Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Paris - Sonic Jihad
David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts
Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere - Heartbreak and Duct Tape
Starflyer 59 - Leave Here a Stranger
Mustard - Eureka Grande
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Location: Illinois, United States

The peaches, apples, plums and pears are guarded by ferocious bears.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
My Secret - Frank Warren
Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

31 October 2005

Why Am I Not Surprised?

Matthew 10:42 says, "If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." But Hurricane Wilma victims at one relief station in Florida reportedly had to drive three miles to get drinking water, because Southern Baptist volunteers serving hot meals refused to give away cans of water donated by Anheuser-Busch... (Read the rest)

(h/t: Mainstream Baptist)

Judgement Day

If you've spent much time in the Bible belt, you're probably familiar with something called a judgement house. A judgement house is something that Christians do every year to evangelise wayward Halloween-loving teenagers. They don't seem to be as popular as they were back when I was in high school, but I'm also not living in the South at the moment, so I might just be out of the loop.

At any rate, a few years back a documentary film called Hell House did a great job of exploring the creation of one of these judgement houses. I reviewed the film back when it came out on DVD, so I thought I'd reprint that review here. I don't think you'll find this at your local Blockbuster, but you should be using Netflix anyways. After you've gorged yourself on scary movies, be sure to screen this:

In 1740, Puritan evangelist Jonathan Edwards preached his famous (or perhaps infamous) sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In it, Edwards presented a spiritually wayward New England congregation with a choice: repent from their sinful ways, or reap fiery torment in hell for eternity.

Twelve years ago an Assembly of God church just outside Dallas put a new twist on the theme. Instead of scaring the hell out of sinners with words, they used a melodramatic haunted house.

In this Hell House, the sinner pays seven bucks to tour graphic scenes of school shootings, botched abortions, suicides and domestic assaults. Each scene results in bloody death. And each scene ends with angels saving the faithful, and demons dragging the unrepentant to eternal torment.

At the end of the horror, each tour member is given to the count of six to make his or her own decision for or against Christ.

Director George Ratliff captures all this on film. His Hell House is a documentary following the Trinity Church’s youth group from planning meetings to set construction to the event itself.

The results are captivating. Instead of judging or taking sides in the matter, Ratliff simply lets his cameras roll. What they see is an honest, thought-provoking portrait of a branch of Christianity intent on saving the world from itself.

At times it’s a disturbing portrait. The guns the youth use as props are real ones, after all. And the church’s legalistic codes of morality condemn sins like homosexuality and drug use to the pit, while more common sins like pride, jealousy, and greed are ignored.

But you’ll also find sympathy for the “characters.” There’s Alex Cassar, a single father whose wife left him for an Internet relationship, and who patiently cares for his cerebral palsy stricken son as he lapses into a seizure. Then there’s the real life rape victim acting in Hell House, who once spotted her attacker in the crowd.

Hell House is scary, though not always for the reasons the evangelists intend. But it’s also an even-handed, intimate look at an oft-ridiculed segment of American culture. Let’s see Michael Moore try that.


So it's Halloween, a day that many evangelical Christians distrust as being a celebration of evil. Just like reading Harry Potter, celebrating Halloween is liable to have you worshipping Satan and joining a coven in no time at all. I lifted the following from The Ghost of Halloween, which is pretty much par for the course as far as these things go:

Halloween is considered by many well-meaning church folks to be just another "harmless" activity. Children from the church are found in the crowds of excited "trick or treaters." People of all ages revel in the terrifying ghost stories, join in silly costume parties, or scare themselves witless by watching movies in which murder and mayhem are the main themes. It is all thought to be good entertainment.

Yet, as the following article points out, there is a much darker side to the Halloween observance. Halloween has its roots in demon inspired paganism, it lifts up Satan, and serves as a vehicle through which evil practices are exhibited. Perhaps it is an indicator of our times that even Christian people and their leaders do not take Satan seriously. So-called "enlightened" people ignore the reality of the spirit-world, and assign all evil manifestations to workings of over-active imaginations. Yet the world which Halloween depicts is all too real.
The articles go on to point out that Halloween is rooted in paganism and the occult (just like Christmas!), that it glorifies Satan and witchcraft (sort of like how C.S. Lewis' upcoming The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe film is chock full of magic) and that it has the appearance of evil (better toss the Boo Berry cereal while you're at it).

All this is silly. Is Halloween rooted in paganism and general evilmongering? Absolutely. Does it really matter? Probably not. At the end of the day, Halloween, like Christmas and Easter, is a celebration of greed and capitalism. That will probably do more to harm your child's soul than dressing up as a witch and collecting candy from the neighbours.

George W. Bush vs. United Methodist Church

I'm not sure which is more shocking about this, the fact that the President apparently does go to church from time to time, or that the President's church is now against the war occupation in Iraq.

Via Katrina vanden Heuvel (h/t Jesus Politics):

It's one thing when former high-ranking members of your own Administration come out against your war. It's another thing when two-thirds of the country calls the invasion and occupation a mistake. It's really something when your own church issues a statement urging you to pull out the troops now.

Last week, the United Methodist Church Board of Church and Society--the social action committee of the church that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney belong to--resoundingly passed a resolution calling for withdrawal with only two 'no' votes and one abstention.

"As people of faith, we raise our voice in protest against the tragedy of the unjust war in Iraq," the statement read. "Thousands of lives have been lost and hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in a war the United States initiated and should never have fought.... We grieve for all those whose lives have been lost or destroyed in this needless and avoidable tragedy. Military families have suffered undue hardship from prolonged troop rotations in Iraq and loss of loved ones. It is time to bring them home."

Monday Lyrics Blogging

This is a very Dylan-esque song by Larry Norman. It was recorded in 1972 (at Air Studios with the help of George Martin no less) but it's amazing how timely it still is. I'd quibble with the "it's against the law to pray in school" bit. But it's still a really great song.

The Great American Novel - Larry Norman

I was born and raised an orphan
In a land that once was free
In a land that poured its love out on the moon
And I grew up in the shadows
Of your silos filled with grain
But you never helped to fill my empty spoon

And when I was ten you murdered law
With courtroom politics
And you learned to make a lie sound just like truth
But I know you better now
And I don't fall for all your tricks
And you've lost the one advantage of my youth

You kill a black man at midnight
Just for talking to your daughter
Then you make his wife your mistress
And you leave her without water
And the sheet you wear upon your face
Is the sheet your children sleep on
At every meal you say a prayer
You don't believe but still you keep on

And your money says in God we trust
But it's against the law to pray in school
You say we beat the Russians to the moon
And I say you starved your children to do it

You are far across the ocean
But the war is not your own
And while you're winning theirs
You're gonna lose the one at home
Do you really think the only way
To bring about the peace
Is to sacrifice your children
And kill all your enemies

The politicians all make speeches
While the news men all take note
And they exagerate the issues
As they shove them down our throats
Is it really up to them
Whether this country sinks or floats
Well i wonder who would lead us
If none of us would vote

Well my phone is tapped and my lips are chapped
From whispering through the fence
You know every move i make
Or is that just coincidence
Will you try to make my way of life
A little less like jail
If i promise to make tapes and slides
And send them through the mail

And your money says in God we trust
But it's against the law to pray in school
You say we beat the russians to the moon
And i say you starved your children to do it
You say all men are equal all men are brothers
Then why are the rich more equal than others
Don't ask me for the answer i've only got one
That a man leaves his darkness when he follows the Son

30 October 2005

Important Things To Note #473

Ever wanted to know how it feels to have toothpaste inadvertently squirted in one's eye? It hurts like hell, that's how. Such are the hidden perils of husbandry.

29 October 2005

News And Links Dump

• It's obvious to anyone paying attention that Hollywood has increased its production of big budget war movies since the 80s success of Top Gun. What isn't as widely known is that the military generously allows Hollywood to use submarines, aircraft carriers, military bases and other such military equipment. But, in exchange, the military vets these screenplays. In other words, for a movie to have the military's cooperation in being filmed, it must present a favorable image of the U.S. armed forces. If a film refuses the Pentagon's propagandic edits, its producers can kiss military cooperation, and millions of dollars, goodbye. Operation Hollywood is a 57-minute documentary that explores this cozy relationship. You can download it here.

• On December 13, 2004, computer programmer Clinton Curtis testified at a Congressional hearing in Columbus, Ohio, naming Republican Congressman Tom Feeney as the person who hired him to prepare vote-rigging software in Florida in 2000. The programmer claims that he designed and build a vote rigging software program at Feeney's request. Hmmm. Wonder why the mainstream media hasn't been covering that one. View Clinton's testimony here.

• An interview with Gore Vidal about his forthcoming book, Imperial America.

• Last year Quentin Tarantino shook television up a bit by directing the two-hour season finale episode of CSI. Now it appears that one of my favourite directors is going to shake things up a bit, too. Darren Aronofsky, the brilliant director of Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and 2006's The Fountain (fingers crossed), is going to direct an episode of Lost.

• There's a new trailer floating around for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Aslan speaks, but that's not the voice I had in my head. Hmmm.

• A muppets reality TV show? You betcha.

• Check out the trailer for BattleGround: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge, a Silver Hugo winning documentary out in January 2006 exploring three weeks of life on the frontlines of the guerrilla war in Iraq.

28 October 2005

Friday Comics Blogging

27 October 2005

Happy Birthday To Me

The White Sox swept the Astros, we're going to an Over the Rhine show tonight, and Karl Rove and Scooter Libby could very well be indicted by the week's end. Mmmm mmm good.

24 October 2005

George W. Bush vs. The Onion

George, George, George. This is a battle you are going to lose.

Monday Lyrics Blogging

This song is by my favourite band, Pedro the Lion. Frontman David Bazan (who also heads up another band called Headphones) is one of the most amazing lyricists writing songs today. Bazan is brutally honest, economical, cynical, sarcastic as hell and has a knack for writing really great single lines. This song hasn't actually been officially released. It was written for the album Control, but the song didn't make it onto the record. Instead, Bazan used the tune from Millionaire for another song that did make the album: Rapture (which you can download here).

Millionaire - Pedro the Lion

Working the casino floor
Scratching at the corner store
A camera crew at my front door
Every car crash survived
Every new song I write
Every sick relative
Each word of advice
The good doctor gives
Or fails to give

Tenderly they call my name
Singing this sweet refrain
A ray of hope
That kills the pain

Hold on, all is not lost
You still might win a million

When I was a little boy
Nothing filled my heart with joy
Like dreaming of the brand new toys
That I could afford to buy
If my mom and dad should die
Or if I won the lottery
But either way
The point is how statisfied I'd be

I know it's hard
But just remember
That rich men are always
Thinking of new ways
To cut you in

Hold on, all is not lost
You still might win a million

Just think how great your kids will be
When you win a million

23 October 2005

Of Email Forwards, Boycotts And An Interesting Recipe For Sausages

Earlier this week I received something I haven't seen in my email inbox in quite a while: a forward from hyperventilating Christians urging me to sign something in order that it be banned from existence.

To whit:

A pornographic movie is being shot and is intended to show up in America soon, which shows Jesus and his disciples as homosexuals! The same way as a play that
has been in the theater halls for a while. It's called Corpus Christi" which means "The Body of Christ". It is a revolting joke of our Lord. But we can make a difference, that's why I'm sending this e-mail to all of you.

Could you, please, add your name to this e-mail's list's end? If you do so, together we may be able to ban this movie from being shown in America. Apparently, some regions from Europe have banned the movie already. All weneed is a lot of signatures!

Remember, Jesus said: "That who deny Me before men, I will also deny Him before my Father which is in heaven."

Please, do not simply forward!!!

Please, select all text, copy this message (CTRL+C), paste (CTRL+V) in a new message and then add your name at the end of the list, plus send to all your contacts.
For those not familiar with Corpus Christi's legacy, the work is a passion play by four-time Tony award winner Terrence McNally. The play dramatises the story of Jesus and the Apostles. The play is also highly controversial, as it depicts Christ and the Apostles as homosexual men. The play opened in New York City in October of 1998.

The first thing to note is that, predictably, the forward isn't true. Both a check of the Internet Movie Database and a general search of Google seems to indicate that at the present time Corpus Christi is not being filmed. In fact, Snopes notes that a version of this petition dates back to 1984, long before Corpus Christi was a play, much less an imaginary movie.

This is similar to other such forwards and urban legends that Christians pass to one another. The infamous Madalyn Murray O'Hair-is-trying-to-ban-religious-broadcasting petition is probably the best example. But there are also the George-W.-Bush-witnesses-to-a-young-boy forward and the an-unburned-Bible-was-found-in-the-wreckage-of-the-Pentagon-on-September-11 forward, among others.

Now, admittedly, most of the Christians who pass these things on do so because they believe them. Gullibility is at work here, not calculated deception. These particular Christians don't bother to check the facts. They assume that this is all very true and pass it along. After all, how could these things not be true? How could atheists not be out to stop religious broadcasts? How could the President not be witnessing to little kids? How could something good and miraculous like an unburned Bible not come out of a national tragedy? So it isn't exactly as if these folks are intentionally passing lies along. And yet, don't Christians have a responsibility to the truth here? Shouldn't we be checking these things out? It sort of undermines the cause of truth to help the Gospel by unintentionally lying, doesn't it?

The second curious thing for me here is the continual Christian need to ban and boycott. Why is this? Are Christians so threatened by opposing viewpoints that we must control the flow of information? Is our confidence in the truth that we believe so weak that we don't think it can speak for itself, that it can stand on its own in the marketplace of ideas?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against boycotting things. There are several businesses that don't get my money. All of them are monster corporations who don't treat their workers fairly and who are rapidly destroying both local communities and the environment. But you'll never hear me calling for the boycott of art or of ideas. If something personally offends me, I won't go see it. I won't read it. I won't watch it. I won't listen to it. But that doesn't mean I'll try to force everyone else on the planet to not engage with that art.

Christians, on the other hand, will. And it's not just Christians. There are plenty of groups, both liberal and conservative, who are equally OK with banning things they find offensive. I find this all rather curious, particularly from Christians. I fail to see how Christians, particularly those who believe in free will, can reconcile that with telling others what they can and can't see at the movies.

The third thing that's interesting to me is that Christians still haven't realised that boycotts of this sort don't work. If you're trying to prevent people from going to a movie, the best way to do that is not to give that movie free publicity. Yet that's exactly what Christians do. They try to stir up fear and anger amongst themselves. But, in so doing, they also make people wonder what all the fuss is about. One of the best ways to get someone to do something is to tell them that they aren't allowed to do so.

Corpus Christi (the play) is a perfect example of this. The theatrical production stirred up a lot of fuss. Probably not nearly as many people would have attended had it not been so controversial. When critics looked at the play on its merit, they generally didn't like what they saw. Ben Brantley of The New York Times, for example, wrote, "The play that brought an outraged chorus of protest even before it went into rehearsal is about as threatening, and stimulating, as a glass of chocolate milk."

Christians, I think, would be a lot better off if they tried to engage nonbelievers in that way. "Look, see this play if you want, but it's really not a very good one. It's all very propagandic and unoriginal. In fact, it's rubbish." But, then, the sort of Christians who try to boycott nonexistent films are the sort who make and consume piles of bad Christian art of their own.

21 October 2005

Friday Comics Blogging

20 October 2005

We Are The Ones We've Been Waiting For

I almost didn't find out about this. Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojournors magazine, and author of God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, will be speaking at Loyola University in Chicago next week. This is a very good thing and you should go hear him if you live in Chicagoland. I was fortunate enough to get to hear Wallis speak earlier this year (thanks Natalie!). The things he has to say are very thought-provoking and life-altering. If you care about poverty and social justice, and if you've grown weary of the Religious Right, this one's for you. Here's the skinny:

One Nation Under Whose God?
Tuesday October 25, 2005 7:00 PM

A lecture featuring guest speaker Jim Wallis, an Evangelical Christian leader for social change and founder of Sojourners of Christians for justice and peace of more than 30 years ago and continues to serve as the editor of Sojourners magazine, covering faith, politics and culture. He is also the author of the best seller *God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It.* Mr. Wallis will discuss how separation of Church and state does not require banishing moral and religious values from the public forum.

LOCATION: Mundelein Center (map)
CONTACT: Monica McGettrick (Phone: 773-508-8017)
This event has been marked as open to the public.
SPONSOR: EVOKE & Mission and Ministry
If you're not in Chicago, here's a list of more Sojournors speaking events. Also see here for video of Wallis speaking at Baylor University.

17 October 2005

On Treason

John at Americablog has a nice little rant up about the treason spewing from the White House:

If a senior White House staffer had intentionally outed an American spy during World War II, he'd have been shot.

We're at war, George Bush keeps reminding us. We cannot continue with business as usual. A pre-9/11 mentality is deadly. Putting the lives of our troops at risk is treason.

Then why is the White House and the Republican party engaged in a concerted campaign to make treason acceptable during a time of war? That's exactly what they're doing. On numerous news shows today, Republican surrogates, their talking points ready, issued variations of the following concerning White House chief of staff Karl Rove's outing of a covert CIA agent as part of a political vendetta:

- It's the criminalization of politics
- Is this 'minor' leak really worth all this?
- Political payback is common and should not be criminalized
- Mis-speaking or mis-remembering is not a crime

Yes, the Republicans are now making light of an intentional effort to expose an undercover CIA agent, working on weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, no less, while we are at war in the Middle East on that very issue.

The GOP has become the party of treason.

It would be one thing for a senior adviser to the president to put the nation's security at risk during a time of war. That could be explained as an aberration - a quite serious one, no doubt - but a fluke nonetheless. But when the president himself refuses to keep his own word about firing that aberration, and when the entire Republican party rallies around that fluke and tries to minimize what is usually a capital offense during wartime, something is seriously wrong with that party and its leadership.

America is ignoring the Geneva Conventions because our president feels that winning this war is so paramount. Our Congress has watered down our civil rights laws. We have jailed American citizens with no access to legal counsel. And our President even believes it is worth lying to the American people in order to wage this so-important battle. All this because we are a nation at war and nothing will be permitted to stand in the way of this life-and-death struggle.
Read the entire post...

Monday Lyrics Blogging

Some will probably find a hint of blasphemy here. Greg Graffin, the frontman of Bad Religion, is to the best of my knowledge an admitted athiest who isn't all that fond of Christianity. But this is also one of my favourite Bad Religion songs. I think it says far more about the Americanisation of Jesus, and about the general way we tend to mold him in our own image, than it does about Jesus himself. You can legally download the song for free at the end.

American Jesus - Bad Religion

I don't need to be a global citizen
Cause I'm blessed by nationality
I'm a member of a growing populace
We enforce our popularity
There are things that seem to pull us under
And there are things that drag us down
But there's a power and a vital presence
That's lurking all around

We've got the American Jesus
See him on the Interstate
We've got the American Jesus
He helped build the President's estate

I feel sorry for the Earth's population
Cause so few live in the U.S.A
At least the foreigners can copy our morality
They can visit but they cannot stay
Only precious few can garner the prosperity
It makes us walk with renewed confidence
We've got a place to go when we die
And the architect resides right here

We've got the American Jesus
Bolstering national faith
We've got the American Jesus
Overwhelming millions everyday

He's the farmer's barren fields (In God)
The force the army wields (We trust)
The expressions in the faces (Because He's one)
Of the starving millions (Of us)
The power of the man (Break down)
The fuel that drives the Klan (Cave in)
The motive and the conscience
of the murderer (We can redeem your sins)
He's the preacher on TV (Strong heart)
The false sincerity (Clear mind)
The form letter that's written by
the big computers (And infinitely kind)
He's the nuclear bombs (You lose)
The kids with no moms (We win)
And I'm fearful that He's inside me (He's our champion)

We've got the American Jesus
See him on the Interstate
We've got the American Jesus
Exercising his authority
We've got the American Jesus
Bolstering national faith
We've got the American Jesus
Overwhelming millions everyday

Free legal download: American Jesus

14 October 2005

Jib Jab: 1 Wal-Mart: 0

Fun times.

Friday Comics Blogging

13 October 2005


Not long after the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, Kanye West stirred up a ruckus by going off script on live television and declaring that George Bush hates black people. Personally I'm inclined to think that it's more the case that George Bush hates poor people, many of whom also happen to be black.

At any rate, apparently African Americans aren't so fond of George Bush either. In the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, President Bush's job-approval rating among African Americans has dropped to 2 percent.

Unbelievable. Admittedly Bush's job approval rating is hovering between 37 and 39 percent overall, depending on which poll you look at. And admittedly polls aren't the final or most reliable way to measure such things. And admittedly African Americans tend to vote Democrat by a wide margin. But 2 percent? That's like Condi Rice and Alan Keyes.

It appears that African Americans in this country feel completely abandoned by this administration. If you want to understand a culture other than your own, stop listening to corporate Hip-hop and start paying attention to why an entire race of people in the United States feel like their President isn't doing his job.

Notes Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post:

The drop among blacks drove Bush's overall job approval ratings to an all-time low of 39 percent in this poll. By comparison, 45 percent of whites and 36 percent of Hispanics approve of the job Bush is doing.

A few months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found Bush's approval rating among blacks at 51 percent. As recently as six months ago, it was at 19 percent.

But Bush's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina -- seen by many blacks as evidence that he didn't care about them...may have brought support for the president in the African American community down to nearly negligible levels.

Tim Russert called attention to this startling statistic on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams yesterday: "Brian, listen to this," he said. "Only 2 percent -- 2 percent! -- of African-Americans approve of George Bush's handling of the presidency -- the lowest we have ever seen in that particular measure."

So this morning, I called Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff, to get a better sense of the significance of the results.

"African Americans were not supporters, but I don't think that they outright detested him -- until now," Hart said. "The actions in and around Katrina persuaded African Americans that this was a president who was totally insensitive to their concerns and their needs."

Hart said he has never seen such a dramatic drop in presidential approval ratings, within any subgroup.

12 October 2005

Genocide Columbus Day

So Monday was Columbus Day, one of only two major U.S. holidays to be named after a specific person. The other, Martin Luther King Day, is named after a man who fought most notably for civil rights, but also for the rights of the poor and against the Vietnam War. Columbus Day, in contrast, is named after a tyrant responsible for mass genocide of Native Americans, who transported Native Americans to Europe to be sold as slaves, and who did it mostly for gold. It's a bit peculiar that we in the United States see fit to celebrate a man who nearly brought about the downfall of an entire group of people, all in the name of profit margins. I know it's rather politically incorrect to compare anyone to Hitler these days, but, really, when you come down to it, genocide is genocide. If we're going to name a holiday after a lunatic who kills in the name of God, we might as well have a Hitler Day while we're at it.

It is also perhaps a bit timely that George Bush is threatening to make the first veto of his presidency against an anti-torture amendment written by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), an ammendment favored by 90 members of the Senate. But human rights violations is par for the course these days, at least in this country. We're the good guys, so we get to do whatever we want.

Anyways, instead of throwing confetti, I thought I'd quote from Bartolomé de Las Casas, a 16th century Spanish priest who witnessed the torture and genocide of Native Americans firsthand:

And of all the infinite universe of humanity, these people are the most guileless, the most devoid of wickedness and duplicity, the most obedient and faithful to their native masters and to the Spanish Christians whom they serve. They are by nature the most humble, patient, and peaceable, holding no grudges, free from embroilments, neither excitable nor quarrelsome. These people are the most devoid of rancors, hatreds, or desire for vengeance of any people in the world. And because they are so weak and complaisant, they are less able to endure heavy labor and soon die of no matter what malady. The sons of nobles among us, brought up in the enjoyments of life's refinements, are no more delicate than are these Indians, even those among them who are of the lowest rank of laborers. They are also poor people, for they not only possess little but have no desire to possess worldly goods. For this reason they are not arrogant, embittered, or greedy. Their repasts are such that the food of the holy fathers in the desert can scarcely be more parsimonious, scanty, and poor.


Yet into this sheepfold, into this land of meek outcasts there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening wild beasts, wolves, tigers, or lions that had been starved for many days. And Spaniards have behaved in no other way during the past forty years, down to the present time, for they are still acting like ravening beasts, killing, terrorizing, afflicting, torturing, and destroying the native peoples, doing all this with the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty, never seen or heard of before, and to such a degree that this Island of Hispaniola once so populous (having a population that I estimated to be more than three million), has now a population of barely two hundred persons.


As for the vast mainland, which is ten times larger than all Spain, even including Aragon and Portugal, containing more land than the distance between Seville and Jerusalem, or more than two thousand leagues, we are sure that our Spaniards, with their cruel and abominable acts, have devastated the land and exterminated the rational people who fully inhabited it. We can estimate very surely and truthfully that in the forty years that have passed, with the infernal actions of the Christians, there have been unjustly slain more than twelve million men, women, and children. In truth, I believe without trying to deceive myself that the number of the slain is more like fifteen million.


On the Island Hispaniola was where the Spaniards first landed, as I have said. Here those Christians perpetrated their first ravages and oppressions against the native peoples. This was the first land in the New World to be destroyed and depopulated by the Christians, and here they began their subjection of the women and children, taking them away from the Indians to use them and ill use them, eating the food they provided with their sweat and toil. The Spaniards did not content themselves with what the Indians gave them of their own free will, according to their ability, which was always too little to satisfy enormous appetites, for a Christian eats and consumes in one day an amount of food that would suffice to feed three houses inhabited by ten Indians for one month. And they committed other acts of force and violence and oppression which made the Indians realize that these men had not come from Heaven. And some of the Indians concealed their foods while others concealed their wives and children and still others fled to the mountains to avoid the terrible transactions of the Christians.

And the Christians attacked them with buffets and beatings, until finally they laid hands on the nobles of the villages. Then they behaved with such temerity and shamelessness that the most powerful ruler of the islands had to see his own wife raped by a Christian officer.
To read de Las Casas' Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies, visit History is a Weapon.

The Nexus of Politics and Terror

Ain't no terror threat unless approval ratings slumpin. - Paris

Not too long ago Keith Olbermann, Sportscenter commentator turned host of MSNBC's Countdown, ripped the Bush administration in an on-air editorial for its response to Hurricane Katrina. It was a stunning reminder that, though Jon Stewart certainly deserves all buzz he's been getting the past couple of years, Olbermann is also among the best in the business.

On tonight's Countdown, Olbermann had a very interesting piece on the correlation between terror alerts in this country and bad news for the Bush administration. Olbermann provides a timeline for 13 different times the terror threat level has been raised in the four years since 9/11. On each of these 13 occasions the Bush administration was either sinking deep in a mire of bad news or the Democrats were getting considerable favorable media coverage. It would seem that perhaps these are more than coincidences:

Number Two:

June 6th, 2002. Colleen Rowley, the FBI agent who tried to alert her superiors to the specialized flight training taken by Zacarias Moussaoui, whose information suggests the government missed a chance to break up the 9/11 plot, testifies before Congress. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Graham says Rowley’s testimony has inspired similar pre-9/11 whistle-blowers.

June 10th, 2002. Four days later, speaking from Russia, Attorney General John Ashcroft reveals that an American named Jose Padilla is under arrest, accused of plotting a radiation bomb attack in this country. Padilla had, by this time, already been detained for more than a month.
Now, as Olbermann admits right out of the gate, and as everyone should learn in Psychology 101, correlation does not mean causation. And yet there does seem to be something here, something that has been largely ignored until now. The Bush administration's curtain is being pulled away, and the general public is getting a chance to see that the great and terrible wizard is not so great and terrible after all.

At any rate, you should watch the video and see for yourself (here for WMP video or watch Crooks and Liars for more feeds). Also read Olbermann's blog entry on the subject.

10 October 2005

Monday Lyrics Blogging

Makeshift Patriot - Sage Francis

Makeshift patriot
The flag shop is out of stock
I hang myself at half mast

Makeshift patriot
The flag shop is out of stock
I hang myself...via live telecast.

Coming live from my own funeral
The beautiful weather offered a nice shine,
Which is suitable for a full view of a forever altered skyline.
It's times like these I freestyle biased opinions every other sentence.
My journalistic ethics slip when I pass them off as objective.
"Don't gimme that ethical shit."
I've got exclusive, explicit images to present to impressionable American kids,
And it's time to show this world how big our edifice is.

That's exactly what they attacked when a typically dark skinned Disney villain
Used civilians against civilians and charged the trojan horses into our buildings.
Using commercial aviation as instruments of destruction,
Pregnant women couldn't protect their children.
Wheelchairs were stairway obstructions.
Now I have to back pedal from the shower of glass and metal,
Wondering how after it settles we'll find who provided power to radical rebels.
The Melting Pot seems to be calling the kettle black when it boils over,
But only on our own soil so the little boy holds a toy soldier
And waits for the suit and tie to come home. We won't wait 'til he's older,
Before we destroy hopes for a colder war to end.
"Now get a close up of his head..."

Makeshift patriot
The flag shop is out of stock
I hang myself at half mast

Makeshift Patriot
The flag shop is out of stock
I hang myself while the stock markets crash

The city is covered in inches of muck
I see some other pictures of victims are up
Grieving mothers are thinking their children are stuck
Leaping lovers are making decisions to jump
While holding hands to escape the brutal heat. Sometimes in groups of the three.
The fallout goes far beyond the toxic cloud where people look like debris.
But all they saw after all was said...beyond the talking heads
Was bloody dust with legs looking like the walking dead calling for meds.
All the hospitals are overwhelmed. Volunteers need to go the hell home.
Moments of silence for fire fighters were interupted by cell phones.
Who's going to make that call to increase an unknown death toll?
It's the one we rally behind. He's got a megaphone
And he's promising to make heads roll.
So we cheer him on, but asbestos is affecting our breath control.
The less we know the more they fabricate...the easier it is to sell souls.

"There is a new price on freedom, so buy into it while supplies last.
Changes need to be made.
No more curbside baggage,
7 p.m. curfew,
racial profiling will continue with less bitching.
We've unified over who to kill, so until I find more relevant scripture to quote,
remember, our kind is bigger, stronger, smarter, and much wealthier.
So wave those flags with pride, especially the white part."

An addictive 24 hour candle light vigil in TVs.
Freedom will be defended at the cost of civil liberties.
Viewers are glued to television screens.
Stuck...'cause lots of things seem too sick.
I use opportunities to pluck heart strings for theme music.

I'll show you which culture to punp your fist at and what foot is right to kiss.
We don't know who the culprit is yet but he looks like this.
We know who the heroes are. They're not the xenophobes who act hard,
"We taught that dog to squat. How dare he do that shit in our own back yard!"

They happened to scar our financial state and char our landscape.
Can you count how many times so far I ran back this same damn tape?
While a camera man creates news and shoves it down our throats on the West Bank,
With a 10 second clip put on constant loop to provoke US angst.

So get your tanks and load your guns and hold your sons in a family huddle,
Because even if we win this tug of war and even the score...humanity struggles.
There's a desperate need of blood for what's been uncovered under the rubble,
Some of them dug for answers in the mess...but the rest were looking for trouble.

Makeshift patriot
The flag shop is out of stock
I hang myself at half mast

Makeshift patriot
The flag shop is out of stock
I hang myself
Don't waive your rights with your flags

Mix CD #1

So, yeah, here's a mix CD for you. It's a smattering of everything from Hip-hop to country-laced rock to spoken word to folk to instrumental. Download and burn at your leisure. Songs are to the right. Band web sites are to the left. All the mp3s are legal, if that's important to you. There are a few swears, too, so whatever that means to you.

Ida - Late Blues
Underwear Meat Clock - Underwear Meat Clock Theme
The Westside Daredevils - Heroes and Zeroes
Ronny Elliott - Valentino's Dream
The French Broads - America Police
Senryu - Oubliette
Sage Francis - Makeshift Patriot
Despistado - A Stirstick's Prediction
Pedro the Lion - Rapture
Judah Johnson - The Ruse
The Magnolia Electric Co. - Hard to Love a Man
Daniel Roop - Forsooth
Songs: Ohia - Farewell Transmission
Damien Jurado - White Center
Sole - Self-Inflicted Wounds
Lemon Drop Kid - Ocean Stranger
Deep Puddle Dynamics - I Am Hip-Hop (Move the Crowd )
Shovelbearer - 7:31 A.M.

Mired in Miers

In the comments, Stephanie asked why it’s necessary for Harriet Miers, George Bush’s latest nominee for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, to have experience. It’s a fair question and I’d like to take a stab at it.

First, it’s not that Miers doesn’t have any experience. Miers is currently the White House Counsel and was Bush’s personal lawyer. Prior to her service under Bush, she was in private practice for 27 years, mostly handling big business cases, particularly for Microsoft and Disney. However, she has never been a judge and has never argued a case before the Supreme Court. Being a lawyer and being a judge are two very different things, all the moreso when you may become one of the nine most important judges in the country.

Bush’s supposed rational is apparently that someone with this limited experience would bring a new perspective to the Court. That doesn’t make much sense. As conservative columnist George Will pointed out "there is no evidence that she is among the leading lights of American jurisprudence, or that she possesses talents commensurate with the Supreme Court's tasks." There are probably dozens of potential nominees more qualified for this position than Miers.

This seems to be a case of nepotism. Bush, as he frequently does, is rewarding personal loyalty, not competence. Notes the always-insightful Zalm:
In other administration appointments, President Bush has demonstrated time and time again just how highly he values personal loyalty, sometimes to the exclusion of other qualifications or lack thereof. But loyalty to any president is irrelevant to the tasks of the Supreme Court. In fact, too much loyalty to a particular administration should be a mark against a nominee.

In the next decade, the Court could very well be hearing cases regarding executive powers, civil liberties and prisoner treatment in the fight against terrorism, election law, government transparency and so on. For the next three years, the Bush administration will be presenting arguments in many of these cases. It seems inappropriate to me that one of the people rendering judgment on administration policies and powers would be someone who has been central in crafting the legal rationale for those policies and who, at least early on, saw every paper that crossed the President’s desk.
Miers also has some rather intriguing and complicated ties to Bush’s National Guard scandal, which may partially explain why she's up for this nomination.

So I dunno. On the one hand, Miers appears like she will be quite a moderate if she makes it to the Court. She seems to favor gay rights. There’s also been talk from one of her close friends that she might uphold Roe v. Wade if the Supreme Court were to reexamine the case (which should be a lesson to the evangelical community; never trust a seasoned liar). She also donated $1,000 to Al Gore in the late 80s, $1,000 to Hillary Clinton in 2000 (kind of sort of), and held a series of pro-feminism lectures. All of which explains why conservatives are fuming about this. Bush’s evangelical base got played in the last election and they’re finally starting to realise it. And while that makes me happy in a smug sort of way, I don’t know that I can approve of blatant nepotism, especially if it’s to reward Miers for covering Bush's ass.

07 October 2005

Friday Comics Blogging

06 October 2005


When the President talks to God
Does he ever think that maybe he's not?
That that voice is just inside his head
When he kneels down in the presidential bed?
Does he ever smell his own bullshit
When the President talks to God?
-- Bright Eyes

Some days I just don't have it in me to deal with the man we keep letting be our President. Today is one of them. I just don't know how to respond to him. Seriously, who is this guy? Is he a comedian so far ahead of his time that only he and three other people on the planet get the joke? Is he a liar so skilled that cheating spouses and white collar criminals centuries from now will study video tapes of his performances like NBA coaches study game film? Is he so good that he believes it too?

Today the President accused militants of attempting to establish a "radical Islamic empire." Is he serious? He's the President of the United States, a country that does whatever it wants to whomever it wants whenever the fuck it wants. He's the President of a country that steals oil from other countries, that overthrows democratically elected leaders in other countries, that very well may have a military base on every country in the planet, and it's the "radical Islamic empire" we should worry about?

See what I mean? Should I be laughing or crying? It wouldn't be so bad, either, if he didn't do this practically every day. From lying about social security to defending torture to nominating people for important governmental positions who have no experience whatsoever, he manages to keep 40 percent of the people in this country convinced that he's doing a bangup job. I wish I had superpowers like that.

And speaking of the Miers’ appointment, hell has apparently frozen over. Ann "let's kill the liberals" Coulter's latest column absolutely thrashes both Miers and the President. Wow. When you have both Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh turning against you, you might want to consider resigning. No wonder he's grinding his teeth during speeches. So, yeah, I never ever thought I would quote Coulter here, at least not sober, but here goes:

I eagerly await the announcement of President Bush's real nominee to the Supreme Court. If the president meant Harriet Miers seriously, I have to assume Bush wants to go back to Crawford and let Dick Cheney run the country.

Unfortunately for Bush, he could nominate his Scottish terrier Barney, and some conservatives would rush to defend him, claiming to be in possession of secret information convincing them that the pooch is a true conservative and listing Barney's many virtues — loyalty, courage, never jumps on the furniture ...

First, Bush has no right to say "Trust me." He was elected to represent the American people, not to be dictator for eight years. Among the coalitions that elected Bush are people who have been laboring in the trenches for a quarter-century to change the legal order in America. While Bush was still boozing it up in the early '80s, Ed Meese, Antonin Scalia, Robert Bork and all the founders of the Federalist Society began creating a farm team of massive legal talent on the right....

Being a Supreme Court justice ought to be a mind-numbingly tedious job suitable only for super-nerds trained in legal reasoning like John Roberts. Being on the Supreme Court isn't like winning a "Best Employee of the Month" award. It's a real job....

Bush may as well appoint his chauffeur head of NASA as put Miers on the Supreme Court....

However nice, helpful, prompt and tidy she is, Harriet Miers isn't qualified to play a Supreme Court justice on "The West Wing," let alone to be a real one.

05 October 2005

Today's Memory Verse

Psalm 137: 8-9

O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

Kicking Against the Pricks

A few years ago I wrote an article for a magazine in Tennessee on the controversy over displaying the Ten Commandments in courthouses. In preparing for the piece, I spoke with a few County Commissioners in the Knoxville area, as well as with several pastors, with an ACLU lawyer in Kentucky and with an atheistic professor at the University of Tennessee.

Ultimately the article wasn’t used due to some editorial shifts at the magazine. Nonetheless, several things struck me as interesting while doing these interviews. One was that all the Christians I spoke with were suspicious as hell. The pastors were afraid to go on the record with comments, and, in fact, it took me probably a couple of dozen phone calls to find four or five willing to speak their minds. The County Commissioners supporting a resolution to place the Ten Commandments inside court rooms were rude and belligerent. In contrast, the lawyer for the ACLU, the atheist and the County Commissioners opposed to displaying the Commandments were friendly, warm and eager to help. They returned my calls and answered my emails.

Christians, it seems, at least ultra-conservative ones from the Bible belt, are terrified. They’re scared of the media, of change, of secularism, of what they perceive to be a gradual worsening of society. Because of that, they tend to insulate themselves. Whoever does not agree with us must be out to get us. They are out to strip away everything that we hold sacred, to steal our Bibles and piss on them, to force our children to watch gay porn at knifepoint and then sodomise them, and to force weeping mothers everywhere to have abortions while the doctors smear themselves with blood and sacrifice the foetuses to Satan.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s a lack of education or an unwillingness to question those in authority. But this self-absorbed fear is itself very scary.

The other thing that strikes me, in remembering that, is the way in which Christians tend to demonise people and organisations they know little, if nothing, about. The American Civil Liberties Union is a perfect example. Many conservative Christians fear that the ACLU is out to get them. They feel that the ACLU is willing to help people discriminate against Christianity, while other belief systems are championed. Thus, the Bible is forbidden, school prayer is forbidden. But if a student wanted to read the Koran, Marx, anything but the Christian Bible, that would not only be permitted, but encouraged.

The problem, at least with demonising the ACLU, is that the organisation has defended Christians on numerous occasions. So if the ACLU is run by Satan himself, as many Christians seem to insinuate, how do we explain the ACLU of Nevada defending the right of street preachers to preach to people on the sidewalks of Las Vegas?

How do we explain the ACLU of Indiana filing suit on behalf of Pastor John Lewis to get the police to stop harassing him for his street preaching?

How do we explain the ACLU of Washington representing minister Donald Ausderau in a case against the Spokane Transit Authority, ultimately allowing Ausderau to speak, perform and hand out literature at a “central gathering place?”

Or how about the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, which filed briefs in 2002 to defend the rights of students in Davenport public schools to hand out religious literature to their classmates?

Or the ACLU of Massachusetts fighting in Federal district court on behalf of high school students who were disciplined for handing out candy canes with religious messages attached to them?

Or the ACLU in Michigan, which intervened on behalf of a Christian high school valedictorian when the school forbade her from using a Bible verse in her school’s yearbook profile?

Or how about the ACLU defending Jerry Falwell himself?

Or the ACLU of Nebraska defending a Presbyterian church in danger of being evicted?

And there are plenty more examples of the ACLU defending Christians.

So why do conservative Christians gnash their teeth against the ACLU? Is it because they haven’t bothered to spend five minutes using Google? Is it because they believe everything they’re told by those in authority over them? Or are Christians just really good at both lying and believing lies, to the point that those lies have become truth in their minds?

03 October 2005

A Few Random Thoughts

Ah, right, so I’m back in Illinois now. I’ve got a few things to say about Tennessee, but that will have to wait a bit. For now, I’ve let my email pile up a bit in my absence, so in the spirit of cleaning, here are a few random kibbles and bits:

• The new issue of Lark News is up. Go laugh at Christians.

• Surely you know of The Brick Testament by now. Hell, it’s on Rolling Stone's Hot List this year. Said site is a retelling of Bible stories using Lego blocks. It’s great fun. It’s also a bit racy, given that it tells the stories the way they’re written. All the sexy, violent, genocidal bits, of which there are many, are right there. There are quite a few updates on the site, mostly Sampson related.

The Onion’s AV Club has an interview with Neil Gaiman, whose latest stuff includes the novel Anansi Boys (a semi-follow-up to 2000’s American Gods), and the fantasy film Mirrormask (Gaiman scripted; Dave McKean directed). Ah, and watch the Mirrormask trailer while you’re at it.

• Cartoonist Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, The Acme Novelty Library) will be at Quimby’s in Chicago on October 15. Optic Nerve’s Adrian Tomine will in there in November. Yah!!!

I think that's all for now.

Monday Lyrics Blogging

For a while now I’ve been considering another weekly something or other to compliment my weekly comics post, which I’ve apparently moved to Fridays. I’ve decided to do song lyrics. I’m a bit torn because song lyrics usually aren’t meant to be read on a page. They’re meant to exist alongside particular rhythms and melodies. It sort of takes away from the art, I think, to divorce the words from the music for which they were put together. At the same time, as eargasmic and wonderful as music is, most of the best poets I know of are songwriters. So we’ll see how this goes. I may decide that I hate this in a week or two. I may not.

To lead off, I’m actually cheating a bit. This is a slam poem, written by Daniel Roop, who is one of the most amazing performance poets you’ll ever hear. Again, I feel like I’m sort of doing him a disservice by not allowing you to hear his voice bounce over the rhythm like basketball dribbles. These words are meant to be heard, not read. But, unfortunately, this isn’t online anywhere, so you’ll just have to settle.

That said, download Love Poem #40, Forsooth, Motherfucker, and This Poem Is Not the Revolution for a taste of how Daniel can spit, particularly Forsooth. You’ll thank me later.

Anyways, this one’s for anyone who has, or has ever had, a shitty job.

The Ghost of Daniel Roop

Um, yeah, we’re going to be conducting a personnel surplus reduction and it’s no big deal. We just need you to fill out these surveys defining what your essential function is for the company. Okay? Thanks.

My father’s standing by his desk clutching hope like the cardboard box that holds his unplugged clock, thoughts of me and my mom and a calendar of space shuttle Challenger shots. Efficiency consultants stalk the rows where other men stand with their boxes and hopes and wait for their future, like cancer and strokes.

Nobody writes poems about losing jobs like losing lovers. One breaks your heart. One takes your pride and fills your stomach with real hunger, not a self-absorbed abstraction. This is real as Ramen noodles. It gets you thinkin’ about shootin’ and lootin’ peg groomers and kidnappin’ and ransomin’ rich ladies’ poodles. It sounds pitiful and crazed but we all feel that way some days. CEOs drop our wages, give themselves raises and finally tell us we can’t stay. So we trudge home with sore backs, carpal tunnel, and 12 packs, to cry, drink, fight, fuck, pray.

Then we send resumes like castaways send letters stuffed in bottles. We send references like promises to gloss our future bosses. “I type 80 words a minute. I’ve done years of fast food management. No I don’t know every syllable to ‘Eric B is President.’ That’s ridiculous. I make coffee rich as Trump is, wash your Hummer, bake you muffins, work through lunches and I’ll never ask for justice.”

And we dream the dreams we used to dream as dreamy adolescents. We wish back the days before factories or headaches from fluorescents. Back when I thought I’d live off poetry, celebrities would pay to see me. “Hey, yo, Ayo, Alphie, Seed, can I get a blurb for my next CD? Say, "It was like losing virginity the first time I saw DRee.”

Now Daniel Roop is in Britannica. Daniel Roop’s on 60 Minutes. Jennifer Lopez exhibits her nipples in pictures in desperate attempts to get Daniel’s attention. And next on NPR a poet pop star so damn wonderful Terry Gross will do this interview wearing nothing but Roop underoos.

I could trademark Roop, like 2Pac, leave the rights to my estate, and then the ghost of Daniel Roop haunts Shady agents in their sleep. But, for now, folks wake up early and dream of 40 hours a week. And I’ll send more resumes, like love letters, “Baby, I’ll be everything you need.” They come back unrequited, hearts break like piggy banks, like the minimum payment folks scrape to make to fucking Citibank.

And I’m thankful now to have a job, one that I love, not hate. And I know it could be yanked away, like tablecloths from plates. And I’d be out there yet again with big false smiles and resumes, showing my best face while I’m struggling just to make it through the day.

So I feel blessed to be with anyone where I don’t have to fake. I love my wife. She does her own thing and won’t let me fall and fade, man. She’s seen me in my undies eatin’ Funyuns, watchin’ reruns starring Roger, Duane and Rerun, my brain dead as mausoleum. She’s known me out of work and cryin’, held me in the shower shakin’. Woman’s seen me more than naked; she’s seen me dead-ass broke and breakin’.

So I mix my dreams with thinkin’, mix my thoughts with real conviction, and I kiss my wife with kisses, thank her for the love and wisdom, and keep perspective on who profits from staff reductions. I don’t stay silent, sir. These poems riot, sir. That’s their essential function.