Archive for July 1st, 2010

July 1, 2010

Afghan-nam: 1968-2010

by Vince

Jim Wallis over at Sojo shares my sentiment with the quagmire known as the Vietnam War being very similar to the quagmire today –  the Afghanistan War:

General David Petraeus was pictured inThe Washington Post with a broad smile and thumbs up proclaiming, “We are all firmly united in seeking to forge unity of effort.” No, we’re not, General. No, we’re not. In fact, I believe it’s time to begin to unite the religious community against the war in Afghanistan.

In February 1968, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong attacks erupted throughout South Vietnam, showing that U.S. political and military leaders’ optimistic pronouncements that the end of the war was near were not true. By then, it was clear to many that the war was not winnable, yet more than half of U.S. casualties in Vietnam occurred from that spring until the end of the war (35,000 of the total 58,000).

I have walked the line at the Vietnam Memorial Wall many times, with tears running down my face as I read the names of my generation who were killed there. And the painful remorse over that awful war is even greater when I remember that the majority of those who died in Vietnam were killed after we knew we would ultimately have to come home without “winning” the unwinnable war. The last of the many reasons for staying in Vietnam that I recall President Nixon saying was to come home “with our heads held high.” We didn’t.

July 1, 2010

The Quality of Internet Commenting

by Vince

This is a neat article to me for it describes how this blog operates: not through anonymous commenting after each post via a “nickname” or some other handle, but through email or Facebook responses. This is worth a full read:

If I were a sociologist, I might also observe some consistent truths about the way we read and showcase our beliefs in the public square: 1) We’re much brasher, more arrogant, and exaggerated when we are camouflaged behind a pseudonym. 2) When certain views take a disproportionately high percentage of comment space, we begin to accept a faulty version of public opinion. 3) After awhile, we begin to mimic one of a number of internet personas when we share our opinions. As a result, we are less individualistic than we think.

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July 1, 2010

Vulnerabilities

by Vince

Conversant Life blogs about the exposure of our vulnerabilities:

For some, vulnerabilities are exposed through rejection. For others, through the offer of longed-for-acceptance.
For some, stress and pressure. For others, time on their hands.
For some, disappointment and anger. Yet others are most vulnerable following great successes.

How our vulnerabilities are exposed can give insight into how our vulnerabilities were formed.

July 1, 2010

Reflecting on Harvard’s Racial Blip

by Vince

Contreras and Pratt report on the panel findings of last years issue between Henry Louie Gates Jr, the Harvard professor, and the Cambridge, Massachusetts police:

The independent review said “misunderstandings and failed communications” and a “certain degree of fear” each man had for the other led to the six-minute dispute. The renowned black scholar was placed in handcuffs by the veteran white Cambridge police sergeant.

Sgt. James Crowley arrested Henry Louis Gates Jr. for disorderly conduct at the professor’s Cambridge home July 16 while investigating a possible burglary. Gates alleged he was a victim of racial profiling. Charges were later dropped.

“The committee believes if Sgt. Crowley and Professor Gates had been able to make their positions understood, and had made greater efforts to de-escalate the tensions of the encounter, the incident could have been resolved quickly and peacefully,” said Charles Wexler, chairman of a 12-member panel that studied the case.

The panel, assembled in September, was made up of law enforcement personnel, academics, and experts on race relations and conflict resolution, none with direct ties to the Cambridge police.

The report says Crowley could have more clearly explained what he was doing, especially after Gates showed him his license and university ID, and Gates could have used a respectful tone to address the officer.

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July 1, 2010

Specter Lives For SCOTUS hearings

by Vince

Arlen is at it again with Kagan.

July 1, 2010

Obama picks Door #1

by Vince

Barack Obama goes with focusing on jobs over debt:

But with fears alive of a double-dip recession, Obama warned he won’t slash spending at the expense of an economic rebound – and he lashed out at Republicans for blocking the extension of unemployment benefits and opposing a Wall Street financial-overhaul bill in Congress.

He called the GOP out of touch with the daily problems of Americans.

Obama promised that the matter of trimming deficits would be a priority over the next couple of years, with help from a panel studying how to cut costly safety-net programs.

Still, the president defended as essential both the big stimulus spending and the massive aid given to big banks and auto companies.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner’s comment that the financial-regulation bill Obama supports amounts to “killing an ant with a nuclear weapon.”

Isn’t it safe to say that both sides of the political aisle are to some degree out of touch when it comes to the daily life of American denizens? I wish I could see into the future or see today how all of the jobs/financial reforms/boosting will pan out.

July 1, 2010

Quoting Kagan

by Vince

From the Philly Inquirer:

Kagan, denying that she had tried as an adviser to President Bill Clinton to allow, in line with her own views on abortion, the broadest possible practice of a late-term procedure that opponents call “partial-birth” abortion: “It’s not true. I had no agenda with respect to this issue.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.): “I certainly have an agenda when it comes to abortion. You can be pro-choice and be just as patriotic as I am. You can be just as religious as anybody I know.”

Kagan, responding facetiously when Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D., Vt.) suggested she watch with her “feet up” Thursday’s scheduled testimony by outside witnesses, which takes place without her present: “I can’t come back?”

July 1, 2010

Picture of the Day

by Vince

Source: NY Times
Solicitor General Elena Kagan faced questions from senators including, clockwise from top left, Jeff Sessions, Patrick J. Leahy, Ted Kaufman, Arlen Specter, Al Franken, Jon Kyl, Charles E. Grassley and Orrin G. Hatch.

July 1, 2010

A writer who couldn’t read

by Vince

NPR has a neat mystery story to listen to.

July 1, 2010

Organizing Jewish Political Muscle

by Vince

I come across a piece by Gregg Drinkwater speaking on Judaism’s GLBT views and general cohesiveness as I wear my Cal-Berkeley sweatshirt:

The American Jewish community is generally more progressive than other religious groups when it comes to gay issues.

The trouble is that we do not speak with a unified voice.

Indeed, one of the strengths–and weaknesses–of contemporary Judaism is its decentralized nature. On the one hand, this means that divergence of opinion and practice is much easier to accommodate than in organizations like the Catholic Church.  On the other hand, well, you know the joke: two Jews, three opinions.

Because of its decentralized nature, the Jewish community’s progressivism rarely translates into effective political muscle, or intra-communal organizing.

To address these questions, over 100 LGBT Jewish leaders are gathering in Berkeley, California, to build a stronger and more unified LGBT Jewish movement. Coming together for this historic LGBT Jewish Movement Building Retreat are activists representing 40 different LGBT Jewish organizations from throughout the United States.

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July 1, 2010

Christian Behavior on the Web

by Vince

Jonathan Anuff ponders why some Christians can be jerks online:

Much like “Christian hate mail,” being a “Jerk Christian” defies logic. We serve a loving God. We follow a Christ who very plainly told us what to do. In Matthew 22 someone asks Jesus, “What is the most important commandment?” The answer is simple:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

So then why are there so many hateful Christian blogs? Why do Christians write bitter messages on Twitter? Why do we send hate mail?

I think it’s because we sometimes practice “Room Cleaning Christianity.” Think of it like college. When you’ve got a final paper due Monday, you will be amazed at how energetic your desire is to clean your room. You will scrub tile with a slow toothbrush if it means avoiding the bigger, more difficult work of writing your paper. The same thing happens with Christianity.

I believe Anuff is on to something, but I will add my two cents. I see issues of deplorable bigotry towards Barack Obama at the hands of Christians, threats of uprisings with guns by followers of the peaceful Jesus, sly bullying and text message mongering by the good image church folks, and near hysteric and frantic behavior when it comes to money, all of which can churn out of the larger ecumenical church I am part of.

Saying that you are giving to God your fears, insecurities, or past and moving on doesn’t mean that actually can happen ever or at that moment. It is a process of you drawing close to God with all of your past, your family baggage including the many ways you thought, spoke, voted, treated one another, related to spouses, spent time, things you read, tv you watched, and so on. Bringing all of that to God’s throne and one by one handing a piece to Jesus to hold is part of the lifetime process of sanctification.

Fear of the future and its evil possibilities is a twisty foe that is leavened in with “rational fears regarding legitimate dangers” (The Shack, Chapter 10). This slick slope with fear goes through my head every time I receive an email from a “Patriot” railing against our current state of affairs and connecting for me Barack Obama to Vladamir Lenin.

July 1, 2010

The Cross in a Secular Europe

by Vince

Each side of the coin in defending or disagreeing with the Cross of Jesus Christ being visible in Italian classrooms:

Would you ban a crucifix that others believe in (a symbol of love for all) and replace it with the “blank wall” of your own intolerance towards others’ beliefs? Where is the love in this brave new world of religious discrimination and intolerance?

Another reader sides with the European Court of Human Rights:

Italian social system as well as the rest of Western civilization is NOT based on Christianity but on SECULARISM, i.e. the clear distinction between PERSONAL beliefs and social norms. Everyone should have the right to wear a cross or a scarf (NOT burka for security reasons) but nobody can impose any particular religious symbols in public spaces such as school or courts.

The Law, the Armed Forces, the school should be religion-free so that all citizen can feel comfortable and not discriminated no matter what faith they profess. Is it that difficult to understand???

July 1, 2010

The Gospel of Economic Regulation

by Vince

David Barton and Rick Green support a Christian view of not regulating the good people but letting laws only regulate the bad people:

Barton: There is a great Bible verse, 1 Timothy 1, 8-10 where God tells us why he gives us laws. And we should use this as the standard by which we judge laws in a city, or in a county, or in a state, or anything else. Here’s was Scripture says, God says “we know that the law is good if one uses it properly.” So what is the proper use of the law? It says that “we also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels.” So the first point of law is you don’t make laws to regulate the good people, you make laws to regulate the bad people. You want to restrain the bad, not restrain the good. So it says “we know the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, and homosexuals, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.”

First off, “when Barton quotes from 1 Timothy, he seems to be reading from the New International Version, as that appears to be the only version that uses the word “properly” while the others use the word “lawfully.”  And the NIV version of that passage does not mention “homosexuals” .. but apparently Barton thought it important to add that.”

In life, we voyage through different phases or seasons. Some Biblical examples that come to mind are Saul (OT), Saul/Paul (NT), King David (OT), King Solomon (OT), and the countless other “evil in the L*RDS eye” kings in the Old Testament. These men did not fall into the “good person” category all of their recorded life. They fell in and out of good graces through their decisions and their interactions with others (e.g.-King David’s actions and infidelities and his run off with Saul). Of course there was no Federal Reserve in Ancient Israel or Judah, but they today (for the most part) serve for our ecumenical and eclectic world body. To even begin categorizing people into “good” and “bad” and basically leaves laws that stand outside of reality.

I am fascinated by the Conservative Christian view of minimal government. Many different women and men I know who fall into this vague category have their different reasons (personal responsibility, liberty, small government types, others?).

As for the “too big to fail” motto, I side with Barton and Green in part. Ben Bernanke, the FED chairman, was on 60 minutes the other year. This was the first time in a few decades a FED chairman was on 60 minutes. The last time, Allan Greenspan’s every move was studied in an almost economically-apocalyptic view (e.g.- he carried his briefcase in his left hand and the last time he did that the DOW went up). CBS has the full story and you can find clips of Bernanke’s 60 minutes chat if you look through YouTube.

But a notable and quotable from Bernanke is as follows. This addresses the problem some have with propping up the “bad guys” or the fools that screwed things up (which, to truthfully narrow this list down is totally ambiguous by the way):

“You know, Mr. Chairman, there are so many people outside this building, across this country, who say, ‘To hell with them. They made bad bets. The wages of failure on Wall Street should be failure,'” Pelley remarked.

“Let me give you an analogy, if I might,” Bernanke said. “If you have a neighbor, who smokes in bed. And he’s a risk to everybody. If suppose he sets fire to his house, and you might say to yourself, you know, ‘I’m not gonna call the fire department. Let his house burn down. It’s fine with me.’ But then, of course, but what if your house is made of wood? And it’s right next door to his house? What if the whole town is made of wood? Well, I think we’d all agree that the right thing to do is put out that fire first, and then say, ‘What punishment is appropriate? How should we change the fire code? What needs to be done to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future? How can we fire proof our houses?’ That’s where we are now. We have a fire going on.”

July 1, 2010

Post-Fathers Day Fringe

by Vince

Lou Engle ladies and gentlemen:

“The Bible says that God gave Adam the responsibility to govern! From the beginning, man was given the government of the earth! Romans 13 says all government is derived from God’s government. It’s all delegated authority, and that those governors are to rule in such a way, in the fear of the Lord, Psalms chapter 2. So, if all government comes from God, then THE GOVERNMENT WE HAVE IN AMERICA IS FROM GOD! So, who is the government? Not Barack Obama! It’s a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Therefore, when you vote for those who shed innocent blood, you are making a governmental decision under the government of God! You are actually in the rebellion of Psalms 2! You will actually be held accountable for how you govern! We have to tremble in the voting booth. We should tremble in voting booths! You don’t choose a person because you feel good about him, or he feels like maybe he’s going to change the world, YOU VOTE ON THEIR STAND ON THE FOUNDATIONS OF BIBLICAL TRUTH! Because if you don’t, you’re actually handing the keys to people who have anti-Christ spirits! You are actually giving authority to someone who is in rebellion to God!

“Our president two days ago came out and said ‘We bless the fathers of families that have two fathers’! This is a decree, a blessing, called this month, LGBT pride month. When decrees come from high places, it actually opens doors! It is a key! It unlocks the spiritual realm for the fueling of the demonization of culture! Is this being taped?” [voice from bouncer/heavy off to the side interjects “We can erase it.”]