Monday, December 31, 2007

A Long Considered Post

I regularly take time to enjoy a neighboring pastor's blog entitled Faith, Worship, and Life. He is a serious student of life and scripture who, despite his relative youth, is able to draw on well of diverse experiences to reflect on books, movies, ministry and parenthood in thoughtful and often humorous ways. I discovered his writing quite by accident not long after he and his family moved to our area and, after exchanging a few emails, decided to meet and have lunch.

Though he is 15 years my junior, I think we found we had much in common in ministry, especially an interest in the arts in worship and the importance of the church's call to minister to both the spiritual and physical needs of those outside her walls.

When it comes to our politics, however, we are from different planets. I discovered that when I made an unguarded remark about my disdain for the current administration and expressed my desire to see its key players someday prosecuted in a court of law. He was never anything but the greatest Christian gentleman but I read right away that he disagreed with me. Still, the lunch ended on a friendly note.

On Thursday, December 27, he responded to the Bhutto assassination.


Today, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated at a rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.(Actually she died an hour later at a hospital.) A suicide bomber then blows up himself. Now, normally the usual "analysis" concludes Islamo-fascism has arisen in response to any US military presence and campaigns in the middle east. Obviously, if we were not in Afghanistan (and especially in Iraq) attacks like this would never have happened. We are at fault for not placating Islamo-facism. The hate-America secular left here in the States loves to bloviate this rhetoric. The more extreme versions of this even condemn the World Trade Center to deserving its 9-11 demise. The Bush administration are condemned as war criminals by this radical left.

However, I fully believe this utterly absurd notion is blown sky high by our friendly neighborhood suicide bomber. The attacks were against Bhutto and the reforms she was advocating ... just like they were against her father, who was also assassinated. Islamo-facism has arisen not simply in response to any specific efforts of the US in the middle-east per se. Rather Islamo-facism has arisen primarily in response to significant challenges to the status quo of the 6th and 7th Century and to the primacy the Golden Age of the world-wide caliphate. Anything short of the world-wide caliphate garbed in 7th Century Arabic culture is an afront to Islamo-facist dignity.

I have considered his post for days now and respond with the following:The neologism, Islamofascist, is stock neoconservative propaganda. Niall Ferguson is a conservative British historian on record as supporting the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He was asked to respond to the use of the term in an interview:

Question: As a historian you must get very frustrated at the extent to which the policy debate distorts history. We mentioned already the concept of "Islamofascist" appeasement. All of these very important policy debates get implicated in a distortion of what history demonstrates. Of course, there's always an argument in history but this goes beyond that. How do we deal with that? Besides getting everybody to read your book!

Response: Well, that would help. That would be a good start!

No, I think this is a really important point, because what we see at the moment is an attempt to interpret our present predicament in a rather caricatured World War II idiom. I mean, "Islamofascism" illustrates the point well, because it's a completely misleading concept. In fact, there's virtually no overlap between the ideology of al Qaeda and fascism. It's just a way of making us feel that we're the "greatest
generation" fighting another World War, like the war our fathers and grandfathers fought. You're translating a crisis symbolized by 9/11 into a sort of pseudo World War II. So, 9/11 becomes Pearl Harbor and then you go after the bad guys who are the fascists, and if you don't support us, then you must be an appeaser.

But we are drawn to World War II, and therefore when politicians want to make us feel that we're fighting the good fight, that we're on the side of the angels, they can use World War II era language and distort our predicament. As a historian, my only possible response to that is to run around writing books, op-eds, and doing television interviews, trying to persuade people that "Islamofascism" is a fantasy. If anything, bin Laden is more like Lenin than he is like Hitler, because he's got a vision of international revolution, he's certainly an anti-capitalist, he'd like to undermine the United States partly by economic means, he's very good at recruiting what Lenin used to call "useful idiots," too. So, there's a parallel to be drawn, but I think it's more with Bolshevism, pre-1917 Bolshevism, which was, in many ways, a terrorist network of extreme Communists. That's a useful parallel but of course, it has much less moral salience than the "Islamofascist" cliché.

Al Qaeda is unarguably a declared enemy of the United States. Fascism is a political philosophy that is anathema to our system of government. One bears no relationship to the other - a point driven home in the linked interview. The term "islamofascism" was manufactured by propagandists gifted in Orwellian Newspeak, the language of 1984 developed to make alternative thinking virtually impossible - a "thoughtcrime." The very act of challenging the veracity of the term makes one an America hater and possibly the member of a sleeper cell. One of the characters in the book states, "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words."

My friend seems to believe that those of us who oppose our presence in Iraq also oppose our efforts in Afghanistan. On the contrary, seen as a justifiable response to the attack on 9/11, the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan has enjoyed wide support across the political spectrum in the US and around the world. The invasion of Iraq is seen as a tragic distraction from the original goals of capturing or killing the perpetrators of 9/11 and eliminating the Taliban as the incubators of anarchists.

I am not sympathetic to the 9/11 conspiracy theorists. While their concoctions are creative and, in my most cynical moments quite seductive, I believe the 9/11 attack was conceived and executed by bin Laden and his lieutenants while given sanctuary by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Operation Enduring Freedom was and continues to be a just and logical response.

It does not require one to be a conspiracy buff to believe that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is a brain child of those who were disappointed that President George H. W. Bush stopped Operation Desert Storm before taking out Saddam. Members of the Project for a New American Century were pushing for action against Iraq long before 9/11/2001 and saw the attack of that day as an opening to soften American public opinion in their direction. All it would take is a link between Saddam and 9/11 and the door would be open to establishment of a permanent military presence in the oil fields of the middle east. Our valiant men and women in uniform are pawns for these Machiavellian machinations and the language of Orwellian Newspeak is making it possible.

Finally, on the issue of war crimes and the Bush administration. I was connected to this quote by conservative blogger, Andrew Sullivan.

George Orwell was a huge believer in words. Words mean things. It is the hallmark of totalitarian dictatorships throughout history that, when the meaning of a word becomes politically inconvenient for the goals of the regime, they simply redefine the word. In the literal sense, this is where the term “politically correct” comes from—Stalinist Russia. “Yes, it might be correct to say that we are torturing these people, but it would not be politically correct to do so, so we will refer to it as an enhanced interrogation technique.” Hitler did this too. The Jews were “resettled” into the east, but we all know what “resettling” meant and it sure as hell didn’t mean “resettled.”

There has been a definition of “torture” in place for 60 years. We’re now violating that definition. You can tart it up however you like, you can use whatever euphemism allows you to convince yourself that we’re not actually torturing people, but according to any accepted definition of torture, including the ones we wrote ourselves, that’s exactly what we’re doing. All I ask is that, if you support this type of behavior, at least be intellectually honest enough with yourself to call it torture and stop b***sh***ing yourself with “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

899

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More Wisdom from Merton

Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alternation of sound and silence there would be no rhythm. If we strive to be happy by filling all the silences of life with sound, productive by turning all life's leisure into work, and real by turning all our being into doing, we will only succed in producing hell on earth.

Monday, December 17, 2007

One of my '70's Soft Rock favorites has died

Dan Fogelberg succumbed to prostate cancer yesterday morning. He was 56.

Don't get the wrong idea. It's not like I've been following his career all these years. No. Actually, I just happened to see the notice on the entertainment page of The State newspaper website...on my way to read Dilbert, Arlo and Janice, and my most favorite strip of all, Zits.

Though I haven't thought of him in a long time, I felt sadness.

Fogelberg's music was biggest in the late 70's and early 80's, my late teens and early 20's...the period of the most exciting flux and greatest potential. His music was fantastic because of it's simplicity. Acoustic soft rock in the great tradition of James Taylor and Jackson Browne.

For me, he'll remain a "legacy to the leader of the band."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Power and Corruption

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.
David Brin US engineer and science fiction author (1950 - )

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Wish I Had Time to Comment on This Truth Today

Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion weak, men mistake medicine for magic.
Thomas Szasz

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Amen

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well- warmed, and well-fed. Herman Melville

Monday, November 26, 2007

T. S. Eliot: The Hippopotomus

And when this epistle is read among you, cause that
it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans.

The broad-backed hippopotamus
Rests on his belly in the mud;
Although he seems so firm to us
He is merely flesh and blood.

Flesh and blood is weak and frail,
Susceptible to nervous shock;
While the True Church can never fail
For it is based upon a rock.

The hippo’s feeble steps may err
In compassing material ends,
While the True Church need never stir
To gather in its dividends.

The ‘potamus can never reach
The mango on the mango-tree;
But fruits of pomegranate and peach
Refresh the Church from over sea.

At mating time the hippo’s voice
Betrays inflexions hoarse and odd,
But every week we hear rejoice
The Church, at being one with God.

The hippopotamus’s day
Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;
God works in a mysterious way—
The Church can sleep and feed at once.

I saw the ‘potamus take wing
Ascending from the damp savannas,
And quiring angels round him sing
The praise of God, in loud hosannas.

Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean
And him shall heavenly arms enfold,
Among the saints he shall be seen
Performing on a harp of gold.

He shall be washed as white as snow,
By all the martyr’d virgins kist,
While the True Church remains below
Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Isaiah 11:6

...and the kitty and the crow will play together...

Satan's Beatitudes

1. Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour a week with their fellow Christians -- they are my best workers.

2. Blessed are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked -- I love to use them.

3. Blessed are those who are touchy and stop going to church -- they are my greatest ambassadors.

4. Blessed are the troublemakers -- they shall be called my children.

5. Blessed are the complainers -- they make music to my ears.

6. Blessed are those who are obsessed with the minister's mannerisms and mistakes -- for they will never hear the God's truth.

7. Blessed is the church member who expects to be invited to his own church -- for he is a part of the problem instead of the solution.

8. Blessed are those who gossip -- they shall cause the strife and division that pleases me greatly.

9. Blessed are those who are easily offended -- for they will soon get angry and quit.

10. Blessed are those who do not give their offering to carry on God's work -- they are my helpers.

11. Blessed is he who professed to love God but hates his brother and sister -- for he shall be with me forever.

--copied from the cover of the newsletter from Hartsville Interfaith Ministries

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

This, on the other hand, is HILARIOUS...

...because even though what he says is ironic, he obviously doesn't know what irony is and probably can't spell it either.

Laugh or Cry?


Heck, I don't know...afterall, up is down, wrong is right, war preserves peace, Christians endorse torture, co-equal branches of government have one branch that is more equal than others, dictatorship is a democracy and democracy is a dictatorship...I want to cry but evidently I'm supposed to laugh...I think.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

You May Not Like Olbermann but...

...please listen to the retired admiral he interviews.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Buy a man a fish...

and you'll feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and he'll buy a funny hat.
Scott Adams

Monday, October 29, 2007

Especially for Preachermom and Besomami

Malfunctioning Earth Suit

Wade Burleson has written posts on the soul here and here. The two posts spurred the following thoughts that I posted as a reply on Wades blog and now here.

Update: I've added an appropriate video to the end of the post.

I've had several opportunities over the last few years to serve as camp pastor for the Young Musicians camps sponsored by my state convention. The kids are 9, 10, and 11 years old. I remember particularly one year when I was trying to find a way to help them understand what a soul is.

I showed video of astronauts walking on the moon in that stiff, bouncy fashion that we late baby boomers are so familiar with seeing on our black and white TV sets when we were kids their age. Switching to a photo of the spacesuit, I talked briefly about how NASA designed it so the moon walking astronauts could best live and work in the moon's environment. Looking at the face mask of the suit, I asked them to describe what the astronaut inside the suit looked like. Because it is so heavily tinted to protect them from the sun's rays, they could not see the astronaut's face to describe him well.

I went on to put up a short, video clip, without audio, of some of them going about their activities at camp that day. As that ran, I talked about how God, like the NASA engineers who designed the moon suits, has design our bodies to best live and work in earth's environment and that, like the moon suit has an astronaut living inside of it, our bodies have a soul living inside.

The soul is that part of us made by God to live inside our bodies while we are on earth. It is that part of us that makes us uniquely and especially who we are and who we will always be. Just like when we look at the astronauts in their moon suits it's hard to recognize and separate the astronaut from the suit, we have a hard time thinking about ourselves separate from what we see when we look in the mirror. But the part of us that makes us who we really are in God's eyes is alive inside our "earth suits".

The soul has been inside us from the minute that God chooses to create it inside the new “earth suits” that grow inside of our mothers. The five senses of our “earth suits” are made for the world, and God makes our souls with special senses made for hearing and understanding God for both while we are in our “earth suits” and for eternity, when we won’t be needing our “earth suits” anymore.

When our bodies, our earth suits, stop working, the soul will continue to live on forever and ever...somewhere...and God gives us a choice where that will be.

This teaching opportunity took place a couple of years before my earth suit started to malfunction. The communication devices started to falter. I started having difficulty with the fine manipulation of the vocal cords required for singing. Ability to see with the left eye failed, and when it returned, it returned only partially. RAM chips in the central computer began to malfunction, too. My short term memory and ability to remember names even of people I’ve known for decades is sometimes unreliable. Battery packs fail. Fatigue is sometime overwhelming. Gyroscopes are unreliable. Balance when walking is iffy some days. Diagnosis: MS.

The challenge to help children understand the soul those years before has been a stronghold for me when days are bad. Despite the fact that the ability to repair my damaged earth suit and delay its further deterioration is limited, there is no limit to the desire or ability to develop the senses that MS cannot touch...the senses of the soul.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Wisdom of Thomas Merton

Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alternation of sound and silence there would be no rhythm. If we strive to be happy by filling all the silences of life with sound, productive by turning all life's leisure into work, and real by turning all our being into doing, we will only succeed in producing hell on earth.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A New American Gothic

Kim and I caught a quick supper at Wendy's this evening. When it's just the two of us, as is the case most of the time these days, we normally sit across the table from each other and engage in near constant, and often animated, conversation.

Tonight, we both were facinated with an elderly couple seated across the restaurant. (Pardon the grainy cell phone photo. I tried to be surreptitious as I snapped it...I don't know how successful I was.) This couple had arrived before us. They were quietly involved with their meals when we sat down.

Their table, like ours, was a four-top, with seats available on both sides. As is our habit, we sat opposite each other. This couple chose to sit side by side. Per our habit, we talked throughout our meal. We observed not a single word pass between them. At no point did we see one look in the direction of the other. When they finished their meal, they carefully folded their sandwich wrappers and continued to sit quietly with each other. At irregular intervals, one or the other would take a sip from their drink. She used a straw. He didn't.

I can imagine each of them in their Sunday School classes each week...she in her ladies' class, he with the men. They're sitting in straight, ladderback chairs that creak occasionally, with cushions in the seat that could use fresh foam inside the faded, handmade covers. Each have adopted the exact same posture we see in this picture as they patiently listen to the teacher standing behind a slightly off-perpendicular lectern made in someone's home woodshop years and years ago. Neither class is as large as it was last year, two years ago, five years ago. So many of their friends...the ones he used to share a smoke with on the front porch of the church between Sunday School and church, that is before it became frowned upon and besides, the doctor made him quit...the ones she used to call once each morning and once each afternoon "just to catch up", that is if she could catch that chatty neighbor off of their party line...they're in the cemetery behind the church.

There's a place waiting for each of them in that same cemetery. It's a thought that each of them used to ignore because of busyness, because of energy, because of fear. Now, neither is as busy, neither has as much energy. But neither is there as much fear. Because after all of those years sitting with those friends, in their separate Sunday School classes, listening to the Sunday School teachers standing behind the slightly off-perpendicular, homemade lecterns, those lessons, especially the ones from Ecclesiastes, ring truer than ever.

To everything there is a season...a time to use a straw and a time to go without...a time to sit across from one another, and a time to sit side by side...a time to talk and a time to sit quietly...a time to be born and a time to die.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Saturday, September 29, 2007

For the Six or Seven Folks...

...who read blogitch with thanks to the Grace and Truth to You blog of Wade Burleson. It's almost nine minutes long but worth every second.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I Am Regularly Amazed...

...by the consistent depth and breadth of quality of thought and writing exhibited by Michael Spencer at his blog, internetmonk.com.

Here is a kicker of a paragraph from a recent post.

Remember that Jesus was a teacher, but he never dismissed class. Life was his classroom, because he refused to isolate truth into compartments. He had no intention of producing a disciple who was an expert in theology but useless in a hospital ER. He had no plan to allow the specializations we use to excuse ourselves from what it really means to be a Christian. Carrying the Cross and Washing Feet weren’t talks. They were your life.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Opening My Brain and My Heart

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Yom Kippur for All: A Writer's Wisdom

Jim Sollich, a writer from Cleveland, Ohio, has an article in today's WaPo entitled A Day to Edit Our Lives. The money exerpt:

Writing is a process of making choices. Thousands of them. The act of writing an opening sentence is the result of more choices than I can count. Every word a character speaks or swallows is a choice. Every action or inaction, more choices. It's so easy to get them wrong. Or at least to see that another choice would have made more sense.

The best writers are usually the best revisers, and they learn to look forward to the process. Revision gives you a chance to get things right. You learn to ask other people for suggestions. Your narrator may be omniscient, but you realize you're not. Suddenly, the writing isn't yours alone anymore. You see that it affects people differently from the way you intended.

On Yom Kippur, we are given the chance to understand that our lives are also not ours alone. Our actions and choices affect others, often in ways that we don't intend. If we cling to our vision of ourselves too fiercely, we blow the chance to gain insight.

Yom Kippur is not a holiday for the young. Judaism requires only adults to fast while they reflect. Nor is it a holiday for the weak of heart. Revising yourself requires you to do something almost psychologically unnatural -- stop narrating the story of your life the way you always have.

The British novelist John Fowles said that people under 40 should not attempt to write novels because they lack the wisdom to do so. I think he may have meant that they lack the ability to revise. Living, like writing, requires no wisdom. Only revising does.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Vote Today!

The man who bought Barry Bonds' record-setting baseball says he did it for you. Fashion designer Marc Ecko paid $750,000. He wants you to vote by Internet on what to do with the ball. You can send it to the Hall of Fame, or brand it with an asterisk, or put it on a rocket and send it into space.

Vote here today.

The Angle You Didn't See on the News

Was it how he was saying it...as so many would have you think...or was it WHAT he was saying?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Kidney Stone Dots

* A kidney stone hurts...ALOT!

* My insurance company pays for lithotripsy to break up kidney stones 7mm and larger.

* My kidney stone is 6mm. I've gotta pass it as is.

* I have a watermelon I'd like to shove up the nose of the guy at the insurance company. I wonder if he'd like me to break it up into smaller pieces before I begin?

* I'd rather have a kidney stone than hear about OJ's latest caper on the news. Oh goody...I get to do both. Well...at least I can change the channel on OJ.

Poor John No Longer Has What it Takes

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ticked Off

Sometime in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning, somebody with too much time on their hands over a Labor Day weekend wandered through our generally quiet neighborhood and threw a rock through my driver's side car window. They missed their first shot because there's a lovely ding in the door about 2 inches under the window. The second shot shattered the glass and left the rock resting comfortably, an unwitting instrument of stupidity, in the driver's seat along with a zillion little chunklets of safety glass.

Until this morning, I thought I was the only victim. I heard at the corner store this morning that they got a neighbor down the street, as well.

Grrrrrrr.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

And Some People Say He's Not Ambitious!

Jim Rutenberg writes in todays NYT about Bush's plans for after he leaves the White House. Make sure you have a steady stomach when you read it. I was especially impressed with these thoughts by our President:

But in an interview with a book author in the Oval Office one day last December, he daydreamed about the next phase of his life, when his time will be his own.

First, Mr. Bush said, “I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers.” With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, “I don’t know what my dad gets — it’s more than 50-75” thousand dollars a speech, and “Clinton’s making a lot of money.”

Then he said, “We’ll have a nice place in Dallas,” where he will be running what he called “a fantastic Freedom Institute” promoting democracy around the world. But he added, “I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch.”


Then, after reaffirming his role as the exclusive "decider":

“This group-think of ‘we all sat around and decided’ — there’s only one person that can decide, and that’s the president.”

there's this incredible statement:

Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, “The policy was to keep the army intact; didn’t happen.”

But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush’s former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army’s dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, “Yeah, I can’t remember, I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’ ” But, he added, “Again, Hadley’s got notes on all of this stuff,” referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser.


An Insightful Comparison

Former Senator Jean Carnahan of Missouri compares how Larry Craig and Mother Teresa handled inner conflict in Words for Lusty Larry.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Larry Craig's Career Ending Sins

Poor Larry Craig is being tossed under the bus by the Republicans for coming on to a man in an airport bathroom. The man turned out to be a vice cop so "the deed" was nipped in the bud by the flash of a badge. Initially stripped of his committee assignments by Senate Republican leadership, pressure from multiple points in the party is leading to Craig's resignation expected later today.

David Vitter, senator from Louisiana, copped to solicitating prostitutes when it was inevitable that the DC Madam's phone records were about to be released. Vitter retains his committee assignments and faced no pressure to resign.

Two Republican senators caught soliciting sex. One is run out on a rail while the other continues in the Senate. What are the differences?

Talking heads on the news enjoy focusing on the fact that one senator was after another man while the other senator actually got another woman. Homosexual deviance vs. heterosexual deviance.

Craig and Vitter handled their approaching tsunamis very differently. Vitter, when he knew his activity was about to become public, went immediately to Senate Republican leaders to inform them and ask for their advice on facing the storm. They had opportunity to plan and coordinate a response to the storm and its aftermath. Craig, on the other hand, informed no one of what was going on and leadership was caught totally off guard. Nobody likes to be blindsided, especially party leaders in the Senate. Caught flatfooted, McConnell et. al. had no time to prepare for the wave of controversy.

Craig's first career ending sin: hiding from Senate party leadership.

My question is, would the party be so quick to run a senator out of office for homosexual deviance if the governor of his or her state were a Democrat? See, Idaho has a Republican governor which guarantees a Republican replacement and maintains the current balance of parties in the Senate. Louisiana, on the other hand, has a Democrat governor. If Vitter left the Senate, a Democrat would almost certainly be named to replace him for the remainder of his term and the current balance of power in the Senate would be upset.

Craig's second career ending sin: hailing from a state with a Republican governor.

The first sin, in and of itself is not necessarily fatal. The second, however, when taken in full context, is the ultimate killer of Larry Craig's senate career.

Friday, August 31, 2007

More Republican Compassion

Tom Tancredo tells Katrina survivors that it's "time the taxpayer gravy train left the New Orleans station," calls for an end to federal aid.

Poor Tony Snow

White House press secretary Tony Snow announced today that he is leaving his post on September 14. Why? Not his cancer battle...not to "spend more time with the family"... but because his $168,000 per year salary isn't enough money. Poor Tony.

There are a few thousand people living within blocks of the White House who go to work every day...sometimes to two jobs, that might earn $168,000 in six or eight years of work, without health insurance.

Snow has defended an adminstration that seems oblivious to the reality that the majority of Americans face. The median household income in 2005 was $46,000. If more than 3.5 times that amount is not enough, how do these guys think the rest of us make it?

A Republican I Might Could Vote For...Part Trois

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

ROFL

The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.
Paul Fix

Friday, August 24, 2007

Potent Quotable

I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God's business.
Michael J. Fox

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Joy Comes in the Mo(u)rning

This afternoon, I left the side of a young lady just admitted to a room on the labor and delivery floor of the local hospital so she can be induced to deliver her first child in the morning to attend the funeral of the 99 year old lady at a neighboring church.

Both the young lady and the old lady had family at their side -- there because of love and duty.

Ritual attended each, as well. For one, there was the ritual of hospital admission procedures - where one gradually gives over all control over self to the care of (hopefully) experienced nurses and doctors. For the other, there was the ritual of remembrance and giving thanks that one who had given herself over to the care of the Great Physician was reaping a promised reward.

New life brings joy in the mo(u)rning.

Pet Wisdom

Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you in the car, in case the need should arise for them to bark violently at nothing right in your ear.
Dave Barry

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wise Words for Hectic Times

If you want your dream to be, build it slow and surely.

Small beginnings, greater ends. Heartfelt work grows purely.

If you want to live life free, take your time, go slowly.

Do few things, but do them well: simple joys are holy.

Day by day, stone by stone, build your secret slowly.

Day by day, you’ll grow too; you’ll know heaven’s glory!
from Donovan's music for the film 'Brother Sun, Sister Moon'

Thursday, August 09, 2007

What If? and a Republican I Might Could Vote For...



Hmmmm...that was almost Reaganesque!
Now watch the Right poo-poo the ad for not being "realistic."



This is the guy Matthews and Huckabee are talking about...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday Night Web Stops

Mondale on Cheney

A New Wrinkle in the Stem Cell Debate

Progress in the Search for a Cause?

7'40" of Holy Cow How is That HUMANLY POSSIBLE?
Stanley Jordan demonstrates his incredible gift of "tap technique" on the guitar.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

My Harry Potter Alter Ego is...

You scored as Albus Dumbledore, Strong and powerful you admirably defend your world and your charges against those who would seek to harm them. However sometimes you can fail to do what you must because you care too much to cause suffering.

Ron Weasley

80%

Albus Dumbledore

80%

Harry Potter

80%

Remus Lupin

65%

Hermione Granger

65%

Draco Malfoy

60%

Sirius Black

55%

Severus Snape

40%

Ginny Weasley

35%

Lord Voldemort

25%

Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
created with QuizFarm.com

Friday, July 20, 2007

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Midweek Camp Dots

* Our core verse for the week is Romans 12:2a - Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

* There are more than 604 campers, chaperones and faculty members here.

* A room key in the hands of a child has legs.

* Popcorn, a Hershey bar and a watermelon slushy is the formula for Flubber.

* Psalm 8:2 is absolutely true.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Dots

* The first ever MSFly event on Second Life was successful. Over 760 “avatars” participated in the event and most importantly, we were able to raise over $32,000 to help create a world free of MS.

* Next week I'll be camp pastor at the South Carolina Baptist Convention's Young Musicians Camp for 3rd - 5th grade kids and Music Mini-Camp for 1st and 2nd graders. We're expecting over 300 Young Musicians and about 125 Mini Campers.

* Kim and Katie are heading to a southern Caribbean island that should remain publicly unnamed on a 10-day mission.

* Acupuncture helps relieve the pain of shingles.

* One of Scott's buddies who attends the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music visited a while back and left behind a book he finished up while here: Island by Aldous Huxley. Being in between books, I picked it up the other day. Check out this quote: Faith is something very different from belief. Belief is the systematic taking of unanalyzed words much too seriously...Give us this day our daily Faith, but deliver us, dear God, from Belief.

Of course I had to post this!

The commutation of Libby's sentence was the perfect move in the chess game being played out to delay the inevitable surfacing of truth until after January 20, 2009. Why?

1. Libby spends none of the 30 month sentence behind bars...thereby avoiding the certain personal discomfort that might make him rethink his blind loyalty to "the bosses."

2. A wrinkle in the law that says you can't serve probation unless you've been behind bars will allow Libby to avoid the probation portion of the sentence thereby allowing him to simply fork over $250,400 in fines.

3. Libby can be called before congressional hearings but can maintain protection of the 5th amendment as long as the appeal of his conviction is being considered. CRITICAL POINT: A PARDON WOULD HAVE REMOVED THE PROTECTION AGAINST SELF INCRIMINATION AND FORCED LIBBY TO REVEAL ALL HE KNOWS TO CONGRESS

4. Bush gets to claim respect for the jury verdict and at the same time rest easy at night in the knowledge that as long as the appeal of Libby's conviction continues in the appeals courts, he and his administration can sit in silence under the cover of "the ongoing legal process."

If you don't know a little Latin, Google "quid pro quo." It's the only thing that can explain why such a brilliant, high power legal team such as Libby's would roll over and play dead during such a high stakes trial.

There is alot to be said about hypocrisy on both sides of the political spectrum over this issue. Bill Clinton needs to keep his mouth shut on this issue...whoops...too late. Suffice it to say that there is mud everywhere and it's long past time to start shoveling it out and hosing it off.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Blogitch is Back

I've been silent the past couple of days because lightning zapped my router modem...

It was a painful silence, too, considering all of the fodder provided by Bush & Co. the last couple of days. I'll sum up everything I would have blathered with the following...


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sometimes I think I'm the only one...

...who believes the only thing black and white about this issue is this cartoon...

Ethical dilemma + cognitive dissonance = political hay. We all know what elephants and donkeys (expecially the ones with American flags and crosses on their lapels) pile up after feasting on hay. They don't seem to care who has to lie in it...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's Time to Pick Up a Hot Potato

It's not news to some of you that Baptist Press has had schizophrenia for the last 25 years. Some days it is a denominational news organization. Some days it is a political propaganda machine for the Republican National Committee. Until tonight, I've been able to accept this reality as I shake my head and chuckle at BP articles just like I shake my head and chuckle at the antics of Fox "News".

Tonight, this article posted by Tom Strode forces me to publicly take up the hot potato of stem cell research and multiple sclerosis.

I wanted to email Strode directly but I was unable to find direct email addresses for BP writers. So I composed the following email to the general contact email address provided and, since I picked up the article from its RSS feed, cc'd to Don Kirkland, editor of South Carolina's Baptist newspaper, The Baptist Courier.

Dear Friends,

I am a Southern Baptist minister of music who also happens to be a man who lives with multiple sclerosis. As you might imagine, in addition to following developments in the treatment of MS, I also pay close attention to references to MS in the press. It is quite rare to see multiple sclerosis referenced in Baptist Press. It is particularly disheartening to see it referenced in a paragraph that is factually wrong.

Tom Strode states in his June 27 article on stem cell legislation: Unlike research using embryos, extracting stem cells from non-embryonic sources such as umbilical cord blood, placentas, fat and bone marrow has nearly universal support. Such research has produced treatments for at least 72 ailments, according to Do No Harm, a coalition promoting ethics in research. These include spinal cord injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and sickle cell anemia.

Because it does not carry the ethical or political baggage of embryonic stem cell research, adult stem cell research enjoys broad support.

I am unable to speak to any progress made in treatment of any of the “at least 72 ailments” other than multiple sclerosis Mr. Strode references. However, I can assure you that NO BROADLY AVAILABLE TREATMENT has been produced for multiple sclerosis using stem cells, embryonic or non-embryonic. There are a some clinical trials underway, a couple are in Phase II of a minimum of three phases of required testing, that give a little hope that adult stems cells may eventually help some with MS. Instances described as “treatment” in literature produced by Do No Harm refer to isolated experiments or trial results. Some of the trials underway are being conducted with as few as five participants. I am aware of one trial open to as many as 110 participants. There are more that 400,000 Americans living with multiple sclerosis. (I wonder how many of that 400,000 are Southern Baptist.)

Mr. Strode’s statement will lead readers to the conclusion that people faced with multiple sclerosis are benefiting from non-embryonic stem cell research. This is demonstrably false.

“There is a real and achievable prospect that stem cells will enable us to repair damaged tissue in MS,” said Dr. Robin Franklin, of the Cambridge (England) Centre for Brain Repair, which is taking part in the (National Multiple Sclerosis) Society's multicenter Repair and Protection Initiative. “That said, we are still in the very early days,” he said, cautioning people to keep their hopes in perspective. “The prospects are too precious to damage them by rushing ahead too fast.”

Baptist Press is misinforming Southern Baptists about the progress of non-embryonic stem cell sources in addressing MS. It is a disservice to Southern Baptists and a disservice to people living with MS.

Sincerely,
Charles Roberts
Minister of Music
First Baptist Church, Hartsville, SC
http://www.fromtheheart.us

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Life Imitating Art

Edward Hicks' Peaceable Kingdom has always been one of my favorite works of art. One of these days I might go into more depth about why but today I wanted to share evidence that sometimes life DOES imitate art and that "hope springs eternal".



The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat and the pitbull will lie down with the baby chicks, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 11: 6-9 (with an addition)

Friday, June 22, 2007

The White House Weighs in On Its President of Vice



Yes, Dana, there is an interesting constitutional issue raised here. "Why doesn't the constitution matter to this administration?"

Another Goverment Function Outsourced to Haliburton?


From the ABC News Blotter: Vice President Dick Cheney has asserted his office is not a part of the executive branch of the U.S. government, and therefore not bound by a presidential order governing the protection of classified information by government agencies.

Here's more on this story from today's Washington Post.

Let's be clear here. We have learned to expect obstinance from Cheney when elevating his office above scrutiny from the media, public interest groups, congress and the courts. But this reveals and even more bizarre level of megalomania from VPOTUS. Since 2003, he has been insisting that he is above oversight even from other elements of the executive branch. His argument? The Vice President's office is not strictly a part of the executive branch.

When questioned about this issue, representatives of the Vice President's office declined to discuss internal office issues. Come to think of it, so did representatives of Al Capone's office.

I wonder if Dick Cheney hopes to assert similar privilege before a judge described in scripture?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

John 4:13-14

Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Not a Panacea but a Propitiator

For about six weeks now I've been taking acupuncture therapy to address some of my MS symptoms. My initial report? Check the title of the post. I'm discovering that it's not a cure all...as if I ever thought it might be one...but it does seem to offer some short term benefits.

I was looking for an alternative to very high dose steroids to address the chronic and often painful and distracting symptoms of MS. The steroids have the benefit of covering problems with a great deal of energy...like pouring jet fuel into a fire...if you have enough energy to fly wide open...you're distracted from noticing all of the aggravations of pain. The downside of high dose steriods are almost too myriad to go into. Suffice it to say that since stopping them in December, 2006, I've lost about 30 lbs. and my blood pressure has dropped to the point that I have discontinued medication for high blood pressure.

The reason I decided to try acupunture is simply this...if you've ever seen a movie where a character is dying and someone who loves them slaps them hard and the face and shakes them while yelling, "Stay with me! Stay with me!"...that's kind of like what acupuncture seems to do to the nerves. The filiments stimulate them...jar them a bit...slap them around some...yell at them to keep going just a while longer.

So Thursday I'll be back in Doc Moore's office describing where the worst of the burns, pinpricks, spasms, aches, buzzes, burns, vibrations, cramps, are so she can decide which nerves to slap around a bit.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Meet Blogitch Fargis

Blogitch Fargis is the new Second Life avatar I developed to participate in the MSFly event mentioned below. This photo has him in the robes of a Benedictine monk in a monastery developed by a gentleman from the Netherlands.

I'd heard of Second Life before but had not paid it much attention until it provided and opportunity for me to help with a fundraising effort for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The SL world is actually a facinating sociological experiment that should provide great fodder for future blogging.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Join the MS Fly

For more information on this unusual way to help
fight MS, click HERE.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Can you say "Messiah complex?"

My bleary eyed, coffee sipping, morning mouse clicking brought up this story and this story this morning. Not a very comforting way to begin my day.

I know my friends on "the right" will say, "But look at who posted these stories! Liberals!"

However, put those two together with this one from Reagan speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, posted on today's Wall Street Journal. (If you think that's left wing, well...)

Summary: A lonely president who feels misunderstood drafts a new executive order that can hand him the "keys to the kingdom." Hmmmmmm.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

from Hebridean Altars

Seven times a day, as I work upon this hungry farm,
I say to Thee, 'Lord, why am I here?
What is there here to stir my gifts to growth?
What great thing can I do for others -
I who am captive to this dreary toil?'

And seven times a day Thou answerest,
'Once did My Son live thy life, and by His faithfulness did show
My mind, My kindness, and My truth to men.
But now He is come to My side, and thou must take His place.'

Monday, May 21, 2007

Revelation 21:6


It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. I am the Beginning and the End. Anyone who is thirsty may drink from the spring of the water of life. It doesn't cost anything!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Proverbs 4:10-15


Listen, my son. Accept my words, and you will live many years.
I am teaching you the way of wisdom;
I am guiding you on straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hindered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
Hold on to instruction; don't let go.
Guard it, for it is your life.
Don't set foot on the path of the wicked;
don't proceed in the way of evil ones.
Avoid it; don't travel on it.
Turn away from it, and pass it by.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

They speak for themselves




Something to say thanks to mothers...

Because "you were there"...


Something to inspire...

There is NOTHING like family harmony!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Food for Thought

Quote from an interview with David Brin in the most recent Discover magazine:

Jonas Salk said our top job is to be "good ancestors." If we in this era meet the challenges of our time, then our heirs may have powers that would seem godlike to us -- the way we take for granted miracles like flying through the sky or witnessing events far across the globe. If those descendants do turn out to be better, wiser people than us, will they marvel that primitive beings managed so well, the same way we're awed by the best of our ancestors? I hope so.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Needles Used to Bother Me


After several months of living an almost "normal" life, nagging little problems with my necrotizing nemesis have nudged themselves back to the surface and are demanding more of my attention. Lately I've been distracted by a little problem called peripheral neuropathy. This problem is certainly not unique to MS...folks who suffer with diabetes and other ailments often encounter it, as well. It's the source of that "wet washrag" feeling in the legs, mostly, and my arms, some.

I know I could probably hide the worst of the symptom by resuming the high dose steroid treatments that were suspended in December. But the thought of getting a gram slug intravenously once a month again is not as appealing as it once was. Don't get me wrong...high dose steroids cover up alot of problems and made me feel like I could conquer Goliath with a watergun while blindfolded but they were starting to cause some other, sneakier problems like high blood pressure and weight gain. I was pushing 200 lbs. last November. Now I'm back to the 175 - 180 range...and my clothes fit better.

Anyway, I started studying a non-traditional medicine option...acupuncture. I had my first treatment this morning. It's expected to be a couple or three weeks before we can be sure if it might relieve some of the most aggravating and distracting pain.

After more than two years of more than 1" deep injections and 2" deep intravenous sticks, these little pin pricks were nothing...especially on my left side where sensation is greatly diminished anyway.

The acupuncturist is a precious little woman of difficult to determine age who is retired from teaching at our local college. She has a Ph.D in molecular biology. About a decade ago, she tried acupuncture in a desperate attempt to avoid major surgery to relieve pain from a back injury. In spite of her initial skepticism, it brought her great relief. She decided to study Chinese medicine and became convinced that some of their techniques, which seem quite bizzare to us well heeled occidentals, can be helpful in some cases.

Since completing her study and becoming certified to practice, she has built a word of mouth practice in one room of a local chiropractor's office. The environment is utterly professional looking. With the organized and thorough presentation style of an experienced college professor and with gentle, almost grandmotherly, hands, she took me through the first of what we expect to be about six weekly attempts to rein in some unruly nerve responses.

We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

You Tube War on the War

I have two friends who have diametricly opposed views on the war. They each, without the knowledge of the other, sent me video clip they like because it seems to reinforce their own view over the view of other. I don't find these messages in conflict with one another. Do you?



The Veto

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Listen Carefully Now...



"...answered every question he could possibly answer - honestly answer - in a way that increased my confidence in his ability to do the job." Implied: The rest of the questions he just responded, "I don't recall," rather than be caught in a lie later.

So far as AG Gonzoles' abilty to do the job, the President doesnt' seem to have a handle on what the AG's job is. According to the DoJ website, the mission of the Department of Justice is: To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans. Apparently Bush thinks it's the AG's job to cover the administration's behind as another White House counsel. Maybe he should check "the internets".

By the way, the lead Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee says this: "As long as he's the attorney general, I will continue to deal with him," Specter told reporters in Harrisburg, Pa. "But whatever he has to say I will take with more than a grain of salt."

When a friend can't believe you, you know you're in trouble. When the chief law enforcement officer of the country can't be trusted by his friends, can you trust his boss?

Friday, April 20, 2007

This was the look on my face...


...as I listened to AG Gonzales' testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was a perplexing performance! It's hard to describe how frightening it is to have our nation's Justice Department in the hands of such a buffoon. I was rewarded with all of the expected "I don't recall, Senator" lines.

But the two highlights for me were when he picked a fight with Arlen Spector, the ranking minority member, A REPUBLICAN! The second was when Senator Coburn said he should resign for the same reasons Gonzales claimed he asked some US Attorneys to resign...mismanagement and bad judgement.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Beat vs. Tempo

These two words are commonly used interchangeably, as if they are synonymous. Musicians know they are closely related but not the same at all. The easiest way to understand the differences between these musical concepts is to consider the characteristics of a healthy heart.

A healthy heart produces a steady pulse when the body is at rest. A pulse is measured at a certain number of beats per minute. The number of beats per minute supplies the measurement of the speed, or tempo, at which the heart is beating.

When the resting person becomes more active, the healthy heart continues with its steady beat, but the number of beats per minute increases. In other words, the tempo of the heart speeds up.

We have all learned from watching primetime medical shows that if a heart begins beating unevenly, it is called cardiac arrhythmia or “heart out of rhythm”.

The similarities and differences between beat and tempo have come to mind this afternoon as I have had a few moments to consider the reasons behind the sudden drop off in the number of my posts.

Upon reflection, I believe I’ve been experiencing a sort of “cognitive arrhythmia” resulting from rapid fluctuations in the tempo of daily events. Holy Week observances and Easter celebrations produced a flurry of activity. The following week, required focused attention to some important issues but at a much less frantic pace. This week, I’ve had to “defibrillate” the brain, shock it back to the “normal sinus rhythm” of life. Maybe it’s time for a mental metronome or a pacemaker for my pumpkin head.

P. S. : Thanks for the encouragement, Jester.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Check out this excerpt

From a commentary written by Roland Martin.

In fact, I've grown tired of people who pimp God. That's right; we have a litany of individuals today who are holy, holy, holy, sing hallelujah, talk about how they love the Lord, but when it's time to walk the walk, somehow the spirit evaporates.

A couple of years ago I took exception to an e-mail blast from the Concerned Women for America. The group was angry that Democrats were blocking certain judges put up for the federal bench by President Bush. It called on Americans to fight Democrats who wanted to keep Christians off the bench.

So I called and sent an e-mail asking, "So, where were you when President Clinton appointed Christian judges to the bench? Were they truly behind Christian judges, or Republican Christian judges?

Surprise, surprise. There was never a response.

An African-American pastor I know in the Midwest was asked by a group of mostly white clergy to march in an anti-abortion rally. He was fine with that, but then asked the clergy if they would work with him to fight crack houses in predominantly black neighborhoods.

"That's really your problem," he was told.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Quick Post

Blogitch's scratching nails have been clipped by Holy Week activities and Easter celebration preparations. I want to take a second to post a link to a discovery that my broadband friends might enjoy. Worship.net provides a 24 hour web stream of worship music that I run using Windows Media Player in skin mode in the corner of my screen. There is a good variety of titles and styles. The downside is that it is the same feed as their satellite network which means occasional commercials. Still, you might want to check it out.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Party of Family Values

Thanks to Jim Morin, The Miami Herald