Monday, November 28, 2005

"The Law Is the Law"

A friend sent me the following today, apparently concerned that my blood pressure might be too low. I shared it (and vented) with a few trusted (viz., right-minded) souls. Plus a couple of people I wanted to bug (you know who you are!). Plus whoever reads this blog.

My well-reasoned comments appear after the original, which I have not altered in any way...not even to correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, and you know how hard that is for me...


This is one of the better e-mails I have received in a long time! I hope this makes its way around the USA several times over!!!!! So Be It!


So if the US government determines that it is against the law for the words "under God" to be on our money, then, so be it.

And if that same government decides that the "Ten Commandments" are not to be used in or on a government installation, then, so be it.

And since they already have prohibited any prayer in the schools, on which they deem their authority, then so be it.

I say, "so be it," because I would like to be a law abiding US citizen.

I say, "so be it," because I would like to think that smarter people than I are in positions to make good decisions.

I would like to think that those people have the American Publics' best interests at heart.


Since we can't pray to God, can't Trust in God and cannot Post His Commandments in Government buildings,

I don't believe the Government and it's employees should participate in the Easter and Christmas celebrations which honor the God that our government is eliminating from many facets of American life.

I'd like my mail delivered on Christmas, Good Friday, Thanksgiving & Easter. After all, it's just another day.

I'd like the US Supreme Court to be in session on Christmas, Good Friday, Thanksgiving & Easter as well as Sundays. After all, it's just another day.

I'd like the Senate and the House of Representatives to not have to worry about getting home for the "Christmas Break." After all it's just another day.

I'm thinking that a lot of my taxpayer dollars could be saved, if all government offices & services would work on Christmas, Good Friday & Easter.

It shouldn't cost any overtime since those would be just like any other day of the week to a government that is trying to be "politically correct."

In fact....

I think that our government should work on Sundays (initially set aside for worshipping God...) because, after all, our government says
that it should be just another day....

What do you all think????

If this idea gets to enough people, maybe our elected officials will stop giving in to the minority opinions and begin, once again, to represent the 'majority' of ALL of the American people.

SO BE IT...........

Please Dear Lord, Give us the help needed to keep you in our country!

'Amen' and 'Amen'


Dear Jesus, please protect us from your followers...

Well, where to begin? First off, I might point out that the government hasn't decided to remove the words "under God" from our money...mostly because they were never there. The motto on our currency is "In God We Trust," and it's still there. Guess that shows how much attention the original author actually pays to the various empty phrases he/she seems to want to defend.

Second, why would he/she think that God needs our "help" in order to "keep [him] in our country"? I mean, isn't God, ex officio, everywhere? And isn't the concept of our "helping" God just a little conceited? Since, for me at least, it's ordinarily kind of the other way around...

Third, does anybody really and truly believe that not having organized (Christian) prayer in (state-operated) public schools means and end to prayer? "Since we can't pray to God, can't Trust in God and cannot Post His Commandments in Government buildings"... Huh?? You mean you can't pray to God unless a government employee tells you to? And how to? And when? Sad. Likewise, I don't think anyone can legislate one way or another whether anyone trusts in God. And doe the Ten Commandments somehow have no meaning or validity unless posted in a state-owned building?

Finally, I have to wonder about the whole prayer-in-public-schools (and other government settings) business. Specifically, how would these folks -- the ones who seem to think it's not only okay but a good idea for the government to dictate what and when and how to pray -- would feel if Christianity were not in the driver's seat in this country. I read an article some years ago (pre-9/11, so things may have changed) that pointed out that, if then-current population and immigration trends continued, the major religion in the United States by the mid- to late-21st century will be Islam. One then wonders how enthusiastic some of these allegedly Christian folks will feel about prayer in public schools when "prayer" involves the kids facing east, rolling out a mat, and bumping their little foreheads on the floor. Oh, you're not Muslim? That's okay--just pretend to pray. Won't hurt you a bit.

My guess is that the evangelicals and other conservative Christians will break both legs rushing to their hated ACLU for protection from the tyrannical majority, which in turn will be annoyed and disgusted by the whining Christian minority who refuse to just shut up and play along, and which will view any concession toward "those Christians' " feelings or beliefs as mere "political correctness."

But I've discovered that a lot of self-proclaimed Christians are pretty unfamiliar with their Bibles...especially those namby-pamby limp-wristed parts like "love they neighbor" and "do unto others" and that other liberal crap.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


A little something from "The Daily Show with John Stewart" from awhile back, via I'm also curious to see whether the "republish" feature there actually works.

Update 2/6/06 - Alas, everyone's tired of having the silly thing play every single time the blog opens. Since I can find no way to shut off the autoplay, I see no recourse but to slash it out of here. Too bad: it actually worked, and it's a pretty funny clip. It seems you can still get to it here, however.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

If you know anybody in Dover, Pennsylvania...

This went out to the Far-Flung Correspondents yesterday, with the subject line "If you know anybody in Dover, Pennsylvania..."

"...better help them pack. Pat Robertson has again fired up his direct line to the Almighty, and it turns out the latter is unhappy with the citizens of Dover and is expected (by Robertson) to visit His wrath upon them, like, real soon. See below from The Washington Post for details. (Bet you didn't know your vote for School Board was so important!)"

Robertson Says Town Rejects God
By Alan Elsner
Friday, November 11, 2005; A03

Conservative Christian television evangelist Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them yesterday not to be surprised if disaster struck.

Robertson, a former Republican presidential candidate and founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Christian Coalition, has a long record of apocalyptic warnings and provocative statements.

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God -- you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said.

In voting Tuesday, all eight Dover, Pa., school board members up for reelection lost their positions after trying to introduce "intelligent design" to high school science students as an alternative to the theory of evolution.

Adherents of intelligent design argue that certain forms in nature are too complex to have evolved through natural selection and must have been created by a "designer." Opponents say it is the latest attempt by conservatives to introduce religion into the school science curriculum.

The Dover case sparked a trial in federal court when the school board was sued by parents backed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The board ordered schools to read students a short statement in biology classes informing them that the theory of evolution is not established fact and that gaps exist in it. The statement mentioned intelligent design as an alternate theory and recommended students read a book that explained the theory further.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


I can't help but think how swell it would be to be so unquestioningly plugged in to the will of God. Most of us bumble around trying to figure out how to be decent human beings and so on, while some of us -- some lucky somes of us -- got it all figured out! They know what God thinks, and what he wants, and what he's going to do! It's downright astounding!

My friend Paul hit the nail on the head when he wrote, in response to the above, "I don't think those guys ever read the New Testament except for the homophobic St. Paul passages." To which my 15-year-old added, "And Revelation."

The idea of God rewarding folks for doing things the "right" way (as defined by televangelists, evidently) and punishing them for doing things the "wrong" way strikes me as being pretty insulting to God. Doesn't strike me as a very Godlike way to behave, frankly.

It also puts us on very shaky ground, morally, theologically, and philosophically. If things are going well in my life, my family is healthy, I have friends and meaningful work and so on, why, then, it must be because I am doing things right and God is rewarding me, hooray! And, obviously, if you lose your job and your spouse is sick and your kid drops out of school, why, then, you must be doing things wrong and so naturally God is punishing you, you unrighteous sinner!

Well, as I've said before, I think I have a higher opinion of the Almighty than some of these blokes who run around bragging about what terrific Christians they are. I have this feeling that God cares for me and all of creation, and that he wants what's best for us all. Most of what gets screwed up is our own damn fault--not the fault of some capricious, scowling Creator who lies in wait for us to make a misstep so he can smite us. God is there to support, encourage, and help us up when we falter.

Of course, if the town of Dover, Pennsylvania falls off the map one of these first days, I take it all back.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Words of Wisdom

Been awhile since I posted. Summers are hideously busy. Just to get back into things a little, here are some more quotations I've collected, many from A Word a Day messages.

  1. There is a loftier ambition than merely to stand high in the world. It is to stoop down and lift mankind a little higher. -Henry van Dyke, poet (1852-1933)
  2. There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect. -G.K. Chesterton, essayist and novelist (1874-1936)
  3. The first man to see an illusion by which men have flourished for centuries surely stands in a lonely place. -Gary Zukav, author (1942- )
  4. Most institutions demand unqualified faith; but the institution of science makes skepticism a virtue. -Robert King Merton, sociologist (1910-2003)
  5. We must not be frightened nor cajoled into accepting evil as deliverance from evil. We must go on struggling to be human, though monsters of abstractions police and threaten us. -Robert Hayden, poet and educator (1913-1980)
  6. As I grow to understand life less and less, I learn to live it more and more. -Jules Renard, writer (1864-1910)
  7. A conservative is one who admires radicals centuries after they're dead. -Leo Rosten, author (1908-1997)
  8. Words are things; and a small drop of ink / Falling like dew upon a thought, produces / That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think. -Lord Byron, (1788-1824)
  9. No society that feeds its children on tales of successful violence can expect them not to believe that violence in the end is rewarded. -Margaret Mead, anthropologist (1901-1978)
  10. If moral behavior were simply following rules, we could program a computer to be moral. -Samuel P. Ginder, US navy captain
  11. Matters of religion should never be matters of controversy. We neither argue with a lover about his taste, nor condemn him, if we are just, for knowing so human a passion. -George Santayana, philosopher (1863-1952)
  12. The most tyrannical of governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right to his thoughts. -Baruch Spinoza, philosopher (1632-1677)
  13. I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. -James Baldwin, writer (1924-1987)
  14. The belief in the possibility of a short decisive war appears to be one of the most ancient and dangerous of human illusions. -Robert Lynd, writer (1879-1949)
  15. Literature encourages tolerance - bigots and fanatics seldom have any use for the arts, because they're so preoccupied with their beliefs and actions that they can't see them also as possibilities. -Northrop Frye, writer (1912-1991)
  16. True religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess. -Louis Nizer, lawyer (1902-1994)
  17. God builds his temple in the heart on the ruins of churches and religions. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)
  18. Doubt everything at least once, even the proposition that two times two equals four. -Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, scientist and philosopher (1742-1799)
  19. Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual. -Thomas Jefferson, third US president, architect and author (1743-1826)
  20. Wherever you have an efficient government you have a dictatorship. -Harry S. Truman, 33rd US president (1884-1972)
  21. None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang van Goethe, poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher (1749-1832)
  22. Force without wisdom falls of its own weight. -Horace, poet and satirist (65-8 BCE)
  23. Those who put out the people's eyes, reproach them for their blindness. -John Milton, poet (1608-1674)
  24. You may call God love, you may call God goodness. But the best name for God is compassion. -Meister Eckhart, theologian (c. 1260-1327)
  25. God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. -Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778)
  26. Oh to have a lodge in some vast wilderness. Where rumors of oppression and deceit, of unsuccessful and successful wars may never reach me anymore. -William Cowper, poet (1731-1800)
  27. Grasp the subject, the words will follow. -Cato the Elder, statesman, soldier, and writer (234-149 BCE)
  28. Loneliness... is and always has been the central and inevitable experience of every man. -Thomas Wolfe, novelist (1900-1938)
  29. The people never give up their liberties, but under some delusion. -Edmund Burke, statesman and writer (1729-1797)
  30. All restraints upon man's natural liberty, not necessary for the simple maintenance of justice, are of the nature of slavery, and differ from each other only in degree. -Lysander Spooner, lawyer (1808-1887)
  31. It's impossible to be loyal to your family, your friends, your country, and your principles, all at the same time. -Mignon McLaughlin, author (1915-)
  32. Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers. -Alfred, Lord Tennyson, poet (1809-1892)
  33. Heresy is only another word for freedom of thought. -Graham Greene, novelist and journalist (1904-1991)
  34. The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same. -Stendal (Marie Henri Beyle), novelist (1783-1842)
  35. Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government. -Jeremy Bentham, jurist and philosopher (1748-1832)
  36. More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly. -Woody Allen, author actor, and filmmaker (1935- )
  37. Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that! -Lewis Carroll, mathematician and writer (1832-1898)
  38. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear. -Thomas Jefferson, third US president, architect and author (1743-1826)
  39. The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently. -Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)
  40. If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers. -Thomas Pynchon, writer (1937- )
  41. Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)
  42. Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one's self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all. -Thomas Szasz, author, professor of psychiatry (1920- )
  43. The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant friendly party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they
  44. bring, they carry them as silently away. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)
  45. Nature is slow, but sure; she works no faster than need be; she is the tortoise that wins the race by her perseverance. -Henry David Thoreau,
  46. naturalist and author (1817-1862)
  47. One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters. -English Proverb
  48. Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny. -Carl Schurz, general and politician (1829-1906)

Thursday, April 21, 2005


I've long remembered a bit of "poetry" from a long-gone issue of Mad magazine, circa 1966 or 1967--the height of "Batmania," when, believe it or not, that bizarre Adam West-Burt Ward incarnation of "Batman" ruled the airwaves. The bit stuck in my head was

Bats are creepy, Bats are scary,
Bats do not seem sanitary

Some years ago I tried an internet search for the poem and came up empty. To show that the web is indeed a growing organism, when I was again reminded of the poem and tried another search, I found a couple of references to it. To show that even Google nods, one of the hits included the author's name (well, actually, two did, but one attributed it to Shel Silverstein, which I knew was wrong, which shows yet something else about the internet, viz., don't believe everything you read there); when I searched using the author's name, I came up with still more references to it...mysteriously absent when I searched using the bit of the poem I recalled. Odd.

Fascinating though that may be, here is the poem in its entirety. The author is Frank Jacobs, sometimes referred to as "Mad's poet laureate."

Bats are creepy, Bats are scary,
Bats do not seem sanitary,
Bats in dismal caves keep cozy,
Bats remind us of Lugosi,
Bats have webby wings that fold up,
Bats from ceilings hang down rolled up,
Bats are careful, Bats use radar,
Bats at nighttime at their best are,
Bats by Batman, unimpressed are.

Ah, they don't write them like that anymore.

On the subject of poems remembered from childhood, here's this one, Eletelphony, by Laura E. Richards:

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant -
No! no! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone -
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)

Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee -
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

In these days of cordless this and wireless that, will kids even understand the entanglement references in the above? When my now-fifteen-year-old daughter was small, I once used the expression "like a broken record," and had it explain it to her. She had had some small experience with "children's records," many of them handed down from older cousins (and a few handed down from me!), but had no concept of the "broken record" connotation. Heck, I've even amused her and her brother with tales of how when I was there age--in the 1960s and 1970s!!--we not only didn't have a remote control for our TV set, we didn't particularly see the need for one (yes, they did exist), since there were only three or four channels anyway, which made for lousy surfing.

One can only wonder how they'll entertain their kids!

Friday, April 15, 2005

School Prayer, etc.

I received this the other day from a well-meaning friend. It's one of those things that's been forwarded 11,000 times...this week. It purports to be from Paul Harvey, but a lot of stuff that gets passed around with Harvey's name on it turns out to not be his. I haven't checked on this one, because, well, I don't care that much.

Anyways, here it is:
Paul Harvey & Prayer/Please Take Time to Read

Paul Harvey says: -

"I don't believe in Santa Claus, but I'm not going to sue somebody for singing a Ho-Ho-Ho song in December.

I don't agree with Darwin, but I didn't go out and hire a lawyer when my high school teacher taught his theory of evolution.

Life, liberty or your pursuit of happiness will not be endangered because someone says a 30-second prayer before a football game.

So what's the big deal? It's not like somebody is up there reading the entire book of Acts. They're just talking to a God they believe in and asking him to grant safety to the players on the field and the fans going home from the game.

"But it's a Christian prayer," some will argue. Yes, and this is the United States of America, a country founded on Christian principles. According to our very own phone book, Christian churches outnumber all others better than 200-to-1. So what would you expect-somebody chanting Hare Krishna? If I went to a football game in Jerusalem, I would expect to hear a Jewish prayer.

If I went to a soccer game in Baghdad, I would expect to hear a Muslim prayer. If I went to a ping pong match in China, I would expect to hear someone pray to Buddha. And I wouldn't be offended. It wouldn't bother me one bit. When in Rome..

"But what about the atheists?" is another argument. What about them? Nobody is asking them to be baptized.. We're not going to pass the collection plate. Just humor us for 30 seconds.. If that's asking too much, bring a Walkman or a pair of ear plugs. Go to the bathroom. Visit the concession stand. Call your lawyer! Unfortunately, one or two will make that call. One or two will tell thousands what they can and cannot do. I don't think a short prayer at a football game is going to shake the world's foundations.

Christians are just sick and tired of turning the other cheek while our courts strip us of all our rights. Our parents and grandparents taught us to pray before eating, to pray before we go to sleep.

Our Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. Now a handful of people and their lawyers are telling us to cease praying. God, help us. And if that last sentence offends you, well.........just sue me.

The silent majority has been silent too long. it's time we let that one or two who scream loud enough to be heard, that the vast majority don't care what they want.. it is time the majority rules! It's time we tell them, you don't have to pray.. you don't have to say the pledge of allegiance, you don't have to believe in God or attend services that honor Him. That is your right, and we will honor your right.. but by golly, you are no longer going to take our rights away . we are fighting back.. and we WILL WIN!

God bless us one and all, especially those who denounce Him... God bless America, despite all her faults, she is still the greatest nation of all.....

God bless our service men who are fighting to protect our right to pray and worship God...

May 2005 be the year the silent majority is heard and we put God back as the foundation of our families and institutions.

Keep looking up..... In God WE Trust. If you agree with this, please pass it on. If not , delete.

And here's what I wrote back to my friend, slightly edited to preserve his anonymity:

An interesting piece...but... wonders if the Paul Harveys (and [a minister friend of ours who frequently opines about "returning" prayer to public schools]) of this world would be so quick to promote public prayer, prayer in schools, etc., if Christianity were not the dominant religion.

Make than "WHEN Christianity is no longer the dominant religion." It's been documented that, worldwide, the percentage of people who identify themselves as Christian has for some time been dropping, while the percentage identifying themselves as Muslim is growing. It's been predicted that by the mid- to late-21st century there will be more Muslims in the US than Christians. If "public prayer," then, means everyone rolls out a mat, faces east, and bangs his head on the floor, are we Christians, as the minority, going to be quite as enthusiastic about it? Or are we going to be crying that "our rights" are being violated by the majority--who quite reasonably point out that the United States is a Muslim nation and everyone else should just put up with it?

That's the main reason I'm opposed to prayer in public schools (and public-school activities): Someday the shoe will be on the other foot. "Do unto others," etc.

And now you know...the rest of the story!

PS: Don't stop sending me stuff just 'cause I sometimes argue with it--I like to have something to sharpen my teeth on now and then!!
I've come to believe that a fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives is the formers' ability/willingness to put themselves in other people's positions. Conservatives, for the most part, don't seem to care. Read Harvey's (or whoever's: I know at least a dozen people who could have voiced these thoughts) sentiments again--basically, "I want there to be a [Christian] prayer before the football game, so there should be. It won't hurt non-Christians to sit there quietly for a few seconds."


I can't help but think that these people would be the ones crying the loudest if positions were reversed. In fact, I know they would be--they're the same people who insist that the federal government should be subservient to the states, but want an amendment to the US Constitution to ban gay marriage and flag burning; they're the same people who rail against "activist judges" and then all but condone violence against those judges who effectively refused to be activists, refused to contravene the laws of Florida to "save" Terri Schiavo.

There's no reason to think they wouldn't be taking up arms against prayer in school if the prayer in question wasn't THEIR prayer.

It's all well and good for Harvey/whoever to "expect" to hear a Jewish prayer in Jerusalem. But would he be so sanguine about American public schools beginning the day with a non-Christian prayer?

As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Living Will (2)

And another one. You know, these would be funnier if they weren't so true...

Like many of you, I have been compelled by recent events to prepare a more detailed advance directive dealing with end-of-life issues. Here's what mine says:


* In the event I lapse into a persistent vegetative state, I want medical authorities to resort to extraordinary means to prolong my hellish semiexistence. Fifteen years wouldn't be long enough for me.

* I want my wife and my parents to compound their misery by engaging in a bitter and protracted feud that depletes their emotions and their bank accounts.

* I want my wife to ruin the rest of her life by maintaining an interminable vigil at my bedside. I'd be really jealous if she waited less than a decade to start dating again or otherwise rebuilding a semblance of a normal life.

* I want my case to be turned into a circus by losers and crackpots from around the country who hope to bring meaning to their empty lives by investing the same transient emotion in me that they once reserved for Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy and that little girl who got stuck in a well.

* I want those crackpots to spread vicious lies about my wife.

* I want to be placed in a hospice where protesters can gather to bring further grief and disruption to the lives of dozens of dying patients and families whose stories are sadder than my own.

* I want the people who attach themselves to my case because of their deep devotion to the sanctity of life to make death threats against any judges, elected officials or health care professionals who disagree with them.

* I want the medical geniuses and philosopher kings who populate the Florida Legislature to ignore me for more than a decade and then turn my case into a forum for weeks of politically calculated bloviation.

* I want total strangers - oily politicians, maudlin news anchors, ersatz friars, and all other hangers-on - to start calling me "Bill," as if they had known me since childhood.

* I'm not insisting on this as part of my directive, but it would be nice if Congress passed a "Bill's Law" that applied only to me and ignored the medical needs of tens of millions of other Americans without adequate health coverage.

* Even if the "Bill's Law" idea doesn't work out, I want Congress - especially all those self-described conservatives who claim to believe in "less government and more freedom" - to trample on the decisions of doctors, judges, and other experts who actually know something about my case. And I want members of Congress to launch into an extended debate that gives them another excuse to avoid pesky issues such as national security and the economy.

* In particular, I want House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to use my case as an opportunity to divert the country's attention from the mounting political and legal troubles stemming from his slimy misbehavior.

* And I want Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to make a mockery of his Harvard medical degree by misrepresenting the details of my case in ways that might give a boost to his 2008 presidential campaign.

* I want Frist and the rest of the world to judge my medical condition on the basis of a snippet of dated and demeaning videotape that should have remained private.

* Because I think I would retain my sense of humor even in a persistent vegetative state, I'd want President Bush - the same guy who publicly mocked Karla Faye Tucker when signing off on her death warrant as governor of Texas - to claim he was intervening in my case because it is always best "to err on the side of life."

* I want the state Department of Children and Families to step in at the last moment to take responsibility for my well-being, because nothing bad could ever happen to anyone under DCF's care.

* And because Gov. Jeb Bush is the smartest and most righteous human being on the face of the Earth, I want any and all of the aforementioned directives to be disregarded if the governor happens to disagree with them. If he says he knows what's best for me, I won't be in any position to argue.

Living Will (1)

One of the funny-but-sad items that landed in my mailbox as poor Terri Schiavo's should-have-been-personal tragedy played itself out across our 24-hour-news networks.

Living Will

I, _________________________ (fill in the blank), being of sound mind and body, do not wish to be kept alive indefinitely by artificial means.

Under no circumstances should my fate be put in the hands of peckerwood politicians who couldn't pass ninth-grade biology if their lives depended on it.

If a reasonable amount of time passes and I fail to sit up and ask for a cold beer, it should be presumed that I won't ever get better. When such a determination is reached, I hereby instruct my spouse, children and attending physicians to pull the plug, reel in the tubes and call it a day.

Under no circumstances shall the members of the Legislature enact a special law to keep me on life-support machinery. It is my wish that these boneheads mind their own damn business, and pay attention instead to the health, education and future of the millions of Americans who aren't in a permanent coma.

Under no circumstances shall any politicians butt into this case. I don't care how many fundamentalist votes they're trying to scrounge for their run for the presidency in 2008, it is my wish that they play politics with someone else's life and leave me alone to die in peace.

I couldn't care less if a hundred religious zealots send e-mails to legislators in which they pretend to care about me. I don't know these people, and I certainly haven't authorized them to preach and crusade on my behalf. They should mind their own business too.

If any of my family goes against my wishes and turns my case into a political cause, I hereby promise to come back from the grave and make his or her existence a living hell.



Thursday, April 07, 2005


To be honest, I had to look and see how many popes I've shared the planet with. When you're a kid--or at least when I was--he's just "the pope," with no other identity beyond that title. I do recall the death of Pope Paul, in 1978--after all, by then I was 22--and the 32-day-long reign of John Paul I; and of course the exciting and unexpected election of Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II.

Anyhow, I looked it up and, to my surprise, there have been five popes since I came on the scene in late 1956. They are...

Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli), pope from 1939 till his death in 1958;
John XXIII (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli), 1958-1963
Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini), 1963-1978
John Paul I (Albino Luciani), 1978
John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla), 1978-2005

The Holy See's official website has, as you might expect, a good deal of information about recent popes. See

And there's a short article about the "official" mourning process here:

Watching news coverage of what can only be described as the death watch for John Paul II was interesting. I guess. First, it was a fabulous example of the problem with 24-hour news networks, viz., you have to be on and talking EVEN WHEN THERE'S OBVIOUSLY NOTHING NEW. I wasted two hours Saturday morning awaiting a news release that was expected "within the hour"..."within the half-hour"..."any minute now"..."an hour ago." Granted the networks can't control whether or when the Vatican chooses to release information. But their fear of being scooped--and the need to fill time even when not much is going on--causes CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News to prattle on breathlessly about something that MIGHT happen...

Second, I was surprised at how seemingly ignorant some of these TV newspeople seem to be of how the Vatican works. More correctly, how bureaucracy works. At least one woman--didn't catch her name; she was on Fox News, which I don't watch much--was pretty breathless in quizzing her guest, a priest, about who was "in charge" now that the pope was gone. Could she really be so stupid as to think that nothing happens unless the pope is there barking out orders like the deranged captain of an ancient sea-vessel?

(Well, it being Fox News, it's entirely possible she was that stupid. And yet, there I was watching it...)

But certainly anyone with any real-world experience at all knows that any institution, religious or secular, has at least a semi-permanent bureaucracy in place, and that that bureaucracy handles much of not virtually all of the mundane trivia that makes up nine-tenths of the undertaking. The White House, General Motors, Harvard University, the Vatican--all of them, I am confident, can function quite tolerably for some time in the absence of "the head."

(But there I go again: Where would a Fox News reporter get any "real"-world experience?)

My take on the late pope is ambivalent. Typical for me. I liked him, and I felt that he always had the best of intentions. Certainly no one can say that he did not give his all for his faith and his church. But his conservatism--and, in later years, his authoritarianism--undermined what had begun as a promising ecumenical initiative. As the Catholic half of a Catholic-Lutheran marriage, I had hoped for, if not full communion between the churches, at least a movement in that direction. Instead, in recent years, came grumblings from the Vatican that Catholics should not be receiving communion at non-Catholic services--as I have been doing for some years now. And continue to do. And will continue to do, as long as my wife's church continues to invite me to do so. The attitude from the Holy See does not advance the cause of unity that Christ wants for his church: quite the opposite. JP2 had the opportunity and authority to set such things right, but he did not take it.

Curiously, while on his watch relations between the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, my wife's denomination improved greatly at "high levels," things seemed to stagnate and even backslide on the "pew level." And that is where ecumenism must happen, if it is to have any validity.

The next pope, I think, will be at least as conservative as John Paul II. Probably a short-timer. And after that... As the Catholic church--and the whole Christian church--shifts below the Equator, an even more conservative world, the prospects of a renewal of the church, a revitalization of ecumenism, and the attainment of real Christian unity seem increasingly remote.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Smattering of Quotations

I collect quotations. Seldom do I go looking for them (a specific, partly remembered quotation, yes; but almost never do I go trolling for them), but when I find one that resonates, I keep a record of it. Many of them come from A Word a Day, to which I've subscribed for some years. You can, too, at

Here's a smattering of them, in no order whatsoever:

That man is truly good who knows his own dark places. -Beowulf

Scriptures, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.
-Ambrose Bierce, writer (1842-1914) [The Devil's Dictionary]

A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation. Lend and borrow to the maximum. -Henry Miller, novelist (1891-1980)

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it? -Eleanor Roosevelt, diplomat and writer (1884-1962)

Where it is a duty to worship the sun, it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat. -John Morley, statesman and writer (1838-1923)

Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it's the only one you have.
-Emile Chartier, philosopher (1868-1951)

Today's public figures can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence that they can't read them either. -Gore Vidal (1925- )

Readers may be divided into four classes: 1. Sponges, who absorb all that they read and return it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtied. 2. Sand-glasses, who retain nothing and are content to get through a book for the sake of getting through the time. 3. Strain-bags, who retain merely the dregs of what they read. 4. Mogul diamonds, equally rare and valuable, who profit by what they read, and enable others to profit by it also. -Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet, critic (1772-1834)

Whenever 'A' attempts by law to impose his moral standards upon 'B', 'A' is most likely a scoundrel. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

Wrongs are often forgiven, but contempt never is. Our pride remembers it forever. -Lord Chesterfield, statesman and writer (1694-1773)

If you torture data sufficiently, it will confess to almost anything. -Fred Menger, chemistry professor (1937- )

I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time. -Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)

When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us. -Alexander Graham Bell, inventor (1847-1922)

If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all. -Noam Chomsky, linguistics professor and political activist (1928- )

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. -William Blake, poet, engraver, and painter (1757-1827)

Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation. Tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. -Jean Arp, artist and poet (1887-1948)

Our admiration of fine writing will always be in proportion to its real difficulty and its apparent ease. -Charles Caleb Colton, author and clergyman (1780-1832)

In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn than to contemplate. -Rene Descartes, philosopher and mathematician (1596-1650)

I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)

He that is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death. -Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer (1737-1809)

The man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out. -Chinese proverb

Good deeds are the best prayer. -Serbian proverb

There are three truths: my truth, your truth, and the truth. -Chinese proverb

The more people are reached by mass communication, the less they communicate with each other. -Marya Mannes, writer (1904-1990)

A teacher who is attempting to teach, without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn, is hammering on a cold iron. -Horace Mann, educational reformer (1796-1859)

The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life - the sick, the needy and the handicapped. -Hubert Horatio Humphrey, US Vice President (1911-1978)

As I stood before the gates I realized that I never want to be as certain about anything as were the people who built this place. -Rabbi Sheila Peltz, on her visit to Auschwitz

If it is committed in the name of God or country, there is no crime so heinous that the public will not forgive it. -Tom Robbins, writer (1936- )

The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border. -Pablo Casals, cellist, conductor, and composer (1876-1973)

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. -J.D. Salinger, writer (1919- )

The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. -Thomas Carlyle, writer (1795-1881)

Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols. -Thomas Mann, novelist, Nobel laureate (1875-1955)

The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within. -Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it. -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. -John F. Kennedy, 35th US president (1917-1963)

A faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets. -Arthur C Clarke, science fiction writer (1917- )

Substitute damn every time you're inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. -Clarence Day, writer, (1874-1935)

My aim is to agitate and disturb people. I'm not selling bread, I'm selling yeast. -Miguel de Unamuno, writer and philosopher (1864-1936)

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. -Albert Camus, writer and philosopher (1913-1960)

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety. -Benjamin Franklin

The mind is but a barren soil; a soil which is soon exhausted, and will produce no crop, or only one, unless it be continually fertilized and enriched with foreign matter. -Joshua Reynolds, painter (1723-1792)

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge. -Charles Darwin, naturalist and author (1809-1882)

It is inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell. -William Tecumseh Sherman, Union General in the American Civil War (1820-1891)

The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty. -John Adams, 2nd US president (1735-1826)

It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defence, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties which make the defence of our nation worthwhile. -Earl Warren, jurist (1891-1974)

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

The best writing is rewriting. -E.B. White, writer (1899-1985)

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. -Susan B Anthony, reformer and suffragist (1820-1906)

A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes. -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -William O. Douglas, judge (1898-1980)

A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist. -Louis Nizer, lawyer (1902-1994)

Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense. -Mark Twain

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. -Voltaire

If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom. -Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th president (1890-1969)

If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon. -George D. Aiken, US senator (1892-1984)

The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself. -Richard Francis Burton, explorer and writer (1821-1890)

We have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love one another. -Jonathan Swift, satirist (1667-1745)

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one. -George Bernard Shaw, writer, Nobel laureate (1856-1950)

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. -Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President (1809-1865)

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. -Albert Einstein, physicist, Nobel laureate (1879-1955)

One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time. -Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (1934-1996)

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important. -Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

You have to hold your audience in writing to the very end -- much more than in talking, when people have to be polite and listen to you. -Brenda Ueland, writer (1891-1985)

He who opens a school door, closes a prison. -Victor Hugo, poet, novelist, and dramatist (1802-1885)

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you. -Pericles, statesman (430 BCE)

The light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us. -Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet, critic (1772-1834)

But words are things, a small drop of ink, / Falling like dew upon a thought, produces / That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think. -Lord Byron, poet (1788-1824)

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprang up. -Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., US Supreme Court Justice (1841-1935)

The penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by men worse than themselves. -Plato, philosopher (427-347 BCE)

In a democracy dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test of its value is not in its taste, but in its effects. -J. William Fulbright, US Senator (1905-1995)

Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; Some blunders and absurdities crept in; Forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power. -Eric Hoffer, philosopher and author (1902-1983)

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. -Crowfoot, Native American warrior and orator (1821-1890)

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. -John Donne, poet (1573-1631)

Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds. -George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), novelist (1819-1880)

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. -William Arthur Ward, college administrator, writer (1921-1994)

The world in general doesn't know what to make of originality; it is startled out of its comfortable habits of thought, and its first reaction is one of anger. -W. Somerset Maugham, writer (1874-1965)

Post-Easter Ramble

Last week's Newsweek featured an interesting cover story, "From Jesus to Christ." A great deal of it we've heard before, but it is nevertheless fascinating to contemplate how Christianity grew from a handful of disheartened followers of an executed leader to the worldwide force it is today. Interestingly, a lot of it has to do with the early church's adaptability--something to consider, perhaps, for those who inexplicably insist that the church is somehow "unchanging."

Meanwhile, Time magazine a couple of weeks ago ran a cover story about "The Protestant Mary." (The article is available online to Time subscribers only.) The gist of it is that many Protestant ministers, theologians, and laypeople are "discovering" Mary as a central New Testament figure. Not so much the "Mother of God" angle that my church typically takes, but rather the "first disciple" angle, a key figure who was relegated to the background in the aftermath of the Reformation.

On the whole, I find that cheering. I've long felt it unfortunate that in the Reformers' desire to dissociate themselves from Rome, one of the discarded gems was the pantheon of saints. To those of us who believe in eternity, asking, St. Anthony, St. Jude, or, yes, St. Mary to pray for us is no different than asking a friend or family member to do so. (Contrary to popular misconception, a careful Catholic knows that he or she does not pray "to" a saint--that would be idolatry, which is heretical--but rather we ask a saint to pray for or with us. It's unfortunate that we will colloquially refer to praying "to" St. Christopher--it causes confusion for both Catholics and non-Catholics.) To look to the saints as exemplars of the holy life in no way diminishes the rightful focus on Christ. As a college friend of mine succinctly put it, "These are the guys who hang around with Jesus." It's curious, especially, that Mary all but vanished from the Protestantreligions, inasmuch as Martin Luther was himself a devotee of the Virgin.

That said, I am inherently suspicious of Mariology, especially those within my church who push to have the Vatican proclaim her "co-redemptrix" of the world. Nothing against Mary, but the foundation of the Christian faith is that there is one redeemer, viz., Jesus. Proponents insist that "co-" in this context does not imply equality, but the fact is that the prefix "co-" in modern usage does indeed connote an equal footing--two people writing a book are said to be co-authors; the people with whom I labor in the salt mines are my co-workers; and so on--and it's disingenuous to pretend otherwise, or hearken back to some antiquated or strict-constructionist definition of the prefix. In fact, it smacks of deceitfulness. I think Mary would agree that she probably has enough titles and honorifics already, and I suspect she too would/does look askance at attempts to elevate her to, effectively, goddess status.

As with the other saints, Mary deserves our contemplation and imitation...after all, she was the one who said yes! (Here's a thought for you: I'm enough of a Catholic to believe wholeheartedly in free will. So Mary, when approached by the angel, was free to take a pass on the whole deal. What would have happened in that case? Would God continue to prod her, as God is sometimes wont to do? Or would he have moved on to someone else? If nothing else, that would play havoc with my church's idea of the Immaculate Conception--which refers, by the way, to Mary's conception, not Jesus'--since that philosophy presumes that Mary was born without sin in preparation of her eventually carrying the Savior.) But none of them deserves idolatry.

Apropos of nothing, in searching for the Time magazine link above I landed upon the following:, which gives "official" US time for the various time zones. Although I enjoy that sort of thing (in a past life, I would daily use my company's WATS line to call the US Naval Observatory Master Clock--this was pre-internet, obviously--and set my watch accordingly), I do have to ask myself if it really matters what the "official" time is. I mean, in our daily routine, does it matter that much if it's, say 1:14:01 or 1:15:34? Isn't "about" good enough?

And yet it bugs me inexplicably that I can't seem to get the digital clock on the microwave and the digital clock on the stove to stay in synch.

And it really bugs me that the TV networks can't coordinate their clocks--it's annoying to have to set the VCR manually when the capability exists to set it automatically simply because I can't trust the network to start a show at 8:00 and not 7:59...or worse, to end it on time! I mean, don't they know about

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


I find myself thinking about creation, in a larger context of God, humankind, the Bible, truth, and on and on. Here's a concept that I came upon not long ago: God did not create the universe; God is creating the universe -- it's a work in progress, as are we, and that leaves open the possibility that God may be as surprised by the outcome(s) as we are.

FYI, I believe in a Creator-God, intelligent, benevolent, and interested in creation as more than merely an amusing experiment. Frankly, I consider the idea of our being here by happenstance to require a greater leap of faith than the idea of a Creator being there to ignite the Big Bang. And I usually look for the simplest path.

As a Roman Catholic -- albeit a "liberal" Catholic, not a "good" (viz., obedient) Catholic -- I reject the notion of predestination. We have free will; we choose our paths, for better or worse. God knows the possible outcomes, but doesn't know our choices till we make them. (For him to know our choices before we know them mocks the notion of free will.)

Because of my heretical liberal POV, I see no difficulty with the idea of God and (not or) evolution. A recent visit to a Christian bookstore turned up a volume titled Creation vs. Evolution (or maybe it was the other way around)...a puzzle to me. Versus? What would make them antithetical to each other? Well, the Bible, I suppose. A great many of my acquaintances are so chained to a literal reading of Scriptures (and these are not all so-called fundamentalist people, either, but mostly members of "mainline" churches) that they cannot/will not let God out of that little box long enough to consider wider possibilities. Growing up in the Catholic church of the 1960s and 1970s, we were taught that the Bible is, in toto, God's truth--not that every verse of every chapter is literally "correct."

Thus, when Genesis indicates that the earth was created in six's wrong! We know that the earth was created over the course of millions of years (and indeed is still being created: see above). What's right is the overarching truth (to believers) of Creation, viz., God created (is creating) the heavens and the earth. God chose to pull this off in his own way and in his own time, and science is slowly discovering that truth.

Some 25 years ago, while a college student, I was roped into attending a "Creation Seminar" at a church in Omaha, Nebraska. What an education! The speaker approached the subject thusly: The Bible can't be wrong, so anyone who says anything contrary to biblical accounts must perforce be wrong. Huh! Then he went on to sarcastically enumerate the occasions where science has been mistaken or purposely misled, and jumped from that to the conclusion that science is therefore always wrong! Huh! again. Well, the whole thing was just silly, and having wasted a Friday night sitting in an incredibly hot church basement, I declined to waste all day Saturday listening to the same blather.

Of course science has been wrong--more correctly, scientists have been wrong. Scientists are human beings. Human beings get things wrong; have their own agendas (sometimes subconsciously); can be misled; need to learn and grow and adapt.

And--oh, yeah--the Bible was written by human beings.