Saturday, December 24, 2005

Is your Christmas a warning?

The Christmas season can be the most challenging and telling time of the year. It is an accurate and unavoidable gauge of a person's satisfaction. Whether one wants to know does not matter. Christmas, like dying, is a mandatory self-evaluation of your satisfaction with your life. While dying is the final exam with no retake, Christmas is a practice test - a warning if one is not doing well.

Everybody is familiar with Dickens' story "A Christmas Carol". When it is taken seriously, as Dickens intended, the story is sobering and terrifying. Dickens' Scrooge learns his lesson, takes a good share of the satisfaction that was waiting for him and the story has a happy ending for all. Real life is harsher than this Dickens' tale. Satisfaction for Scrooge was always there for the taking. Scrooge only had to accept it.

In real life, satisfaction is not low hanging fruit. Sometimes Tiny Tim does not recover. Satisfaction is not a goose in a butcher's shop and we are not islands of self-contained satisfaction. Our satisfaction is the product of our relationships with friends and family. It is not who or what we are. It is what we have made with others and of others.

On the day of our final exam, it is another’s hand that we must find in our own – warm and comforting, holding tight with love. On Christmas morning count the people around your tree not the gifts under it. Is your Christmas a warning?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

John Murtha can be wrong without being bad

Last month Congressman John Murtha told the House why he disagreed with Bush's strategy in Iraq. Murtha didn't suggest that the US should walk away from Iraq. He recommended a change in strategy since he believes that our current strategy is not and will not succeed. I’m not qualified to say how the war should be fought in Iraq but I think we were right to go in to remove Saddam. I think the US should continue do whatever is necessary to maintain a democratically elected government in Iraq. I hope they do it in the best way. Murtha believes there is a better way to do it and he might be wrong. However, to disagree with the war and/or our prosecution of it does not make Murtha bad.

Congresswoman Jean Schmidt thinks otherwise. Schmidt considers Murtha unpatriotic and cowardly and said so in congress. Although I support the war in Iraq I don't consider those that disagree with me to be cowardly traitors. It appears that the entire House feels the same way that I do because it came down on Schmidt like a ton of bricks and she deserved it.

In her attack on Murtha, Schmidt quoted a Marine officer's reaction to Murtha's statement. The quotattion was by far the harshest content in Schmidt's statement. The Marine officer is Colonel Danny Bubp, an Ohio state representative in Jean Schmidt’s Ohio Congressional District. During his 30 years of military service Bubp was not involved in a single military engagement yet he felt both qualified and justified to call Murtha, a retired battle-decorated Marine officer and the longest ever continuous serving congressman a coward and traitor.

Jean Schmidt has apologized for her statements. Colonel Bubp has stated that Schmidt made more of his comments than she should have. Bubp also stated “We never discussed anyone by name and there was no intent to disparage the congressman or his distinguished record of service for our nation.”

I’m glad that the US and Britain kicked Saddam and the Bathists out of control in Iraq. I also think that Bush played whatever intelligence he could put his hands on to win support. I suppose that was wrong but I’m tempted to say that it is alright with me. I think the history books will hold that Bush did the right thing. Schmidt and Bubp, on the other hand, are wrong and their attack on Murtha was bad.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Capital Punishment: Remember the Real Issue!

Do you feel better since Stanley Williams was executed this week by the state of California? If so, why do you feel better? Do you feel safer? Is it a feeling of satisfaction? A life for a life?

I watched the pre-game show on CNN hosted by Larry King. Some of Larry's guest were defense attorney Mark Geragos, conservative radio talk show host and the prosecutor for Williams' trial in 1979. The prosecutor was so excited about being on national TV that he rarely quit grinning hugely.

Opponents of the death penalty debated all night and lost. The death penalty is neither a matter of the severity of the crime nor the criminal's conduct after the crime. It should not matter whether there was one victim or 200 victims. It should not matter whether the criminal is or ever will be repentent and rehabilitated.

It doesn't matter. We don't execute criminals because of what they are. We execute criminals because of what WE are. Uncivilized.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

How The ACLU Didn't Steal Christmas

I was going to address this subject with an e-mail to everybody on my address list including my bible study group, the Thursday morning men's prayer group and my conservative conscience and ex-shipmate. To be fair I'll post it here rather than harassing them directly.

The ACLU is under constant attack from every group that would silence every opinion that is different from their own. I don't mean "every opinion that opposes their own" because that is not always the case. Such groups believe that the principles on which the United States of America and its Constitution are based exclude all opinions except theirs. The evangelical Christians are one of these groups and I am an active member of an evangelical Pentecostal church. I’m also a supporting member of the ACLU.

Now that the Christmas season is here many of the accusations against the ACLU are seasonal. An executive director of the ACLU in Indiana addressed this issue in the following paper appropriately titled “How The ACLU Didn't Steal Christmas”.

How The ACLU Didn't Steal Christmas (12/7/2005) By Fran Quigley
When the angry phone calls and emails started arriving at the office, I knew the holiday season was upon us. A typical message shouted that we at the American Civil Liberties Union are "horrible" and "we should be ashamed of ourselves," and then concluded with an incongruous and agitated "Merry Christmas."
We get this type of correspondence a lot, mostly in reaction to a well-organized attempt by extremist groups to demonize the ACLU, crush religious diversity, and make a few bucks in the process. Sadly, this self-interested effort is being promoted in the guise of defending Christmas.
For example, the Alliance Defense Fund celebrates the season with an "It's OK to say Merry Christmas" campaign, implying that the ACLU has challenged such holiday greetings. (As part of the effort, you can get a pamphlet and two Christmas pins for $29.) The website WorldNetDaily touts a book claiming "a thorough and virulent anti-Christmas campaign is being waged today by liberal activists and ACLU fanatics." The site's magazine has suggested there will be ACLU efforts to remove "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency, fire military chaplains, and expunge all references to God in America's founding documents. (Learn more for just $19.95 . . . ) Of course, there is no "Merry Christmas" lawsuit, nor is there any ACLU litigation about U.S. currency, military chaplains, etc. But the facts are not important to these groups, because their real message is this: By protecting the freedom of Muslims, Jews, and other non-Christians through preventing government entanglement with religion, the ACLU is somehow infringing on the rights of those with majority religious beliefs. In truth, it is these website Christians who are taking the Christ out of the season. Nowhere in the Sermon on the Mount did Jesus Christ ask that we celebrate His birth with narrow-mindedness and intolerance, especially for those who are already marginalized and persecuted. Instead, the New Testament—like the Torah and the Koran and countless other sacred texts—commands us to love our neighbor, and to comfort the sick and the imprisoned. That's what the ACLU does. We live in a country filled with people who are sick and disabled, people who are imprisoned, and people who hunger and thirst for justice. Those people come to our Indiana offices for help, at a rate of several hundred a week, usually because they have nowhere else to turn. The least of our brothers and sisters sure aren't getting any help from the Alliance Defense Fund or WorldNet Daily. So, as often as we can, ACLU secures justice for those folks who Jesus worried for the most. As part of our justice mission, we work hard to protect the rights of free religious expression for all people, including Christians. For example, we recently defended the First Amendment rights of a Baptist minister to preach his message on public streets in southern Indiana. The ACLU intervened on behalf of a Christian valedictorian in a Michigan high school, which agreed to stop censoring religious yearbook entries, and supported the rights of Iowa students to distribute Christian literature at their school. There are many more examples, because the ACLU is committed to preserving the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom for all. We agree with the U.S. Supreme Court's firm rulings that this freedom means that children who grow up in non-Christian homes should not be made to feel like outsiders in their own community's courthouse, legislature or public schoolhouse. To our "Merry Christmas" correspondents and all other Hoosiers, we wish you happy holidays. Fran Quigley is executive director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, As of January 1, 2006, the organization is changing its name to ACLU of Indiana.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Cruel and Unusual

Early this morning we killed a man because he killed two people. He was the one-thousandth person to be executed since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that we have a constitutional right to kill as long as the method is not cruel and unusual. The court should have ruled that we can execute a criminal only if we can prove that our justice system is 100-percent infallible. Had that been the court's primary concern we would not have killed a man this morning or any one of the 999 people before him. And, we would not be preparing to kill the next person at 6 PM today.

We have executed many innocent people and we will continue to execute innocent people because we are not infallible. I remember an execution that was almost stopped too late. The gas chamber was sealed. The pellet was dropped. The man was dying. Then the phone call. He was saved but only by risking the lives of the execution team. Did this man feel the process was neither cruel nor unusual? If he had been Gary Gilmore, we could not have recalled the bullet. Once the trap door is released we can not prevent a broken neck. Once the switch is closed we can not reverse the current’s damage.

Only three countries used capital punishment more than we did in 2004 – China, Iran and Vietnam. How have we been able to demand more Human Rights in these countries while we are executing our citizens? Is there a better example of “the kettle calling the pot black”?

We have executed children. We have executed the retarded. This is not justice. This is hate and convenience. Our own crime statistics prove that capital punishment is not a deterrent. I wouldn’t support capital punishment no matter how much the process might be “sanitized”. Killing is wrong. It is the desperate act of a society that knows neither how to prevent crime nor how to rehabilitate criminals.

At 6 PM Eastern, South Carolina will execute a man. Please pause at 6 PM to pray for this dying man. Pray that he repents his sins and accepts Jesus. If you agree with me then pray that he is the last person we will execute. If you disagree with me then imagine yourself as the executioner standing in the death chamber and at 6 PM Eastern, imagine your hand closing the switch.

Monday, November 07, 2005

One Post, Two Rants

The IRS has threatened to revoke the tax-free status of the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, CA for antiwar remarks in a sermon that was also published in newspapers. Should the IRS be allowed to decide when a statement is political action rather than social action? Is this action of the IRS politically motivated? If the IRS is not acting politically then we should expect the IRS to admonish the churches responsible for the recent attack on Bush for his Miers nomination. I don’t suggest that anybody hold their breath until this happens. Should we expect the IRS to threaten any of the conservative churches for their pro-war, anti-Kerry rhetoric prior to the 2004 election? If Kerry had been elected would the IRS be threatening the All Saints Episcopal Church? Of course it wouldn’t. However, would the IRS be re-evaluating the tax-free status of equally outspoken conservative, pro-war, anti-Kerry churches. Perhaps. Is not a politician by any other name still a politician?

The speaker, Reverend George F. Regas, a past rector of the church, admonished Bush for the war but did not advise who to vote for in the 2004 election. However, the reverend took the liberty to speak for Jesus in a hypothetical debate with Bush and Kerry. Regas made the following statements, "Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster" and "I will tell you what I think of your war: The sin at the heart of this war against Iraq is your belief that an American life is of more value than an Iraqi life. That an American child is more precious than an Iraqi baby. God loathes war."

Reverend Regas obviously overlooks the holocaust against the Kurds and the murders of another 300,000 Iraqis that had opposed Saddam throughout his dictatorship. This war is being fought FOR the Iraqi people not AGAINST the Iraqi people.

The question often posed to me is “why should OUR children die in Iraq?” Is an American life worth more than an Iraqi life? Aren’t we fighting against the enslavement and murder of other humans? Aren’t we all equal citizens of this earth?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Revisited: Justice, though late, is still Sweet

In June of this year Edgar Ray Killen was found guilty of killing three civil rights workers 41 years ago. In August Killen was released on bail pending an appeal process that could have outlived Killen. The judge that released Killen on bail said, at the time, that he did so because he was convinced that Killen was neither a threat to society nor likely to run.

Now Killen has been returned to jail by the same judge, who now claims that he had released Killen on bail because of his deteriorating health. With sickening arrogance Killen, while free on bail, did not hide the fact that he didn't need the wheelchair and oxygen bottle that he used throughout the trial and the bond hearing and, by doing so, provided the proof that his health is not so deteriorating. In fact, Killen was planning to attend a "Killen Appreciation Day" reception proposed by a white supremacist group.

The judge under justified pressure to return Killen to jail claims that Killen lied to the court about his health. I think the judge is worried about losing his job in the next election. The judge showed an outrageous disregard for the justice for which the families of the murder victims had to wait far too long. I pray that good sense will still unseat this judge at the earliest opportunity.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Photo Upgrade

Ever since I posted a photo of my wife on my blog she has asked me to remove it or replace it with a picture that she won't mind. She's not going to like any photo but she might accept this new one.

The earlier picture, now removed, was taken after a day of painting and she had white paint in her hair. I liked the photo. She may think the paint looks like gray hair.

Whatever. Here's another picture (I must have one of her on my blog) taken in front of a B&B in Newport, RI. We've stayed at this place on a couple of our anniversaries.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Read a good blog

Although I strongly disagree with some of this blogger's opinions I urge you to read this post "Property of Jesus" on his blog.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

"Falling Off"

As I sit in my home-office/spare bedroom, I can hear more noise than I should be caused to hear without my express permission. I have not given anybody permission to make this much noise. The noise is coming from cars, motorcycles and dogs. But, the noise is being made by inconsiderate people. I often feel like the character played by Michael Douglas in the movie titled "Falling Down". Douglas portrays a man that is so fed up with everybody's "screw you" attitude that he starts doing to them what many of us only imagine.

It seems that most people don’t even notice. The downside of which is that everybody thinks that I’m nuts. For example, let’s say that you and I are separately shopping for new cars and we are both walking through the same car lot with several other people. Then a young man about 25 years old drives into the lot in a convertible with the top down. When he gets out of his car he leaves his radio on and the volume high. Before he is 10 feet from his car, I shout “turn down your radio”. He turns his radio off. That’s good. Everybody else in the parking lot stares at me as though I might start spraying the parking lot with bullets. That’s bad. My wife starts pretending that we aren’t together. Did you feel like shouting “turn down your radio”? Did you think I was a nut?

The typical car of a young person today is not overloaded with horsepower as in my youth; they are overloaded with noise. Their so-called mufflers are designed to convert the exhaust of their puny engines into a noise as loud as track-side at a drag race. It reminds me of the old adage “if you can’t sing well, sing loud”. And, of course, the car is equipped with a powerful sound system with special emphasis on the base frequencies. You don’t need this much power to listen to your music unless your car is in a different state than you are. The power is needed to punch through the exterior and interior walls of every house within a quarter-mile of the car. So, even though you are in your shower with the door closed and the spray cascading over your head, you won’t escape the penetrating base beat. It can seem like you are inside of giant heart. You can’t escape the noise.

It isn’t just the youth that are making the noise. Men of all ages are riding motorcycles with the same so-called mufflers as the youth have on their cars. These bikes are typically louder than the cars. Riding a bike satisfies some need in these men that nothing else in their lives can satisfy. Riding alone isn’t adequate. The bike has to be loud. The louder the better. The men have do dress like outlaw bikers. Of course, they aren’t outlaw bikers and I wasn’t a real cowboy when, at 6 years of age, I dressed up like Roy Rogers. I don’t mind if a person has to live a fantasy but they don’t have the right to fill the environment, especially my environment, with unnecessary noise.

A couple houses away from my home-office, is a relatively new resident of this area. This person has about 5 dogs in various sizes. The dogs bark constantly. They don’t need stimulus from outside their fenced yard to begin barking. They bark at each other. I thank God that I’m not living immediately next to them and I can’t help but wonder how long their next door neighbors will put up with the barking. Unless I go into my office-office, I work in my home-office from about 7 AM to 7 PM. The dogs will bark non-stop for at least 8 of those 12 hours. Does the owner of the dogs realize how much they are disturbing their neighbors? Of course! At the least they don’t care what effect the noise has on the neighbors. However, I suspect that this kind of neighbor gets some satisfaction from disturbing the neighborhood.

I wonder why these people have to violate others for their satisfaction. I wonder even more why the laws against these abuses aren’t enforced by our police. Why do we tolerate these abuses of our rights? When was the last time you called or wrote your mayor or police chief to demand an end to this? I wrote our mayor a couple of years ago. He was apparently too busy to acknowledge my letter and he obviously didn’t take the action I demanded.

I heard over all the noise last week that a neighboring town has decided to crack down on speeders. That’s great. I wish Danbury would do the same. Why did we ever let speeding get out of control in the first place? Why do most drivers think it is appropriate to drive 45 mph in a 25 mph zone? Why can you see at least one car driving through a red light every time you stop at an intersection? How often do you see a school bus speeding along the back roads of Danbury? Every school bus that passes through the intersection in front of my house is speeding. “Every school bus” is not an exaggeration. The school buses going into town also frequently run the stop sign at my intersection. Why not? 9 out of 10 cars do the same thing.

I’m getting close to retirement (you guessed, right?). I’ve lived in Danbury for 26 years and not one of those years will make me think twice about moving out of Danbury as soon as possible. I know that Danbury isn’t the only town with a noise and speeding problem. However, I’m going to keep looking until I find a place I can call Peace and Quiet. It may be the difference between my sanity and my insanity. After all, I don’t want to be one of the increasing numbers of people who are “Falling Off” like the Michael Douglas character.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


I had a horrible experience this morning. I had just gotten off the redeye flight between LAX and JFK and was zooming up the Hutchinson River Parkway in the left lane. On the paved shoulder of the road, inside of the concrete barriers, was a mother duck less than one foot away from the painted line. Immediately behind the mother duck were a few very young ducklings. She was waiting for the cars to stop or at least a break in the traffic. The ducklings were trustingly waiting only for "mom" to lead the way.

The traffic wasn't going to stop nor subside long enough for mom and her ducklings to cross the highway (there was another solid line of concrete barriers waiting between the North and Southbound lanes).

I thought about taking the next exit and circling back to shoo the ducks off the roadway. But, as I thought out my plan I realized that my presence would only cause the ducks to run into the traffic to escape me. I couldn't risk that. So, I just kept driving. I prayed that God would lead them back to safety. I couldn't then and I still can't now get the picture of the ducklings out of my mind. So innocent. So trusting.

These are only ducks, you say? These are life, I say, and every living thing is a miracle from God.

Around the world thousand of babies and children are dying due to a lack of food and care. If we could see the children like I saw the ducklings and their helpless mother, would we as a country do more to save the starving children? Let's pray for God's help for all those in need but let's also do what we can with our support and contributions.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Justice, though late, is still Sweet

Today is a wonderful day! Justice has been served.

Forty-one years ago a klansman named Killen lead a group of racists to murder three young men who were pursuing freedom for others, for blacks in America. Killen was not found guilty of his role in the murders because one juror "could never convict a preacher". Killen expected his crime to end the fight against racial segregation but the tragedy swelled the ranks of the anti-segregationists and Civil Rights laws were enacted.

Although racism is not dead, Killen has lived long enough to see blacks participating and succeeding in America in ways and numbers that he could not have imagined. The fight for equality is not complete but it is inevitable. This was the only Justice the three freedom fighters and their families would enjoy until today. Now Justice has been further served by the conviction and sentencing of Killen to, in effect, life in prison. Killen is 80 years old and can not be considered for parole until he has served at least 20 years. Killen will be kept in isolation to protect him from the rest of the prison population as he considers his final judgement.

I will now forget his name but not his crime. Let's all remember what hate can do and may Killen repent and accept what Jesus did for him.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Community Coffeehouse - Concert Tonight!

Community Coffeehouse is holding their regular monthly concert tonight - Saturday June 18th. The artists appearing tonight are Anadara Arnold and Kelly Minter. The concert begins at 7:30 PM at the coffeehouse at 7 Madison Avenue, Danbury.
Come tonight and worship together.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Africa's Suffering - The US Should Do More

The "Group of 8" (G-8 countries) lead by Britain recently forgave the debts of 18 of the world's poorest nations. The amount is $40 Billion. This was the culmination of a 10-year effort by Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer (the equivalent of our Secretary of the Treasury) and a major assault on global poverty. The G-8 agreement was made only after Blair succeeded in obtaining US approval in a recent meeting with Bush. Repayments to the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund will be made by the international community. The US and Britain will contribute a total of $2 - $2.7 Billion per year for the next 10 years. All contributors have agreed to not reduce their future foreign aid by the amount of their repayment contribution.

Although the US participation is commendable is the US doing as much as it can to reduce poverty and its effects. Perhaps a look at other decisions will provide an answer. Blair and other European leaders are committed to fighting extreme poverty in Africa while Bush claims that past efforts have not been effective and that the US can not afford to contribute more. I believe the following article provides the answer: Bush's gift of forgiven debt, at the insistence of Blair, is empty. Bush is more concerned with providing tax breaks where they are not needed (mine, for example). The following article comes from the Online version of the LA times.

"Africa's Suffering Is Bush's Shame": Millions are dying because of American policy.
By Jeffrey D. Sachs, Jeffrey D. Sachs is a Columbia University economist and special adviso to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

President Bush last week brazenly brushed aside British Prime Minister Tony Blair's call for a doubling of aid to Africa. Blair and other European leaders have taken on the task of fighting extreme poverty - and Bush watches from the sidelines. To justify its dereliction, the Bush administration perpetuates a mythology that contributes to the premature deaths of millions of people each year.

The U.S. is a generous provider of aid to Africa, the mythology says, but Africa is corrupt and mismanaged and thus cannot absorb more aid. In addition, there is no room in the budget to do any more than what we are currently doing. This multipart fantasy is widely shared in the U.S. and recalls Napoleon's dictum that "history is a fable often told."

The facts are otherwise. Total annual U.S. aid for all of Africa is about $3 billion, equivalent to about two days of Pentagon spending. About $1 billion pays for emergency food aid, of which half is for transport. About $1.5 billion is for "technical cooperation," essentially salaries of U.S. consultants. Only about $500 million a year - less than $1 per African - finances clinics, schools, food production, roads, power, Internet connectivity, safe drinking water, sanitation, family planning and lifesaving health interventions to fight malaria, AIDS and other diseases.

The myth that more aid would be squandered is pernicious. Once in a while, the industrialized countries try to accomplish something real in Africa. Notable examples are smallpox eradication begun in the 1960s, control of river blindness in the 1970s, increased child immunization in the 1980s, Jimmy Carter's initiatives to fight Guinea worm, trachoma and leprosy in the 1990s and Rotary International's bold efforts to eliminate polio this decade.

These interventions throughout Africa were remarkably successful. That they could be easily monitored was a key to their success. More victories could have been achieved - in food production, malaria control and AIDS treatment - if the efforts had been undertaken. Instead, U.S. aid was minuscule and misdirected into consultants' salaries and emergency food shipments.

If the administration were more than modestly interested in helping Africa, it could learn about the huge gains made possible by Blair's plan to provide about $50 billion a year to Africa by 2010 - with the U.S. kicking in $15 billion to $20 billion. With that money, Africa could control killer diseases, triple food production and cut hunger, and improve transportation and communications.

These steps, incidentally, would accelerate the continent's transition to lower fertility rates and slower population growth because they would contribute to a lower child mortality rate and economic gains, which would help persuade couples to have fewer children.

The new aid would not involve guesswork or be a blank check. Consider one example. Malaria will kill up to 3 million children this year, overwhelming Africa's meager hospitals. Yet five measures could end this: long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets (cost: $7 per net); effective medications freely available to the poor; community health workers trained in malaria control; medical diagnostic capacity at the local level; and indoor insecticide spraying where appropriate. The cost: $3 billion a year for the industrialized countries, $1 billion for the U.S. - about 10 times what's currently spent on malaria control.

The administration's claim that budget restraints prevent more spending on Africa is the most cynical of its contentions. The president has cut taxes by more than $200 billion a year, with the wealthiest Americans the chief beneficiaries, and has raised military spending by $200 billion a year. But when $20 billion is needed to keep the poorest of the poor in Africa alive and put the continent's economies on a path toward long-term growth, there's no money available.

The millions of Africans who die young and the hundreds of millions going hungry are not victims of fate. They are the consequences of U.S. policy.Americans want to do better. (The following is a) Measure of a Continent's Misery

Leading causes of death in Africa (in 2002)

  • HIV/AIDS: 2.1 million
  • Malaria: 1.1 million
  • Cardiovascular disease: 1 million
  • Diarrhea-related diseases: 707,000
  • Poor nutrition: 143,000
  • Syphilis 89,000
  • War: 85,000

Number of people living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa (2004)

  • 25.4 million

Number of United Nations peacekeepers in Africa (2005)

  • 51,094

Worst life expectancy in Africa (2002)

  • 34 years, Sierra Leone

Worse rate of HIV infection in adults, ages 15 to 49 (2004)

  • 38.8%, Swaziland

Source: United Nations and World Health Organization

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Simple or Super Majority?

Politicians, be they liberal or conservative, are rarely fair when dealing with each other. Neither party cares how blatant their unfair acts are. Do our politicians represent their constituents or their parties? If you are still naive you probably think we have a government for the people. A favorite example of politics at its worst is the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Thomas. The "highlight" of the confirmation process was the accusation of sexual harassment by a one time employee of Thomas, Anita Hill. Thomas was the Conservatives' favorite because he was anti-abortion. Hill was to the Liberals like David was to the Jews except Hill didn't slay the Goliath Thomas. I still think that either of them could be lying, however; Hill could gain nothing from her accusation. Hill would and did pay dearly for her accusation regardless of the outcome of the Thomas hearings. Thomas, on the other hand, would gain by lying. I'm not saying that Thomas lied. I'm saying that if Thomas had harassed Anita Hill, lying would benefit Thomas. But, if Thomas had not harassed Hill, lying would not benefit Hill even if Thomas had not been confirmed. Yet, every Conservative believed Thomas and every Liberal believed Hill. To the man. No exceptions. That's politics rather than a coincidence.

Changing the rules of the Senate is politics akin to redistricting while your party is in the majority. Is this an act that only a Conservative would commit? No. Liberals are as political as the Conservatives. The filibuster is part of the Senate's process and should remain so. Requiring a Super Majority to stop a filibuster is also part of the Senate's process and should remain so.

The urgency to change the process exists only because the Conservatives can't amass the 60% Super Majority required to break the filibuster so that the Conservatives, alone, can confirm Bush's "political" judicial appointments. Please keep in mind that I believe that nothing would be different if the "shoe was on the other foot".

If our Senators won’t rise above partisan politics, then our bench openings will be filled with politically motivated judges as often as the majority party in the Senate is also in the White House. Any process rule that minimizes the majority party's domination, especially when making court appointments, is a rule worth keeping. I believe we would be best served by an apolitical judiciary. How often has a court acted politically rather than only judicially? If you think, as I do, that this happens too often, then cherish the filibuster and the Super Majority required to break it.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Up with God. Down with Religion.

I had a tough weekend. I attended a Men's Ministry Convention - 6 PM Friday until 3 PM Saturday. We had a very good and funny guest speaker Greg Hubbard, evangelist. I guess that there were around 200 attendees representing 10 to 20 churches. The men could be divided into two groups; those who are sure about their relationship with God and those who are not sure enough about their relationship with God. I'll called them The Saved and The Wannabees. I'm a Wannabee. Technically the Wannabees are Saved but they don't feel as comfortable about it as The Saved do. The Wannabees don't have enough Faith and as a Wannabee I can only tell you that The Saved look and act like they have more than enough Faith. Matter of fact, The Saved also look like they get personal messages from God. It's that impression that keeps me from being one of The Saved. Every time I pray to God, I ask Him to "touch" me. I'm pretty sure I don't want to actually hear Him at this point. The "touch" is all I need. It is, in fact, all I want.

I think I can tell you who is a Wannabee and who is Saved by the end of the first Worship song. The first Altar Call really separates one from the other. The Saved move confidently to the altar for some one-on-one with God. Some Wannabees will move hesitantly to the altar praying for the touch. Many of the Wannabees don't answer the Altar Call.

On Saturday I attended one of three breakout sessions at the convention. Each was lead by a different senior pastor. I attended a session on the "do's and don'ts" of witnessing (evangelism). The young pastor (30+) gave many examples of what to do and what not to do when witnessing. Two of his examples shocked me and increased my doubts that I'm attending the right church.

The pastor gave us the following warning:
  • Don't tell a Catholic that he is going to Hell.
  • Don't tell a Catholic that the Pope is the Antichrist.

This evening I wrote the following e-mail to the pastor.

Pastor Mark,

I attended your second breakout session at the Men’s convention this weekend.

You related several Do’s and Don’ts of witnessing. Two don’ts were:
· Don’t tell a Catholic that he is going to hell
· Don’t tell a Catholic that the Pope is the Anti-Christ

I haven’t stopped thinking about your statements. Since, generally, your “Don’ts” were examples of poor negotiation rather than untruths; I’d like to know whether you think either of these statements is true without exception. If not, how could you consider them appropriate? Your second statement lacks as much fact as Nostradamus’ predictions.

I was never a Catholic. I’m reacting as a Christian, albeit a very new one. Had your examples referred to Calvinists my reaction would be the same.

Joe Lowery

I'll let you know when I hear from him.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Working on His plan for me

Laura and I with my daughter Sara, my son Jon and a few friends visited another church in the area. It may be the largest church in the Danbury area. It was nice, not as charismatic as the church we belong to but perhaps we caught them on an off night. The pastor was young but he was a good speaker and his sermon was very well prepared with projected verses and supporting graphics. I thought the message was good. He encouraged each of us to be a living sacrifice to God by fulfilling God's plan for us as well as we can with all the talents He has given us, by appreciating all that He has provided for us and by loving and respecting each other as He loves us. But, life is filled with obstacles and temptations to overcome as we strive for success. The pastor introduced several church members who with many others have established various ministries which provide support to any and all who are struggling. I struggle. Does anybody not have to struggle? Is anybody unaffected by all temptations? I doubt it. I could benefit from one or more of those ministries but I didn't ask for help tonight. Did I not because I don't think they can really help me or because I'm not ready to open up to others or worse yet, because I'm not strong enough to turn away from some of life's temptations. Yes, yes and yes. I have a ways to go but I'm still working at it.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Vouchers: Another tax break for the rich

Bush's program to provide indirect support for private schools at the expense of the public school system could only be designed by an elitist. A voucher will at best pay only a portion of the cost of a private school education. The balance of that cost must be paid by the students' families. Low income families will not be able to pay the students' portion of the cost of a private school education. If the average low income family has more children than the average middle and upper income families then access to a private school education for children of low income families becomes more unlikely.

The quality of a private school and the education it can provide will be proportional to its cost. Children of high income families will have access to more costly and higher quality schools. Children of middle and low income families will, at best, have access only to private schools of lower quality and cost. As more and more students and funding are diverted from public schools, the quality and quantity of public school resources and the education they can provide will decrease. Students of the lowest income families, which are limited to publicly and poorly funded schools, will receive the poorest education. These students of Bush's future public school system will be the least prepared for competitive employment or higher education after high school.

The opportunity for a quality primary and secondary education should not be limited by family income. Access to higher education is and will continue to be available to most, if not all, children regardless of income. Successful participation in higher education, generally a perquisite for high income employment, should only be dependent on a student's aptitude, attitude and k-12 education and not the economic status of the student's family. Today the average family income of all high school students who will attend a competitive college or university may be higher than the average family income of all high school students, however; only the students' aptitude, attitude and the quality of their k-12 education are unavoidable determining factors not family income. A student's aptitude is not limited by his family's income. A student's attitude is likely to be proportional to the parent's expectation of their child's access to economic opportunity. If family income limits a student's access to quality education then family income will also limit a student's attitude if his parent's believe that their access to economic opportunity is as limited as their access to quality education. Obviously, the average student of an under funded school will not be as prepared nor as competitive as the average student of an adequately funded school.

Attitude and the quality of the k-12 education are the key factors determining whether a child will become a financially secure adult who can afford at least a comfortable standard of living. Vouchers can only destroy the public education system and worsen the economic condition of the low income population. While for the economically advantaged, vouchers will be another tax break from the Bush administration.

Friday, March 11, 2005


A good and long-time friend of mine is an all-around conservative guy. He’s not one of those who became conservative only as he got old; John is a life-long conservative. We eat lunch together once a month and frequently forward political propaganda/humor e-mail to each other. Occasionally, his e-mail causes me to rant. The following is my response to a speech (copy below) given by former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm regarding the destruction of America by its multi-cultural society, which John was kind enough to forward to me.

I agree with Lamm that we should not become a bilingual nation. I don’t like the attitude which gives rise to such terms as Mexican-American, Italian-American and Afro-American. I believe that when a person decides to become a US citizen that person must also become an “American”. When we teach our children how to be independent in the US we provide to them the opportunity to learn English. Any adult who applies for US citizenship should first be able to demonstrate that they are able to communicate via the spoken and written English language. No child should become a US citizen unless that child has one parent or legal guardian who is a US citizen. A legal alien should not be required to communicate in English in order to live and work in the US but the government and the private sector should not be required to be bilingual. I’m sure that the average English-speaking alien will be better able to succeed than his non-English speaking peer but as long as each legal alien can otherwise qualify for and maintain a visa it should be allowed. Proof of adequate financial support and health insurance coverage should be required in order to reside in the US as a legal alien on a long term basis. Apparently, Lamm believes in throwing the baby out with the bath water. I’m reminded that Bush secured the Hispanic vote by suggesting legislation that the Hispanics still think will open the door for legal residence in the US. The hard working woman that cleans our house weekly is a naturalized US citizen born in Brazil. She voted for Bush for this reason only. She didn’t agree with anything else that Bush stands for but the change in immigration laws was more important to her and her family in Brazil than any other issue.

Everything else that Lamm asserts in his speech I disagree with. It strikes me that Lamm would not have approved of the civil rights legislation of the sixties. If he believes that people who don’t share the same language and culture can not learn to live together then he would not have believed that blacks and whites could live and work together. I guess Lamm would have preferred segregation through exportation. What all Americans should share is freedom. Freedom means having equal opportunity. Entitlement ensures equal opportunity not a free ride. Lamm wants us to believe that minorities who suffer economically continue to do so only because they will not be responsible for themselves. Lamm thinks that they prefer Victim status and the handouts of bleeding heart liberals. Lamm cited examples of nations which failed because they consisted of bilingual and bi-cultural societies which did not assimilate. How about the successes? The US is the greatest example of how multi-lingual and multi-cultural societies can succeed together and achieve more together than individually. We can correct the path that we are on without having to completely abandon what we stand for and that which has made us the most successful nation in the world.

I’ll offer up for your consideration another Lamm quote. “…elderly, if very ill, have a duty to die.” That’s one way to reduce the cost of another entitlement – Medicare. Lamm’s already 60. At what age will he be old enough and sick enough that we can just ignore him?

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Road to Destruction by Gov. Lamm[We all know Dick Lamm as the former Governor of Colorado. In that context his thoughts are particularly poignant] Last week there was an immigration-overpopulation conference in Washington, DC, filled to capacity by many of American's finest minds and leaders. A brilliant college professor named Victor Hansen Davis talked about his latest book, "Mexifornia," explaining how immigration - both legal and illegal - was destroying the entire state of California. He said it would march across the country until it destroyed all vestiges of The American Dream. Moments later, former Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm stood up and gave a stunning speech on how to destroy America. The audience sat spellbound as he described eight methods for the destruction of the United States. He said, "If you believe that America is too smug, too self-satisfied, too rich, then let's destroy America. It is not that hard to do. No nation in history has survived the ravages of time. Arnold Toynbee observed that all great civilizations rise and fall and that 'An autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide.'""Here is how they do it," Lamm said: "Turn America into a bilingual or multi-lingual and bi-cultural country. History shows that no nation can survive the tension, conflict, and antagonism of two or more competing languages and cultures. It is a blessing for an individual to be bilingual; however, it is a curse for a society to be bilingual. "The historical scholar Seymour Lipset put it this way: 'The histories of bilingual and bi-cultural societies that do not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension, and tragedy.' Canada, Belgium, Malyasia, Lebanon all face crises of national existence in which minorities press for autonomy, if not independence. Pakistan and Cyprus have divided. Nigeria suppressed an ethnic rebellion. France faces difficulties with Basques, Bretons, and Corsicans. "Lamm went on: "Invent 'multi-culturalism' and encourage immigrants to maintain their culture. I would make it an article of belief that all cultures are equal. That there are no cultural differences. I would make it an article of faith that the Black and Hispanic dropout rates are due to prejudice and discrimination by the majority. Every other explanation is out of bounds. "We could make the United States an 'Hispanic Quebec' without much effort. The key is to celebrate diversity rather than unity. As Benjamin Schwarz said in the Atlantic Monthly recently: 'The apparent success of our own multi-ethnic and multi-cultural experiment might have been achieved not by tolerance but by hegemony. Without the dominance that once dictated ethnocentrically and what it meant to be an American, we are left with only tolerance and pluralism to hold us together.' " Lamm said, "I would encourage all immigrants to keep their own language and culture. I would replace the melting pot metaphor with the salad bowl metaphor. It is important to ensure that we have various cultural sub-groups living in America reinforcing their differences rather than as Americans, emphasizing their similarities." "Fourth, I would make our fastest growing demographic group the least educated. I would add a second underclass, unassimilated, undereducated, and antagonistic to our population. I would have this second underclass have a 50% dropout rate from high school." "My fifth point for destroying America would be to get big foundations and business to give these efforts lots of money. I would invest in ethnic identity, and I would establish the cult of 'Victimology.' I would get all minorities to think their lack of success was the fault of the majority. I would start a grievance industry blaming all minority failure on the majority population." "My sixth plan for America's downfall would include dual citizenship and promote divided loyalties. I would celebrate diversity over unity. Iwould stress differences rather than similarities. Diverse people worldwide are mostly engaged in hating each other - that is, when they are not killing each other." "A diverse, peaceful, or stable society is against most historical precedent. People undervalue the unity it takes to keep a nation together. Look at the ancient Greeks. The Greeks believed that they belonged to the same race; they possessed a common language and literature; and they worshipped the same gods. All Greece took part in the Olympic games. A common enemy Persia threatened their liberty. Yet all these bonds were not strong enough to over come two factors: local patriotism and geographical conditions that nurtured political divisions. Greece fell. "E. Pluribus Unum" -- From many, one. In that historical reality, if we put the emphasis on the 'pluribus' instead of the 'unum,' we can balkanize America as surely as Kosovo." "Next to last, I would place all subjects off limits ~ make it taboo to talk about anything against the cult of 'diversity.' I would find a word similar to 'heretic' in the 16th century - that stopped discussion and paralyzed thinking. Words like 'racist' or 'zenophobe' halt discussion and debate." "Having made America a bilingual/ bicultural country, having established multi-culturism, having the large foundations fund the doctrine of 'Victimology,' I would next make it impossible to enforce our immigration laws. I would develop a mantra: That because immigration has been good for America , it must always be good. I would make every individual immigrant sympatric and ignore the cumulative impact of millions of them. "In the last minute of his speech, Governor Lamm wiped his brow. Profound silence followed. Finally he said, "Lastly, I would censor Victor Hanson Davis's book Mexifornia. His book is dangerous. It exposes the plan to destroy America. If you feel America deserves to be destroyed, don't read that book. "There was no applause. A chilling fear quietly rose like an ominous cloud above every attendee at the conference. Every American in that room knew that everything Lamm enumerated was proceeding methodically, quietly, darkly, yet pervasively across the United States today. Every discussion is being suppressed. Over 100 languages are ripping the foundation of our educational system and national cohesiveness. Barbaric cultures that practice female genital mutilation are growing as we celebrate 'diversity.' American jobs are vanishing into the Third World as corporations create a Third World in America - take note of California and other states - to date, ten million illegal aliens and growing fast. It is reminiscent of George Orwell's book "1984." In that story, three slogans are engraved in the Ministry of Truth building: "War is peace," "Freedom is slavery," and "Ignorance is strength." Governor Lamm, walked back to his seat. It dawned on everyone at the conference that our nation and the future of this great democracy is deeply in trouble and worsening fast. If we don't get this immigration monster stopped within three years, it will rage like a California wildfire and destroy everything in its path, especially The American Dream.