Thursday, December 25, 2008

Prince of Peace

On Christmas what better way to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace than by signing a letter urging the incoming Obama administration to work for a just peace between Israel and Palestine. Consider adding your signature here.

December 1, 2008
The Honorable Barack Obama
President-elect of the United States
Presidential Transition Team
Washington, DC 20270

Dear President-elect Obama,

As Christians of the Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox and Protestant traditions, we are united by a Biblical call to be peacemakers and a commitment to the two peoples of the Holy Land who yearn for a just peace. As Americans, we urge you, Mr. President, to make achievement of Israeli-Palestinian peace an immediate priority during your first year in office.

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has gone on too long. It has caused untold suffering for both sides, created economic hardships, and provided a rallying cry for extremists.

As people of faith and hope, we believe peace is possible. Majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians continue to support a negotiated solution based on two secure and sovereign states as the best way to end this tragic conflict.

In order to achieve a durable peace, your Administration must provide sustained, high-level diplomatic leadership toward the clear goal of a final status agreement. Building on past discussions, we ask you to encourage Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make historic compromises necessary for peace.

Your commitment to working for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel can help strengthen U.S. security and improve stability and relationships throughout the Middle East. We believe that Jerusalem – home to two peoples and three religions – has the potential to become a powerful symbol of hope and coexistence for people across the region and the world.

We know the work for a just peace will not be easy. It will require great courage and resolve, but the risk of inaction is even greater. Without active U.S. engagement, political inertia and perpetuation of the unbearable status quo will make achievement of a two-state solution increasingly difficult. Moreover, we are concerned about the negative impact a further delay will have on the Christian community in the Holy Land, whose numbers continue to decline.

We call on all Christians and people of goodwill to join us in praying for the peace of Jerusalem and in supporting vigorous U.S. diplomatic efforts to secure Middle East peace. Mr. President, as you take up the many challenges facing the United States and the global community, we urge you to work for a better future for all the children of Abraham in the land that is holy to us all.


Rev. Fr. Mark Arey
Ecumenical Officer
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

The Most Rev. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian
Primate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of
America (Eastern)

Rt. Rev. Wayne Burkette
Moravian Church in America

Tony Campolo
Eastern University, St. Davids, PA

Sr. J. Lora Dambroski, OSF
President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Marie Dennis
Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Sr. Donna Graham, OSF
President, English Speaking Conference JPIC Council
Franciscan Friars (OFM)

Ken Hackett
President, Catholic Relief Services

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey
Minister for Mission and Ecumenism, Alliance of Baptists

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard
Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Dr. Joel C. Hunter
Senior Pastor, Northland Church
Member, Executive Committee of the
National Association of Evangelicals

Archbishop Cyril Aphrem Karim
Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church
for the Eastern USA

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Rev. Michael E. Livingston
Executive Director
International Council of Community Churches
Immediate Past President, National Council of Churches

Reverend John L. McCullough
Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service

Mary Ellen McNish
General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee

Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley
General Secretary, The American Baptist Churches

Richard J. Mouw
President, Fuller Theological Seminary

David Neff
Editor in Chief, Christianity Today

Stanley J. Noffsinger
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren

Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer
President, The Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church, (USA)

Very Rev. Thomas Picton, CSsR
President, Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Dr. Tyrone Pitts
General Secretary
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

Bob Roberts, Jr.
Pastor, NorthWood Church, Keller, TX

Leonard Rodgers
Executive Director
Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding

Metropolitan PHILIP (Saliba)
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Rolando L. Santiago
Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church

Dr. Chris Seiple
President, Institute for Global Engagement

Robert A. Seiple
Former Ambassador-at-Large for
International Religious Freedom

Ronald J. Sider
President, Evangelicals for Social Action

Richard Stearns
President, World Vision, United States

The Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

Constantine M. Triantafilou
Executive Director and CEO
International Orthodox Christian Charities

Joe Volk
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Jim Wallis
President, Sojourners

The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

The Right Rev. John F. White
Ecumenical and Urban Affairs Officer
African Methodist Episcopal Church

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

another player

so here's another guy - Erik Mongrain - with amazing technique... who is taking the guitar in a direction that few others have even imagined... you can decide whether it is technique for technique's sake... whatever, it is pretty cool to watch

slap that thang

Sometimes guitar players do technique just for technique sake. I don't enjoy listening to that kind of playing. While I can appreciate the ability of a player like that I honestly feel as if I'm watching someone masturbate... not something I particularly enjoy doing.

But when a player has amazing technique and puts it in service of a song, that is something sublime.

Take a look at Andy McKee here. BTW, he is playing a Lowden guitar. George's company builds what I think are the best guitars in the world.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Unintended Consequences

Today on the way into work, I was listening to a report on Somalia on NPR. And aid worker who was being interviewed said that some 2.8 million Somali's are directly dependent upon foreign aid for food. The picture is beyond what I can imagine. They also said that the Ethiopian troops will be pulling out soon and that the possibilities are anything but pretty. I've been rolling that thought around in my head in conjunction with the line from the Brooke Fraser song Albertine, "now that I have seen, I am responsible. Faith without deeds is dead."

The question, of course, is what deeds are helpful and what deeds have unintended consequences. Africa is a continent with incredible resources. It is also a continent with a terrible history and incredible entrenched problems. I now that colonialism is a major if not the major contributor to those problems, but it is not the only one and at some point, African leaders must take responsibility for the future of their nations and their people. Simple answers, while they seem helpful, may in the end only serve to perpetuate the problems or even make things worse. What US government actions can help to stabilize things and which might increase the violence or strengthen the power of the Islamists.

I think of the scenario with fair trade coffee as an example of unintended consequences... As people of faith and compassion, we want to be fair, so we purchase only fair trade coffee. The farmers who are selling their coffee through a fair trade cooperative suddenly find themselves doing quite well compared to their neighbors growing beans which are a staple in the community. As the local bean farmers watch this, they do the logical thing, pull up the bean plants and put in coffee. Their income goes up but suddenly the entire community is dependent upon imported food and the whims of the international coffee market. Those who do not grow coffee are unable to afford the imported food and if the price on coffee drops, everyone is in a crisis. Have we helped the situation by buying free trade coffee? Yes... and no...

I wonder whether in Africa by doing what seems right and compassionate, we have supported a system of radical unfairness and violence. I wonder whether we have turned peoples into beggars who were once strong and proud. I don't know what the best answers are. I am sure than none are easy or painless.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

fun in advent

I had a lot of fun in church this morning. At Cambridge Drive we do a mix of music - old hymns done in a new style, stereotypical current church music, current Roman Catholic music, newly written hymns, popular secular tunes when they fit, and occasionally an old hymn done in its original style. We have a great band of dedicated and talented players who are willing to take chances. Today, we sang mostly carols even though it is still Advent but we played around with them a bit.
O Come All Ye Faithful was done reggae style
Joy to the World - imagine the Ramones playing it.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing we did with the Rebecca St. James arrangement.
The Friendly Beasts, which was one of my favorite carols as a child, we played more or less in the traditional style.
O Little Town of Bethlehem we played as a ska piece.
And we ended with a little song we do after a ritual of healing called Peace I Am.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I don't follow the Christian music scene very much. There are a couple of artists that I really, really like but in general I find that scene pretty shallow. I came across Brooke Fraser the other day. She is on my really really like list now.

Evidently she had a formative experience during a visit to Rwanda. This song is a reflection on that experience. I find myself on the edge of tears every time I listen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thanks Tom

We've had a pretty sucky week financially - welcome to the club right? I was complaining about it to one of my dearest and oldest friends and he sent me this wonderful poem by Jody Aliesan in her book, Grief Sweat. I wasn't familiar with her work but I will look for her books.

winter solstice
when you startle awake in the dark morning
heart pounding breathing fast
sitting bolt upright staring into
dark whirlpool black hole
feeling its suction
get out of bed
knock at the door of your nearest friend
ask to lie down beside ask to be held
listen while whispered words
turn the hole into deep night sky
stars close together
wintermoon rising over white fields
nearby wren rustling dry leaves
distant owl echoing
two people walking up the road laughing
let your soul laugh
let your heart sigh out
that long held breath so hollow in your stomach
so swollen in your throat
already light is returning pairs of wings
lift softly off your eyelids one by one
each feathered edge clearer between you
and the pearl veil of day
you have nothing to do but live

Tom is one of the best crap detectors that I have ever known and gets right to the heart of... your heart. He hears what you're saying and really hears what is underneath and behind the words, often even hidden from the one speaking. And then he brings deep and appropriate wisdom to the situation. Gently, and without minimizing my distress, he reminded me that the shortest, darkest day is filled with the promise of new light coming.

Thanks Tom for holding me across the miles.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

a harsh light on modern society

I'm not an Apple person. In fact, I don't own even one Apple product. I'm not really sure why as a brand it has such fierce loyalty. All that said, I know that other products have the same cult status

Saturday, December 13, 2008


just some fun silliness

Friday, December 12, 2008

yet more music

One of the blessings of being a hobby musician is that I get to be friends with some amazing musicians.

Miche Fambro is a monster. When he starts crooning, Mick has a voice that could melt Atilla the Hun's heart (check out his Christmas disk). He is a keyboard player and drummer, but his guitar playing is what catches my imagination. Guitar is his primary instrument these days and Mick is one of the most amazing and talented players I have ever heard. If you're a guitar player, you'll probably notice in the video that he is playing left handed. That isn't so unusual.. but then you look closer and notice that his hand positions are all wrong. That is because he plays a right-handed guitar strung normally, upside down. That makes his fingerings and voicings different from a player who plays with the lowest string at the top of the guitar. Add to that, unbelievable chops and a style that incorporates flamenco, jazz, folk, and rock and you get a performer who is basically impossible to copy.

He has a number of other videos on youtube, including a funny series called "Guitar Lessons" which are lessons about life, not paying guitar.

His catalog of cd's is pretty diverse including an electric band - Miche and the Anglos, a band with guitar, violin, cello, and percussion called Big Electric (The Chapel Sessions), and solo material.

If you get a chance to see Mick live, do so, and tell him I sent you. If you don't pick up one of his cd's at his website and be amazed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Guitar Acquisition Syndrome... well, not exactly... I've been jonesing for a ukulele for some time. The idea of this little guy that I can easily carry with me anywhere is very attractive.

They have become very popular with baby boomers with too much money looking for toys and there are scores of builders building incredibly beautiful instruments. The one on the right was built by Tony Graziano who also built the guitar that my daughter Alexis owns (a beautiful little guitar).

And if you think of Tiny Tim when anyone mentions ukuleles, watch Jake Shimabukuro.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I joined Facebook the other day... I guess I'm old because I'm not sure that I get it.

It has been nice connected with some folk that I haven't seen in a long time.

Monday, December 08, 2008

times and seasons

A number of the blogs I read have been writing about Advent. My friend Fernando's has been one. Toni left a comment on one of Fernado's posts that he isn't a "times and seasons kind of person." That got me thinking.

I am a times and seasons kind of guy. That is why the church year is important to me. That is what I miss about living in California where the changes in seasons are so subtle that until you've lived here a while you don't even see them at all. That is why I drove way out of my way a few weeks ago to get the closest thing to real apple cider that I have found in California. That is why I don't get upset about my hair turning gray, my shape changing a bit, and my face becoming a bit more lined. And that is why I remind people that it isn't Christmas season until 12/25. It is Advent now as we prepare for Christmas. Christmas begins on the 25th and lasts for 12 days.

This year, it has been a bit difficult for me to get into the rhythm of Advent. In our house, we read a book together at the dinner table during Advent. We've missed more days so far than we've read and it has only been Cheryl and me at the table. Alexis has moved away and John is mostly MIA - more times and seasons in both cases. We do have our nativity sets up and the tree is decorated. We purchased the few presents we're buying this year. Now, the task is to pay more attention to my spirit and truly get ready to celebrate the coming of Jesus.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


The genius of Christianity is found in the incarnation. The love of God is most clearly seen and experienced when God puts on flesh and blood in Jesus and completely identifies with humanity.

The corollary of the incarnation is contextualization. Putting on flesh involves being found in a specific culture with a specific worldview and a way of experiencing the world that reflects that context. While Jesus experienced the world in his context, we experience Jesus in ours and we overlay him with our understandings and experiences. While some would argue that that moves us a step, or many steps, away from the historical Jesus, I think it is part of God's plan that we bring Jesus into our contexts.

My favorite Christmas carol is one that celebrates the way we contextualize Jesus. It is called Some Children See Him. It was written by Alfred Burt and Wihla Hutson in 1951. Burt wrote 15 carols that accompanied Christmas cards his family sent from 1942-1954.

Some children see Him lily white,
the baby Jesus born this night.
Some children see Him lily white,
with tresses soft and fair.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
The Lord of heav'n to earth come down.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown,
with dark and heavy hair.

Some children see Him almond-eyed,
this Savior whom we kneel beside.
some children see Him almond-eyed,
with skin of yellow hue.
Some children see Him dark as they,
sweet Mary's Son to whom we pray.
Some children see him dark as they,
and, ah! they love Him, too!

The children in each different place
will see the baby Jesus' face
like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,
and filled with holy light.
O lay aside each earthly thing
and with thy heart as offering,
come worship now the infant King.
'Tis love that's born tonight!

My favorite recording of the carol was done by Stacy Sullivan. Take a listen to her version on her CD, Cold Enough to Snow. I cry every time I listen to it. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video of her version.

Here's a video interpretation of the carol sung by James Taylor. You get a taste of the song even though the arrangement is a bit schmaltzy.


We collect nativity sets and have a bunch of them from all over the world... I love the way different artisans interpret the birth of Jesus and the ways that they contextualize it (more about that later).

As we were browsing a craft store this week we found this beautiful card by Maggie Targoni, a local artist. She has some beautiful cards available so check them out.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Prop 8... again

If they're serious about "protecting" marriage, the folk who voted for Prop 8, ought to get on board with this one...

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Sunday, November 30, 2008

more music

there are players out there who take their instruments beyond the apparent limitations inherent in the instrument. Jimi Hendrix was one. Michael Hedges was one. Jaco Pastorius was one. Michael Manring is one. Check out this video of what he can do with a bass guitar...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

auto bailout

My friend Dave Miller, has a wonderful idea that I think deserves to go viral. So, here it is.

The US auto industry needs help. If we sit back and do nothing, thousands of workers could lose their jobs. It is said that over 10% of the US work force is connected to the auto industry.

So here is my solution. Let's start with the 25 Billion issue. Face it Detroit, we're not just going to give it to you. Philosophically, we are against straight handouts to save failing businesses. But here is what we can do.

We should give the poorest 5 million US taxpaying families a car voucher for $20,000.00. That's right. Just give the money to the taxpayers. So they can buy a new car. But only a car.

Here is how it'll work. The voucher must be used to purchase a new American made car from either Ford, GM, Chrysler or their affiliates.

To encourage fuel conservation the car must get at least 30 MPG based on EPA estimates.

Obviously there would have to be some other bits attached - only tax paying families so it wouldn't be the poorest folk, maybe it should have some restriction on re-sale but maybe not, anything else? - which would give some lawyers income for a month or two but the bottom line is that it would get those companies working, contribute to the larger economy, it encourages competition as the three companies compete for the business, it doesn't hurt the companies that are doing better as those customers aren't in the market for a new car anyway, it helps the environment as it would push some of the big older gas guzzlers and polluters off the road, and wouldn't be the same as just flushing the money down a toilet as seems to have happened with the bank bailout. If the auto-makers needed to retool a few plants to increase production of the smaller cars rather than SUV's, they would have the solid promise of a chunk of income coming their way as encouragement to the lenders.

I think it is a great idea that deserves wider discussion, consideration, and bettering up. What do you think?

Advent 1

Advent is my favorite season of the year... as I feel it most keenly as I yearn for what is not yet but will be in the grace of God.. This week, I felt it especially keenly as I watched and read the news about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
I was struck as I put those attacks in the context of the Old Testament text for this the first Sunday of Advent where Isaiah says -

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence--
2 as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil--
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

It strikes me as a prayer for God's violent intervention into history against not only God's enemies but "ours" for we are the ones on God's side. I would guess that same kind of prayer was on the lips of those who murdered so many in Mumbai and who terrorized an entire city.

Elsewhere in Isaiah, we are presented with a very different picture where the divisions between us and them melt away in the fullness of God's kindom. In the best parts of the Christian tradition we see that God did in fact, come down, but it was not in wrath and violence, it was in grace and love and it was Isaiah's other dream that was filled full in the child of Bethlehem.

As I go through this season of yearning, it is my prayer that we will embrace that vision, that we will refuse the nightmares of violence and division, that we will embrace God's yearnings for the peaceable kingdom, shaped by God's grace and God's love. It is my prayer that Edward Hick's painting with its symbolism of the children and animals in front, taken directly from Isaiah, and also the native Americans and Euro-Americans sharing in the background, erasing the barriers between us and them and reaching out to those whom we most fear, become the vision we work for in our future.

Monday, November 24, 2008

some more beautiful music

Pat Metheny is a master on the guitar. Anna Maria Jopek is a wonderful Polish singer. Here's a video of a live performance in Warsaw from 2002.

I came across the video after reading about a signature model guitar that Linda Manzer is releasing. It sounds great and looks pretty cool but the price is... a bit high at $32,000.

this is another guitar that she built for Metheny...

and a video of it...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tomorrow's gig

I don't post a lot about my gigs... I'm not sure why. So this week I am. Tomorrow (Friday Nov. 21), I have a gig at Cold Spring Tavern, an historic - well as historic as California gets, stage coach stop built in the 1860's, nestled in the Santa Ynez mountains just above Santa Barbara. The food is great, the atmosphere in the restaurant is romantic and in the bar, funky. It is a fun place to visit and a great place to hear music.

I'm playing with the amazing Jamie Green and groovemaster, Bob Terry on cajon.

We'll be doing an acoustic set but we'll be trying something new as well - adding a few tracks from some of Jamie's recordings. While this is a bit constraining, you have to play with the track and can't add any measures, slow down, speed up, or take any lierties no matter how right it feels at the moment. On the other hand, it will free me a lot. Most of the time, there is just Jamie's voice, my guitar, and Bob's cajon. I have to fill a lot of sonic space. With the other tracks there, there is more room for me to play other stuff... so it is a trade-off.

I am going to get to play a little electric guitar which I haven't done with Jamie before and I'm really looking forward to that. You see, electric guitars actually fill up less sonic space than acoustic guitars so it would be virtually impossible for things to sound full with an electric guitar, cajon, and voice...

If you're in the Santa Barbara area, stop by to hear the music between 7 & 10. Come early and have a meal in the restaurant and have a beautiful evening. Hope to see you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

War Crimes #2

Boy, I got a few really quick responses on my earlier post on the possibility of trying some of the Bush Administration for War Crimes.

a quick observation and then a story...

the observation is that I don't know enough to know whether anyone is guilty. From what I have read and seen, I strongly suspect, yes, but I don't presume to know.

now a story.

Once upon a time there was a Hindu holy man sitting next to a road during the heavy rains of monsoon, meditating. As the rains poured and the water began to rise, he turned his attention to his surroundings. Almost all of the area was covered in water that was quickly draining away down the road. There was a small high spot near him that had become an island and was soon to disappear under the rising waters. A scorpion had retreated for safety to the high spot. As the holy man watched, he knew that the waters would rise, carry the scorpion away, and it would drown. He reached out to save it and as he did, it struck with its tail. He was quick enough to avoid the sting. He reached out again and again the scorpion tried to sting him. Again, he was able to avoid the sting. This happened a third time.

There was a man watching who decided to advise the holy man, "Don't you know that it is in the nature of the scorpion to sting? If you keep reaching out to save it, you will get stung."

The holy man replied, "Don't you know that it is in my nature to save life? Why should I allow the scorpion to cause me to change my nature?"

Fragile Beauty

My friend, Fernando blogged about a recent concert he attended with jazz guitarist Nguyen Le and singer Huong Thanh and it sounded wonderful. I'm not a huge jazz fan and don't know anything at all about Vietnamese music so I wasn't familiar with either artist and did some quick surfing to find them. They both have some wonderful music and together create something that truly is beautiful.

I couldn't find a good video of them together, but here is one of Huong Thanh performing what I assume is traditional Vietnamese music... Watch it and then check out their most recent recording Fragile Beauty

War Crimes Trial

I believe that there are folk in the Bush administration who should be tried for war crimes. I'm not sure how high it should go, but perhaps as far as President Bush. I don't know whether he or anyone else should be found guilty but I think they should be tried. Here's why.

1. The data from Guantanamo seems to indicate that our government at the highest level is complicit in breaking international law.

2. If they are guilty, then a trial is the only way to restore the US's reputation.

3. If they are not guilty, a fair trial is the only way to restore the US's reputation.

It is critical for the moral standing of the US, to show that we do not see ourselves as above the law. Judge Patricia Wald, a judge in the War Crimes Tribunals for Yugoslavia, implied this question in her forward to Guantanamo and It's Aftermath, a study published by the Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley, will the US hold itself to the same standards it imposes on other nations? It is critical for our standing in the world to restore our moral integrity. It is critical for our security to be able once again to say we are what we claim to be. It is critical that we put this dark history behind us. The only was to do so is to bring to trial those who are responsible.

Friday, November 14, 2008

laugh when you can

I was just watching CNN's coverage of the fire. They were showing a home burn in the Montecito hills. It was probably between 3500-4000 square feet. The host said something to the effect of "that is a huge home, it is probably worth more than $1 million!"

I had to laugh... it may be worth 10 times that or even more. It is certainly worth at least $6 or 7 million. There are lots of homes in the fire area that are worth $10-20 million and more. Remember Oprah paid $50 million for hers and then renovated it and that area is where she lives. It wasn't that long ago that I remember seeing a little cottage - about 900 square feet - sell for $1 million in Montecito.

Even with the drop in home values, prices here are just ridiculous. How can entire communities be able to afford these prices? And what does it do to a community when the middle class and the poor are completely priced out?


We are experiencing the third major fire in Santa Barbara county in a period of 15 months. As I write, about 3500 acres have burned and over 100 homes, mostly very large luxury homes, have been destroyed, a monastery has been completely destroyed, Westmont College has lost numerous buildings, and evacuation warnings extend well into the city of Santa Barbara, to within blocks of the downtown business area.

Yesterday, I stopped at Costco on my way home... about 5:30. I came out of Costco at 6:15, began the drive home and as I got to the entrance of 101, I looked to the south and saw the flames in the foothills about 5 miles from where I was. The scene I saw was very similar to the photo above taken by Pilot Productions which also has a number of other photos of the fire. I turned on the radio and heard about the Tea Fire which began at 5:50. The conditions were perfect for a disaster. The humidity was very low, under 20%. The winds were strong with gusts over 70mph in the hills. The topography in that area is very rugged with amazing multi-million dollar homes interspersed between canyons and hills which are covered with chaparral. Many of the homes have the native vegetation growing very close to the structures. We are experiencing record heat because of a high pressure system over the desert pushing daytime temperatures inland up into the upper 80's. And we are still in a drought situation. The fire took off. The information officer of the fire department referred to the incident as a "fire tornado," a situation with swirling high winds pushing flames in multiple directions at once.

At this point, about 13 people have been injured including some with burns but there have been no deaths reported. Evacuations have proceeded smoothly. The number of homes destroyed - over 100 - is rough because the authorities have not even been able to assess that yet because of the seriousness of the fire itself. They aren't even talking about containment yet, they are only trying to position themselves to minimize damage as the winds kick up again towards evening.

The fire teaches a number of lessons. First is how fragile our lives are. Even these fabulous homes that cost 8 figures, have gates and security guards are still only temporary. The owners may keep out the poor and the curious, but they still are not safe. Some of the families who lost their homes reported having only 15 or so minutes to gather what they could and flee. I think that even Oprah's $50 million home is in a mandatory evacuation zone and is perhaps seriously threatened.

Second, is that nature does what nature does. The chaparral eco system requires fire to be healthy. It has evolved to depend upon a fire every few years. Human beings, on the other hand, don't do well with fires like this and have worked very hard to contain and even eradicate them. As a result, some of the areas have long periods when they have not burned and have built up incredible amounts of fuel for the fire when it does come. The Gap Fire from earlier this year burned in areas that had not burned for over 50 years. It was an incredibly large fire that burned just under 9,500 acres. While it did threaten the community of Goleta, most of the fire burned in remote, mountainous areas and the winds cooperated. Avocado orchards to the north of Goleta acted as a fire break and saved 100's of homes. The lesson is that if homes are built into this beautiful eco system, the owners had better plan on the likelihood of a fire at some point and the longer the period between fires, the bigger the fire will be.

And we learn again what is truly important, that stuff is just that. Relationships are what counts. That community is bigger than even our small intimate connections... this fire fighting requires help from all over southern California and without that help, the extravagant homes of Montecito would all be gone.

Cheryl and I have talked about what papers we need where, whether the area where we live now could actually be threatened by a fire, how fragile we are...

In the meantime, send your good thoughts and prayers this way, that the 100's of fire fighters will be safe, that as little property as is possible is destroyed, that we again learn the important lessons from this event.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

a new tack

I really want to get away from politics for a while... as important as it is, it is not my primary interest in putting this blog up.

I have a few guitar students and it is always thrilling to get one who really loves the instrument and seems to have a connection. I have gotten a new student who will be a very interesting experience. Of all of the students I have had, he is most captivated by the instrument. If desire alone was all it took, he would play like (insert your favorite guitar virtuoso here) already.

So here's the issue... Ethan is 4. That presents a number of problems. First is the size of the instrument. A normal guitar is bigger than he is. Fortunately there are some very good travel guitars available these days at a variety of price points. A reasonable instrument is critical for a beginner and the "musical instrument shaped objects" that are widely available are an almost sure way to discourage any student. His parents got him a Baby Taylor which should work well and will be a great travel guitar for him years from now.

The second issue is a more difficult one. Playing a musical instrument is a muscular thing and requires lots of fine muscle control - something 4 year olds do not have. Plus it requires a degree of strength to press down strings. I don't know whether 4 year olds have that. I'll probably string his guitar with silk and steel to lower the tension and make this easier... we'll see. Also, I've been wondering whether I should start him with some open tunings to make some fingering easier... not sure yet.

And the other problem that I'm anticipating is how I make this fun for him. He listens to a lot of bubblegum pop like the Jonas Brothers... how do I find material that he'll both be able to play and enjoy? Should I use a Suzuki style method or one of the other children's methods that are available or should I cobble something together? I'm just not sure how to approach this yet.

There are some amazing players out there who happen to be children. My friend Thomas Leeb, who certainly is one of the possibilities to put in the fill in the blank for virtuosos above, ran across a kid at a workshop he was giving in Korea. The boy's name is Sungha Jung and I believe he was about 9 when Thomas first met him. He's all of 12 now. So here's a video of him playing at Thomas' workshop. And there are lots more videos of him at his Myspace page and on youtube. If Ethan learns as fast a Sungha did, he'll leave me in the dust pretty quickly.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I apologize

Last night as I was watching the election returns, a commentator told a story from his childhood. In 1964, at age 10, his family visited Washington DC and some of the surrounding areas. They stopped to have a meal at a diner and on the table were printed place mats that said something to the effect of "We apologize for our government that has removed the traditional right to refuse to serve colored people." He said that message underscored the racial divisions in our country in a way he had not experienced before or after. With Obama winning the election, that scar would finally heal.

And then last night in multiple states laws were passed to institutionalize discrimination against GLBT people. On the night when we finally embraced the fullness of American promise for people of all colors, we shut the door on those of differing sexual orientations. I apologize for that.

I am doubly ashamed of those who call themselves Christians and yet used lies and fear tactics to push through this legislation. It was a strategy below the standards of anyone who calls themselves followers of Jesus.

I don't know what comes next. I don't know whether the law can or will be challenged in the courts or if we will once again have an initiative on gay marriage in the future. I do know I am heartbroken for friends who have been told that they are not deserving of full rights. I feel angry at a government that has told me how to practice my ministry in presuming to tell me who I can and cannot marry (FWIW, I won't listen). I am frustrated at the African American community who do not see the parallels here to their own experience and voted overwhelmingly to institutional discrimination. Still, I am hopeful because the arc of history and the movement of God through the years always moves towards justice. I am resolute in standing with those whose love must withstand not only the prejudice of some of the surrounding population but also the weight of unjust laws.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for this video...

President Obama

When I was a boy there was a song - "Only in America, a poor boy like me can grow up to be president." It fed the dreams of some of my friends. We knew we could do anything and become anything. The future was completely open to us. Others knew that it didn't apply to them, they are black. Others knew it didn't apply to them, they are female. This presidential campaign made the possibility of that song apply to all of us... a black man as candidate for president and a woman for vp on the other ticket. In either case, it would have been an historical election. The promise of our nation is there for all Americans.

Now, Obama was not my first choice among the Democrats but he was my choice over McCain. As his campaign moved along I came to see that he was the best choice. He ran a superb campaign that at least hints at the way he will run the nation. He is not a messiah and he will face some very difficult times. Still, I believe that he is uniquely capable to lead the United States through these difficult days and I believe that he is uniquely positioned to restore the stature of the United States in the world. I have hope for the first time in 8 years.

President Obama! That sounds good to me!


I voted yesterday... because I was afraid I would not be allowed to vote. It wasn't because of malice, just incompetence. Here's the story...

When we moved, I went to the California DMV website to change my address. There's a check thing there to change your voter registration. I clicked it and forgot about things. As the election neared, I got to thinking that I should call the county to make sure I am registered. I did and told the person on the phone what I had done. Her answer: "Oh, that doesn't work. You have to re-register."

OK, I had time so I went online to the voter site, printed out the form and filed it in. It was 10/17 and registrations had to be complete by the 20th so we decided to carry them to the registrar. "Oh, you got this form online? It is incorrect. We need more information." Good thing we hadn't just mailed it in. So we gave the extra information.

You can check online to make sure that you're registered so last Monday, I checked. I wasn't there. I called the office. "That's strange. You're in the system but there is no zip code entered so you weren't assigned to a polling place." She took my zip code and assured me that we would be able to vote and encouraged me to check online again at the end of the week. Friday night, I looked again... and guess what. I wasn't there.

So, we made the extra drive to Santa Barbara yesterday, waited in line, and were able to fill out absentee ballots and turn them in.

When we got home, our voter registration cards were in the mail so we would have been able to vote today without problems but it sure felt good to have it done.

I do wonder about those who wouldn't have followed up like I did and who would not have been able to vote. I don't think there was any malice anywhere along the line but it would have been very easy for an overly complicated and inept system to keep me from voting.

If you haven't voted yet, do it. It is the central right and the central responsibility in our country.

Monday, November 03, 2008

consolidated power

There has been a lot of discussion about the possibility of the Democrats controlling the House, Senate, and Presidency after the election tomorrow. The question is whether that is too much power, unchecked, in the hand of one ideological group.

It is a good question. We have seen what happened when the Republicans held both branches. In theory, it is a bad thing, but I think the consolidation of power that the Republicans wielded will not happen with the Democrats... which isn't the same as saying that I don't expect them to win solid majorities in House and Senate plus the Presidency. No, the difference is that in large degree, the Republicans acted in lock step with the administration and voted as a block. Around all of the issues they were most concerned about, they were virtually unanimous. This will never happen with the Democrats. They are too diverse as a party. Regardless of official party platforms, there is always a broad spectrum of understanding in the party on any issue. Abortion? There are pro-choice and anti-abortion folk. The military? There are hawks and doves. Taxes? There are fiscal conservatives and near socialists. Any issue you can name, there is a broad range of understandings among Democrats.

What that means is that Obama will have much more difficulty getting his agenda passed than Bush did. It also means that radical change will not happen quickly... although I don't see Obama advocating any radical change.

Great movie

We rented a great film the other night - The Visitor.

I highly recommend it. Themes of friendship, unexpected change, where we find meaning... and it deals with illegal immigrants in a human way.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

No on Prop 8, #11

I think this will be my last post on prop 8...

The other day I was reading some blogs and came upon Glenn Layne's blog He is a conservative pastor in California. He has a post on voting "yes" on 8 where he talked about a the need to pass 8 to protect religious freedom. In the comments on that post it was clearly pointed out that each of his arguments were unfounded and there was no reason to frame the argument in that way. Indeed, one piece that was not raised is that when the court in California wrote it's opinion in support of gay marriage it specifically excluded any constraints on religious institutions.

For pastor Layne though, none of that matters. He says this to the person who posted
I just don't trust your side. Your used judges to to overrule the people. You side cheats and lies--it's that simple.

How do you respond to this kind of thinking? How do you build a sense of community when one side automatically dismisses facts because they don't matter in the face of irrational fear?

My friend Fernando has a post on his blog where he raises a similar question... how can we get past those unfounded resentments and what will they do the the role of the evangelical church in this culture?

It doesn't bode well for the future of our country and I don't blame it on the evil leftists. They aren't the ones who have majored in using wedge issues to divide this nation.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

no on 8, #10

another video... this one from the Republican mayor of San Diego.

Nobody believes that a civil union and marriage are the same. If they did, we wouldn't be struggling with this issue. There is no way that it is fair or just to enshrine in our state constitution discrimination against a class of people.

Vote no on Prop 8.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

a theology of marriage

Since I've been posting on prop 8, I thought I should give a short post regarding my theology of marriage. I will not go through all of the scriptures and exegete them. Others who are much more skilled have done that. I will give you my understanding of the broad strokes. And I won't talk about the shape of marriage across the centuries or across cultures. It is enough to say that it isn't the same and never was.

About gay and lesbian people... I don't know what makes one person gay and another straight. My guess is the answers are as different as people, but at the bottom line, I don't care whether it is chosen, inborn, a combination of the two, or completely fluid. I don't think God cares either.

I believe people are not created to be alone, but that basic idea plays itself out in very different ways from individual to individual. Some of us are single and find the companionship we need in the broader community. Some of us require a different kind of intimacy that requires a life partner. Still others fall somewhere in the middle. I believe God's concern for us and God's design for us in creation is that we be in relationship and those relationships reflect the love of God. Period.

But what about sex? First, let me say that I do not believe that any of the passages traditionally used to condemn GLBT relationships are relevant to the issue as we experience it in our culture. I do not see any passages in scripture that directly address two same sex adults involved in a committed relationship. There might be hints - check out 2 Samuel 1:26 - but tey are only hints and nothing for sure. So how do we make decisions regarding the appropriateness of sexual expression between two people? The criteria for GLBT folk are the same as for straight folk.

I really like a book I read some years ago by James Nelson called Embodiment: An Approach to Sexuality and Christian Theology. If I remember it correctly, after talking about the meaning of sexual expression in human relationships, Nelson sets out a schema for judging the morality of sexual expressions. He says that sex is always infused with meaning and that it is never just a bodily function. As such, there must be a theological/moral framework to evaluate the appropriateness of sexual acts. His criteria, as I remember them, are
1. Is the sexual expression appropriate for the depth of the commitment of the two people?
2. Is the expression humanizing for the partners or is it exploitative of one or both of them?
3. Are both partners willing and able to live with any possible consequences of the act?

Obviously two people who just met in a bar cannot meet #1. A pair of teenagers cannot meet #3. A pedophile and a child cannot meet any of the three. Nelson would argue, and I think rightly, that there are sexual expressions between married couples that do not meet his criteria and are immoral. He would also argue, again I think rightly, that sexual intercourse between a gay couple can meet all of the criteria and if so, is proper and absolutely blessed by God in the context of their relationship.

So what is marriage in my theology? It is a covenant between two people before God in the context of their community to work together to fulfill God's yearnings for them as individuals and as a couple. Gender is not an issue. For me, the legal aspect is entirely separate. Because marriage is a covenant before God, the role of the state is secondary. I have done weddings of gay and of lesbian couples in New York where it was not sanctioned by the state. I still performed a marriage and believe they are married before God. Regardless of what happens with the law in the state of California, if a gay or lesbian couple comes to me seeking marriage, I will perform the service under the same criteria I would use for a straight couple. Unfortunately, if prop 8 passes, that same couple will not have legal standing, secondary though it is.

no on 8, #9

another video...

There are those who would argue that this video is unfair, but I remember when interracial marriages were illegal in some states. These arguments, along with the same religious arguments used in support of prop 8, are the very ones that were used to try to retain laws against interracial marriages. It is a fair reminder.

Others will bristle at the characterization of prop 8 as "prop hate." While, I understand that and know some folk who are voting for prop 8 who are anything but hateful, the result is the same... discrimination and hurt. I wouldn't call it prop hate, but I understand why others would.

Top 10 Reasons Why Conservatives Should Vote for Obama

Andrew Sullivan is one of my regular reads. I respect his thoughtfulness and the integrity with which he makes and takes his stands. He calls himself a conservative (who are we to argue?) but is a staunch supporter of Obama and one of the harshest critics of Sarah Palin out there. He has given what he believes are the top ten reasons a conservative should vote for Obama. I've posted them here.

10. A body blow to racial identity politics. An end to the era of Jesse Jackson in black America.

9. Less debt. Yes, Obama will raise taxes on those earning over a quarter of a million. And he will spend on healthcare, Iraq, Afghanistan and the environment. But so will McCain. He plans more spending on health, the environment and won't touch defense of entitlements. And his refusal to touch taxes means an extra $4 trillion in debt over the massive increase presided over by Bush. And the CBO estimates that McCain's plans will add more to the debt over four years than Obama's. Fiscal conservatives have a clear choice.

8. A return to realism and prudence in foreign policy. Obama has consistently cited the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush as his inspiration. McCain's knee-jerk reaction to the Georgian conflict, his commitment to stay in Iraq indefinitely, and his brinksmanship over Iran's nuclear ambitions make him a far riskier choice for conservatives. The choice between Obama and McCain is like the choice between George H.W. Bush's first term and George W.'s.

7. An ability to understand the difference between listening to generals and delegating foreign policy to them.

6. Temperament. Obama has the coolest, calmest demeanor of any president since Eisenhower. Conservatism values that kind of constancy, especially compared with the hot-headed, irrational impulsiveness of McCain.

5. Faith. Obama's fusion of Christianity and reason, his non-fundamentalist faith, is a critical bridge between the new atheism and the new Christianism.

4. A truce in the culture war. Obama takes us past the debilitating boomer warfare that has raged since the 1960s. Nothing has distorted our politics so gravely; nothing has made a rational politics more elusive.

3. Two words: President Palin.

2. Conservative reform. Until conservatism can get a distance from the big-spending, privacy-busting, debt-ridden, crony-laden, fundamentalist, intolerant, incompetent and arrogant faux conservatism of the Bush-Cheney years, it will never regain a coherent message to actually govern this country again. The survival of conservatism requires a temporary eclipse of today's Republicanism. Losing would be the best thing to happen to conservatism since 1964. Back then, conservatives lost in a landslide for the right reasons. Now, Republicans are losing in a landslide for the wrong reasons.

1. The War Against Islamist terror. The strategy deployed by Bush and Cheney has failed. It has failed to destroy al Qaeda, except in a country, Iraq, where their presence was minimal before the US invasion. It has failed to bring any of the terrorists to justice, instead creating the excrescence of Gitmo, torture, secret sites, and the collapse of America's reputation abroad. It has empowered Iran, allowed al Qaeda to regroup in Pakistan, made the next vast generation of Muslims loathe America, and imperiled our alliances. We need smarter leadership of the war: balancing force with diplomacy, hard power with better p.r., deploying strategy rather than mere tactics, and self-confidence rather than a bunker mentality.

Those conservatives who remain convinced, as I do, that Islamist terror remains the greatest threat to the West cannot risk a perpetuation of the failed Manichean worldview of the past eight years, and cannot risk the possibility of McCain making rash decisions in the middle of a potentially catastrophic global conflict. If you are serious about the war on terror and believe it is a war we have to win, the only serious candidate is Barack Obama.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No on 8, #8

We've all heard the arguments that marriage in the Bible is one man and one woman and that God planned it that way. The implication is that the way we did marriage in the 1950's is exactly the way it has always been done.

The other day I received an e-mail with a list of amendments to prop 8 to make it more consistent with the Bible...

* Marriage in the United States of America shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5.)

* Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

* A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

* Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

* Since marriage is for life, neither the US Constitution nor any state law shall permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9-12)

* If a married man dies without children, his brother must marry the widow. If the brother refuses to marry the widow, or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law.
(Gen. 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

* In lieu of marriage (if there are no acceptable men to be found), a woman shall get her father drunk and have sex with him.(Gen 19:31-36)

We could add more verses to illustrate polygamy, bride prices, women treated as chattel, etc. all of which are not condemned...

Yes... it is a bit silly, but it does underscore the fact that marriage in the Bible is a very different institution that we have today and that to try to use Biblical understandings of marriage as an argument for prop 8 is, well, really silly.

Monday, October 27, 2008

no on prop anything

In California we have an initiative process that allows anyone with money and dedication enough to get a law passed. Often there are tables set up outside my local Trader Joes with folk soliciting signatures for some new proposition. I never sign regardless of the subject of the proposition. I would sign one though. I am wishing someone with big bucks and more than a little sense and devotion to the long term health of the state would start an initiative to withdraw the entire initiative process here. I'd cheer on anyone who did the same thing anywhere else that engages in this ridiculous practice of enacting laws by vote.

The argument is that it makes for great democracy. After all, the argument goes, everyone gets a say in the formation of the covenant of the community. The reality is that it does nothing of the sort. Propositions that win are often the ones with the most money behind them. If you can run enough advertisements, you win. It doesn't matter whether the ads are truthful or not. Most of the time the propositions are written by special interests who have little or no ability to write good laws and even with the best of intentions, the unintended consequences are often huge. Just as often, the propositions are attempts to bypass a thoughtful consideration of the issues by the legislature. If you know a thoughtful legislature would never pass your law, write it yourself, run a slick advertising campaign, and voila! You've got a law.

Let me give two examples of poor results - Prop 13 is the poster child. While the intent of many voters was good - to allow elderly folk on fixed incomes to not be forced out of their homes by rising taxes due to rapidly increasing property values. It did that. It also decimated the tax roles of most municipalities and gutted education and other public services. Additionally, it exacerbated the housing crunch in much of California as the burden of taxes are carried only by the most recent of homeowners. Additionally, it caused municipalities to look for other ways to raise revenue or cut costs such as radically increasing fees like building permits and providing limited municipal services to new developments. There are ways to alleviate the strain on fixed income property owners without the radical surgery this proposition involved. But of course, the real intent of the proposition was not to help those on fixed incomes. It was to force local governments to shrink regardless of the costs to their communities.

A second example is seen in the propositions aimed at requiring parental notification of abortions for teens. Twice this has been defeated by the electorate but it is back on the ballot again. A rich man in San Diego keeps funding it and it keeps coming back. This is a very complicated issue and requires great care in constructing legislation. It involves issues of teen pregnancy, abuse, parental rights, women's rights, and probably a host of other issues. The potential results are daunting in either direction. There is no way that the average voter can think through all of the involved questions and certainly there is no way to address them in the voters' materials we receive from the state. Even less can they be adequately addressed in 30 second commercials. They need to be talked out on the floor of the legislature. This time, the proposition may pass as there are a number of other propositions that are receiving much more discussion - notably prop 8 regarding the definition of marriage - so prop 4 is under the radar of most people. They'll likely vote without considering the whole picture. Presumably, if this proposition fails a third time, its proponents will have it on the ballot next time too... and again, and again, and again until somebody runs out of money.

The bottom line is that the initiative process puts the power to make laws in the hands of the people, almost always without adequate consideration of the long term effects of the laws and often without sophisticated understandings of the underlying issues. That is a bad way to make laws.

Yes, it is slower to allow elected officials to make laws and it is more difficult to get change to take place but it is the sensible way to do it. That is, after all, the reason we elect legislators. If you have an issue, elect a champion. If your representatives do not adequately reflect your concerns, vote them out and lobby the new ones.

No on 8, #7

I hadn't really thought about the yes on 8 campaign as being anti-family but the way it is exploiting children for its end is just that, especially when they are using images of children without the consent of the parents. Cynical is a kind word to describe those who use children to further their own political goals while claiming to be supporting family values.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

still on the election...

here's another endorsement of Obama... thanks Fernando for pointing it out.

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Friday, October 24, 2008

no on prop 8, #6

there have been some wonderful ads from the no on 8 people...

here are three more that are both clever and right on target.

back to the election

We've all heard that the RNC paid $150,000 at Saks and Neiman Marcus for a new wardrobe for Sarah Palin. Enough has been said about that.. but there is more.

Guess who was the highest paid individual on the McCain campaign payroll during the first two weeks of October... Amy Strozzi. Who is that? Sarah Palin's make-up artist! She was paid $22,800 for the first two weeks of October for making sure that Sarah's face matched her new threads. And the 4th highest paid person on the McCain payroll was Angela Lew who received $10,000 for that same two week period. Ms. Lew is Palin's hair stylist.

What does this tell us about the priorities of a McCain/Palin ticket?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

No on 8, #5

here's an ad that responds to one of the lies being used by the yes on 8 crowd

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Al Qaida endorses...


We've all seen the e-mails floating around saying that Al Qaida is behind Obama... but here is a report regarding encrypted e-mails intercepted by a US intelligence contractor. This one actually makes sense to me from a strategic point of view.From what I know about Al Qaida, McCain makes a lot more sense for their agenda. And if there would be a terrorist incident before the election, it would likely help McCain more than Obama...

Of course, the question is, does it matter who Al Qaida wants to win the election? It seems to me the answer is clearly, "No." We need to elect the person whom we believe will do the best job as president for the US. The answer for me is again clear - Obama. And it is just a fortunate coincidence that is not the person that Al Qaida wants to win.

McMansions and the Gaviota Coast

Once again we see how money and power talks in Santa Barbara and if you have neither... well, just shut up and commute.

The coastline headed west of Goleta is breath-takingly beautiful and represents one of the longest stretches of undeveloped coastlines in Southern California. It is also one of the 15 most biologically diverse habitats in the world. So what is happening there? 72 McMansions ranging from 3,500 to 10,000 square feet on about 3,200 acres of land were approved for development. Some land will be set aside for a public park and there will be an Equestrian Center for the residents.

The county supervisors voted 3-2 to approve this development. It is obscene. We don't need multi-million dollar estates dotting what was a pristine coastline and taking land that has been actively used for agriculture. We need workforce housing for real people. Teachers, nurses, fire fighters, police officers, engineers, even pastors end up commuting long distances to work in Santa Barbara and Goleta because affordable housing just isn't available and whenever anyone tries to build any, they are shot down. Literally thousands of middle class and working class folk commute 30, 45, and even 60 miles or more each direction because they cannot afford housing in Santa Barbara and the best we can do is allow a developer to build obscenely large homes for 72 families? I will drive past those monstrosities each day as I make my 35 mile commute.

Compare this to the Bishop Ranch proposal - Bishop Ranch is a 240 acre parcel located within the city boundaries of Goleta. While the property is zoned for agricultural use, it has not been used in that way for over 40 years. This proposal would have provided 100's of homes including housing for middle class and working class people within the city limits. The plan was carefully constructed to enhance the broader community and would have been a tremendous help in addressing the social pressures in this area. It was shot down and the land continues to lie unused and vacant.

We need infill. We need high density. We need affordable housing in Santa Barbara and Goleta. We do not need the Naples development. I hope that the California Coastal Commission has the wisdom to reject this proposal and keep the land open.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pew Poll

Back in August, I posted something about Obama and had a comment left that he was "already down in the polls" and that he would very soon fade into obscurity. Well, the latest Pew poll says something pretty different than that... Overall, Obama is up 53-39. And he is ahead just about everywhere. Now, I realize that we still have two weeks until the election and a lot can happen between now and then, but it looks good to me.

No on 8, #4

I have received a lot of liturature from the Yes on 8 folk as well as having seen a lot of television ads... One thing stands out to me, well, maybe two.

First the arguments are based on fear - fear that from what I can see is completely unfounded


there are lots of untruths being told... let me be straightforward, at times they're just lying and other times they're twisting the truth to the point that it isn't recognizable.

No church, synagogue, mosque or other religious institution will be forced to marry anyone they don't want to. I know churches that refuse to marry divorced people. Divorced people have been legally free to marry forever. Nobody forces those churches to go against their stated beliefs. I know churches that will not do marriages for all kinds of other reasons, nobody forces them. No congregation will be forced to do marriages of a gay couple if it goes against their faith. Period. Anybody who tells you anything different than that is lying.

And nobody can tell a church that they have to change their doctrines about anything. If your congregation believes that gays should not be allowed to marry, you can continue to preach that every Sunday from now until the turn of the century. Nobody can tell you what to preach. And they can't sue you or charge you with a crime because of it.

They say that "marriage has always and everywhere been between a man and a woman." First off, I don't know how in the world anyone could say that... there is no way to know what has always and everywhere been, but beyond that, it implies that marriage as an institution has always been exactly as it was in the 1950's - 1 working man, 1 stay at home woman, 3 school aged children, and a dog. Sorry. I wasn't even then. Any anthropoligist would tell you that the institution of marriage has always been fluid and always will. Marriage in the Bible was very different than it is now and it changed through the times when scriptures were written.

And don't raise anything about childbirth. In marriage in our culture, childbirth may be a purpose of marriage but it is not the defining purpose. If it was, then we would disallow ayone who is sterile or who chooses not to have childen from marrying and require those beyond childbearing years to call their relationship something else.

"They are forcing their view on me..." Who is? Nobody can force you to change your belief system. What you think of believe about a neighbors relationship is irrelevant. You don't have to accept a gay couples relationship any more than they have to accept yours.

"Gay marriage diminishes "'real' marriage" How? How does a same sex couple who are committed to one another and love one another and wants to formalize that relationship in the context of their faith community impact your relationship in any way at all? We've been having gay marriages in CA for a bit now. As far as I can see, nothing has changed. Massachusetts hasn't fallen into the sea... and it has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country, lower than most of the states in the Bible belt.

Bottom line is that allowing a gay couple to marry won't change a thing for any straight person... but it makes a world of difference for that couple. Be fair to them. Let them formalize their commitment of love. And don't tell me as a pastor who I can or cannot marry.

Monday, October 20, 2008

no on 8 #3

another video ad...

although I have to say that I'm sure this ad would also energize the yes on 8 crowd... I still like it and I like the song from Rent

Colin Powell endorses Obama

Saturday, October 18, 2008


No, this isn't directly about the presidential candidates but it is about the election. I have heard multiple discussions about fraud with regards to this election - ACORN, multiple states that have removed names from the voter roles, the on-going legal battle in Ohio.

I'm not a lawyer and don't claim to really understand the law but I heard a lawyer on the radio the other day talking about this issue and he made a distinction that I think is helpful. He said that there are three different issues here, not one: voter registration fraud, voter fraud, and election fraud. They are very different and each have very different possible results.

Voter registration fraud is just that, someone registers who is not eligible to vote. If ACORN workers were involved in fraud, this is it. Say one of them filled out a registration for Micky Mouse, living at the Magic Kingdom. That is voter registration fraud. Nobody has voted and no harm has come to the election process beyond inflating the rolls. The guy interviewed on Fox who said he had registered 72 times was guilty of this.

Voter fraud is when someone shows up at the polling place claiming to be Micky and votes. This is obviously much more serious than registration fraud. Here we have actual possibility of impact on the election. Still, at least on a national level, it is pretty unlikely that you could swing an election with voter fraud. In most cases, it would take an organized effort of tens of thousands of fraudulent votes. Of course, in a very close election, this could be impactful.

Election Fraud is when someone manipulates the system. Thousands of voters are removed from the rolls without proper reasons, voting machines are deliberately rigged to miscount votes, populations are targeted to keep them from voting by whatever means. Election fraud is much more able to change the results of an election.

As we look at the issues swirling around this election many people seem to be confusing these three different issues or conflating them into one. Let's remember they are very different issues with very different potential impacts.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

no on 8, #2

Today, I made calls to encourage people to vote no on prop 8. I had a number of discussions with people who said something to the effect of "The Bible says..." and then told me that they were voting for the proposition. It wasn't helpful to argue with them but it did get me thinking about the way this proposition relates to faith.

I have reasons to vote "no" on prop 8 that are squarely based in my faith and in my understanding of the Bible. I am sure that there are folk out there who have reasons to vote "yes" that are based on their faith. Neither is relevant to the discussion of a constitutional amendment denying the right to marry to gay or lesbian couples. We live in a secular country. It is irrelevant what the Bible says or doesn't say about marriage from a legal standpoint. Religious definitions of what is right and wrong cannot be the basis of public policy. For an idea to become law or public policy it must be able to stand on its own without the backing of any particular faith tradition. Our laws must have justification within themselves.

Yes, the general foundation of our ethics is based in a roughly Judaeo-Christian heritage and many of our laws reflect that tradition but it is never enough. The founders of our nation wisely realized that in a religiously diverse nation there must be more to our laws than religious dictates. They knew that there are scores of religious rules that do not stand up to investigation outside of a specific religious tradition. While those rules may be very good for an individual to shape his or her life, they are not adequate for forming public policy. If I believe that eating a cheeseburger is an affront to God, then I must not eat a cheeseburger. If you on the other hand, do not believe in the same god or any god at all, I have no right to impose a religious dictate on you. We do not need to appeal to the 10 commandments to outlaw murder. It makes sense for community life. At the same time we do not enshrine celebration of the Sabbath even though it is in the 10 commandments and even though it is a very good idea.

As a Baptist, I realize that as soon as we allow the state to impose religious ideas on the population, the question becomes, "Whose religious ideas?" There are a lot of religious folk out there whose ideas I find repugnant. I'm sure there are at least as many who find mine so. That is why we leave religious issues to individuals and faith communities and base our laws and our public policy somewhere else.

So... while I would disagree with those who argue that the Bible requires us to stand against gay marriage, in the end, it doesn't matter what the Bible says or doesn't say. We cannot and must not base public policy solely on religious faith.

Vote No on Prop 8

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

no on 8 #1

Over the next few days, I'll write some regarding Proposition 8 and why I think it is bad policy, bad law, basically unjust, and why I am voting "no" on 8. As a beginning, take a look at this old video about equality in marriage.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

some good wines

I promised to blog about something other than politics... although I'm really tempted.

Saturday we were doing some work around the new condo and after lunch said, let's go taste some wines. We went to three wineries...

the first was Starlane and Dierberg. I had read some good things about them and they're about 5 miles from our house. Well, their wines were OK but nothing inspired us.

Next we drove a ways north and went to Foxen. It is a delightful little winery and we tasted a number of great wines. We bought a bottle of an '03 Zinfindel that will be amazing for Thanksgiving. I highly recommend their wines.

Finally we drove back to Los Olivos - a little town in the middle of the Santa Ynez valley with lots of tasting rooms. We've long been fans of Andrew Murray Wines. They make some great syrahs - in spite of what they told you in Sideways, syrahs are the best wines from Santa Barbara County. They had a great tasting with I think 10 different wines including 5 or 6 different syrahs. We bought two bottles including one that is made from grapes sourced from another of our favorite local vineyards - Stolpman Vineyards. It will be fun to compare this wine to one that Stolpman made from the same grapes.

Then tonight, Cheryl and I went out for a belated birthday dinner for me, to a little restaurant in Los Olivos called Patrick's Sidestreet Cafe. We had a great meal and another bottle of local wine - a syrah from Consilience Wines from the Rodney Shull vineyard. Very, very nice. Best of all... I had an amazing dark chocolate dessert. I love chocolate but too often, chocolate desserts are too sweet for me. This one was dark and rich and was amazing with the last bit of the syrah.

So, if you're looking at a Santa Barbara wine, I'd recommend the Foxen Zin (their chardonnays were very nice as well if you prefer white wine), just about any red from Andrew Murray, or the Consilience reds.

Friday, October 10, 2008

blogging and politics

Lately, it looks as if a lot/most of my blogging has been about the presidential race. That makes me uncomfortable. I don't want this to be a political blog. I believe this election is extremely important, but it isn't the most important thing and it certainly isn't the only thing.

I'd like to be spending more time thinking about music, about church life, even about which strings to put on my nylon string guitar. I'd like to be focusing on the beauty around me and I'd really like to be working on my cynicism. (the McCain campaign isn't helping there... see I'm tempted to write about politics again). And I've been pretty worried about my cat who is sick and my son who is trying to figure out what comes next in his life.

So, my goal over the next week or so is to not write about politics or at least about the presidential campaign. I am going to write something about prop 8 in California, but that is a different issue altogether - sadly, it is feeding my cynicism as well.

Send some good thoughts or prayers my way and hopefully we can talk about something other than Obama and McCain.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Who Is John McCain

John McCain has been asking the question, "Who is Barack Obama?" implying that he is a terrorist, a Muslim, a fil in theblank with whatever terrible fear you have...
Maybe the question should be, who is John McCain?

Tim Dickinson has written a short bio piece about McCain in Rollingstone that should be read.

Voting irregularities

Today's New York Times has an article that shows that six battleground states appear to be involved in illegally culling voter registration lists. While the article does not accuse either party, it does acknowledge that the actions will more likely hurt the Democratic ticket than the Republican one. Remembering back to Ohio and Florida in previous elections, it is critical that voters, especially in battleground states, check to be sure they are registered.

Bobby Kennedy and Greg Pallast have written a comic book with instructons to make sure that your vote counts. It is available for download for any donation from $.01 on up.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

another opinion

We've all seen the things floating around the internet claiming Obama as a Muslim, as not being born in the US, etc. etc. etc.

here's another opinion...

Monday, October 06, 2008


If you haven't registered... hopefully it isn't too late. Do it immediately.

and wherever you stand on any of these issues... VOTE!