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Location: Illinois, United States

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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

25 February 2007

Mr Deity

And all the while the good Lord smiles and looks the other way. -- Pedro the Lion

Got this site from Greg. Pretty amusing.

21 February 2007

Interesting, The Best Thing Since Wrestling

I've written before about Christian fundamentalists and their selective reading of the Bible, particularly as it relates to the charging of interest.* It's good to know I'm not the only one who wonders how homosexuals can be kicked out of churches while bankers can be deacons. As usual, Slacktivist says it better than anyone:
Let's consider a case of actual conflict. Based on my e-mail, my fellow evangelical Christians are greatly interested in the matter of homosexuality. Many of my correspondents disagree with my advocacy of equal rights for homosexuals because they perceive such equality as incompatible with the teaching of scripture. I'm not talking here about the Phelpsian homophobes or those who seem primarily motivated by bigotry. I'm talking about people who seem like they wish they could agree with me, but feel they are not allowed to do so because they have no choice but to side with the map.

I don't think this perceived conflict is as substantial or as actual as they imagine. Their premise of unambiguous biblical teaching may be much closer to Hall's "biblical" geocentrism than they realize. (I don't want to get sidetracked here into a detailed exegetical analysis of the handful of New Testament passages dealing with the subject, so let me just generally point out that if your interpretation of scripture leads you to believe that "homosexuality is a choice," yet you cannot find a single homosexual who thinks this is so, then perhaps you ought to consider rethinking your interpretation.)

But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that this is an actual instance of actual conflict and that I am, in this instance, siding with reason/experience against the text. In that case ...

Wait. You know what? This example is too easy. I'm a straight guy, and my evangelical critics on this matter seem also to be heterosexual, so this seems a bit too conveniently abstract. (It's also unseemly, too much like we're telling homosexuals, "You wait out in the hall while we discuss your fate. We'll call you in later and let you know what we decide.")

So let's pick an example that hits closer to home.

The Bible prohibits the charging of interest. No getting around it. This is explicit and unambiguous and more frequently discussed in scripture than is homosexuality. Jesus himself didn't just repeat this prohibition, he amplified it by forbidding the expectation of repayment. So no wiggle room there.

The charging of interest is, of course, the basis of our market economy. It is as unavoidable now as the air we breathe. I have several interest-bearing accounts (as well as, unfortunately, several interest-charging accounts). So does my local church. So does my denomination. So do even the least "worldly" of our coreligionists, the Amish. And so do, I'm guessing, my evangelical detractors who feel my advocacy of homosexual rights is "unbiblical."

How on earth do we justify this? More to the point, why is it that we don't even feel the need to bother to justify this?

I would argue that free markets can be a Good Thing. The charging of interest, when properly harnessed, can be a powerful engine for growth and prosperity, creating incentives for investment that makes possible many good things which would otherwise be impossible. The recognition of this fact, over the centuries, led to an evolution of our interpretation of the prohibition against usury. It ceased to mean the charging of any interest (even "the hundredth part" or 1 percent) and came to mean, instead, the charging of "excessive" interest. We began to reinterpret the evident meaning of the text in an effort to reconcile it with what we were learning about the world and how it works. The prohibition against usury remains in recognition of the principle contained in the text, a principle we continue to honor despite the sometimes laughably elastic application of that weasel-word excessive.

This argument can be challenged as mere "rationalization," in the psychological sense, an after-the-fact attempt at self-justification by a religious tradition whose adherents had become wealthy and worldly. But I would counter that in the non-psychological sense, rationalization is, well, rational. The application of reason is reasonable and necessary, and I find the reinterpretation of the prohibition against interest to be a reasonable step.

This reasonable step is regarded as noncontroversial when the matter involved is our own money. When the matter involved is someone else's sexuality, however, such a reasonable step is regarded as extremely controversial. Why do you suppose that is?
*An aside for all the people who surf through here looking for where to find the phrase "neither a borrower nor a lender be" in the Bible (and there seem to be a lot of you): It's from the apocryphal book of Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3.

20 February 2007

Political Science

Things I Will Probably Never Understand:

1) Iraq invades Kuwait in 1990? United States invades Iraq. Israel illegally acquires Palestinian land in 1967 and never returns it? United States gives Israel $3 billion+ annually.

2) Syrian occupation of Lebanon? Bad. Israeli occupation of Syria? Not so much.

3) Former head of Pakistan’s ISI (the Pakistani equivalent of the CIA), Lt General Mahmoud Ahmad, orders $100,000 wired to 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta? United States invades Iraq.

4) Hamas behind suicide bombings against Israelis? Terrorism. Israel kills Palestinians and bulldozes their homes? Not terrorism.

5) Israeli possession of nuclear weapons? Acceptable. Iranian possession of nuclear weapons? Unacceptable.

6) How Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein could have had an “operational relationship” in the early 1990s, as former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith claimed, given that bin Laden wanted to attack Hussein with mujahideen warriors at that time.

7) Despite having more than 700 military bases in 130 countries around the world, the United States should not be considered an empire.

8) Bill Clinton fails to take down Al-Qaeda following bombing of U.S. embassy in East Africa? Republicans go apeshit. Ronald Reagan fails to even retaliate after Hezbollah bombs U.S. embassy in Beirut? Republicans eerily silent.

Something Old, Something News

CNN plays the fiddle while America burns. -- Sole

In case you missed the media orgy, Anna Nicole Smith died 12 days ago. And Britney Spears has checked into rehab after shaving her head and getting a couple of tattoos. Meanwhile, in Iraq, American trained Iraqi security forces are raping women. Apparently only the first two items warrant coverage from American media outlets.

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. Thousands of voters were illegally removed from voter rolls in Florida in 2000, and I'm still waiting for the American media to provide coverage. But, hell, I'm sure Tom Cruise will jump on a couch sometime soon, and that's what really matters, eh?

Anyways, Riverbend has the scoop on yet another story all those liberal American reporters aren't reporting:

As I write this, Oprah is on Channel 4 (one of the MBC channels we get on Nilesat), showing Americans how to get out of debt. Her guest speaker is telling a studio full of American women who seem to have over-shopped that they could probably do with fewer designer products. As they talk about increasing incomes and fortunes, Sabrine Al-Janabi, a young Iraqi woman, is on Al Jazeera telling how Iraqi security forces abducted her from her home and raped her. You can only see her eyes, her voice is hoarse and it keeps breaking as she speaks. In the end she tells the reporter that she can’t talk about it anymore and she covers her eyes with shame.

She might just be the bravest Iraqi woman ever. Everyone knows American forces and Iraqi security forces are raping women (and men), but this is possibly the first woman who publicly comes out and tells about it using her actual name. Hearing her tell her story physically makes my heart ache. Some people will call her a liar. Others (including pro-war Iraqis) will call her a prostitute- shame on you in advance.

I wonder what excuse they used when they took her. It’s most likely she’s one of the thousands of people they round up under the general headline of ‘terrorist suspect’. She might have been one of those subtitles you read on CNN or BBC or Arabiya, “13 insurgents captured by Iraqi security forces.” The men who raped her are those same security forces Bush and Condi are so proud of- you know- the ones the Americans trained. It’s a chapter right out of the book that documents American occupation in Iraq: the chapter that will tell the story of 14-year-old Abeer who was raped, killed and burned with her little sister and parents.

They abducted her from her house in an area in southern Baghdad called Hai Al Amil. No- it wasn’t a gang. It was Iraqi peace keeping or security forces- the ones trained by Americans? You know them. She was brutally gang-raped and is now telling the story. Half her face is covered for security reasons or reasons of privacy.


I look at this woman and I can’t feel anything but rage. What did we gain? I know that looking at her, foreigners will never be able to relate. They’ll feel pity and maybe some anger, but she’s one of us. She’s not a girl in jeans and a t-shirt so there will only be a vague sort of sympathy. Poor third-world countries- that is what their womenfolk tolerate. Just know that we never had to tolerate this before. There was a time when Iraqis were safe in the streets. That time is long gone. We consoled ourselves after the war with the fact that we at least had a modicum of safety in our homes. Homes are sacred, aren’t they? That is gone too.

She’s just one of tens, possibly hundreds, of Iraqi women who are violated in their own homes and in Iraqi prisons. She looks like cousins I have. She looks like friends. She looks like a neighbor I sometimes used to pause to gossip with in the street. Every Iraqi who looks at her will see a cousin, a friend, a sister, a mother, an aunt…

Humanitarian organizations are warning that three Iraqi women are to be executed next month. The women are Wassan Talib, Zainab Fadhil and Liqa Omar Muhammad. They are being accused of 'terrorism', i.e. having ties to the Iraqi resistance. It could mean they are relatives of people suspected of being in the resistance. Or it could mean they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of them gave birth in the prison. I wonder what kind of torture they've endured. Let no one say Iraqi women didn't get at least SOME equality under the American occupation- we are now equally as likely to get executed.

And yet, as the situation continues to deteriorate both for Iraqis inside and outside of Iraq, and for Americans inside Iraq, Americans in America are still debating on the state of the war and occupation- are they winning or losing? Is it better or worse.

Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile.

Update: Good to see the media reporting on this. Finally. A day after the fact. You'd think they'd be ashamed to have been scooped by bloggers. Again.

18 February 2007

Dedicated To The People Who Never Thought It Could Be This Way

Dear Sol.illaquists of Sound,

Please come back to Chicago soon.


The People's Republic of Wasp Jerky

Brokeback Rapture

13 February 2007

Tuesday Comics Blogging

02 February 2007

As Quick As A Tick In A New York Minute

There are a lot of great benefits to having a psychologist for a wife. Having a psychowifey means leafing through the DSM-IV-TR at bedtime to snarkily diagnose family members. It also means a weird sense of humour: no one else in the world would be caught wearing a pair of Freudian slippers. And, of course, there’s tagging along to conferences.

Last spring I got to see Tony Campolo give a plenary lecture at a conference where Focus on the Family and Liberty University were in attendance. There’s nothing quite like hearing a Baptist preacher disdain free trade, capital punishment and Premillennial Dispensationalism in that context.

This year there’s no Tony Campolo. Instead we're taking day trips to Philadelphia and New York. I’ve never been to either of those cities, so I’m feeling adventurous. We’ve got a general idea of what to do in New York. Right now we’re thinking Central Park, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, World Trade site and the Museum of Natural History. Philadelphia is a little more up in the air.

Anyways, has anyone been to either place? How’s the night life? Any cool spots we should hit while we’re there? What the hell is there to do in Philly?