Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither, and lose both.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Beware. Religious content

I am going to allow myself a brief foray into a discussion of religion. If you feel this may offend you, read no further.

I read today on on CNN :

“BRIELLE, New Jersey (AP) — An 8-year-old girl who suffers from a rare digestive disorder and cannot eat wheat has had her first Holy Communion declared invalid because the wafer contained no wheat, violating Roman Catholic doctrine.

Church doctrine holds that Communion wafers, like the bread served at the Last Supper, must have at least some unleavened wheat. Church leaders are reluctant to change anything about the sacrament.”

Now, some of the greatest thinkers in the last 2000 years have been catholic, not only in the field of theology, but in science, politics, arts, and everything else. I have tremendous respect for the Jesuit scholars who taught me in graduate school at Fordham. Doesn’t the above, though, indicate a religion turned upside down, where the forms of the ritual “magic” completely override the inward spiritual truth?

Even the catholic church defines a sacrament as an outward expression of an inward reality. Since when did the form of the ritual become important enough to jeopardize the health, and potentially the life, of a person undergoing the ritual magic? I am truly disgusted that any religious body would take a stand like this.

In this morning’s paper, I read a “vent” where another catholic took exception with the statement that someone made about a pilgrimage that they “adore” Mary the mother of Jesus. They don’t “adore”, she said, they love her and pray for her intervention with her son. That seems like splitting hairs, to me. More importantly, praying for help to dead people who are not God seems simply like ancestor worship, no matter how you define it.

It troubles me greatly that those who call themselves Christian can wrap themselves in so many rituals, traditions, and beliefs that Christ never espoused, and ignore the simple lessons He taught. What is the greatest commandment? “To love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind” “And a second is like it: You shall love your Neighbor like yourself.” (Mat 22:36-40). How many people, not only catholic but in any denomination, will happily take communion, but still sanction the killing of thousands upon thousands of innocent Iraqis in an unnecessary war? How does that fulfill the commandment to love your neighbor? How would the prophet of Isaiah 1:10-17 feel about the question of wheat in wafer, or the murder of Iraqis?

There is an old joke: “I belong to no organized religion, I am a Quaker.” I am grateful for discovering the Quakers, and realizing that it is possible to fulfill those two commandments without special magic, or worship of a book, or ancestors, in place of God.

Bush Memorial Liberry

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

In anticipation of the day when George W. Bush is no longer in office, it is perhaps appropriate to give some thought to the prospect of a George W. Bush Presidential Library. The concept may seem oxymoronic to some. After all, how do we go about building a library for a man who appears so proud of his alienation from printed matter? He boasts of not reading newspapers, and there is little to be found in any of his public statements to suggest a familiarity with any book whatsoever. The thought of our current president reading, say, Shakespeare, defies imagining. It is difficult to think of him reading Danielle Steele, or John Grisham, let alone the Bard of Avon.

But if the Bush presidency has been about anything, it’s been about breaking free of the fetters of the traditional past. It was the Bush presidency, after all, that did away with the fussy old notion about the U.S. not engaging in unilateral acts of first-strike aggression against sovereign nations. It was George Bush, after all, who redefined a “conservative” as someone who believed in enormous deficits. And it was the Bush administration that accelerated the separation of language from action by constantly saying one thing while meaning another; i.e. “Clear Skies” initiatives, and “No Child Left Behind.”

Given all that, it may turn out that the George W. Bush Presidential Library (or, perhaps, “Liberry”) will be equally surprising in the ways it breaks with tradition, and with meaning.

But one tradition that probably won’t be broken is the time-honored practice of commemorating presidential bon mots by chiseling them in marble. Immortal ideas expressed in the president’s own immortal language.

Consider what might be chiseled in stone over the door to the education wing of the Bush Liberry, for instance. “Is Our Children Learning?” would make a most fitting presidential quote emblazoned above the portal to the Bush Hall of Lurning, a monument to the Bush administration’s heroic struggle to “leave no child behind.” Or, if a more timeless quality is required for future visitors to the Bush Liberry, the president’s observation from Jan. 23, 2004, might suffice: “The illiteracy level of our children are appalling.”

The wing of the Bush Liberry dedicated to the administration’s contributions to the space program could be entered by passing under the motto: “Astronauts … courageous spacial entrepreneurs.”

Heading west from the Space Wing of the Bush Liberry, visitors may find themselves approaching the Compassion Wing. What words would better express the President’s compassionate nature than these?: “There’s only one person who hugs the mothers and the widows, the wives and the kids upon the death of their loved one. Others hug but having committed the troops, I’ve got an additional responsibility to hug and that’s me and I know what it’s like.”

Beyond compassion, history will want to record the visionary and far- sighted energy policy the administration promoted. Over the entry-way to the Energy Wing of the Liberry, we might find the following Bush words: “We need an energy bill that encourages consumption.”

In the wing devoted to Bush’s bold statesmanship, the visitor may well find these words, spoken about Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the war with Iraq: ” … you disarm, or we will.”

Over the archway to the Hall of Labor, we may find these Bush words: “We want anybody who can find work to be able to find work.” A fitting commemoration of the administration’s tireless efforts on behalf of America’s work force.

In the wing of the Liberry devoted to Bush, the partisan warrior, future visitors might find the following timeless words, uttered in an attempt to fight back the nefarious work of the Democrats: “They want the federal government controlling Social Security like it’s some kind of federal program.”

There is certain to be a wing of the Liberry devoted to George Bush, the dreamer.

That wing could be introduced with these words: ” … America — a literate country and a hopefuller country.” Or, in that same vein, try to imagine these words set in stone: ” My job is to, like, think beyond the immediate.” What could be more visionary?

At this point in time, the George W. Bush Presidential Liberry exists only in the imagination, but it won’t be long before such a place becomes a reality. Future visitors are, however, encouraged to bring their own books.

And crayons.

Jaime O’Neill teaches English at Butte Community College near Oroville.

Flip-Flop, or Hypocricy?

I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton’s willingness to go into a state she doesn’t even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn’t imitate it.

- Alan Keyes, 2000

Talk about quick witted and thinking on your feet:

As reported by MSNBC:

Aug. 7 – It didn’t sound like a hard question. After George W. Bush delivered a tepidly received address to a convention of minority journalists, a Native-American editor from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer asked, “What do you think tribal sovereignty means in the 21st century?” As president and a former governor, the journalist said, Bush had a “unique experience, looking at [the issue] from two perspectives.” The president fumbled. “Tribal sovereignty means that—it’s sovereignty,” he stammered. “I mean, you’re a—you’re a—you’ve been given sovereignty and you’re viewed as a sovereign entity.” As Bush rambled, looking like a schoolboy unprepared at the front of the class, many of the hundreds of Asian, black, Native American and Hispanic journalists gathered before him…well, snickered.

Good thing he’s got a solid grasp on this stuff.

A 140 year old term, still current

After the Civil War,vast numbers of politicians, almost entirely republicans, moved from the North to the South, seeking to take advantage of the reconstruction period to grab their slice of political power. They were termed “Carpetbaggers” after the cheap suitcases they carried their belongings in as they hurried south.

It makes you wonder what kind of luggage Alan Keyes uses, as he hurriedly moves from Maryland to Illinois, hoping to establish residence so he can run for the senate.

And now this…

Despite the squealing from the administration to the contrary, I don’t think any thinking person now doubts that the raising of the “Orange Alert” for the financial districts last week was politically motivated. The data was 3-4 years old, there was no indication of date or timing at all, and the timing was obviously intended to disrupt any positive spin from the Democratic convention.

Now CNN reports:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — The effort by U.S. officials to justify raising the terror alert level last week may have shut down an important source of information that has already led to a series of al Qaeda arrests, Pakistani intelligence sources have said.

Until U.S. officials leaked the arrest of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan to reporters, Pakistan had been using him in a sting operation to track down al Qaeda operatives around the world, the sources said.

Maybe I’m a cynic, but it this is either both complete incompetence and utter disregard for one of our “allies” in the so called war on terror, or clear evidence that the administration puts politics above their professed concern for that war.

Take your pick.

Oh, and American dead total is now 930. That counts only american military, by the way, not the contractors and mercenaries that the military is counting on to such an extent in this war. Shouldn’t those numbers be published too? Strangely, I suppose, they are very difficult to find.

Still no WMD.

Accurate or slip of the tongue? We’ll never know….

As reported today by CNN:

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we,” Bush said.

“They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”

I guess at least he got that right….

It’s not politics…

Bush proposes an intelligence czar in accordance with the 911 commission report. Unfortunately, the details aren’t thought through, and bilaterally congress, and the actual commission, argue that this needs to be planned much more thoroughly with more sweeping changes, than the president recommends. Apparently he gave this a few seconds thought while getting back on his mountain bike after landing on his head.

Tom Ridge claims the recent rise to “Orange Alert” in the financial districts of New York and New Jersey wasn’t politically motivated, after it is revealed that the information which led to the alert is as much as four years old, and none more recent than last January, and no timeframe or date was indicated. If this isn’t politically motivated, why weren’t those details released at the same time as the headlines about the alert were splashed all over the pages?

A letter to the editor in the August 3rd NYT:

To the Editor:

I live in northern New Jersey and work in Midtown Manhattan, near the Citicorp Center. I was listening carefully to Tom Ridge’s warning, as the sites he was mentioning for possible attacks basically encompassed all of my daily life. Then he said, “We must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president’s leadership in the war against terror.”

I realized that I was listening to a paid political announcement and turned the radio off. The credibility of the announcement had been reduced to zero.

John Morley
Ridgewood, N.J., Aug. 2, 2004

It seems the only “intelligence” czar we need is someone to find it, somewhere, in the administration.

Oh. And the military death toll in Iraq is now 920, 85% of which were after the famous “Mission Accomplished” photo-op.

Still no WMD.

Who is the biggest “Flip-Flop” artist?

By Bill Mitchell, from the CNN website:

It’s July 30th

I’m not sure why my entries here have dropped off so dramatically. All of them have been either one of two categories, political or personal. Politically, I continue to be amazed and astounded at the incompetence, and audacity, or the current administration. So much so that I feel as though I am becoming numb to it. Reagan was originally termed (I believe) the teflon president, because nothing he did stuck to him. W has surpassed this by an incredible margin. What has happened to the Plame investigation? Someone in government deliberately exposed an American spy for political purposes, threatening not only them but all the contacts they had made, and we hear nothing of it. We go to war under false pretenses, and it is OK because Saddam Hussein was a “Bad Guy” anyway, and we’re better off without him. Nevermind that the world is full of bad guys who we manage to live with, without spending 900 American soldier’s lives, 125 billion dollars, and all the good will this country has managed to accrue worldwide. We have lost 1.1 million american jobs, and the ones we have managed to create are low-paying garbage, and an administration official cracks that people should just take prozac. Take home pay has declined for the last two years, and we are forecasting another record deficit. Any of these things out to be enough to bring down a President, but somehow the Bush administration just ignores it, the press ignores it, and the great unwashed hoi polloi of American voters buys into it.

If that’s not depressing, what is?

Personally, and speaking of depression, things have been not so good. I have been slipping into a depressive state over the last few months, and didn’t feel it coming on until recently. Last January I cut out some anti-depressant medication, and just got the doc to get me back on it. I hope it helps.

I think what would get me out of this more than anything else, though, is finding something to do that felt worthwhile. My current paying job has been junk work for years. I am the company handyman, and get thrown at any garbage project that comes along. Usually this means trying to do something in 3 weeks or so, with no clue as to background, and no chance to investigate the problem well. I feel used, and as though I have no opportunity to actually get involved and contribute to anything.

Over the last few months I have written what may be the best piece of software I’ve ever done. Unfortunately, it’s a competition management package for homebrew competitions, which has a US market of maybe 50 copies or so. ;) What this has done, at least, is prove to myself that I can still write software, given the opportunity. What I have no confidence in, at all, is that the management of my company can actually find us work to do. I can do my job, I have no evidence that he can do his.

I’d love to go independent, change careers, or just change jobs, but the responsibility of providing for education and support of my family is overwhelming. I can’t risk jeopardizing that responsibility for the possibility that I might be better off emotionally. This is often referred to as “golden handcuffs,” and boy am I caught. In eight years the twins will be out of college. I may be able to change careers then, if I manage to live so long.

In personal news, I did just get back from scout summer camp. Fun. I didn’t go last year, which was the first year I’d missed in eight or so. It was just as much fun, and passed just as quickly, as it did before. I was so proud of my troop. They earned an average of 4.8 merit badges per scout, and had no partials, or incompletes. What really impressed me was how scouts supported each other. If one had finished a badge, he went to help his friends who hadn’t. There was cooperation everywhere in helping to get things done. Late Friday, as a few where struggling to complete the work for one tough badge, others were there to cheer them on. On Saturday morning, as I was waiting in line to talk to counselors about badges, other scouts with no issues were there as support to help their friends. That, in it’s ultimate essence, is what scouting is about, and they really excelled.

My boys are going back for another week, kind of a family tradition. More impressively, two other kids from the troop are going with them. I’ve never been associated with a better group of kids, and I challenge anyone who likes to complain about american youth to come get to know these guys. It will show you what american youth is really all about.

OK I’m tired of writing. At least this is an entry, with a little more than usually dismay over the leadership of what ought the greatest country on earth.