Thursday, April 30, 2009

This really sickens me

The name of the CNN piece is "Churchgoers more likely to back torture, survey finds". Take a look:

The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new analysis.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.


Shameful. Shameful.

Just 'cause I like their style

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

About our "vital economic interests"


I have had Simone Weil on my mind today. (Largely, I suppose, because of her ambiguous relationship with the Church.) Here's something she wrote that truly bears pondering:

What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war; petrol is much more likely than wheat to be a cause of international conflict. Thus when war is waged it is for the purpose of safeguarding or increasing one's capacity to make war. International politics are wholly involved in this vicious cycle. What is called national prestige consists in behaving always in such a way as to demoralize other nations by giving them the impression that, if it comes to war, one would certainly defeat them. What is called national security is an imaginary state of affairs in which one would retain the capacity to make war while depriving all other countries of it. It amounts to this, that a self-respecting nation is ready for anything, including war, except for a renunciation of its option to make war. But why is it so essential to be able to make war? No one knows, any more than the Trojans knew why it was necessary for them to keep Helen. That is why the good intentions of peace-loving statesman are so ineffectual. If the countries were divided by a real opposition of interests, it would be possible to arrive at a satisfactory compromise. But when economic and political interests have no meaning apart from war, how can they be peacefully reconciled?

It's hard to be optimistic with observations like these, isn't it? But those observations are also immanently sensible.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The truth about torture

People have known for centuries, millennia even, that the real reason for torture is not to get true information but to extract false confessions.

Now Frank Rich writes about it in the New York Times. The column is called "The Bush White House's Appalling and Evil Legacy: Now We Know the Whole Story" and the lead goes like this: "Did we torture to extract bogus 'intelligence' from detainees to make the case for Iraq?"

Just take a look at this paragraph:

The report found that Maj. Paul Burney, a United States Army psychiatrist assigned to interrogations in Guantnamo Bay that summer of 2002, told Army investigators of another White House imperative: "A large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful." As higher-ups got more "frustrated" at the inability to prove this connection, the major said, "there was more and more pressure to resort to measures" that might produce that intelligence.

I think I want to throw up.

And I certainly agree with Rich's conclusion:

President Obama can talk all he wants about not looking back, but this grotesque past is bigger than even he is. It won't vanish into a memory hole any more than Andersonville, World War II internment camps or My Lai. The White House, Congress and politicians of both parties should get out of the way. We don't need another commission. We don't need any Capitol Hill witch hunts. What we must have are fair trials that at long last uphold and reclaim our nation's commitment to the rule of law.

Sounds like there are some people involved in this who have Obama by the short hairs...

Just sayin'.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

About waterboarding

Here's something from a Huffington Post article by Paul Begala:

In a CNN debate with Ari Fleischer, I said the United States executed Japanese war criminals for waterboarding. My point was that it is disingenuous for Bush Republicans to argue that waterboarding is not torture and thus illegal. It's kind of awkward to argue that waterboarding is not a crime when you hanged someone for doing it to our troops. My precise words were: "Our country executed Japanese soldiers who waterboarded American POWs. We executed them for the same crime we are now committing ourselves."
...
I was referencing the statement of...John McCain. On November 29, 2007, Sen. McCain, while campaigning in St. Petersburg, Florida, said, "Following World War II war crime trials were convened. The Japanese were tried and convicted and hung for war crimes committed against American POWs. Among those charges for which they were convicted was waterboarding."


Not that I approve of capital punishment, mind you, but they deserved it if anybody did. When are we going to let go of this completely dishonest silliness that waterboarding is not torture?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Quote of the week

In my humble opinion, that is!

Listen up Republicans: It's been almost 100 days, and your country is not coming back to you. She's found somebody new.

-- Bill Maher

The rest of the article is right here.

Recommended

I've just read an article I'd like to recommend but it's really impossible to offer an excerpt that will give you a good idea of its message. Here's the title:

Conservatives Live in a Different Moral Universe -- And Here's Why It Matters

And the lead is this: "Liberals and conservatives have highly different moral priorities. And we have to understand them if we want to accomplish anything."

It's very thought provoking - as are the comments that follow.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Shakepeare's birthday

Yes, today is the day. Or, at least, the day it is traditionally observed.


Here are some of the things the Bard wrote that I really wish all politicians would ponder:

God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another.

He that loves to be flattered is worthy o' the flatterer.

Hell is empty and all the devils are here.

How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?

Life every man holds dear; but the dear man holds honor far more precious dear than life.

Ah, there are so many more! I could so wish that our nation's leaders could be counted on to have a liberal arts education!

Quote of the day

Another good one from Sojourners:

You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right.

- Aung San Suu Kyi, (Nobel laureate and leader of the nonviolent movement for human rights and democracy in Burma)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

This is encouraging

From the Sojourners Daily Digest:

President Obama said Tuesday that he would not rule out prosecuting senior Bush administration officials who provided the legal rationale for harsh interrogation techniques used against detainees in the war on terrorism.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Constitutional privilege

I really like this story (true or apocryphal!):

Like every other president, William Howard Taft had to endure his share of abuse. One night at the dinner table, his youngest boy made a disrespectful remark to him. There was a sudden hush. Taft looked thoughtful.

“Well,” said Mrs. Taft, “aren’t you going to punish him?”

“If the remark was addressed to me as his father, he certainly will be punished,” said Taft. “However, if he addressed it to the President of the United States, that is his constitutional privilege.”

I found it here.

Okay, guys! Wanna save your marriage?

Take a look:

The more housework a woman sees her husband do, the less likely she is to think of divorcing him. That’s the conclusion of researchers Joan Huber and Glenna Spitze, who note that each one of the following tasks performed by a husband at least half the time lowers the chances that his wife is thinking about divorce by 3 percent:

* Meal preparation
* Food shopping
* Childcare
* Daily housework
* Meal Cleanup

Source: Robert Bellah, in The Good Society, Signs of the Times, February, 1994

Just sayin'....... :-)

(Well, maybe 3% isn't a heck of a lot but if you were in that 3% it would be your marriage that got saved!)

So true, so true

Sojourners sent this out today:

As long as people use tactics to oppress or restrict other people from being free, there is work to be done.

- Rosa Parks

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why people "snap"

An article with this title really caught my attention today: "Is There Any Wonder Some People Snap Like in Binghamton and at Columbine?" I've thought that myself quite a number of times over the years. Take a look:

Our entire way of life -- from our exploitative economy to our foreign policy -- is violent.
...
As Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's posthumous infamy turns 10 on April 20, I wish I were surprised that Columbine-like shootings are still happening, or even that our national discussion about violence hasn't yet matured past gun control and video games.

I wish I were surprised, but sadly, I'd be surprised if it were any different because we still refuse to ask the most uncomfortable questions.
...
For example, isn't violence a predictable byproduct of our economy? When torture victims are waterboarded, they freak out. When a winner-take-all economy tortures society, should we be shocked that a few lunatics go over the edge?

For three decades, we converted our economy into one that enriches the rich and stresses out everyone else. Paychecks dwindled, debts accumulated, health-care bills spiked. We now spend more hours working or seeking work, and fewer hours on parenting, family time and rest -- all while schools and mental-health services deteriorate.

Considering this, shouldn't we expect the recent Associated Press story telling us "the American home is becoming more violent" because of the recession? Shouldn't we expect the new Department of Homeland Security report saying that "the economic downturn" is "invigorating rightwing extremist activity, specifically the white supremacist and militia movements"? And, ultimately, shouldn't we expect the deep alienation that may lead the occasional troubled kid to turn video-game fantasies into real-world terror?

It's a very short article so you might like to click through and read the whole thing. And, as I write, there are 107 comments where it's published on Alternet. Seems to have stirred up a lot of emotion.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday cat blogging!

World peace

Wouldn't you know it would be George Carlin to come up with the perfect plan:

Another plan I have is World Peace through Formal Introductions. The idea is that everyone in the world would be required to meet everyone else in the world, formally, at least once. You'd have to look the person in the eye, shake hands, repeat their name, and try to remember one outstanding physical characteristic. My theory is, if you knew everyone in the world personally, you'd be less inclined to fight them in a war: 'Who??? The Malaysians??? Are you kidding??? I know those people!!!'"

-- George Carlin

Friday, April 17, 2009

Impressive


I hope a lot of people see this.

~~

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"The biggest wake up call ever"

Anybody out there need a lift today? Trust me, this will do it.

I'm not a person who is easily moved to tears but I came very close on this one.

Oh dear. The embedding has been disabled. You're going to have to go to the YouTube site. Please click through and do it!
~~

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Only humanity

Frank Ford sent me this:

There are no nations! There is only humanity. And if we don't come to understand that right soon, there will be no nations, because there will be no humanity.

-- Isaac Asimov

One of my pet peeves, too! :-)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oh this is just wonderful!

Look:

President Obama on Thursday night hosted what may have been the first Passover Seder in the White House, and in a sign of the president's popularity, Elijah showed up.

--Seth Meyers

I read somewhere else that the Obamas had a Seder last year and when the traditional "Next year, Jeruslem!" was proclaimed, the candidate replied, "Next year, the White House!"

When the bottom line is god

Well, big companies are shipping manufacturing to China in order to maximize profits. And they keep demanding lower and lower manufacturing costs. So is it a surprise when the products we get end up poisoning us? Take a look:

A toxic fungicide in imported furniture is behind an outbreak of chronic dermatitis, skin burns, eye irritation and breathing difficulties across the world. Medical experts here are warning consumers to watch for symptoms.

The international journal Allergy has confirmed what thousands of British and mainland European citizens have known for more than a year: new leather sofas imported from China are a hotbed of allergens.

Dimethyl fumarate, in the form of a fine, white crystalline powder, was found in sachets embedded in the furniture sourced to China. It is believed the body heat generated from sitting on a contaminated couch causes a toxic vapour to seep out.
...
About 200,000 of the suspect couches have been imported by 15 furniture retailers in Britain alone and compensation for victims, some of whom required hospital treatment, could be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Somehow that old saying, "You get what you pay for," comes to mind.

The above excerpt is from an article entitled "New Sofas to Blame for Rash of Allergies". It's from the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Day


May each of us "fan the ashes":

Easter is not a time for groping through dusty, musty tomes or tombs to disprove spontaneous generation or even to prove life eternal. It is a day to fan the ashes of dead hope, a day to banish doubts and seek the slopes where the sun is rising, to revel in the faith which transports us out of ourselves and the dead past into the vast and inviting unknown.

~Author unknown

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bumper Sticker

Sadly, it's true:

You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.

-- James Thurber

Friday, April 10, 2009

Deep, focused inspiration


Dear Readers,

Today is Good Friday. And, whatever your religious convictions (or lack thereof), it seems to be an auspicious day for focusing on what it means to give of oneself for others and to maintain a true hopefulness in the midst of great darkness and the seeming triumph of evil.

I want to steer you toward an amazing essay by Clarissa Pinkola Estes entitled "You Were Made For This". There is nothing sentimental or superficial about what she has to say. But it is inspiring in a strengthening sort of way, in a way that energizes and encourages and confronts our complacency. Here are a few passages:

My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times.
...
In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there.
...
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul.

Today, this essay is bringing me enormous consolation because I am in the midst of a great difficulty. Perhaps someone reading this is in the midst of a great difficulty as well. Let us be in solidarity with each other, then, and know that we are profoundly connected in a way that is truly for the good of all.

~~~

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The White House and climate change

I came across an article today called "Obama looking at cooling air to fight warming" and I don't know whether to think of it as hopeful or terrifying. Here's part of what it says:

Tinkering with Earth's climate to chill runaway global warming — a radical idea once dismissed out of hand — is being discussed by the White House as a potential emergency option, the president's new science adviser said Wednesday.

That's because global warming is happening so rapidly, John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month.

The concept of using technology to purposely cool the climate is called geoengineering. One option raised by Holdren and proposed by a Nobel Prize-winning scientist includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays.

Using such an experimental measure is only being thought of as a last resort, Holdren said.
...
Scientists say they worry about side effects that they don't anticipate.
...
Holdren didn't spell out under what circumstances such extreme measures might ever be called for. And he emphasized they are not something to rely on.

"It would be preferable by far," he said, "to solve this problem by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases."

Yet there is already significant opposition building to the House Democratic leaders' bill aimed at achieving President Barack Obama's goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

What is wrong with people? It is essential that we do something. But until we really and truly confront the evils of capitalism I don't think we will.

UPDATE: Oh my goodness. Just go read this: "What will global warming look like? Scientists point to Australia"

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

One could easily get discouraged.

I nicked this from over at Mad Priest's place - with his blessing, of course!

Just in case you've been living under a rock for a while, not long ago the Pope actually said the the distribution of condoms made the AIDS crisis worse.

Yeah, I know. There's just no explaining it.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009

I didn't know he said this

Take a look:

The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

For your listening pleasure



Folks, this is truly amazing. WOW!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Quote of the week

What an indictment. And sadly, true:

If the people of any country rely solely on private companies to provide essential information, the lifeblood of democracy, then you're really risking it. I think countries like the U.S. have done that to their peril. Americans, God love them, are one of the most uninformed people on the planet. A lot of it has to do with the failure of their media to keep them informed.

~ Tony Burman

PBS censorship

Please go read Something is Rotten at PBS over on Common Dreams. It's about health care. It's a short article but I really can't come up with an excerpt that will make sense.

And, yes, it's important.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Banks

Supposedly, Robert Frost said this one:

A bank is a place where they end you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain.

Ideas

I'm pretty sure I've posted this before but I'm also pretty sure that it's time for a repeat:

I can't understand why people are frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened by old ones.

- John Cage

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Telling it like it is. Really.

Over on Common Dreams there is an article called "The Changes And Chances Of This Mortal Life" (the title being an allusion to a prayer from the ancient monastic office of Compline - the bedtime prayer service). Here's the way it ends:

This is the Twenty-First Century. It will be hot. The storms will get worse. The water will run out and the food will fail. Money will not save us; not your stock portfolio, not your precious 401K, not the boxes of bills delivered to General Motors. Our wars will be a bloody and expensive sideshow of no consequence except to our victims. In this new century, in our lifetimes, in the years so close that our middle-managers already have meeting dates marked in their daily planners, we will come up against population and pollution and natural systems overloaded and uncontrollable by any military or economic or industrial firepower or religious faith we will own. No less than after 1492 we enter an unknown New World.

We will know the Change We Cannot Avoid.

Expect no bailout.

Grim. And, undoubtedly, the way things are.

No kidding

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Fixing the economy

Cindy Reynolds sent me the following WONDERFUL story:

This was an article from the St. Petersburg Times newspaper on Sunday. The Business Section asked readers for their ideas on "How Would You Fix the Economy?" I think this reader nailed it!

Dear Mr. President,

Patriotic Retirement: There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force. Pay them $1 million dollars apiece severance pay with these stipulations:

1) They leave their jobs. Forty million job openings - Unemployment fixed.
2) They buy NEW American cars. Forty million cars ordered - Auto Industry fixed.
3) They either buy a house or pay off their mortgage - Housing Crisis fixed.

Done !!!

Now isn't THAT much more effective than throwing billions to the greedy un-needy?

I love it. I just love it! (And heck, it sounds as if it would work.)

UPDATE: Crumbs. It wouldn't work. It would only cost the government 40 million dollars if you gave each person $1.00. Poo. I can't believe I didn't notice that right away!

A first principle


Sojourners sent this quotation out today. What Chávez is saying here is so, so focused, so radiant with clarity, that it inspires me greatly. I think I will post it on all three blogs because it speaks to the theme and purpose of each one:

The first principle of nonviolent action is that of noncooperation with everything humiliating.

- César Chávez