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


baptist celebrities

Well, unlike The Professional Peacekeeper, I did not get my picture made in George Clooney's embrace today, but a sic 'em bears with Grant Teaff ain't bad:

so, the new baptist covenant

I'm so tired, and it's been less than 24 hours. Thus I give you, the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant by the numbers, etc.:
  • MLK references by major speakers: 9
  • Exes run into: 1
  • General consensus at our luncheon table: "Well, that's a pretty good ratio."
  • Number of times semi-acosted by members of the Secret Service who were escorting Jimmy Carter through: 1
  • Level of fanhood of Al Gore: still low
  • Total number of sermons that Tony Campolo still has: 1
  • Quality of Tony Campolo's one sermon: excellent
  • Best sermon so far: William Shaw
  • New hero: Marian Wright Edelman
  • Number of welcoming and affirming Baptist groups allowed to sponsor the NBC: 0
  • Number of welcoming and affirming Baptist groups that have a booth at the NBC: 1
  • Most ridiculously over-the-top displays in the entryway to the plenary hall that can apparently be bought when your president plans the event: Mercer University
  • Number of times our alarm clock made a funny, inexplicable sound all night long every hour on the half hour: 6
  • Amount of REM sleep I got, even with earplugs: 0
  • Parts of my life from which I have run into people associated with those times and places: Baylor, Yale, UT, Kenya
  • Number of Congolese bands playing Swahili songs in worship this morning: 1

That'll have to do for now. I need a nap.


on that midnight train to georgia

Well, after all these months of talking and writing about it, it's hard to believe that the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant is here. In a couple of hours I head to Atlanta to join with 10,000 other Baptists from diverse backgrounds to commit to working together to serve those in need.

To be honest, I'm not as excited as I expected to be. After the events of this week, I'm emotionally drained, and worried about the kids we're leaving behind. And I hate - HATE - Atlanta. But here is what I know: despite all the problems and disappointments and things that were done and things that were left undone, and despite the fact that Bill Clinton is just about the last person I want to hear talk right now, the NBC represents a great opportunity, both in the symbolic terms of reconciliation and giving the world a different kind of Baptist witness, and in the concrete sense of actually doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. I am excited to be a part of this opportunity, and will do everything I can to make sure that the events of this week translate into action.

I'll be doing some writing about the NBC for Ethics Daily, as well as hopefully some liveblogging here, so check Texas in Africa through the weekend for updates. Aaron and Brian are posting on it as well, as is Don Byrd at Report from the Capitol and the team at Baptists Today.

If you're headed to Atlanta, shoot me an email - I'd love to meet as many readers as possible.



I am not one to post a lot of highly personal information out here on the internets. While this blog is certainly opinionated, you'd generally be hard-pressed to know what's going on in my day-to-day life based on what I post here. So I'm posting this with some trepidation, but here goes:

Our church family really needs your prayers. Without going into specifics, we've had two separate, unrelated, very personal, very painful situations develop over the course of the weekend. Two families are hurting, our teenagers are shaken to the core, and our ministry team is working until all hours to help them. One family needs nothing short of a healing miracle. Another needs a deep sense of peace. And our kids need to know that none of this is their fault, that it's okay to be angry, hurt, and confused, and that they can trust the adults in their lives to be there for them no matter what. Please pray for all of them.

Last night I sat in a circle on the sanctuary floor with a bunch of our youth and the other adults who care about them. We shared memories and stories and feelings and songs and lots of tears. We shared moments for which there are no words. We made it as clear as possible that we will be there for each other, and that no one will walk through this alone. It made me proud to be part of this church family and to be friends with a group of kids who do such a great job of taking care of one another.

When it was my turn to share, I told the kids about a song I'd heard on the way to church. One of the lines in that song deals with the idea that brokenness is love's cradle or source. When I heard that line, I couldn't think of anything but Paul Tillich's sermon, "Love is Stronger than Death." Love is stronger than death. No matter what died inside our friends, no matter what will die inside of us as a result of these things, sitting under our church's cross, that ultimate symbol of love conquering death, we know that no death is stronger than the net of love that binds us all together. We would appreciate your prayers as we live out that love with one another.

the first of the lasts

Because I was at church for a very long time last night, I haven't yet gotten around to watching the State of the Union yet (Yes, I DVR-ed the State of the Union. Shut up.). But, by all accounts, it was pretty low-key, with the president doing what all lame duck presidents do: throwing in the towel and just aiming to accomplish a few little things before he leaves. The Democrats were apparently rather gleeful at this first of the lasts.

Did you watch? What did you think?

the florida primaries

Dave Barry's got your coverage.


congo watch

Well, that didn't take long. See here for Fred's informative and entertaining analysis of the peace deal itself.

in the news

Ethics Daily picked up my post on mortality in the DR Congo.

Also, I'm in the Baptist Standard!

saints preserve us

Romney in a guyabara.

Music Monday

Today's Music Monday theme is Best TV Show Theme Songs. After much consideration, I'm going to have to go with the theme from Growing Pains, for no reason other than that it's from the 80's, and that the song pretty much sums up the show. And that it's within the realm of possibility that I own an MP3 of this song. For which I paid. Ahem.

Also, Kirk Cameron's current career amuses me to no end (I'm sorry. You have to admit there's something about a guy whose main approach to evangelism involves being incredulous at the fact that "most people just don't believe they're going to burn in an eternal lake of fire." Don't get me started on Left Behind.).

Although the "sha-la-la-la" at the end of the Family Ties theme comes in a pretty close second:


broken, beautiful world

It was such a beautiful weekend in Austin. After a week of bitter cold, 33-degree, drizzly mornings, the sun came out and the 70-degree winter we expect returned.

That heartbreakingly sad things can happen on a day this gorgeous is hard to take.

at least at the airport

This is so me.



This week I learned the funniest use of a phrase: local news. You use it to mean someone or something that's fine, but not that special and kindof silly. As in, "Her ex's new girlfriend is fine, but she's kindof local news, bless her heart." This fills a gap in our language for sure!

At any rate, here's some real (and unfortunate) local news:

tactless gossip

Well, Jenna Bush is having a wedding shower today. Isn't that sweet? We believe that the rumors about her May wedding at the Crawford ranch are true, primarily because the first daughter herself stopped by the preparations for the Wedding of the Century to check out Paul Farney's magnificent floral designs. Whatever she does, Jenna's going to have a hard time topping the CPP's affair.

I'm just sayin'. :)


start stalking the Sanchez building

Well, VY is back on the Forty Acres, but only Monday nights - Thursday. Good for him and Michael Griffin to come back to work on their degrees.

you know me too well

Anybody who knows why I will love this song forever gets a bonus prize. (Hint: it's one of the reasons AllieD and I are such good friends.)


I am grumpy today. Partly because I didn't get enough sleep due to a friend's excellent birthday party. Partly because it's gray and freezing cold for the fifth day in a row. And partly because yesterday was very disillusioning.

There's not much else to say.



Here's my latest post at Inspired to Action. I am really excited to be a part of this year's Bread for the World Offering of Letters (I'll be speaking at the Austin training event for the offering on February 12) and hope you'll be inspired to get involved as well.

go down, moses

Everytime I think the Colbert Report is as funny as it can get, he proves me wrong.

For those of you who don't follow the show, Stephen Colbert has decided that he needs a new black friend (he had a falling out with his old black friend). So he's holding auditions. Monday night, his guest was Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta, former US Ambassador to the UN, and civil rights leader who's the last surviving member of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s inner circle. After a very entertaining interview, the show closed with a, um, tribute to the Colbert Report writers who are still on strike. It features Colbert, Young, Malcolm Gladwell (author of Blink), and the Harlem Gospel Choir in a truly unique musical number:


calling the option?



It's a game for the Librarian!

death in the congo

Yesterday the IRC released its latest mortality survey for the Democratic Republic of Congo. They do a survey every 2-3 years; the methodology is as sound as it can be given the circumstances, and these surveys are widely acknowledged as the best estimate of how many people have died as a result of Congo's wars.

I read the survey on the way home last night. I'm used to this stuff - it's what I do every day - but even I couldn't take the new finding that 5.4 million people have died as a result of the country's ongoing conflicts since 1998. Deaths continue at a rate of 45,000 per month. The mortality rate is 2.6 out of every 1,000 - 85% higher than the norm for sub-Saharan Africa.

5.4 million people is the population of Colorado. It's also the population of Denmark. Imagine what it would be like if every single resident of those places died within ten years.

The old number we worked off of was 3-4 million. That was bad enough.

The sad part is that these deaths are categorized as "excess deaths" - deaths that wouldn't have happened if it weren't for the wars and the ongoing insecurity. But here's the thing: the baseline for determining what an "excess death" is is not what it would be in Austin, Texas or Washington, DC or Nashville. Instead, they use the standard accepted mortality rate for sub-Saharan Africa, because this takes into account the fact that lots more people die when you live in a place that has inadequate health care, nutrition, sanitation, and clean water. So the 5.4 million who have died from this conflict is ON TOP of who knows how many millions who wouldn't have died if they'd been born in a luckier place on the other side of the world.

What makes it even sadder is something we already knew: most of these deaths (about 90%) are not the result of violence. The hundreds of thousands of women who are violently raped, those shot or hacked to death by the militias - they're a small percentage of the total number. Instead they're caused by things like diarrhea, malaria, and malnutrition that were exacerbated by the insecurity. When your already substandard health care system completely falls apart or rebels ransack your local clinic, suddenly your children die for no good reason at all. If your hometown is too insecure to ensure that your anti-retroviral drug treatment can be monitored, the donors won't fund a program to treat your HIV/AIDS.

I can't process death on this scale. It's like talking about the Holocaust, only there is no Hitler. The causes are so complex and so many are to blame that it's virtually impossible to fix. My heart hurts to know that so many innocent people have suffered so much for such low stakes.

And the stakes are low. Some people will tell you that the Congo wars are about power, or about minerals, or about what happens when nobody governs. All of these things are true. There's no question in my mind that my desire for a nice laptop and a good cell phone and a flat screen tv is highly likely to help fuel the Congo conflict - that coltan has to come from somewhere.

Sam has an essay today about intentional poverty, choosing to live simply so that you can help others with the money you would have spent on yourself. It is, I think, the only right response to the massive inequalities that plague our world. Jesus said a lot about how we treat the poor. He didn't say anything about us needing the latest and best of everything.

I don't think my comfort is worth 5.4 million lives.


The Girls of the Hills Visit Iraq

"a curiously unconstitutional opinion"

On a tip from Debra, here' s a great column from Sarah Vowell, who's one of my favorite contemporary essayists.


texas, our texas

This is quite possibly the funniest political story I have EVER read. A candidate for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Congressman Nick Lampson's seat in the Texas 22nd (Tom DeLay's old seat) sent out a campaign mailer in which his face is superimposed on a different body.

According to the Houston Chronicle, "The picture, presented as a true image of the candidate, is a computerized composite of Hrbacek's face and someone else's slimmer figure, in suit and tie, from neck to kneecaps." Here's a picture of the ad and a description of the candidate from a local.

What would we do for fun without the Sugar Land Republicans?

well, obviously

And Fred Thomspon is ... out. (Of the race.)

Our sympathies to Richard Land and other religious right leaders who now have to find another candidate to endorse.

And our thanks to the offices of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention for today's bump in site traffic. We wondered why those hits were coming in this morning.


This post on Rate Your Students (where academics go to let off steam) really got me mad this morning, so much so that I sent in one of these responses (Guess. It'll be fun.). Why? Because it is so stinkin' hard to be a young woman teaching a classroom full of frat boys for the first time.

I will never forget my first teaching assignment up north. I was six months out of undergrad, actually younger than a few of my students, and the only woman out of nine TA's for a 300-student course on American military history. One of my students had military experience, another was obsessed with weapons systems (he was a Texan), and as I was not then (nor am I now) in any way qualified to be teaching American military history, I was scared to death. The fact that students know that you're young and inexperienced means that they can find it hard to take you seriously. The only things that saved me that semester were three realizations: 1) that as long as I stayed 10 pages ahead in the reading, I knew more than they did, 2), that they wanted me to give them good grades, and 3) that my supervising professor had my back. If it weren't for her example of excellent teaching, and her commitment to developing us as instructors and scholars by buying us lunch once a week and helping us work through lesson plans, I don't know that I would have figured out how much I love teaching college students.

It's a sad fact that women don't immediately command respect in the classroom, but that's how it is. I've learned a lot since then on how to be professional and make students realize that I mean business without being mean or unapproachable. But, wow, I don't envy Nikki, and I wish her all the best.

this is the definition of my life

'Cause academic life isn't easy. At least the market is better in social sciences than in the humanities.

every night she falls

It's that kind of day. I have no idea what the Laurel & Hardy video is about.


congo watch

Representatives of Laurent Nkunda are set to sign an agreement with the Congolese government to end hostilities on Tuesday. There's some hope that it will help if everyone sticks to his word.

As of yet, there is no public version of the document, but as far as I can tell, it doesn't address the questions of Tutsi citizenship in the Congo, nor does it deal with land tenure.

This peace deal won't last.

more than 1,000 words

This picture sums up so much. So, so much.

A year from today, it will all be over.

music mondays: "munt'omnyama"

Kat has started a new feature called "Music Mondays," whereby readers of The Secret Life of Kat can link in posts about songs/albums they like. Since I love music, and since I haven't blogged about music nearly enough lately, this seems like a good time to start. From now until we'll see when, I'll try to do a post on music most Mondays.

Fair warning to Kat's readers: I don't like or listen to much Christian music, so the music mentioned in these posts may not be exactly your kind of thing. That said, it will all be family-friendly, so no worries about your little ones overhearing something you'll have to explain.

So. I was never really a hip-hop kind of gal, but these past few years, I've really developed a taste for African versions of the genre. I'm just fascinated by the idea that these musical forms have now crossed the Atlantic twice - first when slaves brought call-and-response and other rhythms to the Americas, where they developed into the blues, jazz, and eventually rock-and-roll, and then again when rock evolved into rap and rap into hip-hop, and now it's crossed back to the continent again. African hip-hop and other mixed genres of music combine traditional beats with modern forms, and I cannot get enough of it. So for today's Music Monday, I give you:

"Munt'Omnyama" by Mafikizolo featuring Stoan and Jahseed

Unfortunately, the only online version I can find of this song is the soundtrack to the second half of a YouTube tribute video to Prince Harry's girlfriend. Go fig.

Why do I love this song? For one thing, it's catchy. "Munt'Omnyama" is great to dance to, and despite the fact that I have no idea what the words actually say (the title translates to something akin to "black folks"), it seems like you just instinctively know what it's about. The song is partially based in Marabi, a style of jazz that originated in South Africa's apartheid-era townships. I dare you to listen to it and not dance.

"Munt'Omnyama" is available on the excellent Tsotsi soundtrack, or you can buy it as a single track at iTunes. Enjoy!


"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

-Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963


the great need of this hour

Here's the full text of Barack Obama's sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta this morning. I'm not a big fan of politicians in pulpits, but I cried when I read this. Here's also an interesting piece on how Obama has co-opted the language of black liberation theology in his campaign.

The Scripture tells us that when Joshua and the Israelites arrived at the gates of Jericho, they could not enter. The walls of the city were too steep for any one person to climb; too strong to be taken down with brute force. And so they sat for days, unable to pass on through.

But God had a plan for his people. He told them to stand together and march together around the city, and on the seventh day he told them that when they heard the sound of the ram’s horn, they should speak with one voice. And at the chosen hour, when the horn sounded and a chorus of voices cried out together, the mighty walls of Jericho came tumbling down.

There are many lessons to take from this passage, just as there are many lessons to take from this day, just as there are many memories that fill the space of this church. As I was thinking about which ones we need to remember at this hour, my mind went back to the very beginning of the modern Civil Rights Era.

Because before Memphis and the mountaintop; before the bridge in Selma and the march on Washington; before Birmingham and the beatings; the fire hoses and the loss of those four little girls; before there was King the icon and his magnificent dream, there was King the young preacher and a people who found themselves suffering under the yolk of oppression.

And on the eve of the bus boycotts in Montgomery, at a time when many were still doubtful about the possibilities of change, a time when those in the black community mistrusted themselves, and at times mistrusted each other, King inspired with words not of anger, but of an urgency that still speaks to us today:

“Unity is the great need of the hour” is what King said. Unity is how we shall overcome.

What Dr. King understood is that if just one person chose to walk instead of ride the bus, those walls of oppression would not be moved. But maybe if a few more walked, the foundation might start to shake. If a few more women were willing to do what Rosa Parks had done, maybe the cracks would start to show. If teenagers took freedom rides from North to South, maybe a few bricks would come loose. Maybe if white folks marched because they had come to understand that their freedom too was at stake in the impending battle, the wall would begin to sway. And if enough Americans were awakened to the injustice; if they joined together, North and South, rich and poor, Christian and Jew, then perhaps that wall would come tumbling down, and justice would flow like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Unity is the great need of the hour – the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it’s the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.

I’m not talking about a budget deficit. I’m not talking about a trade deficit. I’m not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans.

I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.

We have an empathy deficit when we’re still sending our children down corridors of shame – schools in the forgotten corners of America where the color of your skin still affects the content of your education.

We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; when mothers can’t afford a doctor when their children get sick.

We have a deficit in this country when there is Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others; when our children see nooses hanging from a schoolyard tree today, in the present, in the twenty-first century.

We have a deficit when homeless veterans sleep on the streets of our cities; when innocents are slaughtered in the deserts of Darfur; when young Americans serve tour after tour of duty in a war that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged.

And we have a deficit when it takes a breach in our levees to reveal a breach in our compassion; when it takes a terrible storm to reveal the hungry that God calls on us to feed; the sick He calls on us to care for; the least of these He commands that we treat as our own.

So we have a deficit to close. We have walls – barriers to justice and equality – that must come down. And to do this, we know that unity is the great need of this hour.

Unfortunately, all too often when we talk about unity in this country, we’ve come to believe that it can be purchased on the cheap. We’ve come to believe that racial reconciliation can come easily – that it’s just a matter of a few ignorant people trapped in the prejudices of the past, and that if the demagogues and those who exploit our racial divisions will simply go away, then all our problems would be solved.

All too often, we seek to ignore the profound institutional barriers that stand in the way of ensuring opportunity for all children, or decent jobs for all people, or health care for those who are sick. We long for unity, but are unwilling to pay the price.

But of course, true unity cannot be so easily won. It starts with a change in attitudes – a broadening of our minds, and a broadening of our hearts.

It’s not easy to stand in somebody else’s shoes. It’s not easy to see past our differences. We’ve all encountered this in our own lives. But what makes it even more difficult is that we have a politics in this country that seeks to drive us apart – that puts up walls between us.

We are told that those who differ from us on a few things are different from us on all things; that our problems are the fault of those who don’t think like us or look like us or come from where we do. The welfare queen is taking our tax money. The immigrant is taking our jobs. The believer condemns the non-believer as immoral, and the non-believer chides the believer as intolerant.

For most of this country’s history, we in the African American community have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays – on the job, in the schools, in our health care system and in our criminal justice system.

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community.

We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.

Every day, our politics fuels and exploits this kind of division across all races and regions; across gender and party. It is played out on television. It is sensationalized by the media. And last week, it even crept into the campaign for President, with charges and counter-charges that served to obscure the issues instead of illuminating the critical choices we face as a nation.

So let us say that on this day of all days, each of us carries with us the task of changing our hearts and minds. The division, the stereotypes, the scapegoating, the ease with which we blame our plight on others – all of this distracts us from the common challenges we face – war and poverty; injustice and inequality. We can no longer afford to build ourselves up by tearing someone else down. We can no longer afford to traffic in lies or fear or hate. It is the poison that we must purge from our politics; the wall that we must tear down before the hour grows too late.

Because if Dr. King could love his jailor; if he could call on the faithful who once sat where you do to forgive those who set dogs and fire hoses upon them, then surely we can look past what divides us in our time, and bind up our wounds, and erase the empathy deficit that exists in our hearts.

But if changing our hearts and minds is the first critical step, we cannot stop there. It is not enough to bemoan the plight of poor children in this country and remain unwilling to push our elected officials to provide the resources to fix our schools. It is not enough to decry the disparities of health care and yet allow the insurance companies and the drug companies to block much-needed reforms. It is not enough for us to abhor the costs of a misguided war, and yet allow ourselves to be driven by a politics of fear that sees the threat of attack as way to scare up votes instead of a call to come together around a common effort.

The Scripture tells us that we are judged not just by word, but by deed. And if we are to truly bring about the unity that is so crucial in this time, we must find it within ourselves to act on what we know; to understand that living up to this country’s ideals and its possibilities will require great effort and resources; sacrifice and stamina.

And that is what is at stake in the great political debate we are having today. The changes that are needed are not just a matter of tinkering at the edges, and they will not come if politicians simply tell us what we want to hear. All of us will be called upon to make some sacrifice. None of us will be exempt from responsibility. We will have to fight to fix our schools, but we will also have to challenge ourselves to be better parents. We will have to confront the biases in our criminal justice system, but we will also have to acknowledge the deep-seated violence that still resides in our own communities and marshal the will to break its grip.

That is how we will bring about the change we seek. That is how Dr. King led this country through the wilderness. He did it with words – words that he spoke not just to the children of slaves, but the children of slave owners. Words that inspired not just black but also white; not just the Christian but the Jew; not just the Southerner but also the Northerner.

He led with words, but he also led with deeds. He also led by example. He led by marching and going to jail and suffering threats and being away from his family. He led by taking a stand against a war, knowing full well that it would diminish his popularity. He led by challenging our economic structures, understanding that it would cause discomfort. Dr. King understood that unity cannot be won on the cheap; that we would have to earn it through great effort and determination.

That is the unity – the hard-earned unity – that we need right now. It is that effort, and that determination, that can transform blind optimism into hope – the hope to imagine, and work for, and fight for what seemed impossible before.

The stories that give me such hope don’t happen in the spotlight. They don’t happen on the presidential stage. They happen in the quiet corners of our lives. They happen in the moments we least expect. Let me give you an example of one of those stories.

There is a young, 23-year-old white woman named Ashley Baia who organizes for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She’s been working to organize a mostly African American community since the beginning of this campaign, and the other day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

So Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we begin. It is why the walls in that room began to crack and shake.

And if they can shake in that room, they can shake in Atlanta.

And if they can shake in Atlanta, they can shake in Georgia.

And if they can shake in Georgia, they can shake all across America. And if enough of our voices join together; we can bring those walls tumbling down. The walls of Jericho can finally come tumbling down. That is our hope – but only if we pray together, and work together, and march together.

Brothers and sisters, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle for peace and justice, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle for opportunity and equality, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle to heal this nation and repair this world, we cannot walk alone.

So I ask you to walk with me, and march with me, and join your voice with mine, and together we will sing the song that tears down the walls that divide us, and lift up an America that is truly indivisible, with liberty, and justice, for all. May God bless the memory of the great pastor of this church, and may God bless the United States of America.


deep in my heart, i do believe

I don't know if you've ever heard the entire "I Have a Dream" speech. I'm having my students watch it today, and am struck once again by what an incredible oratory Dr. King gave on that day 45 years ago. Part sermon, part political speech, and all call to action, he said exactly what needed to be said in that time and place: that injustice in our world poses moral questions that demand a response. There's a reason those words still speak to us today, for the great challenges of our time also demand that we reply.

As we're enjoying the long weekend, I encourage you to engage with his words and to commit to living in such a way as to free those who are oppressed.

no writers, eh?

This is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long, long time:

"you know, for kids!"

Richard Knerr, inventor of the Hula Hoop, the Slip 'n Slide, and Silly String (and the first mass-producer of the Frisbee) has died.

There's only one appropriate way to commemorate Knerr's wacky circumference:


time flies

It's been ten years? Really?

but why?!?

Oh. My. Word.

I can't wait to hear what my Louisiana readers have to say about this.

The link is not for the faint of heart, or the very sensitive, or those who care about the sacredness of football stadia. To put it mildly.

Oh, my.

a sinking feeling

So there's this Congolese doctor who periodically emails me love letters (from the last one: "I await your response knowing that the most beautiful girl cannot give me that which she has.").

Not wanting to encourage him, I generally just ignore them. But today I've reached a point in my research where I'm writing about his hospital. And I have a question that we didn't cover in our interview. Which means that I need to email him.

There has to be another way to figure this out.


Reason #4 that I love my job: it is currently 1:43 pm and 39 degrees outside and I am sitting on my sofa, still in my pj's, under my big, fluffy down comforter, working on my dissertation. Specifically, I'm analyzing differences in the quality of hospitals in Bukavu by looking at numbers of doctors and nurses, training levels, infrastructures, and medical supplies. And they pay me to do this.

not angry about it?

The CPP sends this link to Rob Jeopardy! Marus' excellent overview of Mike Huckabee's complicated relationship with the SBC leadership.


Everything's bigger in Texas.

in kenya...

"American diplomats in Kenya recently finished their own analysis of the voting results and concluded that the election was so flawed it was impossible to tell who really won." - NYT

How very diplomatic of them.

The protests continue. Tensions are really high in Kisumu, Kenya's third-largest city that sits on a gulf of Lake Victoria. Kisumu is a lovely place of which I have fond memories. It's sad to know that "stone-throwing mobs" are rampaging there.


congo watch

This is succinct.

what is a leader?

take that, sabanation!

Major's coming home!

A sample of the excitement from the fans:

"One time in the fall of 99 I saw Major walk across Town Lake."

"When walking across town lake he didn’t walk on water. He parted the water first."

"Major Applewhite is seven feet tall and kills Aggies by the hundreds."

"Let’s just hope he doesn’t have to share his new coaching job with Chris Simms!"

"It was fall 98, I witnessed Major deliver a baby in the back of a cab on Red River. He had to perform a C section with a Swiss Army knife and 3 packs of ketchup. He then went to the stadium and threw for 300 yds and 3 TDs."


Proof that you can write a dissertation about anything.

in kenya...

Police stopped a rally at Nairobi's Uhuru Park today with tear gas cannisters. Other protests around the country apparently resulted in deaths. People apparently came out despite the rain. Sam says schools are closed; the new school year starts in January for most Kenyan schools, but many have yet to open.

race matters?

70% of African-Americans voting in yesterday's meaningless Michigan Democratic Primary picked "uncommitted" over Hillary Clinton. Exit polls suggest that had Obama's name been on the ballot, he would have won the African-American vote with 73% of the total votes cast.

In other news, for what it's worth (not much) a Reuters/Zogby poll shows a tie nationally between Clinton and Obama. What a fun election year this is!


audience of one

There's one showing of Audience of One at the new Alamo Ritz Downtown Wednesday night at 7. The film is about a Pentecostal preacher in San Franscisco who believes that God has commanded him to make a futuristic science fiction film about Joseph that somehow involves a threat from invading aliens -- despite the fact that the pastor and his congregation know next-to-nothing about filmmaking.

I cannot recommend this enough; Steve Not the Lawer and I saw it at SXSW and got to hear the filmmaker and the pastor featured in the film. My review of that screening is here. Definitely check it out if you have some time Wednesday night.

hello, dominionist?

My whole, "I won't worry for America if Huckabee wins" thing? Out the window, just now. Anyone who's that out of touch with the intent of the Founding Fathers AND with the Word of God isn't the president we need.

that's it!!!!

Hillary is Tracy Flick!

bleepin' chris sims

It's official: Major is on campus as we live and work and write last-minute letters of recommendation for somewhat irresponsible undergraduates. And the Statesman's stalker play-by-play will keep you updated on just where he is.


My evaluations for last semester arrived today.

It's always a little nerve-wracking to open that envelope. Sure, students are fickle, and anyone reading these evaluations with thoughts of giving me a tenure-track job will know that the student who never studies for an exam and never comes to class is going to complain that the exams are too hard. Or that some students will say the subject matter is "unsalvagably boring" no matter how good the instructor is (note to that student: there are some days when I couldn't agree more). Or that somebody will think your lecture style is too fast-paced, while somebody else asks if you could hurry up. We're used to parsing through this stuff and looking at trends rather than individual comments.

But still. There's part of me that wants to know that I'm becoming a better educator, that I conveyed the material effectively, and that the students enjoyed the class. I want them to have liked me, darn it.

Anyway, luckily, this semester's evaluations are fine, and the criticisms are constructive. Here's the most perplexing comment:

"I felt like I was back in high school, but in a good way."

Does anyone know what this means?!?


congo watch

Michael at Levellers sent me this link to a segment from last night's broadcast of 60 Minutes that features Anderson Cooper reporting on the rape epidemic from the eastern D.R. Congo.

Please, please, please watch it.

It isn't easy, but it is reality. Dr. Mukwege, the chief of medicine at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, is an amazing man. I interviewed him for my dissertation and learned all about the hospital he started and runs. It is supported by two local Pentecostal denominations, one with its roots in Sweden and the other from Norwegian missions. Dr. Mukwege sees and processes the absolute worst things that people do to one another. He and his staff need your prayers every single day, as do, of course, their patients, and all the women and girls who never make it to Panzi or Heal Africa, or any other health facility.

The film flips back and forth between Bukavu (where Panzi is) and Goma. So many familiar places stir up so many memories. The court they show at the end is about 2 blocks from C & E's house.

I like this clip because it tells the story well, but it also shows you what it's like in the DRC. It gives you an idea of what the spectacular landscape looks like; it also shows you the nicest hospital in the region. And I love that it ends with hope, with a baby named Bahati ("luck") whose 24-year-old mother has endured more suffering than most of us will see in a lifetime, but who still found it in herself to see this child as a blessing rather than a curse.

Please watch the clip. Tell me what you think. Let me know if you have questions and I'll try to find an answer.

congo watch

News from Hope for the Helpless, an American NGO that raises money for for the mission work of my friends C & E in Goma. This woman (her name means "happy") needs our prayers:

"I just got word today that Mama Furaha is being kicked out of her home. It is not because of money, for we have enough money to pay her rent for 2 years. What would make a person kick a renter out with 4 little girls onto the streets with no place to go? I could somewhat understand if she was not paying rent and I needed the money but if she is paying rent what would make me push her to the streets? I cannot imagine how cold someone's heart must be to put a widow and 4 children onto the street. I found out that the landlord does not want her as a renter because she has HIV/AIDS. Mama Furaha's only crime is being a victim of rape and contracting HIV/AIDS from it. Society shuns her because she was raped and now they are isolating her because she has HIV/AIDS."

congo watch

There's a peace conference going on in Goma. It's been a bit of a mess so far; they planned for 300, and the last count I saw had 800 delegates showing up. As Fred points out, there are only 250 or so hotel rooms in Goma that are nice enough to accomodate even the most self-styled delegates.

Anyway, representatives of Nkunda's rebels walked out, and then they came back, and now they're promising to keep fighting, but they also want to talk directly with the government.

None of this is the least bit surprising. And none of it will make a bit of difference. The problems Nkunda and his men are fighting over pre-date the wars, the Rwandan genocide, and the Zairian democratization crisis. Quite simply, until the questions of Tutsi citizenship and land tenure are resolved, fighting will continue in North Kivu. It's breathtakingly simple, and unbelievably complex.

in kenya

Kenya's parliament opens on Thursday. Given that the party of the candidate who was not named president (despite increasing evidence that he won) has the majority, there's lots of potential for trouble in the Parliament building.

Meanwhile, here's a pretty good article about the situation and how it is different from what happened in Rwanda. I still wouldn't characterize Kenya as "unstable," but there's no question that things now are not good.

link love

Just a reminder that we're updating links around here. If you'd like to be linked to on Texas in Africa and haven't already done so, leave a note (with your blog url!) in the comments.

about that other war...



This campaign is so over.

career opportunities

My friends have/have had some pretty cool/interesting jobs. Among them are college professor, speechwriter for the Secretary General of the United Nations, musician, minister, lawyer defending detainees at Guantanomo Bay, NICU nurse, chaplain, diplomat in charge of Darfur policy, conservationist, Finnish soldier, ob/gyn, lawyer defending the government's torture policies, maritime security expert, peacekeeper, Peruvian technocrat, cancer biologist, librarian, war gamer, video game programmer, legal translator, rancher, CNN-er, one who makes a living giving inspirational speeches based on her reality show experience, several mommies and daddies, and many, many more.

But none of that is as wild as the fact that one just started doing a podcast for ESPN. The subject: cage fighting.

You can't make this stuff up. Who do you know who does something cool?

pointless self-disclosure

LJ at CityGrits tagged me. Here goes:

1. Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.

Seven Facts About Me
1. Places. The most spectacular place I've been is Livingstone Island in the middle of Victoria Falls. The most picturesque is the view from a sea kayak along the Amalfi Coast. The most beautiful is Gimmelwald. The most sophisticated is the Place Vendome. The most bizarre is Dubai. The most surreal is the electronics district in Tokyo. But my favorite place in the world is up the mountain from Black Mountain.
2. Freakish fact. I get squeamish around honeycomb patterns. Actual honeycombs, screen doors, ace bandages, chain link fences if I think about them too much, whatever. It freaks me out. Sends chills up my spine and makes my stomach turn. I don't know why.
3. Music. There are currently 8,144 songs on my iPod. This does not constitute my entire music collection.
4. Travel. I have lived 14 months of life in various places in sub-Saharan Africa.
5. More music. I love South African township hip-hop.
6. I should start a library. The last time I packed up everything and put into storage to go live in the Congo, there were 55 filing boxes of books, notebooks, and files. 75% of the books have nothing to do with my profession.
7. Professional. Next year I will be the last member of my PhD cohort (entering class) still in Austin. None of us has earned a PhD as of yet. I can't decide which of these two facts is less depressing. :)

Now, I tag some of the people behind the new links that will soon be appearing here - Chris, Amy, Gary, Euphrony, and anybody else who wants to do something this silly.

amen again

Mercer Professor and renowned Baptist ethicist David Gushee has a very important piece on the ethics of evangelical engagement in politics today. These seem to me to be the most important points:

"If there are people who reject God or the church, Christianity or religiously inspired moral values because of what conservative evangelical political activists do, this is disastrous from a Christian point of view."

And this:

"Once any group of Christians gives itself away so completely to a political party, it ceases to be the church."

And this:

"The fundamental task of a religious organization is to serve God, not win in secular politics."

Amen and amen.

organizing skills of which he dare not speak

Because I enjoy snark, most days I watch Politico.com's Playbook TV, a video podcast that covers current political events with a bit of mockery. Today's is pretty spectacular in that host James Kotecki manages to emphasize Barack Obama's community organizing skills and reference Sufjan Stevens with respect to Mitt Romney, so I thought I'd share it here:

in kenya...

Things in Kenya are still fairly tense. Sam reports that their part of Nairobi has pretty much returned to normal, other parts of the city are full of displaced people who are sleeping in open fields to assure their safety. However, the news that exit polls conducted by the U.S. government-backed International Republican Institute indicate that President Mwai Kibaki actually lost the election is sure to set off a new round of violence. The data hasn't been released, but if it's on the news here, you can be sure it's being relayed by text message across Kenya.

Add that to weekend accusations that some people are being paid to incite violence (which is not at all surprising, considering how election-related violence in Kenya has played out in the past) and I'm afraid that it may be even longer before this dispute is resolved.

One bright light in the midst of something so sad: Kenya's thriving middle class isn't putting up with this. Under the old Moi dictatorship, everyone knew he was stealing elections, but no one could really protest it without threat of jail or worse. Now, protest is alive and well, and people are demanding that their government be transparent and truly democratic. Although the current round of planned protests may not help to restore calm, and although Kenya still has a ways to go to full democratization, there's no question that the country's democracy is growing and strengthening. That's something of which every Kenyan can be proud.

ah, the first day of school

You know you're back to class when:
  • The alarm went off at 6:30.
  • In the morning.
  • When it's dark.
  • It's 34 degrees at the bus stop.
  • The first thing in your email inbox is a request for four letters of recommendation.
  • That are due tomorrow.


the wages of sin


it can't all be wedding cake

Now why didn't the CPP do this?

blog love

It's time to spread the love. No, we're not starting a Texas in Africa dating service. (Not yet, anyway. Maybe when we go public.)

But it's been forever-and-a-day since I've updated this blog's links, and there are lots of new Texas in Africa readers who have blogs that I read, but whose blogs I've never linked to. So...if you are a regular Texas in Africa reader and would like me to link to your blog, leave a comment with your blog address and I'll add you to the list.


hey, Baylor!

Someone at Baylor needs to hurry up and fly out Brian Brabazon for a game. And present him with as many Baylor Basketball shirts as he needs.

obama vs. fox

Wouldn't you freeze them out? He's thawing it a little this week.

Much of what airs on Fox is not news; it's opinion. For example, in their Iraq war coverage in 2004, 73% of what aired was opinion.

I can't tell you what damage this does. I have students who seem to be incapable of separating fact from opinion, and who will argue with me about easily proved facts.



Today was my daddy's birthday. I love you, daddy!


Well, my first foray into the world of sushi was much better than expected. The Librarian and I both learned that raw fish doesn't taste nearly as fishy or slimy as you might think.

Plus, the birthday cake they brought the Mommy of Twins was amazing:

that kind of day

looking at elections: the electoral compass

This is a fun way to find which candidate's views match your own. It can't account for personality, though.

and condors!

This looks like so much fun. So, so much fun. The canyon is twice the depth of the Grand Canyon!


a wild, raging rapid

Our guide told us that running the Zambezi during the rainy season is somewhat terrifying. You can't even run the first half of the trip I did in August, and once you get to the high water put-in, there are lots of whirlpools that pop up around those rocks.

The Zambezi is in flood stage right now, and 45,000 people downriver in Mozambique have fled their homes to escape the rising waters. It could get much worse before it gets better.

what's new?

This is the current headline on Statesman.com:

"Oil makes oozy mess on Sixth Street."

And this is different from any other night how?

get thee to smithville

Being an extra in a Terrence Malik film would be pretty darn cool...


Here's my latest post at Inspired to Action.

"i've been to epcot"

Huckabee doesn't support a pneumatic tube? There goes the wingnut vote.

looking at elections: the bradley effect

(The latest in a series of posts aimed at explaining election stuff to all you lucky non-political scientists)

Not 20 minutes after the networks called it for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, I started to see mentions of the "Bradley Effect" on political blogs and news sites. The Bradley Effect refers to a phenomenon in which pre-election polls inaccurately predict an African-American or other minority candidate's percentage of the vote because voters being polled want the person asking the question to believe that they would vote for a minority candidate even though they won't.

In the case of this week's vote, this would cause us to infer that the Bradley Effect was the reason Barack Obama enjoyed a strong advantage over Hillary Clinton in the polls leading up to Tuesday's primary but still lost to Clinton. New Hampshire voters, the thesis goes, want to be seen by pollsters as progressive, open-minded people, but in reality, some of them were lying and don't actually intend to vote for the African-American candidate for whatever reason.

(A side argument on this says that perhaps that's why Obama did so well in Iowa: the social pressure and public nature of the caucuses meant that people had to take a public stand. If they want to be perceived as progressive, they had to back up what they told pollsters with their actual vote.)

I'm inclined not to buy the thesis that the Bradley Effect explains why pollsters were wrong about New Hampshire. Why? Because, as Charles Franklin eloquently explains over at Mystery Pollster, the polls were actually pretty accurate when it came to predicting how much of the total vote Obama would receive. As Franklin notes, "The standard trend estimate for Obama was 36.7%, the sensitive estimate was 39.0% and the last five poll average was 38.4%, all reasonably close to his actual 36.4%."

The mistake, therefore, was not in the predictions as to how Obama would do, but rather pollsters failed to capture how much support Hillary Clinton gained. And I don't think there's much they could have done to mitigate that; the exit poll data made it clear that a lot of voters made up their minds at the very end of the race. Among the 17% of Democratic primary voters who decided on election day, Clinton got 39% to Obama's 36%. I think those 19,000 or so votes (almost 2,000 more than Obama), added to those who decided long ago that they would vote for her, were probably enough to push her over the top. Clinton won by less than 8,000 votes.

While I have no doubt that there are many Americans who won't vote for Obama because of the color of his skin, in this case, I just don't think that's what happened. South Carolina may be more interesting in this regard, but there, I'm not sure there's an incentive for voters to lie to pollsters. Half of South Carolina's Democratic primary voters are African-American, and there's less social pressure among South Carolina whites to be seen as politically and socially progressive.


"FBI Wiretaps Dropped Due to Unpaid Bills"

congo watch

Here's a pretty good piece on the underlying tensions that drive conflict in the Kivus.

oy vey!

Ah, bridesmaids' dresses.

The dresses for the Wedding of the Century were really pretty. I wouldn't say they're exactly re-wearable (not in Austin, anyway), but they were flattering to everyone in color and fit, and they looked really elegant.

The same, however, cannot be said for the vast majority of bridesmaids' dresses. What would Michael Kors say about this?!?

"Oh my gosh! Something I can't pronounce!"

Dude's living in Ikea.

a gift for your sweetie

This would certainly be...memorable.


i'm still offended

So Bill Richardson is out, which in my mind means he's running for VP. He with Obama would make me feel a lot better about Obama's lack of foreign policy experience.


Drew Smith has a very thoughtful column on what it means to be truly pro-life over at Ethics Daily today.

congo on your tv

Coming to a television near you tonight (Wednesday):

The Science of Evil
"Is 'evil' a force that resides in all human hearts?"
7:00 pm (central) on January 9, 2008

National Geographic Channel

This was (at least partly) filmed in DR Congo this past year. If you have Time-Warner digital cable in Austin, National Geographic is channel 232. I'm really excited about seeing it, as the Congo is a place where you hear people discuss "evil" in a way that doesn't happen many other places in the world. It's hard to talk about men who gang-rape six-year-olds in any other way.


our long national nightmare continues...

NBC and the AP have called it for Clinton.

this doesn't happen

10,000 new voter registrations in Chicago since Obama's win in Iowa. Mostly among the kids. This never happens. Wow.

primary results

The networks are too scared to release anything before the polls close, but Politico.com already has numbers up. Presumbaly these are for Dix's Notch and that other little town, given that their numbers are from 0.66% of precincts reporting.

As for me, I'll be watching for Professor Dr. D-Line on Fox as long as I can stand it, monitoring Politico.com, and flipping between MSNBC and CNN to find the best clip to show in class tomorrow. Happy primary night!

people keep asking if I'm going back

Oooh, it's travel warning time! A couple of times a year, one of these arrives from the American embassy in Kinshasa. Today's is as awesome as usual:

"Armed groups and active duty and demobilized Congolese troops in parts of the country, including Eastern Congo , are known to pillage, carjack, and steal vehicles, kill extra-judicially, rape, kidnap, and carry out military or paramilitary operations. Large numbers of former rebel and government soldiers to be demobilized, as a result of the earlier peace process, remain a security concern. Travelers are frequently detained and questioned by poorly disciplined security forces at numerous roadblocks and border crossings throughout the country.

"Travelers to the DRC frequently experience difficulties at the airport and other ports of entry, such as temporary detention, passport confiscation and demands by immigration and security personnel for unofficial “special fees.” ...Border closures of 24-48 hours duration can occur without much advance notice.

"...Public Health concerns also pose a hazard to U.S. citizen travelers for outbreaks of deadly viruses and other diseases which can occur without warning and many times are not rapidly reported by local health authorities. During the months of August-October, lab confirmed cases of Ebola were found in the Luebo area of Kasai Occidental Province . ...Official notification of the end of the Ebola epidemic (42 days after the last identified case) was announced in mid November 2007."

I can check off having experienced detention and questioning at border crossings and demands for "special fees" at the airport. Good times. Maybe I should've studied local politics in Tuscany...

hello, captain obvious

Duh. Not liking Hillary is not equivalent to not liking feminism.

always remember to kiss babies and shake hands, not vice-versa

This is possibly the best political story of all time: "I got my baby photographed with every candidate...except one."

Thoughts: we are not the least bit surprised to learn that Fred Thompson is the missing link. And it's one smart baby who wails and cries in the arms of Rudy Giuliani. And I would NEVER let Chuck Norris touch my baby.

primary day!

Huge turnout in New Hampshire. Some towns are worried about running out of ballots for the D's.

primary results!

Well, the primary results are in from Dixville Notch, a northern New Hampshire town that keeps its polls open for one minute at midnight. Here are the results from today's voting:

Democratic Primary
Obama - 7
Edwards - 2
Richardson - 1
Clinton - 0

Republican Primary
McCain - 4
Romney - 2
Giuliani -1
Huckabee - 0

in kenya...

Obama has been doing what he can to help calm things down in Kenya.

primary day

Well, D-Line is stuck inside a quarrantine room, analyzing exit poll data from today's New Hampshire primaries. Have you ever wondered how an exit poll works? Here's an interesting primer.



I am nowhere near smart enough to be playing around with my blog's design.

But I'm doing it anyway.

Thanks for your patience.

Also, if you're smarter than me and have suggestions on how to keep this background but change the rest of the template to something that matches, I'd appreciate it.

(Keep in mind that I don't understand technology. Or words like "script" and "xtml."

congo watch

I know my frequent "Congo Watch" posts aren't something most Texas in Africa readers read, and that's okay. I use this site partly as a filing cabinet for my research, so I can go back and find articles without having to print them out. It really doesn't hurt my feelings if you skip these. (Or skip anything. It's just a blog, for goodness sakes.)

But I was reading this story over the weekend, and it broke my heart. And so I'd like to ask that you read it, and remember what women and girls endure, and pray for Dr. Christopher and those who work with him at Heal to help these victims and for Faura and Chaunce, who is ELEVEN MONTHS OLD, and Faura's other kids. Here's a little snippet for those who don't want to click through:

"Sexual violence has escalated as hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee the safety of their homes -- around 400,000 people since August, when Nkunda quit a peace deal, bringing North Kivu's displaced population to 800,000.

...Faura Ngabu Noela holds her 11-month-old daughter Chaunce close on her lap.

Villagers found Chaunce covered in grass, dirt and blood after she was raped by a 22-year-old man in her village, Noela said.

'I took her to the local hospital for surgery to repair her torn vagina, but it became infected and I had to bring her to Goma to have another operation and to heal that infection.'

Now Noela says she is eager to go home.

'I just want to return to my other children because with the war, I'm not sure they are safe,' Noela said."

oh, yeah

We find it difficult to get excited about a national championship game that pits two teams we hate against one another. I mean, OSU is okay, but we're still a little bitter over 2006. Regardless of our opinions, however, obviously LSU has this one. Don't kid yourself.

but, but, our t-shirts...

Say it ain't so!

new hampshire on my mind

I have some issues with Zogby's polling methodology, but nonetheless, I think their new poll is right: Obama is going to win New Hampshire by a fairly wide margin, and Romney's loss in Iowa will propel McCain to a win in New Hampshire by a respectable margin. That said, New Hampshire voters are notoriously fickle and hard-headed, and there's plenty of time for someone to goof up between now and then.

now is the time

unintended consequences

Proof positive that trying to stop teenagers from kissing is like herding cats. It's too bad that a well-intentioned law was written so poorly that there's deliberate non-enforcement of portions of it.


back to school

I never get tired of showing this on the first day of class:

trust the polls?

Just a little public service announcement for the politically inclined: don't pay attention to this weekend's polls from New Hampshire. While they're interesting, they were also taken on Friday and Saturday nights, which is the worst possible time to conduct a poll. Why? Because you don't get a truly representative sample. Certain demographics are likely to be sitting at home, answering the phone, while other demographics are very likely to not be sitting at home (or to have a home phone in the first place, but that's another topic). Thus, no matter how careful they are, it's very hard for pollsters to get a truly representative look at what voters are thinking.

There will be polls out tomorrow, and those are the ones that will give the most accurate picture of what's going to happen in New Hampshire on Tuesday, assuming none of the candidates majorly screws something up between now and then. Why? Because it's Sunday night, it's cold, and there's football on. People will be at home.

new hampshire

I think Obama has it. And if he wins New Hampshire, it's over.


the book list

I've been tagged by Kevin at Confessions of a Recovering Pharisee:

1. One book that changed your life:

Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son (purchased at the Catholic bookshop in Nairobi when I was 20)

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:

Willie Morris, North Toward Home (an annual read)

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:

John 'Lofty' Wiseman, SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea

4. Two books that made you laugh:

Sarah Vowell, Assassination Vacation

Anne Fadiman, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

5. One book that made you cry:

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (One of the best books I've ever read. It's a fictional letter from a dying pastor to his seven-year-old son.)

6. One book that you wish had been written:

The Wedding of the Century: a True Story by the CPP and Texas in Africa

7. One book that you wish had never been written:

Elizabeth Eliot, Passion and Purity (Dare I say I think it's extra-biblical? I'll wait for the wrath to descend.)

8. Two books you’re currently reading:
Dave Eggers, What is the What? (a book about a Sudanese refugee)

Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:

Graham Hancock, Lords of Poverty: the Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business

and John Ryan, Micronations (a travel guide to all the countries not recognized by the UN, like the guy who declares his backyard a sovereign state)

10. Now tag five (or so) people:
Emily (Happy Birthday!), Euphrony, Amy, Jess, David

"trapped in our tranquility"

Those of you with friends in Kenya may find this tidbit from Sam and Melody's latest update useful:

"Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and Africa Inland Mission (AIM) Air have done a remarkable job evacuating mission personnel from affected regions. Kenya Peace Corps workers from affected regions have been evacuated to Tanzania. A few international organizations have evacuated a few families, however there does not appear to be a move in that direction at the moment. Most tourists are leaving and most who were planning to come have cancelled. This comes at the height of the tourist season which is currently Kenya's main income industry. I expect it will be some time before it recovers."

Sam is giving a homily at their church tomorrow. His reflections on Christian solidarity are definitely worth your time to read. Reading it reminds me of how grateful I am that Sam, an American citizen with an utmost respect for and deep understanding of Kenya's customs and traditions, is the person who introduced me to that country and taught me to be truly present wherever I am. It's a fitting reminder for Epiphany.

i've always loved this song

the cake

Because I really felt like you should all get to see the cake from the Wedding of the Century. This is E's picture: Please note the bed of de-stemmed roses on which it is sitting.

but i still don't trust kristof

Finally a voice of reason: "Kenya Isn't Rwanda."

we are not fans of Fox "news" around here

This is a new low, but it sure is funny.


weeping for america

You know, you can pick a president based on things like experience, background, positions, or whether his/her values match yours. Or you could pick him or her like this.

Which one do you think most Americans vote on?

in kenya...

So while we were out, Kenya held tightly contested elections. The ruling party was declared the winner, but there were serious electoral irregularities (including the pressure put on the electoral commission to release a ruling), and, long story short, violence erupted. Over 300 people have since been killed in rioting that has an unfortunate ethnic tone. 180,000 people have fled their homes. There are attempts at banned protests and those in power aren't doing as much as they could to quickly end this.

I've avoided posting about this because it makes me really sad. It's partly because this doesn't happen in Kenya. Kenyans pride themselves on having never had a civil war, and on being a bastion of stability in a region that has some problems. Nairobi is a major, cosmopolitan city, with shopping malls and traffic lights and skyscrapers. It has its problems, yes, but the situation there is nothing like that of the Sudan or the Congo or Somalia. This election featured polling and campaigning via text messaging in a country with a growing middle class that popped up in the last ten years. Kenya is not a basket case.

The other reason it's so sad, aside from the violence itself, of course, is personal. Kenya is the place I fell in love with the study of politics on the continent. It's been almost ten years since I studied abroad there, and I pass through every time I'm in the Congo. I have very good friends who live in the country, and they are watching the unfolding events in shock as well.

If you'd like to read more about the situation there from some friends on the ground, please check out my friends Sam and Melody's website. They are exceptionally well-suited to explain Kenya to Americans, having both grown up in the region and having lived there for most of their adult lives. Keep your thoughts and prayers with them, and with the millions of Kenyans who are experiencing such a terrible situation.


big games

Since two of my favorite sports (politics and the Orange Bowl) are on tonight, I've been flipping channels. Here's what we know: turnout was huge in Iowa, and Kansas is (so far) saving the Big XII from total BCS embarrassment this year. 218,000 Iowans went to the Democratic caucuses tonight (compare that to 125,000 in 2004). 60% of the 114,000 or so Republican caucus-goers described themselves as evanglical/born-again Christians. They propelled Huckabee to a win, with 34% to Romney's 25%. It was very surprising to me that it wasn't so close, but given the turnout issue, it wasn't really that surprising.

Obama beat Clinton, big-time. Right now, with 94% of precincts reporting, he's got 37% to Clinton's 30%. It's not a surprise that he won, but it is a bit surprising that he won so big. The big issue for Clinton is that she's tied with Edwards for the moment and may even come in a close third.

I watched a Des Moines caucus in real-time on CSPAN. It was amazing - I actually teared up a little - to watch people share their views and explain why they believed a candidate was worth supporting. As crazy as this method of choosing a candidate is, it made me wish that more Americans had the opportunity to directly engage in the political process. The fascinating thing about that particular caucus was the decisionmaking processes that went on by the supporters of non-viable candidates. Their debates had nothing to do with Hillary Clinton - it was all about whether to support Edwards or Obama. In the end, that caucus sent 3 delegates for Obama, 2 for Edwards, and 1 for Clinton.

My friend D-line calls elections for Fox News, and, as always, it was fun to spot him in the background of their coverage. He would probably caution us to take the caucus results with a grain of salt - there are still 30 more primaries and caucuses to go by February 5. No question there's a lot of politics still to be played. But this is an interesting start. Now if you'll excuse me, there's football on.


Here's a big reason I'm opposed to the death penalty: our state wrongfully convicts people at an alarming rate. In this case, it wasn't a death penalty case, but we took away almost 27 years of an innocent man's life. Should we really be killing people when our criminal justice system is clearly failing many in this respect?

in the "news"

Skip told me about this over our post-Wedding of the Century recovery brunch and said that it was a dead-on critique of his profession. He was right:

iowa caucuses predictions update

The Librarian and I spent our day hitting the sales, so I haven't been following the caucuses super-closely, but, based on a quick round-up of the news, I think my predictions from this morning were generally sound. A couple of other things:
  • Given the way the Democratic caucuses work (A minimum of 15% of people in the room have to support a candidate for him/her to win support. Supporters of candidates with fewer than 15% then switch their support to someone else), the second choice endorsements of the candidates will matter a lot. While caucus-goers are of course able to do whatever they want, many will pay attention to the direction of the precinct captains for each campaign. Edwards has to have those second-round votes to make an impact tonight. Richardson is apparently going to endorse Obama for second round voting (which is fascinating, considering that it's seemed that he was primarily running to be Hillary's VP) and there may be some vote-swapping with Obama delegates in certain precincts, although the story gets more complicated from there and Richardson's campaign denies it. There were rumors of another deal with the Biden campaign/the possibility of an Obama-Biden ticket, but apparently they haven't worked anything out thus far. (This is interesting. As much as I dislike Joe Biden, he has the foreign policy experience that Obama lacks. That would be quite a ticket.) At any rate, second-round voting will be absolutely key on the Democratic side tonight.
  • Turnout, turnout, turnout. Some college students are flying back in, and they'll definitely turn out. I think the younger crowd will make an impact, not as big as Obama hopes, but they'll be there. And they're going to make a huge difference in Ron Paul's chances.
  • This is fascinating: "Republican turnout calls are picking up Obama supporters on Republican caucus-goers lists." Republican crossover voters probably aren't going to vote for Hillary.
  • Thompson's campaign says he's staying in the race. I don't see him lasting more than a week.
  • In related news, I'd like to welcome the sudden surge of interest in this blog from the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Bottom line: I think Obama wins the D's. The R's are too close to call, so I'll go safe and say Romney just barely eeks it out. Kids, this is like Christmas all over again for political scientists. It's an election year! Fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!