AZplace AZplace

forty miles from wood, fifty miles from water, and ten feet from hell
Wednesday 2 May 2012

America needs a conservatism that can deal with reality

Alsson at Large wrote:

A Phoenix Rising: Common-Good Conservatism (via azspot)

Today, American conservatism has degenerated into an intellectually and morally bankrupt ideology. It offers nothing more than bumper-sticker slogans that pander to the prejudices and ignorance of the lowest common denominator in order to enrich and empower an oligarchic elite. Angry, cruel and sneering, it is exemplified by the carnival barkers on talk radio and Fox News. High in volume, but devoid of substance, it has no long-term future because it lacks credible solutions to the range of very real problems American society is facing.

Indeed, what passes for “conservatism” today is actually nothing of the sort. Modern American conservatism has forgotten its rich legacy and betrayed its best traditions. It has become infected with a virulent strain of extreme libertarianism heavily influenced by the thinking of Ayn Rand.”

Luckily we Conservatives don’t conform to this guy’s interpretation. And so many of us don’t watch the talking heads on any channel. Mostly we read and think for ourselves and have studied history and political science and know what a failed mess collectivist visions and models are. It’s really not that complicated. But you can find sloganeering on both sides. And ignorance. No doubt about that. We’re going to win this one.

Some quick-hit notes, fired off, here, in response to this vapid retort:

  1. The article cited was penned by a pair of conservative Republicans, in a followup to a previous article expressing dismay with the party by a long time (~30 years) Republican congressional staffer. They rightfully decry their party’s descent into insanity, barbarism and bigotry.

  2. You might not “conform” to this “interpretation”. But all the social science indicators reveal a strong anti-intellectual, anti-science, delusional authoritarian bent in the bases staunchest supporters. And simple electoral map breakdown reveals how “severely” the Republican party has become a rural/southern regional party, defined more by what they are against, than what they are in favor of.

  3. Some of you do indeed “read and think for ourselves” as you state, but most are in lock-step with the influential thought leaders like Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, Fox News (with its Chinese/Saudi foreign billionaire ownership), Glenn Beck, etc.… It’s amazing how “on message” they are — the ludicrous fear mongering (like, for example, the recent hubbub over Obama campaign’s “Forward”). Just watch The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, where this repeated drumming of the same verbal mantra is captured brilliantly.

  4. Committing an egregious error in adopting a binary switch for economic models; a grievous flub that fails to correctly identify the true villains of economic advancement over 6,000 years of human history — oligarchs, plutocrats and aristocracy. Failing to observe the nation’s very own economic history and noting the collective efforts that catapulted the United States into economic giant-hood. Public education, electricity, the interstate highway system, the transistor, the modem, the internet, just about every modern medical miracle you take for granted, etc.… are just a few elements procured by such public investment.

  5. As far as “ignorance” on “both sides”; true, it exists. But ask yourself, why only 5% of scientists are Republican now (and less than 10% define themselves as conservative). This is a relatively recent phenomenon; in past generations that mark was near equally split between the parties and political philosophies. Is it because the Republicans have defined themselves as anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-science (with most in the party in disbelief over evolution, climate change science, or just about any other science that conflicts with dogma)?

AZplace Resurrection 2012

Tinkering with themes — it might not look like much at this present juncture, but under the seams, bits of CSS are being deconstructed.

AZspot is getting all the post attention these days, but I yearn to rekindle a longer form, essay length (or short paragraph bursts) blogging space. Contemplated creating a new online space and/or identity but figured I would at least attempt to revive this place, or at the very minimum, finish a Tumblr custom theme refresh effort, as this theme is as nearly as old as Tumblr itself.

Stay tuned to this Tumblr channel for future developments.

Tuesday 26 April 2011
Tuesday 15 February 2011

Big Tent Christianity 2011 Roundup

Herein lies my chronicle of Big Tent Christianity 2011, a conference about “convergence of new and old ways of being and becoming the Church”, that I attended last week (Thursday and Friday).

BTX brings people together from across the country to proclaim what unites us as followers of Jesus in this modern world. More than a dozen leading Christian voices will break through boundaries to share new and innovative forms of ministry and renewal. You will be inspired by their visions of how we can speak even more powerfully in and to the world of the 21st century.

The published words here at this online ranch splatter all over the political map, though predominately sway to left of center, but theologically speaking, however, I am much more in the conservative camp. Not a fire and brimstone inerrantist fundamentalist by any stretch, but I do believe in the sacredness of the bible text. And not that it’s a collection of misty fairy tales, but a central theological motif based on the Kingdom of God. Just trying to establish my bias and perspective heading in.

So for two days, I was treated to bunch of “leading Christian voices” speaking on “big tent Christianity”; here goes my roundup of all the chatter and prattle.

Who was on stage

  • Tripp Fuller — Did not put together that Tripp is the proprietor of Homebrewed Christianity podcast where I have listened to some fantastic interviews with various theologians. Tripp served up some of the musical interludes too.

  • Carol Howard Merritt — Gave an impassioned talk on Healing the Wounds of Religion. In particular, some touching words on women wounded, who often blame themselves for the harm dealt by others, particularly “the church”.

  • Philip Clayton — Just not able to grok Philip’s takes at all.

  • Rachel Held Evans — Wanted to tell Rachel in person how much I enjoyed reading Evolving in Monkey Town but every time I attempted to approach, she was speaking to somebody else.

  • Gary Kinnaman — The “token” evangelical conservative on the panel, also conducted a breakout session on immigration that was rather interesting: Gary has taken this issue up, compiled evidence, and even visited lawmakers in support of immigration reform. His presentation, however, seemed more suited for folks at my church, and not this crowd, who are not the flock of the conservative pastor who frequently tune into right wing talk radio. I felt bad for Gary, that the audience is unaware of the shit storm Gary entered as I imagine that a good number of his former flock pan him as a turncoat. He also had one of the best lines of the conference: "you know you arrived when people ask you to sign your son’s book"

  • Eliacin Rosario-Cruz — Eliacin served as cochair with Gary Kinnaman in the immigration breakout session.

  • Derek Webb — Prior to conference, I was not acquainted with the music of Derek Webb. Wow, what an incredibly gifted musician. /em heading off to iTunes to hear more :)

  • Brian McLaren — Have read a number of Mr. Brian McLaren’s books, including his latest, A New Kind of Christianity. They’re all OK, I don’t see what the all fuss is about, from either detractors or adherents. Here, his talk seemed to be flat. It could just be me, though, I confess.

  • Marcus Borg — Found it be rather curious that a conference would bill itself as “big tent” and then feature a keynote speaker that would completely dis the foundational tract all a bible believing Christian holds dear — that Jesus resurrection, along with a whole bunch of other stuff in the Gospel, is just a fable. The audience cheered his pronouncements of panentheism and belittling of Christians who see things differently. As I’ve read a few of Borg’s books, I know where he is coming from, but this evening sounded more like “how stupid them that believe this are” rather than “big tent” unity and professions of Christian love. Just saying.

  • Brian Ammons — Delivered a very eloquent talk on sexuality and gender. Asking the question: “Why, as people of faith, must we assume that the gender of my partner choice is the defining aspect of my sexual identity?” Brian also recited his open letter to the Bishop.

  • Mark Scandrette — Mark shared the Jesus Dojo with the crowd. Full of energy and passion, Mark’s zeal for speaking on practicing the way of Jesus seemed to be unbound by the constraints of time. While the conference featured a lot of intellectual theorizing, Mark struck me as an elder Shane Claiborne, doing the Gospel, instead of merely talking about it.

  • Nadia Bolz-Weber — Hot damn, a tattooed, cussing, traditional liturgy embracing evangelical Lutheran pastor that tells it just like it is. She is real, no hesitation in sharing her own foibles and I enjoyed listening to her speak on both her life journey and praxis at the church she has built and grown. Even if she professed dislike for conservative evangelical folk like me. ;)

  • Shane Hipps — Been a big fan of Shane, dating back to when he served as a Mennonite pastor of a church just down the road from me. Ever since reading Flickering Pixels, he was entered into my iTunes podcast subscriptions, and when he matriculated to Mars Hill, I did not have to add another feed, as Rob Bell was already in there. After some back and forth dialogue in a breakout session on Technology and Soul, he called me a technophile (in contrast to someone he termed a technophobe, sitting behind me). It did strike that what Rob and Shane are doing at Mars Hill is much more in tune with “Big Tent Christianity” than most of what I observed at this conference.

  • Richard RohrThe Naked Now has been on my Amazon wish list for some time now, based on recommendations read elsewhere. His talk was intriguing, and I felt shorted as Rohr just seemed to be getting in the groove of sharing his numinous take on spirituality before he was interrupted for panel crosstalk. Nabbed a copy of The Naked Now over the weekend, started devouring and thus far, am totally enraptured.

  • Anthony Smith — just like in the case of Richard Rohr, wish I could have heard more from postmodernnegro.

What I observed

  • A great bit of discussion about prayer but almost zero practice. That is in vivid contrast to other church conferences I have attended where prayer and ministry are integral part of the proceedings.

  • A continual refrain that mainline ministers and pastors constantly confess that they cannot be honest and truthful with their congregations. At least until the point they terminate their service. I did not understand this assertion and I queried folks sitting next to me but did not receive a satisfactory answer. Is this “fear” due to the authority hierarchy in the mainline or was it fear of alienating the flock?

  • Lots of grumpy old farts devoid of any joy. Say what can be said about the dogmatic and intransigent nature of some conservative Christians, but on the whole, they seem to retain a sense of humor.

  • A great deal of intellectualization about the Gospel and the Kingdom, but outside of a few voices, little in the way of doing the stuff. Or sharing putting the Gospel into action.

  • With exception of a few stray voices, on stage and in the audience, a dearth of conservative evangelicals. I realize that those in the extreme fundamentalist vein or hardcore reformed crowd chafe at the notion of breaking bread with emergent (whatever that word means now) and progressive heretics, but conservative Christians are far from uniform in composition and I definitely envision many in a “center set” working together on the things we Christians can agree about. Maybe it’s a foolhardy conviction, this “big tent” conception, that the founders are targeting a more “bounded set” than I envisaged.

What I learned

  • Mainline churches are still aging and dying.

  • Progressive Christians appear to be upfront about their political leanings. In conservative evangelical churches, politics rarely takes center stage, but there were numerous references to political doings here. And not just in a global “empire” sense, but specific politicians and policy planks.

  • That both mainliner liberal and fundamentalist Baptist alike loathe the megachurch. Or, as it was referred to, by some, as “movie theater” churches.

  • Though I feel at times that I do not fit in well with the church I belong to (A Vineyard church), the churches represented at this conference I would even be far more unsuited for. Except for the new monastics, for which put me in awe and beset with inadequacy over my own path as a follower of Jesus way.

Conclusion

I am completely supportive of the “big tent Christianity” idea. It saddens me that Christians exert so much energy quibbling with each other over doctrine and theological constructs. Defining themselves by what they are against instead of what they are for. Even worse, Christians seeking redress in secular courts to “win” their way over other Christians (i.e, marriage equality), despite biblical instruction against taking intra-Christian squabbles into the public court. When there is so much that most all Christians are down with — living out the Gospel, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, attending to the imprisoned, cultivating rich soil, advancing the Kingdom, bringing hope, bearing love, etc.…

While I expressed some dismay over the “big tent” incompleteness, I still applaud the endeavor and hope that successive events deliver more. More voices. More light. More transformation.

Thursday 25 November 2010

PodCampAZ 2010 Tumblr Talk Reflections

PodCampAZ v4.0 has come and gone.

For the 2010 edition, I was able to take in Saturday sessions only as family contingencies precluded any Sunday participation. Sadly, attendance, hoopla, and excitement waned, it seems, from previous year’s enactments — even the existence of cancelation rumblings on the eve of the event.

As I wrote previously, I presented a session devoted to Tumblr. And I got to give some tote bags out (which were a big hit) and stickers (not wanted so much), courtesy of the accommodating Tumblr staff.

I had the misfortune of being scheduled for the last talk before lunch. It’s an “unconference” so people shuffling in and out of sessions is to be expected, but it sure seemed like after half way thru, many matriculated out. Whether it was due to my style, the presentaion content, the flickering WiFi availability (doing live demonstrations is usually a dicey proposition with conference WiFi setups) or the lure of hunger pains, I am uncertain. But those who stuck around for the duration and those who popped in part way thru appeared to be entertained and informed with my Tumblr hands-on show-and-tell shtick. We went through the drill of creating a new Tumblr blog and I exhibited various Tumblr features and goodies. Fielding queries along the way.

Since PodCampAZ unconferences (this was my 3rd) seem to be so WordPress-centric, I was eager to share the possibilities and potential Tumblr, especially for those who never have explored Tumblr or just had given it a one-time cursory glance and moved on. Hopefully, some folk received a flavorful taste of Tumblr and impelled them to take a greater crunch.

Tumblr features that were a big hit with the audience were (a) ease of custom domain setup (someone wished to explore this in greater detail, but at the time, internet access was flaky, and time remaining was short) (b) multiple blog capability and (c) queue power and versatility.

Here are some of the questions submitted by my audience:

Q: Is it possible to have multiple blogs for a given account?

A: Yes. And I then proceeded to demonstrate live, on the big screen this capability.

Q: Via the dashboard, can I auto-email my post(s) to a list of followers|subscribers?

A: No, Tumblr social networking is centered in likes, replies and reblogs. Or funneling out to Facebook or Twitter. The gentleman asking this avowed familiarity with Posterous so I queried him if Posterous possessed this feature. He replied that it did but it was not always reliable (much like the Tumblr queue, I reckon :))

Q: Is it easy to create custom themes for Tumblr sites?

A: Very much so, if you know CSS. In fact, it’s one of the big ticket checklist items I wished to stress — in comparison to the abomination of WordPress intermingling of programming code with presentation markup, Tumblr themes are simple, sleek and blessed with a straightforward template tag setup.

Q: Is Tumblr good with search engine optimization (SEO)?

A: Eh, I’m not a SEO marketing dude and honestly (and here my teeth clamped into my tongue slightly), to me, a lot of that SEO stuff is a lot of hooey. But Tumblr spits out well formed markup, auto generates clean RSS post feeds and appears to my unrefined SEO eye to index well in the Google.

Q: Can I create a regular old-fashioned website with Tumblr like can be done with WordPress?

A: Absolutely. However, the inclusion of Tumblr overlay button links (i.e., “Customize”, “Dashboard”, “(Un)?[Ff]ollow”) might be aesthetically unpleasing to a site proprietor (but also easily remedied with a line of JavaScript, as I explained how I eliminated it in thepresentation Tumblr I created for the this talk). Also, I cautioned, remember that you are not in control of the server. If that is acceptable.

Q: Are there any content restrictions with Tumblr or what sort of content is prohibited?

A: The only verboten content I could conjure was spam and spam marketing but I was uncertain of my answer. I am aware that plenty of NSFW (which triggered a crack from the crowd about NSFWP — “Not Safe for WordPress”) stuff can creep into my dashboard.

Q: How stable is the Tumblr platform, long term?

A: Tumblr is a Top 50 site now. Don’t know exactly how many Tumblr sites there are today (there were 750 existing when I began the Tumblr trek back in 2007), but I’m guessing that it’s a heck of a lot more than when I started and still growing. With that many users, there’s enough money to keep it afloat for a while at least. In internet years. If worried, back your content up locally and/or in the cloud.

Q: Is it possible or how easy is it to create Tumblr plugins?

A: Again, remember that you don’t have control of the server. It’s not an open code base that you plant on your server or add blessed, selected code packages to a sanctioned cloud node. So your “plugin” capability is limited to JavaScript libraries or third party apps that make inventive use of the Tumblr API.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Historcial Empirical Evidence Simply Refutes This Assertion

unsolicitedanalysis:

Why the United States and Europe can’t cut their way to economic prosperity

In the United States, a different set of factors is driving the trend. With unemployment high and long-term interest rates near record lows, inflation under control, and Democrats poised to suffer losses in the midterm elections, further stimulus would seem to be a no-brainer. But the same internal debate that roiled the Clinton White House in 1993—when advisers Robert Rubin and Robert Reich tangled over the relative merits of deficit and reduction and stimulus—is being replayed today. In 1993 the Rubinites won the day, arguing that Democrats needed to demonstrate a commitment to deficit reduction to avoid being tarred as tax-and-spenders. Seventeen years later, the Obama administration has made a different calculation: Higher short-term deficits are a greater political risk than slower growth and higher unemployment. But the debate fails to recognize the anti-stimulus provided by states and cities, which are prohibited from running deficits. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculated that 33 states made tax changes in 2008 or ‘09 that would increase annual revenues by $31.7 billion. Meanwhile, state and local governments slashed 22,000 jobs in May. “The actions that states are taking because of the recession and their balanced-budget requirements are slowing the economy,” said Nicholas Johnson, director of the state fiscal project at CBPP.

It’s difficult to contract your way to growth. The world’s large economies need to run higher deficits in the short term to promote growth and close the gaps later. St. Augustine famously pleaded: “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” Policymakers might stop looking to Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes and rethink Augustine. Give us austerity and deficit reduction—but not yet.

This misses the fundamentals completely.  Debt is a claim on future resource consumption.  No one is claiming that austerity will immediately foment economic growth - rather, starvation and catastrophe, felt most harshly amongst the lower classes.  This is why labor organizations and other working-class interests oppose austerity worldwide.

That said, the working-class interests should have had that in mind when the first-world built up generational deficits instead of funding entitlements, wars, and pork.  Demanding entitlements without demanding taxes to pay for them firmly places the recipients of those entitlements in the economic crosshairs.  No pro-austerity economist is saying that austerity is some wonderful pro-growth future; rather, austerity is a necessary pain undertaken by my unlucky generation to clean up the myriad disasters left to us by those who simply voted themselves the treasury.

Yes, certainly, debt represents “a claim on future resource consumption”. But adhering to such a policy advocacy is a blatant demonstration of zero-sum thinking —  a misguided notion that present day costs are absolutely equivalent to future date costs. All of our nation’s (speaking of the U.S.) great economic expansions were fueled by massive outlays (and decried in similar fashion) of “stimulus”. Years hence, those obligations will be pennies pitted against dollars (or greater).

The historical record is rather clear on the matter and completely debunks the orthodoxies of dumbstruck neoliberal economists.

Friday 4 June 2010

The New Right Prosperity Story II

unsolicitedanalysis:

…We have, time and again, decided to pour debt into aggregate demand instead of fundamental economic systems like education or infrastructure. I don’t understand why the blame for this process is being laid upon a nebulous “corporate America.” Moreover, I don’t understand how your protectionist theories and vague New Deal fetishization produce a workable 2010 policy in a world where America will have to compete on cost to “home-spin” goods.

Protectionist theories? New Deal fetishization? Phew!

Regarding “protectionist theories”, let it be noted that in those periods where U.S. policy was higher tariffs, that was also the nation’s golden age of greatest economic advancement. And also, in stark contrast to IMF interests and lords of neoliberal orthodoxies (which are part and parcel of the economic fail of the past 30 years of neoliberal economic policy), the model embraced by Japan, Korea and China. To nourish and protect essential native industry until they are giant enough to commandeer in the global pool.

My telos is not centered on instructive 2010 policy, but (a) to highlight how the neoliberal economic orthodoxies are blatantly contradicted by empirical reality and (b) how the nature of work has dramatically morphed — where increased productivity is fostered by a smaller set of labor players

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