Friday, April 29, 2005

Sense and Censorship

I just received an email from a good friend, and the email included a link to the following article, along with the suggestion that I Blog on it:

Alabama Bill Targets Gay Authors

At first blush, I was rather disturbed by the idea. Especially when the article starts out like this:

(CBS) A college production tells the story of Matthew Sheppard, a student beaten to death because he was gay.

And soon, it could be banned in Alabama.

As soon as I read that, I got fired up, all ready to launch into a "What part of no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; didn't you understand?" rant.

Please understand. As a thelogically conservative Christian, I believe that the practice of homosexuality is immoral. But I aslo believe strongly that when we start playing favorites with regards to the Consititution, we're treading on a mighty thin lava crust over a mighty deep pool of magma. The same Constitution that protects your right to tell me that Homosexuality is OK is the same Constitution that protects my right to tell you you're wrong. If I kick that right out from under you, I find mself at risk as well.

But as I read the article further, I started to question my initial impression. It seems possible that the CBS News reporter who filed this report may have sensationalized things a bit (As shocking as it may be to some to think that CBS might be... ahem... creative in their presentation...). The article goes on to say:

As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under [Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen's] bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.

While that's still an iffy proposition, that's a bit different than "banned in Alabama". So before I address the issue of the bill itself, I'd like to finish the article, and point out one other bit of overreacting, this time on the part of an interviewee:

"I think it's an absolutely absurd bill," says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

First Amendment advocates say the ban clearly does amount to censorship.

"It's a Nazi book burning," says Potok. "You know, it's a remarkable piece of work."

Try to take a deep breath, Mark. I understand your opposition to the law, but Godwinesque hyperbole isn't helping. It may (or may not) be a bad law, but it's by NO stretch a "Nazi Book burning". If it were, there'd be, ya know, Nazis and bonfires and such.

Now, as for the law itself:

I have a real dilemma on my hands with regards to this law. The problem is that it specifically targets public school libraries. In the article, Strassman reports

Librarian Donna Schremser fears the "thought police," would be patrolling her shelves.

"And so the idea that we would have a pristine collection that represents one political view, one religioius view, that's not a library,'' says Schremser.

Again, Schremser's overstating the point, so I'll return the favor. I have NO problem whatsoever with the judicious screening of material made available to underage children. Ms. Schremser seems to disagree, and thinks all viewpoints should be represented. Should I conclude then that she advocate the placement of Playboy or Hustler or The Anarchist's Cookbook in an elementary school library? I think not. so if we eliminate the extremes, both "This is thought police" and "This is pornography", we find that there's a middle ground -- the agreement that Children DO need a certain level of protection from images or words that could damage them. The question becomes, which images? Which ideas? The Devil is in the details.

Now, I would argue that banning an author JUST because he or she was/is gay is a stretch. And I furthermore have no objection to the sympathetic portrayal of a gay character. I'd draw the line at the graphic portrayal of sex, gay OR straight. But in the middle we have the issue of literature that advocates the gay lifestyle.

Which leads me to a conclusion I reached only as I wrote this entry. I believe firmly that it is the right and duty of parents to teach their children morality and ethics. First and forempst my job is to love my son, provide for him, and teach him right from wrong. That's not a school's job. And so I would argue that it would be fair to regulate books that directly address moral issues -- either allow all viewpoints (which means requiring that P.S. Libraries stock books that both advocate and oppose a given moral viewpoint), or remain silent on all viewpoints (which means requiring that P.S. Libraries avoid stock books that either advocate and oppose a given moral viewpoint).

In addition, I also believe that if parents were more actively involved with their childrens' educations, this would be an issue. That's why I'll be keeping a close eye on the TV programs, movies, music, and books The Lad has access to growing up. It's also one more reason I'm seriously looking long and hard at home schooling.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Amazing how fatherhood changes your perspective. This week has been the first week of a new schedule, in which I care for The Lad in the afternoons while TFR works. Yesterday was an absolutely GORGEOUS spring day, somewhere in the high 60's, scattered clouds, the kind of day that Nor'Westers keep reminding themselves will come as they wait all winter. So I loaded The Lad into his stroller, leashed up Little Big Dog, and headed out for a walk through the park. On the way there, we were passed by a man walking a very large dog. The dog was straining at its leash, but we managed to pass each other without incident. But it got me thinking: What if it had attacked us? How would I defend both The Lad and LBD? And I knew in an instant that if I couldn't, I'd lose my dog, because my child's life was the most important of the three in question. And I also knew in an instant that if I had to, I'd kill that dog, or anyone or anything trying to harm my son.

I constantly find myself doing this now, and I suppose it's a parent thing. Everywhere I go, every setting in which I find myself, my first instinct is to size up my surroundings and evaluate any possible threats to my little family, and assess what I will do to respond if any of those potential threats become actual threats.

I suppose I'm no different than any other parent, but it's disconcerting when you realize it's happened to you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Right Again!

Thanks for the Memory to Patty-Jo.

American Cities That Best Fit You:

65% Portland

60% Denver

60% Philadelphia

55% San Francisco

50% Chicago

For all its liberal politics, Portland has some features I love. I love its hilliness (Eugene and Springfield are too danged FLAT!), I love all the stuff to do there and the great restaurant and Pub scenes, and the diversity of types of neighborhoods. TFR and I very much want to move there.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Erin Go Bragh!

Thanks for the Memory to The Llama Butchers.

Hey, sometimes these things are accurate:

Your Inner European is Irish!

Sprited and boisterous!

You drink everyone under the table.

Home Front

Thanks to everyone who prayed for TFR over the weekend. Here's the scoop:

The spa was nice, and they liked TFR, but it's a Lease position. This is pretty common in TFR's business. Instead of paying her a salary or commission, she would pay them a monthly rent, and be responsible for the purchase of her products, but she wuld keep all profits from every service she performs. While this may seem like nothing more than Chic Sharecropping, it can actually prove a very profitable format -- provided you have the capital outlay to get started. We do not.

In other news, we've decided to stop trying to breastfeed The LAd. Because he's a preemie, his airway is underdeveloped, and he has difficulty breathing while feeding -- he engages in a respiratory behavior called "crowing". TFR has been really down on herself, because she thinks his difficulties prove she's a bad mother, despite all my efforts to encourage her to the contrary. Finally, the hospital's lactation consultant told her the same thing I've been telling her, and she feels better. We'll still be feeding him breast milk via bottle.

I'm on a new schedule. As of today, I work 6 AM to 3 PM so that TFR can work 4-8 without us having to pay for daycare. So if my Blogging becomes even MORE sporadic, you'll know why.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

One More Reason...

... To Enjoy Reading Naked Villainy

Maximum Leader is a Baseball Fan, and what's more, a National League fan, for the right reasons.

That's right, I'm one of THOSE Baseball fans. Capital B. The ones who believe that Baseball should be played on grass, with wooden bats, as God intended, who believe that the Designated Hitter is an affront to all that is pure and right and good, who believe that The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is the closest America comes to a Pantheon on Olympus, that Baseball fields are our national temples and arenas and hippodromes and circuses, that a man wielding a Louisville slugger on a summers afternoon should be filmed from below, as if he were taller than mortal men, that all men of good will hold their breaths for just a split second as the pill fires from the pitcher's hand, who loves terms like "High heat", who believes the greatest epic poem ever was "Casey at the Bat", whose liturgy includes "Tinker to Evers to Chance" and "Take Me out to the Ball Game" and "Hey batter batter". Baseball, in short, is my second religion.

One bit of advice for ML: Do not let a team's lack of on field success prevent you from supporting them. I am a lifelong fan of the San Diego Padres, aka the Cubs of the West. A true baseball fan bleeds his team's colors. Just ask yourBrother-in-Law the Bosox fan where that can eventually get you. That one moment of glory is worth the price of a lifetime of heartache.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Prayer Request III

Things have been pretty hand-to-mouth ever since The Feared Redhead had The Lad back in January. My paycheck has paid the bills, but we've had to rely on credit cards to buy food. But the line of credit is running low, so TFR is returning to work a week earlier than planned, this coming Monday. Unfortunately, her old work doesn't have as many hours available as before (she was always part time). But anything helps.

Since The In-Laws were in town, she decided to have them babysit while she distributed her resume, hoping for a better job. She already has an interview this Saturday.

Please pray for us -- we need the income badly.

Northwest Humor

How many of you out there remember Almost Live? It was a Seattle area sketch comedy show that enjoyed national success for a while back in the 80's, and spawned the career of Bill Nye. The humor was quintessentially Northwest, a bit odd, a bit quirky, and very self-deprecating -- with characters like Speed Walker, Seattle's own superhero, and Uncle Fran, the bitter, disgruntled divorcee with a public access kids show. Very similar to the goofy, sincere humor of the Science Guy show, but with an adult edge.

Well, I still get to enjoy the humor of at least one cast member, f not in a sketch format. Pat Cashman is doing voiceovers for Jerry's, Home Improvement Center, a local two-store chain that outperforms AND outclasses national chains like Lowe's and Home Depot. And the humor, while it's only in thirty-second snippets, has Almost Live's fingerprints all over it. The commercials take some of the most bizzarre home video and old home movie footage, and gives it these odd voiceovers. In one commercial, a baby being bathed in the kitchen sink questions whether the sink was actually cleared of dishes first, informs his mother that the sink needs a new washer, and warns her, "Here come some more bubbles!" In my favorite, a couple is discussing how to paint a room. When she suggests, "How about a fresco?" his response is, "Nah, I'm not that thirsty."

Like I said, Quirky, goofy stuff. My favorite.

Semper Fidelis / Semper Memoralis

A quick note to whomever was visiting my blog from the United States Marine Corps' net:

Thank you for reading. And thank you for serving. This is one civilian who is "Semper Memoralis" -- eternally grateful.

Monday, April 18, 2005

More Fine Whine

A couple more thoughts about wine from this weekend. My in-laws are in town from Minnesota to attend the Lad's Baby Dedication (We attend a church that does not practie infant baptism), so we took them to King Estate Winery. Remember, the one whose Chardonnay and Cab I criticized so harshly? Well, they've stopped selling their 2000 vintage and we had a taste of the 2001. Apparently, it goes well with crow. It was smooth, complex, and buttery. Nice stuff, and only $10 a bottle.

That night, the In-Laws volunteered to babysit The Lad, so TFR and I had a chance to get out for the evening. We went and saw the movie Sideways. I found it at turns depressing and hilarious, and in the end it had me once again reflecting on my own willingness to quit all too easily. All in all, it was a good movie.

Sunday, after the dedication, we had a big family dinner (Me, TFR, the Inlaw's, TFR's sister and her husband, The Lad, and our two nephews). We had a big shank ham, and I came up with a pretty good glaze for it:

1 Bone-in Shank ham
1 can (12 oz.) Orange Juice Concentrate, thawed
1 can pineapple rings (OK, so I used a fresher pineapple from the produce department, one of the ones that's already been cored, but the cut core is still in the middle)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup Triple Sec
1/2 tsp ginger powder
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp hot mustard
Whole cloves
2 larege sprigs rosemary

set aside about 1/2 of the pineapple rings. Combine the rest of the pineapple, including the juice, with the OJ concentrate in a blender or food processor. Puree. Pour the liquid into a saucepan. Combine with the brown sugar, tequila, triple sec, ginger, bay leaves, and mustard. Bring to a boil over medium heat. reduce heat, simmering until liquid is reduced by 1/3. Remove from heat, cool, and refrigerate overnight.

Score the ham on one side in a crisscross pattern, inserting a clove at each scoring intersection. Place the ham face down in about 1/8 inch water in a baking pan, cover with foil, bake at 325 for 20 minutes per pound. About 30 minutes before the end of the baking time, uncover the hame and lay it on its side, scored side up. place the pineapple rings, rosemary sprigs, and bay leaves (recovered from the glaze) on top, apply glaze. Re-apply glaze every 5-10 minutes until the end of the baking cycle. Remove from oven and let stand for 10-15 minutes.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Creationism vs creationism

I'd like to thank Smallholder for responding to my request for a definition of terms.

And I hate to disappoint him if he's itching for a fight, but truth be told, I agree 100% with him when it comes to creationism. While I am a staunch Theist, and an Evangelical Christian, I am NOT a literal Seven-Day Creationist. In fact, the following paragraph, quoted from SH, might as well have been my own:

By one defintion, I'm a creationist. I believe God created the universe and world and set it to operating according to natural law. One of the outgrowths of natural law is evolution - so one might say that God guided evolution. Now, the intervention of deity is not amenable to empircal proof. So: eEvolution is scientific fact. I BELIEVE it was guided by God.

You might say that while I’m both a creationist and an evolutionist (small c and e), I’m neither a Creationist nor an Evolutionist

However, here’s where I can see the Creationists’ point of view. While I agree with Smallholder that it is what he calls “Magical Thinking” to hold to the view that belief in a divine Creator precludes belief in evolution, I also note that there are far too many people, particularly atheists, who hold to a view that belief in evolution precludes belief in a divine Creator, and I firmly assert that this is equally “Magical Thinking.” [Insert quote] Science is equally incapable of proving OR disproving the existence or non-existence of God. In short, Science is about what we CAN see, while faith is about what we CAN’T, and it requires an equal amount of faith to assert that what we cannot see either is or isn’t there. And it seems all too common that this second form of “Magical Thinking” with regards to the origins of life. The problem that I, like the Creationists, have is that while it’s considered bad science to say God created the Earth in 7 days (and rightly so), it’s NOT considered bad science to say that because the Earth is eons old, there must therefore be no God.

So, no, I don’t believe that Creationism should be taught as science. Furthermore, I don’t even believe that MY view, and that of Smallholder, that evolution was guided by God, should be taught. But by the same token, I don’t believe that it should be taught as science that evolution is the result of random accidents with no outside origin. Science can attempt to describe HOW things happen – it can never explain WHY they happen. In explaining the difference between observation and explanation, C.S. Lewis put it this way: “All of Science can be summed up in the phrase, ‘Humpty-Dumpty is falling”. Unfortunately, I’m too much of a cynic to believe that we can ever prevent science teachers from separating their scientific belief that life evolved from their magical belief that it evolved by accident.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Easily Amused

Digging through my pocket change this afternoon, I found...

Drom Roll...

A Wheat Penny.


Thoughtful Magic

Smallholder has published a post on Magical Thinking in which he argues that creationism is bad for democracy. He proposes to follow with reasons whit it is also bad for Christianity.

I have for some time avoided this topic on my blog, but have decided it's time to let my position be known. Before I do, I'd love for Smallholder to define creationism as he means it in his post.

Like a Bull Market in a China Shop

Thanks for the Memory to Publius Pundit via the Llama Butchers.

Apparently, there is growing unrest in China these days, up to and including riots. the Chinese are growing increasingly frustrated with the Communist government. And the riots are not just isolated in poorer parts of the country any more.

This could get interesting -- or ugly. Stay tuned.

Death Match

A while back I posted what I thought was a reasoned, respectful response to several posts by Naked Villainy's Smallholder. Happily, he agreed, despite Max Leader's attempt to sensationalize the debate. I'm grateful for both the gracious response AND the sensationalization. Combined with the attention it garnered from Who Moved My Truth, I am enjoying one of my busiest traffic months since before the elections.

Well, SH has now posted a response TO my response. I have read it, and it is well-written, thorough, and altogether worthy of a read. I will probably have a response in the future, but I wish time to weigh his words before I do. In any case, I encourage my readers to go give it some consideration. If more people disagreed with me as respectfully and reasonably as Smallholder, the world would be a better place.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Wine, Not Whine

There was a time not too long ago when The Feared Redhead and I shared these things called Leisure Time and Disposable Income (look them up, they really do exist) -- the former more often than the latter, and seldom much of the latter. One of the things that we liked to do to spend a little free time together, without spending much money, was to go for drives in the country. Ok, to be honest, we still manage to go for drives, but now that this activity is shared with the Lad, instead of being a carefree, spur-of-the-moment lark, a drive in the country requires all the planning and preparation of Operation Overlord. "OK, I'll feed him while you pump. Then you get him ready while I pack the car. That gives us 3 hours until we have to be back here to lather, rinse, and repeat. Diaper bag -- check. Extra bottle -- check. Baggies for when Little Big Dog does her "duty" -- check. Stroller in case we stop -- check."

When we go for drives, especially on occasions where we leave LBD behind to patrol the firebase (Like she could do anything to an intruder except for causing him to get a muscle cramp from the laughter), is stop at wineries. While it's not the biggest producer of wine in the country, Oregon is getting a reputation for the quality of its wines, and with merit.

Now, I did not drink as a teenager or Very Young Man. My father was a pastor and the son of an alcoholic, so the hard stuff was verboted in the B household. I did not begin partaking of the fruit of the vine nor of the nectar of the grain until I was in my mid twenties. Two big advantages to this late start have been that I have been able to practise moderation more easily, and that I have been able to cultivate specific tastes in the beverages I do drink.

Now, a long time ago, I used to think that being a snob was one of the worst fates that could befall a person. And in some regards, I still do -- judging a person because of their education, or their income, or their cultural background, those are wrong. Judging them by their conduct, and their willingness or unwillingness to better themselves, that's a different story.

The same is true when it comes to epicurean pursuits. I remember a visit to my fafvorite winery shorty after I began drinking wine. Of all the alcoholic subgenres, wine was the last I developed a taste for. And at first, my taste in wine was limited and rather sweet -- specifically, I liked Lambrusco. Soon after discovering it, I visited the winery of Phillipe Girardet, a French speaking Swiss man whose winery is in my home town, and who attented my father's church. I was trying to expand my wine repertoire, and so was explaining what I knew I liked in hopes that he could suggest new wines I would also like. In confessing my taste for Lambrusco, I apologetically made the comment that "I know it's not the best wine, but I like it." Phillipe got a twinkle in his eye, grinned slyly, and said, "You know, Brian, the best wine is the one you like."

And so I learned to judge wine (and art and food) not on whether or not it was trendy, or because I was TOLD it was haute cuisine or high art or had good legs, but because I liked it. So I managed to avoid one form of snobbery, but develooped another -- the snobbery of my own preferences. And this is a snobbery we all share. IF we like it, we like it. If we don't, we don't.

Now, since then, my tastes in wine have expanded, and to certain extent, refined. I don't have down the patois of the sommelier or the fancier, but I do have enough experience with trying certain wines to not only know which varietals I like, but distinguish between different levels of quality in a specific varietal. Furthermore, while I may not know the official terms used to describe all aspects of wine, I've learned enough, and have enough of a grasp of English vocabulary, to get my point across. So, with that in mind, a couple of observations about Oregon wine:

We recently visited the King Estates Winery in Lorane, just south of Eugene (My father spent his teen years in Lorane). The Winery is in a gorgeous location, on a hill in the middle of the valley, and offers some spectacular views. They make some wonderful wines, especially their Gewurtztraminer and Pinot Noir.

I don't know, however, why they (or any Oregon winery) bother with Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. For starters, the ones I tried their were either unmemorable or downright bad. California pretty much has a lock on those varietals. Furthermore, there are OTHER varietals that do much better in this region (Pinot Noir being the most notable), and it seems like a waste of good vine space to bother with Chard or Cab, especially when the varietals we do better are becoming popular.

Having extolled the virtues of Oregon PN, I must sadly mention one exception. PArducci Vineyards makes a Pinot that is sold in Albertson's. Don't bother with it, It was insipid, watery, and lacked any complexity. You can get a much better wine for a better price.

MY personal favorite as an every day drinking Pinot is Girardet's Petit Cuvee. 10 bucks at Fred MEyer, and it's a lovely wine -- soft but complex, with lots of fruit and just enough tanin to make it interesting.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Another Oregon Message

In recent generations, my home state has earned a reputation, soewhat deserved, for being unwelcoming of new transplants and outsiders in general. You may have heard the comments: "Welcome to Oregon -- Now Go Home!"; "Stop the Californication of Oregon"; a willingness on the part of Oregonians to overstate how rainy it realy is here. To some extent, it's an understandable sentiment. While this state is nowhere close to being the vast untamed wilderness that Alaska is, it's still a fairly green state, with plenty of natural splendor and very little of the kind of crowdedness found elsewhere. We Oregonians like our space, and it'd be a shame if this state ever became too crowded. And I used to very closely reflect these attitudes myself. But as an adult, I've changed my way of thinking (with apologies to Bob Dylan). And a comment by reader TJ Sawyer has prompted me to explain.

Yes, I used to be one of those Oregonians that didn't like seeing people move here or visit from other places. But something changed along the way. Actually, teo things changed: My sentiment towards my home state and my philisophical view on the topic.

Sentimentally, things changed when I moved away from Oregon as a college freshman. I missed Oregon terribly. I became extremely nostalgic for this place, and to a certain extent romanticized it in my own mind. And while I have had an eye-opener since moving back, there are still plenty of things about this state on which I still wax poetic. Also, in moving away, I began to make friends from diverse places. Attending college in Indiana, I made plenty of friends from the midwest. Twelve years living in California increased the number of non-Oregonians in my cirle of friends and loved ones. And as I grew close to these people, I had a desire for those people to know and understand me, and to share the things that give me joy. And one of the things that gives me a great deal of joy, one thing that is a very big part of who I am, is my home state. So naturally, I have a great desirte to share with my friends the things I love about this state. And naturally, I'd love for them to experience it for themselves, appreciate it, and maybe (just maybe) there's some slim chance some of them will become so enamored of this place they'll move here too. I'd love to have those friends close at hand.

And philisophically, I came to believe that this anti-tourist, anti-newcomer sentiment is in direct opposition to the spirit upon which this state was founded. For your consideration I recall what I said in my recent recipe post: The Oregon Trail was the largest voluntary land migration in recorded history. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 people made the arduous crossing from Independence, Missouri, to the Willamette Valley.

That's right. This state was discovered by tourists (Lewis & Clark), founded by newcomers, built by people form other states. While I am proud of being a native Oregonian, I recognize that native birth is not a prerequisite for belonging in this state. If that were the case, none of us except the Kalapooyas and the Coos and the Modoc etc. would belong. Every person who comes here is potentially another strand woven into the state fabric, potentially has something to offer. I'd like to think that we have not in this state so forgotten our pioneer roots that we have lost the ability to see people for their own merits, and not just judge them on where they're from.

I still would hate to see this state become crowded and overrun. But I have confidence that this state itself has the means by which to limit those who would live here, and to weed out those who don't belong. There is the weather-- it really does rain a lot here, especially in winter. When it's cool and clear in other places' falls, it's raining here. When it's snowing, or cold and clear in ther places' winters, it rains here. And when the spring comes, it's still raining here. The summers can be gorgeous, but rain is not unheard of. Even when it isn't raining, all winter long it tends to be gray. In addition, our economy is not the strognest in the country, and making a living is a challenge at times for many of us. This is not a place you come to get rich (during the days of the ORegon Trail, the trail split in Wyoming, with one fork going to California and one going to Oregon. Legend has it that at the fork, a pile of gold was placed beneath the sign pointing to California. On the other sign were written the words "If you can read this, turn right and come to Oregon).

In general, the place has a climatic and cultural quirkiness that weeds out the normal and those who are meterological wimps. So I say, come to Oregon! Welcome! Like the state's father, John McLoughlin, I welcome those I should be trying to drive out. Try the place on for size. If you find it too rainy, too quirky, too depressed or depressing, you'll be gone by the end of your second winter.

If you stay, well, you belonged here all along.

In Good Taste

Woo Hoo! I made the Carnival of Recipes! And I've been receiving plenty of positive feedback regarding the recipe, especially from my fellow Nor'Westers. Very gratifying.

Next I need to work on a good recipe using mint, since we grow so much here. As a boy, I remember we would dry out mint leaves and make mint sun tea. Mmm.... Summer's almost here....

Friday, April 08, 2005

Faithful Are the Wounds of a Friend

Recently an old and dear friend posted some comments in response to one of my posts that, well, to be honest, hurt a bit. That was not her intention, but that was the result. At her request, I have deleted those comments. But I have decided to respond to them here, because the hurt was (and here comes the cliche) a good kind of hurt. that's because her words challenged me to to take a look at some things that needed to be addressed.

First of all, she really forced me to take a look at the tone I take in this Blog. And the point she makes is a valid one. While my original intention was to make this a place where I express my thoughts and ideas on many different topics, I do see a trend on my part to Blog about the things with which I disagree. "Confront, refute, and dismiss", I believe, was the phrase used. Ouch. It certainly is not my intent to come across as dismissive. Unfortunately, with my life as hectic as it is, and my time to Blog limited to a few minutes before work and on my lunch break, I have not had the time or the mental energy to Blog on much else. That has been a sin of omission, not of comission, and it is one of which I repent. I shall attempt to try to open up to my readers a little more.

The second wound came in the form of this comment: "What concerns me the most about your confidence is that it looks like you start out with a resolution instead of a question." To a certain extent she is right, but to another extent I believe this misperception is related to the issue of what I've been writing. In any case, I feel the need to defend myself here.

There is a certain level on which I start from fixed notions, "resolutions" if you will. This is unavoidable. No matter what your system of belief, your religion, your philosophy, your politics, you must necessarily start with certain "First Things" -- basic absolute truths that you accept on faith -- the existence or nonexistence of God, the objectivity or subjectivity of truth itself, the nature of the Universe, core values. It is with regards to these "First Things" that I have taken on faith certain of them to be true. If you will pardon the theft of a phrase, I "Hold these truths to be self-evident". For this I will not apologize, from these beliefs I will not deviate. If that means I'm dogmatic, so be it.

Once that has been established, I have made an attempt, as best I could, to be sure that any secondary beliefs (or tertiary, etc.) I hold are reconciled to these First Things. Whenever I have been made aware of an inconsistency, I have done my best to confront it in myself and resolve it -- even if this means my position on a specific topic has changed multiple times, and run the gamut of political or philisophical positions, until I have reached a position my conscience allows me to live with.

But what happens when I cannot find this happy resolution? What do I do when a specific issue presents valid points that seem to put certain of my "First Things" at odds with each other? OR if I reach a logical conclusion that still doesn't feel right to my conscience or my intuition? Well, when that's the case, I continue the endeavor, but refrain from holding a position on that given issue. In short, I admit that I don't know.

So why would it seem to those around me that I'm more confident than I truly am, more set in my ways, more dismissive of other opinions? I believe it has to do with the restraints I have put on my own expressions of belief. You see, most (if not all) of the issues on which I Blog, about which I speak, are issues on which I have done a great deal of wrestling with the angel, and reached an opinion on after much "soul-searching". The problem is, that except for one or two very close friends, I almost never reveal these internal struggles to others. That means they never see the doubts, they never see the fires through which I pass myself, they only see the refined material produced. So rest assured, there are many many things I don't know, and would admit readily I don't know, if confronted. I just tend to keep my mouth shut about them.

Finally, my friend pricked my heart on one more topic, and while it was the friendliest wound, it was the deepest. She reminded me just how much I regret having never completed my college education. I want a degree so badly I can taste it. I've yet to figure out what keeps holding me back from pursuing it. I've been afforded plenty of excuses over the years, but never a compelling reason. I ask for those who read me and care to keep hounding me, and praying for me, and encouraging me, until I do it.

I think that's all the soul-baring for today. Class dismissed.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Quote of the Week

Thanks for the Memory to Darth Apathy.

"War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend...."

-Farimir of Gondor - The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers by JRR Tolkien

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Just a quick word of thanks to Brian B.

He has been a friend and an inspiration in my religious growth.

Thanks Brian, for being one of those life long friends that we always see in the movies and no one thinks is real. Thanks for helping me move all those times, for keeping my head on straight, for the rides, putting up with my Psycho Ex Girlfrineds, My rambeling, for gaming and for being a great friend. If your as good as one tenth the father to your son, as the friend you have been, then the kid is gonna turn out pretty good.

Just One More Thing...




Every morning, after I've checked my comments and my tracvkbacks and my email, the very first other Blog I usually go read is Naked Villainy. Maximum Leader has a real talent for writing and is an erudite fellow. Smallholder is equally interesting to read, as he has knowledge of arcane subjects which I find interesting -- agriculture, et6c. And while I usually disagree with his political views, I respect him for being a man of convictions. He has extended me the same courtesy. Today I feel the need to take greater exception than normal with one of his posts, and to more mildly disagree with two others.

The post with which I take exception is this dig at the Pope. Now, I'm not one to fall back merely on the defense "Don't speak ill of the dead". I'll speak ill of those deserving ill speech, and speak well of those deserving praise, be they dead or alive. What I do find troublesome about the post is argument that the Pope's decision about his own death is somehow incongruous with JP II's stance on the Terri Schiavo case.

Now, if I agreed with Smallholder on every point of the Schiavo case, I'd have to agree with him about the Pope. But I don't. I don't necessarily disagree, I just don't agree. For the Pope's stance to have been hypocritical, Il Papa would have had to reach the same conclusion that Terri was dead and unsaveable. Take SH's comment Surely he had more "life" to be held in sanctity than a woman with spinal fluid where her cerebral cortex ought to have been. While this conclusion is Smallholder's firm assertion, while it is Michael Schiavo's firm conviction, and while it was the judge's firm conviction and thus legal ruling, it was not an undisputed point. A great many people did not believe this to be the case, and for them, there is no moral conflict between a desire to give Teri a chance and a personal choice not to prolong their own lives past hope. The crux of the matter is that if you don't believe Terri needed heroic measures (whether you were correct in this belief or not), then that's different from choosing to forego heroic measures.

Furthermore, there is the question of whether or not the choice made for Terri was her own. Again, Smallholder believes it was. Many do not. While that assertion is open to debate, the Popes decision on his own behalf is not.

Finally, I find this comment troubling: But perhaps, at the very end, he realized he could not follow those convictions into a prolonged death struggle.

Two points. First, I do think that this is a bit if an unkind dig at a man who was dealing with a terrible illness, an illness I hope Smallholder never suffers. Secondly, I seem to recall that many of those who agree with Smallholder regarding the Schiavo case (and perhaps even SH himself, I can't remember) argued that the efforts to keep Terri alive were motivated by a fear of death, an unwillingness to accept immortality. But this comment seems to imply that JP II's decision was to embrace death out of a fear of facing prolonged suffering in life. So my question to Smallholder, and to other potetnial Papal detractors, is this: If is was cowardice to prolong life, and it was cowardice to refrain prolonging life, how was His Holiness to please you? Not that that was ever his goal....

Regarding two other Smallholder posts:

As for the media. Smallholder would sarcastically have us believe that current news coverage of the awarding of a Congressional Medal of Honor is proof that the Media is not biased in its coverage of Iraq. I shall avoid relying solely on the old maxim that the exception proves the rule, because that alone would be a weak argument. I will, however, point out that the first presentation of our nation's highest military honor in twelve years is quite a newsworthy event, and not something the media could easily ignore. As for front page news, I'm curious as to which paper and which day. Today's Red Register Guard certainly didn't place it there (Although they do have an interesting and highly important story of a man trapped in an elevator for four days). It would be easy to argue that the every day acts of bravery that fails to meet CMH criteria is the reason those acts are not reported upon, to which I would respond by asking why every day acts of cowardice and savagery are deemed more noteworthy?

As for the debate on the merits of recovering the dead during combat:

Smallholder's points are at least worthy of consideration. So are the points of those who disagree with him, as well as those who agree. I'm just curious to hear input from one other, very important point of view: The guys who actually have to carry out this policy. I don't know any of these bloggers well enough to know if they're service veterans, let alone combat vets. But when it comes to this policy, it seems to me that their opinion should weigh heavily. Now, normally I am reticent to weigh in on issues having to do with the combat experience, because I am a career civilian. However, on this topic I think I've learned enough military history to have an opinion.

Smallholder's original argument against the policy (Whether this is the entire crux of his objection or not) was that he would be reticent as an officer to send other men in to die to recover a body, and further, to have to tell the families of those new dead why their son died: to recover a corpse.

I'd like to address the second part of the equation first. I find this expression of concern for the families of the dead somewhat inconcruous with the previous statement "Private Snuffy was dead and his family would have to grieve, with or without the shell." which seems somewhat (if unintentionally) cavalier. Any combat death is a tragedy, and should be treated with as much dignity and respect and compassion as possible. They should also be avoided if possible. But in warfare, deaths occur. That is the nature of the beast. If the goal acheived, or at least striven for, is worthy of the sacrifice, soldiers must be, and almost always are, willing to make that sacrifice, and officers must be willing to send them to that doom, as hard a choice as it may be.

Which brings us to the question of whether or not recovering a fallen camrade's body is a worthy enough cause to warrant another soldier's death. To answer that question, we must first ask and answer the question of what good the recovery does? Why do we not abandon our dead?

Smallholder and Ally argue that it's all about "Honor and Dignity", and assail these concepts as moot in the case of the dead. Bill, in arguing against this position, focuses on the needs of the individual dying, and his family, to know he'll be honored in death. I think he's on to something here, but I also believe he falls a bit short.

I agree with Bill that it is not asinine to recover the dead. But I go a bit further in my reason why. It is not for the sake of the dead man in his dying, nor for his family, that I believe our military holds this policy. And while I do believe that Honor has something to do with it, I do not believe, as SH and Ally do, that it's honor for honor's sake alone -- some hidebound tradition without reason. Ultimately, I believe that we adhere to this policy, that we display this honor, for the sake of the living soldiers, for the sake of those who may become the dead, as well as for the sake of those who will be called on to risk and even give their own lives to recover those dead.

If you spend any amount of time reading the annals and recollections of combat veterans, if you have watched their interviews, one thing sticks out in your mind. While they were recruited with varying degrees of willingness, for a multitude of causes, and fought under a thousand banners, they all seem to agree on this thing. When the drums roll, and the trumpets sound, and the swords clash, and the bombs drop, and the shells explode, and the bullets fly, and the blood flows, they have all fought for the same reason: They fight for the man to their left and the man to their right.

It's the inspiration of all good soldiers, not just the title of a miniseries: They're a band of brothers. They fight, kill, and die to protect and support each other. They rely on each other, trust each other. Even though it's a bond forged in battle and thus dissolves to some extent with the peace, in ways this bond is a vow more binding than the marriage vow: I'm married to my wife "till death do us part". Soldiers are bound to each other even in death. This is why they do not leave their dead behind. And this is why I believe (though any vets out their are as always welcome to correct me) that they are not only willing to, but believe strongly that they should, risk their own lives to recover the bodies of their fallen buddies. And if we release them from this obligation, furthermore, if an officer by his orders bars them from carrying out this obligation, that vow has been broken. They have not kept the faith, they have broken the bonds of brotherhood that bind even in death. And if that vow, which has been made can be broken in death, what's to keep the bond in life? The foundation of trust and honor which keeps good soldiers fighting for each other has been eroded. And in the end, soldiers who cannot trust each other cannot defend each other. And if they cannot defend each other, they cannot survive. And that is why, I believe, the living risk their lives to honor the dead.

Oh, as an aside to Smallholder: Congratulations on the birth of your sheep's twins.