A Cautious Man
May 24, 2004
Sell it and They Will Come
According to the news (okay, so it's WorldNetDaily), "a group of Christian activists is in the beginning stages of an effort to have one state secede from the United States to become its own sovereign nation." As they further explain:
"Our Christian republic has declined into a pagan democracy," says Cory Burnell, president of ChristianExodus.org, a non-profit corporation based in Tyler, Texas. "There are some issues people just can't take anymore, and [same-sex marriage] might finally wake up the complacent Christians."

Burnell is leading the charge for a peaceful secession of one state from the union, and after originally considering Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina due to their relatively small populations, coastal access, and the Christian nature of the electorate, Burnell says South Carolina has been selected as the target location.
As they explain on their website: "The success of ChristianExodus.org will lead to an independent Christian nation where people may once again worship God under the protection of a friendly government. In addition, such a nation will be free of burdensome taxation and federal meddling in local affairs. Matter of factly, the liberties we have lost to liberalism over the past century will be restored in one fell swoop." At the site, interested people are asked to sign up, and indicate if they are going to move right away, or just promise to do so if things get too bad in the other 49 states.

This is actually a re-tread of an earlier idea pushed by Mr. Burnell, The Confederate State of America Project. This plan was also focused on South Carolina, as the first state to which like-minded Southerners (wherever they may be from) could move in order to start the next secession movement. Then, once that first state is independent, the dominos could start to fall, as it were, as argued by Mr. Burnell:
Our immediate or short-term scope should be independence for one specific state. We could then focus the vast majority of our resources in one direction and at one specific goal. I believe South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi to be the best candidates for immediate independence because of their relatively small populations, their dominant rural constituencies and their coastal access. However, we must choose only ONE as our immediate target, with the others biding time as objects of our mid-term goals. We can then establish our mid-term scope as independence for South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, rural Georgia and northern Florida.
Basically, the whole plan is rooted in the philosophy of the League of the South; although, perhaps because some in the League were less than enthusiastic about the idea, it's been transformed into sort of an "Outbound Christian Soldiers" concept.

Basically, the "Christian Exodus" proposal is a repackaging of a plan to create sort of a White Anglo Christian homeland in South Carolina. If anything, it will get Mr. Burnell a big mailing list of like-minded people.

May 23, 2004
The Weak Lies You Embrace
Everyone's favorite source of Iraqi information, Ahmed Chalabi, had this to say this past February:
During an interview, Mr. Chalabi, by far the most effective anti-Saddam lobbyist in Washington, shrugged off charges that he had deliberately misled U.S. intelligence.

"We are heroes in error," he said in Baghdad on Wednesday. "As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful.

"Our objective has been achieved. That tyrant Saddam is gone, and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important."

Mr. Chalabi added: "The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords if [President Bush] wants.
But, you know how things change with the passage of time (not to mention a raid or allegations of spying):
Chalabi told CNN, "We never provided false information, or indeed any kind of information. What we provided was defectors."

In May 2001, U.S. intelligence agencies requested his group's help in gathering information, and the INC led them to three defectors who "we believed knew about weapons of mass destruction," Chalabi said.

"They interrogated them. ... It is not our responsibility to verify this information. It is blame-shifting, again, by the CIA," he said.

Chalabi said it was "outlandish" to believe that "an exile organization, which was criticized and vilified by the CIA throughout the past decade, would provide information and the United States officials would take it as credible and go to war on its basis. That is ridiculous."
It's looking more and more as if the U.S. government was the chump for this guy, and whoever he was working for.

Checkin' Out the Weather Chart to See if it Was Safe
The President took a nasty spill while bicycling around his Texas ranch, but got away with just some scrapes. "It's been raining a lot. The topsoil was loose," said White House spokesman Trent Duffy.

Being a cautious man, I said to myself, "Really?" Then I found that you can get historical information from the National Weather Service's Waco Station (near Crawford, Texas). Turns out, it hasn't rained since May 14.

Making a List, Checking it Twice
I went through my reading list to the right, intending to prune (did not) and add a few more sites (actually, I'm supposed to be doing work and I'm procrastinating). The new listings are: Professor Juan Cole's Informed Comment site (he's a well-informed expert who seems to be getting more and more annoyed at the sheer incompetence of the Administration); Today in Iraq, a comprehensive summary of news about the war and related issues; and Slacktivist, because it's interesting and I wish I could write like that.

May 20, 2004
Blinded by the Light
Like many others, I've stocked up on CDs over the years, and have been neglecting to listen to my old favorite vinyl records. That's a shame, since that means that I rarely listen to a lot of the great rock and jazz albums which I collected all through my college years (other than those for which I acquired a CD replacement later on). This evening I was reminded of why I should not have neglected the phonograph needle, for the convenience of the laser. I was driving with my high school senior offspring, playing a new copy of the "Bruce Springsteen Essentials" CD. The first few songs are from the "Greetings from Asbury Park" album, and as "Blinded by the Light" played my progeny turned to me and said, "Is that a song he wrote?"

Now, I have dutifully taken the kids to see the E Street band in concert, and they've listened to everything I have on CD. But now I realize that I have neglected major portions of my personal musical history. So, it's either obtain more replacement CDs, or use the old turntable more (I wonder if they still sell refills for my "Discwasher" kit?).

Don't Make No Difference What Nobody Says
Following up on the post below, just how the heck could one, in good conscience, cast a vote to continue with the government's current policies?
A senior American cardinal in the Vatican has accused the U.S. administration of "moral failure" and deception in Iraq and warned the war had severely compromised future relations with the Arab world.
In an interview due to be published in the June edition of "Inside the Vatican" magazine, Cardinal James Francis Stafford also said the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was the work of "barbarians." An advance copy was made available to Reuters.

Stafford, the former archbishop of Denver who has been working in the Vatican since 1996, said the reasons for starting the war in Iraq were a "moral failure" because there had been no conclusive proof of weapons of mass destruction.

"Why did the president, the vice-president and the secretary of defense say there was an immediate danger to the peace of American society by the proximate use of weapons that would come from Iraq, either directly or through al Qaeda?" he said.

"Why did they say that when they didn't have direct evidence?" Stafford said
The complete article is here (via Hesiod). We are not, unfortunately, living in an ideal world. We will use our values, especially those from our religious faith, in order to make choices in this imperfect world. Despite what some may argue, I refuse to believe that the only moral choice is to vote to keep the current Administration in charge.

May 14, 2004
Wielding Love as a Lethal Weapon
This post is about denying the Eucharist based upon political beliefs. More specifically, about why the Eucharist should not be denied based upon voting. The latest entrant in the contest is Bishop Michael Sheridan of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, who has advised his flock that his position goes beyond simply denying the Sacrament to politicians. Instead, he is stating that a vote for the "wrong" politician subjects a Catholic to denial of the Eucharist. As he wrote in a recent pastoral letter (link is a .pdf):
There must be no confusion in these matters. Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasia ipso facto place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation. Any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences. It is for this reason that these Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their positions and been reconciled with God and the Church in the Sacrament of Penance.
Apparently, it doesn't matter what you do in your own life, or even how you support your faith community; and it doesn't seem to matter why you chose to vote for a particular politician, even if that choice had nothing to do with the issue of abortion. So, for example, the Bishop's position would deny the Sacrament to someone who voted for, say, pro-choice Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, over a pro-life primary opponent. I suppose it would especially apply to someone who not only voted for him, but actively encouraged others to do so as well:
Senator Specter's re-election is very important to our Party and our country. I know we can always count on Arlen Specter when it really matters.

Arlen is with us on the votes that matter to move our agenda forward for this President and for the country. I am proud to endorse Arlen Specter.
The enthusiastic Specter voter quoted above is Senator Rick Santorum. Does this mean that, according to Bishop Sheridan, even Senator Santorum separated himself from the Church, based solely on a vote in an election?

I'm sure that Senator Santorum could explain why he believed that Senator Specter was, overall, a better candidate in his view, and that it was not immoral to vote for him. But couldn't any voter also do that, especially in a constitutional democracy made up of people with different backgrounds and beliefs? Maybe it would be better if the sacraments are not used as political weapons at all. Then we could avoid theological disputes about which votes constitute the "greater sin".

May 10, 2004
A Little Revenge
I am unable to understand how anybody could try to minimize the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. We're supposed to be better than that, and yet every day there are more intimations of widespread cruelty by some of our troops. The guilty parties are endangering the troops in the field who are serving honorably, not to mention increasing the likelihood that the U.S. will be unable to get a stable government in place anytime soon. There should be an extensive investigation into who those guilty parties are, since responsibility clearly goes higher than with those who are seen in the photos.

For some reason, during the questioning of Secretary Rumsfeld last week, Senator Lieberman prefaced his support for an apology with this statement: "I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized. Those who have killed hundreds of Americans in uniform in Iraq working to liberate Iraq and protect our security have never apologized." I don't know if this is some sort of "it's bad, but not that bad" sort of rationalization.

The Senator also mentioned the lack of an apology from "those who murdered and burned and humiliated four Americans in Fallujah a while ago". It's interesting that the Senator brought that up. The victims of the Fallujah atrocity were private security contractors. Such contractors are all over Iraq - even at Abu Ghraib prison, questioning detainees. According to news reports, tens of thousands of Iraqis have been detained during sweeps by American troops, especially in pockets of Sunni resistance - like Fallujah.

There is no excuse for the horrible attack on the four contractors. Not only that, but I don't think anybody has come up with an explanation for the attack, either. Okay, so here's the crazy theory of the day. Is it possible that security contractors were targeted because of the actions of their fellow contractors, who engaged in the abuse of detainees? And if so, is that a sign that this whole abuse scandal will have far greater repercussions?

May 04, 2004
You Know It's Never Over
About three weeks ago, we saw the Army's "exoneration" of Muslim Chaplain James Yee, from unproven charges including espionage. Sure, there wasn't exactly an admission that the whole thing was trumped up, but so what? It's all over, right?

Fat chance. In the news tonight, there's an Associated Press story about a "Justice Department investigation", into whether Muslim chaplains are properly screened. The actual report may not be available for a few days, but that doesn't stop the release of general information to the press, without any specific allegations, regarding Muslim chaplains. And what do you know, right in the middle of this story we find the following:
The Pentagon last year arrested a Muslim chaplain, Army Capt. James Yee, on suspicion of espionage and other crimes for allegedly trying to take classified material into the military's detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The espionage allegations and other charges were dropped, and Yee was cleared of wrongdoing in April, when a military judge overturned an adultery and pornography reprimand against him.
So, it doesn't matter if you've been cleared, does it? Is Captain Yee doomed forever to be mentioned, whenever somebody feels the need to provide an irrelevant example of a "bad" Muslim?

May 03, 2004
Searching for a Little Bit of God's Mercy
As it says in this site's subtitle, this is a place for my "random thoughts". Occasionally there is a bit of a time lag between those thoughts (putting them into words, that is, not thinking them). This is also where I keep my main "reading list" (to the right). The people on that list are not there because I agree with everything they say, or believe; they're also not there to look for someone to argue with. I found them all by slogging through countless other sites, on a search for some sort of insight and perspective on current events. They're professionals and amateurs, insiders and outsiders, religious and non-religious (and some, irreligious). There are others who I probably should have on the list as well, and I guess I'll get to them eventually.

A number of the sites on my "reading list" have a Catholic perspective, either because they directly discuss religious matters, or as part of the lens through which they view the world at large. I learned today that I'm losing one of them - as it happens, one of the more unique and irreplaceable ones. Sursum Corda is "going out of business". There are a lot of "Catholic" blogs out there (often referred to as "St. Blog's Parish"). As the proprietor, Peter Nixon, states in his post here:
I know that I was sometimes a little out-of-step with the general zeitgeist at Saint Blogs. That was fine with me because I was being challenged and stretched in ways that might not have happened if I was surrounded by people who saw the world the same way I did. I hope it was fine with you. I think it’s helpful to get out of our own ideological or theological apartments on a regular basis and take a walk around the neighborhood.
Actually, that's what made him more interesting to me. I really hope he changes his mind, about removing what he has up now, and about never posting his thoughts again. If the posts are few and far between, I don't think we'll mind.


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