From Pine View Farm

April, 2006 archive

I’m Buying a Book 2

I haven’t bought many books lately.

Not since I learned about Project Gutenberg.

But today Chris Satullo wrote about one that piqued my interest in his “Center Square” column in the local rag:

That voice in the wilderness, getting closer?

It’s the voice of people coming home from the desert of political irrelevance.

It’s the voice of Americans who are Christian, but not conservative.

You can hear the voice on the Web. You can hear it in journals of opinion that now find space for essays that critique fundamentalist politics, yet treat faith with respect.

And you can hear it amid the shelves at Borders. Books such as Bart D. Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus and Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics have become best-sellers, their authors invited to appear on Fresh Air and The Daily Show.

For decades, the dominant voice of religion in the public square has been authoritarian, either traditionalist Catholic or the “God said it; I believe it; that settles it” school.

All along, other Christians worried that these camps were getting an important question wrong: “What would Jesus do?” They suspected He’d reject much of what was being done in His name.

I just got back from ordering Misquoting Jesus. I opted for the Super Saver, so there’s no shipping charge, but I’ll probably have it on Tuesday (there’s an Amazon dot com warehouse just down the road).

Of course, in a gesture to my mispent youth, I also ordered this.


Beverly Cleary Is 90 0

No, I never read one of her books. But my older daughter inhaled them.

There was an delightful interview with the author on All Things Considered this evening.

Beverly Clearly, who now lives in Carmel Valley, Calif., talks with Debbie Elliott about her timeless characters and the enduring appeal of Klickitat Street.


Test Your Blog IQ 1

From today’s Inquirer:

Pop Quiz: Throw another blog on the fire
On March 13, the 2006 Bloggies were announced – the blogging world’s version of the Grammys / Oscars / Emmys / People’s Choice Awards. Below is a quiz about blogs for those who don’t necessarily know very much about them. (Hint: It’s not cheating if you go ahead and look the answers up on the Web.) And once again, we thank the staff at the Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia for helping us ensure the accuracy of all answers.

Go take the quiz. I’ll post the answers as a comment, since I can’t seem to find a link to them on the Inky’s website.


The Price of Lies, II 0

‘Nuff said:

The Army is taking increasing numbers of applicants it once judged substandard.

The percentage of recruits once rejected – and now accepted – on account of criminal convictions, drug use or medical conditions rose to 15 percent in fiscal 2005 from 10 percent in 2001, service statistics show.

The Army also is taking more recruits from a pool it judges least-qualified, based on education and scores on a cognitive aptitude test. Army Secretary Francis Harvey said up to 2,873 of these applicants would be taken this year, 16 percent more than the 2,476 in fiscal 2005 and an increase of 131 percent over the 1,245 taken in 2001.

The practice runs counter to the Pentagon’s plan to increase its numbers of Special Forces, skilled technicians and linguists – soldiers able not only to defeat an enemy but also to stabilize conquered nations through cultural awareness and street-level diplomacy.


The Price of Lies 0



Bush: Offspring of Nixon and Johnson? 0

Mutation Nation, from Professor Juan Cole:

Late night comedian Conan O’Brian does a shtick where he has a silly computer program meld the faces of two celebrities to see what their kids would look like, only the program works to exaggerate the features of each, so that you always have a freakish result.

The news today makes me think that it would be worthwhile melding Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to see if the result looked like W. Because George W. Bush faces the weight of a long Asian land war gone badly wrong, just as Johnson did. And he faces the charges of high-level corruption and illegal wiretapping that dogged Richard Nixon. He has become both “Mah feller Amurcans” Bush and “tricky Georgie.” W. has survived all this relatively well, given the dreadful facts of it.

Unlike Johnson, he does not operate a hated draft, but depends on gung-ho volunteers (some of whom are a little too gung-ho and have made a lot of unnecessary trouble in Iraq by shooting a lot of people for DWI, Driving While Iraqi). The volunteers’ families and friends are not clamoring for an end to the war with the fervor that those of the draftees did in the 1960s and early 1970s. Johnson was in the end defeated by powerful challenges from within his own party, which caused him not to seek another term. Bush faced no such challenge in ’04. His party has gone along with him. Of course, Tom DeLay is not exactly a paragon of virtue. The corruption of the party itself, which has few Robert F. Kennedys, has abetted Bush’s continued dominance and free ride for his crimes.

Interesting thought.


A History of America’s Foreign Adventures 0

Stephen Kinzer details a century and a decade of American attempts for regime change, and the side effects thereof.

We don’t like to admit it, or even realize it, but this country has indulged in regime change for a long time. And it has done so uniformly to benefit American economic interests, or, at least, what was seen as American economic interests at the time.

There is an American imperialism; it is imperalism of and for the corporations, rather than imperialism of and for territorial gain, but it is still quite real. We do not like to think of this because it implies that our nation’s motives are not always pure and wholesome.

Sadly, they are not always pure and wholesome.

Live with it. Or do something about it. Or bury your head in the sand and watch the rich get richer while they cause the poor to get poorer.

And, in the long-term, it rebounds against us. Those who wonder, “Why do (insert nationality here) dislike us?” would do well to study our own history.

Any serious student of American history knows this (my field of study is American history–I’ll share my credentials with anyone who wants them). This interview sets it forth quite clearly:

Stephen Kinzer has had a peripatetic tenure at The New York Times. He has reported from more than 50 countries and served as the paper’s bureau chief in Turkey, Germany and Nicaragua.

He employs that far-flung perspective to examine America’s history of regime change in his new book, Overthrow.

Though Iraq is the most recent example of the United States exerting its power to alter another country’s leadership, Kinzer notes that it is certainly not the first. He notes that Iraq “was the culmination of a 110-year period during which Americans overthrew fourteen governments that displeased them for various ideological, political, and economic reasons.” Kinzer discusses the book with Terry Gross.


My Little Gas Price Survey, 4/5/06 2

Up, sharply. I have more samples because my daily run now takes me deeper in the wilds of darkest South Jersey. Highest price observed: $2.59; lowest, $2.38:

Runnemede, NJ, Gulf, $2.44; Wawa, $2.38.

Bellmawr, NJ, Power Plus, $2.41; Citgo, $2.41; XTra, Texaco, and Valero, $2.39.

Gibbstown, NJ, Valero, $2.48.

Paulsboro, NJ, Lukoil, $2.39; Exxon (TA Truck Stop), $2.41; BP, $2.42.

Claymont, Del., Exxon, $2.47; Sunoco, $2.51; Getty, $2.49; BP, $2.53; Gulf (Cumberland Farms), $2.49; Gulf, $2.53; Wawa, $2.47.

Holly Oak, Del, Mobil, $2.55.

Penny Hill, Del., Exxon, $2.59; BP, $2.51; Getty, $2.52.


Cats 2

I am not a cat person. But I have a cat, inherited from my father. She is actually a very nice cat, affectionate (which I will argue is not typical cat behavior) and a good mouser.

Not like this cat:

Connecticut authorities have slapped a restraining order on a cat which, according to shaken locals in Fairfield, has subjected the residents of a quiet suburban cul-de-sac to a feline reign of terror during which it attacked several people and even had a pop at the Avon lady.

The chilling Connecticut Post report into 5-year-old Lewis’s antisocial tendencies recounts how the black-and-white longhaired cat – dubbed the “Terrorist of Sunset Circle” – would attack from behind and without warning, as two-time victim Janet Kettman explained: “I was walking along the sidewalk when he sprang at me. I never saw it coming, but that’s how it often is. He comes at you from behind, springs and wraps himself around your legs, biting and scratching.


Cisero (the cat’s owner feeder) said: “I’ve tried to tell them to just stay away from Lewis and he will stay away from you; this has caused complete havoc for me. He’s a cat’s cat, he climbs trees and sits on people’s roofs but now he’s forced to be in the house all the time.”

Sorry. I’ve been around cats all my life. Unprovoked attacks from behind are not typical cat behavior.

Unprovoked boredom, laziness, and general lack of cooperation, maybe, but not unprovoked attacks.


Bush Seems To Have Plucked Richard Cohen’s Last Nerve 0

Read about it here:

Little wonder Bush focuses on posterity. The present has to be painful. His embrace of incompetents, not to mention his own incompetence, is impossible to exaggerate. Rummy still runs the Pentagon. The only generals who have been penalized are those who spoke the truth. (They should get some sort of medal.) Victory in Iraq is now three years or so overdue and a bit over budget. Lives have been lost for no good reason — never mind the money — and now Bush suggests that his successor may still have to keep troops in Iraq. Those of us who once advocated this war are humbled. It’s not just that we grossly underestimated the enemy. We vastly overestimated the Bush administration.


Tuttles 0

One Tuttle was in the news last week.

Another one is in the news this week:

The much-admired Tuttle, Oklahoma can-do spirit has survived this week’s thrashing at the hands of Linux fanboys everywhere. In a gesture proving Tuttle’s resiliency, city namesake and US ambassador to the UK Robert Tuttle has struck out against London’s “congestion charge” and earned himself the designation of “chiseling little crook.”


EBay Auction Gone Horribly Wrong 0

With a thanks again from El Reg: Here.


Get a Clue, Don’t Take the Bait 0

El Reg reports that victims of phishing often do it to themselves by being clueless, citing a study that reports

“We found that 23 per cent of the participants did not look at browser-based cues such as the address bar, status bar and the security indicators, leading to incorrect choices 40 per cent of the time,” the researchers reports. “We also found that some visual deception attacks can fool even the most sophisticated users.”


God and Mammon at Princeton 1

I mentioned Kevin Phillips’s new book a little while ago.

He weighed in today with an article in the Washington Post; the full article is worth a read. Note that I am not endorsing his conclusions; I haven’t digested them completely myself. I am endorsing dispassionate, enlightened enquiry into any issue:

Now that the GOP has been transformed by the rise of the South, the trauma of terrorism and George W. Bush’s conviction that God wanted him to be president, a deeper conclusion can be drawn: The Republican Party has become the first religious party in U.S. history.

We have had small-scale theocracies in North America before — in Puritan New England and later in Mormon Utah. Today, a leading power such as the United States approaches theocracy when it meets the conditions currently on display: an elected leader who believes himself to speak for the Almighty, a ruling political party that represents religious true believers, the certainty of many Republican voters that government should be guided by religion and, on top of it all, a White House that adopts agendas seemingly animated by biblical worldviews.


Indeed, there is a potent change taking place in this country’s domestic and foreign policy, driven by religion’s new political prowess and its role in projecting military power in the Mideast.

The United States has organized much of its military posture since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks around the protection of oil fields, pipelines and sea lanes. But U.S. preoccupation with the Middle East has another dimension. In addition to its concerns with oil and terrorism, the White House is courting end-times theologians and electorates for whom the Holy Lands are a battleground of Christian destiny. Both pursuits — oil and biblical expectations — require a dissimulation in Washington that undercuts the U.S. tradition of commitment to the role of an informed electorate.


Over a quarter-century of Bush presidencies and vice presidencies, the Republican Party has slowly become the vehicle of all three interests — a fusion of petroleum-defined national security; a crusading, simplistic Christianity; and a reckless credit-feeding financial complex. The three are increasingly allied in commitment to Republican politics. On the most important front, I am beginning to think that the Southern-dominated, biblically driven Washington GOP represents a rogue coalition, like the Southern, proslavery politics that controlled Washington until Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860.


Immigration, Reprise 0

There was some interesting reporting on the immigration issue today.

Andrew Cassel, writing for the local rag, summarizes Americans’ historical ambivalence about the issue:

I keep hearing that the immigration issue is simple: Just enforce the law.


Yeah? Which law was that, exactly?

Was it the immigration law from 1882 to 1943, that specifically excluded “Asiatics” from our shores?

The Quota Act of 1921, which codified racist beliefs in the superiority of Northern European stock?

Was it the law that kept thousands of refugees from escaping Hitler during the 1930s? The law that let Japanese Americans be rounded up and imprisoned during World War II?

Or is it today’s byzantine and capricious set of rules – with enough quotas, categories, exclusions and requirements to provide an army of lawyers a lavish living?

And NPR reports that immigrants’ effects on the economy, especially on unemployment, may, despite the extravagent claims on both sides, be negligible (the full report is well worth a listen):

But many economists say the effect of an estimated 11 million undocumented workers is minimal. While illegal immigrants have a negative impact on unskilled workers — many of whom lack technical training or a high school diploma — economists believe that overall, the American economy benefits a small amount from illegal immigration — “a little bit less than 1 percent,” according to NPR’s Adam Davidson. That finding, he says, suggests that neither side of the immigration issue has a strong economic argument to make.

And On the Media looked both at coverage of US immigration issues in Mexican media and at one person’s attempts to dispell misconceptions about Mexican culture and Mexican immigrants through a newspaper column titled Ask a Mexican.

I would especially urge anyone who is interested in this issue to follow the “Ask a Mexican” link; the author of the column quite emphatically states that, in his opinion, Mexicans will never lose the stigma of being “the other,” that, for some reason, USAns do not view Mexicans in the same way they view other immigrants. I don’t know whether I agree with him–but he, not I, is the one on the front line.

And, if he’s right, it should give any American citizen pause.


The Lid Is Coming Off 0

And this surprises one how?

Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush’s 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address — that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon — might not be true, according to government records and interviews.