November 30, 2011

If conservative Christians rally around Gingrich

They owe me, and every other Clinton supporter, a public apology. They need to confess openly that their "family values" hand-wringing was pure bullshit. They might further note that their "conservative" values outweigh their "Christian" values as they only care about "family values" about liberals.

Seriously. I can't quite remember all of the bs I heard from my conservative Christian friends, but it was a lot of "what will the children think" and "if he lies to his wife, how can we trust him?"

Of course, those same people didn't blink a goddamned eye when their "family values-evangelical" President drowned people. Nope. (Gingrich openly endorses waterboarding, btw).

If you think that Bill Clinton was morally incapable of being President for cheating on Hilary, then you can't possibly think that the serial-adulterer Gingrich should be able to visit the White House, much less run it. Not only did he cheat on his wives (that is plural) but he asked one of them to just look the other way while he cheated--and did that after returning from a public speech where he discussed the great moral decline in our nation.

If you think Bill was "Slick Willy," and you hated him, then you have no business even thinking of voting for this moral blight that is Newt Gingrich. Personally, I don't really care. I don't like him, and I certainly don't respect his mistreatment of women, but I am more disturbed by his racist and callous flogging of things like the Sharia law bullshit in order to get elected.

And less you think I am jumping to conclusions, as Fred notes in this angry post, Richard Land is already advising Gingrich on how to fool evangelicals into voting for him.

November 29, 2011

More on OWS and the response

Thinking about our conversation on police brutality and the OWS movement. As I noted in my comments to Steve, my concern with police brutality predates this latest bunch of clashes. The common (or it seems) use of tasers, pepper spray, and tear gas by police, combined with what Naomi Wolf has noted as gradual eroding of first amendment rights by limiting protests and permit options. And, as I noted in my comments, it seems that the harshest tactics are reserved for those leaning left, not those leaning right.

This afternoon, I heard an excellent discussion on Talk of the Nation that included an interview with the former Seattle police chief who ordered the use of tear gas in 1999--what they termed the "Battle in Seattle." When I heard the guest, I expected a defense of strong tactics, but was pleasantly surprised to hear Norm Stamper call that decision the worst of his 3 decade career. He sees a real tendency toward paramilitary tactics across the country.

Stamper made several good points, but one that I thought was really on point was that he sees police treating protesters like enemies. As he noted, police are working class individuals who will never make big money from serving the public. But while they have more in common with the 99%, they become a tool for the 1% and lose the realization that those protesting are fellow Americans. Unfortunately, I hear that same rhetoric from the right on this--almost as a continuation of Sarah Palin's "real America" theme.

One other OWS themed post came from our friend Greg in a very thoughtful essay comparing the OWS movement (in how certain groups have responded) to the Civil Rights movement. Then, as in now, evangelicals have largely sided with the status quo and labeled those in the movement as anarchists or insurgents opposing American values. But as he notes, and as Martin Marty also argued, this is, at least in part, a movement challenging opulence and vast wealth--things hardly compatible with the Gospel.
It is indefensible for people who worship a messiah who innocently suffered violence to support police efforts to batter and pepper spray peaceful protestors into compliance with a status quo that supports no one but people with more money than they will ever need, more than their grandchildren will ever need.

November 20, 2011

Something awfully wrong with this picture

And I note that we didn't pepper spray Tea Party idiots calling for armed revolution. We don't pepper spray anti-abortion protestors. And we don't pepper spray morons from Westboro Baptist church. Nor should we pepper spray any of these. They have a right to assemble and to their protected speech--even when it is hateful and bigoted. Anglican asked how to reconcile these images with the text of the First Amendment. Excellent question. When did protesting economic inequality become the last taboo? And as Fallows asks, how different is this from the fire hoses aimed at Civil Right's protestors?

November 16, 2011

No tax increases has consequences--like letting murderers go free

Heard this story (Cutbacks Have Some Courts Dismissing Criminal Cases | Here & Now) on the way home from teaching. I would like to be shocked, but am not. When conservatives decided that government was evil and that taxes were evil, they started us down the road of not being willing to pay for anything. This also reminds me that I am more than convinced that most people bitching about their taxes only think of government spending going to poor black women rather than paying for the infrastructure that makes society function.

Courts are laying off people, closing court rooms, letting accused criminals go--all because we refuse to pay for living in a civilized society. This kind of story makes me want to find Grover Norquist and punch him in his stupid face. Followed by every Tea Party idiot who ever bitched about being "taxed enough already."

November 13, 2011

Hmm. God must like torture

After all, he told Cain, Bachmann and Perry to run for President and all three of them defend the use of torture.

This guy connects all of this with the Penn State tragedy and blames it on a generational loss of leadership. There is something there. I know that something happened in the conservative church, and possibly in more than just the conservative ones. When the most vocal Christians in the race are the most vocal for torture? Up is down.

November 11, 2011

The sickness at Penn State

Everyone seems to be trying to explain or understand what happened at Penn State. Sure, there is the unbelievable evil of Jerry Sandusky raping young boys over (at least) a 20 year period. I would never minimize that, but we have had pedophiles before, and will (unfortunately) again.

The question that haunts me is how he could continue to do this behavior after discovery. How do good people, in other words, allow this evil to occur? Nicole Rodgers suggests that it is a product of the good old boys club, and I think there is much to that.

But I also wonder if this is not about paternalism and deference gone awry. The more I read about PSU, the more I see that Joe Paterno had a pretty unique situation there--one he had, in large part, created. Successful coaches are powerful elsewhere, but Paterno seemed to have cultivated even more power on the campus--and largely through means that we would all celebrate. Many credit him with transforming Penn State's academic prowess from an ag school into a intellectual powerhouse. One reporter suggested that Paterno had enough power to remove a university president.

In fact, what I read reminds me of a mob boss (bear with me), though with a key difference. Actually two key differences, because I have yet to actually read of Paterno abusing people. On the contrary, the stories of his leadership (prior to this scandal) are legendary.

What I mean by mob boss is that he had created the environment where everyone on campus sought his approval. (One key difference is that I have also yet to read of real credible efforts to overthrow Paterno. Everyone there seemed to both admire the man, and recognize that his name was synonymous with the brand. Some other coach, in other words, could not replace him.)

That need for approval, or intense deference, was built on the understanding that Joe Pa would take care of them. It is that context, I think that might (might) explain the grad assistant's response. He witnessed Sandusky raping a child, and instead of interceding himself or calling the cops, he spoke with his father and only the next day told Joe Paterno. It is conceivable that Mike McQueary saw the situation in the context of not wanting to disappoint Paterno. (Not an excuse, mind you, but possibly how he saw the situation). He might have thought (and I suspect if any of this is true, this is in the subconscious) that going after Sandusky could possibly alienate him with Paterno. So, he deliberates and then decides to tell the boss what he knows.

Paterno, for his part, turned the information over to his AG. If I am correct, however, instead of giving it to his boss (perhaps on paper), Paterno was delegating to a subordinate, who could also fear upsetting the boss. The message might have been clearly unspoken--take care of this, but don't upset the program (and "program"="Joe Paterno").

I am speculating on most of this, but have observed this deferential behavior in myself in dealing with perceived betters, and observed it often when working in an organization. And I am not suggesting that Paterno is malevolent. I am suggesting that the unintended consequence of the "cult of the personality" of Paterno created a very unhealthy organization. And I would suggest that this disfunction occurs in many, many organization. Most, however, don't have these stakes.

I would like to know more about how things operated in Penn State when the stakes were lower. Did assistants and grad assistants do the equivalent of "whistle-blowing" on other problems? How did Joe Pa deal with people who screwed up? Where there people who were "untouchable?"

None of this excuses any of them for not picking up the phone and calling the cops. But a possible way of examining how people operate in this kind of organizational structure.

David Brooks knows nothing about beer

And man is he wrong. Could not be more wrong. In a clever, but I think superficial column on inequality in America, he notes which kinds of inequality are acceptable and which ones are not. But on beer he says this:
Beer inequality is on the way down. There used to be a high status difference between microbrews and regular old Budweiser. In academic jargon, beer had a high Gini Coefficient. But as microbrews went mainstream, these status differences diminished.

Just goes to prove that David Brooks knows nothing about beer or beer snobs.

November 10, 2011

Update--and thoughts

I met with my therapist yesterday.  I have seen him before and found him to be as I remembered--thoughtful, engaged, and intelligent.  He suggested that my malaise was based in the fact that I felt that my intellectual and professional contributions were not valued, and probably that I was grieving the fact that some of my professional dreams not only hadn't happened, but probably would not.

He gave me some suggestions for ways to both think about my work now, and to also find other ways to "fill my bucket" outside work.  Probably something a lot of people struggle with.


I have been struck, btw, by how my conservative Christian friends on FB are more likely to dismiss the OWS movement as a bunch of whiners.  One had a comment (by someone I didn't know) who suggested that the entire movement was caused by ACORN.  Wow.

How did conservative Christianity become the defensive bulwark for the wealthy?


Watched the coverage of the Penn State story last night.  There is absolutely nothing good about this story of abuse and pedophilia and institutional failure.  But it amazed me to hear the students chanting for Paterno to be able to coach the remainder of the season.  As if football matters in this context?

But to be fair, and Chris Fowler made this very point (which makes me wonder if he won't get in trouble), Penn State did this as a PR move to stop the bleeding and change the narrative.  They did it to protect the brand and to protect the institution's financial situation.

Once we turned universities from institutions of education into commercial ventures, we created this kind of idiocy.  

November 8, 2011

Christian values

Old news to regular readers, but it never ceases to amaze me when right wingers talk about faith while cheering on behaviors that are clearly antithetical to their professed beliefs. I haven't respected this man for a long time, so it came as no surprise to see him spouting a lot of bullshit about what will happen if Americans stop remembering the lessons from "scripture." (God Will Stop Blessing America If We Don't Vote Right In 2012 | Right Wing Watch).


I remember writing this post back in 2006 when James Dobson interviewed Ann Coulter and made fun of both liberals and the idea of torture. I even called the show to express my horror.


I know that Leighton usually reminds me that this should be expected in this tribal version of Christianity. It still just makes me incredibly sad, because I grew up in a context where Dobson was considered a wise man. To hear him talk about Obama, and liberals and torture that way--even after all I know about him--is jarring. To know that people listen to him still just makes me sadder.

November 5, 2011

Does God approve of bullying gays?

My disgust for religious conservatives grows. I used to respect them for their moral clarity, even as I disagreed with them on certain points. I disagreed with their opposition to gay rights, but understood those to be in some kind of keeping with their reading of the Bible. I disagreed with their opposition to abortion rights, but absolutely understood their concern for the unborn.

That was before religious conservatives openly defended torture, and now defend attacks on the poor and the disabled. That was before conservative Christians pushed for laws making poor women fear that a miscarriage could result in their arrest. And that was well before this gem from Michigan, where a law outlawing school bullying actually includes a loophole for "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction."

Yeah, read that again. In the world of religious conservatives, gays should be bullied, because they shouldn't be gay, period. Those kids who commit suicide do so because they are gay, not because self-righteous right wingers demonize them in public, and call for their public shame.

There is no world where this makes sense, and there is absolutely no world where people who supposedly worship Jesus can support this. None. This is not a gray area. This is the sanctioning of psychologically hectoring and demonizing people who struggle deeply with their identity, self-worth, and sexual understanding already. And people with Bibles in their homes, and drawers, and on Ipads and phones want them not to be helped, but harmed.

Perhaps I should not be surprised. My FB friend from last week believes in a God who doesn't mind innocents dying or torture when they are the "others." How the fuck to you read the NT and believe in that God? Seriously? All I can picture is that shepherd leaving the 99 to go find that one lost sheep, and these people think that same God smokes in the corner while people are waterboarded, or cheers from the back as some gay kid is called names on the schoolyard. Or nods grimly when that kid's death is blamed not on the bullies, or the lack of support from the community, but on the kid himself.

I know that isn't Christianity, but far too many conservatives have lost their freaking minds. Far too many people who should know better allow the logic of the bully to win over the concern for the Samaritan by the road side.

Christianity has been hijacked by people who hate the poor, love the rich, embrace violence and torture, and make fun of peace and actual compassion. And that is just horribly sad.

November 3, 2011

My rant and the continuing conversation about torture

I have been pondering the responses to my fall funk, and have received several through email and phone. I appreciate that very much. I hope that those inside the "cult" understand that my post was not a criticism of them, but also understand that if I were one of those invited in, I would probably defend it. I am not sure how else I would respond. Leighton's comment about it being ok to not make it in my profession is a good one. I think the difficult thing is that all of the people close to me who have made it are very qualified, and probably smarter than me, the difficulty is that I have known people who made it despite being less than impressive. Perhaps we file that under the "life isn't fair" category, but it is a reality. Like I said, CIL, and Ubub have both made it into the inner circle, and their intelligence and work ethic is beyond reproach. But there have been others who make not making it all that much more difficult. On that note, btw, I have an appointment for next week with my therapist, and will see how that goes. Perhaps I can gain some clarity on this funk. On the other note, however, let me say that I have had a recent exchange with a FB friend about torture and evangelical ethics that made me blanche. This is a guy who served as somewhat of a mentor to me during my late high school and early college years. I framed the torture question to him, and he said this:
As far as torture and killing there will always be innocents that become victims. If you look at the old testament accounts of God's people going into battle for the sake of His future kingdom, and at His command there were thousands killed then. I'm not saying Bush was God and should have done those things but the precept being that the future in both cases justifies the means. So maybe that doesn't ring true with other conservatives but that's me.
Again, Leighton's comment about religious justification comes to mind, but this one was more chilling than any of the others. Most of the evangelicals I have talked to about torture have hemmed and hawed about it, but ultimately agree that it is evil. The only one who has just denounced it as evil and wrong was Tony. Every other conservative evangelical has tried to find some way to explain it. This guy, however, just said openly that it was ultimately tolerable because we are on God's side. That depresses me deeply. As I noted back to him, if that is how evangelicals respond to torture, then there really is no such thing as a Christian ethic. After all, we are all pretty good at treating our friends relatively well. This is not an attack on Christianity (though my FB friend assumed as much--which says a lot about assumptions of Christianity equalling conservatism, and any criticism of conservative policy was ergo an attack on Christianity). I cling to my faith, though not easily. But it is an attack on the assumption that Christians can somehow magically understand moral issues absent some broader dialogue. I have no idea what God says to people, but it obviously not very clear to most conservative evangelicals that their "conservative" approach is not the same as their supposed "Christian" one. After all, if those conservatives can't figure out that torture is evil, I have little faith that they can make sense of less obvious moral questions. And that makes me sad.

November 2, 2011

Fall rant

No, my funk has not improved. And yes, I have called a therapist. Now I just have to wait for him to call me back.

But this for the morning rant--saw that the US House spent all yesterday debating and passing a resolution affirming the national motto (since 1956) "In God We Trust."

I would be as impressed with this as my conservative evangelical friends except that these same people love torture and did nothing to stop it. They love rich people and have done everything they can to make sure that the rich are never asked to sacrifice anything. They love guns, and at the state level are reducing regulations left and right to make sure that we have more guns in public.

And these same fuckers are cutting aid for the disabled poor! What in the holy hell is going on here? What possible fucking world makes sense where people of faith cut funding for people who need assistance to live in their own homes? Or to get to jobs? Or to simply make it through the day. What distorted vision of Jesus Christ makes that possible?

My faith hangs by a thread. I struggle each and every day to believe that God is somehow in the heavens watching this mess. And the people who should "Jesus" at every opportunity make life harder for the disabled, the poor, children and the elderly--and yet have the balls to make a public pronouncement about "In God We Trust."

Perhaps it should read: "You people have to trust in God, because we will do absolutely nothing to help you."