January 31, 2006

commercialization of the church

Greg posted his interview with a British paper on mega churches, and I think he explains some particular problems with the modern church very well.

the parish: Interview, Part One:
"A megachurch worship event is a very sterile thing. Worship is supposed to shape us into a particular kind of people. If I go to receive a blessing or an event that is tailored to my felt needs and I'm never required to minister to my fellow parishioners, what kind of person am I being shaped to be? A narcissist? A consumer?"

and from part 2
"I would hazard a guess that no megachurch in the U.S. has ever critiqued capitalism through the lens of the Hebrew prophets. No mega has asked where the ridiculous trinkets we buy in so-called Christian bookstores come from. No thought is given to global policies that might cast us in a negative light. Oppression of developing nations? Environmental concerns? These aren’t issues in megas because the focus isn’t really on helping God with the redemption of the world; the focus is on a truncated soteriology and then allowing me to believe that I’m okay just the way I am, even if just the way I am relies on oppression, exploitation, or political expediency."

January 30, 2006

State of the what now?

My friend CIL has a funny quirk. (Well, more than one.) He is such a diehard Cowboy fan and 49er hater that he denies that Dwight Clark ever existed and certainly that he made some "catch" in an NFC championship. As a Notre Dame alum, he knows that Joe Montana was a good Irish qb, but is still amazed that he had such a short pro career in Kansas City....

I am thinking of trying this denial bit myslf. It seems to work for CIL (assuming by "work" I don't mean "sane") :) So, back to the state of the union. My schedule is a bit rough this semester, but man am I glad that I am busy Tuesday evening. So glad. I am not sure I can stand more references to 9-11, terrorism, awkward defenses of evesdropping (because he is the Prez) and those weird nods to people standing that later the President will respond, "Chalabi? Who?"

Walking into class, I put on a playlist of stuff I am putting together for my 18 yr old neice. It works for me. We shall see what she thinks. I am planning three cds: one on old stuff (80s old that she may not have heard)--Neil Young, REM, Pete Townshend and Peter Gabriel (she is a big Springsteen fan and I think also aware of U2's work); one on alt-country (Ryan Adams, Steve Earle, Patty Griffin, etc); and then this one I call "new" for lack of a better word:

Arcade Fire: Rebellion and Wake Up
Gemma Hayes: My God and Happy Sad
Kathleen Edwards: Copied Keys
Sufjan Stevens: John Wayne Gacy Jr.
Spoon: Sister Jack and I summon You
Shins: New Slang
Wilco: Heavy Metal Drummer and Shot in the Arm
Josh Rouse: Its the Nighttime

January 27, 2006

Music is our only hope

Tivoed Austin City Limits last night, and watched it tonight. It was a real joy to watch Ryan Adams and Tift Merritt. Those who don't like Ryan Adams--well I get it. The guy is an ass. But as my guitar teacher put it--trust the art, not the artist.

And there he was. Hair looked like shit. But that voice. And those songs.

The second half was Tift, and we have seen her a couple times at the ACL festival. Her live show (the first one) was electric. Her second festival show was ok, but it was one of the early ones--12:30 or so on a Saturday. Hard to have great energy then. We have one of her albums. But her studio stuff is just kind of sterile. Boring. Just doesn't capture it.

Her ACL show really captured why we liked her first show. Great stuff.

And both really reminded us why we love music and especially why we love music that no one plays in Oklahoma City.

A nice way to spend Friday night.

January 26, 2006

White evangelicals and Bush

ChristianityToday reports that some of the Evangelical support for Bush is softening a bit. They also suggest that they care only about the war and the courts.

Then this:

"In the end, Bush may regain rock-solid footing among evangelicals courtesy of his political enemies. When politicians and pundits attack Bush, many evangelical supporters reflexively back the man they put into the White House. Pollster Green says, 'In their current mood, evangelicals think: I like Bush, until his enemies attack him, then I really like him.'

David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, wrote recently in the National Review that the President 'has been politically protected by the faith of millions of .... religious conservatives that he is 'a good Christian man.' '"

This is where I part company. It is one thing to look to Bush for your political goals. Politics makes for strange bedfellows. We end up supporting people that we find annoying (or worse) because they can give us something politically.

But evangelicals think that Bush is a good Christian man. Evesdropping--wmd-oops--outing a CIA agent and promising to fire anyone responsible--Katrina and playing the guitar while New Orleans drowned--all of that seems to not matter. "Good Christian man?"

How low can that bar get?


Well, isn't this just a kick in the butt?

Very interesting.

We are spreading democracy to fight terrorism. Yet we have a population democratically choosing to elect what a group we see as a terrorist organization.


Having a discussion with a friend about Ben Roethlisberger. Can't doubt that the man can play football, but he is also one of those athletes who likes to connect his athletic success to his religious faith. Paraphrasing here, but he once said that only God could have transformed him from a bench player to a starter.

I am suggesting to my friend that this is just one of the many examples where we see the trivializing of faith.

He says it is just Ben being grateful to God for his talent. I say that it is, not only trivializing, but also false humility. "Look at me. I am so good that only God could have given me this talent."

Well, I found my ire

Yeah, it is never far off. All I have to do is read the news. Well, this edition of Streak's ire is for those who still think Bush is a Christian--with all the assumed morality and character that accompanies that. Over at the Talking Points Memo, Josh is discussing how a Bush-Cheney supporter who runs the company that does the pictures for White House appearances has pulled pictures featuring Bush and Abramoff. They are also deleted from their cds.

See, my little voice tells me that cagey politicos like Karl Rove could have spun the Abramoff thing and just turned things on him. They could have said, "this is a damn shame, a damn shame. Yes we know Jack Abramoff and expected far better from him. Of course we know him, but he never got special treatment from us. He was just a good fundraiser." Except that probably isn't true. I bet he did get special treatment. Hence the Orwellian attempt to delete reality.


Speaking of the rat. Karl Rove has said some very unkind things about Democrats lately.

Media Matters -
Media uncritically reported Rove's false claim that Democrats don't want to eavesdrop on Al Qaeda
: "Let me be as clear as I can: President Bush believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why. Some important Democrats clearly disagree."

This is actually more than unkind. It is a blatant and slanderous lie. Democrats don't want terrorists attacking any more than Republicans, and the scenario Rat Boy just outlined is absolutely no problem for me or most Democrats. If you get a warrant. See, we just believe that we need some form of checks and balances to make sure that our President is not abusing his office and his power. I wonder why Karl wants no such check.


Third item. Recent documents have revealed that even Michael Brown's inept FEMA actually warned the White House that a leve 4 hurricane or higher would breach the levees, and that flooding and mass damage would ensue. Before, the hurricane. So, when our Christian President said afterwards that no one could have predicted the levees failing, he was, how do you put it, lying.

Now, his administration is stonewalling congressional efforts to investigate the response to Katrina--withholding documents and witnesses. Any guesses on how quick they would be to cooperate if those documents showed the President acting with competence?

It is bad enough these people are incompetent. But they are also untruthful and perfectly willing to slander their opponents. I think Samuel Johnson said that "Patriotism is the last refuge of Scoundrels." He surely was thinking of people like this.

January 25, 2006

January 23, 2006

New cooking triumph

Chicken parmesan. Not bad at all. Used organic and free-range chicken. Mix of cheeses.

Got to use the meat hammer again.

Bush and Abramoff

TIME.com has a new article on the photos. To be very clear, the initial evidence is of the kind of photo-ops that politicians do very often, and Bush could have done these and not known Abramoff from, well, me.

But I don't think so. Abramoff enjoyed a tremendous amount of access for one big reason. He was a rainmaker--he brought in money. And lots of it.

Anyway, we shall see.

January 22, 2006


I have become a bit of a foody. Or at least, that is what some people call me.

I like to cook. It relaxes me. Part of why I get annoyed at simplistic gender stereotypes. Speaking of that, I played golf with two other guys last week. Or the week before, I forget.

Anyway, we are on the 5th or 6th tee and my two playing partners are trying to figure out who has the biggest driver. I wondered if we were going to have a juvenile conversation about breasts and such. My friends laughed and asked what was wrong with that?

Well, it was just a big tease. There was to be no juvenile discussion--certainly about breasts. Two holes later, the same trio was caught up discussing the proper cooking methods for home-made pizza.

There go your gender stereotypes. Three guys playing golf--talking about cooking rather than girls or cars.

So, back to cooking. SOF gave me a mixer last year, and this year a food processor. I have been experiementing with making my own pizza crust. So far, so good. My latest creation was to recreate what a local pizzeria called a calzone, but others might call a filled pizza. Two crusts and plenty of traditional toppings in the middle. I like sausage and chopped pepperoni.

Anyway, this is starting to be one of my favorites. The last time, I used kalamata olives and I think those were a little salty--but other than that great.

One other thing I am considering is to use a pizza screen. My thought is that the screen might allow for a crispier crust, and might really help with the filled crust. Any one have experience with these?


My next experimentation is making pork braciole--rolled pork cutlets with a bread crumb, parmesan and parseley filling. I read about it online and gave it a try. It has been a good dish, but I think I have a ways to go. The filling is good, and after the rolls are browned, they braise for a couple of hours in a red sauce.

First, this is my first time for really flattening cuts of meat. When I went to buy the tenderizer, I was going to be funny and ask for a "meat hammer." As it turns out, that is exactly what it is called! But I am not sure I am using it right. I think I might need to cue up a Bush speech while I am hammering away so I can really get it thin. But I am a bit afraid of really hammering on our counter tops. Am thinking that next time i will move my process to the floor on chopping boards so I can really swing away.

Anyway, I am open to any and all suggestions.

Pro-war Evangelicals

CIL suggested that the angry and jaded Streak had never left. Well, I hope to post some on my latest cooking efforts, but need to address a couple of things that make me angry. This one is really a common refraint by the angry Streak, Evangelicals who seem to think that Jesus was pro-war and anti-peace. Zalm points us to a great NY Times column, where we hear that some 68% of white evangelicals supported the war. The author, Charles Marsh, makes several great points, but this sentence summed up (for me) the essential problem for evangelicals:

"The single common theme among the war sermons appeared to be this: our president is a real brother in Christ, and because he has discerned that God's will is for our nation to be at war against Iraq, we shall gloriously comply."

Just chilling. That kind of mindless following is what leads to monumental disasters.


Speaking of Republican problems. I read yesterday that Karl Rove has come out saying that the GOP will use terrorism in the 2006 election. Well, sure. We should expect that people willing to politicize 9-11 will do whatever it takes. Rove went on to say that Democrats (though he was careful to say we weren't unpatriotic) are stuck in a pre-911 world, while Republicans are beyond that.

I think he is right. I think Democrats live in a world where our constitution still matters--where warrantless searches are still a bad thing.

I am considering a new possible bumper sticker or email signature. "Would you support unwarranted searches from President Hilary Clinton?"


The Abramoff scandal is still percolating. Republicans keep trying to paint this as a bi-partisan scandal even though the only politicians under investigation are Republican. One of the more interesting tidbits is the potential connection to Bush himself. At the very beginning, McClellan said that Bush didn't know him. Of course, Bush also said he didn't know Chalabi, remember that?

Well, we shall see. One Washington mag is reporting having seen pictures with Bush and Abramoff together--and also saying that Abramoff will testify that Bush new him well enough to ask about his kids and wife by name.

This might really cause Bush problems. Of course, given the first note in this post, those who believe that God elected Bush won't care. Evidently if God is behind your candidate, they can even break the law.


January 20, 2006

Yeah, now I am pissed

The jaded and angry Streak is back. For now.

I turn on the MSNBC tonight and see some blonde woman hosting the Abram report. Or something like that. I have two major annoyances after watching this show.

She had two lawyers on arguing about evesdropping. The pro-Bush guy just kept saying that the President was the Constitutionally appointed and elected official to determine Constitutionally issues. And especially during wartime. Hey, the country gets to kill people during wartime too, so (as the gov lawyer said) it was hardly a stretch that the Prez could authorize evesdropping.

At least the opposition guy was decent. He said that the President couldn't both pitch and call balls and strikes. I thought that was apt. If only I had a smidgeon of faith that the people defending Bush would have tolerated Clinton saying "Hey, we're at war. I get to do whatever I want while we are at war?" If a conservative defender can tell me that he/she wouldn't mind a President Hillary saying that, I will believe them. Otherwise, I have to call bullshit on that.

Now about the second annoyance. Blondie (and I had never seen her) ended each segment by saying "there is right on each side." How wonderful for us all? A lawyer can say that the President has unfettered powers and all the host can say is that each side is equally right. That is the worst legacy of the Bush administration (besides the destruction to the evangelical credibility)--that we have the constant argument that every critic of Bush has a completely credible counter-argument. Good god.

Isn't it amazing? Shouldn't we be arguing that saying it is up is just a counter argument to saying it is down. Night? Day is just as credible.

No wonder intelligent design has a foothold.

Jaded Streak returns

I will have more fun posts. But this morning, just a little cynical and jaded.

this is how conservative christian approach to public policy looks to me:

on voting for christians: "of course christians should make better politicians. reading the bible and listening to god has to make them better." Presented with evidence that not only has Bush not acted Christ like, but the biggest participants in corrupt policies happen to be the loudest thumpers. "Hmm. That shouldn't be. I will still vote for them." Other Christians, they are asked? "No, the same ones. Tom Delay says that God is directing his path. Who am I to question that?"

Tax policy: "Ronny and George have assured me that cutting taxes will reduce the deficit and be better for everyone." The deficit grows as does poverty and the uninsured. "Hmm. That shouldn't be. We should make the tax cuts permanent." Even though most of that money goes to the rich? "God loves rich people, and it is more important that I be comfortable than we address poverty."

speaking of the poor, policy on poverty: "well, god obviously doesn't want high taxes or welfare. I am not poor because I work hard. Therefore no one has to be poor. There just shouldn't be poor people. We will feed some of those who are hungry, but that is it. For the rest, they are on their own."

death penalty: "It is in the bible--an eye for an eye." confronted with evidence that the system not only is flawed with regards to guilt or innocence, but clearly on the basis of class and race. "Hmm. It is in the bible. And we are certainly executing guilty people too. We should just keep going."

pregnancy: "abstinence is the best policy. It shall be our only policy. " Confronted with evidence that abstinence only programs not only don't help, they actually endanger kids who have sex because they have no clue how to protect themselves. "Hmm. Abstinence is the best policy. We will continue that policy."

evolution: "God created the world in 7 days. Period." Evolutionary evidence grows. Flu virus jumps cross species every year, and the documentation for cross-species evolution just continues to mount. "Nope. It says right here that God created the world in 7 days. No mention of monkeys. This shall be our policy."

gays. "God said it is an abomination, and everyone agrees that it is a choice. our policy on gays is that they shouldn't be gay. Period."

January 19, 2006

blogging doldrums

The semester has begun, so my energy level is a bit stretched. I have this tendency to blog the negatives--like a recent discussion with someone (on another blog) over the Pledge of Allegiance. As if God really cares if barely awake school children utter a mindless "under God" or not. My God doesn't care. I don't know about your's.


Back to more interesting and fun music. SOF and I rented the DVD of Steve Earle's ACL performance from the 80s (1986, I think). What fun! Hilarious to see one of my favorite artists in completely different form. Thin, long-flowing hair, and a very twangy voice. After watching it, we pulled out the DVD for Transcendental Blues. Very different and older Steve Earle. Both very good and both worth watching.


Guilty pleasure confession. One of my Colorado friends has an entire playlist she calls "guilty pleasures." Recently, while scanning my Itunes, she noted that I didn't seem to have any. Well, as SOF took great glee in noticing, I recently was caught playing Kelly Clarkson's "Since u been gone." Yeah, it is true. American Idol is ridiculous and annoying, but Kelly can sing "her ass off," and that song, while poppy and light, is a good one.

Bucky the Badger bailed me out by pointing me to a cover by Ted Leo (of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists) that is not only a good cover, but also kind of funny. It may not be as great of a cover as the Gourds doing Snoop Dog's "Gin and Juice" (which is amazing and hilarious all at once), but it is a good one.

Hah. I am sure I am not the only one with some guilty pleasures in my list. To paraphrase an annoying commercial, "So what's in your Itunes?"

January 16, 2006

Some new music

Tired of putting together syllabi and lectures, I am concentrating on music for a break. I am trying to expand my music collection a little at a time. Listening some samplers and other sources (friends like Bucky, for example) and have started listening to some people like Josh Rouse ("It's the nighttime" from Nashville), Badly Drawn Boy, The Doves, and Spoon. During SNL last week, SOF and I thought Death Cab for Cutie sounded like a Keen knock-off. Of course, I thought Keen sounded like a Coldplay knock-off, but oddly enough Death Cab does not sound at all like Coldplay at all (to me). :)

Anyone heard Maria Taylor? I have only the one song "song beneath the song" but am impressed. Likewise with Rocky Votolato (almost for his name alone). Sia is another one that Six Feet Under fans may recognize. I am quite impressed with the song I have from The New Pornographers. I had heard about them and heard some of Neko Case's solo stuff, but this was my first of theirs. And finally, I may be coming around to Iron and Wine's collaboration with Calexico. Listening to "history of lovers" has made me reconsider my first reaction. Likewise with the Decemberists. I have only one song from these last groups or people, so am open to any suggestsions whether their entire album is worth buying.

Updating my links

This has only taken me six months or so to do, but I finally updated my link list of favorite blogs. I added (belatedly) a few really good bloggers and all around insightful people like Kevin, Nicole, Adam, and Zalm. All are bloggers who pop in on occasion and add some nice insight to Streak's little world.

And, I recently found a new blog while surfing over at Carlos's Jesus Politics. Part Steven Colbert and part something else, Jon Swift challenged me to post a link to his blog, even though he fears the left-leaning nature of this blog might do further harm to America. Anyway, take a look. Although this take on the NY Times story on body armor is good, ("Of course, no one could have predicted that the war would last more than a few weeks so the idea that the Pentagon should pay for a lot of expensive armor and humvees that might never be needed is absurd.") my favorite right now is his list of Bush accomplishments for 2005.

February 2 – Bush gives a State of the Union message completely devoid of false information based on bad intelligence. The speech is interrupted by applause 66 times, and he gets 44 standing ovations.

March 20 – President Bush cuts off his vacation and rushes from Crawford, Texas, to Washington to save the life of Terry Schiavo, proving that defending life is even more important to him than personal leisure activities. Despite the President’s efforts and Dr. Bill Frist’s upbeat diagnosis, Schiavo dies 11 days later.

January 15, 2006

What about them Broncos?

Last night SOF and I watched the Denver Broncos stumble through a victory over the defending Superbowl champs. We have been Bronco fans for years. SOF used to go to games with her dad. We remember the dark years--the blowout Superbowl losses. But we also remember the magic. The diving first down in the SB against Green Bay. The playoff comeback against Cleveland (of course), but also a dramatic drive against Houston (the Oilers). We were living in Houston at the time, and I remember taking off my Denver sweatshirt when I made a pizza run.

Speaking of Houston, I remember SOF and I scoring tickets to see Denver play the Oilers. This was during the Run n' Shoot days and Houston was pretty good in the regular season. We sat in the upper levels and watched as the Oilers jumped out on top and the game was essentially over. Our row included another couple--him a little on the drunk side. I kept an eye on him and tried to keep our team loyalties quiet. No need to push it. But SOF was harder to control. :) Toward the end of the game, Elway tossed a long (meaningless) TD pass and she jumped up yelling. Drunk guy glared at her, then at me. Heh.

Well, Elway is selling cars (or whatever) now. So it has been a little lean. As we heard (ad nauseum) the Broncos had not won a playoff game without Elway--until last night. SOF actually got into the game as well--something she has avoided during the Brian Griese years, and she has not been sold on Jake Plummer--beard and all. But last night she was into the game. It was fun. My mom called when Champ Bailey nearly returned that INT 103 yards. That was fun too. CIL and I chatted during the game--mocking the idiotic Dodge hemi and Burger King commercials. All fun.

On with the playoffs.

January 13, 2006

This just in: Republicans are corrupt and even Republicans admit

Some anyway. Now if the voters will either demand good government or vote for it, we might have a chance.

JC Watts, my former representative, had this to say last fall:
KnoxNews | No Silence Here: "I was part of that wild and crazy Class of '94 that shook the political landscape by taking over the House after more than 50 years of unfettered Democrat control. We came to Washington full of ideals and conviction. But sadly, what they say about absolute power is coming to reality in the 2005 GOP Washington. Republicans in just 10 years have developed the arrogance it took the Democrats 30 years to develop.'"

Now this one is admitting the same thing:

USATODAY.com - In Congress, 'we simply have too much power': "We simply have too much power,' says Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., speaking of lawmakers' ability to target tax dollars for particular projects, contractors or campaign donors. 'We Republicans have abused that power badly over the past several years.'"

and from George Will:

For the House GOP, A Belated Evolution: "Until the Bush administration, with its incontinent spending, unleashed an especially conscienceless Republican control of both political branches, conservatives pretended to believe in limited government. The past five years, during which the number of registered lobbyists more than doubled, have proved that, for some Republicans, conservative virtue was merely the absence of opportunity for vice."

Update on Robertson: Israel tells him to shove it

Chicago Tribune | Israel: We won't talk to Robertson: "JERUSALEM --

Israel said Wednesday that it was breaking off negotiations on a tourism project with evangelical leader Pat Robertson in response to his remarks suggesting that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution. 'We cannot accept these statements and we will not sign any contracts with Mr. Robertson,' said Ido Hartuv, a spokesman for the Tourism Ministry."

January 12, 2006

I can't figure this guy out

I have written of my frustration with Warren and his ilk before. Though I may have his "ilk" confused. Here he addresses the linking of politics and religion:
"Warren is a friend of President Bush and a repeat visitor to the White House. But he also met for several hours at Saddleback last month with Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, to discuss issues such as poverty and the environment.

'I'm worried that evangelicals be identified too much with one party or the other. When that happens, you lose your prophetic role of speaking truth to power,' Warren said. 'And you have to defend stupid things that leaders do.'"

And that is exactly where most evangelicals are. Defending stupid, immoral or even illegal actions by Delay, Bush, Rove et. al. Not only is it a problem, but it robs evangelicals of any credibility. After all, anyone who defended Delay can hardly be trusted to really address Christ-like behavior, can they? Unless Christ was nicknamed "the Hammer" and took pleasure in destroying his critics.

Warren is clearly a little taken with himself. He likes being a celebrity and power broker. Yet he intrigues me.

I guess I am just tired

Very few things make me respect the conservative church more than things like Justice Sunday III. I am just tired of them. Tired of the constant lament that Christianity is under attack when it isn't.

Tired of people who say that God is not a Republican, but then stage rallies in churches for Republican causes.

Tired of people who can organize a public outing to support Alito but can't seem to speak out on torture, poverty, Tom Delay, or Pat Robertson.

Tired of people who used Clinton's sins as proof of his lack of character, but now see Bush's sins as "just politics."

Just tired, I guess. When the church has become the defender of the powerful and the wealthy, what hope do we have?

January 10, 2006

RLP reviews The Book of Daniel

(Hat tip to the Buckster) Fans of the RLP might want to read this Salon review (non members have to watch a short ad) of the new controversial television show. I completely forgot about this show. And it looks like I didn't miss anything.

Gordon wanted to like the show, but just found it bad tv. Unwatchable. And he makes a great point about those who complain about it:

But I think all the uproar from Christians is symptomatic of a more disturbing trend. More and more Christians seem to think that affirmation from our culture is where they will find their power. Since when do religions need affirmation from television stations? That's a little shallow, don't you think? What we should be doing is practicing our devotion and letting our changed lives speak for themselves.

This is why our republic is in trouble

USATODAY poll shows that while 38 percent believe the Jack Abramoff scandal hurts Republicans most, 43 percent think it is a bipartisan scandal. Just shows how manipulative the Republicans are. Abramoff is a Republican trying to help Republicans get elected. The vast majority of his money and illegal doings were with Republicans, including members of the Religious Right. So how do these people think this is a bipartisan scandal? I suspect it is the Republican spin machine. For some reason there are 43 percent of Americans who find it convincing that Republicans who like to wave their moral superiority can damn Democrats by saying they are just as sleezy as us.

It is enough to make you cry.

January 8, 2006

Aslan happy meals

The Passion of the Christ proved that Christians were quite willing to commercialize their faith. Remember the pewter nail? At the time, I suggested that this was unseemly--that if Christians were willing to commercialize the crucifixion, then they were going to eventually see Christ on the Cross selling pain relief. Christians said, no, we are just showing our faith with our purchasing power. It isn't commercialization, it is an act of faith.

Hmm. Zalm has a great post (with pictures) of the commercialization of Narnia, and this critique of the practice. In the article, the author cites Bill Watterson's insistence that there was something about his cartoon strip that was more valuable than plastering those images on key chains and stuffed dolls.

. . . I don't want the issue of Hobbes's reality settled by a doll manufacturer. When everything fun and magical is turned into something for sale, the strip's world is diminished."

Or when serious aspects of faith are marketed like a Garfield coffee mug, the faith of millions is diminished.

January 7, 2006

Christianity needs a better voice

I read yesterday where the Dishonorable Dobson weighed in on the Abramoff controversy. The problem, as he sees it? Gambling. Not hipocrasy. Not greed. Not the fact that religious leaders have sold their very faith for political favors. Just gambling. Eradicate gambling, said Dobby, and this kind of corruption would disappear. Right.

I felt down this morning. It saddens me when I see the loudest Christian voices--including the church of my youth--speaking, not for the downtrodden and the least of these. Nope, they speak for the polluters, the clear cutters, the wealthy and powerful, the bigots. It is truly sad. When people who say they vote by the book vote for Tom Delay and George Bush--then that book needs a closer read.

Maybe it was fitting that I received an emailed invitation to this conference. I won't be able to attend, but how nice to see Christians meeting to fight for social justice.

"2006 is a year when Progressive Christians can fundamentally change the political discourse in our country. With our nation fighting an unethical war, with our fiscal state in disarray due to irresponsible tax cuts to the rich, with the victims of Katrina and all victims of poverty being left further behind by program cuts, now is the time for progressive Christians to speak with one prophetic voice."


January 6, 2006

More Conservative Evangelical problems

Joe Conason has a good essay on Salon (watch the free ad to read) that just adds to the list of religious leaders who have sold out. I knew about Ralph Reed making a few million off gambling lobbying while pretending to oppose gambling. I didn't know about the good Rabbi Daniel Lapin.

This particular man of God, vaunted for his scholarly understanding of the Bible and his apologetics for Christian fundamentalism, turns out to have served as a money launderer and fraudster for Abramoff. He was paid by Abramoff's bogus Washington charity, the Capital Athletic Foundation, which passed money along to the wife of California Rep. John Doolittle, among other dubious "charitable" payments. Lapin's own peculiar "religious charity," Toward Tradition, took in thousands of dollars from an online gambling firm, which it then passed along to the wife of DeLay staffer Tony Rudy.

Abramoff showered money on Lapin and his family, and the right-wing rabbi was not ungrateful. When the ambitious lobbyist needed to embellish his curriculum vitae to impress the overseers of the prestigious Cosmos Club in Washington, Lapin gladly furnished him with fake awards attesting to his religious scholarship.

"I just need to know what needs to be produced ... letters? Plaques? Neither?" he asked in an e-mail to Abramoff.

"Probably just a few clever titles of awards, dates and that's it," the lobbyist replied. "As long as you are the person to verify them [or we can have someone else verify one and you the other], we should be set. Do you have any creative titles, or should I dip into my bag of tricks?"

What Lapin ultimately bestowed on his benefactor was a backdated award from Toward Tradition, the group he founded to restore morality in America. It named Abramoff a "Scholar of Biblical and American History."

Nice. Fake awards. I think there is something in the Bible about lying. And what about Tom Delay? I have suggested that anyone who admires him for his Christian faith needs to really rethink what that means.

Not many politicians have been as bold as DeLay in publicly claiming the mandate of heaven. Who can forget his justification for pushing the impeachment of Bill Clinton, whom he accused of having the "wrong worldview"? While the Hammer cavorted on Scottish golf courses and gorged himself on Malaysian banquets, he was assuring the faithful on Capitol Hill that the Almighty had chosen him for leadership and was teaching him how to do his job.

Yeah. Great. If God is teaching this guy how to do his job, then we worship a Mafia boss.

As Conason says, "Perhaps it is worth expressing a small hope that the good religious people of this country will rise up in outrage against the abuse of their faith by all these pious hypocrites."

Perhaps. I will believe it when I see it.

Oh my

In a continuation of yesterday, a few notes on Conservatives and their alleged principles. This self-identified conservative has some real issues with how his fellow conservatives have responded to the Abramoff scandal. He is not kind:
Translation: the people we conservatives advocated for and voted for got to Washington and in many cases became just as corrupt as the bums they replaced -- though the scale of Abramoff's operation suggests that the Republicans were even worse. Somewhere along the way, Republicans got more interested in maintaining power than in standing for anything -- I vote for the moment that Tom DeLay conceived the K Street Project, which in its wretched amoralistic excess recalls the phrase attributed to the Medici pope of the Renaissance Leo X: "God gave us the papacy; let us enjoy it" (and we know how well things would soon turn out for the Church because of that attitude).

But my favorite was this proof that people like Abramoff and Ralph Reed and Karl Rove have just been exploiting Christian conservatives:

"If I were a Democrat, I would flood Red State media markets this fall with the following quotation -- yes, I quoted it yesterday, but I just can't get enough of it -- from a memo by Abramoff partner and former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon, explaining how he and his fellow wiseguys made useful idiots of Christian conservatives to serve their clients' interests: 'Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them. The wackos get their information form [sic] the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet, and telephone trees.' "

And you thought they shared your values. They don't. They just see a voting block that they can manipulate.


Yesterday, of course, Big Head Pat explained Ariel Sharon's tragic stroke as proof that God likes Pat more than Sharon. His idiocy knows no bounds.

Well, today, we see that a group of Ministers Say They Blessed Seats Ahead of Alito Hearing. Maybe we should just add this to the list of reasons why conservative evangelicals should not be taken seriously. Except that they are better represented in Washington than people who believe in gravity.

But these ministers claim this act of putting holy oil on the seats in the hearings room is not a "pro-Alito prayer" but merely that God needs to be involved. Then this little gem:
Rev. Schenck said he and Rev. Mahoney had blessed the same room before hearings for Chief Justice John Roberts last year. That hearing 'went very well,' Rev. Schenck said."

See, we aren't Republicans, but God prefers Republican judges. Simple.

My friend Bucky the Badger thought it was particularly outrageous that these guys had broken into a confernce room. Imagine, he said, if it appeared in the news this way: "A small group of clerics entered an unsecured hearing room at the cpaital and are thought to have spread an unknown substance on several surfaces. The entire wing of the building will be closed while hazmat teams moves in to invesitgate where biological wmd may be involved."

Brilliant. And dead on.


Ok, now for some humor. My other friend, CIL made me read this hilarious live blogging (kind of) of the Rose Bowl. The entire thing is worth reading, but here are a few gems:

8:23 -- Funny shot of Leinart warming up and wearing a conspicuous knee brace. After the Saints locked up the No. 2 pick, do you think Leinart went to USC's doctor and asked, "Can you give me the biggest, scariest looking knee brace you can find?"

or this?

"8:37 -- Keith Jackson on Vince Young: 'As an old defensive coach once said, 'He ain't got no handles,' but he led the country in passing this year.'

(Um, does anyone on this plane speak jive? What just happened there?)"

Read the entire thing if you need a laugh.

January 5, 2006

Wow, this guy just never shuts up

Media Matters -
Robertson blamed Sharon stroke on policy of "dividing God's land"

I was thinking about the Right Idiot Robertson the other day while listening to (not Christian radio) NPR's Science Friday. They were discussing how the Korean scientist had essentially faked a peer reviewed paper on cloning embryonic stem cells. The entire point of the show was to discuss how such a paper had been published despite all the safety measures in place to catch bad science.

I remember thinking at the time that conservative Christianity would do well to learn from that. I would love to see an investigation by conservative Christians into how Falwell was able to blame 9-11 on gays and liberals--how Robertson could call for the killing of a foreign leader--or how this idiot could continue to speak for god? He has constitutional free speech, of course, but conservative christians continue to allow this charlatan to speak as if he represents anything remotely Christian.

Update At least the MM (Mainstream Media) is actually covering this, but only Keith Olbermann was willing to really speak the truth--listing Robertson as one of the worst humans on the planet. Seriously, why don't real, legitimate, bible-believing Christians, find this guy abhorent?

More Maybe here is the explanation: Robertson spokeswoman Angell Watts said of critics who challenged his remarks, ``What they're basically saying is, `How dare Pat Robertson quote the Bible?'''

``This is what the word of God says,'' Watts said. ``This is nothing new to the Christian community.''

Maybe this explains why the Christian community is so hard to respect.

Some conservatives take on conservatives

Personally, I find Tucker Carlson annoying, but will concede that he is light years ahead of the other prominent conservative talking heads (Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and that snake-Hannity). Occasionally, he makes a good point. This blog is one of those, though many of my readers will object (correctly) to his characterization about Indian gaming. But his point about conservatives and their "principles" is dead on. " Weirdos and charlatans and self-interested hacks like Lou Sheldon and Grover Norquist have long discredited the conservative ideas they purport to represent. Their political allies in Washington and Congress may be tempted to defend them. I hope they don't. We'll all be better off when they're gone."

And since I seem to be citing conservatives, here is another. Andrew Sullivan actually supports the expansion of the evesdropping, but questions the President's desire to divide and push the constitutional envelope--especially when he clearly didn't have to.

"It's clear now that 9/11 was seen by Cheney and Rumsfeld not simply as a catastrophe but as an opportunity. Just as Karl Rove shrewdly exploited the war to divide and defeat the Democrats, so Cheney and Rummy saw a chance to reverse decades of post-Vietnam executive branch erosion.

The war against terror, they argued, was an opportunity to insist the president was answerable to no court and no legislature in war-making. If he found laws that inhibited his range of action, he could simply ignore them. As commander-in-chief he wasn't so much above the law as he was the law. The brightest legal stars in the conservative intelligentsia were drafted to write legal memos justifying an extraordinary expansion of presidential power. He could ignore any treaties; he could violate any US law; he could upend decades of military justice; he could tell the UN to stuff it. And he did.

If you wonder how the US military got away with violating American law and torturing detainees in secret sites, wonder no longer. In wartime, Bush's lawyer John Yoo argued, the president could authorise the torture of anyone. In a recent debate at Notre Dame University, Yoo even claimed no treaty or law could definitively prevent the president from authorising the torture of a terrorist's child if he thought it was necessary for national security. If the president could legally and constitutionally do that, wiretapping American citizens is a no-brainer."


Speaking of spying, as wasp jerky pointed out in my comments: "Speaking of the President spying, it seems that NBC may be investigating whether or not a CNN reporter was spied on. It's all very conjectural at this point, but I wouldn't put it past these guys."

Think about it: our president spying on our own media--all without a warrant or judicial oversight. Back when conservatives had principles, they would have opposed this.

last night's game

Wow, what a game! As I noted in the previous post, it was hard to cheer for Texas, but I was tired of the Matt Leinart show. In fact, the post game interviews showed kind of what I thought. Reggie Bush was a class act and Matt Leinart said that USC lost--Texas didn't win. Really?

The Vince Young show, in fact, was one of the more impressive I have ever seen. When OU won the national title against FSU, I thought then (and still think today) it was one of the best team defense performances in a big game I had seen. But Young's individual performance was one of the best I have ever seen.

Add to that strong games in the Orange and Sugar bowls (Fiesta bowl wasn't bad) and I can't remember a better bowl season.

As Bootleg Blogger noted, this should make next year's Red River shootout extra special!

January 4, 2006

Streak's rants

Ok, just more annoyances.

First, let me say that I really hate USC. It hurts like hell to cheer for Texas, but USC is pure and unadulterated evil. Any team that has a Bush leading it is not good. EVIL, I say. I suggest that Matt Leinart--in the spirit of Tin Cup--"hates old people, children, and dogs."

One of the cell phone ads has this doofus guy singing the theme song for the Dukes of Hazzard. He says it is his theme song. Moron. Reminds me of that idiotic Dodge Hemi ads.

Idiots. Evil idiots.

Newspapers Urge President to Quit--sigh

Bootleg Blogger sent this column that essentially repeats the absurdity of people calling for the impeachment of Clinton because of sex, while making excuses for Bush spying on his own people. It is really old news by now. Well, the spying part is new, but people's priorites have been screwed up for a while.

Take this study that SUVs are not safer. We have known that for sometime, but people continue to buy them. I saw this very, very stupid woman on the evening news last night talking about how she felt safer in her Tahoe. When presented with this evidence, she siad that it didn't convince her--that she was thinking of getting an even bigger SUV. I guess we don't have to look far to see the kind of thinking that gives us Intelligent Design, or Iraq's involement in 9-11, or cutting taxes during wartime. Not only is it stupid, but it demonstrates great disregard for everyone else. SUVs waste fuel and pollute--and even if they are safer for that child (assuming it doesn't flip) in a collision with a smaller vehicle, it is absolutely more dangerous for everyone else on the road.

I guess it fits the GWB vision of America. "Get yours. Keep yours. Screw everyone else. Period." All the while make sure to put a "I vote by the Book" bumper sticker (complete with the image of the Bible) on the back of the polluting Suburban. (Yes, I actually saw one of those today) Sheesh.

Speaking of that, I think we were all horrified by the deaths of those miners--and the horrible false information that really crushed so many people. Watching the news was just wrenching. I can only imagine. Today some bloggers were pointing out that Bush appointed mining execs to all the boards that oversee mining and mining safety. Don't get me wrong--I am not blaming Bush for this. Coal mining is among the most dangerous jobs. Nor is he to blame for the shoddy reporting that replicated--in a horrible macabre way--the childhood game of "telephone."

But watching that reminded me of how corporate our country is. Bush makes it worse in that he puts them in charge of regulating themselves--which I think is just stupid. But the problem is widespread. Our media is almost completely corporate. Our regulators are corporate. Our schools are increasingly corporate sponsored and dependent on corporate money. And again, don't misunderstand me. Many corporations do good work. They certainly employ people and many do good work at a community level. But they will always seek to protect their interests. I understand that. But when what we learn about our government is all through the lens of profitability, I think we are in great danger.

It is my hope that we will rekindle that sense that we have a responsibility beyond our own comfort and wealth. That we will shame those who choose their own comfort at the cost of the rest of us. That we will demand accountability from our leaders. That we will demand that the public airwaves be used--at least partially--to inform us. And not about TomKat or Michael Jackson. But about those public policy matters that effect us all.

Yeah, I know. I am dreaming. But it is a nice dream.

love bloggin bush

scariest thought ever: Bush says that he is pushing for teaching the Iraqi forces on human rights training and learning the rule of law.

Next Bush will be heading up the Articulate English Convention


I like it when he explains what he just said. "Troops in Afghanistan will increase from 6,000 forces to approximately 15,000 personnel [rough tanslation]. In other words, there will be more troops in Afghanistan. Numbers will go up.)

Wow. My math skills are horrible. I thought going from 6,000 to 15,000 was a decrease.


What have we become. Our President is basically incapable of basic speech.

Yeah, I know. I shouldn't be watching, but I tuned in to see if there was any news on the sad outcome in W. Virginia, as well as fire conditions here in OK.

January 2, 2006

public good

This lengthy piece on hunting is an interesting read. She notes how access to hunting lands has declined in most states as local landowners have been replaced by absentee owners who are only interested in hunting when they can charge exorbitant fees. She suggests that progressives are really the only hope for those who like to hunt and fish, as conservatives have favored private and corporate interests.

She includes a little history here--noting how early on the environmental movement (wouldn't have been called that) and the hunters had much in common. In fact, many of the early efforts at setting lands aside came from hunters--including the famous Boone and Crockett Club that boasted membership from Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot. Now, those interests are often split and antagonistic--with the Sierra Club opposing most hunting interests.

I am not a hunter. I grew up hunting and shooting and have very little interest in it now. But I recognize that I am a carnivore, and also the role that hunting plays in keeping many species in a healthy population balance. But that aside, this is not really about hunting. What troubles me more than a loss of hunting lands is the loss of the sense of the "public good." Roosevelt, for all his elitism and racism, believed in that sense, as did many of his contemporaries. Contemporary conservatives, and this includes so many of my friends, seem to have lost that sense completely. The "public good" is just not really discussed or valued. And that is a loss.

January 1, 2006

This is interesting

Political Animal notes that even the Bush Justice department may not have approved of the evesdropping program. When John Ashcroft (allegedly) even has problems with the program, what does that tell you.

And this isn't the first time that real lawyers in the Justice department have had problems with Bush. (Not that Ashcroft qualifies, but you get my point.) Here is a list of other cases:

DoJ officials recently leaked word, for example, that attorneys in the in the Civil Rights Division concluded that Georgia's poll-tax law was discriminatory against minority voters and should be blocked from implementation, but they were quickly overruled by Bush-appointed higher-ups. Moreover, the lead attorney in the government's landmark lawsuit against the tobacco industry recently told reporters that her politically appointed bosses undermined her team's work on the case. And earlier this month, the Washington Post reported on leaked memos showing that DoJ officials concluded, unanimously, that Tom DeLay's re-redistricting scheme in Texas violated the Voting Rights Act -- but once again they were overruled by Bush's political appointees.

I remember when conservatives felt that the Clinton administration was more about politics than anything else. And some of those complaints were fair. But by comparison, it is hard to find anything that this administration that is not driven by ideological partisan goals.