Thursday, September 22, 2005

Double the Fun?

We are so used to the vicarious compassion and anxiety and outrage we feel for universally shared news stories. It's not quite right to say that those are feelings meant for consumption in the safety of one's living room, because they can prompt people to real actions -- to collect supplies for donation to hurricane victims, to jump on a plane and fly into a war zone. But imagine how it turns things inside out to be feeling that distanced, packaged emotion for yourself and your fellow passengers, weirdly layered over your immediate fear. The plane is inside the screen, and you, watching the screen, are inside the plane.
[via Ambivablog]

Floating Icons

In the first flood of photos documenting the effects of Hurricane Katrina, I hadn't noticed how many struck a religious theme. Looking more closely, however, there were any number of floating icons, windswept priests, home made signs appealing for mercy, and churches with roofs blown off and spires folded over.

As humble as these images were, it made me think they might represent a different presence for religion. After years of being preached to by this government and threatened with hell fire, perhaps a new order had arrived. Maybe the Almighty him- (or her-) self had decided to step down from the Bush team.

Whatever it was, the failure of the government to respond effectively to human suffering couldn't have done more to erode the far right's claim to the moral high ground. At the same time, just the perception that racial and economic demographics was a variable in the application of "compassionate conservatism" couldn't have been more damning.

Looking back at Katrina, it's possible one of the profound effects will be the neutralizing of God as a right wing asset.
[via BAGnewsNotes, HT: Street Prophets]

Real Wedge Issues

I cannot stand the smugness of liberals. I cannot stand the sanctimony of conservatives. I like the sweetness and basic kindness of liberals, even when they are hopeless ninnies. I like the strength and conviction of conservatives, but not when it turns them mean....

Ideology is brain death. Ideology is cement poured in the ears.

What unites us in the Mighty Middle is not lock-step agreement, but a willingness to keep our minds open, to eschew ideology, to look at the facts, to re-evaluate from time to time, to fight like hell when we think we're right but also to listen to the "other" side because you know, it's just possible the other side is more right. I happen to be a Democrat, but there are plenty of Republicans out here in the middle, too.

Odds are you think I'm wrong about at least one issue. And I don't want to shock you, but I probably am wrong about at least one issue. Unlike the ideologues of Left and Right, I don't claim to have The One and Only Truth.... You're entitled to your opinion, but you're not entitled to an unchallenged opinion.

There's really only one requirement for membership in the Mighty Middle: you have to love truth more than certainty. Start there and you'll find you can't squeeze into either the Left or the Right wings.
[via , HT: CommonSenseDesk]

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Silence Instead

There is an ever-increasing crowd around, of the people who try to protect my interests. In fact, the people who claim to protect the interests of others could, apparently, outnumber them. Every person you meet talks like an activist, and tries to make you one. Some of them have come from far away countries, as if fewer people have been left in their own countries with unprotected interests. They all claim to be fighting here on my behalf: And not by words alone, at that, at times....

Sometimes it gladdens me to find that - unlike I often assumed - I am not alone to protect my interests.

But it can not remain so strident for ever, as I may loose my sanity. Sooner or later, this fact will be recognized. And I hope a few of the people, protecting my interests, will see the futility of the whole matter, and give up. Also, that, the remaining few, tenacious enough to not give up, will agree on something that will be in the best interest of mine.

That day possibly the things will become quieter, if not silent. It is the silence that I seek as an answer to my silence. But I only get more words that I am not supposed to answer.
[via humour]


Slavery is anything that makes anyone feel less than human.

I say our guilt remains.
[via Unedited Ravings]

Meanwhile, in the comments...
You've defined a problem but offered no solution. Not very helpful. I trust you do better in business....Congratulations, you are now no better than those who judge an entire ethnic group to be lazy or dishonest.
by Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit...

Middle Grounding...

I find this kind of labelling is rather narcissistic. When labelling others "liberal" or "conservative" it is always relative to our own position. I become the mean point, so to speak, on the liberal/conservative scale; everyone is right or left of me.
[via The Eagle & Child]

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bring Out The Big Guns...

The Wittenburg Door:

Featuring interviews of Ginger Geyer, Christopher Moore (author of The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal) and Diana Butler Bass (part of Projects on Congregations of Intentional Practice).

Also includes stuff on Christianity Yesterday, why Hermie from Max Lucado is more than a cute nickname, Official U.S. Government Sin Pyramids, and The Hitchhicker's Guide to the Abyss, amongst other things.

The Last Word: Rendering unto Caesar by Ole Anthony

Friday, September 16, 2005

Spun Construction

"Strict construction" and avoiding "legislating from the bench" are two common phrases to suggest the propriety of a narrow reading of the constitution, deferring to the presumptive wishes and intentions of the framers themselves. "Judicial activism" – an epithet commonly associated with liberal jurisprudence, cues concerns about liberal judges creating rights where none ought to exist, in the context of an overly permissive culture. From the conservative point of view, notorious in this regard is the right to privacy, the foundation for the Roe decision, a product of "penumbras formed by emanations…" rather than an explicit mention in the constitution itself. We have no comparable epithet for judges who show hostility to congressional regulatory authority. But, isn't that judicial activism – an assertion of judicial supremacy over our democratically elected congress, the most directly democratic federal institution we have? And, what strictly construed rights is the court protecting when it overturns Congress' regulatory authority? The rights of large private interests? If the word "privacy" doesn't appear in the constitution, where does the language supporting the rights of corporations, which didn't even exist in the legal form that we now apprehend them? What right is being violated by enforcement of the Endangered Species act, legislation whose legal foundations Roberts has gone farther in challenging than even the conservative administrations for which he has worked? Is that not an aggressive form of judicial activism?

...Whether we're talking about literal interpretation of the bible, a strict phonics approach to reading or a strict constructionist view of the constitution, the same thread runs through our national policy debates. The Conservative movement (which is not to say all conservatives) has launched a full scale war against any independence of thought, any effort to consider traditional ways of seeing the world in the light of a complex and ever-changing reality and has created the false impression that, in doing so, it has shown a fealty to things "as they really are" in order to obscure its own aggressive agenda for transforming reality. Rather than taking this nominee at his word, or suspending disbelief about the intentions of an administration whose every calculation is political in nature, it would pay to probe whether a coherent judicial philosophy, whether understood as a restrained judiciary or a strict constructionist view of the constitution, exists at all for Roberts.
[via The Gadflyer: Flytrap]

Don't confuse me with the faith, my facts are made up.

Since Government Fails...

The government’s botched response to hurricane Katrina is (take your pick):

1) A sign of the dangers of shrinking government so small that it can fit in a bathtub.

2) A sign of the dangers of big government bureaucracy, which not only fails to respond effectively to disaster itself, but blocks others from giving assistance.

3) A sign that our government is big in the wrong places, and therefore not able to respond well enough to the things that are really part of its core functions.

People on both sides of the “big government” debate have read the Katrina aftermath in their favor, and with reason, because, on the face of it, government seems to have screwed up in both directions, from the leave everyone to drive themselves out evacuation plan to the guns that police in neighboring suburbs are said to have aimed at people fleeing New Orleans....

While it’s foolish to believe that government can do no right, it’s wise to remember that government can’t do everything well. Second, the reminder that government should have limits. We may not all agree on what those limits should be, but that there are some boundaries that should be maintained on government’s powers, we should agree. And, third, a tendency to see government as performing particular practical functions, rather than as a moral teacher for everyone. As I’ve said many times, I don’t think it’s government’s business to make us all moral; that’s a matter for culture, not government. It is government’s business to establish justice, protect the weak, and provide such public goods as can be better handled by government.
[via Noli Irritare Leones]

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

No History

Ever since Theophilus torched the Library of Alexandria, we librarians and archivists have been a little tetchy when it comes to disaster planning. That’s the first thing we learning Library school: disasters will happen. Whether it’s Christian Fanatics burning down pagan temples of knowledge, Capitalist Fanatics looting the Bagdad Museum, or just a hurricane of immense size, shit happens. The only way you manage is by having a disaster plan ready to go the moment you can begin recovery. It helps also if the government agency in charge of the disaster zone is hamstrung by its own incompetence, refusing to let rescue workers and support staff in tot he afflicted city to asses damage or just deliver some clean water and sandwiches.
[via The Invisible Library]

Respect the Facts...

I would argue that policymakers who do not respect expertise, statistics, and empirical data are bound to create failure in any large endeavor, not just obviously technological ones.

Chris [Mooney]pointed out that there is no dedicated public interest research group that goes around rating politicians for the integrity of their use of science and general science-friendliness. It's certainly not a task the AAAS can take up. Now might be the time to start one. At Cody's I met a young astrophysics student who has just started the DefendScience project at Take a look.

Finally, there are example of causes "on the left" which similarly abuse science. Opponents of genetically engineered food (who have a good case when they stick to ecological diversity and economics of seed hording) often stoop to making wishy washy arguments based on weak or nonexistent evidence of the harm to humans. Animal-rights activists often make atrocious arguments--blatantly misinforming the public by touting a nonexistent ability to model complex systems (instead of testing), minimizing role that experiments on animals have in all fields of medicine, or falsely trumpetting the ability of lab-rats to survive in the wild. The difference between the Republican and Democratic party is that on the left these groups are marginalized and hardly courted by the party, while their conservative equivalents (religious fundamentalists and industrial corporations) form the solid base of the Republican party and are strongly courted by them. Reporters and debaters too often fall into the cognitive trap created by years of compare and contrast essays, giving equal time to both sides of the coin. Sometimes the coin just isn't fair, and it's a sign of intelligence to recognize that and acknowledge it.
[via Saheli*: Musings and Observations, emphasis mine]

Monday, September 12, 2005

Absorbing the World

On the anniversary of 9/11, I feel it's important, more than ever, not to be self-absorbed Americans. Was it terrible that 3,000 people lost their lives four years ago? Absolutely. But this is a drop in the bucket compared to what goes on in other countries every day, whether it be in Africa or the Middle East.
[via wasp jerky]

It is in the moments where work and play become indistinguishable that we grow together as community.

When laughter and playfulness can meet meet labor and stress head on, there is an ease to the processes of living, dying and the expending our energies.

Community can make the largest tasks bearable, because we get to do them together.
[via, HT: Unedited Ravings]


Dissatisfaction with the way the world is ordered is nothing new. No one is completely satisfied with the way the world is ordered. We are all looking for justice. The French philosopher Paul Ricoeur says the telos or goal of every human life is “aiming at the “good life” with and for others, in just institutions.”[1] People divide over the meaning of “the good life,” we differ about the size of the circle of “others” with whom and for whom we wish to share “the good life,” and we disagree, sometimes violently, about how “institutions” lay claim to being “just,”[2] but in one way or another we are all looking for justice. The problem is that we all have a tendency to believe that justice serves our own personal purposes and some strive to enlist the power of the state to further their own private interests.[3] These tendencies have roots deeper than all the historical conflicts between competing nations and clashing civilizations.[4] It’s a story as old as Cain and Abel....

Almost all of us prefer justice that is more than a little unfair and unequal – a system of justice that tilts the scales in our own favor.
[via Mainstream Baptists]


What are emergencies?

To some, they are life itself, bleeding time.
What are wounds?
To some, they expose us to weakness, hurting pride.
What is pain?
To some, it ends their pleasure, creating outrage.
What is vengeance?
To some, it is justice for all, stopping
  • our pain,
  • our wounds,
  • our emergencies
Does it help?

Everything is Vanity

[quoted at grrrl meets world]

There are no worst days, it seems....

When many lives are lost all at once, people gather together and say words like "heinous" and "honor" and "revenge," presuming to make this awful moment stand apart somehow from the ways people die a little each day from sickness or hunger. They raise up their compatriots' lives to a sacred place--we do this, all of us who are human--thinking our own citizens to be more worthy of grief and less willingly risked than lives on other soil. But broken hearts are not mended in this ceremony, because, really, every life that ends is utterly its own event--and also in some way it's the same as all others, a light going out that ached to burn longer. Even if you never had the chance to love the light that's gone, you miss it. You should. You bear this world and everything that's wrong with it by holding life still precious, each time, and starting over.
--from A Pure, High Note of Anguish by Barbara Kingsolver

Saturday, September 10, 2005

from the poem That Which Runs Away by Mr. Gobley:

Time --
Will, in the end,
Gently move us
To the
Far shore
Of being.

Each day,
You are carried closer
To that shore.

The view of
Time's vast ocean --
A circle of being --
Is the same,
Until one day,
Perhaps all
In one moment,
The shore appears.

Others remain behind
While you are ferried

Open Heartlessness

Concern is over-rated anyway.

Any sloppy, teary-eyed milquetoast with a soft heart and a softer head can be concerned. The trick is to act on your concern.

And concern---caring---feeling deeply about things, about causes and children starving in Africa and your pain, about friends, family, the victims of natural disasters and lost pets and vanishing rainforests and stockholders and the bottom line and the New York Mets, is all too often merely projection.

We care deeply about all those things because we care deeply about ourselves and we see ourselves, darkly, in the looking glass of the world around us. We double our conceit. We love the mirror and then we love ourselves for loving the mirror.

It's how so many bad people don't know themselves to be bad.
[via Lance Mannion]

Personal Survival

The lake formerly known as New Orleans turns out to be an equal opportunity finger pointer. As near as I can tell, New Orleans’ demise represents a tragic, catastrophic failure of not only governmental institutions — be them Federal, state or city — but in some cases, communal failures as well. And we shouldn’t be smug and think communal failure is limited to New Orleans. It could happen anywhere.

We can all be as dissatisfied as we like with the institutions that fail us. But if the buck stops at the President’s desk on one end of the accountability scale, surely it must start in our own homes and communities on the other end. We’re accountable too. We’re in charge of our immediate safety and not leaving it entirely to institutions. All of us are responsible.

Ask yourself if you are prepared for a disaster right now. Do you have enough water or calories stored in your basement to survive a calamity? Most of us don’t. We figure that we’ll get rescued by one of those institutions we feel so bitter towards. I’ve been guilty of this, until a few weeks ago, when all the nuclear terror stories motivated me to take some basic precautions.

Both political parties have spent years and billions of dollars on institutional solutions for citizen survival in catastrophic circumstances. Surely, things can be vastly improved on that scale, and responsibility lies at the feet of our public institutions. But we should also assume some accountability, too. Our basic instinct for survival is not an institutional matter. It’s personal. And it’s communal. In that respect, we’re in charge. It’s up to us, whether we believe it or not.
[via Donklephant]

Discuss Amongst Yourselves

A nation can handle the legitimate passionate outcries of those whose lives have been drastically altered by Hurricane Katrina only if we also have nurtured a public culture in which there is a reasonable discussion of the basic goals of civil society. If we now turn to public debates about Supreme Court nominees that echo the understandably angry tones of the desperate folks in Mississippi and Louisiana, we will have failed significantly as a democratic culture....

There has never been a time when it was more important for our nation to take an honest look at itself, reach across the ideological barriers we have erected, and find new ways of living together in some semblance of order.
-- Richard Mouw [via beliefnet]

The Continuing Story

There’s a small silver lining in the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina: At an awful cost, humanity is learning some lessons. History strongly suggests that, by putting these and countless other lessons to use, however imperfectly, we make a contribution to a better world, just as our predecessors did and our successors will do.

It makes you stop and think. In the development of the universe over the past 13-plus billion years, we've been given some marvelous abilities:
  • to observe;
  • to communicate;
  • to care about others;
  • to decide that the world ought to be different;
  • to act, singly and in concert;
  • to learn from experience, both ours and that of others;
  • to change our ways and our world — that is, to adapt;
  • to keep going.
We all exercise these abilities, in varying degrees at various times. When we do, we play a tiny role — often an indirect one, and sometimes badly and at great cost — in the story of the continuing creation of the universe.

[via The Questioning Christian]

Friday, September 09, 2005

Thinking Problems...

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then -- to loosen up. Inevitably, though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.

I began to think alone -- "to relax," I told myself -- but I knew it wasn't true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time....

Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was "Porky's." Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting. I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home.

Life just seemed...easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking.
[via the Word with no pulpit]

Soak It In...

There are four schools of thought on the question of whether the theology of Spongebob is an accurate and helpful account of our lives.

The first school argues that all we really need to know is the broad outline of Spongebob’s story. According to this school, the truth of its claims, that is, that our lives are like the lives of Spongebob, Pat, and Squidward, and develop at the discretion of a great cartoonist, is confirmed at every moment we see our lives develop as a great cartoonist would develop them. Based on the credibility of Spongebob’s story to explain people’s lives, there is reason to believe the claims made that Spongebob himself actually bought burger fixings, and what’s more, when he was erased by unscrupulous computer animators, he was redrawn by the great free-hand cartoonist and walked among us again.

The second school argues that we do have confirmation of the story of Spongebob. For example, there are reliable reports that Spongebob Squarepants was seen buying hamburger buns and pickles at the Hollywood Fred Meyer store in Portland, Oregon, sometime in 2003. According to this school, it’s lucky that they have such evidence available, evidence that confirms the Spongebob story in the face of claims that our lives are like what happens in competing and equally plausible children’s television programming. So, for example, there was a serious challenge by several people who made the argument that our lives were like those in the cartoon of Jimmy Neutron and his friends and family. The basis for their argument was the greater realism afforded by computer graphics.

The third school proposes a skeptical argument that the whole theology of Spongebob rests on there being evidence that Spongebob and his buddies exist. According to this school, the evidence offered in support of the claims made about Spongebob’s appearance is not sufficient because it is second or third hand, and possibly created with a more sinister agenda in mind. Without evidence, according to this view, the story of Spongebob is no different than any other entertaining fiction. Without evidence, the story of Spongebob cannot give meaning to our lives or provide an account of salvation. In brief, if there is no historical Spongebob, there can be no Spongebob of faith.

The fourth school questions the account offered that Spongebob Squarepants actually bought burger buns and other picnic fixings at a supermarket in Portland Oregon, sometime a few years ago. Their argument is a matter of first questioning the idea that our lives could be anything like the seemingly fulfilling lives of cartoon characters in a make believe community at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The suggestion depends on first adopting a view of reason as a matter of logic that makes life a matter of suffering. When there would be no reason to think life was suffering because we would reject the Socratic principles that made it so, it would then be unnecessary to grasp at the straws provided by a theology of Spongebob promising to make life worthwhile again. Again in brief, if there isn't a Spongebob of faith, there can't be an historical Spongebob either.

The four schools provide arguments for and against the theology of Spongebob as an account of our reality.
[via Touchy Subjects]

Not Holy, A-holy

Rev. Fred Phelps, the Anti-Barney the Dinosaur:

"God hates you. God hates us.
We just make a major fuss.
With a big website and a church to yell and spew.
Won't you say you hate them too?"

two paramedics caught by Katrina while attending an EMS conference in new orleans. you won't believe their story.

on the other hand, maybe you won't be surprised at all.
[noted through ill-sorted ephemera

From A Distance...

My mom participates in online discussion groups all the time. She's particularly attracted to the ones that discuss issues of poverty and race. Over the Labor Day weekend, she witnessed the first tide of backlash against the victims of the New Orleans flood.

I didn't think I'd see this kind of backlash in the context of the worst natural disaster in U.S. History. The current death toll estimates are 10,000. That's 10,000 souls. That's five 9/11's. 10,000 brothers and sisters, mom's and dads, students, workers and professionals. 10,000 Whites, Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and tourists from overseas. 10,000 dreams... gone... forever.

In my work over the past 6 years as an ethnic & racial reconciler, I've come to expect the spirits of self-actualization and rugged independence to rear their heads in discussions of race and racism. The comments usually come from those who have benefitted from affirmative action on behalf of America's ethnic majority and they sound something like this:

"Well, they just need to get off welfare and get a job."


"My grandfather pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. He was poor and didn't have a dime to his name during the depression. He started his own business. He taught us that we could do anything we put our minds to."


"They have such a victim mentality. When are they going to take personal responsibility for their position in the world."

When discussing poverty and class, these comments seem logical and even wise at first glance. I mean, shouldn't everyone be responsibile for his or her own fortune and future? Isn't it degrading to have to depend on the government for one's livelihood. This seems like good sense. Yet, this line of thinking reveals something else far more insidious and pervasive in our country today.

It reveals a view of the world as seen through eyes of privilege. These privileged eyes usually have no idea they are privileged. They have all but forgotten their own the privileged majority's dependence on the government sponsored "welfare" programs of yesteryear designed specifically to benefit White Americans.
[via Peace Prayers]

The Big Easy...Story?

Why focus so exclusively on New Orleans?

I do realize that New Orleans is turning into a much bigger disaster. I realize that it is the larger city and that, as far as we know, the relief efforts there have been a much bigger fiasco. I realize that the Big Easy is the cultural center that matters more to the national audience.

In effect, I am asking this: Is covering New Orleans such a singular priority because that story has political implications at a crucial time for the White House? In other words, I suspect that this offers more proof that in journalism politics trumps everything. It’s the highest value. Period....

There are towns elsewhere that are, literally, missing. They are gone. People need prayers there, too.
[via GetReligion]

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Operation Pumped-Up

[HT: Mainstream Baptist, in this post]

...FEMA's relief efforts have brought considerable assistance to at least one man who stands to benefit from Hurricane Katrina perhaps more than any other individual: Pat Robertson.

With the Bush Administration's approval, Robertson's $66 million relief organization, Operation Blessing, has been prominently featured on FEMA's list of charitable groups accepting donations for hurricane relief. Dozens of media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN and the Associated Press, duly reprinted FEMA's list, unwittingly acting as agents soliciting cash for Robertson. "How in the heck did that happen?" Richard Walden, president of the disaster-relief group Operation USA, asked of Operation Blessing's inclusion on FEMA's list. "That gives Pat Robertson millions of extra dollars."

Though Operation USA has conducted disaster relief for more than twenty-five years on five continents, like scores of other secular relief groups currently helping victims of Hurricane Katrina, it was omitted from FEMA's list. In fact, only two non-"faith-based" organizations were included.... While relief efforts falter in the face of colossal bureaucratic incompetence, the Bush Administration's promotion of Operation Blessing has ensured that the floodwaters swallowing New Orleans will be a rising tide lifting Robertson's boat.
--from Pat Robertson's Katrina Cash by Max Blumenthal (in The Nation), emphasis mine

Since "government doesn't work" has been the conservative mantra for the past 30 years -- at least -- it wasn't all that surprising when initial reactions to the Hurricane Katrina disaster from the Bush camp had a distinct undertone of "Hey, waddya expect us to do?" After all, government isn't the solution -- it's the problem! So let the New Orleans underclass roast in the Superdome and fry on the rooftops while they wait for the magic of the marketplace to start kicking in. There's golf to be played, guitars to be strummed and shoes to be bought. This is the Bush administration we're talking about, and sooner or later we're all going to learn what every Crescent City resident now knows -- if you haven't written a fat check to the GOP in the past year, then you'd best keep those water wings handy....

Meanwhile, I'm afraid I have to say that Mother Nature's disastrous refutation of everything conservatives hold dear -- chiefly the cult of small government and the notion that a 21st century technological civilization can be run like an 18th century farming village -- will have zero long-term effect on voting patterns. The GOP strategy of holding the base and confusing the issues with Swift-Boat tactics is still effective, and the typically ineffectual Democratic response guarantees that there will be no electoral consequences from this catastrophe in the mid-term races. FEMA director Michael Brown may get sent back to the stables, but that's about it.

I'd love to be wrong on this. But the national Democrats seem to have grown comfortable with the way Republican bootheels feel on the back of their necks. Time to start investing in lifeboats.
[via The Opinion Mill]


Andrew Sullivan actually said something good (and his coverage of the incompetence of FEMA has been outstanding). After quoting Michael Moore blaming New Orleans not on the hurricane, but on Bush, Sully quips:
Once again, the far left does its best to shore up the president; and change the subject from his incompetence to their unhinged extremism.
I just realized that is exactly the trap I fell into, of sorts...I still believe the initial rush to hold Bush repsonsible for the failed rescue was totally misplaced; unfortunately, it had the effect of making future, now legitimate, criticisms of Bush’s performance seem to be cut from the same cloth. I hereby officially apologize for getting so wrapped up in demanding “legitimate criticism” from the obviously insane that I was unable to recognize it when it finally began to arrive from the thinking.
[via The Conjecturer]

Exposing Weakness

Imagine if a few weeks ago someone had polled all of the Bush critics in the country, and asked them to list the primary faults that they see in this administration. I suspect, give or take a few entries, the results would have looked something like this:

Obsession with Iraq at the cost of all other national priorities
Unwillingness to admit mistakes
Hostility to science
Embarrassing juvenile attitude
Indifference to the fates of the poorest members of society
Cronyism and unwillingness to fire anyone for incompetence
Tendency to spend way too much time on vacation
Inability to plan and execute large-scale operations effectively

If Hurricane Katrina ends up being the turning point when it becomes clear to a solid majority of the country that Bush has been a fundamentally incompetent leader, I suspect it will be because the Katrina crisis turned out expose all eight of these flaws. The hurricane itself may have swerved east and dropped down to a category 3 before it hit land, but where Bush's political reputation was concerned, it was the perfect storm.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The impersonal is not the immortal.
The personal is not the powerful.

Aborting abortion is like the futility of trying to kill death. It truly takes something bigger than life itself, like immortality.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Obvious Shortcoming

If we didn’t live in ignorance we wouldn’t tempt politicians to stage photo-ops in the midst of human suffering. We like to blame our politicians for their obvious shortcomings but more often than not our leaders reflect us rather than lead us.

We are like children when facing the consequences of our wrongdoing. We blame.... In the midst of this we are missing the message.
[via The Heresy]

Simple Answers


BATON ROUGE, LA. -- The horrific hurricane-force winds, rain, flooding and storm surges the U.S. Gulf Coast region experienced Monday night were caused by a hurricane, according to The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.)

"People have been trying to figure out what caused this devastation," said Dr. Phil Mixon, chief meterologist at NOAA. "Some believe it was caused by all the partying done at Mardi Gras, others blamed the huge Catholic population in New Orleans, and some attributed it to President Bush's decision to invade Iraq, but after careful research, we figured out that what actually caused the damage was just a really big hurricane."

Some were not convinced, however. In a new TIME Magazine/CNN poll, the overwhelming majority of conservatives and liberals believe that somebody on the Gulf Coast probably angered God. Responses given for the destruction ranged from "gambling sinners" to "too many gas-guzzling SUVs on the roads" to presidential policies gone awry.

"So you mean to tell me they are saying a hurricane caused that destruction?" asked Cindy Marshall, a buyer for Marshall Fields in Chicago. "Even so, somebody must have done something to provoke the hurricane, right?"

The Rev. Warren Martin, of Friendship Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn.,also has doubts the destruction was caused by a hurricane. "If you are truly one of God's children, He will bless you," said Martin. "They weren't blessed, so what does that tell you." Martin and a team of lay missionaries will minister to refugees at some of the shelters in Louisiana and Texas. Martin and his parishoners will distribute food, clothing and diapers once refugees agree to ask Jesus "into their hearts," and commit to Christ. "Spiritual hunger is what we are really fighting here, and we have the answer," he said.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Grief is when a valley seems like a mountain.
Hope is when the valley turns into the mountain.

Counting the Cost

If I were to ask the question, "why did it take 5 days for buses to arrive to evacuate people" it is interpreted automatically as an "anti-Bush" statement. Asking hard questions after a devastating event is not about pointing fingers (which is nothing more than sandbox behavior). Asking hard questions is what any accountable agency would do after such an unparalleled disaster....

Watching the plight of the people, makes it that much important to do a full review of the relief efforts. Large numbers of lives are lost, entire businesses and structures and schools are gone. Again, it is not about "Liberal" social paternalism (let us do for you what you cannot do for yourself). It is about giving a shit about people that have real issues. If our nation, province, city and neighbors become so hard to the fact that sometimes bad things happen and people need a hand that we turn a blind eye, then God help us all.
[via Reflective Musings]

Seen and Not Heard

Sometimes, untold horror is best left that way - untold. When the tsunami struck my first instinct was to thank God that no one I loved and cared about was hurt. With Katrina I have counted my selfish little blessings again. No one I know was in the area. Millions of others have not been as lucky. Next time tragedy strikes I may not be either - it is only fair that we take our turns at experiencing tragedy at a raw, visceral level so when someone else hurts we hurt along equally.
[via Heartcrossings]

Better Late Than Never?

[via Deccan Herald]

Neither the political friends of Mr Bush nor his political foes have commended the official response to the tragedy about which there were several advance warnings.

No one says that the Bush administration caused the hurricane but many critics have traced the problem of flooding to the Bush administration’s policies related to environment, cost-cutting for flood-control schemes and emergency services, and diversion of resources to the Iraq war and tax relief to the rich.

The fact that the hurricane struck while Mr Bush was having his long and controversial holiday did not help. When he visited the storm-stricken area, it had witnessed a chaotic exodus. A vast lake of flood water, human waste, snakes and toxic chemicals had drowned an urban settlement....

President Bush had responded a few hours late even to the September 11 tragedy. However, he more than made up by providing what was seen as a resolute leadership in what he turned into a “war” against terrorism.

Experts doubt whether his delayed response to this natural disaster will have such a transformational impact.

In the case of September 11, there was a foreign demon to be fought and to be united against. Nature can not be cast in the mould of Osama bin Laden. That tragedy united the nation. The hurricane and the disproportionate suffering of black Americans and the conduct of the poor have only divided the nation.

This crisis is expected to take a toll of thousands of lives. Losses are estimated at 100 billion dollars. The city of New Orleans can not be drained for weeks. It will be easier to build a new skyscraper on the site in New York where the World Trade Centre stood till very early morning on September 11.

The future of New Orleans remains to be debated. Some say it should be abandoned. For months the after-effects of the storm will be felt by the victims who remain without homes or fall prey to infectious diseases.

As if all that was not bad enough, President Bush is having to confront this crisis at a time when his popularity ratings are falling, the Iraq war is not going well, violence is resurfacing in Afghanistan,and the domestic economic scene and the surge in petrol prices are fuelling anxiety.
from Katrina takes a toll on Bush by L K Sharma

Ground Zero

Something else I have been thinking about in the last days is America’s immunity, over the last century, to disaster on its own shores. World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the two Persian Gulf wars, famines in Africa, and scourges like AIDS, which is killing millions of people in the Third World—none of these horrific happenings has had a lasting effect on us.

Even if in the two world wars (and other wars), American soldiers were killed or wounded in action, the vast majority of us were never in harm’s way. And most of us are still sitting pretty.

We have made an idol of our invincibility and our status as an economic giant and a military superpower. We have made an idol of our high standard of living, our religion, and our supposed closeness to God.

Until last week, when Katrina blew in, we thought we could handle any and every crisis that came along. But in five short days, some of our most cherished ideals—take “government for the people,” for instance—have been exposed as illusions. To the despairing and the dying in New Orleans—and thus to everyone—all our glorious American achievements mean absolutely nothing.

This should not depress us.
from After Katrina, Some Hard Questions by Johann Christoph Arnold

Sunday, September 04, 2005

From ReligionLink:

"The initial shock of Katrina's devastation inspired talk of its "biblical" proportions. But as recovery efforts continue in the weeks and months ahead, religion, faith and ethics will play bigger roles in the stories of how lives and cities are rebuilt. ReligionLink offers a roundup of ideas, with links to background and sources."
{more here}

HT: Get Religion

Natural Disasters Theology

Rather, the God invoked most often now is the distant, inscrutable deity responsible for other no-fault acts such as earthquakes and tornadoes. The "acts" of this God are not willful so much as "natural" -- hence the rise of the term "natural disaster" in the late 19th century. "The concept of an act of God implied that something was wrong," writes scholar Ted Steinberg in an important book called Acts of God: An Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America, "that people had sinned and must now pay for their errors. But the idea of natural disaster may have implicitly suggested the reverse, that something was right, that the prevailing system of social and economic relations was functioning just fine."....

But if this is a religion story, it's not about an act of God or the banal use and abuse of the Bible as substitute aid for people dying of literal thirst; it's about sin. And no vague, blustery "pride of man" stories about ill-preparedness or mistakes by the Army Corps of Engineers will address the original sin of this event.
We need theologically-charged, morally outraged, investigative historical reporting to tell us why and how the dead of New Orleans died, and when their killers -- not Katrina, but the developers and politicians and patricians who are now far from the city -- began the killing. It wasn't Monday, and it wasn't last week. We need journalists, not just historians, to look deeper into the American mythologies of race and money, "personal responsibility" and real responsibility.
[via The Revealer, emphasis mine]

Don't stereotype and condemn. When you do that, it's so easy to write off hundreds of thousands of very good folks who need your help.

[via Howie Luvzus]
Save those who can be saved, even if that means judging those who must be judged

[via GetReligion]

The Adult Universe

We have the free will to make the most of these things.

We also have the capability to suffer when the adult universe plays rough.

The unstated axiom that some folks invoke is “no suffering of an innocent is acceptable in a universe run by a good God”. I disagree. From the stunted perspective of a child, a bee that stings for no reason is not fair or good, and the universe that allows it is not good. An adult can feel very bad for a child that has been stung, but accept that it is better than either of two other alternatives: a universe with out bees at all, or a universe with bees and a parent hovering nearby, every second of the day.

I can accept that not everyone agrees with me.

…but what amazes me is that the discussion only comes up when a telegenic disaster hits.

Technical Difficulties

It seems 'nature' has a lot to answer for in these troubled times. 'The Forces of Nature' were riled against by interviewees on the news in New Orleans - the raw power of wind and water turning all to rubble and splinter. Man's best efforts at order facing the inevitable entropy of muddy chaos. And in Baghdad it seems humane natural panic swept like a hurricane through crowds fed for years on a diet of fear and violence.

The end result of both? The technology that seemed to offer progress cracked and buckled: bridge railings sending hundreds down to drown, and levees collapsing to send water gushing up. And as the luxuries dissolve, the SUVs float away, the access to clean water and convenience food disappears in the mud, our very fragile societies - the very democracy that has marched out to bring an end to terror - are exposed to the awful truth that when a family is thirsty and the shop keepers are absent then windows are going to get broken and supplies are going to go.

They dramatized it as looting on the reports. And I'm sure there's some. But they could only back it up with evidence of hungry folk desperate to stay alive when the authorities were days away from meeting their needs.

I hope that we will all see just how delicate our situations are. It's too easy to look on with disgust as people in far flung places appear to act like animals and loot and smash and fight and protest. But in a matter of days we have seen how the urban poor of a place much more familiar have had to act to survive - and taken in action in conditions that look more like Addis or Dhaka than down USA.
[via The Complex Christ, HT: Jordon Cooper]

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Excuse = [disaster]+[pet peeve/concern]

Theodicy = Excuse + [God/Intelligent Designer]

I just discovered today that Thinking Christian (.net, not .com) has linked to me. The link to him is on the list to the right with the rest. Welcome!

Life, affirmed badly, is death.
Death, considered wisely, is renewal.

Convictions are like addictions.
They can't repair the damage they cause.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Everyone by Themselves

Thanks The Eagle and Child for the reference! :

In much poorer societies, such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka after the Boxing Day tsunami, or in more polarized societies like Montreal during the 1998 ice storm, scenes of looting, violence and selfish desperation did not occur. But the large U.S. cities of the South have a very different sort of group psychology, in which faith in individual fortune replaces the fixed social roles that keep other places aloft during crises.

In U.S. cities like New Orleans, in the analysis of the American-British organizational psychologist Cary Cooper, social cohesion depends on a shared belief that individual hard work, good luck and God's grace will bring a person out of poverty and into prosperity. But those very qualities can destroy the safety net of mutual support that might otherwise help people in an emergency.

... historians point to a constant threat of self-destructive breakdowns that seem to dot U.S. history, belying the thin veneer of civility that sits between entrepreneurial prosperity and mass chaos. The individualistic, egalitarian, anti-authoritarian values that have made the United States succeed have always been accompanied by an every-man-for-himself ethos that can destroy the system itself.
--from Nasty, brutish -- society's net snaps by Doug Sanders at The Globe and Mail

Up dating journal from New Orleans:
click below to go there:

the interdictor

from the site:

This journal has become the Survival of New Orleans blog. In less perilous times it was simply a blog for me to talk smack and chat with friends. Now this journal exists to share firsthand experience of the disaster and its aftermath with anyone interested.
Thanks to Al at The Wittenburg Door Chat Closet for the link!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

"And who would I turn them towards?"

[in the comments to this post at GetReligion]

Larry: Welcome. With the Gulf Coast regions Louisiana and Mississippi reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, our guest tonight has been very busy. He’s been a household name for many years, is the author of several best selling books, and is an expert in theology. Jesus Christ, welcome to the program.

Jesus: Thanks, Larry, good to be here.

Larry: Jesus, let’s get right to the hardest question of all. Did you send this hurricane to create death and destruction? Some on the American Left seem to think this is retribution for the war in Iraq. The Right is claiming it’s a condemnation of Hollywood values.

Jesus: Larry, thanks for giving me the chance to answer that question. No, I had nothing to do with it. I’m still working straight out trying to deal with last year’s tsunami, and I’m spending a lot of time in Africa these days too, and frankly, I just don’t do those kind of things.

Larry: Send hurricanes, you mean.

Jesus: Yeah. I’m never physically *in* the hurricane, moving it around like it’s some kind of airplane. I’m in the face of the rescue workers, and in the hearts of those who pray to me for guidance as they face homelessness and loss. Out of the south may cometh the whirlwind (Job 37:9), but it wasn’t my doing. I’m the still, small voice after the wind, not the wind itself. (1 Kings 19:11)

Larry: But could you have turned this around if you had wanted to?

Jesus: No, it doesn’t work that way.

Larry: So Pat Robertson’s claim that he turned a hurricane around with prayer a few years back wasn’t a true statement?

Jesus: I don’t want to get into Pat Robertson’s statements right now, Larry. That whole assassination thing has kind of got me worked up.

Larry: So you condemn his comments about wanting the U.S. government to assassinate Hugo Chavez?

Jesus: Unreservedly. But back to the whole “turning around the storm thing,” it didn’t happen. I don’t know where he gets this stuff. I’d be turning around storms all the time. And who would I turn them towards? What if two folks in different directions are praying and I have to decide which one to turn it on? No, I’m not getting into that whole mess.

Larry: Okay. We’ll be right back with more with Jesus. And later in the program, and update on the search for Natalee Holloway. You know anything about that, Jesus?

Jesus: I’m not going there, Larry.

[by Stephen A.]

Down the Drain

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.
[via Editor & Publisher, HT: Mainstream Baptist]

Not Subdued

Now we clearly have dominion over all living things on earth, especially when you consider that the ability to doom a species to extinction qualifies as “having dominion”. But are we really able to subdue the earth? New Orleans is something like 10 feet below sea level, and it seems the Mississippi River and the Gulf are reclaiming what was once theirs.
[via I am a Christian Too]

Besides Me

[via the Resonate Journal]

Here's a question I've been asking myself lately: What good has my being a Christian done for anyone on this planet, besides me?
Mike Todd, in the article Taking a Step Back

All Broken

They say that there are some mothers who do not--even cannot-- love their children. Perhaps they are right, but I cannot fathom it. I am a mother, The Mother, and I love all my children. I watch them, every single one, as they enter here. Some see me, and wonder about the Grey One, who watches from the shadows, and wonder for whom she is searching, for whom she weeps.

But ah, I weep for all my sons, all my daughters. Not because I have lost them: oh no, if they had escaped me, I should be glad. But one by one, all join me here. And it is not grief enough that they join me in the shadows, but I must know that I brought them here. Brought them into life, and sealed their fate, to end here....

Yet, for all that I love them, all of them have broken my heart. I am sometimes amazed that it is still so prone to pain. After all, it must be in so many pieces by now that there is nothing left to break! But perhaps it is only justice: after all, it is I who broke their hearts, their souls, their bodies. Mea culpa, domine, mea culpa!
[via Deluded Wine]

Spent in Vain?

Now I tend to be an overly (well, excessively, really) reflective person. So I'm constantly thinking of what I am doing, should be doing, wish I was doing, etc. Sometimes, though rarely, these things all correlate. Most of the time, however, I end up doing things I am doing, while wishing I was doing the things I should be doing. Things that have meaning. Things that are lasting. Things that are outside of myself....

I know that I have to just do it, and stop "should"ing all over the place. Then I will know that I have not spent the hours of my life in vain. That they will be worth more than some BMW in a heap on the side of the road. Somehow they will have the worth of that little 3 pound baby hooked up to monitors in the NICU. Because I will have touched people. And not just people. But people outside of my sphere. People that make me see beyond myself, and who, in turn, help me understand who "myself" really is.
[via VanderMeander]

I don't want people to brighten up when I'm gone. I want to help them shine while I'm here.
[via The Cathy J Weblog]

How do you become a new form of you?
[via Becca's World]

Willing, But Not Able

I want to believe that it's possible to have relationships that are real and honest, but I've seen little enough evidence that they're anything less than miraculous. It takes time to build that trust, and only a moment to shatter it. Loving another person, letting them see the face that hides behind the mask, means opening ourselves up to pain, and it can hurt just as much when the person stays as when they leave.

We pass most of our lives so utterly alone, even as we protest how much relationships matter, and how much we want to be with other people. I'm tired of being alone. I want to belong, and too often, I find myself standing alone.
[via A Messy Faith, emphasis mine]

Artificial good is often truly evil.

One part words + One part space + One part punctuation = One part comprehension.