Tag Archives: NPR

The Farce of Generalized Thankfulness

Driving home from the in-laws after Thanksgiving lunch today there was a program on the local NPR station which featured a segment with someone called Anne Lamott (I think.  It could have been Lamont- either way, I have never heard of her).

During her chattings I noticed something interesting about Lamott: she talked much of being thankful and gratitude but she never mentioned God.  She, evidently, holds to what I call the farce of generalized thankfulness.  It’s the sort of farce which says ‘I’m so grateful for X’ or ‘I’m so thankful for Y’ but no person or deity is ever mentioned in connection with their gratitude as the recipient of that thankfulness.

Thankfulness without a named recipient is empty silliness.  We aren’t capable of being thankful ‘in general’.  Our gratitude is expressed to particular beings.  ‘Thank you’ is always understood when we say ‘thanks’.  So, these people who do not believe in God or who do not express their thanks to particular persons; to whom are they grateful?  The thin air?

Generalized thankfulness is one of the silliest of our rituals.  It means nothing.  It is a farce.  Thanks expressed to the thin air are as much a waste of time as praying to the ceiling or a block of wood or an idol carved with one’s own hands.

We give thanks to God because he is the source of our blessings.  We thank people because they are the instruments of God’s merciful acts.  But we don’t, if we have any sense at all, just say ‘thanks’ without a ‘you’ attached.

Ms Lamott may not have intended to sound like a participant in the farce of generalized thankfulness; but her failure to mention God was telling, and revealing.

NPR on the Twitter

NPR is the best news source, bar none.  And they have a lot of their folk on the twitter- so you can follow them or the programs that they’re on.  The full list is here.   Enjoy.

Maybe It’s Time To Reconsider Our Blind Admiration of the Military Establishment

Especially given the fact the the military justice system is unjust to victims of rape.  As NPR reports

Myla Haider (shown at a press conference in Washington, D.C., in 2011) says she initially decided not to report that she’d been raped because she’d “never met one victim who was able to report the crime and still retain their military career.”

She, it turns out, did report her rape and she did find that her career in the military ended. Even worse

“It’s a very telling story about a broken system,” says Susan Burke, an attorney who has sued the Pentagon on behalf of many rape plaintiffs, including Haider.

The Department of Defense estimates there are about 19,000 sexual assaults in the military per year. But according to the latest Pentagon statistics, only 1,108 troops filed for an investigationduring the most recent yearly reporting period. In that same period, 575 cases from were processed — and of those, just 96 went to court-martial.

“They were only willing to go forward on a small fraction, and then of those, only a portion, only 96 of them, get court-martialed,” Burke says.

Then — at court-martial — the officer who convened the trial can change the charge, reduce the sentence, or even overturn the verdict.

That’s what happened last month in a case at the U.S. Air Base in Aviano, Italy. A military jury had convicted an officer of sexually assaulting a houseguest while she was asleep. The general presiding over the case — the “convening authority,” in military-speak — threw out the verdict, without explanation.

Any system that can do that, that will allow that, is a system unworthy of blind admiration.  Sure, support the troops.  They deserve our support and respect.  But a system which allows women to be violated and turns a blind eye to it deserves something else: it deserves our disdain and to earn our respect it needs to change.

Women in the military deserve better.  We all do.

Our Infuriatingly Inept Congress

NPR reports

Unless Congress acts, across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect March 1 will be felt throughout the government. Some of the most visible effects will be noticed by air travelers.

Officials predict that cutbacks at the Federal Aviation Administration could lead to takeoff delays and fewer flights overall.

The FAA’s work is done largely out of public view, in airport control towers and regional radar centers, in hangars and workshops. But if the spending cuts, known in Washington-speak as sequestration, start taking effect on schedule, the importance of that backstage work will move front and center.

Danny Werfel of the Office of Management and Budget said at a Senate hearing last week that the sequester will take a toll at the FAA.

“FAA is going to face a cut of roughly $600 million under sequester,” Werfel said. “A vast majority of their 47,000 employees will be furloughed for one day per pay period for the rest of the year, and, as importantly, this is going to reduce air traffic levels across the country, causing delays and disruptions for all travelers.”

And much more to infuriate.  In short, Congress doesn’t care how much your life is thrown into turmoil or how many people lose their jobs.  THEY. DON’T. CARE.  So why in the name of heaven do you vote for them over and over again?  Who are the real fools?  Self serving Congressmen and women or the people who enable them?

John Collins on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ – Now Online (With Audio Coming This Evening)

Give it a listen soon as you can! In the meanwhile, a read.

On being asked for Aramaic translations by Mel Gibsonfor his film The Passion of the Christ

“Just after I moved to Yale, I went into my office one day and picked up the phone, and the voice — that was a recorded message — [said], ‘Mr. Collins, this is Mel Gibson. I’m looking for somebody to translate some material into Aramaic. You were recommended to me by Father Fitzmeyer.’ I actually asked to see a copy of the manuscript, and he sent it to me, and I read it until I encountered a talking snake, and at that point, I decided I do not want to be associated with this. But I think the actual Aramaic that was produced was quite good. … That was the least of the problems of the movie.”

An Open Letter to Our Congress

Sir or Madam,

Do you see what you’re doing? You’re wrecking this country. Destroying it. Why?

NPR has reported that the World Bank has lowered its economic forecast: Uncertainty “has already dampened growth.”

What’s wrong with you people? We elected you to do a job. Stop your moronic partisan bickering and DO IT.

With disdain,


NPR Is Wrong, People Aren’t Moving ‘Away’ From Religion…

They’re moving towards secularism which is itself a religion, of self.   They’ve simply replaced God with an idol- and that idol is themselves.  Everyone, you see, has a god.  Some the true and living God and others a false god, an idol.

Young people aren’t abandoning faith- they are replacing faith in God with faith in themselves.  Sadly what they don’t realize is that such a faith will never truly help them, any more than a drowning man can be his own life-preserver.

luther5Faith in self- it’s the most foolish of all ‘faiths’.  As Luther observed-

Many a one thinks that he has God and everything in abundance when he has money and, possessions; he trusts in them and boasts of them with such firmness and assurance as to care for no one. Lo, such a man also has a god, Mammon by name, i.e., money and possessions, on which he sets all his heart, and which is also the most common idol on earth. He who has money and possessions feels secure, and is joyful and undismayed as though he were sitting in the midst of Paradise. On the other hand, he who has none doubts and is despondent, as though he knew of no God…

So, too, whoever trusts and boasts that he possesses great skill, prudence, power, favor, friendship, and honor has also a god, but not this true and only God. This appears again when you notice how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are because of such possessions, and how despondent when they no longer exist or are withdrawn. Therefore I repeat that the chief explanation of this point is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart entirely trusts…

Thus it is with all idolatry; for it consists not merely in erecting an image and worshiping it, but rather in the heart, which stands gaping at something else, and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils, and neither cares for God, nor looks to Him for so much good as to believe that He is willing to help, neither believes that whatever good it experiences comes from God.

Ask and examine your heart diligently, and you will find whether it cleaves to God alone or not. If you have a heart that can expect of Him nothing but what is good, especially in want and distress, and that, moreover, renounces and forsakes everything that is not God, then you have the only true God. If, on the contrary, it cleaves to anything else, of which it expects more good and help than of God, and does not take refuge in Him, but in adversity flees from Him, then you have an idol, another god.

News… If it Isn’t NPR, It Just Isn’t Worth Believing

Take the recent tweets by two ‘news’ sources- both reporting within a minute of each other completely contradictory things concerning Congress:


So on the one hand the House recesses because Repubs lack the votes to pass Plan B, and on the other Plan B passes…  And that, dear friends, is why if the news isn’t on NPR, I just won’t believe it.

Who Can Effect Change in our Culture of the Gun? Sportsmen

NPR’s Frank Deford had one of the best editorials on the issue presently front and center for most Americans:  guns.  Give it a read, or a listen.  Here’s the best part-

… notwithstanding President Obama’s impassioned promise to reform our gun laws, we know how our craven politicians invariably proceed: They dramatically decry the violence, conspicuously pray for the victims, and then do absolutely nothing because they are lobotomized by the fear that the NRA will wail that our Second Amendment rights are being abrogated, so that then these one-issue voters will throw them out of office.

All this is old hat, so there is no sense struggling with what exactly James Madison had in mind about the militia when he and his otherwise succinct brethren were marking up the Bill of Rights. Nor do we need to hear how no laws can stop crazy people from getting guns so what’s the point of gun laws in our nation or laws for everything else? And how guns don’t kill people, and so on and so forth.

Rather, it’s just obvious that we Americans possess too many firearms — almost 90 per 100 people, far more than anybody else in the whole world. And obviously it’s too easy for us to obtain these automatic weapons of human destruction — this should also be obvious by now — and that nothing will change unless the very people who are gun owners themselves support the changes the president swears to promote. Hunters are good citizens who want guns to shoot game. Nobody can accuse them of supporting the confiscation of guns.

If the sportsmen would let their voices of conscience be heard above the homicidal fusillade, then some sensible prohibitions could be enacted, for those who have the potential to reduce the gun carnage in the United States of America are precisely the people who own guns and who are good sports.

Only 24% Of Americans Actually Attend Worship Every Week

In spite of the claims of the majority of Americans that they ‘attend worship every week’ the fact is, only 24% actually do.  NPR has the report, which you ought to listen to as soon as you get the opportunity.

A recent Pew survey found that an unprecedented one in five Americans now say they are not affiliated with any religious denomination. Or, looked at another way, nearly four out of five identify with an organized faith. Steve Inskeep talks with NPR’s Shankar Vedantam, who reports that research also shows those Americans overstate how often they go to church by about half.

In short, Americans talk a lot about faith, but only 1 in 4 actually practices their faith.   Put another way, 76% of Americans won’t be in worship this week.  This is the same percentage as in western Europe.

This Has to be The Best Day of My Life…

Look who’s just decided to follow me on the twitter!

This is way better than the day I found out Steve Inskeep (@nprInskeep) was following me…  Shimmer Body Art…  the same cosmetics that Joel Watts uses!  I have ARRIVED!

NPR Blew It This Time: David Barton is NOT an Evangelist

In a new essay NPR calls the political activist David Barton an ‘evangelist’.  Not by any stretch of the imagination; not by any accurate or authentic use of the word, can Barton be titled ‘Evangelist’.  He is NOT an evangelist.  Please, refrain from calling him that.  It gives Evangelists who really are such a bad name which they don’t deserve.

David Barton is not a historian. He has a bachelor’s degree in Christian education from Oral Roberts University and runs a company called WallBuilders in Aledo, Texas. But his vision of a religion-infused America is wildly popular with churches, schools and the GOP, and that makes him a power. He was named one of Time magazine’s most influential evangelicals. He was a long-time vice chairman for the Texas Republican Party. He says that he consults for the federal government and state school boards, that he testifies in court as an expert witness, that he gives a breathtaking 400 speeches a year.

He has a B.A….  That’s all.  That says it all.  No wonder his citations are inaccurate.  Nevertheless, he isn’t, and I can’t repeat this enough, he ISN’T an evangelist.

If NPR wants to call him anything, call him an ideologue.

Can You ‘Pray Away the Gay’?

It seems not, as this very intriguing report by NPR demonstrates.

Supporters call it “conversion therapy.” Critics call it “praying away the gay.” Whatever name you use, it’s creating a ruckus in Christian circles about whether a person can change his or her sexual orientation. And now the largest “ex-gay ministry” is rejecting the approach.  …

Earlier this year, Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, addressed the Gay Christian Network, which was notable because many in the network are more open to gay relationships. Chambers said that “99.9 percent” of the people he had met through Exodus International either had not changed their sexual attraction or still struggled with temptation. He got a laugh when he told the gathering that there are no quick fixes, “no hocus pocus, no magic wands, no ‘1-2-3, now be free, go be straight, date and mate!’ ”  Last month, Exodus International made it official: It would no longer associate with or promote therapy that focuses on changing sexual attraction.

Many years ago the Vatican commissioned a VERY thorough study of homosexuality which concluded that it is, in some cases, the result of abuse.  In some, it’s the result of choice.  And in some, the causes are unknown but may be biological.  (Mind you, that’s a very short overview of a very long and complex study).  And over the course of years I’ve come to agree with that assessment.   There are persons who are abused and injured as children who compensate by same sex attraction.  And some do indeed choose to participate in homosexual practices (think of Ellen Degeneris’ one time girlfriend who was gay for fame).  And there seem to be others who are simply biologically inclined to homosexual behavior.

Theologically all three are problematic (in the sense that they raise important theological issues concerning sin, the Imago Dei, and free will).  Such issues can’t be solved in a blog post and they have been so widely debated and widely disputed that there really seems to be no way forward at this point.

One thing I’m certain of, however, and that is this: homosexuality isn’t the unpardonable sin.  Homosexual persons, however they come to exist in that state, deserve to be shown the love of God even if we cannot agree with homosexual behavior.   They are, after all, human beings too.

Sad News: Car Talk Is Calling it Quits

Bummer.  It’s one of the best things on the radio.

 The chatty mechanics on NPR’s “Car Talk” are pulling in to the garage.  Tom and Ray Magliozzi said Friday they will stop making new episodes of their comic auto advice show at the end of September, 25 years after “Car Talk” began in Boston. The show airs every Saturday morning and is National Public Radio’s most popular program.  Older brother Tom is 74 years old and the brothers say it’s time to stop and smell the cappuccino.

I wish them many many happy years in retirement.  They deserve it.  Well done, Click and Clack, well done.

Ours is the Age of Dilettantism: the Death of Facts

When historians look back at the beginning of the 20th century, when all of us now living have long been dead, they’ll, I think, describe it as the ‘Age of Dilettantism’.  And they’ll do it because our age relies on half facts and internet assembled philosophies and the Dreck of that dreadful monstrosity and bastardization of knowledge called Wikipedia.  Or, as NPR puts it more gently:

According to columnist Rex Huppke, there was a recent death that you might have missed. It wasn’t an actor, musician or famous politician, but facts.  In a piece for the Chicago Tribune, Huppke says facts – things we know to be true – are now dead.  Huppke says the final blow came on Wednesday, April 18, when Republican Rep. Allen West of Florida declared that about 80 members of the Democratic Party in Congress are members of the Communist Party.  “That was the death-blow for facts,” Huppke tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.

Politicians no longer care about facts.  Professors seldom now rely on facts (driven most often by ideology instead).  Students no longer care about facts- they’re happy to crop and paste from Wikipedia and call it research.  And the ‘average Joe’ already knows (or thinks he does) what the facts are.  His mind is made up and no mere fact will get in the way of that.

That is our age, the age of dilettantism.

“[Facts are] survived by rumor and innuendo, two brothers, and then a sister, emphatic assertion,” he says. “They’re all grieving right now, but we wish the best for them.”


I had no idea that Tulsa was a city whose racist past was so profound.  NPR aired a report that is simply must hearing.  When you get a chance, be sure to listen.

Police are still investigating whether the weekend shooting spree in Tulsa, Okla., was racially motivated. A massive riot there in 1921 left about three dozen people dead. University of Michigan history professor Scott Ellsworth, a native of Tulsa, talks to Steve Inskeep about the riot.

So disturbing, really.  How such things can happen, both now and then, is utterly baffling.  I just don’t understand racism.

Even NPR Can Make a Funny Mistake…

This cracks me up- so I took a screenshot before NPR changed it…

Face it- we’ve all wanted to smack a bugler with a coffee mug!  (But they mean burglar).  😉

Uncomfortable With Evolutionary Theory?

NPR has a pretty interesting essay which asks why.

The evidence is clear, as in a February 2009 Gallup Poll, taken on the eve of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday, that reported only 39 percent of Americans say they “believe in the theory of evolution,” while a quarter say they do not believe in the theory, and another 36 percent don’t have an opinion either way.  The same poll correlated belief in evolution with educational level: 21 percent of people with a high school education or less believed in evolution. That number rose to 41 percent for people with some college attendance, 53 percent for college graduates, and 74 percent for people with a postgraduate education.

Give the whole piece a read.  Personally I just don’t care.  I don’t care about the theory, I think it’s meaningless for life as we live it, and I think it’s one of those stupid subjects that people like to argue about precisely because it doesn’t matter.

Or to put it another way- how does discussing the subject change anything?  It’s just a rubbish subject and it’s impossible for me to care.  Completely impossible (until one of you lot show me the relevance).

There’s a challenge for you- convince me to care.

The Editors of Wikipedia…

Are, according to NPR, questioning the decision to ‘go dark’ for the day.

Can the world live without Wikipedia for a day? The shutdown of one of the Internet’s most-visited sites is not sitting well with some of its volunteer editors, who say the protest of anti-piracy legislation could threaten the credibility of their work.

“My main concern is that it puts the organization in the role of advocacy, and that’s a slippery slope,” said editor Robert Lawton, a Michigan computer consultant who would prefer that the encyclopedia stick to being a neutral repository of knowledge. “Before we know it, we’re blacked out because we want to save the whales.”

Wikipedia’s English-language site shut down at midnight Eastern Standard Time Tuesday and the organization said it would stay down for 24 hours.

Instead of encyclopedia articles, visitors to the site saw a stark black-and-white page with the message: “Imagine a world without free knowledge.” It carried a link to information about the two congressional bills and details about how to reach lawmakers.

I don’t think wikipedia should shut down for a day either.  I think it should shut down permanently.

Social news website Reddit.com is shutting down for 12 hours on Wednesday, but most companies are staying up. Google Inc.’s home page linked to a petition urging Congress: “Don’t censor the Web.”

Dick Costollo, CEO of Twitter, said he opposes the legislation as well, but shutting down the service was out of the question.  “Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish,” Costollo tweeted.

Foolish!  But that’s just what wikipedia is, so it closing down is sensible (for foolishness- foolish is sensible.  Odd, I know, but there it is).

Since Wikimedia depends on a small army of volunteers who create and update articles, it’s particularly concerned about a lack of exemptions in the bills for sites where users might contribute copyrighted content. Today, it has no obligation under U.S. law except removing that content if a copyright holder complains. But under the House version of the bill, it could be shut down unless it polices its own pages.

It shouldn’t be plagiarizing copyrighted material anyway.  The theft of intellectual property ought never be permitted- especially by an army of anonymous folk whose skills and knowledge are unknown.

‘There’s Death in the Pot!’ The Neti-Pot, That Is

Washing noses with neti pots or squeeze bottles has become increasingly popular as a home remedy for colds, allergies and sinus trouble. But it’s not such a great remedy if it kills you.

Now that two people have died from infection with brain-eating amoebas after using neti pots, doctors are warning: do not put tap water up your nose.

‘It’s not such a great remedy if it kills you’!  Thank you, NPR, for the understatement of the decade.

Disclaimer: I’ve never used a neti-pot and the idea of pouring water up my nose isn’t even remotely appealing.  But the thought of some microscopic creature eating my brain…  no thanks.  That’s the stuff of B horror film legend.