Friday, January 25, 2008

UPDATE: Why faith and politics should not mix

This election year is historic in many ways. The most obvious, of course, are that the contenders Clinton and Obama, are the first woman and first person of color who are serious contenders for the White House.

Somewhat overshadowed, however, is the new emphasis on religion in this election. Oh, we've always had religious men running for office and even being elected. But this year we have added the possibility of an evangelical Southern Baptist minister in the White House.

Yeah. Let that sink in for a minute.

I consider myself a religious person, but I have a lot of problems with organized religion. My biggest issue is that I believe that we all have God within us, and that we are born with this goodness. Life is a journey to nurture and develop that goodness. This does not mesh with most organized religions, which generally believe we are born sinners, and that life is an arduous duty to repent, with the promise of some greater reward "beyond."

I have a problem with that outlook.

Organized religions are all run by people, usually men, who stand between me and my God and dare to interpret for me what God wants. The power and authority held by those individuals corrupts, and the true meaning of their religion is lost. Add in a dose of politics, and you have a dangerous mix.

As one writer recently observed:
As churches have organized into broader structures, they have gravitated toward a political organization (where authority and power prevail) rather than following the servant-leadership of Jesus.

If Scripture accurately records the teachings and life of Jesus, then his ways are the exact opposite of the corporate top-down structure we see in so much of the politicized Christian church today.

When the “authority and power” aspect of politicized Christianity is finally decimated, the church will return to being a freedom bringing-place, where the most important people will be the children, the impoverished, the widows, and the afflicted.
So when you have someone like Mike Huckabee, who says "My faith is my life -- it defines me. My faith doesn't influence my decisions, it drives them," running for office, I am scared for our country. As a minister, he is the last person who should be interested in being President of the United States. This would be the worst of all possible worlds, combining such a deeply committed, bible-thumping, evangelical Christian with the (arguably) most powerful job in the world.

When did the religious people of this country go from doing good work, as described in the letters of my grandparents who were Baptists missionaries in China, to Mike Huckabee, running for president?

Hat tip to BagNewsNotes for the image of Huckabee autographing the bible. Yes, autographing the bible.

UPDATE: Here's a headlines from today's WaPo that should make you squirm:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Good news: the Bush Administration finally found a use for all that duct tape!

The only problem is, they used it to censor non-classified public documents.


From ThinkProgress:

In December, EPA administrator Stephen Johnson rejected “California’s long-standing request for a waiver from federal law to be able to implement its own landmark regulations to slash greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.”

Today, Johnson came under harsh criticism from Environment and Public Works Committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer. She blasted Johnson for refusing come to California and meet with residents, and for censoring documents with white duct tape on the EPA’s decision-making process:

Colleagues, this is the tape, this is the tape that was put over — finally the administration had a way to use duct tape. This administration, this is what they did to us. They put this white tape over the documents and staff had to stand here. It’s just unbelievable. […]

I mean what a waste of our time. This isn’t national security. This isn’t classified information, colleagues. This is information the people deserve to have. And this is not the way we should run the greatest government in the world. It does not befit us. So that’s why I’m worked up about it and think we have been treated in a very shabby way.

Yesterday, Boxer released excerpts from an October presentation, revealing that Johnson had ignored the advice of EPA staff who were in favor of granting California the waiver. The excerpts came out after Boxer’s staff removed the duct tape from the documents and transcribed handwritten notes, under the supervision of EPA staffers.

Why you shouldn't rely on Google translator

Translator says:
Details of the survey showed that 7 Democrats on 10 voters now know with certainty that they are going to devote their voices. The Los Angeles Times quoted the head of the poll which indicates that "Obama won support, but Clinton did not lost."
Which is not exactly what the French paper Libération wrote:

Le détail du sondage révèle que 7 électeurs démocrates sur 10 savent désormais avec certitude à qui ils vont destiner leur voix. Le Los Angeles Times cite le responsable du sondage qui indique qu'"Obama a gagné des soutiens, mais Clinton n'en a perdu aucun".

Thursday poetry break

As those in the MSM fan the fire of public passion, repeatedly asking "which trumps which: race or gender?" it seems a fine day for some Audrey Lorde. You can find more of her poems and those of many others at the Poetry Foundation website.

Who Said It Was Simple

There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.

Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes
a waiting brother to serve them first
and the ladies neither notice nor reject
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in colour
as well as sex

and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.

— Audre Lorde

President Gore supports gay marriage, shouldn't you?

Somewhere — in the alternate universe that is "reality" — Al Gore is the President of the United States. In that universe, we are not fighting a war over oil, we are funding alternative energy sources, and wow: we have civil rights for all Americans! Yes, in that alternate universe we have a president who is not afraid to support gay marriage (I mean, this guy's even comfortable saying the "L" word!).

Please watch:

Here in Maryland, legislation will soon be introduced under the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act. It is important that this bill be passed to ensure my rights to enter a civil marriage contract with my partner, while ensuring your right to maintain whatever misguided beliefs you and your church have about homosexuality. See? It's win/win!

Now, back to your universe and a look at the man some of you chose over President Gore (warning — safe for work, just gross):

That thud you heard yesterday ... was me falling off of the HFCS wagon

Twice. Yes, sometimes you need a Coca-Cola -- like when nothing else will sit in your stomach.

I have been fighting a strange bug for the last couple of days that's got my stomach churning and my head swimming. I feel very sorry for my online students yesterday afternoon. They must have been sitting at their desks saying, "What did she just say?" as I rambled along. I'm a little scared to send out my post-class evaluation ....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

laughter yoga in abu dhabi

Let me explain the title of this post.

As you may or may not know, this is a relatively new blog. It began in its original form in May 2007, with some updates over the past summer. I must say, I’m still amazed and humbled that readers return here to see what I’ve written. Thank you! I love reading your comments. (Well, usually, that is. Some of the comments on the tiger attack story got a little creepy and so for the first time I had to close the comments. Sheesh. I mean, I’m not Andrew Sullivan – I want to read your comments!)

I’m always interested in increasing our readership, so occasionally I check sitemeter to find out how you get here. If you have a blog, you probably do that, too. I’m pleased to be listed on several blogrolls around the universe, and occasionally one of my posts will be reposted elsewhere. But many people simply land here after doing a Google search, and I love to see the words they typed into Google. It’s a fascinating, and sometimes scary, peek into the minds of you readers. Here are some of the more interesting words that readers searched on to land here:
write a poem about jello that start with j
laughter yoga in abu dhabi
benedict gays new year threat
core values neo pagan
get rid caucus
vicious grannies
obam will lose in navada
huckabee son dog strangle
nevada caucus sour grapes
fred thompson dog york sc
god every means page
I have no idea what that last one means or why you ended up here. But I don't think you stuck around. Or did you?

Image thanx to

Mitt Romney: The whitest white man in America celebrates MLK Day

Found this video at Firedoglake:

Peace out, Mitt.

Can I still have a cheeseburger if I leave off the ketchup?

I recently decided to try to lose a little weight and get in better shape. For the first time in many years, we actually have a beach vacation planned months in advance. Usually we decide on a Thursday to go to Rehoboth Beach, which is about 3 hours away, but this time we've already rented a place in Provincetown for a week in May. And I am not too proud to say that getting in shape now is motivated totally and completely by vanity.

Now I'm not talking about being any "biggest loser." I'm in relatively good shape already. In fact when I've said to friends and colleagues that I want to lose a little weight, their response is usually "oh, you don't need to lose any weight!" My doctor disagrees. I went for a physical recently, and all was good, except when she asked if I was exercising much. I said yes, and that I was hoping to lose about 20 pounds. She smiled a little and said "Yeah, well 15 would be really good."

Now, I love good food. I love butter and all things dairy. I enjoy a good steak, and almost more enjoy a really good cheeseburger. With a cold pint of ale. Sigh. So in addition to spending a lot of time with my new best friend, the elliptical trainer, I'm trying to change my eating habits. And one thing I'm trying to do is cut down ny intake of processed foods, and cut out foods that contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Although HFCS has been a boon to food manufacturers, the effects on the human body are still somewhat murky. As one writer says:
But there's another reason to avoid HFCS. Consumers may think that because it contains fructose--which they associate with fruit, which is a natural food--that it is healthier than sugar.

A team of investigators at the USDA, led by Dr. Meira Field, has discovered that this just ain't so.

Sucrose is composed of glucose and fructose. When sugar is given to rats in high amounts, the rats develop multiple health problems, especially when the rats were deficient in certain nutrients, such as copper. The researchers wanted to know whether it was the fructose or the glucose moiety that was causing the problems. So they repeated their studies with two groups of rats, one given high amounts of glucose and one given high amounts of fructose. The glucose group was unaffected but the fructose group had disastrous results. The male rats did not reach adulthood. They had anemia, high cholesterol and heart hypertrophy--that means that their hearts enlarged until they exploded. They also had delayed testicular development. Dr. Field explains that fructose in combination with copper deficiency in the growing animal interferes with collagen production. (Copper deficiency, by the way, is widespread in America.) In a nutshell, the little bodies of the rats just fell apart. The females were not so affected, but they were unable to produce live young.

And to put it in a more practical way:

"One of the issues is the ease with which you can consume this stuff," says Carol Porter, director of nutrition and food services at UC San Francisco. "It's not that fructose itself is so bad, but they put it in so much food that you consume so much of it without knowing it."

A single 12-ounce can of soda has as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup. And because the amount of soda we drink has more than doubled since 1970 to about 56 gallons per person a year, so has the amount of high fructose corn syrup we take in. In 2001, we consumed almost 63 pounds of it, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA suggests most of us limit our intake of added sugar -- that's everything from the high fructose corn syrup hidden in your breakfast cereal to the sugar cube you drop into your after-dinner espresso -- to about 10 to 12 teaspoons a day. But we're not doing so well. In 2000, we ate an average of 31 teaspoons a day, which was more than 15 percent of our caloric intake. And much of that was in sweetened drinks.

In other words, it's everywhere! It's in my Snapple -- it's even in my ketchup! So I'll let you know from time to time how this is all going. Meanwhile, you know that person that's always in your way at the grocery store because they're reading every word on every label? Yeah, sorry, that'd be me ....

Well, it costs a lot of money to run a war

And the world markets are paying the price. The news from overseas is not good this morning:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stock index futures sank on Tuesday as fear of a recession gripped investors, suggesting Wall Street will join a global equities plunge that could usher in a bear market.

Weaker-than-expected earnings from Bank of America and Wachovia Corp, the second- and fourth-largest U.S. banks, respectively, added to the grim mood on Wall Street. Shares of Bank of America fell 5.3 percent, and Wachovia slid 3.4 percent in trading before the opening bell.

The sell-off in futures follows sharp losses in global equities on worries a deteriorating U.S. economy would drag other regions down with it.

European stocks posted their biggest percentage drop since the September 11, 2001 attacks on Monday when U.S. financial markets were closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
And from this morning's Washington Post:

Last week, the Bush Administration unveiled its proposed fiscal stimulus package. The announcement was designed to instill confidence in the economy, but investors responded by sending shares down to their worst weekly performance since mid-2002.

"People are really scared about the depth and the potential side effects of this recession from the U.S. The data is really bad," [Stephen Green, senior economist with Standard Chartered Bank] said.

The markets fell as fears spread that massive losses on loans made to U.S. home buyers would cascade through the world financial system. Some of the firms that play important, but usually invisible, roles in the global financial architecture are turning out to be exposed to the downturn in the housing market in such a way that their ability to function is threatened.

The companies that insure bond investors against defaults are having to make massive payouts. One, ACA Financial, owes $60 billion that it cannot afford to pay and has been taken over by the Maryland insurance regulator. Its credit rating has been lowered.

Fasten your seat belts. it's going to be a bumpy ride.