Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Certain Season

Trailhead View

Headed up to do some climbing Friday and mountain biking today. Good fall weather so thought I’d jump on it. Just got back.

I'll be 49 next week. Some extra incentive to get after it.

Did a 25 mile hike and scramble up Hallet Peak and back on Friday. Then hammered some cool stretches of rocks and roots today on the otherwise slippery smooth and hard packed Tipperary Creek Loop up in Winter Park.

Hallet Peak

I’m feelin’ sweet in my spirit. The mountains here are always beautiful but in a certain season and light they get past easy description.

On the other hand, I'm so sore I feel like Mike Tyson just worked me over. The young Mike Tyson. My blisters have blisters.

But hey, it was worth it. Gotta stand up once in a while for us old guys livin’ this first life on borrowed time :^)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Resisting Terrorism

Well, if we’re going to resist terrorism effectively right now, how do we go about it? A few thoughts:

Keep our eye on the ball

I’ve made it pretty clear I think the way our leaders are selling the ‘war on terror’ is hysterical nonsense so I won’t go back over that ground. But we do have a real danger on our hands that requires serious attention. Unfortunately, Iraq distracted us from the task at hand and made the problem worse.

The primary focus should be on pursuing terrorists. That sounds obvious but we haven't made it our top priority. That means coordinating police, intelligence, and military sectors around the world to go after individuals and cells and not starting wars with countries previously unrelated to Islamic terrorism. I think that kind of relentless and coordinated police work will be necessary for many decades. Some good progress has been made here but not nearly enough because so many resources have been diverted into Iraq. Actually, I think losing the whole term ‘war on terror’ would help focus people on the real task, which is a long term police and intelligence effort against potential terrorists. But of course, that wouldn’t help Rove do his thing nearly as much :^)

Then you’ve got to secure ports of entry like airports, seaports, etc. We’ve made some progress but much less than we should have by this point, particularly with seaports and crucial infrastructure.

And finally, and most important, securing available nuclear materials is critical. Astonishingly, we haven't done much of that in the past 6 years. We’re all worked up about Iran but have done relatively little to secure Russia’s massive leftover nuclear materials. Again, we’ve taken our eye off the ball.

Stick it out in Iraq for a couple more years and give the Iraqi forces a chance to adequately handle their own self-defense.

I’m very sympathetic to those that think we should remove our troops immediately and think they’ve got an excellent point. Our very presence there creates much of the problem and inflames jihadi sentiment all over the Islamic world.

But sometimes you're stuck without a good choice.

Hanging in there and giving the government and the security forces a chance to stabilize is the least bad option in my mind. To withdraw troops now would ensure an even more robust civil war than the one already going on. And even though I think Iraq is probably going to end up as a terrorist haven whatever we do at this point, immediate withdrawal would make that a certainty. It’s frustrating to have to agree with the people who created the entire mess in the first place and made it near hopeless, but we’ve got to give it a couple of more years.

Get a new administration as soon as possible

Only two more years to go :^) I’m actually very serious about this. Less tone deafness and a more diplomatic approach would help a lot. Much of the current anti-Americanism is actually anti-Bushism. I believe when he and his gang leave office hostility in the Islamic world will decrease noticeably. Maybe Democrats will get control of Congress and impeach him. Don’t think that would be good for the country but it would sure help drain some of the swamp of hostile anti-American sentiment.

Invest much more heavily in development in Afghanistan

Two of our top generals testified before Congress last week that Afghanistan is well on its way to becoming a “narco-terror” state once again. Newsweek this week did a great spread on the reconquest of Afghanistan (“Jihadistan”) by war lords and the Taliban. The reality is we abandoned the development of Afghanistan with predictable results. Again, Iraq caused us to take our eye off the ball.

Actively support democracy and moderation in the Islamic world but not at gunpoint

In the vast majority of cases, imposing democracy and ‘religious moderation’ violently from the top down simply isn’t going to work. Period.

The Palestinian crisis is a key. Honest and vigorous American efforts there would do a ton to reduce the recruiting power of extremists. How come we've done next to nothing in the past 6 years?

Invest heavily in fighting poverty in the Islamic world and elsewhere

I’ve talked about the whys and hows of this before so won’t say much here. But economic and educational development is a huge weapon in battling terrorism. The big dollars going up in smoke in Iraq would have made a big positive difference elsewhere.


If what we’re dealing with is--at root--a spiritual struggle between what is good and what is not on both sides of the present political and cultural divide, seems like one of the most important approaches is prayer for everybody involved. Religious and spiritual folks need to stop focusing on the west versus Islamic radicalism and start focusing on the victory of fairness everywhere. The old timers used to call that ‘the Kingdom of God’ :^)

Extra added bonus--take a look at the way things might have been in the struggle against terror. Some wishful thinking but still a pretty fascinating 'thought experiment'....

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Defeating the Islamo-Borg

Pasadena (AP)

In an attempt to sell the war in Iraq and the ‘war on terror’ to the crucial ‘lonely 20-something male’ demographic, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow announced today at a Star Trek Convention in Southern California that “President Bush won’t rest until we crush the galactic ‘Islamo-Borg’ threat to our way of life.’”

“We can’t coddle those who don’t understand the stakes. The universe is full of dark matter and original sin. We’ve got to stop the relentless Islamo-Borg before they stick us in the neck with that thingy and turn us all into half man, half bin Laden” said Snow to the raucous cheers of the gathered Trekies.

Snow later introduced Patrick Stewart, the actor who played Captain Jean Luc Picard on Star Trek: Next Generation and Jerry Ryan, who portrayed ex-Borg crewmember “Seven of Nine” on Star Trek: Voyager.

“When the Borg turned me into the evil Locutus in Episode 13 of Season Three I felt the full horror of losing my personal identity to the group mind and serving only the relentless assimilation of other nations and cultures to the Borg collective,” intoned Stewart in his characteristically weighty baritone and vaguely unidentifiable accent. “If you don’t vote Republican this fall, this is the fate that may await you.”

Ryan wowed the crowd when she showed up in her original skin tight silver Voyager cat suit with a warning. “Take it from the ex-Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One, we want to fight the Islamo-Borg in Iraq. If they make it here to our shores, resistance is futile.”

The excited crowd continuously interrupted the three speakers with rhythmic chants of “Two more years, two more years, two more years!”

After Snow’s presentation, Ned Wentworth, a pimply 19 year old from Riverside, California expressed his appreciation for Snow’s comments and his own commitment to the cause. The reed thin Wentworth, dressed as a red-shirted-anonymous-crewmen-killed-at-the-beginning-of-the-show-by-a-silicon-creature-that-looked-like-a-slice-of-pizza in Episode 8 of the original Star Trek, said, “Schyea, I’m ready! Phasers on stun!”

Snow's appearance was a part of an orchestrated attempt on the part of the White House to use potent new metaphors and analogies to help them sell the war on Iraq and the war on terror to an increasingly skeptical public.

A high ranking executive working with top advertising firm Arnold and Smutz spoke on condition of anonymity about the Republican efforts. Karl Rove and the Republican National Committee hired the ad company a year ago to assist them in a war on terror ‘re-branding effort.’

“Before we got into the mix they were using silly and very specific historical analogies like Nazi Germany and WW2 Japan and the Soviet Union. But you can't fool all of the people all of the time, so they had to move in a new direction.”

"We've helped them go with a two pronged strategy. First, label anything in the Islamic world that seems even slightly threatening as “Islamo-fascism” and treat it like a unified, powerful conspiracy. That way you get a big bang from the vague but emotionally loaded term fascism, you milk people’s conspiracy fears, and you don’t have to face the kind of criticism you get when you use specific and obviously irrelevant historical analogies. And if you can portray it as an endless threat and an endless war, man, that’s a conservative’s dream.”

“Then you go with re-branding for very specific niche markets. I came up with the Islamo-Borg idea myself. We’re looking to introduce an Islamo-Yankees campaign for baseball fans soon too. As we all know, everybody outside of New York hates the Yankees.”

“And if all else fails and we’re down at crunch time come early November, we’re going with a nationwide “Islamo-Swish” campaign. You know, a vote for a Republican is a vote against gay Islamic terrorists. Talk about jihad! We’ll have the base in the voting booths and the Dems running for cover, baby!”

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Enlisting in the War on Error

Thought it might be about time to weigh in on the ‘war on terror.'

Gonna do a take on the mistake in Iraq today, the just plain funny search by our current rulers for ‘metaphors’ to sell Iraq and the ‘war on terror’ tomorrow, and a few thoughts on the best ways to reduce the influence of angry young men with guns on Thursday.

The 16 US intelligence agencies recently finished their first ‘highly classified’ joint report since 9/11 on the ‘war on terror.’

Yow, do we really have that many official spook outfits? :^)

They concluded that the war in Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since 9/11, according to New York Times report. Read more

Can that conclusion really come as a surprise to anyone?

Iraq clearly had no Al Qaeda style terrorists before the invasion. Saddam ruled as an old school secular pan-Arabist ruler who ruthlessly crushed all opposition, most particularly Islamic fundamentalists.

Few people at this point but those with an ideological axe to grind or careers to protect can doubt that the war in Iraq has created even more terrorists in the Islamic world and particularly in Iraq. I apologize to my conservative friends for the strength of that comment but at some point you’ve got to call a spade a spade.

It’s debatable whether the invasion will eventually produce fewer terrorists by demonstrating the value of democracy to the Muslim world. I’m on record since before the war and after about both the moral transgression and the strategic mistake I thought we were making in going ahead with the pre-emptive invasion, but sometimes egregious mistakes and even sins can turn out better than you might think. Most of us have experienced that in our own lives and that’s the only thing that keeps me slightly hopeful about the whole thing right now.

At some point, though, you’ve gotta get real about what actually happened. If the goal was to reduce the threat of Islamic terror, we blew it big time.

Of course, the administration changes its reasons for the war in Iraq about every month, so I guess to be fair we can’t hold ‘em to that rationale too closely. But since they’re pushing fear of terrorism (apparently pretty effectively) to the conservative anxiety junkies right now to get ‘em to come out and vote Republican this fall instead of staying home I guess it’s ok to stick it to ‘em right now a little bit :^)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Crazy Elk Love

Jan and I headed into the mountains yesterday to see the aspen turning brilliant yellow-gold and to check out the elk rut at Rocky Mountain National Park.

The aspen never disappoint. Cool.

Aspen on the Road to RMNP

And the elk, well, they’ve got some good populatin’ and reproductivatin’ going on right now. Time to add something new and living and breathing to the world’s flesh in the meadows of the high country.

The elk soap opera of love is pretty entertaining. You can watch it pretty easily from 40 or 50 yards away though good Christian people should probably avert their eyes at the appropriate moments.

The elk males battle each other while trying to round up as many females as possible into harems.

Sort of like the Old Testament dudes or the throw back Mormons on the lam right now in southern Utah.

The human version lands you in the slammer these days unless you’re the Sultan of Brunei, but the elk guys knock themselves out (literally) while receiving nothing but praise from the forest service authorities.

The females don’t seem too excited about the whole thing.

They spend a lot of their time trying to run away from the harem.

The bull elks respond by endlessly chasing them back in line while also fending off attacks from other males.

Geez, the whole thing looks exhausting.

No wonder human monogamy eventually won out :^)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Time for a Date

Chick Magnet

This guy posts more often than most people breathe. Check it out. I’m serious. He's one of the leading political bloggers in the 'sphere.

He posted 21 times yesterday. Yes, that’s right. 21 times.

I think we've gotta get him a date and a hobby. Soon. Very soon....

Friday, September 22, 2006

Fundy Fundamentals

In my last post I mentioned some blistering attacks on the idea of compatibility between science and religion. Wanted to mention one as an example of a trend I’m seeing.

I read Sam Harris’ best selling The End of Faith about 6 months ago and I’m looking forward to reading his new book, Letter to a Christian Nation which just came out this past Tuesday.

The End of Faith is a brilliant challenge to traditional religion. Don’t read it unless you’re willing to get your socks knocked off. Newsweek called it ‘bone rattling.’ Yeah, that would about cover it :^)

No way to do justice here to his wide ranging and subtle argument.

In short, he argues that authentic religion is fundamentalism and that moderate religious people are inauthentic cherry pickers who have compromised the real versions of Christianity, Islam, etc. in order to make them more compatible with reason and current western culture. He views a lot of biblical interpretation as a process of editing out the 'barbaric and irrational' parts of Christianity to focus on aspects that make more sense in a modern, reason driven society.

So he views moderate religion as incoherent and inauthentic and moderate religious people as folks who want to have it both ways. They want to enjoy the fruits of a reason and science driven culture but also enjoy a toned down and neutered version of traditional religious faith. The problem, he believes, is that moderate religion tends to cover up the basically intolerant and ‘barbaric’ blood and fire aspects of religion that are lurking just below the surface.

So he wants moderate religious people to abandon their pretense and leave the playing field to the authentic religious people—the fundamentalists. He believes fundamentalism (read ‘religion’) is a grave danger and that only by seeing it clearly for what it is will a powerful new movement develop to straightforwardly challenge it and eventually reduce its influence.

He has no patience, for example, for folks that talk about the true Islam which is tolerant and peaceful. He believes Islam is fundamentally intolerant, hostile to modern reason, and biased towards violence and goes to great lengths to demonstrate his take (pretty convincingly) from the Koran and Islamic history. In place of the barbarisms of traditional religion, he calls for a scientifically based religion rooted in a sophisticated understanding of the human brain and verifiable religious experience.

I view myself as a religious moderate and I hope I’m not inauthentic and incoherent :^), so obviously I’m not buying parts of his argument. But he makes you think about things religious types normally leave hidden away in the attic. Sort of kicks the dust off!

In any case, all of this is a long way from the consensus of a few decades ago. Harris is just one example, but I believe he represents a general trend and movement that I think is going to do nothing but pick up more steam. With the rise of fundamentalist influence around the world, and with science more and more able to delve into religious experience on the level of brain cells and bio-chemistry, it’s probably inevitable. Still, I’m kind of sorry to see it. The compatibility consensus was good for both science and religion.

OK, a couple of concluding comments by way of clarification:

*** I view most of Islam as a form of fundamentalism. People right now often speak about ‘Muslim moderates,’ but I think what they normally mean are nominal Muslims (secular folks living in the midst of Islamic cultures) or practicing Muslims who don’t agree with the terrorist violence or the extreme social thinking of groups like the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

Simply rejecting the use of terrorist violence or a Taliban style regime doesn’t make most practicing Muslims ‘religious moderates’ in my mind. If you go back to the definition of fundamentalism I gave in Wednesdays’ post, much of current Islam certainly fits the bill. Islam simply hasn’t gone through the kind of Reformation that western Christianity did and it hasn’t dealt with the implications of the Enlightenment the way the western church was forced to do. The vast majority of serious Muslims I’ve met around the world are strict creationists, and even more significant, the Koran is still overwhelmingly interpreted in a literalist fashion without the application of serious literary/historical/critical tools based on reasoned analysis that are commonplace in western Christianity and at places like Fuller Seminary. In short, I don’t believe Islam in general has the capacity for serious self-criticism based on reason the way current moderate western Christianity does. Christianity primarily received those gifts from the Reformation and the Enlightenment. Until something similar happens within Islam you’re dealing with a variety of fundamentalism in my mind.

*** What differentiates American evangelicalism from American fundamentalism? Well, there are differences in cultural expression and tone for sure and other less critical differences too. But the heart of the difference is the degree to which evangelicals have embraced science, reason and human rights and incorporated them into their biblical interpretation, views of culture, and religious practice. Evangelicals have simply bought into that agenda far more than fundamentalists. And it shows in everything from views on evolution to views on equal rights to the much higher level of comfort evangelicals tend to have with the surrounding culture. Some evangelicals think evangelicalism has become ‘too comfortable’ with the surrounding culture, but the trend is clear. Fuller Seminary and other institutions like it have been ‘waging’ a non-violent and loving campaign to reduce the influence of fundamentalism for decades. Good for them! Given what’s been going on more recently in America, we obviously need a whole lot more people to join that fight.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Back to the Future?

Some of us thought the faith vs. science controversy got sent to bed 25 years ago.

Back in the day I taught a class on the worldviews of science (naturalism) and various religious faiths at Stanford when I was an undergrad in the ‘free university’ there. We had a great class--various grad students in the hard sciences, a couple of playwrights, some Christian clergy types and a bunch of agnostics. We concluded there was no fundamental incompatibility between science and religious faith, a view that seemed to be pretty standard at that time. The old timey Monkey Trial hostility between religion and science had largely faded away by then.

Oh well, so much for détente :^)

Good article in Newsweek a couple of weeks back on the renewed hostilities between scientists and religious types.

Why is everybody getting so hot under the collar all of the sudden?

Well, it’s no news bulletin to say that fundamentalist religion is pro-actively and purposefully ignorant of science and often hostile to it.

That's no problem when fundies keep a low profile. But when fundamentalisms and fundamentalist tendencies gain great influence around the world, that basic irrationality becomes a big deal.

Why are science and religious faith far more polarized in 2006 than in 1980?

I’d say mostly because of the rising influence and activism of various religious fundamentalisms around the world in the past 25 years, including Islamic fundamentalism and right wing Christian fundamentalism in the US.

Here at home we’ve got a whole lot of people who think church membership gives ‘em a license to sit in judgment on scientific discovery and to believe nonsense. In my mind Creationism is silly, and the influence of fundamentalism’s basic distrust of science has been clear in US government policies since Bush arrived. Fundy votes put those guys in office and good science has never been less welcome in Washington.

As for fundamentalism in the rest of the world and especially the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism, well, no need to say much about their obvious take on modern science and reason.

So I’m not surprised that more and more scientists and writers are challenging the idea that religion and science are compatible.

And man, their broadsides are blistering.

Some folks are trying to hold the old détente line including Joan Roughgarden, a Christian and a biologist at Stanford (Evolution and Christian Faith) and Francis Collins, also a Christian and a geneticist (The Language of God), but most of the new stuff is rough and confrontational. Though I welcome the intellectual ferment coming out of all this I'm also sort of sad about it too.

More on the harshest of those attacks and some concluding takes on this whole topic of religious fundamentalism tomorrow....

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Calling Out Fundamentalism

A lot of us have had it up to here with extremism right about now.

And though 'extremism' is the term we use, most of us actually mean ‘religious fundamentalism.’ Few of us—particularly moderate religious people—will speak that way openly and assertively, but I’m pretty sure that’s what's goin' on between our ears.

If that’s true, then it seems important to define what we mean by ‘religious fundamentalism’ and then figure out how to help it back to the bronze age where it belongs.

So let me suggest a working definition and at least one approach to giving fundy-ism a one way ticket home on the wayback machine.

Here's my take on fundy-ism:

The more a religious group tends to ignore the scientific method, the application of disciplined observation and reason in general decision-making, and the moral and cultural advances normally associated with the Enlightenment concept of human rights, the higher the score on the 'fundy-o-meter.'

Bonus points are awarded for an unusually powerful sense of cultural alienation and a literalist method for interpreting sacred texts.

I guess you could also say that the more a strain of religious thinking and practice resembles the thinking and practice of dudes in skins from the Iron Age the more likely it is you've got some ignorant wackies on your hands.

I'm really only half joking with that comment. Tom Cruise jumping up and down on couches and Scientology aside, virtually every major religion comes out of the Bronze or Iron Age, so we're far less removed from guys in loin cloths than most of us may think :^)

Of course, something like ‘religious fundamentalism’ is a continuum. One person’s moderate is another person’s loon toon. And since the fundamentalist label is a PR no no, everybody--including obvious fundamentalists--insists they aren't.

But when you’ve got a whole bunch of Americans (40% in some polls)who believe the world is 4000 years old or who believe the current animal species came down to us just as they are from the time of the creation—you’re dealing with more than a whiff of fundamentalism. When you’ve got hundreds of millions of Muslims hoping to live out a social ethic pretty much unchanged from the 7th century you’ve got some big time fundy-ism goin' on.

That’s pretty bad news in my mind.

Religious fundies are helping block all kinds of positive advances in science and social ethics around the world. Religious fundamentalism is one of the primary causes of widespread poverty. And when you add the inevitable future availability of suitcase nukes into the mix--and take into consideration the violent aspects in most religious texts--I’ve begun to wonder if we can afford religious fundamentalism any longer.

A big can of worms no doubt. I’ll come back to it in the next few posts. But let me suggest at least one way to blunt the impact of the current fundy wave.

Religious moderates have gotta get with it and start speaking up in no uncertain terms against religious fundamentalism of every kind. By remaining silent religious moderates give fundamentalists legitimacy and cover.

But at this point religious moderates—including most American moderate evangelicals—often have little to say about religious fundamentalism.

Why? Well, in the Islamic world lots of ‘em probably fear ending up on the wrong end of a gun.

But here in the US I think most religious people feel its bad manners to speak ill of anyone’s religion. Christians often say they don’t want to criticize fellow Christians. And maybe just as important, many religious folks are afraid if they start standing up for science and reason and human rights and against religious ignorance they’ll end up on a slippery slope that will eventually threaten even moderate religion. And then you've got the relativizing influence of pomo.

Seems like the American religious types most willing to speak up clearly against Islamic fundamentalism (most of current Islam?) are American fundamentalists. But of course they're not challenging the whole concept of fundamentalism. They just don't like the particular brand.

Wonder if its time for religious moderates to stand up and get into the mix?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

And Now for Sports....and Death to America!

Religious extremism week here at P and P.

Really funny parody of Al Jazeera--and Fox News too in a reverse and parallel sort of way--here.

Coming Wednesday: Religious moderates vs. fundamentalism

Thursday: Widening polarization between science and religion

Monday, September 18, 2006

Terrorist Network

World's Most Extreme Beard?

Qatar (Al Jazeera)

Encouraged by the worldwide success of their underground videos, Al Qaeda has announced the beginning of a new television Terrorist Network aimed at overthrowing “the cultural hegemony of the Jews and the Crusaders and the Reprobate Booty Shakers.”

Last Friday reliable sources inside of Al Qaeda revealed to Al Jazeera reporters a “powerful cell group conspiracy that potentially threatens the very existence of ‘South Park’ and ‘Battlestar Galactica.’”

Those same sources indicated that Osama bin Laden himself—a big Bon Jovi and Whitney Houston fan—ordered this new and insidious campaign against the west.

“The word in the cave has it that Mohammed Akmad Al Razulli, aka Sheiky Z, will head up the new Terrorist Network,” said Al Jazeera Afghan correspondent Harb Al Munba’ith.

Al Razulli--a hip Morrocan fundamentalist joke writer and television producer--is well known around the Islamic world for his hit TV sitcom Yo Mullah So Fat He Got His Own Area Code.

Details remain sketchy, but the Terrorist Network will apparently lead off their fall schedule with three new shows they hope will create enough ‘buzz’ among the Islamic faithful and sympathetic young westerners to fuel a worldwide TV phenomenon:

Pimp My Goat

Survivor: Tribal Pakistani Frontier

World’s Most Extreme Beards

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Doofus Alert

Ran out of gas while driving my Jeep yesterday. First time I’ve managed that proud achievement since I road shouldered my Plymouth Barracuda as an undergrad.

When you do it at 20 you can count on a cool factor. Makes a great story and fits in with the irresponsible attitude that any self-respecting college guy should have.

But middle aged guys are supposed to be, well, middle aged guys :^)

Not to mention the fact that it’s a whole lot harder to run out of gas now than it was then.

No idiot lights or beepers on the Barracuda. You actually had to keep an eye on the gas gauge.

But when the Jeep gets low on jihad juice all hell breaks loose. You have to be blind and deaf or especially distracted to miss the message.

I guess the answer lay behind door number three.

So I had to walk about a quarter of a mile to a gas station/convenience store.

Bought myself a plastic funnel and a gallon of milk. Dumped the protein and rinsed out the plastic container.

Tried to fill my silly little jug without splashing gas all over myself. Only partially successfully.

Then, of course, I had to make the long walk back to the Jeep. On a sidewalk built with the hope that some person might actually walk on it once in a while. In front of dozens of drivers wondering why some guy would be carrying a milk container on foot.

Wish I’d bought a large paper bag to wear over my head too :^)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Andrew Update

So far so good.

He’s kicking it at school better than ever before.

Keep praying for the challenges.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Heart to Heart

Haven’t seen you at my evil underground lair for over a year. Did you bring Daddy the gift I’ve been waiting for? You know, the Saudi Arabian miniature terriers willing to blow themselves up in airports for an imagined eternity of endless kibbles and bits and females in heat.

Look, I only swung by because I need a big check for the 2006 mid-term elections. I brought you an 8x10 glossy of George W.

Throw me a frickin’ bone here.

I give and give and give some more and ask for nothing but a pack of explosive fundamentalist miniatures and you bring me a picture of the only guy with approval ratings lower than mine! I’ve been way too soft with you, mister. That’s where this disrespect comes from.

Your grandfather was a relentlessly self-promoting boulangerie owner from Belgium with a penchant for beating me endlessly with week old baguettes. Sort of like the current Republican Party if you get my clever and thinly disguised metaphorical meaning.

But I went with the quote unquote “new parenting” movement. Clandestine "time out" holding cells in Eastern Europe when you were disobedient, attack dogs to terrify you into submission and water boarding when you wouldn’t tell Daddy what he wanted to know.

Nothing like the really stern stuff my father used on me. Doesn’t even qualify for torture. Standard stuff, really. Oh well, spare the cattle prod, spoil the child.

I’m sick of being pushed around!

Boo hoo. Someone’s a little sensitive, isn’t he?

I’ve been following your quote unquote “career,” Karl.

Daddy’s very disappointed.

You had a chance to be truly evil. Exquisitely evil. Supremely evil.

But you insisted on lying and manipulating to get a bunch of inconsequential and irritating politicians elected. What a waste of genetically engineered talent.

But daddy, I’ve cynically turned an entire religious movement into a partisan and reliable vote delivery system. It’s all about winning with me. Whatever it takes.

And I've got a cross-mojination plan to steal the real enemy’s mojo for a generation. If I succeed one party will control the country for decades on end. What could be more destructive?

Karl,...Karl. Listen to yourself! Where did I go wrong as a father?

We could rule a truly evil empire side by side. Imagine it for a moment.

Threatening to introduce psychologically unbalanced alien pathogens with poor social skills into the world’s condiment supplies unless the United Nations pays us one million dollars.

Vaporizing the Indian Ocean, thus dropping global sea levels hundreds of feet and exposing damp new seaside property wide open for our evil development.

Kidnapping Hugo Chavez, brainwashing him, and turning him into a WalMart sales rep for Latin America.

Just think what you’re missing out on.

I always told you when you were a boy, “Never settle for anything less than fully evil.”

You’ve settled, Karl.

I hate to say it, but you’ve become merely semi-evil. Quasi-evil. Demi-evil. You’re the Bud Light of evil.

(storming out of the evil lair) I can't take it anymore! I'm out of here! I wish I was never created in the evil marketing lab!

Oh, Karl, come back. It hurts Daddy when you say that. Honestly, it does.

Oh well, I guess this means spending another Christmas without family. One more in a long line of dreary holiday seasons surrounded by homicidal cybernetic elves and bi-polar henchmen dressed up like reindeer. Sigggghhhh….

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Pullin' the Wool Over Our Own Eyes

I’m fascinated with how people make decisions and why folks dig trenches around their takes even in the face of pretty obvious contradictory evidence. I’ve noticed over the years that we often give props to ‘an open mind' but are usually closed to actually having one. Religion and politics are two areas where that rigidity of mind and spirit can be especially obvious.

Social scientists call that process ‘confirmation bias.’ Basically, that means holding a strong bias and then selectively choosing evidence or experience that confirms that bias and ignoring or eliminating evidence or experience that doesn’t fit with the pre-existing take. Obviously, confirmation bias plays a big role in everything from science to jury decisions to, well, you name it.

Deception and self-deception are very closely related to confirmation bias, and evolutionary biologists and social scientists are making some pretty interesting discoveries right now about why we deceive each other and ourselves so easily.

I’ve also thought a lot about how various religions deal with confirmation bias and deception/self-deception.

In the Christian tradition, folks talk about self-justification. Maybe that's the closest religious equivalent to 'confirmation bias.' Christians think that people are driven powerfully to deceive themselves and to 'make a case,' whatever the actual reality or facts, for their own desires and decisions. In the New Testament way of thinking, deception of others and self-deception flow pretty easily from self-justification.

I’ve described myself a lot here in P and P as a Christian anarchist. Without going into great detail, Christian anarchy is all about--among other things--accepting the fundamental reality of confirmation bias and self-justification and self-deception. That means a life giving faith should include appropriate skepticism about various claims and ideologies and a satirical spirit that recognizes the pretentiousness normally lurking just below the surface of pretty much everything. Especially when it comes to ideology or religion or politics.

Ran across some cool science recently on this whole thing:

Check out a brief article by Michael Shermer of Scientific American. He points out that brain science increasingly demonstrates that confirmation bias is ‘hard wired’ into our heads.

Take a look too at a fascinating 6 minute video conversation between Robert Trivers, a leading evolutionary biologist, and Noam Chomsky, the famous MIT linguist, on the reasons why deception and self-deception may have evolved as a central part of our make-up. When Trivers refers to our current political leaders as ‘that present set of organisms,’ you know you’re listening to a scientist deep into his subject :^)

Touching on the post 9/11 world one last time, have we just lived through a five year binge of confirmation bias and self-deception on the part of most everybody in the room?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering 9/13

Can’t say I remember 9/11 because I didn’t find out about it until a couple of days after it happened.

I was in Kenya negotiating a partnership with a wonderful Kenyan man who makes a difference in Kibera, the huge, half-million-person squatter slum in Nairobi. We spent a lot of time doing the details and I was so fried after the discussions that I skipped getting online for a couple of days.

Kenya's pretty much a half day ahead of New York. So very few people there really heard about it until 9/12. And I didn’t get word until 9/13.

Not through CNN or any online news, though.

A couple of my Kenyan friends came up to me and hugged me and told me they were so sorry for the ‘plane that flew into the building in your country.’ They assumed I knew what happened but I had no idea what they were talking about. I thought it was some small private plane that accidentally crashed into a building somewhere. But I went to check it out at CNN International right away and finally got the full picture.

My first reaction was sorrow. After that, anger.

But then a strange feeling hit me that I had missed out on something that every American shared in real time but I hadn’t. Something really momentous and 'soul important.' I don’t think I’ve ever felt my ‘American-ness’ more deeply than I did that day on the other side of the world.

Because of post 9/11 travel restrictions I was stuck in Nairobi. The Kenyan government held a national day of prayer for America that I had a chance to attend. Moving. Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans came out to pray publicly for the US. I’ve never seen anything like it. One of the more humbling and encouraging moments I’ve had overseas.

The Kenyans—particularly the squatter slum dwellers—live their own kind of suffering every day. Wonderful to see people get beyond their own struggles to think of another nation and people in their moment of need. Pretty rare.

Afterwards, the Kenyans I knew wanted me to predict what the US would do. I told ‘em we'd get after Afghanistan. They all thought that was a good idea. I also told ‘em we'd probably use revenge and fear as a pretext to do some other countries beyond Afghanistan. Nobody liked that prediction.

Wish I’d been wrong.

Still, it was a pretty cool to feel the love. Feelings have changed dramatically overseas during my trips since then—even among the Kenyans in subsequent visits—but it was a sweet moment while it lasted.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Mix

** Tom Tomorrow on taking terror seriously....

** Scrappleface on taking terror way too seriously....

** Evidence that the Chinese will soon overtake our sorry, decadent butts....

** One way to keep cell phones from annoying everybody....

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bush Administration Recalled to Heaven

Washington (CNN)

After the sudden disappearance “in the wink of an eye into the sky” of President Bush, key administration officials, and the Republican leadership of both the House and Senate, Divine Management Corporation announced it had ‘recalled’ the group to “fix some dangerous wiring problems.”

At 9:45 am (EST) shocked White House and congressional staffers watched in awe as the entire Republican national leadership “was caught up into the clouds” according to congressional staffer Judy Wilson.

“It was, like, they were going about their business one second and then boom, their clothes fell off and they started rising into the clouds. There were piles of Armani suits and Gucci shoes all over the place,” recalled Wilson.

A Senate staffer, Ed Grimsley, recounted his thoughts at the time: “We were all stunned, of course. The worst part was watching a bunch of overweight white guys in their birthday suits rising up to heaven. Not pretty.”

Some eyewitnesses reported a naked and visibly shaken Donald Rumsfeld shouting as he rose up, “My God, I’m an Episcopalian! There must be some mistake!”

Department of Defense Offices 9:46 am

As word of the unprecedented event spread, fundamentalist Christian leaders proclaimed it the beginning of ‘the rapture.’ Many Christians believe the faithful will be raised into the sky to meet Jesus, an event they believe signals the beginning of the end of the world.

Just hours after the stunning event, Jerry Falwell spoke on nationwide radio from his Liberty University office: “God has taken the most righteous first. I’m a little disappointed and surprised I’m still here, but I rejoice in the Lord that we’ll all meet Him in the sky soon. I can tell you’ve I’ve canceled all of my appointments for this week.”

But Anjel Gabriel, spokesperson for Divine Management Corporation, dismissed those claims as “misguided” and “unfortunate” in an international news conference held this afternoon in the nation’s capitol.

“Let’s not get our underwear all in a bunch over this. It's just a recall event. We’ve determined there are serious and dangerous faulty wiring problems on these particular models. In light of our long track record of concern for the highest consumer safety standards, we decided to recall them immediately and make repairs. Once we’ve had a chance to rewire them correctly and our CEO has had a long talk with these models to straighten a few things out, we’ll return them at the earliest possible date. Thank you for your patience.”

Democratic leaders were privately delighted and hoped to lobby DMC to delay the Republican return until after the fall elections.

But a Democratic political analyst who requested anonymity scoffed at the idea the recall would have any significant effect on the outcome of the November congressional contests. “We’re so lame we’ll find a way to screw even this up!”

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Fighting Poverty for Dummies 6

According to my stat counter the fighting poverty for dummies stuff hammered my previously hefty hit count into the ground more than anything I’ve done in 18 months of posting. Ouch!

A younger and more web savvy friend tells me I’ve gotta manage my expectations better in the haiku medium of blogging. Occasionally I forget. I’m considering counseling to rid myself of any more multi-paragraph outbursts :^)

Oh well, I was interested.

But I know some of you are too. So let's finish this thing and get back to the lighter stuff for the lunch break blog browsers. Cool to get a chance to try out some material for a future least-best seller anyway!

Wrap Up

Some brief stuff with a bullet re fighting poverty and getting involved in the battle:

• In spite of the current soul patch cynicism, clever and committed people are making real progress in helping scads of poor folks move out of abject poverty. No reason to be cynical or resigned in the face of the huge task ahead. Every reason to jump into the battle with both feet.

• I like stuff that works. It’s fine to believe in personal responsibility or state intervention, but when ideological orientations start blinding people to pragmatic solutions you’ve got some whacky slippery slope stuff going on. Knee jerk anti-globalism or knee jerk private/personal responsibility approaches do more damage than good. Though the latter is the bigger problem among current Christians, I’m seeing both on blogs and in print and in convos. Too bad.

• In the real world people who make the most progress tack in every ideological direction if it helps get the job done. Hernando de Soto is the darling of the personal responsibility, market oriented types but his NGO spends most of its time working with governments to get them to intervene heavily in the economy by granting land rights and by making sweeping changes to the law which actually create a much bigger government bureaucracy (you didn’t think formalizing mass land rights and business ownership and a more rational economic system would come without lots more lawyers and government institutions to enforce them, did you? :^) Jeff Sachs--who some challenge as the epitome of the top down, grand plan, liberal paternalist--focuses primarily on harnessing global capitalism to lift folks up and on practical and proven approaches that local people have to take responsibility to carry out. So much for ideology!

No reason concerned people can’t support and get involved with organizing the poor for change and prophetically examining capitalism (Davis) and spreading micro-lending (Yunus) and securing land and property rights for the poor (de Soto) and working for reconciliation and building spiritual community among the poor (Perkins) and harnessing international institutions and governments to apply proven and practical development aids (Sachs). It’s a both/and thing, not an either/or.

• The Christian movement and Christian theology are not primarily about fighting poverty. Some other big fish to fry too :^) But Christian theology and practice—properly understood—always focus on serving ‘the least’ and on leveling the playing field. Widespread Christian revival among the poor often gets it done in a way other approaches don’t.

• I see no reason why Christians as individuals and communities shouldn’t jump on some of the best poverty fighting tools available. Community organizing and micro-lending aren’t tools of the devil, after all, though you might think so the way many evangelicals avoid or ignore ‘em.

• Speaking prophetically about capitalism--precisely because of it's overwhelming ideological power--is critical in spite of the hate that might generate right now. Those of us who see an important anti-poverty role for markets lose Christian credibility when we become shills for market oriented ideologies and don’t ask the hard theological and ethical questions about it. We've gotta make those questions a key part of our 'presentation.'

• Thinking about Adam Smith presents some real challenges for thoughtful and prophetic Christians. On the one hand capitalism puts a whole lot of people in shoes and gives 'em a chance to save some of their teeth by the time they hit 40. That's remarkable everyday stuff from a historical perspective. Global capitalism is raising hundreds of millions out of abject poverty as we speak. No reason for even stage left Christians to deny that.

On the other hand, current forms of capitalism sometimes seem to preserve or even intensify social inequality. Even in ‘advanced’ capitalist societies.

In addition, current forms of capitalism require materialistic lifestyles to keep the economic engine running. Market oriented anti-poverty fighters often cite the positive biblical values of thrift, saving, discipline, etc. that newly developing capitalist societies require. But as capitalist societies become more advanced, they require ever increasing consumption on the part of everybody to keep things moving. Living a non-materialistic lifestyle—which the New Testament clearly favors and encourages—becomes a subversive act in an advanced capitalistic society. Let’s face it, ‘consuming mass quantities’ is an essential structural requirement that keeps western economies humming.

Those are just a couple of the potential big ‘problems’ with capitalism that Christians have got to address prophetically.

Mostly silence on that front right now. Where are the fine young Christians who will speak up?

OK, enough for this time and for the series. Hope it provides you some good grist for the mill.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Fighting Poverty for Dummies 5

Any discussion of poverty needs a prophetic figure willing to challenge the prevailing wisdom. Since western Christians have pretty much abandoned any prophetic challenge to capitalism and our current economic arrangements you’ve gotta get it where you can :^)

Even better if the prophet is a stream of consciousness, idea-cascading-upon-idea prose poet writing with urgency and unusual honesty about the desperation of the global urban poor.

I promised encouragement about poverty fighting. Be patient with this post. Sometimes you’ve gotta see the thing slant before you can get on with the right next steps.

Mike Davis

Who’s Who? American ex-truck driver, ex-labor organizer, professor, author and neo-Marxist social critic

Must Read: Planet of Slums (see my sidebar) and City of Quartz.

What’s the Big Idea?
The global urban poor are screwed six ways to Sunday and current market-oriented solutions to their plight are mostly an illusion. I think that sums up Planet of Slums pretty neatly.

Davis points out that 1 billion people live in the informal urban squatter settlements and hard core urban slums of the global south with another billion likely to join them by 2035. If he's right my kids will live in a world with two billion 'surplus' poor warehoused in squalor and surrounded by excrement and urban decay and largely banished from the world economy.

He argues that the unprecedented migration of desperate rural peoples to cities all over the world no longer leads to the ‘slums of hope’ of the 1960’s. At that point, in the earliest days of the largest migration in human history, squatters had a chance to gain their own land and start a new life with some chance of improving their lot. But at this point most of the slums around the world’s mega-cities are controlled by corporate or political elites. Squatters pay rent to live in urban wastelands beyond the imagination of most westerners.

He shows persuasively that the massive urban squatter poor population of the south wasn’t predicted and couldn’t have been predicted by either classical Marxist or current neo-liberal (capitalist, market oriented) thinking. The soon-to-be-billions of squatters and urban poor reveal the failures of both socialist and capitalist thinking and practice.

He does an overview of ‘self help’ and ‘market oriented approaches’ and argues that it's more hype than hope. He refers to the truly religious reverence so many young conservative westerners have for capitalism and ‘self help’ approaches to poverty like de Soto’s as ‘cargo cultism.’ That phrase made me laugh out loud since I know what he’s talking about even though I can’t say that kind of thing in polite Christian company these days.

In one of his most interesting insights he argues that radical Islam and Pentecostal Christianity are the misguided and dangerous ‘hope songs’ of the radically dispossessed. He believes both are irrational and reactionary in their approach to the world but that both give the hopeless a basis for some dignity in the face of relentless economic oppression. Like any good Marxist, he believes that Pentecostalism serves to anesthetize the poor to their own plight. On the other hand, he departs from normal Marxist interpretations of religion and points out that the Pentagon believes the wars of the 21st century will be fought with the criminalized and radicalized members of the world’s billions of urban poor, with some of the religious (radical Islamists) leading the way.

Davis argues that the only way the urban squatters in the south will truly make progress is to organize and resist the gross inequalities that current forms of capitalism help create and perpetuate. He believes those currently benefiting in obscene ways from capitalism will only surrender benefits to the poorest of the poor if the poor speak loudly and together and carry a big stick. He believes that many self help approaches and current NGO's are naive about what it will take to rest control from capitalist elites and distribute power and influence more widely in grossly unequal societies. He also believes those naive approaches and organizations often serve to make the poor more docile in the face of economic injustice and inhibit them from seeing their oppression more clearly and organizing to confront it.

Who’s Walkin’ the Talk?
Strong reaction against neo-liberal economics and globalization is spreading around the world.

My Take: I’m not a fan of Marxist thinking. And Davis often goes over the top and sometimes gets it wrong, though he does both in such a brilliant and fascinating way :^) Maybe he can give the market oriented, self help types a lesson in both writing and in showing more believable compassion for the hundreds of millions being shredded in the urban slums of the world.

His argument that economic self help approaches like de Soto's won't do the job unless the poor assertively and aggressively organize and confront the systemic injustice is right on target in my mind. As a neo-Marxist Davis doesn't advocate violent revolution but he leaves no doubt that violence against both the west and against local elites is coming. He interprets the dangerous violence of current Islamic radicalism as simply one variety of the uprising of the urban dispossessed and their first world symathizers against those who dominate the current world economic system.

In my view, Christian folks who are serious about changing the situation for the urban poor in the global south have got to realize that helping the poor own their own property or getting loans is only one piece of the puzzle. Helping and encouraging the poor to organize themselves and challenge their oppression is essential. Two billion people aren't going to sit back and take it forever. The only question is whether their challenge will be constructive and non-violent or violent and super destructive. I hold out hope it can be the first but fear it will be the second.

Davis is dark. He's honest. Sometimes it takes a Samaritan to point out some unpleasant and inconvenient truths :^)

And sometimes the most important weapon in fighting poverty is to get clear about the real deal on the ground and then challenge and examine the same old same old ideologies—including economic ideologies--that obviously aren’t living up to the hype. And for Christians it’s important to examine those ideologies in light of biblical teaching and Christian values rather than simply following along with the crowd that controls public opinion and church purse strings right now :^)

More on all that in the next post….

Next Time: Thinking about fighting poverty and getting into the battle....

Friday, September 01, 2006

My Big Fat Greek Upset

Final score at the semifinals of the Men's Basketball World Championships tonite:

Greece 101 USA 95

I have only one thing to say to the US team.

Who's your Papa(dopolous)!!?

I was raised by Greeks. My first words were Greek. I can still sing the Greek national anthem by heart. My mother's maiden name was Yiannacopolous (just try to remember the correct spelling of that name on a credit application).

So this is kind of cool even though I'm a lifelong American baller and fan and I'm sort of bummed we got knocked out again.

How did we lose?

Well, we couldn't play D and couldn't shoot. And there were more throwdowns among the Greeks than at any time since Zeus got major airtime back in the classical day. No fakin' the funk on the Grecian dunks! Air Yianni! We got schooled on the pick and roll like Plato on his first day with Socrates.

But, hey, I know the Greeks. I lived in Greece at one time for 3 months.

These are the people who beat us:

Kickin' Booty And Takin' Names Later

** Their macho presidential palace guards wear frou frou skirts and little fuzzy balls on the end of their slippers!

** Most Greeks are little swarthy people. I mean, really little...

** These people are so kicked back that most of 'em work about 2, maybe 3 hours a day. Professional athletes work longer hours than your average Athenian.

** Outside of Athens, donkeys and goats are a Greek's best friend.

** When they like a singer they throw their dinner plates onstage and smash them around the performer's feet. I'm not joking. What's that about? :^)

** They drink warm goat's milk with chunks in it for God's sake!

In light of all that, I think we can take only one path back to the top of the international hoops world.

Immigration and naturalization.

Fighting Poverty for Dummies 4

Time to focus on the US inner city and another home grown Jedi.

John Perkins

Who’s Who? African-American Christian leader and founder of the Christian Community Development Association.

Must Read: Beyond Charity: The Call to Christian Community Development and With Justice For All.

What’s the Big Idea? Some background to Dr. P's stuff.

--His butt and soul kicking experience of racism and class and cultural prejudice in both pre-civil rights Mississippi and post-civil rights LA convinced him that unless people can get together in spite of those barriers you can forget about ending poverty.

--He noticed that white people fled urban neighborhoods for racially segregated suburbs as fast as they could after WW2, just about when "colored people" started showing up in the hood.

He recognized that middle class blacks took their cue from white flight as soon as legal segregation ended and also fled their old black urban neighborhoods.

This left huge communities of very poor and unskilled inner city blacks—and later Latinos who followed a similar pattern—‘marooned’ in huge urban pockets of multi-generational poverty. Perkins saw that when you take the most educated and achieving people out of a community you get a community without the resources and role models to grow in healthy way. "Middle class flight" consigned the poorest of the urban poor to a poverty trap they couldn't escape without serious efforts and intervention. Very similar to Sachs' take on the the poorest of the international poor.

--Finally, he came to believe that the Christian church should take the lead in bringing about both reconciliation and the long term effort to transform poor urban neighborhoods in the US.

He rejected the saving individual souls alone approach. He argued that the church should focus on influencing whole neighborhoods and communities for the better. Perkins recognized that the hopelessness and desperation in inner city communities required a spiritual antidote that no government program or market oriented intervention could provide. He came to believe that spiritual renewal and even revival were critical in raising poor communities out of poverty.

As a response, he developed The Three R’s, a mini-me summary of his poverty fighting approach and philosophy:

** Relocation: He calls on middle and upper middle class people of color as well as whites to move into urban poor neighborhoods. In particular, he challenges Christian people to relocate among the poor, live there over the long haul, and become full community members sharing the struggles and challenges of those communities. Rather than simply showing up to impose programs or solutions from the outside, or simply “throwing a check over the wall,” Perkins argues for a development approach where the poor and their relocating neighbors are ‘in it together’ and working side by side to overcome the challenges of urban, inner city life.

** Reconciliation: He challenges both relocators and neighbors to build friendships and relationships across racial, cultural and socio-economic barriers. Perkins understands that unless people get down to caring for one another as 'actual' neighbors, de facto segregation and economic injustice will persist and the inner city poor will stay stuck right where they are.

** Redistribution: Perkins means the redistribution of every kind of resource into inner city neighborhoods to help those communities develop. Primarily, he’s talking about the experience, education, skills, and financial resources that relocators can bring to poor communities, but he also stresses that everyone—poor or not—has important contributions to make in the community effort to improve the neighborhood and the lives of the people there.

Who’s Walkin’ the Talk? At this point hundreds of churches and non-profits in inner cities all across the US are members of the CCDA, which is the organization/movement that serves as a kind of umbrella for groups and individuals pursuing Perkins’ development approach. The numbers continue to grow as the movement and philosophy spread.

My Take: Full disclosure here. Dr. Perkins is the only Jedi type I know personally, and my family and I spent many years advancing and living his approach.

His greatest contributions in my mind:

The focus on racial and ethnic and socio-economic reconciliation. He’s the only one of my model poverty fighters who insists on the importance of reconciliation. Lots of international anti-poverty efforts fall apart because they don't take reconciliation seriously. When they do--just take a look at South Africa--economies tend to grow and more people get a chance to make a decent living.

It’s pretty obvious really. When people hate or distrust each other it's hard to get anything done. Period.

His insistence on personal responsibility. Not just for the poor, but for the middle class and the wealthy. Dr. Perkins believes the government has an important role in helping lift the poor out of poverty—he was arrested doing civil disobedience just this year in DC protesting Republican efforts to slash important and useful programs for the poor out of the federal budget--but he rejects fundamentally paternalistic approaches and demands that both the poor and the fortunate jump in and get their hands dirty in coming up with solutions.

His recognition that spiritual renewal is central to economic development. Others--like Martin Luther King and Gandhi and even in some respects Mandela—have recognized this too, but you’d be hard pressed to find mention of it in most current development approaches. Development that proactively involves people of faith tends to get it done. That should be obvious to anybody with their eyes open (doh!) but it isn’t for whatever reason.

As much as I like Dr. P’s approach and philosophy, I think the jury is still out on the CCDA and The Three R’s. Thousands are involved in CCDA style groups around the country, but so few people have gotten on board with the movement that it’s a tiny drop in the bucket in urban America.

Also, many CCDA style communities stop growing after they relocate and build relationships across barriers and start working with inner city youth. Until these communities get more disciplined and sophisticated in their approaches to community development—with tools like community organizing, political influence, housing, job creation, etc—I fear they’ll be just another idealistic Christian effort that means well but doesn't accomplish much.

In spite of all of it, though, Dr. P's got some key clues to the long term anti-poverty mystery. No doubt in my mind.

Next time: Mike Davis--the “Cyber-Punk Prophet”--Takes on Capitalism