May 26, 2009

Obama To Pick Sotomayor For Supreme Court

Today at 10:15 eastern. If confirmed, she will be the third female and first Hispanic on the bench. Thoughts on how the Republicans will paint this as somehow undermining the traditional family?

May 23, 2009

Patriot Bible?


From our friend Bruce Prescott, this story about a publication of The American Patriot's Bible, (because their version is different than the commie version, I guess).
Greg Boyd, author of The Myth of a Christian Nation, also criticized the publication as "one of the most disturbing things I've ever witnessed coming from a Christian publishing house." In particular, Boyd objects to the mixing of nationalist war images with the Gospels.

"Most remarkably, each Gospel (The Good News of Jesus Christ!) opens with a picture that includes soldiers struggling to raise a flag under the words 'In God We Trust,'" noted Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn. "When you consider the uniform and emphatic teaching of Christ and the New Testament authors that followers of Jesus are called to love and do good to our enemies, laying down our lives for them if necessary, this overt celebration of America's violent victories over our national enemies is absolutely stunning."
Not sure I can say how much this disgusts me.

May 22, 2009

Now, if only Cheney would try this out

I remember when Dick Cheney referred to waterboarding as a "no brainer," and still run into conservatives who defend waterboarding and other torture. Cheney's impact is felt all around the country, especially when you hear someone like Elizabeth Hasselback tell Jesse Ventura that "torture is wrong, but enhanced interrogation techniques are different." Elsewhere on Jesse's tour (and I really hate quoting Ventura as some kind of voice of reason), those dweebs at Fox and Friends defended torture because of the evil men we fight.


Then yesterday, we see Dick Cheney defending torture in his non-stop tour to, well, I have no clue. Is he trying to actually get us to do more waterboarding? Waterboarding that even his boss stopped authorizing toward the end of his term? Is he trying to control the debate on their legacy? Is he trying to avoid war crimes charges?

Either way, I see Dick Cheney and feel a chill as if we are seeing something spectacularly soul-less right before our eyes. I don't know that he is evil, but he has certainly encouraged and defended evil.

Today, I read that ridiculous right-wing radio jock "Mancow" decided to allow himself to be waterboarded to prove that it was no big deal. He didn't last more than a few seconds and said that it was absolutely torture. This, by the way, with no additional stress, no sleep deprivation or hypothermia, and with an EMT standing by to make sure he was ok. And, of course, with people he knew didn't want to kill him.

Next up on the table, Mr. Cheney? I have to say, that as much as I despise the former VP, I would never wish that on any human being. I certainly would not waterboard him. I just wish he would stop saying it was fine to do.

May 20, 2009

Gitmo over-reactions

No, not about Gitmo itself, but about those detainees. I am very disappointed with Republicans and far too many Democrats who are talking about "releasing these inmates into our communities." We are not talking about moving KSM and other known terrorists into half-way houses in Oklahoma City. We are talking about putting them in SuperMax Federal pens where, among other very hardened criminals, we already house known terrorists.

What does it say about America that we are so scared of these terrorists that even shackled and locked under glass, we are still afraid of them? Doesn't it suggest that we are giving them far too much power over ourselves and giving them exactly the kind of status they want?

As Jon Stewart joked last night, we have guys who have committed canibalism. We have guys like the Unabomber and even the co-conspirator for the Oklahoma City bombing--all in federal stir.

Come on!

May 19, 2009

Ok, one more

Because we live in weird times, let me note that one of the voices of reason this week has been Jessie Ventura. That's right:
"Yes, and I was waterboarded [in training] so I know... It is torture...I'll put it to you this way: You give me a waterboard, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders"

And since we are quoting people like Jessie, let me note that the season finale of 30 Rock seems to have inspired a lot of blog posts on the best Tracy Jordan Lines. There are so many. Just so many.

A few items

As I am completely worn out from teaching intersession.

First, the news that the GOP is losing ground in every demographic except for church goers and those over 65.
Compared to 2001, when George W. Bush first took office as president, GOP self-identification has fallen by ten points among college graduates, nine points among those 18-29 years of age, nine points in the Midwest, six in the East, five in the West, and even four points in the South. Married people identifying as Republicans have decreased by five points, and the difference is eight points among the unmarried. The list goes on and on.

Though, I have to say that given some other stories, I am not surprised. Michael Steele pronounced today that the the era of apologizing for Republican mistakes is over. As every other blogger has suggested, I missed those apologies. You know, when Republicans apologized for torture or two wars...

And then this must read from GQ about Donald Rumsfeld and his penchant for using Crusade style Biblical quotes to adorn updates from the Iraq war. Why? Because President Bush liked that kind of stuff. He liked the Biblical quotes about the "full armor of God" while he authorized the torture of detainees. Read this story. It will make you regret the last Sec Def, and be amazed at the CINC who refused to fire him.


If this is the GOP, then they should be losing supporters.

May 16, 2009

Saturday and Music

I started to blog this morning. I know it has been a while. And I was in a sour mood this morning. Stressful week, and just wiped out, I guess. Or maybe anticipating my birthday tomorrow. So I started to blog about the things that have really annoyed me this week--mostly having to do with the fact that Republicans have decided that Nancy Pelosi knowing about torture is worse than Dick Cheney authorizing torture. That still seems like a pretty stupid thing to suggest.

But I decided to post on music instead. Why focus on torturing Republicans and weak Democrats when I can focus on something that gives me hope?

So here is a long overdue post on the music I have been listening to or obtained of late. And btw, if you are wondering how I afford to buy so much music, I don't. I subscribe to Emusic and for the cost of one album per month, I download 50 individual songs. Much of my new music comes from that service. And then I occasionally purchase individual albums. (If you are interested, you can either go browse, or send me an email and I will send you an invite. If you decide to stay with Emusic and subscribe, I get free downloads. But I have plenty, so do what you want.)

Ok, so here are the albums I have been listening to from Emusic.

1) Jeffrey Foucault's cover album of John Prine songs, Shoot the Moon Right Between the Eyes. Long a Prine fan, I must say I love this album. Foucault's voice is smoky and perfectly fit for folk music. I am least happy with his cover of "Speed of the Sound of Lonliness" (which Nancy Griffith covered very well, btw), but have just found myself listening to this album over and over.

2) Greg Laswell, Three Flights From Alto Nido. The guy at my local liquor store mentioned Laswell, and I have enjoyed this album very much.

3) Gomez, A New Tide. I have really loved some of this bands old stuff, though would not put it in any classic territory. This album is in that vein, but very enjoyable.

4) Great Lake Swimmers, Lost Channels. This group is really growing on me. Very smooth and folky, with nice harmonies. Another very enjoyable little gem.

5) Samantha Crain, Songs in the Night. Oklahoma and Native singer Samantha Crain is pretty impressive. I downloaded her EP and liked it, but this album is better.

6) Raul Malo, Lucky One. Not my usual fare, but I just love this Maverick's lead singer's voice. Think Roy Orbison, and not all of the songs are great, but the voice is always impressive.

7) And I should have put this higher, but Mark Erelli's Delivered is one of my favorites. We saw him locally several years ago, and just loved his show. This album is very solid with a couple of great driving tunes--a bit more rock and roll than I expected from a folkie, but that is not a complaint. Mark is great and you should catch him when you can.

Now for the few albums I have purchased of late.

1) Slaid Cleaves, Everything you love will be taken from you. Dark album, don't get me wrong, but Slaid is one of those genuinely great folk artists or singer/songwriters that more people should hear. This album is very good, and the lead song "Cry" is amazing. We saw him last fall here in Norman. I purchased this album directly from his website because I like to support artists like him. Slaid is the gold standard, really, and his voice is so good live it will make you cry.

2) I have not listened to this album all the way through yet, but have been anticipating Steve Earle's album of Townes Van Zant covers for sometime. And if you notice, the price from Amazon's mp3 download is pretty hard to beat. As of this writing, it is $3 for the entire album. Hard to beat that price. I love Townes writing, but really prefer his music covered by other people. Steve Earle was very close to the man, and the songs I have heard show that kind of connection.

Ok. Enough for now. Lot of good music out there. I just now clicked the download button for the new Scott Miller album. Will let you know. Wilco has a new album out the end of June.

Peace, and listen to more music.

May 9, 2009

Democrats in Congress and torture

I have been hammered by two people of late saying that since Pelosi was briefed on torture, that somehow it changes the scenario. I am unsure why that is the case. Say Pelosi and others were briefed? Does that change the fundamental error and immorality of the Bush people's decision to torture? No. It simply adds more to the list of people that should be held accountable in some manner.

I am with Sullivan on this. We need some kind of independent investigation. Let's air it out, and find out who authorized the torture of others. If that net includes Nancy Pelosi, then so be it.

Interesting new book on evangelicalism

By Warren Cole Smith:
"'American evangelicalism, for all the good it has done, is in need of a modern reformation,' Smith states. 'There is something toxic in the soil of the evangelical garden, and the poison has been building up over time, tainting everything. It is evident in our quick condemnation of homosexuality or alcohol or gambling, but our indulgence of greed and envy in the form of careerism. It's there in the hypocrisy of religious-right political leaders quick (and right) to condemn big government and its corrupting power, but who think that the big ministries and megachurches they have created are somehow immune to the same corrupting power.'"

Other themes that look interesting include "the Christian Industrial complex--examining a Christian retail industry that generates billions." That has been an interest of mine for a long time.

I may have to preorder this book.

May 8, 2009

National Day of Prayer

Was yesterday, I believe. Not that I have anything against prayer (though I am not sure I understand it), but I have always found these public days and public displays off-putting. Evidently, Colbert understands and has a wonderful critique of the day.
"By closing the door on his prayers, Obama is letting us down almost as much as Jesus did, when he said in the Gospel of Matthew: 'Whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door.'"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Clasp Your Hands Say Yahweh
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage

Gay marriage

Eugene Robsinson says it is time for Obama to support it, and the New England states (plus Iowa) are already heading down that path.

I have been fascinated to watch this story change. From 2004 when the specter of gay marriage helped get religious conservatives to the polls, to the defeat of gay marriage in supposedly liberal California, the issue seemed to be some kind of third-rail for American culture. But as states have slowly allowed it, Americans, I think, have seen that it has not led to some kind of catastrophic scenario, and it is getting harder to scare people about gays marrying leading to social disorder or decay. It is a hot button issue, to be sure, as several recent controversies prove.

First, was the "hate crimes" legislation before congress. The Family Research Council sent out all sorts of scary mailings telling people that if this bill passed, it would make pastors in the US subject to criminal prosecution if they preach against homosexuality. I read the bill in question, and it is specifically addressed to physical violence, and also specifically and explicitly says that the bill would not limit First Amendment protected free speech. We can argue about the idea of "hate crimes" but shouldn't that argument at least be on the merits, and not on some fantasy of the right?

Second, was this bizarre storyline about Miss California, Carrie Prejean, who, I guess, spoke out against gay marriage in her pageant. The response was predictable and stupid, with the left calling her a bigot and pointing to mildly risque modeling photos the young woman took years ago as proof of her hypocrisy (whatever) and the right (along with Ms. Prejean) claiming that this was just an attack on her Christian faith. (I like Feministing's take on the photos as an attempt to fight homophobia by invoking the misogyny of shaming Ms Prejean as some kind of "slut.")

Perhaps it is time for us to move past the beauty pageants, for one thing. But that is for another time, I guess.

Here are my predictions. 1) Gay marriage will happen. I think it is just a matter of time.

2) The right wing will be apoplectic and try to scare people with images of open fornication in public and human's marrying animals, but gay marriage will happen.

3) The right will even threaten to secede, or invoke "nullification." Oops, they are already doing that over a 3% tax increase.

4) Gay marriage will not change America one bit, except to perhaps communicate that we can move past this. Straight people will still get married and divorced in large numbers. The right will either cede this and start focusing on the incredibly high divorce rate of its own people, or it will beat itself into further irrelevance by railing against that gay couple down the block who are just about the best neighbors you could ask for.

Can't we all just get along? :)

May 7, 2009

Couple of things

As I once argued, one of Bush's legacies will be how he undermined the credibility of conservative evangelicals. This new poll suggests some early indications with young people avoiding church in record numbers--partially, at least, because they associate going to church with being politically conservative. Chickens roosting, in other words. As I have expressed many times and many places, growing up evangelical, I understand the concern about a believer's witness, and remember it being invoked to suggest that people should not drink beer or do other things that might lead another person astray. Much of that, I always thought, was over the top, but I still wonder where that sentiment is when the most visible evangelical authorizes the torture of other human beings, and the evangelical church supports that torture in the highest numbers?

On torture, btw, I am more inclined to accept the argument that prosecutions would result in a very messy result. I am still a bit annoyed that conservatives seem perfectly willing to proceed with a clearly partisan prosecution (Clinton, for example) but invoke the horror of partisan prosecution to protect torturers.

But the real problem for conservatives right now is that they are not clearly opposed to torture. As I see it, conservatives are divided into roughly three groups. The first says that torture is wrong and always wrong, but can't quite stop themselves from asking the ticking time bomb question. The second group says that torture is wrong, but what if it works? And the third group just openly embraces our torture because they believe the enemy is so evil that it doesn't matter. Think Rush Limbaugh in that spot, but many at the NRO have openly defended waterboarding.

Republicans and conservatives don't know what to do with all of these different groups, and until they do, they will struggle with this issue of torture. They need someone to stand up to the Rush Limbaugh wing and denounce their open embrace of torture. Call it their Sister Souljah moment, if you will. But unlike Clinton's rather theatrical and artificial denunciation of the good Sister, the problem with conservatives is that their movement has been so identified around loyalty to conservatives, that anyone who speaks out against other conservatives is, by definition, no longer conservative, and therefore lacks the credibility to critique the movement.

May 1, 2009

New Wilco cover of a Guthrie tune

You can download it here and contribute to the Woody Guthrie foundation, or there are other options for the unemployed or broke. My favorite option is this one:

I am/was a banker/hedge fund manager/credit default swap trader. I know times are tough, but I'm just fine thank you. (Suggested minimum donation $100.00)

Not good news for evangelicals on morality

At least from my perspective. This Pew Forum poll examines the breakdown of how Americans approach torture. They break down the question to can torture be justified, "often, sometimes, rarely, or never."

Overall, 49% of Americans say that torture can be often or sometimes justified. I find that number rather appalling. But then when you see how it breaks down by religion and church attendance. 62% of white Evangelical protestants say that torture can be often or sometimes justified, and include the lowest percentage (16%) who say that torture can never be justified. Mainline protestants are on the other end of the scale, with 46% often or sometimes, and 31% saying never. Those who attend church at least weekly support torture more than those who do not attend church at all.

I don't think this poll reflects very well on us as a country, to be honest, but am just amazed at how evangelicals respond to this question. It explains why that group stayed with Bush, but does not bode well for those who claim to be part of the "moral values" voting bloc.