Saturday, May 20, 2006

Weekend Readings

While I am not anti-Christian (being devoutly anti-Christer), I know myself well enough to understand that my skepticism towards (and suspicion of) organized religion in general and Christianity in particular make me highly undiplomatic to comment impartially on Left Christianity and its political efforts. I also understand the country I live in and the necessity of including religion as a major variable in any political calculation.

So I offer (with as little implied comment as I am capable of) these readings (and a chance for debate if you choose):

Two articles, one in yesterday's New York Times, another in today's Washington Post, on religious Liberals and their efforts to form a counterweight to the Jesus Crackers that dominate the political Right.

A brilliant essay by the estimable Gordon Wood in the latest New York Review on two new histories of the development of American political/religious culture circa Founding Fathers. Think about this quote of Wood's:

The American Revolution furthered the transformation of American religion. It endorsed the Enlightenment's faith in liberty of conscience and continued to erode the already weak connection between church and state. But it did not reject the role of religion in the culture.

Also in NYR, a review of Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy and a review of the recently discovered Gospel of Judas.

I do have two questions: doesn't the desire to form, and the discipline that would be required to form, a unified, organized Liberal Religious political action group disavow the plurality of religious beliefs the Left rightfully and proudly embraces? And isn't this a metaphor for what are both our political - and philosophical - strengths and weaknesses as Liberals?

Friday, May 19, 2006


Broken Social Scene
(click on media, click on my favorite "Stars and Sons,"
or any of them for that matter.
Quicktime seems to work better than windows media.)

Juana Molina

Love is All

An extremely generous David Byrne website.

Oliver Mtukudzi

(click to enter site, click videos,
click on my favorite "What Else is There"
- what a great song -
or any of them for that matter.)

Joy Division (Ping!that)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Wednesday Soccer Readings

Barca beat Arsenal 2 -1 in Champions League final today in Paris. Arsenal played with 10 men for the last 72 minutes of the game after keeper Jens Lehmann (Deutschland's #1 in upcoming WC) took down Barca's Samuel Eto'o just outside the box. The referee could have allowed continued play (and a Barca goal) but chose to blow his whistle, and once that decision was made he had no choice but to red card Lehmann. Arsenal nonetheless took the lead on a Sol Campbell header off a set piece cross from Thierry Henry in the 37th and looked like they might make it hold up, but Eto'o scored

in the the 74th off a fabulous feed by Henrik Larsson, and four minutes later Larsson set up Juliano Belletti for Barca's second, and winning goal.

ESPN's announcers made much of an apparent argument during the game between Henry and Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger, supposedly over substitutions Henry thought Wenger should make and Wenger wouldn't, and that, plus the loss, led to speculation that it'll be a matter of weeks if not days before Henry takes his free transfer to Catalonia. Henry had two quick shots on goal in the first three minutes then disappeared for much of the game, though he had a semi-breakaway around the 65th minute, while Arsenal was still up 1-0, that you expect him to bury, and 2-0, in a steady downpour, with Ronaldinho also having a strikingly subpar game, would almost certainly seen Arsenal through.

* * * * *

Here's a very good All Things Considered audio report on the scandal rocking Italian football, and here's a good LA Times article on the same. A few years back I read - and recommend - novelist Tim Parks' memoir

of a season he spent as a member of the devoted fan club of Hellas Verona, and in the book he makes many mentions of the pervasive belief by most Italians of the corruption behind football in Serie A (there is a website, I can't remember it or find it now, that archives all videos of all PKs awarded to Juve to document - or celebrate - how refs cheat to award victories to Juve). If Italians are shocked to hear of cheating mandated from the top they are shocked by its magnitude, not its existance.

But.... people are speculating how this will affect Italy in WC06 and especially the game vs the USMNT: despite what my friend Quiet Side said with all assurances today, I don't think this is good news for the USMNT. If Italy was to cough-up a hairball because of all this, it'll be in their first game vs Ghana; if they face, without a point, the USMNT, desperately needing three, that can't be good for USMNT. Not that I think the USMNT can beat Italy anyway.

Speaking of which, this article says Claudio Reyna might be pushed back to holding midfield. This article has news of other national team selections plus a paragraph devoted to explaining what a whiny punkassbitch Amado Guevara is. Not new news, that.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Glad, very glad, to be wrong: Henry to stay at Arsenal.

Bonus Friday Update: Thanks to D of DCenters, here's the anti-Juve website.

We Get Mail

"Fuck you, you anti-Christian faggot," wrote Billy Wayne Adkins in an email. "If you really think that good Americans are more dangerous then (sic) the terrorists than (sic) you deserve to be bombed by the terrorists and shot by loyal godfearring (sic) Americans." In that order? He concludes, "If I'm ever in your area I'm going to find you and beat the shit out of your faggy ass." Promises, promises.

It depends on the definition of "good Americans", of course, and if Billy and I disagree on whether Timothy McVeigh was a "good American" or not I honestly see no reconciliation of views. I suspect we also disagree on the American goodness of these folks and these folks, two organizations that I would call anti-Christian, but that's just me.

But it is a good question: Do I think that people whose symbol of pride is

are more dangerous to the longterm health of the United States than foreign terrorists? And how about the people who are actively scheming and working towards making the US a fundamentalist "Christian" theocracy? Do I think they're more dangerous?

Billy, to answer your question: No one from Al-Qaeda has sent me email hoping that I'd be bombed, suggesting that I be shot, and threatening to drive from Hooterville to beat me up.

And while there are odds I will die in a terrorist attack - I live in suburban Maryland, Billy, just outside DC, and I work in DC, so my odds are better than most - the odds
are far more likely that I would die in a terrorist attack by armed wingnuts in the future than by a terrorist attack by Al-Qaeda.

More frighteningly though are thoughts of how my life, my daughter's life, and my daughter's children's lives would be affected far more deplorably, far more longterm, far more authoritarianly, by what would happen if Wifebeaters for Christers ever gained any appreciable power. I am not anti-Christian, I am anti-Christer. They shits scare the bejesus out of me a gazillion times more than any terrorist in Pakistan.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Irony of Aargh

In the shadow of the reverse-mulleted Vox' complaint that contemporary American ethnic cleansing fails to meet the efficiency standards set by Nazi Germany, I come across this op-ed in today's LA Times about a video game for apocalyptic-minded Christian fundamentalists. Based on the "Left Behind" books (which I'm sure I don't have to read to be sure they suck as literature almost as much as the suck as theology), the game offers players a chance to

· Lead the Tribulation Force from the book series , including Rayford, Chloe, Buck and Bruce against Nicolae Carpathia – the AntiChrist.

· Conduct physical & spiritual warfare : using the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat and wield modern military weaponry throughout the game world.

· Recover ancient scriptures and witness spectacular Angelic and Demonic activity as a direct consequence of your choices.

· Command your forces through intense battles across a breathtaking, authentic depiction of New York City .

· Control more than 30 units types - from Prayer Warrior and Hellraiser to Spies, Special Forces and Battle Tanks!

· Enjoy a robust single player experience across dozens of New York City maps in Story Mode – fighting in China Town , SoHo , Uptown and more!

· Play multiplayer games as Tribulation Force or the AntiChrist's Global Community Peacekeepers with up to eight players via LAN or over the internet!

I know I've hectored about this before, but it ain't Liberals getting together for drinks and communal bitching about The Decider! who are arming, it ain't Liberals hankering so spiritually insipidly for an end-time that they'll actively try to bring one about, it wasn't Liberal senators winkwinking away violence against judges, it wasn't Liberals who blew-up a building in Oklahoma City. When a Liberal is elected President, say about 2008 perhaps, that's when you will see an increase in domestic violence.

There's irony aplenty in the fact that some of the very people who most strongly support the current assault on civil liberties, approve of domestic surveillance and phone-tapping, who condemn Liberals as traitors for fighting for their constitutional rights to privacy, are the very people who present the greatest threat to civil society in America. If I was Head Buffalo of the Idaho Branch of the White Christian Militia, I sure wouldn't want my phone tapped while I made arrangements for the delivery of machine guns next Thursday. If I was a half-mad charismatic skilled in glossolalia leading a congregation of childish zealots praying for Horsemen, I wouldn't want the government data-mining all church communications.

And irony that we will be defending their rights to be treated justly and by the law and Constitution (just as the ACLU defended Rush Pantload's) even as they attack us as weenerous traitors. Because we are the bastards threatening America.

The Little Ones' Lovers Who Uncover.

The song's in my head. It can be in yours.

Stanley Kunitz

American poet Stanley Kunitz has died at the age of 100. Here is the NYT obit and here is All Things Considered.

I've always been more of an admirer than a fan and never, to be honest, took the time to figure out why. I'd read his poems if I came across them, never seeking them out, and though the craftsmanship was abundantly evident, they just didn't ping me. But I know that his poetry was loved by people much more poetry smart than me, including two teachers I've been lucky enough to study with here at Georgetown.

Here is his

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Your Assignments for Monday

Go to this link, scroll down to bottom for music downloads, find Mission of Burma's "Academy Fight Song," load, dance. And then enjoy whatever else pleases you there.

Via New York Review, an essay on the rich and the rest of us.

A new Kerry? (Optional reading)

A funny Gore? (Required watching)

Obscure but topical cultural reference
posted for my own amusement:

Comrade Laura

The Post-Cheney Universe

Really now, can you see him still standing, breathing, on the steps of The Capitol for the 2009 inauguration of whover wins the 2008 elections?

It cannot be an accident that the pictures of the dozing Cheney are out there or an accident that (as Jerry got their more first) Hayden is being projected as the savior of our civil liberties against Cheney or an accident that a pdf of Cheney's handwritten notes on Joseph Wilson's op-ed in the NYT is circulating or an accident that a reporter just happens to ask The Decider! about his brother running for president.

We're watching the lightening-rodding of Cheney. He's going to die, sooner probably than later (this is not a wish, just an observation: he looks terminally ill and has the medical history to justify that look). And since the entire world believes Cheney is the blackpower behind the war and the torture and the spying and the high oil prices and the full frontal attack on the Constitution, why not leak toxic info - true or not - implicating him for all malfeasances past and near-future?

Or, to look at it another way - he's implicated up to his pacemaker anyway in outrages we know and those we're about to discover: this is a way to try to innoculate The Decider! against Cheney's demise.

(And among true neo-con believers, Cheney's acceptance of history's hairshirt will guarantee his everlasting martyrdom.)

But more: there are major kabooms coming, and this administration is in desperate need of a zeitgeist-transforming paradigm shift. Cheney's dying, physically and politically. The theatrical sacking of Cheney is The Decider!s last poor chance to salvage his crappy reign.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Here's what I need to tell myself: They got the three points. It was their first game without Ben Olsen, and since I've repeatedly insisted that Olsen is the organizer of their organizing principles it only goes to follow that their defensive organization would be in disarray in his initial absense. And Olsen's designated replacement, Clyde Simms, was knacked and unavailable. Too true, but.

Erpen and Boswell are fine central defenders, but neither are fast enough or good enough with the ball at their feet to play outside defense. I understand that Nowak calculated that with KC missing their top strikers (Johnson and Wolff with USMNT) he could get away with a three man back line, but he doesn't have the talent to not pull a fourth man back. If Perkins had not had the game of his life in goal, if KC's strikers could hit simple sitters, DCU gives up four at a minimum.

It didn't help that Brian Carroll, quietly and dependably efficient all year, had by far his worse game of the season, and Josh Gros seemed strangely unaggressive, and Dominic Mediate, given a surprise start on right midfield, understandably disrupted flow with his inexperience with the team. Gomez had his best game of the season, demanding the ball and setting up both Esky's goal and the pass to Esky that led to the PK. And there were breakaway chances in the last ten minutes that should have been buried.

Next two on the road, next week in Columbus, then a rematch v KC. Both are winable, but not if the defense plays as poorly as last night.