March 31, 2005

Sherman Alexie--live blogging

Well, not really. But we are front row to hear him speak. He signed a book for me an hour ago and now we are sitting in the auditorium getting ready. I have missed hearing him speak before, so this is nice.

The additional fact that the auditorium has wireless is cool. Cold In Laramie let me use his logon for this post.

So, for those of you outside Wyoming, go read "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven," or "Reservations Blues" and think of Streak and Cold in Laramie.

Oh, and it is still really cold here.

And Windy.

Wyoming continued

Still here.

Still Windy.

And a funny thing happened yesterday. It snowed. It was hilariously freezing.


March 30, 2005

Purpose driven profit?

From Bad Catholic a great post on receiving a mailing that mentioned the Atlanta hostage situation and Warren's book, and then plugged the purchase of the same book. I agree with catholic_girl on this one. Crass, crass, crass.

March 28, 2005

Streak goes to Wyoming

Road trip! Yeah, I am off to Wonderful Wyoming where the wind makes Oklahoma look like a patio fan. Where it snows in August, and July, and June.

Anyway, off to speak at a symposium. Taking the Streak's Blog to public sphere, as it were. Don't worry, I will keep the obscenities to a minimum. No more than I need, but no less.

I hope to blog from there, but who knows. Electricity just got there last year, so internet is shaky. Only have Playstation 2, an easy game with the host, and then the post game mocking.

Then it will snow.

March 27, 2005


Ok, I need to buy one of these because I keep watching that damn Fox News.

Watching is really a misnomer. I flip past and sometimes watch to see just how bad they are. When Brit Hume was interviewing Bill Richardson and Newt Gingrich, I watched for a bit--kind of like watching a 2 on 1 basketaball play.

Sure enough, Brit acted just as I thought. When the topic of Shiavo came up, Hume asked Richardson about it. Richardson said that he thought that true conservatives would be bothered by the congress and President intruding on this family affair. Hume pointed out (correctly) that many of the family members disagreed with him. Richardson misspoke then saying that if he were in that position, he would want to keep her alive, but would not turn to the congress, president and the courts.

That last part was the mistake and Newt pounced--saying that liberals wanted convicted murderers on death row to have appeals, but not innocent people in hospital beds. Balls. Hume pointed out that the state's right's argument had been used to defend segregation. Right. Of course, Hume never trotted that out when Bush believed in state's rights. You remember that--before he used the Supreme Court to override the Florida courts? To win the Presidency? (note, I really don't care about that particular case, but it does violate the President's own words. Of course, most of his policies do that, but who is counting? Certainly not his supporters).

But see what Newt did? He pulled a little slight of hand--focusing on an appeals process to say that liberals like murderers more than Terry Shiavo. That is a rhetorical falsehood. First, no one has said that the courts should not be involved in this situation, though everyone notes that it would be easier if the documentation was in place to make the courts less necessary. But if you were listening to Newt, you would think that the Shiavo family supporters have had no legal access. This case has been litigated in and out. Appealed and then appealed. Some thought the family took that too far, but I didn't hear anyone trying to limit that access. They used the courts--they just didn't get the result they wanted.

What conservatives should be--and most are--mad about is the congress and President intruding on this. And there, Richardson was just outplayed by the Newt. Conservatives used to believe that the government should stay out of things like this. Some still do. But don't tell Newt and Fox news. They really operate from one "principle"--whatever keeps us in power is our principle.

Can we dispense with any notion of Republican responsibility or principle?

MSNBC - House OKs $37 million for Wal-Mart H.Q. road : "BENTONVILLE, Ark. - The U.S. House has approved a federal highway bill that includes $37 million for widening and extending the Bentonville street that provides the main access to the headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores Inc."

That's right. We are cutting services for the poor, the disabled poor and veterans who fought for this country. Meanwhile the congress can provide $37 million for the richest and biggest corporation in the country. Nice. What conservative principle is this?

Just remember this the next time Republicans lecture Democrats on the role of government.

March 26, 2005


I was watching PBS last night briefly and saw Tucker Carlson. He bugs me. I want to like him, but I just can't. I know he is better than the Sean Hannity's and Bill O'Reilly's, but he is still a dick. And this interview really showed me why.

He was interviewing an MD who was talking about the sex offender who killed that young girl in Florida. Clearly a tragic case with a guy who had been caught before and released. Carlson was talking about how we needed to just lock up all the sex offenders and keep them locked up. The doctor kept trying to explain why that was a bad idea. He kept pointing out the wide variety of sex offenders from the sexual predator (clearly dangerous) to the inappropriate (flasher, perhaps). Mary Kay Letourneau is a sex offender, but we don't really fear her killing anyone, do we? Carlson kept wanting to lump them all together. That doesn't work, and isn't really American, is it?

The other part that really bugged me was when Tucker asked the Doc about what creates a pedophile. The doctor was great and tried to explain the complexities of it. He pointed out that no one chooses this--no one wants to be sexually attracted to pre-pubescent kids. That said, he was not excusing them, but noting that they were not doing this willfully. Many of them are abused themselves as kids--again not an excuse, but certainly important to note. The doctor said that when something like this happens in Florida, there is a lot of blame to go around--first and foremost the offender, but in this case, the legal system had just tried to incarcerate this guy into not doing this. No counseling, no help--just jail. The doctor said that our society as a whole had failed here.

Tucker would hear none of that, and it dawned on me that might be one of the differences between many liberals and many conservatives. Tucker wanted one cause, one cure, and one responsibility. He wanted it clear cut. I watched that and thought the doctor made a great point. There are multiple causations to most things. I can say that we as a society fail young men when we don't do a lot of things. If we leave them in poverty, with no education or way out, make guns readily available--we should not be surprised when they commit crimes. Is that an excuse for the individual criminal? No. They are responsible as individuals for the choice they made, but we as a society are also responsible for not doing more. I don't see a problem with that. No need to absolve the kid for doing the crime, but can also concede that with better opportunity and education, he might not have done it.

That might explain how conservative American responded to 9-11 v. liberals. Liberals like myself looked at that event and thought that there were a lot of reasons and history behind that event. Arming the rebels in Afghanistan made a lot of sense in the early 80s, but it came back to bite us. Our dealings with muslim moderates in the 1950s in Iran led us to support the Shaw of Iran. Our policy of valuing oil over human rights and playing cold war politics with third world lives had come back to haunt us.

That said, there was no excuse for what those hijackers did. That was an act of evil, I don't deny. Why can't we talk about both? Raising the first one tends to lead conservatives to accuse me of blaming America. Why? Why are the people who generally hate government and assume it is inefficient and dangerous so sure that our foreign policy has been perfect? Why is my suggestion that we had encouraged a good bit of hatred throughout the world seen as an apology for Atta and his fellow hijackers?

There are multiple things at work. Just as that child abuser is responsible for his actions, those hijackers are to blame for the dead on 9-11. But we play a role in both. It isn't about making excuses for evil, or blaming the US, but noting things that we can do to improve. We can take steps (not under this administration, perhaps) to try to reach out to developing countries and try to ensure those people that we don't bomb them capriciously. We can try to be more consistent in our dealings with leaders and avoid (when we can) supporting dictators and secret police simply because we both have a common enemy.

In the child abuse case, we can try to be more proactive. When we know of cases that send up flags, we should do what we can with therapy and counseling. In other words, we should do what we can to help people who are clearly broken. If they don't avail themselves of that help, or still choose to abuse, then we have the obligation to protect the public from such people.

I, for one, am tired of conservative bashing liberals as bleeding hearts who coddle people. I don't coddle. But I also think that life is more complicated than many conservatives seem to want to believe. And complicated situations--terrorism, child abuse, crime, poverty--take complex and nuanced approaches.

I don't think that makes me an American hater, nor an apologist for abusers.

The right is dangerously wrong

Commenter Bill Wilson posted this link on his blog whereKos points out that the political grandstanding of people like Delay and Bush, added with the completely irresponsible coverage on the "news" (think referring to Michael Shiavo as a Nazi, or as Greg just posted, Fox using John Edward (psychic) to tell us what Terry Shiavo is feeling) has dangerous implications. The FBI just arrested a man who was going to kill Michael Shiavo, and there have been numerous death threats against him and the judge that ruled agains the wacko right.

Is this really a "culture of life?" Have you all lost your minds? Seriously. Have we really come to the point when the church going public is going to look on as their elected officials and Fox News essentially push for anarchy? If one other person dies in this case, it will be the responsibility of the asswipes on television and Pat Robertson who have stoked this into a frenzy.

I am thinking about this a lot because I am giving a talk next week on stereotypes where I argue the simple idea that when you have dehumanized the other into an "evil" person, you have very little recourse but to kill them. We see it throughout our history, but are seeing it endorsed now from the highest levels.

Think about this. This could be any of our families in this mess. We could be looking at a loved one in a coma and grappling with this horrible situation. Imagine turning on the tv and seeing Tom Delay declare that your loved one was sent by God to help him! Or flipping on the news and seeing assholes like Robert Novak flippantly decide that you are an immoral and possibly evil person because of your stance. Your family tragedy exposed for all to see and politicians from the Right taking to podiums and microphones everywhere to talk about your tragedy. This isn't right. Not by any stretch.

March 25, 2005

Read this

Thanks to Streak's other friend. The Real Live Preacher is usually good. This one is better than most.

"My oldest daughter doesn’t believe in God anymore, so she says. She told me this recently at Starbucks."

Read this.

Bush rewards wealth, not service

Sojo nails it. I am sorry. How do conservative supporters defend this budget? As this article suggests, no President has cut taxes (especially for the rich) during a war. Think about it. We are giving the wealthiest Americans tax cuts while cutting veteran's benefits and services for the poor. How do you people look yourself in the mirror? How do you fill out your taxes and not wince? I thought you were all pro-military--big on the patriotism of the military? But no, just like Bush, you are more concerned with cutting taxes than taking care of either the poor or the military. These people put their lives on the line for your country and your misguided foreign policy, and your President rewards them with less services. I don't get it.

This column is dead on. We are lacking shame as a nation, and I am sorry to say it, but Republicans have lost every vestige of it. Supporting this budget and tax policies are indefensible, and I think you know it. That is why you focus on abortion and gays. You know that if we talk about the morality of this budget, you will lower your head.

Maybe it is time to actually act on your faith. Call your senator and congressperson. Tell them that you are a Republican voter and you want to see those tax cuts reversed. Tell them that you support this president and this war and you think that a true conservative would not ask the poor and working class to pay for it.

anyway, read below on the shame of a nation...

"Charlie Richardson, co-founder of Military Families Speak Out, is opposed to the war and advocates bringing home the troops. 'It’s disgusting that they are asking families like mine to make enormous sacrifices while they give tax cuts to billionaires,' said Richardson. 'We’re having bake sales to buy Kevlar bulletproof vests to keep our kids alive in a war that never should have begun. Whatever happened to shared sacrifice?'

People on opposite sides of the Iraq war are shocked by the stunning inequality of sacrifice during this military engagement. Never in the history of U.S. warfare has Congress pushed tax cuts, let alone permanent tax cuts for the very wealthy. Historically, the opposite has been true: Wealth has been 'conscripted,' in the form of progressive income and estate taxes, to at least symbolize that everyone is contributing in some way.

THE U.S. HISTORY of progressive taxation is wound together with mobilizations for war. The first federal tax on wealth was levied in 1797, as our country was faced with the escalating costs of responding to French attacks on American shipping.

During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood that national domestic unity against Hitler depended on a sense of shared sacrifice by both Rockefeller and Rosie the Riveter. Top income rates were boosted, and the estate tax was increased so that fortunes exceeding $50 million would be taxed at the 70-percent rate. FDR spoke out boldly against war profiteering, saying, 'I don’t want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster.'

Congress is now debating a budget that masks the costs of the war, continues massive tax cuts for the rich, and attempts to reduce the deficit with massive budget cuts. 'The cuts in veterans’ services are bad enough,' observed Richardson. 'But they are also cutting higher education spending, which forces poor and middle income kids graduating from high school to look to the military as one of the few options for an affordable education or job with health insurance.'

The current tolerance for this inequality of sacrifice is a moral indictment of America’s ruling and wealthy elites. How can families in the richest 1 percent accept millions of dollars in tax cuts at a time when other families are doing fundraisers to buy bulletproof vests for their children in the line of fire? How can wealthy families advocate for the abolition of the inheritance tax when other people’s children, in Iraq and the United States, are wounded and maimed for life?

With all this talk of budget gaps, the biggest deficit among our nation’s political leaders appears to be in shame." | Bush breaks shooting silence (26-03-2005) | Bush breaks shooting silence (26-03-2005): "Mr Bush's silence drew fire from some American Indians, including Clyde Bellecourt, a Chippewa Indian who is the founder and national director of the American Indian Movement in Red Lake.

'It's kind of late,' he said of Mr Bush's call to Mr Jourdain. 'He should have been the first one to reach out to the Red Lake Indian community.'

Mr Bellecourt cited Mr Bush's decision to rush back to the White House from his Texas ranch last weekend to sign unprecedented emergency legislation allowing Mrs Schiavo's case to be reviewed in federal courts.

"He does not have any problems flying in to restore the feeding tube to Terri Schiavo. I'm sure if this happened in some school in Texas and a bunch of white kids were shot down, he would have been there too," Mr Bellecourt said."

I am afraid that last quote is dead on. Had this happened in Austin or Dallas, Bush would have been on TV immediately. Give us all a break, Mr. President. You are perfectly willing to pose over Terry Shiavo. Face it. Indian kids don't fit into your agenda. Now, had they been millionaires you could promise my tax money to while you cut veterans benefits....

I really thought it was the last one

The Rude Pundit (and be warned, he really is rude) made a fabulous point that I thought needed to be raised. Despite all this concern about life coming from President Bush, and the rush to fly from Crawford to sign the "look at me, I care about life" bill, Rude Pundit points out that Bush has said nothing about what happened at Red Lake. Nothing. Not a word.

On Thursday, Bush issued an Easter message, wherein he talked about the resurrection of Christ and said, "[W]e thank God for His blessings and ask for His wisdom and guidance. We also keep in our thoughts and prayers the men and women of our Armed Forces -- especially those far from home, separated from family and friends by the call of duty." He remembered the soldiers. He always remembers the soldiers. They are ever present.

In each of these statements and events, Bush did not ask for anyone to remember the Indians of Red Lake, Minnesota. Bush did not ask for us to pray for them. Bush did not send his regrets. Bush made no appearance to mourn. Bush is silent. He has planned to go to Europe, but has no plans to helicopter into the reservation.

What message does that send?

I hate to say it, but it sends an age-old message to Native Americans. It also says that Bush's great culture of life is very, very limited--to people who might vote for him.

But, as Cold in Laramie just pointed out, there is more than just Bush to be frustrated here. Why, he asks, was the Columbine event a "massacre" while the Red Lake is referred to as a "shooting?" Why talk about these in different terms? Are Indian kids somehow expected to die violently? Is this a throwback to the 19th century when Indians died in "battles" but whites were "slaughtered" in "massacres?"

I hate to say this too, but it speaks to how we culturally frame these issues. Urban youth experience a shocking level of violence in their lives, but American only freaks when it happens in a suburban school. Now it has happened on an Indian reservation. White America has no idea what to do with that. Can we blame it simply on weak gun control? What about teaching evolution in schools? Not allowing prayer? Those were all ridiculous explanations for Columbine. Do most Americans see Indians in the context of a John Wayne movie? Can we still not see Indians as people?

I think Rude Pundit gets many things wrong, even in this piece, but this contrast of the outrage over Terry Shiavo v. Red Lake is instructive, and not in a positive way. I am not suggesting that Republicans turn Red Lake into another circus, but their avoidance of this really echoes.

Power, Principle, and Faith

I kind of hope that this is my last post on the Shiavo case. Like so many people out there, I am tired of how this deeply personal family tragedy has been so manipulated and used by so many people.

But Streak's other friend and I were musing about the principle issues at stake. We are not the first to note that the party that used to be most concerned about keeping government out of personal lives is now supporting some of the most intrusive actions the government can do. Jeb Bush wants to take Terry Shiavo into state custody. Numerous people, including our philosopher President, have said that if you are going to err, should err on the side of life. Funny how those same people seem to not feel the same way when a person's guilt or innocence is in doubt--and many want those people to have very limited appeals. Just kill them.

But why are these "principles" clearly so not-principled?

I really don't know. But those people who call themselves conservative used to criticize people like me for my liberal beliefs. Since I didn't base them on some absolute truth, they said that my beliefs were not well-founded in principle.

Well, let me say that if you can blather on in 2000 about the government not telling people what to do, but then muster all the power you have to over-ride state courts and intrude on the most personal and tragic event, you have no principle underlying your policy. And that is exactly what Bush has done.

I kind of expect that from him. Despite his spin of being principled, he has shown himself to not be. But I am most surprised by conservatives I know--people who talked a lot under Clinton about "principle" and the "rule of law"--who are now excusing government intrusion and and expanding state, to say nothing of justifying debt practices, a hostile foreign policy and the growth of a theocratic state.

If I were a conservative who disliked Clinton but now loves Bush, I would do a little inventory and see if I could find my principle. Might be worth dusting off and seeing if any of it matches this current administration.

Just a thought.

OBU fires employee for criticizing a church

Oklahoma Baptist University

March 24, 2005

Easter Confessions

Holy week is upon us and Easter is this Sunday. And I have no clue what to do with that.

I have been thinking about Easter a lot lately. It is a difficult time for me, for some reason. It is not my favorite holiday. That hasn't been helped with the Mel Gibson stuff, or here locally with churches giving away a Harley or advertising their Easter pageant. Streak's other friend and I winced last night at an ad on television that was clearly marketing a special Easter sale. It is all for sale, and under capitalism, this date on the religious calendar is as good a reason to sell useless shit as any other. That bothers me, but it does not surprise.

Maybe growing up Baptist, I never really understood the church calendar. I didn't know what advent was (except for the advent calendar) and it took me years to understand that Mardi Gras was any way connected to religion. I remember asking a girl out to lunch in high school. She told me she had given up lunch for lent. I thought she was making it up, but didn't even really understand what she was talking about. In retrospect, she was trying to be nice to me (she was a nice girl, and had a really nice boyfriend who could have crushed me like a bug--I am not sure what I was thinking.....).

We attended a pretty special SBC church in Houston at South Main. I am not sure it is still the church it used to be after the pastor left, but it was really a great place. They had an active aids ministry (in the 80s, no less), participated in helping the poor, worked closely with cancer patients at MD Anderson, and refused to both leave the inner city or build giant health clubs. (It was also around ground zero of the counter revolution against the fundy takeover, but I didn't know that until just recently.) Anyway, I remember the first time I saw them dress in vestments (?) and we celebrated advent. I liked that.

I remember going to sunrise services as a child--shivering as the fire took hold and waiting for the sun to come up. I know many enjoyed those. I understood (and understand) the symbolism, but am just not sure it ever took. I remember the confusion about easter eggs. I don't remember it being a bad experience by any stretch, just not one that I really enjoyed.

As an adult, Easter has continued to kind of puzzle me. Maybe it goes back to my spring depression. Springtime has plagued me for a variety of reasons. For years the changes in weather and plant life made me miserable during this period. I remember when I was still in school, the new year always filled me with fear about what I would accomplish this year. One Easter eve, our cat died. That was painful. Still is.

So, it is with a bit of trepidation that I approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I am glad for those of you who find great meaning in this week. I respect that.


More on the Religious Right and their devil's bargain with politics

NY Times columnist Frank Rich is hardly a popular figure in the Religious Right, I am sure. He has been hyper critical of the following of the Left Behind books, and was one of the first to clearly articulate that Mel Gibson was playing people with his blood-fest crucifixion flick. I agreed with that take and saw much of the duplicity in Gibson as well--all confirmed by the director's involvement and licensing of ghoulish souvenirs from the film.

Well, this column makes more connections that some of us have worried about. (Thanks to Bad Catholic for the link, btw.) He starts by pointing out that many of the Ten Commandments statues around the country were put there by Cecille B. DeMille to promote his movie. That's right, these weren't put there to worship God, but to worship Hollywood.

But, as Rich notes, that is nothing compared to what we have today. "The religio-hucksterism surrounding the Schiavo case makes DeMille's Hollywood crusades look like amateur night." Politicians from all over the map are lining up to profit from this family's tragedy. Bill Frist, heart surgeon, senator, and presidential hopeful, said that watching video tapes of Shiavo allowed him to second guess doctors who actually examined the woman. Nice. Tom Delay has been even worse. When he isn't doing his best Barry Bond's imitation, he is jumping all over the Shiavo case. "DeLay, last seen on "60 Minutes" a few weeks ago deflecting Lesley Stahl's questions about his proximity to allegedly criminal fund-raising by saying he would talk only about children stranded by the tsunami. Those kids were quickly forgotten as he hitched his own political rehabilitation to a brain-damaged patient's feeding tube. Adopting a prayerful tone, the former exterminator from Sugar Land, Tex., took it upon himself to instruct "millions of people praying around the world this Palm Sunday weekend" to "not be afraid."

And this from our compassionate commander in chief:

The president was not about to be outpreached by these saps. The same Mr. Bush who couldn't be bothered to interrupt his vacation during the darkening summer of 2001, not even when he received a briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.," flew from his Crawford ranch to Washington to sign Congress's Schiavo bill into law. The bill could have been flown to him in Texas, but his ceremonial arrival and departure by helicopter on the White House lawn allowed him to showboat as if he had just landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Within hours he turned Ms. Schiavo into a slick applause line at a Social Security rally. "It is wise to always err on the side of life," he said, wisdom that apparently had not occurred to him in 1999, when he mocked the failed pleas for clemency of Karla Faye Tucker, the born-again Texas death-row inmate, in a magazine interview with Tucker Carlson." (emphasis mine)

The rest of the column is worth reading. Rich connects all this to the growing concern public school teachers have about mentioning evolution; the IMAX theaters not showing films on the Galapagos islands because real evidence might offend religious fundamentalists who cling to a 6,000 year old earth. Science is being traded for faith in what is a fool's bargain. There is no need to exchange one for the other, but lacking both is a detriment to us all.

As Rich notes, the polls show that only 20 percent of Americans really believe what these Republican politicians pretend to believe. Most Americans don't want their government overriding state courts time and time again, and certainly not to force a politically charged outcome on an intensely painful private tragedy. That won't stop them from doing it. As the West Wing said last night on tv, people who demand expressions of faith also demand to be lied to and manipulated. I don't understand why they want that outcome, but they seem to line up to have someone like Delay--a person they would not want as a friend, colleague, church member, or neighbor--pander to their most inner beliefs. In the end, politics is undermined, but faith is sold.

March 23, 2005

The West Wing

Sometimes TV gets it right. Tonight's was great. Alan Alda plays the Republican nominee, though in TV land the Republican nominee is smart, moderate and reasoned. Shock, huh?

Well, this particular Republican candidate is someone who has tried to engage his faith, but he has serious doubts--doubts that his wife's death didn't help. But he is a good man. He is honorable and kind and decent. But he doesn't go to church. I can relate to that.

Well, one of his primary opponents was a Reverend who bashed Alda's charcter over abortion and invited him to his church where, as he told the press, he would pray to change the Senator's mind on abortion.

The Senator is, as I noted, pretty iffy about church (another thing I related to) and doesn't want to go. But his political advisors tell him that is a sure fire win. Just go, make a showing and you shore up all the Conservative Christians who support the Reverend.

Finally, after agonizing over this decision, the Senator finally responds to the question:

"I respect his church too much to use it for my own political purposes. And the truth is, it would only be an act of political phonies.
I want to warn everyone in the press, and all the voters out there. If you demand expressions of religious faith from politicians, you are just begging to be lied to. They won't all lie to you, but a lot of them will. And it will be the easiest lie they ever had to tell to get your votes."

I understand this is television. But it is nice to see someone else suggest that the religious right is selling out their votes for very little gain. By supporting Bush so blindly, they have invited deceit and further selling out. They have invited every dumb ass politician to get on television and quote from the bible and talk about his "deep and personal relationship with Jesus" while politically persuing profits and destruction.

People of faith, you are serious about it. Don't sell it. Don't sell your heartfelt belief for a pretense of power. Don't do it.

People I would like to have coffee/beer/dinner with

This is a dream list, of course, and won't happen. But these people intrigue me. Don't mistake them as heroes of mine, just people who I find interesting.

1) Jon Stewart. Someone compared me to him once, which I took as a high compliment. His quick wit and clear intelligence would make him a fascinating dinner companion.

2) Bill Clinton. Yeah, I know, I know. I wouldn't ask him for marriage advice, for sure, but I think he is an intelligent guy who would make for a bright and challenging dinner/coffee. He knows more about a lot of things than most, and I think he would be engaging and thoughtful. (Much more than I can say about the current president who does not interest me in the least. I cannot imagine finding something to talk about with him. I think Clinton is the only politician on my list.

3) Paul Newman. Perhaps my favorite actor of all time. Clearly an intelligent guy who has done a lot in his life. And I know for a fact he likes beer!

4) A few other actors that I will lump in here. John Cusack and Susan Sarandon. Cusack is one of my favorites and I have had a crush on Sarandon (Streak's other friend is aware, trust me) since Bull Durham.

5) Steve Earle. Easily my favorite singer/songwriter/activist. A tortured soul who was drugged out in the 80s, but has cleaned up and produced some amazing work. If I could con him and Emmylou Harris to invite me to dinner and a jam session, I would be ok with that.

6) U2. All four of them. With lyrics like this, who wouldn't want to meet them?
Don't believe the devil
I don't believe his book
But the truth is not the same
Without the lies he made up

7) Bishop Tutu and Sister Helen Prejean. People who have seen what they have seen and still have faith, not only in God, but in humanity. That has to be a good discussion.

I will add more as I think of them.

Tom Delay and Barry Bonds

Separated at birth?

Jesus Politics: Elmer Gantry, Martin Buber and the Christian Right: "And what, exactly, is going on in the United States? 'Attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others,' DeLay told his flock. So God has now thrown in with DeLay in his efforts to pack the House ethics committee with his allies so that he no longer need be the subject of the scrutiny and censure of his peers." | 03/23/2005 | Barry Bonds' breaking point: "``You wanted me to jump off the bridge, I finally have jumped. You wanted to bring me down, you've finally brought me and my family down,'' Bonds told reporters at the Giants' spring training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz. ``So now go pick a different person. I'm done. Do the best I can, that's about it"

Neither is responsible for anything. Neither has caused any of his problems. Both are the victims of others (liberals, media, racists).

Both are wrong and both are huge jerks.

Only Nixon could go to China

I am still mad about this. I have read a little more about these "vnr" or "video news releases" and it makes me very nervous. The GAO, btw, said these were propaganda and the agencies should not do it. Bush said his Justice department said they were fine and angencies should ignore the one agency that kind of audits the federal government. No mere mortal dare criticize the Bushies.

These videos are made with taxpayer money, and were aired on many stations without disclosing their origins as public relations pieces. So, the State Department can release a video that shows Iraqis thanking Bush and the USA, and poor and stupid news agencies can replay that as if it is real reporting. A cynic could say that there is little difference between these government made reports and what Fox turns out on a regular basis, but that is the cynical view.

I have thought about this for a while. I remember Spock's line in one of the Star Trek movies where he is pushing Kirk to make peace with the Klingon or somebody. Kirk's longstanding repuatation as a Klingon-hater gave him credibility. Just as Nixon's longstanding anti-communist stance allowed him to make some steps with "red" China that Johnson or Kennedy could never do.

That is the positive side of this kind of bias. The negative appears to be the fact that a "conservative" is also the only one who can truly undermine your civil liberties because no one expects him to. Under Clinton, these kinds of videos would be called propaganda too, but from Frist, and Lott, and Hastert and Delay. "Slick Willy" was noted for spin, and for being liberal, so he was accused of undermining free speech and civil liberties on every turn--even when he was prosecuting nuts in compounds. But Bush can insist on loyatly oaths to enter his "town meetings," pay off commentators, allow a gay prostitute shill to ask him questions (under a fake name), and now release propaganda videos. My conservative friends say nothing. I am puzzled.

We have historically made fun of regimes that lacked a free press. I remember the jokes about Soviet "news;" the fact that Pravda meant "truth" and the government completely controlled the news. Conservatives were loudest in that criticism. Now they watch and justify and make excuses.

You also see how gradually and how innocently this can begin. Every institution does it. Watch a college football game and see the little video clips that tout each individual institution's credentials. No one really thinks that they are unbiased. They are propaganda. Like when the 700 club has a "story" on Regent "University." All are owned by Big Head Pat, and so no one is really surprised that all the stories are glowing, right? Same when ABC covers Disney?

Make no mistake about it--if they try to sell this as a news story with "this is Kelly Wilson reporting," they are trying to deceive. This is propaganda. And if this were as pervasive under Clinton, many of you would be sneering. But you are so used to defending Bush that you have lost the ability to see it.

A conservative is taking away your freedoms and you are patting him on the back. Somewhere you will need to take a look at what conservative political philosophy actually is. You know, small government, not intruding on state court cases, a belief in the free market and free press. None of these are supported by Bush. And you are all helping him.

March 22, 2005

Streak's Blog goes International!

We received a nice comment this morning here at Streak's Blog from Silvia, who is reading us from Italy. This is very cool, and I hope that you will give us an Italian perspective on our petty issues. That is, if you want, Sylvia. You are more than welcome here! It does make me regret my limited language skills though, and make me more impressed with our international peoples who can move from language to language!


Indians and Christians, Hah!

Those who have read Sherman Alexie (and if you haven't, shame!) will probably chuckle at that title. After all, Christians have not played well with Native Peoples, you could say.

But my post is really not about that. I am reading

Shepard Krech's "The Ecological Indian." Interesting and mildly controversial book. At its core is something that made me think about the America as Christian nation argument.

Krech takes on the entire idea of the Ecological Indian, or the idea that Native Peoples are more "in-tune" with nature. Many Americans believe that prior to white contact, Indians somehow interacted with Nature but did not disturb it. As Richard White (and modestly let me say that I said this too) noted, to somehow assume that Indians made no impact on nature is to come dangerously close to a racist assumption. If Indians make no impact on nature, they are portrayed as being closer to animals than human.

And, in fact, Krech and others have noted that Native Americans often acted in ways that were destructive to their natural environment--through deforestation, over hunting, etc.

Why is this important? Since the 1960s, Americans have used Native Americans as a symbol of environmentalism, most famously with Iron Eyes Cody's "Crying Indian" campaign where a noble Indian cries as he observes a polluted stream. The problem is that this campaign and idea have never really been about Indians as people. It has always functioned as an oppositional force--pointing out the problems with White Polluters rather than elevating Native peoples.

Here is the connection and warning to those wanting to create a Christian nation out of our complicated past. Appealing to that idea of the Praying Founding Fathers is in effect doing the same thing as the Crying Indian. This campaign is clearly not about the past--else they would never elevate Ben Franklin in any way, nor would they ignore the proliferation of witchcraft and superstitions that also permeated Colonial America. It is about the perception that we are Godless and immoral.

And it isn't that somehow Christians are the only ones saying that. Most people buy the nostalgic past where people were more moral, less gay, and somehow more honorable in the past. Historians know better (and so should most Americans), but the idea persists. But it is in that context that this "Christian Nation" mania should be viewed (as well as Roy Moore's 10 Commandment worship). It isn't about the past, but is merely a tool to demonize the present.

This projection is complicated. On one hand, it is (much like the white use of the crying Indian) self-loathing. Christian Conservatives must feel as if they failed the nation by allowing it to turn into Gomorrah so quickly. On the other hand, it is self-affirming for them to look at Hollywood or Washington and shake their heads at how lost those poor people are. "If only they were as Godly as me," some might think, "our nation would be back in God's favor."

Such approaches are risky. For one, they contribute to the general cynicism of our youth by telling them that their generation is so bad and that the past was so idyllic. Neither is true, so stop saying that. Second, it risks what Cold in Laramie identified as marginalizing and trivializing the experiences of non-Whites in American history. Those believing that America was so much superior in the 19th century when everyone prayed (they didn't) are essentially telling Native Americans, African Americans, women, immigrant children, Asians, Hispanics and the poor that the world was a better place when all of these groups "knew their place" or were hunted down or enslaved or exploited.

These projections of modern angst have their costs, and people need to think about that. If you use Native Peoples to promote an environmental ethic, you ultimately undermine whole cultures as real people. If you insist on a Providential history, you tell those who were abused and misused in the past that God wanted that to happen.

Terry Shiavo, the Religious Right, and why this annoys me

There are many reasons why this Shiavo incident annoys me. One is the hypocrisy of people like Bush and Delay who talk about a "culture of life" but pursue profits over people on a daily basis. If they were really concerned about life, wouldn't they be busting their asses to get healthcare extended to those 50 million Americans who are uninsured?

The other is simply the way the Religious Right has responded to this president. They, in my opinion, have shown themselves to be incredibly politically slutty. They will roll over and support Bush for the silliest damn things. "Oh, my god, those Gay people might be happy--organize a demonstration," or "We will have the ten commandments to worship or die trying." Nothing on poverty, nothing on meaningful healthcare reform, nothing on addressing the environment that we all live in. Nothing.

The Terry Shiavo case is clearly another one of these emotional heartstrings that people like Bush like to pull. Think of this, Bush didn't return from vacation (most vacationing President in history, btw) when 250,000 people died in a tsunami, but he returns to sign this politically grandstanding bill for this one woman. Don't some of you start thinking that maybe this guy is playing you? Don't you start to feel a little silly? Don't you ever find his blustering bravado "bring it on" a little jarring with his constant use of biblical images in his speeches? Or do you really think that Jesus is a War God?

I don't always agree with the The Anti-Manicheist, but he nails it here:
"There is no doubt that the left in US politics needs better leadership and stronger unifying principles. But the real cause of the decline of the US's democracy has been how the religious right has been giving its votes for cheap to the economic conservatives that run the republican party."
KRT Wire | 03/21/2005 | Law Bush signed as Texas governor prompts cries of hypocrisy: "In 1999, then-Gov. Bush signed the Advance Directives Act, which lets a patient's surrogate make life-ending decisions on his or her behalf. The measure also allows Texas hospitals to disconnect patients from life-sustaining systems if a physician, in consultation with a hospital bioethics committee, concludes that the patient's condition is hopeless.

Bioethicists familiar with the Texas law said Monday that if the Schiavo case had occurred in Texas, her husband would be the legal decision-maker and, because he and her doctors agreed that she had no hope of recovery, her feeding tube would be disconnected.

'The Texas law signed in 1999 allowed next of kin to decide what the patient wanted, if competent,' said John Robertson, a University of Texas bioethicist.

While Congress and the White House were considering legislation recently in the Schiavo case, Bush's Texas law faced its first high-profile test. With the permission of a judge, a Houston hospital disconnected a critically ill infant from his breathing tube last week against his mother's wishes after doctors determined that continuing life support would be futile."

Let's just let this sink in. When he was governor, Bush signed legislation that allows the doctors to take people off life support, and this law was used against the Mother's wishes. No spouse to blame here. If you read what the White House said in response, they said that ""The legislation he signed (early Monday) is consistent with his views," McClellan said. "The (1999) legislation he signed into law actually provided new protections for patients ... prior to the passage of the '99 legislation that he signed, there were no protections."

Hear that? Down is up. Right is wrong, and George Bush is a seriously committed Christian. Oh, and one of the factors used in the Texas case is if there is money for the treatment. When it is gone, and there is no hope for recovery.... Unless, of course, you can make political miles.

So, to sum up: the Republicans and their conservative christian handlers believe in life:

a) especially when it is politically helpful
b) unless that person is dying from a treatable disease and just needs health insurance
c) or unless on death row with dubious evidence

Other Republican policies will make the Terry Shiavo case moot in the future because they will cap medical malpractice cases and make it harder for families who endure a horrible medical catastrophy to declare bankruptcy. But in this case, they are all over this poor woman.

Oh, and remember when Republicans didn't want the state in your individual life? Those days are done.

And to be very clear. Bush will never be held accountable by anyone, and certainly not the Conservative Christians who believe somehow that God wants him in office to bomb other countries and act hypocritically about people like Terry Shiavo. Shame on all of you. Shame on everyone. And for God's sake, will one of you Christian conservatives call Bush on anything? Because you have embarrassed yourself to a point of no return. Shame.

March 21, 2005

Thanks to Life and Deatherage

This cartoon highlights all that is wrong with the Terry Schiavo case. I have not blogged about it because I don't really know what to say. I don't have a lot of the details and it just feels like a tragedy with a lot of hyenas using this young woman for their own political punching bag. All around. The Republicans strike me as unbelievable on this, but they aren't the only ones.

This cartoon, if you haven't clicked over there yet, highlights one of the huge hypocrisies from the right. The recent bankruptcy bill would make it very hard for families like the Shiavo's to recover, as would the President's vaunted "tort reform" which would take away the funding for someone like Terry Shiavo's coverage up till now. And then read what Bush evidently signed into law as governor of Texas and tell me, (if true) how that relates to his supposed "culture of life?"

on truth

Natalie has an interesting post on truth and conversation. She is reading David Dark's new book and he makes some really good points about this important topic.

“He talks about his father being a good role model for him in terms of seeking truth. Humility seems to be a big theme. Just because we as Christians have the Bible to refer to as truth, it doesn’t mean we should wield it as a weapon. Dark’s father, when someone would back something up with the phrase, “It’s biblical,” he would especially scrutinize it, because “the Bible belonged to everyone and no one,” and “anyone who presumed to own its copyright was criminally insane” (ix). Dark says, “To view truthfulness not as a boasting point we have over others but as a standard that judges all our talk, is to recognize oneself as a partaker of common humanity humbly bound to the common good of attempted truthfulness” (xi).

This resonates with me as I have had more than one conversation where the Bible has been invoked to rebut whatever I was saying, often with the phrase, "your disagreement is not with me, but with God." That has always rankled me--there is an air of disengenousness about it or a deflection. I think that issue of humility is a huge one, one made the more important when people claim to be speaking for God. Anyway, thanks to Natalie for starting this particular conversation.

March 20, 2005

From Carlos

American Christian History Institute - Principle Approach - Christian History - Home Schooling: "That there would be no America if there were no Christianity;
Why Christians are so important to God in respect to 'His Story' and government of men and nations;
How responsible they are for the quality and conduct of American education, government and economics; and
How to restore America's historic Biblical method of reasoning to the home, church and school, the three constituents of Constitutional Liberty"

This stuff is everywhere over at Carlos's blog. David Barton is speaking at D. James Kennedy's domminionist conference--you know, the one where they want to take over the country and rule it as a Christian nation?

Meanwhile, Barton and his minions are everywhere. See, Christian conservatives don't like my profession. Evidently, historians have not awarded conservative Christians enough standing in our nation's history. Or something. Hell, I can't figure it out.

I guess that most Conservative Christians share this idea of "his-story" which means that we are all just little pawns in God's big play. America, after all, as you see above, would not exist without Christians. My Native American friends will love that. They love talk that God focusses all his attention on white christians and ignores their little forays into genocide, ethnic cleansing and slavery. they love it when their own history is reduced to scenery on the larger stage, and their suffering is ignored or simply dismissed as "sin."

Ultimately what bothers me is the methodalogical approach of all of these people. As the website here shows, they start with their conclusion: America a Christian nation and Christians at the heart of all good stuff--and then start working backward. Had I done that for my dissertation, I would have flunked.

The same issues come up in the discussions on evolution. Conservatives everywhere are saying things like "that is just a theory" which is also what I hear about my interpretations of the past. It is as if conservative christians have been touched with a relativist bug--or at least that they keep hearing it.

My friend Greg pointed me to this debate between three historians, and this is something that followers of David Barton should read. One of them is a Mormon. His writings outside mormonism have been widely respected, but as the article notes, he is also a huge apologist for the Mormon religion. One of the other historians challenges how he can do both. To my conservative christians, this is your challenge. When you throw out the historical method for a Barton, you are doing the same thing, and what is more, you have no challenge for the other faiths who do the same thing.

Let me suggest that science and history function very similarly. We all ask questions and do research. The quality of our research and the quality of our questions dictates the quality of our work. A Scientific "theory" is much like a historical explanation. They are the best explanation for the facts and details that we have. That doesn't mean capital "T" truth, but it also does't mean a half-assed opinion. It means that if new evidence comes along, that conclusion will need revising. Revision, after all, is a good thing. It isn't what most people think it is.

Ultimately, neither science or history operate the way conservative Christians want them too (that is, unless science is curing something, or history actually speaks well of Christians). But that is no reason to simply ignore both professions. Those that do are encouraging the very anti-intellectualism that has plagued religion.

Why can republicans use propaganda?

Listen to this npr story about the bush administration making video press releases that sound just like "real TV news reports."

Recap time:

1) This white house sees the press as just another interest and has excluded the real media from honest coverage (admittedly with their complicity).

2) Same white house that controls everything allowed gay prostitute access to the press room and to ask questions of this particular president who never "just calls on" someone by random. Oh, and this shill reporter asked the kind of leading questions that even this president could answer.

3) This same white house paid so-called journalists to go on talk shows and write columns supporting their programs. But the journalists didn't tell anyone they were little whores. White House says it is perfectly fine.

Now we have this same White House churning out fake video news reports and claiming that they aren't propaganda because they are true. Excuse me? I suspect that the Nazi press officer claimed their propaganda was true too.

Once again, I look at my conservative friends with the "what the fuck" look on my face. If you really believed what you say you believe, you would be on the phone with your congressperson and writing a letter to Bush. But you don't really believe that stuff do you? You like having someone who speaks the fake "faith language" in power more than you like your principles. So you won't call him on this, or the dangerous "abstinence only" stuff, or any of his lies, or his pollution policies, or any of it. You like power more than principle, which may be the very definition of selling out.

March 19, 2005

This is exactly what I argued

This is what bothers me about the religious right. They operate from the theoretical (sounds ironic, in a way) and refuse to acknowledge mitigating facts. The death penalty is supported because they think it should be moral to execute someone who they know is guilty, but ignore the problems with race, dna evidence and class bias.

Likewise, this story about abstinence only education. Of course abstinence will ensure no unwanted pregnancies or stds, but that isn't the reality. The study shows that 88 percent of teens who take the pledge have sex before marriage, as opposed to 99 percent of those who don't take the pledge. That is only a 10 percent gain, but the bad news is that those 88 percent that are sexually active don't have the education in precautions or contraceptives. So, this program actually endangers kids.

Yahoo! News - Study: Abstinence Pledgers May Risk STDs
: "NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Teens who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are more likely to take chances with other kinds of sex that increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, a study of 12,000 adolescents suggests."

satanic worship

Nope, not my latest thing. Just an interesting post by the incomparable slactivist on the seemingly unending belief among the religious right that thousands, if not tens of thousands of children are being abducted and sacrificed or abused by satan worshipers. As he notes, no evidence exists to support those claims, but it has turned into a cottage industry for some.

"As with most urban legends, it's difficult to determine precise origins for many of these stories. But it certainly appears that some devout, Christian writers sat down and devised elaborate rituals involving group sex, dismemberment and the rape of infants. That these writers ran this material by the devout Christian editors at these publishing houses. And that these publishing houses packaged these claims, bound them attractively, and shipped them out to the local Mustard Seeds, Wellsprings and other devout Christian bookstores across the country."

Fred suggests that this has to do with evangelical anxiety:
"This anxiety arises in part from the never-quite-wholly conscious recognition that we Christians don't seem to be all that different from everybody else. We know we're supposed to be "a peculiar people," yet we seem to spend our time, our money and our lives pretty much the same way that everybody else around us does. We have the same things, we do the same things, we want the same things as those unsanctified others."

One of the commenters quoted Anne Lamott: ""You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."

These are traps that can ensnare all of us.

March 17, 2005

Evangelical leaders say something close to good

Evangelical leaders call for broader approach to public policy; Land, Dobson lend support - (BP): "In addition to opposing abortion, euthanasia and same-sex “marriage,” the document urges care for the poor, the disabled, the persecuted, the elderly, minorities and refugees both in the United States and overseas. It calls for churches to “model good race relations.”

The statement encourages governments to use their militaries only under “just-war” criteria and after pursuing peace nonviolently. “Just-war” theory is a classical Christian approach to the use of force that requires certain standards, such as a just cause and its utilization as a last resort."

Except for the statement on gay marriage, I am pretty close to this statement. Here is the next big question. How do these statements, including the phrase "to use their militaries only under "just-war"
criteria and after pursuing peace nonviolently stand in the same room with the Bush administration? How do people who sign on to this sheet pledging to help the poor and the environment vote for people like GWB and Tom Delay?

Thursday rant

I already ranted about opening ANWR, though that does still piss me off. I would be far more sympathetic if we had first taken some steps to increase efficiency. Put it this way, as long as we are rolling out Hummers, there is absolutely no justification for this.

Ok, on with the rant. I have pointed out that those who believe the bible to be innerrent tend to be quite selective in that process. Here is a great example (thanks to Carlos at Jesus Politics).

Jesus Politics: I Can't Listen to Christian Lawyers: "A key sponsor of the bill, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), actively opposes abortion and same-sex marriage on biblical grounds yet believes the Good Book's clear definition and condemnation of usury is irrelevant. The Old Testament, revered by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, mandates debt forgiveness after seven years, as was pointed out earlier this month by an organization of Christian lawyers in a letter to Grassley.
'I can't listen to Christian lawyers,' said the senator, 'because I would be imposing the Bible on a diverse population.'"

Nice. Really speaks to the issue of how sin has become only sex. Money? Pursuit of money? Go for it! Get as much as you can, and if you can get it from the poor and stupid, then all the better. Verily.

Next subject: our President and what he is teaching the children.

No connection between competence and advancement. President Bush said yesterday that he has chosen Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, a key architect of the Iraq war, as the U.S. nominee to head the World Bank."

Let's go over this once again. Say you have a guy who hates the UN and jokes about the UN building losing 10 floors (not really funny anymore)? Well, of course, you make him ambassador to the UN. What about a lawyer who says that the US doesn't have to adhere to the Geneva Conventions and suggests that the President can authorize torture if he wants? Of course, you make him Attorney General so he can go after the porn industry. How about someone who oversaw intelligence failure after intelligence failure? You make her Secretary of State.

Now we have one of the most aggressive Neo-cons who said that we could invade Iraq on the cheap, that Iraq would pay for their own reconstruction, and who admitted that the WMD wasn't really the reason for the invasion, just the one that could scare the American people into supporting the war? You make him the head of the World Bank. He has no economic background, and has alienated much of the rest of the world.

This president (despite all the claims for his religious faith) has savaged any critics. He has made sure that those who don't follow him completely leave Washington with their reputation gone (just ask Ambassador Wilson, Richard Clarke, or Paul O'Neill). But, if you kiss his ass and tell him how smart he is, and that he is really an instrument of God, you will get promoted even if you suck at your job. Of course, they haven't sucked at their job when that job was defined as protecting the King's ass. Gonzales made sure that Governor Christian Bush could sign off on executing (and possibly mocking) the condemned on Texas's death row.

Some day, we are going to read about how truly simple our President is. I think the future will reveal the Oedipal nightmare of the Bush family, and will reveal how this child of privilege has associated with ideologues who fit his idea of "pulling themselves up by their bootstraps." Molly Ivins said this of his father, but it is more true of Shrub: "He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple." Someday, those of you who backed this man will have to apologize someday for what you have done to the poor, the environment, and to gays and women.

March 16, 2005

Tom Delay--paragon of Christian virtue

I remember reading the extensive Washington Post article on "the Hammer" and the extensive discussions on his faith and church in Sugarland, Texas. He talked about his faith a lot. This is the same guy who used his power to force a redistricting in Texas between the normal period.

DeLay Defends Trip and Vote, Attacks Critics ( "Speaking at a weekly session with reporters, DeLay alternated between attacks on the news media and attacks on Democrats. 'With all the partisan politics of personal destruction that the Democrats have announced and have carried through on, I have yet to be found breaking any House rules,' he said. 'It is very unfortunate that the Democrats have no agenda. All they can do is try to tear down the House and burn it down in order to gain power.'"

This is a guy who has used his power to make it easier to pollute and harm the environment. This is a guy who has treated people so ruthlessly that he is called the Hammer. You know, just like Jesus was.

This is exactly what I am talking about. Conservative Christians have sold the store. You sold teh idea and the marketing of your faith. Now any asshole can claim a "serious personal relationship with Christ" all the while they act like Ghengis Khan. Hope you got what you wanted. Because some day this come back to haunt you.

Well, Conservatives, here is what you voted for

Yahoo! News - Senate Votes to Open Alaska Wildlife Refuge to Drilling
: "With the price of crude oil reaching an all-time high, the U.S. Senate narrowly voted today to open a wildlife refuge in Alaska to oil drilling, an approval long sought by President Bush as part of his energy policy."

Let's add this to the list of other things you voted for. 1) budget that favors the rich and hurts the poor, the veterans, and the disabled. 2) air pollution laws that essentially do nothing to reduce global warming or mercury poisoning.

Now this. Been waiting for it. Hard to muster the outrage for this administration that shows such disdain for the environment.

Glad you supported him?

March 15, 2005

Seriously, what the hell does this mean?

While we are on the subject of the Jerusalem Prayer Team, I went to the offical site and foud this.

Jerusalem Prayer Team: "The goal of The Jerusalem Prayer Team is to enlist 1 million people in America to pray daily and 100,000 houses of worship praying weekly for the peace of Jerusalem."

Two questions: 1) what does this have to do with gay people? Are gay people bombing Jerusalem or undermining peace in the Middle East? No. No. No. 2) what does this say about prayer? Is it really just a giant petition that you have to get enough people to sign? Is that the only way God acts? Does that explain why so many people struggle in poverty....that they don't have enough contacts to convince God that they should be helped? What kind of theology is that?

And finally (and I won't count it in the 'two questions" part) how does this view of prayer and God work with Jesus and leaving the 99 Sheep to go find the one lost? Does that mean that there were a million sheep out there praying for the lost sheep? No. No. No. This theology bites. If God only listens to these huge petitions, prayer means nothing more than a popularity or marketing thing. I grew up raising sheep. That one sheep always meant a lot to me. I am not following this "herd mentality" theology.

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth

MAX BLUMENTHAL: " have spent the last couple of days in Ohio where I spoke to over 2,800 people at Fairfield Christian Church outside Columbus. Today I joined Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and former Ohio Congressman Bob McEwen as we spoke to about 70 key members of the clergy. We reflected back upon America's godly heritage and the key role that pastors played in this nation. The meeting, which was hosted by Pastor Rod Parsley at World Harvest Church, was organized by Pastor Russell Johnson of Lancaster.

Many of these pastors were instrumental in working with the president of Ohio's Citizens for Community Values, Phil Burress, in passing Ohio's marriage amendment over tremendous obstacles foes of marriage placed in their way. This was the first of a series of meetings designed to enlist hundreds of members of the clergy as 'Patriot Pastors' to further organize the Church in Ohio for social engagement. What I see happening across the country with pastors is unprecedented - pastors and their flocks are not going back to life as usual after the election. Christians are committed to the battle not only for the heart and souls of people but for the heart and soul of this nation."

Very seriously. If Rod Parsley is behind ANYTHING, I am headed the other way. Have any of you watched this twerp on tv? Besides really making John Hagee look really, really fat, he makes the rest of the charismatic twerps look positively good. He makes you long for the days of Jimmy Swaggert. He makes you want to sign up for a Benny Hinn "healing" whatever or possibly call your dentist for a pre-emptive root canal. He is everything that is bad about American Christianity.

Purpose driven suspect

So what are we to make of this?

For Captive, Book Offers New Purpose : "Ashley Smith, who was held captive for 7 1/2 hours by the man accused of killing an Atlanta judge and three others, told interviewers Monday that a passage from Warren's book seemed to help persuade her captor to set her free."

'This is, I would say, one of the more dramatic, if not the most dramatic [testimonials] I'm aware of,' said Vicki Cessna, spokeswoman for Christian publisher Zondervan in Grand Rapids, Mich. 'Obviously the book has had far-reaching, life-changing influences for millions of people. We're just honored that this in any way helped facilitate a positive outcome for Ashley.'

This bothers me. I should be clear, I have not read Warren's book and really don't intend to. Part of it is my distrust of most of this popular Christian stuff, that, in my mind, tends to simplify the complex and ignore broader contexts that really need to be explored.

The other part of me says that if this type of book, or the Prayer of Jabez stuff (with its companion marketing crap) helps someone, then that is fine. I still believe the church would be better off reading deeper theological writings, but I suspect that even stuff like Thomas Kinkade (that makes me wince) is helpful to some.

The publisher's response, however, speaks to that other part of me that really distrusts the magical side of Christianity. You know, the stories about the pocket bible that stops a bullet, or the family bible that survives a fire, or whatever. (I have also heard of a 69 cent bic pen deflecting a bullet too, but you don't see people praying to the pen.) In a different time, the fact that people would treat a book by some pastor with the same magical qualities would have disturbed conservative Evangelicals, but not today. Just as the Passion's success proves that Mel was telling the truth about the Crucifixion, the fact that a murderer was intrigued by Warren's book is supposed to display God's hand.

The simplistic explanations sell, but they ultimately don't convince. I remember James Dobson telling people that Ted Bundy became a serial killer because of porn. And he knew that because Bundy told him. A man who had practiced deceit to lure young women to their death was his evidence. Imagine the scene Dobson could create now if he can only find that this killer read porn as a kid and then was stopped from killing one more person by Rick Warren.

Well, to each his own, I guess. But I will pass on the Rick Warren. And the Tim LaHaye, and the Jerusalem Prayer Team.

We do what we can

Greg has alerted me to the Jerusalem Prayer Team and their hope to make Evangelical Christianity look incredibly silly worldwide.


A friend was discussing Christian fiction the other day and reminded me of the Frank Peretti books. I read the first two years ago, though for the life of me I can't recall why I read two. Reading the first was enough.

The discussion was about how Christian fiction tends to demonize feminism. The antagonist is often a feminist, who is sometimes gay, always pro-abortion, and possibly into witchcraft. It all sounds like a Pat Robertson joke, I know.

The Peretti books certainly did that--as well as demonizing anything non-Christian or non-conservative. But the conservative attack on feminism really bothers me. I am frankly a little tired of it. It galls me everytime I see someone like Michelle Malkin or Ann Coulter (fascist bitch that she is) belittle feminism, I wonder if they even see the irony. If their conservative backers had their way, Malkin and Coulter would never be the jet-setting public speakers and authors that they are today.

When I teach, I often ask my class if anyone self-identifies as a feminist. Sometimes I am one of the few to raise my hand. Many of the women often say that they might agree with some feminist ideas, but are not "feminazis." Thanks, Rush, for adding that thoughtful term to our vocabulary. When I ask how many support equal pay for equal work, or the idea that women can pursue whatever degree or occupation they want, and everyone agrees. But they don't identify them with feminist ideas.

I am sure part of that is the fault of certain well-known feminists, but most of it has come from what the backlash. So, we get national figures like Phyllis Schaffly and Beverley LaHaye lecturing women on why they should be in the home. Without feminism, they would be ignored. And those college student women are there because feminism argued that women could attend more than a teaching college or study nursing. Nothing in the world wrong with those professions--in fact they are great and needed--but neither are they uniquely feminine.

Thanks to feminism, people rarely comment that their doctor is a woman, or that their attorney is female. There is no need to make a big deal about the woman professor or CPA. We don't even blink at those, and thank God for that. Yet, somehow feminism continues to be disparaged.

The conservative christian community is not doing anyone a service by bashing feminism. No, there is nothing wrong with staying home with kids. I hate to tell them this, but I know feminists who have done that, just as I know feminists who oppose abortion. In fact, I have yet to meet a feminist who was "anti-family," because all of them had families and were concerned about the same issues that self-proclaimed non-feminist women are. They don't want their kids to be sexualized too early, they worry about crime and drugs. They want their kids to have a good education and a supportive environment where they learn the skills and values necessary to be productive citizens. Where is the "nazi" part of that word?

So, unless you want women to only have the choice of marriage and kids, to not have professional aspirations or options, to not speak out on the issues of the day, to not have any authority or voice--you need to stop bashing feminism. Now.

Christianity, Bush, and Morality

Brandon writes his Senator.

a badchristian blog... - dear ms. stabenow: "My desire to see social justice done, though, supersedes my desire to not have to spend the time required to draft a letter to my Senator. I am deeply and gravely concerned with the proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

The current President talks about moral values, and frankly, that sickens me as he's recently proposed a budget that cuts benefits to the poor, pours even more money into the military, and offers tax cuts to the wealthiest of Americans--of these facts you are indubitably aware. Honestly, Ms. Stabenow, as a Christian I am deeply dismayed at the President's manipulation of the tenets of my faith in order to win re-election. Now these questionable morals are being used to foist a neo-conservative agenda onto the American people.

Ms. Stabenow, I am not alone. Many other deeply devout people have a concern for the poor. Democrats have a responsibility to their constituents to re-embrace and re-communicate their values in the context of faith to people of faith. Many individuals, like myself, yearn for you to reach out to us. We deeply desire that our faithful convictions--more progressive in nature--receive resonation on the national level.

Re-communicating things of faith, though, Ms. Stabenow, does not mean a watering down of who you are. More progressive Christians do not desire that all politicians 'convert to Christianity,' 'Christianize' their rhetoric, or espouse some proper degree of religiosity in order to quell their constituency. We simply want you to be honest about who you are and where you come from. We simply want you to talk about progressive values in a context that expresses their congruence with issues of faith--whether that faith is Christian or not.

People everywhere, regardless of their religious heritage, have grave concerns over this proposed budget. It is woefully incongruent with the historic tenets of Christianity or most other world religions. Please speak out on my behalf, and on the behalf of countless other faithful Americans."

[emphasis mine]

March 14, 2005


The mighty Zalm (who has a very attractive template for his blog, btw) pointed out that I had not closed a blockquote tag. You know how much I like the blockquote tags!

So, now I have learned a valuable lesson. It is a poor blogger who blames his blogging tools. Or, something....

Fancier soundtrack

What I am listening to now.

Blogger problems

It seems that my template problems only occur in Safari. They display fine in IE, so you Windows users are probably wonder what the hell I am doing. Oh well. I am still playing with this. Right now, in Safari, the profile stuff and archive information display fine--just all the way at the bottom of the page.

New Look

I was having problems with the old template and decided it was time for a change. Not sure this is working completely right, but we shall see.

Yeah, this scares me!

buddenblog: Teaching US History, Right Wing Christian Style: "'....Providential history is true history.  Many modern educators deny the Providential view of history and would have us believe that their promotion of one of several 'secular' views of history is simply the recounting of brute facts.  They fail to tell their students that their own humanistic presuppositions and religious doctrines determine their choice of people, places, principles and events.  They fail to communicate that neutrality is not possible in the teaching of history, for the historians word-view will dictate his perspective.  Even as there are not many interpretations of Scripture (2Pet.1:20,21), neither are there of history ... there is really only one correct view; that which is the Author's [i.e. God´s] interpretation and perspective.  God is the Author of Scripture and History. "

Only one view of history? And I am wondering how this Providential view of history explains attempted Indian genocide, slavery, child labor, Japanese Internment?

This is more David Barton style of history and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how history is practiced. I guess if you don't like the conclusions, you just change the approach. But the real tragedy is that the historical conclusion are not the threat to people of faith that they seem to think. Their approach, however, is a huge threat to the rest of us.

If only I could find an example of politicans using the Christian Right as a tool? Oh, wait....

Yahoo! News - Casino Bid Prompted High-Stakes Lobbying
: "He looked to Reed, the former Christian Coalition leader who operated several consulting companies. Reed has acknowledged receiving as much as $4 million from Abramoff and his associate, Scanlon, to organize grass-roots anti-gambling campaigns in Louisiana and Texas. The money came from casino-rich Indian tribes, including the Coushattas, but Reed said that although he knew of Abramoff's connection to the tribes, he did not know until media accounts surfaced last summer that his fees came from gambling proceeds.

Reed then turned to Dobson to marshal his vast network of evangelicals, Abramoff's e-mails show.

Abramoff wrote to Scanlon in a Feb. 20, 2002, e-mail that Dobson would make radio ads against gambling. Reed 'may finally have scored for us! Dobson goes up on the radio on this next week!' He suggested giving Reed $60,000 for the ads to run in Louisiana and Texas. 'We'll then play it in the WH [White House] and Interior,' he told Scanlon."

Christianity, commodification, and Wal-Mart

Yesterday, Streak's other friend and I had lunch with friends at a great Asian place in Oklahoma City. After a great lunch, we drove over to Oklahoma City's own Full Circle Bookstore which is one of those rare locally owned bookstores. We rarely pass up a chance to visit.

I have written here many times about the danger of conservative evangelicals selling out their faith. As much as I dislike the current president and his policies, much of my concern is for those conservatives who are true believers and for the conservative church as a whole. Once you sell out, it is hard to retrieve that reputation.

The danger for the church in so blindly following Bush or referring to him (as someone did on another blog) as our "Bible-believing Christian President," is that you then risk your entire religious reputation on this politician. When he acts badly, you look bad--especially when you don't speak out. And since you have stated things like "God wants Bush for these times" you can't criticize him very well, since that would be criticizing God.

The dangers are many. One of them is that you have made your faith a marketing and political tool--just another one in a vast market place. That means that people who don't really believe what you believe are willing to do whatever to convince you otherwise to sell you their candidate, movie, or, hell, face cream. What is to stop a politician from repeating the "faith talk" to get your vote and then enacting policies that undermine both your faith and your lives. (One could argue that Bush has already done that, but I will leave that for another day.) In any case, it makes you incredibly vulnerable to hucksters and fakers and con-artists.

I really wasn't thinking about that at the bookstore yesterday. But while sitting in front of their fireplace, I read parts of a new book on the class-action suit against Wal-Mart. Women are routinely paid less than men, overlooked for promotions, and told to make way for less-qualified men because they are family men. Workers have been locked in stores after clocking out and forced to work with no pay (that called slavery, btw). The company has used its giant power to bully companies, has cozied up to China and any other place that has no worker safety or employment protection laws, and has generally bullied small-town America as well. To be fair, I have never been a fan of the store--I hate the experience of shopping there and resent their predatory tactics.

What does this have to do with turning Christianity into a commodity? Reading the book, it is clear that the company has sold itself as a "family friendly" company, and many of the workers believe that Sam Walton was not only a good Christian man, he was a devoted family man. Many of these women workers applied for jobs there because of that perception and hoped to participate in a pro-family business. Evidently Walton was not much of a family man--his widow said that he was not around the family that much, which kind of makes sense since he was busy building this monstrosity. His faith was pretty tepid as well--he was a nominal church goer (kind of like the President :) ) and didn't tithe as they company myths report. Clearly many of his business tactics are anti-family--at least for those working families that are trying to pay rent and groceries on what they make at Wal-Mart.

But the broader point is that Christianity is being packaged and sold--just like the latest fad in clothing. You guys have succeeded in making Corporate America and Madison Avenue and Washington political offices aware of your buying power and voting power. As a result, they are doing to Christianity what they have done to ethnic identification. Just as they have tried to sell Native American identity to sell cars, or appropriated urban black youth culture to sell to suburban whites, they are now packaging what you claim is your deepest value--a faith in the transforming power of Jesus Christ--to make money and get votes. "Shop at Wal-Mart because we are Christian like you." "Vote for me, I am just like you." Meanwhile both exploit workers and undermine the very faith that you represent. Can you really see Jesus opening a Wal-Mart over the protests of local businessmen, locking workers inside, mocking women workers?

You guys might really reconsider whether your faith is for sale.

March 12, 2005

On life

Others have ongoing discussions about abortion that are more thoughtful than mine. I know it is one of those areas where finding common ground is hard to do. So much of the rhetoric is so extreme. I posted a comment on sharing the committment to life that so many evangelicals have--and a commenter criticized me for not being firm enough on abortion. She said that it was simple and clear--there was never a time when killing fetus was allowable. Fine. But she also defended our wars and bombing efforts as if our "smart" weaponry could avoid killing pregnant women.

Ok, but there are some things that we can really agree on. Or at least I think we can. I read today that 4 million infants die in the first month of life. Those are avoidable deaths, or mostly avoidable. Basic health care and nutrition would drop that number quickly. But we seem to be reducing that kind of care instead of increasing. Most Americans overestimate our foreign aid--believing that we spend somewhere around 15% of our budget on foreign aid when the real number is 1%.

More numbers?

"Lack of health insurance coverage causes 18,000 unnecessary American deaths a year. (That's six times the number of people killed on 9/11.) (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005.)

'U.S. childhood poverty now ranks 22nd, or second to last, among the developed nations. Only Mexico scores lower' (The European Dream, p.81). Been to Mexico lately? Does it look 'developed' to you? Yet it's the only 'developed' country to score lower in childhood poverty.

Twelve million American families--more than 10 percent of all U.S. households--'continue to struggle, and not always successfully, to feed themselves.' Families that 'had members who actually went hungry at some point last year' numbered 3.9 million (NYT, Nov. 22, 2004).

The United States is 41st in the world in infant mortality. Cuba scores higher (NYT, Jan. 12, 2005)."
(emphasis mine)

Consider that, we are 41st in the world in infant mortality. Where are the movements, the parades, the "pray-ins," the vigils outside congress? They don't exist. And maybe liberal Christians need to take the lead here. Bush's policies won't help that number. Not in the least.

Couple of cartoons on the Passion

Or this one:

March 11, 2005


Now this?

Comment problem

Been some problems with posting comments lately. I appreciate the effort from many of you and hope that they will fix it soon. Keep the faith and keep trying.

Demons, Ghosts and Elephants--Oh My

"In the Line of Fire" was on TV over the weekend and Clint asks the assassin the great question: "At night, when the demons come, what do you see?"

Those demons come at night--in that period between sleep and wakefulness--and poke at our fears and insecurities. You are worthless, you are a fraud. You are not smart or good or thoughtful. You are a bad friend, bad relative, bad husband, bad wife.

In the light of day, those same demons show up. Inner voices--snakes of doubt.

What of the mighty elephant? He sits in our living room while we take great effort to ignore him. I thought there was more sitting space in this room. It feels half the size. We walk around him--refusing to face him wishing he would leave, wishing he didn't constantly expose our basic fears.

Demons and elephants need confrontation. Demons to be told to shut the hell up. You aren't right and you aren't even that scary. Elephants just need recognition. The issue they represent is often not nearly as big as the effort used to avoid and ignore him. We need to say to him: Stampy, you are not a bad elephant, but you will ultimately kill us all if we don't take you outside. Now, here is a peanut.

Ghosts? Maybe we need to spend more time contemplating living with ghosts, or the ghosts that haunt me, or when a ghost is born. No, this isn't a 6th Sense kind of thing. It is just those people and pets and relationships that are in the room with us all the time. They have good things to tell us.


Black Sheep Christian has a good link from publictheologian (their site was down when I clicked, so read it on BSC). Anyway, more discussion about the problems for Conservative Christians who say, quite honestly and earnestly that they care about the poor. Yet, they consistently vote for policies that hurt the poor. At some point, they need to explain that contradiction.

"'So while I don't think that conservatives hate the poor, I also don't think that they are doing what they can to make things better for the poor. Motives, in the end, are notoriously slippery to judge. But conservatives saying that they are concerned about the poor seems quite strange when the policies that the same people are supporting are throwing more people into poverty. To me the simple question is this: If they care so much, then why are they using their political power to make the rich even richer and matters worse for the poor? How many million more people will have to fall below the poverty line before Christian conservatives who care about the poor will be willing to change their policies and raise taxes, for example? Would one million people do it? Two? Five? Is there any point at which the Republican orthodoxy of lower taxes and less government would be jettisoned by Christians in the Republican Party? Or how many million more Americans will have to lose their health insurance before Christian conservatives would be willing to share their health care dollars so that their neighbor could have some coverage too? I think that party orthodoxy has to give way to genuinely serving the poor in the face of the mounting evidence that what Bush is doing is not working. The plight of the poor has to be central to the ethics of Christians of every stripe if the scripture is to be taken seriously, but while I hear an acknowledgement of this, I don't see one coming from my conservative brothers and sisters.'"

March 10, 2005

Hee's bacck!

Just when you think you have survived the last year, Mel Gibson is
is back with the 'The Passion Recut'
. Yay. Wow, I was really bummed that Mel's psychotic vision had passed from the scene and am so GLAD that it is back!

Well, not really. I can't even watch Chicken Run since Mel's last bit. Mad Max really played a lot of a people. I wrote a lot about this last year, and it still stands up here. The implications of Mel's duplicity are here.

Reading over my stuff, I still feel good about it. Mel played us all. He appealed to ethnocentrism, fear of Hollywood, conservative Christian self-righteousness, and even fears of violence in film. He sold you the bill of goods that "liberals" and "jews" didnt' want you to see a Catholic film that, in a different time and place, you would have resisted and protested along the lines of "The Last Temptation of Christ." But played and manipulated, you flocked to this film and scorned those who didn't like it.

For the record, many of you really felt a strong connection to the film. I don't have a problem with that. But don't you dare dismiss those who have legitimate concerns about this film and about the way it has been marketed and promoted to make millions and millions of dollars. It can still be a deep experience, but it is also a crass expression.

March 9, 2005

What the hell do you all stand for?

Yeah, that's right. It is time for a rant. Couple of stories today caught my eye and made me angry about the Repubs and their conservative Christian handlers (or is that the other way around?). First, on NPR, a story about the office that is supposed to protect whistleblowers in our government. You know. Those people who are brave enough to step forward and say that there is waste or ineffeciancy or corruption? Well, the office that oversees that is run by, shock, a Bush appointee who has clamped down on whistleblowing. That's right, the agency tasked with protecting whistleblowers is being charged with punishing whistleblowers. Oh, and this same Bush appointee scrubbed their website of any reference to sexual orientation. Come on! You guys may think that gays are going to hell, but do you really support them being discriminated against openly? Might want to reread that Bible thing.

Before I move on to the next story, let's recap. Republicans and Conservative Christians stand for the following:

1) helping the rich
2) screwing the environment (the more mercury in women's bodies, the better!)
3) screwing the poor (see number one) with harsher bankruptcy policies, no minimum wage increase, more uninsured Americans--yeah, that is right there in the Bible where Jesus lashed out at the poor people for not working hard enough and complimented the rich. Wait, that isn't in the Bible at all!
4) hampering government cleanup efforts

Ok, now on to rant part 2.1. Listening to local radio here in OK, there is a movement afoot to put a moritorium on the death penalty until we can review it. Oklahoma is number 2 in executions (behind Compassionate Conservative Christian George W. Bush's Texas) and some people recognize that we MIGHT be executing THE INNOCENT!

Oklahoma is a big Christian state, right? Churches on every fucking corner. Can't drive anywhere without seeing more and more churches? Yet, do we see God's people standing up to say that we should, at the very least, investigate this death penalty machine? Nope. Way to go. Conservative Christians are once again convincing me that they don't give a shit about the poor, criminals or the environment.

And here is an irony I can't quite escape. Conservatives in general, and this is mimicked in the Christian community as far as I hear, HATE government and think it is inefficient and corrupt. Yet when this inefficient and corrupt government KILLS people, they think it is perfect. Please to explain this?

My only explanation is to say that Conservative Christians and Conservatives like killing people more than they hate government. Of course, when that same government kills people in Waco or Ruby Ridge it is wrong, so it must be that they care very little for the poor and the non-white who so often end up in our Capital Punishment system. Just as Jesus mocked the poor and colored of his day, and berated them to act more like the rich. Jesus was famously fond of the death penalty and said that those behind it were well-intentioned and moral people.

Wait a minute.....that isn't what he said at all? When did Jerry Falwell and James Dobson rewrite the Bible?