There is more to Clarence Darrow than I thought. As the old story goes, the famous litigator slyly distracted juries with his cigar. He supposedly threaded a thin wire through the cigar to keep the burning ashes from falling. Enthralled juries would watch the ashes with anticipation instead of listening to the opposing counsel. True or not, the story has longevity for every negative attorney stereotype. Darrow’s most famous cases – The Scopes Monkey Trial and the murder trial of Leopold and Loeb – are noteworthy for their fame and sensationalism. For these bits of trivia, I quickly dismissed Darrow in my early days ofRead More →

Huey Long is the heart of Louisiana. I think of him when I think of Louisiana, and I understand the anathema of this state. Its collectivism, which derives from its non-Anglo traditions and its agrarian culture, gave easy rise to its populist politics. That populism was intensely complicated by a racism that Huey Long managed to navigate. Long dreamed of a “share the wealth” program encapsulated in his “A chicken in every pot, and every man a king” sound bite. He is an indirect grandparent to Occupy Wall Street.  Long despised big oil and big banks; he drove the expansion of Glass-Steagall in Congress andRead More →

The “problem” is that Tea Party activists move from legitimate feelings and normal longings to paranoid political positions that are dangerous and cruel. But because these positions serve an important psychological function, because they resolve an emotional dilemma, they can’t be changed by rational argument.

– Michael Bader, clinical psychologist
Alternet, Why we need to have empathy for Tea Party lunatics

Heads Up: Prayer Warriors and Sarah Palin are Organizing Spiritual Warfare to Take Over America – This is simultaneously amusing and disturbing. The documentary Jesus Camp, depicts camp leaders wanting to train Christian children for the Army of God, just like Islamic children are trained. Ted Haggard, the disgraced preacher who is a key figure in Jesus Camp, was central to organizing the spiritual warfare movement. It’s amusing to think that this movement is praying to rid battleground cities of their demons. But isn’t so funny after all.

I really like this word, Pentacostalgon! I read it in an article on CNN about an atheist named Jeremy Hall who is suing the U.S. military for religious discrimination. The story has been in the news for a while, but this is the first time I ran into the word. It comes from Michael Weinstein, “a retired senior Air Force officer and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who is suing along with Hall.” In the CNN article, he says “Our Pentagon, our Pentacostalgon, is refusing to realize that when you put the uniform on, there’s only one religious faith: patriotism.” Weinstein’s term hasRead More →

Predictably, Dinesh D’Souza had to go and comment on the Pew Study on Religion, too. He makes the same point below about people being shallow that I cited in an earlier blog post, but of course he frames his comments in a usual anti-postmodernist screed. He writes: There are two kinds of pluralism: the kind that holds that truth does not matter, and the kind that holds that truth matters greatly but as flawed human beings our reason and experience gives us only limited access to the truth. The first kind of pluralism is deadly for religion, and is typically embraced by flaccid people whoRead More →

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted a survey about American’s religious beliefs, confirming our country’s religious beliefs are plumb crazy. According to the survey, most of the people who identify with Evangelical Christianity think that there’s more than one way to interpret the Bible. Huh? And that there’s more than one way to get to ‘eternal life.’ Huh? *head scratch* These beliefs seem completely counter the most fundamental of Evangelical teachings. First of all, thank God people believe this way. But, the do ironies abound. My protestant students, for instance, think the Catholics are just exactly like them, without understanding the basicRead More →

Barack Obama might be running on a “move-over Boomers” campaign. He’s pitching himself as the next generation of politicians. While it’s a move that I love, being a Gen Xer myself, it’s a political mistake. Look at what happened to music when the Boomers moved over. Britney Spears! We jumped from the culture of the Boomers to the culture of the digital generation with Gen X getting the spotlight for less than a decade because we were squeezed out by the population humps on both sides of us. The digital generation isn’t old enough to vote yet, and Gen X doesn’t have a large enoughRead More →