Friday, November 30, 2007

"Why I don't want Clinton as the nominee"

The title of this post is in quotes because I stole it from fester at Cernig's place. In my opinion his brief comments about the Clintons gets it exactly right. Their latter-day political achievements have has more to do with distancing themselves form their idealistic college-day roots than creatively presenting those same ideals in today's world. It's easier to betray principles than endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, especially if the fortune is is a rich as the one the Clintons have amassed.

...the Clintons came of age in a different time. In their formative political years in Arkansas, they internalized the lesson of distancing themselves from the dirty hippies. And it worked for them – both in Arkansas and in 1992. And that’s all fine – politicians have to play the cards that historical context deals them. More power to them.

But 2008 is a new world....

He's right, you know. Like him, I also didn't partake of all the Sixties had to offer. I was a musical snob until the era was half finished so I only went through the motions of putting up with acid rock and neo-folk music. Hendricks and Joplin were already dead before I caught on to what they were doing. Unlike some of my less serious peers I was more concerned with paying bills and trying to get a four-year undergraduate degree that took me eight years and a tour of duty as a draftee to accomplish. By then I was out of money. Going to work was more important than graduate school.

But at the core I was and continue to be a child of the Sixties. Despite the moral turpitude and streaks of violence and socially inappropriate behavior, we were right about pulling out of Vietnam, we were right to oppose the spread of nuclear weapons, we were right to be concerned with the plights of women and ethnic underclasses, and we were right to mistrust our leaders. We were right about a lot of things.

It was fifteen years later, in the early eighties, before the AIDs epidemic reared it's ugly head, infiltrating the heterosexual community and bringing free love to a screeching halt. I remember asking the manager of a singles bar how business was going and he said, "The sexual revolution is OVER. Business is really down."

Yep. The battle of the sexes was over and I didn't get to fire but one or two shots. Oh, well. There are worse fates than staying committed to one spouse and resigning one's self to decades of dreary slogging away rearing a family. After all, I was not born a DFH (see fester's link to explain). My roots were a lot more boring.

Thanks to free will we are not bound by every thread of our birthright. As we grow, we can cut those that imprison us and weave together new ones that make us stronger. There is an old saying that anything that doesn't kill us can make us stronger. In the case of the Sixties, I emerged cleaner, freer and more liberated coming out than I did going in. It's too bad not everyone did.

This is partly why I like Barack Obama better than Hillary Clinton. The title of this post is misleading, but only because it says "don't want." What I want and what I'm gonna get are two different realities. I still think she will be the nominee.

And when I cast my vote for her, it will not be because I like or approve of her. It will be solely because she is the only candidate running from either party who seems smart enough, connected enough and mean enough to do something about universal health care. At the moment, for reasons best left alone, that is the issue closest to my heart.

Christmas reminder by Gordon Atkinson

Real Live Preacher, Gordon Atkinson, recycles a great story about what happened when he invited two Jewish friends to host a Seder for his small mainline Protestant congregation. A timely reminder for the Christmas season of what the season is all about.

Jonah and Robert were both bound to wheelchairs, Jonah because of polio and Robert because of muscular dystrophy. For the next year or so, I would go to visit them, load them into their van – which was equipped with a wheelchair lift – and drive them around town. We talked about theology, the scriptures, and the relationship between our respective faith traditions. I liked them. Jonah could be a bit overbearing at times, and he was certainly manipulative. I was aware of how he always managed to talk me into doing things for them even as I was letting him get away with it. I had never had friends in wheelchairs before, and I was rather over-anxious to please them and be nice. And, as I said before, I was young and fairly naïve about a number of things.

That Spring I thought it would be nice for our church to have a Passover Seder together. The Passover meal is strictly a Jewish observance, but many Christian churches - recognizing our obvious historical and theological dependency on Judaism - will sometimes have a Seder meal as a kind of religious education exercise.

And, I thought, who better to lead us in this sacred meal than my own rabbi friend, Jonah? When I asked him, Jonah was obviously pleased and readily agreed. At the time Jonah was not serving a congregation, so I thought this would be nice for him. And I thought our church would benefit from the cultural and spiritual exchange. I admit that I was also hoping something like this would help solidify our sense of community as we continued to adjust to the loss of our pastor and the families who left with him. It was all good in my mind. There were no downsides that I could see.

Go see what happened. It may not be what you imagine.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Medicine in the news...

Actually, not the real news. Just Hoots' news.
My mother, who will be ninety-one in a few weeks, fell on Thanksgiving Day and broke her arm. The family has been in a fustrating nightmare of what is now euphemistically called "care-giving" as we wait for the holiday wheels to grind to Monday morning. Since a broken arm is not a life-threatening emergency she did not "meet the criteria" to be admitted to the hospital, and was sent away with a sling for her arm, a prescription for drugs, and an order to follow-up with an orthopedic surgeon. I don't want to tell about the next two or three days.

Twenty-four hour caregiving, even by "non-skilled" professionals, runs about a thousand dollars a week...not counting the rest of life's expenses. You, rent, transportation...all that other stuff. I'll have to cool off a little before writing a post. At the moment I'm still reeling from the world's best medical care that depends on market economics to do best what government must never touch.


Meantime, here is a great little commentary on medicine via Boing Boing.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Paul Potts Followup

Here it is again, the now-historic first big break for Paul Potts. I blogged about him in June, and this morning he was a guest on NPR's Weekend Edition, interviewed by Scott Simon. Take a moment to listen to the clip and discover what a truly modest, internally decent person he really is. He deserves all the good fortune he receives.

When Scott Simon asked him if he were an opera singer who was selling car phones or a car phone salesman who sang opera, his answer was straightforward: he earned his living selling phones and had to pay for any singing lessons he received, or any opportunity to sing. He never sang at work, so the people who worked with him never knew what his voice sounded like. He's still officially employed by the same company, and when he went back recently and logged on the his account, he had three thousand emails! He hasn't had time to get to them yet. He's in the US at the moment promoting his first CD.

I see the reviews at Amazon are not unalloyed praise and gushing excitement. You know what? I used to be a musical snob once myself. Two years music at the college level as a music major nearly destroyed my ability to enjoy the range of music that I later learned to love. My take on Paul Potts is that he has so much music inside that he'll be making music even when his voice starts to show his age in later years. Music is greater than timbre, tone, pitch and richness of sound. The best music has soul. And Paul Potts has it.

Conservapedia -- The Conservative Alternative to Wikipedia

A warning to Internet users:

Our study suggests that Wikipedia is 6 times more liberal than the American public. Now it's time for the Conservatives to get our voice out on the internet!

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Sneeky Libruls are a plague upon the land.

Cernig makes an interesting observation.
This was too good to link.
So I stole it completely...

Real men, it appears, bomb Iran.
But then again, real men also have...umm...issues.

What Do Conservatives Spend Their Time Thinking About?

One answer is provided by Conservapedia's most viewed list:

1. Main Page‎ [1,897,388]
2. Homosexuality‎ [1,488,013]
3. Homosexuality and Hepatitis‎ [516,193]
4. Homosexuality and Promiscuity‎ [416,767]
5. Homosexuality and Parasites‎ [387,438]
6. Homosexuality and Gonorrhea‎ [328,045]
7. Homosexuality and Domestic Violence‎ [325,547]
8. Gay Bowel Syndrome‎ [314,076]
9. Homosexuality and Syphilis‎ [262,015]
10. Homosexuality and Mental Health‎ [249,14]

I'd like to add something witty, but really, what is there to say after that? Especially since I can barely stop laughing.

Indeed (chortle).

What the heck. I think HE stole it from somewhere, too. I can't get the link to the Agonist to work, but I suspect that's the source.

(I'm not homophobic and this list looks for all the world like a way to malign queers. That is not the intent, I'm sure. It's just another case of damn lies and statistics, mixed together with pots and kettles and shades of beige.)

I finally got the Agonist link to work and did a blog search about Conservapedia. Looks like it's the work of pranksters.
I still think it's funny. If anyone wants to toss cold water in the commnets, it's okay with me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving, 2007

My blog scrapbook is finally beginning to pay off. This year as Thanksgiving approaches, I can go back to the same holiday memories from past years and recapture special moments of those times.

This post is being started a week and a half before Thanksgiving. My intention is to put together a collection of links for my little crowd of readers as a special Thanksgiving treat. And for myself another in a string of memories...

Among the treasures I find last year's link to a radio program that featured, among other treats, two stories and a couple of readings by Charles Laughton. As I type I am listening again to the narrative and having a hard time paying attention to what I'm doing. Excuse me while I stop and listen...

I cannot describe in simple language the excitement that Charles Laughton is able to create, or the timeless drama of his voice. If you fail to set aside a little while to listen patiently to him you are cheating no one but yourself. His portion of this two-hour program is a little less than twenty minutes.


Among the referrals, someone tried to connect with a Thanksgiving story that I linked two years ago from the Bruderhof site. Sadly the links are all gone, together with the online presence of the Bruderhoff. I recall the story, a recollection of childhood by Jean Bell Mosley, which told how her father planned to treat the family to the modern addition of gas lights to their house. They went into town where he got what he needed, but in the end there were no gas lights because the father wisely decided to use the money to bring Thanksgiving to a poor family that would otherwise have had nothing for the holiday. Simple, wonderful little story. Would make a good chick-flick for the Hallmark channel.

I don't mean to sound flip, but we have to get something from a lost memory, even if it's nothing more than a snarky remark. Meantime, I tried to find the story elsewhere, but with no luck. There is a site where the writer published a string of columns, (but not the Thanksgiving story now lost) with one video recollection of her.

And the Bruderhoff story is a tale of its own.


For many of us Thanksgiving is when we recall Arlo Guthrie's anti-draft talking blues epic saga about Alice's Restaurant. It's a holiday ritual to play the old record once again and relive the time. It's tame by many standards, but when it was fresh it seemed to frighten a lot of people. I found the lyrics on line...

Alice's Restaurant By Arlo Guthrie

This song is called Alice's Restaurant, and it's about Alice, and the restaurant, but Alice's Restaurant is not the name of the restaurant, that's just the name of the song, and that's why I called the song Alice's Restaurant.

You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant

Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on - two years ago on Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the restaurant, but Alice doesn't live in the restaurant, she lives in the church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and Fasha the dog. And livin' in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of room downstairs where the pews used to be in. Havin' all that room, seein' as how they took out all the pews, they decided that they didn't have to take out their garbage for a long time.

We got up there, we found all the garbage in there, and we decided it'd be a friendly gesture for us to take the garbage down to the city dump. So we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed on toward the city dump.

Well we got there and there was a big sign and a chain across across the dump saying, "Closed on Thanksgiving." And we had never heard of a dump closed on Thanksgiving before, and with tears in our eyes we drove off into the sunset looking for another place to put the garbage.

We didn't find one. Until we came to a side road, and off the side of the side road there was another fifteen foot cliff and at the bottom of the cliff there was another pile of garbage. And we decided that one big pile is better than two little piles, and rather than bring that one up we decided to throw our's down.

That's what we did, and drove back to the church, had a thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, went to sleep and didn't get up until the next morning, when we got a phone call from officer Obie. He said, "Kid, we found your name on an envelope at the bottom of a half a ton of garbage, and just wanted to know if you had any information about it." And
I said, "Yes, sir, Officer Obie, I cannot tell a lie, I put that envelope under that garbage."

After speaking to Obie for about fourty-five minutes on the telephone we finally arrived at the truth of the matter and said that we had to go down and pick up the garbage, and also had to go down and speak to him at the police officer's station. So we got in the red VW microbus with the shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed on toward the police officer's station.

Now friends, there was only one or two things that Obie coulda done at the police station, and the first was he could have given us a medal for being so brave and honest on the telephone, which wasn't very likely, and we didn't expect it, and the other thing was he could have bawled us out and told us never to be see driving garbage around the vicinity again,
which is what we expected, but when we got to the police officer's station there was a third possibility that we hadn't even counted upon, and we was both immediately arrested.

Handcuffed. And I said "Obie, I don't think I can pick up the garbage with these handcuffs on." He said, "Shut up, kid.
Get in the back of the patrol car." And that's what we did, sat in the back of the patrol car and drove to the quote Scene of the Crime unquote.

I want tell you about the town of Stockbridge, Massachusets, where this happened here, they got three stop signs, two police officers, and one police car, but when we got to the
Scene of the Crime there was five police officers and three police cars, being the biggest crime of the last fifty years, and everybody wanted to get in the newspaper story about it. And they was using up all kinds of cop equipment that they had hanging around the police officer's station.

They was taking plaster tire tracks, foot prints, dog smelling prints, and they took twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. Took pictures of the approach, the getaway, the northwest corner the southwest corner and that's not to mention the aerial photography.

After the ordeal, we went back to the jail. Obie said he was going to put us in the cell. Said, "Kid, I'm going to put you in the cell, I want your wallet and your belt." And I said, "Obie, I can understand you wanting my wallet so I don't have any money to spend in the cell, but what do you
want my belt for?" And he said, "Kid, we don't want any hangings." I said, "Obie, did you think I was going to hang myself for littering?"

Obie said he was making sure, and friends Obie was, cause he took out the toilet seat so I couldn't hit myself over the head and drown, and he took out the toilet paper so I couldn't bend the bars roll out the - roll the toilet paper out the window, slide down the roll and have an escape. Obie was making sure, and it was about four or five hours later that Alice (remember Alice? It's a song about Alice), Alice came by and with a few nasty words to Obie on the side, bailed us out of jail, and we went back to the church, had a another thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, and didn't get up until the next morning, when we all had to go to court.

We walked in, sat down, Obie came in with the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, sat down. Man came in said, "All rise." We all stood up, and Obie stood up with the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures, and the judge walked in sat down with a seeing eye dog, and he sat down, we sat down. Obie looked at the seeing eye dog, and then at the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, and looked at the seeing eye dog.

And then at twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one and began to cry, 'cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American blind justice, and there wasn't nothing he could do about it, and the judge wasn't going to look at the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. And we was fined $50 and had to pick up the garbage in the snow, but thats not what I came to tell you about.

Came to talk about the draft.

They got a building down New York City, it's called Whitehall Street, where you walk in, you get injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected. I went down to get my physical examination one day, and I walked in, I sat down, got good and drunk the night before, so I looked and felt my best when I went in that morning. `Cause I wanted to
look like the all-American kid from New York City, man I wanted, I wanted to feel like the all-, I wanted to be the all American kid from New York, and I walked in, sat down, I was hung down, brung down, hung up, and all kinds o' mean nasty ugly things. And I waked in and sat down and they gave me a piece of paper, said, "Kid, see the phsychiatrist, room 604." And I went up there, I said, "Shrink, I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL." And I started jumpin up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL," and he started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and down yelling, "KILL, KILL." And the sargent came over, pinned a medal on me,sent me down the hall, said, "You're our boy."

Didn't feel too good about it. Proceeded on down the hall gettin more injections, inspections, detections, neglections and all kinds of stuff that they was doin' to me at the thing there, and I was there for two hours, three hours, four hours, I was there for a long time going through all kinds of mean nasty
ugly things and I was just having a tough time there, and they was inspecting, injecting every single part of me, and they was leaving no part untouched. Proceeded through, and when I finally came to the see the last man, I walked in, walked in sat down after a whole big thing there, and I walked up and said, "What do you want?" He said, "Kid, we only got one question. Have you ever been arrested?"

And I proceeded to tell him the story of the Alice's Restaurant Massacre, with full orchestration and five part harmony and stuff like that and all the phenome... - and he stopped me right there and said, "Kid, did you evergo to court?"

And I proceeded to tell him the story of the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and the paragraph on the back of each one, and he stopped me right there and said "Kid, I want you to go and sit down on that bench that says Group W .... NOW kid!!"

And I, I walked over to the, to the bench there, and there is, Group W's where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after committing your special crime, and there was all kinds of mean nasty ugly looking people on the bench there. Mother rapers. Father stabbers. Father rapers! Father rapers sitting right there on the bench next to me! And they was mean and nasty and ugly and horrible crime-type guys sitting on the bench next to me. And the meanest, ugliest, nastiest one, the meanest father raper of them all, was coming over to me and he was mean 'n' ugly 'n' nasty 'n' horrible and all kind of things and he sat down next to me and said, "Kid, whad'ya get?" I said, "I didn't get nothing, I had to pay $50 and pick up the garbage." He said, "What were you arrested for, kid?"

And I said, "Littering." And they all moved away from me on the bench there, and the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I said, "And creating a nuisance." And they all came back, shook my hand, and we had a great time on the bench, talkin about crime, mother stabbing, father raping, all kinds of groovy things that we was talking about on the
bench. And everything was fine, we was smoking cigarettes and all kinds of things, until the Sargeant came over, had some paper in his hand, held it
up and said.

"Kids, this-piece-of-paper's-got-47-words-37-sentences-58-words-we-wanna-know-details-of-the-crime-time-of-the-crime-and-any-other-kind-of-thing-you-gotta-say-pertaining-to-and-about-the-crime-I-want-to-know-arresting-officer's-name-and-any-other-kind-of-thing-you-gotta-say", and talked for forty-five minutes and nobody understood a word that he said, but we had fun filling out the forms and playing with the pencils on the bench there, and I filled out the massacre with the four part harmony, and wrote it down there, just like it was, and everything was fine and I put down the pencil, and I turned over the piece of paper, and there, there on the other side, in the middle of the other side, away from everything else on the other side, in parentheses, capital letters, quotated, read the following words:

I went over to the sargent, said, "Sargeant, you got a lot a damn gall to ask me if I've rehabilitated myself, I mean, I mean, I mean that just, I'm sittin' here on the bench, I mean I'm sittin here on the Group W bench 'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug." He looked at me and said, "Kid, we don't like your kind, and we're gonna send you fingerprints off to Washington."

And friends, somewhere in Washington enshrined in some little folder, is a study in black and white of my fingerprints. And the only reason I'm singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if your in a situation like that there's only one thing you can do and that's walk into the shrink wherever you are ,just walk in say "Shrink, You can get anything you want, at Alice's restaurant.". And walk out. You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them.
And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement.

And that's what it is , the Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it come's around on theguitar.
With feeling. So we'll wait for it to come around on the guitar, here and sing it when it does. Here it comes.

You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant

That was horrible. If you want to end war and stuff you got to sing loud.
I've been singing this song now for twenty five minutes. I could sing it for another twenty five minutes. I'm not proud... or tired.
So we'll wait till it comes around again, and this time with four part harmony and feeling.
We're just waitin' for it to come around is what we're doing.
All right now.
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Excepting Alice You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Walk right in it's around the back
Just a half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want, at Alice's Restaurant
Da da da da da da da dum
At Alice's Restaurant
©1966,1967 (Renewed) by Appleseed Music Inc. All Rights Reserved.


The Boiled Custard Recipe I posted last year has been found by a number of Google searches since then. It's been collecing about ten or fifteen hits a day for the last week.


This Thanksgiving litany came up from an unrelated link to First Things...two years ago. According to Fr. Neuhaus it's thirty years old (1977). He calls it "silliness." I call it overly cute. Either way, here it is...

CELEBRANT: As consumers, we are conditioned by our economy never to be satisfied. But God, too, is a fantastic supplier, and we stop and take a sample inventory on this special day for giving thanks.

LEADER : For the smell of new rain, for pumpkins, and Snoopy, for the aroma of homemade bread, for cotton candy, for funny looking animals like giraffes and koalas and human beings; let us give thanks to the Lord.

2. For the smell of fall in the air, for paychecks, and smoked ribs, for the intricate designs of window frost, and for ice cubes and ice cream; let us give thanks to the Lord.

3. For clean sheets and peanut butter, and perma-press, and stereo-headphones, for vacations and seat belts, for escalators, and for views from tall buildings, and for red balloons; let us give thanks to the Lord.

4. For first romances and second romances, for eyes to see colors and ears to hear music and feet to dance, for dissenters and the right to dissent, for black and red and brown power, for pine trees and daisies, for newspapers and sandals and frogs; let us give thanks to the Lord.

5. For parks and woodsmoke and snow, for the smell of leather, for funny buttons and powerful posters, for pecan pies and long hair and french fries and recycling centers, for jet planes and for finding a nearby parking space, for zoos and splashing fountains and rock music and Bach music, let us give thanks to the Lord.

CELEBRANT: God, you overwhelm us with your goodness. And we have yet to mention your greatest gift, our brother Jesus! For these and all your gracious gifts please help us to learn how to live thankfully each day.


Note for next year: Check out Fred Clark's adaptation of Isaiah 58 for Thanksgiving.

Score one for Naomi Wolf

Via digby watch this...

Now check out Naomi Wolf's Ten Points.

Pay particular attention to Number Three:

►3. Develop a thug caste

Oh, and go read digby's narrative and comments.

Police in the country are now allowed to torture speeders by the side of the highway in order to get them to comply. The only difference between this officer slugging the speeder in the stomach and putting 50,0000 volts of electricity in him is that the latter doesn't leave any marks. The intent, the pain and the goose-stepping authoritarian message are exactly the same.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll.

Followup here...(November 29)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkey in the news...Heritage Turkeys

No, not that turkey. This post is not about presidential politics.
The real ones...those we prepare for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Friday, November 16, 2007
K-State Poultry Expert Talks Turkey

US - The type of turkey that is on sale at your local grocery store today is not the turkey your grandma used to buy -- but her "old-fashioned" bird may be making a comeback, according to a Kansas State University poultry researcher.

K-State's Scott Beyer, an associate professor of animal sciences and industry who has a research interest in heritage turkeys, says the turkey business has turned commercial because of the high demand for turkeys each year. Beyer said that has left many of the original breeds of turkeys, or heritage turkeys, close to extinction.

But Beyer thinks heritage turkeys might be making a comeback, perhaps because of concerns about animal welfare and the treatment the animals receive during the breeding process. Good Shepard Turkey Ranch in Lindsborg, one of the largest heritage farms in the nation, has donated heritage turkeys to K-State research to find out ways to more effectively and less expensively produce heritage birds.

According to Beyer:

►In the United States, there are 300 or fewer small-scale heritage turkey farms.

►Heritage farms are breeding traditional turkeys that have been here for centuries, including Beltsville Small White, Black, Jersey Buff, Narragansett, Slate, Standard Bronze, White Holland and White Midget turkeys. These breeds make up less than 1 percent of the 265 million turkeys produced in America last year.

►Heritage farmers lost their market share with the development of the heavier-breasted turkeys found in supermarkets today.

►Many of the heritage breeders focus on showing their turkeys at county and state fairs, while still fewer run small businesses that focus on growing Thanksgiving turkeys.

►Heritage turkeys are not easy to come by and are mainly sold in specialty -- or natural -- food stores.

►Heritage turkeys can be more expensive to produce. Because the birds are fully free range, they can fly and tear up pastures.

►They eat three to four times more feed than commercial turkeys; they do not receive any growth promoters in their feed; and they produce fewer offspring because they mate naturally, compared to most commercial breeds of turkeys which are produced via artificial insemination.

►Heritage turkeys can cost more per pound, sometimes up to $20 per pound for the really nice breeds, while the commercial varieties are often less than a $1 per pound -- especially around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Somewhat related, but regarding chickens instead of turkeys...

Immortalising An Age Old Strain Of Poultry

CANADA - University of Alberta poultry researchers, keepers of the broiling chicken's royal bloodline, will be celebrating the 50th birthday of the dinner-table staple tomorrow.

The U of A's random bread line of 1957 broiler chickens turns 50.

To mark the occasion, the U of A's Poultry Preservation Program is hosting a group of founding geneticists to celebrate the 1957 decision to preserve a certain genetic strain of broiler chicken to ensure it would live on.

"At the time, it was thought by Agriculture Canada that genetic progress was happening pretty quickly and that a random-bred standard should be maintained to preserve those genetics," said Doug Korver, a professor of poultry nutrition in the Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry, and Home Economics. "Preserving genetic stocks is important in poultry, because we use so few individual strains to produce a lot of the poultry in the world."

The strain also provides a good yardstick to compare various traits in modern-day broilers.

The roasting chicken - known as a broiler - lands on the common dinner table fried, roasted, even as fast food in the bucket and is prized for its tenderness and plumpness. The 1957 bird is five times smaller than today's commercially grown version, but that's a positive development - "it shows what huge genetic progress has been made," said Martin Zuidhof, a poultry researcher from Alberta Agriculture and Food who works with the U of A's poultry program.

Though it might seem inferior to today's version, it is important to keep the genetic strength of the 1957 chicken alive in case of unforeseen issues like illness that could threaten the existence of the lines developed over the past 50 years.

One of the issues is food security, said Zuidhof, citing the threat of bird flus, which wipe out entire flocks of chickens almost overnight. "Should something happen in the industry that caused a major loss of numbers, we have a strain that is unselected and closer to the indigenous chicken. It is just one more approach to securing the food supply going into the future."

The random-bred program involves the yearly selection of 400 eggs from 300 chickens, using such numbers to minimize inbreeding while preserving the genetic diversity of the flock

"As opposed to the artificial selection programs, which the industry uses to select traits that are commercially viable, these chickens have not been selected for those traits," said Zuidoff. "However, when you random breed a population, some of the recessive traits that were selected against colour, for instance, start to come back because they get distributed throughout the population. Now we have some coloured birds."

Beyond colour, size and rate of egg-laying, Zuidoff said the 1957 flock maintains many other fascinating traits, such as its immune response.

"The modern broiler mounts a fairly vigorous immune response but doesn't divert a lot of nutrients away from growth in order to respond to a pathogen," he said. "The unselected strain mounts more of a general response, it lasts longer and it has more of an effect on slowing down growth, meaning when the animal is challenged it will divert a lot more nutrients to immune response at the cost of growth."

Zuidoff said selecting for this and other growth-oriented traits and nutrition is the only reason for gains in the commercial poultry industry, and not hormones.

The preserved, 1957 strain is a good picture of genetic process for the industry and is a good visual for dispelling the myth of feeding hormones to commercial poultry, he said, adding that gains in poultry genetics have cut the time it takes to produce a broiler ready for the table to drop to 35 from 90 days in just 50 years.

"We do research that shows that about 80 per cent of the growth rate that has come since 1957 has come from genetics and 15-20 per cent comes from nutrition. People often assume that because chickens are so different from how they were 50 years ago, it must be to some technology like hormones. It's all based on traditional selection of the best individuals and nutrition."

The birthday party thrown for the 1957 flock was also conceived as a way to help celebrate Donald Shaver, who will be awarded an honorary degree from the U of A on Nov. 21 in recognition of his poultry breeding contributions done on his Kitchener, Ont. farm.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Amanda Baggs on CNN (again)

I didn't watch the program, but this morning the impact is already being felt. Autism is ignored by the majority of the population whose experience with the phenomenon is limited to occasional encounters with a neighbor or family member who mentions the word in conversation. But for those close to the condition, autism cannot be ignored. A bewildering array of behaviors and symptoms manifest what is generally called the autism spectrum which ranges from "mild" to "extreme" to "unmanageable." Autism is typically associated with children, although a growing number of adults now identify themselves as autistic.

Parents, educators and medical professionals who work with autistic children and adults seem to be slowly coming into agreement about how to define and react to autism, but at this point it remains a sensitive and hotly-debated topic, triggering extreme emotional reactions. Parents and care-givers, often coping with years of frustrating attempts to ameliorate the socially and physically destructive effects of autism, are sometimes pushed to the edge of patience. Likewise, the growing number of adults living with autism have in recent years found strength in numbers as a "neurodiversity" movement takes form, not altogether different from the old "womens lib" movement of the Sixties, the pre-cursor of modern "feminism."

Like feminism, the term neurodiversity means many things to many people. It is fast becoming a politically charged buzzword, apt to divide those using to it into polarized extremes, depending on whether they agree that autism should be regarded as a treatable, therefore "curable" condition...or, as neurodiversity advocates propose, a state of being, living and functioning deserving respect, accommodation and acceptance by those now attempting to "fix" these broken people.

This morning my heart goes out to both sides of this sensitive and painful discussion because of a comment left last night at a post in February about Amanda Baggs' first appearance on CNN. The writer, identified by his profile as John Best, left this comment:

Can you explain how Amanda has the wherewithal to make those videos but can't boil water?

My first instinct was to reply "Nope" and let it go at that. I have in the past already seen the kind of mean-spirited, deeply defensive, downright ugly responses she triggers from a few people who regard her as a fraud, pretending to be someone she is not in order to get attention or something...

After reading her blog and doing my homework for the past six months I can identify myself as one of her fans. Some of her writing reveals a rare level of patience, tolerance and insight into human behavior. I am impressed with her understanding of "power" in the richest sense of that word. But this is not the reason for this post. This woman does not need me to defend her. She does that quite well on her own.

Here is a snip concluding one of her comments about power...

Misusing power does not always make you an “abuser,” nor does it always make you any less loving than the next person. But it is… a human thing to do. People do this. It happens. It doesn’t make it right. But if misusing power makes someone a bad person, then every last human being is a bad person, and I don’t think that is true. What is true is that we all have the potential to screw these things up, but we also have the potential to deal with those screwups. When I point these things out about power, it is not meant as a personal insult. It is only meant to point out things that happen to everyone. As I said in another post, it doesn’t mean I’m calling you a bad person, I’m just calling you human, and I don’t hold myself exempt from any of this.

I am also not trying to make anyone feel guilty. Feeling guilty is not useful after you’ve been reminded enough of what you’ve done, or have the potential to do. Figuring out what to do, is more useful.

I have no way of knowing whether or not she was abused or imagined being abused. The question is very much beside the point. Anyone able to articulate such a charitable point of view deserves respect. Anything less will trap any critic in an ad hominem position that will reflect worse on the attacker than the target.

I want to write a lot more about this, but I'm running out of time. Before I leave this post, I want to add that after visiting the commenter's blog and reading an anguished cry for help I am deeply moved by his pain. So, too, are a long and continuing thread of commenters to his situation, some of whom are clearly not his fans.

This man has made, and continues to make, merciless personal attacks on Amanda Baggs, but at some level I believe his pain derives more deeply from a lifetime of frustration dealing with his son's self-destructive behavior than anything that has to do with Amanda Baggs or the neurodiversity movement.

There is much to add, but time does not permit. I have to go to work.
I never go to it, but I highly recommend listening to a program I heard on The Infinite Mind recently. ASPERGER'S SYNDROME: A SPECIAL REPORT
Aspergers is generally considered to be one manifestation of the "autism spectrum" and the guests on the program represent three outstanding examples of adults living with their self-identified Aspergers Syndrome.

Finally, here is a video produced by an autistic child from the UK.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" Remarkable Photo Ministry

I don't think these people will object to my calling what they do a ministry, but it is just that in the finest meaning of the word.

They provide memorable photographs of dying babies for grieving parents.

Get a kleenex.

Here is the story.

The day Maddux Achilles Haggard died, an idea was born.
It began in the hearts and minds of two mothers, one with a dead child and the other who understood her pain and could offer comfort with a camera. It began because Cheryl Haggard wanted something more than just a snapshot of the baby she would never bring home.

She wanted something elegant and artistic, like the photos that graced the walls of the maternity ward and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Presbyterian-St. Lukes. A real portrait of Maddux for the family's own wall, next to the pictures of the Haggard's three older children. Cheryl wanted a way to preserve the memories of the little boy she had loved and lost.

On the last of Maddux's six days on Earth, his parents reached photographer Sandy Puc, who had taken the photos in the hospital that Cheryl admired so much. You have to come tonight, Sandy was told. Tomorrow will be too late.

It wasn't until she arrived at the hospital that Sandy finally understood what they wanted her to do. Take pictures of Maddux tethered to all the tubes and wires that were keeping him alive — and one thing more.

"Would you wait until he passes away and photograph him after that, so Cheryl can really hold him the way she wants?" Mike Haggard asked her.

Sandy was shocked. "A big part of me didn't want to do it, but I knew I had to do it," she said. "So I said yes."

Sandy cried through the photo shoot, and afterward, thanked the Haggards for the privilege. She did it all for free.

"If this is all she has, I want to give her the best I can," Sandy said. She made each photo perfect, then put together a slide show set to music. Then she left the Haggards alone in the studio to watch.

They looked at the pictures over and over again, and when they emerged more than two hours later, eyes puffy and red from crying, Cheryl gave Sandy a big hug.

"Do you know what you've done?' she said. "You've given me my son."

Three weeks later, Sandy got another call from the hospital: Could she come photograph a baby who was going to die?

When she arrived, the baby was hooked to machines and couldn't be moved. "The only thing the parents could do was touch his hand, touch his head, kiss his head," she said. "How could I tell them, after he passes away, I'll come back and photograph them holding him?"

She called Cheryl and asked her to contact the family and let them know about the photos Sandy had done for her. And that's when the idea bubbled up between them — that every grieving parent should have the chance to have beautiful portraits of their baby, and they shouldn't have to pay for them.

Cheryl printed up brochures on her computer and took them to hospitals. Almost immediately, they received their first call. By April 2005, just two months after Maddux died, they had nonprofit status and a name, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.
As the word spread, more calls came in — about babies born too early, babies born dead and babies about to die. Babies that parents had said hello and goodbye to in almost the same breath. They were all babies that somebody loved and wanted to remember.

"At Christmas time last year, I did eight babies in 12 hours," Sandy said. "It was so depressing and hard. Every time my cell phone would ring, I thought, 'I can't do this anymore.' "

She needed help, so she put out the word herself. A successful portrait photographer, Sandy was a popular lecturer and photography teacher who wrote for professional magazines and had many corporate sponsors. She could easily reach thousands of colleagues, and she began telling them about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.

The result: a roster today of 3,000 volunteer photographers nationwide and in eight countries. But the group needs many more; it still can only fulfill about 80 percent of the requests they get, executive director Jessica Roe said.

More at the link...

Link to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

This is Risawn's personal story, with pictures, about the passing of her neice. I have been following her blog for some time. It was through her that I became aware of this group.

Reading assignments: Pakistan

Open a conversation about Pakistan and watch American eyes glaze over. Even most of the media doesn't get it right. What passes for democracy in America -- a party-driven public catfight funded by a variety of special interests pissing away small fortunes left, right and center to anyone with a clever soundbite -- overshadows reasonable attempts to educate voters.

Rant over. Sorry about that. Had to get it out of my system...

A blog put together by academics is now in my aggregator.

A Group of independent Pakistani academics have launched a new blog which is going to inform Pakistani and international audiences through analytical insights into the immediate and longer term adverse impacts and ramifications of the imposition of Emergency in Pakistan on November 3, 2007.

I have been mystified by the complexities of foreign policy that embraces Pakistan and vilifies Iran. I understand (although I do not approve of) why Iraq and Afghanistan became targets of US military occupation. But officially tagging Pakistan an "ally" strikes me as odd at best, if not transparently disingenuous. Here are some reading assignments I hope will help me better understand what's going on in Pakistan.

Joe Biden, presidential candidate, placed a call to Pakistan to ask for himself what is going on.

To help defuse the current political crisis, we must be far more pro-active, not reactive and make it clear to Pakistan that actions have consequences.

President Bush's first reaction was to call on President Musharraf to reverse course.Given the stakes, I thought it was important to actually call him - which is exactly what I did. I also spoke to opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

An essay by Samia Altaf spells out some basic realities about Pakistan.

Pakistan, labeled the most dangerous country in the world, with loose nukes and angry jihadis, is unraveling. It needs help. To be helped it needs to be understood. Urging a transition to “true democracy,” after the fourth military dictator has suspended the constitution for the second time and sacked a judiciary that dared to question his legitimacy, betrays either naiveté or disinterest. Both will hurt in the long run, if there is a long run.

I have already expressed my own concerns about the seriousness of what can happen there.

Just this morning I came across a trove of commentary by Leon Hadar that falls like a load of ice on much of what's now taking place in the news...

Thus, there is therefore no strong disagreement in Congress and elsewhere in the US with the idea that Washington needs to "do something" in order to force Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to "take off" his military uniform and allow free elections in the country.

Similarly, Republicans and Democrats as well as the media seem to be infatuated with former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto whose current performance suggests that she auditioned to play the role of Corazon Aquino in a Pakistani remake of the Philippines' "People's Power" extravaganza. And if she succeeds, she will be like Ukraine's Viktor Yushchenko and Georgia's Mikhail Saakashvili and add another color to US-sponsored democratic revolution, and in the process emerge as a leading opponent of radical Islamic terrorism.
And according to the script written in Washington, the American producer would not only get a woman who is committed to – supposedly! – liberal democratic values elected as prime minister but would even succeed in winning Gen. Musharraf's agreement to play the role of supporting actor (as president) in the movie. Pakistan's powerful military would be co-opted as willing extras.

This all sounds great if you wanted to produce a political fantasy about Pakistan. But if you were doing a documentary about the country – that is, dealing with reality as opposed to wishful thinking – consider the following.

First, like Iraq, Pakistan is not a unified nation-state but a confederation of several ethnic, religious and tribal groups. Indeed, the regime doesn't even control large parts of the country which are dominated by tribal leaders with links to the Taliban

At the same time, Pakistani politics is a depressing story of military coups, civil wars, assassinations and ethnic and religious bloodbaths – and a lot of corruption; all of which has been tolerated by Washington in exchange for Pakistani support during the Cold War and, lately, in the war on terrorism.

Ms. Bhutto and her illustrious family have been very much an integral part of this tragic story. "Pakistani democracy" is an oxymoron – and the buying into the notion that Ms. Bhutto would lead it reflects an astounding naïveté, if not ignorance.

Moreover, at a time when Osama bin Laden is more popular either than Gen. Musharraf and Mr. Bush in Pakistan, is it realistic to imagine that a political figure who is so divisive would ride into power with public support through a political scheme designed in Washington?

Ms. Bhutto can surely talk the talk – employing PR and lobbying firms to market herself, an articulate and attractive Oxford-educated female – as America's Woman in Islamabad. But she lacks the power and the skills to walk the walk.

Even in a best-case scenario, she would end up playing the role of the puppet of Pakistan's military and security services, just as she did during her last term in power in the country.

And, yes, did we mention that Pakistan, unlike Saddam's Iraq – or for that matter, Ukraine and Georgia – has nuclear weapons?

That, plus a lot more to cover...

This is gonna be a long Sunday.

Sunday night...
Aquol is running an open discussion thread on Pakistan with some interesting links and comments.
At this point the political situation is a minuet. As long as they continue to dance and talk there is hope. When and if violence breaks out it can be like a spark to flammables.

And I love Her

Found at 3 Quarks

Abbas finds stuff like this the old-fashioned way...digging and sifting through the sands of You Tube.
That's what he told me and I believe him. Anything from You Tube that makes it to 3 Quarks is likely a treasure he found before lots of other people did.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Universal Health Care comments

It's been a long time coming, but a serious discussion of health care is finally underway. No matter who gets elected, the national health care baby is nearing full-term and will be birthed one way or another. Unlike Hillary Clinton's ill-fated efforts fifteen years ago, this time it will not be stillborn. America will not stand for it.

Proponents of the current system warn of rationing -- as if care isn't rationed now, by ability to pay. Nor do they mention all the personal bankruptcies related to medical costs.They warn about bureaucracy -- as if there isn't plenty of bureaucracy involved right now. The only advantage is that you get to choose among several private bureaucracies instead of being stuck with one big government bureaucracy.

They warn about lack of choice -- as if workers have much choice now. At a good-sized company, an employer might offer two or three health plans. But most workers are lucky to have health insurance at all -- and often, even when it's offered, it's expensive or has big coverage gaps.

They warn that people will stop trying to become doctors if salaries are squeezed. But doctor pay actually isn't a big factor in rising health-care costs, and so shouldn't be the primary focus of cost-control efforts. Even under a single-payer system, doctors should still be well-paid.

The blogmaster at Midtopia clarifies the debate. His post is full of content...too much to parse.
Go read it all, including the two links to his previous remarks.

I like that he's in favor of uncoupling health care from employment. One dimension of employer health care, however, applies to small businesses. One of our children and her husband are beginning the second year of a new business. For them a group policy which includes their little handful of employees is totally essential. In this case, employee-provided or subsidized health insurance is their most economical choice.

Oh, and while you're at it, read again the NY Times editorial of August 12.

Desertions highest since 2001

Army Times, Saturday Nov 17, 2007

In a likely reflection of the continued strain of multiple deployments to a 4½-year war, the number of soldiers deserting the Army skyrocketed during the past fiscal year to its highest level since 2001.

All told, 4,698 soldiers were declared deserters, according to Lt. Col. Darryl Darden of the Army’s office of the deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel. That is a 42.3 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, and the highest annual total since fiscal year 2001, when 4,399 troops deserted.
More disturbingly, the pace of Army desertions appears to have increased even during fiscal 2007: 63.6 percent of the year’s 4,698 desertions were recorded from April through September, according to Army data.

At the same time, desertions fell in two of the other three services. A total of 1,036 Marines walked away last fiscal year, marking a three-year decline. Navy desertions — 1,129 during the 12 months ending Sept. 30 — fell for the seventh straight year.

And a mere 16 airmen left the Air Force for more than 30 days, the time a service member must be absent without leave before being declared a deserter.

Military-wide statistics are kept by calendar year, so 2007 numbers are not yet available. The Defense Department’s 2006 calendar-year desertion total, 5,361, was an increase of 219 over the previous year and reversed a 3-year decline. Given the rapid rise in Army desertions in the last half of fiscal 2007, however, that number could increase.

The Army has borne the brunt of the contentious Iraq war. Thousands of troops are on their second, third and even fourth deployments. Soldiers currently deploy to Iraq for 15 months and come home for 12; leaders at all levels lament the lack of “dwell time,” saying troops need more time to rest and reconnect with families as well to properly train for the next deployment.

Troops in mobilized, deployed and deploying units who have reached the end of their enlistment contracts fall under the ongoing “stop-loss” program and cannot be discharged.
That strain largely explains the rise in desertions, said Lawrence Korb, formerly a senior Pentagon personnel official in the Reagan administration and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “It’s a combination of not enough dwell time, and having to go back [to the war] as well as the type of people you’re taking in,” Korb said.

The increased rate of desertions in fiscal 2007’s second half, he said, coincided with the surge of troops sent to Iraq. “A lot of them probably didn’t want to go back,” Korb said. “And don’t forget, you’ve lowered your standards of people you’re taking in.”

More at the link. H/T Helena Cobban.
I report, you decide.

Interesting concept: "dwell time." Love those military buzzwords.

The Army gets bad marks, but the other branches look better. Nearly five thousand for the Army, a little over a thousand each for the Navy and Marines, and only sixteen for the Air Force. These are fiscal year numbers, not calendar years.

One Pentagon spokesman said, “A lot of them probably didn’t want to go back...And don’t forget, you’ve lowered your standards of people you’re taking in.” Ya think?

Tick, tick, tick...

October 19, 2004

April 01, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

Rowan Callick -- The China Model

I haven't blogged anything since yesterday because I have been reading and thinking.

The China Model by Rowan Callick, linked by Michael Wade at Execupundit, couples nicely with James Fallows' recent piece about China. Unfortunately they are both long on ideas as well as words so it takes time for me to ingest what has been said and try to make sense of it.

Fallows paints a picture of China's factory development, alluding to the incredible speed with which the country is sailing into the industrial age, a speed accelerated by information technology not available to industrial pioneers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Calleck expands the same theme, describing in detail how "the China model" is being exported and embedded all over the world as the nation hosting the next Olympic Games seductively climbs into bed with tyrannies anywhere mutual interests can be found.

From Vietnam to Syria, from Burma to Venezuela, and all across Africa, leaders of developing countries are admiring and emulating what might be called the China Model. It has two components. The first is to copy successful elements of liberal economic policy by opening up much of the economy to foreign and domestic investment, allowing labor flexibility, keeping the tax and regulatory burden low, and creating a first-class infrastructure through a combination of private sector and state spending. The second part is to permit the ruling party to retain a firm grip on government, the courts, the army, the internal security apparatus, and the free flow of information. A shorthand way to describe the model is: economic freedom plus political repression.

This essay (and the other by James Fallows) should be required reading for policy makers. Unfortunately, the people we send to represent us seem more interested in domestic pork than international relations. But one can hope...

(Printed out, these two pieces run to fifteen or twenty pages each, depending on format. I don't know about you, but I can't read from the monitor with good comprehension. I need to carry around the paper, read a little, think a little, then go back for more. I would never make it as a professional writer or editor. )

I'm coming to the conclusion that we need to stop worrying so much about tyrants and immigrants and begin examining some of the sacred cows of our system. Sanctimonious prating about democracy and human rights already ring hollow in the face of historic alliances with totalitarian political systems, even without the individual moral lapses of what we like to imagine are a few bad apples in an otherwise noble infrastructure of heroes.

Whatever else it represents, China cannot be accused of being overly concerned with ethics, morality or other high-minded principles. As one African leader said...

At the end of the day the population does not have anything to eat, does not have water to drink, no electricity at night, industry to provide work, so we need both. People do not eat democracy.

The inevitable death of Fidel Castro will bring about changes in Cuba. I have heard the president make a few opening remarks aimed at opening some kind of dialogue with the oppressive system that has held that country captive most of my life...with the aid and assistance of US policy, thanks to the electoral importance of Cuban expats in Florida. That tail has been wagging the electoral college dog for a long time. The result has been something like what Calleck mentioned regarding a couple of other places where old-time True Believers have survived.

The Western requirement that good-governance medicine must be consumed in return for modest aid is now not only unwelcome but also, as far as many African leaders are concerned, outdated. They are no longer cornered without options. Now they’ve got China, which is offering trade and investment, big time, as well as aid. And more than that, they’ve got the China Model itself.

This is no longer the communist program that Mao Zedong tried to export with little success except in places like Peru and Nepal, where Maoists have survived long after they have vanished from China itself. It is, instead, the program that gives business room to grow and make profits, while ensuring it walks hand in hand with big, implacable government. And, of course, the China Model holds out the promise of providing the leaders of developing nations the lifestyles to which they would love to become accustomed.

We have too long suffered under the misconception that free trade and increased prosperity will eventually hatch political freedom. This principle is demonstrably false. Freedom, as we undestand the concept, is not dependent on prosperity. The two ideas are important, but not mutually interdependent.

Likewise, political freedom does not necessarily hatch prosperity. Ask the Russians.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What if...?

What if no matter where you worked or how many times you switched jobs, you had health care and a pension that stayed with you always, so you all had the flexibility to move to a better job or start a new business? What if instead of cutting budgets for research and development and science, we fueled the genius and the innovation that will lead to the new jobs and new industries of the future?

Barack Obama, Commencement speech, Knox College, 2005

Universal health care is not about medicine.
It's about "job lock."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Transnational Humor --RK House "NO POK"

Via Underground Dubai.
Social commentary. But I don't know where to start.
Anyway, it's a scream.
RK House seems to be in Singapore.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day (Observed) 2007

The armistice of World War One was concluded on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918. That date was the inspiration for Veterans Day, but as the importance of those sacrifices fades into the past, most people look forward to yet another holiday, not too concerned with how it came about.

That's one part of why wars continue. Every generation tends to forget what war did to its grandparents or great-grandparents. Another part is that tyrants do not forget. They remember and exercise the principles of war (fear, pain, anxiety, blackmail, and the latest instruments of destruction) to control populations -- balancing ignorance, fear, prejudice and political influence in a delicate but effective tension aimed at maintaining power.

And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

...a song, written by Eric Bogle in 1972, describing the futility, gruesome reality and the destruction of war, while criticising those who seek to glorify it. This is exemplified in the song by the account of a young Australian soldier on his maiming during the Battle of Gallipoli during the First World War. The song is a vivid account of the memories of a young Australian man who, in 1915, had been sent to Gallipoli -- who "for seven long weeks" kept himself alive as "around me the corpses piled higher". He recalls "that terrible day" ... "in the hell that they called Suvla Bay we were butchered like lambs at the slaughter" ... "in that mad world of blood, death and fire". In its clear and stark retelling of the events of the battle and its aftermath, it is a passionate indictment of war in general.

Link to the lyrics (PDF)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Philip Britts -- "The Eternal People"

Philip Britts (1917 - 1949) joined the Cotswold Bruderhof in England shortly before the Second World War. He had studied horticulture and loved to work in field and garden. The depth of his thought and faith, his dedication to the common life of peace and brotherhood, and his hope of the Kingdom of Justice found expression in his poetry through his love for nature and hard work.


I sing of the eternal people,
And the eternal city,
The city of the eternal warfare
Which is the embassy of the ultimate peace.

When a nation sallies against another nation,
With spears or muskets, cannon or tanks,
For a year or for a generation,
That is not the true warfare,
Nor is that the eternal city.

And when one has proved itself the stronger,
And politicians ponder terms of peace,
And armies are recalled, and penalties are paid,
And the normal national life begins again
In pride or in humiliation,
That is not the true peace, the ultimate peace.

The combat ends and slowly is forgotten,
The political peace is sooner or later broken,
And sooner or later the city and the people become only a memory.
But the eternal people, In the eternal city,

They wage the eternal warfare
Because they are the embassy of the ultimate peace.

Is the eternal city full of gilded towers?
Are the streets broad and paved with marble?
Is she defended by gates of steel that endure?
And are her palaces of polished gold?
And the eternal people, are they strong?

Are they comely, are they stately in their walk?
Are they keener of intellect than other men,
And have they greater courage?

No, but the eternal city is other than this,
And the eternal people are other than this.
At times the city is a group of plaster cottages,

At times the city is built of wood with roofs of grass,
At times the city is a circle of tents pitched by a river.
At times the city is a clearing in a forest, with watch-fires but no houses.

And the eternal people are as other people,
No taller, no braver, no stronger, no cleverer.
In the eternal people many are weak.
Many are slow-thinking, many are timid.
The eternal people are as other people,
Only their eyes are more like the eyes of children,
Shining with the freedom of the eternal city.

Then how is it that this people is eternal?
And how is it that this city is eternal?
Why do they not pass into oblivion,
As all cities and all people pass at last into oblivion?

They are the eternal people
And it is the eternal city
Because they wage the eternal warfare,
Because they are the embassy of the ultimate peace.
They are not strong in themselves, the eternal people,

If they were strong they would be proud
And all that which is proud will perish.

Yet mighty things are done through them,
The hearts of haughty governments are moved,
Deadly seas are sailed across in safety,
And what is mightier than all this--
In the midst of ruinous war they are at peace.

The life of the eternal people
Lies in the hand of the invisible King,
The King who has neither castle nor court,
Who compels no man to be his subject,
Who compels no man to obey his word.
Even this King, the invisible King,
He is the King of the eternal people.

The true warfare, the eternal warfare,
Is not the striving of men against each other,
It is the war of the creator against the destroyer,
It is the war of the will to life against the will to death,
The war of love against hate
The war of unity against separation.
It is the war of the invisible King against the darkness.
Those who wage this war, they are the eternal people
And their city is the eternal city.

And the ultimate peace is the overthrow of all destructive forces,
It is the establishment of a new order upon the earth,
An order where love reigns over every aspect of life,
Over the relationships of all men to one another,
Over the actions of all men, towards themselves and towards all things outside themselves.
And this peace is established in the hearts of the eternal people,
Because they are the embassy of the ultimate peace,
For which they wage the eternal warfare.

The war of the eternal people is a hard war,
And to be one of them is a hard undertaking.
For the enemy attacks each one in his own heart,
And must be fought continually, each in his own blood.
And the hardness of the fight is that the enemy attacks in disguise.

He comes as a friend or a champion,
And is beautiful or desirable,
But he is a traitor, and his beauty turns to hideousness.
And the problem of the eternal people is to recognise the enemy,
For when he is revealed his power is broken.
This is the victory of the invisible King,
That he unmasks the enemy, and overcomes him.
When the enemy seeks to divide them,
When the enemy tries to deceive them,
He is stronger than the enemy.
And with his burning love he drives him out.

The weapons of the eternal people are not carnal weapons, The weapons of the eternal people are the will to Truth,
The will to unity and the means to unity which is Love And above all, loyalty to the invisible King.

The strength of the eternal people is that they are not divided against each other.
Only that which is undivided is eternal.
Part of the eternal city may be in one country,

And part may be a thousand miles away.
It is not a matter of space,
It is a matter of the unity of heart and mind against the common enemy.
And the enemy of the eternal people is the Prince of Death.

These are the commands of the invisible King:
That they are not divided against each other,
Either in spiritual pride or in material competition,
But that each sees in the other his comrade in arms,
And has perfect love towards him and helps him in the fight, And that they be all brothers fighting side by side the eternal warfare.

And the measure of the strength of the eternal people
Is the measure of their obedience to the invisible King.
Those who stand beneath the banner of the invisible King, They are the eternal people.

They are the people of the eternal warfare, and they are the embassy of the ultimate peace.

Attributed to Philip Britts

This poem is referenced in the previous post.

A Poet, a Preacher and Me

First posted Dec 27, 2004.
Tonight this came up via a search for Philip Britts. After reviewing it and fixing the broken link -- the Bruderhof are no longer online-- I am reposting. It seems suitable for Veteran's Day.

Philip Britts, Bruderhof poet, died at the age of 32 (1917-1949). This stanza appears in The Eternal People.
It awakens in me some distant memory...

The war of the eternal people is a hard war,
And to be one of them is a hard undertaking.
For the enemy attacks each one in his own heart,
And must be fought continually, each in his own blood.
And the hardness of the fight is that the enemy attacks in disguise.
He comes as a friend or a champion,
And is beautiful or desirable,
But he is a traitor, and his beauty turns to hideousness.
And the problem of the eternal people is to recognise the enemy,
For when he is revealed his power is broken.
This is the victory of the invisible King,
That he unmasks the enemy, and overcomes him.
When the enemy seeks to divide them,
When the enemy tries to deceive them,
He is stronger than the enemy.
And with his burning love he drives him out.

My maternal grandfather, C.M. Chumbley, was a Presbyterian minister. His only book, The Man Invincible (1939), is unknown and out of print, but it is a vital part of my development. In the manner of Clarance Jordan's Cotton Patch Gospels, he retells Bible stories in the vernacular, by way of reaching those who might not otherwise be reading a Bible. This was for him an expression of evangelism.

In this excerpt he describes the first temptation of Christ...

After the baptism, under the direction of the Spirit, Jesus went forth to meet the Tempter - Satan, the Prince of the Earth in this present "evil age." Here, as in the Eden attack, Satan doubtless appeared in some visible form, as some creature that would appeal to Jesus as appropriate to the particular role he undertook for the time. Most certainly he did not apprear as a serpent upon this occasion. That would be out of the reckoning. Had he so appeared he would have been recognized at once and have had his trouble for nothing. He is entirely too shrewd for that.

Here, in the first effort, he is appealing to a hungry man - one who has not tasted food for forty days. He must arouse interest and sympathy as well as appeal to the bodily needs of the Man. To this end he probably assumed the form of a beggar, one of the most familiar objects to be encountered in that country. What an appeal the needy made to His compassionate heart we know from many Scriptures.

The beggar, approaching, said, "I know what was done yonder by the Jordan. I was
there and saw you baptised, and witnessed what seemed to happen: how the heavens seemed to open and the dove to come down upon you; and I know you thought you heard a voice saying, 'Thou are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' But are you sure that all these things happened? Do you know you are the Son of God? No. You do not! That's the very question that's been worrying you these last forty days. Now, I'll tell you what you can do to prove it for yourself and me. and if you are really the Son of God you can feed yourself and me. Here's the way. if you are the Son of God turn this stone into bread; then we'll both know and we can both eat of the bread."

The Man of Galilee looked the Tempter straight in the eyes and said with quiet emphasis, "No need to argue that point, for it is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone.' That applies to you and to me. Both are hungry, but what God says is the end of all controversy. The Book says, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' When God tells me to make bread, then I will; but not till then. And if it is His will that I starve, I starve. Get out."

Methinks there were smiles in heaven as the beggar shuffled away with a woe-begone expression on his dissapointed countenance; not because a hungry man was turned away unfed but because Satan was detected and rebuked. We feel pretty sure that old Solomon was highly elated over the wit of his far-off descendant.

These two writings both date from the thirties. They could have been written simultaneously, because dates of publication are only a couple of years apart. World War Two would happen within a decade. The questions they raise have to do with discernment.
Identifying an enemy who looks and acts like an enemy is easy.
It is more difficult to detect an enemy who looks and acts like a friend.
And sometimes what seems to be the most obvious course of action is not what it appears.

Those of us who have the temerity to ask discerning questions about war, or read the words of those labeled enemies, are not being disloyal, just careful that if we err, we do so on the side of the angels. There is no danger that America is on the brink of becoming a model of pacifism. Should that unlikely scenario come to pass, then it might be wise to examine the virtues of war.