Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: May 2005 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Monday, May 30, 2005

The weather is here,
wish you were beautiful

The skies are too clear, life’s too easy today
The beers are too cold, the daiquiris too fruitiful
There’s no place like home when you’re this far away
I feel together today

--- Jimmy Buffett

It’s storming to the southwest today, but it’s pretty clear here. After the storms last night, there’s a clean feeling in the air. Can’t have that, can we? I think I’ll fill it up with hickory smoke.

So now I’m basting away in Paradise. Got a brisket, some sausage and a salmon, all smoking away nicely in the old offset. Temperature hovering around 200 degrees (F), a pile of pecan branches to keep the smoke flowing, a mix of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemons, limes, oranges, herbs and spices to baste the meat, and a cooler full of longnecks to baste myself. Ain’t life sweet?

Of all the forms of outdoor cooking, to me, barbecuing is the most satisfying. It’s more than a method of cooking, it’s a lifestyle. All the way back to the American Revolution, barbecue was a community event, attended by folks from all walks of life. Back then they did it in the ground, but I (and my back) prefer my offset smoker.

Many people these days use “barbecue” (or BBQ, or just plain Q) as a generic term for cooking over fire, but that’s not accurate. Barbecue, by definition, is slow cooking with low to medium heat (under 210 degrees F), usually bolstered by an aromatic wood such as mesquite or hickory. Everything else is “grilling”, which is cooking food directly over a fire with high heat.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love grilled steak, burgers and veggies. A grilled hot dog, with all the fixin’s is delicious in its own right. It should be experienced at least annually in order to maintain a sense of childlike wonder. But your first bite of a well-smoke sausage can transcend you to entirely new levels of bliss. Mmmmmm. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

So while our hypocritical president ceremoniously presents a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery, I’ll honor those fallen in our country’s service my own way. With pickles and onions on the side.

Life is served.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Soldiers in Iraq: important.
Soldiers at home: not so much.

Bush: Base closings will help pay for war on terror

If you want to win, you've got to cut back. That's how America prevails.

In the war on terror, apparently, in order to prevail you have to scale back your military. It's much more economical to reduce the human rights of your citizens than it is to fund your military.

Sodiers who went to Iraq from Ellington Field, Igleside, Red River, Brooks City and Lone Star, will return (assuming they're still alive) to closed or greatly reduced bases.

The war in Iraq is costing us billions of dollars per month, so the administration is trying to save a few million in domestic base costs. Of course, these base costs only eliminate thousands of domestic jobs, and don't affect Haliburton's bottom line, so they don't count in the overall cost of the "war on terra".

if they only knew... Posted by Hello

When are we going to wake up and see that this administration is leading us down the garden path? While our soldiers are scrounging for protection in Iraq, our leaders, and their cohorts, are socking away millions in profits. And whining about the cost of "freedom", so they can take away local jobs and award them to foreign nationals in order to protect our security.

So as our soldiers return to us from Iraq and find themselves reporting far away from their homes, or even in other states, they can thank Bush for making this war profitable for his corporate buddies. Because while they made a killing through their contracts, America lost jobs, integrity, and military bases.

And the graduating class cheered. Let's see how they cheer when they come home.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

good/bad news: Bolton still undecided

Republicans call it a filibuster. Democrats call it a request for more information. Any way you slice it, it's a delay in an up-or-down vote to instill John Bolton as our ambassador to the United Nations. Now, granted, the U.N. needs some housecleaning. It's screwed up plenty, most recently in the oil-for-food scandal. But sending Bolton to clean it up is a farce. Like sending a fox to guard the chicken house.

John Bolton is the epitomy of the self-agrandizing politician. The petty bureaucrat's petty bureaucrat. He thinks nothing of attempting to ruin the career of someone who's hurt his feelings, as documented in the last round of investigations into his character which led to the delay in the vote so far. The kind of guy who, given the provocation, would start World War III in order to soothe his ego. He has what's been described as a "kiss up, kick down" style of management. Just the kind of guy to put in charge of getting the rest of the world to support our war on terror, right? We'd be better off with Cat Stevens (oh yeah, he's not allowed in the country anymore. Him and his "Peace Train" subversiveness).

Today's vote lasted about 35 minutes longer than average - hardly a filibuster - but Republican leaders squealed like pigs saying Democrats were violating the spirit of the agreement reached just days ago about putting aside partisanship and judging each issue on its merits or lack thereof. Which is exactly what happened. There are no merits to establishing Bolton in the position for which he is nominated. He's the antithesis of the position, and if he were posted there, all but the isolationists would be sorry.

This is exactly the reason that our current system of checks and balances was established. If left to their own devices, those in power would entrench their henchmen in the system (a la Grima Wormtongue), and nothing but impeachment and a major purging could redeem us and raise us from the depths to which we've descended.

We didn't really need the first ammendment anyway, did we?

Via Majikthise -

The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a secret vote on expanding the Patriot Act today. Rather than bringing the controversial Act into line with the Constitution, it will empower law enforcement with even more ability to intrude into our personal lives without any oversight. According to the ACLU,

The bill would grant so-called "administrative subpoena" authority to the FBI, letting the bureau write and approve its own search orders for any tangible thing it deems relevant to an intelligence investigation without approval. This power would let agents seize personal records from medical facilities, libraries, hotels, gun dealers, banks and any other business, without having to appear before a judge, and without any evidence that the people whose records are swept in are involved in any criminal activity.

The proposal would also give the FBI broad new powers to track people’s mail in intelligence inquiries. It would force postal workers to disclose the name, address and other information appearing on envelopes delivered to or from people designated by the FBI, without any meaningful protections.

The scariest part of this is that the proposed legislation will remove the safeguard that this Act can't be used solely because of activities protected by the first ammendment, as is currently the case. This legislation will, in effect, allow the FBI to violate all of your privacy rights if you exercise free speech.

The though police are not that far in our future.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Frozen logic, melted values

'Snowflake' babies bring stem cell debate to life

Let me see if I understand this correctly.

Embryos are "human beings from conception," Houston native Tracy Jones, 32, said Tuesday. She proudly showed the first picture of her child — when he was just a mass of cells.

Mrs. Jones and her husband are born again Christians who can’t conceive. They initially planned to adopt until they heard about a program that freezes, then thaws embryos and implants them in the wombs of those who wish to give birth to them.

The couple was matched with and adopted 10 unused embryos from a family in Michigan. Three survived the thawing process (the survival rate is about 50 percent), and were implanted in Tracy's womb. One took hold. The whole process cost them about $7,500.

This is where I get lost. According to their definition (an embryo is a human being), they killed nine human beings so they could conceive one baby. When there is an abundance of already born children needing homes and loving families, these hypocrites kill nine human beings just so they could call this baby their own.

Then they have the gall to display their baby as a poster child in the fight against embryonic stem cell research, because it "violates the sanctity of human life". Talk about twisted logic.

Christian values? In this case, it’s an oxymoron.

But science just might move forward in our lifetime after all

House votes to expand the government's role in research

In good news on the stem cell research front, the House voted yesterday to expand the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research.

In a three-hour House debate, Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land likened the research to "dismemberment of living, distinct human beings."

On the other side was Republican Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware, who co-sponsored the bill with Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

"The more people learn about embryonic stem cell research, the more they realize the potential to fight disease and improve the lives of the millions of Americans who are suffering, and therefore the more supportive they become," he said.

Some of the change of heart in Republicans is due to family members that could benefit from advances in the research, although much is more likely due to the potential loss of millions of dollars in donated funds for their districts.

In January, Texas Medical Center and the Texas Heart Institute received $5 million in donations for cardiovascular stem cell research. Last spring, the center received a 10-year, $25 million anonymous commitment to stem cell research.

But not everyone is swayed by more pork for their district. Standing by his principles, Rep. John Culberson, whose district includes the stem cell pioneers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, voted against it because it’s “creepy”.

Well, so is Karl Rove, but then he wasn’t voted in, he was appointed. And speaking of creepy…

"An embryo is whole, just unfinished, just like the rest of us," DeLay said in the House debate. "We were all at one time embryos ourselves; and so was Abraham, so was Mohammed, so was Jesus of Nazareth ... and Shakespeare, and Beethoven, and Lincoln."

All of us, that is, except Tom DeLay, who was spawned from the seed of Satan. And Adam and Eve, who were molded from clay.

The vote passed 238 – 194, with 50 Republicans in the majority, 52 votes shy of being able to override dubya’s promised veto. It also needs to go through the Senate, which has similar support for the measure – enough to break a filibuster, but probably not a veto.

Bush claimed a mandate in the 2004 election with a 51% majority. He’ll be displaying his hypocrisy when he vetoes legislation that has more than an 81% majority approval. Then again, he’ll be doing it based on his so-called "values", which we all know are 100% righteous. And that trumps 81% and the will of the people every time in a theocracy.

But regardless of whether this issue is resolved this session, it at least is an indication that people are looking past the rhetoric and seeing the research for the benefit it can provide. And hopefully someday, maybe even in our lifetime, we’ll have the cures for many of the currently incurable diseases that delibitate so many.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Bush's Biking An Exercise In Effrontery

It paints such a melancholy scene. The president riding his bicycle in solitude through the unspoiled wilderness of the Patuxent Research Refuge near Washington, D.C.

It's so lonely at the top.

In fact, this is what he was doing while all hell was breaking loose because a small plane had violated the airspace at the nation's capital.

In the real world, however, this scene won't happen too often again. Dubya currently has the means to empty the refuge of all human life (except for secret service agents) while he meanders through its environs, but few others are allowed into this sanctuary. And his policies cut funding for it's operation, so even he won't be able to enjoy it's beauty indefinitely.

When the wayward Cessna approached the White House last week, the president was out riding his mountain bike on the winding trails of Patuxent Research Refuge, 12,790 acres of woods and ponds where endangered whooping cranes live, migratory birds make their pit stops, and hikers, hunters and bird-watchers spend their leisure hours.

But don't expect to follow President Bush's example in the late afternoon or evening, or on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July or any other national holiday, because the same president who repairs to Patuxent for his recreation has saddled the refuge with budget cuts that have forced a sharp reduction in its public opening hours and other services.

Even as the refuge faces sharply rising energy costs and deferred maintenance demands, the facility has been hit with a 2 percent midyear budget cut, a decline in staffing and steadily increasing responsibilities, including post-9/11 mandates that it hire more law enforcement officers.

As it is, the public is not allowed near dubya's biking trails, as they are used primarily for the refuge's scientists, and are adjacent to an NSA shooting range. Two of the refuge's available facilities have been closed recently because of budget cuts, as well as it's longstanding Boy Scout and Girl Scout camping programs.

Dubya, however, still has biking privileges in the area, which frequently leads to evacuation of scientists in the interest of national security.

The sight of Bush pedaling through the Central Tract has struck even some of his political critics as sad -- the image of a man being taken in his security cocoon into a park swept clear of other human beings just so he can ride a bike drives home the old line about there being no lonelier job than the presidency.

"You almost feel sorry for the guy," says refuge volunteer Sue Darcey. "Except that if he understands the need for recreation, how about funding the refuges so we can all go biking in the woods?"

"please don't find oil here"

A Balance in The Force?

Apparently the "nuclear option" won't be used (yet), and a group of bipartisan lawmakers have hammered out an agreement that will prevent both a filibuster and a potential ban on filibusters that have haunted the Senate in recent history.

In exchange for a reprieve from a ban on filibusters for judicial presidential nominees, the Democrats have agreed to allow a vote for Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, and William Pryor, whom they consider too extreme to render judgement constitutionally based on their personal beliefs.

Is this a deal with the devil? Is this how the Dark Side gained a foothold in the Empire, transforming it into the tool of corruption that succesfully overthrew the bureaucratic behemoth that was the Federation?

Okay, enough of the Star Wars analogy.

If the "nuclear option" had matured to fruition, it would have led to unprecedented presidential power, overpowering any minority opposition. Regardless of whose hands this power was in, it would remove the will of even the slightest minority in our government, resulting in the absolute power of anyone who could persuade barely more than half of the population to support their cause.

Given the nature of the political spin machines and the gullibility of the average American to patriotic and emotional images, this would leave the most power in the hands of those able to manipulate the most people.

Oh wait, that's already happening. That's why we're in this mess in the first place.

Let's try again.

If we give absolute power to those who wish to rule absolutely, they will become absolutely corrupt. Now we're back to the Star Wars analogy. I guess life does imitate art (or vice versa) after all.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A letter to my son

Today my son enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. The following is an open letter to him and others like him who have recently chosen this path to their future:

Dear Son,

You've entered adulthood at a difficult time. Opportunities are not as prevalent as they were when I was your age. Back then, an honest, hardworking person could enter the workforce with little more than good health and a desire to succeed, and rise to a position of responsibility through hard work, a little understanding of human nature, and a good moral compass.

Your generation has it a little tougher. Good careers require degrees, and college is expensive these days. Unless you know exactly what you want to be, a lot of money will be spent that may not help in the life you choose. And with the sad state of the economy and the greed epidemic, even a Masters Degree doesn't guarantee success.

I know that we haven't always seen eye to eye. Sometimes I think you're immature and self-centered, and sometimes you think I'm ignorant and bull-headed. Sometimes we're both right, sometimes neither of us is.

When you told us that you had enlisted in the Marines, your Mother and I felt a mixture of pride and fear. Pride because you've chosen an honorable path that can get you far in life. Fear because American soldiers are dying every day in hostilities around the world, and it appears that trend will continue into the foreseeable future.

Granted, it's a small percentage. At today's rate, 99% of the soldiers currently in Iraq will return home alive. But that doesn't make it any less painful for the families of the 1% who won't come home.

You've chosen to put your life on the line for something you believe in. You've chosen to set aside your personal freedoms for a chance at a better life. You've chosen to become something you can be proud of, and in the process become someone others will be proud of as well. I know I will.

The path you've chosen leads through danger, yet it also leads through honor. In serving your country, you're showing a selflessness that demonstrates to the world that you hold some things in higher regard than your own comfort and safety. That you have made a commitment to help others without expecting reward. For that alone, you have already made the world a better place, which is all I ever hoped you would achieve.

The Marines will provide you with life skills that will help you succeed not only during your term of service, but for the rest of your life. They will condition you, both mentally and physically, to persevere in the face of adversity, and to endure hardship and discomfort in order to prevail. They will teach you self discipline, survival skills, and how to fold your clothes. For that matter, they'll teach you how to walk, talk and eat in whole new ways.

Actually, "teach" isn't the appropriate word. They will "mold" you, just as some of your favorite teachers molded you into the person that you are today. Although I can pretty much guarantee that you won't think of any of your instructors as "favorite teachers".

So as you begin this new life you've chosen, please always remember certain things. Be honest and work hard. Write to your Mother as often as you can. Always keep your moral compass handy, and don't do things you know are wrong, no matter what others do. And if your path takes you to Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria or North Korea - keep your head down.

Semper Fi. We love you and will be praying for you.

Love, Dad

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Texas takes one large step backwards

Senate sending gay marriage ban to Texans for November vote

Texas is officially moving backwards. The Senate approved a proposed constitutional ban on same sex marriage today, which will send the issue to voters in November. And judging from the Texas GOP's success at targeting homophobes to vote in their favor, it appears that we will have the second ammendment to the Texas Constitution in history that actually takes away rights. If you recall, the first was prohibition, and we all know how that turned out.

"I believe we should protect the institution of marriage. We should hold that up higher than any other relationship," said Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, the sponsor of the amendment.

Ironically, it was also announced today that Mary Kay Letourneau married the boy she raped in 1997 when she was a 34 year old teacher, married with four children, and he was her 12 year old student. Thank goodness the sanctity of marriage is safe for these saints, and that gays aren't eligible for the same rights they enjoy. Family values at it's finest.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, equated the amendment to Jim Crow era laws that discriminated against blacks.

"At least they had the good sense to never write their bigotry into the state Constitution," said Ellis, who called the amendment "trash."

I know I can't be the only reasonable person that thinks this hypocritic bigotry has no place in our state Constitution. More and more we read about so-called steadfast fundamentaloids who have homosexual secrets, and yet the response seems to be to take away more rights and privileges from those who are openly gay or lesbian. And of course it's completely beyond the comprehension of these Republigoons that the people least likely to seek an abortion are those that they're trying to prevent from forming a legal union. Ah, the irony.

Come November, if you're a Texan and can see through the twisted logic that makes these folks fear those who think differently from them, please register to vote, and vote against this atrocity. If not, it will be overturned eventually, but in the meantime will move our civil rights movement backwards, and could lead to others who will classified as second class citizens before cooler heads prevail.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Amber light-saber Alert

My son is missing. As of yesterday evening at 10 pm, my son, his truck, and a light saber have been missing. Evidence points towards the Edwards Marquis theatre, where he held tickets for the midnight showing of "Star Wars - the Revenge of the Sith". Since heading to this show, he has not been heard from, leading us to believe he has succumbed to the Dark Side of The Force, and is now in a galaxy far, far away.

If anyone sees him, please tell him that the Dark Side has no future (re: Return of the Jedi), and that his breakfast is ready.

Another George gets a voice

Whoa. British MP George Galloway blasted the U.S. Senate Committee that was investigating the Oil-for-food scandal. I wish I coulda seen it. I love it when outspoken controversial people who aren't afraid of the press hand the recipients' balls to them on a platter.

Accused of paying kickbacks to Saddam Hussein in exchange for oil, Galloway jumped in with both feet on the issue, accusing the U.S. of hypocrisy and complicity.

"Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq's wealth. Have a look at the real oil-for-food scandal. Have a look at the 14 months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first 14 months...when $8.8 billion of Iraq's wealth went missing on your watch."

Galloway goes on to explain how the U.S., while portraying themselves as holier-than-thou in this scandal, are actually waist deep in the debris surrounding the issue.

Responding to reports of his meetings with Saddam Hussein, he states:

I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, one in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as many meetings with Saddam Hussein.

As a matter of fact, I've met with Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps to better target those guns.

I met him to try to bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war and on the second of two occasions I met him to try and persuade him to allow Dr. Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country.

A rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defense made of his."

Addressing accusations arising from captured Iraqi prisoners, he questioned the validity of their testimony:

I've never met Mr. Taha Yassin Ramadan, your subcommittee apparently has. But I do know that he's your prisoner. I believe he's in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe he's facing war crimes, charges punishable by death.

In these circumstances, knowing what the world knows about how you treat prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison, in Bagram air base, in Guantanamo Bay, including I may say British citizens being held in those places, I'm not sure how much credibility anyone would put on anything you managed to get from a prisoner in those circumstances.

All I can say is, "Rock On!" Any time someone has the cojones to stand up to conventional opinion to challenge the status quo, more power to them! Yeah, he's a politician, and just by moving his lips is suspect, but at least he's rocking the boat. And as long as he's garnering controversy - media wise - he's bringing attention to issues that those of us who want to raise these issues but don't have the clout to do so. It's a good thing.

So Rock on, brother George! Keep the attention on our hypocritical involvement in middle-east politics. Keep the focus on inconsistencies in U.S policy, and it'll be harder for the general population to forget inconvenient facts in order to support the administration in their quest for world domination.

Keep the truth flowing, and there's a chance for us yet. When no voices speak up to proclaim that the emperor has no clothes, then we're all doomed to obediently admiring the non-clothing.

I'm Baaack!

Sorry for the silence, folks, but I was on sabbatical. Recharging my batteries, if you will. Every once in a while I need to get away from the grind of the city and get back to nature. This time it was at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area just outside Llano, Texas. Way cool place.

Enchanted Rock, as seen from the north. To get an idea of scale, the summit is 130 meters (425 feet) above the campsites below. Although primarily one huge rock, it includes many subsystems that contain caves, fissures and boulder piles that invite exploration.

It’s basically a 100+ meter high rock with its own ecosystem. And lot’s of nooks and crannies - places to climb, play, hide and explore, all without the benefit of electricity. Top that, Sony. Believe me, it’s much more exhilarating pushing the envelope of ability in person than to do it with a joystick.

Some of the interesting geological formations, called "hoodoos" or "mushroom stones" created by eons of wind and water on the path to the summit of Enchanted Rock.

Did some climbing. Well, not climbing climbing, with pitons and carabiners and such, more like vertical hiking. But there were plenty of precarious situations, dangling over the abyss and Jackie Chan maneuvers. Basically tempting fate. But it seems that fate has better things to do these days than bother with me, so I’m back in one piece, more or less.

A gnamma, or weathering pit, on the top of Enchanted Rock, contains a delicate ecosystem in the heart of a harsh environment. Kinda like a primitive rooftop garden.

Also did some caving, although that doesn’t count as therapeutic. It’s sick and twisted. But I did it anyway. I just don’t get how people enjoy crawling into dark, damp tight spaces that you’re not sure you can get out of. But, whatever twists your pickle. I prefer my danger in the sunlight, thank you very much.

So, what did I miss while I was away? Hang on while I peruse the news…

Monday, May 09, 2005

May the Force be with you

picture gallery

The new Star Wars episode is due in theatres May 19th (earlier in some venues). Note to parents: it's not for the kiddies. Because it deals with Anikin/Darth Vader's migration to the dark side, there's baby killing, slash and burn, cute-little-Yoda-maiming action that is not designed for younger audiences. Hence the PG-13 rating.

"We're getting a lot of flak from parents, a lot of people saying how can you do this? My children love these movies. Why can you not let them go see it?" Lucas told The Associated Press in a recent interview. "But I have to tell a story. I'm not making these, oddly enough, to be giant, successful blockbusters. I'm making them because I'm telling a story, and I have to tell the story I intended."

Regardless, Episode III promises to be a blockbuster, even though Episode II kinda tanked by Hollywood standards. Everyone wants the closure promised by the metamorphosis from cute little Anakin (Episode I) to disturbed teen (Episode II and every other teen in history) to devious mastermind of the fall of the Republic (the dream of every other teen in history).

Not to mention the conception of twin Saviours of the Universe, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, whose potentially incestuous relationship was finally resolved in Episode VI (or the second sequel for us old-schoolers).

Game on. I haven't yet seen it yet , but I'm looking forward to it. It's the only DVD I don't already own in the saga. So whether I'll see it in the theatres or wait for it to come on DVD depends on how it's received. Let me know. It's only 8 bucks, so I'll see it at the theatre if it's good, but I won't camp out overnight. But if it's a hit at the theatres I'll have to wait longer for the DVD. Such a dilemna.

May the force be with me.

Friday, May 06, 2005

God may be a Republican,
but Jesus would have been a Democrat

In our society, whenever we fear something or don't understand it, we declare war on it. The War on Terror. The War on Drugs. The War on Poverty.

Now our society is declaring war on People Who Think Differently.

Case in point: Pastor Chan Chandler of the East Waynesville Baptist Church in North Carolina has given his congregation an ultimatum - if you don't support George dubya Bush, either repent or resign. Nine members, all Democrats, were told they're not welcome in the church anymore. Forty others, presumable Republicans, have left the church in protest.

The bad news is, intolerance is rising to new heights (or sinking to new depths). The good news is that Christian Republicans have turned their backs on this church. Think about this. North Carolina Republicans. Christians. Denouncing their church. Because of behavior that goes against the teachings of Jesus.

There's hope for them yet.

Daily Kos is running a campaign to publicize the event and ostrasize the church's leader for his unchristian-like behavior. He offers suggestions to help here.

In another act of war:

Hyde Park's Summit Country Day School invited Kansas Gov. Kathleen Gilligan Sebelius to be this year's commencement speaker.

But the independent Catholic school uninvited her after talking to Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk about the Democratic governor's support for abortion rights.

"We initially nominated her because we were proud of her career successes," Carol Boyd, the school's spokeswoman, said today.

"After further consideration, we rescinded our invitation."

And finally, the Palm Beach, Florida diocese feels that the Judge who decided that L.G., the 13 year old runanway who became pregnant, could choose to have an abortion, should be denied communion.

Granted, a religion should be allowed to dictate it's doctrine. But a Judge is required to put his personal beliefs aside in order to rule based on existing laws. We're not a theocracy yet, and the laws clearly imply that the Judge ruled correctly. To deny him absolution as prescribed by his faith is highly unchristian.

So war has unequivocably been declared. "Christians" no longer have christian values. Those of us with christian values (compassion, mercy, tolerance) are considered "godless". Greed, hate, and intolerance are the new path to "salvation". Well, not exactly new, since they're reminiscent of the Crusades centuries ago, which led the rest of the world to mistrust us (Christians, that is, since America didn't exist yet) enough to instill the hate that plaques us today in the form of terrorist attacks.

Hate fosters hate. Intolerance begets intolerance. And greed propagates power, which corrupts exponentially (i.e. Bush, DeLay, Frist).

Jesus said, "Judge not, lest you be judged" (Matthew 7:1). He also said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7), and, "if you love only them which love you, what reward have you gained?" (Matthew 5:46).

Memo to Christians: You are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). But if that light is under a bushel, it's lost something kinda crucial (Godspell). Which seems to be the ailment of organized religion these days.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The other white meat

(Thanks to Northstar for a better picture than I had originally)

Pork. That's what Tom DeLay does best. Forget bullying his way through the legislature, having his way with junior legislators, accepting favors (and illegal vacations) in exchange for his blessings on legislation that benefit those who bestow those favors upon him.

What he does best is spearhead laws that insure that those in his district (particularly those that contribute heavily to his campaigns and causes) get the most from federal pork programs that they possibly can.

In this case, it's federal research and development money that could go to developers in his district to find deep water oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Never mind that the petroleum industry is one of the few industries that are making double digit profits these days, these guys deserve our corporate welfare.

Adding to the sad story, the petrochemical industry is struggling with the middle management issue. It appears that, despite record profits, they've laid off all of their talented middle aged managers, and for some reason can't attract more. Could it have something to do with job security?

If our God-given right to cheap gas can't be realized, the least we can do is give the good people who try to provide it an astronomical profit margin. That's the Christian thing to do, right?

So as industries in need of corporate welfare go, this one's right up there. If we want to continue to cater to our gas-guzzling sport-utility-driving society, something's gotta be done to preserve our American way of life.

Pork is the other white meat. Let's give generously to this cause. 'Cause our future consumption could depend on it.

Making war is much easier than making peace.

Can someone please explain to me how this war in Iraq is supposed to be making us safe? Recruitment for the Army is down, our troops are spread extremely thin, we've got theatres of operation in Iraq and Afghanistan that are manned by troops that have been there well past their tour of duty, and at the same time we're posturing against Iran, Syria, North Korea, and who knows who else that isn't being broadcast in the media?

Speaking of the media, they're still being labeled the "liberal elite" media, even though this recent mainstream media report states that the need for new recruits is because of 9/11, rather than the war in Iraq, when anyone who can think for themselves knows it's the exact opposite.

Thinking back to the aftermath of 9/11, I remember that we enjoyed an unprecedented sympathy from the rest of the world because of the attacks, and the majority of Americans would have enthusiatically manned the front lines against the fanatics who planned and executed the cowardly attack against America.

Now the war in Iraq, perceived by Islam as an attack against all people of their faith and roundly opposed by most of the rest of the world, has led to an all time low approval of America and it's policies.

"Who cares", say the isolationoids. What they don't understand is that the world economy is no longer measured against the dollar. That's one reason our economy is in the crapper. Not to mention that our people are dying in greater numbers while the rest of the world is backing off from our push for "democracy". They've got democracy, and will be happy to share it. They'd just rather not do it at gunpoint.

To date there are over 1600 American soldiers dead because of our "freedom initiative", and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Sure, it accomplished the ouster of Saddam Hussein (which Bush, Sr. failed to achieve) and led to a democratic election of leaders (many of which are as hard-line fundamentalist as the former regime). But considering that the country is more dangerous to the average citizen from insurgents, and what this war has cost us in American lives and dollars (two hundred billion and counting), I question the war's value.

And there's no end in sight. Insurgent attacks are on an upward climb. There have been more people killed every month by the insurgency this year than any since Bush declared "mission accomplished" in 2003.

Granted, there's no easy way out of this dilemna. If we pull out of Iraq right now, we leave those people at the mercy of those who are willing to die to change things back to the way they were before we interfered.

But we can resist the effort to expand this war elsewhere. Right now we're rattling sabres at Iran, Syria, North Korea, Palestine, and a host of others. We've already stretched our manpower to the limit. How serious are these guys going to take us if we can't muster the soldiers necessary to take on even one more world semi-power (minor as it may be).

It's time to stand up against the egotistical arrogance of our leaders and say "enough!". As much as we'd like to impose our way of life on everyone else, we can't stand against the rest of the world and still maintain that way of life ourselves.

Everyone's feeling the cost of this war - with the loss of our loved ones, with the sad state of the economy (unless you're employed by a company that benefits from the war, e.g. Halliburton, or the petroleum industry), and with the loss of personal freedoms due to the increased threat of really-pissed-off enemies who see us as a threat to their way of life.

Now's not the time to start new wars. Let's finish the ones we've already started. And then see if we can make peace as easily as we can make war. Now that would be a worthy accomplishment.

It' a good thing they weren't gay,
or they would be unfit to serve...

Lynndie England: Iraqis abused for 'amusement'

Monday, May 02, 2005

chi vivrà vedrà (time will tell)

Italy issues report on agent's death

Remember when an Italian agent, Nicola Calipari, was gunned down by American soldiers as he tried to bring kidnappped Italian journalist, Guiliana Sgrena, to freedom?

The American investigation blamed the Italians for poor communications and failure to heed warnings.

But a Greek student at Bologna University managed to uncensor the censored American report. It turns out that the roadblock wasn't even supposed to be there at the time, in which case the American soldiers wouldn't have fired on, and killed, Calipari.

Italy's official report is now out, which blames the event on stress and inexperience of the American soldiers.

The official reports differ, which isn't suprising. What is yet to be seen is how much Italy, considered one of America's staunchest allies in Iraq, will continue to support the U.S.

Will we admit to this mea culpa? Doubtful. Will relations be molto buon? chi vivrà vedrà.