Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Election




































I meant to post these, oh, say, two weeks ago when it actually happened and was more timely, but I’ve been rather busy with all of this school and work stuff going on. But the above are shots of the line I stood in for 2 ½ hours to vote. My normal wait time has been 15 minutes or so; this time the line went out the door, down 6th Avenue, around the corner down Berkeley, and down to 5th Avenue, around the corner and towards Lincoln. It’s about a fifth of a mile.

What was also amazing is that the line was there just because of turnout. No problems at the polling place (it was all running relatively smoothly), just tons of people coming out for their franchise. And no one was discouraged by the line. They just got a cup of coffee and a paper and waited along with everyone else.

It’s been hard for me to get motivated about all of this, I confess. While I eagerly hoped that now President-elect Obama would win, most of my wish was based on a fervent desire for Senator McCain not to win. My aspirations for the next presidency have been simply a ceasing of the idiocy and destruction of the previous eight years of kleptocracy. In short, to stop digging the hole. I place no hope, however, on getting the hole filled in – I’m far too much of a cynical realist for that. I would love nothing more for a progressive agenda to be enacted, but that aint gonna happen.

And behold today: Senator “Obama is a socialist” Lieberman gets to keep his Chairmanship. Here’s the fun quote:

‘…Asked what it would mean if Lieberman kept his chairmanship, one Senate Democratic aide said bluntly: "The left has been foiled again. They can rant and rage but they still do not put the fear into folks to actually change their votes. Their influence would be in question."…’

Friday, October 03, 2008

More of This, Please



The above is a speech Richard Trumka, the Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, gave back in July to the United Steel Workers. Mr. Trumka is a third-generation coal miner from Pennsylvania. Watch the entire thing - it's powerful.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

One Nation, Under God






















The debate's tonight. And just in time, Jeff Sharlet gives us a little update:

'...In 1932, James A. Farrell, president of US Steel, tried to persuade then Governor Franklin Roosevelt that economic depression was “caused by disobedience to divine law,” and that the only cure was a mix of spiritual revival and unprecedented powers for corporate leaders. In 1936, Frank Buchman, the founder of the Moral Re-Armament movement—a network of upper crust Christian clubs—announced, “Human problems aren’t economic. They’re moral, and they can’t be solved by immoral measures.” He suggested instead “God-controlled democracy, or perhaps I should say a theocracy.” Bruce Barton, a founder of advertising giant BBDO and the author of one of the 20th century’s bestsellers, The Man Nobody Knows (it was Jesus, whom Barton proposed as the greatest CEO in history), won a seat in Congress in 1938 by proposing to a nation battered by unfettered capitalism that it “Repeal a Law a Day.”

The most influential of these businessmen for God was a Norwegian immigrant named Abraham Vereide, founder of an annual ritual of piety and politics that survives to this day, the National Prayer Breakfast. In 1935, Vereide created a “fellowship” of Christian businessmen bound together by the idea that God hates government regulation because it interferes with a believer’s ability to choose right or wrong. He found receptive audiences in private meetings with Henry Ford and the president of Chevrolet, Thomas Watson of IBM and representatives from J.C. Penney. By 1942, he’d moved to the capital, where the National Association of Manufacturers staked him to a meeting of congressmen who would become students of his spiritual politics, among them Virginia senator Absalom Willis Robertson—Pat Robertson’s father. Vereide returned the manufacturers’ favor by telling his new congressional followers that God wanted them to break the spine of organized labor. They did...'

And thus was born the Family, which I've blogged about plenty of times before. Jeff Sharlet's book is a wonderful read on the subject. But what of Governor Palin?:

'...right now they’re loving Sarah Palin, a candidate who has excited the evangelical base like no other since William Jennings Bryan raged against the “cross of gold” at the 1896 Democratic convention, when fundamentalism and populism seemed like a match made in Heaven, not a bait and switch cooked up by the protégés of Karl Rove. Much has been made of Palin’s roots in Pentecostalism; not enough attention is being paid to her penchant for elite fundamentalism, a faith in which “a servant’s heart” is the power source for a politician’s perks and privileges.

Palin is an outsider moving in, rising up from the ranks of popular fundamentalism to join the movement’s leadership cadre. In Alaska, Palin has for the last two years presided over a “Governor’s Prayer Breakfast”—an offshoot of the Fellowship’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington—which declares that its “mission” “is to reaffirm and promote in a Christ-like manner the idea that God has a purpose for and authority over human events.” Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s far more militant son, has been the keynote speaker the last two years...'

Go read.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We Get Letters






















Another letter I received, with names redacted to protect the innocent.

'...Hello to you all,

Like many in our country this morning, I am extremely upset over this obscene bailout of the financial markets. The President and the Secretary of the Treasury have made the case that failure to rescue AIG and others with $700 billion will result in extreme hardships for thousands, maybe millions, of homeowners and investors. I am inclined to agree that we really have no choice, but I am very angry that not one word has been said about how the government is going to come up with the money! I have to assume that it will pay for it just like it has been paying for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: by running up the National Debt. There has been some mention of the debt going up to $11.5 trillion.

Wait just a minute! This giant credit card the Congress is using has got to have a limit and now! If you think the consequences of not bailing out AIG are bad, do you have any idea of how bad things are going to get if Japan, China and foreign banks start worrying about the safety of the U.S. Treasury bills and stop buying them? That will quickly dry up almost all credit. This nation RUNS ON CREDIT! The result is going to be worse than the great depression.

The ONLY right thing to do is for Congress to start being honest with tax payers and tell them that this $700 billion MUST be paid for with severe cuts in programs and increased taxes. So they don't get re-elected? They have to do the right thing!

Finally, why am I so alone in saying this? I would think that there would be millions or our children and grandchildren protesting all over this nation against the huge debt that my generation is selfishly straddling them with...'

Apparently there are many congressman (as well as myself) that do agree with you. Sadly, we got into this crazy mess by turning over our financial system to a bunch of lunatics, and deciding not to regulate it. It's important to remember that the banks which didn't invest in mortgage securities are doing fine. It's the ones that dove in head first into that new and unregulated industry that are sinking the ship. There's a good explanation (with some off-color language) at the SubPrime Primer.

I would agree with you that in an ideal world, people would be protesting much more over this mess. Actually in my ideal world, there would be millions of people with pitchforks and torches heading to the canyons of Wall Street, the White House and the suburban lawns of Greenwich, Connecticut right now. Pillory stocks would be set up, with ample supplies of tomatoes, rotten lettuce and horse apples provided for the populace to hurl at the immoral drek that caused this mess.

Of course, that wont happen. And one of the main reasons, aside from an overall lack of understanding of how this mess came about (securitizing debt is a complex thing to understand), is that this mess really hasn't effected our economy just yet. Massive layoffs haven't occurred, and beer is still cheap and plentiful. Most people are pretty comfortable with their lot, which granted says a lot more about mankinds' unique capacity for self-delusion than anything else.

Still, if nothing's done about this, then the economy may very well be badly effected. And it's sadly true that in the end, the taxpayer funded government is going to have to step in to solve this mess. There are of course many ways to do that. One can buy the crappy securities (as the bailout bill proposes), or insure them (as the House Republicans want to do). But those aren't the only options. Since the securities that are the source of this problem are based on mortgages owned by families, one could set up a program to deal with the mortgages directly, rather than with the securities owned by Wall Street Investment banks. Fix the families' mortgages and the securities will stabilize. It would take time for the results to 'trickle up' but this is all a mess based primarily on a lack of confidence. Ensure confidence in the base of the mortgage securities, and the crisis should resolve itself pretty quickly.

The alternative is the proposed top-down bailout of the mortgage securities, which should never have existed in the first place in such an unregulated way. Support those through a bailout and ultimately you are just putting off the problem.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

All Greek to Me























A quick break from MDG blogging. I just finished my first Greek exam; I managed to ace it, Thankyouverymuch. But, alas, my knowledge of ancient Greek can’t help me parse this (via Sadly, No!):

‘…COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries? Allow them to spend more, and put more money into the economy, instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, we’re ill about this position that we have been put in. Where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it’s got to be about job creation, too. Shoring up our economy, and placing it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade — we have got to see trade as opportunity, not as, uh, competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation…’

Of course, I could be mistaken. Perhaps she’s speaking in tongues again. Here's the video:


Is our Children Learning?























I have my first test in Ancient Greek today. Lucky me. Actually I am, as I was blessed with and excellent primary school education at St. Michael’s, which included classes in Latin in both 7th and 8th Grade. If I do well, it will be in large part thanks to the teachers there.

There are 570 million children enrolled in primary school around the world. 73 million children are not. One of the Millennium development goals is to change that number to zero. But what are the costs?

The World Bank did a calculation of the costs of achieving the goals, and it’s interesting reading. Their estimate is an ongoing additional cost of between $10 and $30 billion a year will enable every single child on the planet to go to school. Oddly enough, that’s the same number I mentioned in the last post of what one would get, in perpetuity, by investing the fabled $700 billion at 4% - $28 billion.

An oddly similar number can be arrived at by looking at the under reported bailout of the auto industries that was just announced an hour ago. $25 billion to the auto industry in loans. Which is, of course, ridiculous on so many levels.

It’s the buyout thing again. If my taxpayer dollars are going to do this, then let’s just buy the damn companies. Some more costs:

GM: $5.81 Billion
Ford: 11.27 Billion
Chrysler: This is a bit more tricky as they are no longer publicly traded. Cerberus (a private company) purchased 80% of the company in May, 2007 for $7.4 Billion, valuing it at $9.25 Billion. Since then shares in both GM and Ford have dropped by 65% and 40% respectively, so let’s value Chrysler at a 50% markdown – or $4.65 Billion.

This totals $21.75 Billion. So it’s actually cheaper to buy the big three outright, then loan them money. The World Bank estimates the annual cost of sending a child to school at $62. So with the leftover $3.75 Billion you could still send 7.5 million children to school for eight years.

The Millennium Development Goals























It’s a beautiful day here in New York City, though I wouldn’t recommend driving anywhere in Manhattan this afternoon, as the United Nations is in full session, focusing on the progress being made to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

There are eight goals, defined at the Millennium Summit in 2001:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental stability
8. Develop a global partnership for development

1.4 Billion People in developing countries live in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than a buck and a quarter a day.) Solving this problem and the others is going to take an enormous effort of will.

But not resources.

It’s astonishing to have the United States host this event in the middle of a political firestorm about how to properly deal with a $700 Billion dollar line item. Should there be oversight? Should it all go to Wall Street and banks, or should only most of it go there?

To put it in perspective, every day around 30,000 children die from hunger and disease in this world. If you invested $700 billion at 4%, you would get an annual return of $28 Billion in perpetuity. Forever. Split that equally among the 11,000,000 children who die every year, and you would have $2,500 per child per year to prevent that from happening. Food, primary education, vaccines.

Alternately, consider that the combined foreign debt of every country in Africa is $200 Billion. Eliminate that, freeing up billions a year for African countries to address these needs, and you still have half a trillion to deal with the Wall Street Shitpile. Half a trillion is still enough money to entirely purchase outright the following companies:

Citibank: $100 Billion Market Capitalization
Bank of America: $150 Billion
JP Morgan Chase: $140 Billion
Wachovia: $31 Billion
Wells Fargo: $114 Billion.

That’s $535 Billion to outright buy and own the five largest banks in the United States. Toss in a few more bucks and buy both Morgan Stanley ($30 Billion) and the part of Goldman Sachs that Buffet still doesn’t own ($45 Billion) and you’ve got a pretty dandy bailout package in the works.

And Africa is debt free.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Witchcraft



If you watch the entire sermon by Bishop Thomas Muthee, you will hear him railing against witches in the educational system and in government (the payoff for the video, recorded by Max Blumenthal, is at the 7:00 minute mark, where Sarah Palin gets on stage and is given loud prayers for protection from the congregation and the bishop, with the laying on of hands, specifically protecting her from witches and witchcraft.)

Where to begin. This video was released today, shedding some light on the media-shy Wasilla Assembly of God Church that Governor Palin attended until 2002; though she still retains close ties. It's notoriously difficult to understand the faith of Governor Palin, and how it guides and motivates her, not only because she is not forthcoming about it but also because the nature of the thousands of denominations of Pentecostalism makes comprehension difficult.

But an excellent place to start is the Talk to Action Website, which has been publishing some helpful primers (part 1 here, covering an introduction to what is being referred to as the Third Wave movement, and part 2 here, covering Governor Palin's churches' relationships to the Third Wave movement.) I'm just getting started in understanding this rather pan-christian international movement, and I'll write more as I understand more.

Third Wave is a branch of dominionism, which mandates that members take 'dominion' over all aspects of society - hence the preacher in the video, Bishop Thomas Muthee of the Word of Faith Church in Kenya, focusing on the seven areas of society to take over. The Third Wave movement is not limited to a single church, either:

'...it is important to again note that this movement is not synonymous with the Assemblies of God or any other denomination. The burdensome terminology of Third Wave/New Apostolic Reformation is repeatedly used throughout this series of articles because the terms represent two slightly different meanings. The term Third Wave was coined over two decades ago to describe a loosely linked network of groups that remained or were reemerging from a movement called Latter Rain that was denounced as heresy by the Assemblies of God in 1949. In recent years these groups have coalesced into a much larger and more institutionalized structure. A central figure in the movement is C. Peter Wagner, founder of Global Harvest Ministries and the World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs. In the late 1990s Wagner gave the name New Apostolic Network to his organization which now includes over 500 Apostles under his authority, or Apostolic Covering, in the International Coalition of Apostles. Some of these Apostles also have hundreds or even thousands in their own networks. There are numerous other interconnected apostolic networks around the world tied to this movement by their common belief system and also interconnected activities, conventions, media, schools, and parachurch ministries...'

This movement is end-times oriented, believing that the almost ecumenical nature of this organization is actually the final church of the end of days. Among the activities of the movement is a strong focus on purging demons from societies.

The good Bishop Muthee has lots of experience in this:

'...Can the 'spiritual DNA' of a community be altered?" That's the question posed in a Christian video called "Transformations."

Kenyan pastor Thomas Muthee is convinced that it can be. In 1988, he and his wife, Margaret, were "called by God to Kiambu," a notorious, violence-ridden suburb of Nairobi and a "ministry graveyard" for churches for years. They began six months of fervent prayer and research.

Pondering the message of Eph.6:12 ("For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world..."), they prayed to identify the source of Kiambu's spiritual oppression, Mr. Muthee says. Their answer: the spirit of witchcraft.

Their research into the community revealed that a woman called "Mama Jane" ran a "divination clinic" frequented by the town's most powerful people.

After months of prayer, Muthee held a crusade that "brought about 200 people to Christ." Their church in the basement of a grocery store was dubbed "The Prayer Cave," as members set up round-the-clock intercession. Mama Jane counterattacked, he says, but eventually "the demonic influence - the 'principality' over Kiambu - was broken," and she left town.

The atmosphere changed dramatically: Bars closed, the crime rate dropped, people began to move to the area, and the economy took an upturn. The church now has 5,000 members, he says, and 400 members meet to pray daily at 6 a.m...'

More on the Transformations video:

'...The Transformation I video features the story of four cities that the narrator, George Otis, Jr, claims have been transformed through the power of intercessory prayer and the expulsion of demons. The video served the purpose of introducing the revolutionary new evangelizing methods developed by C. Peter Wagner and his colleagues. The use of Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare to expel territorial demons is facilitated by Spiritual Mapping and then intercessory prayer and fasting. The World Prayer Center in Colorado Springs developed by Wagner and Ted Haggard [yes, that Ted Haggard, of the gay prostitute fame] houses the computer systems for organizing the prayer intercessors as well as the Spiritual Mapping media...'

Bishop Muthee's is one of the four stories. Another 'success' story is the city of Hemet, California:

'...The third town featured in the movie is Hemet, California. Otis and two local pastors narrate the supposed transformation of this Hemet/San Jacinto area from a center of Satanism, witchcraft, Moonies, Transcendental Meditation, and Scientology. He reports that Hemet had serious gang and drug problems. In this segment Otis describes how Spiritual Mapping was used to direct the prayer intercessors in fighting the strongholds of the enemy. Pastor Bob Beckett of the Dwelling Place Church organized intercessory prayer to save the city. Otis reports,

"The Transcendental Meditation center was literally burned out. Shortly after the intercessors prayed for its removal, a brush fire started on the mountain on the west side of the valley. It burned only the Transcendental Meditation facility and didn't touch any of the buildings on either side."

Consequently Otis claims that the drug trade dropped 75% and many gang members as well as other residents have been saved. Beckett states that the city now has "a professing mayor, a professing police chief, a professing fire chief, and a professing city manager."

The mayor, Debbie Cornett, is interviewed and states,

I feel that God called me to this...I see him opening doors to more churches, more Christians, to really bring them together and say you want Christians in leadership."

Pastor Beckett adds that the city now has an exceptional number of high school teachers, coaches and principals that are believers and that now nearly 85% of staff candidates are Christians. (Beckett also authored a chapter in C. Peter Wagner's book, Breaking Strongholds.) Pastor Gordon Houston states that God has turned the school system around...'

Embedding has been disabled for the Transformations video, so I can't have it in this post, but you can watch the entire thing here.

Monday, September 22, 2008

419





















Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

h/t

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Gender Card



Above video: h/t (en)gender. Last Palin posting for a while. No, really, I promise.

I just finished my first Ancient Greek class at Fordham University today. I'm the oldest student in the class. Actually I'm the only student old enough to legally buy beer. Actually when I became old enough to legally buy beer, none of the other students had even been born yet. Yeah, I'm the oldest student in the class.

My professor said, "Unless you're Siamese twins with a bong this semester, it is impossible for you to fail this class."

I'm older than my professor, as well.

We Get Letters



I just received this email, and rather than responding to it directly, I thought that I'd post it along with some of my thoughts. Names have been redacted to protect the innocent.

‘…OK, before I start just an observation. There is not a single nonwhite person at the Republican Convention. I have yet to see one…’

Before I start, another observation. One of the best lines from the Democratic Convention wasn’t spoken by Senator’s Obama or Binden. It was by Al Gore:

‘…Some of the best marketers have some of the worst products…’

‘…OK ...Some of this is the conversation we had when I was in Dallas when you said that Obama was going to win and I said while I hoped he would I had a bad feeling. I still have a bad feeling. Maybe it's that good old paranoia about your own team ... but as Johnny Fever says, "When everyone is out to get you, paranoia is just good thinking!" There was a great line at the end of Bill Maher's Real Time in the spring during his New Rules segment where the new rule was "nobody is allowed to say anymore that the American people are smarter than that ... they're not." You know me and know I'm an idealist but I have gotten to the point where I have seen too much not to agree with Bill Maher here. I think the turning point was re-electing President Bush in 2004. After all we'd been through and even though the candidate we threw up there was about as interesting and inspirational as a bowl of oatmeal, there should have been no chance of the president getting re-elected. It shouldn't have even been close. And yet, look what happened….’

Last night Kathy and I went to see The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble’s new production of Ibsen’s ‘An Enemy of the People.’ Here’s the plot synopsis:
‘…Dr. Thomas Stockmann is the popular citizen of a small coastal town in Norway. The town has recently invested a large amount of public and private money towards the development of baths, a project led by Dr. Stockmann and his brother, the Mayor. The town is expecting a surge in tourism and prosperity from the new baths, said to be of great medicinal value and as such, the baths are the pride of the town. However, as the baths are starting to succeed, Dr. Stockmann discovers that waste products from the town's tannery are contaminating the baths causing serious illness among the tourists. He expects this important discovery to be his greatest achievement, and promptly sends a detailed report to the Mayor, which includes a proposed solution, which would come at a considerable cost to the town. But to his surprise, Stockmann finds it difficult to get through to the authorities. They seem unable to appreciate the seriousness of the issue and unwilling to publicly acknowledge and address the problem because it could mean financial ruin for the town. As the conflict ensues, the Mayor warns his brother that he should "acquiesce in subordinating himself to the community". Stockmann refuses to accept this, and holds a town meeting at Captain Horster's house in order to convince the people to close the baths. The townspeople - eagerly awaiting the prosperity that the baths are believed will bring - refuse to accept Stockmann's claims, as his friends and allies, who had explicitly given support for his campaign, turn against him en masse. He is taunted and denounced as a lunatic, an "Enemy of the People." In a scathing rebuke of both the Victorian notion of community and the principles of democracy, Dr. Stockmann proclaims that in matters of right and wrong, the individual is superior to the multitude, which is easily led by self-advancing demagogues. Stockmann sums up Ibsen's denunciation of the masses, with the memorable quote "...the strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone."…’

It’s actually the identical plotline to ‘Jaws.’ One of the best lines of the play came during Dr. Stockman’s trial, when he asks the town if “the majority of the people in the world are intelligent, or if the majority of the people in the world are stupid.” To answer his question, by definition half of the people in this country have an IQ below 100. Recognizing this is not an act of cynicism or reflective of a lack of idealism. It’s recognition of reality. It’s why President Bush could get caught in bed with the proverbial dead girl or live boy and his approval ratings still wouldn’t go down below 28%.

‘…There's something simply Orwellian about it. The Gingrich/Rove/Bush/Cheney and now McCain/Palin Republican Party creates alternate realities out of thin air and literally millions upon millions of American people fall in lockstep behind them despite the fact that not only are they nonsensical, not only are they factually inaccurate, but they often completely contradict what they have been saying about themselves. The Democratic Party is starting to get better about actually standing up and saying the emperor has no clothes ... but the really scary thing is that the people who believe this (and it's about 50% of the country) IT DOESN"T MATTER. They just shift the narrative. Create a new reality that reinforces their smug sense of superiority. Redefine life, the universe and everything and move on…’

Having worked in what is essentially an advertising position, I can honestly say that’s how it’s done. Never underestimate the power of cognitive dissonance:






















‘…Two things bother me about Sarah Palin. The first is that she is so obviously not just Ferraro or Eagleton (the Quayle comparison doesn't work ... she's not substanceless, she's just made of real scary substance) but Ferraro and Eagleton wrapped into one. She is obviously a gimmick pick and a Hail Mary and she's obviously got multiple flaws any one of which could rise to the tragic level of Eagleton's shock treatments. But despite that we look at this pick as insulting and shameless, the fact is that these are shameless people and they have convinced millions of Americans not only that they shouldn't be ashamed of it but that those of us who are questioning this, who have the gall to stand up and connect some dots and say that 2+2=4 are sexist and mean and outright liars.

In the space of one week they have gone from crucifying Barack Obama on the cross of inexperience because he's only been in the Senate for 4 years to saying that Sarah Palin's experience as governor of a state 1/4 the population of Brooklyn and mayor of a town the size of some high schools (Oh, but it has a STRONG mayoral system) qualifies her to be VP for someone who actuarially has a 1 in 3 chance of not surviving 8 more years. And to this, millions of Americans nod like thoughtless bobbleheads…’

When your marketing is failing, change it. When your narrative is failing, change it. This will work in today’s political climate because the political media falls into the same category as the rest of us – ½ of them have IQ’s less than 100, and plenty of the rest are mendacious people whose only interest lies in being part of the Georgetown cocktail weenie circuit. One thing to note during this whole Governor Palin event is the RNC’s accusing the media of being unfair to her, more than accusing Obama of doing that. This has two results – first is the reflexive reaction that the media will have to avoid to be seen to be unfair. They will tack right as a result. The second is to tie the media to the ‘cosmopolitan elite,’ thus fanning the flames of the 1990’s culture wars, now being brought back.

‘…It was one thing when you had John McCain being a wolf in sheep's clothing and still trading off the straight talk express bullshit from 2000. Maybe people just haven't paid attention since then. I can forgive people for that. You watch Mad Max and you think Mel Gibson is some harmless, good looking action hero and you never noticed that he turned into a monomaniacal freakshow. But almost from the moment you were introduced to Sarah Palin it was obvious to anyone paying attention that there are serious problems here. And yet millions and millions of people believe any fact that interferes with their desire to love her was manufactured by a "biased, leftwing media machine." (They're probably thinking like Johnny Fever, too).

(BTW, I was listening to an afternoon drive show on KMOX yesterday when the host was going on about how if you didn't think the mainstream media in this country had an ultraliberal bias you weren't paying attention. I tried calling in to point out to him that when you are hosting a conservative drive-time radio show on the most powerful (by wattage) radio station in the whole middle of the country and your lead-in is Rush Limbaugh, you probably shouldn't be talking about left-wing bias in the news. Unfortunately, I didn't get through.)…’

Actually it was fortunate that you didn’t, as it would have been a complete waste of your time. That kind of media thrives on confrontation, and is much better at it than you or I. It’s actually an old debating strategy: by setting up those kinds of rules of dialogue, they are counting on the vaporlock one gets when agitated and angry. Nothing muddies the waters of discourse as much as a lie told loudly and proudly.

So what to do? I’ve found that humor and nonsense work the best. When I went to a Jerry Falwell prayer revival back in college, I didn’t scream at him (much as I wanted to), because he was a master at dealing with such confrontations. Instead, after his babbling on about militant gays, Nazis and communists, I calmly walked up to him and said loudly that I was a ‘Militant gay Nazi communist and I wanted to have his baby.’ He actually had no idea what to say to that – it was totally out from left field, and he actually babbled incoherently for a while, totally losing his audience. Then they dragged me from the church while I yelled, ‘Remember, Jerry, the Lord is forgiveness.’

Fun theater, but the larger issue is that in a debate when one side ‘goes nuclear’ with idiotic arguments, pretending to play by the rules of logic when actually flouting them, then the best strategy is to go guerilla. My pointless stunt made no damn bit of difference, but if instead it had been part of a more organized effort, it would have made his message look moronic. A good example is the photoshopped Governor Palin image of her head pasted onto the bikini clad woman with an automatic rifle. Pass that one on. It’s damn funny, because it’s actually true, even though it’s false.

‘…But the other thing that bothers me about Sarah Palin ... rather really frightens me about Sarah Palin ... is that this is more than just some bizarre political strategy to try to attract the radical feminists and the 700 Club in one fell swoop and keep the Republican Party in office. I truly believe this is part of something much bigger that doesn't even really involve the Republican Party except that it's the most convenient vehicle for this group to hold power.

The Christian right is as dangerous an entity as our nation has known in the past century. More dangerous than the Klan (and sharing similar roots) because the Klan is not subtle and the Christian right is. The Christian right wraps itself in the flag and in the "values" of "America" ... language that is code for white people feeling superior and comfortable. This is not anything you don't know. And you probably know this as well. The Christian right is funded by a small group of incredibly wealthy (and, to my mind, absolutely psychotic) people who believe in narrow interpretations of the Book of Revelation and are trying to secure luxury boxes for the rapture…’

The best recent book on this subject is Jeff Sharlet’s ‘The Family,’ which I read while I was in France, and I can't recommend highly enough. It covers the religious fundamentalists that have a power base in Washington, DC, and which I have covered in my blog in various ‘Family Circus’ posts. But Mr. Sharlet also contrasts them with the more mainstream fundamentalist churches, and goes into the civil war starting up between those who worship power (‘Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God…’ [Romans 13:1-7]); those who worship money (the prosperity gospel churches); and those who honestly worship god – the devout hardline Protestants who came to America in the first place and started forming thriving churches in the 19th century until the early 20th.

Fundamentalist churches have been in a schism since the Scopes trial in the 1920s drove a wedge between those who believed in political involvement and those who don’t in the movement. What’s happened since the 1980s is that those in the ‘power’ churches have essentially been using those other Fundamentalist churches as a source of labor and votes. But fundamentalism is far, far from monolithic.

‘…The whole schism that is happening in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion (of which Christ Church, Plano is an epicenter). Where do you think these African Anglican bishops are getting the coin to fly around everywhere? It's from this group of ultrafundamentalists who aren't even Episcopalian but see the Episcopal Church as an incredibly well-placed vehicle to instigate a worldwide ultrafundamentalist takeover of a mainline denomination. I know I'm sounding like Steve Carlton here, but there've been some really good "follow the money" pieces done here ... and there's also enough creepy stories about this stuff in the Bush White House to make me believe it…’

One thing to remember about that is that the power players, the Sciaffes and the other billionaire conservatives behind all of this, didn’t start the schism, but rather took advantage of one that already existed. The embers were there – they just fanned it. But like I mentioned – two can play that game. Fundamentalism has massive schisms – and the ‘power’ movement is being led by those with not enough honor to preach the gospel. It’s obvious to us – but I think it’s starting to become obvious to them as well. Hence…

‘…Well, horror of horrors for this group, not only are they poised to lose power but they are poised to lose it to a black man. Republican insiders have said that McCain was dead set on Lieberman until James Dobson and others came to him and then all of a sudden, Voila! Sarah Palin. She is the Hail Mary not of the McCain campaign but of the Christian right. They know she will be one heartbeat away and if you don't think they will be praying for McCain to die as soon as she takes the oath...’

Exactly. You don’t do a Hail Mary pass from a position of strength. The political religious right has more lying on this than McCain. Who do you think’s going to take the fall if McCain looses? It’s do or die time for them in the Republican Party. Senator McCain’s upsetting the game board happened because he looked at the pieces and saw that he was screwed. So did the religious right – their original position was to sit out the election so as to claim credit for McCain’s loss. Clearly they rethought their position, or at least Karl Rove did. And it’s the ultimate problem of Governor Palin – she was chosen to win votes, not to govern.

‘…But it's the combination that's truly scary. McCain's impulsivity and hair-trigger temper and tunnel vision and hawkish, ultraright conservative views and Sarah Palin's absolute psychotic perversion of Christianity and willingness to do anything to get what she wants. John McCain is right ... she is his soulmate. Together they are Satan.

In a sensible world, there would be no choice ... it would be as obvious to everyone as it is to you and me what is going on. But our nation has shown such an incredible -- and rapidly growing -- capacity for self-deception. It has gone beyond two parties with similar goals and two competing ideas of how to get there. It is to the point where you have one party dealing with reality and the other simply not. And millions upon millions of Americans are choosing to line up behind fiction rather than fact.

In a sensible world, I would be champing at the bit for the debates. But the debates don't matter. Bush-Kerry and Bush Gore proved that. What matters is the idiotic spin after the debates. Gore wiped the floor with Bush and the spin was that he was wooden. Kerry wiped the floor with Bush and the spin was that he was boring and even mean. Obama could wipe the floor with John McCain and the spin could still screw him. Biden could wipe the floor with Palin and the spin could be that he was condescending or mean….’

I agree with you on that one. However, knowing that will help Biden – The best strategy would be for him to debate her like a governor and not a hockey mom.

‘…I still have hope Obama will win. I still think it's a better than 50% chance he will. I get that hope from Zogby but mostly because if he can stay the Obama he showed last Thursday night then the power of his commitment and the power of his ideas and the power of his inspiration and charisma should carry the day. I went to an Obama organizing meeting tonight and I'm going to be working phones and registering voters in St. Louis all month. I'm not giving up. I'm fighting with every bit I have because I think with the Palin VP selection the stakes just got incredibly high.

I really wish I could say "the American people are smarter than this." But Bill Maher is right ... they're not…’

Yep, they’re not. I read an analysis on all of this relating the popularity of Governor Palin among the base to those fans of reality TV.: ‘Look at the hockey mom on the cooking show! Why, that could be me!’

‘Look at the hockey mom in the White House! Why, that could be me!’

America, where anyone can grow up to be President. We’re all taught that like it’s fucking scripture. The dark side of democracy – the crazy person on the subway has the same right to vote as you do, and will cancel out your vote to boot.

‘…Oh ... and Rudy Giuliani is just an asshole…’

I truly hope that this isn’t some new revelation to you.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Praying for Gas



Oh, those many years ago, when YouTube first started, it became known as the go-to resource for bloggers who had no idea what to post on at that particular moment. Sarah Palin is turning into this month's YouTube, so I decided to kill two birds and start with a video of Governor Palin addressing the graduating class of commission students at her one-time church, Wasilla Assembly of God, back in June of this year.

I actually do have something to post on - I just finished my first class today at General Theological Seminary; I'm taking a class in the Old Testament, the first of two, and it promises to be an edifying time. Sadly, I have much to learn, as I am apparently too unaware of many things in the Bible. Such as the importance of natural gas to the Lord:

'...Religion, however, was not strictly a thread in Palin's foreign policy. It was part of her energy proposals as well. Just prior to discussing Iraq, Alaska's governor asked the audience to pray for another matter -- a $30 billion national gas pipeline project that she wanted built in the state. "I think God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that," she said...'

Later she goes on about the various wars in Iraq and Afghanistan being part of 'God's Plan.' For the full video of the speach, you can go here.

Also this year, the Good Governor decided that a state program benefiting young unwed mothers without a place to live for themselves or their new child was receiving too much money. So she used a line-item veto to cut its budget. By 20%. Atrios put it best:

'...Just think about this one for a moment. Palin is rabidly anti-choice, wanting it to be illegal in all cases except when the mother's life is threatened. This is a program which provides housing for teen mothers "in need of a place to live," presumably due to the fact that their parents and sperm donors are somewhat less than supportive. Despite this, these young women choose (that word!) to have their babies. And the program which might give them, and their newborns, a place to live is something Palin cuts the funding for. Maybe they can go live with the bears...'

Change we can believe in.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Palin



















Yesterday, Greg Sargent asked the question on everyone's mind:

'...What else will come out today? After all, there are still six hours left until September 2nd...'

This after posting the complete rundown of where things stand, Palin-wise:

'...On the same day that the Republicans were forced to dramatically cut back their convention activities, the Palin Meltdown unfolded with extraordinary speed. It's worth pondering the totality of what happened today, in a mere half day...

* The news that Palin once backed the Bridge to Nowhere went national.

* It emerged that Palin has links to the bizarro Alaska Independence Party, which harbors the goal of seceding from the union that McCain and Palin seek to lead.

* The news broke that as governor, Palin relied on an earmark system she now opposes. Taken along with the Bridge to Nowhere stuff, this threatens to undercut her reformist image, something that was key to her selection as McCain's Veep candidate.

* The news broke that Palin's 17-year-old daughter became pregnant out of wedlock at a time when the conservative base had finally started rallying behind McCain's candidacy.

* Barely moments after McCain advisers put out word that McCain had known of Bristol Palin's pregnancy, the Anchorage Daily News revealed that Palin's own spokesperson hadn't known about it only two days ago.

* A senior McCain adviser at the Republican convention was forced into the rather embarrassing position of arguing that McCain had known about the pregnancy "last week" -- without saying what day last week he knew about it.

* It came out that Republican lawyers are up in Alaska vetting Palin -- now, more than 72 hours after it was announced that she'd been picked.

* Palin lawyered up in relation to the trooper-gate probe in Alaska -- a move that ensures far more serious attention to the story from the major news orgs...'

Well today we have his answer. Courtesy of Time Magazine:

'...Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." The librarian, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire her for not giving "full support" to the mayor...'

Oh, and Harpers Magazine has done the apparently now-standard journalistic exercise of looking into Governor Palin's church and pastor:

'...Since becoming governor in 2006, Palin has attended the Juneau Christian Center, where Mike Rose serves as senior pastor. Her previous pastor was David Pepper of the Church on the Rock in Palin’s hometown of Wasilla — a church that “was kind of a foundation for her.”...'

Some choice quotes from her Pastors:

'...Mike Rose, senior pastor at Juneau Christian Center: From a July 28, 2007 sermon: “Do you believe we’re in the last days? After listening to Newt Gingrich and the prime minister of Israel and a number of others at our gathering, I became convinced, and I have been convinced for some time. We are living in the last days. These are incredible times to live in.”

David Pepper, senior pastor at Church on the Rock: From an November 25, 2007 sermon: “The purpose for the United States is… to glorify God. This nation is a Christian nation...'

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Cat and Sunflower Blogging



















































Electra, Orestes and the sunflowers are in bloom. It's the last days of summer. Next week classes start, although I'm ready 'cus I got me my Trapper Keeper (a vintage late 1970's one from Ebay.) Also to keep up with all the young kids today, I got my iPhone and I'm now on Facebook.

So Governor Palin is the Repbulican VP choice. I think Tbogg sums it up pretty well, as only he can:

'...The selection of Palin strikes me as a "stunt" nomination and an admission that even in the misty recesses of former prisoner of war John McCain's mind, he knows that he is truly fucked. Therefore the campaign seems to be hunting for the PUMA vote; the PUMA being a mythical creature with the body of a middle-aged woman and the head of an idiot. Palin's main claim to fame is that she doesn't kill babies but instead gives them hippy names like Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, and Trig which falls in line with the Christian belief that we must suffer in this world before entering the next...'


Monday, August 25, 2008

Blogging Days























'...Caught a large snake in the herbaceous border beside the drive. About 2’ 6” long, grey colour, black markings on belly but none on back except, on back of neck, a mark resembling an arrow head (ñ) all down the back. Not certain whether an adder, as these I think usually have a sort of broad arrow mark (^) all down the back. Did not care to handle it too recklessly, so only picked it up by extreme tip of tail. Held thus it could nearly turn far enough to bite my hand, but not quite. Marx interested at first, but after smelling it was frightened & ran away. The people here normally kill all snakes. As usual, the tongue referred to as “fangs”...'

Such is the first entry of George Orwell's new blog. From August 9th, 1938. Starting on August 9th of this month, The Orwell Trust is reprinting the entirety of George Orwell's diaries in blogging form, with each entry exactly 70 years after it's original date. Complete with footnotes and such, and it's open for comments as well:

'...Two legs bad, no legs good...'

'...When I see snakes I advise them to be more careful to avoid humans; other people will cut their heads off. From Orwell’s entry it seems he did not kill the snake, although I dislike picking them up because it seems abusive...'

'...Any herpetologists out there? What kind of snake do you think that might’ve been?...'

'...@Joe - would’ve been an adder (vipera berus) I’d imagine...'

'...What’s this “(ñ)” is that just my machines rendering? A drawing of the arrow?...'

'...The hyperlinks don’t show up clearly in the post. I’m using FF3 on a laptop running XP...'

'...Some blogs are more equal than others...'

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Saturday Plant Blogging



































I've been doing a bit of the Farmer John thing on the front stoop of our brownstone this spring and summer. I started by planting seeds for spinach, lima beans, peas, tomatoes and sunflowers. The results were decidedly mixed.

The seeds did an excellent job of sprouting, but after that many things went downhill. The spinach looked like some kind of refugee from a famine plagued vegetable land. The peas didn't fare much better. In the end I got 16 peas out of the crop. They were damn tasty, but, still. The lima beans were also a complete disaster. They were doing very well, until every last one succumbed to a fungus unique to lima bean plants. Wiped out the whole crop.

This leaves the tomatoes and the sunflowers, which have proven to be relatively successful. There are 16 cherry tomato plants, and they are all doing pretty well, although next year I need to plant them in larger containers and with fewer plants per container. The sunflowers are the big success. They're now over eight feet tall, and are now starting to bloom. I'm going to get a good recipe for toasting the seeds, which look to be plentiful. Of course, I'll have to fight the birds for them.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bacon



Last night we went to Rosewater. For desert we had Bacon Ice Cream, sprinkled with pieces of Candied Bacon, served on a waffle cooked with Bacon Fat.

As Jeff Garlin would say, it was a big bowl of evil. But very tasty.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Androgynous



‘…He might be a father, be he sure aint no dad…’

Following on a post I did earlier about complementarianism, I wrote an email to The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CMWM), a main complementarian organization, regarding gender definitions. I referred them to an Op-Ed in the New York Times by Jennifer Boylan regarding gender determination in the Olympics, and I asked them for their comments on this issue.

As you recall, complementarians believe in Biblically defined gender roles, with men in leadership positions. Of course, for this to work, logically one must define ‘male’ and ‘female.’ So I asked them if the Bible defines those words, and for their take on intersex issues. And they kindly responded:

Ian,

Thanks for writing and alerting us to this op/ed piece in the NY Times. Later today we will be posting on our blog about this very issue.

Briefly, the Scriptures speak loudly by what they do not say explicitly. God’s created order: “He made the [sic] male and female…” reveals God’s will as clearly as one could want, namely that He ordained two sexes for the sake of his own glory. Beyond that the Scriptures are clear that in rare cases (castration, intentional eunuchs, etc) reproduction is ended, but sexuality (ie: manhood and womanhood) continues. This is the way in which Galatians 3:28 can be understood as well. When it says, “There is neither male nor female….for all are one in Christ” it means that before the Cross of Christ no one can boast in their gender. It does not mean that sexuality ends as a part of God’s creation and formative for each person’s human identity. In fact, it is not the obliteration of gender distinctives, but the peaceful unity of the two distinct genders that brings glory to God.

Ian, your questions and participation on the blog are highly welcome. Thanks for writing. We look forward to more interaction as God leads.

With Kind Regards,

Brent Nelson
WEB EDITOR
THE COUNCIL ON BIBLICAL MANHOOD AND WOMANHOOD

A couple of things to note – first the letter doesn’t answer the question about definitions of male and female (though they address that in their blog post - more on that later). But they do correctly point out two parts of scripture that potentially address intersex issues. The Bible is quite specific through these interpretations on intersex – it doesn’t exist, as the quote from Genesis 1:27 (So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. [KJV]) attests. As well, the famous Galatians quote (There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. [KJV]) is not about dissolving gender distinctions in today’s context, but through the baptism in Christ. At least according to complementarians; egalitarians interpret that differently as I had mentioned earlier. But the Galatians quote doesn’t specifically allow for intersex situations.

Although definitions were not mentioned in the letter, CMWM did address the issue in the blog post they mentioned. Some relevant quotes:

‘…Amazingly, there is radical disagreement over a methodology for distinguishing a woman from man, and whether or not such differentiation is even possible…She [Boylan] concludes that "gender is malleable and elusive, and we need to become comfortable with this fact, rather than be afraid of it." She understands that gender can only be determined by the heart of the individual and how that individual lives in daily life.

Unfortunately, the Bible does not consider a sin-tainted heart to be a reliable guide; rather "the heart is deceitful above all things" (Jeremiah 17:9). A male athlete who feels in his heart that he is a woman should not trust his heart. Instead, he should rely on the Word of God and find some male opponents.

Scripture presents gender as a binary condition, not a shifting continuum from male to female. When God created man in his image, the Bible says, "male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27). The Bible does not provide an explicit list of characteristics to distinguish a woman from a man, because it was understood to be self-evident (c.f. the reaction of Adam in Genesis 2:23).

Boylan's statistic is consistent with this divine truth and actually argues against her position: if 1 in 20,000 women carry a Y chromosome, then 19.999 in 20,000 do not. Any lab test that can objectively identify a female 99.995% of the time would be considered an extremely reliable guide to a binary understanding of gender. Even among the exceptional .005% of women who carry a Y chromosome, most are feminine in appearance and are able to bear children. Because this is a fallen world, there are birth defects that affect all parts of the human anatomy, but these extremely rare defects do not invalidate the binary nature of God's good design of manhood and womanhood…’

So the Bible doesn’t provide a definition of ‘male’ or ‘female’ as it is ‘self-evident.’ Genesis 2:23 (And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. [KJV]) is perhaps odd, as the definition of woman refers to being ‘taken out of man,’ and doesn’t seem to be a good example of ‘self evidence’ of gender definitions. But their point remains – no specific scriptural definitions exist for the definitions; instead it’s obvious what is male and female.

But I find this unsatisfactory, for it’s not obvious to me. And the problem with binaries is that they are by design universal, and must hold for all examples; one exception voids the concept of ‘binary.’ When scripture says that ‘all are male or female’, then there is no allowance for exceptions.

The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) has a list of differing intersex conditions and their frequency, which range from ‘Complete gonadal dysgenesis’ at a rate of 1 in 150,000 people to ‘Late Onset Adrenal Hyperplasia’ at a rate of 1 in 66 people. According to the ISNA, the total number of people whose bodies differ from what are standard (‘self-obvious’) male and female patterns is 1 in 100. Now, to paraphrase the CMWM, that small number could be a reliable guide to a binary understanding of gender. Except that 1 in 100 people means that over 65 million people in the world fall into this category, or the equivalent of more than the entire population of France.

The issue of the ‘extremely rare’ defects that result from this being a fallen world ‘not invalidating the binary nature of God’s good design of manhood and womanhood’ fails to address this. For if the binary is to hold, then 65 million people need to be categorized as either male or female. Otherwise they cannot logically be assigned scripturally defined gender roles. So what are the standards? Genitalia? Chromosomes? Capability to give birth? If the Bible doesn’t provide the standards, then someone has to. I look forward to CMWM’s answer to this.

I'm Glad I Became an Architect













This picture has been making the rounds a bit on the political blogs, starting here as best as I can figure it. Apparently it's an abstinence-promoting billboard from the State of Kansas. Some comments:

'...you could use it in a discussion of public service announcements gone awry. I have a feeling this billboard probably kept more kids from becoming engineers than sex ever did...' Via

'...That’s why you should become scientists, kids! (Because engineers don’t have sex. You want me to spell it out for you?)...' Via

'...It’s funny cuz it’s true. But it’s not funny...' Via

'...If anything, characterizing the sex-engineering link in this manner seems overwhelmingly more likely to reduce interest in engineering than to reduce interest in sex...' Via

This is going to be the 'New Coke' of the abstinence-only movement.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Pressure's On


















There is something seriously whacked going on in this country regarding the pressure of peoples’ car tires. First Senator Obama gets criticized for a remark made on tire pressure as part of a speech on the importance of energy conservation. And now a military tribunal has just found Salim Hamdan (better known as Osama Bin Laden’s driver)guilty of ‘supporting terrorism’, although he was cleared of conspiracy charges. What’s the connection? From the July 26th New York Times, in an article on the Hamdan trial:

‘…There has been no testimony about shots fired or bombs detonated by Mr. Hamdan. Instead, the case is a mundane tour of terrorism, as seen from the driver’s seat. One sign that an act of terrorism was coming was that Mr. Hamdan would be told to get the truck ready, said the witnesses, most of whom were federal agents who had interrogated him.

Mr. Hamdan’s offenses are not enumerated anywhere, but appear to include checking the oil and the tire pressure…’

Pretty serious shit.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Back to School



So I'm heading back to school this fall. I'm now registered for classes at both General Theological Seminary, where I'll be taking a class in the Old Testament, and Fordham University, where I'll be studying Classical Greek. The ultimate goal will be a new masters degree, this time a Masters in Arts in Theology. Of course I will need to make certain of a couple of things first, namely if I can still hack it in a classroom environment, and also if I can hack language study at my age. Also I need to make sure that I can do all of this while keeping up with studying the tenor banjo, and, oh, yeah, working.

Of course I'll be organized, as I will be getting my Trapper Keeper, which apparently has now been reissued by Mead.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Welcome to our Country



The above video is from the New York Times, a companion piece to an article published back in May. It follows the sad case of Boubacar Bah, a tailor from Guinea who lived here in Brooklyn, and worked at a West Village boutique. After a Kafkaesque immigration experience, he ended up in a detention center in New Jersey. For unexplained reasons, he received a skull fracture, but was detained afterwords for 15 hours in shackles before an ambulance was called. His lawyer, his family and his friends were never told about any of this until he had already been in the hospital for five days. By that point he was in a coma – he died 4 months later.

The detention center is run by a private company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a firm ‘set up in 1983 in Nashville by a group of investors that included a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party...’: here's more from an article in the LRB:

‘…CCA describes itself as the ‘nation’s largest provider of outsourced corrections management’, with 70,000 inmates and 16,000 staff. Its website speaks proudly of ‘similarities in mission and structure’ with the US army and makes a special appeal to veterans in search of work: ‘How will you make the transition from military to civilian life? CCA features a paramilitary structure: a highly refined chain of command, and policies and procedures that dictate facility operations.’

Transparency is not one of those policies and procedures. On the contrary: according to Dow, CCA ‘has warned its shareholders of the dangers of public scrutiny’. So it’s no surprise that CCA still hasn’t explained how Bah fell, or why he was shackled and left untreated for 15 hours afterwards. US immigration officials haven’t said anything either. Indeed, ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] operates in almost perfect opacity: it’s not obliged even to keep track of deaths among detainees, much less to report them publicly. When an immigrant dies in custody, the recorded cause of death can be as vague and tautological as ‘unresponsiveness’ – something the ICE knows all about.…’

The stock of CCA (NYSE symbol CXW) closed up 32 cents today, at $28.74. It’s a high for the year.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Let My People Go














If anyone has a spare $30,000 - $50,000 (estimated), and you're looking for a present to buy me, I found it:

'...Charlton Heston's Ten Commandments Tablets from The Ten Commandments. (Paramount, 1956) DeMille's greatest film, and his last, has joined the pantheon of epic films revered from generation to generation. It has become an annual staple of the Easter season, and the few items that have become available from it are dearly treasured but none more so than the actual tablets of the Ten Commandments, "written with the finger of God". There are few props in the history of film that are so easily recognizable, and so coveted by seasoned collectors of original Hollywood film relics...'

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Complements



What exactly does the Bible say about gender roles? It’s a question that’s been argued for millennia, but at least now we have the benefit of two rival religious lobbying organizations, each not only struggling with scriptural interpretation but also struggling on the P.R., coming up with friendly sounding names for their positions.

On the right side of things, we have what is know as complementarianism. This school of thought is represented by “The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” (CBMW) complete with a mission statement and even a blog, GenderBlog, which I link to under the religion section on the right. Their position:

‘…In opposition to the growing movement of feminist egalitarianism [we] articulated what is now known as the complementarian position which affirms that men and women are equal in the image of God, but maintain complementary differences in role and function. In the home, men lovingly are to lead their wives and family as women intelligently are to submit to the leadership of their husbands. In the church, while men and women share equally in the blessings of salvation, some governing and teaching roles are restricted to men…’

So men and women are equal in the eye of God, but only to a certain point. After that point it’s all about men leading and woman following.

The opposing religious position is known as egalitarianism. This school is represented by the organization Christians for Biblical Equality, which also has a blog, The CBE Scroll, also linked to on right. Their position:

‘…What is Biblical equality? It is the belief that all people are equal before God and in Christ. All have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God. God freely calls believers to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender or race. We believe this because the Bible and Jesus Christ teach it to us. That is biblical equality…’

The key scripture the CBE quotes is the famous one from Galatians, 3:28: 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, thee is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' In her book, “In Memory of Her,” Elisabeth Fiorenza notes this to be an early Christian baptismal formula, quoted by Paul as opposed to written by Paul. She mentions this as part of her famous thesis that early Christian beliefs reflected a much more egalitarian outlook regarding the role of women in the church. Only later did a more patriarchal belief system develop.

And develop it did, for as the CBMW is quick to point out, later writings of Paul are not so egalitarian in their outlook of women. The famous phrase from Ephesians, 5:22: ‘Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord’, is one of about a dozen ‘subordination’ clauses in the letters of Paul. Complementarians latch onto this as scriptural backing for their views, and as reflects a recent development in fundamentalism, are becoming very academic about it. From the CBMW Journal, Spring 1998:

‘…Where the Bible says that wives are to "be subject to'' to their husbands (Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1, 5; and implied in Eph. 5:22, 24), you tell us that the verb "be subject to'' (hypotassō, passive) is a requirement for both husbands and wives-that just as wives are to be subject to their husbands, so husbands are to be subject to their wives, and that there is no unique authority that belongs to the husband. Rather, the biblical ideal is "mutual submission'' according to Ephesians 5:21, "be subject to one another,'' and therefore there is no idea of one-directional submission to the husband's authority in these other verses (Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1, 5; and Eph. 5:22, 24).

But we have never been able to find any text in ancient Greek literature where hypotassō (passive) refers to a person or persons being "subject to'' another person, and where the idea of submission to that person's authority is absent. In every example we can find, when person A is said to "be subject to'' person B, person B has a unique authority which person A does not have. In other words, hypotassō always implies a one-directional submission to someone in authority. So our question is this:

Will you please show us one example in all of ancient Greek where this word for "be subject to'' (hypotassō, passive) is used to refer to one person in relation to another and does not include the idea of one-directional submission to the other person's authority?...’

This is from a somewhat famous ‘Open Letter to Egalitarians,’ where the complementarians invite academic debate on the various scriptures. In this case their argument for Ephesians at least falls somewhat flat, as the phrase ‘be subject to one another’ actually is in Ephesians immediately prior to the famous subordination phrase, and so an egalitarian interpretation isn’t solely reliant on the nuances of the book’s original Koine Greek...'

I bring this up because I ran into another ‘Open Letter to Egalitarians’ written last week, this time addressing more prosaic and pragmatic issues. Ten questions were asked on a popular complementarian blog regarding what egalitarians view as the proper response to various situations where gender roles may be in play:

1. If the Titanic accident were to happen again, would you desire 50% of the seats on the life boats to be left for men?

2. If there is a robber who just broke into your house and you are married with children, would you want the man to go downstairs or the woman or would this be done depending on who had done it last time?

3. Would an egalitarian woman be offended at a man holding the door for her?

4. Do egalitarian parents allow their boys to play rough with the girls just like the boys play rough with other boys?

5. Do egalitarian parents train their boys that it is okay for them to be "stay at home dads?" If so, does a lot of domestic training happen for these boys?

6. Do you feel that women boxers should be allowed to fight in the ring with men?

7. Do egalitarian women desire to be protected by their guy (boyfriend, husband, father, etc.) or would they prefer to protect themselves?

8. Does an egalitarian female "pastor" get a maternity leave from her preaching responsibilities?

9. Does and egalitarian female "pastor" counsel men about pornography?

10. Do egalitarian pastoral staffs go on pastoral retreats together? If so, how does that work with having guys and girls together? Do the spouses feel strange about this?

I wont reprint my responses (I posted them here) to keep this post from getting any longer than it is. But one thing I didn’t mention in my response was how odd the questions struck me. They all really read as if the person who wrote them is completely flummoxed by how anyone could consider living a life any other way than with specific leadership roles defined along gender lines. What’s also interesting with these questions, and the posts on the CBMW blog, is the complete focus on ‘leadership’ as the only role for men. It’s like Al Haig founded a religious movement: ‘I’m in charge! I’m in charge!’ In charge of what is never addressed.