Author's posts

Jun 03

Science Entails Practice; Likewise Religion

Religion and science are both practiced by humans, therefore they are not as unlike as many argue.  There is much overlap in the skills of emotions and of understanding required to practice either productively.  Both fall disappointingly short of realizing their ideals in practice.  Both are corrupted by the common human flaws.

Faith is one foundation of most religions.  All religions also involve practice.  It’s not so obvious how to master one’s anger and violent tendencies.  Selfishness is a persistent human trait.  And greed, and so on.  But practice tends toward perfection.  Not being a good person for some future reward, no.  I am talking about practicing behavior which will bring happiness to oneself and to others.  Christianity is in alignment with every major religion in placing the golden rule at it’s center.  Treat others as you yourself would be treated.  This simple guide defines a human technology which could actually prevent warfare and end torture.  It is a much more effective approach than simply being right-which is where science, or being reality-based, rears it arrogant head.

I stress arrogant, as opposed to confident in oneself as a result of disciplined practice of rationality.  For science entails practice as well.  No matter how deep one’s knowledge of the heuristic methods of science, acquiring the skills of a practicing scientist requires years of practice-as in religion, the acquired skills are never fully mastered.

Oops, did I call science arrogant?  And I was so wanting to be nice.  Sigh.  If it makes you rational ones feel better, pretending to have co-powers with god is rather breathtaking in its audacity, not to mention claiming to know the unknowable.  So let’s call it a tie.  Okay, go ahead, give religion the black mark on this one.  The over-riding point is that humans tend to be arrogant.  Add that one to the list of human afflictions.

May 10

Post-Fire Post

(Cut and paste diary from comments-that-would-not-stop on dkos,, but begun here in a comment to my man on the spot, ta da

CatfishBlues, who said

May Gray

We’re in almost drizzle conditions, everything is moist but no run-off. That should really help the firefighters out today

.

I said

Just got a report from our house sitter.

Man, did we ever get lucky.  And it’s hard to know how much fire fighting had to do with it.  There was a lot of grass in the very large yard next door–it’s burned.  There is burning underneath the huge pine tree and a lot of trees are blackened.  We had just taken out loads and loads of dead material out of that pine and a lot of kindling from beneath the pine.  I’m quite certain that we would have had no chance if we hadn’t done that just last week.  The grass is burned right up to the house on the downwind side of the house.  She said that looks as though the firemen did a controlled burn there.  So, a lot of blackened trees, some of our plants right next to the house are completely gone, but no damage to the house.  I’m thinking most of the charring is more from the heat than the actual fire.

We picked up one tip which a fireman gave her as she was leaving.  He said to leave the lights on in your house in case they have to come back in the night or in heavy smoke, it helps them find the house and see what’s going on better in fighting fire.

So, that’s how the Jesusita Fire affected me.  There is going to be a lot of clean-up, and we’ll be doing some new planting near the house, but we’ll be able to sit on our patio and from there it’ll look as though nothing happened.

General news:  Still foggy, high humidity, calm air, low temperatures.  Fire is 40% contained and everyone can return home except those in the highest reaches.  The southern part of the fire–toward the ocean, must be contained.  And the evidently prevented its spilling over the ridge along Camino Cielo.  My guess is that the fighting is now on the east and west fronts, which are in residential areas.  They are estimating complete containment by Wednesday.

I can’t wait to hear the stories of all the firemen did in this blaze.  The number of houses still standing in the midst of burn areas is incredible.

Thanks to everyone for all the support of me and of everyone affected by the fire.  It’s really good to have a place to turn.

May 10

A Warm Heart-Felt Over-Flowing

THANK YOU

Photobucket

May 08

Firefighters Make Heroic Stand at San Rocque and Foothill.

The morning brings welcome news that densely populated neighborhoods of delightful adobe homes with small gardens have been largely saved from the fire, at least as of the early morning hours.

Calling from the field around 1 a.m., reporter Ethan Stewart, standing just below San Roque and Foothill called the area a “ghost town on the State Street side.” The fire was making a run down San Roque toward downtown.

The fire is only a few hundred yards from Foothill in the San Roque area, but doesn’t appear to be burning any houses at the moment thanks to the firefighters concerted effort to hold Foothill Road.

[snip]

An hour later, Stewart said that all things considered it seemed somewhat quiet thanks to firefighters’ heroic efforts. The fire is still being held off Foothill Road.

This is referring to an area where the houses are much more densely packed–charming adobes with small yards packed into neighborhoods leading right into the downtown area.  Working 24-hour shifts, the firefighters seem to have averted a catastrophe in the night.  A heavy helicopter presence was also reported in the swirling winds and blinding smoke.

May 08

Jesusita Fire: Information, Please.

Photobucket

Please follow this link to the full-sized photo.  It’s as close as you’re likely to get to the fire.  This photo gives me goose bumps.  Gratitude.

May 03

Please Help an Atty Defending Guantanamo Detainees

I enjoy discussion, debate, analysis.  I have deep appreciation for the thoroughness which this community has parsed every issue of our country’s shameful involvement in torture.  Not so my ex-wife.  I was once on the telephone trying to help my brother think his way through a tough patch when Doris called dismissively from the kitchen, “Tell him to bake a black velvet cake.”  While the rest of us passionately debate the role of the new administration in cleaning up the messes of the old, Doris is busy responding to the reality by doing what she can to find justice for her client at Guantanamo, Abdul Aziz Naji.  We all should be so lucky as to have Doris and her partner Ellen as fierce advocates.

I recently received a letter from Doris and Ellen.  My purpose is to share this letter, both for showing the effects of the current climate on those doing the yeoman’s work and for asking for contributions from those who are moved to support the legal defense of one Guantanamo detainee.

Apr 25

Why We Don’t Torture

This diary title has been sitting in my drafts folder for at least two months.  Slippery assignment, it turns out.  It would be easier to explain “Why Love is Enjoyable.”  General answer?  For several reasons, most of them obvious to normal humans.  If it comes to  “Why Do News Need Programs Need Facts” or “Why Do Poor People Need Food,” I’ll probably throw up my hands.  For now, I’m determined to give this one a shot.

The apparently confusing question of our country’s relation to torture is made perfectly clear when we realize that the answer has everything to do with “us” and nothing whatsoever to do with “them.”  Our country was founded on a belief in the rights and dignity of every human being.  Since our founding, we have been striving toward a more perfect realization of this cornerstone ideal.

Apr 21

Holder May Appoint Counsel, Next Step: OPR Opinion

It’s been an emotional two days for those of us who don’t sleep well knowing our country almost certainly committed war crimes.  It’s a kneejerk issue for me — I’ll admit that without apology.  If America doesn’t hold its leaders accountable for torture, then it’s no longer my America.  And I love my America dearly.  Country aside, the core of my being is offended by the existence of torture in this world.  If some of my money bought waterboards, I now have a stake in the company.  Call it moralizing if you like, but I just can’t live with that.  And yes, I become very emotional.

But tonight, after an especially discouraging day, hope comes from the Rachel Maddow Show in the form of interviews with the estimable Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Michael Isikoff from Newsweek Magazine.  For me, sources don’t get much more reliable than Senator Whitehouse.

Apr 17

Obama’s Empty Call for Reflection, Insult to Justice

“This is a time for reflection, not retribution.”

This statement misleadingly substitutes the concept of retribution for accountability.  This statement, coming after seven years of brutal and illegal retribution for a heinous act, hypocritically calls for our crimes to be met with reflection only.  This statement implies that appropriate responses to war crimes are variable, dependent on time.  This statement calls for reflection, an impossibility in the face of unrelenting insistence that we not look back.   Finally, and most significantly, this phrase arrogantly implies the ability to choose when and if government officials are subject to the law of the land.

Apr 14

Gitmo Attys Advise Panetta: Preserve Torture Evidence

My ex-wife has been representing a Guantanamo detainee for a few years now.  She took a case she couldn’t afford and has devoted a significant portion of her resources the last few years to seeking justice for a foreign stranger accused of committing terrorist acts.  The struggle has been difficult, because her opponent has been the richest, most powerful country in the world–the government of the United States of America.  Her inability to sleep well while someone tortured in her name is the reason I fell in love with her forty years ago.  We scarcely communicate, now that our wonderful children are grown, but we did exchange emails today.  The impersonal letter she forwarded to me, the subject of this diary, brought me to tears.  This diary is to share one small development in a long, difficult struggle being carried forward by a few Americans who stand up for human rights.

Jul 23

Call and Response in Kafka Kountry

I recently expressed a limited criticism of points made in an essay.  When I began receiving responses which twisted my words or mischaracterized me, I made a decision and set up an algorithm for myself:  I would keep responding so long as my words were twisted or I was left with an insult or a mischaracterization of any kind.  I tried not to escalate, just defend.  And I would end with anyone who stopped with a neutral remark, such as let’s just drop this or this is going nowhere.  From that simple position, it became clear that unless I allowed an inaccurate statement to stand, the discussion would continue to escalate indefinitely.  The longer I stuck around, the higher the stakes became and the more I was demonized, until two other essays were born, apparently for little other reason than to demonize the person who would not back down.  It was disorienting in the extreme to wander into two essays based on the false premise that 1) I didn’t want a certain person on the site and 2) I simply refuse stubbornly to learn.  Starting from that extreme misrepresentation, hundreds of words were written, many high-minded notions expressed, all kinds of brilliant theories expounded.  It was truly Kafkaesque.  Seeing so many people buy in and participate in what was, more than anything, a trashing of me, has been disappointing but informative.

I offer the following as a mere record.  I don’t expect movement, I don’t expect anything to change.  Please don’t express sympathy for my feelings or ask me to stay.  I’m not looking for that.  I take responsibility for my choices, and I chose to behave in a way that has brought me to this point.  I am not complaining, I am not putting anyone down, I am recording how the experience looked and felt to me.  In the end, this was a lot closer to Alice’s Wonderland than anything I have ever experienced.  By a long shot.

Jul 16

Spiraling War Culture and Human Empathy–Part II

In Part I, I wrote about the Parable of the Tribes, which explains the historical spiral of human civilization towards increasingly war-like cultures and ever more lethal war technology.  We discussed how the self-destructive behavior of humans in society can look demonic.  In this part I want to discuss a spiritual technology for defusing belligerent behavior–empathy.

I notice that as the Constitution of the United States is increasingly perverted, mangled, and subverted, people are not saying the Constitution is responsible for lawlessness.  Nor do they clamor for dumping the whole thing.  To the contrary, we call for a re-enshrinement of the Constitution in its place of honor.  Many of us don’t have such clear-sightedness with respect to religion.  Seeing the brilliant insights of early sages mangled, manipulated, and co-opted has caused many to reject the basic ideas of religion along with the humans who perverted them.  Herein we refresh our acquaintance with an idea fundamental to every major religion–the Golden Rule–in the hopes that it provides a way out of our spiral toward extinction.

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