Desperate Houseflies: The Magazine

Feel free to pull out your trusty fly swatter and comment on what is posted here, realizing that this odd collection of writers may prove as difficult to kill as houseflies and are presumably just as pesky. “Desperate Houseflies” is a magazine that intends to publish weekly articles on subjects such as politics, literature, history, sports, photography, religion, and no telling what else. We’ll see what happens.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Quarterly Book Report: Daylight Savings Time (R.I.P.) Edition

Wulp, months after the first two installments on watermelons, I’m still not happy with my thoughts on immigration. I’ll try to post them before the end of the year. My thesis statement so far is: we need migrant farm workers, legal or otherwise; and, all consumers of fruit products in the US is responsible for this need, even those who oppose the idea of workers who are here illegally. Seriously, I’ll try to post an entire thingy sometime soon – that way JU can preach to me about social contracts and whathaveyou.

Short notes on books I’m either reading or have read recently that are worth noting.

The Stolen Child, by Keith Donohue. This is a fairy-tale of sorts. There are these “changeling” creatures who steal children. A changeling becomes the child. The child becomes a changeling and lives with the other changelings until such a time as it is their turn to steal a child and become human again. Decent book, although the concept of it is better than the actual book (I didn’t really do the concept justice here, but whatever). This is Donohue’s first novel, I believe, and his idea for a book is good. Hopefully he’ll develop the writing skills to back up his very interesting concepts. It’s worth at least looking at in the bookstore.

Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell. This is an excellent book. The narrator is a young boy, a nerd with a stuttering problem. Mitchell is an under-appreciated writer, I think. I’ve read a couple of his other books, and he seems to be able to write about anything and do it well. I love this book so far because you can feel the ache in the young boy – he wants to be accepted by the cool kids, he wants to be accepted by his family. I highly recommend this book.

Only Revolutions, by Mark Danielewski. This novel is proof that absolutely anything can get published. It is the lighthouse on the shore for any novelist lost at sea. That it is a finalist for the National Book Award, though, is just sad. Because it means that someone on Danielewski’s staff slept with someone from the committee. And I hate it that our literary awards have come down to prostitution. A brief exerpt: “Prairie Coneflowers glipper too while bristling Dandelions parachute away seed. I’m sooooo from these uplands, wide fell and dome. From corries and chines. From the freezeloss and slowwash slushgushing out of basins and brooks to miles of Nothern Rock Jasmine growing: – Hello.” I don’t like providing quotations without context, but really, there is no context to provide. It’s three hundred pages of these sorts of descriptions. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the sound of that line. Dandelions parachuting is a great image. But this is a book of images and pretty sounding lines. None of which actually make sense in relation to each other. As JU once told me, life is too short to read bad books. Maybe if I had time to try to make sense of this book, it’d be great. But I really just want my $25 U.S. back.

The Zero, by Jess Walters. Buy this book. That it is a finalist for the National Book Award gives me hope that the process of award-giving isn’t completely corrupted. The book is kind of mystery. But the mystery is really the lead character trying to figure out what’s going on in his life. He was a policeman on the scene when the planes flew into the WTC. His life has more or less gone to bits since then, and he’s hired by some secret agency to do some secret work. Problem is, he has “lost moments.” He’ll wake to find himself in a meeting with one of his bosses – a meeting he had apparently asked for – and not know how he got there or what the meeting is about. Even if the story weren’t good, which it is (again, I’m shortchanging the concept here in the interest of time), the characters are amazing. Some of the best imagined characters in a book I’ve read in a long time.

The Children’s Hospital, by Chris Adrian. This may be the best book I’ve read since One Hundred Years of Solitude. I love it. I have to make myself not read it. It’s kind of a re-telling of The Flood story and the Creation story. Except Eden is a Children’s Hospital and Eve is a woman named Jemma who does drugs and cusses and gets her swerve on outside the bonds of marriage. It’s a funny book. I’m only one-third of the way through it, but it’d have to go terribly wrong for me to dislike it at this point. It’s had too many good things happen so far. And Adrian is an amazingly talented writer.

A couple of musical notes.

I’m listening to a band called Big Silver (album: Afterlife) right now. I think they’re technically labeled alt-country, although they sound like a pop band to me. Good stuff. Give them a listen on iTunes, if you can.

The new The Killers Album, Sam’s Town, is worth listening to. I like them despite their not really being that good of a band. They’re fun. And they’re fun to listen to.

Jay-Z, in case you missed the commercials, has a new album coming out later this month. Am I the only one excited? Itching to buy it, is what I am. I’m a sucker for Jay-Z

A couple of Halloween notes.

I’m no longer surprised that the majority of costumes for women involve wearing very little clothing, although the “slutty angel” at school today did take me aback. Note to women: men have pretty good imaginations. It’s almost insulting. Costumes for men seem to revolve around dressing as someone (like a doctor, say) that allows them to ask if they can touch women. None of this is surprising to me. What is surprising to me is the number of people who think their costume idea is unique.

St. Louis Wins Again!

I read that St. Louis edged Detroit as the most dangerous city in the United States.

First, the World Series. Now this.

Detroit must be very embarrassed.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Hero For Terry Austin

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by alsturgeon

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Prayer and the Powers

We are finally to the last chapter in Walter Wink’s The Powers That Be. (Don’t get too excited, however. I will print the epilogue in a final post in the near future.)

My summary of the book so far: God wars against unseen world forces (i.e. “principalities and powers”) both through the life of Jesus and his followers. This war dismisses both the practice of violence (“morally illegitimate or excessive use of force”) and pacifism as commonly understood, choosing instead to fight in a third way: nonviolent, creative resistance. The foundation for this choice of weaponry is a love for ALL mankind, including enemies (whom we also wish to rescue from the “powers that be”).


I will freely admit that I was disappointed to find that the last chapter involved prayer. Not that I have anything against prayer per se, but I have always found the concept and practice problematic. Plus, it is often used as a cop-out from personal responsibility (e.g. Would you help me out? Well, I’m sort of busy… Would you at least pray for me? Oh sure, I’ll pray for you…)

But Wink’s thoughts challenged me to rethink the subject.

To Wink, prayer is the very foundation of the battle against “the powers that be.” By that, he argues that it is in prayer that the secret hold the powers have on our lives is broken, and that it is there on “the interior battlefield where the decisive victory is won before any engagement in the outer world is even possible.”

Which all sounds good.

But what happens there? How is the secret hold broken, and how is a decisive victory won?

Wink writes, “In prayer we are ordering God to bring the kingdom near… We have been commanded to command. We are required by God to haggle with God for the sake of the sick, the obsessed, the weak, and to conform our lives to our intercessions. This is a God who invents history in interaction with those ‘who hunger and thirst to see right prevail’ (Matt 5:6, REB)… Praying is rattling God’s cage and waking God up and setting God free… When we pray, we are not sending a letter to a celestial White House, where it is sorted among piles of others. We are engaged, rather, in an act of co-creation… History belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being. If this is so, then intercession, far from being an escape from action, is a means of focusing for action and of creating action. By means of our intercessions we veritably cast fire upon the earth and trumpet the future into being.”

So prayer, far from being reduced to a list of personal requests or a religious act, becomes instead a time to envision justice, to call on God to bring it to be, and a time to recapture my place in that purposeful vision.

But, as scary as it seems, let’s be honest. God doesn’t always seem to hold up his end of the bargain.

Sometimes we are way off base in our prayers, of course. That should go without saying. “But,” Wink goes on, “there are situations where God’s will seems so transparently evident that to assert that God says no is to portray God as a cosmic thug. I still cannot see, after thirty years, how the death by leukemia of a six-year-old boy in our parish was in any sense an act of God. And does anyone wish to argue that our current worldwide rate of death by starvation – approximately twenty-two thousand children a day, or around eight million a year – is the will of God?”

Wink’s answer is that prayer is not simply a two-way transaction (humans and God). He argues that we often leave the principalities and powers out of the equation (for an example from Scripture, he offers the story recorded in Daniel 10). Like the freedom granted individual human beings, institutions likewise have freedom to wreck the world around us (speaking to the leukemia example, he speaks to a corporation’s record for pollution in that very area).

He writes, “In short, prayer involves not just God and people, but God and people and Powers. What God is able to do in the world is hindered to a considerable extent by the rebelliousness, resistance, and self-interest of the Powers exercising their freedom under God.”

Later, referring to the Nazi dilemma, he continues: “In such a time, God may appear to be impotent. Perhaps God is. God may be unable to intervene directly, but nevertheless showers the world with potential coincidences that require only a human response to become miracles. When the miracle happens, we feel that God has intervened in a special way. But God does not intervene only occasionally. God is the constant possibility of transformation pressing on every occasion, even those that are lost for lack of a human response. God is not mocked. The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but they are inexorable…”

So in the end, prayer is calling on God to do what is right in the world, and in so doing, realign “us” with that vision as well. But our adversary is formidable. It seeks to have us again while clinging desperately to those in its grasp with a continual thirst for more. Nonetheless, we fight on with the weapon of love for all humanity, and it is in our quiet, clarifying moments in prayer that we both develop and maintain the vision of the world that is to come that allows us to practice that love with the courage it requires.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

World Series

Cards 2. Tigers 1. Here's your chance to discuss.

Some things that stand out in my mind:

  • The Tigers have a leadoff man who led the AL in strikeouts, and a shortstop who led in errors.
  • Is Jeff Suppan using Barry Bonds' trainer or somethin'?
  • LaRussa's Game 1 silence on Kenny Rodgers. What's up with that?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Paging Dr. Kissinger

Since I seem to be about the only one posting these days, I'll fill the dead airtime by disagreeing with many Democrats and, according to the polls, a majority of Americans.

We should not withdraw from Iraq. It was a mistake to go in. It was an obvious mistake. It was boneheaded and willful and pre-ordained. But Congress closed its eyes and supported it. The media closed its eyes and supported it. The American people closed their eyes and supported it. So now we're in it, there's no changing that, and we can't just throw up our hands and walk away because it's turned into the mess we all should have known it would be in the first place.

Napoleon once said, "If you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna." In other words, don't try, don't give it a good effort, don't go half way: do it. I don't think there's any way we can take this particular Vienna; that is, I don't think we can win, at least not in the terms laid out by the Bush administration. The residents of Iraq will never -- in any of our lifetimes, at least -- like us. They aren't going to thank us for trying to share our infidel god's blessing, democracy. That's because Iraq is not going to be a democracy -- a shining example in the heart of the Middle East. It's going to be what it has become: the heart of the long blood feud between Sunnis and Shia. And that's what it's going to be until a person or government sufficiently repressive comes along to put a stop to it. (See, e.g., Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and pre-war Iraq.)

That can't be us. For us, Iraq is now about saving what face we can. The "solution" is not to withdraw; it's to draft and re-invade. Massively. To carpet the country with so much military force and so many soldiers that the insurrectionists and civil warriors (I think what's happening in Iraq now is both an insurrection and a civil war, two simultaneous wars) can't breathe. To what end? To demonstrate that, sufficiently roused, we can. They aren't going to like us; we should at least make sure they respect what we're capable of. Right now they don't, and why would they? Having foolishly set out to take a Vienna that was never there to be taken, we have to at least demonstrate the ability to make it miserable if we wanted to. Then get out and flood the place with all the humanitarian aid we can afford. Make war -- not half-assed, but with a will -- then make peace with a will.

It stinks. But I don't see that we have (or ever had) any other choice, once having invaded. It was a horrible, unbelievably naive (or cynical) and sophomoric idea. But the withdrawal that should happen in response is not to withdraw the troops from Iraq. It's to withdraw the fools who put them there.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Those Wacky Voters

There's an interesting ballot initiative for South Dakotans in November. It's called "JAIL for Judges." The idea is that if you're involved in a legal proceeding -- criminal or civil, as plaintiff or defendant -- and you don't like the outcome, you can sue the judge. That's right: sue the judge.

You might suspect the trial lawyers are behind this, but you'd be wrong. The man behind it is a conspiracy theorist with a history of legal difficulties and quixotic court cases. He also happens to not be a resident of South Dakota; that was just the easiest (which is to say, the only) place he could get his initiative on the ballot.

He says it's a question of democratic accountability. Judges, he says, have to be accountable to someone. In this case, that someone would be a special grand jury with rules admittedly designed to favor the plaintiff (that is, the person suing the judge). This neatly overlooks the fact that judges in SD, like in many states, are elected, and therefore already democratically accountable.

One might think this is one of those nutty propositions that show up on ballots from time to time, only to garner about 10% of the vote. One would be wrong. This thing is actually polling as a winner. If it wins, its backer says he has a multi-millionaire who'll finance efforts to get it on the ballot in other states.

Anyway, I thought I'd blog it and see what people think.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

An American Tragedy

I'm an American and Americans consume. We consume better than anybody in the world. The thing we consume the MOST best is television. And after 9/11, it's our patriotic duty to consume like we've never consumed before, else the terrorists win. So when my 15 year old RCA tv went dead as a hammer last week, I, being known for my patriotism, began looking into replacing it.

Have any of you bought -- or tried to buy -- a tv, recently? It's nigh impossible.

See, they got this HDTV thing on. It's the coming thing, they say. In fact, they're so sure of it, the government has mandated that all television signals be HD by 2009. They've mandated dates for this before, only to push them back. So 2009 might not be the year, either. But it evidently is the case that at some point in the not too distant future, a tv that doesn't accept, process, and render digital signals will be fully as useful as an 8-track tape deck.

I've been stalling, waiting for all that to sort itself out. The sound on my old RCA went out about 8 years ago, and it's been showing other signs of decline, recently. But no, by gum, I wasn't going to replace it. If the fates allowed, I wasn't going to buy a new tv until all this HD nonsense was settled and a man could buy a decent, normal-sized tv for a decent, normal-sized price.

But do the fates allow? No. Not that I can complain. Fifteen years is well above the average lifespan for a tv. But still, the timing is unfortunate. Not only has the HD broadcast/cable/sattelite thing not settled out, not only are there 4 competing tv picture technologies (plasma, LCD, DLP, and LCoS) and 2 more soon to come (SED and laser) offering almost as many "HD" resolution levels (480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p), not only is there a whole new Beta vs. VHS war being fought for the future of DVDs (HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray), not only are all of these tvs hideously expensive, not only do all of the manufacturers have horribly high "lemon" rates, but said manufacturers can't even settle on a single standard for hooking their hideously expensive tvs and dvds together (composite, component, and S-video all work with everything, but they don't do HD; DVI and HDMI do HD, but are so complicated, one company's DVI or HDMI implementation might not talk to others).

Here's the Patriotic Consumer's situation. In order to get a tv that won't be obsolete in a few years, a body cannot spend less than $1,000, and that's for the bottom-feeder sets. More likely, it's going to be $1,500 to $2,000. Tack on $150 for a minimally HD dvd player (because your old dvd player, which still works just fine, doesn't do HD at all, althought the DVDs themselves do), an HDMI cable, etc., and lets call it an even 2 grand. So you've just dropped 2 grand so you can continue watching your movies and The Daily Show. (And that's not counting the up-charge for digital cable or sattelite, if you decide to spring for that.) You get your new stuff home. Hook up the tv and turn it on. It sucks. Not just the suckiness you expected, but, like, everybody's face is green and their movements look like Max Headroom. You've gotten a lemon. Take it back and get another new tv. There is, believe it or not, a decent chance that one will be a lemon, too. So you'll take it back and get another, or maybe try a different one.

You finally get home with a tv that works. You hook up your new dvd player and pop in your trusty dvd of Casablanca or American Pie 8: Wacky Defecations, and find out your player and tv don't speak the same HDMI. Take the player back. Try a different one. Repeat as needed.

For $2,000, this is what you get.

How badly does that suck? Can you imagine any other consumer market in which that would be tolerated? Can you imagine getting a fancy new dishwasher home and discovering it won't connect to your plumbing? Buying an expensive new cd player and having to take it back and back and back before you get one that works? People would go apey.

What's the problem here?

I think it's that tvs are like breasts, guns, and cars: Americans, by and large, like them big. In fact, big is almost all we care about. So the market responds. In the race to give us the biggest possible screen size without herniating every disc in America, the manufacturers have gotten ahead of themselves. The tvs they make are big, alright, but they stink. Plasma? Stinks. LCD? Stinks. DLP? Stinks. LCoS? Stinks. Why? Because all the R&D has been going into making these new-tech tvs bigger, not better; and to the degree they've developed the technology to make the things look decent, they only put that technology on the biggest models (50" and up). They invest nothing in quality control. And the marketing people are running the whole show, which is why you have a "New and Improved!" connection format coming out every third Wednesday.

What's a Patriotic Consumer to do?

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Thought From My Old Buddy, Eugene...

Everyone be prepared: I just started reading another Eugene Peterson "pastoral" book. I'm sorry, but you might be inundated with a thousand references to Peterson for a while...

The book is titled, The Unnecessary Pastor, a book Peterson co-authored with Marva Dawn. I'm not giving a book review - I'm still in the Introduction (page 4). But, as is often the case with Peterson, he wrote something that grabbed me so hard I laughed out loud, had to set the book down and share the thought with someone.

Here's what he wrote: I am in conversation right now with a dozen or so men and women who are prepared to be pastors and who are waiting to be called by a congregation. And I am having the depressing experience of reading congregational descriptions of what these churches want in a pastor. With hardly an exception they don't want pastors at all - they want managers of their religious company. They want a pastor they can follow so they won't have to bother with following Jesus anymore.

Prompt any thoughts from anyone out there?


Thursday, October 12, 2006

My Personal Hurricane Katrina Video

Hey, hey, turn up your speakers girls and boys. I'm trying to learn how to use "You Tube," and if I've been able to pull it off, you should be able to watch a minute's worth of video I took on my digital camera near the end of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005.

The video is shot from the fire escape door next to my office at the church building. The best part is listening to the howling (Katrina's language). If you look closely, you can see the bayou has risen to the back of our parking lot, which wouldn't mean much if you didn't know that the normal level is about 20-30 feet below the back of our parking lot!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Holy Moly


A new poll by Newsweek indicated the Foley scandal was doing significant damage to the Republicans' political fortunes and could sink their chances of holding onto control of Congress on Election Day, Nov. 7. The poll found that 52 percent of Americans, including 29 percent of Republicans, believe Hastert was aware of Foley's Internet communications with underage pages and tried to cover up Foley's actions. More of those polled, 42 percent, now say they trust Democrats to do a better job handling moral values than Republicans; 36 percent favored Republicans on the values question.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Latest Evangelical Panic

This article, and the entire concept of the four-percent panic, is further proof that some Christians have a strong desire to view themselves as beleaguered and marginalized when in reality they are nothing of the sort. I do not understand this persecution complex. The five-percent number cited later in the article was not true even in my high school, which I think (in terms of my peers) did not particularly embrace open religious behavior at school. The other factor that these adults seem to overlook is that, as I understand it, plenty of folks drift away from or at least question religion during their teen and early adult years, but return to it as they get older and especially after they have their own children. I really don't think the evangelicals have anything to worry about. Since the admitted goal of many of them is to take over the world and install a theocracy, if anything it's people like me who should be worried.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Walter Camp

(No, not that one. Walter, as in Walter Wink, The Powers That Be)

· God wars against unseen world forces (i.e. “principalities and powers”) both through the life of Jesus and his followers.
· Jesus rejected violence as his weapon of war and instructs his followers to do likewise. (Note: There is a difference between “force” and “violence.” Wink defines force as a “legitimate, socially authorized, and morally defensible use of restraint to prevent harm being done to innocent people,” thus permitting police actions and self-defense. Violence, on the other hand, is “a morally illegitimate or excessive use of force.”)
· He also rejects pacifism as commonly understood.
· Instead, he proposes war against “the powers that be” by a third way: nonviolent, creative resistance.


Jesus instructs his students to love their enemies.

Why? For one, God loves our enemies. For another, we are related to our enemies in what Wink terms “our common evil.” He writes, “We would like to identify ourselves as just and good, but we are a mix of just and unjust, good and evil… As we begin to acknowledge our own inner shadow, we become more tolerant of the shadow in others. As we begin to love the enemy within, we develop the compassion we need to love the enemy without.”

There is little talk of loving enemies in today’s Christianity.

Wink turns back to the Sermon on the Mount to examine the words of Jesus. The instruction to love enemies concludes with the dramatic call to “be perfect” like God. He writes, “It may come as immediate relief to learn that Jesus could not have said, ‘Be perfect.’ There was no such word, or even concept, in his native Aramaic or Hebrew. And for good reason. The second commandment had forbidden the making of graven images (Exod. 20:4). Israel consequently never developed the visual arts. The word used by Matthew, teleios, was, however, a Greek aesthetic term. It described the perfect geometric form, or the perfect sculpture. The Greeks seldom used it in ethical discussion, since moral perfection is not within the grasp of human beings, and would even have been regarded, in Greek piety, as a form of hubris. Placed in its context within the rest of the paragraph, Jesus’ saying about behaving like God becomes abundantly clear. We are not to be perfect, but, like God, all-encompassing, loving even those who have least claim or right to our love… We are to be compassionate, as God is compassionate. Or, following Luke’s excellent version of the saying, we are to ‘Be merciful, just as your divine Parent is merciful’ (6:36).”

So the call to love our enemies is a call to follow God’s lead (seasoned with a dash of humility).


Okay, we suck at loving our enemies, but that does not excuse us from the instruction. Part of the good news is that Jesus knows whereby we suck. He asks why we are so intent on removing a splinter from the eye of our enemy while a pine log protrudes from our own eye? Now Jesus continues his thought by allowing that we may very well have a role to play in helping remove that splinter, but before we do so, we have some inner surgery to consider first.

What’s his point? Wink claims that our enemies may be of great value to us. In many cases (not all), our enemy may be useful in revealing to us (if we pause to notice) unacceptable parts of ourselves that need to be redeemed. “How wonderfully humiliating: we not only may have a role in transforming our enemies, but our enemies can play a role in transforming us!” (Wink, 171)

So we love our enemies, not just because God does, and not just because we aren’t so different, but also because we cannot be whole without them. When we learn to look at our enemies this way (objectively and introspectively), we find rage no longer necessary.

And finally, because we have learned to recognize “the powers that be,” we also learn to see our personal rifts as not so personal, and may be able to find ourselves praying with Jesus for forgiveness because, on a deeper level, our enemies (like us) “know not what they do.”


So we learn to love our enemies. Who cares? Am I simply glad that my blood pressure is lowered? Am I simply relieved that I can save a few bucks by taking the hit man off of retainer?

No, I love my enemies because I hope to transform them, freeing them from the grasp of the “powers that be.” I practice creative, nonviolent resistance toward my enemies because maiming and/or killing them makes personal transformation of the enemy borderline impossible. I also shun passivity because it ignores the problem and fuels the monster’s thirst for power, along with failing to expose the monster for what it is and making possible the transformation I pray for in my enemy.

And I love my enemies because I believe in miracles.

As Wink concludes, “If God can forgive, redeem, and transform me, I must also believe that God can work such wonders with anyone. Love of enemies is seeing one’s oppressors through the prism of the reign of God – not only as they now are but also as they can become: transformed by the power of God.”

(Next post is the last chapter, “Prayer and the Powers.”)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Band Camp

So what's the deal with the House leadership and this Mark Foley scandal? Majority Leader John Boehner told the Washington Post he had told Speaker Hastert about the problem. Then Hastert said he didn't know anything about it until last Friday. Then Boehner called the Post back and said he definitely hadn't told Hastert about it. Then he told another paper he was "99% sure" he had.

Now Hastert and some others on the right are putting out the idea this was an "October surprise" by the Democrats. I wouldn't put it past them, but I don't really find it credible, either. I mean, how would the Democrats even know about it? We're talking about misbehavior by a member of the Republican caucus, which was or wasn't reported to various Republican members of the House leadership. It seems unlikely the Republicans would inform their opposition of this kind of thing; it's not clear they even informed each other. Besides which, ABC, who broke the story, says they got it from the former pages, themselves.

I haven't reached any conclusions about it all at this point, other than that, however it turns out, Hastert and Boehner haven't exactly clothed themselves in glory over it. I just thought I'd provide a place for everybody to discuss it, if they're so inclined.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bob Camp

No, not that one.

Bob Woodward. I don't know if anyone's been following the rhubarb over Bob's new book. If you have, are you as confused as I am? I haven't read the book and don't plan to (Bob's writing couldn't be more dull), so my confusion is really over the rhubarb, not the book.

Bob's book apparently makes several claims about what the Bush administration knew, when it knew it, what its public statements were at those times, etc. and so forth, all of which paints a pretty unflattering portrait of the administration. (Recall that Woodward's first book on the Bush admin. was very flattering.) The nice thing about the book, apparently, is that it doesn't base all this on anonymous sources. People actually went on the record in Woodward's interviews. Very highly placed people. On the record. Maybe.

See, the thing is, now those people are going on the news and claiming they never said what Woodward claims they said in those interviews. Condi never said Rummy wouldn't return her calls. Andy Card never advocated that the president find a new Secretary of Defense. Laura Bush never said she thought Rummy was hurting the president. Gen. Abizaid never said Iraq was snafu.

So where does that leave us? Woodward says they said it. On the record. He has The Notes, as the journalists say. But now they say they didn't say it. The possible axe-grinding scenarios quickly spin out of control, and all of them -- that I can think of, anyway -- contain some number of absurdities.

Who are we supposed to believe? And, given what he reports they said, how is it possible that Woodward didn't see this coming? Would he not have recorded all the interviews to prevent these he said-he said conflicts?

I don't know enough about how journalists work, I guess, but I can't figure out how Woodward could have let himself get into this entirely predictable situation. And more importantly: who are we to believe?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Jesus Camp

I thought you guys might find this interview with the filmmakers of the new documentary Jesus Camp interesting. A couple of issues I thought of that this interview brings up but that I don't have any answers for:

1. The idea that indoctrination is child abuse.

2. The idea that looking at something going on in the present from an anthropological perspective is inherently degrading or condescending.

3. The fact that a lot of the people in the movie are political but claim not to be.

4. Pastor Ted Haggard's rejection of the movie, while the other participants embraced it. In particular, his explanation of why he rejects it.

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