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Thursday, July 12, 2007

No place else to put it

From CNN:
Al Qaeda is stepping up efforts to sneak terrorists into the U.S. and has rebuilt most of its capability to strike here, an intelligence estimate states, according to The Associated Press.

Just so we understand,

1. we have given up our protection against search and seizure because the Executive Branch now conducts searches without even retroactively getting a FISA warrant;
2. we have given up the historical moral authority we had of having never attacked a nation that did not first attack us or our allies;
3. we no longer honor the Geneva Convention;
4. we no longer forbid torture;
5. we have traded our nation's largest surpluss for its largest deficit; and
6. we have sacrificed 3000 plus soldiers on the field of battle.

All for what? For what noble cause? To protect us from Al Qaeda. These things seem to have nothing to do with stopping Al Qaeda. And now, we learn that in fact they have nothing to do with stopping Al Qaeda.

We have given up everything for nothing.

I feel like I am going to throw up. I can only hope this report is some false propoganda from the administration hoping to increase his poll numbers. I would hope it hasn't really all been for nothing.

I'm for it.

The Case for Teaching the Bible. James begins a charter school this Fall, and one of his books is the Bible. I'm thrilled. I really believe it is legitimate to teach the Bible as literature because of its role in Western Literature. (It is listed as one of the Great Books by the society of the same name.) But I also think if more people knew what the Bible actually says, in context, we would have less trouble from fundamentalists. You cannot read the first two chapters of Genesis and still be both rational and a creationist.

Most Democrats are wrong.

By a two-to-one margin (62% to 29%), Republicans say a president should use his or her faith to guide presidential decisions. By contrast, Democrats reject this idea by a similar two-to-one margin (58% to 32%).
Time Poll: Faith of the Candidates. First off, this is kind of like asking whether a president should use his socio-economic status to guide presidential decisions, or her family upbringing. If you have a faith, it will guide your decisions.

More significant to me is a discussion about what our faith guides us to do. I personally believe when people misinterpret the teachings of Jesus and end up keeping their greedy and hateful ways, the best solution is to correct their interpretation of Jesus' teaching. Is that more difficult than convincing people to stop using their interpretations of Jesus' teaching to guide their decisions? I don't know. They are both pretty tough.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pope Agrees with Matt

My good friend Matt has for a while asserted that I am not a member of the same religion as fundamentalist Christians. According to the Pope, Matt is right. The Pope isn't the only one who agrees with Matt. Here is a treatment of some others. The backward movement of the Catholic Church makes me especially sad because I expect more from it. A church with so much tradition, the keeper of so much knowledge and such a history of good works should do better. I just wish it would stop it.

So easily manipulated

Okay, look, I don't like George Bush. I think his is a bad guy; I think he is an awful president. But I didn't post this just to revel in his demise. Something that bothers me about this graph is how easy it is for a president to improve his approval rating. September of 2001, sure his numbers go up. We didn't know much about him. Some of us thought he stole an election, but most of us didn't think so. We were attacked and showed solidarity. But why the invasion of Iraq? Why does going to war make you popular. And why was the political campaign of Nov. 2004 so successful? Nothing great happened then. Even Nov. 2002 saw a bump. It is a frustrating reality that what we are told to think is so much more powerful than what is happening before our eyes.

It is interesting that in 2006 the ride was over, and he actually became less popular, presumably as a result of the Democrats efforts. Again, no because the Iraq war suddenly became less winnable, or the environment was more ignored, or the borders were more open or less humane, or the government was more corrupt. I guess you can't ask people to spend all their time thinking.

Office rhetoric

I was thinking about healthcare and national pride. Here are some talking points for the office:

Coworker: Something anti-government related to national healthcare

You: Look, the government of the people of the United States is the government that put the first person on the moon; it is the government that ended the Great Depression and defeated fascism in the same administration; it is the government that provided food and healthcare to all of its poor and ended poverty for our elderly. If you don't want to provide insurance for the 40 million Americans who don't have it--fine. If think it is good that our health insurance is tied to obedience to our employers--fine. But don't say we can't make health insurance available to everyone and independent of their employers. If France & Canada can do it, we can do, and we can do it better.

[Of course, for me, I'm compelled by my faith to care about the least of these. So, I can't really accept the position that the 40 million uninsured people don't deserve health insurance. But that's just me. I'm not asking anybody else to follow my religion. I just don't like people saying our country is incapable of dealing with the problem that every other industrialized nation already has.]

The bracketed part is optional. Nothing thoroughly researched to be sure, just some issue framing.

Monday, July 09, 2007

From Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy
Development. Volunteering in America: 2007 City Trends and Rankings, Washington, DC 2007. [link to summary] In Minneapolis St. Paul, 40% of the residents have volunteered in some way over the last three years. That's pretty cool.

Volunteerism and charity are two things that Christianity has to offer the world. Like almost every Christian virtue, they are not exclusively Christian. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't stress this component of faithfulness. I'm very proud of the volunteer work Chalice Christian performs. I'm also proud of the fact that we provide an opportunity for non-Christians to participate. Helping out someone else is a real high.

The study summary is pretty interesting. It provides information about factors that correlate to higher rates of volunteerism. For example, there is generally more volunteerism where there is more home ownership. (You can judge for yourself, but that correlation seemed relatively weak.) There is also more volunteerism is places with a more educated population.

In the continuing effort to divide the country, the reports I heard on the way in to work were that the coasts were less volunteer inclined that the Midwest. I guess that's true, although Portland and Seattle are in the top ten. There is a pretty interest line down the middle of the country of volunteer leaders.

BTW: The much tougher matters are justice and equality. In Charity you keep the control. When you stand for justice and equality, if you are a person in power, you are necessarily surrendering control. That's pretty hard.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

New Word: Perfidious

Perfidious - tending to betray; especially having a treacherous character as attributed to the Carthaginians by the Romans; "Punic faith"; "the perfidious Judas"; "the fiercest and most treacherous of foes"; "treacherous intrigues"

According to the New York Times, the Latin Mass that the Pope reauthorized on 7/7/7 will not refer to Jews as perfidious. Excellent. Of course, it will still call for the conversion of the Jews, but hey, that's all part of the cheering for your side, right?

For my friends and family members who are Catholic, I'm sure the Pope's decision to restore this Mass has more intimate and complex meaning. For me, it illustrates how important it is to move the whole society with you when you are making reforms. A society's official position can be changed with an election. To make real change, the kind of change we are called to make, the official position must become irrelevant.