Sunday, May 01, 2005

Beware the Unitarian Jihad!

Jon Carroll passed on a communication from a group calling itself Unitarian Jihad in a column that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 8. Okay, he probably wrote the whole thing himself -- here's a paragraph from the article

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

It's unclear whether Carroll is himself a UU (Unitarian Universalist), but people inside and outside the faith are signing up and adopting a nom de guerre (nom de paix?) and threatening to send packages of cookies to people they like.

You need not be UU to join, and the Unitarian Jihad has no connection with the Unitarian Universalist Association. While there are generators here and here, you can probably make a name up on your own. For most people of will do nicely, though sometimes "Unexalted" appears in front. Thus, Yamaneko's nom de paix is "Brother Joyous Shiv of Lovingkindness".

Friday, April 29, 2005

I had an epiphany a week ago. I'm leaving IT, but had a hard time discussing whether to go into law, public affairs or weather forecasting.

On April 21, the Bartlett, IL Fire Protection District hosted National Weather Service spotter training. Most of the people attending worked in area police departments, and there it hit me: people who predict the weather save lives. Lawyers have a mixed record, for every Erin Brokovich there is a team of lawyers on the other side. People working in public affairs also have a similarly mixed record. Meteorologists, on the other hand, are generally on the public's side.

It helps that I have a better background from which to commence graduate study of meteorology than for the other fields...

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Joy of Sects: Anglican and Episcopalian Churches in America

I thought that there were only seven Episcopal/Anglican Churches in America. Instead, here's a list that includes at least thirty of them.
Pope John Paul II back in hospital

The Pope's back in the hospital, and underwent a tracheotomy to help him breathe. Since he suffers from Parkinson's he will have a harder time recovering than most 84-year-olds. The BBC reports that his appetite is good and he is recovering.
Anglican split worsens

Prelates of the Anglican Communion, meeting in Northern Ireland, have asked the American Episcopal Church and the Canadian Church to withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for three years, until the 2008 Lambeth Conference. According to the BBC, "One observer said: 'The primates have handed the North Americans a pearl-handled revolver."

As the February Meeting Communiqué puts it:

"14. Within the ambit of the issues discussed in the Windsor Report and in order to recognise the integrity of all parties, we request that the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference. During that same period we request that both churches respond through their relevant constitutional bodies to the questions specifically addressed to them in the Windsor Report as they consider their place within the Anglican Communion. (cf. paragraph 8)"

The Anglican Church of Canada's primate, the Most Rev. Andrew S. Hutchison, found the document, while imperfect, "
does, however, reflect the consensus that we were able to achieve."

The Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA, Most Rev. Frank Griswold, is less sanguine. "
These days have not been easy for any of us and the communiqué reflects a great deal of prayer and the strong desire to find a way forward as a Communion in the midst of deep differences which have been brought into sharp relief around the subject of homosexuality." and "Clearly, all parts of the communiqué will not please everyone. It is important to keep in mind that it was written with a view to making room for a wide variety of perspectives."


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Magdalene Laundries: A Study in Faith-Based Oppression
From just after the Potato Famine until 1996, several orders of nuns ran "Magdalene Laundries", where "fallen women" and other women deemed likely to "fall" were imprisoned. Thirty thousand women went through these laundries. Six days a week, 52 weeks a year the women would be forced to work in laundries run by the sisters without pay. They could not leave. Priests and nuns took sexual liberties with the inmates. Inmates who died were often buried in unmarked graves, and to add insult to injury, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity (!!!) in Drumcondra sold off their Magdalene graveyard, exhumed 155 women, had all but one cremated, then had them buried in a mass grave at Glasnevin Cemetery.

The Irish government and Irish society collaborated in these abuses. Often women were sent to these laundries by their own families. The government knew full well about the laundries, yet did nothing to help the prisoners, opting instead to help the nuns run their slavepits.

Justice for Magdalenes, based in County Cavan, Ireland, offers documentation on the Magdalenes from sources as diverse as Crux News ("Chronicling the Culture Wars and the Clash of Civilizations") and the Workers' Vanguard ("newspaper of the Spartacist Group Ireland, section of the International Communist League.")

Courting Divine Chastisement?

After seeing the movie, I could not help wondering about the state of the nuns' immortal souls right now. While I don't hope that their souls are burning in eternal Hellfire, I do hope that God has made them see what they have done with that clarity afforded by the afterlife. That seems to be the modern definition of Purgatory.

This is why many good Christians of all denominations get very nervous when a government decides to offer them power or money. Anybody familiar with Christian history knows the crimes that Christian clergy can commit when society gives them too free a hand. And most Christians believe that committing such crimes endangers their own soul, and the scandal that issues thereof turns people away from Christianity.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Howard Dean elected DNC chair

In a victory for the Democratic blogosphere, Howard Dean was elected Democratic National Committee chair. To celebrate, many of us have placed donation links to actblue.com, like the one that you see to your left. If you are a Deaniac, it's time to put your money where your mouth (or fingers) are and donate.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Why the Midwest could use high-speed rail: A Tale of Three Travellers

The Midwest High-Speed Rail Association argues, and nine state Departments of Transportation agree, that the Midwest could support a network of fast trains. Wisconsin is doing environmental-impact studies of a Madison-Milwaukee run. Trains have run at 90 mph in Michigan and Illinois is building up the Chicago-Springfield corridor.

Here's why it can work. Consider the trip from downtown Chicago to downtown Indianapolis. Most of us would drive it, but for some reason Southwest Air runs four flights and United runs eight flights on that route. (All times are Central.)

Margaret Ironbladder drives the route nonstop, leaving home at 8 am. The trip takes about 3.3 hours at posted speeds, provided she drives non-stop and avoids both cities' rush hours, summer construction and winter weather. In practice, 4 hours is considered normal and 5 hours is prudent. She arrives in Indianapolis around noon Central time; by IRS rules the 180-mile trip costs about $67.50

Jim Propflight takes an airline to Indianapolis, leaving home at 8 am. First comes the trip to O'Hare or Midway, which takes 30 minutes on a good day from downtown via CTA, though one hour is more prudent for drivers. He has been advised to arrive an hour early for the flight. Finally he gets on the plane for the one-hour flight. He gets off the flight between 10:30 and 11:00 am Central time. Arriving at Indianapolis International, on the city's western edge, he then must get his bags (10 minutes if he's lucky), and get the rental car (another 10 minutes) or on the hourly shuttle bus (average 30 minute wait). It is now between 10:50 and 11:40. It takes 20 minutes to get downtown if I-70 permits, so Jim arrives between 11:10 and 12 noon. The ticket cost $39 (Southwest Airlines, 3/9/05), the shuttle to the hotel $12, total $51.

At 8 am, Roberta Railman takes a 30-minute taxi or public transit ride to Union Station. She arrives 30 minutes early, again to be prudent. The train averages 70 mph, and Roberta arrives in downtown Indianapolis at 11:50 am, a $5-$10 taxi ride from her destination. The current Amtrak fare for this trip is $16, though that probably hides a subsidy. Still even at twice or three times the price Roberta would ride in comfort while her colleagues would endure 3-4 hours of stressful driving or uncomfortable flying.


Monday, February 07, 2005

Super Bowl XXXIX Notes

Patriots 24, Eagles 21

During the interminable Super Bowl pre-game show, Fox invited George H.W. Bush (Republicans, #41) and Bill Clinton (Democrats, #42) to talk for a few minutes about tsunami relief. Clinton fans will be pleased to learn that the UN named him the special envoy for tsunami reconstruction, effective March 1. Clinton foes will be pleased to learn that the resorts affected by the tidal wave are open and offer great bargains, should they decide to follow him around. Clinton also correctly predicted a close game characterized by strong defense on both sides, while Bush predicted that the Patriots would defeat the Eagles by over 14 points.

Guide for Papal Paparazzi

The Pope was taken to the hospital late Tuesday evening (2200 GMT) and by Wednesday, the ghouls descended on Gemelli Hospital to report the latest breaking news on his condition. They set up a forest of satellite dishes outside the hospital and mingled with the pilgrims. A satellite forest of satellite dishes orbited the main camp to report on the media frenzy.

A sick Pope is manna from Heaven if you're a modern journalist. Nobody shoots at you. The food's better than it is in Baghdad (let alone Darfur). You don't get herded around or confined to green zones. Forged documents went out with the Papal States. Best of all is the polyglot flock of pilgrims, some of whom speak your language and all of whom offer plenty of local color.

Best of all, covering the Pope is not always a 24/7 affair, since you can tell how grim his condition is by where he's staying. (Better to tell your audience that his condition is grim, no matter what, so they remain interested.) So here's a helpful color-coded guide for the professional ghoul who wants to enjoy Rome while boosting his career.

Code Green: The Pope has not cancelled his appearances at the Vatican. Remind your audience that he is ill with Parkinson's and frail. Never mind that the poor man endured enough disease and injury after age 65 than would kill an ox. And what are you doing in Rome, anyway?

Code Blue: The Pope has cancelled an appearance. Be sure to intone it as gravely as possible, then enjoy la dolce vita on your expense account before you go to your next assignment.

Code Yellow: The Pope has entered his suite of rooms on the tenth floor. While he is suffering and in pain, his life's not is proximate danger. Whatever you do, don't let the audience know that the Pope will probably recover in a few days. This is the sweet spot of Papal coverage, where minimal effort can produce maximal career results. But monitor the BBC, since the Pope's condition just might deteriorate.

Code Orange: The Pope entered intensive care. You're on 24/7, interrupted only by the Michael Jackson trial. In a few days intensive care will be old news, and you can return to Code Yellow and two-hour spaghetti carbonara lunches with wine.

Code Red: You've been sent home, and the senior anchor is on his way. Be sure to interview a cardinal or two at the airport.


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