The persecution of homosexuals continues in Nigeria with four young men convicted of homosexual relations and flogged on in open court. The judges and lawyers watched as the men (aged 20 to 22) were laid prostrate on the floor, stripped, and whipped on their buttocks in a demonstration of Sharia justice. The sadomasochistic nature of the punishment appears to have escaped the onlookers. While a crowd outside tried to grab the men to kill them, the court explained that stoning was not needed since the men admitted to homosexual acts previously but said that they were no longer engaging in such relations.
“We can remake our policies so that they’re smart. Studies have shown that prison does not deter crime. In a lot of cases, it creates many more problems than it solves. Locking up huge swathes of our population makes communities less safe by because huge numbers of people are torn away from their families and from the ability to hold down a job, because we’re warehousing people in overcrowded jails and prisons, and because having a record can cut away at someone’s ability to vote or seek employment after they get out. We must do better. We spend $80 billion dollars a year incarcerating people, which is 400% more than we spent twenty years ago. Some of the money could be better spent on raising healthy kids, not feeding a morally corrupt network that connects our children in their classrooms to the prison industrial complex.”—We Must Stop Throwing People Away
“The collective erasure of the memory of that prior system of broad-based prosperity is due partly to the failure of my generation to retain and pass on the values on which that system was based. It can also be understood as the greatest propaganda victory radical conservatism ever won. We must restore our recollection. In seeking to repair what is broken, we don’t have to emulate another nation. We have only to emulate what we once had.”—The Great American Working Class U-Turn
A DNA test conducted by film company FilmOn.TV and reported by TMZ supposedly found a 99.9% probability that 31-year-old singer Brandon Howard, who now goes by B. Howard, is Michael Jackson’s son. Howard is participating in a documentary for the company and admits to giving them a DNA swab, but says he did not voluntarily submit to a comparative DNA test to determine relation to MJ. The company says it obtained one of Michael’s dental impression from a Beverly Hills dentist, and paid on its own to compare Howard’s DNA to Jackson’s.
The kicker? Howard’s mother is Miki Howard, an ’80s R&B singer who was managed by Joe Jackson. She used to go by the name “Billie.” Brandon was born in 1982, the same year the song “Billie Jean” was recorded. If the DNA test is credible it would mean that one of the most famous lyrics of the ’80s—”the kid is not my son”—was a lie; there was a Billie, there was a kid and he was indeed Michael’s son.
“Since practical ability differs from person to person, the majority of such abilities in nearly all societies, is gathered in a minority of men. The concentration of wealth is a natural result of this concentration of ability, and regularly recurs in history… In progressive societies the concentration may reach a point where the strength in number of the many poor rivals the strength of ability in the few rich; then the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealth or revolution redistributing poverty.”—Will Durant
One of the most amazing court cases you probably have never heard of had come down to this. Standing Bear, the reluctant chief of the Ponca tribe, rose on May 2, 1879, to address a packed audience in a Nebraska courtroom. At issue was the existence of a mind that many were unable to see.
Standing Bear’s journey to this courtroom had been excruciating. The U.S. government had decided several years earlier to force the 752 Ponca Native Americans off their lands along the fertile Niobrara River and move them to the desolate Indian Territory, in what is now northern Oklahoma. Standing Bear surrendered everything he owned, assembled his tribe, and began marching a six-hundred-mile “trail of tears.” If the walk didn’t kill them (as it did Standing Bear’s daughter), then the parched Indian Territory would. Left with meager provisions and fields of parched rock to farm, nearly a third of the Poncas died within the first year. This included Standing Bear’s son. As his son lay dying, Standing Bear promised to return his son’s bones to the tribe’s burial grounds so that his son could walk the afterlife with his ancestors, according to their religion. Desperate, Standing Bear decided to go home.
Carrying his son’s bones in a bag clutched to his chest, Standing Bear and twenty-seven others began their return in the dead of winter. Word spread of the group’s travel as they approached the Omaha Indian reservation, midway through their journey. The Omahas welcomed them with open arms, but U.S. officials welcomed them with open handcuffs. General George Crook was ordered by government officials to return the beleaguered Poncas to the Indian Territory.
Crook couldn’t bear the thought. “I’ve been forced many times by orders from Washington to do most inhuman things in dealings with the Indians,” he said, “but now I’m ordered to do a more cruel thing than ever before.” Crook was an honorable man who could no more disobey direct orders than he could fly, so instead he stalled, encouraging a newspaper editor from Omaha to enlist lawyers who would then sue General Crook (as the U.S. government’s representative) on Standing Bear’s behalf. The suit? To have the U.S. government recognize Standing Bear as a person, as a human being.
“There is an IQ test for the rising aristocracy. Can you spell the word “tumbrels” and do you really want to keep reflexively doing what dullard lords did in every other society before ours, pushing for oligarchy — rationalizing reasons to ignore how much more power angry mobs will have in the coming era, than they did in 1789 Paris?”—CONTRARY BRIN
“There are many subtleties and twists in the story … but the basic message, roughly speaking, is simple: The peculiar and exceptionally unstable organization of the critical state does indeed seem to be ubiquitous in our world. Researchers in the past few years have found its mathematical fingerprints in the workings of all the upheavals I’ve mentioned so far [earthquakes, eco-disasters, market crashes], as well as in the spreading of epidemics, the flaring of traffic jams, the patterns by which instructions trickle down from managers to workers in the office, and in many other things. At the heart of our story, then, lies the discovery that networks of things of all kinds – atoms, molecules, species, people, and even ideas – have a marked tendency to organize themselves along similar lines. On the basis of this insight, scientists are finally beginning to fathom what lies behind tumultuous events of all sorts, and to see patterns at work where they have never seen them before.”—Mark Buchanan
“I will admit to having been forced, of late, to change some of my more reflexively conservative positions with regard to the structural causes of income distribution trends and, even more importantly, the distribution of opportunity. It is the latter concept that should command our particular attention, and a fair distribution of opportunity should appeal to both libertarians (I more or less think of myself as one) and progressives.
The unfair distribution of opportunity is not an injustice that can be redressed simply by composing erudite paeans to free markets or social justice, even though politicians will try. The problem is far more complex than that. Are we in fact, as Larry Summers suggests, on the road to a Downton Abbey economy – or, even worse, a Blade Runner-like dystopia?”—Mauldin Economics
“It was about 18 years ago in 1996 when one day someone forwarded an email from an email publication that Terry was writing called “Rush Limbaugh Lying Nazi Whore - Issue #45.”—
History of how BartCop Started
We are deeply saddened to report the passing of Bart on the morning of March 5, 2014. He died peacefully due to his flu, pneumonia and his Leukemia. His last word is below as well as opportunities to communicate what he and his Tequila Tree House have meant to you over the years.
As we grieve the loss and celebrate Bart’s life we will consider our options for the future of the page in the days ahead. Send us your thoughts.
People who (unbelievably) deny that global warming is a real thing will often point to climate events earlier in the 20th century that may resemble modern day events that we think could be related to warming, and say “see, it happened then, so there is no global warming now.” There are several reasons that is wrong. First, often, older records of spectacular weather events may be wrong, incomplete, or not measured like we would like them to have been measured, so going back to old newspaper accounts and such is highly unreliable. So this means that people are criticizing a carefully assembled and verified set of data (recent changes in CO2 and temperature) and complaining that it is no good because of cherry picked observation from “data” that is not controlled or verified. The second reason this is wrong is that there have been very few weather events that could not, really, have happened any time. This does not apply so much to sea level enhanced weather events. If sea level rises then sea or estuary flooding can happen in places it could never have happened before, so that is a qualitative, or base-line, difference. But for the most part, a major cold snap, a high precipitation event, drought, or other event can happen at any time. Climate scientists do not think that there are very many weather events that happen now that could never, ever have happened in the past. Rather, there is concern that some of these classes of events are happening with significantly greater frequency now than in the past.
Vineyard Church (Ann Arbor, MI) pastor Ken Wilson reconsiders his evangelical church posture toward LGBT community in a book-lengthy reflection. Wilson wrestles with how to strike a “third way”, one that does not pledge full allegiance to either “love the sinner, hate the sin” (which means exclusion) and “open and affirming” (this is, “inclusion”, without total sanction and approval). Wilson, in each chapter, wrestles both with scriptural admonitions and the Holy Spirit. Though he is honest in affirming that aversion to “open and affirming” is based in large part the fear of being branded a “heretic” by evangelical cohorts.
Wilson addresses the biblical clobber passages fairly well, and attempts to bring to light the nuances of biblical culture and language that’s either glossed over or totally ignored by traditionalists on this matter. He’s not a biblical scholar but he cites the takes of various qualified scholars. Still, I thought the treatment was a tad incomplete, though a more comprehensive study would have bloated this, and transformed into something different than A Letter to My Congregation. Again, his approach is more aligned in arguing for a “third way”, to treat this matter as a “disputable”, not as a schism triggering agent, as seems to be in so many churches. I believe it a commendable act, and one likely to inflict derision from both sides, as what typically and tragically besets peacemakers in their quest.
A bit of the chapter content is redundant. And Wilson omits, or is just unaware, historical themes and truth that would buttress his “third way” case. Particularly, the whole Victorian model of marriage more representative of cultural mores of those peering in than actually reflected in the ancient texts. He touches upon this very briefly, but a stronger emphasis should be made about the patriarchal, misogynistic nature of not only ancient cultures, but of most of church history. That the sands of what constitutes marriage are shocking to modern sensibilities, including traditionalists who zero in on a narrow romanticized slice of history as a model for “the ages” to revere. Also, was disappointed not to see more pushback on biblical sexual ethics, from the work of bible scholars like Walter Wink and/or others.
But, on the whole, this a worthy, heartfelt account of Wilson wrestling with this issue and wanting to be true to the way of Jesus.
“The demonizers of capitalism propose to remedy our compound predicament by just getting rid of money. But the idea of a human society without money leaves you either up a baobab tree on the paleolithic savannah, or in some sort of Ray Kurzweil techno-narcissistic masturbation fantasy multiverse with no relation to the organic doings on planet earth. I suspect as long as there are human societies there will be things to exchange that have a quality we call “money,” and as long as that’s the case, some individuals will have more of it than others, and they will lend some of their surplus to others on terms. What most people call capitalism was a model of economy derived from a particular transitory moment in history. It seemed to describe reality, but after a while it didn’t because reality changed and it was, finally, just a model. Nothing lasts forever. Boo-hoo, Karl Marx, J.M Keynes, and Paul Krugman.”—Are You Crazy To Continue Believing In Collapse?
The Mafia has broken a lot of legs over the years, and put a lot of bodies in the ground, and extorted a lot of money from fearful people who have no choice but to obey, but the Mafia is left in deep shade by the insurance industry in America. The Republicans have spent oceans of time over the last few years yodeling about fictional “death panels” being a part of the ACA, but those “death panels” are all too real, and have existed for years in the guise of insurance companies that will drain your body of blood before refusing to approve coverage for a transfusion.
So, yeah, those who rant on about government being the problem with health care in America are cordially invited to take a flying fornication at a rolling doughnut on a gravel driveway in the rain. If you’re going to ding the government for anything, ding them - ding the Obama administration - for willfully abandoning the idea of single-payer universal care in favor of allowing the shameless muggers of the insurance industry to retain control of the process. They were awful before, and are worse now, because they are scratching as hard as they can to make up for the revenue they will be losing because they can no longer shaft sick people on the books.
Abandoning the concept of single-payer health care is the Original Sin of the Affordable Care Act. While I and the half of the country dealing with pre-existing conditions are grateful for the prohibition against denying coverage to people thus afflicted, that protection is next to useless when dealing with the shark tank that is the insurance industry. They have less morality than a Mafia leg-breaker, but far more power, and someone decided to keep them in charge of the process anyway.
“So how did America fall behind? How did the country that literally invented the internet — and the home to world-leading tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Facebook, Google, and Cisco — fall behind so many others in download speeds?”—Why is American internet so slow?
It’s no secret that caffeine helps boost concentration skills in the short term. But, until recently, most scientists thought that caffeine offered little benefit for remembering information in the long term. A new study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience challenges the assumption that caffeine doesn’t do much for memory. In short, caffeine enhances memory for information learned a day earlier and, like many things, moderation is key—too little caffeine and there are no memory benefits, too much caffeine doesn’t give you that much bang for your buck either.
“What has happened in Ukraine is that Washington plotted against and overthrew an elected legitimate government and then lost control to neo-nazis who are threatening the large Russian population in southern and eastern Ukraine, provinces that formerly were part of Russia. These threatened Russians have appealed for Russia’s help, and just like the Russians in South Ossetia, they will receive Russia’s help.”—Propaganda Rules the News
Russia’s takeover of Crimea is already so complete that commercial flights to Kiev from the region’s main airport, located outside Simferopol, the regional capital 50 miles from Sevastopol, now leave from the international terminal instead of the domestic one as they did until last week. The shift suggests that Kiev and the rest of Ukraine are now classified as foreign territory.
Russian soldiers patrol the airport parking lot and, although still without markings on their uniforms, have dropped all pretense that they are not Russian. Asked where he was from, a masked soldier at the airport said he was with the Russian infantry and had been sent to Crimea a week ago on a mission to protect the region “against the enemy, Ukraine.”
“The modern Republican Party is so excited by its own contrarianism—the globe is not warming, health care does not need reform—that it’s basically become a giant no-producing machine. To the conservative mindset, if a liberal institution like Hollywood comes out with a statement about slavery, then that statement must be inherently wrong.”—Conservative Writer Upset That 12 Years a Slave Didn’t Show Any Happy Slaves
Like abortion and gay marriage in American conservative politics, there are two similar “single issues” that routinely dominate the theological conversation to draw an absolute line in the sand between evangelical and non-evangelical, orthodox and heterodox, Christian and faux-Christian. And, as it happens, both single issues start with “H.”
Having the “right” stance on these two issues has become something of a master signifier in modern evangelicalism, such that stepping to the “left” just a tad will earn you a swift excommunication from many established evangelical voices. Of course, these signifiers are part and parcel of a larger one – belief in the inerrant Bible (with a strictly soterian hermeneutic). It doesn’t matter how orthodox one may otherwise be on, say, the atonement, resurrection, Trinity, etc. And it most certainly doesn’t matter if the content of one’s life is reflective of a deep work of the Spirit, a commitment to the church, and a passion for following Jesus and inviting others to do the same. No, to stop short of an Eternal Conscious Torment perspective on hell and a Perverted Sinful Choice perspective on homosexuality is to deny the faith itself.
In my own reflection (yeah, go ahead, subjectivism and emotionalism and yada yada), it certainly seems that this kind of stance is a suicidal one, especially since there is a growing theological tide of nuanced opinion on both of these topics among people who, like me, identify as evangelical. And, there is a desire on the part of those who have typically been cordoned off as “mainliners” to fellowship and co-labor with brothers and sisters in evangelical streams. And it further seems that the unity of the church itself as we see it playing out before our very eyes may hinge on whether or not we can embrace each other as passionate followers of Jesus – evangelicals even! – despite differences on these single issues.
And strangely, that’s where what’s wrong with evangelicalism is just so wrong. Conservative evangelicals are quite fond of playing the persecuted victim card when opposing “progressives” who supposedly want to take away their rights, but that is all to distract attention away from the reality – that they have already deemed the progressives to not be real Christians. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a progressive evangelical make the same claim toward a conservative. Sure, there is disagreement and it might get ugly at times. But I think there is a desire among those deemed progressive to somehow find and affirm a common faith with conservative brothers and sisters (if they’ll have us).
“Maybe the perfect candidate for the Grand Old Party has been there all along…three terms to be exact. George W. Bush stared into his eyes and got a sense of his soul. Putin is basically the Kremlin’s Harriet Myers (except conservatives admire Putin).”—The New GOP Frontrunner for 2016: Vladimir Putin
It’s a tough choice, but if I had to pick the most Wes Anderson moment in “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” it would be the part when inmates escape from a prison using tiny sledgehammers and pickaxes that have been smuggled past the guards inside fancy frosted pastries. This may, come to think of it, be the most Wes Anderson thing ever, the very quintessence of his impish, ingenious and oddly practical imagination. So much care has been lavished on the conceit and its execution that you can only smile in admiration, even if you are also rolling your eyes a little.
“My old Reformed Baptist pastor once said that if the Bible is really the inerrant Word of God, then slavery is not morally wrong in and of itself. If that sounds outlandish, consider that well known confederate/slavery apologists like Douglas Wilson do exist in mainstream conservative Christianity. They very honestly acknowledge that in both Old and New Testaments there are no explicit denunciations of slavery as an institution, and there seem to be repeated affirmations of it. So, if every word of scripture is God-breathed, then owning other human beings as property and forcing them to perform hard labor and menial tasks is fundamentally OK (as long as you don’t overtly abuse them).
This only serves to highlight the fact that upholding the inerrancy of scripture often leads to a hermeneutic of oppression.”—A Hermeneutic of Oppression, a Hermeneutic of Liberation
There was another scene in 12 years a slave that deeply moved me. After a slave died while picking cotton, he was buried in the cemetery full of unmarked graves. As the rest of the slaves gather to mourn, an old woman, presumably the matriarch, begins singing a gospel song – Roll Jordan Roll. This black woman begins preaching – in song – to her community. She preaches to her marginalized, oppressed and suffering community. It is a complete contrast in power. She is surround by her community, she is not preaching down to them. She leads them in song together, she doesn’t tell them what to think. Her words are beautiful music, not words that strike their hearers like a whip. She is the opposite of the white male slave owner.
This is not a co-incidence of images. This is the juxtaposition of a power imbalance.
As the community sings, the main character, Solomon, is standing there looking totally lost, totally broken, totally hopeless. With nothing left, the only thing he can do is sing. And you can see the hope beginning to well up inside of him. It doesn’t replace his brokenness, but the hope comes along side it. He sings with his community, and finds some hope in these words of faith. The same faith that is used to condemn him to slavery.
“But the Turing test cuts both ways. You can’t tell if a machine has gotten smarter or if you’ve just lowered your own standards of intelligence to such a degree that the machine seems smart. If you can have a conversation with a simulated person presented by an AI program, can you tell how far you’ve let your sense of personhood degrade in order to make the illusion work for you?”—Jaron Lanier
Ken Wilson, pastor of Vineyard Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has just published a book entitled, A Letter to My Congregation, in which he explains his change of mind and heart on the issue of homosexuality. He may be the first active pastor of a large evangelical congregation to make such a switch.
“You see, the fundamental problem for complementarians and non-complementarians alike is that far too often we are selective Pharisees in how we apply the Bible. We pretend to be following and presenting the plain teaching of the Bible, but rarely if ever is that the case. Instead, we choose which passages to follow and demand others follow them as well without question, all the while arguing away or ignoring altogether verses that contradict our dogmatic position. In the case of complementarianism, the presence of women in Jesus’ inner circle is explained away as a supporting cast. The same happens with Paul’s female co-ministers who he repeatedly thanks for their leadership in his letters. Along with the dismissal of female leadership in both Jesus and Paul’s ministry, the gender of the disciples is selectively used to justify the church’s sanctified Jim Crow. We are told that only men can be ministers because Jesus only selected men as his disciples. However, Jesus also only selected Jewish men from the Middle East who were under 40 or so, yet no one uses any of those things as a measure of who is qualified for ministry.”—Complementarianism: The Church’s Segregation Problem
“…unless you’re willing to also affirm the ridiculous idea that Jesus’ ministry was really about enabling people to sin and empowering them to do so, then stop with the equally ridiculous complicity nonsense. Serving others a piece of cake isn’t an act of complicity. It’s an act of service, maybe even love. Or it’s just business. But it most certainly is not complicity in sin.”—Can We Please Stop With The “Complicit In Their Sin” Nonsense?
“[T]his is what a society is and always has been: a symbolic action system, a structure of statuses and roles, customs and rules for behavior, designed to serve as a vehicle for earthly heroism. Each script is somewhat unique, each culture has a different hero system … But each cultural system is a dramatization of earthly heroics; each system cuts out roles for performances of various degrees of heroism … It doesn’t matter whether the cultural hero-system is frankly magical, religious, and primitive or secular, scientific, and civilized. It is still a mythical hero-system in which people serve in order to earn a feeling of primary value, of cosmic specialness, of ultimate usefulness to creation, of unshakable meaning. They earn this feeling by carving out a place in nature, by building an edifice that reflects human value: a temple, a cathedral, a totem pole, a skyscraper, a family that spans three generations. The hope and belief is that the things that man creates in society are of lasting worth and meaning, that they outlive or outshine death and decay, that man and his products count.”—Ernest Becker
No matter how you look at it, the House seems out of reach. Today, Republicans appear a bit more likely to gain than to lose seats; it would take a cataclysmic event for Democrats to score the net gain of the 17 seats they need to take the majority.
What’s changed is that Democrats’ chances of holding onto their majority in the Senate is looking increasingly tenuous. There are now at least 10, and potentially as many as 13, Democratic-held seats in jeopardy. By contrast, only two GOP seats are in any meaningful danger, and that number hasn’t changed in six months.
Things are starting to look grisly for Senate Democrats. President Obama’s approval ratings average 41 percent, basically where President George W. Bush’s poll numbers were at this point before his own disastrous 2006 second-term, midterm election. And the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature legislative and policy achievement, is now even more unpopular than it was in October and November of 2010, when Democrats lost 63 seats, control of the House, and a half-dozen Senate seats. It doesn’t help that midterm electorates tend to be older and whiter than in presidential elections. Obama’s current job-approval ratings are also worse than they were in October and November of 2010.
“The worldwide web of information – radio, television, telephones, the Internet – means not only that we can affect lives everywhere but that we can learn about life anywhere, too. Each person you know about and can affect is someone to whom you have responsibilities: to say this is to just to affirm the very idea of morality. The challenge, then, is to take minds and hearts formed over long millennia of living in local troops and equip them with ideas and institutions that will allow us to live together as the global tribe we have become.”—Kwame Anthony Appiah
“There’s no evidence in the real world that an increase in the minimum wage kills jobs. In fact, the evidence is to the contrary: A higher wage attracts more people into the labor force, which gives employers greater choice of whom to hire, resulting in less turnover and more reliable employees — thereby saving employers as much as the higher wage costs them. And it puts more money into the pockets of more people, thereby increasing total spending and creating more jobs.”—Robert Reich