Thursday, January 25, 2007

For the Day

There's a new-to-me cartoon called Diesel Sweeties. The last several days a 'girl' (unspecified 15-25-year-old) alien has been talking to the boy (same) main character. Today he asked her how they "separate the men from the boys" on her home planet. Her response: "ideally, with a centrifuge."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Learning Curves

I'm cramming reading in for sanity's sake. I've finished one and am halfway through another short but important philosophical texts. I took notes on Berkeley's Treatise concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, and am forcing myself through Hume's Enquiry into the Principles of Human Understanding. Berkeley is hard to follow everywhere he goes; Hume is an extremely pleasingly written disaster. It's amazing how true the blood runs: AngloAmerican analytic philosophy is still running in so many of these assumptions and techniques. I see Quine and Wittgenstein and Austin and Ryle in this phrase and that.

On the other end of life, I'm trying to learn how to introduce adult cats to one another. Both our Alora and Mom's Ippi (for Mississippi) were street cats, strays taken in and thus fighters and survivors. I just really can imagine a lot of disastrous scenarios. Neither is an indoor cat, but Mom's is new and may leave or go out and get killed (our neighborhood is a good deal rougher, petwise, than Mom's was), which would devastate Mom; and ours can no longer keep the area toms at bay and was getting badly mauled, so we brought her, much against her will, in, only a few months ago. And of course Dixie, all hundred pounds of her, is indoors at least at night. Soooo...we'll see, I guess.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Evangelical Critique of Rove-Cheneyism as Practiced by the President

I've said bits and pieces of this before, but let me clear, and concise if I can, about the miserable political situation I see in our country. Jim Wallis has done this better, in "God's Politics: Why the Right Is Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It." But shy of reading that, here's this. Now, once I start, the end will seem predictable. I don't think it is; I am more nuanced than my initial comments might indicate: indeed, I feel heartsick and conflicted about so much of this. I will respond to comments, but otherwise hope to leave this subject alone for quite a while. It's important, but not very edifying. But if you have the stomach for this sort of thing at all, listen in as I think my way through this in one go.

The big picture is that at the peak of its power and world influence, America has been led primarily by mediocrities. Particularly in foreign affairs, since Truman, only Kennedy has shown some glimmer of real vision for a world led by America in a new and better direction, and only he had to deal with a real threat to the US (the Cuban missile standoff with Russia); Reagan just happened to be president when Communism and apartheid were collapsing of their own accord. (H.W. got to host the end-of-an-era party.) Eisenhower, Ford, Carter, H.W. (Bush the First, who at least had the virtue of thinking of himself as a president, not a king), and Clinton were Okay on this, bad on that, mostly middling. They couldn't do too awfully, because they were running the most powerful ship on the seas, but they hardly maximized what we could have done for good (and our good) in the world. The exceptions were Johnson and W. (Bush II, whose handlers like to position him as king, but who thinks of himself as a fraternity president), both Texans, for whom the overriding approach to relations with strangers was to engage in Operation Manhood. Both embroiled us hopelessly, for purely their own psychological reasons, in pointless bloodletting which ruined our reputation as a beacon of democracy and fairness, wasted our mostly earnest and well-meaning military, was doomed from the start strategically, and which, while a major war in the lives and region of the soldiers and of the places we were fighting (Vietnam, Iraq), were not really wars for us at all, but diversions. Nixon, finally, was a would-be autocrat, a real threat to the constitution while he was coherent, Caligula-like in his delusions at the end if Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig are to be believed.

Which brings us to the big picture right now. Generationally speaking, the boomers who were the fighters in Vietnam are now the policymakers in Washington. The divisions in our country right now are boomer divisions. And this administration is driven by those who were young conservatives in the 1960s and early 70s and their proteges, who are very intentionally replaying the Nixon administration, trying to reverse all its lessons. Cheney and Rumsfeld, Gingrich and DeLay, on down the list. It goes something like this.

1. Nixon was only impeached for political advantage for the Democrats, not because he routinely and explicitly instructed White House staff to violate the law, used the FBI for personal political revenge, had a completely unAmerican concept called "executive privilege" which supposedly made his doings above the law, and did not want to abide by constitutional restrictions on his power in general. So, solution: impeach Clinton only for political advantage.

2. We lost Vietnam because we weren't savage enough and didn't frankly take over the country, nineteenth-century-imperial-power-style. Solution: take over Iraq, and do it as savagely (Abu Graib) as it takes.

3. It was unpatriotic for people to differ with the government (mainly here meaning Nixon, not Johnson) over Vietnam--read: those of us who went to Vietnam earnestly believing that we were doing the right thing were not wrong to trust our government, and we were not bad people for being good soldiers. (Of course, all of the principals in our current political debacle are *not* veterans, having, like W., gotten out of it at the time; the actual veterans, like Murtha and Kerry and McCain, have very different views from both the simple proIraq and antiIraq people.) It is hard not to be sympathetic with this driving dynamic. I agree with Jonson and Wilde that patriotism is both the last and the first refuge, rhetorically speaking, of scoundrels trying to distract the public from paying attention to how wrong they (the scoundrels) are. More importantly, though, I think patriotism at the *national* level is passe; we need a global patriotism instead, now. But I certainly respect young men and women who served without irony in Vietnam; it is not to be expected that young adults would have all the issues sorted out that their elders are dealing with, and followers have to follow leaders sometime or other with a minimum of fuss, or nothing ever gets done. All I'm saying is don't underplay the "good kid" syndrome: those who were proud of what they (they would say "we") did in Vietnam, and resent how the war and its participants have been treated ever since, are motivated participants in this administration's attempt to rewrite history.

3. We were right in Vietnam, not wrong. This is a natural but unhelpful feeling. It dates back originally to when there was a huge reaction against Carter's willingness to say that we were wrong, that we needed to repent and do things differently, etc. Reagan partly rode to power in 1980 on the anger of people tired of apologizing. Since 1994, the Repubs have used this gut sense as a powerful appeal, using it to eliminate nuanced consideration of issues. We are doing the right thing here, because we are the ones who do right things, because we are right, because we are the good guys, because we, after all, are us. Of course, as I said yesterday, in a fallen world, sometimes the good guys are wrong, badly wrong--there are African Americans named Thames in eastern Mississippi, and I don't think it's because ex-slaves moved there and admired us so much. But it is a hard lesson to absorb.

4. Nixon was right, not wrong. Presidents are good guys, we are not fools for trusting them, we should do what they say, and you should shut up. Clinton slyly--for he did much of what he did slyly--brought back the concept of executive privilege, a royalist doctrine that intentionally confuses the secrecy of spy work and the confidentiality of routine personnel matters with the desire of imperialistic presidents to operate without any review or transparency, because they do not want to be accountable to anyone.
Why would anyone besides the president himself be in favor of this? My guess is this: in Chesterton's fantastic novel, "The Man Who Was Thursday," an anarchist explains to a naive police investigator why big business ceo's would bankroll anarchists. He says, don't you understand? The poor object to being governed badly; the rich object to being governed at all. And I think maybe that's it here; in the era when major businesses have had government oversight reduced or eliminated, when taxes on the middle class have gone up and taxes on the rich have gone down, when corporate leaders' pay has risen from 20-40 times as much as the average employee to 300-400 times as much as the average employee, the rich and the aspiring rich want a role model of someone who, because they are "us," doesn't have to follow any of the rules. The factory worker or service shlub will gripe about taxes and appreciate a holiday from governance every so often--in the middle ages, that's where april fool's day came from, when the followers got to lead--but they *want* someone steering the ship, keeping them from hurting each other, but mostly keeping the rich from exploiting them without recourse.
But for the already privileged we have Alberto Gonzalez and Cheney's legal team. We suspend habeas corpus, we define certain classes of people out of the protection of the laws, we say that government or presidential or CIA activities are immune to review by congress or the courts. Do you *hear* this? This is how an American dictatorship would start. We wouldn't all suddenly vote to be communist or fascist. An American loss of freedom would have to come incrementally via someone talking us into giving up our freedoms voluntarily, in ways that "made sense" to us. Hence the Karl Rove fear card, the completely spurious "we're at war, so all rules are off" "argument," the kangaroo courts that should embarrass the military officers told to serve on them; hence Guantanamo and CIA prisons in eastern Europe and *Syria*(!) and 'you elected me to lead'. All said, if you listen closely, with a serpent's hiss.
Hello, people? Magna Carta and all that? This comes out in Bush's well, they can cut funding for the war but I'm still going to do whatever I want. Guys, that's where the English parliament came from, where democracy came from: the people getting together to keep the king from bankrupting the country by going out and waging wars of interest to no one but him personally.

And why do we think this administration likes war so much? Because in theory, at least, the army has to do what you tell it to without any discussion. These people profoundly do not believe in democracy, let alone freedom. Because democracy involves endless conversations and decisions that don't quite fully please anyone; necessarily this is so, because *good*, informed, responsible people do *not* all agree. When congress was utterly supine, the administration didn't mind telling it what to do. But there is no interest in talking substantively with anyone who does not immediately say yessuh massuh. So that rules out any meaningful domestic politics. It also rules out any meaningful or constructive foreign policy. Because the only lesson we are teaching people around the world in Iraq is, damnit when we get a bunch of really nasty military hardware, we'll make our guys go blow someone else up, and we won't explain or apologize or have to have any good reasons--just like the Americans; and, hey, no need to discuss or agree with anyone, just posture and bluff, like Bush did. It is Bush who has taught Ahmadinejad and Chavez how to behave--and, most frighteningly, has given Putin permission to act overtly like the ex-KGB man he is. There were no "weapons of mass destruction," nor did Cheney et al. care whether there were. Nation-building? Bush could not care less whether Iraq is a democracy or not, since he doesn't like democracy all that much here; and God help us, the most recent excuse, Iran's got to be resisted, is the last playing card from the boomer's experience of the 70s: let's replay and undo the Iran hostage crisis. If they take us to war there, then we really could end up in a *war*. It will take years to recover from the debacles they've talked us into already.

A word more on the other reason the administration likes war. It creates a "special situation" where regular rules don't apply. This is for domestic political purposes, mainly, not so we can win a foreign fight. We're supposed to unite behind the president, and trust him, since he knows more about the situation than we do--which is convenient, since the intense belief in secrecy and nonaccountability guarantees that no one else will have an informed opinion. It makes traitors out of people who disagree or "help the enemy"--and the Bushite official who criticized lawyers for agreeing to represent al-Qaeda and Iraqi prisoners is precisely on message for this administration. Differing from me is treason, we don't have to follow the laws, we're good guys and they're bad guys, so *we* can do anything to *them* we want, and no one can know about or ask anything or say anything about it. Guys, this is horrific: this is totalitarianism in the womb. And even if I ought to give you the benefit of the doubt on foreign affairs, it's no reason at all for me to agree with you to renew or make permanent yet another round of tax breaks for the rich or regarding excusing corporations from environmental regulations. Those have nothing to do with your war.

4. Besides, it's all just a game to them. This is the Tom DeLay / W. / Trent Lott / Karl Rove approach. Gerrymander electoral districts in the offseason, espouse racism in safe quarters, never admit you were wrong or sincerely utter an apology, lie big and repeatedly with a straight face. And when called on all this, say, hey, it's just a game, it's not that big a deal, I'm going back to a cushy private life as a wealthy person anyway, it's just politics, that's how it's played, it was fun for a while, government is just a game and doesn't really matter.

Words should fail me at this attitude of extremely cavalier privilege. So just one point. These guys are really cavalier in their attitude. How cavalier are they?

The "war on terror" is not a war. It is a nasty police action, so nasty that it requires spies and military units. But it is not a war. Osama was not trying to overthrow the US, although he wouldn't shed any tears for us. He was trying to overthrow the House of Saud. Saddam wasn't in league with bin Laden; those two hate each other. We did Osama a favor by overthrowing and killing Saddam. The war on terror is a minor outrigger of a giant four way civil war in the Muslim world between Shia and Sunni and between modernizers and medievalizers. Destroying the Taliban was reasonable as a response to 9-11, and no one, even in the muslim world, has criticized us much for that. As for the rest, it's not our deal. We have no dog in that fight. We probably should prefer the modernizers win; but we have no particular reason to prefer Shia to Sunni or vice-versa. The British and French had the good sense, in worldly terms, to watch our civil war from the sidelines, talking to both sides and financing and arming both sides. If we'd sort out nuclear energy, or spend Exxon's trillions in profit on developing hydrogen fuel cells or electric cars, or build a real transit system, we wouldn't care squat about oil, and that cynical argument about our foreign policy would just fall away. Don't tell me we can't replace oil. It's a matter of will.
But why mention our prior experience or our actual self-interest as a nation? This administration thinks that history begins with them, and that their self-interest equates to the national self-interest.

The main thing here is that the war in Iraq is not a war, not for us. For them it is, but not for us. Here's some ways to tell.
No draft.
No impact on consumer spending or availability of consumer products.
Young men are still around in the States.
World War II was a war: 10% of the US population was in the military--we'd have 30 million people in the military if that were true right now. There were no 17-34 year old men in the US for those five years. Production of civilian cars, tires, and other products was stopped. Food supplies were regulated, so that you were issued coupons for things like sugar. Women's dresses were shortened in order to save fabric (or so they said; maybe that one wasn't entirely driven by war materiel needs) and pantyhose eliminated. Americans today will only even consider supporting a war if it is one that the administration can guarantee will have no impacts on them whatsoever. It is a boutique war, like the Spanish Civil War was a dry run for World War II; a place that doesn't bother or interest us, that no sizable number of us is from, that can't possibly threaten our national security (even though that's our official rationale), where we can try out tactics and technology without having to care about outcomes very much. Something we can do with one arm tied behind our back, our attention elsewhere, and the other arm on a videogame joystick.

So it's a war with "no costs" to us, an exercise, something to do. But why do that?

War is the term used, and Cheney and Rove and Rumsfeld and Bush got us in a war that would last indefinitely because they wanted an indefinite excuse for rule by secrecy and fiat, uncontested and where they could plausibly always accuse their opponents of being unpatriotic. It's more nuanced than that, I think, but not much.

Now, having said all this and been, I think, pretty clear about where I stand, here's the surprising part.

I'm happy about a few things. Bush's hegemony has broken the more aggressive and unpleasant factions in the culture wars. Now, more helpfully, it is marriage, about which a legitimate discussion is possible, not some general right to unrestricted sex with whomever whenever, which is being debated now, a different tone than during Clinton's era. Abortion rights are being restricted without, so far as I can tell, being really threatened. And Christians can out themselves in business, entertainment, and public affairs (although not yet in science) without immediately destroying their careers. These are, to me, generally positive moves that might well have occurred in healthier ways, but did, let me grant, occur under the Bush umbrella. I'm not sorry that I can voice my views without ducking.

Even there, though, this adminstration is a huge problem. For, by its blatantly and obviously Machiavellian use of religion (I can think of no significant policy evangelical Christians are in favor of that has been passed at the federal level or even seriously been considered), and the equation that has been firmly fixed in educated nonchristians' minds between Bushism and real Christianity, that I fear that nothing has so set evangelism back in decades as these people. To be associated with Christ is to be associated with them: with ugly, rude mean-spirited conflict; with an utter lack of interest in conversation, discussion, persuasion, finding common ground, or genuine appeals; and with a gloating, hardline chanting of a party line. This is horrible, and devastating to meaningful witness. Of all the numerous domestic and foreign disasters which we will finally attribute to this administration, the utter loss of credibility for Christ among nonbelievers will be one of the worst.

And yet, and yet...all is not lost, not by a long shot. My complaints, like Cheney's and Rove's machinations, are only possible because of the spoiled situation in which we find ourselves. It is such a wealthy and powerful and free and well-regulated country that it will take many an ar-Pharazon the Golden--er, Bush--to thoroughly wreck it. Americans are 60 times wealthier than Chinese, to give some perspective. Also, there are millions of believers here, some of them thoughtful and many of them caring. They cannot be led wrong forever--think Lincoln's can't fool all the people all the time. The strong and definite stands of this unnuanced administration at least give us clear examples of what to do or not do. The globalization of the world means that no one country can either fix or ruin everything. And none of this takes grace and the work of the Spirit into account. So I leave you with what came to me as I was wondering whether to even share these thoughts aloud: as Galadriel said of Samwise, Hope still lives, while the Company is true--not thoughtlessly obedient, not open-minded, not tough on crime, not unwilling to judge others: while it is *true*.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Aut Blogi Aut Mori

I've been surfing through the amazing world of mom blogs, and I ran across this motto under a clip-art-style graphic of an old-fashioned revolver, pointed out at the viewer. It's Latin, and means, Either Blog or Die. On a mommy blog. Wow.

So what's this about?

A couple of observations so far.

One is, momblogging is the current equivalent of 90s MOPS groups or 80s Sesame Street watching: intelligent, educated women, staying home at least part time, doing what they need to do to keep from going stir-crazy babbling with the precious delicate flower with all its lovely, poo-forward qualities.

The second is, this is the reasonable postmodernizing of mother discussions. For the thing prized in this world above all appears to me to be honesty, authenticity. One way to define the postmodernizing culture is to spot contexts where people value authenticity over expertise, genuineness over qualifications. There are problems with this approach--in the 70s and 80s the onset of this lifeview turned educated Californians into New Agers, which percolated out into the rest of the society in the 90s and is now just part of the operating system. But on the other hand, it has the laudable effect of enshrining the taking of personal responsibility as a virtue. It also is a salutary reminder that children are not a product to be optimized. More to the point, what else would actual contemporary women sound like, if left to their own devices and given a technology that gives them a voice?

So props to dooce and alphamom and all the rest, as unedifying as some of that reading is. The point for a guy like me is not to critique them: I'm not doing any momming right now.

Of course, I'm glad I'm married to Dawn and got to raise kids with her when I did (although even there, we would rather have raised them in Lusaka). But if there is any wisdom or godliness we've acquired in that, we won't get it to these women by shooting them down, identifying them as the enemy (which the New Testament forbids us doing in any case), or presenting ourselves as experts.

The question for me insofar as I am a Christian parent is, how do I authentically and genuinely share whatever combination of wisdom and honest failings that I have to these people? The question for me insofar as I am an evangelical Christian is, not are there problems there and things to object to in these blogs, but how do you imagine that these people would look and sound seven months from now if we injected Jesus into that conversation in a way that was winsome and compelling?

In any case, surely we could agree that flaming their posts with critical comments will not very likely get them any closer to the Spirit's fire.

How about this instead?

Ecce Agne Dei, qui tollit peccata mundi--behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Here's Lookin' at You, Kid

I awoke at 6:30 to the dean calling to say that school is cancelled today. Yay!

Classes started yesterday, and went fine, although I have to remember various voice-saving strategies to get through the Tuesday-Thursday long days when I have four and a half hours of classes straight.

Dawn's mom moves in today...unless the weather catches Dawn and her in Texarkana somewhere.

I suppose this is true of many and increasingly more situations in today's culture, but one reason I like my college is that even mere visual diversity is inescapable. I think that that is incredibly healthy. Now the diversity that counts is the invisible kind: the different values, worldviews, sensibilities and sensitivities that people have. But the visual stands for that. God has so made the world that it all always tries to be meaningful, and such that meaning is always looking for a physical outlet or embodiment. What that means is that I know in my head that people have enormously different outlooks on life and things that they care about, but that I am much more likely to realize it fully, to have it come home to me, if I can see it "impersonated," in some person whose clothes, skin, hair, physiognomy, carriage, something, conveys that to my senses.

So I suppose most adults have at least heard the word Hinduism and associate it with India and religion, but having Nepalese students in my classes drives it home that this is a reality.

One would prefer that the visual diversity weren't so important. I'd like that part to just be cool. Like the time when Dawn and I were looking for churches in Louisville, Kentucky (a great city: move there if you can), and visited this one where--I have described this before--the music minister was earnestly dressed in brown polyester, the choir was happy and in robes, a silver fox in bad plaid led old gospel tunes from memory, a high school band soldiered on, clones of Eric Clapton and Moby led a worship band off to one side, the pastor was a white Zambian (well: Rhodesian, as they say), the people sitting behind us were ancient old ladies, and the woman in front of us was a black-garbed, purple-haired cosmetologist.

This is only a big deal because segregation continues to prevail at 11am on Sundays. If our sin wasn't manifested visibily, it wouldn't be so important to manifest goodness visibly. In South Africa in the 80s one church even concluded, for this very reason, that it was a sin *not* to worship in a visibly cross-racial congregation. I just observe that the Spirit is conforming us *all* to the image of Jesus ("his dear son"), and, since that obviously doesn't entail us all starting to look like Jewish guys, it must mean that the image of Jesus looks a good deal more like all of us put together than like any one of us alone. So the more of us, and the more kinds of us, we get together in Christ, the more Christlike it looks.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Dawn is in Kentucky helping her mom pack up. I fly up tomorrow (thanks, Maggie, for the airport shuttle) to load the moving van and drive it back. Having her mom move in with us may either tank or drastically increase the need for my blogging, so we'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, pick up Neil Howe and Bill Strauss's books, either The Fourth Turning or Generations: A History of the United States from 1584-2069. Creepily insightful, a la the way Meiers-Briggs can't possibly be that neat and clean, and yet, and yet...their manuals sound like someone's been reading my secret diary, along with my stuffed bear and other things nobody knows anything about me. So yeah, the generational talk gets tedious, but this is the nontedious horse's mouth, so to speak, where the legitimate aspects of it come from.

The subtitle of the Roman philosopher Seneca's book On the Shortness of Life is, "Life Is Long If You Know How to Use It," in which he usefully distinguishes between addiction, obsessions such as workaholism or shopaholism, and boredom on the one hand, from appreciating and understanding your life as you live it, intentionally but not desperately, on the other. If it were only as easy to do as to say.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers

Thanks to many for the greatness which was the second annual Nearly New Year's Masquerade Party. Kudos to Maggie for costume subject to the most number of interpretations, and to Ted and Paul for sound system techiness. Thirtyfive people in masks. Has to be fun.

Dawn and I went as Abelard and Heloise, the medieval philosophical couple. Since they suffered hugely for their love life together, we decided to go as A & H, The Early Years, before know...icky parts. And I think we did Early rather well.

The ability of some people to make every single judgment call wrong is truly amazing to me. One thing some of our current leaders suffer from leaderomania. I am sensitive to this because it afflicts the emerging church movement mightily, and I myself am tempted, even when in no position to give in. There's a lot to observe about the obsession with leaders and heroes, but here's one tidbit that gets me.

It is that leadership matters enormously, in the sense of the overall tone and direction. People get that, whereas they get lost in details and operational stuff. But it doesn't matter in the sense of indispensability in order for a system to function. So, e.g., the world will continue to turn just fine regardless of who the US president is. Moreover, the general functioning of the US system not only does not depend on any one person, no one person stands more than the tiniest sliver of a chance of having any significant impact on the system. I don't mean did the stock market or mortgage rates go up or down. I mean, are we capitalist? Can the economy produce or acquire what its people require? Big systemic things like that, which contextualize all the more detailed stuff. Even the individual people who do have some impact--Bill Gates, for instance--depended on timing and luck enormously to get where they are.

On the other hand, leadership matters hugely in iconic terms. The current US president gets this, although his choice of icons and his sense of what is needed is unerringly, uncannily wrong. In today's paper, the reports of CIA use of security services such as Syria's, for Pete's sake, never mind prisons in Bulgaria or whatever, is just the sort of we-are-above-the-law-because-we-are-the-good-guys-because-we-are-us milieu that Cheney and Rumsfeld's team created and which Bush has reveled in. As I've said before, Bush's reasons for liking this modus operandi seem to me to be personal and psychological: I have yet to hear a single genuinely strategic or structural comment from him, let alone statesmanship. So I think his motives are personal. But Cheney and Rumsfeld's motives are, so far as I can see, derived from Vietnam and Watergate, and the point of this whole 8 year exercise in antidemocratic rule is to reverse the legacies of modesty and accountability learned in those two difficult experiences. Hence the massive expansion of presidential power, the elimination of safeguards for civil liberties, and all the rest mentioned by the oh-so-conservative Dallas Morning News as problems needing to be dealt with.

The upshot is, if you have a leader who sees a bigger vision that turns enemies into friends and envisions win-win scenarios and who thinks transparency is fine because his ideas are the right ones and so they will win any fair fight in the marketplace of ideas, then you get people who obey the laws, look for solutions, talk to others, etc. If you have a leader whose most immediate reactions are who's on our side and who's the bad guy, who's to blame, who's the enemy, and who thinks rules are for little people, and who thinks the mass of people can't be trusted, then you get CIA prisons, the suspension of habeas corpus, snuck-in alterations to legal language always in the direction of saying that only the president can decide whether or not the president and the executive branch have gone too far, and so on. I have probably said this before, but I think the final outcome of the Reagan-Bush II years will be that we will have to spend much of the next ten years re-creating all the open government, anticorruption, antimonopoly, antiexploitation legislation of the 1890-1970 period.

You can't say everything every time, so it's tempting to say a general summary every time, or to not say anything without killing it with qualifications, so as to not have to debunk outraged criticisms and bewildered misunderstandings of whatever small percent of what you think overall that you decide to say at this or that time. But as along as everyone realizes that I realize that a single post like this is not all there is to say, then I think I'll go ahead.

As an evangelical Christian, I conclude by noting that according to Scripture, the Lord sits on the margins of the heavens and scoffs at the pretentions of the nations, and holds their rulers and their vanity in derision. I'm not God; I don't get to take that attitude simpliciter; but for those who claim some facet of a God-perspective on human affairs, I think a jaundiced view of politicians who claim to enact "our" agenda for "our" good is a necessary component of any publicly aware Christian's outlook.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Stab at a Sonnet

Here's a poem on trying to do it all. Copyright moi, please.

Let Me Just Once Essay

Let me, just once, essay the hard, brave thing,
Then stick to plan, endure, and keep to task;
And not evade, but, as the questions cling,
Try my best to answer what I ask.
Yet, who am I to live three lives at once?
Demand my heart and mind to bear the strain
Of study, work, and family life, all fronts?
To be both one and three is, they say, much too vain.
Yet master, mate, and mission all have claims:
They give me meaning, love, and purpose--
For strikes the target best who closest aims;
He alone thrives who prays, commits, and does.
So, who would not attempt the divine dare:
To live and love and work with equal care?
Mark Thames (c) 2007.