"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

5.31.2007

92 days!!!


Finally, some preseason rankings. But Athlon has us at #2, which is way too high. They're right that our schedule is easy, but. But. I'm sorry. I'm a huge fan, but I'm also a pragmatist. Our defense last year was not up to par, and I just don't buy that we've rebuilt enough to get the job done.

Here's the key sentence in Athlon's analysis: "The secondary needs three new starters to fill in around safety Marcus Griffin, who contributed 90 tackles and a pick last fall, and there are experienced hands available at each vacancy." Exactly. We need three new starters, and while we may have some experience at those spots, they're not experienced enough to handle Stephen McGee.

And then there's the offensive line. J'Marcus Webb, who likely would've been an important part of the offensive line (especially since Blalock is gone) is transferring out. (By the way, Webb was born on 8-8-88. Wasn't that the day the rapture was supposed to happen? Nope, it was just the year.)

Call me a pessimist if you want. I prefer "realist." But I called our national championship a full eight months in advance two years ago, and I was right about last year, too.

None of this changes the fact that we are only three months and one day away from the first game. I ran into 23 in West Campus this morning. He'll be back from nerd camp and Lima in time to get our matching t-shirt tributes to our favorite player ready for the season. Woo-hoo!

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is this for real?

Oh. My. Word. I don't know what to say about this. Except that it's a syndicated column via the Dallas Morning News. Emphasis mine.

"What's more, there is not much real give in the administration's policies. True, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other American diplomats met Memorial Day weekend with the Iranians in Baghdad (a good first move but limited, since the Iranians have most of the power because of our incredible stupidity in Iraq). But by all reports, President Bush is more convinced than ever of his righteousness.

"Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!" He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of "our country's destiny."


"The truth of the steadily deteriorating situation in the Middle East is, of course, quite different."

via ITPT

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one week from today, i will be in nairobi

and the moral of this story is: don't mess with an angry mob of buffalos.

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aids in africa update

President Bush is asking Congress to set aside $30 billion dollars to fund treatment and prevention programs to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This would make it possible to treat 2.5 million people, doubling our spending on the crisis.

It's no secret that I'm not President Bush's biggest fan, but to his credit, his administration has done far more to help Africa than the Clinton administration ever did. And while I disagree with the emphasis on abstinence-only education and the defunding of family planning clinics, at least the Bush administration has recognized that there is a problem and has made some efforts to follow through on solutions. Much of the PEPFAR funding goes to Africa, and while the program isn't 100% ideal (primarily because it is limited to only 12 African countries, Haiti, Guyana, and Vietnam), more than 1 million people have received treatment for HIV/AIDS through the program.

I don't know if Congress will actually budget $30 billion for this effort, but this will force them to allocate a considerable amount of money to the fight. I do know that millions of people suffer needlessly from what is now a treatable disease. We should take responsibility for caring for those in need. I believe that helping families who must deal with the effects of HIV/AIDS is a mandate for those of us who call ourselves Christians.

The more than we can do to find funding from any source, the more people we can help. An example of how much things are improving in the HIV/AIDS fight is Cameroon, which just announced that it will be able to provide free ARV's to the country's HIV/AIDS patients with funding from the Global Fund, the Clinton Foundation, and Unitaid. This would have been unheard of as little as five years ago, and is a welcome step.

The president and the first lady will visit Africa next month. Here's guessing they won't find their way to Goma, but I hope that what they see and do while they're on the continent will spur the president to find ways to help even more people who suffer from the effects of this terrible disease.

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whither newt?

Day two of my campaign to get Newt Gingrich to give me a free copy of his dissertation is here. Still no word from the man or his people. Come on, Newt! I'll give you great free publicity if you come through on this.

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sigh

More information on the SBC's new "gender-issues specialist" Bob Stith from Ethics Daily. Lifeway. the publishing arm of the SBC, is funding his position. My earlier post on Stith is here.

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5.30.2007

zooming to meet our thunder

Ethics Daily ran an article yesterday about a rather disturbing product now being produced by a division of the Southern Baptist Convention's publishing house. Holman Bible Outreach International is now producing a Holman CSB Military Bible designed for military personnell. This Bible was distributed at a weekend festival that may or may not have been sponsored by the U.S. Air Force, depending on who you ask.

I don't think there's anything wrong with outreach to military personnell and their families; certainly the young men and women who are going to fight in our wars need the support and care of churches and Christians. So even though this Bible makes me roll my eyes a bit (does anyone really need a military-specific Bible?), I tend to see it as little more than a marketing ploy designed to sell more Bibles.

But look at what else this Bible apparently includes (quoting from Ethics Daily):

"Other special features in all editions, according to one on-line vendor, include the Pledge of Allegiance, plan of salvation, prayers of General George S. Patton and President George Washington and quotes from current Commander in Chief President George W. Bush."

I still haven't picked my jaw up off the ground. The Pledge of Allegiance? Quotes from President Bush? In a BIBLE? Published alongside what is, according to the Southern Baptist Convention, the inerrant word of God?

There's something deeply disturbing about this. While the appropriate expression of patriotism is certainly right and good, it doesn't belong in a sacred text. The kingdom of God is not the kingdom of this world, and it's certainly not supposed to come to fruition through the political systems of the United States of America.

To be fair, Holman certainly isn't publishing a text that's out of line with the practices of many churches, Baptist and otherwise. The megachurch around the corner from my home (which I foundly refer to as "Six Flags Over Jesus," because its sanctuary resembles nothing so much as a circus tent), has a Fourth of July pageant that features soldiers (or people dressed as soldiers) rappelling from the balconies. As a child, my church had a similar, if not quite so elaborate, pageant, during which veterans were asked to stand up and be recognized while the choir sings the song of each branch. I was always so proud of my daddy when he stood up for the Air Force Song.

Maybe there is an appropriate time in our churches to honor our veterans and to recognize that we are fortunate to live in a place where we can freely express our religious views. I think it's possible to do so without becoming a mouthpiece for an unbiblical civil religion. But the melding of patriotism and Christianity as expressed in the Holman CSB Military Bible is going too far. Way too far.

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i still love it

Ah, bella Napoli.

cool


Here's a fascinating cultural history of church signs. Here is one of my favorites, seen by Melissa the Missionary one day in Birmingham. They did go inside to inform the church secretaries of their mistakes, but apparently, they weren't too concerned.

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the future is now

This is wild. Thanks, Daddy.

me and newt

In the course of writing a dissertation, one can learn many interesting and unanticipated facts and skills. One might learn that in order to do research in the eastern Congo, one needs to learn something about how volcanoes work. One might question one's decision to pursue such a project when one discovers that earthquakes, angry mobs, and learning what mortar rounds sound like could very well play a role in one's research. Or one might realize that one's political equivalent of Bob Stoops wrote a dissertation that one very much needs to read.

As it happens, several of the above-named hypothetical scenarios have happened in the course of my pursuit of a PhD. The last one is that which concerns me now. For it seems that none other than Newton Leroy Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, architect of the 1994 Republican Revolution and the Contract with America, Fox News commentator, ultraconservative, etc., etc. does himself have a PhD. From Tulane. In Modern European History, to be precise.

Why, you might ask, does this matter to me? Well, as it turns out, my dissertation has to do in part with social service (eg, education and health care) delivery in the Congo. And wouldn't you know it: Newt Gingrich wrote his dissertation about Belgian education policy in the Congo during the colonial period. Which means I need to read Newt Gingrich's dissertation.

Here is the problem with trying to read this dissertation: I need a hard copy to look at, because I'm going to have to reference Gingrich's dissertation fairly extensively. Our library only has it in microfilm form. Because they have the microfilm, however, they won't do an Interlibrary Loan. Photocopying the microfilm will cost $75, which I can't afford. Ordering a copy of the dissertation from the Michigan dissertation monopoly will set me back $41 plus tax, which I also can't really afford. What's a girl to do?

In this case, I'm going to beg:

Dear Newt Gingrich,

I'm not your biggest fan, but you and I share something in common: a ridiculous amount of knowledge about the education system in the Congo. I desparately need a copy of your dissertation so that I can finish my own dissertation, and I can't afford the cost of acquiring one of yours. Might you happen to have an extra copy that I could borrow for a couple of years? Or a digitized version that I could print out myself? I would very much appreciate your assistance in this matter. If you could help me, your people can email me and I'll send an address. Thank-you so much, and I promise never to say anything mean about you again.

Sincerely,
Texas in Africa

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l-a-m-e

And you thought you had a lame hobby: this guy is liveblogging the National Spelling Bee.

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more ryan adams

More leaks and such from the forthcoming Ryan Adams album, Easy Tiger:

You can listen to "Two" on Adams' myspace page, or you could just download it here.

You can listen to "Halloween Head" at Moroccan Role.

You can watch a video of "Goodnight Rose" via the Henry Rollins Show, as well as an interview here. This is the opening track on the album.

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movies you shouldn't see

I saw The Wendell Baker Story yesterday. I do love Luke Wilson, but the movie he wrote wasn't very good. There's a reason that although they filmed it in 2003, it didn't make it to the screen until this year. The story jumps from thing to thing without the smooth flow of a Wes Anderson movie, which I suspect is what the Wilson boys were going for.

That said, there are some absolutely gorgeous shots of Austin and the surrounding area, including a river that's supposedly the Rio Grande but that looks suspiciously like the Pedernales. The shot of the 360 Bridge near my home is lovely.

priorities

You know. Eighteen Congolese were savagely murdered in a horrible attack over the weekend. The villagers there keep throwing stones at the UN investigators who are trying to find out what happened. Ten American soldiers were killed in Iraq on Memorial Day. Lots of people in the United States, Europe, and Canada have probably been exposed to an extensively drug-resistant form of tuberculosis because a guy with the disease traveled all over the place. The Supreme Court has limited workers' rights to sue their employers for equal pay based on past discrimination. Many African elites are upset that yet another white American male will head the World Bank, which determines so much about how African economies function.

With all this going on in the world, I just don't care what Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Rosie O'Donnell think of each other. And I wonder why my newspaper seems to think I do.

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5.29.2007

the good die young

Ryan Adams' new album, Easy Tiger, will be out June 26. Here's an Mp3 of a single off the album, "Everybody Knows." It's really good, much more like the Adams of Gold than the Adams of crazytown.

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onion news network news


Al Qaeda Also Fed Up With Ground Zero Construction Delays

yep

So the Southern Baptist Convention has appointed a retiring pastor, Rev. Bob Stith, to be a "gender-issues specialist." His job will be to show "churches compassionate and redemptive ways to deal with gay people despite many Christians' belief that homosexuality is a sin."

According to the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Stith will (also?) be the director of the SBC's Ministry to Homosexuals Task Force. This article outlines some of his goals for this ministry.

What saddens me is knowing that "compassionate and redemptive" will not mean accepting people for who they are as God created them, but rather insisting that they need to change in order to be serious Christians. Insisting that there aren't biological bases for homosexuality, or that it might be possible to change people's sexual preferences isn't going to win the SBC any friends, especially as the body of scientific evidence for biological causes grows. Even Al Mohler recognizes that.

If nothing else, this should bring in some publicity for the convention. Anyone want to venture a guess on whether it will be more or less controversial than the efforts to convert Jews of several years back?

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congo watch

MONUC has deployed three companies to reinforce peacekeeping efforts in the increasingly unstable North Kivu province. Horrible atrocities were committed in South Kivu over the weekend.

I'll be in Goma in 11 days.

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a new kind of baptist

Robert Parham reminds us that the idea for an organization to help different types of Baptists cooperate originated with Herbert Reynolds. While Reynolds' original idea never came to fruition, his vision is largely being made reality through the New Baptist Covenant. If we could make the NBC work, it would be a great testament to Reynolds' life and legacy.

Reynolds' funeral is tomorrow at 11am at First Baptist Church in Waco.

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it's over

Harold Dutton's Legislator's Prayer. He had the leg holding hands in the aisles.

To the God of the Panhandle, to the God of the Rio Grande Valley, To the God of the High Plains, to the God of the Gulf Coast,

To the God of the Piney Woods, To the God of central Texas,

To the God of West Texas,

To the God of rural Texas, to the God of urban Texas,

To the God of the poor, to the God of the powerful,

We thank you for being one God,

and we pray that our differences serve to keep Texas one under God.

Amen.

The House stands adjourned sine die. Members and their families are invited to the Speakers' Apartment for a dessert reception. And Craddick thanked Keel and Wilson for doin' a great job filling in as parliamentarians. The applause on that point was somewhat less than enthusiastic.

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5.28.2007

this is our government

Five minutes ago. Harold Dutton came to the front podium holding the mike from the back podium and raised a point of parliamentary inquiry:

Dutton: "Mr. Speaker, what does 'sine die' mean?"

There was lots of back and forth with the chair, then a female voice in the background could be heard on the mike saying, "It's Latin for 'Miller time.'"

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sine die

It's all but over. The Senate has adjourned. Several Reps appear to be drunk as they are making punchy speeches thanking everyone they can think of, from interns to their housekeepers. Tom Craddick is still Speaker of the House. Krusee will have a nasty battle to keep his seat.

The chair is allowing an appeal of the ruling of the chair on something about whether the chair shall be sustained to overrule the ruling on a point of order having to do with the TXU bill, which isn't actually dead, blah, blah, blah, but it's over. The acting speaker just offered Keel the mike. Sine die has to happen in the next 42 minutes, and Texas will be safe from its politicians for another 18 months. Thank-you, Jesus.

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some gave all


brother at this moment
you ain't feeling any pain
and you're staring out the window
and it looks like rain
and you're a veteran and you know
about monkeys on the brain
you watched every dream you've had
lie broken in the drain
three hundred thousand men
all different all the same
three hundred thousand men
all different all the same
piled up like driftwood
in a pouring rain

hey stranger
ain't there nothing I can say
can you think of any way
that you can make it through the day
hey stranger
ain't there nothing I can do
you lost it all for me
there must be something I can do for you

a quarter of the country
is one paycheck from the street
a tenth of the country
has never had enough to eat
and one one hundredth of the country
is strangling all the rest
and every policeman on the street
is wearing a bulletproof vest
three hundred thousand men
all different all the same
three hundred thousand men
all different all the same
piled up like driftwood
in a pouring rain

hey stranger
ain't there nothing I can say
can you think of any way
that you can make it through the day
hey stranger
ain't there nothing I can do
you lost it all for me
there must be something I can do for you

- "Stranger," David Baerwald

sine die die die already

The House and Senate passed the budget, so we probably won't be having a special session (although the Observer points out that the House didn't sign the budget in the presence of the House). Then things got interesting. Krusee gave a personal privilege speech in which he quoted Reagan on authoritarianism and Republican values.

The insurgents walked out a bit later, so no more business could be conducted. Assuming the barricades are taken down and no one storms the Bastille, er, I mean, the dais, the House will reconvene at 2. If there's a quorum.

Here's a whole article on Strama's, uh, somewhat unusual speech that I posted about yesterday. It may be more difficult to remove Tom Craddick from office than it is to remove a sitting pope. Paul Burka is waxing poetic and quoting Thomas Wolfe. This whole thing is surreal, but it's going to make for a great lesson in my classes next year. The only thing we know for sure is that today is sine die, and all this will be over at midnight. Thank goodness.

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5.27.2007

a chance

I am so glad to hear about programs like this one at Amherst that are designed to help low-income students attend elite colleges. Amherst's program even includes grants to help students purchase dorm room necessities and winter coats.

Even at state universities, low-income students face obstacles that can be nearly insurmountable. It has twice been my great privilege to teach classes that are geared towards helping first-generation college students succeed at UT. In these classes, I've had students who grew up in homeless shelters, whose parents were migrant farm workers, who worked far more than 8 hours a week to make ends meet while maintaining a full load of classes.

The odds they have to fight are overwhelming and heartbreaking. One of my students this past semester left me in tears after explaining the situation that caused the student to miss an exam. I couldn't help it. With the number of overprivileged, lazy students who come into my office whining about their grades every semester, it broke my heart to hear such a story from a student who just wanted to learn.

Programs like the ones we have at UT are a good start in helping students from low-income backgrounds succeed, but they aren't enough, and programs like those at Amherst only benefit a few lucky kids. We're only going to have true equality of opportunity in this country when we commit to ensuring that all children, regardless of where they live or who their parents are, have the opportunity to go to good schools, with well-paid, committed educators helping them to prepare for life.

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does it even matter anymore?

So back in February, my colleague The Bitter One and I attended a taping of Texas Monthly Talks at which Speaker Tom Craddick was the guest. Paul Burka points out that, during that taping, Craddick said something that seems to contradict the basis for what he has been ruling for the last couple of days, namely, that the Speaker is a statewide office holder and therefore can only be removed from his office during a session by impeachment.

Hmmmmm....

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end of an era

It's official: Julie Pennington-Russell is leaving Calavary Baptist Church in Waco to serve as senior pastor of FBC Decatur, Georgia. Big Daddy Weave has all the details here.

Julie P-R was called as the first woman to serve as a senior pastor in a BGCT church the summer after my sophomore year at Baylor. The day she first preached at Calvary, protesters picketed the church. But Julie pressed on to serve as God had called her to do.

It is difficult to overstate Julie's influence as a mentor and role model for hundreds of young Baptist women whom God has called to vocational ministry. My sister is among those women. Julie's encouragement has played a huge role in her life. She will be missed.

"I am a pastor, not in spite of what the Bible says, but because of what the Bible says."
- Julie Pennington-Russell

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cheapest ticket in town

Mark Not the Methodist and I were just ahead of the curve. Seems everyone else in town is enjoying the free political theater as well:

========
"We were out having drinks and decided to come see them overthrow Craddick," said Austinite Kevin Taylor, 28, who sat with several admittedly intoxicated friends. "What better way to watch this? You wouldn't want to sober."

The crowds were smaller Saturday, though the House Chamber commanded more spectators than the Senate.

========

I miss Molly, too. She would be having a ball writing about this mess. And it is a mess. It even made the sermon this morning (Tom Craddick as powers and principalities? Ahem!).

Anyway, here are the legal arguments. Midland's KWES News West channel 9 did 1:31 minutes on what happened on Friday, but they failed to point out how many of his challengers are Republicans. The station only said that Democrats tried to storm the podium.

Strama is taking a point of personal privilege to explain why it's a problem that Craddick is ignoring the rules. It's the most forceful I've ever seen Strama be: "I hope all of you will join me in asking him to reconsider that position" or something along those lines. Ooohhhhh.

Burka has a scholarly analysis of Craddick's shaky basis for his refusal to recognize motions. Quorum Report says that Dunnam has found a legal precedent for disputing Craddick's claim that he is a constitutional officer:

=============

"It has long been held and accepted as settled law that a legislator is not a "civil officer," the speaker of a legislative assembly is not a "state officer," the members of state Legislatures are not "officers of the state," subject to impeachment, and this will hold true even though the State Constitution may fail to expressly give the legislative body control over its own members."

Tex.Civ.App. 1932.

Diffie v. Cowan

56 S.W.2d 1097

Court of Civil Appeals of Texas, Texarkana.
========

I was going to go watch the House tonight, but it may be a waste of time. We're going to court, kids. On a holiday weekend. God bless America.

In other legislative news, TXU electricity users are screwed, our school districts will almost certainly end up in court over limited public forums and nondiscrimiation issues, and Governor Goodhair just vetoed a resolution designating an amphibian (that would be the Texas blind salamander) as the state amphibian because this particular amphibian is only found in one Texas county. Good land.

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5.26.2007

a rare baseball update

It appears that Baylor will play Texas A&M for the Big XII Tournament championship tomorrow in baseball. They lead Oklahoma 7-2 at the top of the 8th. I have been a Baylor fan for too long to expect this means that Baylor will actually win. But for now, it looks good.
Meanwhile, congrats to the Baylor women's softball team which is headed to the College World Series.

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people all over the world

St. Stephen's in Wimberley is having a Motown Pentecost service at 10am on Sunday. I'm told that the recessional will be "Love Train."

I am seriously tempted to be a temporary Episcopalian for the day.

in a manner of speaking

Say what you will, Tom Craddick is apparently a gentleman.

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absolutely appalling

Via the DMN, here's some overedited video of what happened in the House last night.

I think my favorite part is when Dunnam asks Craddick, "Does anyone's voice in this chamber matter but yours?"

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over and around us lies

I saw a haunting film last night.

Yesterday, released in 2004, is the first Zulu language film to be released internationally. It was also the first South African film to be nominated for an Oscar. Directed by Darrell James Roodt (who also made the gorgeous 1995 film version of Cry, the Beloved Country), it is beautifully shot. The film showcases South Africa's stark beauty, massive desparity, and quite resiliance through an incredible series of images. It even manages to make Johannesburg look pretty, and that's not an easy feat.

The film tells the story of a woman named Yesterday, whose father gave her that name because he believed that yesterday was better than today or tomorrow will be. Yesterday lives with her daughter Beauty in a small town; her husband works in the mines in Johannesburg. She contracts HIV due to her husband's unfaithfulness, and the film follows the story of what happens to her as she tries to get her daughter to school.

Lelethi Khumalo (who played the title character in Roodt's Sarafina!) gives an amazing performance as Yesterday. She somehow manages to convey the hope of a life well lived with the despair of realizing that life will not be what she expected. In one scene, her husband refuses to believe the news she has given about the disease, and he beats her. Khumalo visibly ages from that scene to the next. One moment she is a young wife and mother. The next, she is old, aged with knowledge and despair, headed back home to face a life that will be tinged with death.

The film ends on a hopeful note. I won't tell you what it is, because I want you to Netflix this film and see it for yourself. Suffice it to say that I cried and cried, for the beauty of Africa, for the way the light hits the hills of KwaZulu-Natal, for the unfairness of disease and death, for the hope of new generations. For while we may have been happier yesterday than we will be tomorrow, our hope lies not in the past.

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while you were sleeping...

...Craddick released his legal rationale for last night's rulings:

==========
May 26, 2007

The following is being entered into the House Journal by Speaker Tom Craddick:

The office of Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives is the only constitutionally-mandated officer of the Texas House by virtue of Article 3, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution. All other officers of the House, including committee chairs, are chosen by rule. The Speaker occupies a unique position in this state as an officeholder in his capacity as a state representative from a particular district of this state and also as the constitutional officeholder of the position of Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.


The Texas Constitution speaks to the exclusive grounds for the removal of officeholders. Article 16, Section 5 is applicable to all officeholders and is automatic upon conviction for bribery. Article 3, Section 11 is specific to the legislature, and authorizes each house of the legislature to expel members for offenses upon a two-thirds vote. Article 3, Section 8 vests procedural authority upon each house to judge election contests and qualifications to hold office as a state legislator.

Furthermore, a unique provision of the Texas Constitution, Article 15, Section 7, mandates that the legislature can only provide for the trial and removal from office of any officer of this State by enactment of a law if a mode for a state officer’s removal has not otherwise been specifically provided for in the Texas Constitution.

This unambiguous provision of the Texas Constitution overrides any supposed merit to the suggestion that a process to remove an officer of this State can be created by one house of the legislature during a legislative session and used to remove that officer from office. Because Article 15, Section 7 specifically forbids the result that Representatives Smith, Hill and Dunnam seek to accomplish by motion, their reliance on precedent from sources outside of the Rules of this House, the Texas Constitution and the laws of this state is misplaced and violates the specific substantive provisions and procedural guarantees of the Texas Constitution.

Additionally, and independent of the foregoing, the House Rules do not have a provision for members to remove a Speaker during mid-session for the reason that Article 3, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution governs the timing and authority for the election of the Speaker. A motion to amend the rules to provide for electing a Speaker by a new and different method than that set out in the Texas Constitution and is, in essence, an attempt to amend the Texas Constitution by the passage of a motion in one house. Amendments to the Texas Constitution can only come about by the passage by two-thirds vote in both houses of the proposed amendment which must then receive voter approval in an election called for that purpose.

Given that the motion being proposed is not authorized by law, and furthermore conflicts with applicable provisions of the Texas Constitution, the effect of passage of such a motion would be invalid. As a matter of public policy, for a Speaker to recognize a member for such a motion would not only be disruptive of the legitimate business on behalf of the citizens of this state that the House should instead be conducting, but it also would undermine the institution of the office of the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

Therefore, pursuant to my authority under Rule 5, Section 24 of the House Rules, I denied the requests to be recognized.
================

Quorum Report says that Rep. Coleman planned to file a complaint about Wilson (the new assistant parliamentarian)'s ethics fines with the Ethics Commission overnight. Quorum Report is also carrying a copy of a counterargument on Craddick's authority on this matter. I don't have a password, so I can access neither that, nor Denise Davis' resignation letter.

Pink Dome has some hilarious visual aids.

What I don't get is how Craddick doesn't see that his actions are basically political suicide. I know he's power-hungry, and clearly he and Nadine love the Speaker's apartment, but this looks like a desparate attempt to cling to power from every direction. He'll come out of this looking like a despot. After this, there's little chance he'll be re-elected as Speaker in 2009. He'll be lucky to make it past next week.

At this point, all they can do is refuse to pass the budget, which would force a special session, which no one wants. If I were the insurgency, I would line up all of my supporters at the mike and have each one raise points of order on whether the Speaker is a dictator, whether the Speaker is subject to checks and balances, and whether the Speaker is subject to the rules. It wouldn't change anything, but it would make a point. And it would show how many people are opposed to Craddick.

Anyway, things this morning are calmer. At the moment, the Travis county delegation is doing a resolution in memory of Clifford Antone and there are the rest of the honorary resolutions. We'll see what happens later today.

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the travesty continues

Via Burnt Orange Report, an excellent headline re: Craddick's arrogance from the DMN. The headline has since changed to read "Craddick causes frenzy in House."

Craddick has left the dais. Turner's chairing. There's been one bill to go for almost an hour now. The DMN blog has a good summary of where things stand. Now they're fighting about whether to adjourn for the evening. It's over for tonight. And Craddick is not going to want to read the papers tomorrow.

I would never say that I am not proud to be a Texan. But I can say without hesitation that tonight I am not proud of the government of Texas. This is the most appalling thing I've seen in quite some time.

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unbelievable

Here's a good explanation of what Craddick has actually said.

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next stop, Midland

Maybe Craddick needs a copy of this book.

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travesty

Rep. Fred Hill just quietly and calmly made a motion to vacate the chair. Craddick (read: Keel) has more or less declared that he won't let that happen. He says he has absolute discretion to rule on any matter.

I mostly consider the Texas Legislature to be a substitute for football. It's a sport, there's total chaos at times, and it's generally entertaining. I make fun of these guys all the time.

But tonight I'm sad. I can't believe that our Speaker, for all his faults, is ruling like a Third World dictator, being prompted by an unelected lackey, refusing to listen to anyone else.

Hill is building a case here. He is challenging every ruling. There will be a record of all of this. I'm so glad that Hill, a grown-up, is the one doing this. I'm also glad that it's Hill because he used to be one of Craddick's allies. And Craddick is digging his own grave. If the powers that be find a way to explain what has happened to the people of Texas, this won't fly. Even in Midland.

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king craddick

I am sick to know that the Speaker of the Texas House apparently believes he is above the rules of the House. He has determined that he can only be removed from office by being impeached, which requires a 2/3 vote. This is particularly amusing given that Terry Keel is quite clearly feeding him almost all of his lines.

So you get an idea of the arrogance involved in this, here's part of tonight's exchange over electing a non-partial parliamentarian (Dunnam is a Waco rep.). The new parliamentarian (Keel) is a former House member and a lawyer who is currently representing one of the members of the House in a criminal case.

Dunnam: "I would like to suspend rules to offer such a motion."

Craddick: "You're not recognized for that."

Dunnam: "Does any voice in this chamber matter but yours? And Mr. Keel's, and Mr. Wilson's?"

Craddick: "We're going to follow the House rules."

Dunnam: "We're going to follow the House rules? When?"

Applause erupted from the gallery.

"This is my chamber, too, Mr. Speaker," Dunnam said.


I wonder if willfully choosing a bizarre interpretation of the House rules is an impeachable offense.

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5.25.2007

you can't just ignore the rules

So, while we were all out having a life tonight, apparently all hell broke loose at the Texas House. You know it's bad when the parliamentarian resigns three days before the end of the session. The assistant parliamentarian resigned as well. And the Statesman article says that she was "nearly in tears" as she left.

Terry Keel is apparently filling in as parliamentarian, according to Quorum Report. If Tom Craddick is vying to go down as the worst Speaker in Texas history, I'd say he's well on the way.
It's on channel 17, but I'm seriously tempted to go down and watch.

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you make my heart go ding-a-ling-a-ling

I would never be so tacky as to ask for a gift. But, well, this is just about the perfect present for the Africanist who has everything. And what product would better combine my interests than a book about Mobutu and his compatriot's hideous decor? :)

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woo-hoo!

Congratulations to the Ex-Roommate, who just learned that she gets to advance in the process of becoming a Texas Game Warden! Clearly, they were impressed by her excellent interpersonal skills. Well, that and she can shoot.

Next step: the background check. I have already promised to say not a word about the bodies in her trunk. :) Congrats again!!!

"...and Marx is claiming it was off-sides"

How have I never seen this before?

grace and peace

The Waco Tribune-Herald reports that former Baylor President and Chancellor Herbert Reynolds passed away this morning in New Mexico. There are not yet details on his passing or funeral arrangements.

As a Baylor student, I was a member of First Baptist Waco with President Reynolds and his wife Joy. They are wonderful people who set a strong example of faithfulness to God and to the church. Every Sunday, I would look up and see them sitting in the front row of the balcony. Although I'm sure their attendance was not perfect due to speaking engagements and the like, I don't recall many Sundays they weren't there, worshipping God and fellowshiping with the church.

At times, Dr. Reynolds was a controversial leader at Baylor, and while he may have taken actions with which many disagreed, his role in preserving Baylor's freedom is difficult to overstate. To his credit, Dr. Reynolds recognized early on fundamentalism's threat to Christian higher education. He moved decisively to keep Baylor true to her Baptist roots by ensuring that if the BGCT fell under fundamentalist control, Baylor would not do the same. Because of Dr. Reynolds, the world's largest Baptist university remained largely open to free academic inquiry and religious expression.

After conservatives took control of the SBC and its seminaries, he also recognized the urgent need for moderate Baptist seminaries. Reynolds was largely responsible for the creation of Truett Seminary at Baylor, which has become one of the preeminent institutions of theological education in moderate Baptist life. Even in retirement, during the fight that occurred over Robert Sloan's tenure as Baylor president, Dr. Reynolds fought to maintain academic and religious freedom at Baylor and to maintain Baylor's mission of keeping an outstanding Christian education accessible to middle class Texas Baptist families.

Texas Baptists lost an important leader today. We owe it to Dr. Reynolds' memory to continue his legacy of support for freedom in the pursuit of truth and faithfulness to God's work. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

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open your eyes

Wow.

sigh

I'm almost out of things to say about how appalling the Alberto Gonzales case is. We should all be seriously disturbed by the politicization of our Justice Department. One of the basic principles on which our country was founded is that of equal justice under the law. Politics are not supposed to have anything to do with it. What has happened at the JoD during this administration is unacceptable.

Jon Stewart explains the latest developments:

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5.24.2007

married to amazement

...When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
- Mary Oliver, "When Death Comes"

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garage sale!

Kelso on Craddick.

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or...

...maybe it's a sign that Someone Else thinks Alberto Gonzales really shouldn't be the A.G. anymore.

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congo watch

Here is what little girls go through in the Congo. As the article points out, we have failed them.

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we've never had a savior on capitol hill

Well, the Bible class bill made it through the Senate yesterday, and, thank goodness, they kept intact the amendments that provide safeguards for religious liberty, require teacher training, and require the use of an actual textbook. We'll see what the governor does with it. In the meantime, the Houston Chronicle points out some of the inevitable complications that will arise as a result of offering these classes.

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blah.

I have nothing to blog about this morning. I'm sorry.

5.23.2007

congo watch

Good land.

If HRW says it's true, I believe them. They know their stuff.

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"...and he died. sweet dreams."

The Kamusi Project made the Colbert Report!

So did Judges 4, which is one of my Sunday School class's favorite stories of what we've studied so far:

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flies in the kitchen

This is a fascinating article on the attempt of members of Congress to live on a $21/week food budget - the amount of money an average family on food stamps has for their food budget. Apparently only four members of Congress (3 Democrats and 1 Republican) could be bothered to try to learn how 26 million Americans live.

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5.22.2007

22,991 pounds

...is the amount of carbon my actions release into the atmosphere every year. If I replaced three regular lightbulbs with Energy Star lightbulbs, raised the temperature on my thermostat by one degree in the summer and reduced it by one degree in the winter, and recycled my magazines, I could reduce that number by 9%.

What's your number?

look out, Lockney!

So, just down the road from Floydada is an even smaller town called Lockney. The last time I drove through Lockney, things were pretty quiet. It's one of a thousand towns like it on the Texas plains. Small, economically depressed, dying because there aren't any jobs anymore, aside from growing cotton.

Life in Lockney is about to get a whole lot more interesting. There's nothing like a member of an offshoot fundamentalist Mormon sect moving his business to town to make the status quo seem perfectly adequate. And the guy has already bought property in Plainview. My word.

everything between the sabine and the rio grande

Here is what nerds we are: yesterday, Mark Not the Methodist and I went to watch the legislature. For fun.

(I know, I know. There's no excuse for this sort of behavior, but to be fair, it's the last week of the session, so there's lots happening. It's the best free entertainment in town. And we are political scientists. And I needed to think about the "observe the Legislature" project I make my students do. Yeah, that's it.)

Anyway, we had a great time. We met at the Chili Parlor for lunch, then headed over to watch the Senate debate a camera-based speed detection system and saw the House waste lots of time on an amendment relating to oversight of the Texas Youth Commission. We also spent lots of time making rather snide remarks about the slimy lobbyists, the fact that only the Senate requires you to go through metal detectors to sit in the gallery (my theory is that it has something to do with Dan Patrick), and generally sitting in awe of how incompetent many of our legislators appear to be. And it was fun to be in a House that is busy fomenting rebellion against the Speaker.

Hopelessly nerdy or not, all in all it was a great way to spend an afternoon. Plus there were Japanese tourists.

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the mystery is solved!

Hahahahahaha!!!!

Thanks, Gary, for the link!

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5.21.2007

"i didn't see that one coming"

So I have gone back and forth on whether to post on the Mr. Deity series or not. Mr. Deity, for those of you who haven't seen these films yet, is a depiction of God as a sortof cosmic CEO. His business associates are Jesus (whose name he can't ever remember and from whom he asks "a really big favor") and Larry (the Holy Spirit/office manager). Mr. Deity's ex-girlfriend is Lucy. Ahem.
Given that my pastor is the one who passed on the link, and that, well, it's really funny, I'm going to go ahead and share it here. Be forewarned; if you think you might be easily offended by a questioner's humorous depiction of God, you probably shouldn't watch these. If you're interested in how someone outside of a church might think about God, or if you share my sense of humor, you should watch them all, in order. They are thought-provoking and funny.

food for thought

"Evangelicals at a Crossroads As Falwell's Generation Fades" - from the Post, emphasis mine. This definitely reflects the trends I see in my students at the Christian university at which I teach.

"Polls suggest that evangelicals under 30 are just as staunchly opposed to abortion, and almost as concerned about 'moral standards' in general, as their elders. But a February Pew survey found that younger evangelicals are more likely than their parents to worry about environmental issues; 59 percent of those under 30 said the United States was 'losing ground' on pollution, compared with 37 percent of those over 30.

"Acceptance of homosexuality is also greater among young evangelicals. One in three under 30 favors same-sex marriage, compared with one in 10 of their elders.

"Redeem the Vote, a group formed in 2004 to register young evangelicals to vote, is campaigning with black churches in Alabama for capping the interest charges on short-term 'payday' loans, which can hit 400 percent a year. The group's founder, physician Randy Brinson, said he finds that young evangelicals are intensely interested in practical ways to help their communities and are little swayed by issues such as same-sex marriage.

"'These kids have gone to school with people who happen to be gay, and they don't see them as a direct threat. They may think that lifestyle is wrong, but they don't see it as something that really affects their daily lives,' Brinson said. 'The groups that focus only on a narrow agenda, especially gay marriage and abortion, are going to decline.'"

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congo watch

The BBC reports that a park ranger was killed by rebels in Virunga National Park (north of Goma) this weekend. My friend Robert, who works with these park rangers and helped them to get training to prevent and avoid these attacks, has many more details here.

This area of North Kivu is less and less stable with every passing week. It just makes me sick to think about it.

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ah, tourism

This is an interesting perspective on African tourism from the point of view of people who usually drive me crazy: the men who try to sell you safaris and other tourist activities the minute you hit the ground. It's making me think I should be a bit nicer. It's also making me glad that I don't often go to places like Arusha.

The author is incorrect in her definition of the Kiswahili word "mzungu," however. "Mzungu" is a word used to refer to a white person. Technically, the word means "foreigner," but you would never hear a foreigner of Asian or African descent referred to as "mzungu." Granted, most Africans probably see little distinction between "white" and "wealthy," but still.

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politiki

Liz Garrigan on the Fred Thompson Tennesseans have known for a long time.

I've never been a huge Fred Thompson fan. He's an okay guy, but he wasn't a very involved Senator, and he had mediocre constituent services. But whatever. He'd be a good candidate for the Republicans. And goodness knows they need to find a candidate, soon.

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rock star!

Check out this great interview with my friend Malie on New Zealand's Christian television station. Malie works for World Vision in child protection and she does a great job handling the interview to talk about her work with earthquake victims in Pakistan.

(To see her segment, scroll forward to about minute 7 of the program.)

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'tis the season

Ah, there's nothing like civil liberties by majority vote.

(As an aside, I always thought the Westwood kids were less holy than the rest of them. Now we have proof positive. :)

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5.20.2007

last night in live music: the road to austin


"...nothin' ain't worth nothin', but it's free."
So while we were perhaps not as enthralled by the Road to Austin concert as the Statesman, last night's free show at Auditorium Shores was pretty good. Professer Deutsch is in town for the weekend, so we met up with a couple of her friends to head down to the lake. It was such a nice evening - not hot at all, and the venue was nowhere close to full, so it was a perfect evening to hang out with friends and people watch. Austinites never fail to amuse, that's for sure.

As for the music, the show was not my preferred kind of thing, but it was free, so I can't really complain. Each act played about two songs, and we were subjected to waaaaaayyyyy too much Stephen Bruton this-and-that, including a ridiculous self-congratulatory award to thank Stephen Bruton for doing such a darn good job of putting on a Stephen Bruton show for everyone to enjoy Stephen Bruton. I could have done without the opera and the seemingly endless Malford Milligan repeat performances, but all the music was good.

But I digress. I especially enjoyed getting to see James Hand, Delbert McClinton, Joe Ely, and Joel Guzman. Kris Kristofferson was one of the headliners; he played "Help Me Make it Through the Night" and a couple of others before relinquishing the stage to Ely or someone else. Bonnie Raitt's 3-4 song "set" was also good; the highlight was her dedication of John Prine's "Angel From Montgomery" to Molly Ivins' memory, sung with Ruthie Foster.

The encore began with just Kris Kristofferson singing "Me & Bobby McGee," which ended up with 30 or so performers onstage. I hate when show organizers do that. It's so unnecessary to have people wandering around behind the performer, or singing along when they only know half the words. That song is amazing, and there wasn't a better way to end the evening than listening to Kristofferson sing it solo under the stars. Maybe next time. And maybe that's not the most important thing. As the Professor points out, there was grace in it all.

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if i wanna see the morning light


(taken Friday night at the Peacock Room, during VA's bachelorette party)

5.19.2007

how is he still the ag?

Eugene Robinson on Alberto Gonzales:

"The image I can't get out of my head is of Alberto Gonzales carrying a document for Ashcroft's signature into the man's hospital room, attempting a sneaky end-run around the deputy whom Ashcroft left in charge of the department, knowing full well that Ashcroft was seriously ill and almost certainly medicated. What did he intend to do, guide the man's hand?

"This is the attorney general of the United States, ladies and gentlemen. Heaven help us."

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"do you want to be passive observers?"

Barack Obama's commencement speech at Southern New Hampshire University today, via Andrew Sullivan:

There is a verse from the Bible that is sometimes read or recited during rites of passage like this. Corinthians 13:11: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child. Now that I have become a man, I have put away childish things.”

I bring this up because there’s often an assumption on days like today that growing up is purely a function of age; that becoming an adult is an inevitable progression that can be measured by a series of milestones – college graduation or your first job or the first time you throw a party that actually has food too.

And yet, maturity does not come from any one occasion – it emerges as a quality of character. Because the fact is, I know a whole lot of thirty and forty and fifty year olds who have not yet put away childish things – who continually struggle to rise above the selfish or the petty or the small.

We see this reflected in our country today.

We see it in a politics that’s become more concerned about who’s up and who’s down than who’s working to solve the real challenges facing our generation; a politics where debates over war and peace are reduced to 60-second soundbites and 30-second attack ads.

We see it in a media culture that sensationalizes the trivial and trivializes the profound – in a 24-hour news network bonanza that never fails to keep us posted on how many days Paris Hilton will spend in jail but often fails to update us on the continuing genocide in Darfur or the recovery effort in New Orleans or the poverty that plagues too many American streets.

And as we’re fed this steady diet of cynicism, it’s easy to start buying into it and put off hard decisions. We become tempted to turn inward, suspicious that change is really possible, doubtful that one person really can make a difference.

That’s where the true test of growing up occurs. That’s where you come in...

No matter where you go from here – whether it’s into public service or the business world; whether it’s law school or medical school; whether you become scientists or artists or entertainers – you will face a choice. Do you want to be passive observers of the way world is or active citizens in shaping the way the world ought to be? In both your own life and the life of your country, will you strive to put away childish things?

It is a constant struggle, this quest for maturity, and as my wife will certainly tell you, I haven’t always been on the winning side in my own life. But through my own tests and failings, I have learned a few lessons here and there about growing up, and there’s three I’d like to leave you with today.

The first lesson came during my first year in college.

Back then I had a tendency, in my mother’s words, to act a bit casual about my future. I rebelled, angry in the way that many young men in general, and young black men in particular, are angry, thinking that responsibility and hard work were old-fashioned conventions that didn’t apply to me. I partied a little too much and studied just enough to get by.

And once, after a particularly long night of partying, we had spilled a little too much beer, broke a few too many bottles, and trashed a little too much of the dorm. And the next day, the mess was so bad that when one of the cleaning ladies saw it, she began to tear up.

And when a girlfriend of mine heard about this, she said to me, “That woman could’ve been my grandmother, Barack. She spent her days cleaning up after somebody else’s mess.”

Which drove home for me the first lesson of growing up:

The world doesn’t just revolve around you.

There’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit – the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us – the child who’s hungry, the laid-off steelworker, the immigrant woman cleaning your dorm room.

As you go on in life, cultivating this quality of empathy will become harder, not easier. There’s no community service requirement in the real world; no one forcing you to care. You’ll be free to live in neighborhoods with people who are exactly like yourself, and send your kids to the same schools, and narrow your concerns to what’s going in your own little circle.

Not only that – we live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principle goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained. A culture where those in power too often encourage these selfish impulses.

They will tell you that the Americans who sleep in the streets and beg for food got there because they’re all lazy or weak of spirit. That the inner-city children who are trapped in dilapidated schools can’t learn and won’t learn and so we should just give up on them entirely. That the innocent people being slaughtered and expelled from their homes half a world away are somebody else’s problem to take care of.

I hope you don’t listen to this. I hope you choose to broaden, and not contract, your ambit of concern. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all of those who helped you get to where you are, although you do have that debt.

It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. And because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential – and become full-grown.

The second lesson I learned after college, when I had this crazy idea that I wanted to be a community organizer and work in low-income neighborhoods.

My mother and grandparents thought I should go to law school. My friends had applied for jobs on Wall Street. But I went ahead and wrote letters to every organization in the country that I could think of. And finally, this small group of churches on the south side of Chicago wrote back and gave me a job organizing neighborhoods devastated by steel-plant closings in the early 80s.

The churches didn’t have much money – so they offered me a grand sum of $12,000 a year plus $1,000 to buy a car. And I got ready to move to Chicago – a place I had never been and where I didn’t know a living soul.

Even people who didn’t know me were skeptical of my decision. I remember having a conversation with an older man I had met before I arrived in Chicago. I told him about my plans, and he looked at me and said, “Let me tell something. You look like a nice clean-cut young man, and you’ve got a nice voice. So let me give you a piece of advice – forget this community organizing business. You can’t change the world, and people won’t appreciate you trying. What you should do is go into television broadcasting. I’m telling you, you’ve got a future.”

I could’ve taken my mother’s advice and I could’ve taken my grandparents advice. I could’ve taken the path my friends traveled. And objectively speaking, that older man had a point about the TV thing.

But I knew there was something in me that wanted to try for something bigger.

So the second lesson is this: Challenge yourself. Take some risks in your life.

This isn’t easy. In a few minutes, you can take your diploma, walk off this stage, and go chasing after the big house and the large salary and the nice suits and all the other things that our money culture says you should buy.

But I hope you don’t. Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. And it will leave you unfulfilled.

So don’t let people talk you into doing what’s easy or comfortable. Listen to what’s inside of you and decide what it is that you care about so much that you’re willing to risk it all.

The third lesson is one that I learned once I got to Chicago.

I had spent weeks organizing our very first community meeting around the issue of gang violence. We invited the police; we made phone calls, went to churches, and passed out flyers.

I had been warned of the turf battles and bad politics between certain community leaders, but I ignored them, confident that I knew what I was doing.

The night of the meeting we arranged rows and rows of chairs in anticipation of the crowd. And we waited. And we waited. And finally, a group of older people walk in to the hall. And they sit down. And this little old lady raises her hand and asks, “Is this where the bingo game is?”

Thirteen people showed up that night. The police never came. And the meeting was a complete disaster.

Later, the volunteers I worked with told me they were quitting – that they had been doing this for two years and had nothing to show for it.

I was tired too. But at that point, I looked outside and saw some young boys playing in a vacant lot across the street, tossing stones at boarded-up apartment building. And I turned to the volunteers, and I asked them, “Before you quit, I want you to answer one question. What’s gonna happen to those boys? Who will fight for them if not us? Who will give them a fair shot if we leave?”

And at that moment, we were all reminded of a third lesson in growing up:

Persevere.

Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.

After my little speech that day, one by one, the volunteers decided not to quit. We went back to those neighborhoods, and we kept at it, sustaining ourselves with the small victories. Eventually, over time, a community changed. And so had we.

Cultivating empathy, challenging yourself, persevering in the face of adversity – these are qualities that dare us to put away childish things. They are qualities that help us grow.

They are qualities that one graduate today knows especially well.

Richard Komi was born thousands of miles from here in Southern Nigeria. He’d probably still be there today, if he hadn’t been forced to flee when his tribe came under attack. Eventually, he made it to the United States, worked his way through factories and retail jobs, and came here to SNHU, to complete the education he began in Africa. And now, with a wife and kids and lots of responsibility, he’s even taking the time to give back to his new country by volunteering on this campaign.

Richard Komi may be graduating today, but it’s clear that he grew up a long time ago. We celebrate with him because his journey is a testament to the powerful idea that in the face of impossible odds, ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

At a time when America finds itself at a crossroads, facing challenges we haven’t seen in decades, we need to hold on to this idea more than ever.

A lot is riding on the decisions that are made and the leadership that is provided by this generation. We are counting on you to help fix a health care system that’s leaving too many Americans sick or bankrupt or both. We are counting on you to bring this planet back from the brink by solving this crisis of global climate change. We are counting on you to help stop a genocide in Darfur that’s taking the lives of innocents as we speak here today. And we’re counting on you to restore the image of America around the world that has led so many like Richard Komi to find liberty, and opportunity, and hope on our doorstep.

There are some who are betting against you – who say that you don’t pay attention, that you don’t show up to vote, that you’re too concerned with your own lives and your own problems.

Well that’s not what I believe and it’s not what I’ve seen. Instead I’ve seen rallies filled with crowds that stretch far into the horizon; thousands upon thousands signing up to organize online; scores who are coming to the very first political event of their lifetime. And just a few hours before this commencement, I got the opportunity to send off hundreds of people who have chosen to take time out of their busy lives and spend an entire Saturday knocking on doors here in New Hampshire. Because they’re not content to sit back and watch anymore. Because they believe they can help this country grow.

And whenever the doubt creeps in and I find myself wondering if change is really possible, I end up thinking about the young Americans – teenagers and college kids not much older than you – who watched the Civil Rights Movement unfold before them on television sets all across the country.

I imagine that they would’ve seen the marchers and heard the speeches, but they also probably saw the dogs and the fire hoses, or the footage of innocent people being beaten within an inch of their lives; or heard the news the day those four little girls died when someone threw a bomb into their church.

Instinctively, they knew that it was safer and smarter to stay at home; to watch the movement from afar. But they also understood that these people in Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi were their brothers and sisters; that what was happening was wrong; and that they had an obligation to make it right. When the buses pulled up for a Freedom Ride down South, they got on. They took a risk. And they changed the world.

Now it’s your turn. You will be tested by the challenges of this new century, and at times you will fail. But know that you have it within your power to try. That generations who have come before you faced these same fears and uncertainties in their own time. And that if we’re willing to shoulder each other’s burdens, to take great risks, and to persevere through trial, America will continue its journey towards that distant horizon, and a better day.

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outta this world

Hey, if there can be Tex-Mex in Uganda, why not bbq in Beijing?

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5.18.2007

somalia watch

This is cool news: Ambassador John Yates will come out of retirement to serve as U.S. special envoy to Somalia. He has apparently already been leading the Somalia unit at our embassy in Kenya, so it's great that his status will properly reflect the work he does. Ambassador Yates spent most of his diplomatic career in Africa and is well-positioned to monitor events in Somalia on our country's behalf. We have long needed a fully engaged envoy working on Somalia issues, as the International Crisis Group has long pointed out. This is a good step in the right direction.

On a personal note, back in the day I spent a summer interning at the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon, where Yates was our ambassador at the time. I have always appreciated Ambassador Yates' kindness and his encouragement that I pursue my interest in African politics. He also gave me one of the best pieces of advice for a career Africanist that I've ever received: "take your malaria pills." Congratulations and good luck to Ambassador Yates on this new post!

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Jesus and mama always loved him

The Texas Observer has an interesting interview with state Rep. Warren Chisum.

Brief thoughts:
  • Now I know that Chisum's concept of what government should be (and why people sometimes ignore laws) is so far off of my own.
  • It's also pretty clear that Chisum doesn't understand how many other governments of the past have worked, nor does he understand that our governmental system does compel people to submit to the authorities (rather than depending on volunteerism in following the laws). That's why we have law enforcement, a border patrol, and the IRS.
  • I wonder if only 3-4% of the population has ever gotten a parking ticket, or been stopped for speeding or running a red light.
  • It's good to know that Chisum is on the record as not favoring slavery.
  • What should the moral dress code for our state be?
  • If the Bible says that we'll always have the poor with us, and that we are to care for the poor, then does Chisum's comparison of the presence of homosexuality in our society to the presence of poverty in our society have some implications for our behavior as a society?
  • I find it incredibly entertaining that the interview (or at least the write-up) was conducted by an intern.

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delay's game plan

Stephen Colbert is a genius. Because first he did this to Tom Delay:



And then he did this segment:

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"and diamonds are forever"

Kate has a good reflection on the real cost of diamonds.

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baptists, baptists, baptists!

Here's Rob Jeopardy! Marus's report on yesterday's meeting between several conservative SBC bloggers and Jimmy Carter and Bill Underwood concerning the New Baptist Covenant. Here's a quote from Wade Burleson:

"I told [my wife] that it was my desire to help Southern Baptists see that fellow Baptists are NOT the enemy. We can keep our unique way of doing missions in the SBC; we can keep our distinct structure and autonomy as the SBC; we can keep others out who will not affirm the BFM if we so choose; but we don't have to keep acting as if other Baptist Christians are our competitors or our opponents."

January's NBC celebration is going to be an exciting event in Baptist life. Brian Kaylor has a list of the confirmed speakers, who include Julie Pennington-Russell, Joel Gregory, Bill Moyers, Mike Huckabee, William J. Shaw, Marian Wright Edelman, and many other Baptists from all backgrounds. Ethics Daily has more details on the speakers here.

I still can't believe that Dan Malone convinced Burleson, Duren, and other conservative SBC-ers to meet with Carter and Underwood, but I'm glad to see it. We Baptists of all stripes have been treating each other badly for far too long. It has long been my prayer that conservative and moderate Baptists would find a way, if not to return to what we once were (which no one really wants anymore), than to at least find a way to be reconciled to one another as Christ calls us to do. Maybe these are some tentative first steps in that direction. Maybe those of us who are younger, and who were therefore not directly involved in the battle for control of the SBC, can be the ones who work together, who refuse to demonize one another, and who will remember that the first mark of a Christian is always, always love.

I am planning to do my best to be at the first NBC celebration in January, although the mid-week date makes it extremely difficult for non-retired laity to attend. It's likely that my teaching schedule won't permit me to attend, but that's okay. It will be enough to know that we are finally finding a way to work together, to put aside our pride and differences to work for a common goal. Thanks be to God.

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5.17.2007

speechless

Well, I'll. Be.

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"no, no, never"

So in the midst of all the grading and family time last week, I totally failed to pay attention to the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest. GFY's coverage of contest fashion is hard to beat. If you're actually interested in the "music," Troubled Diva's coverage was superb, as always.

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it's official

I hate the CW. They have cancelled my current favorite show, Veronica Mars.

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congo watch: ten years

Today marks ten years since the overthrow of the Mobutu regime in what was then Zaire. On May 17, 1997, forces led by Laurent Desire Kabila marched into Kinshasa, took control, and renamed the country the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thus, today is an important national holiday in the DRC.

I began studying central Africa as a freshman at Baylor in the spring of 1997. I had been assigned a research project about the refugee crisis in Africa's Great Lakes region (the area bordered by Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zaire/Congo). It was a fascinating and challenging project, as tens of thousands of refugees moved every day. I followed the series of events in Zaire that spring with great interest in the type of government the new regime would implement, with sadness at the plight of those who suffered in the fighting, and with hope that the new regime could calm things down.

On and off, I have been thinking about the Congo for ten years. Since 1997, we've seen two or three (depending on how you count) international wars engulf the country. At one point, six foreign countries were involved in the conflict one way or another. Local-level conflicts over land continued simultaneously with the war. In ten years, millions were displaced from their homes, some over borders to refugee camps in Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Zimbabwe, or Angola. Some were left to fend for themselves in their home country as internally displaced persons. The major rebel parties reached a peace agreement in 2003, but fighting still continues in the east of the country, as it has for more than ten years now.

Four million people died.

At least 40,000 women and girls were raped.

Today I received an email from the professional association of those of us who study Africa, asking for a witness on a political asylum case. This is pretty routine, but I actually read this one, because it asked for a witness who could attest to the nature of politics and life in the DRC. It's just another daily reminder of how much people suffer, how bad life is when a government is incapable of governance, when there is no peace in the land.

It's been ten years since that day of hope and confusion. I hope with all my heart that the Congolese people will not have to endure another decade like their last one.

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last of the bluebonnets

"...once a year they come and go..."
- Nanci Griffith et al

5.16.2007

it's fun to play..

Oh, Cleveland fans have so much to look forward to.

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kuo on falwell

I said I wasn't going to blog about Falwell anymore. That was before I heard this on All Things Considered this afternoon. David Kuo talks about how Falwell's approach to politics drove many people away from Christianity, but how the aftermath of his life may reverse that. It's thoughtfully critical without being cruel.

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this is funny because it's so true

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congo watch

The MONUC peacekeeping operation will stay in Congo at least through the end of 2007. Thank goodness.

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5.15.2007

beauty, joy, and laughter


The first time I visited Baylor University was April 19, 1996. I remember the day vividly, because it was the spring of my senior year and my mother and I had flown down to Austin, then driven up to Waco in the midst of my attempt to decide where to go to college.

April 19, 1996 was a strange day to be in Waco, Texas, because it was the two-year anniversary of the mess at the Branch Davidian compound. It was also the day after the first official dance in Byalor's history. The university, and the city, were on every major news network in the country. As we sat in our hotel room, watching the coverage of both events on CNN, we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. But that day and the weeks that followed consisted of a nice tour of the campus, a visit to Derek Davis' church-state studies course, and, ultimately, a decision to enroll at the school that had been all over the news on that hot April day.

Friday night was probably the last time my parents will visit the campus of Baylor University, because, after eleven years and three degrees between us, my sister and I are both finished with Baylor.

Friday night, my sister graduated as a Master of Divinity from Truett Seminary. She was named the top female graduate in her class, and, as a surprise, we learned at the graduation that the award she received had been named for Ruth Ann Foster. Dr. Foster was my sister's employer, mentor, and friend. She passed away from cancer last fall. I don't think the seminary could have done anything better to honor my sister than to present her with the first award named for Dr. Foster.

As recipient of the award, along with the top male student in the class, my sister also got to present the Professor of Choice award to Michael Stroope, one of her favorite professors. Since my sister's concentration was in missions, she took all the classes Dr. Stroope offered. It was a huge honor for her to get to present the award to him, and she did a great job explaining why he is such a good teacher, how he challenges his students to better know the world and share God's love.

Needless to say, we are so proud of her. My sister is an amazing person with a gentle spirit and a kind heart. God called her to missions when she was still a teenager, and it was exciting to see this call continue to be filled in her life as she prepares to take the next steps towards becoming a Bible translator for those cultures that don't yet have the Bible in their languages.

The graduation itself was a lovely evening. My favorite Baylor professor, Dr. James Vardaman, carried the university mace, Steve Wells' sermon was appropriate and challenging, and my father didn't even audibly react when Dean Powell declared Truett to be the pre-eminent Baptist seminary in America. At the reception afterwards, it was fun to meet my sister's professors and friends, and to watch my father talk with one of his old professors from his days at Southwestern. It was a great evening, a wonderful way to honor my sister and her classmates, and a good time of sending forth for those who have been called to minister.

But there was something about knowing this was our last night at Baylor that made me sad. I know I will be back, but it felt as though we were saying good-bye to the campus (which, in so many ways, is no longer the campus I remember), and to friends new and old. Mom and Daddy and I drove by Saturday morning to see the rose bushes in front of Armstrong-Browning Library, and I thought about the day Ann Miller dragged us all out there to visit the statue of Pippa, and looked back at the window of my dorm room in Memorial and thought about all the fun my roommates and I had there. We drove by my old church several times, ate dinner at our favorite Waco restaurants, and drove out to the country to see my sister's new place.

Saturday afternoon we drove up to Fort Worth to celebrate Mother's Day and a cousin's birthday with my aunt and uncle and cousins, then we returned to Waco to attend church at Calvary on Sunday. It was wonderful to see everyone, to hear hilarious stories about my cousins' children (especially Randy's four-year-old boy, who has taken to drilling holes in the wall of their garage), and to hear a great sermon from Julie Pennington-Russell, meet Tiffany's baby, and catch up with my sister's roommate (whose brother was my Baylor classmate) at lunch.

My mother has a theory that all of Baptist life, especially in Texas, passes through Baylor one way or another. I didn't understand what that meant when I first stood on that campus at the age of 17, but year by year, I've grown more and more to appreciate Baylor and what the university does for its students, how it connects them to a family and a world than is larger than their own. And I have grown to appreciate the gifts of friendship and love that Baylor gave me. "There is beauty, there is joy, and there is laughter in life--as there ought to be," said Samuel Palmer Brooks to Baylor's class of 1931.

Certainly these things were Baylor's gift to me. And even though the university sometimes frustrates me beyond belief, I'm so thankful for the weekend, and for this life, woven through with a silver thread of people, places, and a thousand memories. I am thankful that my sister got to be part of this community, and that she made it through so well. Most of all, I am thankful for the gifts of beauty, truth, joy, laughter, and love that Baylor gave us. Thanks be to God for this grace.