Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Blame the Media

"A free press can of course be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom it will never be anything but bad. . . . Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better, whereas enslavement is a certainty of the worse." -- Albert Camus

I love this ... things start going south and the Republicans march out their old standards: blame the media and especially The New York Times:

Hayworth critical of NY Times story

J D Hawyworth is a former Phoenix sportscaster and once voted as the dumbest congressman. And we in Arizona get to call him our own. Though, I'm lucky enough that he's not our district's congressman. I was in the bookstore the other day and was suprised to find a book by Mr Hayworth, Whatever It Takes. It's about his take on the immigration issue ... but that's neither here nor there. His subject matter wasn't suprising, but rather the fact that he wrote a book. From seeing his idiocy up close for many years, I was convinced that he was incapable of reading a book, let alone writing one. But if you want to be amused, check out the reviews by some of his brain-washed minions. You can tell they are the type that will read anything by Coulter, Hannity, etc. and just eat it up unquestioningly.

And, of course, Bill Frist has to speak up and attack something so as to play to the other Republicans. This man has absolutely no spine. I sincerely think he doesn't have any thoughts of his own. Because he always seems to be playing to the polls, he comes across as the ultimately political animal. And it has been getting him burned because he all too often does not guage correctly the sentiments of his own party.

Frist Blames CNN for Republican Problems

This brings back memories of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Back then, Nixon and the government vehemently criticized the Times and did everything in their power to try and stop the publishing of the Papers but the Supreme Court backed the Times.

Why is it that Republicans view the exposure of unethical, immoral and unconstitutional behavior by the goverment as a worse crime than that behavior itself? These people are those bullies in school that would steal your lunch money and then beat up any kids that would report it to the principal. Unbelievable.

"Reality has a well-known liberal bias" -- Stephen Colbert

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Declaration of Independence

Today, we'll have a little history lesson. We all think we know what the Declaration of Independence was about. It was about the U.S. formally declaring its independence from the King and England. But it was also about showing exactly what the reasons for doing so were. I won't list the entire document here. You can obviously find it at several of the links on this page. What we're going to list are a scary number of reasons listed then that ring true now (modern parallels in italics):
The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. -- Illegal wiretapping

... He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. -- Intervention in the Schiavo case

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. -- mockery of the traditional "advise and consent" role of the senate in judicial appointments

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance. -- Department of Homeland Security

... He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. -- a permanent state of war

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation -- violating the constitution and bill of rights

... For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury -- illegal detention without trial or charges

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences -- extraordinary rendition

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies -- getting around U.S. labor law in U.S. Commonwealths like Saipan

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

... He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people -- you name it ... Katrina, the environment

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation -- Iraq

... In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people...

And the beat goes on:

Justices rule on California law that lets officers conduct searches without reasonable suspicion of a crime

Supreme Court Approves Another Attack on Our Homes

U.S. Supreme Court OKs no-knock searches

King George III then ... King George II now.

For a nice post on another historical document, the Magna Carta, check out Cyberkitten's recent post, Now That’s What I Call a Sacred Document: Magna Carta

"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Phoenix Art Museum

I've been in the Valley 13 years, but for whatever reason, I had never been to the Phoenix Art Museum. I knew it was a decent museum and had representative paintings from a lot of major artists and eras. I guess I was probably too influenced by those around me. None of them are really art buffs (as far as I know). I don't think the wife would have ever suggested going to the museum. But it was Father's Day, I had choice ... and I picked for us all to go to the art museum. Alex is of an impressionable age, 5, and I thought that he'd have a good time. Well, he did ... and we did.

We began in the large open gallery which primarily had modern paintings and then went to the special exhibit of German artists, Constructing New Berlin. These were a lot of mixed-media displays. The most interesting being Thomas Demand's photographs of paper sculptures. But you don't know that at first. You just think they are photographs of normal every day things. But you look closer and they are actually carefully constructed representations of those things. The obvious meaning being: what is real and what is artifice in our everyday communication?

Next we went to the permanent exhibits. Some of the first ones that we saw were fairly modern. Two of the more recognizable, Diego Rivera and Picasso:

We both found that we liked the Impressionist painters ... much to our surprise. Seeing Impressionist paintings in a book or on TV do not do them justice. In person, you see every brush stroke and are able to adjust your distance to the painting. Which is how the painters intended. They wanted the eye of the viewer to blend the colors instead of the painter doing it. Here's a Monet:

Next were European paintings of the 14th - 17th Century. These were primarily religious in nature, as was the custom for a long time. We both liked these exhibits ... albeit for different reasons. My wife appreciated the religious imagery while I appreciated what it said about society in general. I'm fascinated by the arc that is taken from the 1300's to the 1700's in painting. Early on, Christian subjects are flat and unrealistic so as to strees the divinity of them. To a largely unsophisticated and uneducated citizenry, it was important for the church to make sure that they understand they were divine. As time went on, the subjects because more human and more realistic so as to display the humanity of them. Here's a painting from 1350:

Another aspect of Christian themes that I enjoy is that it can be pretty gruesome at times. John the Baptist's head on a plate:

Michelle really liked this painting of a castle by James Webb:

For some reason, I always like Georgia O'Keeffe paintings. :-)

Overall, we were impressed and we won't wait another 13 years before we visit again.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Stephen Hawking

"We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special." -- Stephen Hawking

At a recent talk at a university in Hong Kong, famed physicist Stephen Hawking talks about some exchanges that he had with Pope John Paul II in the past:

Hawking recalls pope's views on research

Some highlights:
"Famed physicist Stephen Hawking said Thursday that Pope John Paul II tried to discourage him and other scientists attending a cosmology conference at the Vatican from trying to figure out how the universe began.

The British scientist joked he was lucky the pope didn't realize he had already presented a paper at the gathering suggesting how the universe was created.

"I didn't fancy the thought of being handed over to the Inquisition like Galileo," Hawking said in a lecture to a sold-out audience at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. John Paul died in 2005; Hawking did not say when the Vatican meeting was held.

Galileo ran afoul of the Roman Catholic Church in the 17th century for supporting Copernicus' discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun. The church insisted the Earth was at the center of the universe.

In 1992, John Paul issued a declaration saying the church's denunciation of Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension."

Hawking said the pope told the scientists, "It's OK to study the universe and where it began. But we should not inquire into the beginning itself because that was the moment of creation and the work of God."

The physicist, author of the best seller "A Brief History of Time," added that John Paul believed "God chose how the universe began for reasons we could not understand."

John Paul insisted faith and science could coexist. In 1996, in a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, he said that Darwin's theories were sound as long as they took into account that creation was the work of God and that Darwin's theory of evolution was "more than a hypothesis."

But Hawking questioned whether an almighty power was needed to create the universe.

"Does it require a creator to decree how the universe began? Or is the initial state of the universe determined by a law of science?" he asked ... "

While the pope's views on evolution were encouraging and in contrast to a lot of Christians', it is unfortunate that he had to have a qualifier. Whether you are a Christian, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, whatever ... ultimately the goal of your life should be the quest for truth. I've heard many Christians say that to me. But if you are saying that you can only look for truth sometimes or only in certain places, what is the point?

That is the major weakness of creationism ... selective truth-seeking. You can't allow prejudices to influence your collection of data. And once you get the data, don't cherry-pick the information that reinforces the belief you came in with.

"To confine our attention to terrestrial matters would be to limit the human spirit." -- Stephen Hawking

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Interspersing personal recollections, taped footage of Al Gore's lecture tour and stunning photography showing the effects of global warming across the globe, this is a movie that transcends it's potentially boring subject matter. And it does it with a narrator that has in the past been accused of being wooden and unfunny. It works because Gore is passionate and knowledgeable about global warming and is able to project that so that you feel as passionate as he does. He appears as a man more comfortable in his own skin that I have ever seen him. He's not in someone else's shadow (Clinton). He doesn't have to try to please a constituency or a legislative body (his time in the Senate). And that freedom allows him to come across as an affable professor. I guess it's not surprising that he appears comfortable giving his global warming lecture. He has given it over a 1,000 times over the years.

I think that it is Gore's personal recollections that really help to humanize the subject. He tells how the near death of his son in a car accident and the death by cancer of his sister gave him more focus on what the purpose of his life should be.

Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world's scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.

If that sounds like a recipe for serious gloom and doom -- think again. From director Davis Guggenheim comes the Sundance Film Festival hit, AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, which offers a passionate and inspirational look at one man's fervent crusade to halt global warming's deadly progress in its tracks by exposing the myths and misconceptions that surround it. That man is former Vice President Al Gore, who, in the wake of defeat in the 2000 election, re-set the course of his life to focus on a last-ditch, all-out effort to help save the planet from irrevocable change. In this eye-opening and poignant portrait of Gore and his "traveling global warming show," Gore also proves himself to be one of the most misunderstood characters in modern American public life. Here he is seen as never before in the media - funny, engaging, open and downright on fire about getting the surprisingly stirring truth about what he calls our "planetary emergency" out to ordinary citizens before it's too late.

The movie not only demonstrates what we are doing to the planet but provides practical, tangible ways in which we can reverse the trend:

Want to do something to help stop global warming?
Here are 10 simple things you can do and how much carbon dioxide you'll save doing them.

Change a light -- Replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Drive less -- Walk, bike, carpool or take mass transit more often. You'll save one pound of carbon dioxide for every mile you don't drive!

Recycle more -- You can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year by recycling just half of your household waste.

Check your tires -- Keeping your tires inflated properly can improve gas mileage by more than 3%. Every gallon of gasoline saved keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere!

Use less hot water -- It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Use less hot water by installing a low flow showerhead (350 pounds of CO2 saved per year) and washing your clothes in cold or warm water (500 pounds saved per year).

Avoid products with a lot of packaging -- You can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide if you cut down your garbage by 10%.

Adjust your thermostat -- Moving your thermostat just 2 degrees in winter and up 2 degrees in summer. You could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year with this simple adjustment.

Plant a tree -- A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.

Turn off electronic devices -- Simply turning off your television, DVD player, stereo, and computer when you're not using them will save you thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

We have the means to fix our planet but we lack the political will. If something doesn't affect you personally and immediately, you will put it off. That's exactly the type of attitude that we need to defeat. This myopia runs rampant in this administration and our congress. Local governments have actually taken the lead to a certain extent. There is a large list of major U.S. cities that have vowed to respect the Kyoto Treaty when the country as a whole does not (joining only Australia among major countries). And it's shortsighted to think that the economy can't benefit from the development of new technology needed to move us forward. If our government wasn't so in bed with big oil and the auto industry, we might be able to move forward.

This movie does not have a large release. Only one screen in all of Phoenix was showing it. Hopefully, it's positive reviews and great attendance at those showings will get a larger release. I can't stress enough how important it is that you go see this and recommend to everyone else that they do ... conservative, liberal, whatever. It doesn't matter. This is not an issue that only affects some of us. It affects all of us.

Monday, June 12, 2006


This just slayed me. Courtesy of Aginoth at Aginoth's Ramblings:

How many bloggers does it take... change a lightbulb?

1 to change the light bulb and to post that the light bulb has been changed.
14 to comment and share similar experiences of changing light bulbs and how the light bulb could have been changed differently.
7 to caution about the dangers of changing light bulbs.
7 to point out spelling/grammar errors in posts about changing light bulbs.
5 to flame the spell checkers.
3 to correct spelling/grammar flames.
6 to argue over whether it's "lightbulb" or "light bulb" ... another 6 to condemn those 6 as stupid.
2 industry professionals to inform the group that the proper term is "lamp".
15 know-it-alls who claim they were in the industry, and that "light bulb" is perfectly correct.
36 to debate which method of changing light bulbs is superior, where to buy the best light bulbs, what brand of light bulbs work best for this technique and what brands are faulty.
7 to post URL's where one can see examples of different light bulbs.
4 to comment that the URL's were posted incorrectly and then post the corrected URL's.
3 to comment about links they found from the URL's that are relevant to this post
5 to comment that they will no longer post because they cannot handle the light bulb controversy.
4 to comment "didn't we go through this already a short time ago?"
13 to comment "do a Google search on light bulbs before posting questions about light bulbs".

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Turning Point?

Here we go again. Another turning point ... or so they say. While nobody can deny that the getting rid of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a good thing, aren't we all getting a little bored with the tired rhetoric of the president and his lackeys? This war has more turning points than Liz Taylor has husbands. Here are just a few:

From Iraq: Bush Twists and Turns - by Eric Hananok:

"... March 19, 2004, on the anniversary of when military forces entered Iraq to enforce United Nations demands: "Today, as Iraqis join the free peoples of the world, we mark a turning point for the Middle East, and a crucial advance for human liberty."

June 16, 2004, on the transfer of the Iraq governing authority to a sovereign interim government: "A turning point will come two weeks from today."

January 29, 2005, on Iraqis heading to the polls: "Tomorrow the world will witness a turning point in the history of Iraq."

December 12, 2005, in a speech looking back at the year in Iraq: "Thanks to the courage of the Iraqi people, the year 2005 will be recorded as a turning point in the history of Iraq, the history of the Middle East, and the history of freedom."

May 1, 2006, on the prospects of a new government in Iraq: "This is a -- we believe this is a turning point for the Iraqi citizens.""

May 22, 2006 - At the swearing-in of Iraq's new cabinet, "Yet, we have now reached a turning point in the struggle between freedom and terror." -- Bush: Insurgents now fighting democracy in Iraq

And those don't even include the many "milestones" or turning points cited by others in his administration: Iraq:Turning Point or Tipping Point?

The thing is, al-Zarqawi wouldn't have risen to such a height without our creating a situation ripe for him to capitalize on: the destabilization of Iraq. We don't just create our heroes. We create our enemies. We created Bin Laden.

His capture and killing may cause another problem. The Bush administration have extensively used his presence there as a way of justifying the Al Qaeda/Iraq connection. With him gone, how can we continue to stay there?

Bush and the Republicans get the best of both worlds. They get the short-term political capital of a perceived success ... which they will promptly try to use to shove through something completed unrelated (repeal of estate tax, marriage amendment, anti-flag burning, etc.). Yet they realize that the temporary positive in the "war on terror" doesn't fundamentally change anything. There still we be fighting in a foreign land. We will be no closer to end to the war. And the great military-industrial complex rolls on. After all, you can't have the people afraid all of the time. You have to give them a bone occasionally to allow them to catch their breath. But, don't worry, they'll be back next week drumming up support for a new war.

The most disgusting aspect is the palpable joy of some (especially on FOX), not unlike when Saddam was captured. Was his capture and was al-Zarqawi's death worth the almost 2500 U.S. military deaths and the 40,000 Iraqi civilian deaths? Have we accomplished anything? Is the world safer or are we just breeding new Bin Ladens and al-Zarqawi's?

See also:

Bush Stays the Course on "Turning Point" Rhetoric

"Distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful" -- Friedrich Nietzsche

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Music, Music, Music ...

For the last few years, I hadn't bought a lot of CD's because it just didn't seem like there was anything good coming out. The last few months have been a gold mine, however. I'll give my thoughts on the latest buys, but first a review of the Bruce Springsteen concert that we went to on Saturday:

Bruce, plus a 16 piece band which included horns, banjo, steel guitar, accordion, piano, etc., played a marathon 2.5 hours covering mostly material from the Seeger Sessions CD. It was such high energy that one was exhausted by the end. It was equal parts of a big tent revival, a New Orleans jazz funeral march and an Irish pub band, a la the Commitments. As with all of Springsteen's solo excursions to the Valley, E-Street band member Nils Lofgren, and Scottsdale resident, made a cameo appearance.

Ever being the consummate showmen, Springsteen was able to propel the concert through a definite arc. Beginning with some of the more uptempo celebratory songs from the album and then quieted down to a serious and political center. The two defining songs of that part of the concert being "Bring 'Em Home" and "Mrs McGrath". "Bring 'Em Home" is actually not on the album, but IS a Pete Seeger written song. Most of the other songs are not written by him but rather popularized by him. Two of the more poignant sections of the song:
They want to test their great theory
Bring them home, bring them home
With the blood of you and me
Bring them home, bring them home


No more graveyard lies
Bring them home, bring them home
Full of gleam in someone's eyes
Bring them home, bring them home.

From "Mrs. McGrath":
"Now I wasn't drunk and I wasn't blind
When I left my two fine legs behind
A cannonball on the fifth of May
Tore my two fine legs away"

"My, Teddy boy," the widow cried
"Your two fine legs were yer mother's pride
Stumps of a tree won't do at all
Why didn't ye run from the cannonball?"

" ... All foreign wars I do proclaim
Live on blood an a mothers pain
I'd rather have my son as he used to be
Than the King of America and his whole Navy"

Even if you didn't know Bruce Springsteen's politics, you could infer them from the fact that he did this project and from the choice of songs like these. It seems such an ironic counterpoint to clueless conservative idealogues like Ronald Reagan that mistook "Born in the U.S.A" for a patriotic song. In my eyes, it WAS a "patriotic" song, and so are these others, but not in the way that they were portrayed. Dissent is patriotic.

The concert worked back up to a frenetic pace by the end. Bruce and his band's enthusiasm for the material was contagious. I'd never have thought going in that a crowd could cheer an accordion or banjo solo just as much as they would an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo ... but they did. I don't think a lot of these musicians were used to the spotlight afforded them by playing to this large of crowd with Springsteen, but you could tell that they relished it. For some pictures of the show:
June 3, 2006 Bruce Springsteen performs with the Seeger Sessions Band at the Glendale Arena

For more about the album which this tour supports, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions:


The album is evocative of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and bluegrass. It is a collection of work and protest songs made famous by folk artist and political activist, Pete Seeger. The subject matter that is covered reminded me a lot of Springsteen's earlier solo album, the Ghost of Tom Joad, which is my favorite of his.


Taking the Long Way ... An apt title for the album. The Dixie Chicks took a path less traveled to a place of personal and political freedom. This is a gutsy, gutsy album and yet another feather in the cap of who I believe is just about the best producer ever ... Rick Rubin. Who else could boast of producing the best albums of the following eclectic group of artists' careers:

Johnny Cash
System of a Down
Beastie Boys
Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Cult

This album kicks ass. The Chicks, for the first time, co-wrote every song on the album ... and it shows. They are some of the most personal and biting lyrics that they've ever sung. One of the highlights from "Not Ready to Make Nice":
... I'm not ready to make nice
I'm not ready to back down
I'm still mad as hell and
I don't have time to go round and round and round
It's too late to make it right
I probably wouldn't if I could
Cause I'm mad as hell
Can't bring myself to do what it is you think I should ...

They've hit controversional topics before, most notably in "Goodbye Earl" but this album sees them confidently taking the mantle of a "political" band and not being afraid of the consequences. That should be a lesson for all of us. Life's too short to go around pretending you are something you are not, hiding your true feelings or kissing ass just to make a buck. All the money in the world won't salve the wounds caused by duplicity.

For a review much more comprehensive, see Vancouver Voyeur: REVIEW: Taking the Long Way

** BTW, just bought tix to see the Chicks at the Glendale Arena in September. Looking forward to it. **


Eye on the the TV
'Cause tragedy thrills me
Whatever flavor it happens to be, like...
"Killed by the husband"
"Drowned by the ocean"
"Shot by his own son"
"She used a poison
in his tea...kissed him goodbye"
That's my kind of story
It's no fun 'til someone dies

Don't look at me like
I am a monster
Frown out your one face
But with the other
Stare like a junkie
Into the TV
Stare like a zombie

... Cause I need to watch things die... from a distance
Vicariously I live while the whole world dies
You all need it too, don't lie

... Part vampire
Part warrior
Carnivore and voyeur ...

... and so begins the latest Tool album, 10,000 Days. Never the most prolific band, this album is the first since Lateralus 5 years ago. This song, and the album, are very much what you would expect from Tool: thinking man's progressive metal. Virtuosity without the obvious musical masturbation of bands like Dream Theater(and I like DT ... but I think sometimes they cater too much to band geeks).

"Vicarious", to me, seems like an indictment of our culture and how we love to watch violence as long as it isn't happening to us. It's a great song a fitting note to our current political climate. Probably the best ever musical representation of schadenfreude.

This is not a casual listen. Most of the songs over 7 minutes with 2 songs being 12 minutes plus. Like all Tool albums, it's hard to read the first few listens. All of their albums grow on you the more you listen to them.

For more discussions of Tool and this album, check out Jeff at Imagine Echoes:
New York Times Review of Tool 5/19/06
Tool 5/19/06
Inevitable has Occurred

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Rockies Revival

From a great article by Dave Zirin in the Nation:
In Colorado, there stands a holy shrine called Coors Field. On this site, named for the holiest of beers, a team plays that has been chosen by Jesus Christ himself to play .500 baseball in the National League West. And if you don't believe me, just ask the manager, the general manager and the team's owner.

In a remarkable article from Wednesday's USA Today, the Colorado Rockies went public with the news that the organization has been explicitly looking for players with "character." And according to the Tribe of Coors, "character" means accepting Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior. "We're nervous, to be honest with you," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "It's the first time we ever talked about these issues publicly. The last thing we want to do is offend anyone because of our beliefs." When people are nervous that they will offend you with their beliefs, it's usually because their beliefs are offensive.

As Rockies chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort said, "We had to go to hell and back to know where the Holy Grail is. We went through a tough time and took a lot of arrows."

Club president Keli McGregor chimed in, "Who knows where we go from here? The ability to handle success will be a big part of the story, too. [Note to McGregor: You're in fourth place.] There will be distractions. There will be things that can change people. But we truly do have something going on here. And [God's] using us in a powerful way."

Well, someone is using somebody, but it ain't God. San Francisco Giants first baseman-outfielder Mark Sweeney, who spent 2003 and 2004 with the Rockies, said, "You wonder if some people are going along with it just to keep their jobs. Look, I pray every day. I have faith. It's always been part of my life. But I don't want something forced on me. Do they really have to check to see whether I have a Playboy in my locker?"

Then there is manager Clint Hurdle and GM O'Dowd. Hurdle, who has guided the team to a Philistine 302-376 record since 2002, as well as fourth or fifth place finishes every year, was rewarded with a 2007 contract extension in the off-season. Hurdle also claims he became a Christian three years ago and says, "We're not going to hide it. We're not going to deny it. This is who we are."

O'Dowd, who also received a contract extension, believes that their 27-26 2006 record has resulted from the active intervention of the Almighty. "You look at things that have happened to us this year. You look at some of the moves we made and didn't make. You look at some of the games we're winning. Those aren't just a coincidence. God has definitely had a hand in this." Or maybe the management that prays together gets paid together.

O'Dowd and company bend over backward in the article to say they are "tolerant" of other views on the club, but that's contradicted by statements like this from CEO Monfort: "I don't want to offend anyone, but I think character-wise we're stronger than anyone in baseball. Christians, and what they've endured, are some of the strongest people in baseball. I believe God sends signs, and we're seeing those." Assumedly, Shawn Green (Jew), Ichiro Suzuki (Shinto) or any of the godless players from Cuba don't have the "character" Monfort is looking for.

Also, there are only two African-American players on the Rockies active roster. Is this because Monfort doesn't think black players have character? Does the organization endorse the statement of its stadium's namesake, William Coors, who told a group of black businessmen in 1984 that Africans "lack the intellectual capacity to succeed, and it's taking them down the tubes"? These are admittedly difficult questions. But these are the questions that need to be posed when the wafting odor of discrimination clouds the air.

Then there are the fans. I spoke with journalist Tom Krattenmaker, who has studied the connection between religion and sports. Krattenmaker said, "I have concerns about what this Christianization of the Rockies means for the community that supports the team in and around Denver--a community in which evangelical Christians are probably a minority, albeit a large and influential one. Taxpayers and ticket-buyers in a religiously diverse community have a right not to see their team--a quasi-public resource--used for the purpose of advancing a specific form of religion. Have the Colorado Rockies become a faith-based organization? This can be particularly problematic when the religion in question is one that makes exclusive claims and sometimes denigrates the validity of other belief systems."

You might think MLB Commissioner Bud Selig would have something stirring to say about this issue. But Selig, who hasn't actually registered a pulse since 1994, only said meekly, "They have to do what they feel is right."

It's not surprising that Selig would play it soft. First and foremost, Bud's First Commandment is "Thou Shalt Not Criticize the Owners. Second, Selig and Major League Baseball this year are experimenting for the first time with Faith Days at the Park. As if last season's Military Appreciation Nights weren't enough, the New York Times reported yesterday that this summer "religious promotions will hit Major League Baseball. The Atlanta Braves are planning three Faith Days this season, the Arizona Diamondbacks one. The Florida Marlins have tentatively scheduled a Faith Night for September." These religious promotions are attractive to owners because they leverage a market of evangelical Christians who are accustomed to mass worship in stadiums at events staged by sports-driven proselytizers like Promise Keepers and Athletes in Action.

As part of the MLB promotion, the Times reports, "local churches will get discounted tickets to family-friendly evenings of music and sports with a Christian theme. And in return, they mobilize their vast infrastructure of e-mail and phone lists, youth programs and chaperones, and of course their bus fleets, to help fill the stands."

At one of the Faith Days in Atlanta, the team will sell special vouchers. After the game, the stands will be cleared and then only those with the specially purchased vouchers will be re-admitted. Those lucky chosen "will be treated to an hour and a half of Christian music and a testimonial from the ace pitcher John Smoltz." Smoltz is the player who in 2004 opined on gay marriage to the Associated Press, saying, "What's next? Marrying an animal?" Good times for the whole family.

The Rockies right now are a noxious reflection of a time in US history when generals speak of crusades and the President recounts his personal conversations with Yahweh. ("You're doing a heckuva job, Goddy!")

If Monfort, O'Dowd and Hurdle want to pray on their own time, more power to them. But the ballpark isn't a church. Smoltz isn't a preacher. And fans aren't a flock. Instead of using their position of commercial power to field a God Squad, the Rockies might want to think about getting some decent players. There was once this guy named Babe Ruth. Not too much for the religion, and his character was less than sterling. But I hear he could play some decent ball.

What's the role of religion in sports? Can you imagine the uproar if a team only actively sought Jewish or atheist players?

It also brings to mind the ridiculous way in which players of all sports always thank God after a win, a strikeout, a home run, etc. Do you think God really cares if the Rockies win a game? If God was watching a baseball game instead of Iraq or Darfur, that would explain a lot. "Saves" and "sacrifices" take on a new double meaning.

And if God supported a team, it probably wouldn't be the Rockies. It'd have to be the Padres or Saints, right? :-)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Be Afraid

"We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves." -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

A lot of people would think that the U.S. agreeing to talks with Iran concerning their nuclear program would be encouraging. Kinda like the U.S. agreeing to allow weapons inspectors into Iraq in the lead up to that war. Pardon me for not being able to take this administration at face value. Why should we trust them when not one single word out of their mouth in the last 5 years has been honest? They are floating the talks as a way to say that they "tried" before going in and bombing the hell out of Iran. I hope I'm wrong.

If our actual goal was stemming the tide of nuclear proliferation, why are we trying to hold Iran to standards that we won't hold Israel, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia to?

And if diplomacy was an actual option, we would not have an uncultured boob like U.N. Ambassador John Bolton saying that unilateral military action was "on the table" and that “This is put up or shut up time for Iran.” Sounds an awful lot like "bring 'em on".

Heaven help us.

"I think there is a good reason why the propaganda system works that way. It recognizes that the public will not support the actual policies. Therefore it is important to prevent any knowledge or understanding of them." -- Noam Chomsky