The Personal and Political Ramblings of one guy in Texas.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Two Short Takes 

Found this on Andrew Sullivan's blog.  Written by an American living in Norway, it goes a good way towards blowing the lid off the idea that Americans are uniquely parochial and ignorant.  Take this example:

Nothing remotely approaching this breadth of news and opinion is available in a country like Norway. Purportedly to strengthen journalistic diversity (which, in the ludicrous words of a recent prime minister, "is too important to be left up to the marketplace"), Norway's social-democratic government actually subsidizes several of the country's major newspapers (in addition to running two of its three broadcast channels and most of its radio); yet the Norwegian media are (guess what?) almost uniformly social-democratic;a fact reflected not only in their explicit editorial positions but also in the slant and selectivity of their international coverage.

There's a lot more.  Read the whole thing, as they say.

And Andrew himself.  He has taken quite a few slings and arrows lately from commentators on conservative blogs, both for being less than snide regarding the Democratic Convention and for his double-barreled disgust at Bush's push on the FMA.  I think these comments have been extremely unfair.  The man got hit where he lived.  Everyone has a last straw, and its asking a lot of someone not to have a lot of straws attached to what they see as a basic human right.

Tonight though, he let loose a doozy.  Check out this post:

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The time is now to resolve that the basis of a firm and principled foreign policy is one that takes the world as it is and seeks to change it by leadership and example; not by harangue, harassment or wishful thinking. The time is now to say that while we shall seek new friendships and expand and improve others, we shall not do so by breaking our word or casting aside old friends and allies." - Ronald Reagan, in his nomination speech in 1980. Doesn't it sound a lot like what you're hearing in Boston?
This bunch of Democrats are channeling Reagan?  Reagan?  Old evil Empire Ron himself?  I think the Southpawers may just about explode, assuming they haven't snorted their sinuses out onto their keyboards already).  Anyway, I think someone needs to pour Sully a good stuff drink.

Friday, July 23, 2004

None of the Above 

A short one as I continue to recover from my vacation...

Well, the Republicans (with Bush's no doubt full consent) have gone completely bonkers over the gay marriage thing.  For details, you can go read Andrew Sullivan.  However, I also remain convinced that the Dem ticket of the two Johns is just as bad, in its own indecisively left-liberal, wishy washy way.  If ever there was a need for an eccentric billionaire, this is it.

Meanwhile, I am rooting for a meteor to strike the stage at both the presidential and vice-presidential debates.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


I'm sure everyone is relieved to learn that I'm back from the bowels of LA, in sunny SoCal.  It was fun, it was tiring, it was expensive (even with Trish's dad picking up several meals and letting us crash at his house for several days), but its always nice to be home. 

While there, I read no mail, looked at no newspapers (other than headlines read through vending machines), watched no TV, nor perused a single blog.  So this is what its like for all those people who wait until Labor Day to decide who to vote for.  I can see why it has its attractions.

Instead, we spent time at Disneyland, the beach, the California Science and Natural History Museums, and the beach again.  Nice work, if you can get it.

A quick shout-out to my net-friend Daryl, who, God help him, has a NASCAR blog.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Headin' Out 

Leaving tomorrow on a vacation to sunny LA. Seeing the Mouse, Universal maybe, the father-in-law for sure (we get to stay at his place on the Palos Verdes Peninsula), and the beach. No blogging until we get back and for a few days after, obviously.

Parting shot: Joe Wilson has turned out to be something of a putz.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Church Follies -- Updated 

Here's one the Good Reverend might appreciate. Our church is in the process of calling a new pastor, our old one having moved on to a new congregation. Calling (which actually has important distinctions from "hiring" that would take too long to explain) a new pastor is, as you can guess, a fairly complex and long process. Six months would be pretty fast. A year is common. So one thing you do during that time is bring in an interim pastor.

An interim may be a new pastor who has yet to get a permanent congregation, or, more commonly I think, a retired or semi-retired pastor who lives in the area. Their job is to keep up the pastoral side of things, do baptisms, hold communion, visit shut-ins, etc. etc. In other words, pretty much what a permanent pastor would do, but the interim mostly would stay out of policy-making (its not his or her congregation, after all -- they're just visiting), unless their advice were requested.

I'm on our church's council, and we had interviewed and selected an interim pastor, who seemed like a good enough fellow. An older semi-retired type, he'd served as an interim several times before, and we hadn't heard anything untoward about him. His answers were very much in the "I'm here to help, but you guys have to decide stuff about where you want to go on your own -- I'm just a temp", which all sounded good to us. This past Sunday was his first time officiating at our church.

Things started well. He spoke briefly about what the process of calling meant, his role in things, etc. Then he held what we call "The Kids of the Kingdom", where the younger members come forward and the pastor tells them a brief story, usually dealing with his sermon or the Bible readings for that day. It was quite nice, as talked about the kids finding their God-given gifts. He then read the read the day's Gospel verse, providing a bit of in-line commentary on what it meant. Things were going swimmingly.

Then the sermon began. At first things were innocuous enough, as he talked about his adopted granddaughter becoming an American citizen. But it got bad after that. He launched into this thing about America being a "Christian nation". I'm some stripe of conservative, but I didn't like where this seemed to be going. I was right to worry. He meandered confusingly through history, touching on the Pilgrims (who were actually quite oppressive of other religions), mentioning the "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, the "in God we trust" on money (both added in the 50's), the religiosity of the Founding Fathers (quite a few of whom were Deists, not Christians), and some other weirdnesses. He noted that we allowed other religions to practice and had no national church but that we were still primarily a Christian nation.

He railed against the people attacking the pledge, removing Christmas trees from public places, abortion, and few other things. At one point he observed that people who didn't like our Christian character ought to move to someplace like Afghanistan.

My head spun. There were places where I might have been sympathetic to bits and parts of his sentiments, were they perhaps presented in a different way. Or at least in a historically correct way. Or perhaps in a less insulting way (move to Afghanistan?!?). Or in some way that might have had something to do with scripture. Or that suggested that we as Christians shouldn't be embarrassed by our beliefs, despite the creeping secularism of the world. Or...Something.

I might not have done it on my own, but I raised no objections when, at the end of the sermon, the Wife-Unit said we should go, skipping communion. At least one other family was leaving as well, and I'm pretty sure it was because they too, objected to the sermon. According to someone who was at the same service we were, very few people greeted the pastor after it was over.

I dashed off an email to the council president, with my less than temperate observation that this was a complete disaster. The wife write the pastor an angry letter, and has sworn not to go back while he is there. The Spiritual Life board chair also sent an email of concern to him.

It may be that in many church's ([cough]Southern Baptist[cough]) his comments might have passed with nary a ripple, but not in ours. Our previous pastor considered himself middle of the road, and pretty much avoided politics (though not entirely) in his sermons, being careful to insult only half the congregation at any one time. Thus it is that I think our church is fairly evenly divided politically, but that's no help for this guy. The conservatives were deeply insulted, the liberals outraged, and at tonight's council meeting, Hell's a'comin' to town.

In my own opinion, I think he managed in his very first interaction with a significant portion of the congregation to so thoroughly foul the well, that his tenure here is over before it began. His sermon was bad on so many levels (leaving out the bad politics, it was bad history, non-scriptural, insulting, unclear, poorly delivered, etc.) that his judgment on pretty much everything has to be called into question.

It is possible, that he's only crazy about this one issue; that he slept badly and read something in the paper that morning that set him off. That scripturally and err..."pastorally" he's actually quite sound and sane. But I don't know, that was a pretty bad call he made last Sunday.

The pastor normally attends council meetings. So we're having another council meeting early tonight without his presence to talk about what to do. I know at least some people feel that he's only temporary, it was just one sermon, maybe we can just tell him to stick to the scripture and it'll be okay. It would be less immediately painful. But I and least a few other people feel that we can't trust this guy anymore, that we should say we're sorry for wasting his time, give him a month's pay and send him on his way.

What will happen if he shows up unrepentant is easy to guess. What might happen if he shows up acting contrite and promising to stay on the reservation from now on, I cannot say. I know that we would be sorely tempted to let it go. We're in the forgiving business, after all. But I also know that it might be flirting with disaster.

If you're the praying type, send one our way. I think we could use some tonight and the next week.


Well, he made it easy for us. Basically, he was unrepentant and generally unbothered after hearing our concerns. Indeed, he felt his sermon was about as bland and typical as might be. He had his views, and we could like it or lump it. We lumped it. After about ten minutes we thanked him for his time and excused him so we could discuss the matter. Discussion took all of 35 seconds. So we're on the lookout for another interim. Bit of a relief, actually. Keeping him on would have been a major source of distraction and constant worry. It just shows that you can never know, and had July 4 not rolled in when it did this might not have come up; the guy had a good reputation for handling his interim duties. Bummer, but better now than several weeks from now.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

A Bit More Potter 

Dave Fried replies to my Potter post with a short one of his own. And in reading it I realize I may have left some false impressions. As Dave notes, much of the conflict from the overall story, which will span the planned 7 books, will lie within Harry. And indeed, I think this is a good thing.

When much younger, I read the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson. For oppressive atmosphere and unlikable main characters, one could not do much better. But I read them all. Potter is a lot nicer guy than Covenant could ever hope to be. And in my observation that he was acting like a twit in the last book, I didn't want to suggest that he should always be Joe Valiant, always doing right and not forgetting to brush his teeth after every meal.

Although Rowling has done a quite good job in bringing the characters along as they have aged, I still feel the changeover between books 4 and 5 was abrupt, abrupt enough to be jarring. This was almost certainly deliberate, either as a literary device or simply because there was no more time for slow change.

That said, I really don't want to have to deal with another anti-hero. Its Rowling's tale, but I do hope that Harry reverts to being a basically nice guy with episodes of jerkiness, other than the reverse, which seemed to occupy most of OotP.

Well, we shall see. As Dave noted, much of the quality of the books has come from their character development, and I wouldn't want to see that tossed aside.

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