blue bits. red rocks.


Social Security Scaremongering and Scapegoating the Elderly


To my parents’ and grandparents’ generation: Most of you are way better off than we are or—at this rate—ever will be. No matter how hard we work, we simply don’t have the economic advantages you grew up experiencing. We don’t begrudge you those benefits, but we would like the opportunity to build the kind of success so many of you did. And we can’t do that when we’re paying hundreds upon hundreds of dollars every month to subsidize your far more ample incomes.

So cut us a break. Let us opt out of dying social programs which will never benefit us. Stop driving up college costs with federal subsidies. Don’t force us to cover your health care costs when we can’t afford to cover our own.

Social security scare mongering has been a staple of libertarians and conservatives since its inception in the age of FDR (except for a brief period from Age of Eisenhower to Age of Reagan). Yet generations have passed and still, most every year, the program takes in more money than it disburses. And is projected to do so for at least another generation, just as those projections a generation ago, despite all the doomcasting then too. The same arguments were made then as now.

It’s now possible for someone to have spent their entire working life believing that Social Security would not last long enough for them to receive it, and now to have retired and started collecting benefits. This belief has been prevalent at least since the early years of the Reagan Administration when it was pushed hard by David Stockman, and I’m going to date it to the first big “reform” of the system in 1977. Someone born in 1952, who entered the workforce in 1977 at the age of 25, would now be turning 62 and eligible to collect Social Security. I’m betting that, in 20 years time, when the 1952 cohort reaches their average life expectancy, having enjoyed their full entitlement to benefits (assuming no ‘grand bargain’ intervenes) that the belief will be just as prevalent

Meanwhile, the nation, in the aggregate, doubled its per-hour productivity in the last 50 years. And productivity, by even the most sober estimates, will grow by a third or 50% over the course of the next couple generations.

Next, I don’t buy that parents and grandparents are “way better off”. Yes, it’s a tough economic stretch now, until we come to grips with systemic and structural metamorphosis to the economic system in the wake of advances in technology, automation, computing, and globalization. Some elderly folk do enjoy a comfortable state of living, with an ample stockpile of wealth — however, for a majority of elderly Americans, social security comprises the bulk of their income.

Finally, “let us opt out” is cover gloss for the true libertarian telos — to rollback the 20th century and return to the realm of 19th century Dickensian times. Let’s squash these safety net programs and let the old folk die in streets. Let them eat dog food!

The audacity astounds — let’s blame old people for all the economic woes. Perish the thought of requiring the grotesquely rich to pony up a few more dollars. Or hitting up financial overlords that continue to reap windfalls. Instead, keep striving for the libertarian dreamscape of dismantling the commons, privatizing and funneling even more into the trough of the already monstrous beasts.

Adventures in Missing Jesus, Volume XXV


“The defense for Fundamentalists’ obsession with homosexuality is the Bible, which they claim to read literally. If this was true, they might notice the words “poor” and “poverty” appear 446 times and that “wealth” is mentioned in 1,273 verses, rarely positively. Only five or six passages discuss homosexuality, though nearly every American can recite them, hearing each one quoted so often. If Fundamentalists fought LGBTQ equality as a hobby, after fulfilling their duty to fight poverty, they might be chastised and forgiven. They’ve revealed, though, they will abandon the poor, to condemn not only gay men and women but anyone who tolerates them. In doing so they’ve denied the very faith and savior they claim to revere. Whatever religion Fundamentalism is, it isn’t Christianity, and it’s time to revoke that label. Categorizing homosexuality, not injustice, as the greatest evil is absurd and disturbing, but it reflects a whole moral system that contradicts the essence of Christian Scripture.”

It’s Time to Stop Calling Fundamentalists ‘Christians’ (via azspot)

This quote (why bother reading the rest of it?) is a yawn-fest of red herring filled tripe. Pardon the mixed metaphor.

Wow, that’s a wallop of a substantive rejoinder. Sullen blind dismissal with overused metaphor FTW.

Volume of verses is hardly the primary indication of a particular topic’s importance. The word “Trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible at all, yet it’s one of the core doctrines of Christianity. Jesus talked more about hall and damnation than he did about love.

First, you do realize that there are a lot of Christian groups and denominations that hold to nontrinitarianism. I don’t personally subscribe to such a view, but I’m not going cast them out of the Jesus fold. Furthermore, many, perhaps most, Christians have little or no understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. And they couldn’t care less.. Myself, I struggle with all the tumult over the fine details of trinitarian aspects, like the perichoresis or why the schism erupting rancor over the Filiolique clause. But the words (and deeds) of Jesus on loving your neighbor, loving your enemies, is a constant drumbeat in the gospel of Jesus.

Second, flat out, Jesus did not talk “more about hall and damnation than he did about love”. If we want to get technical, he really didn’t really speak of “hell” as it is theologically constructed by contemporary fundamentalists and conservative Christians — allusions to Hades or Gehenna are translated to “hell”, and while some Christians equate these words to a state of eternal conscious torment, there are other theological streams that hold to a different scripture backed interpretation. But even if we grant those verses, there still are no more than a dozen or so in the four gospels. In Paul’s letters, Gehenna or “hell” is never used, though “Hades” is referenced a few times (but translators believe “death” or “grave” is a more appropriate term). But that’s being generous, and equating every admonition from Jesus on justice and judgment as an exhortation on hell is a twisted way of viewing “good news”.

But I only see a couple of times where Jesus talks about hell — in Matthew 25 and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In both, the rich (or the goats) are judged for neglecting the poor, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned, etc..

People with a retributive spirit tend to see judgment through the perspective of punishment. But “judgment” may not be as reciprocity minded, tit for tat inclined fallen human worldly sensibility confines it, but more so in the vein of destruction of evil side of which humankind chooses to elevate and that God chooses to kill, not the person. We can go back and forth ad nauseam on whether it is punishment, annihilation, or cleansing of evil — as there is scriptural support for all these views.

That said, Jesus was pretty clear about his mission:

God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”

Later, Jesus response to disciples of John the Baptist, that inquire if Jesus truly is “the one” they’ve been expecting:

The blind see,
The lame walk,
Lepers are cleansed,
The deaf hear,
The dead are raised,
The wretched of the earth
have God’s salvation hospitality extended to them.

Sounds like a message of love to me, not one of hell and damnation.

Those are just the highlights, but the words (and actions) of Jesus throughout the gospels are replete with love — are you going to tell me that the Sermon on the Mount is about hell and damnation, and not about loving your neighbor (and enemy)?

However, on the other hand, I will grant, that in some respects, simply tallying up scripture verses doesn’t represent the totality of the biblical scorecard ;) That some matters go to the root, are more fundamental and leave other parts of scripture sublated. Here’s Jesus again:

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they met together. One of them, a legal expert, tested him. “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?

He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.

Love never fails. …the greatest of these is love.

Now, finally, we’ve arrived at the crux of the displeasure (honestly, while the author of the original article strikes some good points, I believe it’s above his pay grade to be kicking out those with theology he finds distasteful) — outrage over protest in treating LGBT people as full fledged brothers and sisters in Christ.

Also, Christian affirmation of human sexuality as defined by Scripture and the created order implies nothing about how they will treat homosexuals or the poor. What a jumble of polemical nonsense.

You’re blinded by your own cultural and/or traditional accommodation. You impose upon Scripture standards of your own which are not to be found there, and you accept as binding specific rules that suit you, while completely ignoring or discarding many other Biblical proscriptions and rules that you do not like. In other words, you pick and choose, and your “affirmation of human sexuality” is more a combination of social convention and prejudice, which you support by cherry picking carefully edited portions of Scripture.

Here are a few instances of “biblical teaching” on sexual relationships that most today would deem detestable:

  • no ban on men having multiple wives, though it’s recommended that bishops should have only one wife [1 Tim 3:2]
  • David and Solomon and many other patriarchs had many wives, and are never criticized for it
  • concubines permitted, along with stoning to death for adultery [Deut 22]
  • death penalty is instructed for homosexual relations [Lev 18]
  • death penalty for adultery [Deut 22]
  • death penalty for being disobedient to your parents [Deut 21]
  • death penalty for sexual relations with one of your father’s wives (shouldn’t that be covered under “being disobedient to your parents” already :)) [Lev 18]
  • marriage to your dead brother’s wife is under certain circumstances compulsory [Deut 25]

The point is not to descend into absurdity but to illustrate how we have reinterpreted Scripture with new social situations.

I believe monogamy is justified on the basis that it grants for full mutual respect, loyalty, trust between covenantal entrants, and preserves the security of children. These are important Bible themes, but just like the Trinity, not actually spelled out verbatim in the Bible itself, and it needs to be worked out in just the same fashion. That Jesus teaching on universal respect, compassion, love, and justice be applied.

We really don’t need to debate the issue of the Scriptures and same sex marriage at all, given that we recognize all the many Scriptural moral rules we have rejected. Because the reason we rejected them is that they conflict with these great fundamental Biblical moral principles:

  1. Unrestricted love of neighbor — we should treat all humankind with the same concern that we treat ourselves.
  2. Unrestricted compassion — we must always have in mind the ultimate good of others, even when we are compelled to restrain or punish.
  3. Freedom from law to walk in the Spirit — all written laws should be tested that they do indeed encourage relationships of trust, loyalty, honesty, and friendship. Christ is the end of the law. [Rom 10:4]

The tragedy of fundamentalism is that it is so utterly unbiblical. It insists on the literal truth of a few selected passages, neglecting or twisting the interpretation of many others. A truly Bible-based faith would see that fallibility of the human understanding of divine revelation and the many different human perspectives on divine revelation, even as it corrects that understanding and moves us on to new imaginative visions of the divine. What the Bible teaches, at least to Christians, is that we should take responsibility for our own moral decisions, always being motivated by the basic Christian principles of the self-giving, agapistic love and thew new and joyous life of freedom that is to be found in Christ Jesus. That is Biblical morality, and we should never try to disguise it by hiding behind a few written rules that often show the limitations of past moral perceptions that the Spirit calls us to leave behind.

afloweroutofstone asked: On the subject of "in fifty years, maybe 20% of people will have jobs"; this is referred to as the Luddite Fallacy. Although technology can destroy older jobs, it can also raise productivity and create jobs in other places. For example, telephones put the telegram industry out of business, but the phone industry became a powerhouse of its own. If technology led to long-term rises in unemployment, the industrial revolution would have made us all unemployed.


Ooooh, it’s “referred to” in the passive voice as a capital-F Fallacy! Thanks for this anecdote, but I’m going to suggest that the current technological change (where more-routine jobs are replaced by computers) differs qualitatively from previous technological change (where low-skilled jobs are replaced by high-skilled jobs and complementary machines). Here’s some supporting quantitative evidence with plenty of helpful citations.

It’s become commonplace for skeptics to discount economic concern over technological advancements displacing workers, by brandishing the oft-cited bromide about the Industrial Revolution as a counter-lesson. (And also, frequently, by lobbing the way off the mark “luddite” smear.) But this charge is complete folly, for so many reasons, and I’ll just briefly enumerate a few here:

  1. As jakke points out — optimists place their stock in the Historical fallacy, that the future will play out just as occurred previously.

  2. But this obscures that the Industrial Revolution was an unprecedented and unrepeated prodigious point in history. For almost the complete entirety of human history, income per person remained relatively constant. Then, post-1800, it shot up in stratospheric style. Today’s technological progress doesn’t appear anything remotely similar. This is not a controversial economic theorem — outside of a few pollyanna-ish rosy eyed dreamers, economists and historians of just about all political and philosophical stripes are in consensus here.

  3. But even if the metaphor for the Industrial Revolution is accepted, there still is a great deal obfuscated in the picture, ironic too, especially as the cheerleaders for this type of thinking are typically laissez-faire libertarian loving louts — that a great deal of social upheaval beset nations gripped by the Industrial Revolution. It’s effects were far reaching, leading to measures like public education, social safety nets, massive public investments in infrastructure, transportation, energy, communication systems, etc. And the epoch to epoch transformation was not a smooth one, with blood and bodies spilt.

  4. I could write a lot lot more, but let me conclude this short missive with the most galling truth — the blind faith that all shall be well is based on nothing more than hand waving a trust me pronouncement. By those who in one breath exhort all the merits of science, industry, markets, etc., but in the next hold up merely mindless allegiance that things will just work out. In a sense, it is true — ultimately, our culture and society either adapts and thrives, or disintegrates and tears down. But that’s certainly not a case for political quietism.

Evangelical Pastor Seeks “Third Way” on Church and LGBT

My review of A Letter to My Congregation: An evangelical pastor’s path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian and transgender in the company of Jesus

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.

10 Books That Have Stayed With You in Some Way

Rules: In a text post, list ten books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take but a few minutes, and don’t think too hard — they don’t have to be the “right” or “great” works, just the ones that have touched you. Tag ten friends, including me, so I’ll see your list… Tagged by foulmouthedliberty.

Could have sworn I did this recently, but culling through my archives only brings up: 10 Books That Changed My Faith and A Book Lover’s Survey. Maybe it was in a comment on a blog elsewhere though I did scour my Disqus history and struck nothing.

Anyhow, here goes (again):

  1. Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter
  2. The C Programming Language by Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan
  3. Endless Enemies by Jonathan Kwitny
  4. The Upside Down Kingdom by Donald Kraybill
  5. The Secret War Against the Jews by John Loftus
  6. The Great Turning by David Korten
  7. The Powers that Be by Walter Wink
  8. The Mystery of Christ by Robert Farrar Capon
  9. The Alphabet Versus the Goddess by Leonard Shlain
  10. The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler
  11. Otherland (series) by Tad Williams
  12. The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil
  13. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  14. Infamous Scribblers by Eric Burns
  15. The Evolution of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes

Oops, I exceeded the mark of 10. Oh, no, I’m not trimming it down!

Now time to tag: @foulmouthedliberty, @squashed, @kohenari, @churchfu, @hipsterlibertarian, @cognitivedissonance, @nothingman, @silas216, @redcloud, @anotherword, @blissandzen, @truth-has-a-liberal-bias (and it appears that the ‘@’ feature does not work in Markdown mode ;)

Tumblr Bookmarklet Update?

It appears that the Tumblr Bookmarklet has changed and Markdown is not an option for posting via bookmarklet anymore.

Is this an oversight or a purposeful act?

Tumblr Follow Friday for 8 March 2013

Here be a post generated from my “Following 1,396 blogs” Tumblr dashboard page…

  1. Not The Best Model The Peace Prize Of Dogs, Ovens, Movie Theatres, Restaurants, Bathrooms, and Gun Shows: A… New Policy BDS at Brooklyn College White History Month Comment of the Day Complex Heroes I Double Down
  2. notadinnerparty vvtvrmom: I just looked outside to check the patriarchy and apparently it’s… soycrates: endreal: avatar-addiction: nicotineenema: Shout out to girls who… How to Have the Best Pregnancy Ever, by Tracie Egan Morrissey You’ll Love Her! She’s Crazy! Thanks, tips! foxnewsofficial: foxnewsofficial: i treat my body like a temple but i’m a 16th… Debating Women as Deacons in the PCA/RCC, or, Please Stop Before I Vomit The ULTIMATE guide to the gun safety debate Dear Vancouver:
  3. invisiblelad GIANT-SIZE X-POSITION: The “Uncanny” Brian Bendis - Part 1 riddlemetom: unfollower: I like how sweden just decided one day that gender is… No one flip out but,  xamotomax said: sorry for your loss  xamotomax likes… They named him Slade. Only present for 5 days and… I can’t imagine… Freedom To Marry: Everything You Need To Know About The Two Same-Sex Marriage… One of the biggest lies you are told is that conforming, that acceptance of the… Kelly Sue DeConnick On the Secret Behind that New Captain Marvel Costume I just got the most awful news about wonderful people I no longer live near. The…
  4. kateoplis “I am appalled by Bridezillas. I should make it clear that I have never… “In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely… “It might seem hard to believe, but we have about the same number of hairs… “How did we become neurochemical selves? How did we come to think about… “In the story of how the dog came in from the cold and onto our sofas, we… “She was breathing deeply, she forgot the cold, the weight of beings, the… Hey Oscar producers: "We saw your boobs" Seacrest: At 9 years old, what’s this experience been like? Quvenzahne: It…
  5. adailyriot Useful Alt Codes You Should Know Excitement and Disappointment Dreaming about Native American things that were sweet this weekend. Thinking about going through a phase of straitening my hair alot so that I can… queernonywolf said: my full blood grandmother still identifies as white. She’s… So I’m Curious: How many native folks on here have realtives or ancestors who… caitlinbuildsthefire: I wanna learn how to make beaded earrings.. Tumblr ndn… raw-r-evolution said: Display Picture
  6. miketodd07 “If you board the wrong train it is no use running along the corridor in the… I would give anything to hear just one international leader—any… bohemianarthouse: Take the “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” Pledge. Quickly. CNN Sending Eight Times More Staff to Royal Wedding Than to Japan Richard Rohr Webcast Tomorrow (March 18) Prayer For Japan Palestinians demand the opening of Shuhada Street COUNTER CULTURAL
  7. Rand Paul, Progressives, And Lying To Yourself About Freedom of Expression Someone really needs to translate that crying wolf fairy tale into North Korean.… I swear to fuck that Americans will fall for the same fucking hole a hundred… Oh, hey Ally Financial failed the stress test, gee what do they do, oh, super… What IS it about drones that turns otherwise reasonable people into raving… Thank god he filibustered for 13 hours because I read that Times article about… But this is fun, now everyone can anoint Rand Paul as a freedom warrior until… MR. PRESIDENT, ARE YOU AUTHORIZED TO HOKEY POKEY? CAN YOU TURN YOURSELF ABOUT… i’m playing a game, help me?
  8. ahandsomestark jenesaispourquoi: professorsparklepants: Why does everyone say “house-wife” or… rnedia: pro tip: write your useless comments in the tags dontblink91011: luigiman: my cousin asked me what my favorite season was and i… Also I really love how there are people labeling themselves southern… Its a sad day when I’ve gotten so lazy I’d rather argue on the… Remember that time we let George W Bush run our country for 8 years. unimpressed2chainz: i’ll never forget that hollywood reporter director’s round… robb, 17, westeros. king in the north. chances are you know my name, but NOT my… heightofthefall: i’m on tumblr all the time because i need constant reassurance…
  9. sidoniob haroldisdumb: we could be married and i still wouldnt text u first smokeporch: green-satan: trying to leave tumblr GIRLS ONLY, jk kinda! la-meilleure-amie: Everyone SAYS they want a fairytale wedding but when I show… how to locate the blog settings on your tumblr account coneyisland-: it was the busta rhymes, it was the worsta rhymes did-you-kno: Source zubat: Blood is thicker than water but maple syrup is thicker than blood so… Derpastrology: Behind the scenes What do you see in that guy?

New Tumblr Editor Glitches with Markdown

In with the new, out with the old.

Problem is, it seems that the newfangled ways, though they appear more pleasant to the eyes, do not add to efficiency of accomplishing the task. Here, the new Tumblr editor is less responsive, hides features and degrades the editing function.


Blockquote text portions are butchered.

Perhaps it is just Markdown users that are negatively affected, but I have seen other complaints about the new editing panel too. Now, I understand the WYSIWYG lure, but I prefer WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean). Though here, I am not even presented with such a view frame nor is there an option anymore to “preview” a post.

Also, there seems to be added finger taps to the process — select from a pulldown, then tap the button again if you are not enacting the default action (which for a great deal of posts, is not the “default” for many Tumblr users).

Also, as you type your post, and your input content grows larger, you are compelled to page up to invoke menu options (as opposed to a true “text box” that scrolls only the textual content).

A step backwards.

Again, like with the botched queue “enhancements” (though I am grateful that it’s operational with a dearth of glitches now) that befuddle me how this could have been implemented — seemingly blind to the perspective to a heavy, active user of the Tumblr service, developers seem to have a narrow view of how Tumblr is used.

First it was Skitch that butchered its polished screen capture app (after the Evernote acquisition). Then Sweet Tomatoes entered meltdown mode by cratering its bustling restaurants with its flawed FK (Field Kitchen) concept that has its loyal patrons stampeding away. Now, Tumblr… :(

"The Media" Bogeyman and Other Assorted Remonstrances

Yesterday, during a lunch time drive, I unplugged the iPhone from the car stereo jack and tuned in to a dose of Rush Limbaugh. I caught Rush in mid-bloviation, putting a positive spin on the recent polling reports showing Romney dips in swing states — proclaiming that given all the institutional weight of society behind Obama, it is simply amazing that the presidential race is still so close. That “The Fed” is behind Obama. “Hollywood” is in Obama’s corner. And, of course, “the Media”.

That nameless, faceless, sinister blob termed “the Media”. Just like “the Man”. A nefarious cabal orchestrating its way via sock puppets. Yes, I am painting a cartoonish depiction, but so often, that is exactly how the term is used. Them, the powers that be, that lord over us little ones. Growing up, in family circles, drizzled in to such talk would also be refrains about “the Jews”. “Speech” that would incite me to boil inside with rage and often respond in anger.

True, that for the modern, pre-internet media age, there was a “manufactured consent”, a regulated space delimiting a agreed upon consensus range of acceptable political ideas. Communists and leftists shunned as well as fringe extremists on the right. A general consensus on the exceptional greatness of America and heralding of Americans as the “good guys” that saved the world from darkness. A collective belief in the wholesale benevolence of capitalism, sprinkled with dollops of liberal dissent at intermittent intervals.

But in the post-factual Age of the Internet, it is not possible to pigeonhole “the Media” as such a consensus entity. Because “the Media” now is squarely defined by the viewer beholding. Political news consumers seek out sources that affirm what they already believe, and there now exists an inexhaustible supply eager to serve up such fare. Which accounts for the prevalence of all those who believe President Obama is Satan incarnate, a Kenyan Muslim Socialist Dictator King who wishes to usurp America’s greatness and cede sovereignty to U.N. demons who worship Moloch. They believe as such because the media that informs their worldview fills their minds with such suppositions and suspicions. Even if allusions are deftly crafted with uncertainty. But, no mistake, it is fear driven message casting. So, “the Media” is now just a screen to fill with whatever we wish it to portray.

And, as media analysts have heralded, the web has segregated us into online spots where the like minded convene. Especially in conservative locales where tribalism is the highest treasured value, and deviance to the party line is treated with name calling, derision and then the banstick is applied. In earlier times, before the explosion of blogs and social media, online discussion sites were often less homogenous. Well, except for the dividing line of technical proficiency that precluded many in the mass public from participating. But in this more primitive age, there was more of a “free speech” ethos in effect. Experiencing having a comment deleted was jarring, because unlike today, it truly felt like being silenced. In 2012, you can create a Tumblr blog (or WordPress/Blogger blog, Twitter, etc.…) in 5 seconds and sound off. So, in essence, most online communities are hives of like minded sorts, which makes for frequenting an exercise in reinforcing preexisting views.

One ubiquitous internet community, however, features a confluence of political perspectives. That be Facebook. There, your family, friends and coworkers “mingle”, er share a news stream where divergent political shots scroll. Perhaps this is a personal quirk, but most of my Facebook friends don conservative stripes. Generally, I refrain from political engagement on the platform, but occasionally I venture into political post land.

This week, I was “unfriended” by someone for posting a dissenting reply to a “Obama is a Muslim” post. I have been “unfriended” before as a result of political dialectic, but those never fazed me much, as the “friends” were those I did not know well (in real life) or loose family relationships. But this one stung a bit, as it someone I know well. Someone that belongs to the same church and has been a part of a church study group that I lead, And family ties in other ways too. And getting “unfriended” in Facebook is even more “silencing” than the old message board censoring. It seems that once “unfriended”, you are unable to see any comments by that individual, which makes for bizarre comment streams where you can read others conversing with a phantom “name” for which you see no comments by.

Sad, for if we stop speaking to each other, it denotes a lift on the escalator of hostility.

Hell is DirecTV Customer Service

We have been DirecTV customers for nearly 15 years. Throughout most of our satellite television subscription history, it has been a mostly pleasant experience.

Until recently.

In a campaign to cut living expenses, as a preliminary step to cutting the cord altogether, we have been “attempting” to rollback all the television extras — most prominently, the NFL Sunday Ticket package, the NHL Center Ice package and some other superfluous fees (like a $5.99 monthly one for “Protection Plan”) I was not even aware was being frizzed out of my pocket. I say “attempting”, because DirecTV has ensured that process is to be circumnavigated in a most Byzantine fashion.

It seems that signing up for services is as easy as a click, but a requests for discontinuing are met with a series of phone calls, calls interrupted by mistransfers, lengthy hold times, and failure to achieve what seemingly the customer service representative assented — a month, two months, etc.… later, the same packages and fees are on the billing statement. I was unable to inform an agent to cancel X, Y and Z — each request needed to be funneled to a another entity (and frequently, with multiple bounces and missteps along the way) that was actually authorized to curtail that particular service or package.

Whine, whine, whine. Yes, #firstworldproblems :D

But just be aware, when dealing with DirecTV (or other businesses that employ the same tactics), that the ease in which new packages are activated is matched by the eventual hassle encountered when the desire to unsubscribe surfaces.

10 Books That Changed My Faith

Let us do this 10 Book Week thing. Here on Tumblr. First up, 10 books that changed my faith.

  1. The Upside-Down Kingdom by Donald Kraybill — The Jesus story examined from the perspective of what the culture looked like at the time. At the time I read it (over a decade ago), it really shattered my beliefs about Christianity and what it meant to be a “Christian” (especially in context of growing up Greek Orthodox, and then being exposed to evangelical church in Arizona). The historical backdrop and its relevance explained, illustrating how upside down the kingdom Jesus advanced. Considered in the context, Jesus was more radical than is commonly conceived. Down is up, rich is poor, poverty is luxurious, triumph is gained by losing. Love replaces hate, shalom overcomes revenge, enemies are to be loved, a basin replaces the sword, etc…. This book was a big force in how I was transformed from Christian in word to Christian in deed.

  2. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster — I am due for a reread of this classic. A compendium of inner practice “disciplines” for the practicing Christian.

  3. Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright — It blew my mind and I was compelled to read chapters and passages repeatedly, as it shattered my views of heaven and the afterlife. I found myself going back to scripture and other sources (and even to the point of learning Koine Greek) to puzzle out what Wright is espousing in this truly transformative text. And I am now convinced that most people (including most Christians) hold gnostic and unscriptural viewpoints on heaven.

  4. The Great Turning by David Korten — Not a spiritual, religious or faith book by any stretch, but one that has profoundly influenced my faith. A volume I have read at least a half-dozen times too. Korten sketches out the true 21st century civilization conflict — a struggle of Empire v. Earth Community. One that pits those of an advanced level of “other oriented” consciousness against more fear minded, reciprocity driven folk, with those in the middle tipping the scale. Or to strive to lift the level of consciousness of all. And as I age, no barometer is a better gauge than how many sources from the bibliography I follow up and explore to learn more.

  5. The Powers That Be by Walter Wink — Walter Wink, recently passed away, in this accessible volume (by all means, also explore the entire three volume trilogy — Engaging the Powers, Unmasking the Powers, and Naming the Powers — though the further you go back in time, the more theological nerdy the reading gets) captures and defines “principalities and powers” and serves up a brilliant nonviolent sketch of Jesus and the Kingdom Jesus pronounces. It is absolutely, as the tagline on the book proclaims, theology for the new millennium (originally written in late 1990s). It gave me moorings and language in seeing the Gospel in the light of nonviolence and power under v. power over.

  6. The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight — Scot McKnight distills Jesus down to a simple “commandment” — to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength, but also to love others as themselves.

  7. Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne — Written during the 2008 election cycle, and presented in an edgy, wonderful publication package (though some of the page backgrounds might be a tad too dark), it offers a journey, both historically and in present times, through the intersection politics of empire and followers of Jesus. As I stated earlier in this missive, I judge the merit of a book largely on the bibliography follow-up, and this volume shines in that respect. I believe I have traversed nearly all the volumes referenced and my faith has certainly been impacted in a positive fashion.

  8. The Mystery of Christ by Robert Farrar Capon — I cannot believe I did not discover the fantabulous Robert Farrar Capon until I reached the end of a Rob Bell book (Love Wins, an OK book (do not see what all the fanfare, hoopla and controversy was about, seemed a bit timid) I had no intention of reading, that Mrs. Naum had left on the coffee table) where I was intrigued with this description "On Jesus in every square inch of creation" of Capon’s book. Over the past year, I have been leading a Bible study of parables of Jesus with Capon’s Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus and it has been faith-altering or faith-evolving. It is one of those things that once you see you cannot un-see. And I just finished Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace and can pronounce it just as amazing as The Mystery of Christ.

  9. The Naked Now by Richard Rohr — Christian mysticism from a Franciscan monk, like Capon, also infused with total grace. Followup reads referenced in his notes and bibliography, however, were not as fruitful for me as other books in this list. Not all, mind you. Especially the discovery of historic saints and mystics.

  10. How to Read the Bible by James Kugel — Mis-titled, not really “how to read the bible” but more an examination of the Hebrew Bible (“old testament” for Christians) and the contrast between ancient interpreters and modern biblical scholarship — which rifts against fundamentalist (and many conservative evangelicals I think too) literalism. An orthodox Jewish scholar elucidates the clashes of biblical scholarship against traditional biblical memes. Scholarly writing, but comprehensible to all. Faith reverberations in the sense that respected Bible scholars really do not line up on the stuff that most Christians believe are as plain as the nose on a face.

Some honorable mentions for some titles that just elude cracking this list: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (or just about any title by C.S. Lewis) squeezed off by newer titles; The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevski which all of faith (or non-believers too) should read; The Politics of Jesus by John Howard Yoder but the writing style of Yoder is just so theologically dense for me; Christian Anarchism by Alexandre Christoyannopoulos offers a digest and survey of Christian anarchist thought; The Subversion of Christianity by Jacques Ellul (or any title by Ellul) where Ellul, in the anarchist vein, looks how the state tainted the church; Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics by Jonathan Dudley, a recent read that examines evangelicals and church history.

In composing this list, it is striking the preponderance of newer titles. It is not as if I am not acquainted with the classics — working my way through St. Vladimir’s popular patristics series now, even. But writing bridged by centuries (and often language translation, or idioms from centuries ago) has a hard time speaking to a me placed in 21st century America. When I read St. John of the Cross, or Jonathan Edwards, or Julian of Norwich, or John Calvin, or even G.K. Chesterton, I strain at extracting a cohesive narrative. Yes, there are sentences and passages that shine with brilliance, but on the whole, I seem so preoccupied with the toil of comprehending what exactly is being relayed.

Making, Earning, Taking…


In the political language of today, people who want to keep what they have earned are said to be “greedy,” while those who wish to take their earnings from them and give it to others (who will vote for them in return) show “compassion. ~Thomas Sowell (via laliberty)

Tumblrs — what do you think of this quote?

There is no reason to believe that what anyone owns was “earned”. We can and do question the idea of entitlement to wealth with redistributive policy. I am uncovinced that the dubious belief that someone earned their wealth is worth the real suffering caused by vast disparities in wealth. (via theheritagefoundation).

But these “earners” spoken of, merely are “takers” from “makers”, motivated primarily not by self interest or the “profit motive”, but by a quest for truth, to scratch an itch, to create what hitherto, was only imaginable. These “earners” also have invested in the political machine enough fruits of their interest to ensure the “toll booth” is properly primed, no matter the level of achievement, quantity and/or quality of goods and services provide, or the public interest^H^H^H^H^H^H^H destruction served. These “earners” are, too, reliant upon all the goodies the public dime provides — from prerequisite infrastructure needs (be it an educated workforce, stable electricity grid, communications network, functioning roads and thoroughfares and waterways and airways, etc.…) to reaping privatized treasure treats from the teat of public investment (i.e., the internet, the transistor, the modem, or just about every modern technological post-WWII advance).

Can we really have a conscience or claim to be human and justify the absurd wealth disparity that exists?

All hail homo economicus and the sanctum of moral depravity!

(via thecallus-deactivated20130520)

Mormonism and the Constitution


So, if George Wills, or rather his student, is to be believed, Mormons believe that the founding documents of the United States are, quite literally, holy writ. While I would never urge people to discriminate against candidates based on religion, this is an aspect of Mitt Romney’s views that bears scrutiny. Moreover, this idea offers an interesting insight into the ways we read sacred writ.

First, let us not confuse Garry Wills with George Will :)

Second, here is a counterpoint take asserting that Wills is botching Mormonism.

But, on the other hand, there are prominent Mormons of popular media stature proclaiming the essence of what Wills declares. See Glenn Beck channeling Cleon Skousen.

What has Beck been pushing on his legions? “Leap,” first published in 1981, is a heavily illustrated and factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology. As such, it is an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history. Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recast the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible rather than deists inspired by French and English philosophers. “Leap” argues that the U.S. Constitution is a godly document above all else, based on natural law, and owes more to the Old and New Testaments than to the secular and radical spirit of the Enlightenment. It lists 28 fundamental beliefs — based on the sayings and writings of Moses, Jesus, Cicero, John Locke, Montesquieu and Adam Smith — that Skousen says have resulted in more God-directed progress than was achieved in the previous 5,000 years of every other civilization combined. The book reads exactly like what it was until Glenn Beck dragged it out of Mormon obscurity: a textbook full of aggressively selective quotations intended for conservative religious schools like Utah’s George Wythe University, where it has been part of the core freshman curriculum for decades (and where Beck spoke at this year’s annual fundraiser).

But shiracoffee shares some thoughts on holy writ and founding documents, and I encourage you to examine the Tumblr output over there:

I love the Hebrew Bible, but I deeply regret the ossification it underwent from history and literature to holy writ. This is not a fate I would wish on the founding documents of my nation.

And ponders in particular, what Mitt Romney makes of this:

I do not suppose I’ll ever get the chance to ask Mitt Romney whether he believes that the Constitution is divinely inspired, and what that means to him. I don’t suppose anyone will ask him, because it’s not a made-for-TV discussion. But I think it’s an important thing for all Americans to know.

(Source: wateringgoodseeds)

On solving poverty


People want to “think out of the box” and cast poverty or inequality as “eminently solvable”. I’m going to go with no, no it isn’t. I don’t subscribe to that particular weekly. Which isn’t to say that inequality is right - it isn’t - or that I like it. I don’t.

But at the end of the day, I’m insulated from poverty. It doesn’t affect me, so I can “care” without investing any hope into the process. Hope is unnecessary and useless in my worldview. I pay my taxes and give what I can, but beyond that? I’m buying high walls and ammunition before I’m buying the lie that humanity can or will be saved.

This makes me the particular breed of disgusting cracker that pays for rehab but would never take a crackhead into his home. I vote for “systemic solutions” while simultaneously maintaining the conviction that they will fail or never be implemented. That’s because I know that if I throw people enough bones, they’ll get busy chewing on them. Which means they never get back to me.

It’s called limousine liberalism, and being the lesser of many evils, and you best believe the tires on this thing are bulletproof.

But poverty is indeed “solvable”, and this (these United States of America) nation’s economic history is replete with illustration (as well as some other “first world” nations, now further along on the arc of economic justice).

Most Americans today take the existence of a middle class for granted. But it wasn’t always so. And not just in the vast timeline of civilization where economic fortunes have for most of 6+ millenium been pyramid shaped, that is, a few elites on top, a small band of middle class denizens, and then all the rest squabbling for crumbs. But in America too was mired too in this model (even despite advancing economic progress, which did not “trickle down”, and treated most workers as fodder), until the 20th century, when such “welfare state” (as decried by the cult of the right) measures transformed that pyramid shape into a more egalitarian, greater equality “diamond” — with the “middle class” now the wide band in the middle, but yet a small number still in poverty, most of which was due to the legacy of Jim Crow.

Even Lyndon Johnson “War on Poverty”, much scorned by conservatives and neoconservatives, drastically cut poverty.

And what happened here and in other economically enlightened nations can happen anywhere in the world; despite the authoritarian and institutionally corrupt patterns in place that have thwarted it thus far. Or even reverse the Social Darwinist course the U.S. has been charting since the Age of Reagan.

For a bright young man, sometimes you sound like a scowling uncle after knocking down a half-dozen whiskey sours.

(Source: squashed, via thecallus-deactivated20130520)

Tumblr #Politics Editors

kohenari :

Looking at the new group of editors, I see some friends that I’ve made entirely from interacting via Tumblr (like Squashed and PoliticalProf, whose secret identities I promise only to reveal for a tidy sum) and even one of my real-life students, Justin Green (which means that the number of Politics editors from Nebraska is shockingly disproportionate; expect a lot of promoted content about corn, cattle, and the “I-Option” offense).

Of course, I’m also a bit sad that some of my other friends are no longer editing the tag. I think Ilya Gerner, Jeff Miller, Torie DeGhett, and Naum Trifanoff did some great work, all while a whole lot of people were yelling at them. I’m also sad to note that amongst the new slate of editors, you won’t find people of color, women, or anyone who lives outside the United States; I think that’s a very serious omission by the Tumblr staff, especially given the amount and the quality of political blogging on the Tumblr platform by people of color, women and non-Americans. There’s also not much ideological diversity. Say what you will about the previous slate of editors, at least you always knew you’d get a healthy dose of the Mises Institute with your morning coffee.

/thanks, Ari, for the commendatory words :)

Surprised, I was, this morning, when I went to click on “little star icon” and it was not there.

I must admit that in recent weeks I have not been as diligent in promoting #Politics posts. There have been stretches of several days where I did not traverse the Tumblr dashboard and promote a post at all. When I did conduct this task, however, I always strived to boost the insightful tidings that might have scrolled off the radar before enough eyeballs passed over them. Or, to simply keep banging on a slant that the establishment media, or even the internet “newsarati” may have scantly contemplated.

And secret confession time: I am much more curious about what is populating the Tumblr #politics “Popular” top ten board than tracking what is funneling in at any given moment.

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