February 27, 2006

We lost another one

Dennis Weaver, 1924-2006

Don Knotts and Dennis Weaver. I am sorry to see them go.

More Ryan Adams

An Aquarium Drunkard (thanks to Bucky for pointing out the Wilco connection in this blog name--still can't believe I missed that) has been posting unreleased Ryan Adams stuff lately. Today, they post an unreleased album called "The Suicide Handbook" and I downloaded every one. A couple tracks will later be released on either Gold or Demolition, but in different version. "Firecracker"--one of my favorite RA songs, is here as a spare and beautiful acoustic version. Yet more songs are new to me, and almost all of them are good. At first listen, this unreleased album is as good as much of his released, and better than some. Check them out. Oh, and if you look at the links, there are some unrelased Whiskeytown tracks available too. Add that to the video I posted earlier, and this Monday might just be ok.

:)

You need a boost today?

I found this video about an autistic basketball player (h/t Andrew Sullivan). As Sully said, this will make your day.

February 26, 2006

SBC idiocy

Baptists Eye Women's Missionary Group: "As a conservative, she was concerned because the WMU was working with moderate Baptist churches and she noted that the executive director of the Woman's Missionary Union, Wanda Lee, spoke at a meeting of the moderate Baptist General Convention of Missouri."

Makes me think that the SBC really doesn't get it.

(Jerusalem, 32) SBC voices concern about preacher's associations. Today, SBC leaders suggested that they might take action to force itinerant preacher Jesus Christ to accept orders directly from the convention. Spokesperson Al Mohler said, "Mr. Christ is associating with people that we know to be sinners. He has been spotted talking to adulterers, and even lepers. That is clearly a problem. What is next? Talking to women? Next he will be chastizing the rich and speaking about the poor."

February 25, 2006

Anyone interested in trying Ryan Adams

Check out some downloads. Here are some unreleased tracks that could have come out right after "Heartbreaker." People who already have Demolition will recognize many, but there are some I had never heard. And here RA and the Cardinals recorded some live tracks for XM radio prior to the "Cold Roses" release.

February 24, 2006

Friday music

I don't have a random list, but am listening to some of my more recent additions. Iron & Wine/Calexico's In the Reins continues to impress me. I am also loving Josh Rouse. His song "Sad Eyes" off the Nashville album is tremendous, and I just find myself lulled by his voice.

Likewise, I am thoroughly enjoying The New Pornographers. I downloaded about half the album and am loving "Star Bodies" (as Zalm suggested). I will retrieve the other half very soon. I heard that the band chose their name after Jerry Falwell said that rock and roll was "the new pornography." I then heard that it was Jimmy Swaggert, and then heard that the band really chose the name unrelated to either.

Ok, this is both wrong and right

Be warned, the link contains an oft-used swear word that begins with the letter "f." I like the word, personally, but some don't. Anyway, I thought of this during my walk into work when I saw a monstrous Hummer driving down the road. Ex CIA Chief James Woolsey was on the Colbert Report and noted that this was the first war he could think of where we are funding both sides. Our administration's arrogance about fuel conservation has meant that we continue to pump fuel money into the very people funding terrorism. As unavoidable that is at some level, people in Hummers (and others) are taking it to a new level.

So, I googled hummers and gestures and found this, which, like I said, is both funny and offensive. Probably shouldn't encourage people flipping off Hummers, but it is just so tempting. I actually imagine a WW2 type poster, where on one half, people are encouraged to salute (positively) their fighting men and women and remind them that we are thinking of them as they fight this very dangerous enemy, and then the other half would suggest that: "As you see people who continue to lavishly fund the other side, be sure to salute them as well. Remind them that they are #1 in your book, and thank them for contributing to the cause of terror!"

Or something.

February 23, 2006

Good question

Moral Contradictions: Why isn't this a "moral value"?: "What happened to Christians standing up for the poor and for the unprivileged? Have we completely conceded God's Word for that of our increasingly big-business religious and political leaders? Millions fight for unborn babies, yet who will fight for the baby once its born at a cost of $10,000 to its parents because they don't have health insurance? Who will fight for single mothers barely making ends meet? Who will fight for families with a disabled parent who can't work for months, years... never again? What about the families who work hard - over 50 hours a week, yet get nowhere?Yes there a lot of heart-warming stories of those who made it out of the lowest neighborhoods and situations, but what about those heart-wrenching situations where folks couldn't escape the vicious poverty cycle? They couldn't get out of their ghetto or their Appalachian town... they couldn't finish high school because they had to work... they didn't have a chance.

I often hear something like 'the government shouldn't be giving out handouts.'. Well, if the government is 'ordained by God' and is to be used to further God's Kingdom on this earth by outlawing abortion and gay marriage etc, then there is no excuse for the church from ignoring Matthew 25. There's a reason why Jesus said it's harder for a rich man to go to heaven then a camel through the eye of a needle.

That notwithstanding, Christians should be moved and compelled to help those types of people who fall in the bottom financial categories described by the article. We should question the means and motive of the $10 billion quarterly profits of the oil companies. We should question those who ignore the part of the Bible's teaching against greed. We should question churches who ignore the surrounding community that suffers around them. We should question ourselves.

--snip--

I'm tired of certain religious leaders ignoring key portions of the Bible that just happen to go against their personal agenda. I'm tired of this society and government being hijacked by the powerful and wealthy, running roughshod over the very people Jesus hung out with and ministered to. "

Anyone here listen to Mary Lou Lord?

I downloaded a few tracks here and there, including a kick-ass cover of Thunder Road from Emusic, but am wondering where to go from here. I really like her voice. Any recomendations?

February 22, 2006

Christian movement moving in

USATODAY.com - Christian movement moving in: "We're not an extremist group,' he said. 'What we are doing is reacting to the extreme marginalization of Christianity in America.'"

Does anyone outside the Exodus movement actually believe that?

Well, we have seen this before

Not exactly. But this Port Deal is interesting. I really don't know what to think of it. But what I do find interesting is that the Administration likes to defend decisions like this with the "trust us" shrug. Most conservatives--the ones who never trusted Clinton on anything--have trusted him. Trusted him at a level that amazes me. Trusted him when he said that the wiretapping was just to catch phone calls between a known Al Quaeda operative and someone in the state--even though that is clearly something that they could get a warrant for.

They didn't trust him when he appointed Harriet Myers, and now it looks like they may not trust him on this. For many, it looks fishy--as if there is some kind of behind the scenes deal. I really don't know. I do know that this administration hasn't earned my trust.

February 20, 2006

What I am reading

The Bootlegger suggested I read A Hidden Wholeness : The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, by Parker Palmer. (Today I find out that Bucky has seen Palmer speak several times.)

I am halfway through the book and am not sure I can completely explain it. But the very idea of the divide life has captured my attention. It seems to give form to several of the ideas floating around in my head. It provides a way to explain what strikes me as a conflict between people of faith and their strange bedfellows (at least in part).

But mostly, it gives me a way to think about my own experiences. I remember starting grad school in Houston. We attended South Main Baptist at the time, and really liked the church. The Pastor was as good and thoughtful a preacher as I have ever heard, and the people were good. They had called women deacons well before our membership and did so without an agenda. Their outreach was focussed on social justice--feeding and clothing the poor, assisting the sick, and reaching out to the AIDS community. This church really impressed me in many ways.

Yet, the experience was also everything I had struggled with for years. I still remember staring at my Sunday school teacher in Junior High as she tried to explain why dancing was evil. It must have been the exact same face I had at a different Houston church where seemingly intelligent and well-intentioned people argued at length about women wearing pants to church. I believe I just stared at them.

South Main was everything I could ask from a large church. And yet, sunday school sucked. The nicest people taught the nicest group of young married people I ever met. And yet, the intense boredom persisted. No stupid discussions, but neither did we have meaningful ones either. When I discovered an "alternative" Sunday School, I jumped with both feet. Finally, talking about something that mattered. First, we explored the theological underpinnings of the SBC controversy. Then I moved into a class taught by a practicing psychologist. SOF joined me there and we recieved about a year's worth of free therapy. Great, meaningful stuff. Talking about relationships--how we experienced the spiritual--and more.

And yet, when that class ended, so did my church experience for a while. I have struggled to explain it to people who so thoroughly enjoy church. I think Palmer's notion of a divided life helps. I found myself thoroughly enjoying grad school. The intellectual challenge was envigorating, and I found my colleagues passionate about the things they believed in. I found a sense of community there as well. And the conflict between the Grad School Streak and Church Streak was intense. I found myself at church having to shelve my opinions. My questions seemed threatening to others. I either had to force myself on people who didn't want to talk about the same stuff, push those questions down, or decide to move in a different direction.

I chose the last. I decided that forcing my view on theology or the questions I had were disruptive and sometimes damaging to people. I had no desire to do that. But at a certain point, I found that the Grad School Streak was happier, more comfortable, and more engaged than Church Streak.

None of this is meant as a criticsm of church goers. I know many who find in their church community great meaning and support. I know that they enjoy their church experience. I don't have a problem with that. This is really about my own personal divide.

Later, I believe I experienced another divide in Grad school--between the pressures of scholarship and my desire to live a more rounded, moral, and centered life. Maybe I will write about that one in another post.

Looks like an interesting book

h/t to Carlos for this: "Exiled: Voices of the Southern Baptist Convention Holy War is a compilation of first-person narratives by conservative and moderate ministers and lay leaders who were stripped of their positions and essentially became pariahs in the churches to which they had devoted their lives."

While in Houston, we saw the Southern Baptist fundy takeover in pretty personal ways. It certainly had an impact on my view of church. This book looks like an important look at the personal costs of the fundy's war on "liberals."

A new singer

At least for me. I see from her website that Trish Murphy performed at one of the ACL festivals, but we missed her there. Anyway, found her on a music blog (thanks for nothing, Bucky) and am intrigued. Texas country in a good way. I like her voice and writing (so far). But don't take my word for it, check out her mp3s on her website. I like "Scorpio Tequila," "Paralyzed," and the live "The Trouble with Trouble." I like her voice enough that I used part of my monthly subscription to Emusic to download her Girls Get in Free album.

February 19, 2006

Olympic question

Not that I am demanding American success in everything--at all. But why doe America always struggle in the bobsled and luge competition? I understand how Norway dominates cross country (except this year, evidently), but why do certain countries dominate the bobsled and luge? Anyone know?

did you know it snows in Oklahoma?

It snowed Friday night and has been, how do you say, frigging cold. Ice on everything and hard snow. Started out kind of wet, so the roads are not great.

I am watching the olympics (hockey) and our local NBC affiliate has a running scroll across the screen listing cancelations. Church cancelations. I don't know if this happens elsewhere. I am used to school outages and public meetings, but the constant scroll of church outings annoys me. First, it is nearing noon here and I am suspecting that either people are like me and not going, or already know their church service is canceled. So, turn it off, dammit.

I am not really sure why churches need to dominate our airwaves, but oh well. It has illustrated just how many churches there are in the area. Feels like thousands and thousands. And some of the names are ridiculous. No offense, but if your church name is "Preach Unto Them: Jesus" you need a new church. As SOF pointed out, the name itself is illuminating. It isn't "preach unto us" it is "preach unto them." No need to look at the beam in our eyes.

I just think the name is ridiculous. But then again, I think most of these non-denoms have stupid names. Oh well.

Damn, and now Sweden is up on the US 2-1. Damn.

February 18, 2006

But I am sure it is for a Godly purpose

In N.C., GOP Requests Church Directories

If Richard Land thinks it is outside the pale? Good grief. Well, we know that Republicans have no moral code.

February 16, 2006

Cheney--most powerful Veep in history?

First this catch:

"Hume suggested that since this was obviously a national story, Cheney should have informed the national press and gotten the word out sooner. Cheney's reply: 'It isn't easy to do that. Are they going to take my word for what happened?'

Seriously? Cheney's story is that his own credibility is so poor that a statement from him would have been worthless? Is he really going to stick to that as his explanation?"


As Josh Marshall put it--it is as if Cheney is saying, "hey, I have covered up so much that there is no way the press would believe me now."

But the serious issue that came out of that interview with Faux is that Cheney believes that he has the legal authority to declassify material. He tells Hume that an executive order (that Sully notes was conveniently issued right before the Plame outing) gives him that right.

Sullivan has started referring to Bush as a king, since he seems to assert himself (and now Cheney) as above the law during a perpetual war. Again, and I feel silly for repeating the obvious, there is no way that my Christian conservative friends would have tolerated this from Clinton. No way.

Btw, this probably won't help Scooter. He was charged with lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice--not with leaking classified information. This won't change that. And there are many out there who are challenging the Veep's assertion--noting that the executive order in question probably gives him the right to classify and then declassify materials he classified but not blanket authority to declassify everything under the sun.

In either case, this stinks. Conservatives who fear the power of government should be writing letters. But they won't. They will look at Bush reading the Bible and just say to themselves, "isn't he a good godly man."

Cheney cops to it

I don't like Dick Cheney, but will admit that it was a good thing for him to take responsibility for the shooting.

"Cheney described it as 'one of the worst days of my life' and rejected the notion that Whittington bears any responsibility. 'I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend,' Cheney said."


He does admit to having beer at lunch, something that even Tucker Carlson says is unacceptable, period. He also notes that Cheney's heart medication might have accentuated even one beer, and having been on dozen's of hunts, Carlson stated that alcohol simply wasn't allowed.

In addition, Cheney took another shot at the media, saying that the uproar over how the story was released was simply that the Washington media felt excluded. His contempt for the American people or any criticism is evident, and part of the reason that he is so unpopular.

February 15, 2006

Quickly

The Cheney story continues to have legs--mostly (imo) because the VP has not been candid and allowed questions to persist. One web site is reporting that the ranch owner originally admitted that there had been a few beers at the lunch, but that part of the story was scrubbed. Doesn't really mean anything--in and of itself. But the Veep has allowed this to take on a life of its own.

Meanwhile, as Anglican emailed me, there are serious discussions among hunters regarding the incident. Most of the NRA members (rank and file) take hunting serious and also with that hunter safety. I have always admired that part of the NRA even as the political leaders have gone off on the deep end defending plastic guns and fighting any reasonable registration or gun control. But that said, as Slate reports, most hunter experts agree that the shooter is always to blame. Period.

******

Now, as Monty Python said, for something completely different. Classes are taking their toll on me this semester. I guest lectured for a colleague last week and found myself really hating the class. Rude, disinterested, and passive--and those were the good students! Well, to be fair, I was lecturing on urban environmental problems and then Gilded Age politics--topics that can make the seasoned history nerd fold.

So, once again, I turn to music for my sanity. Some that are keeping me from yelling at strangers:

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Shaking the Sheets (hat tip to ubub for this one too). Especially like the title track.

Nickel Creek, Why should the fire die? This very young bluegrass (kind of) trio really impressed me with their first album, but then the second one was not very interesting. I bought this third one with a certain amount of trepidation and it is really, really good. Great cover of Dylan's "Tomorrow is a long time."

Whiskeytown, Stranger's Almanac Not a new album by any definition, but since my latest rebuild had not listened very much. Some of the very best early Ryan Adams.

Josh Rouse. assorted. I bought two at the same time, so often confuse the albums. But Dressed up Like Nebraska and Nashville are both great. "Sad Eyes" is one of my favorites right now.

Enough stalling. off to face the students.

peace

February 14, 2006

This Cheney situation

In case you didn't know, the man Cheney shot had what is called a "minor" heart attack this morning. Evidently one of the pellets migrated close to the heart muscle and caused essentially a "short circuit." Doctors said there was no plan or need to remove the pellet and that the man is in good condition and still expected to recover. He will remain in the hospital for the next week.

One more.



This from Keith Olbermann's show. I think I like the story title as much as Milbank dressed in orange.

heh--even Jeb is having fun

MiamiHerald.com | 02/14/2006 | Gov. Bush takes jab at Cheney hunting accident: "TAMPA, Fla. - (AP) -- Even Gov. Jeb Bush is taking a jab at Vice President Dick Cheney's accidental shooting of a hunting companion.
Bush, younger brother of President Bush, spoke to about 1,000 people Monday at the Florida State Fair Governor's Day Luncheon. All guests, including the governor, were given stickers from the Florida Farm Bureau that read, ``No Farmers, No Food.''
Bush placed the bright orange sticker, the same color as a hunting jacket, on his chest.
''I'm a little concerned that Dick Cheney is going to walk in,'' he said."

February 13, 2006

Weaker vessel?

I broke one of my vows today. I ran to the health food store and flipped on the Christian radio. Richard Land was on, and this time he had a Christian therapist to discuss "Christian sexuality." The promos acted as if his discussion would be frank and (parents were warned about the frank nature) new. Yet, the discussion seemed pretty old. I kept waiting for something frank and innovative.

Instead, I heard that women like shoes and men don't. (I thought about my shoe issues and the fact that SOF doesn't like shoes as much as me). He referred to women as the "weaker vessel." What the hell does that mean?

He said specifically that his book was not intended to make men more sensitive or "feminized." Whew. Wouldn't want men to become sensitive. They might turn fruity. I think the shoe thing and my preference for cooking over working on cars, to say nothing of my yoga practice, make me less than masculine for this bozo.

Land's little sidekick said that this guy was one of their most requested speakers. Sigh.

Ok, a little more about Cheney

As Shaun noted, progressives have a lot more to deal with than this accident. And, while I really don't like Cheney, I am sympathetic to the bad luck involved, and suspect that (read that as hope) he is incredibly sorry and shamed by this entire thing.

If it all happened the way he said, I would have little more than the jokes. Mine today was to tell people that the President now has a new way of firing people. He will just send a note or message that reads: "Dick wants to take you hunting."

But I just want to know that the owner's story is what happened. It says something about my feelings for Cheney and this entire administration that I have any doubts at all. Was the VP negligent? Was there alcohol involved? Why did they not disclose it? Some feel that the story was delayed to avoid the Sunday morning talk shows. I don't doubt that. Some bloggers are wondering if the story holds up to scrutiny. I ran it by a hunting friend and he said that while it strikes him as a bit careless, it does certainly sound plausible.

I really don't doubt that. I think, much like so many problems in Washington, the actual event here is a non-issue, but the response is questionable. Not disclosing the event until later, and blaming the victim (however subtly) is a problem. I turned into CNN this morning to see Scott McClellan under fire trying to explain to an increasingly skeptical press corps why the VP didn't come forward. Reaping what you sow is sometimes a bitch. Treating people with such open disrespect and contempt is bound to turn on you.

Anyway. Here is hoping that the shooting vic recovers fully, and that Dick Cheney might learn a little humility.

Update. Paul Begala weighs in.

Update II
Bush Administration Full Coverage on Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney apparently broke the No. 1 rule of hunting: be sure of what you're shooting at. Cheney wounded fellow hunter Harry Whittington in the face, neck and chest Saturday, apparently because he didn't see Whittington approaching as he fired on a covey of quail in Texas.

Hunting safety experts interviewed Monday agreed it would have been a good idea for Whittington to announce himself -- something he apparently didn't do, according to a witness. But they stressed that the shooter is responsible for knowing his surroundings and avoiding hitting other people."


I would like to know who these experts are, but will settle for the fact that the White House will have to deal with this leading the news cycle for a bit. Trying to remember the last time the Bush people had good news cycles. Oh, and I almost felt a bit of sympathy for Cheney. Every story I have seen has used an unflattering picture of him, like this one. I still think that this is what Cheney gets. He (and Bush) have been very dismissive of the press.

A little more on the Shotgun toting VP

A couple of notes on this shooting.

1) The White House never (according to what I am reading) actually released the information on the shooting. They left it up to the ranch owner.

2) The ranch owner dismissed the wounds as "peppered" and that he was fine. But the man was airlifted to a hospital and was in ICU for over a day! That suggests that the wounds were more than just some stray birdshot.

3) The ranch owner and many of the writers have easily jumped to the perspective that the lawyer is the one who screwed up--in the owner's words, "You're always supposed to let other hunters know where you are."

I can almost accept the not reporting the incident, since it is clear they didn't try to cover it up. I am not completely convinced, and the cynical side of me--the side that has watched Cheney in politics for years--is pretty convinced that had they not been forced to airlift the man to a hospital, we would have never found out about it.

But letting the blame go to the victim in this seems really problematic. It is many years since I hunted anything, but I remember the emphasis that I was responsible for that gun and anything I aimed at. It was my responsibility. Cheney was responsible and that is clear. There are all sorts of mitigating factors. Birds flitting around, the sun in his eyes, whatever. He didn't mean to shoot the man, I am sure, and I am also sure he feels bad. But he is responsible.

Why is it that this administration can never take responsibility for anything?

February 12, 2006

Snowboarder wins

One of the commenters pointed out that they want to see the boarders get high, and that means elevation above the pipe. Whew. Needed that clarification.

The American won the gold. Dude, those guys are all high.

Heh, skating

This cracked me up. Not that Michelle Kwan withdrew from the Olympics. Nothing against Kwan--she seems like a nice person. I don't really care about the skating. But seeing her in an interview was pretty funny. She noted that it was tough to keep adding tricks and stay healthy at the same time. Then she said something like, "You know, I know I am not 13 any more."

USA! USA!

Just kidding. I complain about the Olympics, well, just about every two years. I still feel like the main draw is gone with the end of the cold war, and until we get Al Qaeda on the ice, it won't quite work the same. My real frustration is the rampant jingoism, constant commercialism, and the preponderance of idiot reporters. "So, how does it feel to have almost won an Olympic medal, only to fall short and let your country down?"

That may not be a quote, but it sure sounds like some of these morons. Reminds me when the Olympics came to Springfield (or were coming?) when they referred to the three medals as "glorious gold, so-so-silver, and shameful bronze."

But then again, I understand those who say that this is the only time that we get to see some of these athletic endeavors. I would say "sports," but come on! Curling? Ice Skating? Sports? I don't think so. And I turn on the tv tonight to see the ultimate reefer sport for the winter games--snowboarding on a half-pipe. Ok. Whatever.

All that said, I get a kick out of the luge and bobsled, usually enjoy the downhill and slalom (as a skier, I can appreciate how hard that is) and--though this will earn me a CIL rebuke--ice hockey. To my surprise this weekend, I have enjoyed women's hockey. Not that I had anything against it, but I don't think I watched much last time.

So, with great respect to our friends to the north, I hope that both our men and women do well this year. I suspect that the men will struggle, but the women have a decent chance to medal. Should be fun to watch.

Is there anything that coffee can't do?

Achieve-IT!: How to Take A Caffeine Nap: "Sleep researchers at the Loughborough University in Britain did several tests on fatigued drivers to compare the effects of different methods for a driver can use to stay awake. They put the volunteers in driving simulators while they were sleepy and let them drive. Some of the tests included rolling down windows for cold exposure, blasting the radio and slapping oneself in the face to try to stay awake. But what researchers found worked the best was a Caffeine Nap.

The Caffeine Nap is simple. You drink a cup of coffee and immediately take a 15 minute nap. Researchers found coffee helps clear your system of adenosine, a chemical which makes you sleepy. So in testing, the combination of a cup of coffee with an immediate nap chaser provided the most alertness for the longest period of time. The recommendation was to nap only 15 minutes, no more or less and you must sleep immediately after the coffee. "

Oops

AP Wire | 02/12/2006 | Cheney accidentally shoots fellow hunter in Texas. It is humorous only because the man is ok. And to be fair, these kinds of things happen. Accidents happen. But it sure seems like the Bush administration is a dangerous place to be.

February 11, 2006

Good movie

For this one, I have to give a nod to Anglican who first told us to watch this movie. We hadn't watched it in a while, but tonight, we rewatched one of the best movies you probably haven't seen (or heard of): The Zero Effect. Perhaps one of the cooler PI's in filmdom who has cases named "The Case of the Hired Gun Who Made Way Way Too Many Mistakes," and many others. Just too good.

Saturday odds and ends

Mainline Protestant has a funny Bush joke. I laughed, anyway.

*****

So, anyway, did you realize that the Olympics are upon us once again? SOF watched some of the opening ceremonies. I passed. Well, kind of. They were so long that I ended up seeing the torch "lighting" and a few other parts. The only cool part I saw were all the women from around the world carrying in the Olympic flag. Many of them social justice activists--I liked that Brian Williams had to detail their particular activism. Hint: none of them struck me as Bush supporters.

The rest of the opening ceremonies struck me as overly long. I am not saying they stretched things out, but acting out the Italian Renaissance in real time? Heh.

Well, for all my complaining, I will end up watching some of the games. I always do.

*******

I guess Michael Brown got tired of the bashing. All I have heard is that he has been pretty strident in his assertions that the White House story about not knowing that the levees were in trouble was pure bull. It strikes me that the White House is in a bit of a pickle--have to say somehow that "you can't believe Brownie, remember, he is the incompetent one." Yet, of course, that was the claim all along that Bush had populated high profile positions with political hacks.

*****

Speaking of the Bushies, the Prez continues to say that he didn't know Abramoff. Watching Keith Olbermann (the only other news guy I like besides the fake ones) last night, it was clear that Bush has a difficult row to hoe here. Abramoff was on his recount team in the 2000 Florida debacle, his transition team, and raised tons of money for the man. Abramoff is saying that they met 12 or so times and that he was actually invited to the Crawford ranch one time.

I guess we still have the continuing question--will people care? Can Bush flip-flop continually and keep the Ricky Skaggs stamp of Godly approval? Probably. I think the only thing that would sink Bush with the RR is proof he had a gay affair with Abramoff.

******

This semester has been extra busy for me, but last week I picked up a new book that I thoroughly enjoyed. If you are looking for something witty and intelligent, yet not too dense, pick up Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation. She is fantastic. Funny and smart, she takes a tour of the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Kind of reminds me of Confederates in the Attic at times. Lot of stuff in there I didn't realize--like the fact that Robert Todd Lincoln was essentially present for all three assassinations, or the really interesting and tragic life of Booth's older brother.

February 9, 2006

Odd: I agree with Grover

Listening to NPR tonight, I heard a good discussion on the whole wiretapping issue. Norquist (who is the conservative genius who wants to reduce government to the size where it can be drowned in a bathtub) said that Bush was wrong to assert some inherent powers associated with the war AND that Rove was wrong to accuse liberals of being unpatriotic.

I feel a tremor in the force. Of course, I have been saying these things all along. And for those conservatives who excuse Gonzales for testifying without an oath, or who excuse Bush based on some bizarre divine inspiration--you are drinking the Kool-aid. Yeah, and that applies to those who believe today's release of the 2002 plot to hijack planes was disconnected from Bush's political troubles over the NSA plot.

As Norquist even said, powers asserted by Bush can be used by a possible President Hillary. That will clarify things like nothing else can. But my favorite quote came from the Daily Show last night on the Gonzales hearings. Leahy said something like "I am sorry, Mr. Attorney General, I know you can't comment on anything relevant to this committee."

February 8, 2006

Oaths

Just curious, why have I seen more Republican led committee hearings allow Republicans or Republican-supported businessmen testify without taking an oath? I can guarantee that had the Dems done this, the religious right would have gone NUTS!

But for some reason, the conservatives in this country, backed by the most vocal christians in the country, don't have to be sworn in. Telling the truth is just not that important, I guess.

February 7, 2006

Oh Ricky, you have some splaining to do!

Ricky Skaggs is quite clearly one of the best mandolin players in the world. He learned at the feet of Bill Monroe, and I really enjoy to hear him play--even as I have never purchased one of his albums. But this?:

"“Long before he was elected, we just had a feeling in our heart that he was the right person. We heard him speak. We heard things about him. We knew he was a Christian man,” Skaggs said. “We knew he was someone that loved God and tried to do the right things, tried to make the right decisions. And I felt like that was who I certainly wanted to get behind and support, especially in light of what we had had eight years before in the White House.

“It was a stark contrast between the two, and I just know as a Christian and as a father looking at the future for my kids and my grandchildren, that’s the kind of man that I wanted in the White House to be able to bring dignity and honor back to the office,” Skaggs said."


See, I would love to know what he sees in Bush. I really would. I understand the dislike for Clinton, I really do. I certainly understand how parents of small children would find explaining Clinton's actions very difficult and frustrating. But where does he see great Christian manhood in Bush? I really want to know. I don't see it when he hides Katrina documents from scrutiny, and I certainly diddn't see it when he initially wanted no part of a 9-11 commission. The worst modern attack on America, and he really doesn't want to know what happened? Now the evesdropping? Oh, and Ricky has something to say about that too:

If Christians would read it [the Bible] and ask God to open their minds to His purposes, he said, they’d not be so fearful when negative reports are splattered across the evening news.

“I think you’ll have a whole lot more peace in your heart and you won’t be so upset with so-called ‘illegal wiretaps,’” he said, adding that he believes the president has absolute authority to do whatever it takes to protect the American public in a time of war."


Really? I am sorry, I just don't see it. And for the record, I support increased surveillance of suspected terrorists even in this country. I don't really know anyone who doesn't. But I just want to be sure that Bush isn't surveilling me because I don't like him. I want to make sure that he isn't evesdropping on political enemies. That is all I want to know. It is called a check and a balance, and no, Ricky, reading the Bible isn't a check or a balance. And finally, given what the Rickster thinks of Clinton, would he want Bill (or Hillary) with the same unfettered power? I doubt it very much.

Ricky--stick to the mandolin. You are a fabulous player. Just play.

February 6, 2006

Super Bowl theology redux

One of my friends thought my issues with David Carr and Big Ben were rather trivial. I think he thought that most Christians do not necessarily take those pronouncements seriously and so they are only a big deal in my mind. Perhaps.

Today I wonder, however, if this issue clarifies an area where I am constantly confused with the religious right. See if this makes sense....

Part of my problem with the Big Ben saying that God made him a starter is the fake humility part of it. He isn't really thanking God for it, but it sounds better than open bragging (see TO). When I hear him say that, I immediately wonder why God might (in his mind) give him all these breaks and give another person cystic fibrosis or a mental retardation. I ask my friend about this and while he defends Ben's notion of crediting God for his athletic ability, he suggests that we have no idea why God does what he does. His ways are higher than ours. To question why he might give one person cystic fibrosis and another a thunderbolt for an arm is a question mere mortals need to avoid.

Aha, says me. It dawned on me why this bothers me. Of course, death and disease are a part of our experience. But that shrug about God's ways of the world are much broader than wondering why some cells function and others don't. If the question is global poverty, the answer is often the same. God has his own plan, but he is in control and we are not to question why some live in luxury and others in poverty. For a good many Christians, this has led to an increased sense of responsibility--ie, God has given me a lot, so I am responsible to help as many as I can.

This is a huge leap, and one that has to be addressed. Poverty, while nearly impossible to eradicate, is clearly the result of human choices--or clearly human choice is a big factor. Government decisions, personal choice, corruption, ignorance, all contribute. But to look at Global Poverty and give the "God shrug" (as it is starting to appear in my mind) is to somehow decide that poverty is outside human choice.

Following this logic even more, we can see that even many diseases and ailments that afflict millions are not divine punishment or plan, but a product of human choice. We know that the increased use of chemicals has caused many, many problems. Don't get me wrong, this same technology has also given us great advancement in extending human life. But there are costs. Consider our power needs. Our use of coal fired plants have increased the mercury levels in the air and oceans to the point where much of our seafood has elevated mercury. Pregnant women are now discouraged from eating too much fish as that mercury can have terrible effects on the fetus. So a birth defect or abnormality can hardly be shrugged off as a divine puzzle. It is clearly connected to human choice and action. Not that those actions and choices are clear-cut either, but they are choices.

So where does this leave us? I have a sneaking suspicion that many very religious people--people who care deeply about their faith and their fellow man have so redefined the ills of man, that some human choice is now treated with a "God shrug."

This may explain why so many of my Christian conservative friends vote the way they do. I know them well enough to know that it isn't because they are self-centered or lacking in compassion. But I wonder if they might have focussed their political efforts on stopping things that they see clearly as choice, and avoiding what they see as a waste of political effort on things beyond human control. This might explain those things they vote on (or appear to): abortion, homosexuality, defending traditional values (whatever those are) and those things that they tend to avoid voting on: environment, poverty, general injustice. Is it possible that conservative christians vote the way they do simply because they think that there is nothing that can be done to really address poverty and environmental destruction--that those things are really in that realm of mystery of God's higher ways? So the ways they do approach, say poverty, is to address those personal choice elements--whether a person works or not--rather than looking at systemic flaws?

Just a thought.

February 5, 2006

Super Bowl blogging

Theology aside, the refs suck. I don't really have a dog in this race, but the refs have called a bad offensive interference call on Seattle that cost them a touchdown; a phantom holding call that cost them first and goal (two plays later, Hasselback throws an int); then call Hasselback for a weird penalty for tackling the runner. Just now, they finally reversed a bad call. As an OU fan, this is reminding me of the Texas Tech game. At this level, you expect better refs. I haven't seen it yet.

Super Bowl Theology

Not new territory, but this issue of sports theology always kind of bugs me. Ben Rothlisberger's statement once that "only God could have turned him from third stringer to starter" or David Carr's thanking Jesus for a completed pass--they all bug me. It strikes me as bad theology--self-serving and horribly trivial.

Don't get me wrong. I plan to enjoy today's game. I love watching football. But I also know what it is and what it isn't. And I suspect most here are like that. We know that someone who thanks God for the victory, or for making it possible, either needs to add some words around that or restate.

But I have been thinking about this lately. Out running errands during the week, I listened to our local sports talk radio (filled with idiots except a buddy of mine) to avoid listening to Christian radio (completely filled with idiots) or more Bad Company and ZZ Top (what does it say that I will listen to bad preaching to avoid classic rock?). Anyway. On the road listening to the sports people blather on about golf courses in Arkansas. Commercial break. One ad is a plug that my friend reads for some appearance by one of the station's idiots at some restaurant (or something, I really wasn't paying attention). There would be door prizes and people could win some gift certificate for something or another.

The very next ad (or the order was reversed, who knows?) was for a Super Bowl watching party at one of the OKC churches. Fine. Whatever. As my Texas Friend points out, churches have done things like this for years. It is called, almost euphemistically "fellowship." Fine. But the ad on the radio said that before the SB watching party, people could come hear Josh Heupel speak. There would be door prizes. Of course, around here, the man is a hero--having almost single-handedly led the Sooners to the National Championship game in 2001. The ad promised that people could hear Josh tell his testimony and then they could join in on the festivities for the Super Bowl and the eating and the watching.

Several things bothered me about this. First was how damn similar the two pitches were. Almost exact. Selling something, promising celebrity, and the promise of door prized free things to get people inside the door. Christian faith just another consumer item to be packaged, marketed, sold, and consumed.

Second, this element of celebrity. Heupel is a bright guy (by all accounts) and may be very sincere in his faith. Hell if I know. But his only selling point here is that he is a famous athlete, and that is why those people will attend that church to hear him speak. Because he was good at reading blitz packages. Because of that expertise, they will grant him further expertise in spiritual matters. Not because of his academic background, or because of his deep understanding of theology--but for his athletic prowess.

Third, besides all of this consumption based Christianity, I am growing offended by the lightweight nature of it. David Carr thanks Jesus for a touchdown pass. Big Ben thinks that God wanted him to be a starter. Christians everywhere clap. I feel a retch coming on. This morning, against my better instincts, we turned on the beginnings of the 7 or 8 hour pre-game show on ESPN. There really was nothing else on. And most of the stories were mindless and meaningless. One, however, caught both of us. It covered the very first Pop Warner league for disabled kids. Kids with Down's syndrome. One kid has incurable cancer (he's 11). It was hard not to see the obscenity of the David Carr theology watching these kids participate. In fact, I think Mr. Carr should slap himself in the face repeatedly.

When discussing this, my friend suggested that there was no real answer for why some people were born with cystic fibrosis or cerebal palsy and some had Ben's gift to throw a deep out. God's ways, he noted, were higher than ours and there are some things that just defy our knowledge. I can accept that, but it is hard when Christians can make the trivial and meaningless conclusion that God wanted these beautiful and powerful people to enjoy success and luxury. After all, if he chose that for them, doesn't it mean that he chose disability for the others? I don't actually think so, but it seems the logical conclusion of the prosperity message.

Ok. Enough. I am going to go watch the game and enjoy the ability of the players and the complexity of the game. I will appreciate the joy of competition and the chess match of trying to outwit each other. But I will not assume that God gives a shit about who the victor is.

RIP Betty Friedan

Conservatives have done a good job of demonizing feminism, but that is a shame. All people like Friedan wanted was for women to be equals and to make their own choices. And while so many young women now distance themselves from feminism, they do so as they pursue professional degrees and negotiate relationships as equals.

As Friedan said herself: "'A woman has got to be able to say, and not feel guilty, `Who am I, and what do I want out of life?' She mustn't feel selfish and neurotic if she wants goals of her own, outside of husband and children,' Friedan said."

That isn't that radical. Men have done that for years. And conservative women--the same ones who badmouth feminism--are now doing that too. They just still like to put down feminism.

Anyway. This is one man who says "thanks and well-done" to Betty Friedan. We will miss you.

February 4, 2006

Sat lyrics

I have mentioned Ryan Adams often on this blog. For someone who seems like such an ass personally, he still amazes me with his writing and voice. Cold Roses is very near the top of my favorite music from this year.

Well, a friend suggested that I really needed to listen to his first solo album, one aptly named "heartbreaker."

Some of it is funny, like the incredibly witty "Come pick me up" (also on the Elizabethtown soundtrack, I understand).

But then I listened to "in my time of need" and damn near wept. Sparse guitar with a banjo and Gillian Welch harmonizing ever so softly.

"Will you comfort me in my time of need
Can you take away the pain of hurtful deeds
Cause when we need it most there's no rain at all
And the dust just settles right there on the feed
Will you say to me a little rains gonna come
When the sky can't offer none to me
Cause I will come for you
When my days are through"


Adams had to be 23 or 24 when he wrote this. Wow.

Oh this isn't scary

Hat tip to Carlos, this article on Sam Brownback is indeed eye-opening. Couple of very interesting things. 1) the Senator's obsession with sex kind of confirms our thoughts on the matter. 2) and holy shit, take a look at the cell organization that this semi-secret evangelical group uses and 3) it strikes me as kind of funny that while the religious right routinely discusses the phantom desire of gay Americans to take over the country, many evangelical organizations, including Sam Brownback's evangelical cell, explicitly want to take over the world.

Just a sample:
"Brownback was placed in a weekly prayer cell by 'the shadow
Billy Graham' -- Doug Coe, Vereide's successor as head of the
Fellowship. The group was all male and all Republican. It was a
'safe relationship,' Brownback says. Conversation tended toward the
personal. Brownback and the other men revealed the most intimate
details of their desires, failings, ambitions. They talked about
lust, anger and infidelities, the more shameful the better -- since
the goal was to break one's own will. The abolition of self; to
become nothing but a vessel so that one could be used by God.

They were striving, ultimately, for what Coe calls 'Jesus plus
nothing' -- a government led by Christ's will alone. In the future
envisioned by Coe, everything -- sex and taxes, war and the price
of oil -- will be decided upon not according to democracy or the
church or even Scripture. The Bible itself is for the masses; in
the Fellowship, Christ reveals a higher set of commands to the
anointed few. It's a good old boy's club blessed by God.
Brownback
even lived with other cell members in a million-dollar, red-brick
former convent at 133 C Street that was subsidized and operated by
the Fellowship. Monthly rent was $600 per man -- enough of a deal
by Hill standards that some said it bordered on an ethical
violation, but no charges were ever brought."(emphasis mine)

February 3, 2006

When Clinton did anything like this, it was proof of a lack of character

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Bush told Blair we're going to war, memo reveals: "A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme."


Too bad the American people only care when you lie about sex.

February 2, 2006

Repub party corruption

This first little note is just too funny. Democrats are the ones historically tagged with the political corruption--thinking here of the Daly machine in Chicago where the dead voted and other things occurred. But now the party that wraps itself in the flag and Bible doesn't blink at electronic voting machines with no paper trail and other voting irregularities. So, in the election to replace Delay, we have this:

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: "No honor among vote scammers!

This is actually kinda funny. Rich Lowry just filed this little squib at the Corner. 'More ballots cast [on the House leadership vote] than there are members. Re-voting now....'

Roll Call has it too: 'House Republicans are taking a mulligan on the first ballot for Majority Leader. The first count showed more votes cast than Republicans present at the Conference meeting.'

Says TPM Reader JP: 'This is priceless. They try to steal their own elections!'

TPM Reader JW is even more biting: 'That's right, the Repubs are so corrupt they can't even hold an honest INTERNAL election...'

TPM Reader JM has a constructive suggestion: 'Shouldn't Jimmy Carter have monitored the GOP vote?'"


Also in the same blog, Marshall notes that:
Interesting. Allen Raymond, one of the guys at the center of the New Hampshire phone-jamming case, was sentenced today up in New Hampshire.

In court, his lawyer, John Durkin, said that when Raymond was executing the election tampering plot he "was acting at the behest of the state and federal Republican parties (italics included)."

The call came from the campaign committee run by Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN). Jim Tobin, who's now appealing his conviction, was the guy who worked for Frist's committee, the NRSC.


And less anyone think that I assume that democrats are better, you should know that I don't. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. What I believe about my party right now is that they are dedicated to checks and balances whereas the Republican party seems to think that they elected a King. I also think that this is exactly the fruit of the Religious Right trying to push religion into our process--practically inviting immoral people like Tom Delay to brag about his faith in Christ while running our government like the mob.