Weekend Update 09-24-2011

Posted: September 24th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 09-24-2011

What we need is not a change in behavior (morality) but a change in who we are (ontology). Christ came to change us, not reform us.” This post is an excellent reflection by Fr. Stephen on the nature of things.

This Hold the Gluten podcast (celebrating Celiac Awareness Day) is a really good one. Even if you don’t have celiac disease, check this one out. You’ll understand it better. Our family is a bit different. At first, when I was the only one diagnosed, I had my own little enclave of food. Family meals were generally gluten free, but there was a lot of food that wasn’t. Then when our younger two kids were diagnosed with celiac disease, there was a shift. With my wife as the only non-celiac in the house, virtually everything we have in the house is gluten free. My wife will order gluten-containing meals when she goes out to eat (with us or with friends), but our home has almost become a gluten free zone. It’s even more difficult at meals because I can’t tolerate dairy or oats anymore. That annoys us all (especially me), but it’s life, I guess.

The Bleeding Cure. Krugman compares the current irrational rash of austerity measures to the economic version of the medieval medical technique of bleeding the patient to drain the evil humors. It strikes me as an apt metaphor.

This Meatless Monday post contains some sobering facts on the impact livestock farming the way we do it today has on our environment.

The Google chairman, Eric Schmidt, pulls no punches when he calls the current government approach to the economic crisis “ludicrous”. He thoroughly debunks the current myths being propagated.

Undiagnosed gluten intolerance a cause of depression. This is certainly an established fact for celiac disease. It’s one of the possible symptoms in every list of symptoms I’ve seen. It also explains the general ineffectiveness of medication for many people.

Taxes and the wealthy. Good article, but I’m starting to believe there’s no way anymore to teach basic math to Americans. It seems like a lost cause. The process C.S. Lewis foretold in The Abolition of Man has arrived.

Amazingly, we’re having the same crisis and making the same mistakes as we did in the 30s.

GOP politicizing the Fed (a conservative organization currently led by a Bush appointee, no less) in a fairly blatant effort to continue to make the American economy worse. The only possible agenda for such an action is because they believe that’s how they’ll win next year. Basically, it’s a cynical move that says if we do everything we can to make things as bad as possible in the US, then the America people will reward us for our efforts by giving us more power. The worst part? Their analysis may be right.

Spiritual, but not religious? It’s a good article. And I appreciate the observation that those who are spiritual but not wedded to any tradition tend to explore more deeply and more thoroughly looking for something they can believe. I certainly lived and still live that dynamic.

The social contract. Indeed, we’ve had three decades of aggressive class warfare against the middle class. And now they are trying to maintain those gains by pitting different middle class groups against each and against the poor. Meanwhile, the rich get richer. We’re idiots.


Weekend Update 09-17-2011

Posted: September 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 09-17-2011

Best line in this post? Repeal the 20th century. Vote GOP.

This episode of Mysterion offers one of the shortest, clearest, and perhaps easiest to understand explanation of the distinctions between pantheism, theism, and panentheism. Christianity, of course, is panentheistic with a personal, intimately knowable God. That is its chief distinction from the religions of the world. (Yes, it’s true also that we can still only know God in his ‘energies’ not his ‘essence’. But those energies are still God and we are invited not only to know him, but actively participate in him.)

George, Mildred and the Thin Places is an excellent post. It captures the quintessentially Christian perspective on the true nature of reality, even if many threads of modern Christianity have for all practical purposes lost that view.

The income, poverty, and health insurance statistics should be sobering. Median income is in decline. Poverty is on the rise. And true poverty is somewhat masked by the “doubling up” of households described in the report. Assuming Republicans (either in Congress or through their activist judges) aren’t successful in dismantling the ACA, we will hopefully see the health insurance numbers improve in 2014. There has been a bump in the number of young adults with insurance (through their parents) thanks to one of the early provisions, but most of the significant changes don’t take effect for a couple of years yet. It boggles my mind that even after Republican economic theories (like the supply-side economics George H. W. Bush rightly called “voodoo economics”) have largely reigned over much of the past three decades and should be utterly discredited by this point, a surprising number of Americans still believe they work. And to a large degree, these are people who have been actively harmed (in aggregate) by those policies. The mind boggles.

The technology behind electronic ink is pretty cool. Once it becomes inexpensive and durable enough, it will be an excellent replacement for textbooks. Textbooks in which errata and other corrections (from new discoveries, for instance) can actually be updated? Definitely a plus.

The Perry (and Bachmann) vision of an America with ever decreasing standards of living is not even vaguely the legacy I want to leave my children. The only reason I can see that such a large cross-section of this country (outside some of the wealthiest few and corporate interests) support GOP goals is that they foolishly believe it’s a prescription for “others” not for themselves. In other words, they expect some unspecified other group to take the low-paying, no (or few) benefits, hourly jobs while they and their children achieve gains. That’s delusion for most Americans. I suppose it’s the same sort of delusion that leads people to believe they are actually going to win the lottery.

The world’s biggest employers. A visual way to explain why cutting government in the middle of a jobs crisis is usually a pretty stupid move.

Let Him Die. The GOP position on health care (where they can even be said to express a coherent position). “Details remain to be worked out around the disposal of corpses and the distribution of orphans. But, say what you will, theirs is not a socialist approach.” So obviously these are the candidates for whom good “Christians” should vote.

Elizabeth Esther has a great post about apologizing to her gay neighbors.

Free to Die. The GOP prescription for America.

Robert Reich debunks 6 big GOP lies. And there really isn’t a more appropriate word. They are bald-faced lies.


Reflections from September 11, 2001

Posted: September 11th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Personal | 1 Comment »

I wrote the following on September 13, 2001. At that point in my life, I was much more “libertarian” in my perspective than I am today and I was still relatively early in my ongoing process of trying to understand what it meant to be Christian. If I were to write something in response to similar events today, I’m sure it would take a different shape. Still, I decided to share my thoughts from that time as I expressed them then.

My perspective on my central point below remains unchanged. Unfortunately, the events of 9/11 did change our nation in significant and fundamental ways. It’s too early to say if those changes will endure forever, but they have certainly been profound. As a nation we embraced aggressive war in Iraq. We embraced torture as an acceptable tool of the state. Out of fear, we sacrificed or constrained many of our rights. As a nation, we turned fearful and demonized a people and a religion. And “evangelical” Christians led the way supporting all of those changes.

From my perspective, sadly, we did allow the terrorists to win. I don’t think in their wildest dreams they ever thought they could provoke such drastic and lasting change in our nation from a single attack. They successfully instilled fear in our nation and acting under the impetus of that fear, we changed in ways that would have been inconceivable before that attack. Ironically, those changes did nothing to make us safer. Such changes never do. They created more enemies abroad and reduced our stature even among our friends. And we abandoned many of the principles and sacrificed freedoms at home that had always defined the nation we wished to be (even if we often weren’t), all in the name of an illusory security. Provoking change by instilling fear is the textbook definition of the goal of terrorism. And that’s precisely what the 9/11 terrorists accomplished.

As you can tell from the below, I believed then that we were stronger and better than that. I was wrong.

Written September 13, 2001

Earlier this week I watched the events unfold with a sense of disbelief, shock, and outrage, as I’m sure is true of each and every one of you.  I received calls from my family, checking to be certain I was safe, even though there were no reports of attacks in Austin.  They wanted the surety that came from hearing my voice.  I watched the news reports and prayed continuously for all those working on the scene and for the families of the many who had died.  Their pain and horror must be nearly unimaginable.

Yet one sentiment I’ve heard expressed many times in the news reports I’ve found particularly jarring.  America has been forever changed.  Reporter after reporter, analyst after analyst, has repeated that statement or a variation of it.  On one level I can understand the sentiment.  It is certainly true that this is an event our people are unlikely to ever forget.  But there is something within me that rebels each time I hear that statement.  For if we allow this event to fundamentally change our nation, those who committed this atrocity will have won.

America does not consist of our institutions, although they have proven themselves over the test of time.  America does not consist of our foundation of law, many of which are good laws.  America is not even our Constitution, the document which contains many of the core principles that embody our nation.  This “Great American Experiment” is, at its very core, an idea, an ideal of freedom carried by each and every one of its citizens.  It is the legacy of our forefathers and our birthright.  That freedom has never been without price, a price all too often paid in blood.  And that freedom has never been without risk, as the events of this week have dramatically demonstrated.

Should we therefore examine the means by which this attack was made and take common sense steps to make future such attempts more difficult?  Absolutely.  Any other course would be foolhardy.  Our goal should always be to improve the safety of our citizens within the limits prescribed by our freedoms.

Should we respond?  Again, we must.  As a former member of our military, I recognized this immediately as an act of war.  An attack of this scale and nature can be described as nothing else.  I was glad to hear our President and Secretary of State state that so very clearly.  As a nation, we must make it plain that those who attack the United States and their sponsors will face the full might and power of our country.  Doing less will only invite future attacks.

But change us forever?  Never.  Or we have lost already.


Weekend Update 09-10-2011

Posted: September 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 09-10-2011

The Austerity Economy. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

So. Texas set the US record for hottest June-August since they started recording temperatures. We beat out the 1934 dust bowl record set by Oklahoma.

1 American dies every 12 minutes because they don’t have health insurance. And that’s after controlling for all the other identifiable factors. A lack of health insurance is a contributing factor in many other situations where it isn’t the key differential. America has gone insane. Pure self-interest and care about your family and friends should drive people to clamor for this to be fixed. But then, we also know that we tend to be pretty bad about evaluating risk in our modern environment.

People always usually often sometimes know when they are being manipulated, if not in the moment then later. Deep down, at least, I think we all know. An awful lot of what goes on in my slice of Christianity, especially with kids, is emotional manipulation. I taught youth for a number of years and, for some reason, many seemed to connect with me and appreciate me. I even heard indirectly from some parents how much something I had said or done meant at one point or another. I don’t really know why, but maybe part of it was that I spoke honestly and respectfully, wasn’t afraid of saying that I didn’t know when I didn’t, asked different sorts of questions, and tried my best not to be manipulative. We need to treat people with the same love and respect with which God treats us.

I really enjoyed this short story. My family is one of … complicated and sometimes difficult relationships. Even among my kids, some seem to truly like me and others are more … estranged. I’ve never been too proud to say I’m sorry, but that doesn’t always help. I do, however, know I love my family — no matter what.

Why Screwing Unions Screws the Entire Middle Class. Unfortunately most people don’t know history (even fairly recent history), pay little attention to history, and learn nothing from history.

Forgive everyone for everything. Forgiveness is the true nature of the life in Christ. When we don’t forgive, we draw away from life. My refusal to forgive is a force of evil in our world.

Why inequality is the real cause of our ongoing terrible economy. The top 5% of Americans now account for 37% of all consumer purchases. Growth slows when the rich have an inordinately high proportion of our income and wealth because the majority of Americans lack money to spend and demand falls, creating a vicious cycle. We are now back to the degree of inequality that existed in this country from 1918-1933. And we all know where that led…

This is a good look at the Texas health care “system” Perry thinks the rest of the country should enjoy.

Christopher Walken reads Lady Gaga’s Poker Face.

Monday would have been Freddie Mercury’s 65th birthday. In honor of that, below is a Bohemian Rhapsody cover with old school computer equipment. The TI 99/4A was actually the first computer I ever owned. I still have it for sentimental reasons. The only old computer I’ve kept over the decades.

The modern Republican Party is truly and fundamentally Anti-American. I agree with him.

I remember watching this Live Aid concert in 1985. We didn’t know Freddie Mercury would soon be taken from us.

I deeply appreciate the September 11th pastoral message from Archbishop Demetrios.

Wow. The second Explosions in the Sky video. Amazing.


Weekend Update 09-03-2011

Posted: September 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Weekend Update | Comments Off on Weekend Update 09-03-2011

Welfare to work doesn’t work without work. It’s sad that such an obvious conclusion has to be pointed out and proven in the face of such blatant denial of reality.

Perry is really a closet liberal. Robert Reich is funny in this one, but it has a sort of twisted logic to it.

Today’s GOP has decided to get what it wants by threatening to hurt America. In what way is that different from a kidnapper, extortionist, or terrorist?

IRS and SSA ranked top among federal agencies in customer service.  Cool!

Our own worst enemies? Personally, I use Password Safe not only to store my passwords, but to generate them as well. I don’t even try to remember any but a few passwords (not least my passphrase to my safe) and pins. I use it at work. I have the app on my phone. I’ve been doing that now for years and I have a host of internet site accounts I’ve never used twice. It would be bad if I had given them all the password to those accounts which really matter.

Mean vs. Median income growth. Now I know that a lot of people tune out when math is discussed. But the math kinda matters, n’est-ce pas?

No new jobs. Looks like the concerted and deliberate GOP effort to destroy jobs and wreck America for political gain is succeeding. You only have to read the quotes to see them gloating. Are we really so stupid as a nation that we’ll reward their behavior? The mind boggles…

Abp. Dmitri sounds like someone I wish I had met. This is but one of the accounts of his life which I’ve read or listened to this week. Fr. Stephen posted another one. Memory eternal!

And Baylor (where my younger son attends) upset TCU! That’s so cool.


Saturday Evening Blog Post – July and August Edition

Posted: September 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Misc | Comments Off on Saturday Evening Blog Post – July and August Edition

In this month’s edition of the Saturday Evening Blog Post, hosted by Elizabeth Esther, we’re supposed to post our favorite posts from both July and August. July was a light blogging month for me. Business travel and generally hectic month at work (which won’t let up until December or so). Wife and daughter in Ireland. Getting son ready for sophomore year of college. So I picked my Weekend Update for July 2nd. Among other things, it includes the first “official” music video by my cousin-in-law’s band, Explosions in the Sky. And the next day Michael and a bunch of other family were over at our house for a cookout and get together. Fun times! Without a doubt, Let’s end the culture that views children as less than fully human, was my most heart-felt August post. But take a moment to read Neither Do I Condemn You as well. (I know. I cheated. Sue me.)