Thursday, September 28, 2006

Baseball and True Love

I have not been as avid a baseball fan this year as some years in the past, but I find myself right now quite exhilarated. My first sports love, The Detroit Tigers, is so close to winning their division. They have already clinched a play-off spot, but I desperately want them to win their division.
When I lived in Denver, I became a big Colorado Rockies fan. I was able to have some peaceful co-existence between my favorite teams because they were in different leagues (and the prospects of them facing each other in the play-offs was slim).
Having been in the Kansas City region for the past decade, the Royals have been growing on me. I have spent many years wondering if I had three teams that I cared about, surely one of them could reach .500.
Right now, however, I wish the Royals better luck in future seasons, but the only purpose they play in my universe is to lose to the Tigers and win as many games as they from the Twins. It perhaps seems uncaring and callous, but I have gotten in touch with that 15-year boy inside of me who remembers what 1984 was like for the Tigers and his passions are overwhelming any of my rational, constructs about the possibility of an "ecumenical," non-competive enjoyment of baseball. To October!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

KCUR Story--Lawsuits Challenge Missouri's New Voter ID Statute

Kansas City's NRP station, KCUR, has a great story, "Lawsuits Challenge Missouri's New Voter ID Statute" which went into effect on Monday. KCUR's news director, Frank Morris, talks with Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton, Missouri Senator Delbert Scott, Governor Blunt's Spokesperson Spence Jackson, Attorney Don Dowing and some who are have found the new law difficult to comply with.

These two groups (those who find difficulty with the law and public officials) aren't mutually exclusive. The story tells how Rep. Skelton attempted to obtain a state issued voter ID card (Skelton doesn't drive because of a disability). He left 45 minutes later empty handed. What was the flimsy form of ID that Skelton tried to use to get his state ID? His federal congressional identification card.

He was told that was not acceptable (this is from a county clerk that knew who the congressman was). Lets be thankful that the law will eliminate the huge potential of voter fraud from those who are using counterfeit congressional identification cards in Missouri.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Leaves from the Blog of a Tamed Cynic

I've decided to create a second blog, Leaves from the Blog of a Tamed Cynic, to use as place to record my thoughts and reflections on the Community of Christ. It will have a different focus and tone that this site.

The question sometimes is asked is anyone actually reading my blog (or most blogs in general). The answer is clearly yes. I traveled to Alabama several months ago for my church and met a young man who had found my blog page and been reading it. However, I'm not going to say that I have a huge audience. (I've never spent much time with website statistic/hits programs). Yet there are also sorts of reasons to blog. Leaves is, in the end, not for anyone else, but rather a chance for me to express some of the thoughts and ideas I have about my church.

I'm still debating on how much self-disclosure to post on the blog. For a wonderful blog, from an outstanding person who is willing to share, many, many things about herself, visit Janet's Blog. Janet is my sister-in-law and her blog chronicles her struggle with breast cancer. I think many people could be helped by reading Janet's blog. I also have learned so much more about her by reading the blog. But in the end, I don't know how much of writing the blog is simply about Janet needing a place to express herself.

We all need to be heard and blogs provide a new way for that to happen. When in seminary, I read an essay by Robert Putnam called "Bowling Alone." Putnam looked at the decline in civic culture and community institutions. I believe there is the possibility for blogs and other types of social networking software to help rebuild our social networks (by no means are they the answer alone).

If you are so inclined, please visit Leaves from the Blog of a Tamed Cynic (the title is a reference from a book written by Reinhold Niebuhr--see Leaves for more info) and e-mail me on what you think.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Is the The Source Closed to Comments?

It seems that some of the blog entries at The Source now have the message "The comments to this entry are closed." What I don't know if this is simply a way to keep comments limited to very recent posts, or an attempt to stop debate.

Lets be clear, one can run a website any way they want to and post the message that they wish to convey. However, I think that blogs that try to limit a real discussion fail to understand the medium and the true power of the Internet. It also seems that conservatives are more likely to want to reign in debate than liberals are (warning! huge over-generalization!)

Sunday, July 23, 2006 has new Look

The indispensable companion of Missouri's political junkies, has been redesigned. The new site is clean and attractive and powered by the blogging software WordPress. The site promises a RSS feed soon (something I've long advocated for). There is no word about re-starting his short-lived (but appreciated) podcast.

Still, anytime you want to quibble about the content on johncombest, you are reminded of the tag line of "Missouri's political news website since Oct. 2001." Every morning (I'd say like the US Postal service, but that might offend a good Republican like John!) for the past five years, he has posted links to the significant Missouri political news. It is an impressive run and the new look is a welcome development. John may have started the site for his fellow Republicans, but we all benefit.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Moving Past Church Mission Statements to the True Work . . .

Words matter. However for many in the church, time spent on congregational mission statements is a very frustrating experience. I think that is largely because most congregations are not truly ready to fully engage in that process because there are too many underlying issues in their group. The "word-smithing" of a mission statement becomes a way to fight out the larger issues in the congregation without every acknowledging they are there.
Another problem can come when the congregation comes up with a "All Babies Must Eat" mission statement--something no one disagrees with, but is just so perfectly obvious you wonder why you need to put it in print.
As I've been thinking about these issues without he church, I'm again drawn to the work of Bill Easum. He has a great article talking about "Clarifying Our Mission, Vision, and Values." All three are important and Easum acknowledges the hard work to discern where God is calling a congregation. Definitely worth a read.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

RightMissouri Hacked?

I was a regular reader of the conservative blog RightMissouri.Com. They have taken down their site a couple of months ago and passed the conservative blog mantle to The Source. However, RightMissouri site is still on my Bloglines Feed list. I noticed today the message is displayed, "hacked_by_Darkman_((turkish_hacker))." A click on the link will take you a web created by "Darkman which contains some pro-Islamic and anti-Western rants.
Perhaps a good reminder that no matter how many differences I ever had with RightMissouri, we have much more in common than the forces in the world who might wish to destroy our way of life.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Featured on KC Buzz Blog

In the blogging world you probably don't even get 15 minutes of fame, probably more like 1.5 minutes. But a small flash for me. Kit Wagar, Statehouse Reporter for the KC Star writes about my blog entry at Buzz Blog where I noted how polling form, American Viewpoint still list convicted candidate Adam Taff on their client list. John Combest (who I got the initial info from) links to the KC Buzz Blog story in today's news roundup. Oh, how little it takes to excite a blogger! ;-)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Great news from OfficeMax . . .

I write about many important issues on this site, but nothing I've ever written has been as important or exciting as this important news:
OfficeMax Inc., one of the nation's leading office-supply chains, is eliminating almost all retail mailin-rebate programs--long a source of consumer angst--effective Sunday. Instead, shoppers will see immediate discounts in product pricing at the cash register.
Here is hoping that this is a start of a global trend! ;-)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Polling and Fraud?

John Combest has an exclusive which shows polling data that incumbent congressman Todd Adkins (from Eastern Missouri) is ahead of his primary challenger state representative, Sherman 77% to 3%. Wow, it appears that landslide might be too mild of a word.

The polling firm was American Viewpoint, which handles a number of republican clients. However, what I found interesting is their listing of those clients. They display the name of former Kansas Republican fith congressional district candidate nominee, Adam Taft. Hmmm, perhaps somone should let American Viewpoint know that their former client was convicted of wire fraud with campaign contributions. He might not represent the image that the firm is wanting to project--but what do I know!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Seeking the Moral Center in DC

I'm in Washington, D.C. this week for Pentecost 2006 sponsored by Call to Renewal. I hope to blog more about the experience later. But I ran across this outstanding analysis of the different trends going on in the world of religious progressives. It is from Slate and written by Martin Edlund, "Left Behind - Fault lines among the leaders of the religious left.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Search for a Religous Left

The New York Times has a great article "Religious Left Struggles to Find Unifying Message" which shows some of the problems of creating a positive force on the left to counter the religious Right. The article notes:
Turnout at the Spiritual Activism Conference is high, but if the gathering is any indication, the biggest barrier for liberals may be their regard for pluralism: for letting people say what they want, how they want to, and for trying to include everyone's priorities, rather than choosing two or three issues that could inspire a movement.
This observation might be correct, however, the real question is who will do the choosing for the "religious Left?" The real leaders of the religious Right were not established leaders of denominations, but rather became powerful leaders through their organizational and fund-raising efforts. I would content that the Evangelical Church is much more open to these entrepreneurial leaders than the Mainline Church is. (It is probably telling that one of the most significant leaders of the progressive movement in the church, Jim Wallis--comes from an Evangelical perspective.)

I believe there is hope for the Religous Left (or Progressive Faith), but there will be moments of frustration like the article documents.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Missionary Zeal in Iraq vs. Old-Time Religion

Andrew Sullivan's Quote for the Day:
"[T]he Iraq War will stand for a long time as a monument to the potential excesses of evangelical thinking - and when it comes to our foreign policy, I hope the next GOP President partakes of a little less of Bush-style missionary zeal, and a little more of that old-time conservative religion," - Ross Douthat, on how evangelicalism has changed conservatism in the Bush era.
Nicely said.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Blunt Ethics?

The Kansas City Star's new political blog, KC Buzz Blog writes that the governor is trying to take the offensive on the question of ethics by prohibiting those on his staff from accepting gifts from lobbyists. It is a good step, but no one thinks that the FBI is asking questions about the governor's office because Press Secretary Spence Jackson accepted a slice at Arris' Pizza Palace from a lobbyist.

Over at KC Buzz Blog, I wrote on a comment:
I'm unclear if the governor is covered himself under this policy. Also--could one accept gifts from non-lobbyists (such as the corporations that lobbyist represent)? What gifts/meals from about political parties or PACs?

What seems strange is the type of gifts the governor is talking about are exactly the the things widely accepted by his father--Rep. Roy Blunt. Does Matt Blunt believe that any other elected official should adopt his rules? Why doesn't he introduce legislation that would require all elected officials in Missouri to uphold this standard?

It is strange that Blunt has focused on one of the ethical areas that he is not under attack for. The nasty thing about ethics reform is that it needs to be comprehensive--campaign contributions, patronage positions, etc. Also, it is appropriate for state lawmakers, then it should apply to the Federal lawmakers as well.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Religious Conservative Bed Fellows

The blog reports that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia was in the state to give a lecture, but he also "attended a Law Day Mass celebrated by Archbishop Raymond Burke at the Basilica of St. Louis. Attendees included Gov. Matt Blunt and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay."

I guess I still find it amazing that a good Baptist like Matt Blunt is happy to seek favor with Catholic leaders. On issues like abortion, stem-cells and gay rights, Catholics (or at least the Catholic Church's leadership) is very much in step with the religious Right. I was listening to conservative Christian talk radio after the death of Pope John Paul II and listened to caller after caller sing the praises (ok not literally) of the Pope. Anti-Catholicism has been such a significant part of many American Protestants' belief systems that to see the negative attitudes diminished is very suprising. (I'm quite frankly torn between believing it is a step forward in tolerance or is it just politically astute for the Religious Right to try to broaden their base).

However, just to remind us that there are limits to the "Big Tent" of the Religious Right. Robert Novak recently wrote about Governor Mitt Romney that:
Prominent, respectable Evangelical Christians have told me, not for quotation, that millions of their co-religionists cannot and will not vote for Romney for president solely because he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If Romney is nominated and their abstention results in the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton, that's just too bad. The evangelicals are adamant, saying there is no way Romney can win them over.
The irony is that the LDS Church is much more aligned with the political agenda of the Republican party, than the Catholic Church is (I am always inspired by the Catholic Church's prophetic teaching on issues such as concern for the poor and the marginalized). Yet criticizing the LDS Church (including calling them non-Christian and working to convert them) has become a cottage industry for fundamentalists. Perhaps because both fundamentalists and Mormons are trying to convert the same groups of people, suspicion between the groups continues. I mean when was the last time you had Catholic missionaries knocking on your door!

It is an interesting dilemma for those that are trying to form a political coalition from religious groups with very different theological positions.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Does Redistricting Threaten Democracy?

Is it possible that the greatest threat to democracy in our country is our redistricting processes? Juliet Eilperin has a good article on which explores ways to fix the system. One of the great quotes from the piece:
'As a mapmaker, I can have more of an impact on an election than a campaign, than a candidate,' says Republican consultant David Winston, who drew House seats for the GOP after the 1990 U.S. Census. 'When I, as a mapmaker, have more of an impact on an election than the voters, the system in out of whack.'
One can hope that there will be some courageous politicians that will put principle ahead of pure partisan gain before the redistricting cycle starts again.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Medicaid changes do harm

Ruth Ehresman gets it right with her op-ed piece in the Kansas City Star "Medicaid changes do harm."

Wait, We Need More Room on the Bumper Sticker!

Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons in a recent GOP E-mail outlines the main goals for the Missouri Senate regarding healthcare.
The first is that everyone should have available, affordable healthcare through a market-driven approach focused on the patient'’s right to know about the quality and cost of their care with individual responsibility.
Wow, I can't imagine a message that will sell better to the voters. Could they add more buzz-words? Is there any way to judge what will be a success? Perhaps everyone should have available, affordable healthcare--but do they? Hardly.

Back in January of 2005, then Governor-elect Matt Blunt said, after this first year in office "Missourians should notice a difference in their lives."” reports an AP Story published in the Jefferson City News-Tribune. Blunt is quoted as saying:

I think they'll notice an entrepreneurial climate that has improved, that makes it easier for people to get good family-supporting jobs in their state with health care benefits attached to them.

As we approach the end of the second legislative session under a Republican General Assembly with a Republican govenor, can we start to judge them on their efforts? The governor thinks it is enough time. What will the people of Missouri think?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

What is a Family? Let them tell you . . .

Is it hard to define what a family consists of in the 21st century? Apparently not according to officials in Black Jack, Missouri. The St. Louis suburb is giving notice to an unmarried couple with three children they can't live in their community because they don't meet the definition of what a family is, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: The mother, Olivia Shelltrack says:
I refuse to run down to the courthouse and get married just so I can live in my own home,' she said. 'I love my house. I love the area. I love the schools. We wouldn't have bought the house if we didn't think it was what we wanted.
It was silly of Ms. Shelltrack not to realize that she needed to get the rest of the city's blessing before she decided how to live her life!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Long-Distance Journey of a Fast-Food Order - New York Times

Some McDonalds restaurants are trying out the idea of out-sourced call centers for their drive-through service, according to the New York Times. It is a strange concept, made possible by cheap communication technology. Right now, all the drive-through call centers are in the US, but why not place them in India eventually? Order local. Think global.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Massachusetts Plan for Universal Health Care Coverage

A reflection on the bill mandating individuals purchase universal health insurance in Massachusetts is nicely done by Andrew Sullivan. He praises Republican Gov. Mitt Romney for having the courage to back the plan. Sullivan asserts the plan will:
empowers individuals to take control of their own health insurance, rather than putting all the emphasis on employers.
I think it is a fascinating experiment. The plan provides help for low-income residents to purchase insurance. I'm not convinced that the market will drive down costs if everyone is covered, however the plan will lead to universal coverage. Some interesting coalitions between right and left have formed during the crafting of this bill. I hope this might be a good model for the rest of the nation (or least some significant learnings).

Who is the Religous Left?

Over at Slate, Steven Waldman gives a basic primer on The Religious Left (hat tip to Andrew Sullivan). It is a nice article for those wanting to understand religous progressives. I don't agree with him that you can put the National Council of Churches, in the category of "Pious peaceniks;" the Council is a very diverse organization made up of many religous denominations, however, on balance it is a worth a read.

Will the Real Todd Elkins stand up?

According to the Corvallis Gazette-Times a number of people are helping to restore family photos damaged in Katrina "including Todd Elkins and Betty Coulman." Yes, I do have an extensive volunteer life, but this isn't one my projects. It is also strange to see your name in print, but it isn't you.
Of course the top-ranked "Todd Elkins" according to is the owner of, a realtor in Dallas, who targets the gay and lesbian market. I think the Todd of Dallas bears a slight resemblance to me and wonder if any of my former classmates have wondered if that is me. I would find that idea to be highly offensive, I mean I would never go into real estate ;-).

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Speakeasy - Speed Test

Speakeasy - Speed Test is one of the coolest sites I've seen in a long time. A very elegant solution to test the speed your broadband connections (For me, Download Speed: 9607 kbps and Upload Speed: 352 kbps using Comcast Cable Modem in Independence, Missouri).

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Great GMail Tips

Great reading for how to use Gmail the most effectively: Hack Attack: Become a Gmail master - Lifehacker.

Is Religion a Wedge Issue for Republicans?

A great article at looks at the tensions in the Repubican Party. Says one GOP pollster:
The real schism of the party is not abortion or gay rights. It's religiosity. It's whether or not you believe God's Law should be used to set public policy.
This tension seems to be brewing here in Missouri. (Thanks to Bill Tammeus for blogging the article).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Rejected UCC Commercial--Worth Watching

The United Church of Christ has put out some great television ads again. Apparently they are too "controversial" for network TV, but they are great and are worth a view.

Mainline churches should be silent while Religious Right political leaders get to speak their mind?Do you care?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Teaching the Bible in Georgia Public Schools

Georgia prepares to establish the Bible in its public school curriculum. The proposal is to allow elective classes to be taught in the history and literature of the Bible. I think the proposal is interesting and does have merit. No book has influenced Western culture as much as the Bible. However, I'm not sure the religious conservatives who are pushing this effort are ready for all the implications. There is a great amount of contemporary, mainline Biblical Scholarship that would directly contradict the message of most Fundamentalists, such as:
  • None of the Gospels were written by the names of those they are attributed to (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John), nor were any authors of the Gospels eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus. The gospels would have been written 40 - 70 years after the death of Christ.
  • The first five books of the Old Testament were not written by Moses, but instead is the editing together of a variety of different written traditions (some which descended from Oral traditions). Each of these different sources had different perspectives and agendas.
It would seem a nonsectarian, "objective" teaching of the Bible would need to take items like this seriously. I don't think this is what most religious conservatives mean when they call for a critical analysis of creation!

The Great Liberal Hijacking of America

Several weeks ago, Kansas City Star's Kit Wagar had a great story on social conversatives in the Missouri Legisalture. One of my favorite quotes came from Rep. Cynthia Davis (O’Fallon -R) who said:
It’s time to get back to the basics . . . Our country has been hijacked by liberals. We’ve had people with left-wing ideas pushing us away from what made America strong.
What is so telling about her quote is this attitude among so many in the Religous Right that they are the persecuted minority, inspite of the fact they are perhaps the most powerful political force in our nation.

Lets see, control of the Missouri House, Missouri Senate, Governor's Mansion as well as US House, Senate, Presidency and the Supreme Court. Yet Davis believes that liberals have "hijacked" our country.

Tom DeLay's CCW License Revoked

Apparently, Rep. Tom DeLay license to carry concealed a handgun has been revoked since he has been indicted. Not sure what to say, except with rights come responsibilities! ;-)

Up Again

Ok, my wonderful 14 month-old son has really put a dent in my blogging life. However, my friend, Grant, has inspired me to start my blog up again.

I also am going to play around with Blogger again. Unfortunately, my techie-side of me has thought in the past that I am too good to use a simple, "pedestrian" application like Blogger. Instead, I've been using a distribution of Drupal it is very powerful, but a real pain when the site crashes (as it has been known to do). The real question is, do I want to be a blogger or a web-code troubleshooter (the real answer is of course is that I want to do both, but I don't have time to do both!).

I have to say that I haven't used the Blogger application for several years and I'm very impressed with the advances they have made. I will have to start recovering my previous posts from the MySQL database (just to keep the techie in me happy! ;-).