conservatives seem to be trying to not only stem the tide of change, but actually roll things back to a previous time period.

As, I think Get Religion pointed out, the irony is that this uproar will give the UCC exactly the coverage and watercooler discussion that they had hoped their ad would produce. Even more. I know I am concerned with how the religious community seems to be flocking to a stance of discrimination and, yes, ignorance (See previous post). I am also concerned with the general tenor in America.'s Super Bowl ad was denied and it was a critique of labor and economic issues. The right was able to squelch a (probably terrible) bio drama on their beloved Reagan. Howard Stern is off the regular air (not that I care) while Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are able to say whatever hateful thing they want to say. Yet, a church wants to suggest that Christians might embrace my gay friends and that is not worthy of the "marketplace of ideas."

December 2, 2004

Evangelical reputation takes another knock

Since the election, I find myself reading less political news. I just don't have the stomach for it. For now, I am trying to focus on surviving this semester and maybe starting to write a little on the connection (or disconnect) between Christianity and the environment.

I had also been working (since Thanksgiving) on a posting as an open letter to my evangelical friends. We shared Thanksgiving dinner and post-Thanksgiving dinner with several friends and the general discussion about our culture was illuminating. I had hoped to express that in a letter, but it just isn't working.

But one of the major points had to do with my scientific friend's general dismay with Christian approach to science and history. We shared that frustration, that so many Christians were so willing to dismiss the host of scientific evidence (evolution) and historical scholarship (America's Christian heritage) despite having little scientific or historical training themselves. Faith, we all agreed, is a good thing. But when faith simply encourages you to selectively dismiss evidence or conclusions you don't like--that is anti-intellectual and not good for either your faith or our culture. Nor is it good when psuedo-scholars like David Barton present "historical scholarship" that begins with a conclusion and then combs the historical record for any supporting evidence to support that. That isn't how scholarship is made. Same with science. Scientists don't start with a conclusion and then keep doing experiements until they find those that fit the conclusion. They examine the evidence and the conclusion is the best explanation for the data they have. It is always open to revision--given new evidence or data. That is what historical scholarship is, and that is what a scientific theory is. It is not, contrary to how I hear many contemporary Christians talk about it, just one person's opinion on the matter. History may be subjective, but it isn't open to every uninformed theory out there.

Ok, enough ranting. What spurred this exact post was the report in the Wash Post about abstinence programs. I don't really have a problem with abstinence, and agree that many kids become sexually active way too young. Encouraging them to have sex before they understand the implications is problematic.

But, and this relates to the above rant, the difference between what you want something to be and what it actually is demands recognition. Wanting America to be a Christian nation doesn't make it so, neither does wanting a 6,000 year old earth. And wanting abstinence-only programs to be the ultimate solution for American youth doesn't make it so. And adhering to that in the face of contrary evidence just makes you look less intelligent and less reasonable. We have had ample evidence in the past that kids who take the "pledge" for abstinence are just as likely to have sex as those who don't. The problem is that many of the pledgers have less knowledge and tools for dealing with sex when they decide to, er, you know, do it. So, as a group, they were more vulnerable to STDs and unintended pregnancies. That isn't good. Seems like losing ground not gaining.

Now this report suggests that the majority of abstinence programs actually further mislead kids about some basic stuff--like how one becomes pregnant and how you catch or don't catch STDs. That isn't good either. Lying to kids usually ends up making them more vulnerable than less.

Thanks to Slactavist for the story.
Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says ( "The report concluded that two of the curricula were accurate but the 11 others, used by 69 organizations in 25 states, contain unproved claims, subjective conclusions or outright falsehoods regarding reproductive health, gender traits and when life begins. In some cases, Waxman said in an interview, the factual issues were limited to occasional misinterpretations of publicly available data; in others, the materials pervasively presented subjective opinions as scientific fact.

Among the misconceptions cited by Waxman's investigators:

• A 43-day-old fetus is a 'thinking person.'

• HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears.

• Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.

One curriculum, called 'Me, My World, My Future,' teaches that women who have an abortion 'are more prone to suicide' and that as many as 10 percent of them become sterile. This contradicts the 2001 edition of a standard obstetrics textbook that says fertility is not affected by elective abortion, the Waxman report said."