Saturday, December 06, 2008

Saturday Rock Show

From the British band Arena, this is "Chosen", from their 2000 release Immortal? I love the chord progression in this song, and the rhythm. It's very aggressive. Hiding behind the arpeggios running behind the verses is this very hard, very loud, very aggressive chorus. Also, they have a left-handed drummer, which I find very cool for some reason.

Rick Warren's Wife Is As Bad As He Is

When you read what follows, please remember they were written by a clergy spouse. You know, someone who should understand a little bit about that whole Christian thing.
I hardly ever gave HIV/AIDS a single thought. In the rare moments I saw a news report about it, I concluded that those who were sick probably deserved it since they had put themselves at risk. I didn’t know anyone who was HIV positive, so it wasn’t personal to me in any way. I was completely occupied with raising my family, attaining personal goals and investing in the ministry of our church. But in a single moment, all of that changed.

One afternoon I sat in my comfy living room with a cup of tea, casually browsing through a weekly news magazine. An article on AIDS in Africa, accompanied by horrific photographs, caught my attention. I was stunned to learn that (at that time) nearly 40 million people were living with an incurable disease that destroyed their immune system, causing a certain painful death, leaving 15 million children orphaned. I went to bed that night haunted by the photographs of skeletal men and women, the cries of abandoned children echoing in my dreams. I woke up the next morning still tormented by this new reality that had suddenly invaded my comfortable world.

I became a seriously disturbed woman.

I found my focus and interests shifted away from a primary concentration on me and my aspirations for my life to the needs and interests of those the Bible calls “the least of these.” I was disturbed by the pain, agony, rejection, loneliness and suffering endured by those infected with a tiny – but lethal – virus. I had to witness it for myself; reading, studying, watching documentaries on the subject were not enough. I was still so na├»ve and out of touch that I didn’t realize how desperate my brothers and sisters in the United States were; I thought I had to go to Africa to see it up close. Within a few months, I made two trips to Africa, and came back not only seriously disturbed, but gloriously ruined as well.

What is awful about this, a testimony of commitment to compassion and advocacy? Why, the simple fact that this woman had to see pictures of the ravishes of HIV/AIDS, especially children, before she realized that this wasn't something people "deserved". In other words, until she became aware this disease wasn't some plague visited upon gay folks for their perversion, she was happy to keep her eyes closed to the suffering they, too, endured. Indeed, she confesses she had to go to Africa to understand the suffering of those with HIV/AIDS; where is the awareness that thousands, tens of thousands, suffered here in the US precisely because people like her believed they deserved it for their perversions?

While I know there are some who think Kay Warren should be applauded for her advocacy for people with HIV/AIDS, don't count me among them. Even if her mind has changed; even if she no longer believes that gay men and intravenous drug users "deserve" what they get with HIV/AIDS, she wrote whole sections of the human race out of her list of those in need of compassion and fellow-feeling, and the dead piled up because people like Kay Warren had to see pictures of "innocent people" with the disease before she felt compassion.

When she confesses that she not only works for people living with HIV/AIDS, but atones for her gross lack of compassion for those who suffered with the virus and died because of the way it ravaged their bodies, then we might be getting somewhere. Until then, I think I'll just hold my applause.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Help Me Out

I really need some help understanding why some people hate sex so much.

Getting His Wank On

If it's Friday on The Washington Post op-ed page, then it must be Michael Gerson's turn for nonsensical babbling. While it might be unfair to indict him for such, he is very clearly placing responsibility for this attack on al Qaeda, when it was in fact an outlawed militant group from Pakistan. While it may be true that this is an instance of Islamic radicalism at work, it should be seen more in the context of the on-going rivalry between India and Pakistan, rather than some mythical Islamic jihad against the rest of humanity.

No evidence had emerged as to who had planned, co-ordinated, funded, and carried out last weeks attack in Mumbai. Yet, here's Gerson, wailing away at his keyboard:
The attacks have come like the steady rhythm of a clock -- 171 dead in Mumbai. Tick. Fifty-two dead in the London bombings. Tock. One hundred ninety-one dead in the Madrid train attacks. Tick. Two hundred two in Bali, and 2,973 in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The rest of the column disappears in to the stratosphere, a combination of irrelevancies and non-sequiturs, and even enters the fantasy land reserved for those who still believe George W. Bush has done anything worthwhile.
Most of the methods employed in this effort have been effective, congressionally approved and broadly noncontroversial -- fighting money laundering, intercepting terrorist communications, tightening up the border.


Yet some methods designed for exceptional cases, such as waterboarding, were ethically disturbing and eventually counterproductive -- causing self-inflicted ideological wounds in a largely ideological struggle. And there is little doubt that some administration claims of executive power invited a judicial backlash and undermined the power of future presidents. The Supreme Court reversed the administration three times on detainee issues because Bush officials relied exclusively on executive authority for their actions. If the administration had sought congressional backing for military commissions in 2001, and later for rules to hold combatants, the resulting legal framework would probably have been upheld by the courts -- and would probably have been closer to administration goals than the eventual result.

Gerson actually performs a service of sorts, toward the end of his column. By offering the incoming President and his Administration advice, Obama knows now what not to do.
On interrogation, Obama's choice is clear. The Defense Department has already adopted restrictive standards on the treatment of all detainees -- more restrictive than the law requires. But should the Pentagon rules for 1.4 million soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines be applied to CIA treatment of a newly captured terrorist with vital information? Or should the CIA be allowed to employ still-classified "enhanced" techniques short of torture? During his campaign, Obama promised the universal application of the Defense Department approach -- but that is easier for a candidate than a president to pledge.

The hardest issues concern detained terrorists. Guantanamo will and should be closed as a public diplomacy nightmare. Perhaps half of the detainees will be sent home, leaving about 100 exceptionally dangerous men. The Obama administration will need to decide on a format for trials -- much improved but politically discredited military commissions, ordinary civilian courts or some kind of national security courts created by Congress and supervised by the federal judiciary.

But the administration will not be able to try everyone. Some detainees will be too dangerous to release but too difficult to convict in a normal court setting using unclassified evidence. And any president will need the ability to hold and question newly captured terrorists outside the procedures designed for American criminals. Unless Obama returns to a simple exertion of executive authority, he will require congressional authorization to detain people. And this will expose a major tension between the new president's military responsibilities and the views of supporters who believe that detainees should be held only in preparation for trial.

And editors and publishers wonder why their businesses are failing?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

There Is No Christian Persecution In America

I will probably eat those words at some point, because I've already taken someone else to task for making a blatantly false generalization that was easily disproved. Yet, for the nonce, I stand by it, because, compared to, say, Saudi Arabia, where Christianity is illegal; Indonesia, where Christians are targets for hate-crimes; India, Pakistan ditto; and China, where owning a Bible is actually a crime against the state, I do think that whatever indignities Christians may endure here in America are pretty paltry things.

Yet, Mike Huckabee is out there saying that there is some kind of moral equivalence between a church service being disrupted and people being legally discriminated against; that having a cross ripped out of someone's hands is the same as having the shit kicked out of you and being left on the side of the road to die because you hit on someone.

I would add, for the record, that every time some right-wing Christian whines about "persecution", real (abroad) or imagined (here in the US), I want to remind them to read the frigging Bible, where we are told (a) to pray for those being persecuted; (b) to pray for and to love those who persecute us and hate us and kill us because of our faith; (c) to rejoice in our persecutions, because that is a sign we are actually doing something right; (d) to remember that no amount of suffering we face matters all that much because of the extravagant gift of life granted through Jesus Christ.

In other words, Mike - shut the hell up and pray and be thankful. At least they aren't dragging you behind a truck.

Go Away, Rick Warren

Brokeback Mountain, I mean Saddle Back Church pastor Rick Warren appeared on Hannity and (colmes) last night and gave a summary of his view of the purpose of government:
Responding to Hannity’s assertion that “we need to take him [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] out,” Warren agreed, saying that stopping evil “is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers.”

I'm not sure where, exactly, in the Bible Warren gets that particular view. Perhaps from Romans 10, although if so, it is a pretty dumb reading.

While I realize Warren is hot stuff on the evangelical circuit these days, his theology is pretty thin gruel. There are different views of the role of the state in church history, from St. Augustine's to contemporary liberation theologies of various stripes.

One of my favorite takes on the role of the state is spelled out in a long essay by the great Reformed theologian Karl Barth. Entitled "Justification and Justice" (and poorly retitled "Church and State" in its initial English translation), Barth sticks close to his hyper-Christo-centrism and examines the relationship of the Church and State through the prism of Jesus' encounter with Pilate. It is impossible to sum up such a lengthy, nuanced view in a few sentences, but this radical departure from traditional Providential theology does kind of make Warren's view a steaming pile of mule poo. For Barth, the state has power only insofar as this power comes from God. As such, even the power of the sword should be understood as the sword wielded by Christ (the image comes from the Book of Revelation to John, but is certainly applicable). Pilate's power to judge Jesus and order his execution should be understood not as a legitimate act of the state, but rather as a gracious condescension on the part of God incarnate in Jesus allowing such an act, since it is in keeping with the Divine plan.

As far as "defeating evil" is concerned, I do believe Jesus took care of that over a long weekend a couple millennia ago. Since Warren doesn't actually reference the crucifixion and resurrection, I do wonder what he believes about that.

If there is an award for shallow, stupid comments made by people who call themselves Christians and pastors (I know it isn't Brokeback Mountain, but I can't help thinking of that whenever I hear the name of his church), I do believe Warren should get such a prize.

And then remain silent.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I've Got Yer Future Of The Republican Party Right Here

Reading Neal Gabler's opinion piece in Sunday's Los Angeles Times seemed a "must-do" kind of thing for anyone wanting to comment on the burgeoning debate within the Republican Party over how it should proceed in light of the monumental losses it suffered in last months elections. So, read it I did (Yes, that's a "Yoda-voice" moment), and all I have to say is you should read it, too. He begins:
Ever since the election, partisans within the Republican Party and observers outside it have been speculating wildly about what direction the GOP will take to revive itself from its disaster. Or, more specifically, which wing of the party will prevail in setting the new Republican course -- whether it will be what conservative writer Kathleen Parker has called the "evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy" branch or the more pragmatic, intellectual, centrist branch.


The basic problem with the Goldwater tale is that it focuses on ideology and movement building, which few voters have ever really cared about, while the McCarthy tale focuses on electoral strategy, which is where Republicans have excelled.

McCarthy, Wisconsin's junior senator, was the man who first energized conservatism and made it a force to reckon with. When he burst on the national scene in 1950 waving his list of alleged communists who had supposedly infiltrated Harry Truman's State Department, conservatism was as bland, temperate and feckless as its primary congressional proponent, Ohio Sen. Robert Taft, known fondly as "Mister Conservative." Taft was no flamethrower. Though he was an isolationist and a vehement opponent of FDR, he supported America's involvement in the war after Pearl Harbor and had even grudgingly come to accept the basic institutions of the New Deal. He was also no winner. He had contested and lost the Republican presidential nomination to Wendell Willkie in 1940, Thomas Dewey in 1948 and Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, three men who were regarded as much more moderate than he.

McCarthy was another thing entirely. What he lacked in ideology -- and he was no ideologue at all -- he made up for in aggression. Establishment Republicans, even conservatives, were disdainful of his tactics, but when those same conservatives saw the support he elicited from the grass-roots and the press attention he got, many of them were impressed. Taft, no slouch himself when it came to Red-baiting, decided to encourage McCarthy, secretly, sealing a Faustian bargain that would change conservatism and the Republican Party. Henceforth, conservatism would be as much about electoral slash-and-burn as it would be about a policy agenda.

There's much more that needs to be read and digested here. I would only add Newt Gingrich to the mix, because, like McCarthy, I do not believe Gingrich cares one whit about anything other than keeping Newt Gingrich's name in the news, making sure Newt Gingrich is still considered a "player" in Republican circles, and, from his history, making sure there is a ready supply of young Republican women willing to throw themselves at Newt Gingrich.

I would submit for your consideration a few examples of the future face of the Republican Party. While it is true that, in many ways, from an electoral point-of-view, I believe the Republican Party is now pretty much a regional party, limited to the Deep South (minus Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia), and the great sweep of the Plains from Texas north to the Canadian border, with the mountain states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming tossed in, as well as Utah, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I think that in terms of what the Party will stand for are neatly summed up by what follows.

First (and please excuse the mention of my name here; apparently Marshall thought I was saying something really bad at some point):
This is a post about homosexuality. I want to say right out of the box that I don’t intend to temper my comments, so the more sensitive should beware. I was provoked to touch on this topic by a variety of reasons. The first regards my last post, “Stock In K-Y Should Soar”. Geoffrey’s first comments referred to it as a “homoerotic” reference that he found interesting. Clearly the title suggests a forced anal assault, so I wonder how that sounds “erotic” to Geoffrey. Perhaps he gives himself away?

But that is just the beginning. After the election tragedy, I was understandably down and blogging was not feasible. I could not concentrate on how to express my dismay that so many Americans are so stupid (“We didn’t like Bush, McCain is just like him, so we’re voting for something worse, damn it!”). What little I did post now looks weak and beneath the low standards I’ve set for myself.

So I decided at one point to review the sites under the heading “Left Ones” to see how they reacted to the election. As far as I had gotten, any celebrations I found were as shallow and substance free as the entire Obama campaign and its support. But then I went to Geoffrey’s site, where I found this little gem. In another screed of untruths and mis-characterizations, Geoffrey continues with his nonsense regarding hatred at the heart of people like Neil from 4Simpsonsblog. In the comments section, he gets reinforcement in his drivel from others, particularly Alan, who lurks about without posting comments, except on blogs where he might find more like minded individuals with whom to find similar reinforcement. That’s OK. He can post where he likes.

But I had thought some progress was being made between Alan and me after a long and civil discussion that took place at ER’s blog. In that discussion, he made reference to what he termed my “jackassery”. Yet at Geoff’s blog, his own jackassery was as out as he is.

But I digress.

No, wait. I’m not digressing at all. You see the point of Geoff’s blog was to re-iterate the need to continue the fight against hate-filled, hypocritical bigots supporting “discrimination” against the homosexual community.

But the hate is coming from their side, and if not for the Fred Phelps’ of the world, it would be overwhelmingly from their side. There’s the hate for the real Word of God. There’s the hate for those who live by that Word. There’s the hate for thousands of years of tradition. There’s the hate for truth, particularly in the realm of science, as there is none that supports their insistence that they are born that way and beyond the ability to change. There’s the hate for the notion that should such evidence ever be found, that it still wouldn't justify their behavior. There’s the hate for settling for what Thomas Sowell recently called their most solid ground, that everyone should respect their privacy. There’s the hate for those who rightly feel that they have no right to impose their morality upon us, as they insist we not do so with them. And of course, there’s this hate. Add to that the recent story regarding the old woman accosted by another “tolerant” Prop 8 protester.

That’s where one finds the real hatred. It is NOT hatred to relate the true teachings of the Judeo-Christian doctrine. To remind others, as Neil says, that:

* 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the clearest and strongest possible terms.
* 100% of the verses referencing God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
* 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).
* 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.
* In short, to advance “same sex marriage” is to be perpetually shaking your fist at God in rebellion.

It is NOT hatred to consider how state sanctioning of homosexual marriage would naturally lead to marital arrangements of any other kind, and to have legitimate concern for how that would impact our culture. It is NOT hatred to feel that such a drastic change to the definition of the word and institution of marriage should NOT be based on lies and unproven beliefs. This article describes one of the very first lies that started it all. And it is definitely NOT hatred to find silly, selfish and immature the notion that marriage and all the laws based upon it should be changed to satisfy the demands of such a tiny portion of the population (2%) and how they choose to pleasure themselves.

Sowell is right about what their best argument is. All the rest are lame and/or more easily rectified by addressing each point individually. What they hope for, be it marriage or civil unions, has little hope for improving society or can be abused and likely in ways we have yet to imagine. So I say to them, back up and consider how ridiculous it is to let your urges dictate any legislative change, and how weak you are for letting them rule yourselves.

Finally, another point or two:

It is said by some that the victory of Prop 8 represents a growing tolerance as the 52% that passed it is smaller than previous votes on the subject. I say it shows that woeful lack of resolve to do the right thing no matter how difficult, how much time it might take, or how expensive it might be, that shows itself in issues from fighting radical Islamic terrorism to raising honorable and disciplined young men and women who abstain from sexual activity before marriage.

Geoffrey finished his diatribe by proclaiming that he will not remain silent in supporting homosexual rights as he feels he did by not posting on Prop 8 before the election. First, whereas he used to feel it wasn't his place to dictate to those in other states, he now feels he must, that the principle is too important. That's pretty funny. Do you feel that way on an international level? If not, why not? Truth, actual truth, not your truth, should be proclaimed everywhere regardless of man-made boundaries. Secondly, rest assured that those of us on this, the righteous side of the issue will also not desist in opposing the misguided beliefs of the homosexual community and their enablers.

In keeping with the intent of this blog, that of chronicling the “descent” of America into a maelstrom of fascism and moral degeneracy, I believe we must understand the process by which the descent of America is most likely to occur.

We’ve pointed out Obama has plans for implementing his vision for the future of America here. But it is important for us to know and to recognize the steps he plans to take toward accomplishing his goal:

The Socialization of America.

Vladamir Lenin, as we have discussed, created a Socialist political system in Russia through a bloody, prolonged revolt, but if Obama intends to change the United States of America into the United Socialist States of America, he must be much more subtle than that.

History (or should I say, the knowledge of history) has put him at a disadvantage.

Many Americans, particularly those old enough to remember, and those who have studied history before the revisionists changed it, have an understanding of the far reaching negative consequences of creating and maintaining a Socialist system. Those consequences are listed in the post previously linked. Those Americans who don’t know or remember, would do well to talk to any person who had the good fortune to escape Soviet Russia, Communist China, Vietnam, Cuba, etc.

No, Obama will have to implement his plan incrementally, taking baby steps as it were, if he is to accomplish this monumental change.

Now, it would appear that the former "Manchurian Candidate" may very well be the "Manchurian President".

We don’t know exactly how he hopes to accomplish it, but we know from his speeches, writings, and interviews what things he specifically wants to change first.

Perhaps the interjection of a caveat would be in order at this point. We must keep in mind that any speculation about Obama’s intentions must be predicated upon the word, “if”.

If Obama is telling the truth. If Obama really believes in the changes he proposes. If Obama was not simply being a politician who will say whatever he believes it will take to win your vote.

What he says he will do and what he actually does may not necessarily be the same thing.

He has stated the first thing he will do as President is work to effectively disarm the military by cutting spending on “unproven missile technology“, ending the war in Iraq (surrender), and reducing the stockpile of nuclear weapons, etc.

Curiously, he also promised Planned Parenthood the first thing he will do is work toward passing the Freedom of Choice act.

How many other things does he plan to do first?

We have all heard the term, “slippery slope” being used to describe the possible ramifications of impending legislation that might open the door to possible Constitutional abuses in the future. I suspect Obama will use the proverbial slippery slope to his full advantage, if he indeed intends to Socialize America.

Many Conservatives, particularly talk radio show hosts, warn of us that Obama, along with a Democrat controlled Congress, will attempt to re-institute the Fairness Doctrine. A Fairness Doctrine would be a first step toward restricting, or even outlawing free speech, which is currently a fundamental right guaranteed us in the First Amendment to the Constitution. This suggestion has been refuted by Obama apologists, however, there is ample evidence that many Democrat lawmakers do indeed want to pursue that legislation.

It is a first step on that slippery slope. Other incremental policy changes could be additional steps. And then, if we are not vigilant, we may be find ourselves in a hole from which we cannot dig ourselves out.

Thus, I am reminded of an old joke:

Rueben, after enjoying a few drinks at his local tavern, and finding himself a bit too inebriated to safely drive himself home, decided as he often did, to forgo the drive and walk home, which was a short walk, particularly if he took a short cut through the local cemetery.

On this particularly dark, rainy night, there was little light to illuminate his path, but he had made this trip many times before, so it quite surprised Rueben when he fell into a freshly dug grave, which hadn’t been there previously.

He immediately began scratching, clawing, and jumping, trying desperately to climb out of the grave to no avail. Finally, after several minutes , exhausted by his fruitless efforts to extract himself from his predicament, he decided to make himself as comfortable as possible and wait for morning, when he knew someone would arrive to ready the graveside for the upcoming funeral service. He knew he would be rescued at that point, and it being a warm, though wet summer’s night, he would be uncomfortable, but safe until then.

So, he sat down in a relatively dry corner to await the dawn.

Presently, another inebriated man came by, and like Rueben, fell into the open grave. He didn’t see Ruben crouched over there in the corner. Ruben watched with some amusement as his new grave-mate scrambled and clawed and scratched at the slippery mud inside the grave.

Finally, Ruben spoke:

“Friend, you aren’t going to get out of here.”

But he did!

Many on the left accuse us on the right of fear mongering when we attempt to warn others of the possibility of impending fascism in America.

I submit fear is perhaps the only thing that can save us.

Consider yourselves forewarned.

Finally, from the oogedy-boogedy branch:
While many atheists are quite reasonable and charitable when discussing religious matters, I think one of the strategies of the New Atheists is to run around with their Big Book O’ Atheist Sound Bites to distract you, waste your time and plant seeds of doubt with bad arguments. I addressed many of their standard lines in Poor arguments to make with theists. (In fairness, I had previously addressed Poor arguments to make with atheists, because theists also make poor and uncharitable arguments at times.)

If there were any legitimate objections in this list of 194 alleged contradictions that DJ Black Adam pointed me to then they were lost in their overly literal and transparently false interpretations. You don’t even need any Bible knowledge to debunk most of them. The skeptics just misread the text or read it out of context. I also think that their dictionary doesn’t contain the word paradox, though most of the items on this list don’t even approach that level of sophistication. I pray that they would take the text seriously and accept its life changing message.

Their conclusion starts with this charming, question begging personal attack:

Every one is aware that there are contradictions in the Bible, except for the fundamentalist idiots.

First, let’s recall the definition of a contradiction:

1. the act of contradicting; gainsaying or opposition.
2. assertion of the contrary or opposite; denial.
3. a statement or proposition that contradicts or denies another or itself and is logically incongruous.
4. direct opposition between things compared; inconsistency.
5. a contradictory act, fact, etc.

So mere differences aren’t contradictions. To be a contradiction something has to be the opposite.

Just for grins, I grabbed a few of the 194 “contradictions” to see how robust they were.

#4. The angel told Joseph. Mt.1:20. The angel told Mary. Lk.1:28.

Let’s look at the two verses in question:

Matthew 1:20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Luke 1:28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

So the angel went to Joseph and to Mary. That is simply not a contradiction. Why they would include something like this is beyond me.

#11. Satan tempted Jesus. Mt.4:1-10; Mk.1:13; Lk.4:1,2. Satan had no interest in Jesus. Jn.14:30.

I agree that Satan tempted Jesus, so there is no need to review those verses. But let’s look at the second claim and see if it states that Satan had “no interest” in Jesus:

John 14:30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me,

The plain reading of the text shows that Satan has no hold on Jesus. It does not claim that he has no interest in Jesus. Why do they think that is a contradiction?

#27 The people were not impressed with the feeding of the multitude. Mk.6:52. The people were very impressed with the feeding of the multitude. Jn.6:14.

Mark 6:52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

John 6:14 After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

At first glance the skeptics appear to have a point. After all, Mark 6:52 seems to indicate that they didn’t have a strong reaction. But did you notice that the first word of the verse isn’t capitalized? I wonder what the previous verse says and why it wasn’t included . . .

Mark 6:51-52 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

Ah! Maybe the skeptics left it out because it annihilates their “contradiction.” It turns out the people were impressed after all. You just have to go back one half sentence, or one word for that matter. So are these guys really that ignorant or are they truly deceptive? Do they just assume that people won’t open the book for themselves?

I may come back for more later. The Tektonics Apologetics Encyclopedia is a good site to bookmark (it is in my Apologetics links to the right). You can quickly look up a passage to see thorough responses to common objections.

There it is in a nutshell, ladies and gentlemen. You won't hear much about this kind of thing in the media, because these folks are so out there as to be just inside the atmosphere. Yet, I would submit that this small sample is indicative of exactly what the Republican Party will look like in the near future.

Let us hope so.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How Hard Is It To Use Google?

Here is a categorical statement.
Nobody, I mean NOBODY dies from lack of health insurance.

I'm not even sure, in the course of the larger comment, how such a statement is relevant. Anyway, I went to our old friend Google, and typed the following in the little search box: dead+because+no+insurance. When I did that, the very first item on the screen, after some adds for Blue Cross was this story.
Patrick McSorley, a victim of defrocked priest John J. Geoghan who became
one of the most visible critics of clergy sexual abuse, was discovered
dead early yesterday in a North End apartment, his lawyer said yesterday.
A close friend said McSorley, 29, occasionally went to the apartment to
take drugs owing to a chronic substance-abuse problem that had plagued him for several years.

"To think he had come this far and just to have it end so abruptly -- it's
a tragic ending," said the friend, Alexa MacPherson, 29,... "I spent a lot of last summer and fall trying to help him get into a drug-rehabilitation program. He definitely was in need of some serious help," MacPherson said.

"There were days when we would spend 10, 12, 14 hours at . . . hospitals, trying to get him in. He wanted their help so badly, and we basically got turned away because he had no health insurance."

Kind of puts a dent in his rather sweeping statement.

The thing is, before making such a statement, all Marshall had to do was use Google. It took me less than thirty seconds, and I came up with a list of 584,000 hits with those four words.

Ignorant, bigoted, and lazy. What a wonderful combination.


I have been remiss in not addressing one of my favorite seasons of the Christian year - Advent. Similar to Lent in that it is a season of preparation for an important feast day, it not only chronicles the events as the Holy Family and its extended members prepare for the birth of their child; it also addresses the larger framework of how we prepare ourselves for God doing something new. For this reason, a traditional series of texts for Advent is Isaiah 40-55. Written as the people were released from their captivity in Babylon, there is such inexpressible joy behind the various expressions of joy that, as familiar as I am with these chapters, I am always moved by the singular thought - "We are free; what we have longed for has arrived." Unlike, say Zechariah (the father of John the Baptizer), there is no questioning of God's proclamation of something new and wonderful occurring. There is just the opposite. An effusive praise for God delivering the chosen people . . . back home.

As Americans, our understanding of exile is fairly non-existent. At most, we might have a nostalgic longing for the home of our childhood. If roots run deeper, there might be some serious jonesing for a return to the place of one's birth. This hardly compares with the ongoing desire to return to the Land Promised by the LORD to those chosen by God. To really get a sense of this longing, of what the exile in Babylon meant, before one reads those sixteen chapters in Isaiah, one should read, closely and carefully, the book of Lamentations. I have rarely read a poem that so clearly captures the sense, not just of loss, but of shattering than is contained within that long poem. It makes the declaration of God's continued presence even as the people's entire world crumbled around them all that more poignant, and the realization that arrives in Isaiah 40 so much more powerful.

Our preparation for the arrival of Jesus, for the coming of God's presence in our world and in our lives has a three-fold content. We are to remember, certainly. We are also to prepare ourselves for the arrival of Christmas as reality here and now. We are also, however, to be comforted as we anticipate the final consummation of God's act toward us, the arrival of the Kingdom of God. The Church exists at the nexus of all these converging points, wherein God takes our sense of time and redefines it, and by so doing, takes us out of whatever concerns we may have, no matter how real or legitimate they may be, and reminds us that we are always to take comfort.

In this time when the days are ever-shortening; in this time when there is trepidation across the land and around the world; in this time when officials mocked a call to hope and all that is contained in that little word we are reminded in this season to remember that God is indeed doing something new, has done something new, will do something new. We are to take comfort that God's promises are not empty, our hope is not void of any reference. Advent calls us to be comforted because even now God is changing everything, even time itself, preparing to do something new. Offering us a more abundant life, for others certainly, but most especially for the God who delivers us from our exile in despair and hopelessness.

Monday, December 01, 2008

An Open Letter To Autumn Brewington - A Modest Proposal

Autumn Brewington
Op-Ed Page Editor
Washington Post

Ms Brewington;

In the light of the recent election, and the dismal performance of those columnists whom you employ and have as guests on your Op-Ed page, it would seem to me to be in keeping with President-elect Obama's decision for bold action, changing the way Washington does business, to do two things.

Fire all your columnists.

Open your Op-Ed pages to the best political commentators around. The bloggers.

I realize we have earned a reputation among journalists and commentators as somehow beyond the pale, but it seems to me, reading over a list of those who appear regularly on your Op-Ed page, that "beyond the pale" is as good a description of the following names as one could imagine: David Broder, Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Richard Cohen, Fred Hiatt, David Ignatius, Robert Kagan, Ruth Marcus, Robert Novak. If there is a bigger list of truly incompetent, intellectually dishonest commentators than this, I can't find it. Your one saving grace is that "William Kristol" doesn't appear on the list.

I say "incompetent" not because they do not know the craft of writing. I say "incompetent" because each of these individuals, over a period of years, has a history not only of misreading the political weather, but of insisting that their voice is somehow part of some mythical "American voice" they represent. Yet this entire cohort marched headlong over the cliff this past election cycle, refusing to write the one thing that mattered - that Barack Obama was going to win the election because the nation was (a) tired of George W. Bush in particular and (b) disgusted with Republicans in general. These aren't opinions; these are facts, not at all cited by your list of Pulitzer Prize winners.

Which leads me to the "intellectually dishonest" charge. Over the years, Charles Krauthammer has compared, favorably, George Bush to Winston Churchill; David Broder predicted a political comeback for President Bush; Robert Kagan failed to disclose his relationship to and partnership with a key architect of the President's "surge" policy in Iraq; just this weekend, George Will misrepresented the facts and historical interpretation concerning the economic consequences of the New Deal, even after having been schooled on national television about the reality by Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. Apparently Will is also a coward, feeling safer spouting his lies in a forum where he cannot be contradicted by a scholar.

The list of grievances is far longer, and reaches as far back as George Will's breach of journalistic ethics during the 1980 Presidential campaign, when he served as a debate coach with then-Republican nominee Ronald Reagan. It should probably include David Broder overplaying Edmund Muskie's reaction to the fabricated "Canuck" letter during the 1972 Democratic primary. Now, it is true Broder wrote about his role in that event, and apologized for it. He did so, however, decades later, long after the damage had been done.

That is part of the problem. None of the people mentioned here has faced any real consequences for their serial professional failures. Not even a withholding of column space for a day or week or two in the light of either a serious factual error or a prediction gone horribly wrong.

The track record of moderate and liberal voices on the internet, however, ranks among the best and brightest. Whether it is Digby, DDay, and Tristero at Hullabaloo, Duncan Black at Eschaton, John Amato at Crooks and Liars, or the hundred and perhaps even thousands of small-timers out there, our insights, our predictions, our understanding and interpretation of the facts and events over the course of the past election cycle, and our refusal to rely on cant or trite formulas all make reading liberal blogs and political commentators far more interesting, informative, and productive than any of the men or women mentioned above.

Yet, scorned they and we are, for perhaps having the audacity to think in ways that do not connect with what passes for conventional political wisdom but, precisely because it comes from people whose lives revolve around more than politics, is much closer to the heart of the American people.

Here is my proposal. Once you fire your stable of writers, open up your Op-Ed pages on a rotating basis to bloggers, liberal and conservative. As long as they meet your editorial standards and the rules of your style manual, it would go far not only to opening the possibility for real, serious political commentary in this new Obama era. It might just rescue your declining revenue and circulation numbers. Rather than pay whatever you pay your regular group of writers, you would be paying a standard fee, which I am quite sure is far less than the weekly salary of David Broder, Charles Krauthammer, or Robert Novak.

If this proposal sounds good to you, you can email me through my profile. I remain available at any time.


Geoffrey Kruse-Safford

Movie Monday

I'm switching gears for today. After posting a clip from Pulp Fiction yesterday, I decided to find three more clips from the film. Not so much a moment of Zen, think of it more like a moment of clarity, as Jules says at the end of the movie. Please note, strong language throughout.

First, Vincent and Jules discuss the relative merits of a foot massage, especially as Vincent has to take Marsellus Wallace' wife out on the town that night. . .

Here, Bruce Willis' character, the boxer Butch, learns the hard facts of life from Marsellus. Or perhaps, at things turn out, Marsellus learns some hard facts of life from Butch. Such as the fact that some people just can't be bought.

Finally, the end of the film, in which Tim Roth gets lucky that Sam Jackson's character Jules is in a transitional period. Even more, we learn here that conversion means different things to different people. Sad to say this does not include the banter between Jules and Vincent where we learn that Jules wouldn't eat rat even if it tasted like pumpkin pie. Ah, well. Far more important is the hermeneutic Jules applies to his favorite Bible verse in Ezekiel. One could do worse than Jules in thinking through what the Bible means.

"[G]o Ahead And Give Hillary And Bill The World."

When I was a kid, I wanted to be Bob Woodward. Now, I want Bob Woodward to be me. From Media Matters:
On the November 30 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, while discussing President-elect Barack Obama's expected nomination of Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward remarked of Clinton: "She never goes away, she and her husband." Woodward then added: "It's an amazing national security team that Obama appears to have selected. It's kind of like 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears.' You've got too cool, which might be -- or at least appropriately cool -- General [James] Jones as the national security adviser; [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates is kind of just right, in the middle; and Hillary Clinton, hot."

Maybe if is slipped small needles between my corneas and eyeballs it would be more pleasant than this stupidity. Unless some things change, this will continue until Mrs. Clinton leaves Foggy Bottom. Ugh.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kathy Zoeller, 1948-2008

A mother, a wife, a gifted musician and director of music, Kathy finally lost her year-long battle with cancer this morning. She used to direct the bell choir, both youth and adult, at church. She and her husband, Bob, and their children, Amy and Bobby (both of whom attend Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington), are all gifted musicians, who offered their gifts without price to anyone who would listen.

Kathy loved children. She was a second mother to little Alex Saavedra, another child of our church. She would insist on having Moriah and Miriam over for a night, and she and Bob would entertain them. They have a pool and an outdoor jacuzzi, and the kids would swim and luxuriate to their hearts' content. We would all go over, just us or several of us from church, for parties.

Her husband retired two years ago to spend time with his wife. Now, she is gone.

As the mystery is solved for her, the pieces still lie around for all of us who knew her and loved her. I pray all of us, most especially her family, but also the Saavedra's little girl Alex, find the comfort that comes to those who mourn.

Another America-Hating Liberal Speaks Out

The only thing I tire of more than hearing Britney Spears' "Womanizer" is reading the folks at American Descent talk about how America doesn't torture. It's tiresome because it's demonstrably false, but no matter how much evidence piles up, no matter how many testimonies come out, not just from the victims but the perpetrators, it lands upon their ears like snow in the Sahara.

Think Progress notes another first-hand account.

I am quite sure that there will all sorts of verbal gymnastics and intellectual contortions employed to "prove" that the writer (a) isn't who he claims to be; (b) is overstating the use of various torture techniques; (c) admits there is no way to prove that torture has hurt the pursuit of our interests anyway, if it were used. Since folks who manage to employ each and every one of these arguments are impermeable to reason, I'll leave it to the rest of you to make of it what is obviously there:
I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. … It’s no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.

It is obvious that this soldier is an enemy of the state and should be shot immediately.

Meaningless - A Theme

It's either trivial, or perhaps quadrivial (to quote James Joyce), but it don't mean much at all. Except fun. BTW, ER, consider yourself tagged.

1. Five names you go by:
a) Geoffrey
b) Geoff (mostly family)
c) Mr. Kruse-Safford
d) Geoffrey Stephen (my mother still does this!)
e) Dad

2. Three things you are wearing right now:
a) Green carpenter's pants
b) White Rugby shirt
c) Steel toe boots

3. Two things you want very badly at the moment:
a) More money (pedestrian, I know, but it doesn't make it not true)
b) Peace of mind (not necessarily in this order?)

4. Three people who will probably fill this out:
In all honesty, the only one I think will do so is ER, whom I've already tagged.

5. Two things you did last night:
a)Watched A Christmas Story for what will surely be the first of a hundred times
b)Drank two Leinenkugel Creamy Dark Lagers and fell asleep (such a cheap date)

6. Two things you ate today:
a) Nothing yet, unless coffee counts as an "eat"
b) Certainly not the pet food I put out for our menagerie

7. Two people you last talked to on the phone:
a) The wife
b) The mother-in-law (God, that's awful; how domesticated is that?)

8. Two things you are going to do tomorrow:
a) Awaken to an empty house
b) Spend my time at work wondering what I'm going to blog about the next day

9. Two longest car rides:
a) Waverly, NY to Hattiesburg, MS, with a side trip further on to New Orleans, LA
b) Jarratt, VA to Sycamore, IL in one day . . . twice in a week!

10. Two of your favorite beverages:
a) Lemonade on a hot summer day
b) Welch's Cherry Burst cocktail

Finally, two scenes put together from the best movie of all time, Pulp Fiction. Obviously, there is strong language, and a pretty graphic shooting. I know it's wrong, but I laugh every single time Marvin gets shot, and Vincent's nonchalant reaction, "Oh man, I just shot Marvin in the face." Can't help it, it's just . . . funny.

If His Lips Are Moving, George Will Must Be Lying

In the movies, zombies can only be killed by shooting them in the head, or cutting their heads off. You can destroy their bodies, remove limbs, etc., but as long as the head is intact, it still poses a danger. In the world in which we live, political-historical lies continue to live even after they have been definitively disproved. The reason is simple. There are enough people willing to hear these lies and consider them as possible that they keep the waters muddied.

Such is George Will's column today.
Early in what became the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes was asked if anything similar had ever happened. "Yes," he replied, "it was called the Dark Ages, and it lasted 400 years." It did take 25 years, until November 1954, for the Dow to return to the peak it reached in September 1929. So caution is sensible concerning calls for a new New Deal.

The assumption is that the New Deal vanquished the Depression. Intelligent, informed people differ about why the Depression lasted so long. But people whose recipe for recovery today is another New Deal should remember that America's biggest industrial collapse occurred in 1937, eight years after the 1929 stock market crash and nearly five years into the New Deal. In 1939, after a decade of frantic federal spending -- President Herbert Hoover increased it more than 50 percent between 1929 and the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt -- unemployment was 17.2 percent.

"I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started," lamented Henry Morgenthau, FDR's Treasury secretary. Unemployment declined when America began selling materials to nations engaged in a war America would soon join.

It's all here in this long quote. The invocation of the "Roosevelt Recession", a reliance on the Dow as a measure of economic health, mentioning President Hoover as the real father of the New Deal, and the rise of employment during Lend-Lease and the build-up to war.

Except, of course, these are "facts" that are stitched together not by the slender threads of insight and keen analysis, but the heavy hemp rope that's only good for keeping a ship tied to a dock. In other words, Will is citing facts, but he is putting them together the way Frankenstein built his creature. As such, it is not a revived human being, but something monstrous.

Two weeks ago, Will tried to use this same right-wing "historical interpretation" on Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman (not a good idea, George; you both might have Ph.D.s, and Krugman may teach at your alma mater, but he has the Nobel, and you have an op-ed column in the Post, so there is a difference between you), and Krugman schooled him on the way real history, especially real economic history works (the important part comes at the end).

While it is true that it took World War II to lift the US out of the Depression, it is also true, as even conservative historian David Kennedy has written in his massive history of the times, Freedom From Fear, that Roosevelt was essentially a very conservative politician. He disliked the deficit spending he was forced by circumstances to adopt. He preferred the higher taxes, especially the way his tax plan progressed, and limited approach to federal welfare through public works, but also knew that circumstsances did not allow it. His problem, as Krugman notes in the linked video clip and Kennedy explains in detail in his book, was that he took too much heart from the way the economy was improving through the first year and a half of his second term. While unemployment decreased, investment started to tick upward, and banks seemed stable, the underlying structural impediments and deficiencies of the system had yet to be fully rooted out. Another part of the problem, which Kennedy does address and Krugman did not (a TV appearance would hardly be a place to do so) was the stupid Smoot-Hawley tariff, which placed such high tariffs on imports that it, for all practical purposes, shut down our foreign trade. This was made worse by the rising tide of Japanese imperialism in the Pacific, where the Japanese navy, rather than the Royal Navy of Great Britain, controlled the sea lanes. Nervous about antagonizing the Japanese, trade across the Pacific was curtailed, except to the Japanese themselves, who continued to buy our scrap steel to build its war machine.

In other words, a combination of political timidity and historical circumstances were as much a part of the lengthening of the Great Depression as anything. It certainly was not the fault of the New Deal that the Depression lasted as long as it did; nor did the New Deal "fail" to end the Depression, since that was never the plan in the first place. Will is just repeating nonsensical lies that only anti-historical conservatives love to repeat in order to discredit Democratic policies.

It is necessary to repeatedly call these lies what they are, even though it is quite tiresome to note that Will is lying. Repeating them doesn't make them true, and an honest, truly informed review of the historical record bears that out.

Virtual Tin Cup

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