Monday, December 22, 2008

Nod to a meme.

Chalicechick has tagged the universe with her latest meme...

Since I'm a fan of any distraction in a storm, here's my response.

1. Aside from reading, my favorite pastimes are - having long conversations, and cruising the internet looking for interesting, um, distractions.

2. I don't think that ministry is typically thought of as driving a desk--though there's a lot of that to it--and since I'm already surprised to find myself pursuing ministry, I have no idea what I might be doing if I were to take up some other profession. Probably politics, since my mother's deceased and can't be terminally mortified by that.

3. I am irrationally worried about - I don't do much worrying; it's one of my more annoying character traits, I'm told. When awakened at some obnoxious hour of the night, I can spend a while gnawing on the things that should be getting done that aren't. But that's probably not irrational. I've never been able to worry about getting pregnant personally--but have spent some time worrying about a partner's really inconvenient timed possible pregnancy.

4. If I were the opposite sex - I would have one less irrational worry. Probably true--as long as it doesn't presume to descend from #4, as CC's does.

5. The thing I miss most about childhood is - being happiiy oblivious. Unlike CC, I was a fairly happy kid.

6. I like to collect - nothing. Too much collects anyway. Way, way too much.

7. The only thing I've ever been homesick for was home--meaning family. I grew up more or less transient, and the rolling stone that was my family was the thing I missed; no place was really "home" in any deep sense.

8. I’ve never really liked to eat - um, no... can't claim that. It'd be a big, fat lie. As for marshmallows, well, I never was a fan of them on their own. Now I avoid them like the plague since they're made with HFCS, and corn in any form doesn't get along with me.

9. When I have nightmares... I've no idea. I rarely remember any dreams.

10. Magazines subscribed to: Mostly science magazines--several of those. TIME comes and keeps coming although I canceled it years ago. Plural years ago. I've no idea why it keeps coming. National Geographic, Smithsonian.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Of Eating... Ethically

This--ethical eating--being the big (and I think it is, justly) new issue being discussed and wrestled with by UU congregations, I wanted to start a conversation here.

But first, a grace.

I did not grow up in a family that said grace. I found the practice... curious... well into my 20s. Most of the time, it seemed rote and hasty, and I was baffled. This poem, when I encountered it, hit me like a pile of bricks, and it became--for me--the essential core of what I pause and htink on before I eat. Not said aloud, but considered.
Song of the Taste
(Gary Snyder, from REGARDING WAVE (New Directions, 1970))

Eating the living germs of grasses
Eating the ova of large birds

aa the fleshy sweetness packed

aa around the sperm of swaying trees

The muscles of the flanks and thighs of

aa aa aa soft-voiced cows
aa the bounce in the lamb’s leap
aa the swish in the ox’s tail

Eating roots grown swoll

aa inside the soil

Drawing on life of living

aa clustered points of light spun
aa aa aa out of space
hidden in the grape.

Eating each other’s seed

aa aa aa aa eating
aa ah, each other.

Kissing the lover in the mouth of bread:

aa aa aa aa lip to lip.
I've poked around at this enough to realize that it's a vast array of entangle issues.

Is it ethical to kill and eat (at all, or animals, or certain animals)?
Is it ethical to treat animals (that will be used for food) inhumanely? Is that only an issue for their slaughter, or their lives?
What are our ethical obligations to the members of a species and to the species?
What about organic/non-organic food?
Local or non-local?
Effect on the local ecology?
Effect on the ecosphere (impacts on climate change, etc)?
The working conditions and treatment of those working on raising, processing, and transporting food?
The payment of a decent (living) wage to those performing those tasks?
Inequality in access to adequate food?
Cost of food?
Sustainability of the practices of raising and transporting food?

What else? Have I missed other areas or subtopics?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Incivil Disobedience

This looks like an interesting and effective scheme.


Equal Marriage, California

June 17, 2008 - Nov 4, 2008

In hopes of the resurrection

Time for the War on Christmas

It's that time of year again. The Kulturkrieg's Stoßtruppen are at it, warning us of the devious and pervasive forces that are out to suppress Christmas and to ruthlessly extract any reference to Christ--and to ensure that no one observes and celebrates the day in any manner whatsoever.

It's a damned serious problem and should not be mocked.

My small effort on behalf of the struggle to fight this insidious scheme is the fruits of my research to understand where it came from originally. I'm not suggesting that I've found its source, but I've managed to move that goalpost back in time, and want to share it.

"For preventing disorders, arising in several places within this jurisdiction by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonor of God and offense of others: it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county."

Massachusetts Bay Colony
Law Banning Christmas Celebration
May 11, 1659
Damned Puritans.

Who would have guessed that the War on Christmas was a Christian cause?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Offered without comment...

because I'm so offended that visions of the Jacquerie arise...

(Context: This is the corporation that we, the taxpayers, bailed out by buying a just under 80% share of...)

As reported by ABC:

After Bailout, AIG Execs Head to California Resort
Rescued by Taxpayers, $440,000 for Retreat Including "Pedicures, Manicures"


October 7, 2008—

Less than a week after the federal government committed $85 billion to bail out AIG, executives of the giant AIG insurance company headed for a week-long retreat at a luxury resort and spa, the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach, California, Congressional investigators revealed today.

"Rooms at this resort can cost over $1,000 a night," Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) said this morning as his committee continued its investigation of Wall Street and its CEOs.

AIG documents obtained by Waxman's investigators show the company paid more than $440,000 for the retreat, including nearly $200,000 for rooms, $150,000 for meals and $23,000 in spa charges.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Stream of consciousness--BBC-triggered

Filed under "Sad, even pitiable, but somehow amusing":

Pope laments decline of scripture


The Pope lamented what he called the harmful and destructive influence of some forms of modern culture.

This, he said, had decided that God was dead, and man was the sole architect of his destiny and master of creation.


Um, no. Architect? Now, perhaps unlicensed general contractor... that looks likely.

Filed under "Headlines one never wants to see" (bad echo!):

Germany seeks to reassure savers

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has moved to reassure savers in German financial institutions that their deposits are safe.

I'm afraid to even look at the editorial cartoons that might conjure up. Perhaps fortuitously, the cartoonist I know who'd have gone straight for that cheap, creepy image is having surgery.

File this one under "Pot calls kettle black":

Palin makes Obama terrorist claim

(For anyone unfamiliar with Gov. Palin, her husband was a member of an Alaskan secessionist party--whose founder died in an illegal attempt to buy explosives gone bad--until she began running for major public office, and she's been on friendly terms with that party even after her election. Obama knows a '60s era radical--whose acts of violence occured when Obama was 8 years old--and has become a minor Chicago area philanthropist since.)

Filed under "More of the same":

Afghan victory hopes played down

The UK's commander in Helmand has said Britain should not expect a "decisive military victory" in Afghanistan.
But he stated: "We're not going to win this war.

Sort of like in Iraq, or just like in Iraq? Britain's played this game in Afghanistan before...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

William Butler Yeats, Crisis Economics Poet

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of "Spiritus Mundi"
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Just swap "Washington" for "Bethlehem."

Bring on the Swedish Plan. Among other things, it worked pretty well for Sweden's crisis. Of course, it's Swedish and therefore suspect on the right--anything borne in on the shoulders of tall blond(e) Scandinavian socialists must be riddled with libertine values... like insisting on value for tax payer funds.

Or something that's vaguely responsible, please.

What it sounds like Congress is doing is pouring more oil into the engine that's belching white smoke as the old Buick careens down the road. More than oil's necessary. Oh, oil is too--but only as a stop gap, so that there's enough lubrication to get the heap into the mechanic's without having the engine seize up.

Fun and... educational

h/t to Chalicechick

Monday, September 29, 2008

Absurdism to Live For

Maoists appoint "living goddess."

What is there to say to that? What can one add?

First they came for...

In 1971 Martin Niemöller said he was not sure exactly when he said these words--and over the years, it appears that he (and others) cited his words differently--but this is the version he preferred, if people wanted to cite his words;
In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.
I was pretty disturbed when Adkission barged into TVUUC in Knoxville and started shooting Unitarian Universalists--because "they" were liberal folk who were supporting liberal, egalitarian politicians. But this isn't about that.

It's about the fact that nothing is being done about the forces that appear to have driven Adkission in the direction of such an act.

I was horrified when Bill Gwatney was sought out and murdered in what appears to be a political assassination, because he was the chairman of the Democratic Party in Arkansas. (Wikipedia says "No motive was discovered, except Johnson quitting his Target job earlier that day." But Johnson went to the Democratic Party HQ, asked for Gwatney because (he said) he wanted to volunteer--and then murdered the chairman. It's mind bogglingly hard to draw a connection between losing one's job at Target....) But this isn't about that.

It's about the fact that nothing is being done about the forces that appear to have driven Johnson in the direction of such an act.

Now, I'm appalled. There was a terrorist attack in America--in Dayton--on a place of worship, affecting hundreds of people, adults and children--and it's barely been reported. (So much for America not having had any terrorist attacks since 9/11--that's two, at least, the anthrax letters and this one... and both of those appear to have been commited by home-grown terrorists...)

The good news is that no one was killed. But people were terrorized and harmed, and that's absolutely terrorism. Worship was disrupted; people were driven out of their service by tearing up, coughing and shortness of breath. Firefighters were washing peoples' faces and eyes at the scene, and some people were taken to a hospital.
... a child reported seeing two men with a white can spraying something into a window...
Perhaps it was someting like pepper spray--or tear gas. Or it could have been any of a number of other noxious things. But what's disturbing is that it was done... and that the national media hasn't covered it, and that there's no public expression of concern.

You see, it was a mosque that was attacked...

... in a community where the hate "documentary" Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West had been distributed widely (inserted into the local paper or mailed, as it has throughout the country). It's been distributed by the Clarion Fund, and carries the endorsement of the chair of the counter-terrorism department of the U.S. Naval War College, citing his name and using the implicit authority of an official U.S. military institution to lend it credibility.

In each case there's an attack on people who are the object of the hate messages of the political right.

And there's nothing done about the root causes.

But maybe you're not a liberal, a Unitarian Universalist, a Democrat or a Muslim, so you can just shake your head and move along. But you should remember Niemöller's words, and as you move along, as yourself one question;

Will there be anyone there when they come for you?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pretty big news...

hat tip to Br. Garotte of Moderation for this bit of news:

(I'd have discussed this there, but the blog only allows comments from livejournal users)

Full news here. All emphasis mine.

Bishop Carlton Pearson, who has been publicly criticized for teaching that all people will go to heaven, has folded his Oklahoma church into a Unitarian Universalist congregation.


After leading what once was a prominent charismatic church, Pearson said he chose All Souls because of its inclusive atmosphere, accepting gays, blacks and people of all beliefs or none.

“I wanted a place where my people could find safe harbor,” he told the Tulsa newspaper. “They’re already outcasts in the evangelical charismatic community.”

Senior Minister Marlin Lavanhar of All Souls said the addition of several hundred people with a black Pentecostal worship style has enlivened his mostly white congregation. “The ‘amens’ and the ‘right ons’ pull something out of you when you preach,” Lavanhar told the Tulsa World. “There’s a lot of laughter and tears. We’ve never been so free in worship.”

For those unfamiliar with the back-story here, Pearson (educated at Oral Roberts U., and mentored by Oral Roberts himself) led the church he founded--Higher Dimensions-- which was one of the largest churches in Tulsa until he began to preach universalism, which he called the 'Gospel of Inclusion.' 19th century Universalists would certainly recognize Pearson's statement as a common position among them;

For others it may very well be that the punishment merited by their sins is greater than what they receive in this life. For those people perhaps there will be some kind of punishment after death, but we believe that it will be remedial and corrective rather than just punishment for punishment's sake. Exactly what that will be and how long it will last we don't know. Will Hell for some people last 10 minutes or 10 million years... we don't know. But this we do know; Hell will not last for eternity; it will not be endless... Don't sin. Be reunited with God now, rather than after you have put yourself (and those you love) through Hell.

His preaching that resulted in hostility and pressure from other parts of the evangelical community, leading to the teaching being labeled heresy, and the unrepentant Pearson a heretic. New Dimensions lost many members and suffered financial crises as membership fell. Eventually he and New Dimensions moved within the UCC fold.

I'd followed the story somewhat at the time and thought that was probably the end of the public story. Finding that New Dimensions has merged with All Souls in Tulsa is quite a remarkable coda. It should be fascinating to see what this means for UUism in Tulsa, just for starters.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I apologize in advance...

The Greek word for "again" or "backward" is palin.

The Greek verb for speaking is "lalein."

Palilalia is a speech disorder characterized by "involuntary repetition of words, phrases, or sentences."

Which may explain why we keep hearing the governor of Alaska tell us about her opposition to the Bridge to Nowhere.

The word she seems to repeat most, however, is "exceptional." America's an exceptional country, those listening to her are exceptional Americans. Given her support for hostilities against Russia, one's forced to assume that she really is a hard core American exceptionalist. Which rather does argue that both she and her running mate are running for Bush's third term.

I, like most Americans, take exception to that idea.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Funny--but it hurts.

"We do not support government bailouts of private institutions. Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself."
Just spotted that over on the front page of Daily Kos. It's part of the Republican platform, adopted in September, 2008.

So... who was it that's been bailing out Wall Street and wants to do more?

Irony, anyone?

There's a fascinating dynamic here that boils down to the socialization of risk and the privatization of profit For the record, the proposed no strings, no oversight bailout proposed by the Administration is a debt of $2000 for every individual person in the USA--with no promise that it's enough, that it will work, or that there will be any benefit to the public. Just please fill this hole with your money, American taxpayers.

Of course, no one much talks about the fact that the hole that Wall Street created is--potentially--about three times the GDP of the planet. That's the size of the credit default swap market that we're asked to throw ourselves into for the good of Wall Street. What's unknown (and perhaps unknowable) is how much of that unspeakably large amount is really there and how much is fluff, vapor, hype and lies. Are we being asked to cover a hole that's only 1% of the market's size? Maybe. Or maybe not. They're not telling, they don't want to, and they don't think we can make them (hell, maybe they don't even have a clue).

But... good money after bad, anyone? Sunk costs? I think we shouldn't touch this one with the proverbial 10 foot pole. It's going to hurt--like hell--no matter what. But guaranteeing most all of Wall Street's bad judgment and greed is a complete fool's game.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Perversity of the Universe Tends Towards...

a maximum. That, for the uninitiated, is O'Toole's Corollary of Finagle's Law (Finagle's Law being Anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment)

For the last decade, we've had a pair of rescued basenjis--until July, when the first of them turned out to have cancer and decency--kindness--required us to euthanize him. I miss him; he was a gentleman among canines. The other is the stereotypical misfit; we suspect she was separated too early from her mother and litter and raised away from other dogs. She's never quite been right--but she was good with people (except that she could never be reliably housebroken). When her comrade departed, she mourned in the most painful, vocal way. Basenjis are not like other dogs in a number of ways; their vocalizations are one. Eerie and evocative mourning.

She didn't do well and we ended up determining that she was diabetic. So we all learned the ins and outs of treating an aged diabetic dog. And she seemed to be doing ok. Not great, but ok. Better. Then she ended up at the vet (naturally while we were out of town and our goddaughter was minding the place and the pets), having not been eating much. An outrageous amount of money later, she was home, boney and... somewhat better. For a while.

But not for long; she's not been eating well for days and so she's not been getting insulin, and the vet didnt' return one call and then the answer was (of course!) bring her in and we'll keep her for a day and (oh, yes, this is what they did the day when we racked up an obscene bill that... isn't repeatable). So today we had a long talk with the boys about where this looked to be heading.


Only tonight, for the first time in about a week, she actually ate a normal amount and got insulin.

This, of course is all stacked up on a wide range of things that have all of us feeling worn, stretched, tired...

Laughter is all that's left. And turning in early, I think. Tomorrow will be boils and clowns, I expect, and one really must be well rested for that. To properly appreciate it.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Festina Lente

Often my haste is a mistake,” McCain admitted in his 2002 memoir, “but I live with the consequences without complaint.”

Certainly that's laudable. It's annoying as hell when people make rash, hasty choices and then whine and complain about the consequences. I've listened to a couple people who made those kinds of choices about cars (big gas guzzlers that they didn't need, but liked for some reason... and now complain, just a few years later, about the cost of filling the tank. The only thing that wasn't utterly predictable was the actual date that would happen... rash, hasty choice).

But there's a vast difference between a hasty decision that saddles you with a gas guzzler or a too-large mortgage, or even a bad marriage, and one that affects others more than it affects you.

This, in the end, is the reason that the whole vetting (or not) of Sarah Palin issue is such a big concern. As long as Governor Mooseburger never has to do anything but preside over the Senate (when it pleases her to condescend to do so*), hide out in an undisclosed location**, and shoot lawyers, her being VP is really a fairly minor thing for the country. It won't really matter that much; the observation that the post of vice president isn't worth a bucket of warm spit*** is pretty apt, historically. It's only the most recent Veeps who've managed to make their roles signficant, and in each case that's entirely the result of the willingness of the president to let them do more. It's entirely plausible that a hypothetical Vice President Palin would be little more than a spokesmodel for the McCain Administration.

It's what happens if the McCain Administration turns into the Palin Administration for any reason (death, resignation, impeachment or a longer term invocation of sections three or four of the 25th Amendment) that matters. Who Sarah Palin is, what she thinks and believes, what she'd like to do, and how she's likely to act in regards to the Constitution, the law, etc. is what really matters.

That, in fact, is one of the two reasons for vetting a VP pick. The first, of course, is to put all the cards on the table for the presidential nominee--so he or she knows what scandals and skeletons might arise in the campaign. We've pretty much already seen that John McCain isn't complaining about his decision there (about other people's questioning the hastiness and the nominees credentials, that's another story). But John's not the one who would really suffer the consequences of a hasty decision on his part, in this case. After all, if Sarah Palin becomes president, and there's anything to regret... the suffering would befall the American people, not John McCain. Vetting thus becomes a fiduciary responsibility, really. Picking someone well grounded, informed, and capable of doing the job well is the real obligation.

Given the vetting process, and what we already know didn't happen (no one appears to have gone to Alaska first, and really gone through the records and asked the questions, and worse, the McCain campaign has simply lied about the thoroughness of its process--which it won't discuss the specifics of--claiming that the FBI investigation cleared her. Only the FBI doesn't do that, and says it didn't do that for this campaign or candidate...).

Is Sarah Palin ready to be Vice President?

The campaign has touted her security credentials--the governor of the only state that borders Russia, and commander of the AK National Guard. The threat of a Russian invasion of Alaska has never been significant, and barely imagined since the collapse of the USSR (long before Palin became governor). In fact, a major rail line connecting Alaska to Russian Asia (and thus to the rest of the Old World) has been talked about repeatedly in recent years. That's hardly the stuff one mulls over when a nation is a military threat. Further, Gov. Palin is reported to have never given any order to the AK National Guard. Apparently military credentials can be acquired by osmosis, simply by holding a titular military post.

The campaign likes the story of her fighting Republican corruption in AK--as a way of suggesting she's even handed and full of mavericky goodness. But the truth is that in Palin's time, the State of Alaska has been essentially a Republican preserve, and the opportunities for Democratic politicians there to be corrupt have been few. And, as any observer of Alaskan politics can tell you, going after corrupt Republican politicians there is sort fo like going after salmon in spawning season; it's hard to miss. It is, in fact, hard to find a significant Republican Alaskan politician not mired in at least one serious scandal, and in fact, Palin has her own (abuse of power--a case which is serious enough and inescapably substantial enough that the GOP controlled legislature demanded an investigation of it. The McCain campaign says it knew about it and accepted the governor's assertion that it wouldn't matter (insert raised eyebrow here).

Then there are Governor Palin's lies. She appears to suffer the same blindspot that John McCain does--not understanding that the past is there to be examined, and that in the age of "the google" it's terribly easy to test the veracity of many statements. There's the Bridge to Nowhere; she presented herself as a bold opponent of it who wrote to Congress, shot it down and saved the nation all that money. The truth? The truth is that there's extensive evidence, including media reports and phtographs, that show Palin actively supported it. The truth is that she wrote to Congress against it after the earmark was already dead, in Congress. The truth is that the Bridge to Egg-On-Your-Face wasn't built... but Alaska got all that money anyway, helping it maintain its status as the welfareearmark dollar per citizen queen status it's long held. There's the governor's luxury plane that she campaigned against--and, she or McCain or the campaign claim, sold on eBay and made a profit. The truth? The truth is she put it on eBay, and it didn't sell. After it failed to sell, it was sold through conventional used plane channels and was sold at a loss.

There's her performance as mayor of Wasilla, which reveals her to have an expectation of personal loyalty and support from government employees. Those who didn't support her election were fired. The town librarian was asked to let Palin know how she could ban books--and on rejecting the notion, Palin tried to fire her. That firing was blocked by the city council, and limitations were imposed on Palin.

Then there's her involvement with the Alaska Independence Party (a party her husband was a member of until Palin ran for governor, in 2002), which advocates the secession of Alaska from the USA. Palin herself may not have been a member of the party in the past (that's murky; the chair of the party affirmed she had been, but is now uncertain), but she's certainly been cozy with them, attending at least one convention and sending supportive messages by video as governor. Since the party's talked of "infiltrating" major parties as a means fo gaining influence, that's all rather unsettling.

Does that all sound like the kind of president for all Americans that we might want? Does it sound like the kind of issues that should have been caught in vetting, and dealt with, prepared for? Yet none of that seems to have been dealt with proactively; each thing's been something that the campaign has dealt with in a very reactive mode. That's not what one would expect of an organization that had thoroughly vetted a candidate.

That doesn't just speak to Palin's inappropriateness as a candidate, it speaks to McCain's. It's one thing to make hasty decisions and to grit one's teeth and take the consequences. It's another to foist the consequences off on others.

* Perhaps Palin would be more hands-on than Dick Cheney, but that is a perfectly accurate description of his attitude about his only constitutional obligation. Given that McCain seems to be affirming most of the current administration's policies and behaviors, I'm inclined to assume things will stay the same except where they're explicitly not going to be.

** Again, Dick Cheney's modus operandi; he's been harder to find than Waldo for the last eight years. Given Palin's being kept away from the press since her selection, which is a very strange behavior in a campaign for office, one is hard put not to be reminded of Cheney's behavior.

*** The notorious characterization of the post by the 32nd vice president (for FDR's first two terms), John "Cactus Jack" Nance Garner IV. That's what he said, and he called a writer who quoted it as "warm spit" a "pantywaist" for doing so.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Appeal to UUs Interested in Article II Revision...

I'm going to be in the position to present--personally--some reactions and opinions to the draft revision to a member of the CoA.

I'd like to compile the things that are approved/disapproved or and the critique...

I have no idea how much time I'll get (but some, for certain) for this, and I don't know how much this "outside of channels" communication will matter.

But if you're interested... here's a chance.

Note: This is directed specifically to the revision of the draft (or what it should be, reasonably). I'm going to keep this to the topic, narrowly. Strictly salient posts about meaningful revision for good and useful cause--or I'll delete them.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Pitbull With Lipstick

Well, Sarah told us who--or at least what--she is, and what her role will be.

What she offered last night was a Bridge to Nowhere (the one she avidly supported until it got killed and is now insisting she actively opposed and helped kill), an America where there's not even a perfunctory effort at claiming to unite, but rather one which is securely under divide et impera.

Obama came out a few days ago, insisting that attacks on her family were inappropriate and off-limits. In thanks, he got the pitbull hanging off his arm, mocking everything he's done to serve America, essentially since he got out of law school. Nice lady, the Palin kids' mom.

Barack, if you need to remember who you and Joe are dealing with, look at the lipstick marks on the puncture wounds on your hand.

America, in the event that you believe that what the country really, really needs is someone who can field-dress a moose, you know who to vote for. Personally, I'd rather see someone who knew (before this summer) what the job of the Vice President of the United States is.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ironic and Amusing...

at least to my friends and family.

And some others.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou - Online Dating

I know that somewhere, my mother is in hysterics.

Criticizing "Inherent"

Currently, and in the just offered draft revision, of the UU Principles is the statement that we (the member congregations) affirm and promote... or (new language) covenant to honor and uphold (I like that new language):

the inherent worth and dignity of every person

I criticized "inherent" last night over at the Chaliceblog.

Chalicechick asked what the problem is with "inherent."

Lots. Rather than dump it all there in a reply that would get skimmed, I decided to post here (in a post that will get skimmed).

One criticism, pointed out in a conversation between services, is that "inherent" means that you have it, it's yours by your very nature... so... there's nothing anyone can do about it. You have inherent worth and dignity, and that is that. The most abused, oppressed, neglected individual has all their worth and dignity inherently and nothing anyone can do will affect that. So... why act?

Bill Schulz pointed out that there are only three philosophical bases on which we seem to find a foundation to rest human worth;

One is God; all God's children have worth and because it's god-given... but that one's been so shredded that we can put it aside (as a movement). We don't agree on the existence of god, much less divine nature, much less the details, and so we as a movement can't claim that (the culture is in the same boat) bedrock, and must look for another.

Another is Natural Law. Essentially, this is an argument that something in our nature is of inherent worth. It's not far from the argument made about god-granted worth--and no one has managed to weave together much of an argument for it. Assert it? Sure. But argue it and explain why? Nah.

(I'll grant here that I tend to feel that it is... but I grew up UU, and American, and liberal, and my feeling otherwise would be a shock. But having grown up with and integrated the belief doesn't make it true. It merely makes it what I believe--and want to believe. That's fine, but just asserting it is like asserting the divine right of kings; who says so?)

So, bereft of god-given and nature-granted, what do we have?

If worth doesn't come to us from some greater power, what and where is left?


Schulz points to the slow, steady struggle by humanity to assert that we have worth, and to assert it in larger and larger numbers and in finer detail. From The Rights of Man (well, from even before that) to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. And, he says, so far that has been a progression; we haven't (yet?) stepped backwards. We have worth and dignity because we, humanity, assert it and affirm it--not because it's inherent, but because we see truly having worth and dignity as being part of what makes being human possible, and that to deny that to someone is thus a crime against that person and a crime against humanity.

So having the Principles assert, affirm and honor the worth and dignity of every person would have meaning. It would put us firmly in the camp that we're actually in, and by removing "inherent" would actually create a greater call to doing social justice work, because what's so very important to us, to all of us, is delicate, precious and no one but humanity is or can.

For those who personally feel it's inherent, removing it doesn't deny that. It sets that theological assertion aside--and in doing so affirms to a larger group that they have the obligation to act.

In short? "Inherent" is a cop-out. And the phrase "inherent worth" is semantically slippery, too. Worth? Worth what, and to whom? Gold and jewels have no inherent value--but people value them enough to in some cases kill for them. We give them worth. "Worth" is an abstraction, a perception, like "tastes good." Does something inherently taste good? That's silly; we've all met people who dislike things we think taste wonderful.

Worth is an assertion of value--to some human being. Thus the errancy of inherency is demonstrated.

But I bet we have to have a great, freaking floor fight over it. There's a member of the CoA I need to talk with, because I'm really quite surprised at this whole draft.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Please, say it ain't so...

A pdf of the Principles, revised, has been released through Scott Wells. You can find that blog post and pdf here, at Scott's blog.

I've read the pdf once, and am referring back... but my initial reaction is one of disappointment.

Our principles (and related predecessor documents for the Unitarians and Universalists both) have been open to significant revision in the past, both as called for in bylaws and when the spirit moved. Given the effort put into this project by the CoA, I had expected (and heard things that led me to expect) significant revisions and changes--in reaction to the comments and criticisms that had been heard and collected.

What we got was some very slight editing (very) and a bunch of explication of the principles.

Nothing in the new material (or the editing) appears to even attempt to address the very serious critique of "inherent" in inherent worth and dignity of every person. Yet I heard it raised in my home congregation from a life-long, third-generation UU on philosophical, moral and practical grounds as well as reading Bill Schulz's blistering critique in UU World. (I also got to hear him, in person, dismantle the argument for inherency and found it devastatingly persuasive--and haven't seen anyone put up any counter-argument other than that it's a historical nod to universalism... which (historical nod) is thin stuff as far as arguing for a moral statement.)

Nothing makes this appreciably more inspirational--I doubt that this will increase the number of UUs who want the principles read to them on their deathbeds by even 1/10th of 1 percent. The language of the principles wasn't poetic, still isn't, and the explication certainly isn't. It reads like the output of a committee.

Nothing is new. This is warmed over leftovers. This is not a bold statement, reframing UU principles in new and insightful ways nor does it boldly assert a new vision of a farther horizon of the faith.

At the moment I'd urge a vote against, simply on the grounds that we should not indulge in deluding ourselves that this revision is.. well... a revision. The General Assembly's time in Salt Lake (and beyond) would be better spent on other matters. Just declare this a false start. Let others try again.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama's acceptance speech at the DNC...

My, that man gives a fine speech.

I'm looking forward to reading the whining about it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Still unbelievable...

In America, today, an annual income of $150,000 is rich. Not wildly, mind-blowingly rich, but rich. That's a weekly paycheck of almost $3,000--before taxes--while the median income would provide a weekly check of about $850.

What does John McCain think the break point to rich--just in income--is?

$100,000--per week.

If you make two and a half times--in a week--as much as the average American makes in a year, John McCain thinks that you're rich. If you make less than that, you're middle class.

The median income earner--firmly middle class, by definition, being right in the middle--makes about three times what the minimum wage earner does. Rich--at $150,000--means that you make about ten times what a minimum wage worker does.

At McCain's barely rich number?

333 times as much.

McCain's barely rich earner makes more than 33 times as much as the real barely rich person. Given the same distribution as really exists, the (mythical) median income earner in John McCain's (fantasy) world earns about $1.4 million per year. And minimum wage would be $250/hr.

And Peacebang wonders why there are some people who are hostile to the rich? It's not the mere wealth. It's the cluelessness and the arrogance--and the effect that cluelessness and arrogance has on the rest of us that stirs it. It's the class warfare that's waged as a normal daily thing on those who aren't making enough money to even exist in McCain's world.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


McCain's interview with Warren:

Warren: Define rich. Everybody talks about, you know, taxing the rich and -- but not the poor, the middle class. At what point -- give me a number, give me a specific number -- where do you move from middle class to rich? Is it 100,000, it is 50,000, 200 [thousand]? How does anybody know if we don't know what the standards are?

McCain: ... [elliptical chatter]... "I don't want to take any money from the rich. I want everybody to get rich.... [more off-topic chatter]... So I think if you're just talking about income, how about five million.

Hear that, America? If you're only making a million bucks a year in income, you're working poor in John McCain's book.

Those of us who make something within sight of the median income ($42,000/yr) aren't even in sight of the poverty level.

More sometime after I pick my jaw off the floor.

Out. Of. Touch.

This so quickly after talking about renegotiating the water compact with other states, in Colorado--which is akin to urinating on a high voltage line.

Utterly. Out. Of. Touch.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Opinions wanted

(Yes, I'm really not blogging as often as I intended. More later. Maybe. No promises.)

That said, I've a question for all three of my readers regarding expectations for public behaviors.

What needful activities should be discreetly performed in public and which should be banished to a public bathroom (or not) and why? I have in mind here things like nursing an infant or giving oneself an insulin injection.

You're free to provide explanations, caveats and qualifiers. Please consider the range of public restroom experiences, gender issues, specific locations (restaurants, parks, theaters...)--the whole thing. Compare, contrast....

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

This just in from North Texas...

I'm dawdling my way to class in Chicago next week, rather than flying cross continent home, spending a few days and flying back to Chicago. It might be a little less un-green than doing so, but I'll admit that my impulse was to avoid long hours in a 737--and to grab the chance to visit friends and relatives I've not gotten to see in years. I'll admit to not having foreseen that each of them would want (well, understandably, I suppose) to explore my choice to go into ministry. I guess I'm practicing the long version of the elevator speech, among other things. But it's all good; these are all folks I've known most of my life and are important. I can understand them wanting to know what I'm doing and why... and wanting to understand something of my religion.

Warning to anyone mulling over the idea of seminary and ministry:
Be prepared. Your decision to do so will mean that people who you've never shared one word about religion with will ask you to say grace (and the answer, uh, my family never said grace and I feel kinda awkward... is not acceptable. Figure it out. Have something that you can offer. It can't be any worse for you than it is for me. I'm just now figuring out that any minute now someone will ask me to pray with them... ack).
But that's not the point of this post. Pardon me for that wild tangent.

This is a political observation... or started out to be... and I'm going to drag it back to that now. My uncle is pretty conservative. I don't think he was when younger, but my grandparents were Nixonian cloth coat Republicans, and maybe that's some of it. Or maybe it's having lived so long in Texas... or something. Probably all of it and then some. But here I am visiting with people who have a panoramic photo of the inauguration of George W. as governor. This morning's coffee cup has the Presidential Seal on it, with "West Whitehouse, Crawford Texas" on it.


But my family's not inclined to mince around issues, so of course we talk politics as well as religion. This guy's seriously thinking about voting for Obama. Not only that, he doesn't think that it's delusional to imagine that Texas is competitive and could vote for Obama. People, he says, are pissed off, unhappy and disgusted.

Pinch me. The other staunch conservative in the family--in Alaska--talked to me last year about his support for a living wage and national health care and his fury at Bush and the GOP.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

2008 Ware Sermon

Well, the Ware Lecture is expected to be good. So the expectations are high--and it's almost certain to be good. Sometimes it's wonderful.

Tonight it was... amazing. More a sermon than a lecture. Incredible.

Inspirational. Not just a standing ovations, but people clapped until their arms hurt. I watched our minister take noted frantically -- and scrap plans for the fall sermons. My wife was in tears.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Moral Cowardice and Civil Disobedience

The essentials of Civil Disobedience are threefold; acting from a moral belief, one violates the law, and one accepts the consequences of that violation. Gandhi's presentation of the concept of satyagraha was that moral force itself makes your case. You stand before the judge, you express your moral stand and you force him to either accede to your moral point or to punish you. If punished, you accept it, and you presume that the media and popular opinion will (perhaps not now, but in time) move to correct the injustice. Martin Luther King Jr took the same path... as Henry Thoreau had before Gandhi. This is not new, it's not rocket science. It's not hard in theory, it's only hard to do in practice, because you put your body and liberty on the line.

There are three (I've heard five... but not seen it in print) counties in California where the county clerk has decided to refuse to have the clerk's office perform same sex marriages. Now, that's against the law, and while I disagree with the act, the decision to take that stand is--presumably--a moral stand. Or should be. However, in each case, it turns out that the clerk is a moral coward.

Not one of them is actually making that stand. Instead, they've refused to have any marriages performed by the clerk's office (in those counties). They're still issuing licenses for same sex couples, as required by law. But if their action was a moral statement, then one would expect that they'd simply refuse to issue same sex couples licenses at all. No, all they're doing is refusing to perform any marriages--and thereby they avoid the legal consequences, because they're not in violation of the law. They don't have to perform marriages. They do have to issue licenses, and they do have to not discriminate in the services offered to the public.

(I'd like to reiterate; I disagree with their stance. I'm simply doing the moral calculus here. Personally, I'm delighted that same sex couples in those counties are getting marriage licenses.)

Bottom line? The clerks aren't committing real civil disobedience. They're not acting based on their moral beliefs. They're simply engaged in a gratuitous act that's most analogous to a tantrum. They're not acting in a moral and consistent way, and they're not willing to face the consequences of acting on the basis of their beliefs.

Thin, thin stuff there. Not enough moral force there to light a single candle.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One Wonderful Afternoon (Equal Marriage Support Experience)

Unitarian Universalists in San Diego County (and I suspect throughout California) rallied today to celebrate Equal Marriage being a reality. We gathered at the county administration offices where marriage licenses are issued and marriages performed to support and celebrate those getting licenses today.

I couldn't get there this morning; my wife had a hell of a schedule and I had to take one son to a dentist appointment. I'm told there was a rush at and shortly after 8 am at the San Marcos office. I got there at 1 pm.

There were no protesters. None. There weren't any at any time during the day. There were a couple sheriffs (and cars) there, but they had nothing to do (other than to gently and politely point out that we were blocking one sidewalk at a time when we were with three couples at the same time and in the process sort of spilled out over the whole walk).

It was wonderful. Weather aside (it was marvelous), it was a real delight to be there. Couple after couple came in and they were immensely pleased that folks they didn't even know were there to celebrate with them, had come out to spend the day cheering them on.

The gay couple who'd been together 42 years, and were so happy that they could at last get married, officially.

The lesbian couple in their late 20s, with their twin daughters, utterly delighted with the roses they were handed and the bubbles someone was blowing.

The guys who were part of the local LGBT Alliance leadership and were there for their license, getting a church wedding Sunday (one of three we heard about for that Sunday at that church).

The older ladies who arrived with two daughters (soon followed by granddaughters... one with her young son), who were initially put off. They saw us, didn't read the signs or shirts.. and thought we were protesters there to harass them. They told us that their daughters planned to sort of push through and protect them. You can imagine the rollercoaster of emotions for all of us when they realized we were there to support them and celebrate with them--tears in both their eyes, one daughter's, and both of the UU ministers with us, of relief and joy. They were so happy when they came out of the building.

Any one of those would have been worth standing in the sun for four hours. Each couple so joyful when they had their license (and in some cases, marriage done).

No protesters. Not one. Remember, this is northern San Diego County--the not-long-ago John Bircher underbelly of red Orange County, where dirtballs like Tom Metzger and the (so called) Minutemen were and are a reality. This is the county which, we're told, holds a disproportionate number of those bankrolling the attempt to amend the California Constitution). They didn't muster a single protester.

The sum total of negativity? Two events. One was two guys who walked in dressed pretty similarly (we were actually wondering if they were a couple who were in for a license). As they left, the one was on a cell phone and commented (but not very loudly) "gay marriage is wrong." The other was almost at the end of the day, a single middle-aged woman who asked what the signs were about. When I explained, she asked "And you're supporting that?" When I said "Absolutely," she sort of shook her head and said "You need to repent," and walked away.

We had several people ask questions--people who seemed to be making up their minds about what they thought, and whether this was ok... I just hope that the fact that people were out, happy and pleasant and civil, including clergy, supporting it, made them really consider their votes.


But it's not really all joy. Ignoring that there's this absurd ballot measure. One of the ministers told of getting a call yesterday; a chaplain in a hospice where a man was dying. He and his partner of 24 years wanted to get married--legally--while they could. But it wasn't possible. Because the deadline to start, legally, was today (in San Diego, where licenses were only issued starting today--a few counties stayed open late yesterday to take advantage of the 5 pm deadline), that couple likely didn't make it to the altar. The fellow in hospice wasn't expected to live another day.

The delaying of this did that to them. It's wonderful that it's finally here--but it's too damned late for some.

Do what you can to help ensure that the amendment effort fails, or it will be too late for others, too.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

New wheels... some day.

I have relations who are going to find this surprising. I grew up in a family full of engineers; cars and tinkering with them were, well... the norm. Heck, even my little sister is an engineer. I'm the sport--literature, history and... good lord... theology too, now?

I've never been about cars. Not the normal American guy who read car magazines and wanted to rebuild the engine or restore a classic car. Oh, I could maintain one; I kept an old Dodge Dart running and road-safe for years. But I didn't care that it was a Dart, or how it looked. It was transportation. Automobiles--all of them--have always been just transportation, to me. In a distant way I can appreciate the aesthetics of some, in about the same way that I can distantly appreciate the aesthetics of the ensembles that some designer has models strut down a walkway. And with about as much interest (read: minimal).

All that's ever interested me were transportation and user value. Enough space to transport stuff. Enough comfortable (enough) seats for the people who would be riding in it. Safety. Reliability. Economics. Efficiency. (I did say I came from a family riddled with engineers, right?)

So I'm sitting here marveling that I've gone and put down a deposit on a car (as opposed to going out and looking to buy one when I actually needed one, and had to get one (I live in not-urban core SoCal; public transportation is only beginning to maybe be meaningfully available to me... and only enough that I could use it some of the time). No, this one's not even going to be available to anyone until late 2008, and ours won't be available to us, in all probability, until 2010 (we're #3017 on the list).

The aesthetics of it, I can see, are quite modern and very, very functional. My younger son's reaction? "Want!" (Ok, so he's part of the mainstream genepool of the family...). Me? It's the insane level of efficiency that grabbed me. I've been tantalized by the Prius of a friend and it's 45-50 mpg; it's so much more fuel efficient than my van. But this? 230-300 mpg makes a Prius look like a gas guzzler. At last I'll be able to get green transportation.

Of course, it's not going to replace the van. I'll be watching closely to see when they start building a four seater model.

I did say I came from a family of engineering geeks, right?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Not for Weak Stomachs: Aftermath of Hiroshima

Let me make this very clear; I'm not encouraging you to click and view these photos. In their own way, these are--in my opinion--as ghastly as the images from Abu Ghraib. You may or may not feel impelled to (I did; I saw the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and museun as a pre-teen, and... well, I felt impelled to see the whole of it).

Having said that, we have two presidential candidates who seem to need see them; one sings about bombing Iran and the other talks about obliterating Iran. Each of them need to be shown these, and asked if they're really ready (good Christians that they affirm that they are--remembering Jesus' admonition that whatever you do to the least, you do to him as well) to do this to millions of other human beings.

I don't think I can accept someone willing to sing or blithely talk about doing that as a political leader.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Excuses, excuses...

I mean to blog more. But I missed all of April.

Perhaps the fact that I'm taking a class online helps explain where some of my time went (I'm a bit behind, too).

I fell down the stairs on the 14th and fortunately didn't break anything. But the injury was still pretty serious; it's only two days now that I've not been strapped up to support and protect the muscles. It no longer hurts actively (I gave up the drugs pretty quickly. Naproxin seemed to do a good job -- of upsetting my stomach. Vicodin did a good job of making me slow and stupid (which is a big part of how I got behind in class). Neither did much for pain).

Taxes--which were almost done (enough to file for an extension) when I fell down the stairs (and were nudged into something that got sent... by my dear wife) ate too much time earlier in the month.

My younger son finally got the kitten he's wanted for at least two years, and I've been grandparenting and being a cat toy.

District Assembly happened. I was able to go (strapped up and very careful)--and it was great. But it did devour time (on the other hand, it also meant that our District Exec was in the area and I finally got the interview he needed to do with me done. So it wasn't just a distraction from things that need doing).

Bills are overdue now. There's plenty of picking up that needs doing that I couldn't do for hte last couple weeks (and some... I still can't). Mess. Clutter. Oh... May is going to be interesting--assuming that the two weeks until I'm pretty much back to normal is accurate.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cast Out Of Heaven

There is a depiction of Hell in which the damned sit at a banquet table laden with wonderful food, but cannot eat it. Their hands are in fingerless gloves, wrapped around the handles of long spoons—too long to allow them to get their spoons to their own mouths. The damned, selfish and self-centered, suffer in torment.

Heaven, it turns out, is no different. The difference is only that the denizens of heaven are happily feeding each other.

My guess is that they’re not even two different places; the damned are so self-absorbed that they don’t even notice that others are getting fed. Or, if they do, the idea that someone would just feed them is so outlandish and unthinkable that they’re baffled at how those folks are managing to get food.

It’s an attractive notion—that hell is something that we do to ourselves and to each other.

Mohandas K.Gandhi—that Gandhi, the Mahatma guy—wouldn’t sit still for that. Nor would Martin Luther King, Jr. Then there’s that John Murray character, who’s remembered most often for this;

You may possess only a small light, but uncover it, let it shine, use it in order to bring more light and understanding to the hearts and minds of men and women. Give them not Hell, but hope and courage. Do not push them deeper into their theological despair, but preach the kindness and everlasting love of God.

Murray (and I’ll bet the others, too) wouldn’t just be feeding each other. They’d be stepping over the line and nudging full spoons to the lips of the tormented. “Here, taste it,” you can hear them saying. “Take a bite. You look famished.”

I have no doubt of it. Each of them knew full well that they could pour out hope and bring something to those mired in hunger and hopelessness. Each of them knew that it was an uphill struggle all the way. They would happily feed the damned and each other, as well, for as long as it took to save every last one of those lost souls. Sooner or later, they’ll open their mouths—maybe to complain or whine—and in they’ll pop a spoonful of something delectable.

They’d smile, laugh and take delight in the look of shock on the face of that poor soul, and keep at it. Sooner or later, they’ll get the idea.

Of course, folks like Murray and Gandhi and King would utterly screw up that Calvinist idea of Heaven and Hell. If the damned were suffering among the saved, they’d be busy saving them. Damned troublemakers. If the damned and the saved were separated—that classic Heaven above and Hell below idea—they’d be militating to be let out of Heaven, to be allowed to go and evangelized Hell, to preach hope to the damned and to demons. They’d be stirring up sit-ins and protests in Heaven, or stirring up the damned to rise up and help each other; persuading devils to use those pitchforks to pull people out of flames.

Of course, if you believe in the kind of afterlife where the good are rewarded and the evil are punished, you have to wonder what would get done with saints like these folk (and all the others like them—it’s easy to make a long list of people who would not bat an eye but would dig in to do the work of ending the suffering of other souls). They’re too good to put up with in Heaven, and too much trouble to let loose in Hell.

That god? He’d have to evict them. No Heaven for them, and certainly no Hell. They’d be shipped back to the only place left—Earth. That leads one to wonder if the Buddha wasn’t on to something.

Take up your spoons; you have nothing to lose but Heaven and Hell—and if you’ll just start feeding each other, dammit, you can make heaven on earth.

Good stuff here...

On the use--or misuse--of theology and religious language.

I'll admit, I was a sucker for this:

The almighty focus group only knows.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hypocrisy: Dope Slap!

Elliot Spitzer, having prosecuted a prostitution case and fulminated about how awful it was... gets busted for paying for sex in D.C. (a crime in the District), and for arranging for his obscenely expensive prostitute to come from New York (a federal crime, a violation of the Mann Act). For that, he gets a dope slap (he had to have been familiar with the Mann Act, it's not exactly new or obscure...) as well as a verbal flogging for the hypocrisy.

Of course, there's plenty to go around. The Republican Governors Association called for Spitzer to resign within hours.

The Governor of New York should immediately resign from office and allow the people of New York to pursue honest leadership. The American people are tired of corrupt and hypocritical politicians. The Governor of New York is just another in the long list of politicians that have failed their constituents." – Nick Ayers, RGA Executive Director
Curiously, they haven't gotten around to calling for Senator Vitter, or Senator Craig to resign. No doubt it's a backlog in their heavy duty moralizing schedule that's to blame. Not even that they're wrong. I think he ought to resign. It's just that they lack the, uh... moral stature... to call for it without it being a complete joke. Heck, they haven't even called for an investigation into Senator McCain's close and disturbingly intimate (even to his own staff) relationship with a lobbyist (of course, it's not clear to me if McCain's relationship--if accurately depicted--would violate the Mann Act or not).

It's just marvelous to me that each of these men has thrown stones from their little glass houses. Hubris, indeed.

Six 9/11s A Year--Every Year

Given that it's an election year, we get plenty of fearmongering. Ads, interviews and speeches that imply and suggest (if they don't say outright) that if some candidate is (or isn't) elected, we will suffer hell and damnationattacks on "the homeland" and that billions-and-billions millions many of us will die because "they" will come and get us. Here, at home. In our offices, living rooms, kitchens, gyms, bedrooms.

Scary. If you don't elect the right candidate, you'll get another 9/11. Or maybe, because you were so bad, and God really hates you now, more than one 9/11.

I'm sick of it. It's such specious nonsense (literally), and it's also fantastically hypocritical.

We suffer six 9/11s a year in the United States of America. This year, last year, the year before--and will next year and the year after. We -- our government -- do nothing.

Over 18,000 people will die unnecessarily this year. That many dies last year. That many will die next year. I might be one of them. You might be one of them. If not, your parent, child, friend or neighbor will be one of them. The odds are that we'll do nothing. They have come to get us for years and years and will come this year, and will come next year... and odds are we'll just go about our business--being afraid of other people most of whom would simply like us to go away so that they can try to rebuild their war savaged countries.

We're spending trillions of dollars to protect ("protect") ourselves from things that aren't likely to happen--and doing it badly, ineffectively, inefficiently and venally--and we're not willing to spend billions to protect ourselves from six 9/11s a year.

Just read it.
Lack of health insurance causes roughly 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the United States.
... America ... is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage.

I'm a Universalist. I believe in attempting universal salvation in this life. Salvation from infectious disease, cancer, mental illness and other disorders. Not at some future date, not pie in the sky salvation -- maybe -- in the hereafter.

Today and every day.

Feed the hungry. Heal the sick. House the homeless.

If we accept six 9/11s a year, why not accept just one more and ignore it too? The idea is absurd. So why are you accepting six a year?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

No, I'm not considering dropping blogging as a means to recapture time, nor to gather together enough still-functioning neurons to do something else important.

I'm just looking at the controversy over General Assembly being--to no one's delight--behind the port security boundary in Ft. Lauderdale. I do understand the upset some feel. I feel some of it myself. There's something wrong about needing to pass through security in order to attend a worship service of one's own faith... or of one you're sincerely curious about. There's something even more fundamentally wrong about having to pass through security run by an utterly dissociated institution--the government--in order to attend it.

I understand that it wasn't intended or planned--and that we were assured that it wouldn't be that way by the time that G.A. happened (lesson: No assurance is worth the paper it's printed on in a contractual arrangement... if it's not in print, and signed. The planning committees need to learn this lesson. There have been hotels that weren't built that we were assured would be, previously. From now on, can we please get all those assurances on paper? Or if not, then we should take note... and make sure that we label them with big caveats, and understand the consequences we'll face if those vapor promises evaporate).

I'm pleased that the UUMA has moved Ministry Days functions outside the boundary.

So what am I going to do? The ethical issues make for a fine challenge, given that I just had an intensive class on the subject. Pity I can't figure out how to turn this into a paper....

I think it's clear that there's no malicious intent. I don't see that there's serious harm, as long as this is not treated as precedent. Yes, some may not be able to attend, and that creates a potential issue of privilege. That can't be fixed at this point, and I don't see this as an issue momentous enough to just spend a million dollars on to fix for this year (if that would even do so). Still, the UUA needs to undertake not to let this sort of thing happen again.

So much for the general issues and abstractions.

Our minister is receiving final fellowship there, and would really like us to be there. My wife's going.

Relationships matter.

So, I'll be going. But I will be making a point of refusing to accept this as a precedent. If it recurs, I won't be going--not even if I'm the one receiving final fellowship.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Up For Air

Two days in -- as far as classes go. But things started full bore back on Jan 2, and the only "free" time I've really had was Saturday afternoon (which I can't remember--I must have studied) and part of Sunday afternoon.

Not that I've not had a good time, mind you.

But classes start at 9 and end at 5, with a generous lunch hour... which seems to feature some important must-go-to bring-your-own-lunch event a half hour after the break begins. And Meadville Lombard's experienced massive turnover and shuffling of the staff, so we modified residential students only began to get ID cards today (though we got keys to the buildings the first day--go figure). All is chaos, but everyone's intentions are good and their responses are prompt and, well, responsive.

But I have another 10 straight days of classes before I get a break--I must have been nuts to sign up for the weekend program too. Classes are good, and the place is warm (and I'm not just talking about the bizarre weather). With that, I hear a text book calling. Or maybe it's laundry that needs doing, or....