Serving Jesus is doing the opposite of participating in war. It is loving your enemy, avoiding conflict, being humble and living peacefully. I am unable to serve the Lord and support war.
~Michael Barnes, conscientious objector
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
Freedom of the press is a joke in this country.
In his new memoir, “What Happened,” Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary, said the national news media neglected their watchdog role in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, calling reporters “complicit enablers” of the Bush administration’s push for war. Surprisingly, some prominent journalists have agreed.
Katie Couric, the anchor of “CBS Evening News,” said on Wednesday that she had felt pressure from government officials and corporate executives to cast the war in a positive light.
Speaking on “The Early Show” on CBS, Ms. Couric said the lack of skepticism shown by journalists about the Bush administration’s case for war amounted to “one of the most embarrassing chapters in American journalism.” She also said she sensed pressure from “the corporations who own where we work and from the government itself to really squash any kind of dissent or any kind of questioning of it.” At the time, Ms. Couric was a host of “Today” on NBC.
Another broadcast journalist also weighed in. Jessica Yellin, who worked for MSNBC in 2003 and now reports for CNN, said on Wednesday that journalists had been “under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation.”
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
We need the spirit and the principles behind these words more than ever today.
Thank you very much Professor Kombay for that generous introduction. And let me say, that I never expected to hear such kind words from Dr. Falwell. So in return, I have an invitation of my own. On January 20th, 1985, I hope Dr. Falwell will say a prayer at the inauguration of the next Democratic President of the United States. Now, Dr. Falwell, I'm not exactly sure how you feel about that. You might not appreciate the President, but the Democrats certainly would appreciate the prayer.
Actually, a number of people in Washington were surprised that I was invited to speak here -- and even more surprised when I accepted the invitation. They seem to think that it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a Kennedy to come to the campus of Liberty Baptist College. In honor of our meeting, I have asked Dr. Falwell, as your Chancellor, to permit all the students an extra hour next Saturday night before curfew. And in return, I have promised to watch the Old Time Gospel Hour next Sunday morning.
I realize that my visit may be a little controversial. But as many of you have heard, Dr. Falwell recently sent me a membership in the Moral Majority -- and I didn't even apply for it. And I wonder if that means that I'm a member in good standing.
Somewhat, he says.
This is, of course, a nonpolitical speech which is probably best under the circumstances. Since I am not a candidate for President, it would certainly be inappropriate to ask for your support in this election and probably inaccurate to thank you for it in the last one.
I have come here to discuss my beliefs about faith and country, tolerance and truth in America. I know we begin with certain disagreements; I strongly suspect that at the end of the evening some of our disagreements will remain. But I also hope that tonight and in the months and years ahead, we will always respect the right of others to differ, that we will never lose sight of our own fallibility, that we will view ourselves with a sense of perspective and a sense of humor. After all, in the New Testament, even the Disciples had to be taught to look first to the beam in their own eyes, and only then to the mote in their neighbor's eyes.
I am mindful of that counsel. I am an American and a Catholic; I love my country and treasure my faith. But I do not assume that my conception of patriotism or policy is invariably correct, or that my convictions about religion should command any greater respect than any other faith in this pluralistic society. I believe there surely is such a thing as truth, but who among us can claim a monopoly on it?
There are those who do, and their own words testify to their intolerance. For example, because the Moral Majority has worked with members of different denominations, one fundamentalist group has denounced Dr. Falwell for hastening the ecumenical church and for "yoking together with Roman Catholics, Mormons, and others." I am relieved that Dr. Falwell does not regard that as a sin, and on this issue, he himself has become the target of narrow prejudice. When people agree on public policy, they ought to be able to work together, even while they worship in diverse ways. For truly we are all yoked together as Americans, and the yoke is the happy one of individual freedom and mutual respect.
But in saying that, we cannot and should not turn aside from a deeper and more pressing question -- which is whether and how religion should influence government. A generation ago, a presidential candidate had to prove his independence of undue religious influence in public life, and he had to do so partly at the insistence of evangelical Protestants. John Kennedy said at that time: "I believe in an America where there is no religious bloc voting of any kind." Only twenty years later, another candidate was appealing to a[n] evangelical meeting as a religious bloc. Ronald Reagan said to 15 thousand evangelicals at the Roundtable in Dallas: "I know that you can't endorse me. I want you to know I endorse you and what you are doing."
To many Americans, that pledge was a sign and a symbol of a dangerous breakdown in the separation of church and state. Yet this principle, as vital as it is, is not a simplistic and rigid command. Separation of church and state cannot mean an absolute separation between moral principles and political power. The challenge today is to recall the origin of the principle, to define its purpose, and refine its application to the politics of the present.
The founders of our nation had long and bitter experience with the state, as both the agent and the adversary of particular religious views. In colonial Maryland, Catholics paid a double land tax, and in Pennsylvania they had to list their names on a public roll -- an ominous precursor of the first Nazi laws against the Jews. And Jews in turn faced discrimination in all of the thirteen original Colonies. Massachusetts exiled Roger Williams and his congregation for contending that civil government had no right to enforce the Ten Commandments. Virginia harassed Baptist teachers, and also established a religious test for public service, writing into the law that no "popish followers" could hold any office.
But during the Revolution, Catholics, Jews, and Non-Conformists all rallied to the cause and fought valiantly for the American commonwealth -- for John Winthrop's "city upon a hill." Afterwards, when the Constitution was ratified and then amended, the framers gave freedom for all religion, and from any established religion, the very first place in the Bill of Rights.
Indeed the framers themselves professed very different faiths: Washington was an Episcopalian, Jefferson a deist, and Adams a Calvinist. And although he had earlier opposed toleration, John Adams later contributed to the building of Catholic churches, and so did George Washington. Thomas Jefferson said his proudest achievement was not the presidency, or the writing the Declaration of Independence, but drafting the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. He stated the vision of the first Americans and the First Amendment very clearly: "The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time."
The separation of church and state can sometimes be frustrating for women and men of religious faith. They may be tempted to misuse government in order to impose a value which they cannot persuade others to accept. But once we succumb to that temptation, we step onto a slippery slope where everyone's freedom is at risk. Those who favor censorship should recall that one of the first books ever burned was the first English translation of the Bible. As President Eisenhower warned in 1953, "Don't join the book burners...the right to say ideas, the right to record them, and the right to have them accessible to others is unquestioned -- or this isn't America." And if that right is denied, at some future day the torch can be turned against any other book or any other belief. Let us never forget: Today's Moral Majority could become tomorrow's persecuted minority.
The danger is as great now as when the founders of the nation first saw it. In 1789, their fear was of factional strife among dozens of denominations. Today there are hundreds -- and perhaps even thousands of faiths -- and millions of Americans who are outside any fold. Pluralism obviously does not and cannot mean that all of them are right; but it does mean that there are areas where government cannot and should not decide what it is wrong to believe, to think, to read, and to do. As Professor Larry Tribe, one of the nation's leading constitutional scholars has written, "Law in a non-theocratic state cannot measure religious truth, nor can the state impose it."
The real transgression occurs when religion wants government to tell citizens how to live uniquely personal parts of their lives. The failure of Prohibition proves the futility of such an attempt when a majority or even a substantial minority happens to disagree. Some questions may be inherently individual ones, or people may be sharply divided about whether they are. In such cases, like Prohibition and abortion, the proper role of religion is to appeal to the conscience of the individual, not the coercive power of the state.
But there are other questions which are inherently public in nature, which we must decide together as a nation, and where religion and religious values can and should speak to our common conscience. The issue of nuclear war is a compelling example. It is a moral issue; it will be decided by government, not by each individual; and to give any effect to the moral values of their creed, people of faith must speak directly about public policy. The Catholic bishops and the Reverend Billy Graham have every right to stand for the nuclear freeze, and Dr. Falwell has every right to stand against it.
There must be standards for the exercise of such leadership, so that the obligations of belief will not be debased into an opportunity for mere political advantage. But to take a stand at all when a question is both properly public and truly moral is to stand in a long and honored tradition. Many of the great evangelists of the 1800s were in the forefront of the abolitionist movement. In our own time, the Reverend William Sloane Coffin challenged the morality of the war in Vietnam. Pope John XXIII renewed the Gospel's call to social justice. And Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was the greatest prophet of this century, awakened our nation and its conscience to the evil of racial segregation.
Their words have blessed our world. And who now wishes they had been silent? Who would bid Pope John Paul [II] to quiet his voice against the oppression in Eastern Europe, the violence in Central America, or the crying needs of the landless, the hungry, and those who are tortured in so many of the dark political prisons of our time?
President Kennedy, who said that "no religious body should seek to impose its will," also urged religious leaders to state their views and give their commitment when the public debate involved ethical issues. In drawing the line between imposed will and essential witness, we keep church and state separate, and at the same time we recognize that the City of God should speak to the civic duties of men and women.
There are four tests which draw that line and define the difference.
First, we must respect the integrity of religion itself.
People of conscience should be careful how they deal in the word of their Lord. In our own history, religion has been falsely invoked to sanction prejudice -- even slavery -- to condemn labor unions and public spending for the poor. I believe that the prophecy, "The poor you have always with you" is an indictment, not a commandment. And I respectfully suggest that God has taken no position on the Department of Education -- and that a balanced budget constitutional amendment is a matter of economic analysis, and not heavenly appeals.
Religious values cannot be excluded from every public issue; but not every public issue involves religious values. And how ironic it is when those very values are denied in the name of religion. For example, we are sometimes told that it is wrong to feed the hungry, but that mission is an explicit mandate given to us in the 25th chapter of Matthew.
Second, we must respect the independent judgments of conscience.
Those who proclaim moral and religious values can offer counsel, but they should not casually treat a position on a public issue as a test of fealty to faith. Just as I disagree with the Catholic bishops on tuition tax credits -- which I oppose -- so other Catholics can and do disagree with the hierarchy, on the basis of honest conviction, on the question of the nuclear freeze.
Thus, the controversy about the Moral Majority arises not only from its views, but from its name -- which, in the minds of many, seems to imply that only one set of public policies is moral and only one majority can possibly be right. Similarly, people are and should be perplexed when the religious lobbying group Christian Voice publishes a morality index of congressional voting records, which judges the morality of senators by their attitude toward Zimbabwe and Taiwan.
Let me offer another illustration. Dr. Falwell has written -- and I quote: "To stand against Israel is to stand against God." Now there is no one in the Senate who has stood more firmly for Israel than I have. Yet, I do not doubt the faith of those on the other side. Their error is not one of religion, but of policy. And I hope to be able to persuade them that they are wrong in terms of both America's interest and the justice of Israel's cause.
Respect for conscience is most in jeopardy, and the harmony of our diverse society is most at risk, when we re-establish, directly or indirectly, a religious test for public office. That relic of the colonial era, which is specifically prohibited in the Constitution, has reappeared in recent years. After the last election, the Reverend James Robison warned President Reagan not to surround himself, as presidents before him had, "with the counsel of the ungodly." I utterly reject any such standard for any position anywhere in public service. Two centuries ago, the victims were Catholics and Jews. In the 1980s the victims could be atheists; in some other day or decade, they could be the members of the Thomas Road Baptist Church. Indeed, in 1976 I regarded it as unworthy and un-American when some people said or hinted that Jimmy Carter should not be president because he was a born again Christian. We must never judge the fitness of individuals to govern on the bas[is] of where they worship, whether they follow Christ or Moses, whether they are called "born again" or "ungodly." Where it is right to apply moral values to public life, let all of us avoid the temptation to be self-righteous and absolutely certain of ourselves. And if that temptation ever comes, let us recall Winston Churchill's humbling description of an intolerant and inflexible colleague: "There but for the grace of God goes God."
Third, in applying religious values, we must respect the integrity of public debate.
In that debate, faith is no substitute for facts. Critics may oppose the nuclear freeze for what they regard as moral reasons. They have every right to argue that any negotiation with the Soviets is wrong, or that any accommodation with them sanctions their crimes, or that no agreement can be good enough and therefore all agreements only increase the chance of war. I do not believe that, but it surely does not violate the standard of fair public debate to say it. What does violate that standard, what the opponents of the nuclear freeze have no right to do, is to assume that they are infallible, and so any argument against the freeze will do, whether it is false or true.
The nuclear freeze proposal is not unilateral, but bilateral -- with equal restraints on the United States and the Soviet Union. The nuclear freeze does not require that we trust the Russians, but demands full and effective verification. The nuclear freeze does not concede a Soviet lead in nuclear weapons, but recognizes that human beings in each great power already have in their fallible hands the overwhelming capacity to remake into a pile of radioactive rubble the earth which God has made.
There is no morality in the mushroom cloud. The black rain of nuclear ashes will fall alike on the just and the unjust. And then it will be too late to wish that we had done the real work of this atomic age -- which is to seek a world that is neither red nor dead.
I am perfectly prepared to debate the nuclear freeze on policy grounds, or moral ones. But we should not be forced to discuss phantom issues or false charges. They only deflect us form the urgent task of deciding how best to prevent a planet divided from becoming a planet destroyed.
And it does not advance the debate to contend that the arms race is more divine punishment than human problem, or that in any event, the final days are near. As Pope John said two decades ago, at the opening of the Second Vatican Council: "We must beware of those who burn with zeal, but are not endowed with much sense... we must disagree with the prophets of doom, who are always forecasting disasters, as though the end of the earth was at hand." The message which echoes across the years is very clear: The earth is still here; and if we wish to keep it, a prophecy of doom is no alternative to a policy of arms control.
Fourth, and finally, we must respect the motives of those who exercise their right to disagree.
We sorely test our ability to live together if we readily question each other's integrity. It may be harder to restrain our feelings when moral principles are at stake, for they go to the deepest wellsprings of our being. But the more our feelings diverge, the more deeply felt they are, the greater is our obligation to grant the sincerity and essential decency of our fellow citizens on the other side.
Those who favor E.R.A [Equal Rights Amendment] are not "antifamily" or "blasphemers." And their purpose is not "an attack on the Bible." Rather, we believe this is the best way to fix in our national firmament the ideal that not only all men, but all people are created equal. Indeed, my mother, who strongly favors E.R.A., would be surprised to hear that she is anti-family. For my part, I think of the amendment's opponents as wrong on the issue, but not as lacking in moral character.
I could multiply the instances of name-calling, sometimes on both sides. Dr. Falwell is not a "warmonger." And "liberal clergymen" are not, as the Moral Majority suggested in a recent letter, equivalent to "Soviet sympathizers." The critics of official prayer in public schools are not "Pharisees"; many of them are both civil libertarians and believers, who think that families should pray more at home with their children, and attend church and synagogue more faithfully. And people are not sexist because they stand against abortion, and they are not murderers because they believe in free choice. Nor does it help anyone's cause to shout such epithets, or to try and shout a speaker down -- which is what happened last April when Dr. Falwell was hissed and heckled at Harvard. So I am doubly grateful for your courtesy here this evening. That was not Harvard's finest hour, but I am happy to say that the loudest applause from the Harvard audience came in defense of Dr. Falwell's right to speak.
In short, I hope for an America where neither "fundamentalist" nor "humanist" will be a dirty word, but a fair description of the different ways in which people of good will look at life and into their own souls.
I hope for an America where no president, no public official, no individual will ever be deemed a greater or lesser American because of religious doubt -- or religious belief.
I hope for an America where the power of faith will always burn brightly, but where no modern Inquisition of any kind will ever light the fires of fear, coercion, or angry division.
I hope for an America where we can all contend freely and vigorously, but where we will treasure and guard those standards of civility which alone make this nation safe for both democracy and diversity.
Twenty years ago this fall, in New York City, President Kennedy met for the last time with a Protestant assembly. The atmosphere had been transformed since his earlier address during the 1960 campaign to the Houston Ministerial Association. He had spoken there to allay suspicions about his Catholicism, and to answer those who claimed that on the day of his baptism, he was somehow disqualified from becoming President. His speech in Houston and then his election drove that prejudice from the center of our national life. Now, three years later, in November of 1963, he was appearing before the Protestant Council of New York City to reaffirm what he regarded as some fundamental truths. On that occasion, John Kennedy said: "The family of man is not limited to a single race or religion, to a single city, or country...the family of man is nearly 3 billion strong. Most of its members are not white and most of them are not Christian." And as President Kennedy reflected on that reality, he restated an ideal for which he had lived his life -- that "the members of this family should be at peace with one another."
That ideal shines across all the generations of our history and all the ages of our faith, carrying with it the most ancient dream. For as the Apostle Paul wrote long ago in Romans: "If it be possible, as much as it lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."
I believe it is possible; the choice lies within us; as fellow citizens, let us live peaceably with each other; as fellow human beings, let us strive to live peaceably with men and women everywhere. Let that be our purpose and our prayer, yours and mine -- for ourselves, for our country, and for all the world.
Monday, May 26, 2008
I wish we could dedicate Memorial Day, not to the memory of those who have died at war, but to the idea of saving the lives of the young people who are going to die in the future if we don’t find some new way - some new religion maybe - that takes war out of our lives.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
That is simply an appalling number. As far as I'm concerned, this should be treated as a national emergency. If we can pay outrageous salaries to mercenaries because our volunteer armed forces are so small, we can certainly pay for more mental health professionals to treat returning veterans.
There has been a flurry of allegations concerning neglect, malpractice and corner cutting at the Veterans Administration especially for those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder — PTSD — or major depression, brought on by combat.
A report released by the Rand Corporation last month indicates that approximately 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer PTSD or major depression. That’s one of every five military men and women who have served over there.
Last Friday’s Washington Post reported the contents of an e-mail sent to staff at a VA hospital in Temple, Texas. A psychologist wrote, “Given that we are having more and more compensation seeking veterans, I’d like to suggest that you refrain from giving a diagnosis of PTSD straight out.” She further suggested that a diagnosis of a less serious Adjustment Disorder be made instead, especially as she and her colleagues “really don’t… have time to do the extensive testing that should be done to determine PTSD.”
Now PTSD is not a diagnosis arrived at without careful, thorough examination. But to possibly misdiagnose such a volatile and harmful disorder for the sake of saving time or money is reprehensible.
Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake immediately said the psychologist’s statement had been “repudiated at the highest level of our health care organization.” Nonetheless, there’s plenty of other evidence to raise concern.
The rate of attempted and successful suicides is so scary, the head of the VA’s mental health division, Dr. Ira Katz, wondered in a February e-mail how it should be spun. “Shh!” he wrote. “Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities. Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?”
UPDATE: I found another article about this same subject that is very illuminating called Heal the Warrior, Heal the Country by Edward Tick. Here are a couple of brief passages:
This is fascinating. And, it strikes me, really, really important.
War poisons the spirit, and warriors return tainted. This is why, among Native American, Zulu, Buddhist, ancient Israeli, and other traditional cultures, returning warriors were put through significant rituals of purification before re-entering their families and communities. Traditional cultures recognized that unpurified warriors could, in fact, be dangerous. The absence of these rituals in modern society helps explain why suicide, homicide, and other destructive acts are common among veterans.
In traditional cultures, warrior cleansing was often guided by shamans, and particular shamans presided over “warrior medicine.” Among his many offices and honors, for example, Sitting Bull served as Medicine Chief of the Hunkpapa Warrior Society, responsible for overseeing the spiritual lives and well-being of the society’s warriors. Sitting Bull considered this to be the most important of all the offices he held.
Friday, May 23, 2008
I completely agree.
In their American Religious Identification Survey, researchers at the City University of New York discovered that from 1990 to 2001, the number of people in the United States ,who have a religion other than Christianity increased from 5.8 million to 8.7 million. Such a number, albeit still small, reflects a sizeable minority, which practically did not exist years ago.
Much more significant than the increase in non-Christians is the increase of people who identify as atheist and agnostic. Non-religious people were usually a very small and intellectual minority in the first half of the twentieth century. Today, they compose about fourteen percent of the American population, as pointed out in the aforementioned study, after having more than doubled in size from fourteen million people to practically thirty million people between 1990 and 2001. Together with non-Christians, they compose practically twenty percent of the American population – a percentage that is growing, according to the study.
When the religious spectrum was monolithic, public manifestations of the majority faith were not bothersome to most people. Now, in a much more varied religious climate, it seems logical not to encourage any particular brand of faith in a public space. Thus, the much-criticized secularization of public places is actually an important step toward protecting religious freedom, and creating a more diverse and equaitalbe society. It helps reinforce the values enshrined in the U. S. Constitution and respects people's rights to choose whether to have a faith or be part of a religious institution. It also protects newer churches and religious groups from state-sponsored propaganda of older ones. And, as long as religions have the right to worship in their houses of prayer and act according to their beliefs, their rights are protected. The ongoing changes are definitely for the common good.
I found the above cartoon on a new site I just discovered. It's called FreeThoughtPedia. Lots of good Enlightenment articles!
Just for the record, folks, I'm not an atheist. But I have complete respect for the honest atheist and I think it is entirely possible to be both an atheist and a thoroughly moral and compassionate person. For the life of me, I don't understand how religious people can think that villifying the non-religious is likely to convert them. All it will do is reinforce their conviction that religious people are superstitious, irrational hate-mongers. (And many religious people ARE just that.)
Wouldn't you think that all this plus the Obama-Wright flap would convince people in this country that separation of church and state is a good idea after all????
Sen. John McCain rejected the endorsement of a second controversial pastor Thursday, saying there is no place for the Rev. Rod Parsley’s comments about Islam.
“I believe there is no place for that kind of dialogue in America, and I believe that even though he endorsed me, and I didn't endorse him, the fact is that I repudiate such talk, and I reject his endorsement,” McCain said in a statement.
The rejection of Parsley’s endorsement comes several hours after McCain rejected the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee, who made controversial comments about the Holocaust and Catholics.
UPDATE: John McCain's Spiritual Guides
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Those kooks at Freedom's Watch are at it again.
The same White House front group that ran ads last summer connecting the Iraq War to 9/11 is now trying to pull off another whopper.
This time, Freedom's Watch is blaming the new leadership in Congress for skyrocketing gas prices currently plaguing American motorists.
That's one heck of a claim. After all, the present U.S. energy policy was crafted by Dick Cheney during secret meetings with Big Oil, and it was rubberstamped by Bush backers in Congress long before the 2006 elections.
Freedom's Watch is just full of it. They're purposely misleading the American people about the real cause of rising gas prices -- but you can let them know you're not buying it. Send an email to the Freedom's Watch leaders, and tell them you know who's really to blame:
When George Bush took office in 2001, a gallon of gas cost just $1.47. Now it costs $3.80 per gallon -- up more than 150 percent!
During that same time, oil company profits more than quadrupled, from $30 billion in 2002 to more than $120 billion last year.
This is no coincidence. The oil and gas industries have contributed more than $4.5 million to George Bush and hundreds of thousands of dollars to his supporters in Congress, like House Minority Leader John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and many more.
Now they're relying on Freedom's Watch to help them wiggle out of responsibility for their actions.
You can make sure that doesn't happen. Send an email right now to Freedom's Watch, and tell them you know they're full of it.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The lead up to November is going to be very interesting indeed.
While I always appreciate hearing the news from John McCain, he should explain to the American people why almost every single promise and prediction that he has made about Iraq has turned to be catastrophically wrong, including his support for a surge that was supposed to achieve political reconciliation. While John McCain offers his poor judgment in supporting George Bush's war and a failed foreign policy that has left us less secure, I will continue to make the case for a new foreign policy that deploys all elements of American power -- including tough, principled and direct diplomacy. It's stunning that in such a lengthy written statement, John McCain could not articulate a single new idea that hasn't been tried -- and failed -- over the last eight years.
MCMINNVILLE, Tenn. - High gas prices have driven a Warren County farmer and his sons to hitch a tractor rake to a pair of mules to gather hay from their fields. T.R. Raymond bought Dolly and Molly at the Dixon mule sale last year. Son Danny Raymond trained them and also modified the tractor rake so the mules could pull it.
T.R. Raymond says the mules are slower than a petroleum-powered tractor, but there are benefits.
"This fuel's so high, you can't afford it," he said. "We can feed these mules cheaper than we can buy fuel. That's the truth."
Someone in one of my classes is starting a lawn service business using an old-fashioned reel mower.
Mule power. Human power. Definitely earth-friendly!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Do you have any idea how chickens are treated on factory farms and at slaughter? It is truly horrific.
Leading animal behavior scientists from across the globe now tell us that chickens are inquisitive and interesting animals whose cognitive abilities are more advanced than those of cats, dogs, and even some primates. Chickens understand sophisticated intellectual concepts, learn from watching each other, demonstrate self-control, worry about the future, and even have cultural knowledge that is passed from generation to generation. Dr. Chris Evans, who studies animal behavior and communication at Macquarie University in Australia, says, “As a trick at conferences, I sometimes list these attributes, without mentioning chickens, and people think I’m talking about monkeys.”
Chickens comprehend cause-and-effect relationships and understand that objects still exist even after they are hidden from view. This puts the cognitive abilities of chickens above those of small human children. Scientists are so impressed with what we now know about the intellect of chickens and other birds that a group of international experts recently called for a new naming system to reflect the complex, mammal-like structure of avian brains. Dr. Christine Nicol, who studies chicken intelligence, reflected, “They may be ‘bird brains,’ but we need to redefine what we mean by ‘bird brains.’ Chickens have shown us they can do things people didn’t think they could do. There are hidden depths to chickens, definitely.”
This is World Vegetarian Week. Even if you don't think you can keep a strict vegetarian diet, how about going vegetarian for just one or two days a week? Every little bit helps!
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Here's something from a little article by Thich Nhat Hanh:
If we look deeply, we will see that eating can be extremely violent. UNESCO tells us that every day, forty thousand children in the world die because of a lack of nutrition, of food. Every day, forty thousand children. And the amount of grain that we grow in the West is mostly used to feed our cattle. Eighty percent of the corn grown in this country is to feed the cattle to make meat. Ninety-five percent of the oats produced in this country is not for us to eat, but for the animals raised for food. According to this recent report that we received of all the agricultural land in the US, eighty-seven percent is used to raise animals for food. That is forty-five percent of the total land mass in the US.
More than half of all the water consumed in the US whole purpose is to raise animals for food. It takes 2500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat, but only 25 gallons to produce a pound of wheat. A totally vegetarian diet requires 300 gallons of water per day, while a meat-eating diet requires more than 4000 gallons of water per day.
Raising animals for food causes more water pollution than any other industry in the US because animals raised for food produce one hundred thirty times the excrement of the entire human population. It means 87,000 pounds per second. Much of the waste from factory farms and slaughter houses flows into streams and rivers, contaminating water sources.
Each vegetarian can save one acre of trees per year. More than 260 million acres of US forests have been cleared to grow crops to feed animals raised for meat. And another acre of trees disappears every eight seconds. The tropical rain forests are also being destroyed to create grazing land for cattle.
If becoming a vegetarian seems too hard, try keeping one vegetarian day a week. After you've done that for a while, try two. Even if you stop right there, you'll be benefitting yourself, the animals and the earth. But perhaps by then, you'll be inspired to keep going.
Friday, May 16, 2008
And, of course, the most sobering implication of all is that we're headed for extinction ourselves if we don't do something about this - and soon.
The world’s species are declining at a rate “unprecedented since the extinction of the dinosaurs”, a census of the animal kingdom has revealed. The Living Planet Index out today shows the devastating impact of humanity as biodiversity has plummeted by almost a third in the 35 years to 2005.
The report, produced by WWF, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network, says land species have declined by 25 per cent, marine life by 28 per cent, and freshwater species by 29 per cent.
Jonathan Loh, editor of the report, said that such a sharp fall was “completely unprecedented in terms of human history”. “You’d have to go back to the extinction of the dinosaurs to see a decline as rapid as this,” he added. “In terms of human lifespan we may be seeing things change relatively slowly, but in terms of the world’s history this is very rapid.”
And “rapid” is putting it mildly. Scientists say the current extinction rate is now up to 10,000 times faster than what has historically been recorded as normal.
The implications of such drastic reductions in biodiversity are already having an impact on human life. “Reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease and where water is in irregular or short supply,” said James Leape, director general of WWF.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
What can I say? Beyond pathetic.
The great Bushian sacrifice — an Army private loses a leg, a Marine loses half his skull, four thousand of their brothers and sisters lose their lives, you lose golf… and they have to pull you off the golf course to get you to just do that?
If it’s even true…
Apart from your medical files, which dutifully record your torn calf muscle and the knee pain which forced you to give up running at the same time — coincidence, no doubt — the bombing in Baghdad which killed Sergio Vieira de Mello of the U-N… and interrupted your round of golf, was on August 19th, 2003.
Yet there is an Associated Press account of you playing golf as late as Columbus Day of that year — October 13th — nearly two months later.
Mr. Bush, I hate to break it to you, six-and-a-half years after you yoked this nation and your place in history to the wrong war, in the wrong place, against the wrong people but the war in Iraq is Not. About. You.
It is not, Mr. Bush, about your grief when American after American comes home in a box.
It is not, Mr. Bush, about what your addled brain has produced in the way of paranoid delusions of risks that do not exist, ready to be activated if some Democrat, and not your twin Mr. McCain succeeds you.
The war in Iraq — your war, Mr. Bush — is about how you accomplished the derangement of two nations, and how you helped funnel billions of taxpayer dollars to lascivious and perennially thirsty corporations like Halliburton and Blackwater, and how you sent 4,000 Americans to their deaths — for nothing.
It is not, Mr. Bush, about your golf game!
Yes, that is how our medical system works. And it's very, very wrong.
Imagine the police are privatized and one has to purchase expensive insurance in order to have police protection. And the only way most people could afford police protection insurance is through employment. And 43 million Americans didn't have police insurance, and if threatened or murdered nothing would be done. That is how our medical system works.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Here's a comment to that little article which makes some points I agree with:
Barack Obama passed off a reporter today in Michigan, and she seemed less than amused by his name for her.
"Hold on one second there, sweetie," he says.
The reporter signed off: "This sweetie never did get an answer to that question."
Would Obama have called a male reporter "Sweetie"?
I have to tell you that I am always annoyed when I am called sweetie, honey, hon, or any other term of endearment by someone who has no right to use a term of endearment toward anyone who is not family. I strongly support Obama, which you may doubt, but most folks in this country need to learn how to speak respecfully to others, and when Senator Obama doesn't understand this, it needs to be pointed out. Better that a supporter point it out than someone who is against him. What I notice about the use of terms of endearment is that they are never directed at men, only women. When someone at the cash register calls me "hon" and calls the man behind me "sir" I think I am justified in being annoyed. I think Senator Obama needs to learn this simple fact.
It's patronizing. It's condescending. It's inappropriately familiar. It's demeaning.
It's also just one more example of how sexism is so much more socially acceptable in this country than racism.
To his credit, Obama called the reporter and apologized. But it should be noted that on another occasion he called a factory worker "Sweetie" and took some heat for that too. How is he going to address female heads of state and prime ministers once he's president? I don't imagine Angela Merkel would particularly appreciate being addressed with terms of endearment. Not to mention Queen Elizabeth.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The Democrats are in a tough spot now, because if the superdelegates somehow give the nomination to Clinton, that's going to alienate a lot of African-Americans who support Obama, but if Obama wins, there's going to be a lot of disappointed women voters, which is why I think, now more than ever, we need a President Oprah.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Please click through and read the rest. It's very short.
Next Mothers Day, I don’t want to be organizing yet another rally of Mothers Against War in Washington DC and lamenting the state of our dysfunctional human family. I want to be celebrating the successes of the first 100 days of a new administration. I want to see us healing the collective traumas of the past eight years and becoming a nation that reflects the values of compassion and kindness that most mothers hold dear.
Next Mothers Day, I want us to be welcoming our soldiers home from Iraq and taking care of them when they get here. I don’t want to hear any more bickering in Congress about whether we should provide decent educational benefits to our vets — especially from those who supported the war! I don’t want to read more horror stories about dilapidated VA hospitals and bureaucratic sinkholes that keep veterans from getting the care they need. I want us to come together — whether we were for or against this war — to nurture our wounded sons and daughters.
Next Mothers Day, I want us to have come to grips with the disaster we have wreaked upon the Iraqi people. I want us to mourn their losses, express contrition and help rebuild the nation we destroyed. I want us to ensure a viable homeland for our Palestinian sisters and brothers. I want us to rebuild a relationship of trust and respect with our Arab neighbors so that we can mutually address the threat of terrorism.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
In my search, I found a marvelous series of 24 videos on YouTube called Evolution vs. Creationism: Listen to the Scientists. I'm going to share just one of them here with you:
I really recommend that you watch all 24 videos. These are the clearest, most well articulated explanations for the lay person of what science is (and isn't) I have ever come across.
The anti-science movement in this country is very worrying. Because the general public does not really trust scientists or understand the scientific method is one reason there has not been and overwhelming outcry against the Bush administration's refusal to do anything about global warming. The nation's ignorance could well spell the doom of the planet.
UPDATE: Here's a short review from the Boston Globe of "Expelled" that's entitled "Trouble Ahead for Science". Recommended.
Friday, May 09, 2008
NEW YORK, May 5, 2008—In the wake of the tragic death of Eight Belles at this weekend’s Kentucky Derby, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) issued the following statement today:
“The fragile nature of thoroughbred racehorses and the stress and rigors that the industry subjects on these animals is loudly evidenced in the tragic death of Eight Belles who, as we saw, was euthanized after both of her front ankles collapsed just after coming in second at the Kentucky Derby,” said ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres.
Continued Sayres, “The sport of horse racing is no different than other forms of entertainment where animals are forced to perform, often times in stressful and inhumane conditions. These include being raced too young before reaching physical maturity, being raced excessively, being forced to run on hard or slippery surfaces, or being injected with drugs to enhance performance.”
Almost all racing jurisdictions—New York being one exception—now allow potent anti-inflammatory analgesic drugs to be administered to injured and lame horses to keep them racing in spite of chronic and painful injuries. This ultimate abuse nearly always aggravates injuries. Often an injured leg shatters under the stress of racing, leading to horses becoming crippled and destroyed. Even less fortunate than the horses who are humanely destroyed are those who are less severely injured but forced, through the use of “legalized” drugs, to continue their racing careers.
While there is no evidence that Eight Belles was the victim of abuse, the fact remains that she was subject to compete in a sport known for its inhumane tactics. The ASPCA is opposed to any use of animals for the purpose of entertainment if it involves inhumane practices.
I grieved at the death of Eight Belles. This sport really needs reform. Hugely.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
This actually makes a lot of sense. I, of course, well remember when Hawaii became a state. And the propaganda at that time was that the people of Hawaii were very eager to become a state! And maybe that is so. But this movement looks at the situation in a slightly different way. I think it's worth studying up about.
The confluence of two forces — a massive military expansion in Hawai’i and Congressional legislation that will stymie the Kanaka Maoli [Native Hawaiian] sovereignty movement — will expand and consolidate the use of Hawai’i for US empire. We are calling on the US left to join our movement opposing these threats and to add our quest for independence as a plank of the broad US left strategy for a nonimperialist America. If you support peace and justice for the United States and the world, please support demilitarization and independence for Hawai’i.
Since 1893, the United States has malformed Hawai’i into the command and control center for US imperialism in Oceania and Asia. From the hills of the Ewa district of O’ahu, the US Pacific Command — the largest of the unified military commands — directs troops and hardware throughout literally half the planet. Since the late nineteenth century, the US military has multiplied in our islands, taking 150,000 acres for its use, including one-quarter of the metropolitan island of O’ahu. Moreover, the National Security Administration is building a new surveillance facility nearby, not far from where urban assault brigades, called Strykers, will train for deployment throughout the world. The US Navy is also increasing training over the entire archipelago, including populated areas and the fragile northwestern whale sanctuary. This militarized occupation has a long history. Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa — known now as Pearl Harbor — became one of the very first overseas bases, along with Guantánamo, around the time of the Spanish-American War. We still hold much in common with prerevolution Cuba — a sugar plantation economy and status as the playground for the rich of North America.
We have suffered from the effects of being the pawn for US wars on the world. Our family members languish from strange diseases brought by military toxins in our water and soil. Our economy is a foreign-run modern plantation serving multinational shareholders and decorated generals. We salute a foreign flag, and the education system instructs us to yearn for a distant continent called the Mainland. Tourists imbibe in sunny Waīkikī, while the beaches in the native-inhabited regions are littered with chemical munitions.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Episcopal Relief and Development is providing emergency assistance to communities in Burma affected by Cyclone Nargis. The storm, packing winds up to 120 miles per hour, swept through the country on Saturday, leaving at least 23,000 people dead and 41,000 people missing. The low-lying Irrawaddy Delta region suffered the most severe damage.
The situation in Burma is dire. At best, the infrastructure in Burma is marginal and the storm has placed an unbearable strain on already limited services. Power outages and scattered debris across the country continue to hamper recovery efforts. Reports indicate that tens of thousands of homes were destroyed, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without shelter. The full extent of the damage throughout the country remains unclear due to poor communications and roads made impassable by the storm. In Rangoon, the capital, machete-wielding monks have taken to the streets to assist with clearing the wreckage.
Working with our partner, the Anglican Church of Burma, Episcopal Relief and Development is sending funds to secure shelter, food water and other relief needs for people displaced by the Cyclone. As part of our long term strategy, we have been working for the past two years with five dioceses on economic development including agriculture, livestock, and micro-loans, clean water and education programs.
“Episcopal Relief and Development’s response to the cyclone will involve a long term recovery and rehabilitation strategy for affected areas in which the church has a presence,” says Kirsten Laursen Muth, Senior Program Director for Asia and New Initiatives. “Our prayers are with the people of Burma at this very difficult time,” she added.
To help people affected by the cyclone in Burma, please make a donation to Episcopal Relief and Development’s “Myanmar & Cyclone Response Fund” online at http://www.er-d.org, or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development “Myanmar & Cyclone Response” P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.
Episcopal Relief and Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church of the United States. As an independent 501(c) (3) organization, Episcopal Relief and Development takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Together with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners, Episcopal Relief and Development strengthens communities today to meet tomorrow’s challenges. We rebuild after disasters and empower people by offering lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.
You can send donations to EDR confident that there will be no inappropriate proselytizing as a condition for receiving aid.
Monday, May 05, 2008
Sunday, May 04, 2008
My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will — that will then prevent us — that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.
I encourage everyone to go read the rest of this article. It is "The All-White Elephant in the Room" by Frank Rich.
BORED by those endless replays of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright? If so, go directly to YouTube, search for “John Hagee Roman Church Hitler,” and be recharged by a fresh jolt of clerical jive.
What you’ll find is a white televangelist, the Rev. John Hagee, lecturing in front of an enormous diorama. Wielding a pointer, he pokes at the image of a woman with Pamela Anderson-sized breasts, her hand raising a golden chalice. The woman is “the Great Whore,” Mr. Hagee explains, and she is drinking “the blood of the Jewish people.” That’s because the Great Whore represents “the Roman Church,” which, in his view, has thirsted for Jewish blood throughout history, from the Crusades to the Holocaust.
Mr. Hagee is not a fringe kook but the pastor of a Texas megachurch. On Feb. 27, he stood with John McCain and endorsed him over the religious conservatives’ favorite, Mike Huckabee, who was then still in the race.
Are we really to believe that neither Mr. McCain nor his camp knew anything then about Mr. Hagee’s views? This particular YouTube video — far from the only one — was posted on Jan. 1, nearly two months before the Hagee-McCain press conference. Mr. Hagee appears on multiple religious networks, including twice daily on the largest, Trinity Broadcasting, which reaches 75 million homes. Any 12-year-old with a laptop could have vetted this preacher in 30 seconds, tops.
Since then, Mr. McCain has been shocked to learn that his clerical ally has made many other outrageous statements. Mr. Hagee, it’s true, did not blame the American government for concocting AIDS. But he did say that God created Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for its sins, particularly a scheduled “homosexual parade there on the Monday that Katrina came.”
Friday, May 02, 2008
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Now. Will that enable the Democrats to take back the White House in November? We'll see. We'll see.
WASHINGTON DC (CNN) -- A new poll suggests that President Bush is the most unpopular president in modern American history.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Thursday indicates that 71 percent of the American public disapprove of how Bush is handling his job as president.
"No president has ever had a higher disapproval rating in any CNN or Gallup Poll; in fact, this is the first time that any president's disapproval rating has cracked the 70 percent mark," said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director.
The author also points out that increased spending on immigration enforcement does not decrease the number of immigrants who come to this country. Read the whole article if you have time. It's an eye opener.
The often-overheated immigration debate is a distraction that draws attention from far-reaching problems facing American workers, particularly those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.
Many immigrants' rights advocates argue that newly arrived workers take jobs that Americans won't do. That's only partially true; many unauthorized immigrants fill non-union jobs that are impossibly crappy, pay poverty wages and are rife with workplace violations, and they work those jobs side-by-side with millions of natives and legal residents. The reality is that there are not enough Americans who are willing or able to tolerate poverty wages and other workplace abuses.
Understanding that dynamic can lead to a radically different approach to the issue -- to different methods of decreasing the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States and of regulating the flow of new immigration in the future.
While spending on immigration enforcement has gone through the roof, the resources allocated to enforcing overtime, minimum wage, workplace safety and other protections for workers have been cut and cut again.
[M]ost of the focus of the immigration debate in this country has been on the immigrants themselves -- especially unauthorized immigrants. One could easily conclude from watching a typical screaming heads segment about immigration policy on CNN that "illegal immigrants" exist in a vacuum. Very little attention is paid to the other side of the transaction -- the incentives that American companies and households have to hire an unauthorized worker over a citizen.
UPDATE: Oh my. Please look at a comment I just read to the above article:
"We" stole half of Mexico by armed force -- the nice parts with rich deposits of gold and silver (and, as it turned out, oil -- though "we" didn't actually recognize that at the time.)
"We" made sure that "our" influence over Latin America was such that wealth would be steadily transferred from their countries to ours. "We" sent the Marines to Nicaragua, Haiti, & Guatemala often enough to insure that life in those countries would be a permanent living hell for most of the inhabitants. "We" imposed military dictatorships in almost every Central & South American country, stunting the aspirations of their people, & imposing conditions from which some of those countries will never recover. (So if some of the people want to escape from the living conditions in those countries, "we" had very much to do with creating those conditions.)
Interestingly, "we" started doing all this at the same time that "we" were exterminating the indigenous people here, AND using black slaves from Africa. What a loveable, righteous people "we" are, here in the "Land of the Free"!!
To read between the lines of today's American media treatment of the issue, the real "controversy" today is not between decent humane treatment for immigrants; and harassment by racists, vigilantes, and police. It's between two factions of rightwing opinion: should immigrants be exploited for their cheap labor (and their delightful inability to defend themselves), or should racism and xenophobia be pandered to, by encouraging nutcases like the Minutemen, and other "red blooded Amurrikans" who think it's exciting to organize mobs to defend white supremacy? This is a serious "issue" for people like Bush, who is doubtless torn, & genuinely sympathetic to both sides.
"We" came here somewhere in the early 1600s. "We" found this Promised Land, rich beyond imagination with fresh water and fertile earth and abundant game and timber for the felling. And to "our" further delight, it was largely uninhabited--if "we" didn't count the Red Ones.
"We" didn't see too many of them at first; they avoided our noise and the smoke from our fires, which were always too big. But soon enough, "we" were here in such numbers that they couldn't go around us anymore.
"We" were shocked--SHOCKED, I tell ya--that there were Savages in "our" Promised Land! So "we" set about exterminating them. "We" killed them whenever "we" saw them, "we" drove them from their land and their homes, "we" slaughtered their food supply and left the buffalo bodies to rot in the sun by the hundreds of acres. "We" gave them blankets full of smallpox, murdered their children and raped their women before "we" murdered them as well. "We" rounded them up into concentration camps and ate their food while they starved. "We" made them cut their hair, wear britches and beat them to death if they wouldn't speak "our" language.
"We" stole a whole fucking continent from them and paid them in Genocide.
And now "we're" worried about Illegal Immigration?