Monday, November 28, 2005

I Like This - Randy Cunningham

We've all heard too many non-apology apologies lately. You know the ones where the person talks about how they're sorry but also tries to contextualize or excuse what they've done. The thing is, you don't get to absolve or forgive yourself. When you mess up, all you get to do is to say that what you've done is wrong. It works even better if the wrongdoer can name what it is about him/herself that allowed them to do what they did.

Disgraced San Diego Congressman Randy Cunningham did just that today. Cunningham was caught taking bribes to steer military contracts to a particular company. Today he pled guilty to charges of bribery and resigned from congress. What Cunningham did was awful, and I suspect that he is just the tip of the iceberg with all of the Abramov scandals coming to fruition. But I must honor the way that Cunningham admitted his guilt today. No hedging, no blaming Democrats or vindictive D.A.'s. He said what he did and took it like a man:
I am resigning from the House of Representatives because I'’ve compromised the trust of my constituents.

When I announced several months ago that I would not seek re-election, I publicly declared my innocence because I was not strong enough to face the truth. So, I misled my family, staff, friends, colleagues, the public -- even myself. For all of this, I am deeply sorry.

The truth is -- I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my high office. I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, and most importantly, the trust of my friends and family.

Some time ago, I asked my lawyers to inform the U.S. Attorney Carol Lam that I would like to plead guilty and begin serving a prison term. Today is the culmination of that process. I will continue to cooperate with the government'’s ongoing investigation to the best of my ability.

In my life, I have known great joy and great sorrow. And now I know great shame. I learned in Viet Nam that the true measure of a man is how he responds to adversity. I cannot undo what I have done. But I can atone. I am now almost 65 years old and, as I enter the twilight of my life, I intend to use the remaining time that God grants me to make amends.

The first step in that journey is to admit fault and apologize. The next step is to face the consequences of my actions like a man. Today, I have taken the first step and, with God'’s grace, I will soon take the second.

Thank you.

Shame on you, Congressman, for what you did, but at the same time, I hope and pray that your second step goes well.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

"Would you rather..."

Wendy and I are helping Chris do a major clear out and reorganization of this room today. We've bought a new desk and dresser for him and it's time to get the new stuff in and old stuff out. The problem is that Chris absolutely hates doing this sort of thing. After a few minutes of sorting and tossing, he looked physically ill.

While we were working a few minutes ago, Mormon missionaries came by. I spoke with them for a few minutes and then when I was about to say good-bye I had a brain flash. I excused myself for a moment then went and asked Chris, "Would you rather continue on with your room or go talk to the Mormon missionaries for awhile?"

He chose his room.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Unintentional Comedy

While making one of my very occasional visits to my blog stats, I note that someone arrived here via a Google search for...
bohemian ramsey lyrics queen
To his or her credit, the searcher was from a non-english speaking country. Amazingly, I only come in second on the Google list.

Public Diplomacy

In September, Administration official Karen Hughes made her first trip abroad to engage in "public diplomacy". Hughes, a close aide to the President, was appointed recently to a State Department post and given the task of rebuilding the U.S.'s image, especially in the Arab/Islamic world. Her first attempt didn't go so well.

Perhaps our government should look to another possible source of goodwill abroad - American soccer players. A fellow member of the L.A. Riot Squad, known as SpursUSA, gave this report from England of his trip Saturday to watch Reading FC's 3-1 victory over visiting Hull FC. Reading features Americans Bobby Convey, a midfielder, and goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann in their starting eleven:
We watched the two Americans play and Bobby Convey scored the opening goal. He was clearly the MOTM (ed. "Man of the Match"). Brilliant breakaway and finish and Hahnemann played great between the posts.

The supporters chanted: "ole, ole, ole, ole - Convey, Convey"

For Hahnemann it was even simpler: "USA, USA, USA"

Marcus would look over at the crowd and they would all cheer. There were USA flags all over the ground (ed. "stadium") and they were the most popular men on the pitch!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Chris Makes the Team

Chris learned today that he has made the freshman soccer team at his high school. He is very happy and I am very, very proud.

Chris started his soccer career in the U-6 division of Turlock Youth Soccer in 1995. I think he had three touches on the ball all season, and was the only kid on the team not allowed to take goal kicks when he played keeper. He didn't score a goal until he was nine, and was never an All-Star in our weak city league until this year.

Chris is shaping up to be a classic late-blooming athlete. But this means that both he and we, his parents, have had to swallow a number of hard episodes over the year. When he was nine and playing baseball, he was the kid whom when he came up with the game on the line, one parent remarked too loudly, "Oh no, he's coming up". When he was twelve, he kicked a ground ball in the outfield and a parent came to the dugout and demanded the manager take him out, for Chris's benefit, of course.

But all that was prelude. Last summer, when Chris was looking forward to high school, we discussed how he wanted to be involved. He said that making the soccer team was one of his goals and I told him that I didn't think it was very likely unless he would put in extra work. Well, he took that to heart, and has trained and worked out six days a week since late June. It paid off in our youth league, where he was the leading goal scorer on our championship team, and it has now paid off with a spot on the high school team. I really admire the way he responded.

I was nervous for him going into the tryouts, but it wasn't about whether he'd make the team. I was worried because his tryout was the first thing he has worked really hard for that had the possibility of rejection or failure, and I was nervous about how he would handle that if it happened. Now I guess we'll have to wait for something else to see how he handles a significant disappointment. Tonight, I get to watch him deal with success, and I like that a lot.
Edited on 11/21 to make the last paragraph a little better.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Iraq and the Truth

The Administration is continuing their push-back against the charges that they manipulated and misrepresented intelligence and their intentions in the run-up to the war in Iraq. (Note the double aliteration in that sentence? Pretty snappy, huh?)

Last night, Vice-President Cheney responded to the charges of dishonesty by essentially saying to his critics, "I know you are, but what about me?" I imagine a few people will find this persuasive.

I have largely stayed away from the issue of Iraq on this blog. While I comment on things that have a political dimension, there is usually a humanitarian angle (hurricanes, Darfur, torture) and my focus is on how Christian leaders are or are not responding and how they are advising the Administration.

But here are two pieces that I think are worth reading as our country begins to examine the truthfulness of our President. The first is an article from the Knight-Ridder media group, In Challenging the War's Critics, Administration Tinkers with Truth. Read this carefully and I think you will find that the writers have judiciously evaluated the President's assertions against the known facts and found them wanting.

Second is a hypothetical speech from Edward at Obsidian Wings, The Case for War (sans Smoke and Mirrors) which is what the President could have said if he had been willing to be a little fairer with the facts. Edward sets out to answer this question: "If the administration had made the case for war without any exaggeration, what would they have had at their disposal to convince the nation to back an invasion?" I wish we had leaders who spoke to us like this.

Go read both, and then keep these articles in mind as you listen to Bush, Cheney, Hadley and their surrogates continue their push-back. You can keep other things in mind if you like as well, like the facts that Bill Clinton committed adultery, that Michael Moore is fat, that al-Qaida are really bad, that the President prays with his wife, that Saddam was really bad, that in politics people often twist things, but the current question our country is establishing the facts of how we were led to go to war, so don't lose sight of the facts.

Life Imitates The Onion - Again!

The satirists at The Onion just can't stay ahead of the game.

Last week, they noted the passing of Rosa Parks with an article titled, "Now We Can Finally Put Civil Rights Behind Us". In a mock quote at the top of the article, the President says:

"During today's service, America not only bade farewell to a seamstress from Alabama, America buried the idea of civil rights itself. Today, that long-ago chapter of American history is slammed tightly shut, never to be reopened."
With yesterday came the report from the Washington Post that prosecutions of gender and racial discrimination cases have declined by 40% during the Bush administration, and that the career lawyers are leaving the Justice Departments Civil Rights division in droves.

Just imagine what they'll do now that Rosa Parks is out of the way.

Update: Well, one of the things they could do would be to have the political appointees at the top of the Justice department overrule their career lawyers, and sign off on a new Gerogia election law which disproportionately effected black voters.

And, in the interest of evenhandedness, my friend Jim points to the guys at Powerline, who argue that the drop in prosecutions by the Bush Administration and the numbers leaving the Justice department are either coincidental or signs that discrimination is abating in America (but apparently, not in Georgia) or that the states are taking care of this.

I report, you decide.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Kids These Days

Gregg Koskela writes in wonder while sitting near three college students and watching them "multi-task" with their laptops (multiple chats, email, and "work"), live conversation, and cel phones. I'm dubious about whether this is really multi-tasking (and so is one of Gregg's commenters) - I suspect it is really a matter of doing a number of things really badly, as anyone who has read a transcript of a chat or overheard a cel conversation can attest.

In a similar vein, an anthropologist in Japan is contending that the behavior of groups of teens in his country is analogous to that of chimps. In his study, Keitai wo Motta Saro (Monkeys with Mobile Phones), Nobuo Masataka says, according to this report, "...that young Japanese have lost the ability to discern between public and private space. He adds that they have formed what he calls the dearuki-zoku (out and about tribe)".

The report continues, "...the actions of the dearuki-zoku closely resemble behavior patterns in chimpanzees, which tend to travel in groups, walking around for a long time without going to any specific place, then eating and disposing of their wastes in the same place before bedding down on piles of grass whenever and wherever the inclination takes them." This requires no further comment.

Gregg concludes his post by saying, "...maybe I can't claim the title "techno geek" any more". Gregg, are you sure you want to?

Linkage XXIII

White House Goes Green Well, not really. But they have embraced recycling. Sadly No breaks down the President's Veteran's Day push-back speech and shows that large parts of it are exactly the same as a speech he gave in October.

Progress Take a look at this, a 1975 500kb hard drive! (It's huge). I know it's lame to be amazed by stuff like this, but I am. I still remember buying my first 30mb hard drive in 1990 for $500. I was feeling pretty slick because I'd gone the whole way and not settled for the 20mb drive. It was nine inches square, 3 inches tall, and the fan sounded like a jet engine. (via BoingBoing).

On to Tucson Mark Sarvas keeps a wonderful L.A.-centric literary blog called The Elegant Variation. He is also preparing to ride a century (a 100+ mile bike race/ride) for the first time. His account of his training and his first brush with being an athlete as a man in his forties is both humble and moving. Good luck, Mark.

Old Skool Meets New Skool From BoingBoing, How to make a duct tape iPod case.

One Nation, under... nothing? Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution links to the 1796 Treaty between the U.S. and the Bey of Tripoli, whose ships (the Barbary Pirates) had been hassling American merchant ships. He quotes the eleventh article of the treaty, which begins, "As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion...". Hmm. The "Christian America" types like to tell us we have departed from the intentions of the Founders. Well, here are their intentions, in their own words, and they seem pretty clear to me.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Gerald Wilson

Aside from the post below, I'm taking a blog break today in honor my colleague Gerald Wilson, who died suddenly on Friday. Gerald was an excellent scholar and teacher, and was an acknowledged expert in the Psalms. He had been particularly generous and helpful to me in a project I'm working on in that area. He will be missed in many circles.

We'll return to our usual programming of soccer, ranting, and reviews soon, probably tomorrow.

Do Something About Torture

Further Google and Lexis/Nexis searches show no hits for "Evangelical leaders" James Dobson, Ted Haggard, Richard Land, and Rick Warren and "torture". But Sojourners, an evangelical group dedicated to social action and justice, has begun a campaign asking Christians to "take action to reject torture, no exceptions". (Their ad is on the left).

I have clicked on this link and registered my support. Please do the same. (Edit: the link is apparently specific to my email address. Please change it to your own when you click the link. Thanks, Ashley)

I am embarrassed and angry that torture has not been addressed by public Christian organizations and leaders. I imagine a few may say that this is not the kind of issue we should be addressing, that this is not a "pro-family" concern, but let me observe that the constellation of issues that receives the title "pro-family" has been very elastic when applied to issues the Republicans support. And if you doubt that torture applies to families, go read some or all of the horrifying posts by Hilzoy and Katherine at Obsidian Wings addressing U.S. Senate's attempt to hollow out the McCain amendment by offering another amendment to strip habeas corpus rights from the people we have locked away in Cuba. These stories are so awful that you will find it difficult even to read to the end.

I just cannot believe we are having this discussion in our country.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Linkage XXII

Cool Stuff A German artist put a projector on a subway car, so that as the train travels, the passengers see an underwater scene. Here's what they saw, and here's how it was done. (via Jamesey).

It's the Snacks That's the answer to the question of "Why are Americans so fat?" in a book by Eric Oliver, Fat Politics. Here's a review by Steven Levitt and some comments from Tyler Cowan. It's not the supersizing, it's the fries with ranch at 3:30 pm or the Cap'n Crunch straight from the box at 1:23 am that does it.

Alternative Candidates Now that "Arnold has lost all credibility as a new kind of leader, maybe it's time to look elsewhere. Here's a campaign poster for failed NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf, and here's the campaign site for General Zod of the Superman movies, which has the nice caption, "A Nation Kneels before Zod", and a Q&A which includes the General's thoughts on Nicolas Cage's decision to name his son Kal-El.

Open Wide This is about sword swallowing. I mean, everyone thinks about it from time to time, but when was the last time you read a peer-reviewed article analyzing the medical risks? Well, you can read about it here. (via BoingBoing)

Dog, Gone? Classic L.A. hotdog place, Tail 'o the Pup, is losing it's lease, but it may be OK. This hotdog stand is one of the few remaining examples of a particularly L.A. style of buildings which look like what they're selling - hot dog stands that look like hot dogs or donut shots that look like donuts. This would be the second time Tail o' the Pup has moved. It was relocated when a hotel was built on its first site, and now it looks like it may be on its way to Westwood. And btw, it's not a bad hot dog, analogous to Cupid's, but not on the level of Pinks, and certainly not up the level of The Stand.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Rant of all Rants - Everything that Makes Me Mad All in One Place - Aaarrrrgh!

Wow! I come home tonight, flip on my computer and what do I find? Torture justified, with Bill Frist saying it doesn't matter what happens in our gulag, that what is really wrong is that someone talked about it, the President following through on his threat to veto any bill that bans torture, while a supposedly mainstream blogger argues that opposing torture makes one "pro-terrorist rights". (Oh, and go read this too). I go on to find Darfur genocide bills being stalled at the Administration's request, Pat Robertson on the loose again, calling down God's judgment on Dover, PA, and that Frank McCourt still owns the Dodgers.

My head explodes!

I can't even rant. Just follow the links.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Questions for the President and Evangelicals

On Monday, when asked a direct question about why his Administration has advocated the use of torture, President Bush responded:
Any activity we conduct is within the law. We do not torture.
Of course, his Administration has, I'm thinking of the most charitable way to describe this, redefined what the law is, and has also asserted that the President is literally above the law when it has anything to do with his role in leading the American military.

But since the President has made a clear and unambiguous assertion, "We do not torture", then in the face of clear evidence that we are torturing people, it only makes sense that he should answer some questions about just what he means. Andrew Sullivan has a list:
If that's the case, why threaten to veto a law that would simply codify what Bush alleges is already the current policy? If "we do not torture," how to account for the hundreds and hundreds of cases of abuse and torture by U.S. troops, documented by the government itself? If "we do not torture," why the memos that expanded exponentially the lee-way given to the military to abuse detainees in order to get intelligence? The president's only defense against being a liar is that he is defining "torture" in such a way that no other reasonable person on the planet, apart from Bush's own torture apologists (and they are now down to one who will say so publicly), would agree. The press must now ask the president: does he regard the repeated, forcible near-drowning of detainees to be torture? Does he believe that tying naked detainees up and leaving them outside all night to die of hypothermia is "torture"? Does he believe that beating the legs of a detainee until they are pulp and he dies is torture? Does he believe that beating detainees till they die is torture? Does he believe that using someone's religious faith against them in interrogations is "cruel, inhumane and degrading" treatment and thereby illegal? What is his definition of torture?
Sullivan goes on to wonder about what this says about the President:
Watching and listening to this man, it seems to me we have a few possible interpretations in front of us. Either the president simply does not know what is being done in his name in his own military or he is lying through his teeth to the American people and the world. I guess there is also a third possibility: that he is simply unable to acknowledge the enormity of what he has done to the honor of the United States, the success of the war and the safety of American servicemembers. And so he has gone into clinical denial. Or he is so ashamed he cannot bear to face the truth of what he has done. None of these options are, shall we say, encouraging. But there is, of course, an easy way forward for the president if this is truly what he believes: support the Congress in backing the president's own position. Pass the McCain Amendment. Given what he said today, why on earth would he not?
Evangelical Christians have intensely supported this President. They like to talk about how he is "one of us". Our evangelical "leaders" were ready to mobilize us to support the confirmation of a manifestly unqualified Harriet Meiers to the Supreme Court, but those same war rooms and phone trees and radio shows are silent about torture.

The United States is torturing people. And the Evangelical response is... [crickets, crickets]

A search of the website for James Dobson's Family Research Council shows no mention of torture or the McCain amendment, but they are all over the Alito nomination. The website for the National Association of Evangelicals still leads with a tribute to noted evangelical Ronald Reagan, which includes the statement, "Reagan saved the world", but nothing about torture. Ironically, there is a prominent link to a policy paper called "For the Health of the Nation", which tries to map out how Christians should interact with the state. It doesn't mention condemning torture, and to be fair, that paper was drafted before the torture issue became a big deal, but don't you think it might be time for an addendum? Does a healthy nation torture people?

A Lexis/Nexis search of individual Evangelical "leaders" comes up empty, too. Searches using "torture" and "Charles Colson" or "Rick Warren" or "Ted Haggard" (President of the NAE) or "Richard Land", (President of the Southern Baptists) return no hits. A search for "torture" and "James Dobson" returns 13 hits. Most have to do with his horrible comment from last summer that stem cell researchers were like Nazi doctors. Curiously, while Dobson chose to use the word "torture" to condemn stem cell research, he has not used the word "torture" to condemn "torture" by the Administration he so ardently supports.

So I'm calling out the evangelical leaders. Speak up. Now. Put your phone banks, email systems and radio shows to use in favor of the McCain amendment, which will prohibit U.S. forces and agents from torturing people. Prove to Americans and the world that Evangelicals care about something more than abortion, sex, and whatever the Republicans want us to care about. Prove to them that the hearts of American Christians are big enough that we think torturing people in our name should be illegal. Can we at least do that? Speak up. Now.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


A few days ago, my friend Gregg Koskela noted on his blog, "Did you know if you do a Yahoo search for "Jack Russell puppy stains on carpet"” blog has the number 2 hit? Who knew I was so knowledgeable?" I was very impressed.

Well, in the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that if you do a Google Blog Search for "California election", that out of 39,504 posts mine is...


My Thoughts on the California Election

Maybe (read this), No, No, a thousand times No, No, No, No, and No.

Update: Hey! Waddaya know, I went eight for eight. I did that once in a slo-pitch softball game (and Mark Perry kept hitting balls into the gap and making me score from first so I was really tired afterwards) but I've never done that in an election.

It's an odd feeling.

Monday, November 07, 2005

What Did You Do Last Tuesday?

Last Tuesday was our son Chris's fifteenth birthday. We started the day with gifts (his main gift was a Juventus jersey, which took three trips to the soccer store to get the right shirt in the right size) and then we were off to school. In the morning, I discussed the Jacob stories of Genesis and gave a lecture on the history of the ancient near-east, focusing on the Iron Age on, to my Exodus/Deuteronomy class. I had a very nice lunch with my wife Wendy. In the afternoon, my 1&2 Samuel classes discussed the way David is introduced via two episodes in 1 Samuel 16. The students were particularly sharp in one of the Samuel classes, and he we had a really good discussion about why God seems to chose rather unsavory characters in Genesis.

After school, I met Chris for a little personal soccer training (he was getting ready for tryouts for the High School team, which began Friday), and then we went out to dinner to finish the day. Katie told some great stories during dinner. It was a nice day for me, involving almost all of the things I like. I even had the highest number of hits ever on my blog last Tuesday.

On that same day, Vice President Dick Cheney attended a weekly lunch for Republican Senators. After ordering all staffers out of the room, Mr. Cheney made an "impassioned plea" in favor of torture. (And don't miss Laura Rozin's comments on this. She is exactly right).

What did you do last Tuesday?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Linkage XXI

Tipping Point? A guy out in Westlake Village heard a rumor that Hummer sales are going so badly that the local dealer was having to stash his bloated inventory off the lot just to keep from freaking out his sales staff and the buyers. So he did a little detective work and found 300 Hummers stashed away, and posted pictures on his blog. (Via LA Observed)

Ehud - tov, Omri - ra From The Revealer, an article on a list developed by Israeli rabbis of approved and disapproved names. Bad kings, like Omri, are out, along with goy-ish names - No Jennifers here! - and any theophoric names, ruling out not only names with the "yh" (from YHWH - the divine name) but also any with "el", the more generic word for God (or G-d, as these folks would prefer).
Note: I link to this not because I think what the rabbis are doing is silly. I don't, and I think, given the evidence, that quite a few people could have used some guidance before they named their kids. No, the real reason I linked to this is because I have dying to use the word "theophoric" in a sentence for some time. And now I have.
Shocking, Just Shocking Sometimes, there are good reasons for national stereotypes. Americans are fat, and Norwegians are polite. Now comes a study which confirms that Australians like to drink. Fifty-eight percent of Australians surveyed agreed with the statement that having too much to drink is "simply part of the Australian way of life". (via Crooked Timber)

Wow! Now That's a Bad Visual President Bush recently made a visit to some students at Howard University, a historically black college in D.C. The planning for the event did not go well, and students were surprised to know they were locked out of the cafeteria because it was in the same building the President was in. Later, campus security told angry students that because of the security need brought on by the visit "...if they wanted to eat they'd have to come back when the president and first lady were gone, then go to a service door at the rear of the dining hall and ask for a chicken plate to go." Wow! I mean, wow!

56.07 cups That's how much coffee I would have to drink in the 12oz cups I use at home to die from all the caffeine according to this nifty calculator. You plug in your weight and your favorite beverage and you get your red line. I've got a little more slack with Diet Coke - it would take 329.12 cans for me to peg out, but only 205.7 cans of Jolt cola and 185.13 cans of Red Bull. (via BoingBoing)

Friday, November 04, 2005

"Narrow-minded Idealists"

Since U2 were in SoCal this past week, it's time to hear from Bono (in Rolling Stone):

What do you think of the evangelical movement that we see in the United States now?

I'm wary of faith outside of actions. I'm wary of religiosity that ignores the wider world. In 2001, only seven percent of evangelicals polled felt it incumbent upon themselves to respond to the AIDS emergency. This appalled me. I asked for meetings with as many church leaders as would have them with me. I used my background in the Scriptures to speak to them about the so-called leprosy of our age and how I felt Christ would respond to it. And they had better get to it quickly, or they would be very much on the other side of what God was doing in the world.

Amazingly, they did respond. I couldn't believe it. It almost ruined it for me -- 'cause I love giving out about the church and Christianity. But they actually came through: Jesse Helms, you know, publicly repents for the way he thinks about AIDS.

I've started to see this community as a real resource in America. I have described them as "narrow-minded idealists." If you can widen the aperture of that idealism, these people want to change the world. They want their lives to have meaning.

I think this is exactly right. And I love his use of "aperture", because what the Christian community suffers from is not a lack of passion but a lack of perspective and vision. Bono is right - many, many Christians do want to change the world, but that desire is being focused on too small a target.

C.S. Lewis once remarked, but I'll have to paraphrase because I can't track down the exact quote, that God is grieved not that we ask for too much, but that we are happy with so little. I think God longs to empower his people to turn this world upside down, but instead we're told by our "evangelical leaders" that the most important thing we do is elect people who will appoint the right kind of judges, to blindly support U.S. foreign policy (as long as a Republican is President), and to pass laws to make sure that gay people can't visit each other in the hospital.

No wonder Christians seem so angry when engaged in the social and political arena. We know we've been transformed by God in order to help transform the world, and instead we're told to take that passion and cram it into these little, tiny packages which are devoid of idealism. A steady diet of that is bound to make you cranky.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Linkage XX

You've been wrong, literally According to this article in Slate, the word "literally" has evolved, twice. Initially, it meant what we mean by it, but in the 19th century, it took on a meaning closer to "figuratively", and now it's shifted back. And my friend Robert has some rather apt observations about another word the meaning of which seems to be changing: interrogation.

Can You Dig It? Via BoingBoing, the lyrics to "Shaft" in Chaucerian English - "ye dammne righte".

Activist Judges This article from the New York Times has been bouncin' 'round the internets for a few days. It reports a study that tries to figure out just who are the real activists among the current Supreme Court. It uses votes to overturn acts of Congress as the measuring stick. So who is the most activist judge? President Bush's and James Dobson's favorite: Clarence Thomas. Who is the least activist? Liberal David Breyer. One more talking point of the Right proves to be just that - talk.

Pulp Plato? Reservoir Republic? Plato's Republic done in the style of Quentin Tarantino. I'd quote it, but, you know, some of the words are not very nice. Via Teresa at Making Light, who also has some fun things to say about this.

Yikes Also from BoingBoing, Giant Drinking Birds, which are giant (like six feet tall) versions of those drinking birds which use evaporation to peck at a glass of water. Stunning.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I Like This - Leonard Cohen

Blessed are you who has given each man a shield of loneliness so that he cannot forget you. You are the truth of loneliness, and only your name addresses it. Strengthen my loneliness that I may be healed in your name, which is beyond all consolations that are uttered on this earth. Only in your name can I stand in the rush of time, only when this loneliness is yours can I lift my sins toward your mercy
- Leonard Cohen, Book of Mercy

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Rosa Parks

At the U.S. Capital building yesterday, over 30,000 people paid their respects to Rosa Parks, and another 2,500 packed a D.C. church for her memorial service. The Washington Post has a moving story about the services - go read it.  Please.

As I thought about Mrs. Parks life, I was grateful for two ways that she had helped me, beyond the obvious way that she helped all of us, even white people, especially white people, live in a more just society. The first came when I was reading her obituary last week and I realized that she was the same age I am now when she refused to give up her seat on the bus in 1955.

Mrs. Parks' refusal to give up her seat was not spontaneous, and prior to that day, she had extensive training in non-violent protest. The early civil rights workers knew they had to strongly govern themselves so as not to rise to the inevitable provocations and cruelty they would receive. In the commonly told version of the story of that day in Birmingham, she was just too tired to get up.  In Mrs. Parks own version of her story, however, she said, "...the only tired I was, was tired of giving in". (This obituary in the LA Times is beautiful, too. Please go read it  I'll wait.)

I was helped by both parts of what Mrs. Parks did, by her refusal to give in and by her willingness to reign herself in.  I've now lived long enough to know, like Mrs. Parks, that things don't get better unless someone speaks up and acts.  I've also lived long enough to know that real change is never easy.  Mrs. Parks reached the point where she knew she had to chose between resignation and action, and I struggle with the choice between engagement and anger, cynicism and withdrawal. I can only hope that I can find a fraction of her courage and learn how to be "...tired of giving in".

I am also helped by Mrs. Parks' commitment to her non-violent training.  She could have made her protest years earlier, but, by her own admission, she wasn't ready. It was only after her training, and only after she felt she could reign in her own temperament (she had been, she said, a "feisty" girl), that she was ready to refuse to give up her seat.  My temperament and sensibilities make speaking out rather easy.  What's wrong seems rather vivid to me, and I kind of like saying something about it.  What's hard for me is making sure that when I say or do something, I'm compelled by the issue and led by the Spirit, and not merely by the habit of speaking out.  Mrs. Parks' example gives me encouragement, but it also challenges me to make sure that I'm not just willing but ready to say or do something.

My greatest personal thanks is for the way Mrs. Parks helped my daughter. Katie has had bad luck with friends. There are many little girls who are kind, but in early elementary school Katie could not seem to meet them. Among our neighbors and her classmates, she seemed to always be the nice one among some not very nice kids, and this began to wear on her.

There is an odd tendency among school age girls that allows the least kind to set the tone for everyone else. When Katie was in third grade (she's a sixth grader,now), things were particularly bad in her circle of girls, but third grade was also when she first learned about Rosa Parks.  She admired the way Mrs. Parks refused to be put down as a girl, and was especially taken by the line I quoted above, that she "...was tired of giving in".

Katie wrote a poem about Rosa Parks that won awards at her school and school district. It was really nice for her to be honored, but it pleased me more to see the courage she took from Mrs. Parks' example. We spoke about Mrs. Parks' death last week,  and I quoted the line about her being "...tired of giving in". Katie reminded me that she had used that line in her poem. She went on to tell me how that line has continued to guide her and encourage her when she has found herself in tough situations. I was amazed, and thankful.

So, Mrs. Parks, thank you for your life, and your example.  Well done.