The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.Indeed.
(via Body and Soul)
The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.Indeed.
(via Thoreau Blog)
I thought the other day, How we enjoy a warm and pleasant day at this season! We dance like gnats in the sun.
- Henry David Thoreau
journal entry, 25 March, 1859
nobody wants to talk about the threat posed by those whose beliefs include contempt for democracy itself.And this is increasingly what we see, as the President's aides declare him above the law, the legislature expresses scorn for our constitutional balance of powers, religious leaders condone assassination, and judges, lawyers, and citizens who find themselves in the news suddenly need professional security protection. I wish I were seeing more outrage from the silent moderate majority...
The superiority of VA hospitals is so obvious that by now it ought to be common knowledge. But it isn't, because an insane political consensus that firmly opposes turning health care over to the government—because the government is presumed incapable of doing anything well—doesn't want to hear that government hospitals are outperforming private hospitals.Surprisingly, much of the success results not from the patients (who are a more at-risk cohort than the Medicare patients they were compared to), nor to simple efficiencies of scale (although those control costs dramatically), but from the fact that patients are tracked over the long term, meaning that health care decisions are (a) made with more complete medical records at hand, and (b) made in the interest of long-term outcomes, not just quick turnaround. Investing in technology to follow up on chronic patients, for example, will only benefit organizations that can be fairly certain of having those patients in the future; what is the benefit to a private company whose more healthy patient may be a gift to a different health plan in a year or two? Interesting things to mull...
Hours after a judge ordered that Terri Schiavo was not to be removed from her hospice, a team of state agents were en route to seize her and have her feeding tube reinserted -- but they stopped short when local police told them they would enforce the judge's order, The Herald has learned.Jeez, things are pretty bad when it's not just crazed citizens threatening to storm the citadel, but an actual show-down over who's willing to uphold the legal system. Shades of George Wallace over this kind of thing, but here the local police (in a tiny and beleagured town) appear to have been the heroes.
We owe it to our readers to present everybody's ideas equally and not to ignore or discredit theories simply because they lack scientifically credible arguments or facts. Nor should we succumb to the easy mistake of thinking that scientists understand their fields better than, say, U.S. senators or best-selling novelists do. Indeed, if politicians or special-interest groups say things that seem untrue or misleading, our duty as journalists is to quote them without comment or contradiction. To do otherwise would be elitist and therefore wrong.Wow, that must have been building for a long time. Go, read the rest of it -- it's all that good! Whew!
It's just this simple: The Republican party wants to tell you how to live your personal life while they systematically remove all government cooperation in ameliorating the risks this fast paced world creates. The Democrats want the government to leave you to make your own personal decisions while having it help you mitigate the social and economic risk our fast paced world creates. It is a stark choice. There is no reason we cannot begin to make the affirmative case for ourselves on this basis.Make the time to read the entire piece.
The conventional thinking we are taught (and conditioned to think) employs what Edward de Bono calls 'rock logic'. Rocks being solid, hard, permanent, inert and unchanging. Like bricks, rocks can be added on top of one another to build structures. However there is also 'water logic'. This is fluid and flows according to gradient (context), and assumes form according to space (circumstance). If you add one rock to another, you get two; if you add water to water, it changes shape. Rocks analogous to a page of accounts and water to a piece of poetry. The former has units which add up to a conclusion, the latter has images which conjure up a perception.(via whiskey river)
- -- Alan Fletcher
"My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing," said Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, one of five House Republicans who voted against the [Schiavo] bill. "This couldn't be a more classic case of a state responsibility."Good morning, sane Republicans. Your party has lost its mind and doesn't believe in any law, theory, or other restriction whenever it leads to outcomes they disagree with. Guess you just noticed.
"They are saying if they fail to regulate mercury from power plants at all, it really wouldn't make a difference," said John Walke, clean air director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group. "To acknowledge the real benefits would be to raise the next question: Why didn't you go further?"For example, the administration's figures chose to ignore the mercury contributions from consumption of salt-water fish (such as tuna), even though that's a source of something like 2/3 of most folks' exposure. You woudn't want to use data in setting policy, or at least not data that weights public health above corporate profits...
In an effort to increase pressure on North Korea, the Bush administration told its Asian allies in briefings earlier this year that Pyongyang had exported nuclear material to Libya. That was a significant new charge, the first allegation that North Korea was helping to create a new nuclear weapons state.Of course, this group is clad in teflon, so probably nobody will even notice this increase in the bs pile...
But that is not what U.S. intelligence reported, according to two officials with detailed knowledge of the transaction. North Korea, according to the intelligence, had supplied uranium hexafluoride -- which can be enriched to weapons-grade uranium -- to Pakistan. It was Pakistan, a key U.S. ally with its own nuclear arsenal, that sold the material to Libya. The U.S. government had no evidence, the officials said, that North Korea knew of the second transaction.
Each new year is a surprise to us. We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird, and when we hear it again it is remembered like a dream, reminding us of a previous state of existence. How happens it that the associations it awakens are always pleasing, never saddening; reminiscences of our sanest hours? The voice of nature is always encouraging.Thanks, as ever, to Thoreau blog to these transhistoric tidbits...
- Thoreau's Journal: March 18, 1858
This is America's pastime, not the tobacco industry. It is highly unpleasant to watch a bunch of politicians browbeat famous players and then grill baseball owners as if they are a mafia family --- while we are at war, the treasury is being bankrupted and unprecedented government corruption is happening right before their eyes. Listening to them sanctimoniously lecture baseball about its ethics and practices is just mind boggling.It certainly boggles my mind!
How long has it been since we were talking about torture for the alleged higher purpose of obtaining information a suspect may or may not have? A couple of months? Yesterday? And now the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment has entered the dialog as well.He asks some other good questions -- is this what comes from our increasing attention to the needs of victims? from our comfort with the death penalty (which in the end seems largely to be about revenge)? Certainly hard to argue with this:
When influential conservative constitutional law professors start giving the Bill of Rights only tepid support then we have to just say no. The Bill of Rights may not be a sacred writ, but it’s the best thing this misbegotten country ever did and it’s the single thing that makes the American system worth a damn.There is an increasing feeling of the primal in much current "debate." Kind of makes me want to keep looking over my shoulder...
Dillard's has asked the Mississippi Supreme Court today to block a black trial judge from presiding over racial-profiling lawsuits against the department store chain.Not that we mean anything by it, of course.
Reid and his fellow Democrats, in effect, called Frist's bluff on Tuesday by issuing a preemptive strike, saying that Democrats would respond to any Frist action by continuing to work with Republicans only on matters that affected U.S. troops or that ensured the continuity of government operations.Frist's response? "To shut down the Senate would be irresponsible and partisan." Well, yes. Think twice before making it happen.
"Beyond that, we will be reluctant to enter into any consent agreement that facilitates Senate activities, even on routine matters," Reid said in a letter to Frist. Nearly all Senate business requires unanimous consent; for example, one senator can prevent committee meetings from taking place simply by objecting.
Judge Richard Kramer of San Francisco County's trial-level Superior Court likened the ban to laws requiring racial segregation in schools, and said there appears to be "no rational purpose" for denying marriage to gay couples.It's interesting to note that the judge cited Brown v. Board of Education for his ruling, in effect saying that civil unions were an unacceptable attempt to make a type of second-class public rights.
"The idea that marriage-like rights without marriage is adequate smacks of a concept long rejected by the courts — separate but equal," the judge wrote.Of course, there will be appeals, and in fact there is a marriage amendment to the CA constitution in the pipeline, but still, a moment of thoughtfulness amidst the storm.
After hearing about all the undiplomatic qualities of John Bolton, it occurred to us that maybe the President just got confused, as he sometimes does; maybe he meant to nominate Michael Bolton...(They even compare some, uh, quotes from the two Boltons.)
Americans who consider themselves Christian tend to think about the New Testament's central character in one of two distinct ways. For many, what matters most is that Jesus was a divine spirit who died for their sins. To accept him as your savior is to be saved, and the pursuit of that salvation is paramount. For a smaller percentage of believers, Jesus is a peasant revolutionary who lived by example and died for it. To model your behavior after his is to bring earth closer to heaven.Yes, this feels right to me, and you can see the outlines there of the separation between fundamentalists who focus on salvation (and on condemning those who might lead them farther from it) and those who focus on, say, the Beatitudes (and thus on serving the poorest and welcoming the unwelcome, whether they be sinners or "saved"). This is a formulation that could almost bring the two groups to grounds for discussion, as is apparent in the author's experience of an interview on Christian radio.
I went on to explain that while I appreciated his preoccupation with salvation, my main concern was good works. That the Jesus I met in the Bible would be more concerned about curing AIDs than outlawing homosexual marriage, more troubled by world hunger and violence than an erosion of "family values."I don't know what to do with this new insight right now, but I think it can be powerful, especially as progressives increasingly try to make themselves understood to groups who don't see what could be the broad common ground...
The Italian probe is one of three official investigations that have surfaced in the past year into renditions believed to have taken place in Western Europe. Although the CIA usually carries out the operations with the help or blessing of friendly local intelligence agencies, law enforcement authorities in Italy, Germany and Sweden are examining whether U.S. agents may have broken local laws by detaining terrorist suspects on European soil and subjecting them to abuse or maltreatment.As more and more accounts are confirmed of their citizens being detained, tortured, and then cleared, European leaders are withdrawing their willing cooperation. Score another one for our reputation as international bully.
To be what you are is in itself very arduous without trying to become something, which is not difficult. You can always pretend, put on a mask, but to be what you are is an extremely complex affair; because you are always changing; you are never the same and each moment reveals a new facet, a new depth, a new surface. You can't be all this at one moment for each moment brings its own change. So if you are intelligent, you give up being anything.
- -- J. Krishnamurti
(via whiskey river)
The hardest state to be in is one in which you keep your heart open to the suffering that exists around you, and simultaneously keep your discriminative wisdom. It's far easier to do one or the other; to keep your heart open and get lost in pity, empathetic suffering, righteous indignation, etc.; or remain remotely detached as a witness to it all. Once you understand that true compassion is the blending of the open heart and the quiet mind, it is still difficult to find the balance. Most often we start out doing these things sequentially. We open our hearts and get lost in the melodramas, then we meditate and regain our quiet center by pulling back in from so much openness. Then we once again open and get sucked back into the dance. So it goes cycle after cycle. It takes a good while to get the balance. For at first the discriminative awareness part of the cycle makes you feel rather like a cold fish. You feel as if you have lost your tenderness and caring. And yet each time you open again to the tender emotions, you get lost in the drama and see your predicament: if you really want to help others who are suffering, you just have to develop the balance between heart and mind such that you remain soft and flowing yet simultaneously clear and spacious. You have to stay right on the edge of that balance. It seems impossible, but you do it. At first, when you achieve this balance, it is self-consciously maintained. Ultimately, however, you merely become the statement of the amalgam of the open heart and quiet mind. Then there is no more struggle; it's just the way you are.
- -- Ram Dass
President Bush has chosen Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton, a longtime critic of the United Nations and a hard-liner on arms control, to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, according to government officials.(emphasis mine)
The upshot: while 1.2 million workers could qualify for a minimum wage increase, another 6.8 million workers, who work in companies with revenues between $500,000 and $1,000,000 per year, would lose their current minimum wage protection.Amazing. PA is one of the states considering raising its minimum wage above the federal minimum, something Santorum's bill would also disallow. I hope that this will be another prime weapon to turn back against him in 2006! He may be winning love in DC, but I don't think he's warming hearts at home...
And an even larger number of businesses, those with revenues under $7 million, would be exempt from fines under a range of other safety, health, pension and other labor laws. Essentially, the realm of unregulated sweatshops would be expanded and legalized under Santorum's bill. . . .
I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.Wow! I don't think there are even many wacky tabloid editorialists in this country who would sling the verbiage that freely. Could it be that our peace-loving northern friends are self-righteously pissed?!
But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.
Coming to Ottawa might also expose you to a parliamentary system that has a thing called question period every day, where those in the executive are held accountable by an opposition for their actions, and where demands for public debate on important topics such as missile defence can be made openly.
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan generally gets accolades for his public pronouncements. Yesterday he got a brickbat from Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who blasted Greenspan as "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington."About right. For more on Greenspan's hackery, see this bit from Krugman.
Reid ripped Greenspan during an interview on CNN's "Inside Politics." He said the Fed chairman has given President Bush a pass on deficits that have built up in the past four years and should be challenging Republicans on their fiscal policies, rather than promoting Bush's plan to introduce personal accounts into Social Security.
. . . Until the 1970's conservatives tended to be open about their disdain for Social Security and Medicare. But honesty was bad politics, because voters value those programs. So conservative intellectuals proposed a bait-and-switch strategy: First, advocate tax cuts, using whatever tactics you think may work - supply-side economics, inflated budget projections, whatever. Then use the resulting deficits to argue for slashing government spending.Keep tellin' it, boys!
And that's the story of the last four years. In 2001, President Bush and Mr. Greenspan justified tax cuts with sunny predictions that the budget would remain comfortably in surplus. But Mr. Bush's advisers knew that the tax cuts would probably cause budget problems, and welcomed the prospect. In fact, Mr. Bush celebrated the budget's initial slide into deficit. In the summer of 2001 he called plunging federal revenue "incredibly positive news" because it would "put a straitjacket" on federal spending.
To keep that straitjacket on, however, those who sold tax cuts with the assurance that they were easily affordable must convince the public that the cuts can't be reversed now that those assurances have proved false. And Mr. Greenspan has once again tried to come to the president's aid, insisting this week that we should deal with deficits "primarily, if not wholly," by slashing Social Security and Medicare because tax increases would "pose significant risks to economic growth." Really?
The way this was done, with stealth at first and with the star so prominent, was very much in the brownshirt tradition of the last century. A lot of things come to mind when walking down a corridor of academic offices and seeing 'stigma' postings on individual doors identifying Heretics.Yeah, and most of them make my skin crawl . . .
When the Bible is viewed primarily as a collection of devotional thoughts, its status as the most devastating work of social criticism in history is forgotten. Once we've taken it off its pedestal long enough to actually read what it says, how does the principality called America interpret the gospel? In an age when many churchgoing Americans appear to view the purposes of the coming kingdom of God and the perceived self-interests of the United States as indistinguishable, what does faithful witness look like?I recommend the original essay (which is a longish exerpt from a book called The Gospel of America) to anybody who wrestles with these issues. It has a kind of rhetorical earnestness that will probably put off those with no background in the pews, but it's the voice of the liberal church trying to be heard in the storm.
As Karl Barth noted, applying the gospel to our vision of the worlds unfolding before us will involve a yes and a no. Yes to the hope of a new day coming and the watchfulness required to see it. No to the suggestion, sometimes only dimly hinted at even to ourselves, that our own good intentions or pure hearts will hasten its coming or that we are knowers (rather than learners) of the Creator's good purposes.(via the Daou Report)
(from The Thoreau Blog)
We talk about spring as at hand before the end of February, and yet it will be two good months, one sixth part of the whole year, before we can go a-maying. There may be a month of solid and uninterrupted winter yet, plenty of ice and good sleighing. We may not even see the bare ground, and hardly the water, and yet we sit down and warm our spirits annually with distant prospect of spring. As if a man were to warm his hands by stretching them toward the rising sun and rubbing them.
- -- Henry David Thoreau
March 2, 1859
The ruling continues the court's practice of narrowing the scope of the death penalty, which justices reinstated in 1976. Executions for those 15 and younger when they committed their crimes were outlawed in 1988. Three years ago justices banned death sentences for the mentally retarded.Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the 5-4 decision (which differs from the ruling 16 years ago that juvenile capital punishment was *not* cruel and unusual punishment).
Tuesday's ruling prevents states from making 16- and 17-year-olds eligible for execution.
Juvenile offenders have been put to death in recent years in only a few other countries, including Iran, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia. Kennedy cited international opposition to the practice.The dissenters deny the presence of a trend in public opinion, and say that the issue should be left to the states. Victims rights decry the limitation of their options for revenge justice. I think that's everybody.
"It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime," he wrote.