"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


all i know to do is go

Unsurprisingly, the Iraq study group's recommendations have been leaked a week before their scheduled release, and with the unfortunate (for Bush) timing of being at the same time as the President's summit with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. They call for a major pullout of most combat troops by 2008. I'm sure we'll learn much more about the report in the leadup to its release next Wednesday.

The problem with a scheduled pullout, as I tell my students, is that it creates an opportunity for those who want to destabilize a country, and a huge problem for those who are leaving. If you don't have a political settlement to a security problem, and the a faction/rebel group/whatever knows that an occupying force (or a peacekeeping force) is going to leave by date x, they have an incentive to abide by peace agreements only up to the withdrawl date. In the case of Iraq, it doesn't look like there will be any peace agreement (it's hard to arrange a ceasefire when you're denying there's a civil war), but nonetheless, the people who are causing trouble have an incentive to bide their time, build up weapons caches, and just wait for American forces to leave so they can cause chaos.

This is why the Bush administration is so concerned with building up the capacity of Iraqi security and police forces. As well it should be. Whether it's possible to do just that by 2008 is up for debate. I doubt it.

The professor for whom I TA spent today talking about the Bush administration's reasons for going to war. He thinks that it was about the oil, but not in the way you think - not to ensure big profits for American oil companies. Rather, he thinks it was about ensuring long-term American access to Middle Eastern oil in order to ensure our geopolitical security in the decades to come.

I tend to agree with that assessment. I've never been convinced by the conspiracy theories about Haliburton and Dyncorp (although there's no question they're getting richer off the war), and they clearly cherry-picked the intelligence in making the argument about WMD's. In November 2001, when the shock of 9/11 was still very much on our minds, the professor for whom I TA'd at Yale (who was a former Reagan administration official and is one of the smartest people I know) observed to the class that the Bush Administration had ordered the Strategic Petroleum Reserves filled. "They'll go to war in Iraq," he said, more than 18 months before the fact, and six months before they even started to build a case, and he was right. There's an argument to be made that our long-term access to oil was worth a war that established a presence for the U.S. in the Persian Gulf. If we don't have an assurred petroleum source, our economy will crash and our military dominance over the world will be in serious jeopardy.

I see the logic. But the human cost is too high, for the American public, and for the world.

Three weeks ago on the flight to Seattle, I sat next to an American soldier. Our plane was full of soldiers - they'd flown into Dallas from Iraq, and people gave up their seats on the flight so the soldiers could get home for two weeks of leave. The guy I sat next to told me about life in Mosul, where they're based, about how hot it is, and how long their 36-hour flight home had been. He told me about the people in Seattle who hassle him for being a soldier. "They don't understand that I don't want to be there anymore than they want me there," he said. He told me how he'd been waking up the whole trip home, reaching for his weapon only to remember that he's not in the desert anymore. "I don't want to go back," he said, but they had to be back by Thanksgiving.

Two days before Thanksgiving, Nathan made it home. Nathan is the older brother of one of my childhood best friends. I don't have a brother, but Nathan was willing to let his sister and her friend tag along with his friends to explore the woods behind their house from time to time. Nathan's been in Iraq for a year, leading a National Guard unit. While he was gone, his high school sweetheart Dianne had to take care of their two preschoolers on her own.

Andrew is still in Iraq. I worry about Andrew; he's a translator, and the army doesn't have enough translators. He has to work hard all the time, and go to the places where split-second understandings of someone's meaning could be the difference between life and death.

This war is so awful. We've asked hundreds of thousands of young men and women to fight an unnecessary war that appears to be unwinnable. We've set them up to suffer from a lifetime of post-traumatic stress syndrome, and to be part of a war that will go down as America's second major military defeat. We've killed thousands and thousands of Iraqi civilians, and destroyed their country's security infrastructure without adequately repairing it. And before this is over, we will leave the Iraqi people to suffer through a full-scale civil war. And for what?

colbert vs. colin

The Decemberists strike back.

Thanks to the Attorney (Austin's A+, #1 Decemberists fan) for the tip.

congo watch

6,000 rebels will disarm in Ituri in the eastern DRC. This is a good thing.

his mother was chinese trapeeze artist

Stephen Colbert takes on the Decemberists. They will rue the day...

fifty degree temperature changes

Last night when I went to bed, it was 78 degrees. Now it's 33 and falling to lows in the 20's tonight. I went from wearing flip flops to five layers and a hat.

If I had wanted 20-degree temperatures to be part of my graduate school experience, I would've moved to Chicago. This stinks. I hate the cold. As D-Line said this morning, at least we're not those people who say how nice it is that it "feels like Christmas" now. Luckily, we'll be up to the 50's by the weekend. And that'll be enough winter for this year.

the only game that matters

The only surprising thing about this is that it didn't happen two months ago. Buh-bye, Jevan. Have fun in scenic ... somewhere.

In other news, I have been remarkably neglectful of the football aspect of this website lately. Yale beat Harvard for the first time since 2000 and took a share of the Ivy League title for the first time since 1999! Thus, despite the Longhorns' troubles and Baylor's failure to make it to a bowl game (again), I hereby declare this football season a success. See you at the Alamo Bowl.

the sound of one jaw dropping

Herb Reynolds has dirt on Sloan? Baylor University Press wimped out on publishing something controversial? Sloan and Reynolds don't like each other? Baylor's embarrassing itself on the front page of the Chronicle of Higher Education again?

Tell me something I didn't already know.



There's still fighting around Sake.

i so don't want to write this lesson plan

One of the more interesting aspects of our department's move to a new building is that we are now in the middle of campus, and therefore much more in tune with what's happening on and around campus. Case in point: today I emerged from the Cubicle of Darkness and Despair into our 82-degree November afternoon to find an Israeli-Palestinian soccer game being played on the lawn outside our building. The Palestinian goal was regulation size, while the Israeli goal was tiny (fit for preschoolers). The Israeli side also had more players on the field than the Palestinians. Just think, if it weren't for the new building, I wouldn't've gotten to witness undergraduates trying to be clever. If only they could do something to cheer up the cubicle.

the war

Rule #1 of African politics: if your country is in the throes of sectarian/ethnic/entirely political violence and you are an unpopular president who can't do a thing about it, DON'T LEAVE THE COUNTRY. If you leave, you're all but asking for a coup.

Granted, Maliki may not have to worry so much about this given that he has the United States military to stop anyone else from taking control. But the political costs may be too high.

This war is so awful. I want them to find a way to end it, but the president seems to genuinely believe that he did the right thing by invading. I'm not going to comment on that, except to say that I never believed that the jus ad bellum requirements of just war had been met prior to the invasion, and I do not believe that we have prosecuted this war in a just manner. The point is, the president apparently believes it was a just cause and that the war has been prosecuted in a just manner. When you believe you're right, it's very difficult to change course.

coroporate evil: nimby!

There's a community meeting tomorrow night to oppose Wal-Mart's attempt to take over Northcross Mall. If you're opposed to having a Wal-Mart at an already-busy intersection in a neighborhood that has plenty of local businesses and a local character that's pretty much the exact opposite of Wal-Mart and everything it stands for, do your best to make it.


Bill Frist is not a stupid man. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he realizes that he's not electable in a national election. So he's out for 2008, free to live in the Tennessee White House and run for governor in 2010. Or something.


witty title and all

Is anyone familiar with this cartoon? I think I may have to bookmark it.

trust in the gop?


Thanks, Carlos.

congo watch

Bemba accepts defeat. Thank goodness.

congo watch

Goma can't catch a break. Rebels attacked Sake on Sunday, and the outlying volcano erupted yesterday. This is not terribly surprising; Jacques the vulcanologist was expecting Nyamulagira to erupt soon when I was there. But my gosh. Of all the things they don't need.

Please say a prayer for my friends there. Kabila has been confirmed by the Supreme Court as the winner of the presidential election. This should be a time for hope in Congo, not war and natural disasaters.

i don't know what to say

This defies belief. Rock Hudson and Bea Arthur sing about drugs, courtesy of the Attorney:



That sound you hear is me bawling, partly over the six hours I spent at ITS today with my brand new laptop that still isn't fixed, but more over this. I knew it was coming. I just hoped it would be a better school.

congo watch

Sake is deserted. War came, and everyone left. They clearly planned to advance on Goma (there's almost nothing in the 27 kilometers between Sake and Goma; much of it is part of Virunga National Park).

I would've been able to see the gunships from my apartment in Goma, which is on the western side of Goma, in the direction of Sake. I would've heard the firefights.

The pygmy families live down the road from the peacekeepers' compound outside Sake. If it was the place attacked, they've almost certainly fled.

But the rebels are out for now, and if the people there can get back home, they'll be okay for now. But I worry for the fate of people who were already so vulnerable from malnutrition and poor health care and inadequate everything.


forgive us, bono, for we have sinned

A travesty unlike anything I've ever seen. Ever.


congo watch

Sake is under attack again. My friend Major Dalal seems to think things will calm down.

I feel sick.

most Novembers I break down and cry

One of the worst phrases in the English language has to be the following: "holding pattern."

A holding pattern is exactly what we were in. For thirty minutes yesterday morning, and for most of yesterday afternoon.

Perhaps I should explain. After a perfectly lovely Thanksgiving with my family in Tennessee, I caught the first flight back to Austin on Friday morning. Bright and early. Me awake before the sunrise early. Got on the flight with no problem, the pilot said we'd probably be 20 minutes early, meaning I might make it to the game on time. The flight wasn't scheduled to arrive until 10:20, and the game started at 11, so I knew it would be close anyway. But the pilot's prediction gave me hope.

Then we got to Austin, and we started circling. The pilot said there was fog. I saw no fog, and I stared out the window, looking at Manor and Georgetown and Westlake and San Marcos as we went around and around and around. I saw the stadium and thought, "that's where I want to be." I started feeling a little queasy, as I always do when a flight gets dumped into the purgatory of a holding pattern. But there we were. A long wait. No fog, no explanation, and no way to land.

To be fair, it wasn't his fault. And things couldn't have gone better once I got on the ground; I was in the car less than ten minutes after disembarking, thanks to a friendly shuttle driver who said we'd better go after I told him I was late to the game. There was no traffic on 7th, and while the garages were full, there was still street parking, even though it meant a 15-block hike to the stadium. I was in the stadium halfway through the first quarter, just in time to see the Aggies score.

And just in time to see our offense, which appeared to be in its own holding pattern yesterday. It was long. It was stomach-turning. We could see where we needed to be, but couldn't get there. There were bad calls and no explanations. And I got a sunburn. In late November. Maybe I should've stayed in Tennessee.


gobble gobble

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. I am spending the holiday with my family and won't be posting for a couple of days. Posting will resume after the game on Friday. Don't eat too much turkey!


tourisme en vivant!

Congo tourism is back, at least in a couple of small ways:

1. There's an updated guidebook that came out in June. I can't tell you how nice it would have been to have had this. Have you thought about how hard it is to locate a hotel/apartment/restaurant completely on word-of-mouth? You see what I mean.

2. Go Congo is offering tourist packages starting next year, including a tour of Virunga National Park. This is mind-boggling. It sounds fascinating. If you're up for some real adventure, give it a try. Goodness knows Congo could use your tourist dollars. That said, I'm not finalizing plans for my next trip back until the post-election security environment stabilizes.

Thanks to Kim for the heads-up.

congo election watch

Tensions in Kinshasa are rising as the aftermath of the electoral results become known. Runner-up (and, therefore, loser) Jean-Pierre Bemba has rejected the results and is challenging them through legal channels, although knowing that he has a private army makes it difficult to believe that Bemba will stick to legal channels only, as he's promised to do.

Bemba's supporters, meanwhile, are upset. So upset, in fact, that today some of them set the Supreme Court on fire. Eight months ago, on my visit to Kinshasa before heading back to the east, my driver took me to see the grand government buildings near the presidential palace in the Gombe neighborhood of Kinshasa. Now this building is yet another relic of an unending crisis.

You do not, several Congo watchers observed at ASA, have meaningful democratic elections when you don't have democratic institutions. Democracy is more than going to the ballot box. Things like a communal acceptance of the rule of law (that is, an agreement to settle disputes via political and legal means rather than military action) matter even more than a free press and a vigorous civil society. It's as true in Congo as it is in Iraq. If your whole society doesn't accept that laws matter more than personalities, fires burn for decades.

Kabila was smart to offer (as rumored) the Prime Ministership to Bemba. In Congo, you keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Being Prime Minister would guarantee Bemba access to resources that he could loot to keep himself and his supporters happy. In the grand patron-client network fashion, it would seem to be in Bemba's self-interest to accept. Bemba, however, is rumored to have turned the rumored offer down.

Congo traffics in rumors, but this one makes sense. Why Bemba has chosen this course of action does not. As Kate notes, Congo is in a state of purgatory this week, this month, this year. What will happen next? Will there be peace or war?

Mr. Florida was in Congo ten days ago before the results were announced and seemed to think that things were mostly okay, if a bit tense. But people on the ground are worried about outbreaks of violence. And our friend E was shot at when she was in Kinshasa to deliver baby Ida to her new parents. 2,000 EUFOR European peacekeepers will pull out of Congo next week.

Meanwhile, I worry. I worry for my friends who live in Kinshasa, in Gombe, where the firefights happen. I worry for Junior's new in-laws, who live just a few houses down from Bemba. I worry most of all for the Congolese, who've put so much hope in the electoral process to deliver their country from the evils of war and lead Congo into a prosperous, peaceful future.

now we are engaged in a great civil war

Power Point is evil. Here's proof.

pro-life shouldn't end at birth

Since I've already posted on gay rights today, why don't we just go all the way and talk about abortion, too? (Up next: personal finance.)

E.J. Dionne's column on the relationship between abortion and poverty should be eye-opening for conservatives who expend enormous amounts of energy fighting to prevent abortions in this country, and then spend near-equal amounts of energy trying to dismantle the social service safety net that makes it possible for poor women to raise the babies they didn't abort such that those children grow up to be healthy and educated.

The act Dionne discusses aims to lower the number of abortions in this country through education and through providing support to poor women who choose not to abort. Encourage your representative to support the Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act. It's far from perfect as a piece of legislation, but it provides some much-needed middle ground on an emotional, polarizing issue.

what if Christians are wrong?

This is a must-read piece on inerrancy, homosexuality, and the possibility that the American church might be wrong about one of its orthodoxies. The author asks the question that almost no one on the conservative side of the debates is willing to address: "If God created us and if everything he created is good, how can a gay person be guilty of being anything more than what God created him or her to be?"

The even more disturbing question for most evangelicals that necessarily follows from the one posed by Thomas is, "what does that tell us about the God in whose image we are created?" I'd imagine that few in the mainstream of these debates wants to touch that one.


oh. wow.

"Bill Sherman, messenger from FBC Fairview expressed the minority viewpoint but significant nonetheless: 'You're placing the BFM above the Word of God, and I don't think any word of man is better than the Word of God.' He offered a substitute motion to put affirmation of the Bible as the sole authority of faith and practice rather than the BFM. It was soundly defeated."

Scary things afoot in the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Is the Baptist Faith and Message really more important than the Bible to these inerrantist fundamentalists?

one moment more

John Prendergast of the International Crisis Group explains why the U.S. government isn't, and probably won't, do much more to stop the genocide in Darfur. I would add that China's oil interests in Sudan are another complicating factor.

I heard Prendergast speak this weekend at ASA. He knows his stuff. I read hopeful, but unlikely-to-work plans, I read utterly naive plans, and I read the ICG's smart plans that recognize the reality of the situation, the actors, and the international context. But I'm not hopeful that anything will actually be done.

lubbock on everything?

Congrats to the Ex-Lawyer, who just got a job offer. Way to go!

weekend update

Home again. I left San Francisco on Saturday afternoon to head up to Sonoma County to visit one of my closest friends from when we lived up north, Allison, and her husband, Matt, and to meet their new bundle of joy. It was so much fun to see them and to meet their adorable son.
The Sonoma Valley is wine country. We went out for a drive in the valley, which is basically solid vineyards. Did you know that grape leaves change color like the leaves of trees do? The whole valley was covered in gorgeous foliage. We had lunch in the cute little town of Healdsburg, then I headed back to Oakland to catch my flight. It was so beautiful in the Sonoma Valley, and such a great way to spend a Sunday morning with friends.

w in a dress

Oh. My.


i don't know what happens next

I've had a really good conference, as we say in the field. Lots of papers that are relevant to my research, good discussions with the other ten people who work on the eastern Congo, and getting to see lots of old friends. I ran into my M.A. thesis advisor yesterday; he retired and seems to be enjoying himself. Also ran into The Advisor, who gave me a hug (?) and introduced me to a scholar who, after we had coffee yesterday and talked about my project, is now Committee Member #5. This is great, because I've had so many problems finding an outside reader for my committee. Now that it's settled, I can advance to candidacy.

I've been to San Francisco before, so I don't feel any pressure to see all the sites. Thursday I took the afternoon off from the conference and went to the de Young Museum, which is hosting the Gee's Ben Quilts exhibit that I missed in Atlanta and Houston. I also stopped by Amoeba, the largest independent record store in America. You haven't seen anything like it, I promise. But mostly, I've just been hanging out with friends and catching up on sleep at a wonderful boutique hotel.

Since nobody else from my department is here, I also hung out some with Mr. Florida and his colleagues. We walked to Chinatown for dinner, so he and I talked a lot about Congo, our friends there, and what he saw during the run-off. It was so strange to be walking through downtown San Francisco, past Neiman's and Saks and Tiffany's and all the other trappings of western affluence, and I couldn't help but think about the fact that the last time we talked about this stuff, we were walking through downtown Goma, surrounded by trash and lava and the trappings of extreme poverty. What a difference six months makes.

goodnight, poor harvard

This weekend is the most important game of the year. No, I'm not referring to the silly little matchup in Columbus. I'm referring, of course, to the 123rd running of The Game. For the uninitiated, that's the Yale-Harvard Game.

This year's game looks to be pretty interesting given that the Ivy League title is still in the mix, even though the Bulldogs can't win the H-Y-P (note to Ben: nobody else matters). It should also be easy for Yale to make the Harvard alumni look like idiots again this year. Go Bulldogs!


good-bye, karl! we need a break!

If it happens, it'll happen late on a Friday afternoon. Maybe the day after Thanksgiving. You don't get a much slower news day than that.

two years is a long time

I can't believe Bull Moose Blog is ending. I've been reading this blog for more than two years. Wow.

tell my friends to mourn me none

So, the president's new guy in charge of family planning programs for the federal government is someone who works at an organization that opposes the use of contraceptives. Great. I'm sure that will help with our 10.3% teen birth rate in Texas.

Really, though, it makes sense. It's an opportune time to throw a bone to social conservatives, so let's do something that will really tick off the liberals. Problem is, W, it's going to tick off the center, too. But they're already mad at you, so what could it hurt?


collegial behavior

Academic conference are, as a general rule, incredibly dull. Long sessions, papers with titles like, "Intertextual transgendered "realit(y)" in Foucalt's reading of a 16th century Amharic prayer book" and people who take that sort of thing seriously. Then there are the people who are way too into their research (and themselves), such that they actually engage in fights over Marixan interpretations of some long-dead theory.

African Studies Association, by contrast, is a love-fest. Sure, the anthropologists and literary theorists still do their wacky pomo "research," but, in general, ASA is one big party, with everyone glad to see everyone else. I think it's because we all study Africa and are all used to being marginalized in our departments. (In our department, for example, The Advisor was once told that there is no political science in Africa.) At ASA, though, everyone takes Africa seriously, and can actually help with your work, because they know what you're talking about. Unlike at home, or at another conference, you don't have to explain the background ("Africa is not a country"), the theory ("a state isn't necessarily a Westphalian state"), or the context ("there's a war") from the beginning.

So I am glad to be in San Francisco for this year's ASA meeting. I gave my paper this morning and it went remarkably well; I got lots of helpful suggestions and met a guy who co-wrote a book I'm using. I have also run into several friends, and expect to see more before the weekend is up. Mr. Florida is here; he and I had a nice time catching up on life post-Congo. Mwalimu, my Swahili teacher, is also here. I hadn't seen him since graduating, so that was a super-fun conversation, although he concluded that Congo destroyed my Swahili skills (I concur. It's not the same language as the one he taught me.). And I saw the amazing Ann, director of my program at Yale.

Something has happened in the last five years. I'm not sure when, but I sense it at work and here more and more: I am becoming less of a student to all these professors and more of a colleague. The professor for whom I TA treats me like I have something to say, and like I am competent to teach. My committee members are less condescending and more helpful in looking to the future. Ann asks me how my work is going, and I get the scoop on her latest projects. I give a competent presentation, and professors twice my age ask questions rather than simply telling me what to do. This process of extended apprenticeship in the form of higher education will come to an end soon. It's nice to have colleagues. I'm glad they are also my friends.

mrs. sekula-gibbs goes to washington


blinded by the right

Fascinating. And possibly the only time that I'll acknowledge that Cal Thomas has something valuable to say.

red and blue congo

Well, it didn't take 24 hours for Congolese presidential runner-up Jean-Pierre Bemba to reject the election results. Bemba, you may recall, has his own private army. You'll note that Bemba won the capital and all surrounding provinces. We'll see if he and his supporters uphold their promises to only use legal challenges to contest the election results.

Meanwhile, I'm excited to learn that the polling data is available online.


a church-based poll tax?

Church governance = paying to play? That seems to be the case in New Life Church's vote to replace Ted Haggard.

I'm so glad I'm Baptist. I'm glad that I'm part of a denomination that gives everyone, rich and poor, faithful stewards or not, a voice in the way our churches are run. Someone who doesn't give to the church won't be serving on the finance committee, but he or she would never be excluded from a major decision about the church's future.

stop emailing about this

No, he's no relation.

i'll just say it

You are a bad person if you don't tip well. Most people don't seem to realize that waitstaff generally make about $2.19 an hour. They are dependent on tips to survive. Most people also don't realize that at many restaurants, waitstaff don't keep all of their tips - they sometimes have to tip out to the busboys, and even the hostesses.

This article makes an argument that tipping decently might have something to do with being a Christian. See what you think. Be glad that your salary doesn't depend on whether or not you're having a good day and everything's going right. And remember to tip well.

good-bye, google!

This is the best search engine ever.

snitch and stitch

What Tom hath wrought. Apparently, lame-duck, first-time Congresswoman Sekula-Gibbs was so rude to her staff that most of them unceremoniously quit. These are the people who worked for Tom DeLay. They have to be used to bad behavior. Much like most graduate students, all Hill employees know how to handle demanding, irrational bosses who want three hundred essays graded in 48 hours, er, I mean, legislation written and appropriate curtains hung for six weeks of work.

What could she have done? I mean, I know Houston women can be harsh, but this had to be awful.

My only comment on the real news is this: Shelley, honey, don't wear fuschia with blue. It's not Congressional. It's not Washington. It makes you look like a dermatologist from Sugarland. Is that really the kind of message we want to be sending when we rank 435th in senority? I didn't think so.

can't remember if we said goodbye

Joseph Kabila wins the runoff in Congo's presidential election. A cynic would now start the countdown to when the violence will begin. I am trying really hard not to be cynical about this.

Here's Kate's report on what's happening in Kinshasa. I'm glad I'm not there right now.

most novembers i break down and cry

So... let's say you're a major American political party that's just lost a midterm election in a rather humiliating way. And let's say that you lost the election in large part because your party has been taken over by extremists, and the American public wanted to elect leaders who appeal to the center (which is, after all, where most Americans are politically). Say you really needed to appeal to that center on the basis of your actions over the course of the next two years if you (and your presidential nominee) are to have any chance of taking back any of those seats not previously held by Tom DeLay?

Then why wouldn't you elect as one of your leaders a senator who lost his leadership job four years ago for making racially insensitive remarks?

It makes perfect sense to me.


corporate nonsense

Here are the pro's photos from the Secret Machines show/Zune launch yesterday in Seattle. If you look very, very closely at the crowd shot, you can see my cute red coat. I was standing next to the guy who won the "have breakfast with the band" contest.


Here's the deal: my flight left over an hour late last night. I didn't get home until 1:30 this morning. Woke up early, taught a lesson on the Rwandan genocide, avoided the fact that teaching a lesson on Rwanda is emotionally exhausting, dealt with a long line of students who wanted their grades changed, wrote my conference paper, realized at 4pm that I hadn't eaten all day, returned a DVD for a professor, got lunch at dinner time, finished the lesson plan for the guy who's covering my Thursday class, emailed my students, got bitten by mosquitos while waiting forever for the bus, got home to start laundry and repack my suitcase, because my next flight leaves in fifteen hours. Did I mention the massive jet lag? I'm so tired I can barely think. At least my paper's done.

more seattle pics

One of the famous cappuccinos from Espresso Vivace. They make designs in the foam, and the cappuccino was to die for.

It was actually autumn!

The mother of all REI's - it's the flagship, and it's unbelievable. Here's the "nature" outside where you can test gear: The Intrepid Lobbyist's friend Jess took us to see a troll under the Freemont Bridge.

View of downtown Seattle from Volunteer Park


Day one in Seattle - Pike Place market, where the fishmongers are creepy and there's plenty to look at. And, if you're Christina, a place to kiss a pig:

The first-ever Starbucks. Never mind that in real life I wouldn't go to Starbucks.

posing with the baristas
Africa: blissfully free of Starbucks:

seattle in general

Space Needle the waterfront in downtown Seattle

There are overhangs off every building to protect you from the rain.


where the music matters

Well, in the continuing series of utterly random events that seems to be my life, this morning ranks right up there. Here's the deal: I'm still in Seattle (more on that tomorrowish), but the Intrepid Lobbyist and the Blog Stalker (I nickname her that with love) went to visit the graduate school that the I.L. is hoping to attend next year. My flight's this afternoon, so I couldn't go with them. Since I had a few hours, I decided to go downtown.

Now. While getting ready this morning, I was listening to KEXP as per usual (only on the radio for real because we are in Seattle!) and heard them mention something about a free Secret Machines show downtown. I didn't know where it was and wasn't about to search it out, so I didn't think anything else of it, but walking downtown, I heard someone setting up a drum kit, and there it was. I had a couple of errands to run, so I decided to circle back by there in case the music had started. And it turned out that was perfect timing. John Richards, one of the best DJ's on KEXP, jumped out on stage to introduce the band, and to promote Zune, which is what this event turned out to be about.

Zune, if you don't know, is Microsoft's attempt to break iPod's near monopoly in the mp3 player market. (How they plan to do that with a product that can't play music files purchased on iTunes is beyond me, but whatever. Apparently they might buy out your iTunes songs and give them to you for free on their system.) From what I can tell, the only distinguishing feature of the product is that you can share files wirelessly, but what good that would do when all your friends have iPods is unclear. 30 gigs for $250 is a lot, especially when I can get an 80 gig iPod for $100 more.
At any rate, I can put up with a little corporate nonsense if it means I get to see a great band for free. It launches tomorrow and they are apparently doing these events all over the country today, trying to get people to buy in. The music rocked. I got filmed and photographed like crazy (as did all of the 35 hipsters who weren't there with Microsoft). In exchange for the music, we had to listen to a bunch of Zune promotions in between each of the three songs they played.

But the middle promo break was when things got really interesting. I saw really heavy security at stage left, but didn't think much of it until Bill Gates walked onstage. Bill Gates. In Seattle. How random is that? He yapped about the product for awhile, then John Richards shared a playlist wirelessly with Gates: It's at this point that I normally would've lost all respect for John Richards, but he's such a good DJ that that's not going to happen. They paid him with a free Zune, so I guess that's not as bad as it could've been.
As for the Secret Machines, they were really cool. They look to be about 17 years old, but they've got a great sound and are musically pretty strong. It is freezing cold with 50 mile-per-hour wind gusts, but I think the morning was worth it.

Africa is not a country

And Madonna isn't helping.

To be fair, this author is wrong about Jason: he isn't Belgian, and he certainly knows more about the politico-military situation in Congo than any of the villagers behind him. They would have told a powerful story, but one very different than the story CNN was trying to tell.


last night in live music: the dixie chicks

I've done crazier things in my life than go all the way to Seattle just to see a concert, but this trip is right up there. To be fair, the trip's purpose isn't just to see the Dixie Chicks live at the Tacoma Dome, but it was definitely one of the highlights of our weekend here.

In general, I avoid arena shows. I like to hear the music and to be able to see the musicians play, and that doesn't happen when you're watching a show with 50,000 other people. It's the only way to see the Dixie Chicks, though, but I was a little concerned about the crowded atmosphere.

At first, I was afraid that the show would live up to those fears. The Tacoma Dome is awful. A huge traffic jam to park, scary bleachers that shook every time any of the other 3,000 people in your section moved, and it smelled like, um, someone had been sick near our seats. Ugh.
But that didn't stop the Dixie Chicks from putting on a great show. The last time I saw all of them live was in the Cotton Bowl at the State Fair in 2002, a few months before Natalie Maines' flap over the Iraq war. This is their first tour since being abandoned by the bulk of their fans. It's also their first show since changing their sound to reflect more of a California rock sound.

Things have changed. The music was as good as ever. The show was almost a sell-out. Apparently everyone in the Pacific Northwest showed up, as did half of Canada. The lights went down, the crowd started cheering, and all of a sudden, "Hail to the Chief" started blasting through the speakers, I said, "Did they just?," the Intrepid Lobbyist said, "Yes," and there were the Dixie Chicks. They opened with "Lubbock or Leave It," moved on to "Truth #2," and rocked through "Good-bye, Earle" and "The Long Way."

The setlist was a good mix of old and new material, with crowd favorites like "Wide Open Spaces" and "Cowboy Take Me Away" mingled with the gorgeous "Lullaby." The people behind us talked straight through "Top of the World." (Manners, people, MANNERS! Quiet song = shut up.) In the evening's funniest moment, Maines dedicated a song to Kevin Federline, not saying what the song was until she sang the opening line to "White Trash Wedding," which is, in case you didn't know, "You can't afford no ring." So. Funny.Dixie Chicks concerts are always estrogen-fests. In my experience, the men who are there are there with their girlfriends, daughters, or wives, and usually stand around looking shellshocked since all the girls sing along to every song. Not so in our section - the men in front of and behind us luuuuuvvvvved the Dixie Chicks and knew every word. Gay men love the Dixie Chicks - who knew?

Musically, the evening's highlight was "Not Ready to Make Nice," the song that is Maines' answer to her critics. It was stark and powerful, with Maines standing with arms outstretched before the crowd and before the world.

The encore started with just the Chicks onstage, singing "Traveling Soldier" on Veterans' Day. They also played a fast-paced, rockin' cover of Bob Dylan's "Mississippi," before closing with "Ready to Run." And then the magic of the music ended, the crowds closed in, and we walked off into the cold night to join the traffic jam. It was worth it.

i'm on vacation

and I don't want to talk about it.


it's 60 degrees cooler here

rummy's troubles

Oh, this could get interesting.

election update

Well, I know that most Texas in Africa readers have been waiting breathlessly for a post on the results of the Idaho governor's race. The Constitution party nominee, you may recall, was Marvin "ProLife" Richardson, who legally changed his name to Pro-Life, is not the new governor of Idaho. Turns out Pro-Life wasn't allowed to list "Pro-Life" as his middle name on the ballot, even after he changed his name to just Pro-Life. So he appeared on the ballot as someone who no longer legally exists (Marvin Richardson), and, in what I'm sure was due entirely to that decision by the Idaho secretary of state's office to not let Pro-Life be Pro-Life on the ballot and had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that his own party diavowed his candidacy, neither Pro-Life nor Marvin Richardson garnered enough votes to win. Pro-Life fell short of Republican winner Butch Otter by about 230,000 votes, although he did come in third, a full 65 votes ahead of the Libertarian. I wonder how many of those came from his fifteen children.

Never fear, however. It looks like Idaho's elected enough crazy to keep us amused until the next cycle. God bless America.

we've all got our idols

An excellent piece on the problem with David Barton. It points out that if, perhaps, you want to be an historian who claims that America was intended to be a Christian nation, it would help if you bothered to get some training - any training - in history. I knew Barton doesn't have a PhD; what I didn't know is that his bachelor's degree is in math education. But, hey, if truthiness is good enough for Steven Colbert, it should be good enough for all of us.

why don't we summon the ghost of nixon, too?

Oh, good lord.

Let the record show that it took less than 72 hours after victory for at least 61 Democrats to mess it up. Here we go.

i'm tired of the same old scene

This is exactly the problem with the wipeout of Republican moderates. The Democrats have shifted to the center (that's why they were electable), but long-term, their voices are gone in a party that desparately needs a counterbalance to the right-wing extremists who dominate the party.

The only way to solve this mess and get government that actually represents the American peoples' views is to have independendant, nonpartisan redistricting commissions create the districts, such that they are actually competitive and representative. The day that happens in Texas is the day it won't be 91 on November 10 in Austin.

lying liars and the lies they tell

This is exactement what I've been wondering since my phone rang at work on Wednesday. We all expect politicians to lie, right? But it's pretty amazing that you have a near-admission of it from the president. I guess it depends on what your definition of "is" is.

a poem for the weekend

Space Needle
for Stephen

If each foot took us back a year,
the dark below would be
immaculate, like a hole

in space, instead of stars,
or a jar of colored glass
someone shook

and scattered in a dream.
But from this height,
our childhood town

spreads out, a silver galaxy,
and tourists peer
into the giant metal scopes.

I scan the towers, walls
of windows, one small pane:
sofa, tiny people

face to face—a man
and woman talking,
as they may do every day,

or perhaps this is
the last time, or their first.
The lamp she crosses to

dims the room a darker gold.
It's like watching movies
on the wall at home

where we cavort across
some stretch of sand:
I want to step inside the frame

and take my own hands,
and look into my eyes,
and see what's true

and what's idealized.
What should we try to be?
If we looked down

through time instead of sky,
would we see ourselves
behind another pane—

our faces gazing back
through days or years,
until we recognized that room,

the lives we've lived in all along?
The wind is off the Sound,
and makes no sound

except a ruffle
at the rail edge.
On the tiny street below,

a man is working on the road.
Alone behind his truck,
lit by a magnesium haze, he turns

a little orange wheel,
some apparatus out of sight.
He is the perfect

model of a man, which means
we love his task in ways
that he cannot, and wish

to close the shutter on
the stars, our years, with something
like his gesture of repair.

-Kristin Fogdall


come as you are

I'm working too hard. At work early, last to leave at night, didn't get home until 11:15 tonight. The papers are graded, but the conference paper for next week isn't ready. I didn't have a good lesson plan for class tonight, but, in the plan to halfway wing it, figured I could get 30 minutes out of the elections. (Turns out I had 75 minutes of election rambling in me. I explained Tom DeLay and TRMPAC and the K Street Project and redistricting and Heath Shuler and partitioning and Bob Gates.) Rutgers beat Louisville and I'm nearly too tired to care. Nearly.

But this weekend is a break. A much-needed break. Thank goodness.

post-election watch

The backtracking by the religious right is unbelievable. This from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council:

"America Cleans House

"In the nation's capital, the rain continues to fall, but it seems insignificant compared to last night's storm when the Democrats roared back to power, a victory that eluded them for 12 long years. With the House in their grasp and the Senate just recounts from it, America has spoken. But at a closer glance, this "new direction" isn't new at all. Democrats won mainly because they seized on a platform largely forsaken by the GOP--social values. When "integrity voters" saw that Republicans had abandoned their principles, they ultimately abandoned the GOP. From Indiana and Pennsylvania to Florida and Kentucky, Democratic challengers embraced a partisan realignment--not as Nancy Pelosi's radical replicas, but as bona fide men and women of faith. These proclaimed pro-life, pro-God Democrats, once extinct, have returned to compete for the confidence of voters. And while our issues prevailed at the polls, we have yet to see if they will prevail in Congress. As Pelosi prepares to lea d the House, it will be painfully obvious that the values of her hometown, San Francisco are not the values of Middle America. Make no mistake. The battle in which we are set to engage will be the biggest one we have faced for our core beliefs. The assault against abstinence, marriage, life, good judges, and cloning may be the fiercest yet. As speaker, Rep. Pelosi and the old guard of extremists will pounce on the opportunities that their new committee chairmanships will afford them. Although pro-family Democrats may have tipped the election, watch for them to be marginalized in positions where they have little influence. We must work to peel off this new Congress from their radical leadership and hold them accountable to the standards that elected them. The reality is, this majority will only be as durable as the true change it delivers. The integrity voters who overwhelmingly held the GOP accountable will be back in 2008--and the Democrats will have to prove that their con servative credentials are based on more than rhetoric. They have two years to convince the electorate that they belong in power. In the meantime, the pro-family movement must have all hands on deck."

Did Perkins have this much good to say about Democrats a week ago?

music for a sleepy afternoon

You know what's a great song? Guy Clark's "Magdalene", off his new album Workbench Songs, that's what. Here, in one song, you have a deep understanding of sin, redemption, what women want, and what men are scared of. Wow.

"I'm tired of the same old scene
There's a Greyhound leaving at midnight
If you'd come with me it'd be like a dream.
Come on, Magdalene."


I don't get much hopeful news out of Congo. So let me share this story, from my friends C and E and Lyn:This sweet baby girl is Ida. Her mother, Maombi was kidnapped at age thirteen by the militias that control territory in the countryside near Goma. They abused her, raped her and kept her as their slave for a year. She became pregnant, developed a terrible fistula, and was abandoned by the militia. Someone got Maombi to a counselor, who got her to Heal Africa in Goma. She was terribly sick and in a state of despair by the time she made it to the hospital. Ida was delivered by C-section; Maombi ignored her, refused to take medicine, and refused to eat. She died when Ida was three days old.

The staff asked if C and E could take Ida, which they did. E received an email that night asking her to email a couple in New York. She didn't want to, she didn't know them at all, and ended up telling the woman about the awful day it had been, and for her prayers. That couple had been trying to have a child for nine years, and, long story short, defying all the odds in a place with a dysfunctional court system, and in a place where it's almost impossible to get a visa for the United States, through a bizarre set of circumstances, were able to adopt Ida. Here is what E says about the whole situation:

"What amazes me is to see how God had parents ready for Ida, how much he cares, how graciously he deals with us.

"One other thing I’m thinking about. Ida’s mother’s name was Maombi; it means ‘prayers’. Her mother must have prayed for Maombi, thirteen years ago, and received her as a gift from God, the child of her delight. Then came the war, and the total destruction of this family. Maombi lived a year of horror before dying in our hospital. Where were the prayers now? But God has taken this little girl, fulfilled her grandmother’s desire, and brought her into a loving family, across the world but still in his kingdom - in answer to their prayers."

Ida was blessed in the church in Goma on Sunday. She left today on a flight for her new home in New York. Out of unbelievable horror, something good can come.

May we receive this story as a reminder not to give up on Congo, to keep hope alive. May we remember the thousands of children who aren't as lucky as Ida, and to pray that God will hear their families' prayers as well. May we earnestly seek to know what our role should be in helping other good things to happen. May we live with a deep sense of urgency that what happens on the other side of the world does matter to us, that it matters that the humanity of a little girl is denigrated, that we have a responsibility to love her however we can. May we thank God for the gift of sweet Ida.

oh, what a beautiful morning!

Oh, what a beautiful day!

too much to hope for

This just keeps getting better. Might we have an ambassador to the United Nations who doesn't want the United Nations to be irrelevant?

rumsfeld's gone, but?

Foreign policy-wise, not much will change?

dionne always gets it right

Couldn't have said it better.

allen will concede

The Democrats have the Senate. Now we're really in trouble.

good-bye yellow brick road

Well, the C.W. seems to be that G.W.'s daddy and friends are swooping in to clean up the mess that is Iraq, etc. Who knows? Everything I've seen about Bob Gates suggests that he'll be a good Secretary of Defense. He's been trying to change Texas A&M, for goodness sakes. If this weren't a serious matter of life and death, I'd say that's a task that makes fixing Iraq look simple by comparison. But it is a war, and it is a mess. Gates has dealt with messes before - he was the CIA's foremost expert on Soviet Russia. Let's hope and pray that he can figure out what to do with this horrible situation.


young and fabulous

This is the most fascinating election-related news I've seen.

post-election analysis

Today was a great day. We now have a divided government, which means that the system of checks and balances will work the way the Founders intended. It reminded me of why I like democracy. And freedom. And America.

I am disappointed that moderate Republicans like Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee were defeated. The Democrats won this, as I heard E.J. Dionne say on NPR this evening, because they moved to the center. Our country desparately needs (and, I think, wants) more centrist politicians who won't pander to the extremes. The loss of good representatives simply on the basis of their party affiliation won't help reach that goal.

That said, Rick Santorum is out. Thank. Goodness. The man did not hide the fact that he thinks America should more or less be a theocracy, or at least a secular state with laws based on a specific interpretation of Christianity (and that is the very definition of a fine line). I'm glad that the voters of Pennsylvania have saved us from that kind of leadership. As Hans put it to me a year ago, "We love our Caseys."

On top of that, Rumsfeld is finally gone. I will not gloat about this (much) because at its root it's sad. The parallels between what he's done and what Robert McNamara did in Vietnam are striking. How many unnecessary deaths happened in Iraq because of Rumsfeld's leadership? It's sad. I'm glad he's gone and hopeful that Robert Gates will have some good ideas about where to go from here.

In the "it's weird that people I know run for office" category, Scott Kleeb, my old colleague from grad school, lost. I'm okay with that. It's a really conservative district, and the idea of him in Congress was a little odd. We'll see where he goes next. Fellow church member Valinda Bolton won her campaign to represent southwestern Travis county in the legislature this session. Congrats to her.

Other reasons this was a great day: one brilliant practical joke on 23 involving a clever Wilco reference (it was completely justified) AND Louise recruited Hip Hippie Deb and me to play the tambourine for a rousing rendition of "Shine Jesus Shine" at prayer meeting tonight. Then one of the GA's told me she likes the Philadelphia Eagles. "Why?" I asked. "Because I like eagles." Pause. "And Philadelphia."

Life is so much fun!

vaya con dios

This may be taking the gloating a tiny bit too far:

But it sure did make me smile.

"well, now it's the dems turn to have iraq blow up in their face"

The AP is giving Virginia to Jim Webb, which means that the Democrats would take the Senate. If there is to be a recount, Republican incumbent George Allen has to ask for it. And Allen hasn't given up.

In other news, tonight's The Word on the Colbert Report ("Sigh.") is a riot.

what do YOU wear?

Having voted at my neighborhood Six Flags Over Jesus megachurch (which has a 4th of July pageant like you wouldn't believe) yesterday, this is thought provoking:
Thanks to Pastor Bob for the tip!

in the name of the lollipop guild...

If you don't believe Rumsfeld needed to go, you should read this.

For some reason, I haven't been able to get this song out of my head all day:

america the beautiful

Jasper Johns, Map (1961)


Lately all he wants to do is write love poems,
but how easy it is to ignore (for anyone other than

his lover, he thinks) these narrow exclamations.
Better this poem, which wrestles with

the big failurs - burnings, mass graves, pillaged
museums and libraries, the dead in the streets

like old toys. Maybe the carnival of love
can't heal any of this, but for two people,

and perhaps for more, it can spread like
a soft wind blowing ash from the bloom

of a rose, lifting its arms to the light, airing
a room and pulling back the sheets and asking

for nothing in return, unconditional in its devotion
to creation, to making, to love's churning -

which for nations is akin to peace, order, free
speech and elections. How dull this civics lesson

must seem, except to the lovers, for whom
walking to the corner, mailing a letter, knowing it

will go where it should and be read only by
its recipient, is a kind of ecstasy. Maybe he was right:

the love poem is the only thing to
compose in times of corruption and war.

- Rich Levy


Okay, a reporter just asked President Bush, "Does Nancy Pelosi look like Bob Bullock?" The President replied, "That's an inside joke." Uh-huh.

birds chirping


Unbelievable. Comedy Central was the first to report that Rumsfeld might be out today. This is a reflection of the sad state of our journalism.

can this day get any better?

My phone just rang. It was the CPP, with the news that Rumsfeld has resigned as Secretary of Defense. Thank goodness. His replacement will be Bob Gates, currently the president of Texas A&M. You can conveniently read all about Gates in the cover story of the current Texas Monthly.

when it's time to change, you've got to rearrange

More political commentary from my favorite 70's superstars:

election commentary

Divided government is back!

election night: democrats win the senate*

McCaskill takes Missouri, Tester probably has Montana, and Webb claimed victory in Virginia, but it will be at least December before we know what actually happened there. And thus it will be December before we know who controls the Senate.

The Democrats didn't just simply take the House; they have a 25 seat net gain at the moment, and, as James Carville just pointed out, no Democrat lost in a House or Senate race.

The Republican Revolution is over, or at least has been slowed. The CPP and I agree that this wasn't a vote for Democrats as much as it was a vote against Republicans, and, more specifically, President Bush. There will finally be a real check on Bush's power; this is good for our democracy. Moderate Republican Lincoln Chafee lost in Rhode Island; this is bad for our country and worse for the Republican party, which needs moderate voices now more than ever.

We do know that George Allen won't be able to run for president now. This is a good thing.

I detest the use of the term "balance of power" with respect to the Democratic-Republican differential in the House and Senate as it's being used on CNN and Fox News tonight. "Balance of power" is a very specific term in international relations, and it has nothing to do with political parties. This is driving me crazy.

The CPP and I just had our biennial late-night election discussion, so that means that it's time for sleep. Hooray. Analysis tomorrow. Later today. Whatever.

election night

Announcement on Virginia coming within the hour. But I was going to go to sleep!

i believe in justice

Lampson wins DeLay's seat.


election night

Webb has it in Virginia, with 100% of precincts reporting. I think this means the Democrats take the Senate, assuming Webb's lead holds in the recount.

election night

Corker wins Tennessee.

election night

It's no accident that Nancy Pelosi is wearing purple for her victory speech at the DNC party. This election is more about centrism than about a shift to the radical left. It will be good for America if we can work to develop policies that reflect compromise rather than partisan bickering.


"If you ain't got the yolk, you can't emulsify the hollandaise." - Dan Rather on The Daily Show

election night

Democrats take the House.

Virginia will have a recount. There will be plenty of accusations of voter fraud.

savage will take credit

Santorum's out.

election night

Allen's ahead in Virginia, but it's really close. We'll see.

guess he won't be a deacon now

Rick Green done punched Patrick Rose at a Baptist church voting station today.

If you haven't seen Last Man Standing, you don't know how funny this is. In the documentary about their races against one another for a state representative seat in 2002, Green actually says, on camera, that he wouldn't hit Rose because he wants to be named a deacon at his church, and you can't be a deacon if you're a striker.

election watch: earliest numbers

Very early, very tentative numbers suggest the Democrats may take the Senate. Almost 6/10 voters said they do not approve of the Iraq war and the way Bush is handling his job. It's about to be a really interesting evening.

vote snite!

Best Voter's Guide EVER!

the ones at baylor were wicked

Let the voting irregularities begin!

election day

I'm tempted to change my prediction on the Virginia Senate Race. The polls have it neck-and-neck at the moment, with Webb with a tiny advantage well within the margin of error. Based on the political futures market (and, let's face it, the gamblers always get this stuff right), Jim Webb is going to win.

We'll see. In the meantime, need I remind you to go vote? Okay. Go vote!

election day

This is a postcard of a painting that I keep by my desk in the Windowless Cubicle of Darkness and Despair. I can't tell you who painted it; I'm pretty sure that it's from MOMA. But I forgot to look the details up.

I love this painting. I love it because it shows something familiar, but in a new way. I love it because it's colorful. I love it because it's messy. Borders bleed together, blue blends into red and red into gold. The borders with Mexico and Canada are blurry.

I love this painting because it's more like the America I know than the America the pundits and politicians and blogs want us to believe in. America is messy. It isn't a world of blue and red and people who hate one another because of their political views. There's a lot of hatred, don't get me wrong, but there' s also a lot of love. Our states, our cities, and our neighborhoods are diverse and unique and distinct, but at the same they reflect commonalities the way the texture of this painting is the same regardless of the color of each state.

On this Election Day, when our country's politics are terribly divided, and in a time when there is so much uncertainty over a terrible war and the role of faith in our society, I'm thankful to know that I live in a place where the basis of our society won't change with a change in political fortunes. There are problems, to be sure, but I'm thankful to know that no one will be shot at the polls today, as was the case in Congo last week. I'm thankful to know that there won't be rioting in the streets if someone unpopular is elected. I'm thankful to know that our Constitution, not the whim of the president or the Congress, will still be the basis of our law.

Please go vote today. My friends in Goma stood in line for hours to cast votes for the first time in their lives this year. To do something that most of us can't be bothered to do. Politics can be off-putting and ridiculous, I know. But politics have a very real effect on our lives, and your choices today will make a difference. Please go vote today.


she goes negative

Best. Campaign. Ever.

a long time ago, we used to be friends

I'm not the only one who isn't happy with Gilmore Girls this season. Hmmph.

Veronica Mars, however, rocks my world.

election watch: my predictions

Since making election predictions is somewhat of a sport amongst my colleagues, here goes:
  • House - The Democrats will take the House. They need 15 seats to do it and will probably take 18-20.
  • Senate - 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats, 2 Independents who will caucus with the Democrats. The tossups here are Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Montana. Virginia and Tennessee both have gay marriage amendments on the ballot. This, coupled with recent surging in the polls for Bob Corker in Tennessee, makes me think both will vote Republican. I think Democrat Claire McCaskill has it in Missouri. Montana is closer than I can call, but I'd guess the Republicans will have better turnout. Maybe. Anyway, if the Democrats can't take Montana and either Tennessee or Virginia, they won't have a Senate majority. Their odds are better in Virginia than in Tennessee.
  • Governors - 26 Democrats, 10 Republicans. This is a wild guess based on polls I've seen the last couple of days. I don't really follow the gubenatorial races too closely.
One prediction I can make with absolute confidence is that this won't be settled by the time we go to sleep tomorrow night. The networks are going to be extra-cautious about calling races. It will probably be Wednesday morning before we know for sure. Let the games begin!

this ain't no gaffe

Leave it to Rick Perry to rally the troops on election eve.

i like how everything's sepia-toned

Here's to yet another dead-on political commentary from the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror:


hearts are brave again, and arms are strong

Today was All Saints' Sunday at church. Yes, technically All Saints' Day was Wednesday, and, yes, we're Baptist. Turns out we're un-Baptist enough to celebrate All Saints' Day and Baptist enough to do it on our own schedule. But I digress.

Today was All Saints' Sunday at church. And what we do on All Saints' Sunday, besides singing "For All the Saints" and thinking about the history of the church, is read a Litany of Remembrance. It's the only time in the year we read that litany. When it ends, a list of the members of the church who've died in the year that's passed since the last All Saints' Sunday is read. After the pastor says each name, the congregation responds, "Thanks be to God."

When that is done, the pastor opens the floor to the congregation to add the names of others who have died this year. People call the names of their friends, family, mentors, and heroes from all corners of the sanctuary. It is a holy time. It is a means by which we can mourn collectively, and acknowledge that loss is not only personal, but also communal. It is a freeing act to know that those who suffered hurt no more. It is an intimate way to give thanks for the great cloud of witnesses who go before us, and a reminder and a comfort to know that one day we will be remembered as well. And with each name, we respond, "Thanks be to God," in gratitude for their lives and the lessons they taught us.

Four people who were important to me died this year. Camille called Phil Stickland's name early in the litany. I said, "Allison Bucy," and cried through the rest of the service. So because I could not say their names this morning, here are my saints for All Saints' Day:
  • Phil Strickland, who taught us to be fearless, and that standing up for what is right wins you more respect than bowing to the changing tides of politics. Thanks be to God.
  • Bertha Knight, who loved every child who passed through Groom as though we were her own. Thanks be to God.
  • Ann Miller, who taught thousands of students to love poetry, and to love life. Thanks be to God.
  • Allison Bucy, who knew she would die too soon, and chose to love life in all its messiness and beauty anyway. Thanks be to God.

Thanks be to God as well for William Sloane Coffin, who taught us to fight for what is right, and William Styron, who wrote cautionary tales about evil that were unmoralistic and unsentimental and therefore profound. Thanks be to God for Ann Richards, who helped us to laugh.

And thanks be to God for the cloud of witnesses who are still here, teaching me to live more fully, love with all that I am, and to sacrifice everything for the sake of what is right.

excuse me while i weep for the future

One of my students just referred to American politics as "silent and sometimes deadly." I'd be crying if I weren't laughing so hard.

truth is stranger

You know. You couldn't invent Dick Cheney. He's going hunting? For the first time since last winter's series of unfortunate events? On ELECTION DAY?

You can't make this stuff up.

election watch

Well, of course someone in Franklin would yell a racial epithet at Harold Ford, Jr. as Ford was having a rally on the Square. It's probably one of the same people who would go crusin' in "You wear your X and I'll wear mine" air-brushed t-shirts and then park their trucks on the Square and proceed to sit in their flatbeds in lawn chairs getting drunk and yelling racial slurs at anybody who didn't look like them on Saturday night. Franklin may have changed, but it seems like some things never will. Sigh.

all the good ones

Noooo!!!! But ... on Doogie Howser... And what about Harold and Kumar? Maybe his love for musical theater should've been a clue.

Excuse me while I rethink the rest of my junior high teen celebrity crushes .



I've written before about the alarming similarities between the prosecution of the Vietnam War and that of the Iraq War. Here's a column that does more to expand on that theme.

the way i play the game is not the same

If you really hated George W. Bush, and you wanted to make a film about how much you hated him set to the music of George Michael, this is the film you'd make.

I want to note that I don't agree with everything in this film. But it certainly gets a message across, and lays out the abuses and failures of the administration in stark detail.

vanderslice was the hippest guy there

The Calexico episode of Austin City Limits airs tonight. The Librarian and I attended the taping in September and it was a great show. I have an important football game then, but if you have nothing else to do, definitely check it out.


election laughs

Slate crowns a winner for the worst of the worst of this year's political attack ads.

western gothic

This is admittedly only funny if you've read Cormac McCarthy.

election watch

Oooh, aren't we all looking forward to four more days of nasty political rhetoric? I know I am!

election watch

Here's the latest analysis of which way the elections are headed. I won't be making calls until Sunday or Monday, because stuff can happen over the weekend, when most of the nastiest attack ads will appear. (Tennessee voters, you ain't seen nothin' yet.) And I'm sure I'll learn something from my American politics specialist friends at our tailgate party tomorrow.

blog update

I'm really sorry for the total lack of thoughtful posting on this blog lately. The semester is in full swing, there are 100 essays comparing Reagan and Nixon's foreign policies that need to be graded, I have a conference presentation in less than two weeks, and I'll be out of town for most of November. All of this is going to make posting stuff (much less getting any sleep) pretty challenging, but hopefully there will be some deep thoughts over the next few days. There's a lot on my mind, and I'll try to do some real analysis of the elections this week. Thanks for your patience, and for being faithful Texas in Africa readers.

faith politics

So I usually try to avoid blogging about nasty sex scandals that rock Washington and/or the Heartland, but this Ted Haggard thing just keeps getting more bizarre. It's sad, and it's strange, and it makes me wonder about the relationship between faith and politics and power and orthodoxies and judgment and mercy. That's enough comment.

now the days go by so fast

He's your Mr. Big, she said this summer.
No, I said, he's not.

It's going to be a long winter. Maybe I should move to Paris.

what is a conservative?

I've been listening to the exchange between Al Mohler and Andrew Sullivan this morning. It's fascinating - Mohler says that the Kingdom of God won't come about via political means. Thanks Carlos for the link.


and west virginia = overrated



Finally, someone else (an actual professional, no less) who agrees that Tapes 'n Tapes live is waaaaaaayyyyy overrated.

election watch

Well, I'm finding this difficult to believe, but President Bush will be in Nebraska this weekend campaigning to protect the seat that Scott is challenging. That's the 3rd most conservative seat in the country. May I quote from The Note?

"...the President's party is playing a lot of defense, including a POTUS stop in Nebraska this weekend, to save the seat in the third district, about which the DCCC helpfully points out:
— In 1992, Bill Clinton came in third place in the congressional district (achieving only 23% of the vote).
— In 1996, Clinton increased his standing but still lost the district to Bob Dole 59% to 29%.
— President George W. Bush received 71% then 75% in the district.
— Republicans have held this seat for 48 years."

Unbelievable. Someone who isn't actually from Nebraska, and who's running as a Yale-educated Democrat, actually has a shot in this district. This more than anything, I think, makes it clear that a national trend can affect local races, no matter what Karl Rove thinks.

Thanks to Nebraska native Jess for the tip.



William Styron died tonight. Clearly, the New York Times had his obituary ready.

I went to see the Norman Mailer exhibit at the Ransom Center last week. It's good. If you're in Austin, you should go see it. Lots of first editions, letters, and other treasures from an era that's long gone. I'm mildly obsessed with the authors who wrote for magazines in the early 1960's. It all has to do with how much I love Willie Morris. Morris was editing Harper's, and he had people like Mailer and Styron and Larry L. King and James Jones writing for him and in this orbit. And together they wrote some beautiful things.

The first Styron book I read was his account of his battle with depression, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. We had to review a book for my high school psychology class, and that's the one I was assigned or chose or something. All I remember is that it scared me half to death. And I had no real idea that Styron was a famous novelist who had written powerful novels.

That changed in college, when I started working for the English professor who wrote her dissertation on Sophie's Choice. She had the movie poster on her office wall, and after sitting under it for hours and hours grading papers, I finally decided to read it for myself. It was difficult to read and completely brilliant. And it was amazing, heartbreaking, and sent me down a path of thinking about the Holocaust and extreme suffering for the next two years.

That's the thing about great writing. It takes you beyond simply the story printed on a page. It affects your life, sets you down a path, makes yourealize that the world isn't as you thought it was, or gives expression to what you didn't know how to express.

I oughta go read something. We all should.

election watch

This is a really interesting poll that spells super-bad news for the GOP on a national scale. What will play out in local districts remains to be seen.

This is so dead-on in its analysis of the absurdities of contemporary political debate.

poetry for all saints' day

Diamanda Galas screams sings
rage upon love
as winter forms
drop by cooling drop.

Summer past, perfect
cool of morning walks
through the park's
severe architecture.

Earlier, spring in the Blue Ridge
pastures and hill bejeweled
with violets, dogwoods, the Judas Tree

softens the bitter taste of recipes
for worming, for worry,
for the death of masters, overseers,
the uniformed patriarchs of a history

astonished by defeat, the burned mansions
moth ridden grief, come back to haunt
lanes to the left and right, that clear divide

between the Black side and the white
on All Saint's Day, a wind resurrected
as dervish spiking dry, sharp leaves

righteous fuel for barnfires
an honorable music to comfort the dead.

Patricia Spears Jones, "All Saints' Day"