May 31, 2011

The state of Evangelical thought--or crazy Michele Bachmann is back in the news

Ah evangelicalism. Where any crazy sociopath can claim a message from God. And that describes batshit crazy Michele Bachmann.

And that is the lovely state of evangelical thought. After all, since the communications with God are internal and private, who is to tell? Who was to tell Bush that God didn't tell him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq? Just as who is to tell someone that they are greedy or lacking compassion. God tells them what to do--not some human person.

May 27, 2011

Body image, the Rapture, and a few tornados--oh and God

First, this very thoughtful post from Natalie about body image in the Christian church. Body image and sexuality are complex topics for our entire culture, but as Natalie notes, the church--while seeing themselves different and superior on this topic--often participates in the same consumerist approach.

Second, a couple from our friend Greg. Here he talks about the rapture in the context of a culture that encourages prophetic language, and does so with brutal honesty and compassion.

Third, here is his great take on how people talk about God's will or protection in the context of great tragedy.
I don't have to celebrate that "God was my refuge," when a three year old is likely fuckin' dead. Yay me? I don't have to say, like the douchenozzle did in the wake of the I40 bridge collapse years ago: "I'm a friend of God, and God takes care of his friends." (It was an Abraham reference for you folks who never actually read that book you're supposed to believe. James 2:23) Never mind that dozens were drowned in the river directly below him; clearly they were all pagans. The narcissism and individualism of American faith, not just Christianity (there is no more annoying person than the one who is "spiritual but not religious." It simply means: I make this shit up as I go, and I prefer what suits me.), would be unsettling if it weren't so utterly fucking banal. But in times like this, it is malicious.

May 26, 2011


I continue to be stunned by Eric Cantor's response to the people of Joplin. But I should not be. The Ayn Rand wing of the Republican party has taken charge. That wing doesn't actually value taking care of people, and actually thinks that helping people is ultimately bad. And a waste. This afternoon, I read about a freshman Republican who chided a constituent for asking for help.
"Hear yourself, ma'am. Hear yourself," Woodall told the woman. "You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, 'When do I decide I'm going to take care of me?'"
Which sounds all great, doesn't it? Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and take care of yourself. But this is a retiree, we find out, who is struggling to take care of herself.
The woman followed up. "Why aren't you leading by example, and go and get it in a single-subscriber plan, like you want everybody else to have, because you want to end employer-sponsored health plans and government-sponsored health plans. You said so in a letter to me, that your goal is to get rid of the employer-sponsored health care [system]. So why aren't you leading by example and go out yourself, decline the government health plan and go to Blue Cross/Blue Shield or whoever, and get one for yourself and see how tough it is," she said. "You don't have any pre-existing conditions, I guess, you haven't had any life-threatening illnesses like I had last year."
Huffpo and others focused on the idiot bragging about taking government healthcare because it was free--and that is shitty. But I can't stop thinking about this woman surviving a life-threatening illness, struggling to find healthcare for herself, and having this fucking shithead tell her to just "take care of herself."

Fred, at Slactivist has a great post on this, and he brings it back to where my head explodes--that evangelical Christians side with this bullshit. Because they do. How they can look at any of this and see anything remotely Christian? How in the holy fucking world can they look at a party that is gutting the safety net for the poor, the elderly, and the disabled--and think, "yep, that is just how Jesus would do it."

If they can, then count me out. If they can read the Bible on Sunday, and vote for these fuckers on Tuesday, then they better not talk to me about morality. Or Christianity.

May 24, 2011

Tornado relief, and why Eric Cantor sucks

Here in Central Oklahoma, we just spent 4 harrowing hours dodging tornadoes and stressing about what happened in Joplin. But also a stress point was wondering if we were devastated by a huge storm, would the government help us?

We are fine, btw, but after the storm passed, I wrote Congressman Eric Cantor to point out that using the people of Joplin as a bargaining chip for some political agenda was a shitty way to do business. No, I didn't say "shitty" in the email, but the meaning was clear.

I told the congressman that I honestly hope this doesn't happen to his community, but if it did, we would be there to help out. Too bad, I noted, we couldn't say the same about him.

Republicans to victims of Tornados: We will only help you if we can cut spending elsewhere

Cantor Says Congress Won’t Pay For Missouri Disaster Relief Unless Spending Is Cut Elsewhere.

Of course, tax cuts for the rich are a given, but help to the victims of the deadliest tornado since the 1950s is optional, and Cantor is not inclined to help. We already know that Ron Paul thinks that they should rebuild themselves (which they will do) without any federal help. That is immoral, according to the great Dentist.

I used to think Republicans cared just as much as liberals about people in trouble, they just had different ways of addressing it. I no longer believe they care. If you can cut taxes for the rich, and tell the town of Joplin to suck it--then you are a cruel fuckhead.

The lie of small government policies

Is that government programs are unnecessary and can simply be replaced by churches and private charities. As idiot preacher Franklin Graham says:
"Graham replied: 'A hundred years ago, the safety net, the social safety net, in the country, was provided by the church. If you didn't have a job, you'd go to your local church and ask the pastor if he knew somebody that could hire him. If you were hungry, you went to the local church and told them, 'I can't feed my family.' And the church would help you. That's not being done. The government took that. And took it away from the church.'"
He is partially right. There was no social safety net 100 years ago beyond private charities and churches. But this belief that the past was some kind of idyllic past, is just ridiculous. Yes, churches were the last resort, but no, they didn't actually carry all the poor. Elderly without families ended up in almshouses where they were often abused and abandoned.

From the right there seems to be this perception that things were great until the 30s, and then FDR, as an evil socialist, came in and told the churches to stop helping people in order to make them dependent on the government. The fact was that poverty was a huge problem before, but the depression made it worse. And the churches and charities that were not taking care of the poor (not saying they weren't trying) found themselves completely overwhelmed by the depression.

I have said this before, but I love this essay's challenge. Tell the church to step up and provide the safety net, and we will disband Medicaid today. They won't, because they can't. And they have no idea what Medicaid actually does--and that it probably helps someone close to them and they don't even know it.

The right is driven by two approaches on this problem right now. The Ayn Rand branch that really doesn't care about the poor and is proud of that fact; and those who care, but are deluded about the role that government plays. Which is it? Ignorant or callous?

The Bible story you never heard in Sunday School

Natalie points us to the story of Phineas as one of those Bible stories that are just incompatible with other singular narratives of the Bible. And she is right, I never heard this story in Sunday School.

May 22, 2011

Artists raising money for recording

Is a cool trend, I think. I actually think that the smaller artists are able to do more in this new music environment than some of those with labels. They can raise money like this, and then they get more of the revenue from the actual cds and downloads since they don't have to share them with Sony.

I don't know Carter personally, but I believe my buddy Buff does. I like her sound, and have decided to put in some money to help her record this new album. If you are interested, go here to view her video and pledge. No risk. If she doesn't raise her goal, your card doesn't get charged. I hope she makes it, because I am signed up for a signed CD. :)

Can I quote REM yet?

Because I do feel fine. Not sure about Smitty's "Jesusly Aunt and Uncle (in-laws)", and I feel a little sorry for those taken in by Harold Camping's nonsense. This obsession with the Rapture certainly reflects anxiety and frustration with living on this earth. I get part of that, but this need to abandon the world strikes me as counter to the message of the gospel. Natalie points to an excellent allegory by Peter Rollins that addresses this very idea. And as NT Wright (and our friend Greg) notes, the belief in the "rapture" comes from one single verse.

And speaking of the Bible, I have been fascinated to read how the far right responded to Obama's Israel speech. I heard snippets last week and thought that he was appropriately critical of Palestinians, and noted that Israel would have to also make concessions. That is what happens when people negotiate--something Israel seems to have no interest in any longer. Not that the Palestinians haven't made negotiations difficult. They have. As have their Arab neighbors who love the rhetoric of wiping out Israel. Middle eastern leaders who love to appeal to their fundamentalist population--well, that just reminds me of the right wing here.

And speaking of that, it has been amazing to see the right rise up and denounce Obama as somehow throwing Israel under some kind of public transportation. What did he do? He articulated the same policy for the two-state solution that Bush and Clinton supposedly supported. But with Obama, and the right wing who wants to see him as unAmerican and foreign, this same policy is now treason.

These threads combine for me, because this adoration of Israel is wrapped in that end times bullshit of the Rapture. And both annoy me for some of the same reasons--an incredibly internal and self-centered faith. Ancient texts are not ancient, but were written solely for suburbanites who like bad novels. Settlement on the West Bank doesn't involve real people--both Israeli and Arab--but is some puzzle piece to bring on the second coming--for whom? Those same suburbanites. Middle eastern cultures, so foreign to our American experience, are somehow appropriated for purely American-centric points of view.

I struggle with my own faith. But I firmly believe that at its core, it is about understanding that we are not at the center of the universe--either as individuals or as Americans. That seems to have been lost in American churches waving flags and cheering torture. Perhaps Harold Camping's insane or cynical fraud will cause some thought about that. I am not hopeful, but will hope, nonetheless.

May 20, 2011

Republicans love this country so much they will destroy our economy to prove it

How Republicans Are Convincing Themselves That A Debt Default Wouldn't Be So Bad -- And Why They're Wrong | TPMDC.

Or, as I keep saying, Republicans are willing to destroy our credit rating, economy, whatever, in order to stop us from taking care of poor people. Those are some principled fucktards, that is for sure.

May 19, 2011

Why Sarah Palin is ridiculous

And that is saying something in this field of ridiculous Republicans. After Newt played the "blame the media" after being asked a perfectly legitimate question by a pretty lackluster David Gregory, good old stupid Sarah Palin jumped in to slam the same media. Of course, she slams them, because she is incapable of coming close to a real interview. She can only be interviewed by right wing hacks like Sean Hannity.

She is incredibly stupid and incredibly superficial. And, again, that is saying something. Even Republican Mark Salter was appalled by Rick Santorum's ridiculous comments about McCain and enhanced interrogation.
Former McCain aide Mark Salter was less discrete, heaping sharp criticism of Santorum on his Facebook page: "Ron Paul may be the wackiest candidate in the GOP field. But for pure, blind stupidity, nobody beats Santorum,” he wrote. “In my 20 years in the Senate, I never met a dumber member, which he reminded me of today.”
Santorum may have been one of the dumber members of the Senate, that may be true--though Oklahoma's own James Inhofe comes to mind, but it is hard for me to even wrap my mind around the decision of who is dumber between Santorum and Palin.

May 18, 2011

Paul Ryan is an idiot

And is threatening to undermine our economy for the foreseeable future, unless we stop helping poor people. That is about the only way I can explain the complete idiocy of Paul Ryan. Does he not understand that America has never defaulted, which is why we get money so cheaply? Does he not understand that this will result in higher interest rates for all of us?

I am starting to really think that Paul Ryan is the dumbest of a dumb lot.

May 17, 2011

Republicans LOVE torture

Well, except for John McCain, and he should be respected for standing up to the Bush torture apologists. But on the other side, Rick Santorum, he of suggesting that gay sex is like bestiality, says that McCain doesn't actually understand "enhanced interrogation." Yeah, sure, he was actually tortured during the Vietnam war, but for supposed Christians like Santorum, torturing Muslims has to be ok.

It just has to. Because they need to believe that we can do whatever we want because we are blessed by God. Even if it means torturing people.

Santorum is sick.

May 15, 2011

Racism, Stupidity, and the GOP

Perhaps you have all seen that the man who calls David Barton America's "greatest historian" has decided to not run for President. Part of me applauds, as someone that stupid would be a horrible President. But it is hard to applaud a whore--who's main motivation appears to be all the money he can make on Fox and the lecture circuit.

But the remaining candidates hardly strike me as either smart or principled. Gingrich is running and called Obama "the most successful food stamp president in modern American history." But of course, the GOP isn't racist. Not at all.

And what about Ron Paul? The populist, and principled libertarian? Yeah, he might be a racist too, as we know he has ties to white supremacist sites. But we know all we need to know about Ron Paul. Friday, he told ABC that government shouldn't help people affected by natural disasters. I am sure the people along the Mississippi love his idea that they should either not live there, or buy insurance. And if they can't afford either, they are on their own. That is the Ayn Rand philosophy.

And how about the rest of the GOP? Michelle Bachman has been challenged to a debate on the constitution by a high schooler. I think someone from the first or second grade might make that an even match. And David Frum (the same one who created the "axis of evil" phrase for W) finds the current Republican party to be crazy. They are talking about defaulting on the debt like it is manageable. Because they are idiots. Every small businessman, or anyone who wants access to credit should be jumping up and down, because if these crazy idiots push the envelope, they will see interest rates jump.
I always assumed that the first American political party to contemplate default as a way to achieve its political goals would be the Communist Party of the USA, not the GOP.
Well, David, you helped create this mess. I am sorry that you are now on the outs with the idiots, but you helped give us stupidity in politics. And this is what you get when you elect people who aren't very smart on the basis that they are earnest about what they believe.

On that note, however, I will say that Bush himself has responded well to the bin Laden killing, and didn't try to take credit for it. I am also reminded that he actually talked about compassion. Compare that to the Rand GOP, and W is starting to look more attractive.

May 14, 2011

No, Grace has not left--but the post on her has.

Or perhaps the post got out though a hole. Perhaps it will return by itself. Meanwhile, here are some pictures of Gracie to tide us over.

We need some updated pictures of her here with our crew, but she and Abbie have been playing so much that it is hard to get photos. :)

May 12, 2011

Janet Porter--crank from the past

My past, that is. I used to listen to religious radio in my old truck, because the tape player broke and sometimes NPR had boring stuff on. Don't judge me.

But one that I recall listening to was Janet Porter, and I remember her as quite crankish. But I had no idea just how far away from reality she is. Or I had forgotten. As this Mother Jones piece mentions, she was an acolyte of the late D James Kennedy, one of the right's more twisted evangelical cranks, and Porter herself has continued that legacy of what might be characterized as Christian hatred.":
"Porter has maintained that Obama represents an 'inhumane, sick, and sinister evil,' and she has warned that Democrats want to throw Christians in jail merely for practicing their faith. She's attributed Haiti's high poverty rate to the fact that the country is 'dedicated to Satan,' and she suggested that gay marriage caused Noah's Flood. And there's this: In a 2009 column for conservative news site WorldNetDaily, Porter asserted that President Barack Obama is a Soviet secret agent, groomed since birth to destroy the United States from within."
The piece sees her as part of Huckabee's connection to the crazies on the right.

And speaking of the right and crazy, my friend Rusty noted this (also from MOJo) about the Tea Party's view of the Constitution.
Among other things, NCCS uses materials written by Skousen suggesting that Anglo-Saxons are descended from a lost tribe of Israel; Skousen claimed this meant the Constitution may have been inspired by God, who intended for America to be a Christian nation. The very same bogus history has been perpetuated by the white supremacist movement.

Very little of the eight-hour lesson I sat through included a discussion of how the Constitution affects average people, or how it's been changed over time to reflect the nation's progress—such as the amendments giving women the right to vote, ending slavery, and lowering the voting age. Instead, my fellow classmates and I learned about how the original Jamestown settlers were communists who starved to death because of their failure to embrace the sort of capitalism that the Constitution was clearly designed to promote. We were also told that national parks are unconstitutional, because the Constitution bars the federal government from buying land for anything but military installations and post offices.

May 5, 2011

Article 7 and the Declaration?

Against my better judgement I watched the Republican clown show that is David Barton as he was interviewed by Jon Stewart. And he said something very interesting that I need some help with. He says that religion is mentioned 7 times in the Constitution, and that one of them is in Article 7, where he said (and I had to replay this several times) that the "Declaration (of Independence) is incorporated into Article 7?"
"The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States, shall be sufficient for the establishment of this Constitution between the states so ratifying the same. Done in convention by the unanimous consent of the states present the seventeenth day of September in the year of our lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth in Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names,"

Does he mean that the word "Independence" refers to the Declaration?

And this might clear something up. Because I have never quite understood why so many on the far right combine the Declaration and Constitution into one common document.


During a recent FB conversation, I was told that the operation was named after the Apache warrior, while bin Laden was actually code-named "Jackpot." They also claimed that these code words are random.

I am not sure I believe them.

Because the poor are immoral

Which is why, I think, Republicans like Oklahoma's James Lankford defend oil subsidies, but hate any money going to poor people. Their plan to reduce Medicaid costs? To have the option of kicking unworthy people off. You know, like the poor.
Now that's how you save money: throwing people off Medicaid, or making it next to impossible for them to get it in the first place. Innovative!

But Rep. Phil Gingrey kind of gives up the game here: "'Take the handcuffs off the governors,' Gingrey (R-Ga.) said at the bill's unveiling on Tuesday, arguing that current law prevents the states from 'ferreting out waste, fraud, and abuse, finding out if someone's falsified information on income…maybe even if they're illegal immigrants.'" The primary objection here isn't budgetary, it's moral. Many conservatives feel that poverty is a moral failing, and if you're getting help from a government program, you're probably some kind of scamming welfare queen sucking off people who work for a living, getting a benefit you don't deserve.

May 4, 2011

bin Laden's code name is Geronimo?

CIL sent this response from Indian Country to the fact that when they killed bin Laden, they sent back the code that "Geronimo" was "KIA."

This is, unfortunately, not new. During the VN war, enemy-held territory was referred to as "Indian Country," and many of the bases in those areas were named (or nicknamed) after western military forts.

This is a complex issue, and one rooted in our past. But like so many things, most Americans see it without any backstory, and for them, I think, Geronimo is not even thought of as being Indian. He is symbol, and icon, and has been, essentially stripped of historical context and personhood. At least, of course, by non-Indians.

This, of course, is the other side of the use of Indians as mascots, and unlike those, impossible to suggest that this is meant as a positive comparison. But in both situations, images of real people have been stripped of personhood and historical context. They become cartoon characters more akin to those from Star Wars than to historical agents who built, defended, and reformed communities.

The good part about that is when the Seals used the word Geronimo as a label for bin Laden, they didn't mean it as the historical figure who defended his people. They meant it as symbol and icon and cartoon. But the problem, as this article points out, is how Indian children see that comparison, and, I suspect, how non Americans will make that connection.

May 3, 2011

Ugh--Republicans again defend torture

Should not find this surprising, but Republicans are now saying that torture produced the intel that gave us bin Laden.

We have been through this argument before. The evidence suggests that torture didn't give us this info, but it doesn't really matter. Torture is still wrong. If utility is the measure, then there is no check on what we can do. If the terrorists life is worthless, and getting information is the only guide, then there is no reason to stop at water boarding, but only more reason to throw ethics and morality out the window. If the only moral equation is what we can get, then we can murder family members, cut off fingers, drill holes, etc.

When did the Republican party become the party of torture? At what point did that switch happen?

May 2, 2011

the post-bin Laden world

I have to say that today has been a surreal one. This day has historic connections--my students informed me that the same day saw the end to Hitler and Voldemort--which made me smile just a bit.

And I must say that most of what I have heard today has been thoughtful, though that may be due to the fact that I have listened exclusively to NPR. At noon, I heard a moving interview with a man who's son died hunting bin Laden. He was glad the man was dead, but had no joy or celebration in him. He had, as he said, "learned to leave hatred behind."

I am reminded of a story my brother told me years ago--though I have never been able to track it down. As the story goes, bandits attacked a buddhist camp and killed several of the monks. A visitor asked one of the survivors why they were not racing to track the bandits down and get some measure of revenge. The monk replied, "we learned long ago that we are not different than our enemies."

Maybe that story never happened, but I have always liked it. So much of our response to this seems to be cloaked in self-righteous rage and hatred at those who are different from us. But for many on my FB wall, the conversation is more muted. Most, as the man said, are glad bin Laden is gone, but not celebrating his death.

bin Laden dead

As I am sure you have all seen.

My first thought was that this didn't have to take this long. We had him at Tora Bora, but didn't do it right. Instead, we turned our sights on Iraq and an unrelated war. That has to be said. This didn't have to take this long. And this feels like catching a criminal after he has retired.

I understand that many will think this is the wrong time to point fingers. Or that I am capitalizing on this death for political reasons. Politics are sometimes just a game, but many times they are the way we get serious stuff done. This is serious. This isn't just about politics, but it is naive to suggest that politics don't matter here. And there is this. I am thinking of all the times I watched or read conservatives bash liberals for being unPatriotic for not supporting the Iraq war. And I am thinking of conservatives who have bashed Obama as soft on terrorism, or as one of my Christian friends said, "sympathetic to terrorists." And I am thinking that had this happened under Bush's watch, Fox News and my conservative friends might have passed out from the excitement. Disingenuous to now say that this wasn't due to Obama's actions.

My niece questioned the constant celebration on FB for a person's death. I see that too. I personally felt no celebration. Instead, as I noted, I was thinking of the past. I felt no celebration when they hung Saddam. I like the Wendell Berry quote from our friend Kevin:
"‎"Violence breeds violence. Acts of violence committed in 'justice' or in affirmation of 'rights' or in defense of 'peace' do not end violence. They prepare and justify its continuation."
And that is the really sad part of this. This won't end the killing.