Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"I brought this on myself; I knew at the start how He gets..."

James McGrath posted in his blog about a comment I made in class one day. Now, I'm starting from the common metaphor that the relationship between God and Israel (or Christ and his Church, take your pick) is analogous to the relationship between a man and his wife. Men and their wives are close, have bonds of loyalty and mutual respect and various obligations they owe one another. They even cause each other pain, as men and wives can. As cited on that page:

Rabbi Joshua ben Levi says: “The Assembly of Israel said to the Holy One: Even though He embitters me and causes me to suffer, He shall lie between my breasts” (Yalkut Shimoni, Song of Songs, 984).

This gets me to my next point. McGrath links 1 Corinthians 10:6-12.
We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!

This goes beyond the acceptance that spouses may occasionally inadvertently hurt each other. Every time Israel displeases God, a great and terrible wrath is unleashed, to human eyes seeming way out of proportion to the crimes committed. And yet Israel is still to blame for these outbursts. No matter what God does, if it was something Israel did to set Him off... Israel is required to repent. Israel must not test the Lord, and Israel must not complain. Otherwise God is left doing something terrible and asking, "Baby, why do you make me hit you? You know how I get."

I could easily end here and say that Christianity is essentially patriarchal, both based in misogyny and perpetuating it by elevating it to God-like behavior. But that's a boring place to end, and reserved for really lazy scholars. The big question is, which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Did ideas about God's right to abuse Israel give the Israelites fuel to abuse their wives? Or did the norms of Israelite marriage color their portrayal of God's relationship with Israel? One thing seems certain: the normative relationship between married people in America does not include one party using corporeal punishment to discipline the other, and then blaming the violence on the disciplined party. In this our cultural context is very different from what the Israelites were taking for granted.

Now, does this mean we have to throw out the spousal metaphor because our spousal relationships have changed? Or can we keep the spousal metaphor and change our relationship with God to suit it? Now that women are encouraged to take onto themselves more autonomy and agency, even at the expense of their husbands' power, does that recast the roles of God and Israel, or of Christ and the Church? Just as women are demanding more respect and consideration from men, are Christians free to demand more respect and consideration from God?

It seems to me that we either have to throw out the spousal metaphor now that men aren't allowed to abuse women the way God abuses Israel, or we have to demand that God keep up with modern ideals. I personally find this latter option much more interesting. If men and women are rightly treated as equals in a marriage, does that mean that God and Israel should be rightly treated as equals?

This implication totally turns the mainstream Christian hierarchy on its head. While Judaism allows for much more dispute with God (Israel itself means "struggle with God"), Christianity tends to adopt a much more submission-oriented approach. The assumption that humans must submit to God no matter what seems at odds with the "equality resolution." The only option then is to decide we're wrong to treat men and women as equals. Instead of changing our relationship with God to fit our modern social context, we must reverse our modern social context to match an earlier relationship with God.

It seems in the interest of Biblical orthodoxy one would have to choose the latter. It's the neatest way to seal up this nasty friction resulting from a metaphor that no longer seems to apply. Return everyone to the conditions under which the metaphor worked.

Still. As a woman who doesn't particularly want to go that route, I'll suggest a new relationship with God. What happens when humans demand the equality and respect from God that wives demand of husbands? It might require a re-imagining of God's place in our lives, and that re-imagining may essentially change a religion whose core is "submit yourselves to God; He knows best." If we essentially change Christianity to fit God into new ideas of mutual spousal respect, is it still Christianity anymore? If no... what is it?

"The Hidden -ism?"

Identity Politics

Steinem’s argument that we should elect the candidate from the more disadvantaged demographic pulls us back into the race and gender wars.


But if Steinem is right that the electorate is not beyond identity politics, she’s wrong about who is the most disadvantaged. These exit poll results make it appear that when voters choose a candidate based on their race or gender, they’re voting against the black and not the woman. It looks as if racism lives on, even as sexism is disappearing.

I had to repost this here, because I have been really disturbed by the number of assertions I've seen that women have it harder in America than racial minorities, and that this means when we have to choose between working against sexism and working against racism, sexism is more pressing.

Basically? When in conflict, help women first because we haven't made as much progress for them, and the blacks can wait.

This is an indication to the contrary. Among voters who cared about the sex of their candidate, they cared because they wanted a woman. Among voters who cared about the race of their candidate, they cared because they didn't want a black person.

I agree with Gifford on this one. While we shouldn't be making decisions at all based on the sex or race of the candidate, the fact that the decisions are happening in this particular way suggests that the feminists who are claiming sexism is more pressing an issue than racism aren't just being divisive. They're wrong.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Maverick" my ass.

Why McCain should worry women

By Robyn E. Blumner, Times Columnist
Published March 9, 2008

Sen. John McCain wants people to know that he is a true conservative. The right flank of his party, particularly blowhards like Rush Limbaugh, want to paint McCain as a closet pinko because he only has an 82 percent rating with the American Conservative Union. But McCain insists that his conservative credentials speak for themselves.

Believe him. They do.

What scares me most about McCain, beyond our 100-year presence in Iraq, his itchy trigger finger relative to other foes, and his enthusiasm for tax cuts for the rich, is his fiercely conservative record on women's reproductive freedom. Here, there is no moderate McCain or reach-across-the-aisle McCain. On issues related to abortion and even birth control and sex education, McCain is as ideological as any Operation Rescue activist crawling around in front of an abortion clinic.

You want to know what's coming with a McCain presidency? How about the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. I'm not kidding. The latest case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court on abortion made it clear that the two newest justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, will vote for substantial incursions into abortion rights, if not their outright elimination. It turns out that Roe isn't a "super-duper" precedent after all. It's now hanging by the thread of 87-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens' continued vitality.

The next president will be the decider on whether women's emancipation from the slavery of the womb will continue in this country. We are on the cusp of losing the right to control our bodies and determine our family size. McCain promises as much.

Due to McCain's reputation as a maverick, many voters seem to attach more moderate abortion views to him. In Florida's primary, for example, 45 percent of those Republicans who said abortion should be legal voted for McCain. Whereas the prochoice Rudy Giuliani won over only 19 percent of the prochoice Republican vote.

But McCain's voting record is solidly antichoice. He said directly in South Carolina that Roe "should be overturned" and strongly reiterates that position on his campaign Web site. He told the American Conservative Union that one of the three most important goals that he wants to achieve as president is to promote "a nation of traditional values that protects the rights of the unborn."

In accordance with these views, McCain promises to "nominate strict constructionist judges," which is code for "will overturn Roe if given half a chance."

McCain also supports the global gag rule - probably the most backward foreign policy initiative since the importation of slaves. This is the policy that bars foreign family planning organizations from receiving U.S. funds if the group in any way advises clients on abortion as an option or advocates for legal abortion - even when using their own funds. We know that population control and family planning is the only way for Third World nations to advance, yet the United States and its antiabortion zealots have put a foot on the neck of the most effective groups.

An intelligent person might think that someone as rabidly antiabortion as McCain would be backing approaches to prevent unwanted pregnancies, thereby, ipso facto, fewer abortions. Well, think again.

McCain is an antagonist of sensible family planning and effective sex education. In 2005, he voted "no" on a $100-million allocation for preventive health care services targeted at reducing unintended pregnancies, particularly teen pregnancies. In 2006, he voted against funding for comprehensive, medically accurate sex education for teens.

McCain is much more comfortable with President Bush's wasteful and utterly ineffective abstinence-only approach.

The New York Times Web site reported the following exchange with a reporter in Iowa in March 2007:

Q: "What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush's policy, which is just abstinence?"

McCain: (Long pause) "Ahhh. I think I support the president's policy."

Q: "So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?"

McCain: (Long pause) "You've stumped me."

Do you really have to say such idiotic things to win the Republican nomination? It is an incontrovertible fact that the use of a condom will help interfere with HIV transmission. But I guess McCain sees it as a fact too liberal to acknowledge. Jeesh.

Now that the senator from Arizona has locked up the Republican nomination, he may be spending less time asserting his conservative bona fides and more time focusing on his occasional bipartisanship. This appeal will help to blur his record. Yet any voter who worries about government dictating to women what they can do with their bodies needs to understand the danger that McCain poses. Roe can't survive another president like Bush, and McCain is promising to be just like him.

Annotated Linkfest

One Year Ago: Obama proposed the summit Clinton is offering today

Almost one year ago to the day, Barack Obama sent a letter (below) to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urging them to convene a homeownership preservation summit. Today, Clinton is proposing essentially the same thing.

One key difference, however, is the diversity and representation that Obama called for – not just some of the same people who helped to create these problems or have a direct financial industry stake in the outcome: “I urge you immediately to convene a homeownership preservation summit with leading mortgage lenders, investors, loan servicing organizations, consumer advocates, federal regulators and housing-related agencies to assess options for private sector responses to the challenge.”

Fear, Loathing & Delegate Poaching in Texas

Well, it’s legal to lobby delegates to the county and senate district conventions (they’ll be held on Saturday to select delegates to a later statewide convention, from which 67 Democratic National Convention delegates will be chosen), even if they signed up for a different candidate.

The question, however, isn’t a legalistic one, but, rather, a political one: when similar tactics came up in Nevada and elsewhere, the Clinton campaign denied it was trying to “poach” delegates committed to Obama.

When Politico’s Roger Simon reported on the Clinton campaign’s efforts to poach Obama delegates last month, Clinton spokesbot Phil Singer emphatically denied they would do any such thing:

“We have not, are not and will not pursue the pledged delegates of Barack Obama.”

I’m sure the robo-call machine was acting on its own, without any authorization from the campaign.

Generation Squeeb: Barack Obama’s Reverend Wright controversy, and America’s squid-heart

This Wright business is a perfect example of the American electorate at its squeeby worst — panicky, gutless, acting more on reflex than thought, incapable of retaining information for more than a few minutes at a time. It's also a great example of how the presidential election process has become more about enforcing the attitudes of a cultural orthodoxy than a system for choosing leaders.


But whether or not any of Wright's "controversial" statements have any validity at all is beside the point. The point is that a country that had any balls at all — that was secure enough in its patriotic self-image to stare vicious criticism right in the face and collectively decide for itself, in a state of sober reflection, what part of it was bullshit and what wasn't — such a country wouldn't do what it did in the case of the Wright flap, which is to panic instantly, collectively leap off the ground in terror like a bunch of silly bitches, and chase the criticism away in a torch-bearing mob with its eyes averted without even bothering to talk about what was actually said.


Now, no one is suggesting that there shouldn't be some reaction to genuinely toxic ideas, or that all criticism of racist or unpatriotic comments is unfounded. But what we're getting with all of these scandals isn't a sober exchange of ideas but more of an ongoing attempt to instill in the public a sort of permanent fear of uncomfortable ideas, and to reduce public discourse to a kind of primitive biological mechanism, like the nervous system of a squid or a shellfish, one that recoils reflexively from any stimuli.

This latter article mentioned something I really got a kick out of:

That's just the way we are, and maybe it's time to wonder why that is. In Russia they have a word, sovok, which described the craven, chickenshit mindset that over the course of decades became hard-wired into the increasingly silly brains of Soviet subjects. It's a hard word to define, but once you get it — and all Russians get it — it's like riding a bicycle, you've got it. Sovok is the word that described a society where for decades silence and a thoughtful demeanor might be construed as evidence of a dangerous dissidence lurking underneath; the sovok therefore protected himself from suspicion by babbling meaningless nonsense at all times, so that no one would accuse him of harboring smart ideas.


It's hard to explain, but over there, they know what the word means. More than anything, sovok described a society that spent seventy years in mortal terror of new ideas, and tended to drape itself in a paper-thin patriotism whenever it felt threatened, and worshipped mediocrities as a matter of course, elevating to positions of responsibility only those who showed an utter absence not only of objectionable qualities, but any qualities at all.

I say "got a kick out of" to express that sense of horror and disquiet so profound there's no response appropriate except to laugh. I can't well deny the claim of this last article. It's just that I didn't expect to read an article that stated it so bluntly. Oh, well. I guess this is why we have Rolling Stone.

my experience let me show u it

Papers show Clinton's days as first lady
By CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press Writer

Her Democratic presidential campaign released a statement Wednesday saying the schedules spanning her two terms as first lady "illustrate the array of substantive issues she worked on" and her travel to more than 80 countries "in pursuit of the administration's domestic and foreign policy goals."

Clinton says her years as first lady would help equip her to handle foreign policy and national security as president.

But the schedules show trips packed with plainly traditional activities for a first lady as well as some substance.

For example, in her January 1994 visit to Russia with her husband, her schedule is focused on events with political wives. She sat in on a birthing class at a hospital, toured a cathedral and joined prominent women in a lunch of blinis with caviar and salmon.

The Clinton campaign said the schedules are merely a guide and don't reflect all of her activities.

Yeah.... that looks like Serious Diplomatic Training to me!

Seriously, though. Can we really really drop this "experience" discussion yet?


Woman sits on boyfriend's toilet for 2 years: Girlfriend was physically stuck to the seat — her skin had grown around it

NESS CITY, Kan. - Deputies said a woman in western Kansas sat on her boyfriend's toilet for two years, and they're investigating whether she was mistreated.

Ness County Sheriff Bryan Whipple said a man called his office last month to report that something was wrong with his girlfriend.

Whipple said it appeared the 35-year-old Ness City woman’s skin had grown around the seat. She initially refused emergency medical services but was finally convinced by responders and her boyfriend that she needed to be checked out at a hospital.

“We pried the toilet seat off with a pry bar and the seat went with her to the hospital,” Whipple said. “The hospital removed it.”

Whipple said investigators planned to present their report Wednesday to the county attorney, who will determine whether any charges should be filed against the woman's 36-year-old boyfriend.

“She was not glued. She was not tied. She was just physically stuck by her body,” Whipple said. “It is hard to imagine. ... I still have a hard time imagining it myself.”

He told investigators he brought his girlfriend food and water, and asked her every day to come out of the bathroom.

“And her reply would be, ‘Maybe tomorrow,”’ Whipple said. “According to him, she did not want to leave the bathroom.”

The boyfriend called police on Feb. 27 to report that “there was something wrong with his girlfriend,” Whipple said, adding that he never explained why it took him two years to call.

Police found the clothed woman sitting on the toilet, her sweat pants down to her mid-thigh. She was “somewhat disoriented,” and her legs looked like they had atrophied, Whipple said.

“She said that she didn’t need any help, that she was OK and did not want to leave,” he said.

She was taken to a hospital in Wichita, about 150 miles southeast of Ness City. Whipple said she has refused to cooperate with medical providers or law enforcement investigators.

Authorities said they did not know if she was mentally or physically disabled.

Police have declined to release the couple’s names, but the house where authorities say the incident happened is listed in public records as the residence of Kory McFarren. No one answered his home phone number.

The case has been the buzz in Ness City, said James Ellis, a neighbor.

Obama: Military Endorsements

Senator Barack Obama Receives Endorsement of Flag Officers from Army, Navy and Air Force

For one, check out the list of guys. Those are some ranks. Like any military brat I know that being high-rank doesn't necessarily make you as awesome as it should, but still. Those are some ranks.

As as a candidate for the presidency, I know that I am running to be Commander-in-Chief – to safeguard this nation's security, and to keep our sacred trust with the men and women who serve. There is no responsibility that I take more seriously.

This is something that I’ve talked about throughout this campaign. Because I believe that any candidate for President must present the American people with a clear vision of how we will lead. There are real differences between the candidates, and important issues to debate – from ending the war in Iraq, to combating terrorism, to devising new strategies and new capabilities to confront 21st century threats.

But recently, we’ve seen a different kind of approach. Instead of a serious, substantive debate, we’ve heard vague allusions to a “Commander-in-Chief threshold” that seems to be about nothing more than the number of years you’ve spent in Washington.

This is exactly what’s wrong with the national security debate in Washington.

After years of a divisive politics that uses national security as a wedge to drive us apart, how much longer do we have to wait to bring this country together to confront our common enemies?

After years of being told that Democrats have to talk, act and vote like John McCain to pass some Commander-in-Chief test, how many times do we have to learn that tough talk is not a substitute for sound judgment?


Obama in Plainfield

So! Belated entry.

Went to see Obama speak in Plainfield. We were in an elementary school gym, and I had floor seats probably eighty to a hundred feet from Obama. I could've chucked a shoe at him, he was so close. I'll spare you the fangirl bit (like the fact that I was standing in a room with Barack Obama omg), and just mention some more relevant stuff. First off, he did say a lot of what I'd already read and heard. However, a couple of things stood out.

One, I didn't realize that one problem with Social Security is that Bush has been drawing from it to fund the Iraq war. WTFery number one. Still more pressing is WTFery number two: turns out that only people who make under about 97k a year are paying for Social Security.

The second issue is just an integrity thing that caught my eye. Indiana's a big corn state. We know this. We don't do much else except race cars around in circles. So when someone asked Obama about biofuels and what we should do about these South American countries who're growing crops for biofuel. I expected, him being in Indiana and all, that he'd be all about corn ethanol. To do otherwise could get ya run out on a rail in this state.

But no, he said that biofuel research is important, and while corn ethanol is a good short-term solution, it is not optimal as a fuel source. It's better than not having any alternatives to oil at all... but really... we need to be looking into the same crops that the South Americans are growing and not rely on corn.

That struck me, minor as it may seem. That could be a really unpopular thing to say in Indiana, but he didn't screw around on the issue. In fact, watching him answer questions I saw that he didn't dance around on ANY of it. He just plain didn't screw around at all, and I'm wondering where these accusations come from that he's not a straight speaker. I've seldom seen anyone so articulate and clear and concrete about his plans.

Speaking of his plans! One thing that amused me, and that he evidently has not said elsewhere!

I guess if he ends up in the White House the first thing he does is sit down with his cabinet, mainly his Attorney General, and review every single executive decision made during the Bush Administration. Everything that the president did will be reviewed to see if it's Constitutional and if not... instant repeal.

Way to rip off your predecessor's balls like a fucking paper towel, dude. I will be looking forward to THAT.


Been away for a while! I've got entries backed up elsewhere, so while I'm still trying to stay up on schoolwork stuff I'll reproduce some of what I've got up there. It's all stuff from the last couple of weeks, but I just haven't had the time or motivation to keep up on two journals.

Now to ponder the queue of blog-essays I owe a fellow blogger. Topics include domestic violence in the marriage of God and Israel and probably some stuff about God's mercy and justice (if I can find a way to say it that isn't regurgitating what Important People have said.)

While I'm on that topic, I'm really tired of this whole business of writing Biblical commentary. There's so little to say that's new or interesting, because every time I find an new and promising topic I learn that it's only interesting because of a translation error. There's nothing interesting for me to do, and if I'm not interested I'm bored. If I'm bored I'm unmotivated to spend hours writing, and in that case the writing doesn't get done.

Then there's the tendency of Biblical commentators to sit counting the angels on the head of a damn pin because there's nothing interesting left to discuss but darn it, they still wanna write about the Bible. Screw that.