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forty miles from wood, fifty miles from water, and ten feet from hell
Sunday 2 September 2012
Tuesday 8 May 2012

On Pious and Empty Platitudes

squashed wrote:

Chris Hedges:

Religious leaders, in churches, synagogues and mosques, at best voice pious and empty platitudes about justice or carry out nominal acts of charity aimed at those bearing the weight of resistance in the streets.

If Hedges wants to criticize those who aren’t doing the work they should be doing, fine. But he need not disparage those who have given their careers, their freedom, and their lives for a passionate belief in justice.

Not that Chris Hedges needs the likes of me leaping to his defense, but if you read the cited article, much of the focus is on the efforts of a retired Episcopal Bishop. And his broadside is directed at “nearly all” as the original quote clipped off this sentence:

Packard’s moral and intellectual courage stands in stark contrast with the timidity of nearly all clergy and congregants in all of our major religious institutions.

And from my reading of Hedges, he is well aware of the courageous feats of Romero, Martin Luther King, and other religious leaders that have given their careers, lives and freedom for justice. But I think it is correct to cast most of the “American church leaders” in the light Hedges has cast. The churches that Martin Luther King and your former pastor led are not representative of the typical 21st century church leader — those churches are emptying and dying, whereas the megachurch model and its moralistic therapeutic deism has gripped most American Christians.

Sunday 6 May 2012

I’m pretty willing to bet he didn’t bother


I’m not sure about others, but I use Tumblr as my blogging platform for a variety of reasons. I chose — and stick with — Tumblr because it’s easy to use, because I can use it quickly from anywhere on any device, and because I have built relationships with other bloggers here. The dozen Tumblr users with whom I regularly interact are careful, thoughtful readers and writers. But they don’t get nearly the attention they should, from the wide world outside Tumblr, because of this weird perception of Tumblr as nothing but a silly internet toy. Tumblr blogs can be blogs in the same way that Wordpress or Blogger blogs can be blogs. But if people presume that Tumblr equates with memes and nothing else, then a lot of interesting blogs will get ignored by readers who would probably find them very engaging. And Cillizza’s post perpetuates precisely this idea about Tumblr … but he even goes so far as to ignore blogs that were specifically recommended to him.

Having said all of that, if The Fix wants to focus on the memes, that’s fine. Cillizza just shouldn’t ask about “the best political blogs on Tumblr” if he already knows wants to feature pictures with comedic captions.

That Cillizza list is an awful joke, and a poorly titled list. It’s another thinly veiled stab of casting a label that ALL Tumblr blogs fit into the author’s preconceived negative meme typology.

It’s like defining ALL of the Washington Post output as characterized by the droppings of Richard Cohen.

Oh wait, maybe that’s not an effective counterpoint… ;(

But fact is, there is a plenitude of fantastic “non-meme” political content on Tumblr. Here is a short list that I composed without even thinking:

And I know that I’ve neglected hundreds (if not thousands) of other quality Tumblr offerings, just not on the tip of my pen at this post juncture. :(

As an addendum note here, I attempted to leave a comment (and share the aforementioned list) on the Washington Post article, but was rebuffed as it required a Washington Post account, to which I did submit an account registration form, but as of yet, have not received a confirmation email. And in web time, with so many spots to visit, I quickly forget about these dangling comment affairs.

Saturday 5 May 2012

I’m in prison for a postcard?

The latest This American Life featuring the Jeff Smith story, The Postcard Always Rings Twice is again, as is expected with TAL output, excellent radio.

Producer Alex Blumberg tells the story of Jeff Smith, a former Missouri State Senator who spent last year in federal prison. The story of how Jeff ended up there includes large sins, but begins with a relatively small one. In other words, it’s the story of a venial sin turning into a mortal one.

Which led me to Jeff Smith’s online presence at this internet locale.

Regarding the show, it is fantastic, and nearly caused to me breakdown viscerally as I completed laps around the gym track ;-(

Friday 4 May 2012

Respected killers?


Since today is Star Wars Day and everyone I know is having a fantastic time writing, “May the 4th be with you” on Facebook and Twitter, I thought I’d ask a question that’s been troubling me for weeks now:

When are we going to deal with the troubling fact that Luke Skywalker is one of the most successful and best respected mass killers in history?

Not only does Skywalker kill tens of thousands — in hand-to-hand combat and by blowing up two iterations of the Death Star — but he’s celebrated as a galatic hero for doing it (to say nothing of that fact that Earth-bound movie-goers consistently name him as an exemplar of heroism decade after decade).

I understand that the Empire is an unquestionable evil and that bringing an end to Palpatine’s reign of totalitarian terror is laudable, but the body count that Skywalker racks up along the way surely must give us pause.

When that Death Star explodes and thousands of lives are lost, and then the very next scene shows Skywalker and his friends cheering and laughing, isn’t our moral compass taken for an uncomfortable spin? How can we explain these celebrations to our children?

Alas, it is The Myth of Redemptive Violence:

The belief that violence “saves” is so successful because it doesn’t seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It’s what works. It seems inevitable, the last and, often, the first resort in conflicts. If a god is what you turn to when all else fails, violence certainly functions as a god. What people overlook, then, is the religious character of violence. It demands from its devotees an absolute obedience- unto-death.

This Myth of Redemptive Violence is the real myth of the modern world. It, and not Judaism or Christianity or Islam, is the dominant religion in our society today.…

I’m voting for Barack Obama because…


In response to the Obama campaign’s graphic contrasting the ways in which Obama’s policies and initiatives would help one woman, “Julia,” over the course of her life HuskerRed wrote:

“Julia” is a fictional character created by Barack Obama’s campaign to advertise the litany of government benefits they promise if you just vote for him. This is the exploitation of naive people’s self interest at their finest.

I find this line of attack perplexing. Of course I’m going to vote for the guy who I think will do the best job creating the country I want to live in. Why else would you vote for anybody? Because you’re an edgy rebel and want to vote for the suckier candidate? I think the government should provide certain services. I like sidewalks. I like clean water. I like health codes. I like a functioning court system. I’m happy that somebody is inspecting elevators. And fire departments are brilliant.

“But it’s not free!” HuskerRed might reply. Of course it isn’t free. I pay for it. I’m happy to pay for it. If I need to pay more for the things we need as a society, I’m happy for that.

If you want things that you haven’t earned given to you, vote for Barack Obama. Never mind centuries of a community ethic of hard work and self-reliance. It’s someone else’s money, and you want it now!

I don’t want your money. But a properly functioning society provides some public servants—and we all need to chip in, as appropriate, to pay for them. One of our other great community ethics is that we actually believe in community ethics. We believe that maybe if we get together to do something important, we can accomplish awesome things. We believe that when you’ve done well, you can help the guy behind you. Or at least help up the person you knocked over on the path to success. Everybody contributes. That feels a lot more reasonable than the alternative.

“I have a disproportionate share of the wealth and I want to cut of life-saving services to other people so I can have an even more disproportionate share of the wealth.” I don’t have a lot of patience for that sort of selfish entitlement.

…the other side is lodged in the clutches of anti-intellectualism, anti-science, anti-smartypants; basically, in the grip of insanity.

Once, in a younger, more idealistic modal, I voted for third parties. Until research and study exposed how foolish that act was in a rigid bicameral structure — voting for third party simply rewards one of the two “main” parties, and it’s almost always the one ideologically distant from the one you’re casting a vote for.

So, I am relegated to choosing between the ‘D’ and ‘R’ brands. One wants to return (or, as the contemporary conservative bunch, maintain the status quo of the political institutions established in the past 80 years) to the 20th century; the other wishes to regress back to the 19th century Gilded Age robber baron political philosophies. And for added effect, toss in religious fundamentalism and xenophobia to its mix.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Poster boy for the 1%?


“People ask me, `What would you to get the economy going’? and I say, `well look at what the president’s done, and do the opposite.”

— Mitt Romney

Now does that sound like a strategy, or a petulant candidate?

(via think-progress)

Both. Let’s let a real executive give it a whirl. We might actually have some collaborative leadership for the first time in decades.

By putting the poster boy for the 1%, an individual emblematic of the ditch derailing the Republicans and their banker buddies rigged up? By putting a guy into the nation’s executive suite who is surrounding himself with the same advisors and staffers that also aided and consulted the previous president, who arguably may be one the worst presidents to ever serve (who also touted his “business” acumen)?

Really? Seriously?

Do we want to relive that period of massive job losses (occurring under GWB watch, and after a few months into Obama’s term, abated, and reversed course)? Granted, rate of job recovery is not ideal, but at least it’s not nosediving like it was 2008-2009.

Let’s take a look at stock market performance under Bush, and then, now under Obama.


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