Weekend Update 08-27-2011

Posted: August 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 08-27-2011

You’re allergic to beer?: Living Gluten-Free in College It’s pretty cool to see celiac disease articles and columns in publications like USA Today. My son managed last year in a dorm well and this year he has his own apartment with a roommate and is learning to plan and cook most of his meals for himself. Her story does illustrate how difficult it can be even for people with celiac disease to keep all the facts about the disease and food straight. Yeast, for instance, is not the real problem with beer. (If it were, it wouldn’t be possible to make gluten free beers.) Rather, the problem is that beer is essentially a fermented barley infusion (perhaps with rye and/or wheat as well).

And another good news article on celiac disease in US News & World Report. It left out the important point that studies also indicate that roughly 90% of those with celiac disease are undiagnosed and don’t know they have it. Usually it’s just those with particularly severe acute symptoms or those in the late stages of the disease (like me) suffering from things like osteoporosis or anemia. The celiac blood tests need to be added to the routine screenings so it can be caught early which, as the article notes, is very important.

Sarcastic responses to well-meaning signs. Many of these are pretty funny!

Gosh, if that’s the way the right is going, the next thing you know they’ll reject the theory of evolution. Oh, wait.

This Jon Stewart clip is absolutely fantastic. Sadly, a lot of people in the US apparently can’t do basic arithmetic.

Krugman discusses the strange power of really bad ideas — in this case raising the Medicare age.

Nasa has an excellent site on global climate change.

With the Fed also intimidated into inaction, it’s hard to see any end to the ongoing economic disaster. An excellent analysis, not that it will make any difference.

Not cut out for religion. This is excellent.

I was pretty young when I first heard Stairway to Heaven. I liked most of my parents’ music, but this was one of the songs that struck a chord deep within me. I quickly memorized it so I could sing it even when I couldn’t listen to it. Even now, it’s a song that never fails to move me when I hear it. If there are two paths you can go by, in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.


Neither Do I Condemn You

Posted: August 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Faith, Personal | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

From the day I first read the Gospel of John, I’ve been haunted by the Jesus in it. Even as young as I was, I had read the Bhagavad Gita. I had read the Tao Te Ching. I had read the Life of Prince Siddhartha. I had studied tarot, palmistry, numerology, and astrology. My childhood was deeply and thoroughly pluralistic. When I started reading John, it felt comfortable, but as I read it began to turn things upside down. John’s Gospel, as much as anything else, drew me to Christian churches, where I discovered something very odd. Most Christians are uncomfortable with John. It’s not something you notice immediately. After all, John 3:16 seems to be one of the most popular verses in the world. But pay attention. Many Christians shy away from John except for a few select verses or passages. John challenges. John turns the way we want to view the world on its head. John gives no easy answers or safe directions.

Neither do I condemn you.

Those are the words in what we call chapter 8. They captured me. My whole life, I’ve known what it means to be loved. And I’ve known what is to be condemned — even sometimes by those I thought loved me. That truth was driven home at a very young age when two of my three closest friends held me at school while the third punched me in the stomach. I was hurt, but even more I was bewildered. I remember to this day the high school girl who took the time to comfort me when she stumbled across me.

Neither do I condemn you.

People try to qualify or dismiss those words in John 8. Unfortunately, that’s the message Jesus repeats again and again in John. In the prologue, we read that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John introduces him as the one who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus tells Nicodemus that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world. Jesus sits and speaks with a Samaritan, a woman, and one who has had multiple husbands and he does not condemn — someone that everyone else condemned. He warns that those who dehumanize themselves by doing evil face condemnation — but it’s not an external condemnation. He feeds people and tells them that he is giving them his body to eat and his blood to drink. God is providing himself as their food. And then a woman caught in adultery is thrown at his feet. And in the context of all that has happened in John, he tells her the sweetest words ever spoken by God and ever heard by man.

Neither do I condemn you.

I grew older and became a teen parent in a story I’ve told elsewhere. I faced condemnation everywhere, from Christians and non-Christians alike. But the condemnation of Christians hurt the worst — for I had read John. I tried to walk away and dismiss Christianity. I honestly wanted nothing more to do with it. Ever. But —

Neither do I condemn you.

And then one day I met a Christian pastor who, to my astonishment, did not condemn me. Indeed, he did what he could to help my family. And I was undone. I had tried to block those words from my mind, but they came flooding back.

Neither do I condemn you.

Last night I read a post by Young Mom. My heart ached, but I couldn’t think of any words of comfort to write. I still can’t think of any words of my own. But I know the words that matter.

Neither do I condemn you.


Weekend Update 08-20-2011

Posted: August 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 08-20-2011

Who knew the Irish drank that much more beer than the Germans? The Russian drink of choice, of course, is vodka. So that makes sense. Americans? We’re pikers (with watered down beer to boot). Of course, as a celiac, I can drink any normal beer brewed from wheat or barley, but I still find these things fun to dissect.

Indeed, since the Republicans have turned against their own universal health care plan, if the ACA is struck down (or the critical provision requiring everyone to buy into the system), then they should immediately return to a plan that improves and expands Medicare to everyone.

The Texas Unmiracle. It’s a good column. I’ll note that Texas has “surprisingly strict” regulations on mortgage lending (and banking in general) because many of the people who came here had lost their homes in other states to predatory bankers and wrote those protections into our constitution. Republicans in Texas have been trying to eliminate or circumvent those protections for some time now, but those who wrote it also made out constitution extremely difficult to change. Neither of those were accidents. They were deliberate. I also note that he does a good job of exposing a central logical fallacy, not just in Perry evangelists, but with the GOP in general. Every state can’t attract jobs from every other state (the central facet of the Texas approach) by depressing wages. Moreover, depressing wages nationally will lead to fewer jobs and more unemployment due to reduced demand. In fact, one of the major contributing factors to our current economic situation is that wages have been stagnant for 90% of Americans for the past thirty years. We’ve increased productivity a great deal, but without an equivalent increase in wages, that inevitably means less demand and lower overall employment.

If you somehow missed Warren Buffet’s opinion column in the NY Times this past week, take a minute to read it. The richest Americans actually understand that the approach the Republicans in Congress are taking is actually bad for them in the long run. Their wealth depends to a fair degree on our larger economy. Furthermore, they have more money than they can ever spend already. It’s hardly a “sacrifice” for them to pay more in taxes. Warren Buffet is not the first among the wealthiest to point this out. I honestly don’t understand who the GOP views as their core constituency.

Reason, Paranoia, and Implied Violence. If I could think of something insightful or snarky to say, I would. But honestly? I can’t think of anything to add.

The Biggest Little Hypocrite in Texas. All good and accurate points, not that little things like facts will have any impact on Perry.

Frank Schaeffer does an excellent job exposing the extreme nature of Bachman’s views on ‘submission’ and the role of women. He’s a good one to do it since he was bred in the environment and either filmed or sponsored many of those Bachman credits with shaping her perspective.

Robert Reich speaks at the Dartmouth summer lecture series. It’s a really good talk and the questions and answers are at least as illuminating as his talk itself. It’s worth the time to watch.

And this is funny. Robert Reich again on Jobs vs. Cuts.


Let’s end the culture that views children as less than fully human

Posted: August 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Personal | 9 Comments »

Elizabeth Esther published two posts yesterday on the CNN investigation of the Pearls and that aspect of Christianity in America, here and here. If you haven’t read the posts or watched the segments, I urge you to do so. If you don’t, parts of what I say here may not have much context. They are also well worth read and watching in their own right. I do want to note that, like Elizabeth, I intend to moderate comments on this post pretty heavily. This is my space and I’m not interested in paying to host what passes for “Christian discourse” on this topic in most places. If you want to engage in the defense of the Pearls, Dobson, and others like them, go do so in those places where such defense is welcome. Don’t try it here.

In the comments on Elizabeth Esther’s first post, I had a brief exchange with another person commenting. In that thread, Elizabeth made the following comment. I woke up this morning with that comment still on my mind.

“I agree, Scott. I don’t think spanking is the best option and especially since it can be so easily become abuse. However, it should be noted that the kind of corporeal punishment most Americans think of (the rare slap on the bottom) is a WORLD AWAY from the systematic, repetitive method advocated by the Pearls.”

(I’ll note that it’s hardly just the Pearls. I was horrified early in my Christian experience (back in the 90s) when I happened to pick up and skim James Dobson’s book, The Strong-Willed Child. This runs much deeper than a fringe movement. It’s pervasive through a significant portion of the American Christian culture.)

Now, I don’t particularly disagree with Elizabeth’s statement. The occasional swat on the bottom is different from techniques designed specifically to attempt to break the will of the child (as Dobson, for instance, advocates). In most cases it’s not going to have any long-lasting negative consequences on the children, as I noted, especially if compensated by a loving, structured environment in which more appropriate discipline is generally used.

Nevertheless, there’s a deeper thread in this discussion that should not be overlooked. James wrote the following.

“I think the book of Wisdom (Proverbs) would contradict that spanking when done correctly is not wise…”

I responded over on Elizabeth’s blog and I’m not particularly interested in exploring the nature of that misinterpretation and misapplication of two verses in Proverbs here. Heck, even if they weren’t misinterpreted I would personally never base the way I raise my children on two solitary OT verses over against the whole of Jesus’ teaching and everything modern, controlled studies tell us about what “works” and what doesn’t. So that particular discussion is largely meaningless and uninteresting to me. (I do find it amusing to see Proverbs call the book of Wisdom when the Christian OT already has a Wisdom other than Proverbs, but that’s a different discussion.)

I want to look at what lies beneath James’ statement. Read it and think carefully here. Is this not what it says?

God says it is wise (and therefore necessary?) to strike your child — to deliberately and intentionally inflict violence on another human being.

Really?!?! I mean really? That’s not the God I see in the Holy Scriptures. That’s not the God I see in Jesus of Nazareth. That’s not the God I see in the witness of the saints. That’s not the God I encountered. That’s not even a God I’m willing to worship.

In light of that, I think I have to reconsider my statement on Elizabeth’s post that I wouldn’t consider what parents do “sin“. After all, what is sin? It’s much, much more than particular individual acts I do as an individual that violate some law. It’s that which flows from the bondage of our common mortality. It’s the ground that permeates and twists humanity. The wisest of saints have noted that we share a common responsibility for each other. When anyone sins, it’s not, “There but for the grace of God go I.” It’s “There go I.” Moreover that sin, whatever it may be, has effects that are farther-reaching than we are ever able to perceive. In many ways, sin is structural and systemic.

Therefore, I name this attitude toward children sin. And it’s long past time to change. Directly, it provides the cover for those who go way too far. (Heck, even the ones who teach such things are often protected and lauded.) And indirectly it contributes to a culture and an attitude that says that children are less than fully human. Women and children used to be considered property. In some cultures, they still are, but it used to be virtually universal across all cultures. Largely due to the influence of Christianity, though it took centuries, that has gradually changed. Women are no longer considered property at all in much of the West, though vestiges of that attitude remain. The way they were treated even a century ago would be considered intolerable today.

Unfortunately, children are still viewed to some extent culturally as property. They are the only segment of our population that can still be legally struck by those with nearly absolute power over them. It used to be both legal and socially acceptable to strike your wife within limits. That wouldn’t fly today. (That’s not to say that spousal abuse doesn’t remain a widespread problem. It does. But we have turned the corner. It’s neither legal nor broadly acceptable.)

Why is it still socially acceptable to hit our children?

As long as that remains true, we share the responsibility for every Lydia Schatz.

Lord have mercy.


Weekend Update 08-13-2011

Posted: August 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | 2 Comments »

These two posts, here and here, by LaVonne Neff should give my “conservative” Christian friends pause. Should. But probably won’t. (Even if they bother reading them, which I don’t expect.) Hmmm. Maybe we could fund these essential programs by denying them to the ultra-conservatives who “hate” them. That would be a way of shortening their lives, at least. But honestly? I can’t really advocate such an approach.

Krugman has a great column on the S&P downgrade and our real problem. His closing conclusion of our real problem is precisely right. “The real question facing America, even in purely fiscal terms, isn’t whether we’ll trim a trillion here or a trillion there from deficits. It is whether the extremists now blocking any kind of responsible policy can be defeated and marginalized. “

This study seems like a no-brainer to me. But then, I thought I was largely asymptomatic until I was diagnosed by the development of serious, but relatively silent health issues. It was only after adopting a gluten free diet that I realized how many of the other aches, pains, and complaints I had been feeling were not simply a normal part of growing older. If you are producing auto-antibodies that are causing inflammation on a continual basis, it stands to reason that’s not healthy. Celiac can produce immediate severe symptoms, or it can be a slow creeping disease like I experienced. In either case, the end result is the same. My kids were all tested and two of them inherited celiac disease from me. They were asymptomatic, but had very high levels of the celiac specific antibodies and their small intestine biopsies showed inflammation and damage. By following a gluten free diet, they’ll be able to avoid experiencing what I experienced. If you’re diagnosed with celiac disease, insist that your children, at least, are tested.

In programming terms, we call this an infinite loop — no exit condition. Generally that’s a bad thing.

This poll shows a new trend. Americans not only want to “kick the bums out“, a majority want to kick their bum out of office. Of course, given the way most districts are gerrymandered, it will be interesting to see how that plays out over the course of the next year. Is it a general election threat, a primary threat, or a mixture of both.

This is great news for our celiac family. Navigating the grocery store will be a little easier for us all. Although honestly, living in the Austin area has always made it easier for us to manage than it is in other parts of the country.

Soylent Green is Corporations! Seriously, though, the post makes an obvious point that should be blatantly obvious to all Americans, yet somehow isn’t. “right now corporations are sitting on huge piles of cash; why imagine that making those piles bigger would lead to more job creation?” A good friend of mine and coworker for a couple of decades and I used to go on walks together regularly. (We now both work from home a lot, so not so much anymore.) One day he commented that he had observed that every time I approached a streetlight, he could see me deciding on which side of it to walk. He told me that he thought that was a good and simple illustration of the way I approach everything. Most people would decide left or right once and just follow that course from then on. I guess I don’t do that — even on the simplest level. I’m constantly evaluating everything. Nothing is immune from it. There may be things, like sticking to my marriage through thick or thin, that I firmly decide. But I also constantly reaffirm that commitment. Most things, though? They are always up for reconsideration any time I learn something new. Even when I haven’t, I’ll reevaluate what I thought I knew. Most people decide something — based on good evidence/authority or bad — and simply never change unless placed in a crisis situation. I’m not really sure if my friend was accurate in his evaluation or not, but that conversation has always stuck in my mind. And in the current debate, I think we see a lot of people who “know” what they know even when all the evidence controverts their knowledge.

What do you think of NPR’s top 100 science-fiction/fantasy book list? Many of my favorites are on it and I’ve read the majority of the books on it. I also have many favorites that aren’t on it. But I read a lot.

The leaked AT&T memo demolishes their own case for the merger, weak as it already was. I hope it’s enough to derail the merger, but I’m skeptical. As a long-time happy Sprint customer, I’m unamused at the possibility of being forced into a Verizon/AT&T duopoly. From my perspective, both of those companies provide sub-par service and charge an arm and a leg for it.

Wow! An Orthodox Bishop who really speaks out against the ultra-conservative ideology (essentially idolatry) that has gripped American Christians. Great context for considering Rick Perry’s political “prayer” rally.


Weekend Update 08-06-2011

Posted: August 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 08-06-2011

Sanctioning blackmail. There are good reasons it’s never a good idea to pay blackmail. However severe the immediate cost of refusal might be, the long term consequences will always be worse. By acceding to extortion and blackmail, you encourage it in the future. Each time the demands will be greater and often the threatened consequences worse. Acceding to the demands of kidnappers and terrorists is also usually a poor idea for similar reasons. By doing so, you also make it crystal clear to all the predators that you are weak and vulnerable.

I think Krugman nails it. The GOP is well on its way toward succeeding in its goal of turning the wealthiest and most free country the world has ever known into a third world banana republic. I particularly enjoyed his analogy of spending cuts during a depressed economy to medieval doctors who tried to cure sick people by bleeding them.

Gollum and Smeagol on the debt deal. Very, very funny.

Basically, the stimulus was working, but it wasn’t big enough and didn’t last long enough to pull us out of the hole we were in. The economy is already plunging back to where it was — growth has stopped (which means it’s really negative in effect) and unemployment is increasing — and the recent insane deal to cut government spending when the economy is this bad won’t help.

In other news, the GOP has shut down the FAA to aid Delta’s anti-union efforts. Although this has been temporarily resolved (again by Democrats deciding it was better for the nation to pass an unsavory temporary bill the GOP House passed on its way out the door on vacation than wait for them to come back), it will be an issue again. The thuggish behavior of the GOP is, quite simply, becoming unconscionable.

Even though thoroughly vindicated by our economic failure, Krugman would rather have seen us have adequate policy. One of the reasons I like the guy.

It looks like the debt ceiling mess has Americans looking more closely at Congress and reevaluating the tea party loons. That’s good news.

Robert Reich keeps pointing out that we’re a jobs and growth crisis, not a debt crisis. Maybe at some point people will listen? Krugman also points out that Washington has been worrying about the wrong things.

Remember, Republicans don’t like tax cuts in general. They only like tax cuts for the rich. Lower and middle class Americans? Screw’em.