December 31, 2005

Do dogs learn from cats?

This may sound like a stupid question, but do dogs mimic cats? Take a look at this movie and tell me that our dog is not cleaning her face. Anyone else have any experience with this?

New dvd purchase

With some Christmas money I went shopping for something I had long awaited. This December saw the release of the Simpsons' season 7. I bought it for one episode, but discovered that the season had numerous classic bits. The espisode I wanted is called "Lisa the Iconoclast" which I have used in class for years. This homage to Liberty Valance has Lisa Simpson researching the town's origin myth. It is a great way to get some discussion going in class about historical memory.

But what else is on this collection, you ask? Well, part two of the "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" which only really means that I have to now buy season 6. But what about "Radioactive Man" where Millhouse becomes a child star and Wolfcastle utters my favorite line: "The Goggles! They do nothing." Or the next episode where the Simpsons kids end up in foster care with the Flanders. Or the one where Bart sells his soul (an episode that SOF originally thought was quite sweet and interesting). Next we have Lisa's decision to become vegetarian, which may include the best fake school films (Bovine University, anyone?).

Season seven also has Homer's decision to beome morbidly obese so he can claim work disability; the return of Homer's mother; Sideshow Bob's attempt to force Springfield to give up television; Homer's bowling team; and even the episode where George H.W. Bush moves in across the street from the Simpsons.

But those are not all. Bart accidently exposes Krusty's tax fraud; Bart and Abe Simpson go after WWII loot in the Raging Hellfish episode; and in one particularly great episode, Homer replaces Mr. Smithers for a short vacation:
Homer: Here are your messages:
"You have 30 minutes to move your car",
"You have 10 minutes",
"Your car has been impounded",
"Your car has been crushed into a cube",
"You have 30 minutes to move your cube".
[phone ringing]
Homer: [answers] Yello, Mr. Burns' office.
Burns: Is it about my cube?

And finally, one of the best episodes on politics and society when Springfield votes on Proposition 24 to rid the town of immigrants:
Apu: Seven years, but I don't--
Lisa: There's an amnesty that was declared for people who've lived here
as long as you. You can take the citizenship test!
Marge: But the vote on Proposition 24 is on Tuesday. You'll have to
pass the exam before then.
Apu: Oh, that is not nearly enough time to learn over 200 years of
American history.
Homer: Oh, it can't be that many. Come on, Apu. I'll be your tutor.
[everyone looks worried]

Homer teaches Apu facts about American history, like that the 13
stripes on the American flag are for good luck, and the electrical
college, while Chief Wiggum and boys prepare to deport the
immigrants. The day before the exam, Homer asks Apu to study his
9th-grade history notes. Apu tries to study, but falls asleep after
reading two words: Cotton Mather.

And let's not forget Homer's further wisdom regarding democracy:

"When are people going to learn? ... Democracy doesn't work!"

Oh man, what a season!

More on Delay

SOF alerted me to this story. Short version: Jack Abramoff and Tom Delay created a nice little slush fund for funneling money from some pretty questionable sources into their political plans. Foreign money. Domestic corporations. The name of the shell? The U.S. Family Network.

After the group was formed in 1996, its director told the Internal Revenue Service that its goal was to advocate policies favorable for "economic growth and prosperity, social improvement, moral fitness, and the general well-being of the United States." DeLay, in a 1999 fundraising letter, called the group "a powerful nationwide organization dedicated to restoring our government to citizen control" by mobilizing grass-roots citizen support.

But the organization didn't actually spend money on public advocacy or education, and it clearly wasn't grass-roots. It was a tool to funnel money to bashing Democrats and redistricting. I like especially that it tried to use the moral tone of being pro-family, when in fact it was nothing of the sort. This Delay fellow is a piece of work. If I was a conservative Christian, I would be embarrassed.

December 26, 2005

Ok, a little levity

We didn't spend all of Christmas wondering why GWB was eroding our civil liberties. Nope. We also watched some films and listened to some music. Last evening we watched Best in Show, one of my very favorite films. We noticed funny parts that had eluded us, including the high strung owner (husband part of the uptight yuppy team with the Weimaraner) yelling at his dog, "Look at me. Don't look at the fat ass losers or freaks, look at me!"

Tonight we watched a Steve Earle dvd (Just an American Boy) and enjoyed ourselves. Great shots of Earle behind the scenes, and a great little mini-interview with Nora Guthrie talking about bursting into tears the first time she heard "Christmas in Washington" where Steve sings, "Bring back Woody Guthrie." Hell, we burst into tears too.

We enjoyed some classic scenes of him playing our favorite songs: "Copperhead Road" and "Amerika 6.0," and "Guitar Town" but really enjoyed seeing the video for "Jerusalem." I have sung his praises before, but Steve Earle really is a great singer/songwriter/patriot/activist. He is on the list of people I would love to sit down and have coffee with.

That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Well maybe I'm only dreamin' and maybe I'm just a fool
But I don't remember learnin' how to hate in Sunday school
But somewhere along the way I strayed and I never looked back again
But I still find some comfort now and then

While we were waiting for Santa

Late Saturday the NY Times broke this story that the NSA evesdropping was much bigger than Bush admitted. In fact, it includes the cooperation of our private telcom companies so that the NSA could practice data mining on telephone calls and emails. Now the Bush admin won't talk about it. Can't help the terrorists, now, can we?

This isn't good. This is more suggestion that Bush and the NSA believe that in the battle with terrorists, any measures are on the table--including violating our very constitutional safeguards--the very same ones the terrorists allegedly hate.

Some good news may be starting to break here. Former Sec State Colin Powell has some guarded criticism of the President's tactics. He admits that the administration didn't need to do this without warrants, but then, in typically Powell fashion, says that he doesn't have a problem with the President doing this without approval.

No need to not have oversight--except that Bush acts as if he doesn't need oversight. Again, imagine Clinton doing this and imagine the outrage coming from the Falwells and Robertsons.


As SOF pointed out this morning, there might be some good news in the Right's insistence on packing the courts with what they call "strict constructionists." Michael Luttig, the jurist who was the apple of the right's eye and even discussed as a possible Supreme court nominee--criticized the government's tactics in the Padilla case. Luttig had ruled that Bush was proper in holding Padilla as an "enemy combattant" (even though Padilla is an American citizen). Even Luttig was furious that the government completely flipped its justification. As SOF noted, the strict constructionists might actually believe that. They might actually not be amenable to an administration that simply switches justifications to fit the current problem.


Either way, we at Streak's Blog are left with the impression that the President and VP have decided that the Presidency need more power. As Steve Chapman put it:
"President Bush is a bundle of paradoxes. He thinks the scope of the federal government should be limited but the powers of the president should not. He wants judges to interpret the Constitution as the framers did, but doesn't think he should be constrained by their intentions.

He attacked Al Gore for trusting government instead of the people, but he insists anyone who wants to defeat terrorism must put absolute faith in the man at the helm of government."

Even worse he seems to say that during wartime the President should have virtually unfettered power. And the kicker is that the war on terror is hardly likely to end.

December 22, 2005

I have to think that the Bush people aren't going to like this

Judges on Surveillance Court To Be Briefed on Spy Program: "Several members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said in interviews that they want to know why the administration believed secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails of U.S. citizens without court authorization was legal. Some of the judges said they are particularly concerned that information gleaned from the president's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to gain authorized wiretaps from their court."

Not only do they question the legality of Bush's program, they are suggesting that warrants actually received from the FISA court might have relied on improperly gained evidence and be the "fruit of the poisonous tree." One judge actually suggested that the secret court might just disband since the President was going around it anyway. Why pretend you have court oversight or need warrants?

December 21, 2005

A few notes on the news

I was tortured by Americans says Saddam. See, this is where our world credibility would come in handy. I don't believe Saddam for a second. I think he has heard about this and is playing us for the fool. Saddam is a liar and a murderer. Wouldn't it be nice if we could stand proud and say, "We are Americans--we don't torture" and know that we don't?


As I noted this morning, Bush excuse for wiretapping makes no sense. FISA allows for retroactive warrants, so the speed issue is moot. Several are suspecting that the reason he went around FISA is that they are spying on people that they shouldn't be. People like environmentalists, peace activists, animal rights people, etc.--people that even FISA (who I am reading has turned down less than 10 requests out of some 19,000) would not allow warrants for.


The judge in the PA Intelligent Design case ruled strongly against ID. The judge--now marked as an activist judge by right wing fundies--said that since ID was clearly not science, it was religion and the school had no place mandating it in class. The bigger issue for me is that it isn't science. We can (and should) debate the role that religious faith should play in education, but we do a disservice to the kids when we confuse belief with science.


We are at war, evidently, to save Christmas from the heathens. People, can we just relax a little? This is supposed to be a time of peace and good will. Enough with the battles over the creches and "winter" parties. I don't care. Both sides should chill a little. Christians should recognize that their celebration of Christ's birth coincides and has always had elements of pagan and cultural rituals. Despite the myths of the Christmas tree being a hidden cross, or the 12 Days of Christmas song representing Catholic catechism (we received a card with that little gem on it), Christmas has always been contested. Puritans tried to ban it, and other Christians have objected to everything from the commercialism, to the use of trees, to the fact that Jesus was not born on December 25th!

Merry Christmas, everybody. This year, I hope that everyone turns Bill O'Reilly and John Gibson off or on mute for a while.

On government

Bush's acknowledgement and strident defense of warrantless wiretaps (isn't that on its face a violation of the 4th amendment?) has revealed more about our political dialogue--and it isn't good. As I think I have mentioned here, it strikes me as odd that conservatives can often use their own misdeeds to just reinforce their anti-government rant. And that is what I am hearing from conservative friends. This is "just politics" and "everyone does it." Isn't that amazing? Bush violates the constitution and his Jesus quoting supporters say "everyone does it."

Bush's own defense, btw, is incredibly weak. The FISA courts are too slow, he says. Terrorism demands quicker response. Huh? My reading says that FISA warrants can be granted after the fact. So, Al Gonzales can start listening on his headphones to the nefarious plots, realize they are on to something big, and go get a warrant. How is that too slow?

But back to our dialogue. The most insidious part of this is the conservative--or perhaps more accurately--Bush supporter defense. Those who buy his defense are just not thinking. The others are furthering what the worst in conservatives want to do--completely undermine government. They used Watergate as justification that government was bad. Now, oddly enough, they are using their own President to do it. And the response is not to make it better, it is to attack the other side.

Government is clearly not the answer to everything. Never has been. It has only been utopic in novels. In reality, government is gritty and human and flawed and worth watching. Conservatives who fear government are not completely wrong. After all, it has been governments who loaded people into cattle cars. But they forget that governments have also freed people--have also put together infrastructures to improve sanitation and reduce disease.

But if government is not the answer to everything--and clearly it isn't--then we need only look at the aftermath of Katrina to see what the absence of good government produces. Chaos and hunger and death. Government is about people cooperating and working together to build a society that they can all live in. It won't please everyone--it won't cure everything--and it won't be anyone's salvation. But it can make our water cleaner--our streets safer--and lessen our poverty and deprivation.

This conservative strand that hates government is not the mainstream conservative. In my opinion, very few of my friends and relatives who call themselves conservative really want to undermine government. They want better government, and they want lower taxes. But they believe in a social contract--or at least they used to. But many of those conservatives have been coopted by the culture wars and unwittingly are helping people who really, genuinely don't care about Christian values.

As a result, conservative Christians find themselves defending torture and the invasion of privacy. Part of me fears that they are so easily manipulated because their Bible has been severely edited. Gone are the passages critical of wealth and demanding justice. Elevated are the few passages demonizing gays. Gone are the passages demanding love for their enemy. These same Christians would be up in arms if those being tortured were clutching King James bibles. They would storm the gates of Washington if those being spied upon were anti-abortion activists.

I hope that isn't the case. I hope they are just distracted. I hope they don't believe that torturing their enemy is based on some bible verse.

But it is time to reclaim a healthy approach to government. One where, like our friends to the north, we don't love government, but don't hate it either. One where we see it as a human creation with an important task of producing a civil society where people of all faiths and creeds and sexual orientations and races can find a way to coexist. One where our young people would see public service as a good and noble thing.

Sigh.... /rant

December 20, 2005

Year's best music?

Coming home from the store I listened to a story on the year's best music. I love top ten lists. Or top 5. Whatever. (heh. I still remember an island top 5 contest where Bucky misheard the topics. Our friend L, with an obsession on the pinups, had asked for top album and top poster--meaning Farrah in her bathing suit or something. Bucky had a different album, but had Bob Dylan winning the poster contest. Damn that was funny.)

So here are my top albums from this year. Some might be from last year (technically) but I discovered them this year. Hey, it is my list. But I would love all my music loving readers to post their lists.

1) Ryan Adams, Cold Roses. One of the very best double album sets in my collection. Simply has some of the best alt-country tracks I have heard since early Uncle Tupelo. Check out "Let it Ride" or "When will you come back home."

2) Wilco, Kicking Television. No new stuff here, but some kick ass versions of songs like "Via Chicago" and "Spiders and Kidsmoke." One of the best live albums I have heard.

3) Eliza Gilkyson, Paradise Hotel. I blogged about "Requiem" which may be the most haunting song in my collection. "Man of God" is very good as are several other tracks on the cd.

4) Spoon, Gimme Fiction. With a huge hat tip to Bucky the Badger, this cd was actually in the NPR story as well. Some wonderful tracks including "Sister Jack" and "I summon you." Saw them in Austin and was impressed.

5) The Arcade Fire, Funeral. As I understand it, Six Feet Under fans have heard them before. Another nod to the Badger for turning me on to them. One of the more interesting cds I have heard (this one came out in 2004, btw). Listen to "Wake Up" and "Rebellion (lies)" for a taste of this unique group.

6) Sufjan Stevens, Come on feel the Illinoise. Hmm. How to describe this guy. Well, just listen to "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." and tell me you don't feel the hair rise on your arms. Another nod to Bucky, though I heard of this one elsewhere.

7) Gemma Hayes, The Roads Don't Love You. Just got this one, but loved her first album. This one is not yet available in the US, but I ordered it as a used import. I love her voice and she has some really good tracks on it.

8) Kathleen Edwards, Back to Me. Man do I like her voice. Listen to "Copied Keys" and tell me that voice isn't great. Two albums, and two great efforts. One of my big disappointments from ACL was her canceled show.

9)Coldplay, X & Y. To be fair, I bought all of these about the same time (with great assistance from the ubiquitous Badger) and have difficulty telling the albums apart as a consequence. But this is a great album. "A Message" is one of my favorites.

10) Jayhawks, Live from the Women's Club, Vol 2. One of my favorite bands and sadly the end of their run. Oddly enough, didn't like volume 1, but love the second album (and both came from the same show, so go figure). "Tampa to Tulsa" is great live and much more compelling than the studio.

10a) Kasey Chambers, Wayward Angel. I know. From 2004 and I have blogged on her before. But what a great voice and one of my favorite albums. "Mother," "Lost and Found" and "Like a River" are all great. One of the best mandolin solos EVER on "Follow you home."

Ok, now you.

Do we have a king?

Zalm has a good post on George W. Bush's claim that he has the legal right and even the responsibility to spy on American citizens without a warrant. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter also takes on the President's claim that existing measures aren't strong enough, and talks about how the President pulled in the managing editors from the New York Times to try and stop them from running this story. Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum suspect that the President is justifying some invasive new technologies like data mining that would make it difficult to get individual warrants.

But as Zalm suggests, if so, then we need to talk about it. It always amazes me when conservatives (the same ones who thought that Clinton was eroding their civil liberties, btw) seem to suggest that we have to do whatever it takes to defeat terrorism. That list seems to include undermining our very moral and civic values. Torture; invasion of privacy; a dictatorial leadership that relies on fear and divisiveness. All things that we grew up expecting from dictatorships and communist states.

No doubt we live in difficult times. Not sure they are any more difficult than any other time, but that is for another discussion. But do we really want to give up our freedom and moral high ground here? Why are the flag wavers the ones most willing to do that? And does anyone really think that had this happened under Clinton's watch that conservatives would not have been outraged? The difference appears to be that liberals would have been outraged under Clinton too. We shall see how much we get from the right.

December 19, 2005

I actually watched the President speak

And still am able to hear. No twitching. Well, a little. That first minute or two was vintage Bush--oddly inappropriate smirk mixed in with tortured English and vapid patriotism. But he did get better, and I saw at least one way that his defenders can believe he isn't a complete moron.

He still scared the hell out of me--both with his wooden delivery and some responses like this:

This loss has caused sorrow for our whole Nation – and it has led some to ask if we are creating more problems than we are solving.

That is an important question, and the answer depends on your view of the war on terror. If you think the terrorists would become peaceful if only America would stop provoking them, then it might make sense to leave them alone.

How nice and Rovian. Turn the opposition into people who just want to leave the terrorists alone. See, we are a simple people who believe that everyone should be treated well except evangelical Christians and anyone who says "Merry Christmas." Right. That isn't fair to the opposition. Bush goes on to say:

This is not the threat I see. I see a global terrorist movement that exploits Islam in the service of radical political aims – a vision in which books are burned, and women are oppressed, and all dissent is crushed.

Anyone else wince at that? Where all dissent is crushed? Where a political movement exploits a great religion? Where a tyrannical state spies on its own citizens and uses torture and the threat of torture to control its enemies?

Ok, ok. We aren't living in a tyranny. And I was saying something good about this President. Here it is:

I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country – victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance. I do not expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom.

See how easy that was? See how easy it was to acknowledge that many of us didn't support the war or your policies? See how much you could have done from day one to speak to that without great political cost to you? See how hollow it sounds when it clearly comes from plummetting polls and a weakened Presidency rather than from a supposed Christian leader at the top of his popularity? Bush has created so many of these problems with his own personal arrogance and his own need to not even acknowledge criticism. That has cost him tremendously. And it still will.

And even mixed in with this little bone is the attack. Only two choices. Victory or defeat. Well, Mr. President, had you talked to us from the beginning there might have been other options--including doing the war right. Instead you listened to Darth Cheney and the others. And they told you to ignore us.

I can hear his defenders say to me, "See Streak, even when he acknowledges the failures that led up to the war, and acknowledges a legitimate opposition, you don't like him." And that is right. This reminds me of my frustration with the SBC on race. In the 1990s, they decided to apologize for their role in segregation and slavery. Since then, Richard Land has just about broken his arm patting himself on the back for that. And there might actually be many conservatives who didn't want to--who still think that segregation and slavery was a good idea. But for most of America, that true battle was in the 50s and 60s when fat heads like Falwell were calling the desegregation movement "of the devil," and other countless conservative Christians were claiming that God approved of segregation. The SBC stepping forward then--when it really mattered--when it was really on the line--might have mattered. As it was, it was uttered in the 90s when the consensus even among Baptists is that racism is wrong.

Had Bush acknowledged error when he had the power and when he was at 70% in the polls, it would have mattered. Had he reached out to his opposition instead of "who cares what you think" it would have mattered. Now he does it because he is weakened and his entire presidency in danger. And even then, he takes shots at us.

Pardon me if I am still not on board.

December 18, 2005

Christmas letter clarification

Just so you know, I am not bashing ALL Christmas letters and the parody included her was not anyone who actually reads this blog. In fact, we have received some very nice Christmas letters from my parents and in-laws. But we all have received those bragging letters, haven't we?

December 17, 2005

Christmas letter translation

We are sure you receive these too, so we offer this tranlation tool for the ubiquitious Christmas letter. As with all translation tools, this should be used only for good.

"Dear Friends and Family," usually just means that. Though often the term "friends" is loosely defined and may refer to aquaintances that need to reminded of how inferior they are.

"We hope this blessed time finds you healthy and happy." We are more blessed and happy than you.

"This year found our family busy and active. The kids, A and B (shown in accompanying picture) have excelled this year in school and other activities." Our family is clearly much better than yours. We often wonder why others even try to have family when they clearly fall short of our idea. Our children, as shown in the picture, are more attractive than yours, as well as clearly smarter and more athletic. Child B has been declared the smartest person on the planet, while Child A is the most attractive. Child A recently wrote her dissertation in 5 minutes, while Child B has developed the world's first perpetual motion machine and is very close to curing cancer as we speak.

"As a family, we have been fortunate enough to travel widely this year (see accompanying photos)." We have more money than you, and lead more interesting lives. We hope that you are jealous of our success.

"We pray that this Christmas season will bring you closer to God." As if we weren't better than you to begin with, we are also better Christians than you. Jesus likes us better and our children are reading the Bible in the original King James.

"We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year." Seriously, why do you even try? If this letter doesn't depress you, then it is clear that you can't read. Which is what we thought anyway.

Merry Christmas indeed. :)

December 15, 2005

This does seem easy

Micah and Kristen have a great post on Christians doing good--actually fighting for the poor. I think they say it better than I can, but let me say that when I read of Republicans cutting things like foster care or enforcement for child care support, I can't help but think how ridiculous the whole "family values" rant sounds next to this. How is this helping families? Or children?

Micah and Kristen are right--we should be able to agree on this. We can argue about welfare and those who are dependent. We can argue about tax cuts for the wealthy and government regulation. But we all agree that kids who find themselves in the foster care program don't need less services, right? This isn't hard.

December 12, 2005

The Bootlegger points out a grownup Christian

Hat tip to Bootleg Blogger for this:

"Writer and renegade preacher Will D. Campbell is probably the only ordained Baptist minister dead or alive ever to call one of the Southern Baptist Convention's highest ranking officials a "hypocrite and a jackass." To his face, no less.


"Soul molesters, that's what I call these television evangelists," Campbell says during an interview at his log cabin writing retreat just across the Davidson County line in Wilson County. "Soul molesters. That bunch that call themselves Christian. They are not Christian, but a very powerful political group". Groups like those with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, those people that run the [Southern Baptist Convention] Lifeway show. They don't show me much about the Christian faith. They hate, hate everybody except themselves and their power. Falwell stood down there at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting in Nashville recently and said, 'We won this election.' And he spoke the truth. They did elect George W. Bush."

Oh, how nice to hear that. Only if the rest of the Christian world would stand up to these idiots. Instead of sending them money. And buying their books.

How bad is this bunch?

I just remember how much conservatives complained about Clinton and his morality and partisanship.

Hmm. Let's not forget that this administration is still lobbying the Senate to exclude certain agents from the anti-torture legislation. That's right, the Christian right supported administration wants the right to yank fingernails out of suspects. Just like Jesus would do.

As for politics, let's remember this one. Tom Delay, who the religious right still loves, hammered through a Texas redistricting plan that every professional lawyer in the Justice department said was bad. They were overruled by the political appointees.

Just as in everything this administration has done, imagine Clinton's White House doing this and the outcry from Dobson and his American Taliban. Instead, we get the loudest religious conservatives in this country strangely silent about torture and openly endorsing Tom Delay.

A good question--one many of us have been asking

By Their Fruits: A Message for Our Traditionalist, Religious Countrymen:

"To those of my traditionalist, religious countrymen who have given this presidency their support I say, quoting Jesus in the Gospel According to Matthew: 'By their fruits ye shall know them.'

So, even if many of this leadership’s words have been good, let’s look at the fruits. And I don’t mean the unintended fruits, like the failures of this administration that have become visible. Let’s look at the fruits that have been consistent, the one’s harvested even more bountifully when this administration was at the height of its powers, and thus had its freest hand, than more recently when events have weakened it.

In particular, I would ask: Is it a sign of goodness to sow division?"

Blind spots

I have always been fascinated with blind spots. We all have them, and don't notice. How amazing that our brains can figure out ways to work around them. The real and metaphorical challenge to our perception of the truth has always stuck with me.

What other blind spots do we have? Some of them are personal. People who seem to have a huge blind spot covering their interaction with others. You know the type--the person who seems incapable of picking up the signals that he/she is talking too much.

I wonder if our professions or associations sometimes come with attached blind spots. Academics are almost taught to assume that they are smarter than those without the advanced degrees. I wonder if Americans are so taught to assume their own superiority and the superiority of their institutions that the very idea that their elections might need monitoring never even dawns on them. It is in the blind spot and, though right in front of them, is invisible.

And I have been musing the issue with the church. I remember when Jimmy Swaggart was caught with the "escort," it seemed clear that he was so convinced that he was above such sins. Does the church encourage such belief? Surely the teachings of Christ caution against such arrogance. But many church people strike me as a bit smug--kind of assuming that while they are far from perfect, they are a little above non-Christians or non-church goers in the moral department.

A few conversations recently have almost confirmed this. A friend and I had a conversation last year about the connection between morality and faith. This friend argued that Christians who maintained a personal relationship with God could not help but make better decisions. Another person restated that argument just the other day. The first said that the personal relationship with God meant that a Christian would be "led" to better decisions. The second said it was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

One danger of this is that it tells Christians that they are more moral simply because they are believers. Or it tells them that if they are better Christians (better at practicing the quiet times and bible reading and prayer regimes) then they are more moral. I am afraid that for many, that simply means that they start with that assumption in mind and do not ask themselves the hard questions. Is that voice inside me the Holy Spirit or is it my own desires and beliefs?

In practice, I have seen people of faith who truly believe that the environment is not a moral question--and in fact, they are not interested in issues of poverty or social justice. People who find their own racism in the Bible, or find justification for their wealth and privilege there as well.

Don't get me wrong. I am not suggesting that Christians are more prone to bad thinking than others. In fact, they might be more moral on some things. Nor am I saying that they are more prone to self-delusion. That seems to be a very common error for all humans. But I wonder sometimes if the language of the church has failed to encourage critial thought of our own motivations, and asked followers to engage in the broader moral questions of the day--with a critical and humble mind.

Off to contemplate my own blind spots....

December 10, 2005


I recently met a young woman who is battling depression. That word is really limited. We use it all the time. "I watched the game the other night and am so depressed." Yet, what most of us mean is that we are melancholy or down, or sad. When we are down or sad, we can often think our way out of it. We can choose to focus on what we have and elevate our mood.

But clinical depression is a different animal. Discussions with my friend have reminded me of the difference. I am reminded just how trite we can be. "Cheer up." "Be Happy." I want to be more sensitive in the future.

December 9, 2005

CS Lewis

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe opens today and I am really kind of torn. I read those books when I was a kid and really liked this particular one. The rest of the series kind of bugged me, but I liked the first book a lot. And later I read more of his science fiction. I read Tolkien during that time too, and loved the Hobbit. I find, however, that I am alone among most people in that while I enjoyed the first two books of the trilogy, I really never enjoyed the last one. My experience with the movie was the same way. I felt like Seinfeld's Elaine watching that desert movie and started to imagine Rick Moranis as Frodo wearing a hockey helmet. Perhaps it is my historical background and interest in film and culture, but I couldn't watch that trilogy without seeing it as a nostalgic agrarian protest against industrialization. And the battle scenes just wore me down.

Yesterday, I broke my vow and listened to Christian radio during some errands around town. I never feel good when I do, but it is sometimes a strange urge. Chuck Colson (who I used to have a small amount of respect for but now can't stand) pontificated on the new CS Lewis movie. In fact, everywhere on Christian radio was the discussion about the film. And that is fine, but like so much of our cultural landscape (patriotism, Christmas, morality, family), Christian conservatives don't own CS Lewis. Or Tolkien. But that is how it feels when they talk about it. Christmas is practiced wrongly by everyone except those who return the "reason for the season," (whatever that means). Only Christian conservatives care about morality and family. And CS Lewis becomes a Chuck Colson clone.

So, I don't know what I will do about this film. I still haven't seen Mel's Passion and probably won't. I certainly won't go see this film on opening weekend.


Taxes, programs for the poor, and who benefits from Bush's government

I could deal with this if it weren't for this.

December 8, 2005

10 degrees and colder

Damn cold in Oklahoma this morning. Convincing myself to go to yoga was quite a trick.


Something reminded me of Lewis Black the other day. I remember his standup routine after the Lewinsky scandal. He was rightly mad at Clinton for dragging us through all that juvenile crap--though in retrospect, it just seems petty and trivial. Anyway, Black suggested that as a punishment, Arkansas could not have another President for a hundred years.

I initially thought that should apply to Texas as well, but have reconsidered. After all, a lot more people are responsible for the worst President in American history than just Texans. And so more people have to do penance.

I first toyed with a scarlet letter (red states and all that) idea, but with all the college teams and humorous t-shirts out there, that won't work. My solution? Those people who voted for Bush should not vote for a certain number of years. But both as a Democrat and democrat, I cannot sanction disenfranchisement, so I suggest it be self-inflicted. Secret ballot, secret penance. You all know who you are.

You alone can look inside your heart and recognize that you made a huge mistake. If you voted for Bush in 2000, but not in 2004, then you might be able to justify continuing to cast ballots. After all, you learned. But if, after the wmd-nots and the torture scandal and the outing of the CIA agent--and you still voted for Bush in 2004? You should self-punish yourself severely. No voting for 10 years. That means school board, church deacon, nothing. Not until you show you can use your vote for good.

December 6, 2005

musing about Christmas

What an interesting time of the year. In many ways it is my favorite. Cooler weather. Lights and smells and music. I like the trees and the Christmas lights.

I worked retail for a bit. Christmas time was the worst, and in fact, for several years after that experience, SOF had to do all our shopping. I coulnd't bring myself to go to a mall. I still avoid them, and do much of my shopping online. I remember watching people turn into crazed idiots during Christmas.

And the constant lament about consumerism gets a little old. Not that it isn't a valid complaint, but consumerism is a problem well beyond Christmas. But many don't mind the consumerism and greed the other parts of the year. And as Americans, we are kind of forced to consume this time of year. Our economic outlook is often tied to how brisk Christmas sales are.

Historians tell us that Christmas (in this country) has always been a contested time--and has been very tied to consumerism. For all the complaints about missing "the reason for the season," Americans have never really celebrated it the way they tell themselves they should.

Well, all that aside, I am going to enjoy the season as much as I can. I remember a church from my childhood only singing Christmas carols right before Christmas day or Eve. No Advent, no real embracing of the season. And then the much anticipated Christmas morning (we opened presents then) and the much hated let down. SOF and I try to make it a longer experience.

So here is hoping that you all enjoy the Christmas season. If you are feeling down, drop by Heifer or Pura Vida and help them out.

December 5, 2005

Yoga update

My decision to start practicing Yoga inspired a couple of interesting responses. One old friend asked if I was turning into a "metrosexual."

I must admit that my knowledge of Yoga was pretty limited to a King of the Hill episode. If pressed, I fully expected some amount of silliness.

And that may be out there. But my Yoga teacher is cool, and the Yoga has been very good for me. I can already feel my flexibility and range of motion improving. I took SOF last week and she really enjoyed herself. But we were both sore all weekend.

real life implications of flawed theology

Nicole relates her own experience.

December 3, 2005

Why do I care?

Anglican asked me why I cared what Al Mohler said. Decent question. SOF and I talked about Mohler and Russell Moore's comments and asked each other the same question. Why do we care?

I think Natalie's post hit it. I am aware enough to make sense of their statements. Natalie is equipped to put her relative's comments in context. But what about those young girls who believe that those words come from God? So many Christians are very quick to cite God, as in, "God believes this," or "God says that." I shudder to think of those young girls hearing that if they end up unmarried or childless that they are going against the will of God. Or young men. Marriage and sex are complicated enough without the idiocy of Russell Moore and Al Mohler.

More on SBC insanity

You all read the Russell Moore nonsense the other day where he castigated evangelicals for flirting with feminism and abandoning strict hierarchy. Kristen M wrote a wonderful sendup of this idiocy, and Natalie has a very personal reflection on such thinking.

I read the original so fast that I missed this little nugget:
“Evangelicals maintain headship in the sphere of ideas, but practical decisions are made in most evangelical homes through a process of negotiation, mutual submission, and consensus,” Moore said. “That’s what our forefathers would have called feminism -- and our foremothers, too.”

Right. Negotiation and mutual submission (which sounds faintly like some Bible verse) are bad.

I have friends from the old days. Some find me very puzzling because they remember a Streak who embraced patriarchy, toyed with Biblical innerrency, and quoted the conservative party line. Now they see me and wonder what the hell happened. I understand that, but they need to look closer at the idiocy that is the SBC if they want to understand some of my reasons. I spent way too much time around smart and effective women to buy any simple patriarchy. I still do. I married one. Don't expect me to take anyone seriously who expects me to impose my will on a woman simply because of my gender. It is ridiculous. And, as Kristen points out so well, criticizing skills like negotiation and mutual submission are the height of idiocy.