The Speckled Mind

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Upon arriving at work and flipping on the coffee house TV's, I saw a blurb about this story on CNN. The short version, for those who don't have time to read it, is as follows:

In 2006, a Saudi woman was kidnapped from a mall and gang raped by a group of 7 men. The court which heard the case against the men convicted them and gave them a relatively light prison sentence (considering that they could have been beheaded under the law for their crime). Along with the conviction of these men was a sentence of 90 lashes for the rape victim. This sentence was said to be 'just' because she broke the Saudi law which prohibits a woman from being in the company of a man who is not her direct relative. The woman appealed her sentence and the court, rather than declaring her original sentence unjust, doubled the number of lashes and sentenced her to six months in prison.

The atrocities in this story are self-evident, and they need little elucidation. This is a serious perversion of human rights--one which we would expect President Bush to staunchly condemn. We would expect him, as the leader of the free world, to call King Abdullah out and demand that the fallacious charges against the woman be dropped. did the US government's rhetoric live up to our expectations?

"This is a part of a judicial procedure overseas in the court of a sovereign country..."

"Most would find this relatively astonishing that something like this happens."

"It is within the power of the Saudi government to take a look at the verdict and change it."

"I don't have anything else to offer."

Way to go, USA. If this government had any ethical fortitude to begin with, it has long been left by the wayside of political utilitarianism. It should not matter that we 'need' Saudi Arabia in one way or another. Wrong is wrong. And the Saudi court's sentence is certainly wrong, as is our president's apprehension to condemn it.

After seeing the story, this was the first thing that came to mind:

20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter.

21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
and clever in their own sight...

23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
but deny justice to the innocent.

Woe to our government, and woe to us all. Lord be merciful to that woman.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Sports Tidbits

For those of you who chastise me every time I post something sports related--do yourself a favor and just stop reading right now. I like sports. Many people who read this blog regularly also like sports. If you don't like sports, repent. There, I said it.
  1. In case you just landed on this planet and haven't been watching the NFL, the Patriots are freaking ridiculous. I have never, EVER seen anything like this in professional football. I honestly can't believe there are still people who think the Patriots will lose a game this season. They WILL go 16-0. They will win the Superbowl. Count on it.
  2. I'm getting anxious and frustrated by the relative inaction of the Twins so far this off-season. Detroit goes out and signs Edgar Renteria right away. Then today, the White Sox trade for Orlando Cabrera. Meanwhile, it's unlikely we'll be able to sign Torii Hunter or even Carlos Silva. Though, for the money Silva's sure to get, I'm not sure we want him. One way or another, I have a very bad feeling about this off-season for my favorite squad.
  3. As a related note to number one--not bad being a fan of Boston sports lately, eh? Kevin Garnett looks pretty good in green.
  4. Lay off Barry Bonds. He took steroids during a period when HGH was not illegal in the game. Besides--how many of the pitchers throwing to him were also juicing? It seems ridiculous to make him the whipping boy for a bad era of baseball.
  5. Enjoy jail, Michael Vick.
  6. Oh, and the Packers are a pretty good football team (just don't tell my wife I said it...)

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Do You Hair What I Hair?

A bald Vietnamese guy named Vinnie gave me a haircut today.

No kidding.

Pretty good haircut too, if I do say so myself. Oh, and instead of shaving the back of my neck with the electric razor, he did it with a straight edge. I was terrified, but I left the place unscathed.

Also unscathed is my beard. I wasn't about to go all the way on that one.

Oh, and they were playing Christmas music in the background already. Last I checked, it ISN'T EVEN THANKSGIVING YET. Seriously.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

War and Peace

I have to work at 6:30 am most weak days. I'm not complaining. I actually really like my new job. Working at 6:30 means I arrive at the Metro Station at about 6:00. Part of the ritual is that I get my free Washington Post Express paper right outside of the Van Ness Metro and read it on the way to Union Station.

This morning, something in the paper hit me like a sledge hammer. The headline read:

Report: War Costs Total $1.6 Trillion

That is an astonishing figure. The article put it in perspective--that's about $21,000 for every family of four in the US.

The Iraq war's unpopularity is not new--many people probably saw that figure today and weren't a bit surprised. I guess the whole issue of war has become a bit more pertinent for me lately. I'm taking a Christian Ethics class in which we've been considering the viability of a 'just war' philosophy under the lordship of Jesus. One of our texts for the class, Richard Hays' The Moral Vision of the New Testament, argues that there is no such thing as a 'just' act of violence for those who are part of Jesus' new creation. Stanly Hauerwas argues similarly in his text The Peaceable Kingdom.

I have to say I'm becoming convinced. Both texts make a strong case that an ethic of nonviolence is a mandatory part of the Christian life. Jesus way, as both Hauerwas and Hays suggest is that of 'turning the other cheek and going the second mile.'

Hays mentioned that he often gets asked by his students, "What if none of the Christians in America had stood up to fight against Hitler?" It's easily the most frequent question that advocates of nonviolence get asked. After all, is it really 'Christian' to stand idly by in the face of obvious injustice when the only route to peace is some kind of armed conflict? In response to the question Hays, like a good rabbi, answers the question with a question of his own:

"What if none of the Christians in Germany had agreed to fight for Hitler?"

Now, that may seem like the easy way out, but I don't think it is. In fact, I think Hays is deconstructing the false either-or the original question presupposes: Violent Resistance or Doing Nothing. Bono (as cliche as it has become to invoke his name in a blog post) hit on a similar theme in the most recent issue of Rolling Stone:

"Isn't it cheaper and smarter to make friends out of potential enemies than to defend yourself against them later?"

To me, that sounds more like the way of Jesus. And, I think I'll have an easier time in the future explaining to my kids why I'm a pacifist than explaining why our family has paid $21,000 for a senseless, ill-conceived war.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Get Your Free Music Fix

I often get asked the question, "Where did you hear about this band?"

In response, I usually recommend a couple of free podcasts which I find to be informative. NPR's, "All Songs Considered" is one of these. Although a bit snobbish, they usually do a pretty good job of scouring the indie rock world and finding bands worthy of airplay. Another is The Current's "Song of the Day" podcast. Probably my favorite free podcast is the "Paste Magazine Culture Club"--the informative, hard-working and creative editorial staff at Paste Magazine never fail to unearth talented artists from the depths of obscurity.

The Paste podcast has a print counterpart that is even more brilliant. Paste Magazine is consistently relevant, savvy and well-written. As an added bonus, every issue comes with a companion CD containing a 12-15 tracks from emerging artists. Quite frankly, Rolling Stone doesn't hold a candle to these guys. And, though I've always liked the magazine, I never bothered to subscribe. What can I say, even 20 bucks a year seems like a lot while you're in school and on a tight budget.

But, dear friends, all of that changed today. Why, you ask? Well, it seems that the good folks at Paste took a card from Radiohead's play book. That's right. You can name your price for a year's subscription to Paste. What is a gateway to some of the best music in the world worth to you? It's your decision. One way or another, I highly HIGHLY recommend that you take advantage of this offer while it lasts. I honestly can't believe they are doing this.


In other news--and I've mentioned this before--another great way to keep up on good music is to regularly visit Peter Carlson's blog. Why you ask? Well, for one, he puts a lot of free music up on his blog. And, more importantly, he's always one step ahead of me. Or, in this case five days ahead of me...


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Who But A-Rod? Part 1

Who But A-Rod...

I think that's an antecedent that will become more and more familiar to baseball fans as this winter wears on. In fact, I think I will start a series on this blog dedicated to the inflated ego, inflated numbers and (soon to be) inflated salary of America's favorite love-to-hate guy.

Today's topic: Who but A-Rod could generate this kind of holistic speculation? Nate Silver of ranked all 30 teams in the order of how likely they are to pursue and sign the slugger. It's good writing and is done as a clever metaphor for the 2008 presidential election.

In case you're wondering, my beloved Twins are ranked 28th and placed in the "Mike Gravel/Tom Tancredo no shot in bloody hell" category. It's a shame. We really need a third baseman.

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