Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nattering Nabobs on Condoms

From the Augusta Chronicle The pope sees the problem,
What the nattering nabobs are missing in their feverish attempts to discredit the pope is: Condoms are a purely physical response to a multifaceted problem of the human soul and society.

The real problems are promiscuity, infidelity, and cultures that reduce women to sexual vessels.

In some areas of Africa, for instance, refusing sex is not an option for a woman.

In other words, rape is the norm.

If the media got half as worked up about the treatment of women in the world as they do to shout down the pope, the world might just be a better place for it.
Sometimes I think our American blinders block out the larger world of the human soul, society, and lands like Africa.

Friday, March 13, 2009

UU's and Signing Statements

We took interest in them back in December 2007 (see Philocrates on GOP and Democratic candidates on executive power). Now we've got Obama's first signing statement. From FedBlog,
Obama issues a signing statement for the Omnibus bill that appears to give agencies a fair amount of latitude on how they spend the money that's coming to them. Most importantly, they're allowed to treat the opinions of Congressional committees as advisory when they spend or reallocate the funds.
And the whole statement here at Mouth of the Potomac. It's concerned with a lot more than Congressional review of reprogramming funds.
Foreign Affairs. Certain provisions of the bill, in titles I and IV of Division B, title IV of Division E, and title VII of Division H, would unduly interfere with my constitutional authority in the area of foreign affairs by effectively directing the Executive on how to proceed or not proceed in negotiations or discussions with international organizations and foreign governments. I will not treat these provisions as limiting my ability to negotiate and enter into agreements with foreign nations.

United Nations Peacekeeping Missions. Section 7050 in Division H prohibits the use of certain funds for the use of the Armed Forces in United Nations peacekeeping missions under the command or operational control of a foreign national unless my military advisers have recommended to me that such involvement is in the national interests of the United States. This provision raises constitutional concerns by constraining my choice of particular persons to perform specific command functions in military missions, by conditioning the exercise of my authority as Commander in Chief on the recommendations of subordinates within the military chain of command, and by constraining my diplomatic negotiating authority. Accordingly, I will apply this provision consistent with my constitutional authority and responsibilities.

Executive Authority to Control Communications with the Congress. Sections 714(1) and 714(2) in Division D prohibit the use of appropriations to pay the salary of any Federal officer or employee who interferes with or prohibits certain communications between Federal employees and Members of Congress. I do not interpret this provision to detract from my authority to direct the heads of executive departments to supervise, control, and correct employees’ communications with the Congress in cases where such communications would be unlawful or would reveal information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential
So is this a good signing statement? One UU's can let pass? Or perhaps a lesson that UU's should think about?

It’s Time for Truth on U.S. Torture (what is it?)

Before we start calling our Senators , we ought to know what were talking about.

Back in Oct of 2006 O'Riley asked UU Rev. Kathleen McTigue if terrorists should be treated as POWs and compelled to give only name, rank, and serial number according to the Geneva Convention, or if they could be coerced to give more information, and if "Yes" what were the boundaries for such coercion.

She didn't know. She said she couldn't define torture, yet she was sure Sen Lieberman advocated it.

If we give combatants fighting outside the boundaries of the Geneva convention, the rights of the Geneva Convention, then all they can be asked is name, rank, and seriel number. They're not criminals to be sent over to civilian courts for show trials. They're POWs in for the duration.

But if they can be questioned further, than the boundaries need to be defined. We don't try to explain those limits in this appeal. We don't even link any guidelines. We don't even link the trial in Obama's own backyard with Cmdr Burge and the years of torture inflicted by the Chicago PD. Stuff far worse than anything that's been found at Bagram, Gitmo, or Abu Garib.

That's sloppy and a cheap shot on the people who struggle with the balance between our security and the rights to be afforded people who by fighting outside the rules of war have no formal rights what so ever. We ought to be more serious about serious stuff. Just rendering these souls to Yemen (which seems to be the current administrations course of action) is an abdication of a grave responsibility.

Time for truth indeed. What is our truth here?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Person of Faith (a UU?)

I'm reading (and in some cases rereading) every book by the recently passed John P. Diggins and came accross a quote (I forget from whom) in The Promise of Pragmatism about We live our faith, we don't live our beliefs.

Then I came accross this post from Peace Bang admiring Obama's reference to himself as a person of faith, and I wondered how many UU's would reference themselves as people of faith?

I rarely hear faith used in that context. My minister will talk about faith traditions, and our faith tradition, but I can't recall an instance of any UU I know talking about their faith as something lived.

I can recall a sermon where a UU minister told the congregation not to tell her what they believed. She said show us our budgets and what we do with our money (it was the pledge drive) and she would tell us what we believed (I guess by how we lived our faith as evidenced by the tax return), but that was really as close as I've heard it.

I've gotten into the habit recently of talking about faith vs beliefs a bit out of frustration from things like that new UU exercise with the range of beliefs in God and we ask people to literally stand somewhere on the range. For some reason that exercise has become a yawner for me.

Anyways, my early AM thought is I suspect most in my Congregation or in my past Congregations would be uncomfortable labeling themselves Persons of Faith.

Am I wrong with that perception? Maybe it's been in past sermons and I've just missed it.

William Saletan: Winning SmuglyYou just won the stem-cell war. Don't lose your soul.

A good column in Slate from someone who supported Obama's order but someone also aware of the shaky grounds he stands upon,
The best way to understand this peril is to look at an issue that has become the mirror image of the stem-cell fight. That issue is torture. On Jan. 22, Obama signed an executive order prohibiting interrogation methods used by the Bush administration to extract information from accused terrorists. "We can abide by a rule that says we don't torture, but that we can still effectively obtain the intelligence that we need," the president declared. "We are willing to observe core standards of conduct not just when it's easy, but also when it's hard."

The next day, former Bush aide Karl Rove accused Obama of endangering the country by impeding interrogations of the enemy. "They don't recognize we're in a war," said Rove. "In a war, you do not take tools that are working and stop using them and say we'll get back to you in four months, six months, eight months, a year, and tell you what we're going to do to replace this valuable tool which has helped keep America safe."

To most of us, Rove's attack is familiar and infuriating. We believe, as Obama does, that it's possible to save lives without crossing a moral line that might corrupt us. We reject the Bush administration's insistence on using all available methods rather than waiting for scrupulous alternatives. We see how Rove twists Obama's position to hide the moral question and make Obama look obtuse and irresponsible.

The same Bush-Rove tactics are being used today in the stem-cell fight. But they're not coming from the right. They're coming from the left. Proponents of embryo research are insisting that because we're in a life-and-death struggle—in this case, a scientific struggle—anyone who impedes that struggle by renouncing effective tools is irrational and irresponsible. The war on disease is like the war on terror: Either you're with science, or you're against it.
Keep reading... Saletan's not hiding the moral question. I'm not sure money UU's can say that. I've read little from any confronting this one.

First Things on what we're doing to the developing world

I was a bit startled by this post last month at Inspired Faith Effective Action. It seemed pure partisan politics in defense of a murky stimulus package set to offer little immediate stimulus.

We UU's pay attention into whose pockets the money is going. Catholics take note of from whose pockets the money is coming, and to whom the money could have gone instead. Read David P. Goldman's Obama Inflicts Misery on the Developing World
Here’s a paradox for Obama supporters: The first American president with personal roots in the developing world (Kenyan father, Indonesian stepfather, childhood residence in Indonesia) is doing more harm to the developing world than any American in history. This is clear from a just-released World Bank report warning that the massive U.S. government borrowing requirement is crowding out developing nations in world capital markets.
Read the whole thing. Social Justice has to be more than handing out Democratic Party press releases with complete disregard for what our politics does to the rest of the world. At a time when Obama prepares to give us protectionism and shut our markets to the world, Catholics are talking about something radically different (and something Democrats who seem to dictate our Social Justic press releases would be loath to advocate),
It is a simple but revolutionary idea, proposed to the rich countries that are now in financial disarray: to invest a gigantic sum of money, not at home, but on behalf of poor countries, so that these may become the leaders of an economic boom to their own advantage and that of all. Over the span of a few decades, it would be the growth of poor countries that would repay the debt contracted by the rich countries, producing more wealth and prosperity.
I'd advocate the revolution.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rev Tutu absolving the City Hall Press Corps for asking Mayor Daley some negative questions



Maybe one needs to be from Chicago to fully appreciate this...

With a surprise assist from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mayor Daley fended off questions Tuesday about the multiple trips he now admits he took aboard a $31 million jet owned by a non-profit company under investigation by the IRS and Congress.

“I don't remember all of ’em,” the mayor said of the flights.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A Biotech Exec's Obama moment

From Reuter's today,
Michael West of Alameda, California-based biotech BioTime says his company stands to profit from Obama's decision almost immediately. It just bought dozens of stem cell batches, or lines, from a Chicago fertility clinic and wants to sell them to newly empowered researchers.
...and a Bristish Comrade from a few years ago showing not everyone on the left's been fooled,
One effect of late capitalism – the commodification of practically everything – is to knock down the Chinese walls between the natural and productive realms, to use a Marxist framework. Women's labour in egg extraction and 'surrogate' motherhood might then be seen as what it is, labour which produces something of value. But this does not necessarily mean that women will benefit from the commodification of practically everything, in either North or South. In the newly developing biotechnologies involving stem cells, the reverse is more likely, particular given the shortage in the North of the egg donors who will be increasingly necessary to therapeutic cloning.

Although most of the ethical debate has focused on the status of the embryo, this is to define ethics with no reference to global or gender justice. There has been little or no debate about possible exploitation of women, particularly of ovum donors from the South. Countries of the South without national ethics committees or guidelines may be particularly vulnerable: although there is increasing awareness of the susceptibility of poorer countries to abuses in research ethics, very little has been written about how they might be affected by the enormously profitable new technologies exploiting human tissue. Even in the UK, although the new Medical Research Council guidelines make a good deal of the 'gift relationship', what they are actually about is commodification. If donors believe they are demonstrating altruism, but biotechnology firms and researchers use the discourse of commodity and profit, we have not 'incomplete commodification' but complete commodification with a plausibly human face.
A brave new world Obama leads us too, but with a Chicago Pol's ethical sensibilities...what can we in Chicago sell... now how many tickets for the next Regular Democratic Golf outing is Mr West good for? Time to pony-up coming soon for sure. It's commodification with a Chicago ward heeler's face.