December 7th, 2007

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Good Morning!

I woke early this morning and lay in bed in the dark feeling the miracles that I am, that we are.  Look how we heal, see feel.

It is still dark even though it is almost 6:30.  Only a few lights twinkle across the way.  I go outside and there are a few stars though everything is wet.

I breathe fully in and then come to the paper, well, to the words on the screen from a paper somewhere.  Here is an editorial from the NY Times.  I was unaware that "In God We Trust," and "under God" did not come to our coins and pledge until the 1950's and the McCarthy era.  I always wondered about it.   It seemed odd to me in light of the Constitution's separation of church and state.

I find it astonishing that a small group of people have such control now over what a candidate says.  Mitt Romney is a sad comparison to JFK and the statement made when JFK was elected as the first Catholic. 

Editorial from the NY Times.  

The Crisis of Faith

Published: December 7, 2007

Mitt Romney obviously felt he had no choice but to give a speech yesterday on his Mormon faith. Even by the low standards of this campaign, it was a distressing moment and just what the nation’s founders wanted to head off with the immortal words of the First Amendment: A presidential candidate cowed into defending his way of worshiping God by a powerful minority determined to impose its religious tenets as a test for holding public office.

Mr. Romney spoke with an evident passion about the hunger for religious freedom that defined the birth of the nation. He said several times that his faith informs his life, but he would not impose it on the Oval Office.

Still, there was no escaping the reality of the moment. Mr. Romney was not there to defend freedom of religion, or to champion the indisputable notion that belief in God and religious observance are longstanding parts of American life. He was trying to persuade Christian fundamentalists in the Republican Party, who do want to impose their faith on the Oval Office, that he is sufficiently Christian for them to support his bid for the Republican nomination. No matter how dignified he looked, and how many times he quoted the founding fathers, he could not disguise that sad fact.

Mr. Romney tried to cloak himself in the memory of John F. Kennedy, who had to defend his Catholicism in the 1960 campaign. But Mr. Kennedy had the moral courage to do so in front of an audience of Southern Baptist leaders and to declare: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”

Mr. Romney did not even come close to that in his speech, at the George Bush Presidential Library in Texas, before a carefully selected crowd. And in his speech, he courted the most religiously intolerant sector of American political life by buying into the myths at the heart of the “cultural war,” so eagerly embraced by the extreme right.

Mr. Romney filled his speech with the first myth — that the nation’s founders, rather than seeking to protect all faiths, sought to imbue the United States with Christian orthodoxy. He cited the Declaration of Independence’s reference to “the creator” endowing all men with unalienable rights and the founders’ proclaiming not just their belief in God, but their belief that God’s hand guided the American revolutionaries.

Mr. Romney dragged out the old chestnuts about “In God We Trust” on the nation’s currency, and the inclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance — conveniently omitting that those weren’t the founders’ handiwork, but were adopted in the 1950s at the height of McCarthyism. He managed to find a few quotes from John Adams to support his argument about America’s Christian foundation, but overlooked George Washington’s letter of reassurance to the Jews in Newport, R.I., that they would be full members of the new nation.

He didn’t mention Thomas Jefferson, who said he wanted to be remembered for writing the Declaration of Independence, founding the University of Virginia and drafting the first American law — a Virginia statute — guaranteeing religious freedom. In his book, “American Gospel,” Jon Meacham quotes James Madison as saying that law was “meant to comprehend, with the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination.”

The founders were indeed religious men, as Mr. Romney said. But they understood the difference between celebrating religious faith as a virtue, and imposing a particular doctrine, or even religion in general, on everyone. As Mr. Meacham put it, they knew that “many if not most believed, yet none must.”

The other myth permeating the debate over religion is that it is a dispute between those who believe religion has a place in public life and those who advocate, as Mr. Romney put it, “the elimination of religion from the public square.” That same nonsense is trotted out every time a court rules that the Ten Commandments may not be displayed in a government building.

We believe democracy cannot exist without separation of church and state, not that public displays of faith are anathema. We believe, as did the founding fathers, that no specific religion should be elevated above all others by the government.

The authors of the Constitution knew that requiring specific declarations of religious belief (like Mr. Romney saying he believes Jesus was the son of God) is a step toward imposing that belief on all Americans. That is why they wrote in Article VI that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

And yet, religious testing has gained strength in the last few elections. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, has made it the cornerstone of his campaign. John McCain, another Republican who struggles to win over the religious right, calls America “a Christian nation.”

CNN, shockingly, required the candidates at the recent Republican debate to answer a videotaped question from a voter holding a Christian edition of the Bible, who said: “How you answer this question will tell us everything we need to know about you. Do you believe every word of this book? Specifically, this book that I am holding in my hand, do you believe this book?”

The nation’s founders knew the answer to that question says nothing about a candidate’s fitness for office. It’s tragic to see it being asked at a time when Americans need a president who will tell the truth, lead with conviction and restore the nation’s moral standing, not one who happens to attend a particular church.

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Jon Carroll on GPS -

I read Jon Carroll today and think of the times I have been misguided by GPS and I think of the Bible and those who believe that absolutely every word in it is Gospel and true, even though there are obvious contradictions, and I wonder why we so often trust something manufactured outside of ourselves rather than our own common and not-so-common sense.  I go back to the self-healing miracles that we are.  Listen to the beat within and then look up and out and feel your feet on the ground as you stand, sit, walk, and lie down, the four dignities of humankind.

San Francisco Chronicle

Jon Carroll

About a decade ago, when there were wolves in Wales and GPS systems were exotic new gadgets, I went on a road trip with two guys to the high desert of eastern Nevada. One of the passengers in the car owned a spanking-new GPS device and was fascinated by it.

As the bleak, broad grandeur of the countryside swept by, he kept staring at his device. "We should be approaching Pioche pretty soon," he said, as we passed a road sign that said "Pioche: 10 miles."

"I think we are," I said.

"What a great machine," he said.

Eastern Nevada is not a place that requires a lot of GPS input. There's a road. You can go one way, you can go the other way. By using such refined techniques as "keep the sun on your left in the afternoon," you can pretty much get wherever it is you want to go. And where you want to go is generally Ely.

Still, he plotted our course like a master mariner. We were never in doubt as to precisely where we were, although we weren't in doubt anyway. I enjoyed occasionally putting the GPS on as small a scale as possible and then watching our little blip move up the road. Then I'd look up and, yup, our blip was moving. Astonishing.

One day, however, we went looking for a ghost town. (There's a long story about this adventure, and perhaps someday I will tell it, unless I already have.) Now GPS guy was in his element. He programmed in the coordinates. He found the road to the ghost town.

"Slow down, slow down, we're almost there," he said. "OK, take a left ... now!"

The driver did so. We bumped along over the sand, flattening sagebrush and creosote bushes. We hit a gully, slid sideways, gained traction and plowed on. "This isn't a road!" I said.

"It is a road," said the guy with the unit. "It's right here on the screen. Keep going straight."

"There's a big mountain straight ahead," I said.

"Well, let's stop before that," he said, finally looking up.

It turned out that, in a sense, the GPS device was correct. There was a ghost town straight ahead, and one could make out faint tracks of road that once had been. Probably the GPS company had programmed an old map into the device. But still, it was a lesson in the persistence of technological fantasy.

Cut from Nevada in the '90s to England in the aughts. The tiny village of Wedmore is having a little problem. According to Sarah Lyall in the New York Times, the GPS system has listed the road through Wedmore as a wonderful alternative route when the main highway is jammed.

Unfortunately, the one road through Wedmore is very narrow. There's no room for passing. There's no room for large trucks. There are several sharp corners that could defeat even the most experienced driver. Trucks are getting stuck there all the time. They knock down walls and signs, shear mirrors off cars, lose traction at the bottom of Wedmore's one and only hill.

Wedmore is not alone; there are hundreds of villages in England that have found themselves inundated by GPS-directed traffic. They have tried putting up signs, large signs, warning of narrow roads and sharp turns and the perfidy of GPS devices. But of course, people using the devices are not looking at the signs.

Some of the villages have simply asked to be removed from the GPS maps. The technology companies have refused to do that, saying that such a move would destroy the integrity of the maps. Perhaps certain warnings could be integrated into the GPS databases, but that would take time, and in the meantime - why don't the villagers set up a lemonade stand? Extra revenue!

It's actually an old problem in a shiny new wrapping. Computers are only ever as good as the information fed into them. Google says it's not evil, but it could easily be evil - it could, if it wanted to, relocate the nation of Burkina Faso to Southeast Asia and cause millions of schoolchildren to fail their geography finals.

A GPS device is not magic, no matter how magical it looks. (But the ones that talk to you in a sultry female voice - clearly witchcraft.) The people who programmed the GPS gave not enough thought to how it would be used, so they built in no safeguards. Now they are governed by a sacred rule they made up yesterday, and tiny Wedmore will just have to cowboy up until a fix can be devised.

"It's a road!"

"It's not a road!"

Been there.

See this dot? Now see this dot over here? OK, we only have to go that far - maybe an inch at most. How hard can that be?


It's funny, isn't it?   Very funny indeed!!

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and then there is Barack Obama -

I continue to read what a wonderful symbol Barack Obama will make for our country, that he will symbolize unity and bring in the new.  Paul Krugman presents him differently today.  I could summarize, but it seems important to read the whole argument of what is going on around the health care issue.  Read him online.  Certainly we all know that universal health care is just that, universal, and it is only going to work if we are all in the pool.  Steve has a small company, and yes, my illness affected the cost of health insurance for all the employees.  We split the cost.  Universal health care will create a bigger pool.  Social security works great.  Why not this?
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Laughter -

I am  reading that laughter burns up calories, so for that and other reasons I scheduled us to see Blue Man Group and Avenue Q while we are in New York.

Read this all the way through to exercise your diaphragm with the joyful flow of movement and ease.

This was one of those many forwards so I don't know who to give the creative credit.

    In pharmacology, all drugs have two names, a trade name and generic name. For example, the trade name of Tylenol also has a generic name of Acetaminophen. Aleve is also called Naproxen. Amoxil is also called Amoxicillin and Advil is also called Ibuprofen.

The FDA has been looking for a generic name for Viagra. After careful consideration by a team of government experts, it recently announced that it has settled on the generic name of Mycoxafloppin. Also considered were Mycoxafailin, Mydixadrupin, Mydixarizin, Dixafix, and of course, Ibepokin.

Pfizer Corp. announced today that Viagra will soon be available in liquid form, and will be marketed by Pepsi Cola as a power beverage suitable for use as a mixer. It will now be possible for a man to literally pour himself a stiff one. Obviously we can no longer call this a soft drink, and it gives new meaning to the names of 'cocktails', 'highballs' and just a good old-fashioned 'stiff drink'. Pepsi will market the new concoction by the name of:


Thought for the day: There is more money being spent on breast implants and Viagra today than on Alzheimer's research. This means that by 2040, there should be a large elderly population with perky boobs and huge erections and absolutely no recollection of what to do with them.

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Evening -

It is certainly time for bed as we rise at four to catch the plane to New York.

I changed some of the videos from the plays of Chris's childhood to DVD this week and watched them tonight.  What a treat to see Chris in L'il Abner, West Side Story and others.   I laughed and cried when as Bernardo he died.  It is amazing how good these plays were.  Marilyn Izdebski was amazing at what she created with the children.  I need to write her a letter and say how much I appreciate what she did.  Sharon Boucher also did a wonderful job with the Marin Theatre Company.

So, I am awake, and Tiger, Bella, and Steve are asleep.  It is always bittersweet to leave, and I am excited to see New York!!