Obama’s Intended Restoration of the Great Society

Mrs. Obama has not been proud of being an American for her entire political life.

Her husband sees an America full of problems and promise.

Combine the two facts with his policy ideas and one begins to suspect that both Obamas long to return to the golden age of their childhoods. They long not for Camelot, but for Lyndon Johnson’s great society.

The problems of American, Obama implies in every speech, are caused by the failure of government to act on the promises Lyndon Johnson made in the sixties. He does not name Johnson, at least often, but he consistently emulates him with a modern social libertine twist.

The real vision of the Obama campaign is turning back the clock to the expansive domestic government action of the Johnson administration. Liberals have long agonized that the failure of the Vietnam War got this ambitious growth of government programs off track. Obama is trying to undue the agonizing (to the Left) Clinton proclamation that “the era of big government is over.”

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2008 Oscars: Blood-stained

Two of the more troubling dramas from 2007 deal with the blood that remains on our hands.   Can we get rid of guilt that haunts us?   What type of payment do we make for the decisions we've made?   The Oscar nominated films Michael Clayton and There Will Be Blood depict tortured, compromised souls.    

Michael Clayton mines the gap between our personal and professional lives. George Clooney plays the eponymous character, a fixer for a powerful law firm. Clayton considers himself a janitor cleaning up the mess created by reprehensible clients. While he fixes others’ shattered lives, privately Clayton deals with divorce and a gambling addiction. When a senior lawyer suffers a mental meltdown, Clayton is assigned to keep him in line. But Arthur Edens is simply waking up to his moral bankruptcy. Tom Wilkinson plays the penitent Arthur, literally stripping down naked in court. He senses that there is blood on his hands. Michael Clayton’s adversary on the case is Karen Crowder, U/North’s cool and cold-blooded counsel. Billions of dollars are at stake for U/North when their chemicals start to kill much more than weeds. Tilda Swinton portrays Karen as a nervous, well-rehearsed wreck. She tries to navigate a high stakes, masculine world.

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No Different than a bottle of wine...

Contemplatives (like me) are people who find a great deal of joy in being alone with God. Solitude, silence, and the prayers that unfold in those contexts have a sweet way of nurturing our souls. But it's easy to hide behind this pious looking posture. Our love a contemplation may be nothing more than an addiction to the more comforting parts of life with Christ, and an avoidance of the hard work of truth telling, the messiness of relationships, and sacrifice of service. Thomas Merton speaks of this very accurately when he writes:

Sometimes contemplatives think that the whole end and essence of their life is to be found in recollection and interior peace and the sense of the presence of God. They become attached to these things. But recollection is just as much a creature as an automobile. The sense of interior peace is no less created than a bottle of wine. The experimental 'awareness' of the presence of God is just as truly a created thing as a glass of beer. The only difference is that recollection and interior peace and the sense of the presence of God are spiritual pleasures and the others are material. Attachment to spiritual things is therefore just as much an attachment as inordinate love of anything else. The imperfection may be more hidden and more subtle: but from a certain point of view that only makes it all the more harmful because it is not so easy to recognize.
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On Reading Old Books, Especially the Bible


It would help if more people with opinions about the Bible, good or bad, had read it. The few who have read it often haven’t a clue about how to read a book older than a J.K. Rowling best seller.

Secularists reading the Bible are too often like ethnocentric tourists visiting a foreign country. The American tourist who misses great feasts by sticking to McDonalds, because the food of the nation he is visiting is different is foolish. In the same way, the person who avoids or misunderstands the Bible is also missing out.

The Bible isn’t what they are used to reading and they read it badly. They don’t begin with sympathy to see what caused the Bible to become such a great book in the first place, but instead assume that if they don’t get it nobody of intelligence would either.

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2008 Oscars: Tainted Love

The nominees for the 2008 Academy Awards offer cautionary tales, filled with bad choices and deadly consequences.   This week, I will offer a preview of the race for Best Picture.   Today, we cover romance--the bright and sunny Juno and the tormented lovers in Atonement.   Juno and Atonement are about sex, or rather the consequences of sex.  

Juno is the warm-hearted, breakout comedy of the fall, the only box-office hit in the bunch.  High school student Juno MacDuff adopts a hip, detached attitude towards life, until she faces a surprising dilemma.   One spontaneous sexual encounter with her friend, Paulie Bleeker, plunges her into an adult decision.   Should Juno keep the baby or ends things with an abortion?   As she heads toward the clinic, a classmate confronts Juno, chanting, “All babies want to be borned.”   Su-Chin adds that even fetuses have fingernails.  Such a simple truth haunts Juno.   She decides to bring the baby to term.   But who should adopt it?  
Tags | Film

A Meeting in the West Wing

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation's largest annual funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.

The National Council on the Arts advises the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, who also chairs the Council, on agency policies and programs. It reviews and makes recommendations to the Chairman on applications for grants, funding guidelines, and leadership initiatives.

Artist Makoto Fujimura was appointed to the National Council for the Arts in 2002. Recently, Christy Tennant sat down with Mako and asked him about his work with the NEA.
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Water, Wine and the Word

I began my book, Naked and Not Ashamed, reflecting on the Lord's first miracle. It has always amazed me that Jesus would begin his ministry by turning water into wine. It seems like a poor use of miraculous power. I mean, there were people to heal, poverty to banish, demons to expel. Why this?
               Well, the only conclusion I can draw is that Jesus wanted to make a statement about life and joy. The couple in the hut needed space and privacy to make love and enjoy one another; the hard-working people of the village needed a break. Without wine, the special treat for the party, none of this could happen.
               Of course, people didn't know how to make fortified beverages yet. The naturally fortified drinks they made could get one drunk, of course, but getting drunk was a much more intentional act then. One had to drink a lot more liquid. Also, no one was driving home and putting their own lives and the lives of others in danger.
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God and the Astronomer

Robert Jastrow, the renowned astrophysicist who played a major role in the development of NASA's lunar and solar system exploration, died on February 8 at the age of 82. Jastrow became a household name during the 1960s, when America and the Soviets were racing to be the first to land a man on the moon. He was a frequent guest on CBS and NBC, explaining in layman's terms the physics of spacecraft, as well as the intricacies of the solar system. Jastrow also wrote several best-selling books, including his seminal work, God and the Astronomers.

Although he was a self-professed agnostic, Jastrow was open to the possibility that the universe had a creator, or at the very least, a first cause. "When a scientist writes about God," Jastrow said, "his colleagues assume he is either over the hill or going bonkers." Never one to worry about labels, Jastrow thought deeply about God. His most serious public reflection came in 1992, when God and the Astronomers was first pubished. In the first chapter of the book, approporiately titled, "In the Beginning," Jastrow wrote:

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Our Apartment and a Very Important Question

Here's a little video that Kim and I made to show you where we live in Mongolia.
Hope you like it! Edit: If the video here doesnt work try this one: http://youtube.com/watch?v=rMMO5Peabs8

Now, to anyone and everyone who reads this blog,

I have a very important question for you.

What are you most curious about or interested in, in regards to our time here in Mongolia?

Really, it can be anything.

Finally Settled

Hey Everyone,

We arrived in Erdenet during the week of the Mongolian New Year so settling has taken a little longer than we expected.  Where in America we celebrate the New Year for maybe two days, the Mongolians push it for a whole week so getting even the necessities became impossible as the markets and shops were closed for most the time.  Kim used what limited resources we had and made corn bread (from polenta) for us to nibble on and we ate a lot of rice and cabbage.  

Though the fridge is still conquered and working we have had a few casualties to the wattage out here.  Even with two adaptors we are down one hairdryer, a flatiron, and most sadly, a coffee grinder.  I can already hear “Taps” playing for my electric shaver too.  I just know when it runs out of juice I’m going to attempt the feeble task of charging it only to be met with the smell of melting plastic and smoke.
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