Mubarak steps down in Egypt

President Mubarak, despite what he pledged just the day before, stepped down from power, the result of an 18-day popular uprising in Egypt.  The military is in control for now and has promised both democracy and continued peace with Israel:

The ruling military pledged Saturday to eventually hand power to an elected civilian government and reassured allies that Egypt will abide by its peace treaty with Israel after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, as it outlined the first cautious steps in a promised transition to greater democracy.

The military’s statement Saturday had been eagerly awaited by the public and thousands of protesters still massed in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square. The crowds were still riding high on jubilation over the success in removing Mubarak on Friday after 18 days of unprecedented popular protests, but they promised to maintain pressure on the military to carry through long-sought reforms.

After the statement, the main opposition coalition — a loosely based grouping of youth and traditional opposition groups — said it would end its main protest in Cairo’s Tahrir, or Liberation, Square but would call for weekly demonstrations after Friday prayers.

The group also listed its demands for the first time during a press conference. Those included: the lifting of hated emergency laws, the forming of a presidential council and broad-based unity government, the dissolution of parliament and creation of a committee to amend or rewrite the constitution. They called for reforms ensuring freedom of the press, freedom to form political parties and more transparent media institutions.

The coalition also called for an investigation into allegations of endemic corruption within the regime and the trial of officials responsible for the deaths of protesters.

via The Associated Press: Egypt army commits to power transfer, Israel peace.

Egypt is the world’s largest and most influential Arab state.  The reverberations of the revolution are spreading through the Arab world, with pro-democracy factions surfacing just about everywhere, including Saudi Arabia.   Might western-style freedom and democracy have a chance, once the people taste it?  Or will  democracy instead lead to less freedom, to  Sharia law and radical Islam?  Israel is very worried, though the military’s assurance that the peace treaty will be honored is surely good news.  But that’s before a new civilian government is elected.  Some experts have tied the rise of  radical Islam to the frustrations of living under authoritarian regimes, suggesting that increased freedom will give people a more positive scope for their energies.

What do you think will happen?  Over the next year or two, do you think we will see (1) western-style democracy  (2) an attempt to restore the Caliphate  (3)  war with Israel  (4)  all of the above  (5) other?

Special music edition

I’ve gotten out of touch when it comes to new and recent music.  What are some good songs, albums, and artists?  Describe them, saying what’s so good about them.  I’m curious about all genres.   Special gratitude would go for songs that would be listenable to someone who is not  young.

“The greatest Lutheran bar band, ever”

That would be the Jayhawks!   I had no idea that Mark Olson was a Lutheran.   I heard them in concert years ago.   Thanks to Larry Wilson for alerting me to this fact.  From the Mockingbird Blog:

I once heard The Jayhawks described as the “greatest Lutheran bar band ever,” and though I’m still not exactly sure what that means, I know I like it. It’s certainly better than the “alt-country pioneers” label they normally get saddled with. Or worse, heirs of Gram Parsons’ “cosmic American music” legacy. (Which is not a knock on Gram in any way, just on the flaky non-genre he coined). My own description would be: jangly God-haunted Midwestern country-folk with fuzz guitars and harmonies that redefine the words “sandpaper-and-honey.” But even that doesn’t cover the oddly circular progression they’ve undergone, from breezy singer-songwriters to arty and somewhat angsty recordmakers, and back again. Regardless of how they’re categorized, The Jayhawks are an American treasure, responsible for at least four brilliant albums, two of which feature co-founder/-lead singer Mark Olson (Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow The Green Grass), two of which don’t (Sound of Lies and Rainy Day Music are exclusively Gary Louris-led affairs). The fact that they’ve got a connection to Lutheranism is just a bonus. . . .

Anyway, back to the “Lutheran” part. Mark Olson’s faith has always informed the fractured poetry of his songs – an image here, a phrase there – never obscured by fear or paraded with insecurity. I’m thinking of the uncontrived religious undertones of “Waiting for the Sun” or “Real Light,” how they cleverly changed the title of “Martin Luther” to “Martin’s Song,” or how they covered Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head” on an early b-side. So when Olson wrote and recorded a straight-ahead gospel tune on his solo record December’s Child (!), “Still We Have A Friend In You,” it may not have been a big shock, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise (he had almost gone there with the excellent “Someone There To Talk With” on his previous album). It helps that it’s such a great song, too – totally authentic, uplifting and singable, with not even a whiff of cheapness. In other words, it’s top-tier white gospel (which is not meant as a backhanded compliment) and a bit of a modern classic. Olson explained himself in the press release for the record with characteristic humility and understatement: “That’s a gospel song in the sense of when you’re younger, you go away from God. It talks about what it takes to get you back into the walk with God. A lot of times you don’t go back until you’re just down.” Turns out it was a dry run for his next record, arguably his best, the divorce-themed The Salvation Blues. Garrison Keillor, eat your heart out.

via Mockingbird (Go to the link for lyrics and a sample.)

Does any one know any more about this?

Of course, my favorite Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod bar band has to be anyone playing with Lyle Lovett.  (Does anyone have any more Lyle Lovett sightings at local churches?  I’ve heard a few, including one where he explained to his band members why they couldn’t take Communion.)

Does anyone know any other Lutheran bar bands, or any other interesting and seemingly unlikely Christian affiliations?

God in country music

Joe Carter conducts a fascinating comparison of how country music talks about God, marriage, children, as opposed to the absence of such topics in pop, hip-hop, R&B, and even adult contemporary.  The post defies excerpt, so read it here  Finding God in the Gaps of Country Music | First Things.

Why do you think that is?  It can’t be just the age of the listeners, since lots of young people listen to country music, and young people can be religious.  African Americans tend to be more religious, we are told, than other demographics, yet that might not be evident in their music.  Is it a class thing?  If so, why should poorer people lower on the socio-economic totem pole be more openly religious than the upper crust?

Tea partiers kill Patriot Act

Tea party Republicans  in the House of Representatives joined with liberal Democrats to vote down the Patriot Act, which gives the government wide powers to investigate potential terrorists, some say at the expense of civil liberties.  The Obama administration wanted to extend the bill, which is set to expire, and mainstream Republicans were on board with that.

The surprise defeat of the bill has lots of pundits confused.  Aren’t the tea partiers right wing extremists?  Aren’t they the type that want to lock up foreigners and clamp down on everyone’s freedom?  How could these conservatives vote against this conservative bill?

As I keep trying to explain to my liberal friends, there are many different kinds of conservatives.  This vote makes perfect sense and is in exact accord, for better or worse, with the Tea Party ideology, which is most emphatically not liberal, even though on this issue they voted with liberal civil libertarians.

The Tea Party stands for limited government.  Therefore, it can be expected to oppose measures such as the Patriot Act  that increase government power over its citizens.

The Tea Party has a high view of the Constitution, which it insists on interpreting literally and applying to the letter.  That means that Tea Partiers will be zealous defenders of the Bill of Rights.  Therefore, they can be expected to oppose the Patriot Act, which arguably violates some of those rights.   But by this same thinking, they will also oppose gun control measures, which also go against the Bill of Rights.

See how that works?

Patriot Act upset vote: Can tea party lawmakers, liberals be friends? – CSMonitor.com.

Did the Huffington Post sell out?

Did Arianna Huffington just sell out her fellow progressives?

In the literal sense, she undoubtedly has: The sale of Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million (including a large pile of cash going to Huffington herself) means this powerful liberal voice is formally joining the “corporate media” its writers have long disparaged.

There are also some indications that she has sold out in the ideological sense and committed the Huffington Post to joining the mainstream media – the evil “MSM” of “HuffPo” blogger ire. Announcing the deal, she and her new boss went out of their way to say that the new Huffington Post would emphasize things other than the liberal politics on which the brand was built.

via Arianna Huffington’s ideological transformation.


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