Studying Canada

I think correlated with the events described in the previous post, I am beginning a deeper study of Canada–history, politics, and culture. Part of a process of entering into the culture. It’s been 3 years now (more or less) of living here, and I’m just now beginning to feel like I want to understand the land, hear its deeper whispers and so on.

The books I’m reading, for anyone interested:

The Illustrated History of Canada (ed., Craig Brown)
First Nations of Canada (Olive Patricia Dickason)
The Polite Revolution: Perfecting the Canadian Dream (John Ibbitson)

The first would be a so-called dead white man’s history.  The second a history of the thousands of years prior to European contact (which actually began in 1000 with the Vikings but nobody is ever taught about then in North American schools).  And the last a current political outlook with some pretty biting criticism.

And probably after the honeymoon, a book by the baddest-ass named person on the planet:

Lloyd Axworthy.  (Foreign Policy).

Here’s a website with some basics on Canadian history.  .

[Photo: Canadian Coat of Arms]

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Published in: on April 30, 2008 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Wedding Plans Update

I’m not usually one to mention to much personal info on this blog, but my wedding is fast approaching.  I did (I think) announce way back, like a year and a half ago that I asked Chloe (pictured above) to marry me.

Our wedding is May 17th.  Norwegian Independence Day apparently–I was told this by an ecstatic Nordic woman when I had mentioned that was the date of our wedding.  The story goes that the Swedes and the Danes were fighting one of the numerous wars and the Fins broke (from Swedish suzerainty) while those blond ice-hockey playing, Vikings weren’t looking.

Also interestingly the same wedding date as of one set of Chloe’s grandparents.

The picture above is from a photo shoot with did with our photographer.  You can check out a slew of them here.  I’m also not much for plugging here at the blog, but Jennifer Salt is her name and she’s fantastic.  So any local Vancouver-ite readers her homepage/gallery is here.  She does weddings, babies, pregnancies.
She’s fantastic.

Also any local readers are invited to the actual wedding ceremony which is May 17th, 1 pm at Christ Church Cathedral downtown (corner of Georgia and Burrard).

So I’m working on getting the liturgy together, which is an interesting experiment–as long-time readers know (some do) my wife-to-be is not Christian while I’m studying to be an Anglican priest.

We are headed to Nicaragua for our honeymoon, which will allow me my first taste of playing the “I’m Canadian” card.  Given the history of the US gov’t illegally (and immorally I might add) funding right-wing deaths squads there during the Reagan years (they put the Contra in Iran-Contra), advertising my American-ness will probably not be priority numero uno.

T-minus 2 1/2 weeks and counting.

[PS For those wondering, I’m actually in really good spirits, no nerves (yet) about it.  I’ve only been procrastinating slightly on downloading music for the reception to play in between our jazz trio.  But when else is a pastor, a Christian minister, and a liberation theologian at that–my primary field of theological study for 5 years–going to play such a role in US politics ever again?]

Published in: on April 30, 2008 at 6:29 pm  Comments (4)  

Battle of the JAMs

Top: The Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM), aka The Mahdi Army of Moqtada al Sadr (dude on the poster).

Bottom:  Jim and Pam (JAM) from The Office.

They’re hardcore in Scranton, so I wouldn’t underestimate that duo.

Published in: on April 30, 2008 at 10:35 am  Leave a Comment  

Wilber Interview in Salon.com

Salon has posted an interview with Ken Wilber. As Bill Harryman says, nothing really new for those already familiar with his work and likely a decent intro for those not (I’m paraphrasing Bill).

Matthew however has a different take which is entitled: Wilber, entirely wrong again.

There is quite a bit in Matthew’s post, some of it very insightful, but I want to try to do a point by point because I think there is a number of errors in his post as well.

Warning, much more after jump. Long and philosophical (boring alert). That said, enjoy. (more…)

Published in: on April 30, 2008 at 10:19 am  Comments (11)  
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McCain’s Health Care Proposal

You can read the speech he gave and see his plan here from his website.

For a positive response to the plan, here from Matthew. For an opposite view, here, from Jonathan Cohn in the New Republic.

The center of McCain’s proposal is a $5,000 tax credit to be used for purchasing insurance. As a trade off, he will stop tax credit to businesses that give employees health care. Now I’m on record as favoring an end to the employer based US-system, but this I don’t think is the way to go about it.

The main arguing point politically for McCain with this plan is that it won’t bring in big government paternalistic liberalism, which is what the Democrats will achieve (so he argues).

McCain’s plan, conversely, touts creating a market, innovation in the field of health care, citizens being able to choose for themselves.

Here’s a problem with that outlook:

A big problem with this scheme, as critics like me pointed out, was that it wouldn’t do much for people who were already sick. Insurance companies generally won’t offer coverage directly to people with “pre-existing conditions,” since they represent such bad financial risks. (It turns out people with medical problems need medical care!) So buying insurance on their own really isn’t an option.

$5,000 won’t get you much if you can’t buy insurance because of pre-existing conditions and no government regulation of the industry and you have health costs of say $35,000. So to deal with that issue, McCain has the following proposal:

In a speech at a Florida cancer hospital, McCain acknowledged that people with pre-existing conditions can’t always buy insurance on their own. But, he says, that doesn’t mean these people will be left to twist in the wind. Instead, McCain is offering people like [Elizabeth] Edwards what he calls a “Guaranteed Access Plan.” But unlike all those awful big-government entitlements the Democrats are promising–you know, the ones that (supposedly) make you wait in long lines and cut off access to high-technology treatments–McCain says his plan will let the states handle the problem by working hand-in-hand with private insurers to offer insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.

Cohn writes:

It will be the best of both worlds, McCain promises: Affordable, available insurance, but through private carriers and without the heavy hand of Washington.It all sounds very lovely–unless you know something about health care policy, in which case it sounds absolutely preposterous.

And why is that exactly (bold in original)?

More than 30 states already have programs almost exactly like the one McCain just sketched out. They are called “high risk pools,” and the idea is pretty straightforward: Private insurers agree to sell policies directly to individuals, even those with pre-existing medical conditions, as long as the state helps to subsidize the cost.

But the whole reason conservatives like McCain prefer this approach to liberal schemes for universal coverage is that it involves minimal government regulation. As a result, private insurers have enormous leeway in dictating the terms of coverage. And one place they use that leeway is by setting high prices. A few years ago, a Commonwealth Fund study found that, on average, state high-risk pools offered coverage that was two-thirds more expensive than regularly priced coverage. In some states, the high-risk coverage was actually twice as high as regular coverage.

At those prices, you might think the coverage was spectacular. Not so. While private insurers in high-risk pools are willing to accept people with pre-existing conditions, they’re not generally willing to cover expenses related to those pre-existing conditions–at least not right away. Nearly all the plans surveyed had waiting periods of between six months and a year, during which the insurers would not cover care for prior medical problems.

Read the rest where Cohn takes the case of Elizabeth Edwards (wife of former candidate John Edwards) who has cancer. Her $5,000 tax credit will go a long way to paying her [low end estimate] $14,000/year to [high end] $100,000/year medical care. Of course she’s really rich, so she can get whatever. But for those who aren’t, then what happens?

Not to mention that McCain’s budgetary proposals will massively increase the deficit. Like every Republican since Reagan he will increase the federal budgetary deficit. Reagan, George HW Bush, George W Bush. All of them. Government will massively grow (particularly the national security state/defense industry and national surveillance state/industry) and continue to be as incompetent and not really much in return as the current Republican administration. At least on domestic issues.

I know the Democrats plan will come with increased costs. Their projections are always the best of all possible worlds scenarios and with any of these things (conservatives correct here) it will always be more complicated and expensive than imagined.

But is McCain’s plan really a workable alternative? Really? How long will the US continue to have the highest cost/person of health care and the worst coverage in the post-industrial world? This is massively hampering US economic competition. How is this not an outrage? Oh yeah, there’s an angry black preacher around there’s far more important–I forgot.

Published in: on April 30, 2008 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Elmore James

With South Side Chicago on my mind today (Wright, Trinity United, Obama), it reminded me of my favorite blues singer and probably the greatest slide guitarist ever:  Elmore James.  Enjoy.

Published in: on April 29, 2008 at 5:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Best Best Response John Cole

The guy never fails to impress. (Titled Obama Kicks Wright In the Junk)–because thrown under the bus sucks.

Money quote:

If you have a memo from Jeremiah Wright to John Yoo showing how we should become a rogue nation, let me know. If you have pictures of Jeremiah Wright voting against the GI Bill, send it to me. If you have evidence of Jeremiah Wright training junior soldiers on the finer aspects of stacking and torturing naked Iraqi captives, pass them on.

Until then, I just can’t seem to get all worked up about the crazy scary black preacher that Obama has to “throw under the bus.”

Update I:  It also occurs to me there could be a backlash in the black community (blacklash?)
against Jeremiah Wright if it seems he is destroying the first black man’s chances of being prez.

Published in: on April 29, 2008 at 2:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

continuing thread on media coverage of wright

According to Steven Gray writing in Time:

While Wright, 66, vented on a lot of subjects at his National Press Club appearance in Washington on Monday, he failed to articulate the so-called black liberation theology to which Trinity and scores of other mainstream black churches adhere — and to which he owes his fame and reputation.

Say what? Failed to articulate black liberation theology? Excuse me, that was his entire press club speech. What Wright said is that while he has no disagreement with James Cone (godfather of black liberation theology) he does not prefer the term liberation theology but rather prophetic theology of the black church, arguing it goes back further historically than liberation theology–which is equated with movements in the 1960s and 70s, particularly in Latin America.

Like all good trained pastors of that generation he had three points to his sermon: reconciliation, liberation, and transformation. Those are the hallmarks of the theology he articulated.

This however is accurate:

Still, says Dwight N. Hopkins, professor at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, and an authority on black liberation theology, “Mainstream Americans have no idea of what the black church is.”

And in answer to my “political voice“:

“I know it’s hard being quiet when you’re attacked,” says Vernon G. Smith, chairman of Indiana’s legislative black caucus, who says he’s known Wright for nearly two decades. Smith, who is concerned about Wright’s effect on the May 6 Indiana primary, says he’d hoped Wright would “bear it, and wait,” before publicly venting his frustration. But, says Smith, “for anybody who’s built a church or institution to try to help the ghettos of the inner cities of America and then have that legacy potentially lost, it’s got to be painful.”

Correction. I noticed a line in an Andrew Sullivan post I missed before where he says:

parts of his address at the Press Club were completely uncontroversial and even contained some important truths.

He doesn’t mention what those important truths are, but I did miss that part in my earlier criticisms.

Update:  Eugene Robinson with what I think might be the best response yet.

Published in: on April 29, 2008 at 12:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Political Voice (Wright)

After having given some air time to my religious voice, here and here, time for my political voice to be given the floor.

My main point in those was to say that reading through the blog reaction, pro-Obama, pro-Clinton, right/left, whatever and all white voices I haven’t come across one commentator whose actually considered it even possible Wright was actually doing what he said he was out to do–defend the black church tradition which he feels is being unjustly attacked.

Even church-goers and faithful people (like A.Sullivan) fall into this trap. To me that is very telling.

Not to say there can’t be and aren’t multiple motivations going on–some personal for Wright–who knows what lurks in the hearts of men. But it’s not even contemplated by any of the white authors I’ve come across that he meant what he said–he felt the tradition of his parents and grandparents was being attacked and as a minister he is responsible and answerable to God and to the defense of the gospel.

So now a bunch of these voices (Sullivan, The New Republic, and here’s one on the HuffPost saying Obama can have his Sister Souljah moment), saying this is Obama’s perfect opportunity to disown Wright.

I guess Obama would be looking for a new church.

With the same gulf I notice in the analysis of the speech, I have a hard time seeing Obama do something like this. Because these writers miss the central argument–which I guarantee was heard in enough influential black outlets–to disown Wright would be interpreted I think by extension as disowning of the black church and more largely black culture, the very thing Obama said he could not do in his race speech. Stepping on a revered (in those circles) black pastor so he can court favor with whites and gain political power.

He may be forced into some such speech, I won’t close the door on that one, but he would take a hit in the black community. It might be equalized or even acceded by other gains, but it would further erode Obama’s image as a different kind of politician.

My political voice will now yell at Pastor Wright (he’s been waiting to get this one out):

SOB–why the f–k couldn’t you have waited until after the Indiana primary? Keep your damn mouth shut about your screw ball conspiracy theories for Christ’s sake. Way to @##$ it up mother father.

Ok. That’s better.

I actually have no problem with Wright saying he says what he says because he’s a pastor and Obama says what he says because he’s a politician. That could be spun to mean Obama is calculating and only saying what he says to get elected–that would be different than Hillary Clinton or John McCain how btw?

But I take it to mean–as someone who is studying to be a pastor and knows it from the inside–a different arena. A different set of expectations, rules, and ways of interaction.

One very important (I thought) piece in Wright’s Q&A which no one has picked up on in the blogs or MSM is when Wright says–I told Obama if you are elected president on Nov. 5th, I’m coming after you because you will be in charge of a government whose policies I disagree with (and feels are in violation of the gospel).

As he said repeatedly the issue for him is the prophetic tradition (as he understands it). He will aim his fire clearly on any politician of any stripe–he ripped Cheney, Bush, even Obama in the speech.

All the talk about race, race-hustling, the 60s Boomer mentality, Wright’s ego, whatever, a simpler explanation might be that he actually just believes those words. Or at least if the other stuff is involved (and I’m not denying it could be) it is that plus the defense line of thought.

That he believes the government’s policies (domestically and internationally) are in violation of the gospel (as he understands it). And what matters to him more than politics is the church because the church is the place of refuge and the base of an alternate humanity. One worshiping The Prince of Peace and trying to imitate their Lord.

That said, there is a middle ground I think he could find between the Sister Souljah line and where he was with Wright on the race speech. Obviously the easy low hanging fruit is the stuff on Farrakhan and HIV.

He’s already looking for that space, some video and highlights (lowlights?) here.

Update:  Check that, watching the video he has gone all the way in distancing himself from Wright.   Obama too easily (imo) equated the elements of Wright that were rants with the theology Wright outlined.  Obama hit back saying he didn’t represent the black church.  I was hoping he wouldn’t go that far, but I understand in a media age, in the incessantly, unendingly ignorant US media particularly, any attempt for clarity and yes to this/no to that never works.  It’s all or nothing.

Published in: on April 29, 2008 at 10:48 am  Comments (1)  
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Classic Self-Parody Courtesy Jonah Goldberg (w/Update)

Full post here. This is great:

I should also say that some of the attempts to turn the lapel flag thing into a de mimimis issue leave me underwhelmed as well. “It’s just a lapel pin!” seems to be a common refrain among liberals flabbergasted that they’re on defense about all this. I understand, at least when the frustration is in good faith. But it’s really not just a lapel pin any more than the flag is just a piece of cloth at the end of a stick. Even flag burners acknowledge this point, which is why they burn flags and not blankets or bar towels. If John McCain wore a confederate flag lapel pin, very few of these people would be saying “it’s just a lapel pin.” Symbolism matters. Symbols stand for something. That’s why we call them symbols.

I seem to recall something about McCain and the Confederate flag…..what was it.

Oh yeah (my italics):

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) — Former GOP presidential candidate John McCain called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from atop the South Carolina Statehouse on Wednesday, acknowledging that his refusal to take such a stance during his primary battle for the Palmetto State was a “sacrifice of principle for personal ambition.” (April 19th, 2000)

To be fair the criticism isn’t really of McCain as it is of the media and the double standard and the lack of recent historical memory (a la Goldberg).

Update I: Per Matthew’s comment, if it was unclear that I didn’t get this, yes the main point of Goldberg’s post was about symbols and how symbols matter and you don’t go treading on symbols lightly and act like hey no big deal it’s just a symbol. Agreed.

I still disagree with Goldberg’s take on Obama relative to this, but on the symbols matter front, agreed.

Given that I have a 2,000 year old symbol of Roman execution and torture and the hope of Christian salvation (cross) united with a roughly 3,000 year old Indian symbol of the nature of reality (Karmic wheel) tattooed on my back I think I understand the power of symbols. Literally, in the flesh.

I feel it is a tad pedantic I have to mention that at all and seems to me some bad faith on the part of my interlocutor, but so that’s all square, there it is.

My parody point was that I found it quite amusing that in the midst of that argument he ends up creating a hypothetical to prove his point that inadvertently has him reviving an actual historical event that plays poorly (worse than Obama?) to McCain. JG ends up in a pile o’ actual historical flag issue dog s–t because of his (unnecessary) hypothetical. It’s only that much better because it actually has to do with a flag and with the Confederate flag even (the one mentioned in his hypothetical!!!). That he would not at all find any irony in that comparison is for me classic. To mix my metaphors, talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Or the clavicle or the frontal lobe maybe.

Published in: on April 29, 2008 at 9:29 am  Comments (3)  
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