December 31, 2008

I guess NY Eve is a busy news day

Who knew?

But I just saw a couple more stories that just begged to be blogged and mocked. Or some of them deserve mocking, like this from Rick Warren who says that the attacks on him are what he calls "Christophobia--people who are afraid of any Christian."

Really? Because I am a Christian and I think Warren is a moron on so many issues. What is it with some Christians that they assume that dislike of their stances equals persecution or attacks on all of Christianity? Isn't that a textbook case of arrogance?

Rick, if you read this blog, know that I am calling you a moron, not all of Christianity. Are we good now?

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Speaking of morons, feministing has noted that Dennis Prager seems to think that marital rape doesn't exist.

Sigh.

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Heh. Though this was in the last post buried in the story about Bush and Katrina, I have to chuckle at Lawrence Wilkerson's depiction of the Bush Presidency as a "Sarah Palin-like Presidency." The blogosphere is having a lot of fun with the followup question: who is this more insulting to? :)

****

After the Tomasky list of worst Americans, here is a nice list of progressive intellectuals that make some of us hopeful. My favorites are Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes.

New Years eve blogging

Just noticed some very interesting news items. First, is Alberto Gonzales' interview with the WSJ where he says he is one of the victims of the war on terror. Sigh.

Michael Tomasky has his top 19 bad Americans for the year. I agree with most on this list, and especially liked these two:
3 George Bush. There were years when he would have been higher - 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. I'll give him a slight pass for 2001, what with the attacks and all that. In those previous years, he stole an election, started an unnecessary war, lied about it, approved torture, let a great US city drown and so on. This year he merely presided over the bankruptcy of the global economy. Twenty days and counting.

2 Sarah Palin. Does she really deserve to be this high? Never in my adult lifetime has one politician so perfectly embodied everything that is malign about my country: the proto-fascist nativism, the know-nothingism, the utterly cavalier lack of knowledge about the actual principles on which the country was founded. So, heck, you betcha she does!


As for Bush, some of his ex-aides offer their own view of the obvious: that Bush's response to Katrina completely undermined his ability to govern. Assuming he had an ability before that, of course.

I guess the only good thing is that we are under 21 days to the end of this horrible administration.

December 30, 2008

Back

Though moving slow this morning. Long drive yesterday following a couple of other long drives on bad roads. Yesterday's drive was weather free, at least. Just long. It was a good trip and we had a nice time with family in several locations, and had a very nice Christmas with my folks. It was a "white" Christmas as well, with about 10 inches of snow on the ground and quite cold. When we drove back to the Eastern slope (Saturday) we drove most of the mountains in sub-zero temps. Now we are back to warm.

****

After visiting my folks, we went to Fort Collins to visit my in-laws. I went to high school and a few years of college in that town, so used to know it pretty well. Visiting there is often a bit tricky for me, but never so much as this time. I am not sure why, but the ghosts were really out in abundance this trip. Perhaps the emotions of all the family stuff, I am not sure. I was reminded of the story about the 100 year old composer who referred to the different people he has been during his life, and that kept coming to mind as I drove around my old haunts. I am a completely different person than I was when I lived in Fort Collins, and have no real good way to introduce the Streak of today to the one some would see. It was an odd feeling.

****

I have been catching up on the news after really being out of the loop for the last week. Tony caught several good stories, including another Wiley Drake idiocy and the RNC chair nominee who sent around the "Barack the Magic Negro" recording (from the Rush Limbaugh show) to help his candidacy. Stay classy, Republicans. Just keep doing what you are doing. As TPM noted, appealing to white racists can't go wrong, right?

*****
Once more with feeling: Virginity pledges don't work - Feministing: "Yet another study shows that teenagers who take virginity pledges are just as likely to have pre-marital sex than non-pledgers. And, naturally, after years of being taught that birth control pills are evil and condoms cause cancer - teens who take virginity pledges are less likely to use contraception when they do have sex."
That is what bothers me about this approach. I have no problem urging and encouraging abstinence, but when it is presented alone, it endangers kids. It isn't just a policy that doesn't work, it actually causes more harm.

******

Krugman's column is especially good this time. As readers of this blog know, I am increasingly frustrated with the Grover Norquist approach to policy, and believe we are seeing the consequences of a "tax-cut" first economic policy. Our states are in big economic trouble as they are being squeezed on both ends. Federal funds have declined, and their own attacks on taxes has reduced their ability to raise revenue. It all works ok when the economy is flush, but when it is in decline, we are in trouble. Here is hoping that Norquist's brand of destructive policy will be the real casualty of this economic slide.

*****

Finally, just catching up on the Israeli incursion into Gaza. I still don't know what to think of it, though I hate to see any of this. Listened to NPR coming through Wichita and realized that I simply don't trust Israel any more. I completely distrust Hamas, to be sure, but Israel has lost a lot of credibility over the last few years. Add to that the timing which seems clearly because they know that they can bomb anyone they want with George Bush as President, and you can see my discomfort. I support Israel just as I support any sovereign nation's right to defend itself, and truly believe there is a lot of legitimacy to their problems with Hamas, but also think that Israel has not been a completely honest broker in the region of late.

****

Anyway. Good to be back and hope to hear from people.

December 23, 2008

Light blogging for a while

On the road for a bit, but will be checking in. Hope you all have a Happy, er., or Merry.....

LINE?

Anyway. Happy Holidays, everyone. And Peace. We need some Peace.

December 19, 2008

But beyond Warren, Obama is doing a lot of other important stuff

While there is much wringing of hands regarding Rick Warren giving a prayer at the inauguration (and yes, I completely understand and share that outrage) Obama has appointed some really serious people to serious positions. John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco are two very serious scientists who not only believe in climate change, but the need to address it. And the Energy secretary nominee, Steven Chu, only has a Nobel Prize in Physics to bring to the table.

His appointments have not been without problems. I don't particularly like the Vilsack nomination for Ag, but the Hilda Solis labor pick looks very solid, and his economic team is not lacking for smarts. Bush nominated mostly friends of his and friends of industry to all the meaningful posts. In terms of science, he nominated people who fought science at every turn, and we will all pay the cost of that. By comparison, Obama's team looks more than impressive.

Not only that, but while he has asked Warren to give a prayer, he has appointed Nancy Sutley, or the first (as far as I know) openly gay person at this level to lead the WH Council on Environmental Quality. As Upper Left's Shaun (who has a much more personal connection to this than I realized) put it,
I'll save my outrage for policy matters.

I completely understand BB's and Leighton's very legitimate outrage for the Warren nod. As I posted in the comments, Publius made the point that Obama may (and he admits may) accomplish one tiny thing--the elevation of an evangelical leader who does not spend all his time bashing liberals. That could have very important long-term possibilities for progressives.

Anyway, 31 days left in this disastrous administration. Keep the faith, people.

Recent comments not working right

And I have no idea why. I added the same widget that is working fine on Tony's blog, but mine all show from earlier this year. If you are interested in following a comment thread, I suggest either clicking that "have responses emailed to me" or subscribe to the individual comment rss feed.

December 18, 2008

Back

Not that you knew I was gone. Not really "gone" but rather sick. Monday night, I felt fine, and then woke up with a slight sore throat and congested head. Slept most of Tuesday and then felt truly awful all day Wednesday. So congested that I could hardly breathe. This morning, I feel a little better. Still a bit woozy, prone to sneezing fits, and not back completely, but certainly better than yesterday. Had coffee this morning for the first time since Monday, and might even leave the house.

****

Catching up on the news after a few days in the fog, a few items caught my eye. First, Tony's post on Rick Warren and torture. This strikes me as the quintessential conservative evangelical approach. Warren says that he opposes torture, but never said anything to Bush about it, because it never came up, and he doesn't address "policy issues" with the Presidents. Torture, after all, is just another "policy issue," not a moral issue. Warren did discuss abortion with Obama, but couldn't be bothered to say to the President, "hey, do you know that torture is immoral?" I hate to be a broken record, but this is exactly how most conservative evangelicals seem to have approached torture with this president. It is not impressive, and in fact, is quite disconcerting for those claiming to care about moral values.

Sigh.

Oh, and it turns out that Obama tapped this same Warren to lead the Inauguration prayer. I know that many liberals and progressives are profoundly disappointed with this. I am too. Warren strikes me as a very dishonest person who is more interested in being the heir to Dobson and Robertson than actually representing the gospel. But I will say that I have a certain respect for Obama continuing to reach out to people who endorsed McCain.

But Warren's ignorance and intolerance is rather shocking. Evidently, he thinks that those Christians who care about social justice are actually marxists. He also believes that gay people, even his gay friends, have relationships that are just like child rape, incest or polygamy.

I hope Obama knows what he is doing.

****

Meanwhile still-President Bush seems to be heading out as clueless as he came in. His response to a question about al Qaeda coming into Iraq only after the invasion was "so what?" As Sully notes, a perfect summation of his "entire, cosseted, spoiled, rich-kid attitude."

Meanwhile, Cheney admits to, and defends authorizing torture, and I believe in the same interview essentially admitted that even if the intel had shown that Saddam had no wmd, we still would have gone to war. What does it matter that they lied to us about getting into the war? What does it matter that they really didn't care if we went into war as an informed public?

****

I think that is all I can muster this morning.

December 14, 2008

Wow, maybe Iraqis don't like Bush as much as he thinks

Talking Points Memo | Bush Dodges Shoes Thrown by Iraqi Journalist

Watching the video, I am pretty impressed with Bush's reactions. And while it might just be his perpetual smirk, it appears he is rather amused to have a shoe thrown at him. His joke about it being a size 10 shoe is about the best response this President has had to anything in his Presidency.

Torture and justice

As I have said here many times, nothing over the last 8 years has dismayed me more than our President's decision to torture others in our name. If anything has dismayed me more, it has been the accompanying silence from those evangelicals who in other areas exert a moral authority informed by their faith. I was convinced they would respond to torture, and I was amazed that they did not.

I still recall the Clinton impeachment years, when the Republicans pushed the procedure through over the objections of the American people and shouted "rule of law" over and over. I certainly commend their dedication to that law, but stand by amazed as the same people who were willing to bring the country to a standstill over Clinton's sexual indiscretion and his subsequent juvenile lying about said indiscretion--now stand by as our still President Bush has authorized torture over and over and over again. This week, we saw the understandable uproar over Balgojevich's brazen corruption, but as Daniel Larison points out, the political class seems to think that bribery is more important than torture:
Even so, am I the only one who finds it absolutely crazy that anyone is this concerned about Obama’s answers on Blagojevich when we have just had a Senate report released that confirms that the highest levels of the current administration were implicated in and responsible for serious violations of the law? This is the sort of thing that some people have insisted not be investigated and prosecuted during the next administration’s tenure for various unpersuasive reasons, and not least because of the concern that it would appear to be a partisan witch-hunt. Obviously, we are not concerned about such appearances in Blagojevich’s case, because we think it important to enforce the law here, so why not enforce it when the crimes involved are far more serious and there are far greater breaches of the public trust?

He is not the only one puzzled by our willingness to just let torture go. Hat tip to my friend Bootleg Blogger for pointing me to this Bill Moyers interview with Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald argues that we have just reinforced a two-tiered criminal system. Average Americans could expect severe punishment for breaking the law, but George Bush, Dick Cheney and the crew of tyranny should not be punished for their massive attack on our values.
"We have a law in place that says it is a felony offense punishable by five years in prison or a $10,000 fine to eavesdrop on American citizens without warrants. We have laws in place that say that it is a felony punishable by decades in prison to subject detainees in our custody to treatment that violates the Geneva Conventions or that is inhumane or coercive.

We know that the president and his top aides have violated these laws. The facts are indisputable that they've done so. And yet as a country, as a political class, we're deciding basically in unison that the president and our highest political officials are free to break the most serious laws that we have, that our citizens have enacted, with complete impunity, without consequences, without being held accountable under the law."

The interview is worth the watch, and raises questions we should all ask. My conversations with friends on the conservative side suggest that we never will.

December 12, 2008

Friday morning stuff

I have a few things going for the weekend. Need to finish some stuff for school today, and am smoking some pork shoulder for a little shindig tonight. Bought the materials to make a lovely Anchor style Porter.

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The news this week was dominated by the Blogojevich scandal, and somewhat rightly so. Certainly his corruption is ridiculous and truly scandalous, and I, for one, hope that he is punished for it. This is not even close to what good government should look like.

But Blago (as the blogs are shortening him) wasn't the only news. As I am sure you all saw, Republican Senators (including the Oklahoma delegation) killed a possible bailout for the auto-industry yesterday. On one hand, I am quite sympathetic to their concerns. I heard Tom Coburn say that the money would not solve the problem, and I am not sure he is wrong.

But on the other hand, this appears to be a strong push by conservatives to kill the unions, and that bothers me tremendously. What is more vexing, I think, is the double standard (or triple) regarding oversight and spending. Here, Republicans are raising a stink about $14 billion for the auto industry because they want the unions to push through wage cuts for workers. Where was that for the banking industry? Did I miss that? Did I miss them calling on wage reductions for investment brokers?

What is more, the amazing gall of Republicans complaining about $14 billion dollars here, when they completely looked the other way as Bush sunk nearly a trillion dollars in Iraq and helped the administration fight oversight and accountability efforts. 9 billion of that money just disappeared. Republicans fought efforts to oversee Haliburton on every front. So please don't lecture me on fiscal responsibility, ok?

What is more, it is becoming increasingly impossible to suggest that Republicans care about anything beyond protecting those already wealthy Americans.

*****

Finally, during my drive to my guitar lesson yesterday (double-stops in G and D), I heard the tail end of a story on American composer Elliott Carter, who, at 100 years old, is still writing new and original music. Unbelievable. But I loved most this comment about how his work and self have changed over the years:
"'You know, the different pieces at different times of my life,' Carter says, 'you know we're all different people at different times. We change a good deal. And that's the way you have to accept it and think of it.'"
"We are all different people at different times." I like that. I certainly feel like a different person than the 20 year old version.

Have a great weekend.

December 10, 2008

One-string Willy

This is pretty impressive.

Mike Huckabee the face of conservatism?

I think he wants to be that. Last night, he was on the Daily Show and had a spirited two-part exchange with Jon Stewart. During the first part, they discussed the conservative philosophy toward government, with Huckabee suggesting that conservatives need to stress "good government" (true) and less government. His "less" part, however was problematic as he suggested that less government is only possible if people are willing to self-govern and do the right thing. But his own experience from Arkansas, he admitted, was the good people wanting all those bureaus and agencies to keep the bad people in line. In other words, the good people are already trying to do the right thing, so less government can only occur if the bad people also try. Which seems contradictory. Circular, even.

The second half centered on gay marriage. Jon handled the entire interview very well and pointed out the real flaws in Huckabee's argument. The most annoying for me, was Huckabee's assertion that marriage as we know it now, is what marriage has been for 5,000 years. Disagree with gay marriage all you want, but arguing that marriage has been some static institution is simply ignorant. As Jon pointed out, you go back 5,000 years and you have polygamous marriages as the norm. Marriage is not a religious rite until a 1000 years into the common era, and in that entire time you have a lot of marriage that is about economics, property, slavery, and other variations where individual parties had no choice in the matter. Pretending that marriage has been one thing is the worst possible argument against gay marriage.

If Huckabee is the face, I see the right getting more socially conservative and moving farther right. Not good, in my mind, for either the GOP or the country as a whole.

December 9, 2008

Bush's exit strategy: Do as much damage on the way out as possible

Crooks and Liars headline was better than anything I could come up with.

It does amaze me. The economy is in shambles, foreign policy falling apart, and Bush is busy telling people that he has actually been a good President and then gutting regulations and environmental safety as fast as he can.

Couple of us were joking about him yesterday and wondering if any of these interviewers might just lose their cool talking to Bush and blurt out something honest. You know, like "how does it feel to be the very worst President in the last 100 years?"

Um, no

The LA Times has a memo passed around Bush's admin with talking points for his legacy. You know, saying that he kept us safe, and responded to the economic problems with "bold measures," and bragging about his tax cuts. But my favorite:
"'Above all, George W. Bush promised to uphold the honor and the dignity of his office. And through all the challenges and trials of his time in office, that is a charge that our president has kept.'"
Um, no. There is nothing dignified about this man, and just to put it simply, honorable people don't torture. It isn't very complicated.

*****

Everyone knows that corruption and stupidity are not unique to this administration nor to the GOP. And today, we get news that Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich has been arrested by the FBI. Looks like he was so stupid he thought he could sell Obama's Senate seat for actual money for him and his wife.

Sigh.

****

But back to Bush. The Daily Show interview last night was with the former interrogator who argues that our torture has been counter-productive and he was able to get valuable information by building relationships with even actual terrorists. This morning, I heard this story on Maher Arar, (we have blogged about him before) who was accused by the US of being in al-Qaeda and sent to Syria to be tortured by them. This process is called "extraordinary rendition," and to be absolutely fair, the Clinton administration did some of this too. In their case, they at least officially required that the receiving country have a warrant on the person, and that they not torture. They did not send suspects to countries like, well, Syria, because they knew that country had a lousy human rights record and was likely to torture. The Bush people sent Maher Arar there anyway, and Arar recounts how the Syrians beat him with 2 inch electrical cables. He wants some legal recognition from our government of what we did to him, and I hope he gets it.

Our government did that to him, and to countless others. They tortured in our name, or sent people to torturing countries to be tortured. This is horrific, and still amazing that George Bush sees himself as a person of honor.

He is not honorable, and he has dishonored all of us. We can fight evil without becoming evil. We can do better than we have this last 8 years.

We must.

December 7, 2008

Live music tonight

Tonight, we went to hear Slaid Cleaves play at our little local venue. This was my fourth time, and SOF's second, and both of us agree it was one of our favorite shows. His songs often look at people down on their luck, or those who made bad decisions. His big hit from years ago, "Broke Down" has one of my favorite lyrics:
Baby in the back seat, and another on the way,
Sherry thinks of Billy at the end of every day,
Spends her nights waiting for real life to start,
Listening to the sound of her double crossed heart.

His songs are very good, and his old Gibson sounds great, and his rhythm guy was also great, but the best thing about Slaid Cleaves is his voice. One of the best I have ever heard.

There is just something magical about that live music experience, and we sometimes forget that.

December 5, 2008

December 4, 2008

Shorter George Bush: 'My regret is that other people failed me'

As Jon Stewart refers to the Still President Bush, the man is the gift that keeps on giving. There are many things about this interview that will make you sad, but one of the clear failings of this man is not a new one. We have known since his early days in the White House ("joyful" days, according to the man) that he is incapable of admitting error.

This is a character issue, and certainly not the only one I take issue with this man, but this is a big one. Good people are able to admit their weaknesses and their errors. This isn't complicated. This is as basic as what you all learned before Kindergarten. We all learned this lesson.

Except Bush. And most amazingly, many of those people who learned it about themselves, somehow, someway gave Bush a "get out jail free" card on this failing. People who would never tolerate such arrogance in their spouse, or their colleagues, or church mates--somehow just looked the other way or even applauded as this man refused to even acknowledge error. For some reason, they turned this into a virtue.

It is not. It is arrogance.

America's Godly Heritage

For the umpteenth time. Or so it seems.

I saw this exchange at Bruce's blog about Dr. Robert Jeffress' misconceptions about American and Baptist history. This seemed an odd coincidence since I had just discovered Pastor Jeffress after a friend of mine told me about a sermon on evolution that made some good points. I found that to not be true, but in the meantime, I found that the good Pastor has a lot of opinions. He told his people that they had to vote for a Christian, and that meant a real Christian, not some fake Christian. Hmm. Since both candidates in the last election said they were Christian, I wonder which one he thought was fake? His other insightful points about voting were all about gays and abortion, so I am pretty sure he has decided, in his infinite knowledge, that Obama is the fake.

Nice. But that seems par for the course. I listened to half of the evolution sermon (it's a two parter)--just enough to hear the good Pastor bash liberals, scientists, and pretty any one who doesn't see the Bible as he does. Reminds me of this great Sojo post about Christians who seem to take pride in their ability and willingness to insult and alienate people who disagree with them. Pastor Jeffress is certainly proud of that, or seems that way. His sermon on evolution was filled with half-truths, rhetorical cheats, and rather juvenile shots at people, well, like me.

But back to this seemingly endless argument about our Christian heritage. Over the years, I have had numerous arguments with people about this idea. My own historical specialty is not Colonial or Revolutionary America, though I studied those eras and have taught on that period. I even read extensively on religion during this time and can tell you that it is a complicated and contested mess. A mess, in which Christianity plays a pretty big role.

But here is the kicker. That role is both good and bad. For some of the good, they are also involved in some of the worst that early America had to give us. Slavery, oppression of women, mistreatment and wars against Indians--and the list goes on. Those who want to claim America as a Christian nation should rethink what they want to take credit for.

And that is where the entire discussion avoids history. Most of this David Bartonesque argument can be summarized as a quote war. They quote John Winthrop, John Jay, and Patrick Henry. Liberals quote Jefferson and John Adams. Big deal. In our own political context, we have annual announcements by politicians about our Christian nation status. What the hell does that tell us? Either way?

As my friend Anglican is fond of saying, how about asking if we actually lived like a Christian nation? Were we Christian when we imported millions of African slaves, and our economy relied on either slave trade, or slave produced goods?

  • Were we Christian when we "civilized" Indian tribes and then dispossessed them of their lands? Or when we placed them on reservations?

  • Were we Christian during the Industrial revolution when we treated immigrant workers like slaves? Or when we placed children in mines and factories?

  • Were we when we abolished Slavery only to institute a vicious two-tiered social system that kept African Americans on the bottom, kept there by social rules and night terror? Or when African Americans went off to war in WWI only to come back to repeated lynchings? Or WWII where they had less freedom in parts of America than German POWs?

    There are a lot of good too. Some Christians played a strong role in the early feminist movement, and led the way in the effort to abolish slavery. Some Christians objected to child-labor and led on the "settlement house" movement to provide assistance for immigrant women and children. Some Christians worked very hard, and laid their lives on the line for Civil Rights.

    But in each of those situation, Christians were also on the other side. People like Dr. Jeffress tend to forget that or minimize them as "a product of sin." Just as they, today, minimize the role that their most recent Christian president played in authorizing dehumanizing, immoral, and illegal torture of untold hundreds of suspected terrorists. Were we Christian when we did that?

    I don't think so. But I am sure we can find a whole list of quotes from the torturers about their deep devotion to their Christian faith. Does that tell us anything about torture?

    I don't think so.
  • December 2, 2008

    The cause of our economic woes

    I think Andrew Bacevich may be more right than anyone, in blaming all of us for wanting to live beyond our collective means, but I also think that a big part of our problem is the faith that says markets are all knowing. Don't get me wrong. I think markets can be wise in certain ways. But self-interest and greed are not always the best ways to make decisions, and we all know that in our own personal lives. Why we think that should govern an economy is beyond me. Grover Norquist (famous for wanting government small enough to drown in a bathtub) now blames the crisis on the 2006 election, and says the economy melted down because the market senses upcoming tax hikes. The man is a moron, so we should not take him seriously even though he is a prominent advisor to the Republican leadership.

    But this hands-off approach to the economy was not a good thing, and I don't know why people argue that. You can arguably squelch an economy with too much regulation and taxation, I will concede, but you can also create economic chaos by not bothering to keep an eye on those with economic power. Yesterday, we learned (to no one's shock here at the blog) that Bush was warned about this, but chose to listen to the wolves rather than guard the henhouse:
    "The Bush administration backed off proposed crackdowns on no-money-down, interest-only mortgages years before the economy collapsed, buckling to pressure from some of the same banks that have now failed. It ignored remarkably prescient warnings that foretold the financial meltdown, according to an Associated Press review of regulatory documents."
    As we have said many times. Our choices are not between socialism and a free market. Our choice is to engage in our economy and keep an informed eye it. That means that just as businesspeople don't just assume their workers will do a good job, we don't assume that corporate and business leaders have the same interest as the consumer or the worker. History has taught us that.

    December 1, 2008

    Because he is still President

    We have to keep talking about the worst president ever. And I mean that. The economy is crumbling around our ears, his vaunted War on Terror amping up in India, and what is our President doing?

    Of course you know that, because he is not only a bad president, but actually a shitty one (technical term), he is busy gutting environmental regulations and workplace safety, even as you are thinking, "didn't he already do that?" His Labor department is planning on making it much harder for government to regulate toxic substances and limit worker exposure. And that isn't all:
    "The Labor Department rule is among many that federal agencies are poised to issue before Mr. Bush turns over the White House to Mr. Obama.

    One rule would allow coal companies to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining operations into nearby streams and valleys. Another, issued last week by the Health and Human Services Department, gives states sweeping authority to charge higher co-payments for doctor’s visits, hospital care and prescription drugs provided to low-income people under Medicaid. The department is working on another rule to protect health care workers who refuse to perform abortions or other procedures on religious or moral grounds."
    Who needs clean water? Another rule would make it easier to build power plants near national parks and wilderness areas. It is literally as if Bush has not done enough damage to our environment. Evidently, that is what he thinks should be his priority before the change of power to the next admin. Heckuva Job, there Bushie!

    And less we forget the other great legacy of this President, this, from an interrogator in Iraq about our torturing administration. And this is not some lefty anti-war person. He helped get the intelligence that got us Zarqawi. but he is still haunted by what he saw in Iraq--from our side. This section caught my eye:
    I know the counter-argument well -- that we need the rough stuff for the truly hard cases, such as battle-hardened core leaders of al-Qaeda, not just run-of-the-mill Iraqi insurgents. But that's not always true: We turned several hard cases, including some foreign fighters, by using our new techniques. A few of them never abandoned the jihadist cause but still gave up critical information. One actually told me, "I thought you would torture me, and when you didn't, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That's why I decided to cooperate."

    Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there's the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.

    I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.

    Elections matter. Oh do they matter.

    Christmas Letter Hell

    It is that time of year. Despite all the War on Christmas nonsense, I love this time of year. I love the cooler weather, the shorter days, the decorations and lights, and even the sounds and smells of Christmas. I love it all.

    And I generally love the Christmas cards (especially since we are so very inconsistent on sending out ours). But with all due respect to the Christmas letter writers out there, some of you should not. I know, I know. I should not use the word "should." But some people are a danger to others.

    Certainly not all. I have a completely arbitrary and subjective system for evaluating letters. Good, meh, and BAD.

    In the Good category, I have to say (and this is not just because she reads here) are my mother's letters. Scrupulously fair in mentions and praise of relatives, brief in text, and completely lacking in bragging. My Texas friend's parents are similar. Brief, in an impressive sort of way, and then a little explanation of their travels or movement during the year, then salutation and a picture. Most of their discussion is about the grandkids--not always stuff I am terribly interested in, but certainly understandable and within the rules. My rules, of course.

    Meh. New popular blog word (just got into the dictionary, I heard) and describes a mediocre feeling about something. That clearly describes a lot of Christmas letters we get. They don't insult me, nor do they excite me. They are informative, often pretty, and usually with pictures. Sometimes, these letters are marked down for not including pictures of the adults--which in some cases, means that we have a picture of the only people in that family that we have never met and do not know.

    Bad. Oh my. Bad letters have sub-categories, though all are measured against the Baddest of the Bad, or infamous letters from a female church member when I was in high school and college. I would dare that her letters are still famous. Hers were long and wordy. That isn't always a bad thing, but when those numerous words are used as she did. . . Oh my. Each year, the entire church community was treated to rather detailed and lengthy discussions of her latest illness and procedures. Not necessarily graphic, but close enough to make you shudder. The year SOF and I married, her Christmas letter mentioned that several people had weddings that year, but her son's was clearly the best.

    I don't know a person from that time who didn't wince when they saw that letter in their mail.

    Some are Bad in the "Our family is better than your family" way. One family was very nice, and I liked them very much. But their Christmas letters are a list of successes, job promotions, prize-winning grandkids, and new houses. I still remember the description of one of the weddings in a mansion on a hill. Sigh. Reading their letter made us feel like failures.

    Others seem to have the "let me use this Christmas letter to send a political message." I still remember a former friend sending a letter in the 90s that mocked the Clinton administration. Perhaps he really thought all of his Christmas list voted Republican. I don't know. Everyone here knows that SOF and I are very pleased with the last election, but we would not send out a gloating Obama Christmas letter as we know that a good portion of our Christmas card list voted for McCain. That isn't so complicated, is it?

    We just received a similar letter. Not exactly Republican propaganda, but to put it in perspective, to keep up, I would have to send out our Christmas letter (assuming we do one this year) mocking creationism, or taking on David Barton. Sigh.

    Perhaps there is no general rule. Everyone has their own goal for sending out a letter. But I don't think that is the place for a political ax, or something in the "too much information" category. They should not make you feel bad.

    That seems simple enough.

    November 26, 2008

    Thanksgiving

    And you know what that means. Yeah, the War on Christmas, and our friends at Focus on the Family are more worried about whether your local retailer says "Merry Christmas" than they are the impact their layoffs will have on ~149 families of former employees. When you are King Dobson, you expect your subjects to simply submit, and nothing works better than distracting them with the War on Christmas. That is our biggest concern right now? Really? Or even a legitimate concern?

    I don't think so.

    *****

    Speaking of religious nonsense, I see that Bob Jones University has apologized for its past racism. I expect they want to be patted on the back and congratulated for joining the 20th century, even if that century is over. In the same vein, I would like to be commended for the fact that I have decided not to run people over with my car. I will take my Person of the Year Award now!

    ****

    The progressive blogosphere is buzzing over the idea that Obama will keep Bob Gates on at Defense. Some worry that it sends the message that Democrats are weak on defense and have to turn that over to conservatives. Others say it is ridiculous after an election devoted to change to keep someone from the worst administration in history.

    I care about those sentiments about as much as I do the War on Christmas. Gates has easily been Bush's best and, perhaps, only good decision. I don't care if he used to run Texas A&M University, and worked for Daddy Bush. The man is obviously very good at his job. In every other position, W favored loyalty and party ideology over competence. We should not replace one ideological administration with another. The President Elect said this yesterday about the budget, but it could easily apply to every other issue facing the nation:
    people don't want to continue argument about big government or small government, they want smart government and effective government.
    Exactly. I remember reading in horror that Bush's people filtered employees for Iraq's reconstruction team based on their stance on abortion. Really? Had it been me, I would have instructed those people to hire the very best. I would have said, "get this done, and I don't care if you have to hire Chelsea Clinton or Karl Marx to do it. Just make it right. We will get the credit."

    But he didn't do that, of course, and preferred ass-kissing minions to competent staff and administrators. Bob Gates has been the one shining exception, and to not use his expertise simply because he is connected to Bush is ridiculous. The change we need here is not partisan, it is about competence and good governing.

    ****

    I sincerely hope that you all have a good Thanksgiving.

    November 23, 2008

    Sunday

    Moving a little slowly today after a busy one yesterday. Watched OU pound Texas Tech last night, which was great fun. Today, we spend the hours wondering if the polls will reward OU or keep them behind Texas in the BCS. Such is the luxury of sports, that we can argue and entertain ourselves with such trivialities. :)

    *****

    One of my conservative friends was really angered at how some Democrats denied the legitimacy of George Bush's election and reelection. That always caught me off guard because, as much as I loathe this president, I have always assumed he was our President--and still do. The fact that he is the worst in recent memory doesn't take away from his legitimacy. Whatever we think about the election problems in Florida in 2000, and in Ohio in 04, that is the past, and he has served us badly, but legitimately, for the last 8 years.

    To be fair, I have never met a Democrat or liberal who says other, or acts otherwise. Not saying they aren't out there, but I don't know any. I remember that same kind of delegitimizing of Clinton that was standard fare on religious and other conservative radio. And I am afraid that will continue under Obama. SOF just received an email pass on from a conservative friend that repeats the nonsense questioning Obama's citizenship. This will not end, and I predict that a large segment of the far right will once again see themselves under siege, waiting for the Black Helicopters and gay flag burners to come make them have abortions. It is so funny to see conservatives suddenly scared of state power--as if the last 8 years have not seen the intrusive role of government into every day lives. These conservatives (and certainly not all) have no consistent governing philosophy, so they have never even thought to criticize the Patriot Act, just as they never thought to criticize torture and wiretapping. But in the hands of "other" and scary "unAmerican" Obama--state power becomes a fear.

    Sigh.

    *****

    Finally, after seeing a link to this story from Lifehacker, I decided to try my hand at home-made cayenne/Tobasco sauce. After nearly macing all of us, there are two small jars of something resting on the counter.

    Perhaps when Obama's Brown-Shirted-Gay-Aborting-Flag Burning-Socialist friends come after me, I will have the necessary weapon to fight back.

    November 20, 2008

    I am waiting for an apology from conservatives

    And not just for the last 8 years of the Bush administration. Not that there isn't much there. Today, a judge released 5 Algerians who were held in Gitmo for the last 6 years without charge and without cause. The judge said there was no evidence to support that these men were (originally charged with conspiring to blow up an American embassy--then charged with going to Afghanistan to fight against Americans) terrorists. Not that Bush Justice cared. Lock them up, throw the key, and pretend that the world isn't watching. Oh, and torture them while you have them locked up. We will sort out guilt and innocence after their torture drives them insane.

    So, yeah, I am still mad about that. Those who assured me Bush was a man of God need to rethink that, and perhaps not say that ever again.

    But this is not about Bush. This is about the blanket criticism that current conservatives have for all things government and all things liberal. Thanks to Rushbo and the idiots on Fox, "liberal" has become a curse word, and anything they do is supposed to be a failure and possibly socialism.

    Driving to have lunch with Anglican, I noticed another bank I had previously not noticed. Add that one to two new ones here in Norman, and you have a lot of banks around town.

    This observation led me to contemplate our economic situation and how much worse it might be. As I said, conservatives love to bash liberals for their government programs. That, of course, before all the big "free-market" business people lined up outside the Congress for their shot at a bailout--but hell, even during all this, the free-market fundamentalists still, in knee-jerk fashion, bash liberal programs. Phil Gramm, as far as I know, is still touting deregulation. Oh, and I think he believes flu shots are witch craft, and that leeches are the best cure for a cold.

    Sigh.

    But back to those banks. They keep functioning. In the 1930s, banks failed in huge numbers. Between 1931 and 1932, nearly 4,000 banks went under, taking with them savings, access to capital for farms, houses, and businesses. Entire communities saw their economic ability disappear. Families lost their lives, farms, homes, everything. And sometimes they failed because everyone freaked out at the same time and removed their savings to store under their mattresses.

    I am not saying our local banks are not worried about the economy, any more than any other local business or agency. But they aren't besieged by angry and worried depositors asking for their life savings. The ones I drove past were doing normal business. Everyone knows that their savings are insured and they don't have to worry about that. They may worry about their 401k, and their retirement, and their stocks and bonds (good old free market) but their savings and checking accounts are safe, thanks to good old liberal (not socialist) policy.

    I don't think that is a little thing, and I wish conservatives would recognize just how great of a contribution that is to our well-being. Perhaps they can consider that the next time they castigate all things government and all things liberal. Perhaps they can consider that during their next trip to the ATM when they don't worry about withdrawing cash.

    Perhaps.

    I won't hold my breath.

    disturbing stories about race

    Greg has a story about a Southern Baptist woman making a racist remark about Obama. Two other friends have shared similar experiences. One just about lost it waiting in a doctor's office while a very stupid woman used the "n" word repeatedly. Our other friend is experiencing a family divide over the election--a divide that cancelled Thanksgiving. Her family members have openly disparaged Obama's race, and one even expressed concern that his "grandmother was white." The same friend had to listen to someone make jokes about planting watermelon in the White House gardens while she waited to vote early.

    Some of these may have the excuse of poor education and never being challenged to rise out of their culture. That doesn't excuse them, but it does add a context. Some of the others have no such excuse. Greg's example was a SBC church planter's wife. That reminds me of some historical scholarship on Southern evangelicals that suggests that in the early National period, Baptists and Methodists were quite radical about social justice. They opposed slavery, and even advocated much more equality for women--all drawn from their religious beliefs. To survive in the South, however, they had to give up those challenges to social status and focus on the sins of drinking and gambling. Racism, I fear, is still so embedded in that culture (and obviously not just the South, of course) that a good many church-going moral people have never even challenged those prejudices.

    The good news in all of these examples is there was someone there to challenge the racism. And in several cases, the racist person had a child there who was embarrassed by the racism. We can only hope that means that there are some challenges to racism, and we are slowly gaining on it. But I fear that some of those kids who hate racism now, will be worn down by their own cultural assumptions by the time they are older. It would be nice if the conservative evangelical churches would make this their cause instead of going after gays. My sense is that they avoid racism as they have torture--perhaps falsely assuming that everyone knows right from wrong in these situations. Or perhaps they are following the model of people like Dobson. Either way, they leave us with a lot of otherwise moral people standing for immoral policy, or repeating immoral racist drivel.

    Sigh

    November 18, 2008

    Irony alert?

    The American Family Association is selling this for Christmas?



    I would not recommend this for your front porch. But then again, I am not a fan of burning crosses.

    Reminds me of an image Mary pointed out a few weeks ago, where Christians were praying for the economic crisis (understandable), but doing so in an unfortunate way:



    Praying to a golden calf?

    Sigh.

    Huckabee writes a book--Dobson lays off workers

    And, as Time calls it, settles his campaign scores. And there is some in here that I agree with. But here is exactly why Huckabee bothers me:
    Huckabee says he spoke to Hagee by phone before the McCain endorsement while preparing for a spot on Saturday Night Live. "I asked if he had prayed about this and believed this was what the Lord wanted him to do," Huckabee writes of the conversation. "I didn't get a straight answer."
    I don't know how God makes those decisions, but I am not convinced that Hagee, or Huckabee, can tell the difference between their personal ego and opinion and hearing from God. And this speaks to Huckabee's real problem in the election. He wanted to be taken seriously as a politician and governor, and resented questions about religion, yet invoked his religion and even preached sermons on the campaign. Here, he suggests that God would not have communicated to Hagee to endorse anyone else other than him, but then chastises the media for always asking him about religion?

    *****

    Speaking of the religious right, turns out that even Focus on the Family has been forced to lay off people. That would be understandable if it were just the economy, but it turns out it is because the organization spent a half million dollars on the effort to defeat gay marriage. I am sure that James Dobson won't be harmed financially at all, so that makes it ok. As long as the king is taken care of.

    ***

    And since I was browsing the Colorado Independent, I also saw that Focus on the Family is one of the few places left that still likes and supports still-president George Bush. The reason? Because of his SCOTUS nominees, and his support for "the preborn."

    Dobson said nothing in opposition to Bush's torture, and even joked about it with Ann Coulter.

    Sigh.

    November 14, 2008

    Gag

    But I guess in a world where Sarah Palin is a legitimate candidate, there is no reason that Joe the Idiot can't profit off his celebrity. Turns out you too can spend $14.95 for a membership where you too can chat with the actual Joe the Wackjob. And he is "writing" a book. Yippee.

    And if you are thinking I am being a little too harsh on old Joe, let's remember when he agreed with another idiot McCain supporter who said that a vote for Obama "is a vote for the death of Israel."

    But, as I noted before, Sarah Palin still thinks she is a credible candidate. Why not Joe the Moron?

    View from our window

    video

    November 13, 2008

    Friday morning

    Last week, after watching Obama win, one of my friends wondered why I still complained about Palin. I won, he noted. Why continue?

    This post from Obsidian Wings speaks to that, I think. I am still stunned at the irresponsibility of McCain and the Republicans to trust this woman nearly with running our country. Her lack of curiosity about the basic policies and functions of government are simply unbelievable.

    And, further, as I noted, we have learned over the last 8 years the very clear lesson that elections matter, and electing an incurious person to the highest office has consequences. Yesterday, I finally decided to watch the PBS documentary "Torturing Democracy. You can view it in its entirety here. While not graphic, it is not for the faint of heart to watch the horror that our country has embraced and allowed. I think every American should see it at some time, and certainly those who assured us that Bush was God's choice for our country. Whenever I see pictures of Bush praying, I will think of this documentary instead. The person who said he got his guidance from God authorized the torture of others--and many of them (if not most) innocent people who had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Elections matter.

    Don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

    November 11, 2008

    Jon Swift: Obama is "dogist"

    Bow to the master, folks:
    "But the worst gaffe Obama made at his disastrous press conference was when he referred to mixed-breed dogs (or “differently bred” dogs, as they prefer to be called) using the dogist term “mutts.”"

    Uh oh.


    Obama wins--now what?

    Heh.

    Conservative Evangelicals voted MORE for McCain

    Suggests that the religious right will be stronger, not weaker in the future Republican party:
    "Born again Christians or evangelicals made up 36% of Bush vote and, by my count, 38.% of the McCain vote.

    Some of that results from non-evangelicals - Catholics in particular -- abandoning the Republicans while evangelicals mostly stayed put. But the Republican ticket actually drew two million more evangelicals in raw numbers than George Bush did, presumably because of excitement about Sarah Palin and extreme fear of Barack Obama."
    And if the Religious Right is close to 40% of the party, and a vocal and consistent block, doesn't that make Palin their favorite?

    She talks the talk, here discussing how she looks at future political opportunities:
    I'm like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is. Even if it's cracked up a little bit, maybe I'll plow right on through that and maybe prematurely plow through it, but don't let me miss an open door. And if there is an open door in (20)12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I'll plow through that door.

    I have no idea how God works in these situations, but watching Sarah Palin operate over these last few months makes me rather cynical about this statement. Can she tell the difference between what she thinks is God's voice and that ego and ambition inside? I am fine with her ambition, but when she confuses that ambition for God's will, it is not encouraging to the rest of us. So reminiscent of Bush, isn't she? No sense of introspection, no sense that perhaps she wasn't ready.

    Sigh.

    November 10, 2008

    ObaMonday

    That title was completely accidental, but I decided to keep it.

    I was thinking about a few things today--all related to Obama and what he offers to our nation. Saw that he is urging the Democratic caucus to keep Lieberman in the fold, which, considering just how vicious Lieberman was toward Obama in the campaign, suggests that we truly are in a different political time. Anyone doubt that Bush would have had the man taken out into the woods?

    ****

    The Telegraph has a great list of 50 things you may not know about Obama. Favorite book is Moby Dick and he uses an Apple laptop. Bad news? Doesn't drink coffee. Perhaps he really is a communist! :)

    ****

    Finally, and this has nothing to do with Obama as a person, btw, but as cynical as I get about patriotism and nationalistic nonsense, one thing often reminds me how our system truly is amazing. Starting with the election of 1800, we have proven able to peacefully transition power from one party to another. Today, Bush met with Obama and met about how to hand over the reins, but that will be done without tanks in the street, or junta in the air.

    Truly worth celebrating.

    Hah! Three years exactly on the nose

    After I started yoga, I returned this morning for my first session since the sciatica and herniated disk.

    Just as then, I expect to be a little sore today and tomorrow, but it felt great to stretch muscles, some for the first time since August. And it was great to see my yoga friends.

    November 9, 2008

    Sunday--post election version

    And it still feels great. Ran into some neighbors on the walk and when we asked how they were doing, they said, "Great. Barack Obama will be President!" :)

    It is great, but there are many, many challenges for him and his team. We also braved the morning shows for the first time in months. On MTP, I quickly grew tired of Republicans talking about the importance for Obama to move slowly and to work across the aisles. I have no problem working with Republicans and think Obama will do so, but I am reminded of just how Bush approached that. As I recall, it was more in the model of "I won. You do what I say from now on." Bi-partisan meant doing whatever he said or he would use your resistance against you and call you unAmerican. Not only that, but they talk about the huge problems facing the Obama admin as if they just passively occurred rather than being the result of horrible choices during the last 8 years of nearly complete Republican rule. The Republicans remind me very much of the American auto industry. Over the last 20 years, they have acted as if their wealth was their own, and that producing inefficient and polluting cars was their birthright. Instead of investing in future technologies, they made Escalade's and Explorers and Suburbans. Now, facing huge problems, they are turning to the government for a handout. I wonder if Republicans will give them the same lecture they give to the poor, or if my Republican friends will show the same contempt toward these handouts that they do toward welfare recipients?

    Perhaps we will see genuine reassessment of the blind faith of the free market. Perhaps we will see a reassessment of the "government is the enemy" mantra that the right has used to fundraise and govern. Perhaps we will see a Republican party out of the ashes that no longer rejects science and expertise. Perhaps.

    *****

    A couple of remaining thoughts from this week. During his first press conference as President Elect, Obama demonstrated that serious approach to policy that we all saw during the campaign, but he also showed that sense of humor and humility. When talking about the children's new dog, he mentioned that they have to find one that won't be a problem with allergies, but that they really want to find a shelter dog, and those are "mutts like me." Not only do I love shelter mutts (all our animals are shelter or rescue animals) but I too am a mutt.

    Second, thinking back to the historic nature of this election, I cannot quite shake how powerful it was to recognize that our new first lady is an African American woman. For some reason, that resonates with me even more than Barack at the top of the ticket. The history of race in this country has been so contested and so conflicted, and few have taken the brunt of that racism more than black women--those who were on the receiving end of the double pronged discrimination. Those who were relegated to the worst paying jobs and the least amount of respect. Seeing this amazing woman in that role makes me very proud of our country.

    November 7, 2008

    Newsweek series on the election

    Just finished all seven chapters, and as a result, didn't get much else done today. Kind of curious how many total words the series included. Anyway, I will write more later, but it is well worth the read. You really get a good picture of all the major players, and while Obama comes across very good, McCain and several of his people do too. Palin, not so much. As I included in one the comments, here very interesting snippet about her absolutism:
    "Another reporter asked if he was happy with 'the pick of Palin.' He ducked the question. Schmidt was trying, not very hard, to hide his true feelings. He had been compelled to personally take over Palin's debate prep when she seemed unwilling to engage in the drudge work of learning the issues. McCain's advisers had been frustrated when Palin refused to talk to donors because she found it corrupting, and they were furious when they heard rumors that Todd Palin was calling around to Alaska bigwigs telling them to hold their powder until 2012. The day of the third debate, Palin refused to go onstage with New Hampshire GOP Sen. John Sununu and Jeb Bradley, a New Hampshire congressman running for the Senate, because they were pro-choice and because Bradley opposed drilling in Alaska. The McCain campaign ordered her onstage at the next campaign stop, but she refused to acknowledge the two Republican candidates standing behind her."
    Nice that she thinks that donors are corrupting, but refusing to even acknowledge people who disagree with you is not a good way to govern. At any level.

    Have a good weekend. More later on this amazing series.

    Lieberman seems to not get it

    And is threatening to bolt to the Republicans, to which Democrats say "go for it."

    Sigh. And they get mad when we mock them for being this stupid

    Gun Sales Soar On Obama Victory:
    "'He wants to take our guns from us and create a socialist society policed by his own police force,' added Mr. Pruett, a former radio personality, of President-elect Barack Obama."

    Election week: retrospective edition

    I have been exhausted all week. This campaign has been pretty central to my mind for the last year, so perhaps it is no wonder.

    This morning, I have been unable to stop reading Newsweek's 7 chapter series (5 available so far) on the campaign. Just finished chapter two on McCain's comeback in the primary, and am engrossed in chapter three's discussion of the Clinton campaign. Absolutely a great read, and a must for those political junkies out there.

    Related topic, at least here in Oklahoma, has been the fact that our state voted more for McCain than any. Not one county went for Obama, and that has a lot of us shaking our heads. Not only that, but at the state level, Republicans made gains in the state legislature. Again, I don't have a problem with a lot of my Republican friends and family, but these Republicans are not mostly of that variety. They are the kinds who, as Rachel Maddow noted last night, are like hiring a vegan to be your butcher. They hate government and want to undermine it as much as possible.

    What is more, they seem (and I stress the seem) to pursue ideology or belief with no regard for reason or outcome. Sally Kern, famous for comparing gay people to terrorists, appears to so badly want women to remain in the home, that she wants to undercut every program aimed at helping women or children. I had coffee yesterday with a former student who noted that he grew up in one of those suburbs, dominated by Christian conservative Republicans, all of which (or most) moved to the burb to create a little Christian cocoon. He said, however, that the teenage pregnancy and drug problems were sometimes worse there. I asked him why they continued to pursue such policies when the outcome and results were counter to their goals, and he noted that outcomes and facts were irrelevant when you dealt with belief.

    Found this fascinating article on evangelicals and sexuality in the New Yorker that suggests that my former student isn't completely right, but not far off:
    "But, according to Add Health data, evangelical teen-agers are more sexually active than Mormons, mainline Protestants, and Jews. On average, white evangelical Protestants make their “sexual début”—to use the festive term of social-science researchers—shortly after turning sixteen. Among major religious groups, only black Protestants begin having sex earlier.

    Another key difference in behavior, Regnerus reports, is that evangelical Protestant teen-agers are significantly less likely than other groups to use contraception."
    We have discussed this before, but it is interesting that the red states often have higher rates of teen pregnancy, divorce and abuse, while the supposedly godless blue states do better in most of those areas.

    From my perspective, this is part of that anti-intellectual part of the right that places like Oklahoma have adopted with glee. I have no idea how to change that or approach it. I also wonder if our low electoral college numbers means that we get very little attention from national politicians, and so many in the state never hear an alternative explanation.

    Anyway. Happy reading.

    November 5, 2008

    Humor for the day after

    From Obsidian Wings:
    "Agenda for the 1st Hundred Days:

    1. Sharia.

    2. Communism.

    3. Compulsory gay marriage for all preschoolers.

    4. Surrender to Aztlan.

    5. Abortion legal until 12 years after conception.

    6. NASCAR banned, replaced by all-male ballet.

    7. Official language of the USA: Ebonics.

    8. Christmas banned.

    9. ‘Red Dawn’ banned.

    10. Box turtles.

    That should do it."

    The morning after

    And I feel spent. Exhausted. I dreamt all night of politics and Obama and our friends.

    I was reminded during the returns last night of how I felt 4 years ago. You can read about it here, though I warn you it is angry and harsh. Looking back on that obscenity-laced post, I remember how dark that day was. I must say, however, that my fears were not extreme and they were not irrational. Bush didn't invade another country (yet) but the rest is dead on. Bush continued to govern without reason and play on our fears and hatreds. Conservative Christians didn't even mind when Bush tortured. I am loathe to gloat, but for those, like James Dobson, Richard Land, I hope last night was a bit painful.

    But this morning, we look at a new hope. A hope mixed with fear and realism, of course. The same paranoid style of hatred that characterized the right's response to Clinton (remember the video that Falwell sent out?). I am sure the people who believe that Obama is secretly a Muslim will find their cohorts on hate radio, and unfortunately, in church pews.

    More to the point, Obama faces unprecedented problems in the economy, environment, and foreign policy realm. This vote was not a magic cure for those problems. There is no guarantee that Democrats can solve these problems. Now, we will see if the country can be unified to any workable degree, and if Obama can lead us to some solutions, however imperfect they may be.

    The Republican party and conservative Church finds themselves having to make their own decisions. Will they continue down that Palin road? The one that encourages hatred of others and dismisses intellect and science? The one that resends the emails about Obama's muslim past and mocks community organizers? Or will they reassert some semblance of a conservatism that is not obsessed with gays and abortion? The love affair with the mean-spirited Palin suggests to me that the Republican party will continue down that road where science is a punchline and God is an American.

    The Democrats will need to move forward with, as our party and country leader noted last night, humility for the tasks ahead.

    But for this morning, I will enjoy the results. I feel just a little better than I did four years ago.

    November 4, 2008

    President Elect Barack Obama

    I like the way that sounds.

    We watched the returns with some friends, and I must say I was a nervous wreck until SOF and I heard them call Ohio. After Pennsylvania, Ohio was that must-have for McCain and I thought that was a very good sign for Obama. Obviously, that continued.

    Couple of real memorable moments from tonight. One was watching McCain's very classy concession speech where he praised the historic nature of this race, and importantly called on all Americans to rally around this new President. He was very classy, and our entire group commented that he sounded a hell of a lot more like the 2000 version than the one we have seen mocking community organizing and women's health. This was not the man who chose a divisive and incompetent VP candidate. He did a very nice job.

    The second was a shot of Jesse Jackson openly weeping. I am not a Jackson fan, and recognize so much of what he has done badly in his career and life. But his tears were not about him, or his career, or his tendency to play on that racial divide. It was one of those connections to MLK and that dream--a dream that was at least partially realized tonight.

    Part of my relief is that I have been pulling for Obama from very early on. But a big part of it was that I wanted to believe that we could rise above race, and that we could choose someone to end the nightmare of the last 8 years. As Leighton said in the comments, the real work starts tomorrow. But tonight was a nice start. I can stop holding my breath and see if I can get a little sleep tonight. As our friend Anglican said tonight:
    "God bless America. But not America alone. God bless us, every one"

    Just voted for Barack Obama for President

    And it felt damn good. A historic vote, and I felt it when I drew that line.

    November 3, 2008

    Obama's Grandmother Passes Away

    Thinking about that family tonight. She was Barack's last parent and someone very important in his life. TPM Election Central | Talking Points Memo | Obama's Grandmother Passes Away

    Interesting day--and democracy is still hard

    This election has me on edge, and I don't think I am the only one. Last night, SOF and some friends attended an NBA game here in Oklahoma City and watched the Thunder win their first game as an Oklahoma team. That was enjoyable, and also distracting. For a few hours, we didn't worry about the election or the future and just concentrated on watching the game.

    This morning, however, it is back. I have done a decent job of managing my frustration by limiting what I read and hear. I avoid the 24 hour cable, and have even limited NPR. I read a few blogs and do what I can to keep some awareness of what is happening, but trying all the while to keep my head up and focussed on what I can do. One of my friends called it a cross between "cautious optimism and sheer terror." Heh.

    Today was interesting, though. An anti-abortion group was on campus again with their giant pictures of aborted babies. On the benches close by, a small, but vocal, group of young girls chanted pro-choice slogans. Interspersed in the display were what they called "free-speech boards" where they encouraged people to write their thoughts. I walked through with my headphones on--a clear signal that I was not looking to talk, and checked out the free-speech boards. Not terribly different from what people spoke around me, and my class of students told me later that they found the entire display rather useless. Both sides simply shouted at each other, and there was nothing approaching conversation or dialogue (though one of the writers on the "free speech board" did say that the gory pictures were part of the "dialouge").

    Walking through it with the headphones on was a surreal experience of people shouting, watching, talking, and shouting. It didn't feel like anything good was happening. I didn't resent any of the people there, I just didn't see anything approaching dialogue or relationship.

    Walking home, I thought about that polarized world and how frustrating that is and what I try to do here on the blog. It isn't always successful, but we try to talk about things with a bit of civility. Those who troll by don't understand that, because they are simply lobbing in bombs, but this little community has had some very interesting conversations over the years. We don't always agree. But we keep talking.

    I will hold my breath for the next 36 hours or so. And I will continue to try and make connections with people around me. But right now, I am going to grab a beer and make some dinner.

    Peace.

    Hmm, Spreading the Wealth

    McCain and Palin have made a lot of hay out of Obama's "spread the wealth" comment. You would think that McCarthy still roamed the halls of the Senate, or that the over-riding danger for the world was communism. McCarthy is gone and reviled (except by the far right) and even the communists aren't really communist.

    But that fear works among so many, and so many are religious conservatives who seem to think that Jesus was a capitalist, and as Natalie put it: "the Christians who support McCain probably think that the phrase 'God helps those who help themselves' is found in the Bible."
    Anyway, I can't bring myself to vote for someone so critical of Leviticus 25, of jubilee, of 2 Corinthians 8:14-15 and Acts 4:34. When God provided manna in the wilderness, those who accumulated too much found their hoarded manna spoiled."

    November 1, 2008

    Quote of the day

    RELIGION Blog | The Dallas Morning News:
    "'After one of the most tragic days in U.S. history, how did the President urge us to deal with our grief? `Go shopping.' Spending had replaced thrift as the chief American virtue. Those who had accumulated wealth for themselves and their families were lauded as representatives of the `American dream.' Our biggest trade deficits in history, along with unfunded spending on multiple wars are now bearing their bitter fruit. Reports from many of our pastors suggest that we are moving into a time of very painful recession.

    'Perhaps now is a good time to recover some Christian virtues that we thought we had outgrown. I pray that we will be given new moral direction that will point us back (or is it forward?) to the time-honored Wesleyan Christian values, like thrift. Times of financial crisis are good times to be reminded of what's really valuable, from a Christian point of view.'
    - Bishop Will Willimon of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church"

    October 31, 2008

    Man, democracy is hard!--Part 2

    Today, I spent a few hours "phone banking" for Senate Candidate Andrew Rice. What an interesting experience, but not easy. Calling around Oklahoma to registered Democrats, and in my case, mostly older women. First actual person I spoke to hung up on me immediately. That didn't exactly fill me with glee.

    I am sympathetic, of course. I really don't like the constant barrage of phone calls. With that in mind, I did what I could to be very brief, and very, very, very polite. Out of each page of numbers (guessing about 10 per page) I seemed to average a hangup per page. Or, at least, a rejection. Those were kind of funny. Like the one who told me that she "didn't do stuff like that on the phone." What? Answer a question? Or the one call where the husband answered, listened to my spiel of who I was and why I was calling, turned me over to his wife, who listened to who I was and why I was calling, and then said, "No thank you!" (rather rudely) and hung up. I thought, "exactly who did you think I was?"

    But there were several others that were quite interesting. Several wanted to chat a little, and I suspect they might have been a little lonely. One was a 91 year old man who told me he had voted since he was 21. He couldn't hear very well, but was quite nice. I had a few Rice supporters which made the calling a lot easier.

    But then there were those who really hadn't thought about the Senate race at all. Really undecided. I then remember just how weird that is for me. I am rarely undecided! :) And, as everyone on the blog knows, I am a pretty active political watcher. I read widely and keep up with the issues. I know who the major players are, and even some of the minor ones. (Which, btw, made the Mike Gravel campaign all that more puzzling!) So when I meet undecided voters, I am just puzzled. Reminds me of the hilarious David Sedaris bit on undecided voters:
    "To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

    To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked."

    I am glad I put in a little time, and will hope that Rice wins. But it was not easy, and I have a lot of compassion for those who do that kind of calling for a living.

    Anyway. Happy Halloween, and Happy Democracy. I hope, anyway.

    Man, democracy is hard!

    A few of us exchange emails about the election, and sometimes they get a little heated. Yesterday was one of those days. We are all stressed out, and I am certainly easily angered. This morning, I turned on email to find a nice email of conciliation.

    Spoke to a friend of mine at school and he related that he is a comfort/stress eater, and his diet has just been terrible this last few months. The same guy is a huge OU Football fan and noted that it was hard to really care about the OU/TX game this year (Texas won, btw) with the economy and election. He said his diet would begin next Wednesday. Unless McCain wins, then he was just going to start eating Malomars till the end. :)

    It isn't just me, of course. Anglican posted something yesterday about the percentage of Texans who believe that Obama is a Muslim, and got a little pushback. He posted this inspirational plea for reconciliation this morning--one that should be read by all Americans.

    This last 16 years feels incredibly partisan and divided. Here is hoping that there is some reconciliation in the next administration that changes that.

    October 28, 2008

    Eh

    I intended to write a lengthy response to Dobson's fear-mongering letter about Obama (H/t to Carlos). You know, how his letter about possible bad things happening under Obama (gays and abortions for everyone, oh no!), but zip, zilch, nada about the actual real bad things perpetrated on our nation by Dobson pal Bush. Nothing about torture from the Focus on the Family (motto: if it happens to others, we don't care, and it shows) nor concern about actual invasion of privacy or undermining of our constitution.

    But then I just ran out of energy to write about James Dobson-a man I have absolutely no respect for. He should be ashamed, but when God herself whispers in your ear, no need for shame.

    ****

    This electoral map as quilt (h/t M and SOF) is funny and clever. The part about Alaska is great, as is the line about "just about done loving Coldplay."

    Me too. I liked their first couple albums ok, and listened to them a lot. But Chris Martin really bugs me now. I really don't like singers who act out what they are singing, and watching him dance makes me fear an epileptic seizure. Either his or mine.

    Done.

    ****

    Oh, and Ted Stevens guilty on all counts? Shocking. He seems like such a nice guy.

    October 26, 2008

    Bad weeks

    Bad weeks in some perspective.

    I had a slightly bad week in that I found out that the department had to cancel one of my sections. I felt a bit discouraged.

    But then I got home and spoke to SOF. On her way into work, she passed a worker on a cherry picker. She made eye contact with the man as he seemed to be concerned about her coming too close to the machine. Seconds later, she heard the cherry picker fall where she had been, but more importantly that worker was killed.

    On Wednesday, I met a friend and asked how he was doing, only to hear that a person he grew up with had recently killed someone.

    Today, we walked the dogs and met a man we have talked with numerous times over the years as he has walked his dog. He knows the names of our dogs and has been wonderful to talk to over this time. Today, we learned that his wife passed away last month. We cried on the sidewalk together.

    Perspective.

    October 25, 2008

    More Palin--and her attack on science

    Sarah Palin wants more funding for disabled children, but not funding for science. She said:
    You've heard about some of these pet projects they really don't make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.

    One scientist is not amused.
    I am appalled.

    This idiot woman, this blind, shortsighted ignoramus, this pretentious clod, mocks basic research and the international research community. You damn well better believe that there is research going on in animal models — what does she expect, that scientists should mutagenize human mothers and chop up baby brains for this work? — and countries like France and Germany and England and Canada and China and India and others are all respected participants in these efforts.

    Yes, scientists work on fruit flies. Some of the most powerful tools in genetics and molecular biology are available in fruit flies, and these are animals that are particularly amenable to experimentation. Molecular genetics has revealed that humans share key molecules, the basic developmental toolkit, with all other animals, thanks to our shared evolutionary heritage (something else the wackaloon from Wasilla denies), and that we can use these other organisms to probe the fundamental mechanisms that underlie core processes in the formation of the nervous system — precisely the phenomena Palin claims are so important.

    This is where the Republican party has ended up: supporting an ignorant buffoon who believes in the End Times and speaking in tongues while deriding some of the best and most successful strategies for scientific research. In this next election, we've got to choose between the 21st century rationalism and Dark Age inanity. It ought to be an easy choice.

    Palin's 'going rogue,' McCain aide says - CNN.com

    Interesting. Perhaps this kind of infighting is understandable this stage in the game, but perhaps we can set aside the nonsense that this woman was properly vetted.
    "A second McCain source says she appears to be looking out for herself more than the McCain campaign.

    'She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone,' said this McCain adviser. 'She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else."
    Lot of buzz from people that think Palin is setting herself up to be the new leader of the Republican party. If she is, I suspect she will be the leader of the James Dobson wing and little more.

    October 24, 2008

    Greenspan loses faith in free market?

    I know people who see the free market as a natural law, like gravity. They are so convinced that its mechanisms work, that they say the only thing that can undermine them is government regulation. Greenspan admits that he believed that the self-interest of those involved in an industry would manage better control than a regulatory agency. But maybe not now:
    "But on Thursday, almost three years after stepping down as chairman of the Federal Reserve, a humbled Mr. Greenspan admitted that he had put too much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and had failed to anticipate the self-destructive power of wanton mortgage lending.

    “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief,” he told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform."

    This doesn't seem like rocket science to me. I too celebrate the power of the market. But I have also compared it to the power of a wild tiger--powerful and innovative, but also potentially destructive. Perhaps this is a harbinger of a fundamental change in philosophy to a place where Grover Norquist and Newt Gingrich find themselves on the fringes of conservatism. We can only hope.

    Oh, and just remembered that Scott McClellan endorsed Obama yesterday. Hard core Republicans will ignore him and Powell, but what about those in the middle?

    October 22, 2008

    One of those weeks, I guess

    I have not blogged much of late. Partly that has been due to stress and grading. My father has had some health problems of late and that has concerned me. I think he is doing much better, but last week was tough. Tougher on him and my mom than me, but not easy for us.

    Today, I received confirmation that one of my spring classes will be cancelled. One of the risks of being adjunct, perhaps, but nonetheless frustrating. I would have little problem if that cancelation was dictated by economics, but it appears to be more about a political environment that wants to reduce the number of adjunct instructors. Odd really, because some of that antagonism comes from people who are tenured. They see adjuncts as exploited and want to eliminate that exploitation, but the result is not more tenure track lines, but just different levels of exploitation. And when you are one of those people who doesn't feel exploited, but likes the freedom that adjunct teaching gives you, then it is frustrating. And adjunct instructors also often allow tenure track professors reduced loads to work on publications and research projects.

    Academia is a weird little world. I guess that is the best way to put it. Today I am frustrated, but not devastated. But that is one of the reasons I have not been terribly present.

    Anyway.