Saturday, January 28, 2006


Christian nation indeed

I don't watch "American Idol." In fact the only reality shows I can stand, besides the judge shows, are the ones about family life like "Wife Swap" and "Nanny 911". I have a problem with any scenario deliberately set up to harm or humiliate people. My reaction can be extreme -- when I was a kid I used to cry when Lucille Ball made a fool of herself on TV because I felt badly for her. I'm not claiming that I never find humor in inappropriate situations. Being inappropriate is usually what humor is all about. This is something beyond inappropriate, though. This is just plain mean-spirited.
I'm not the first or the only person to notice that it is a lot easier to sit back and make fun of those who try something and fail than it is to take a chance yourself. Maybe that's what motivates this particular strain of entertainment. It reassures those who have failed through never trying that their choice was one of wisdom rather than laziness. That may also be what is behind this Master P fiasco on the show "Dancing With the Stars". Obviously the man was just looking for some free publicity without putting in any effort. Instead of seeing if he really might have some talent for dance and footwork, he has decided to make a fool of himself and his fans. I mean, this guy is supposed to be a musician of some kind?
But I digress. The point is not whether a washed-up rapper can dance. The point is that the same segment of the population that largely claims to have found the "Truth" through "Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior" is giving into some of the most un-Christlike impulses ever stirred in mankind. I saw a woman dressed ridiculously at a restaurant last night and I did draw my companion's attention to the outfit. It's fun to judge others. It's just not Christian.
I'm using my own faith as an example because it is dominant here, and because there are those in politics and entertainment who who claim to speak for what they call Christian values. Many of those self-appointed spokespeople are themselves guilty of the traditional sin of pride. It is hubristic to speak for God. Pride is right up there -- ahead of gluttony, luxury and lust -- in the list of big no-nos.
So do we want to be known as a righteous nation, or a self-righteous one?

Sunday, January 22, 2006


cats are killers too

I'm not really an animal person but since I live with three other people, a dog and a cat don't provide too much additional aggravation. The cat stays pretty well within his assigned parameters, doesn't require a litter box and keeps the garage free of mice.
The dog used to be a good watchdog -- sometimes overly ferocious acting although he always disliked most of the same people I did -- but he's gotten old, deaf and ineffective lately. Pets are a responsibility. The dog smells bad, has trouble getting around and has increasingly bad manners, but he's not near death or anything, so we just have to be nice to him.
The last cat we had lived to be about 22 years old (that's in people years) but didn't really like coming in the house. We were delighted to associate with her when she was in the mood. She didn't like the kids or the dog and she tended to drive the mouse population into the house, but she wasn't very demanding. In her youth she had been affectionate in the style of a dog. She was raised by a mother dog and growled at other cats until learning rather late in life to hiss like a cat. When we lived in a second story apartment she would lean out the window and make chirping noises at the birds.
After she died, the mouse problem got worse in the house, the yard and the garage. The dog was good at keeping salespeople from the front door but in some ways he seemed to be in league with the mice. One of his favorite habits was to steal pizza crust, bread slices and stale tortillas from the trash and hide them under furniture in the bedrooms.
This current cat, Henry, is affectionate but noisy and presumptious. We got him as an adolescent a couple of years ago from a woman who lived in an apartment and got tired of his loud meowing, following her around and knocking things over. At our house he found his true calling as an efficient killer of mice and birds. He is usually afraid of other cats.
Just lately, we've seen the little cat from next door following him around and imitating him. It appears that Henry has a student. The other cat will wait in the front yard until he comes out and then they will stare at each other for a while before heading down into the gangway and across the back yards. At different times one or the other of them will come running back across the front yard with a mouse in his mouth.
I know a couple of people who disapprove of the cat's (not just my cat, I think, but probably cats in general) predatory habits. Having lived with mice in my house, I am inclined not only to tolerate but to approve of the cat's activities. I do think it's a funny contrast to see furry, purring cat lying on the couch or in someone's lap while being aware of how deadly the cat is to creatures smaller than itself.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


clinging to outdated attitudes

The Catholic archdiocese in Boston is fighting tooth and nail to prevent passage of a state law requiring financial and administrative disclosure from large religious organization. Archbishop O'Malley is complaining that the law targets the Catholic church. Yuh think?
This weekend he sent a letter urging parishioners to fight the law. I'm not sure that ordinary laypeople have anything to gain from continued secrecy. This isn't medieval Europe. The church has already learned to adapt to a society where citizens feel intitled to information that has bearing on their lives.

A few years ago our local church found itself with big settlements to pay off as a result of misconduct, secrecy and mismanagement. One pastor was lauded in the official church press for giving up the money that his parish had collected for a new roof to their sanctuary and turning the money over to the lawsuit fund.
I think that I would have been pretty upset if I'd given money for a specific practical project and it had been used for something else. Here's one way O'Malley could fight the law: He could voluntarily release the his diocese's financial records. If the church has nothing to hide, there is no reason for secrecy.

There are Catholics all over the country -- maybe all over the world -- whose trust was so shaken by the abuse revelations and subsequent settlements that they have reduced or discontinued their financial contributions. Maybe it would make them give again if they felt treated as members of the body rather than ignorant voiceless cash cows.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I keep reading and hearing about the "war powers" that the Bush administration claims for the executive branch. As an old fashioned John Stuart Mill liberal -- read "libertarian" in this day and age -- I feel very nervous about all this.
It's easy for those who have never trusted George Bush to see what is wrong with giving him authority over the personal rights and privacy of Americans. It's also easy for those who have always trusted George Bush to see nothing wrong with giving him authority over those personal rights and privacies. There were a lot of people (at the time) who approved of the FBI spying on anti-war groups in the Vietnam era.
I'd like to propose a little game for those who think unchecked executive branch powers make us safer. Imagine that the sitting president is a wild-eyed left winger, perhaps a pacifist, an atheist, or an environmental activist. This duly elected president wants detailed personal information about all the gun owners in the country.
Would you still feel safe and comfortable with unlimited executive power?

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