Friday, September 30, 2005

A Progressive Plan for Iraq

The Center for American Progress posits a plan for getting our troops out of Iraq without leaving Iraqis hanging. The Center suggests "Strategic Redeployment":

The United States needs to pursue a plan of Strategic Redeployment. Strategic Redeployment is a threat-based strategy to target our efforts against global terrorist networks and bring greater stability to Iraq and its neighborhood. This approach will minimize the damage to the United States in the short term, mitigate the drawbacks of our eventual withdrawal from Iraq, and secure our interests in the long term.


Cole just launched a new Christian Dissent website. Check it out.

Churches to Receive Katrina Funds

NPR has the story.

While I believe strongly in the separation of church and state, I think that reimbursing churches and faith-based charities for their work in the hurricane relief effort is a positive move on the part of the Bush administration. Of course, FEMA needs to make sure that the money is distributed fairly and needs to be careful about giving money to churches that have used the situation as an opportunity to proselytize. (Inviting evacuees to participate in prayer and worship is OK, as long as participation is not required or expected.)

A few other concerns: 1) I could be wrong, but as far as I can tell, when it comes to giving out federal funds, this administration starts and ends with its friends and associates. And as much as Bush likes to talk about accountability, the administration doesn't seem to hold the biggest recipients of its generosity (World Com, Bechtel, Halliburton, and so forth) accountable for much of anything.

2) While helping churches help everyone else is good on the part of the government, it is not sufficient. I still feel strongly that the government, apart from anything that churches are doing, has a responsibility to protect and assist its most vulnerable citizens.

3) Of course, whenever church and state do business, there is always the danger that certain churches will improperly affect government policy and vice versa. Government agencies and religious bodies need to be very careful when they start working with each other.

At any rate, this story shows that churches and charities cannot solve major problems on their own. To be successful they must have the assistance and support of government funds and policies. Realizing the vision of the Old Testament prophets and of Jesus himself will, in our day, require money both from taxes and from the offering plate.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

We Want You! (to Download Some Great Tunes!)

If you are interested in being contacted by the Army National Guard, sign up here and you can get three free downloads from iTunes in exchange for your personal information.

The Authority of Scripture

Some friends of mine have gotten into a scuffle over differing understandings of biblical authority. Before things get ugly, I should mention that we will be discussing this very topic this Sunday morning on Christian Dissent Live. Our guest will be Rev. Dr. Renita Weemsauthor, Beliefnet columnist, ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and my former Old Testament professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Should be fun.

(Christian Dissent Live airs Sunday morning from 6:00 a.m. until 8:00 a.m. on 98.9 WRFN. You can listen online at Radio Free or subscribe to the Podcast.)

The Apple Juice Song

Meyer wrote his first song tonight. It's simple and repetitive, but catchy nonetheless.

Meyer also received his first spam comment this week. Someone is trying to sell him products for hair loss. Poor kid has only had hair for a few months, and Madison Avenue is already trying to make him self-conscious.

The Elusive Giant Squid

Scientists finally get some pictures. (From

Representative Campfield, Try Harder or Find an Editor

I don't want this to be a personal attack, so I'll start by commending Tennessee State Representative Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) for keeping a blog and for posting material that is sincere and frank. Campfield has been in the news lately for his insistence on joining the Tennessee Congressional Black Caucus and for including an allegedly racist website on his blogroll.

I won't call Representative Campfield is a racist; I'll stop at goober. But I'm worried that an elected official from a college town has such a poor grasp of the English language in its written form. This, for example, is an excerpt from his most recent blog post:

It was because I had a link to a sight that had a link to a site that quoted a black man who wrote for a black owned paper in a black run country about a thought he had that some call racist.

I use to play a game in the 7th or 8th grade called the 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon .The object of this game was to link by association any one in the world to movie star Kevin Bacon in 7 steps or less .It was fun and simple to do.

Any blogger will misspell the occasional word, forget a comma, add an extra comma, or confuse "insight" and "incite" now and then. And while I could get picky and point out that "7 steps or less" (above) should be "7 steps or fewer," or I could harp on the need for hyphens in the opening sentence (above), I'll focus on more fundamental problems. For one, I don't understand the spacing, or lack thereof, before and after periods. I can forgive accidentally writing "sight" instead of "site," but I don't understand how Representative Campfield can use "sight" (incorrect) and "site" (correct) in the same phrase ("I had a link to a sight that had a link to a site") without noticing the mistake.

Moreover, the game is called "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." Six, not seven. When it comes to pop culture references such as this, search engines offer bloggers a quick and easy tool for fact-checking.

Skimming through Representative Campfield's blog and his letters reveals several such blunders. Again, I'm glad to see an elected official be so open and candid, and I understand that all bloggers make mistakes, but someone serving as a state representative should be more careful and professional when making public statements.

The Arctic Ice Shelf Is Melting Like Butter on Steamed Veggies

I hope we can all agree now that global warming is real. OK, two follow-up questions:

1) To what extent is human technology responsible for global warming?

2) What can we do right now to slow the rate at which the temperature rises?

See also: The Air Thickens (June 23)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

There's All Kinds of Neat Stuff in the Arctic Ocean

From NPR:

The Arctic Ocean is one of the most unexplored places on Earth. It's also changing rapidly -- in the summer, sea ice is melting more quickly than usual, due to rising air temperatures. . . .

The Healy, a 420-foot U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, recently ferried a team of more than two dozen biologists to the most remote parts of the Arctic Ocean. The expedition, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was dubbed the "Hidden Ocean" cruise.

A region where it's rare to glimpse a living creature anywhere on the horizon seems an unlikely spot for biologists. But in reality, the environment is teeming with life, and the biologists know just where to look for it -- all the way from above the ice to two miles below the surface, on the ocean's floor.

That sea floor is larger in size than the United States, and scientists are studying it with unmanned submersibles, cameras and nets, looking to chart its biodiversity.

Fair Trade Chocolate

UMCOR, which has long advocated fair trade coffee in churches, is now making a push to promote fairly traded chocolate products.

In other fair trade news, an employee at the Starbucks on West End (near Vanderbilt in Nashville) told me that the ubiquitous coffee shop has discontinued its certified Fair Trade Coffee. Starbucks employees have told me this in the past and have been wrong, so I won't jump to conclusions; but I think it's time for me to go elsewhere to purchase coffee with a conscious.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Mother Cat Nurses Baby Squirrel

CNN has the video to prove it.

My Faith in Firefox is Waning

I once extolled the virtues of Firefox, especially its knack for warding off pop-up advertisements. Unfortunately, I am now getting almost as many unsolicited ads on Firefox as I do on Internet Explorer. My power-to-the-people ethic tells me to stick with Mozilla's browser and not to return to Microsoft, but I hope that the open-source programmers out there can make the necessary adjustments to Firefox.

Pray for Sharon Cobb and Thank God for the CA 125 Test

Well known Nashville political blogger and former MSNBC correspondent Sharon Cobb is had surgery at Vanderbilt yesterday to remove malignant growths in her ovaries. According to Katherine Coble Sharon came out of surgery with a clean bill of health, but will need at least a few more days to make a full recovery. Fortunately, she and her doctor found the growths before the cancer had spread.

Sharon says of ovarian cancer:

By the time ovarian cancer is diagnosed, it’s usually too late. The odds of long term survival are between 10-20 percent. Stage one ovarian cancer, however, has a long term survival rate of over 90 percent. It’s almost never caught at that stage. *Almost* never.

Last month when I went for my annual physical I insisted on a CA 125, as I have done for a decade. Every year my Doctor tells me he does the test to appease me. This year was no different. In fact, this year, he was a bit cranky with me and told me to bring in some concrete proof that a CA 125 will catch ovarian cancer before it has spread.

About the CA 125 test, she adds:

Assuming I don’t die from the anesthesia or surgery, then I will be living proof that a CA 125 saved my life. I saved my life.

If you are a woman, don’t take “No” for an answer when you have an annual visit to the doctor. Tell him/her you demand a CA 125. Do, however, read up on it first. Understand why the doctor might not want to run it. Be informed. Take control of the situation. If your doctor refuses to run the test, find one who will.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Pacifists' Predicament

Dean Snyder of Untied Methodist recently interviewed Jim Winkler of the UMC's General Board of Church and Society. Winkler, who is paid from the offering plate, has been heavily criticized by some within The United Methodist Church because of his outspoken opposition to the War in Iraq. For me, Dean's interview with Reverend Winkler raises a couple concerns:

1) How does one responsibly speak on behalf of the church? People of faith shouldn't shy from their deeply held convictions; but leaders within the church (especially in a denomination as large and diverse as The United Methodist Church) have a certain responsibility to reflect the commonly held beliefs of the people they represent. Jim Winkler, for example, strongly and sincerely opposes the war in Iraq and heads an agency that is charged to speak on behalf of the church on issues of war and peace. While one can make a strong case that the war in Iraq is incompatible with church teaching, many United Methodists would disagree. Some would even make compelling, faith-based arguments in favor of the war. Personally, I was against invading Iraq, and feel that the war was poorly planned. Still, I'm not comfortable with Reverend Winkler opposing the war on behalf of The United Methodist Church.

2) I am a pacifist; I didn't want our nation to go to war with Iraq; I still don't understand why we overthrew the evil regime in Iraq while ignoring or cooperating with terrible and corrupt governments in other countries; during the build-up to the war, I complained that the administration had not articulated a viable postwar plan; and I'm still not convinced that the administration really knows what it is doing. That said, I don't think that the United States should pull out of Iraq. We invaded a country and removed its government; I think our nation now has a responsibility to make sure that Iraq is somewhat stable before pulling our troops.

Honestly, when it comes to Iraq, I'm stuck. I hate the situation. I want our troops to come home, and I want the people of Iraq to have stability and security. I hate when governments oppress and kill their people; and I hate when armies accidentally kill thousands of forgotten civilians. I don't have any good answers; unfortunately, I don't know that Jim Winkler does either.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Audio Stream of Today's Christian Dissent Live

Here it is. Our in-studio guest today was John Perry, co-author of Monkey Business: The True Story of the Scopes Trial. We also discussed current news items such as a public-school Bible curriculum developed by a nonprofit interfaith organization and the Vatican's decision to root out gay seminarians.

Download the show or subscribe to the Podcast.

"Kidsbeer" Catches on in Japan

From Japan Today:

SAGA — "Kidsbeer," a nonalcoholic brew aimed at children, is catching on with young drinkers and is posting monthly shipments of 75,000 bottles, according to its maker Tomomasu Co.

The beverage, which uses the Latin American plant guarana as an ingredient, sells for around 380 yen per a 330-milliliter bottle, which is colored brown to make the drink look even more beer like, the company said.

According to the article, the advertising tagline for "Kidsbeer" is, "Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink." So much for the blissful naiveté of childhood.

If We Don't Educate Our Kids, We Won't Use As Much Gas, See?

My sister, an Atlanta-area school teacher, has alerted me to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue's decision to close all of the state's public schools Monday and Tuesday to conserve fuel. Following Katrina, gasoline in Georgia (particularly near Atlanta) was in short supply, and the governor feared that Rita would have a similar effect.

I understand the need to save gas; Rita had the potential to take out oil refineries and cause a major fuel shortage. But is closing schools really the best way to address such a potential disaster? Why not limit the amount of gas that any one person may buy at any one time? or increase the number of carpool lanes on the interstates? or challenge Georgians to walk or ride a bike to work or school for the entire week?

Closing schools wouldn't have been my first (or eighth) choice. Of course, I don't even live in Georgia, so I'm not sure how valuable my ideas are.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

College Football Report (Vandy Goes 4-0)

Vanderbilt just beat Richmond to go 4-0. The Commodores need two more wins to become bowl-eligible and will be favored in upcoming games against MTSU and Kentucky. Vandy has been playing well and showing a lot of confidence, but their competition so far has been less than stellar. Richmond came into today's game 1-1 in Division I-AA. Vanderbilt's other opponents—Wake Forest, Arkansas, and Mississippi—are normally quality teams that are competitive in major conferences. This year, however, Wake and Arkansas are 1-3; Ole Miss is 1-2. All three teams were soundly defeated today.

Still Vanderbilt is 4-0 and has a really good chance of being 5-0 after next week. Even if they lose against conference powerhouses Tennessee, Florida, LSU, and Georgia (and I think they can beat Georgia), they could realistically defeat Kentucky and South Carolina and end the season 7-4 and 4-4 in the SEC. That would land the Commodores in a decent bowl game.

Enough with Vanderbilt. After today's games, this is how I would rank the nation's top ten teams:

1) USC (4-0)
2) Virginia Tech (4-0)
3) Texas (3-0)
4) Michigan State (4-0)
5) Florida (4-0)
6) LSU (1-0)
7) Florida State (3-0)
8) Ohio State (3-1)
9) Alabama (4-0)
10) California (3-0)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Moral Accountability Is For Countries That Aren't Rich in Oil

I'm a little slow on this one, but here's the lede from the AP:

President Bush decided Wednesday to waive any financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Washington's closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism, for failing to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers.

This Week on Christian Dissent Live

Our in-studio guest this week will be John Perry, co-author of Monkey Business: The True Story of the Scopes Trial. We'll talk about the cultural and historical impact of the famous 1925 trial and discuss the intelligent design (ID) movement. I'm looking forward to asking some tough questions and learning more abour ID.

If you live in the greater Bellevue-Pasquo area, you can listen live Sunday morning from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. on 98.9 WRFN. If you live more than two miles from the studio, you can listen online at Radio Free or subscribe to the Podcast.

Tennessee Political Roundup

  • This morning's Tennessean had more on the allegations that Senator Frist used inside information to dump his HCA stock at a very opportune time. Frist sold his stock in June; as it were, in April, May, and June several HCA executives also sold their stock in the company. (The Tennessean has a chart!) While the senator has no official ties to the company's leadership, HCA is the Frist family business. Senator Frist would have had the inside scoop.

  • In the interest of fairness, I wanted to link to a defense of Frist. I skimmed the local conservative blogs searching for a different take on this story but came up empty. Interestingly, at the national level Leon H of Red is calling for Frist to step down as majority leader. Leon's request that the senator resign his position is only partially related to the current scandal.

  • I was unable to attend this week's blogger luncheon with GOP senatorial candidate Ed Bryant, but Bruce Barry (Nashville Scene) has a good account of the meeting. (If you have problems with Bruce's take, I'm sure you'll find something among the subsequent comments that makes you happy.)

  • John Spragens, in this week's Nashville Scene, looks ahead at the 2007 Nashville mayoral election. Current Mayor Bill Purcell still isn't sure if he's allowed to run for a third term. (After his proposed sales tax hike was soundly defeated last week, running for a third term might not be such a good idea anyway.) If Purcell doesn't run, look for former U.S. Representative Bob Clement, Nashville Vice Mayor Howard Gentry, and businessman/political novice Lucius Carroll II to join the race. You know, I've given some thought to running for office. What do you think, Tinley for Nashville Mayor in 2007?

  • Three Pacers Plead "No Contest," Avoid Jail Time

    The Pacers three best players, Ron Artest, Jermaine O'Neal, and Stephen Jackson, left the Detroit-area court room each with community service, a fine, and a year of probation. Since their stars won't be in the slammer, my Pacers should contend for the Eastern Conference title this season.

    Thursday, September 22, 2005

    This Week's Nashville Scene

    I appreciated the "Words of the Week." They come from a Hobson United Methodist Church notice about a memorial service:

    “Jim Bryant, TennCare enrollee, who was not able to obtain the medications prescribed for him, died at age of 50. He leaves behind his wife, Barbara, one daughter, two sons and two grandchildren.”

    The Scene also gave Jetpack's new EP a glowing review.

    Interfaith Coalition Unveils Public School Bible Course

    I haven't seen the curriculum itself, but from what I can gather from the article, this Bible class for public schools looks promising. Though I favor keeping church and state separate, I think that students need to leave high school with some knowledge of the Bible (and some other key religious texts as well). The Bible is an instrumental part of western history, philosophy, literature, and art; and biblical literacy will give many students a richer understanding of their cultural heritage. I'm glad to see a curriculum that seeks to teach the Bible in an educational setting without attaching a particular religious ideology. Churches can teach doctrine, theology, and ethics; but it seems reasonable for our public schools to give youth a solid overview of the foundational text of the world's largest religion. I'm eager to see a syllabus.

    Street Prophets

    I just came across this blog today and haven't really had a chance to read it, but it looks interesting. Daily Kos and popular UCC blogger Chuck Currie have joined forces to launch Street Prophets, a community of liberal Christian bloggers.

    Is My Senator Pulling a Martha Stewart?

    I don't think there is any hard evidence to prove that Senator Frist engaged in insider trading. Still, the situation is curious. Frist has long maintained that his owning an undisclosed, but presumably large, amount of HCA stock is not a conflict of interest. The senator has also been adament that, although his father started the company and his brother is HCA's former CEO and current director, he has no official relationship with HCA. Why, then, did Senator Frist suddenly sell his stock in HCA, coincidentally right before the stock fell 9%? (I suppose it is possible that Frist had no special knowledge of the stock's decline and that he severed himself from HCA for the sake of appearances before launching his 2008 presidential campaign.)

    As Long As You're Under My Roof, You'll Play By My Monopoly Rules

    From The Onion

    Nightly Dinners With Methodist Bloggers

    Tuesday evening I had the fortune of going to dinner with Wesley Blog's Shane Raynor. Last night, I had a dream that I went to dinner with Dean Snyder of Untied Methodist. I can't wait to find out which Metho-blogger I might dine with tonight.


    Last night on Anderson Cooper 360, Anderson was talking to a field reporter who was live in Corpus Christi, Texas. CNN felt it necessary to abbreviate Corpus Christi, so the upper left-hand corner of the screen read, "Live, Corpus Christ.," the period indicating that "Christ." was a shortened version of Christi. Good thing they didn't spell it out.

    Airliner Fakes Emergency So Passengers Can Watch Soccer Game

    Among the lead stories yesterday on (almost all of which were hurricane related) was this article:

    LIMA, Peru (AP) -- A chartered jet carrying 289 Gambian soccer fans pretended it needed to make an emergency landing so they could watch their team compete in the FIFA Under 17 World Championships, officials said Wednesday.

    Sure, it's kind of sad that people's lives could be so governed by sports, but I recall the agony I went through two years ago when I had to miss the first three quarters of a Titans playoff game to attend a seminar at Perkins School of Youth Ministry. (If I had been able to watch the entire game, you see, the Titans would have beaten the Patriots.)

    Wednesday, September 21, 2005

    Let's Not Forget the Tsunami

    The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has taught us that recovery and rebuilding following a major disaster can take years and will continue long after the news crews have gone elsewhere. With that in mind, I would like to suggest that, in addition to the money we give to Katrina relief, we also continue donating to the tsunami relief effort in south Asia. At the moment I don't think you can donate to UMCOR's tsunami response fund online, but you can send a check:

    475 Riverside Dr., Room 330
    New York, NY 10115
    Advance #274305
    Designate: South Asia Emergency

    When Metho-bloggers Dine Together

    Shane Raynor of Wesley Blog fame was in town last night, and enjoyed some lively conversation with Nashville-area UM bloggers at South Street. Gavin has the story (with photos), and Cole has already made note of Shane's height, so I won't duplicate what's already been said and done.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2005

    What Do United Methodists Believe? Find Out at Antioch UMC

    Jay Vorhees, pastor at Antioch United Methodist in Nashville (well, Antioch) has been doing a sermon series on what makes United Methodists unique. He explains his reasons for doing so at his blog, Only Wonder Understands. It sounds like an interesting series; I agree with Jay that much can be gained by more fully understanding our denominational identity while reminding ourselves that we are Christians first and United Methodists second.

    So, if you're church shopping in Nashville, you might stop by Jay's church this Sunday. (I think Sunday's sermon will be the final one in the series.)

    The Vatican to Police Seminaries, Root Out Homosexuals

    The New York Times has the story.

    I don't want to jump to conclusions, especially since I truly respect the Roman Catholic Church, but this story suggests to me that the Vatican equates homosexuality and pedophilia, which is both dishonest and irresponsible. I know that the church has addressed its sexual-abuse scandals in several other ways, but in this case the Vatican is simply pandering to homophobia to create the illusion of dealing with a serious problem.

    Monday, September 19, 2005

    Pinko-Commie, Baby-Killing Liberals: Stay Away From Pasquo

    Joey had quite a time when his van broke down following our radio show Sunday morning. His van came to a stop outside the home of a man who initially seemed willing to help. Joey recalls the conversation:

    "Would you like a glass of water?" he asked, "I can get you a glass of water," he offered.

    "Oh, no thanks," I told him. Truth be told, I wanted my daddy to come help and for him to just leave me the hell alone.

    "Well, let me get an oil filter. We'll filter some oil," he goes.

    "Oh, that's fine. I'm capable of waiting for my dad."

    But as soon as I said that, the crazy conservative disappeared into the underbrush with an oil filter and a ready smile.

    "Pop yur hood," he goes, licking his parched lips.

    "Um, okay."

    "What do you think that you did to your van?" he asked.

    "Well, I was up at the radio station," I told him, pointing to the direction of Radio Free Nashville. "I think that I ran over something." Upon saying this, I recalled the polarizing nature of RFN. It's not like it's Lightning 100 or Jazz 89.

    "Well, that's karma," he answered like a backwoods sage, "that's what you get for hanging out with faggot, pinko-commie, n*****-loving liberals."

    My mouth was hanging open in utter shock as the crazy conservative lunged at me with his oil filter. "You faggot, baby-killing liberal," he goes. (Of course, this was the guy who two mintues prior was offering up water, mind you.)

    "And you're a Christian, too?" he gaped, pointing to the metallic fish on the back of my mini-van.

    "Uh-huh, well kind of..."

    "You can't be Democrat and Christian. You baby-killing Christian," he muttered under his rank breath.

    "Well, I don't necessarily agree with abortions," I started. "I don't think anyone is for abortions," I managed a nervous laugh.

    "That's not what John Kerry said. He's a baby-killer."

    The crazy conservative walked away completely disgusted. I was frightened by him because after the fact, he returned to chopping wood.

    This frightening exchange took place only a few miles from my house. No one is suggesting that Joey's would-have-been helper is representative of all conservatives or all residents of Pasquo (where WRFN is technically located). At any rate, the parallels between Joey's story and the parable of the good Samaritan are striking.

    Good Morning

    Here's a heart-warming story from the United Methodist News Service to start off the working week.

    Sunday, September 18, 2005

    Today's Christian Dissent Live Is Available

    After a month of interesting and exciting guests, Cole, Joey, and I did the two-hour show on our own. (The audio file of the show is currently missing the final 22 minutes, but Cole is working on it.) We discussed the John Roberts nomination, Katrina relief, the inclusion or exclusion of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, the Book of Nahum, Vanderbilt football, Franklin, rearview mirrors, Brat Camp, and Frito chili-cheese pies. All things considered, I think we did a decent job staying focused and not getting too ridiculous.

    Saturday, September 17, 2005

    An Interesting Piece on the Pledge of Allegiance

    The Pledge of Allegiance (more specifically, the phrase "under God") is in the news again. This site asks, "What would Francis Bellamy (the socialist Baptist minister who wrote the Pledge) and James Madison (the 'father of the Constitution') think about including 'under God' in our ritual recitation honoring the flag?" ("Under God" was not originally part of the Pledge, but was a Cold War-era addition.) It's definitely an interesting read, though I don't know much about the writer's credentials.

    Friday, September 16, 2005

    Man, I'm a Wuss

    It's half-past midnight—I know, I need to change the clock on my Blogger account—and I have just finished reading the final 100 pages of The Time Traveler's Wife. Right now I'm too emotional to sleep. All I can think about is Ashlee and Meyer and I and how important it is that we have one another. I need to go watch something mindless on cable for a while, or I'll never get to sleep.

    Letters and Numbers

    This is what I thought about as I was getting Meyer to bed tonight:

    If you write out as words each consecutive whole number . . .

  • . . . the letter a will not appear until you get to one thousand.

  • . . . the letter b will not appear until you get to one billion.

  • . . . the letter d will not appear until you get to one hundred.

  • . . . the letter m will not appear until you get to one million.

  • . . . the letter q will not appear until you get to one quadrillion.

  • . . . I am not sure when the letters c, j, k, and p make their first appearances.

  • . . . the remaining 17 letters appear in the numbers zero through twenty.

  • Pictures From the Belmont UMC Pops Concert

    Here's one of Meyer and I:

    And one of me singing and playing the piano:

    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    I'm Guest Blogging at Nashville Is Talking This Weekend

    I'll start sometime Friday afternoon and continue through Sunday evening. Check me out at

    Historical Perspectives on American Methodism

    Cole of Christian Dissent (on the web and on the radio) has launched a new project called Historical Perspectives on American Methodism. According to his introductory post:

    I think many conservatives who are longing for a return to the "good old days" of Methodism don't really understand the historical thought of the church. I could be wrong though. This blog will chronical my journey through various books and papers from the history of Methodism in America.

    The site consists primarily of quotes from old Methodist books, journals, and papers. Should be interesting.

    You're Not Going to Learn Much From a Senate Confirmation Hearing

    Does anyone really expect Judge Roberts to openly talk about his views on abortion, capital punishment, and so forth? Don't we know pretty much where Roberts stands already? From what I have heard of the confirmation hearing, I actually think that the judge has responded very well to questioning. (Granted, some senators aren't exactly asking tough questions.) We're not going to learn anything new about John Roberts from this hearing. Unfortunately, we also haven't learned much from Roberts' short tenure as a federal judge or his legal career prior to being a judge, much of which he spent writing opinions and reports assigned by higher-ups. Politically, the President made a smart move by nominating Roberts; he picked a guy with credentials and experience but no significant judicial record.

    Related: The Daily Show's coverage of the Roberts hearing

    Best of Nashville 2005

    If you live in Middle Tennessee, be sure to vote in the Nashville Scene's annual "Best of Nashville" poll. Normally, I'd shamelessly ask people to vote for me in the "Feature Writer" category. But as I haven't written many feature stories this year, I will instead invite you to vote for Cole Wakefield in the "Talk Radio Host" category. Ballots are due by September 28.

    Get Back to Class

    I have an article in this week's Nashville Scene about adult continuing education opportunities in the Music City. It isn't exactly an example of cutting-edge journalism, but it provides some good information for anyone who's looking for some interesting night classes.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005

    Meyer's Homework

    On his first day of Play Care, Meyer was given the assignment to bring in current pictures of his family. His mother and I made the unwise decision last night of trying to arrange a group photo of the family's nonhuman members. After much hissing and scratching, we decided that we would be better off shooting the cats in pairs rather than as a foursome. To the right is the best cat picture we were able to get yesterday evening. As you can see, neither Rivers nor Curtis is pleased with the situation, and I am holding both of our feline models in place. We failed to get any pictures of Reggie and Naomi (the elder kitties).

    Related/Update: Here is a picture of the human members of the Tinley family, also taken as a part of Meyer's homework assignment. (All three of us are in our pajamas.)

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    Christian Conservatives Champion March of the Penguins

    Wonkette comments on a story in today's New York Times.

    Christian conservatives have latched on to the high-grossing documentary March of the Penguins, because the film portrays traditional family values and promotes monogamy. (Wonkette reminds her readers that some monogamous penguins are homosexual.)

    I haven't seen March of the Penguins; I'll be waiting for the DVD release. Still, I can honestly say that the penguin is one of my favorite animals. I am fascinated by non-mammals that resemble humans; and I can relate to the many penguin species who, like me, are most comfortable in cold weather.

    So my conservative brothers and sisters and I share an appreciation of penguins. Perhaps our common interest can help us understand one another on a deeper level.

    I Think I'll Sit Out Today's Vote

    Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell has asked for a half-cent sales tax increase in Metro Nashville (Davidson County) that would raise the total sales tax in the city to a whopping 9.75%. Revenue generated by the tax would be set aside for schools and tax breaks for seniors.

    Personally, I am bothered that the mayor is asking me to choose between funding schools and helping seniors and not increasing the already cumbersome tax burden on the working poor. The current 9.25% sales tax that Nashvillians pay is, in my opinion, morally wrong; a half-cent increase is just disgusting. Also disgusting is our city's inability to fund our schools. I don't think that I can vote either way and feel good about what I have done. I'd rather protest being put in this situation in the first place.

    I think that a more progressive system of taxation at the state level would benefit Tennessee cities; but we need to be more creative about generating revenue at the local level as well. Any ideas?

    Jetpack, "Mathematics"

    The video for "Mathematics," by Nashville's own Jetpack is now available at the band's website,

    Perry Meridian High School Class of 1995

    I spent Saturday evening in Indianapolis at my 10-year high school reunion. The event went well, and Ashlee and I enjoyed ourselves, but I don't have anything terribly interesting to report. Most everyone who was present has been doing well and has been living a successful, productive, and interesting life, but I didn't hear any stories that really inflated my eyeballs or rattled my knees. Our valedictorian, Angie Wu, gets my nod for the most impressive resume. She's an editor for the Washington Post. I made sure to talk up my former bandmate and fellow Perry Meridian alum Brian Fuzzell (of Jetpack and Girls and Boys), who missed the reunion because he had a gig.

    Monday, September 12, 2005

    I Missed the Show, but You Don't Have to

    I was out of town and had to take off a week from co-hosting Christian Dissent Live. Cole and Joey had no trouble covering for me, and this week's show is now available for download. This week, get a gay Christian's perspective on "ex-gay" ministries; special guest Richard Holman of The Sight Ministry.

    Commodores Win Again

    Vanderbilt's football team is 2-0 for the first time since 1988. Winning at Arkansas, the 'Dores won their first road game in a conference opener since 1984.

    Vanderbilt can realistically win its next three games (Ole Miss, Richmond, and MTSU, all at home); if they do, a win at South Carolina or at home against Kentucky would make them bowl-eligible. Sure, I'm getting ahead of myself, but Vanderbilt rarely wins two consecutive football games, so Commodores fans have every right to speculate about a dream season.

    Related: Vandy actually gets a vote for the AP Top 25.

    Saturday, September 10, 2005

    I'm Off for the Weekend

    I'm headed to my 10-year high school reunion. At least three of the four friends I had in high school will not be there, so I'm not sure what to expect. I'll give you a full report next week.

    Correction of Previous Post: The guest on this week's Christian Dissent Live (Sunday, 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., on Radio Free Nashville, 98.9 WRFN) will be Richard Holman of The Sight Ministry. Should be good.

    Friday, September 09, 2005

    First Day of School

    Keep little Meyer in your prayers today. It's his first day of Play Care.

    This Sunday on Christian Dissent Live

    I'll be out of town this week, so it should be a really good show. (Sunday morning, 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., on Radio Free Nashville, 98.9 WRFN.) The topic will be "ex-gay" programs, and I believe that a representative from the Nashville-area TrueHope Counseling Center will be on as a guest.

    Related: Joey recently reported on his past experience at an ex-gay center.
    Me, I'll be attending my 10-year high school reunion. I'll let you know how it goes.

    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    Our Vice President Makes an Appearance

    Welcome back from vacation, Mr. Cheney. You'll never believe what happened while you were away!

    Arnold Says He'll Veto; Do We Need Stronger Celebrity Politicians?

    Less than a day after the California Assembly passed a law allowing same-sex marriages, Governor Schwarzenegger has made public his intention to veto the bill. The measure passed by slim margins in both houses and is very likely to survive a veto. Since no member of his party voted for the bill, a veto makes political sense for the governor, who faces re-election next year. But we can put to rest any talk of Schwarzenegger being a gay-friendly Republican.

    In related news, according to a recent Field Poll, the majority of Californians are not planning to vote for Schwarzenegger, and the governor trails each of his two most likely Democratic opponents.

    I live nowhere near California, so my thoughts on who they elect governor shouldn't matter. Still, while I understand the reasoning behind removing Gray Davis from office (though California voters had re-elected the guy less than a year before they recalled him), I don't understand replacing him with Arnold Schwarzenegger. More to the point, I'm not sure why Gary Coleman's gubernatorial campaign was dismissed as a joke, while Conan the Barbarian was considered from the beginning a legitimate candidate. I mean, Arnold Schwarzenegger had no more political experience than Arnold Jackson; Why was the Kindergarten Cop such an obvious choice?

    Like I say, who Californians elect as their governor is their business, but here are a few celebrities who are more fit to hold office than Arnold Schwarzenegger:

  • Jay-Z: Jay Hova, as the President and CEO of Def Jam and part-owner of the New Jersey Nets, has management experience. He also owns a fashion label and a film company. Jay-Z is talented, creative, driven, business savvy, and street smart. I can't think of any current elected officials about whom I would say the same.

  • Oprah: I'm not much of an Oprah fan, but the woman can get things done. Anything. She transcends boundaries such as race, class, religion, and ideology, and is already one of our country's most influential leaders.

  • Larry Bird: Larry Legend is all business. He expects heart, pride, effort, diligence, and sweat from himself and everyone on his team. Larry has exceeded everyone's expectations as a player, a coach, and an executive. And you can bet that he'll be up before sunrise every day shooting free-throws.

  • Anderson Cooper: Dude's fearless, and he always seems to know more about what's going on in America and the world than any of our elected officials. Cooper is smart, sympathetic, and well-spoken, and he can think on his toes. I remember Anderson Cooper from his days on Channel One. Even as a field reporter for a 15-minute newscast for teens, Cooper clearly had a better understanding of the situation in Somalia than the Clinton Administration did. Of course, his intimate understanding of the crisis on the Gulf Coast has made many officials in the current administration look foolish by comparison.
  • California Senate Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

    (From The Washington Post)

    This actually happened late last week, but I've only recently learned about it. The bill still faces a tough battle in the California Assembly and possibly a gubernatorial veto.

    Update: The California assembly approved the measure 41 to 35 yesterday. Now it's up to Schwarzenegger to sign or veto.

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    The Spam Comments Are Wearing on Me

    Especially this one, which exploits Hurricane Katrina in an effort to sell office supplies.


    The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger (novel): A love story that asks tough questions about free will and the meaning of life.

    Be, Common: Smart and poetic. While none of the songs is truly great on its own, there is not a bad song on the album; the set flows smoothly from start to finish.

    Related: Cole claims to have discovered the worst book ever.

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    In United Methodist News . . .

    Bishop Hae-Jong Kim (retired), the church's first Korean bishop, recently resigned his episcopacy following an undisclosed complaint. Kim will remain an ordained elder, though he will no longer teach classes at Drew Theological Seminary (NJ). Kim is only the second UM bishop to resign, the first being James Armstrong.

    Scott McClellan Had a Rough Day

    Wonkette has a complete, if hard to read, transcript of today's White House press briefing.

    On a Less Serious Note, What Happens to the Saints and Hornets?

    The New Orleans Saints are currently practicing in San Antonio and will be playing their first "home" game on the road in New Jersey (where the New York Giants play). Both team owner Tom Benson and the league are interested in the Saints playing later home games in Baton Rouge, on LSU's home field. According to some rumors that the team will never return to New Orleans, instead making a home in San Antonio or Los Angeles. Many people feel that relocating the Saints from New Orleans would be demoralizing and tactless. But others argue that New Orleans will not be able to house an NFL team for many years, and may never again be fit to be an NFL city.

    I would suggest a compromise: permanently moving the team to Baton Rouge, a reasonably large city with a large stadium and no professional sports teams that is fairly close to New Orleans. The team could simply become the "Louisiana Saints." If Baton Rouge doesn't work out, I would recommend moving to either Austin or Birmingham, so that the team can at least stay in the same region.

    As for the Hornets, little has been said about where they will play next year, though the NBA has informed its teams that the Hornets may relocate for the upcoming season. Nashville has offered to host some home games and Oklahoma City has offered its Ford Center as a home court for the entire season. Because the Hornets are not nearly as dear to the people of New Orleans as the Saints are, I would recommened permanently moving the team to either Oklahoma City or Louisville.

    Of course, no one of importance really cares what I think. Nonetheless, here are some lists you might find interesting:

    Ten Largest U.S. Metropolitan Areas Without a Major League Franchise:
    followed by overall ranking among U.S. metro areas

    1) Riverside, CA, 13
    2) Providence, RI, 32
    3) Virginia Beach, VA, 33
    4) Las Vegas, NV, 36
    5) Austin, TX, 40
    6) Louisville, KY, 43
    7) Hartford, CT, 44
    8) Richmond, VA, 46
    9) Oklahoma City, OK, 47
    10) Birmingham, AL, 48

    By "Major League" I mean NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, and NHL. If you exclude the NHL, San Jose, CA would rank first and Columbus, OH would rank third. (Both of these cities also have Major League Soccer teams.) Hartford has a WNBA team (the Connecticut Sun). Riverside's close proximity to Los Angeles, Providence's to Boston, and Louisville's to Cincinnati and Indianapolis should also be noted.

    Ten Largest U.S. Metropolitan Areas Without an NFL franchise
    1) Los Angeles, CA, 2
    2) Riverside, CA, 13
    3) Portland, OR, 25
    4) Sacramento, CA, 27
    5) San Jose, CA, 28
    6) San Antonio, TX, 29
    7) Orlando, FL, 30
    8) Columbus, OH, 31
    9) Providence, RI, 32
    10) Virginia Beach, VA, 33

    Ten Largest U.S. Metropolitan Areas Without an NBA franchise
    1) Riverside, CA, 13
    2) San Diego, CA, 17
    3) St. Louis, MO, 18
    4) Baltimore, MD, 19
    5) Pittsburgh, PA, 20
    6) Tampa, FL, 21
    7) Cincinnati, OH, 24
    8) Kansas City, MO, 26
    9) San Jose, CA, 28
    10) Columbus, OH, 31

    Ten Smallest U.S. Metropolitan Areas With a Major League Franchise
    1) Green Bay, WI (Packers, NFL), 152
    2) Salt Lake City, UT (Jazz, NBA), 50
    3) Jacksonville, FL (Jaguars, NFL), 45
    4) Buffalo, NY (Bills, NFL; Sabres, NHL), 42
    5) Memphis, TN (Grizzlies, NBA), 41
    6) Nashville, TN (Titans, NFL; Predators, NHL), 39
    7) New Orleans, LA (Saints, NFL; Hornets, NBA), 38
    8) Charlotte, NC (Panthers, NFL; Bobcats, NBA; Hurricanes, NHL), 37
    9) Milwaukee, WI (Brewers, MLB; Bucks, NBA), 35
    10) Indianapolis, IN (Colts, NFL; Pacers, NBA), 34

    Preach It Brother Olbermann (Windows Media)

    Countdown (MSNBC) host Keith Olbermann elegantly editorializes on the government's failures in reponding to Hurricane Katrina. (Video from Crooks and Liars.)

    Is the Senate Partly to Blame for FEMA's Ineptitude?

    We now know that, prior to working for FEMA, under secretary Michael Brown had no emergency management experience. He practiced law in Colorado and Oklahoma, taught some law classes at Oklahoma City University, and served as commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association (a position he was asked to resign). While the President shouldn't have nominated Brown as FEMA director, and while Brown probably shouldn't have accepted the nomination, the Senate nonetheless confirmed Brown with a voice vote on August 1, 2002. (If this link becomes inactive, go to the "Nominations" page at THOMAS and search for "Michael Brown" in the records of the 107th Congress.)

    Because Brown was confirmed by voice vote, we have no record of how individual senators voted. Where nominations are concerned, voice votes are usually taken when the outcome of the vote is obvious.

    I understand that the Senate has to vote on several hundred presidential nominations in the course of a session, and that voice votes enable the Senate to work efficiently. But FEMA director is a very important job. The confirmation of a nominee with little relevant experience should not be dealt with as a formality. The Senate should have recognized that Brown was not qualified and rejected the nomination.

    This gets me to a fundamental problem in American politics, at least at the federal level. Regardless of who is in the White House, the president's party almost always supports his nominations unanimously. The opposition party only puts up a fight in special circumstances, circumstances that have more to do with politics than making sure that the right people are appointed to the right positions.

    In case you were wondering, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was confirmed 98-0 in a roll-call vote earlier this year. (Arlen Spector and Montana Democrat Max Baucus didn't show.)

    The Senate needs to take more seriously its responsibility to confirm or reject presidential nominations. The Constitution gives the legislative body this reponsibility to ensure that competent and qualified persons are serving in high-ranking, non-elected government positions. The Senate is charged with making sure our appointed leaders are fit to lead. This is a serious job, and one that voters need to consider when electing one-third of the Senate next year.

    In other disturbing Hurricane Katrina/homeland security news, Daily Kos has quite a list of the many ways that FEMA has failed to use valuable and necessary resources available to them.

    Sunday, September 04, 2005

    Audio of Today's Christian Dissent Live

    Today we discussed Hurricane Katrina and the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist and interviewed Reverend Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches. The interview was shorter than we had originally planned, and there were a lot of issues we weren't able to cover (especially since we wanted to talk with the general secretary about the hurricane relief effort), but I think we were able to ask some good questions. Throughout the show, we played music from or about New Orleans; and during the last half hour things started getting silly. Enjoy the show.

    In Memory of Chief Justice Rehnquist

    Over the years, many have questioned the wisdom behind giving federal judges lifetime appointments. One reason that is rarely discussed is how we, as a nation, mourn and celebrate the lives of judges who die when they are still serving. Case in point, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died last night at age 80. As a casual observer, I would say that the media as a whole has been more concerned with who might replace Justice Rehnquist than with his life and legacy. Sure, I have issues with Rehnquist's judicial record, but the man gave his life to the American court system; he loved and believed in the Supreme Court and served, despite failing health, until he died. If we could all have a call and vocation that we felt so passionate about.

    We can talk about filling vacancies later. For now, let's reflect on the life and career of a long-time American leader and public servant.

    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    Where Is Our Vice President?

    Is he still on vacation? He was as of Wednesday, and his spokeswoman didn't know when he would be returning. Correct me if I've missed something, but I've seen no news coverage of him returning to Washington or visiting the Gulf Coast.

    Shouldn't the V.P. be taking care of matters in Washington while the President is down south? I mean, our nation is both at war and dealing with one of the worst disasters in our history. In many professions there are extreme circumstances that require one to postpone or return early from a vacation. I cannot imagine why Hurricane Katrina would be such a circumstance for the country's second-in-command.

    Remember, these guys were elected on a message of strong leadership in times of crisis.

    Criticism Good, Playing Politics Bad

    Though I try to avoid such labels, many people consider me a liberal. As a liberal, I feel that I need to say something about a recent post by Joseph Cannon, a guest blogger on Brad Blog, a somewhat popular liberal blog. On Wednesday Cannon wrote:

    My original reaction to the Katrina catastrophe was going to be: "NOT ONE DIME."

    For an hour or so, I contemplated the idea of turning it into a crusade: No-one in the blue states (where the money is) should give one dime of aid to the victims of this hurricane, which devastated Bush-friendly regions.

    Why did I flirt with such a callous attitude?

    Because it should be obvious to all that this tragedy was not just an act of God. Dubya and his diety conspired to transform mere disaster into an unprecedented mega-catastrophe.

    Scientists warn us to expect more Katrinas. Global warming -- the existence of which W would prefer to rationalize away -- caused the temperature of the sea's surface to rise in the Gulf of Mexico, thereby transforming what should have been a manageable hurricane into a monster.

    While some have taken Cannon out of context and have made his message sound even worse than it really is, his post is still pretty awful when it is taken in context. I think everyone thinks terrible thoughts that they later regret or feel guilty about. There's a time and a place to explore the darker side of the human psyche. On a semi-well-known political blog in the aftermath of one of the worst catastrophes in our nation's history is not such a time or place. Actually, I'm not entirely sure that Cannon really regrets his cold, heartless thoughts. He later writes, "But let us make one thing clear: We WILL politicize this issue."

    I think there's a difference between holding accountable our elected officials and politicizing a crisis. Saying, "It is embarrassing that every major news organization in the country knew about the crisis at the convention center two days before FEMA did," is OK. Saying, "Republicans are to blame for the slow reponse and they will pay in the next election," is making generalizations and going too far. And, as a church guy, Cannon's careless discussion of God's role in all of this bothers me.

    So be critical, but remember that this is a time to identify problems, find ways to solve problems, and help people. This is not an opporunity to advance a political cause or ideology.

    Friday, September 02, 2005

    Kanye West Calls Out the President . . .

    . . . and makes Mike Myers very uncomfortable. Video from this evening's NBC telethon for Katrina victims.

    FEMA Chief Michael Brown Needs to Resign Now

    I'm sorry, but he really has no idea what's going on, and I get the impression that he's just getting in the way.

    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    Jack Cafferty Voices the Frustration That Many of Us Are Feeling (QuickTime)

    Powerless . . .

    . . . is how I feel when I watch the coverage of Hurricane Katrina. So many sad stories; even the stories of hope that news outlets have lifted up don't seem terribly hopeful at the moment. It's hard for me not to be depressed when I see footage of babies Meyer's age or younger who have had little or nothing to eat or drink for five days. At this point, I can't fault anyone for looting; but I don't understand instances of gang rape. And, of course, the situation at the New Orleans Convention Center is just horrible. As late as this afternoon officials from FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security were publically doubting reports about the thousands of people dying of fear and neglect in a facility that they were told to go to for relief.

    I commend Shane from Wesley Blog for being so proactive in rallying support for the cause.

    Vanderbilt 24; Wake Forest 20

    Woo! First win in a season opener since 1997, if I'm not mistaken.

    The Progressive Christian Disconnect

    Dare We Be Christians? has an excellent post on the inability of well educated, progressive Christians to connect their social convictions to their faith. I've also noticed this tendency among the younger generation. I think that many progressives try so hard to distance themselves from the Religious Right that they distance themselves from the essence of their faith. (I know that I have sometimes been guilty of this.) But I also think that part of the blame rests on ignorance of Scripture and the history and tradition of the church. Social justice is neither unbiblical nor unorthodox; it is an important part of our Christian story, and we need to name it as such.

    Joey Hood on Liberadio This Morning

    I guess 91.1 WRVU is trying to woo Christian Dissent Live's on-air talent. Joey will be filling in on WRVU's Liberadio this morning from 8:00 to 10:00.