The table is set and the door is open

The table is set and the door is open August 19, 2014

• California Baptist University, in Riverside, is a private, Southern Baptist school that describes itself as “a Christ-centered educational experience that integrates academics with spiritual and social development opportunities” in which students “are challenged to become individuals whose skills, integrity and sense of purpose glorify God and distinguish them in the workplace and in the world.”

There’s a lot of religious jargon in that description — “Christ-centered,” “spiritual,” “glorify God” — but CBU explains that what all that boils down to is very simple: They exclude transgender people.

Contrast that with Immaculate Heart High School in L.A. (This is the happier story.)

• Imagine spending all summer cooped up in the basement of some archive, poring over letters and newsletters and official records from the 19th century. If that sounds horrible to you, then skip this item, but if that sounds to you like a delightful adventure and treasure-hunt, then you should check out John Fea’s series “On Writing the History of the American Bible Society.” Fea, a history professor at Messiah College, is plowing through the society’s archives to write an institutional history. His part of the deal was that he gets to write it as he sees it, without insitutional bias or pressure. Their part of the deal was that he’d produce a book — start to finish, research to publication — in something like 15 months (!).

I’m enjoying Fea’s nuggets about the Bible Society’s attempts to cope — or to avoid coping — with slavery and the Civil War, but I’m also just appreciating this little window into the process of such research.

• A reminder that torture is designed to produce false confessions. That is what is is for, and all that it is for. “Torture a man and he’ll tell you anything.” Iggy

That’s Iggy Pop, saying “Justin Bieber is the future of rock n’ roll.”

• It’s illegal to offer to bribe members of Congress to sway their votes, but apparently it’s perfectly legal to threaten to shoot them unless they support your agenda. That’s why gun lobbyist and respected white evangelical Larry Pratt is not in jail.

Fiat Pluvia.

• I am shocked — shocked! — to learn that “the leader of a New Age consciousness and enlightenment school, who channels the voice of a 35,000-year-old Lemurian warrior” may turn out to be nothing more than a shameless con artist and an awful human being.

• The Mosul dam is no longer under the control of the ISIS militia. But it seems the recent violent struggle for control of the dam didn’t change the constant work being done there by the engineers who have, for three decades under an ever-shifting set of regimes, kept the thing from collapsing:

The Mosul Dam was built in the mid-1980s on what reports indicate was a terrible spot to build a sprawling dam.

“Mosul Dam, the largest dam in Iraq, was constructed on a foundation of soluble soils that are continuously dissolving, resulting in the formation of cavities and voids underground that place the dam at risk for failure,” said an urgent letter sent from David Petraeus, then commanding general of the U.S. Army, and Ryan Crocker, then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in 2007.

The dam requires “extraordinary engineering measures” — namely constant grouting operations — to fill in the holes and “maintain the structural integrity and operating capability of the dam,” according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) report from the same year.

For 30 years –- and through several periods of violent conflict — the Iraqi government has managed to keep the dam upright by continuously pumping in literally tons of grout like an industrial version of the little Dutch boy, as a geotechnical expert who worked on the dam put it.

… Friday an Iraqi government official said that the lead dam engineer and his team were still on site and operating the dam at ISIS’s behest.

So the “extraordinary engineering measures” continue — from Saddam Hussein to Paul Bremer to al-Maliki to ISIS to whoever comes next.

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