Friday, May 30, 2008

Focus Fusion Electricity on the Horizon

Discover Magazine has published a brief report about cutting edge science that promises to deliver clean and cheap electricity. Here's a quote:
Plasma physicist Eric Lerner has a dream: a form of nuclear energy so clean it generates no radioactive waste, so safe it can be located in the heart of a city, and so inexpensive it provides virtually unlimited power for the dirt-cheap price of $60 per kilowatt—far below the $1,000-per-kilowatt cost of electricity from natural gas.

It may sound too good to be true, but the technology, called focus fusion, is based on real physics experiments. Focus fusion is initiated when a pulse of electricity is discharged through a hydrogen-boron gas across two nesting cylindrical electrodes, transforming the gas into a thin sheath of hot, electrically conducting plasma. This sheath travels to the end of the inner electrode, where the magnetic fields produced by the currents pinch and twist the plasma into a tiny, dense ball. As the magnetic fields start to decay, they cause a beam of electrons to flow in one direction and a beam of positive ions (atoms that have lost electrons) to flow in the opposite direction. The electron beam heats the plasma ball, igniting fusion reactions between the hydrogen and boron; these reactions pump more heat and charged particles into the plasma. The energy in the ion beam can be directly converted to electricity—no need for conventional turbines and generators. Part of this electricity powers the next pulse, and the rest is net output.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Roger Williams, John Winthrop and the Other

When John Winthrop sailed across the Atlantic in 1630 the perceptions of others was at the forefront of his mind. Born into a family of English gentry, Winthrop was elected Governor of Massachusetts Bay by speculators and investors who had never set foot in New England.

As the Governor sailed to America he spoke to many of America’s earliest colonists aboard the English ship Arbella. His first concern was to preserve aristocratic authority and maintain old world hierarchical social divisions among the inhabitants of New England. He opened his sermon with these words:

GOD ALMIGHTY in his most only and wise providence hath soe disposed of the Condicion of mankind, as in all times some must be rich some poore, some highe and eminent in power and dignitie; others meane and in subjeccion.
The first third of the speech gives Winthrop’s apologetic for why a divinely ordained hierarchy should be preserved within both civil and ecclesiastical life and why every society must be divided between rich and poor. He underscores his point with an admonition that the “the poore, and dispised” should not “rise vpp against their superiors, and shake off their yoake.” Each person has a preordained place from which to work for “the preservation and good of the whole.

Winthrop concludes with a warning. He tells them that “the eyes of all people are upon us.” If they are faithful, God will bless them and they will be like a city on a hill (i.e. the envy of all the people of the world). If, however, they are not faithful to their community, God will curse them and they will be a story and a by-word (i.e. looked down upon by all the people of the world).

For Winthrop there are only two vantage points from which to be viewed. Either one is elevated, exalted and envied in the eyes of others or one is debased, despised and looked down upon by others. From beginning to end, he displays a self-consciousness concerned with perceptions.

A few months later another ship sailed into Boston harbor. Aboard it was Roger Williams, the son of a moderately prosperous merchant in Smithfield, England. Like Winthrop, Williams was also concerned with perceptions. The chief difference between Winthrop and Williams was that Roger Williams’ concerns were asymmetrical and egalitarian rather than aristocratic. This can easily be gleaned from a passage in the preface to a book he wrote after he was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony:
Two mountains of crying guilt lie heavy upon the backs of all men that name the name of Christ, in the eyes of Jews, Turks, and pagans.

First, the blasphemies of their idolatrous inventions, superstitions, and most unchristian conversations.

Secondly, the bloody, irreligious and inhuman oppressions and destructions under the mask or veil of the name of Christ, etc.
-- Bloudy Tenet of Persecution for Cause of Conscience

Here Williams’ concern with how Christians were being perceived by “others” is clear. Williams’ interests are markedly different from Winthrop’s. Winthrop’s concerns are generic. For him the “eyes of all people” represents the anonymous crowd of cultured European Christians. The sophistication of the crowd perceiving him is important. Their religion, culture and ethnicity are important to him. Not the eyes. Winthrop is not interested in their faces, only their adulation.

Williams, on the other hand, cares about faces. Three hundred and twenty years before the French philosopher Emmanuel LĂ©vinas would propound his ethics of asymmetrical face-to-face relations, Roger Williams gives specificity to the eyes observing him and passing judgment on the church. He distinguishes the eyes from one another by identifying the faces that concerned him. He names the faces of Jews, Turks and pagans – the very people whose eyes held least significance to the aristocratic Winthrop and the closed community that he helped create.

Williams’ self-consciousness is markedly different from that of Winthrop. Winthrop highly valued places of elevated authority and status within his community. Williams turned down the powerful pastorate of the Boston church. Winthrop wished to be exalted in the eyes of the cultured world. Williams, a missionary to Native Americans, was more concerned with the discernments of Jews and Turks and pagans. Winthrop feared losing his place among his peers. Williams preferred banishment from his peers to losing a clear conscience and a good report with those to who had not received the gospel.

For nearly four hundred years, Williams has often been painted as an inveterate individualist when, in reality, his understanding and commitment to community was far greater than that of his detractors. Williams refused to draw a tight circle for civil community. For him, civil community encompassed all humanity and it prompted him to be an unrelenting advocate for liberty of conscience and justice for all.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hali Thomas Plays Ava Maria

A YouTube videocast of Flutist Hali Thomas, a student at Mercer University and daughter of CBF Oklahoma Coordinator T and Kathe Thomas, playing Ava Maria at NorthHaven Church in Norman, OK on Sunday May 25, 2008.

Tax Cuts Cripple Oklahoma State Budget

The Oklahoma Policy Institute (OPI) has issued an analysis of the State of Oklahoma's 2009 budget and predicts that it will lead to cuts in services and programs. In a report entitled "Falling Flat" OPI reminds Oklahomans that the state's problems are self-inflicted by the state legislature's unwarranted tax cutting. Here's a quote from the media release accompanying the report:

Unlike many other states experiencing budget shortfalls, Oklahoma's problems are not the direct consequence of a faltering economy. Instead, Oklahoma's flat revenue collections were triggered by the phased-in implementation of steep cuts to the state's personal income tax enacted in recent years. The cumulative revenue loss resulting from income tax cuts is estimated to be $598 million by the upcoming fiscal year.

Although Oklahoma's economy has benefited from soaring commodity prices in the energy and agriculture sectors, the report cautions that the state is unlikely to be immune from the country's economic problems. It notes that any prolonged or deep economic slowdown is likely to exacerbate the state's current budget challenges and create major shortfalls in the years ahead. The state's Rainy Day Fund, which has a balance of $572 million, can help cushion the impact of a downturn but is unlikely to be sufficient to avert the need for deep budget cuts and new revenue sources.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

VW Develops Car That Gets 235 MPG

Volkswagon has developed a car that gets 235 miles per gallon of gasoline. Here's a link to a story about it.

It looks like it will be a little fragile in case of collision, but once the price of oil hits $200 a barrel you might have the highway all to yourself.

Bush Plans Air Strike Against Iran by August

Common Dreams has posted a report that indicates President Bush plans a strike against Iran by August. Here's a quote:

A US air strike on Iran would have seismic impact on the presidential race at home, but it’s difficult to determine where the pieces would fall.

At first glance, a military attack against Iran would seem to favor McCain. The Arizona senator says the US is locked in battle across the globe with radical Islamic extremists, and he believes Iran is one of biggest instigators and supporters of the extremist tide. A strike on Iran could rally American voters to back the war effort and vote for McCain.

On the other hand, an air strike on Iran could heighten public disenchantment with Bush administration policy in the Middle East, leading to support for the Democratic candidate, whoever it is.

But an air strike will provoke reactions far beyond US voting booths. That would explain why two veteran senators, one Republican and one Democrat, were reportedly so horrified at the prospect.

The Relevance of Roger Williams

Here's a link to the powerpoint presentation that goes with the paper on "The Relevance of Roger Williams" that I presented at the BHHS annual meeting.

I am submitting the paper to the Baptist History and Heritage Society (BHHS) for review for publication. If they decide not to publish the paper, I'll post it at a later time on the Mainstream Baptists website.

Bashing Immigrants is Costly

Miguel De La Torre has written an essay about the need to "Focus on the Undocumented Family" that lists the toll that the wave of anti-immigrant legislation is wreaking on the families of undocumented immigrants. Here's a quote:

This violence includes, but is not limited to:

--Rape of Latina women and girls crossing the border. (It is now common practice for them to start taking birth control pills months prior to crossing under the assumption that they will be violated.)

--Denial of basic medical services to Hispanics, resulting in death.

--Economic abuse of Latino/as in the workplace, preventing the family from simply surviving.

--Separating Hispanic husbands from their wives or Latina/o parents from their children. (This is becoming a common occurrence, and the federal government continue conducting raids at the workplace).

Probably no greater human rights violation is presently occurring within the United States today than the violence being experienced by the undocumented.
Will Prescott focused on the economic costs of anti-immigrant legislation on the "Religious Talk" radio program last Sunday. He interviewed Russell Evans and Kyle Dean of the Economic Impact Group of Edmond Oklahoma. Here's a link to a podcast (27MB MP3) of his interview.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

On Roger Williams and Jean-Paul Sartre

Here's a quote from a long footnote that I wrote explaining the statement quoted in the previous blog about Williams and Levinas:
"Unlike Sartre, who felt constricted and condemned by the gaze of others, Williams willingly subjected himself to the judging eyes of all others -- even the eyes of complete strangers to his race, culture, religion and community."
I'll be presenting my paper and powerpoint on "The Relevance of Roger Williams" tomorrow morning.

On Roger Williams and Emmanuel Levinas

In a few hours, I'll be driving to Atlanta for the Baptist History and Heritage Society's Annual Meeting at Mercer University.

I will be presenting a paper on "The Relevance of Roger Williams."

Here's a quote from my paper:
"Three hundred and twenty years before the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas would propound his ethics of asymmetrical face-to-face relations, Roger Williams gives specificity to the eyes observing him and passing judgment on the church. He distinguishes the eyes from one another by identifying the faces that concerned him. He names the faces of Jews, Turks and pagans -- the very people whose eyes held least significance to the aristocratic Winthrop and the closed community that he helped create."
I'll write a little more about this tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

McGovern's Open Letter to Admiral Fallon

Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern has published an open letter to Admiral William Fallon on the Common Dreams website.

Fallon was recently removed as head of CENTCOM over differences with the Bush administration's drive to war with Iran. McGovern urges Fallon to speak to the American public about the next unnecessary war that Bush is about to start. Here's an excerpt:
Dissing the Intelligence Estimate

Top officials from the president on down have been dismissing the key judgment of the National Intelligence Estimate released on December 3, 2007, a judgment concurred in by the 16 intelligence units of our government, that Iran had stopped the weapons-related part of its nuclear program in mid-2003.

Always willing to do his part, the malleable CIA chief, Michael Hayden, on April 30 publicly offered his “personal opinion” that Iran is building a nuclear weapon-the National Intelligence Estimate notwithstanding. For good measure, Hayden added:

“It is my opinion, it is the policy of the Iranian government, approved to the highest level of that government, to facilitate the killing of Americans in Iraq….Just make sure there’s clarity on that.”

Voicing his various “opinions,” Hayden is beginning to sound like the overly clever lawyers who advised him, orally, that it would be just fine to order NSA to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and like the other attorneys who approved water boarding.

And, please; tell me why we should care about Hayden’s “personal opinion?” My neighbor Suzie, who gets her news from FOX, keeps voicing her “personal opinion” that all Muslims want to kill Americans, that generals with blue uniforms are the most trustworthy, and that weapons of mass destruction will still be found in Iraq.

But, seriously, I don’t need to tell you about the Haydens and the other smartly saluting, desk-riding headquarters generals here in Washington.

The Price of Silence

What I would suggest is that you have a serious conversation with a real general, Gen. Anthony Zinni, one of your predecessor CENTOM commanders (1997 to 2000). As you know probably better than I, this Marine general is an officer of unusual integrity. Nevertheless, when placed into circumstances very similar to those you now face, he could not find his voice. And so he missed his chance to interrupt-or at least slow down-the juggernaut to war in Iraq. You might ask him how he feels about that now, and what he would advise in current circumstances.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Posner Says GOP Props Up Religious Demagogues

In an essay posted at the Huffington Post, Sarah Posner, author of God's Profits, accuses the Republican Party of propping up religious demagoguery.
When Hagee and Parsley were revealed to have spewed bigotry from their pulpits, many people wondered if McCain had a "pastor problem" like Obama's supposed problem with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The rejoinder from the McCain camp was that he was not responsible for every sentence uttered by people who endorse his candidacy. But his pastor problem is not just his own, it's his party's too. And it's not about candidates bearing responsibility for odious sermons. It's about bearing responsibility for propping up religious demagoguery in order to win elections.
Posner has thoroughly documented the demagoguery in her book. Here's a link to my "Religious Talk" podcast interview with Sarah a couple months ago.

8 Million on List to be Detained Under Martial Law

The current issue of Radar Magazine has published a story that indicates that the Department of Homeland Security has compiled a list of around 8 million Americans who could be detained if the country is ever placed under martial law.

The article fails to provide details about how people got on the list. Perhaps they'll interview Karl Rove next month and ask him.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Department of Energy Touts Wind Power

The U.S. Department of Energy has just released a 248 page report entitled "20% Wind Energy by 2030."

The report indicates that it is possible, with the right combination of political policies and incentives, for the U.S. to generate one fifth of our electrical energy by wind power. If we were to do so, we could also reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted when generating electricity by 25%.

Surely this makes more sense than burning tons of coal and dredging the oil out of Canadian tar sands.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Moyers on our "Out of Luck" Democracy

Bill Moyers has an essay on AlterNet that is an excerpt from his new book "Moyers on Democracy." Here's his introduction:
Democracy in America is a series of narrow escapes, and we may be running out of luck. The reigning presumption about the American experience, as the historian Lawrence Goodwyn has written, is grounded in the idea of progress, the conviction that the present is "better" than the past and the future will bring even more improvement. For all of its shortcomings, we keep telling ourselves, "The system works."

Now all bets are off. We have fallen under the spell of money, faction, and fear, and the great American experience in creating a different future together has been subjugated to individual cunning in the pursuit of wealth and power -and to the claims of empire, with its ravenous demands and stuporous distractions. A sense of political impotence pervades the country -- a mass resignation defined by Goodwyn as "believing the dogma of 'democracy' on a superficial public level but not believing it privately." We hold elections, knowing they are unlikely to bring the corporate state under popular control. There is considerable vigor at local levels, but it has not been translated into new vistas of social possibility or the political will to address our most intractable challenges. Hope no longer seems the operative dynamic of America, and without hope we lose the talent and drive to cooperate in the shaping of our destiny.

The earth we share as our common gift, to be passed on in good condition to our children's children, is being despoiled. Private wealth is growing as public needs increase apace. Our Constitution is perilously close to being consigned to the valley of the shadow of death, betrayed by a powerful cabal of secrecy-obsessed authoritarians. Terms like "liberty" and "individual freedom" invoked by generations of Americans who battled to widen the 1787 promise to "promote the general welfare" have been perverted to create a government primarily dedicated to the welfare of the state and the political class that runs it. Yes, Virginia, there is a class war and ordinary people are losing it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

NASA on Human Caused Climate Change

As Richard Land and the modern day flat-earthers in the SBC and the Christian Right are disputing the role that humans are playing to cause climate change, NASA is publishing a study that demonstrates the linkage. Here's a quote from a NASA press release:

The team conducted a "joint attribution" study. They showed that at the global scale, about 90 percent of observed changes in diverse physical and biological systems are consistent with warming. Other driving forces, such as land use change from forest to agriculture, were ruled out as having significant influence on the observed impacts.

Next, the scientists conducted statistical tests and found the spatial patterns of observed impacts closely match temperature trends across the globe, to a degree beyond what can be attributed to natural variability. The team concluded observed global-scale impacts are very likely because of human-caused warming.

Extinctions Epidemic

The UK Independent is reporting that there has been "An Epidemic of Extinctions" over the past 38 years. Here's a quote:
The Living Planet Index out today shows the devastating impact of humanity as biodiversity has plummeted by almost a third in the 35 years to 2005.

The report, produced by WWF, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network, says land species have declined by 25 per cent, marine life by 28 per cent, and freshwater species by 29 per cent.

Between Southern Baptists and Bill McKibben

Today's Daily Oklahoman has posted a story with the headline, "National Baptist Group Gets Inhofe's Support." The National Baptist group is the Southern Baptist Convention and the title should really be reversed. Inhofe is the world's most infamous climate change denier and he's in what may be a hotly contested campaign to be re-elected to the U.S. Senate. Southern Baptists are demonstrating their support for him by sponsoring a "We Get it" campaign to deny that green houses gases are effecting the environment.

Baptists used to be involved in personal evangelistic campaigns like the "I Found It" campaign of the mid-1970's. Now Southern Baptists "Get It" about the supposed need for getting churches involved in covert political campaigns. They replaced the call of the gospel to be born again with a movement for a rebirth of Southern Culture long ago.

On the other side of the global warming issue is a dire warning from environmentalist Bill McKibben who says getting this issue right may be "The Last Chance for Civilization."

Surely, the truth about climate change is somewhere between Southern Baptists and Bill McKibben. I think it is much closer to McKibben than to Baptists.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Challenging Christian Nationalism Could Be Dangerous

Newspapers in Florida are reporting that Sean Allen, one of Truett Seminary's brightest graduates, has been receiving death threats at his church.

Allen is pastor at First Baptist Church in DeLand, Florida. He has been receiving hostile notes and death threats ever since he removed both the U.S. flag and the Christian flag from the church's sanctuary.

It's no secret that many Christian Nationalists have little tolerance for those who refuse to join them in equating the symbols of the nation with the symbols of faith. Those in DeLand, however, seem more extreme than most.

Pray for Sean. He and his family have taken a leave of absence from the church.

Americans Grow Weary of Mendacity

Real Clear Politics has published a story assessing the implications of the margin by which a Democrat won a House seat in a district in Mississippi that had been solidly Republican.

Tom Cole, the National Republican Committee Chairman, is taking some heat from Republicans who want him to make some changes in the GOP. Here's a quote:
Still, losing heavily Republican seats in the Deep South is a big blow to the Washington GOP. "To lose two Southern seats in two weeks, I mean, oh my God," the leadership aide said. The aide told Real Clear Politics that something new is going to happen at the NRCC. "People look at Cole, and they say, 'What are you going to do to change?' And if he doesn't want to change, change is going to be forced on him."
It looks like Tom Cole will be the scapegoat for Republican losses this year.

For some reason, few Republicans are willing to admit that their party continues to promote leaders that have repeatedly employed deliberate deception and public lies to lead the country toward goals and objectives that would not have been approved had they been openly and honestly discussed.

Americans are weary of the mendacity of politicians.

Party affiliations and conservative/liberal labels no longer hold credibility. We are tired of being manipulated by politicians on both the left and the right.

We are looking for politicians with the integrity to tell us the truth -- even when that truth is hard for us to receive.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hollady Says Constitution Defies Strict Interpretation

Don Holladay, an attorney in Norman with more than a decade of experience as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer, has written an Op-Ed published in today's Norman Transcript contending that the "Constitution Defies Strict Interpretation." Here's a quote:

Politics aside, saying the Constitution should be strictly interpreted is a flawed proposition. Taken literally, it presents an almost impossible challenge in light of the document's actual wording. The Constitution's language, without elaboration, instructs judges to guard the "privileges and immunities" of citizenship. It speaks of our guarantees with phrases such as "life, liberty or property" without further detail. It requires "due process of law" and "equal protection" and mandates the federal judiciary's responsibility to protect these fundamental rights. These word choices are the pillars upon which our constitutional rights exist. And yet, the words on their face are hardly capable of being "strictly interpreted" as written.

Who Wants a Lying President?

Jimmy Carter doesn't and he says so in a guest blog for the On Faith section of the Washington Post. Here's a quote:

I do not think the President of the United States should be a liar, and believe that the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens agree with me. For security reasons, the whole truth cannot always be revealed, but it is quite obvious that lies are seldom made to protect our nation. Almost invariably, the political fortunes of the prevaricator are at stake.

Podcast: Interview with David Blatt

Dr. Bruce Prescott's 5-11-08 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Dr. David Blatt (27MB MP3), Director of Policy for the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

We talk about the Institute's first issues brief: "On the Brink: Oklahoma Families are already Facing Tough Times."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Evangelical Leader Likens Obama to a Plague

Bob Novak has written an article suggesting that Mike Huckabee privately concurs with Homeschool Champion Michael Farris in believing that evangelicals should sit out this year's presidential election.

Farris and other far right evangelicals think America deserves a "plague-like presidency" and Obama fits the bill.

Personally, it is hard for me to understand how any American searching for an example of a "plague-like presidency" could overlook the stiff-necked Pharaoh currently occupying the White House.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Most Popular Podcasts

Here's a list of the most popular podcasts from the "Religious Talk" radio program.

From the year 2005:

Still the all-time favorite -- the interview with Petroleum Geologist Bob Stephenson on Peak Oil in July 2005. A follow-up interview in August 2005 also proved popular.

The interview of Fred Clarkson (Part 1 and Part 2), author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy.

From the year 2006:

The interview of Muhammed Cetin, President of the Institute for Interfaith Dialog.

The interview of Randall Balmer, author of Thy Kingdom Come.

The interview of Michelle Goldberg, author of Kingdom Coming.

From the year 2007:

The interview with Michael Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

The interview of Mary Kinney Branson, author of Spending God's Money: Extravagance and Misuse in the Name of Ministry.

From the year 2008:

The interview of Dr. Barbara Forrest, author of Creationism's Trojan Horse.

My son, Will Prescott's interview of Dr. William Martin, Emeritus Professor of Religion and Public Policy at Rice University.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

When Norman Got Malaria

The Norman Transcript has published a story about NorthHaven Church's recent conference on "Norman 'Gets' Malaria."

Oklahoma's first lady, Kim Henry, was the featured speaker. Here's an excerpt:

Keynote speaker Kim Henry spoke about a Ghana trip and presented a slide show of photographs she snapped in the African nation.

"This is really an important issue for many reasons," Henry said.

She described the week-long journey as an "incredible, life changing experience."

The First Lady said it's clear that poverty is an issue for the people of Ghana. The annual income is about $300 per person.

During the trip, Henry visited hospitals that were overwhelmed with patients suffering from diseases including malaria. She noted Ghana's mortality rate is 50 percent.

"We didn't just go into the village and hand out nets," she said.

Henry said she discovered that individuals find peace in their spiritual lives and relationships with a higher power. Whether someone was Christian or Muslim didn't matter.

"People seem to be so spiritual and in tune with God," she said.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

On the Evangelical Manifesto: The Elephant is Still in the Room

A group of evangelical scholars has issued "An Evangelical Manifesto" in an attempt to redefine and restore a good name to the evangelical movement within Christianity.

There is much to commend in their statement. Most of it would have been of much more value had it been said years ago -- no, decades ago. It is much too little and way too late.

This statement comes at a moment when evangelical Christianity has lost all credibility because it is so closely identified with the American political right. More than any other group in America, the world knows that evangelicals are the political base for an administration that has disrupted the peace and tranquility of the entire world by fighting wars under false pretenses, undermining human rights, and condoning the use of torture.

Now that the political influence of evangelicals is declining, you'll find numerous admonitions that evangelicalism must be defined theologically and not politically. Now that the media megaphone is slipping away from evangelicals, you'll find many lamentations about the lack of civility in America's "culture wars." What you won't find is any clear apology for the role that evangelicals have played and are still playing as cheerleaders for a worldwide "clash of civilizations." In fact, the document itself singles out the religious extremism of "Islamist violence" for censure while ignoring the many examples of "Christian violence" bombing abortion clinics and federal buildings.

You'll find several admissions of human sinfulness and fallibility and many appeals for repentance and reform, but not a single confession regarding the failure of American evangelicals to address this nation's militarism, human rights violations, and abuse of prisoners.

Until evangelicals muster up the courage to address their own most egregious sins and shortcomings, the message they want to share about the good news of the gospel will fall on deaf ears.

Evangelicals have lost all credibility. Their manifesto is a timid step in the right direction, but an elephant is still in the room and they are still ignoring it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

His Nets Issues Appeal for Nets for Burma

As the extent of the humanitarian crisis continues to unfold in Burma, the need for insecticide-treated mosquito nets to protect tens of thousands from malaria is urgent.

“The U.S. and other countries will provide food, drinking water and shelter,” says T Thomas. “However, standing water from the cyclone will quickly cause an outbreak of malaria. This will result in a second wave of deaths if nets are not provided quickly!”

Thomas is director of His Nets, an Oklahoma-based charity that works closely with the Baptist World Alliance in fighting malaria around the world, especially in Africa.

His Nets has already committed funds for over a thousand nets, but the need is much greater. We’re asking for your assistance. For six dollars, you can provide a net that protects an entire family for up to 5 years.

“Whenever tragedies like this happen, we watch the news and sit around thinking ‘Isn’t that awful?’” Thomas adds. “This is a way to make a difference. We can save lives .”

Tax-deductible donations may be sent to His Nets, 1017 Elm Avenue, Norman OK 73072. Donations can be also be made at

For additional information contact T. T Thomas, Director of His Nets (work: (405) 447-2471; cell: (405) 831-2987; e-mail:

Kim Henry 'Gets' Malaria

A fifty second excerpt from Oklahoma's First Lady, Kim Henry, as she speaks about her trip to Ghana last year with His Nets to pass out mosquito nets to prevent malaria.

Henry was speaking at NorthHaven Church in Norman, OK at their "Norman 'Gets' Malaria Conference" on the evening of May 5, 2008.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

America's Economic Strike Against Iran

An article by John McGlinn in Japan Focus makes it clear that the U.S. launched an economic strike against Iran on March 20th.

As the article indicates, the economic pressure that the U.S. is bringing to bear on Iran is enormous. There is no doubt in my mind that if another nation deliberately brought such economic hardship on our nation, it would lead to war.

The strategy behind this form of economic warfare is so new to me that I'm not sure how to make an appraisal of it. Here are my preliminary observations.

If the stratgegy is intended to accomplish the administration's objectives without resorting to military force, then it beats the alternative. It still raises concerns, however, about the ways in which a tactic that seemingly amounts to international economic blackmail could be applied in the future. It appears to me that it fails any test for rules of universalizability (i.e. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you").

If it is designed to prompt a belligerent reaction from Iran that could be used as a pretext for our exercising military force, as I fear that it is, then it is an exceedingly bad idea.

America doesn't need another war to fight in the Middle East.

Rangel Rips Into Blitzer

Crooks and Liars has posted video of Congressman Charles Rangel raking CNN's Wolf Blitzer over the coals for continuing to ask questions about Obama's relationship to Rev. Wright. Here's a quote:
Rangel: It’s disgraceful that he has to make any explanation for anything. The intrusion of the media and Republicans into the sacred relationship that worshipers have with their spiritual leaders I think is going to come back to haunt us. To think that we have to go into the lives and the beliefs of Rabbis and Priests and ministers and Imams is absolutely ridiculous. We’ve got a war on. We’ve got an economy that’s splintered. I think the media should be more responsible and start dealing with those issues. I don’t think many people care what reverend Wright thinks and I don’t see why any candidate should have to explain what ..
Well said, Congressman Rangel.

U.S. Planning Strike in Iran

The TimesOnline is reporting that the U.S. is making plans to strike an "insurgency camp" in Iran. Here's a quote:
British officials believe the US military tends to overestimate the effect of the Iranian involvement in Iraq.

But they say there is little doubt that the Revolutionary Guard exercises significant influence over splinter groups of the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, who were the main targets of recent operations in Basra.

The CBS television network reported last week that plans were being drawn up for an attack on Iran, citing an officer who blamed the “increasingly hostile role” Iran was playing in Iraq.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Gulen Schools Moderating Islam in Pakistan

The New York Times has published a story entitled "Turkish Schools Offer Pakistan a Gentler Islam." The schools are inspired by the schools that the Islamic scholar Fetulah Gulen started in Turkey and are now spreading around the world. Here's a quote:

The model is the brainchild of a Turkish Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gulen. A preacher with millions of followers in Turkey, Mr. Gulen, 69, comes from a tradition of Sufism, an introspective, mystical strain of Islam. He has lived in exile in the United States since 2000, after getting in trouble with secular Turkish officials.

Mr. Gulen's idea, Mr. Aytav said, is that "without science, religion turns to radicalism, and without religion, science is blind and brings the world to danger."

The schools are putting into practice a Turkish Sufi philosophy that took its most modern form during the last century, after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey's founder, crushed the Islamic caliphate in the 1920s. Islamic thinkers responded by trying to bring Western science into the faith they were trying to defend. In the 1950s, while Arab Islamic intellectuals like Sayyid Qutub were firmly rejecting the West, Turkish ones like Said Nursi were seeking ways to coexist with it.
The article quotes some Turkish scholars who are wary that the Gulen movement is employing education to attain power and influence. I think their fears are unfounded.

There is nothing wrong with Muslims teaching a moderate and tolerant faith in private religious schools. Neither is there anything wrong with empowering people to better their lives through education. The same principle, though without a religious emphasis, can be found in schools involved with the Knowledge is Power Program here in the U.S.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Clock Ticking For War With Iran

Over the past few months I have often spoken with people about signs that the U.S. is preparing for war with Iran. I am almost always greeted with stares of unbelief. Few people seem willing to entertain the thought that this unpopular administration would take us into yet another war in the Middle East.

After seven and a half years of experience with the extra-constitutional exercise of power by our "unitary executive," perhaps I am a little paranoid. The evidence, however, keeps mounting. Here's an excerpt from an essay just posted by Andrew Cockburn, author of Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy:
Until recently, the administration faced a serious obstacle to action against Iran in the form of Centcom commander Admiral William Fallon, who made no secret of his contempt for official determination to take us to war. In a widely publicized incident last January, Iranian patrol boats approached a U.S. ship in what the Pentagon described as a "taunting" manner. According to Centcom staff officers, the American commander on the spot was about to open fire. At that point, the U.S. was close to war. He desisted only when Fallon personally and explicitly ordered him not to shoot. The White House, according to the staff officers, was "absolutely furious" with Fallon for defusing the incident.

Fallon has since departed. His abrupt resignation in early March followed the publication of his unvarnished views on our policy of confrontation with Iran, something that is unlikely to happen to his replacement, George Bush's favorite general, David Petraeus.

Though Petraeus is not due to take formal command at Centcom until late summer, there are abundant signs that something may happen before then. A Marine amphibious force, originally due to leave San Diego for the Persian Gulf in mid June, has had its sailing date abruptly moved up to May 4. A scheduled meeting in Europe between French diplomats acting as intermediaries for the U.S. and Iranian representatives has been abruptly cancelled in the last two weeks. Petraeus is said to be at work on a master briefing for congress to demonstrate conclusively that the Iranians are the source of our current troubles in Iraq, thanks to their support for the Shia militia currently under attack by U.S. forces in Baghdad.

Interestingly, despite the bellicose complaints, Petraeus has made little effort to seal the Iran-Iraq border, and in any case two thirds of U.S. casualties still come from Sunni insurgents. "The Shia account for less than one third," a recently returned member of the command staff in Baghdad familiar with the relevant intelligence told me, "but if you want a war you have to sell it."

What Lauren Learned at AU

Americans United has some of the brightest young people in the country working in it offices. One of them is Lauren Smith who has served as a communications assistant for the past three years. She's heading off to law school now, but as she said her good-bye's she penned a note about what she learned while working for AU. Here's an excerpt:

5) Religious liberty is, at its heart, about equality -– and we’re not there yet.

Roger Williams, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson knew that equality lay at the heart of what they created. It depresses and discourages me to think that so many Americans don’t understand – or don’t accept – this concept.

Governments in the United States don’t have religious opinions because they must treat every citizen equally. Justice Hugo Black wrote in 1963 that “[w]hen the power [and] prestige…of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain.”

Family Research Council Encourages Pastors to Electioneer

Bob Allen at Ethics Daily has posted an article about the Family Research Council encouraging pastors to endorse political candidates.

Either James Dobson and the FRC is worried that the Religious Right will not be able to influence the elections this year. Or, some of the newly minted graduates of all the Religious Right law schools are looking for work.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Video of Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection

Oklahoma's Fifth Annual Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection from the South Steps of the State Capitol in Oklahoma City.

Speakers include Lt. Governor Jeri Askins, Secretary of State Susan Savage, Sheyrl Siddiqui od the Tulsa Muslim Community, Roshini Nambiar of the Vedic Temple in Oklahoma City, Rev. George Young of Holy Temple Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, and Rev. Don Gibson of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

D. Ray Polk and Shavonne McAndrew sing.

Rev. Jeff Hamilton of the Interfaith Alliance MC's the event and reads the "Let Freedom Ring" litany.

IRD Suffers Setback

The Institute on Religion and Democracy, a right-wing religious takeover organization, has suffered a setback at the quadrennial Methodist General Conference being held in Fort Worth.

Ethics Daily is reporting that the organization has been accused of tying to buy African votes with cell phones. Conservative groups with ties to the IRD apparently offered free cell phones to delegates from Africa in an attempt to influence their votes.

Organizations like Mainstream United Methodists in Oklahoma have been educating Methodist laymen about the pernicious influence and tactics of the IRD for the past several years.