Friday, August 31, 2007

Has the Federal Government done enough in New Orleans?

I hear many people say no; but when pressed for details, few seem to know what actually has been done so far, or how much has been spent- just not enough.
So how much have we spent to date? Quite a bit, actually, according to the Washington Times : “The flow of federal dollars to the Gulf Coast two years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the region already exceeds what the U.S. spent on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II. President Bush and Congress have committed more than $127 billion in resources and tax relief for the region — significantly more than inflation-adjusted $107.6 billion directed to 16 countries in Europe between 1947 and 1951.” Thank goodness Ray Nagin wasn’t president of France back then!

Monday, August 27, 2007

I wonder,

Now that Michael Vick has pled guilty, and says that he now realises he did wrong, and has found Jesus... I have to wonder if he is aware of the irony that the only place he will get unreserved forgiveness, acceptance, and a second chance is from a dog?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Well, Duh...

“For a Man in the Middle on Iraq, Church Provides No Sanctuary

By Dana Milbank
Friday, August 24, 2007; Page A02

The sign outside Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church in Burke announces that it is a "liberal, welcoming religious community." For Rep. Tom Davis yesterday, it was more liberal than welcoming.” The rest of the story is here . I’m surprised at rep. Davis’ naiveté- surely he didn’t expect a Republican to get a polite reception at a UU church. He must be a masochist.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Playing Bob Dylan...

In the new movie “I’m Not There” is... guess. I’m serious; take three guesses before looking here . I would never have believed it, but then I couldn’t see Tom Cruise as a vampire, either- I guess that’s why casting directors make the big bucks.

On “Not My Father’s Religion”

Doug Muder has expanded his sermon on classism within the UUA that first appeared in his blog some months back, (I commented on it here ), into an essay that now appears in the latest UU World . It is an excellent read, and has expanded my thoughts on the subject as well, but I think he is still missing the mark. Let me try to put it together by pieces, as he did.

Piece one: Doug uses the analogy of a maze, with the working class having more barriers and twists and turns to negotiate to reach the prize- but he never actually says what the prize is. It can’t be wealth, because he speaks of the professionals who seek wealth in negative terms- “There’s also a dark way out, for those professionals who are driven by fear and greed rather than pulled by love. They sell their time and energy for a lot more money than factory workers—and a lot more than many idealistic professionals—but they can get just as alienated.” No the prize is happiness- “following your bliss”.

Piece two: Doug says that the professional class does what they want to do, and the working class does what they have to do. He is wrong. As Jamie points out , the working class is driven by job satisfaction just as much as the professional class; they (we) too take “war stories” home, reminisce, look forward to the next day- doctors and lawyers have no exclusive claim to enjoying what they do. Nor do they have immunity from unhappiness. My father was a professional, lived and breathed his job, wrote articles for trade journals about it, and kept dabbling after retirement... and was bitterly unhappy for most of the time I knew him; many of my earliest memories are of my parents fighting- the kind that damages body, property, and psyche.

Piece three: Doug says, “We sometimes describe conservative churches as otherworldly because they talk about supernatural realms. Their harsh theology, we worry, can justify harshness in this world. But the connection between harsh theology and a harsh world goes both ways. If you live in a harsh world, a church with a harsh theology is talking about your life. The church with the easy theology is the otherworldly one.” He is absolutely right except for one thing: we all live in a harsh world. The working class, living somewhat closer to the edge, knows this without forcing fate to prove it to them; the professional classes, with more creature comforts at their disposal, can often fool themselves about the nature of this world for a long time- but as they say, “Nobody gets out of here alive.” History shows that education and money alone cannot protect you from addiction, despair, domestic abuse, or any other human failing. Which leads us to...

Piece four: “In the working class, the road to success is self-control. That’s what you want to teach your children: Resist temptation. Walk the narrow path. Do the hard thing you don’t want to do, so that you and the people who are counting on you won’t be punished.” He makes the same mistake here that I pointed out above; this is true for everyone. Don’t ask me, ask Michael Vick, or Lindsay Lohan, or Brittney Spears, or...

When I put these pieces together, I get this picture: The “working class” seeker knows that what he needs comes to individuals, not “classes”. Spiritual happiness- whether you mean capitol “S” spirit, salvation of the soul, or lower case, contentment in your life- comes only retail, not wholesale; anyone saying different is selling snake oil. Doug seeks “To understand why people might choose not to be with us even though we’re trying to be for them,...” Easy enough- because we talk like politicians, not theologians. Because instead of talking to people, we say things like “But we also have a problem with the working class, particularly the ones suffering from what Marx called alienation.” The working class seeker doesn’t need a church to ask “Why can’t the minimum wage be higher? Why can’t the government hire the unemployed? Why can’t college be free?”- he has politicians to ask- and answer- those questions. Why would he want to join a church so that part of his pledge can be sent to Boston to hire someone to fax his congressman when he can do it himself?

Doug asks, “Can we speak in words that make sense everywhere, from the high place to the darkest, trickiest passages of the maze? Can we teach both subtle discernment and making yourself do the obvious hard thing? Inspiration and self-control?” No, I don’t believe we can. To teach the life lessons that those we want to reach need, and are asking for, would involve things like making judgments, talking about right and wrong, and addressing spirituality. I’ll quote Doug one more time: “That almost sounds like a theology. But not a UU theology.”

Friday, August 17, 2007

Emergency Clergy

KSLA TV, Shreveport, LA, reports reports that Homeland Security is recruiting clergy to help pacify the country if it ever becomes necessary to declare martial law. Just from reading that headline, my first thought was that I couldn’t imagine any UU clergy cooperating with this.

But as I read the body of the story, I had second thoughts. Specifically mentioned as something that would need such help was the confiscation of all guns, as was done in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. I have read some pretty strong gun control opinions from UUs, including the position that only police and officialdom should have guns. So my question for any UU clergy or seminarian who cares to answer is this: Would you, officially or unofficially, assist with the confiscation of guns in a national emergency?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Canadian model?

Those touting the “single payer” system for national health care, as Canada uses, should watch this short film on “You Tube”.

Another update to “An Inconvenient Truth”

It is a little known fact that most of the annual temperatures reported are not raw data from weather stations, but are corrected by a computer program to adjust for many factors that could affect the raw data. It is now being said that the temperatures NASA reported that indicated Global Warming, and that Global Warming is accelerating due to man-made greenhouse gasses were erroneous, that a Y2K related bug in the adjustment program made things look much worse than they are. What right wing-nut Exxon sucking mouth breathing Neanderthal is saying this? NASA itself!

In a quiet correction (no press conferences, no handouts to the media), NASA has changed all the corrected temperatures for the last century, almost all of them from recent decades corrected downwards, admitting that previous graphs had been in error. You can search NASA or NOAA websites, and/or read about it here , here , and here .

Does this mean we should stop looking for alternative energy supplies? NO. We still have to worry about little things like pollution, trade imbalance, terrorism, etc. But it does mean that what facts (as opposed to conjectures) Al Gore reported in “An Inconvenient Truth” that had not been debunked already (as I did to the hurricane data here ) have now been shown to be in error. Will future generations look at “An Inconvenient Truth” the way we look at “Reefer Madness”?

P.S. This is also an argument in favor of patronizing newspapers; I have not found a single story in any broadcast network about this- evidently their editors consider this less newsworthy than Lindsay Lohan entering rehab once again.

P.P.S. Sorry about the erratic nature of my posting lately- I’ve been making major progress on other writing projects, neglecting this one. Someday I’ll achieve balance.

Washington Post headline: "Arctic Ocean Getting Warm; Seals Vanish and Icebergs Melt." Interestingly enough, it's from 1922! details here