Saturday, December 29, 2007

at the closing of the year

• Susan + I celebrated Christmas and our 35th anniversary at Disneyland
• Rich Van Pelt + I have a new book: The Parent's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis
• I'm on my way to Ethiopia + Tanzania to shoot a digital movie about malaria interventions for Compassion + Youth Specialties
• There is precious little peace on earth but we're chipping away at it
• The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed yet (Wm. Gibson)
• I am dazzled by the beauty and horror of it all

Here's hoping...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Advent | Christmas + people who claim to know something about God

Without the Nativity, we become a sort of lecture series and coffee club, with not very good coffee and sort of aimless lectures.

— Garrison Keillor, Salon, 12.05.07

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

24 | present day

Jack Bauer can save the world from anywhere

Now that we know he noshes from time to time, is this the day Bauer takes a potty break?

Monday, November 26, 2007

things worth waiting for

This is a metaphor (among many, I suppose) for my spiritual experience, courtesy of the good folks at... well, you'll see.

Friday, November 23, 2007

24 | The Prequel

What if 24 first aired in 1994 . . .

on the record

Here's the ad The One Campaign is running in Iowa (and here are the ads for New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada) asking every presidential candidate to go on the record with his or her plan to make poverty history. 

What if we all put ourselves in this picture?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

biting the hand that feeds me (i think...maybe)

Here's a chicken and egg conundrum courtesy of filmmaker Robert Greenwald whose point couldn't be clearer: Fox News may well be more sexually graphic than its self-identified entertainment sibling Fox Broadcast — all behind the guise of outrage at the sexualization of American media culture.

To prove this Mr Greenwald shows graphic examples from the Fox News feed — some of which are quite simply crazy (like the bump and grind Spring Break footage that dominates the screen while reporters in a little box cover a bit of serious news about a murderer in South Florida.

So...full disclosure...I've written several books published a company now owned by a company owned by a company owned by the company that owns Fox News and Fox Broadcast (home of The Simpsons!). I'm not entirely clear what that makes me.

And I'm offering you the opportunity in the frame below to view the offending footage from Fox News in Robert Greenwald's exposé. I'm not certain what that makes me either.

You can get back to me with clarifications if you have them...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Warren Buffet's call for tax reform

Congress is voting on tax reform tomorrow, November 9, 2007. 

Today and tomorrow would be a good window to email your Member of Congress to say that  his or her future in government might ride more on this vote than on how much money lobbyists pour into increasing the wealth of the already wealthy (at the expense of everyone else).

Warren Buffet — one of the richest men alive — surveyed his office and found that he pays a lower tax rate than anyone in the company, including his receptionist. He doesn't think that's fair. Neither do I.

Monday, October 29, 2007

real men finally stand up like real men

I get it now. I see why my wife has a (wholly wholesome) crush on this leading leader of visionary leaders.

If I weren't traveling this weekend, I would go find me a truly manly church led by a truly manly man of God.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I'm posting from my iPhone for the first time. I wasn't going to mention it but I'm amazed by this little device. I figured after all the roll up I would like it a lot but I had no idea I would be dazzled. This is one remarkably elegant, useful design.

These guys exceed my expectations just about every day by delivering what they promise. Too bad there's so much hype in the air that keeping promises is extraordinary.

That said, the promises are pretty big and I'm a very happy customer.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

search changes everything

For a look at how all this affects our vision of learners, visit Jay Howver's ysopenbook blog.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Barack Obama | Dumb War Theory

Jay hooked me up with this video clip remembering Barack Obama's brief speech against dumb wars on October 2, 2002.

Only 13 seconds of the original tape survives (he certainly wasn't running for President that day). Supporters of Senator Obama deliver most of the rest of his address in this video clip. The whole speech is below courtesy of Wikisource.

Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.

The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don’t oppose all wars.

My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton’s army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.
I don’t oppose all wars.

After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear – I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.

So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not – we will not – travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

talk still cheap | MoveOn Mix

The US House of Representatives didn't censure Vice President Cheney when he falsely connected Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein.

They didn't hold Colin Powell responsible for the misleading testimony he gave the United Nations about WMD in Iraq.

They didn't exercise their constitutionally mandated obligation to check President Bush when he went outside the law to begin warrantless (and therefore legally unwarranted) eavesdropping on American citizens.

They didn't condemn the Republicans when they attacked Sen. John Kerry's war record and questioned his patriotism.

They didn't disavow the dispicable actions of Senator Saxby Chambliss when he ran ads comparing triple-amputee and war hero Max Cleland to Osama bin Laden.

They still haven't done the hard work necessary to shift the course of US policy on Iraq.

But this afternoon, the US House of Representatives joined the US Senate in condemning a newspaper ad that cast doubt on the trustworthiness of General David Petraeus as a spokesman for Administration policy in Iraq.

I'm one of three million members. I was unhappy with the ad's headline because I thought it was undisciplined. But the substance of the ad demands a considered response from the US Congress and the American people.

I figure we're all included somewhere in that short list.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What's Your News IQ?

What's Your News IQ?

The Pew Research Center poses a 12 question multiple choice (my 7th grade science teacher called it multiple guess) quiz about prominent people and major events in the news -- to compare your basic news awareness with 1,005 randomly sampled adults asked the same questions in a recent national survey.

You'll also be able to compare your News IQ with the average scores of men and women; with college graduates as well as those who didn't attend college; with people who are your age as well as with younger and older Americans. Take the News Quiz.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

talk still cheap

I believe it's time for US Senators and Members of Congress to stop saying they support US troops until such time as they are ready to assure that troops are properly trained, equipped, cared-for and brought home.

Anything less is just a lie.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sunday, September 16, 2007

ANARCHY IN THE (former) U.K. (colony)

So I go into the washroom at Tim Horton's in Vicotria, B.C. and take a seat (if that's not too much information — just taking care of business). Anyway, I notice an anarchist has despoiled the metal door of the enclosure with a silver Sharpie. He's drawn the stylized A in a circle and above it — brace yourself; this is graphic — the words have a nice poo.

Have a nice poo? No wonder we always feel so comfortable here — even anarchists wish us well. I'm sorry, but British Columbians are nicer than the rest of us.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

the buck stops here

"When these soldiers, sailors and airmen are buried, they're not buried as Republicans or Democrats. I care a hell of a lot more about them than I do about partisan politics."

— Congressman John Tanner, The Washington Post, September 13, 2007

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Supply Side Jesus

If I'm not the last to see this, I suppose you are. Cringe. Enjoy. Share.

Friday, September 07, 2007

number one with a bullet

Just arrived in British Columbia where this 60 second spot carries particular significance because about 800 Canadians died from gunshot wounds in 2003 — the most recent year for which figures are complete.

In the US there were just over 30,000 deaths by gunshot in 2003.

Take that Canada. We're Number One! We're Number One!...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Katrina | two years on

In three minutes and 54 seconds you'll see something you can do that's very simple and direct — that should have been done already. Better now than never.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

mixed results

On Friday, "Brig. Gen. Richard Sherlock, deputy director for operational planning for the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said violence in Iraq 'has continued to decline and is at the lowest level since June 2006.'"

This morning, the Associated Press says its count of Iraqi civilian deaths in 2007 is running nearly double the number in 2006.

This is, perhaps, what they mean when they say the results of the surge of US military forces into Iraq are mixed.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

things are (still) not as they seem

I posted here on alleged photo retouching of the lovely — but not lovely enough — Faith Hill.

Now, courtesy of Moby, more insight into what it takes to be picture perfect (click on the portfolio, select a beautiful person and move your cursor on and off the photo to see the cleanup.

I had a zit on my nose the day I took my senior portrait in high school. I was glad they painted it out. Maybe that's the same thing.

I have a propensity to talk and write as if things were better than they are . . . maybe that's the same thing too.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

are Republican voters as stupid as Tom Cole thinks?

Are Republican voters as stupid as Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole thinks?

I don't beleive so. I hope not.

It could have been any of a number of elected officials but it happened to be Congressman Cole I heard last weekend saying, "We are the party of small government, low taxes and a strong defense."

Really? He believes his constituents will buy that? He is relatively new to the Congress but I see he attended . . . well, look for yourself:
A former college instructor in history and politics, Cole holds a B.A. from Grinnell College, an M.A. from Yale University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma. Cole has been a Thomas Watson Fellow and a Fulbright Fellow at the University of London. He currently serves on the national Board of the Fulbright Association. He also serves on the board of the Aspen Institute.

So if he's not the dumb one, who does he think is?

I doubt Congressman Cole or anyone else would consciously settle for an ineffective government solely on the basis of it's runty size.

I doubt anyone would seriously contend that taxes too low to contribute to the common good were better than higher but measureably more beneficial taxes — any more than they would insist on only the cheapest footware and brag that they are "the family of worthless shoes."

Insisting "We are the party of strong defense" is a triumphalist jingo devoid of meaningful metrics. Everyone knows that . . . now.

I should think Congressman Cole would wish to be in the party of wildly efficient government, intelligently scaled taxation and universally effective foreign policy. I would be willing to wager a small amount that behind closed doors he would say that, or something like it, is precisely what he wants.

But not in public. Because he apparently thinks Republican voters are stupid . . . bless their hearts.

Monday, July 30, 2007

the music is not in the piano . . .

I am not here to compete with Warner Music (NYSE:WMG). I am not here to sign 300 bands because 2 will pay for the other 298. By the end of the year, we hope to have signed 6 acts. We are just utilizing our real estate to further develop artists. We sign and introduce bands through games and make them available to people globally. Young people want to take music from the game and buy it for their phone or iPod. I am in the music 2.0 business.
— Steve Schnur | Worldwide Executive of Music and Marketing, Electronic Arts | Fast Company | July 2007 | page 26

Buckminster Fuller told Mike Vance: "You never change anything by fighting it; you change things by making them obsolete through superior technology." ( Mike Vance + Diane Deacon | Think Out of the Box | Career Press | 1997 | page 138)

Jesus told this parable:
No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, ‘The old is better.’” — Luke 5.36 - 39

When I think about it for a moment I see how much this has to say about yesterday's post on Emerging Grace.

[The title of this post is widely attributed to Clement Mok though, for the life of me, I can't find the source.]

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday Morning | Emerging Grace

Emerging Grace writes:

I didn't recognize my views in the posters that were made (elsewhere) concerning emerging church terms. So I decided to make my own posters that represent my simple understanding of emerging/missional terminology.

I hope these are encouraging to you

They are.

Here is one of my favorites . . .

The rest of Grace's images are here.

Thanks to Susan for introducing me to Grace.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

how Netflix treats good customers

You think you know a company and then, out of the blue, they pull something like this . . .

Thanks a lot Netflix . . . seriously.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

when Faith is not enough

Jezebel posts what they claim is the photo of Faith Hill that formed the basis for the July cover of RedBook.

Here is the list of alleged changes to the photo, including the observation, "It turns out Faith Hill looks sort of like your mom."

Meanwhile in Iraq . . .

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

strange bedfellows | Opium, Afghanistan + the US

According to US Ambassador to Afghanistan William Wood, Afghani growers are having a record-breaking year, harvesting 457,135 acres of opium poppies — compared to 407,715 acres last year.

A report by the Associated Press says:
Afghanistan last year accounted for 92 percent of global opium production, up from 70 percent in 2000 and 52 percent a decade earlier. With the higher yields, global opium production increased 43 percent between 2005 and 2006.

Is it just me or . . . Never mind, it's probably just me.

[photo by SuperFantastic]

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Olbermann | Mr Bush + Mr Cheney Should Resign

I'm not the only one who's unhappy with Mr Bush's choices this week (and most every week to be honest).

Perhaps it's time he was sent to his room to think about it for a while.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Scooter Libby, George W Bush + Moral Clarity

I've come to think that George W Bush has the kind of moral clarity I associate with certain Christian ministers I have known who could preach a hell of a sermon AND use their power to seduce and molest women and girls. I won't take time to list those individuals here . . . well, maybe just a few first names: Don, Mike, Millard . . . not all of them, understand, but you get the point.

Mr Bush, we know, can preach a hell of a sermon about National Security and The Homeland and The Troops, but I think his behavior over time is despicably inconsistent with his words.

I know, Mr Libby was not convicted of outing the CIA agent Valerie Plame — though I don't have any reasonable doubt that's what he did. Had Mr Libby come clean in anything like real time we might not be in Iraq — and by we I mean The Troops from paragraph two above.

Mr Bush has decided Mr Libby will suffer enough without spending 30 months in jail and so has commuted that portion of his sentence. 30 months, for those of us keeping score at home, is two tours in Iraq for The Troops about whom Mr Bush has preached so fervently while seducing and molesting the American electorate. I feel certain he would say we wanted it — not unlike Don and Mike and Millard . . .

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Tom Tomorrow | The Trouble with Health Care Reform

In This Modern World, Tom Tomorrow anticipates objections to serious health care reform:

You can find the rest of the strip Tuesday afternoon at Working for Change (.com). Forewarned is forearmed . . .

Friday, June 29, 2007

Michael Moore | Health Care Sicko

I haven't seen Sicko yet but here (by his own admission) is something Michael Moore left out of his new movie about America's health care crisis (it's almost to the end of the three minute clip —easier to watch the whole thing than search for it).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

iPhone | Design

Far be it from me to pimp a product line but it's worth noting that Walter Mossberg long considered Apple no more than an interesting technology footnote. He's changed his tune the last couple of years, even suggesting at one point that Apple had become a viable enterprise technology solution — which indeed it has. Among other good news for Apple this week, the iTunes store took the third spot in music retailing for the first time, moving ahead of Target — another company I like a lot — and Apple became the fourth leading seller of laptop computers, reaching something over 14 percent of total sales, behind Hewlett Packard, Dell and Gateway if memory serves me. In any event, after two weeks of daily use, here's Walter Mossberg's review of the iPhone:

[Updated 06.27 with a YouTube embed that fits the Blogger template (the video I embedded last night from the Wall Street Journal was too wide for this template — once again, the variety of video standards poses a challenge to presentation). Out of the box, iPhone reportedly plays only QuickTime movies (no Windows Media Video or Flash). YouTube — which is to say Google is delivering something on the order of 10,000 videos as the new device lands this Friday and, according to some reports, will make its entire inventory available by Fall 08.]

Monday, June 25, 2007

dogs + cats living together in sin

you think it can't happen in your own back yard . . .
and then you're glad you have a camera handy

Thanks to my friend, Fairly Reliable Bob who captured the action as it happened (i've never known what to make of that phrase . . . at what other point would one capture the action?) and the lovely and talented Suzie whose color commentary gives the piece that YouTube sparkle.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

immigration reform | let a thousand flowers bloom

To my ongoing dismay I have found little agreement with George W. Bush since . . . ever. But I think we're pretty close on immigration reform.

I live in California's San Diego County where we experience the costs and benefits of being home to a significant number of undocumented workers. Count me among those willing to bear the costs for the sake of the benefits. But/And please understand that I long to see every one of my neighbors treated humanly — including the expectation that they will add value to the community and support themselves and their families to the best of their abilities.

Since hiding is not conducive to those ends, I'm all for a robust guest worker program. (For what it's worth anecdotally, most of my small circle of undocumented friends and acquaintances express no intention to live here — they want to get home as soon as possible and stay there).

Beyond that, I'm fine with responsible amnesty — by that name or any other. When commentators and members of Congress say Americans won't stand for amnesty, they're not speaking for me.

I'm just spitballing here but, if US Census projections hold to 2050, it appears to me we're going to need lots of additional people working (and innovating and consuming and starting businesses and contributing sales, property and income taxes) alongside those who continue working productively through their 70s and in support of the growing number who live beyond the age of 85.

There being nothing to indicate that the age cohorts just behind my own intend to reproduce at a rate sufficient to meet that need for workers, why wouldn't we supplement their efforts as we have for 13 generations on this continent — by rewarding the participation and productivity of hard-working newcomers?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

some folks world

This is a screen grab of the new desktop i've been using from OSXplanet Project. It reminds me that other people are wide awake while I'm sleeping, hungry while I eat my fill, sick while I am well.

I find myself returning as I do so often to the music and poetry of the brilliant Mark Heard.

by Mark Heard
From Victims of the Age

Some folks' world is war-torn
Some folks' world is fine
This planet makes no sense to the untrained mind

Some folks hope for fortune
Some folks hope to die
Each man sees his fate through his own two eyes

And when it's day to me it's night to someone
And when it's night you might not want to go on

Some folks eat what flies leave
They get what they can take
Hunger has no heart and it will not wait

Rain can ruin your weekend
Or rain can spare your life
Depending on who you are and what your thirst is like

And when it's day to me it's night to someone
And when it's night you might not want to go on

All folks' days are numbered
But most folks do not care
And no man calls his coin when it's in the air

Some folks taste of Heaven
Some folks taste of Hell
Some folks lose their taste and they cannot tell

And when it's day to me it's night to someone
And when it's night you might not want to go on

The Mark Heard Tribute Project

Friday, June 08, 2007

lives in the balance | 1500 days + counting

Today marks 1,500 days since the declaration of Mission Accomplished in the war on Iraq.

U.S. armed forces have suffered 3,345 confirmed Post Combat Operations fatalities since that day.

The number of Iraqi deaths directly caused by the conflict lies somewhere between 65,000 and 650,00 — a number we're not likely to actually confirm for some time.

The number of Iraqi refugees in the conflict stands at four million, two hundred thousand.

Hubris, thy name is Rumsfeld
Hubris, thy name is Rice
Hubris, thy name is Cheney
Hubris, thy name is Bush
Hubris, thy name is Congress
Hubris, thy name is Us

Thursday, June 07, 2007

my generation | The Zimmers

Quoting Steve Jobs quoting The Beatles at last week's Wall Street Journal D-5 Conference:
Steve: You know, when Bill [Gates] and I first met each other and worked together in the early days, generally, we were both the youngest guys in the room, right? Individually or together. I’m about six months older than he is, but roughly the same age. And now when we’re working at our respective companies, I don’t know about you, but I’m the oldest guy in the room most of the time. And that’s why I love being here. … And, you know, I think of most things in life as either a Bob Dylan or a Beatles song, but there’s that one line in that one Beatles song, “you and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.” And that’s clearly true here.

[That may come across as cheesy here in print, but honestly it wasn’t. It was pretty touching. Watch the video and you’ll see Jobs emotional and, if only for a very brief moment, vulnerable. — John Paczkowski]

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

can you help a veteran?

This passed through my inbox today. I'm at a loss about how to convince Sgt. Clayton that I can be trusted. What to do, what to do...

Sunday, June 03, 2007

jim hancock | the tiny company called me


There's a new space on the www called It's a home — or at least a small apartment — for the work I've done since quitting my day job to become the tiny company called me on January 1, 1999.

What's not there — because they're not collectible — are the live events, creative services and design work I do for clients like Youth Specialties and InsideWork.

What is there is easy access to my books, digital movies, comedic and dramatic scripts and published group learning designs.

All that and a brief manifesto on why I do the things I do. Here's an excerpt; if you find it engaging, you can click through to more . . .

I design resources for youth workers, teachers and parents who think that teaching is interesting but learning is fascinating.

That means no short cuts, no easy answers to hard questions, no moralizing, no quick fixes. So if you're looking for those kinds of benefits . . . sorry.

Of course there are plenty of folks selling short cuts and simple answers. And why not? Because really, who has the time?

Who has the time? I'm sorry; I just think that's the wrong question.

I think there are better questions:

Do you think kids learn better when we tell them what to believe and how to behave or when we skillfully engage them in their own learning?

Do you really think kids learn at their best in environments where listening to an adult is twice — or three or four of five times — as important as talking while an adult listens?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bart Campolo | Two Sons (Regardless)

Bart Campolo wrote an engaging post this morning. It's called Two Sons (Regardless)
Bart writes:
On some level, Jesus seems to suggest that what God really wants from us has less to do with what we say and more to do with what we…do.

I like that…I think.

On my best days, I think I like that too.

From the top of the little hill where I live, it appears the people who claim they know something about God have found a comfort zone where saying the right things substitutes for doing…anything, really. Orthopraxy — doing the right thing — means nothing, give or take. Orthodoxy — believing the right stuff from some sort of biblical framework — is frequently all that matters — as long as we get to skip the Minor Prophets, the letter from James, all but chapter one of First John and much of what we call the four Gospels — other than that and maybe a couple of other things, we take the Bible to be authoritative in sum and substance.

How else to explain a drug addled talk radio celebrity who gets to keep his position of honor with people who believe drug addicts are criminals — unless they say the right things.

How else to explain sex junkies of various proclivities who are quickly restored to honor by people who believe sex junkies are perverts — unless they say the right things.

How else to explain the free pass extgended to a presidential candidate who called a New York Times reporter an asshole by people who believe that kind of language is a sin — unless it’s used by someone who says the right things (in which case it’s a sign of…what? Being wild at heart?).

And how else to explain myriad unkept promises to the poor and powerless by church and state, willingly excused by people who believe yes should mean yes, no should mean no (and anything else is sin) — unless…well, you know.

All that to say this: I think people like me, who say we may know something about God, ought to act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with God because the gospel Jesus preached — don’t listen to your hometown evangelist, go read it for yourself — was the gospel of the kingdom of heaven where justice, mercy and humility are the rules. And because Jesus, if he can be trusted, represented that God intends to have everything his way — on earth as it is in heaven. And because the only people Jesus was hard on were self-important fools (like me) — to whom he said, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” And because there is no shalom for anyone unless there is shalom for everyone.

My friend Bart puts a might fine point on things at the end of his post. It's worth reading.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

broken by design | Seth Godin

Seth Godin counted seven kind of broken — ranging from irritating to downright dangerous.

In no particular order, an experience, artifact or thing may be broken because:
It's not my job to fix it
It was designed by selfish jerks
The world changed
I didn't know
I'm not a fish
There are significant contradictions
Some things are broken on purpose

What's broken where you work? If it wasn't broken on purpose, whose job is it to fix it?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Garrison Keillor | Don Imus is Vulgar. So What?

It's Spring and there's an awful war going on and we are confronted on every hand by truth and beauty and all the worst and all the best of what people mean when we speak of being human. And, its title notwithstanding, Garrison Keillor's May 16, 2007 column is so good it makes my heart hurt.

Monday, May 14, 2007

call the IT guy

my good friends at InsideWork dug up this nugget:

In this context, InsideWork President Dan Wooldridge recalls Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki's warning:
If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less

[You may recall that General Shinseki was moved along by the Bush administration because a month before the invasion of Iraq he had the temerity to tell the US Congress it would take several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld called Shinseki's judgement "wildly off the mark" and went on to administer a most profound irrrelavance.]

Sunday, May 13, 2007

why can't we all just get along?

This is Dunkin + Rico frolicking in Bob + Suzie's back yard. Real wrath-of-God type stuff.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

good for CNN

I'm not crazy about the early onset of 2008 presidential campaigning and I'm picky about what I watch on CNN as elsewhere, but I'm pleased the Cable News Network will make its debate coverage available without retriction following the events.
Due to the historical nature of presidential debates and the significance of these forums to the American public, CNN believes strongly that the debates should be accessible to the public. The candidates need to be held accountable for what they say throughout the election process.

The presidential debates are an integral part of our system of government, in which the American people have the opportunity to make informed choices about who will serve them. Therefore, CNN debate coverage will be made available without restrictions at the conclusion of each live debate.

We believe this is good for the country and good for the electoral process. This decision will apply to all of CNN's presidential debates, beginning with the upcoming New Hampshire debates in June.

Among other things that means we'll be able to view the debates online days, weeks, months, years after they happen live and determine for ourselves what each candidate said and what we believe he or she meant. Now that's a no-spin zone.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Her Majesty

Her majesty's a pretty nice girl
but she doesn't have a lot to say.
— Lennon/McCartney, 1969

Monday, May 07, 2007

designed to work

Entering Free Agent Nation this month, my good friend Toben bought a MacBook to replace the one his former company provided:
I am now officially a Mac fan for life. I turned on the new Mac, it asked if I wanted to migrate data from my old Mac. I did. I plugged in the firewire, hit transfer and 30 minutes later my new Mac looks just like my old Mac. And everything works perfectly. Very impressive.

The genius of the transaction is in the last sentence of Toben's email: I feel like such a techie!

Turn on new computer.
Click Yes button.
Connect to old computer with one cable.
Run errand.
Come back in 30 minutes.
Feel like a techie.


Friday, May 04, 2007

notes from New Orleans

Just back from shooting in New Orleans.

The Lower 9th Ward is a blast zone. Whole blocks of homes are just gone. Others, still standing here and there, appear to have been picked up, their contents shaken, then put back down more or less — but often less — where they were before. It was amazing, and not in the good way. It was almost unbelievable . . . but there it was. We have pictures. It is what it is.

Nearby, Saint Bernards Parish is middle and working class housing — sturdy brick construction — flushed by a relentless current that appears to have run ten, maybe 12 feet deep. Ceilings soaked and gave way. The fortunate families had their homes gutted by kindly bands of outsiders. They are stripped to the studs inside, dessicated as if by radical surgery; they are patients who may or may not survive.

Stories, stories . . . some more horrid than I want to repeat just yet. Others heartwarming, courageous, grateful, gently funny.

Well duh: Imagine something on the order of 240,000 refrigerators all powering down on the same day and remaining unattended for a month. Take a deep breath; let your olfactory memory do the imagining . . .

We are invited to a community crawfish boil undertaken with a noisy and playful generosity. The Liutenent Governor gamely submits to the dunking tank. A band plays loud. The food is abundant and cheap and messy and eye-rollingly wonderful. Even so, there is — I suppose will be — an undercurrent of loss and defiant hope.

A woman asks if we are a neighborhood family — she does not recognize us. We tell her we are working on a documentary film. She thanks us for coming — not to the crawfish boil but to New Orleans. She thanks us for caring.

"Did you evacuate?" I ask.

"Yes," she says, and, "We were lucky," then unfolds an abbreiviated tale of reoccupying her home that is funny in the way that old film The Money Pit would have been, had it been funny. this woman's story walks the razor edge between comedy and flat out tragedy. The only thing that keeps her from sliding off on the tragic side is the truth of her opening line: Compared to others, she says . . . hundreds of thousands of others . . . "we were lucky."

A common thread of conversation everywhere in the city: Recovery will take ten years, minimum.

Friday, April 27, 2007

bits and pieces | comedy and and drama scripts

I've been writing sketches and short plays to help youth workers and teachers engage kids in their own learning for a long time. Now I'm putting those scripts on the internet where people can get them whenever they want wherever they are.

The collection — 17 scripts so far — is largely but not exclusively comedy; mainly bite-sized; mostly about adolescence, sexuality, family or spirituality. All of it is inexpensive — $1.99 for the monologues, $2.99 for short dialogues, $3.99 for longer pieces — so college students, teachers, starving artists and people working with kids can afford to buy.

If you teach, direct, or know someone who does, drop by Bits + Pieces to see what there is to see.

And let me know what you think . . .

Saturday, April 21, 2007

it's not supposed to be like this | YouTube

from some folks in Oregon employed It's Not Supposed To Be Like This in their spiritual community. . .

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Angry + Getting Used To It

[Here's an excerpt from my book Raising Adults, available at the YS Underground]

I cannot control the way the world is run, the way others treat me, the hand I have been dealt, but I can damn well control the way I treat others (especially those who least expect it). — Kate at 20

My mom was an unhealthy model for me in terms of dealing with anger. I was constantly walking on eggshells, in fear of her irrational outbursts. I consequently have a hard time expressing my own anger because I know how my mom’s anger made me feel (like crap, like I couldn’t do anything right), because I’m afraid it’ll jeopardize my relationships, and because I’m afraid of being irrational. — Alice at 21

Anger is the cheapest drug I know. — Brian at 19

Our kids are doing a generational slow burn.

Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed. Their anger comes out as contempt, outbursts of rage, mean-spirited humor, stealing, vandalism and every once in a while, shocking acts
of violence.

Urban dwellers are uncomfortably familiar with these things. I know a young man whose little brother was the 58th child killed in Chicago the year the paper kept a running total. The child lived and died in the Henry Horner Projects — the place described in the book and film There Are No Children Here. He was shot in the back, reportedly a case of mistaken identity in a drug dispute.

Across town, Lane Tech is a magnet for four thousand high-achieving students who must declare a major when they test into the school. It’s a tough, exciting academic environment. Things are exciting outside too. Lane features after-school programs that are innovative and enriching — but that’s not why they started. They started because of drive-by shootings targeting who knows who. The after-school offerings cause students to trickle out of the building instead of exiting all at once.

The circumstances at Lane — positive and negative — hardly ever make the news outside Chicago. What made news as the century turned was a rash of suburban and small town conspiracies and shootings. The events were characterized as an unprecedented wave of student-on-student violence. I’m afraid those incidents were big news because unlike the student body at Lane Tech the shooters and their targets were primarily light-skinned children. Americans are accustomed to stories of urban violence and expect perpetrators and victims to be dark-skinned and disenfranchised and the violence to be related to the drug trade. It is unsettling when the profiles don’t fit those expectations.

Here is what we know about the attackers in 37 incidents of targeted school violence between 1974 and the end of the 2000 school year:

76 percent were white

All were male

95 percent were current students at the school where they carried out the attack

85 percent were between the ages of 13 and 18

63 percent came from two-parent homes

41 percent were doing well in school, generally making As and Bs

41 percent appeared to associate with mainstream students or were considered mainstream themselves

44 percent were involved in organized social activities in or outside school

Just 12 percent had no close friends

81 percent acted alone

Fewer than a third were known to have acted violently toward others prior to the attack

59 percent demonstrated an interest in violent movies, books, games, personal writing or other media (though there was no one common form)

63 percent had rarely or never been in trouble at school

56 percent showed no marked change in academic performance prior to the attack

73 percent showed no marked change in friendship patterns prior to the attack

59 percent showed no marked change in interest in school prior to the attack

68 percent showed no marked change in disciplinary problems at school prior to the attack

61 percent used handguns

49 percent used rifles or shotguns

68 percent acquired the gun[s] used in the attack at home or from the home of a relative

54 percent targeted one or more adults employed by the school

41 percent targeted other students

44 percent were known to have chosen more than one target prior to the attack

46 percent carried more than one weapon at the time of the attack

61 percent had a documented history of feeling extremely depressed or desperate

78 percent exhibited a history of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts at some point prior to the attack

Prior to the attack, 98 percent experienced or perceived some major loss such as a perceived failure or loss of status (66 percent) or the loss of a loved one or significant relationship (51 percent)

83 percent exhibited outward behaviors that suggested difficulties coping with loss

71 percent felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked or injured by others prior to the incident

73 percent had a grievance against at least one of their targets before the attack

66 percent told someone about their grievance prior to the attack

81 percent gave at least one person (93 percent peers) information that he was thinking about or planning his attack

Only 17 percent threatened their target[s] directly in advance of the attack

95 percent had developed the idea to harm his target[s] before the attack — about half developed their idea for at least a month

93 percent planned out the attack in advance — 69 percent prepared the attack for at least two days

93 percent engaged in some behavior prior to the attack that caused others to be concerned — in 76 percent of the attacks, more than three people we concerned about the attacker’ behavior — in 88 percent of the cases at least one adult was concerned about his pre-attack behavior

Revenge was a motive for 61 percent of attackers — though 54 percent had multiple motives

— Culled from The Final Report and Findings of The Safe School Initiative, United States Secret Service and United States Department of Education, 2002

Monday, April 16, 2007

it's not supposed to be like this

[an open letter to youth workers in the wake of the murders at Virginia Tech | Rich Van Pelt and I wrote The Youth Worker's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis | The Parent's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis is scheduled for release in January 2008]

April 16, 2007

It's not supposed to be like this. Just so we're crystal clear about that.

No one is supposed to walk into a dormitory and classroom building and kill 32 daughters and sons. No one has that right.

Someone has to say this clearly and compellingly to the children of God we have agreed to nurture toward wholeness.

This week, long before we know why those students and faculty were stolen from us—if indeed we ever come to know that—you will be face to face with kids who, having witnessed this calmly efficient evil, question God.

Tell them it's not supposed to be like this.

Tell them the God who spoke through the prophets at many times and in various ways—and in these last days has spoken to us by his Son—tell them this God takes no pleasure in the suffering and death of his creatures.

Tell them it's not supposed to be like this, and someday it won’t be.

Tell them the hope of the gospel includes a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness—we haven’t seen it, but in faith we see it coming.

In the meantime, tell them, life is grace and bad things happen; people are capable of breathtaking displays of love and staggering acts of oppression; the sun rises and the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Tell them about the mercy of Jesus who promises the good news will one day prove every bit as good as the bad news so obviously is bad in these days. Tell them life is hard and God is good.

BUT FIRST listen to them. Listen to their denial and fear and anger and confusion. And don't be afraid to admit your own.

As you listen, don't be afraid of silence. Let paper and colored markers express what can't be spoken—and know they will almost certainly require more blue and violet and black and gray than yellow and green.

Talk when you believe they are ready to hear. Don't be glib. Don't talk down. Don't bluff.

Here's is a comprehensive list of things you can promise the students in your care:

1. I will do everything in my power to protect you each and every day.

2. ...(THERE IS NO 2).

Don't make promises you can't keep.

That said, don't believe for a moment that being unqualified means you are not up to the task. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" the writer Annie Dillard asks,"or shall stand in his holy place?"

There is no one but us. There is no one to send, nor a clean hand, nor a pure heart on the face of the earth, nor in the earth, but only us, a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers are all dead—as if innocence had ever been—and our children busy and troubled, and we ourselves unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, failed, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and involved. But there is no one but us. There never has been. There have been generations which remembered, and generations which forgot; there has never been a generation of whole men and women who lived well for even one day.
— Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm, Harper and Row, 1977 p 56-57

This is the spirit in which each generation of God's people ushers the next to the table God prepares before us in the presence of our enemies. None of us comes to this table because we are worthy. We come because we are hungry.

Be present. Open your ears and eyes and heart. Remember. Tell the truth as well as you can. Trust God to make that enough.

Thanks for what you do for kids every day.

Deep peace,

Jim Hancock and Rich Van Pelt

p.s. Here are some texts that inform these thoughts and may be useful as you explore all this with your students... the opening paragraph of Hebrews...2 Peter 3...Hebrews 11...Matthew 5:38-48...Psalm 24...Psalm 23...Isaiah 55

[A pdf of this letter is posted at]

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rocks Cry Out | Kurt Vonnegut dead at 84

I love this from Kurt Vonnegut at 81 years of age:

How about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

…And so on.

Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney stuff.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.“

Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

Mr. Vonnegut will be missed, if only for calling us to cut the crap and get on with it.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

A passage from The Book of Common Prayer for Good Friday . . .


Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of
peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for
the nations of the earth; that in tranquillity your dominion may
increase, until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your
love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let us pray for all who suffer and are afflicted in body or in mind;
For the hungry and the homeless, the destitute
and the oppressed
For the sick, the wounded, and the crippled
For those in loneliness, fear, and anguish
For those who face temptation, doubt, and despair
For the sorrowful and bereaved
For prisoners and captives, and those in mortal danger
That God in his mercy will comfort and relieve them, and
grant them the knowledge of his love, and stir up in us the
will and patience to minister to their needs.


Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of
all who suffer: Let the cry of those in misery and need come
to you, that they may find your mercy present with them in all
their afflictions; and give us, we pray, the strength to serve
them for the sake of him who suffered for us, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us pray for all who have not received the Gospel of Christ;
For those who have never heard the word of salvation
For those who have lost their faith
For those hardened by sin or indifference
For the contemptuous and the scornful
For those who are enemies of the cross of Christ and
persecutors of his disciples
For those who in the name of Christ have persecuted others
That God will open their hearts to the truth, and lead them to
faith and obedience.

Merciful God, creator of all the peoples of the earth and
lover of souls: Have compassion on all who do not know you
as you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; let your Gospel
be preached with grace and power to those who have not
heard it; turn the hearts of those who resist it; and bring
home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there
may be one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let us commit ourselves to our God, and pray for the grace
of a holy life, that, with all who have departed this world and
have died in the peace of Christ, and those whose faith is
known to God alone, we may be accounted worthy to enter
into the fullness of the joy of our Lord, and receive the crown
of life in the day of resurrection.


O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look
favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred
mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry
out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world
see and know that things which were cast down are being
raised up, and things which had grown old are being made
new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection
by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

second thoughts: lost faith in President Bush

“I’m a big believer that in part what we’re called to do — to me, by God; other people call it karma — is to restore balance when things didn’t turn out the way they should have. Just being quiet is not an option when I was so publicly advocating an election.”
— Matthew Dowd, chief campaign strategist for Bush 04, breaking publicly from the Adminstration in The New York Times, April 1, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

a beautiful mind wasted in the West Wing

March 18, 2003

“Why should we hear about body bags and deaths, and how many, what day it’s going to happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it’s, it’s not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?”

— First Lady Barbara Bush telling Good Morning America's Diane Sawyer why she would not be watching televised coverage of the impending war

March 18, 2007

U.S. fatalities in Iraq reach 3217; Iraqi fatalities in excess of prewar death rates lie somewhere between 59,000 ( and 650,000 (British medical journal The Lancet — free registration required).

Monday, March 19, 2007

Iraq Four Years On | In Search of Moral Footing

Moonlight Beach vigil | March 19, 2007

In a biblical rebuke of the US President and the 109th Congress, the board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals endorsed An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture.

If you consider yourself an Evangelical I hope you'll read the declaration, run it through your crap detector and join the conversation about regaining our moral footing.

If you don't consider yourself an Evangelical, I think you'll find it useful to see the case spelled out for (and by) people who claim to know what Evangelicals claim to know about the God of the Bible.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Council for National Policy ❤ Technical Virginity

This is rich.

The Council for National Policy is said to be a mandatory stop on the way to the Republican presidential nomination. That you probably haven't heard of The Council is due to the conceit that it's more or less a secret. Not really of course, else we wouldn't be having this conversation. But the members — a few hundred of them including Dr. James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, the Rev. Jerry Falwell of Liberty University and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform — are not allowed to talk about it. The first rule of Fight Club . . . you know.

Anyway, The Council met last month at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Florida and, apparently, several people who weren't allowed to talk about it talked about it. Seems The Council — which I gather we're not supposed to know was founded by the Reverend Tim LaHaye — is disappointed by the the field of Republican hopefuls (which I think we're also not supposed to know).

The payoff in the New York Times piece comes from Mr Norquist who says he's open to the three candidates who have so far addressed The Council (Senator Brownback, Governor Huckabee and Representative Hunter) plus Governor Romney who has not. We pick up the Times story at the big finish:
[Mr Norquist] argued that with the right promises, any of the four could redeem themselves in the eyes of the conservative movement despite their past records, just as some high school students take abstinence pledges even after having had sex.

“It’s called secondary virginity,” Mr. Norquist said. “It is a big movement in high school and also available for politicians.”

Honestly. You can't make this stuff up.

Friday, February 23, 2007

this just in | Anna Nicole Smith

Sources close to the Anna Nicole Smith case say the remains of the deceased woman will be dismembered (possibly in a televised procedure) and distributed among the claimants for final disposition.

All this amid rumors that Ms Smith's daughter and heir Daniellyn will be placed with monks of unknown provenance and raised in the ancient ways to be a defender of the dispossesed (or possibly an assassin or prescription drug addict or both).

Asked to elaborate on the distribution plan, a courthouse spokesperson would only confirm that Ms Smith's heart had been removed to an undisclosed location for safekeeping.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

the weapons trade, for what it's worth

Today ends the IDEX 07 armament show in Abu Dhabi. The Associated Press reports an estimated 900 weapons manufacturers and security firms came anticipating over two billion dollars in contracts; with helicopters and electronic warning sensors expected to do particularly well.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
— Dwight D. Eisenhower, From a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

was this war in Iraq a mistake? a letter to Congress

Was this war in Iraq a mistake? Or was it just plain wrong? I believe we'll be splitting hairs over incompetence and wrongheadedness for a long time.

Meanwhile the Administration apppears to be conducting a slow bleed offensive against the obvious. If the White House or Congress could present a substantive reason to believe the President's surge will be saving lives and creating stability a week after US forces leave Baghdad and Anbar, we might be more resolute about sending additional young men and women, underfunded and lacking training and equipment (and facing an ineffective and hostile bureaucracy should they return home wounded) -- but none of us believes there is any such evidence. Everyone knows the game changes the moment the door closes behind us.

I don't believe there is a decent solution to this bloody conundrum. At this point all the solutions appear indecent. It's going to be relentlessly bad no matter what. The only question is, What kind of bad? The US government and the citizens it represents will be making amends for decades to come.

Our nation failed in this adventure. Whether through foolishness or hubris or overreaching or yet-to-be-revealed moral turpitude or some combination of all these (seasoned with ambition, tunnel vision, ass-covering and God knows what), will take time to sort out. We are lost in the woods. Look it in the face. Retrace your steps. Find your way back. Deal with it now.

TODAY, we call on you, our elected officials, to pursue the hard work of cleaning up as well as you can; ending further loss of life insofar as it is in your control; seeking genuine reconciliation among the parties insofar as that is in your control; voting across party lines wherever that is necessary to promote policies that tend to restore equilibrium and a return to sanity.

Do this as if your next campaign depended on it for it almost certainly does.

Friday, February 16, 2007

narrowing the religion gap

The February 18 New York Times Magazine includes this from Gary Rosen:

Try a quick political thought experiment. First, form a mental picture of the Democratic front-runners for president — Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Now do the same for the leading Republican contenders — John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. Next (and this is the key step), imagine each of them in church, sitting in a pew, head bowed, or better still, at the pulpit, delivering a homily or leading the congregation in worship.

Strange, no? It’s not hard to envision Clinton and Obama among the faithful. She is a lifelong Methodist and self-described “praying person,” and he belongs to a church where some years ago he found himself (in his own words) “kneeling beneath that cross” in submission “to His will.” Both slip easily into the earnest, humble-of-the-earth mode of liberal God talk.

But McCain and Giuliani? You somehow imagine them fidgeting during the hymns and checking their watches. The senator is an Episcopalian, the former mayor a Catholic, but neither man, you have to think, would be caught dead in a Bible-study group or could possibly declare, √† la George W. Bush, that his favorite philosopher is “Christ, because he changed my heart.” In the piety primary, the Democrats win hands down.

It's a twist on America's political road that would have been difficult to imagine at the turn of the century. Political conservatives may now find themselves splitting hairs about the private faith of their candidates as supporters of John Kerry and Al Gore did so recently.

Is it too much to hope for a broader, more substantive, less doctrinaire and demonizing conversation about governance than we've had in recent election cycles?