Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Power of Story, November 29, 2005, ". . .haunting me. . ."

I am increasing curious and even fascinated by the power of story that seems to be haunting me, like the Hound of Heaven of Francis Thompson's great poem, chasing me and finding me in strange places like a love that I cannot escape from.

I have been using movies in my Midway College Social Ethics class and observing how strongly my some 30 students are moved, even deeply moved, by these films: So far, Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Color Purple, Joan of Arc (who is NOT Noah’s wife), To Kill a Mockingbird, and two others under viewing but not yet discussed.

I have been playing with storytelling for some years, sometimes with drumming and song, sometimes without. I used story and drumming while conducting a men's retreat some years ago. Recently participated in the 2nd Annual Kentucky Storytelling Association annual convention, and in a story swap session luckily had my name drawn for a ten minute gig, which I enjoyed and so did, apparently, everyone else.
I am increasingly aware that so much more can be communicated by story than any other way. We are not essentially rational, particularly those who pretend to be so, but reactive, emotional and often blind to our own unique bubbles we prefer to live within, glorying in our individuality, but oblivious to how we continue to create our own reality by what we focus on and respond to.

Jesus used story, some 32 parables, and no one can ever forget the story of the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan--at the very least those two. Story reaches our heart, our imagination, our need for meaning and vision, our desire to transform and be transformed into something more than the ordinary day to day prosaic world in which we eat, sleep, work and love.

I have found that some pioneers are taking storytelling into organizational change efforts. I find this exciting and challenging and promising. One of the reasons that Jesus used stories is that story reaches and moves our heart to the More of human existence, to a greater reach of ourselves and the limited world in which we live.

Story also allows the individual person to buy in or not to the message, which has levels of meaning. I am currently reading several books on storytelling: Annette Simmons, The Story Factor, and two by Stephen Denning, The Springboard: How Story Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations, and Squirrel, Inc.

I am also adding stories and technique to my storytelling repertoire. I am offering to do a workshop Building Authentic Community Via Storytelling for the upcoming Lexington convention in June, 2004 of the American Association of Psychosynthesis.

Other updates. Continue to work as Coordinator of the Human Resource Management Program at the School of Career Development, Midway College, and will be attending a storytelling workshop this coming weekend by Mary Hamilton. We also plan an Annual Review and Potluck for our volunteers in the Spiritual Growth program at the Fayette County Detention Center, December 10, Saturday, here in our workshop room at our home retreat center off Winchester Road in Lexington. We shall post the workshop program we are offering at the Divine Amazement blog. We are willing to offer this workshop elsewhere upon request, and may offer it as a Winter Retreat Getaway and Story Swap to the Kentucky Storytelling Association.

How do we reach the younger generation today? Through story and storytelling. How do we best influence others to change (if they are so led). Through story and storytelling, and also by inviting them to discover their own stories.

Consider joining me in this great adventure

These books can be ordered via Amazon, via my web site, by clicking on Spiritual Reading link and noting the first four books of "Bedside Reading"

Sunday, November 27, 2005

FAITH: What is it for? An Advent Meditation

Faith: What is it for?

Typically people view faith as something given or not, to be used or not, as one chooses.
This is an individualist approach which tends to make faith and the practice of faith something optional, a kind of security blanket.

I propose this is narrow, wrong and a false view. It is not biblical.

Faith is not given us for ourselves, even for our own salvation because it will never work by itself, alone, in a vacuum. It must be practiced or lost. Secondly, it must cost something or is not worth anything. For too many, faith becomes a convenient sentiment, a fall back choice, usable for crunch times. That view is a child's faith in a super parent when some rescue is needed. Most of the time we feel we can get along without it.

Some investment must be made, as a faith is a gift that cannot be earned or deserved. Faith is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. But if you do not use it, it withers. It can wither to nothing, unto darkness.

Faith is given you for loving, for building community. If you are not stretching yourself in loving, your faith is not growing. If it is not being used, it is not growing, and it is dying, slipping away from non-use, decaying like food kept too long in the frig.

You are either finding Christ in your world, or denying Christ. That is the stark message of Jesus. There is no in-between. The in-between is already a not paying attention to the grace that has been offered. Not loving, not locating the Christ around you, is a resting in the twilight of self-concern, not the bright sunshine of God's love.

Either we are finding Christ in others or we are not paying attention, because the "least of my brothers" is everywhere. Either we are growing in love, or failing to grow in love. Today is the time to decide. Be careful, lest the light in you become darkness. Luke 11:35

The other side of this is that Love is not a quid pro quo, something for something like the rest of human existance. Love grows only by loving, by giving it away, by becoming vulnerable, by risking. Those who stop risking, who stop being vulnerable, also stop growing.

Youth is a matter of the heart. Cor loquitur cor. The Little Prince had some words about the importance of heart. Can we listen to our own hearts?

We create the world we live in by what we focus on and by how we behave. Shall it be loving, or (fill in the blank)?

Paschal Baute
First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2005.
Gospel: Matthew 25, v 36 ff.

Monday, November 21, 2005

HOW TO LIE TO JUSTIFY A WAR: Bush Lies, while we sleep. He gets away with it because he avoids Other Views and because enough of us do not care

The Big Lie Technique
By Robert Scheer
The Nation

Wednesday 16 November 2005

At a time when approximately 57 percent of Americans polled believe that President Bush deceived them on the reasons for the war in Iraq, it does seem a bit redundant to deconstruct the President's recent speeches on that subject. Yet, to fail to do so would be to passively accept the Big Lie technique-which is how we as a nation got into this horrible mess in the first place.

The basic claim of the President's desperate and strident attack on the war's critics this past week is that he was acting as a consensus President when intelligence information left him no choice but to invade Iraq as a preventive action to deter a terrorist attack on America. This is flatly wrong.

His rationalization for attacking Iraq, once accepted uncritically by most in Congress and the media easily intimidated by jingoism, now is known to be false. The bipartisan 9/11 Commission selected by Bush concluded unanimously that there was no link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's secular dictatorship, Al Qaeda's sworn enemy. And a recently declassified 2002 document proves that Bush's "evidence" for this, available to top Administration officials, was based on a single discredited witness.

Clearly on the defensive, Bush now sounds increasingly Nixonian as he basically calls the majority of the country traitors for noticing he tricked us.

"Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war, but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people," the President said at an Air Force base in Alaska. "Leaders in my Administration and members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence on Iraq, and reached the same conclusion: Saddam Hussein was a threat."

This is a manipulative distortion; saying Hussein was a threat-to somebody, somewhere, in some context-is not the same as endorsing a pre-emptive occupation of his country in a fantastically expensive and blatantly risky nation-building exercise. And the idea that individual senators and members of Congress had the same access to even a fraction of the raw intelligence as the President of the United States is just a lie on its face-it is a simple matter of security clearances, which are not distributed equally.

It was enormously telling, in fact, that the only part of the Senate which did see the un-sanitized National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq-the Republican-led Senate Select Intelligence Committee-shockingly voted in the fall of 2002 against the simple authorization of force demanded by a Republican President
. Panicked, the warmongers in the White House and Pentagon pressured CIA Director George Tenet to rush release to the entire Hill a very short "summary" of the careful NIE, which made Hussein seem incalculably more dangerous than the whole report indicated.

The Defense Intelligence Agency finally declassified its investigative report, DITSUM No. 044-02, within recent days. This smoking-gun document proves the Bush Administration's key evidence for the apocryphal Osama bin Laden-Saddam Hussein alliance-said by Bush to involve training in the use of weapons of mass destruction-was built upon the testimony of a prisoner who, according to the DIA, was probably "intentionally misleading the debriefers."

Yet, despite the government having been informed of this by the Pentagon's intelligence agency in February 2002, Bush told the nation eight months later, on the eve of the Senate's vote to authorize the war, that "we've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and gases."

The false Al Qaeda-Hussein link was the linchpin to Bush's argument that he could not delay the invasion until after the United Nations weapons inspectors completed their investigation in a matter of months. Perhaps, he feared not that those weapons would fall into the wrong hands but that they would not be found at all.

Boxed in by international sanctions, weapons inspectors, US fighter jets patrolling two huge no-fly zones and powerful rivals on all his borders, Hussein in 2003 was decidedly not a threat to America. But the Bush White House wanted a war with Iraq, and it pulled out all the stops-references to "a mushroom cloud" and calling Hussein an "ally" of Al Qaeda-to convince the rest of us it was necessary.

The White House believed the ends (occupying Iraq) justified the means (exaggerating the threat). We know now those ends have proved disastrous.

Oblivious to the grim irony, Bush proclaims his war without end in Iraq the central front in a new cold war, never acknowledging that he has handed Al Qaeda terrorists a new home base. Iran, his "Axis of Evil" member, now has its disciples in power in Iraq. Last week, top Bush Administration officials welcomed to Washington Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi, who previously was denounced for having allegedly passed US secrets to his old supporters in Tehran and was elected to a top post in Iraq by campaigning on anti-US slogans.

Under Bush's watch, we not only suffered the September 11 terrorist attacks while he snoozed, but he has failed to capture the perpetrator of those attacks and has given Al Qaeda a powerful base in Iraq from which to terrorize. And this is the guy who dares tell his critics they are weakening our country.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Meditation for Thanksgiving Week, November, 2005.

The Vietnam War changed me.

By 1969 I had already been in the U.S. military for a total of some eight years. Active and Reserve, enlisted and commissioned. Actually in or with, at one time or another, all four branches, each branch, by the way, with distinction, promotion and commendation. I had graduated from a military high school: Kentucky Military Institute, Lyndon, Ky, in 1947.

I was a "Cold War warrior," believing the most urgent task for the Free Western world in the 1950s was to defeat World Communism. One of the reasons I gave my life to God as a Benedictine monk in 1952 was to help defeat Atheistic World Communism--which I had studied.
I introduced and later taught courses on Communism in a Catholic College Prep school we Benedictines ran, in Florida. I asked and received permission to become a reserve chaplain in case the Cold war got hot.

Serving in the Military as a chaplain, I began, with some sense of shock, to observe how the military and war itself corrupted men in the military ministry--the Chaplains.
John O'Connor, Navy Chaplain then serving in Vietnam talked to a small group of citizens one night in Philadelphia, in the late 1960s. He was astonishingly, unbelievably pro-war (and even wrote a book about it, A Chaplain Looks at Vietnam.)

I realized that night in Philadelphia as I heard him talk, that the way one made it up the ranks as a chaplain was to become more military than the military.
O'Connor later became Chief of Chaplains and eventually Cardinal of New York. John Cardinal O'Connor, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of New York for sixteen years, 1983-2000. His anti-gay rights campaign helped make him very controversial and often in the news.
War corrupts even the chaplains who serve.

The loss of American life in Vietnam was enormous. By 1970 we had already lost one half of the sixty thousand we were to lose (not to speak of the wounded who would never have their lives back). When Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers it was clear that the military and our Pentagon strategists had already decided that the war could not be won. But it was a secret that Nixon tried to protect, and tried to smear Ellsberg.

We still sent another 25,000 young men and women to their deaths in Vietnam, because our leaders could not publicly face the failure of the Vietnam project. Vietnam was an unnecessary and (now we know) unprovoked war. Repeat that number, please, out loud. Say that number, please 25,000. (Pause) A total of 60,000 deaths. Say that number out loud, please. (pause)

And this is only the count of our own losses. There were hundreds of thousands of other deaths, and many more who returned without limbs or wounded for life. I once saw in therapy a Vietnam vet who went over at age 18. He was trained to torture, and had found that he enjoyed it, and could not get over that years later. Could not put it behind him.
How could anyone put that behind them? His memory tortured him.
War corrupts everyone. Violence is corruptive, and brings out the worst in us.
John Cardinal O'Connor later admitted, to his credit, that his pro-war enthusiasm in Vietnam and his book A Chaplain Looks at Vietnam was to his shame.

When I heard him speak in the middle of the conflict, it was to his glory. He came to talk in his Marine combat fatigues. He gloried in the rightness of the conflict and his part in it. Violence corrupts us. War corrupts.

During this time, I prayed and wondered. "What did you do, Daddy, during the war?" my children someday would ask me. I resigned my commission and became a peace activist, risking my employment and my young family by refusing to pay the war surcharge tax on telephones. Vietnam changed me.

It was a difficult time in America. I have a Vietnam combat veteran friend, a Marine helicopter pilot, who still believes we lost the war because of our weak-kneed liberals and anti-war protestors. He hated Kerry for his change of heart. During this last election, I found this to be true of a number of Vietnam veterans. They were ready to believe the Swift boat smears against Kerry. There were lessons of military imperialism that we did not, and have not learned.
War and violence corrupts us. My Vietnam friend and I no longer talk. I am one of those "liberals" destroying American resolve. Even today.

Now my government is waging another unprovoked and unnecessary war. It is being directed by two men, one who did not serve out his Guard obligation during Vietnam, and another who had multiple deferments and never served at all. Bush and Cheney.

They both believe that torture is necessary. Our own CIA, our military leaders including Powell, and those who have been tortured, McCain, for example, believe that 1) torture does not work; 2) it is against our nation’s principles, and 3) we have signed international treaties that forbid it.

If any of this makes sense to you, please repeat: "Lord have mercy" to each of the following statements:

Fact: In a democracy where we choose leaders by voting, we are responsible for what leaders do in our name. Lord, have mercy.

Fact: Independent groups, such as Amnesty International, believe we have killed as many as 100,000 civilians in Iraq, many of them women and children. "Lord have mercy"

Fact: there is no way to defeat an insurgency militarily. We should have learned this in Vietnam. "Lord have mercy"

Fact: Our invasion of Iraq has fueled and multiplied terrorism around the world. "Lord have mercy"

Fact: Our government believes in and uses torture against suspected terrorists.
"Lord have mercy"

Fact: We already have 20,000 dead and wounded of our own military.
"Lord have mercy"

Fact: Our own military leaders have said that this war cannot be won militarily "Lord have mercy"

Fact: There is no connection between the attacks on 911 and Iraq although our President until recently was repeating this lie. "Lord have mercy"

Fact. The Iraqi war has already cost some 250 billion dollars. The Iraqi war is bankrupting the future of many children. "Lord have mercy"

Fact: No bid contracts have been given to big corporations engaged in the war, and now Congress is cutting services to the poor and the children to pay for the war.
"Lord have mercy"

Fact: The Bush White House is refusing to fund Veteran’s benefits."Lord have mercy"

Fact: This Iraqi war was unnecessary, unprovoked, illegal according to International Law, and immoral. "Lord have mercy"

Fact: Not only our soldiers but innocent civilians are dying every day. "Lord have mercy"

Fact: Those who oppose this war are now labeled as unpatriotic and as hurting our military. "Lord have mercy"

Fact: Terrorism is a tactic. A tactic cannot be defeated. "Lord have mercy"

Fact: Our government, your government is killing and torturing innocent people in your name. "Lord have mercy"

Fact: To the extent that we do not speak up to deeds done in our name, we are complicit in the deeds. Lord have mercy.

Fact: Main stream broadcast media, especially Fox and radio talk show has been pro-war and pro-Bush White House. Lord have mercy.

Fact: Lord, we are still free to speak. Thank you Lord.

Fact: It is up to us to be informed. Thank you Lord.

Let us pray that our leaders hearts may be changed. We pray to the Lord, Lord hear out prayer.

Let us pray that our citizens become aware of the harm being done in their name. We pray to the Lord, Lord hear out prayer.

Let us pray for peace on earth. We pray to the Lord, Lord hear out prayer.

We are grateful for this time in America at this Thanksgiving, to be able still to say these things out loud. Thank you, Lord.
Paschal Baute, November 19, 2005. Saturday before Thanksgiving, 2005

Write your own litany of sorrow, mercy and of also celebration. Use it for yourself and, if so led, also for others. It is up to us to re-create the kind of America we want to live in, anew, in each generation.

Friday, November 18, 2005

How Seniors Are Getting Screwed by this G.O.P. Administration, The New Drug Sign-Up Requirements, opinion.

A Private Obsession
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Friday 18 November 2005

"Lots of things in life are complicated." So declared Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, in response to the mass confusion as registration for the new Medicare drug benefit began. But the complexity of the program - which has reduced some retirees to tears as they try to make what may be life-or-death decisions - is far greater than necessary.

One reason the drug benefit is so confusing is that older Americans can't simply sign up with Medicare, as they can for other benefits. They must, instead, choose from a baffling array of plans offered by private middlemen. Why?

Here's a parallel. Earlier this year Senator Rick Santorum introduced a bill that would have forced the National Weather Service to limit the weather information directly available to the public. Although he didn't say so explicitly, he wanted the service to funnel that information through private forecasters instead.

Mr. Santorum's bill didn't go anywhere. But it was a classic attempt to force gratuitous privatization: involving private corporations in the delivery of public services even when those corporations have no useful role to play.

The Medicare drug benefit is an example of gratuitous privatization on a grand scale.

Here's some background: the elderly have long been offered a choice between standard Medicare, in which the government pays medical bills directly, and plans in which the government pays a middleman, like an H.M.O., to deliver health care. The theory was that the private sector would find innovative ways to lower costs while providing better care.

The theory was wrong. A number of studies have found that managed-care plans, which have much higher administrative costs than government-managed Medicare, end up costing the system money, not saving it.

But privatization, once promoted as a way to save money, has become a goal in itself. The 2003 bill that established the prescription drug benefit also locked in large subsidies for managed care.

And on drug coverage, the 2003 bill went even further: rather than merely subsidizing private plans, it made them mandatory. To receive the drug benefit, one must sign up with a plan offered by a private company. As people are discovering, the result is a deeply confusing system because the competing private plans differ in ways that are very hard to assess.

The peculiar structure of the drug benefit, with its huge gap in coverage - the famous "doughnut hole" I wrote about last week - adds to the confusion. Many better-off retirees have relied on Medigap policies to cover gaps in traditional Medicare, including prescription drugs. But that straightforward approach, which would make it relatively easy to compare drug plans, can't be used to fill the doughnut hole because Medigap policies are no longer allowed to cover drugs.

The only way to get some coverage in the gap is as part of a package in which you pay extra - a lot extra - to one of the private drug plans delivering the basic benefit. And because this coverage is bundled with other aspects of the plans, it's very difficult to figure out which plans offer the best deal.

But confusion isn't the only, or even the main, reason why the privatization of drug benefits is bad for America. The real problem is that we'll end up spending too much and getting too little.

Everything we know about health economics indicates that private drug plans will have much higher administrative costs than would have been incurred if Medicare had administered the benefit directly.

It's also clear that the private plans will spend large sums on marketing rather than on medicine. I have nothing against Don Shula, the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, who is promoting a drug plan offered by Humana. But do we really want people choosing drug plans based on which one hires the most persuasive celebrity?

Last but not least, competing private drug plans will have less clout in negotiating lower drug prices than Medicare as a whole would have. And the law explicitly forbids Medicare from intervening to help the private plans negotiate better deals.

Last week I explained that the Medicare drug bill was devised by people who don't believe in a positive role for government. An insistence on gratuitous privatization is a byproduct of the same ideology. And the result of that ideology is a piece of legislation so bad it's almost surreal.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

On Bush: moral compass lost?

Bush administration's moral compass is lost
by Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun Times,
November 4, 2005

. . . .Then she listed what she believed were President Bush's offenses:

# He supports the death penalty. He claims to be humble and ask for God's guidance, yet seemingly refuses to admit his fallibility or take advice from those who might have helped him avoid dragging us into an unjust war.

# He reversed the civilized world's abhorrence of preemptive war. He sold Americans a war based on lies. He willingly started an unnecessary war that has resulted in the deaths of (now more than 2,000) American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

# He, at least tacitly, condones torture. (Guantanamo Bay. Abu Ghraib. And, we learned earlier this week, perhaps a number of secret CIA-run locations in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and elsewhere.) He ignores the human race's responsibility for preserving the Earth and its creatures.

# He is against stem cell research. He accuses dissenters of degrading the U.S. troops but does not push to fully fund Veterans Administration hospitals or health insurance for veterans. And he allowed the automatic assault weapons ban to lapse.

"How are these things reflective of a man with strong 'morals?' " Amanda asked. "How does 'morals' get to be defined as the things the right wants it to be? . . . Why isn't being anti-death penalty a moral issue? Why isn't being anti-war a moral issue? Why isn't being supportive of civil unions so that gay couples can, for example, obtain health insurance for each other and their children a moral issue?

"Please help me understand!" she pleaded.

For a year, I've not been able to bring myself to respond in any substantive way.

I'm reluctant to appear unduly partisan, at least not in print.

I don't want to paint one political ideology or another with a broad brush, and I am reticent always to judge the quality of anyone's faith (or heart), that of a president or anyone else.

But there comes a time when silence is immoral. Now, I believe, is that time.

Lost voice

While surely it is not solely Bush's doing, the moral morass facing (and, arguably, created by) his administration is as profound as any in our history.

Mired in political corruption of one variety or another, hamstrung (economically and spiritually) by an unjust war, and publicly shamed by the most despicable display of institutionalized racism since the slave era, as demonstrated in the unforgivably inept early response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration has lost whatever moral voice it might have had.

And this week, as Republican leaders try to force a monstrous $50 billion budget cut designed allegedly to offset the mounting costs (currently in excess of $62 billion) of hurricane-related aid through Congress, it is clear that its moral compass also has been lost.

The proposed budget cuts, part of the so-called "budget reconciliation," would have devastating effects on the poorest, most vulnerable Americans, while allowing tax relief for the rich.

'Moral values'

The massive budget reductions would include billions of dollars from pension protection and student loan programs, Medicaid and child support enforcement, as well as millions from the food stamp program, Supplemental Security Income (read: senior citizens and the disabled) and foster care. Also attached to the "reconciliation" proposal is a plan that would allow oil drilling in Alaska's pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.


Maybe Republican leaders should consider proposing an open season on the homeless or the resurrection of debtors' prisons while they're at it?

Is this the kind of leadership the majority of voters who, according to pollsters at the time, cast their ballots in 2004 based on "moral values," had in mind?

Is this what faith-based "compassionate conservatism" looks like? Is our nation more moral, more secure or spiritually healthier than it was a year ago?

And, to address my fellow Christian voters specifically, has the Good News been advanced in any way?

No. Absolutely not.

And it's not just a few left-leaning, ink-stained wretches such as myself who think so.

A travesty

For example, all 65 synod bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have signed a letter to members of Congress vehemently opposing the proposed budget cuts, saying in part, "The Biblical record is clear. The scriptural witness on which our faith tradition stands speaks dramatically to God's concern for and solidarity with the poor and oppressed communities while speaking firmly in opposition to governments whose policies place narrow economic interests driven by greed above the common good."

Evangelical Christian theologian and leader Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners, a national network of "progressive Christian" peace-and-justice activists, led an ecumenical gathering of religious leaders in a protest at the Capitol building Thursday, calling the proposed cuts "a moral travesty."

"Instead of wearing bracelets that ask, 'What would Jesus do?' perhaps some Republicans should ponder, 'What would Jesus cut?' " Wallis said.

The immorality (by any religious tradition's measure) of the proposed $50 billion budget reconciliation package is brazen.

If enacted, it would prove only to increase the suffering of the already-struggling poor, including tens of thousands who lost everything along the Gulf Coast.

Maybe immoral isn't the appropriate word. Downright evil is a better description. ###

Link to original:

Monday, November 14, 2005

Heeere's Pat!

Heeere's Pat!

Saturday, November 12, 2005; A24

LOOK OUT, JAY Leno and David Letterman: Pat Robertson is at it again. The television evangelist and former Republican presidential candidate has a way of coming up with some real thigh-slappers. This one must have the people of Dover, Pa., rolling in the aisles. On Thursday Mr. Robertson said on his daily television show, "The 700 Club," that because all eight Dover school board members up for reelection on Tuesday were voted out of office after trying to impose "intelligent design" on high school students as an alternative to the theory of evolution, God is not going to show up if there's a disaster in Dover. They'd voted God out of the city, Mr. Robertson said. How Mr. Robertson managed to deliver that line with a straight face is beyond us. But we suppose that when you have his comedic touch, anything's possible.

In truth, Mr. Robertson's sense of humor is a bit off for our taste. Yes, the founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Christian Coalition does have pretty good timing, and his delivery isn't bad. What does strike us as odd, however, is that while making something funny at another person's expense is a well-known trait of comedy, Mr. Robertson's choices of God and the citizens of Dover as the butts of his joke seems a little over the top.

After all, what took place at the ballot box in Dover had nothing to do with the acceptance or rejection of a deity. Candidates on the ballot happened to be school board members who ordered a statement read in school informing students that the theory of evolution is not established fact and that intelligent design is an alternative theory that students can pursue through reading a book. Dover citizens, hearing that, decided to vote the school board out of office. God, as far as we know, was not on the ballot.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Sunday, November 13, 2005

From review of book:
How the Republicans Stole Christmas: The Republican Party's Declared Monopoly on Religion and What Democrats Can Do to Take It Back
Doubleday, 288 pp., $23.95 by Bill Press
Review by Bill McKibbin in the Christian Century, November 1, 2005

. . .Press makes it pungently clear that ours was not founded as a Christian nation—that, indeed, Jefferson (who published his own edition of the Gospels, eliminating all references to Christ's divinity) and Madison (who opposed having chaplains in Congress and accepted them in the military only if they were volunteers and received no government funds) would quickly be blackballed if they even thought of running for office today. Though he accomplishes it a little crudely, Press deserves credit for standing straight up to the religious right where it is most vulnerable—in its hijacking of Jesus and his message for purposes that run counter to almost everything he stood for.

"But that doesn't end the argument. One reason religious conservatives have had success is that they have appealed to the latent idea that something in our culture is not working. They have paraded a series of unlikely scapegoats (feminists! gay people! biologists!) as targets for this unease. It's necessary but not sufficient to defend such groups; it's more important to acknowledge that something bad has happened to our society.

"That something, more visible than usual in the wake of Katrina, is the breakdown of community. Americans, most data suggest, feel more isolated and less satisfied with their lives than at any time in our history. We have bought into the idea—promulgated most effectively by the business interests that are the ironic other half of the Republican base—that we should think of ourselves mostly as individuals, never as part of some larger kingdom; that we should resent the claims of others, who probably just want to score Louis Vuitton handbags anyhow.

If the hard-right march of the ultraconservatives is to be turned back, it will only be with a revived vision of a more connected community where we look out for each other's needs—for health care, for education, for security, for community. When someone finally offers that vision, it will split off the uneasy-but-goodhearted from the hateful and the greedy, and our politics will start to bend back toward the mi"ddle. And maybe even toward the gospel."

Friday, November 11, 2005

Bush has stolen more than all the other Presidents combined, according to the US Treasury Dept

by The Bush Administration Because They Stole All And Needed More To Steal

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, from 1776 through 2000, the first 224 years of our nation's history, all 42 U.S. presidents borrowed a combined $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions. . .

But in the past four years alone, the Bush administration borrowed $1.05 trillion.

I repeat - That Is More Than All The Other Presidents - Combined - !

Wake up you other 35% that still live in denial. Come on people, did you think all of this had to do with terrorism, or security, or liberty, or freedom??? It had to do with moving all of America's public wealth into the hands of the few - Through tax-cuts, no-bid contracts, etc... They completely wiped out the federal surplus in the 1st year of their 1st term alone, then moved the wealth of the nation with tax-cuts for the wealthy, tax-breaks for the corporations, and openly corrupt war-time profiteering, and when that ran out they kept moving and still are moving, the federal borrowed monies, and national tax collections into their corporations and personal pockets. . .

Wake up people. . . They are still there. . . Still taking. . .

Post from the Old Hippies Groove at
refer to article on Treasury at

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Let us pray for our President

Let us pray for President Bush

The President needs our prayers, more dearly, I suspect, than most of us imagine. White House Aids say the situation is not good. I have never viewed Mr. Bush’s personality balance as healthy. I have expected when his public persona collapsed, he would face a severe sense of loss, anxiety and possibly depression. There are signs that this has begun.

There are many issues facing our nation that need leadership from the White House: alternate energy, immigration, trade, the war, the budget imbalance, social security reform, on and on. Bush could turn his administration around as did Reagan following the Iran-Contra scandals in his second term. “Every American has a stake in hoping he can surprise us.’ (See editorial below)

Even when we have reason to have bad feelings toward another, we are summoned to love them. Which means at least not to wish them harm but good. Let us pray for our President. He needs it now more than ever.

Both faith and prayer are known and measured health factors. Prayer may not change God’s will, but it can change us, and though us, others. The greatest force in the universe is simply Love.

Noblesse oblge. “Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can we keep from singing? (Hymn)

Paschal Baute

Editorial, NY Times, President Bush's Walkabout, Nov 8, 2005

“After President Bush's disastrous visit to Latin America, it's unnerving to realize that his presidency still has more than three years to run. An administration with no agenda and no competence would be hard enough to live with on the domestic front. But the rest of the world simply can't afford an American government this bad for that long.

“In Argentina, Mr. Bush, who prides himself on his ability to relate to world leaders face to face, could barely summon the energy to chat with the 33 other leaders there, almost all of whom would be considered friendly to the United States under normal circumstances. He and his delegation failed to get even a minimally face-saving outcome at the collapsed trade talks and allowed a loudmouthed opportunist like the president of Venezuela to steal the show.

“It's amazing to remember that when Mr. Bush first ran for president, he bragged about his understanding of Latin America, his ability to speak Spanish and his friendship with Mexico. But he also made fun of Al Gore for believing that nation-building was a job for the United States military.

“The White House is in an uproar over the future of Karl Rove, the president's political adviser, and spinning off rumors that some top cabinet members may be asked to walk the plank. Mr. Bush could certainly afford to replace some of his top advisers. But the central problem is not Karl Rove or Treasury Secretary John Snow or even Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary. It is President Bush himself.

“Second terms may be difficult, but the chief executive still has the power to shape what happens. Ronald Reagan managed to turn his messy second term around and deliver - in great part through his own powers of leadership - a historic series of agreements with Mikhail Gorbachev that led to the peaceful dismantling of the Soviet empire. Mr. Bush has never demonstrated the capacity for such a comeback. Nevertheless, every American has a stake in hoping that he can surprise us.

“The place to begin is with Dick Cheney, the dark force behind many of the administration's most disastrous policies, like the Iraq invasion and the stubborn resistance to energy conservation. Right now, the vice president is devoting himself to beating back Congressional legislation that would prohibit the torture of prisoners. This is truly a remarkable set of priorities: his former chief aide was indicted, Mr. Cheney's back is against the wall, and he's declared war on the Geneva Conventions.

“Mr. Bush cannot fire Mr. Cheney, but he could do what other presidents have done to vice presidents: keep him too busy attending funerals and acting as the chairman of studies to do more harm. Mr. Bush would still have to turn his administration around, but it would at least send a signal to the nation and the world that he was in charge, and the next three years might not be as dreadful as they threaten to be right now.” End/


Friday, November 04, 2005

WAKE UP AMERICA: Your heritage is being stolen.

"Hope has two lovely daughters: anger and courage.
Anger at what's wrong;
courage to set it right."

--St. Augustine


I am proud to be a peace activist in my community. I am not a pacificist. Actually, I have served in or with all four branches of the US military. Active and reserve, enlisted and commissioned, and had two different commissions in the US Navy Reserve, first as chaplain and later as psychologist in the Medical Service Corps, before resigning during the Vietnam conflict.

Half way through the Vietnam war, it was evident to our military strategists that the war could not be won without using nuclear weapons. Daniel Ellsberg revealed this in his release of the Pentagon Papers and the Nixon White House burglarized his psychiatrists office looking for dirt on him. Because our leaders would not face that strategic outcome, we sent another 25,000 American men and women to their deaths there. Think about that number 25,000. I can never forget it. I had classmates who were lost in that war which we know now was unnecessary and unjustified.

We are now in the midst of another terrible betrayal of the American people and our military. We now know that the Bush White House deliberately, knowingly, faked the intelligence to justify this war, that there was a secret conspiracy that worked outside the usual procedures to justify and to sell this war. There was and is no connection between 911 and Iraq. Only since the summer has Bush stopped repeating this connection. Just indicted in the cover up is Libby, one of the key persons this past week. This story, known for months by the alternative media, is now un-ravelling in the main media.

Our generals have been telling us for months that no military victory is possible in Iraq. The violence there is a direct result of our unprovoked invasion of a Muslim country, as well as our imperialist policies in the Middle East over many decades. There is no peace possible as long as our Military or our endorsed puppets remain there.

Moreover, we are now discovering that the CIA has secret prisoner of war camps all over Eastern Europe to evade the Geneva conventions of humane treatment of prisoners of war. The Senate has passed 90-9 a bill to restrict torture, but this president and his vice are opposing it. This bill is suppported by Senator McCain and the military, who know that our own military will be tortured if we allow our government to continue its practice in “torture light” justified by White House Lawyers, incluing Gonzales, current Attorney General.

A democracy works best when every citizen takes responsibility for what its government does. If you are keeping up you are discovering lately how cynical, dishonest and secretive has been this White House. It is our obligation to know what our government is doing in our name. It is currently being stolen by a small group of very conservative power hungry people who do not care about your children, the environment, the poor, minimum wage, and I could go on and on.

I write regularly about these issues via my web blogs. In my college social ethics course next week we will address whether our Government has the right to torture. I invite you to become informed. It is far worse than Watergate when a president was forced to resign over the cover up of a burglary. There is, in my opinion (and that of others) treason and betrayal at the highest level costing the lives of thousands of our military and that of innocent Iraqi civilians, women and children, numbered variously from 30,000 to 100,000. We are responsible for what our government does in our name. The Bush White House is making violence worse around the world. These the people we elected.

Our society is the strongest and most healthy when the people take their vote seriously and keep involved in their local communities. Robert Putnam in his book Bowling Alone demonstrates that those communities with high volunteer participation are the highest on all measureable health indices.

Please get or keep involved. Our government is being stolen from us, with grave consequences to the environment and to future generations of our children. Our military itself is gravely wounded. We now have veterans required to serve their third combat tour in Iraqi, with Guard and Reserve military being expended. My own sources (Iraqi war veterans) tell me that the military itself is demoralized both by this President and the war they are being asked to fight without sufficient troops or protection.

War, for a Christian, should be the last resort. War always hurts the poor more than any other group. This war was illegal, unjustified, unnecessary and immoral. Only now is the main media beginning to face this and its own complicity in simply endorsing the war propaganda of the Bush White house.

Wake up, America , your heritage and your freedoms are at risk.

Paschal Baute