You are a credit to the great Satan.

The October 2, 2003 issue of RollingStone includes the article “Is the Pentagon Giving our Soldiers Cancer?” by Hillary Johnson, and it’s worth reading (sadly, the article isn’t online, so do what I did and sit down in the bookstore and read it). The article explores the use of depleted uranium in U.S. munitions and the possible damage it’s causing among U.S. troops, as well as non-combatants from Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Bosnia.

Munitions are tipped with depleted uranium (DU) because of the armor piercing and pyrotechnic powers of the heavy metal. The burned out Iraqi tanks strewn across southern Iraq and their “crispy critter” inhabitants from the first Gulf War were victims of DU munitions. Upon impact the DU turns into a fine powder that can be distributed far and wide. The leftover material is still radioactive and will be for 4-5 billion years.

While the Pentagon denies that DU can cause any harm, it is the suspected cause of the rash of cancer-like symptoms known as Gulf War Syndrome among veterans of the first Gulf War. In addition to the U.S. troops, Iraqis are experiencing higher rates of cancer and birth defects. As the article states, Iraqi mothers are no longer asking if their newborn is a boy or a girl but if the child is normal.

The international community classifies DU as a weapon of mass destruction, yet the U.S. continues to use it. I’ve heard arguments about DU before, but often in a more radical setting. If these allegations are true, it’s a sad country we live in. Not only would we be unleashing nuclear waste on a country we sought to liberate for having nuclear weapons in the first place, but we would be putting our own service men and women at risk, and lying to them about the potential dangers. It would be sad to compare the honorable and noble view of the Armed Forces on the home front, compared to disposable view of the top brass.

For the sake of our dignity (and the thousands of endangered lives), I hope DU is harmless. But the fact that evidence is mounting and the U.S. government seems unwilling to settle fears with unbiased research leads me to belief that DU is a threat. It’s the Agent Orange of the nineties, and if it’s true, it frightens me to think that my own government would sacrifice innocent lives and our soldiers for the sake of a more effective weapon. The unwilling kamikazes.

Ned, have you thought about one of the other major religions, they’re all pretty much the same.

“There’s an old Hindu proverb that goes something like this…

“Three blind men stumble upon an elephant. The first blind man finds the trunk of the elephant. He feels the long, smooth trunk and thinks it’s a snake. The second man grabs one of the legs of the elephant. It’s rough, textured and really thick. He thinks it’s the trunk of a giant tree. The third blind man grabs the tail of the elephant. He assumes it is a rope.

“The moral of this story is that we all perceive things differently. Many people would tell you this story shows us that nothing is real, that no one’s perception is more valid than anyone else’s, that everyone’s view is “true.”

“But there’s one problem with this interpretation of the story. The blind men were, in fact, holding an elephant. That was the truth. It wasn’t a snake or a tree or a rope. It was an elephant.” (from “Our Friend Pete” by Wes Halula, taken from

The funny thing about relativism is that we have to live with it. Some Christians get all up tight about relativism, the idea that your morality depends on what you believe, the idea that all religions are true, however you want to phrase it, some Christians get all worked up about this idea and really want to emphasize that no matter what you think it is, it’s really an elephant. The truth is the truth, no matter how you think you see it.

That’s all well and good, but the problem is we don’t know who’s seeing what. While we decry the “well that’s true for you,” response, we fail to recognize that there are a lot of things about Christianity that don’t exactly jive. There are things about the faith that vary depending on who you talk to, the “truth” changes depending on which brand of Christianity you’re dealing with.

I get the feeling a lot of Christians ignore this perplexing aspect of our faith, choosing instead to think that we have all the right answers, we have the correct version of the truth, we know we’re touching an elephant. When all along the brother in the church next door thinks it’s a rhino, not an elephant, which is a different version of the truth, and a different right answer.

There’s a funky contradiction that exists, and somehow God deals with that. Perhaps one of the Christian denominations has it right and all the others are wrong, but we never really think about that. I guess sometimes I think we just need to admit that we don’t have a monopoly on truth. We need to admit that it’s possible we might not know everything about the Bible, we might have screwed a few things up. It doesn’t mean the foundation of our faith is whack, it doesn’t mean our entire belief structure is going to come crumbling down. I think contradictions exist, and God has no problem with them. I don’t know how that works, but I know it does. I know I’m not right about everything (I’ve probably screwed my logic up right here), and that’s OK.

Modernism vs. post-modernism is a big debate a lot of cutting edge churchy people like to get into, and while I hate trying to define that sort of thing, this is one of things that fits neatly in the modern/post-modern debate. Modernity is about always being right. Post-modernity somehow finds a way around that and is just fine with being wrong. Of course these are simply different ways of interacting with your world and neither of them is necessarily better than the other, but that OK with being messed up idea seems to gel with my concept of grace — I’m all screwed up, but it’s all good.

A little girl is losing faith in democracy!

St. Paul Central High School has made the news again over Minnesota’s reactionary pledge law. A student refused to stand during the pledge, choosing to opt out of the requirement, which is allowed according to the state law. Instead the student was kicked out of her class for not being respectful. It turns out the teacher was misinformed, and students are not required to stand during the pledge.

While a minor issue, this raises questions of whether you can legislate patriotism, or even respect. It’s somewhat frightening to me that some would think it’s appropriate to discipline someone for not standing during the pledge of allegiance. I certainly understand and respect the sacrifices of those who have gone before us, but they gave us the freedom to acknowledge their actions in any way we want. Forced patriotism is not patriotic. Forced respect is not respectful.

And lets not forget the folks who just don’t feel like working, God bless ’em!

My name is Kevin, and I’m unemployed. It’s been two months now, and it doesn’t get any easier. In some ways I feel busier than I was before, though there’s no real sense of accomplishment. Not working is like being adrift, unsure of which way to go–as if you had any control in the first place–and feeling unable to commit to anything.

So many people are in my situation that my church actually started an unemployment group. (“Career transition group” is how they described it, though we’re working on coming up with a less PC and more affirming name. I like being the unemployed group.) In all my interactions with the church, this is the first time I’ve seen such an outreach to the unemployed. It means a lot when the church is able to recognize basic needs and respond.

More than anything, it’s a support group to convince yourself that you’re not a loser. Being unemployed requires that kind of affirmation. It’s difficult to get up day after day when you have nothing to do but craft more witty, self-promoting letters and scour web sites for jobs that you can apply for, along with all the other unemployed losers. Even though I’ve never been tempted to sleep until noon or spend the day watching TV, I often feel the same sense of waste.

And although unemployment benefits are great–they keep me in my house and let me keep my car and I still get to eat–they basically discourage me from finding part time work. I’m paid a set amount per week, assuming I’m actively looking for work and am available for work. However, if I do any work during the week, say freelance jobs or even flipping burgers, I have to deduct that amount from my unemployment benefits. So there’s really no gain to taking on a part time job unless I’m getting paid more than my unemployment benefits, which would be difficult if I’m flipping burgers.

This is the face of unemployment. It’s not daytime TV and home improvement projects. It’s peanut butter and jelly, inadequacy, and a constant search for motivation.

Hey, America, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, America.

Congratulations St. Paul Central High School (which is less than a mile from my house), you made the national news (OK, it’s just CNN’s offbeat news, but it’s still national). Thanks to a reactionary Minnesota law, schools must pledge allegiance to the flag at least once a week. Unfortunately, not all classrooms are equipped with U.S. flags, or even flag holders.

So Central High School improvised and displayed the American flag on the television screens in the classrooms, until they can outfit classes with the real thing. It’s good to know that these are the kinds of things we have to worry about with a slashed budget. Nevermind new textbooks, we bought 2,200 flags and 970 flag holders.

Call me unpatriotic, but this much fuss over pledging alligiance to a flag seems more fascist than it does democratic.

This is just your memory. I can’t give you any new information.

So Johnny Cash died on Friday. I’ve never been a big Cash fan, but that’s more from being completely clueless than any matter of taste. The more I learn about the guy, the more intrigued I am. I spent Friday setting up a little tribute/links page. I’m linking to interesting articles and interviews, posting cool quotes, and trying to link to every Johnny Cash album I can.

That last part is really ridiculous. According to, there are over 140 Cash albums out there. doesn’t have all of them, so I won’t link to that many. But I am getting close. And as much as I enjoy earning referral fees from Amazon, this is more about seeing the expanse of Johnny Cash’s recording career. If I wanted to make money I’d just link to his recent releases and a couple boxed sets.There’s just something cool about seeing 45 years worth of music from one man.

Wait… I remember leaving the town meeting…

One evening last week I attended an abruptly called meeting at my church to discuss our feelings and reactions to the decisions made at the Episcopal General Convention. More than anything, it was a chance for the leadership of our church to hear how everyone felt. We weren’t making any decisions, voting on anything, or implementing any grand scheme. We were just talking.

The evening basically oscillated between those urging us to stick to the truth of the Bible and make a stand, and those urging us to stand in unity, despite our disagreements. The sanctuary was as packed as a Sunday morning, but the tension was something new.

Throughout the evening I felt torn. I agree with the need for biblical truth, but felt frustrated at the refusal to acknowledge equally committed, equally orthodox, yet completely contradictory views of the Bible. Sometimes they think it’s a simple as reading the black and white text, and sadly it’s not. If that’s the case the Episcopal Church never would have approved the ordination of women. If that were the case, I wonder if Christians would have stood up to oppose slavery. And all this bickering over scripture seems odd considering the Episcopal Church was founded by a guy who wanted to divorce his wife and the Catholic Church wouldn’t let him.

I yearned for unity within the body that night, wondering how many times Christ’s church would fracture and split. How many denominations can we really have?

As I pulled away in my car, alone after the ninety minutes of passion, these words echoed over the radio:

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colours will bleed into one
But yes, I’m still running.

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it.

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.
(“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2 from The Joshua Tree.)

Vote Quimby.

After my election day ranting yesterday, the results are in. For the city council race, Jay Benanav took 80% of the vote, and Denise Gulner took 12%. Both will advance for a showdown in the November election, though it doesn’t look like it will be much of a contest. I can’t help pointing out that Samuel Farley and Mark Roosevelt both had crappy web sites, and they received 3% and 5% of the vote respectively. Notice that Gulner and her semi-crappy web site only took 12% of the vote. The best web site out there took 80% of the vote, and I’m not surprised. You can go ahead and chalk it up to Benanav’s incumbent status and the fact that he’s a major player in St. Paul politics, but I’m going to credit the web site.

I’d also like to point out the campaign of Honey Hervey, running for city council member in Ward 1. Endorsed by the DFL, the United Auto Workers, Teamsters DRIVE, Building and Construction Trades Council, and the AFL-CIO, Hervey took home a whopping 8 votes. All those endorsements and so few votes. You’ve got to wonder who Honey’s friends voted for.

In the school board race, the results are just as interesting. Of the 12 candidates, eight will advance to the general election. And the poor four who didn’t make it? None of them had web sites. When looking at the run down, the four candidates who invested in web sites took first, second, fourth, seventh place. Not too shabby. With four spots open on the school board, I’m pulling for a 75% web site presence among the winners. Sadly though, of all the election web sites I looked at, only one was updated this morning to reflect the election results. It’s good to know that some people are aware of the value of a web site in politics.

The dead have risen and they’re voting Republican.

In my best Homestar voice: "Welcome to my web site."

Those were the words I saw while researching candidates today before the St. Paul primary election for the city council and school board. Is it wrong to dismiss a candidate based on poor web design?

Today was really a lesson in local politics. I spent 45 minutes trying to find out who was even running in today’s election. The Star Tribune’s lone article on the election (buried at the bottom of their homepage) didn’t give names and didn’t link to further resources (though I later found the Star Tribune’s voter’s guide, which they failed to link to or even feature prominently on an election day).

I went to other sites, I went to local government sites, I googled. The first place that told me who was running for city council in my ward? OutFront, a GLBT political group. Finally I stumbled across the Star Trib’s voter’s guide and was able to figure out who was who.

Sort of. All four candidates for the city council position had web sites. I happened to be the 104th visitor to one site, and it was downhill from there. Mark Roosevelt was all about the P.L.A.N.: Public safety, leadership, access to local government, and neighborhoods. That’s as specific as Roosevelt got.

Samuel Farley also had a web site. But I didn’t even need to visit (though I’m not sure what a socialist newsweekly for the working people has to do with Samuel Farley). His essay on the Star Tribune’s site encouraged solidarity with Cubans, Iranians, Iraqis, and North Koreans. Unfortunately, this is the St. Paul city council. Few Iraqis were voting in today’s primary.

The state of local politics isn’t looking good. But it gets better. Denise Gulner has the added bonus of an endorsement from St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly. She’s also anti-crime, pro-youth, pro-affordable housing, and pro-transportation. So’s the rest of the planet. Apparently all these politicians are paying for their web sites by the word.

Finally, we come to incumbent Jay Benanav. Despite his lame design, Benanav either has the financial muscle to pay for a whole bunch of words on his site, or he’s smart enough to realize that the web is limitless, so tell us all you can. His site is loaded with positions, accomplishments, and facts that prove he knows what’s going on in the city.

You can guess who I voted for, and while I did take a look at the issues, the simple ability of each candidate to present themselves decided it. I’m not talking web savvy, I’m talking presentation.

When I explored the school board candidates, I found a much worse problem. Twelve candidates were vying for four positions, yet of those twelve candidates,
only four had web sites. In an election where the most coverage I could find was a buried voter’s guide that offers a one paragraph "essay," two-thirds of the candidates chose not to expand on their positions with a web site. Unbelievable.

You’ll be happy to know I didn’t just vote for the four with web sites, though I probably should have. I went with a mix of the sites I could find, endorsements, and those lame little paragraphs.

It wasn’t easy. Richard Broderick has a fairly nice looking web site, though as a Green Party candidate his web site didn’t help him. He’s more interested in encouraging teens to car pool and offering organic foods in the cafeteria than any of the real crises facing the St. Paul schools. Despite what I’ve said before, Broderick’s web site really hurt him, though only because his positions. In a sense, the system worked.

Kazoua Kong-Thao also had a web site, though she suffered a similar problem as Roosevelt and Gulner. Most people are in favor of safe schools, small class sizes, and academic excellence. Unfortunately, achieving those things is another manner. Fortunately for Kong-Thao, her site did manage to convince me that she’s motivated and hard working.

Eventually I was able to tally my votes and head over to the Hamline Highrise to cast my vote with all the elderly people. My exercise in democracy took way too long and taught me that local politics is pretty lame. I would expect any hopeful city council or school board candidate to actually research the job and know what they’re talking about, to confront the important issues. I would expect them to attend a few of those meetings and know what’s not working and what they could improve upon. Don’t tell me you want better education, tell me how you’re going to do it better than the other guy. If that’s all it takes, I could mount a better campaign than many of these people.