Thursday, August 12, 2004

Milly Kondracke 

Stem Cell Muddle, Richard Cohen, Washington Post
Milly Kondracke was a life also. She died July 22 at 64 of complications from Parkinson's, a phrase that cannot begin to describe what she had been through. Her husband, the journalist Morton Kondracke, chronicled her suffering in the book "Saving Milly." I wrote about this book more than three years ago, and if you will permit me, I will quote myself:

"I read about Milly's unstoppable decline -- how at first she had trouble signing her name, then walking, then talking, eating, turning over in bed, standing, drinking, controlling her bowels. I read, in both shock and wonder, of Mort washing her, changing her, feeding her, clearing food out of her clogged throat and, through it all, loving her -- completely, physically. I read an account of a love so huge that I shrank before it: Could I do the same?"

I don't know. I hope I never know -- and while I am confessing ignorance, let me say also that I don't know for sure when life begins. But I recognized life in Milly -- oh, what gusto she once had! -- and I don't see it in the earliest of fetuses.

Dear Mr. Cohen,

I read your article on fetal stem cell research. If you feel so strongly that stem cell research is moral and will lead to a better society, then put your money where your mouth is and contribute to all the private stem cell research that is going on. It's not as if President Bush made fetal stem cell research illegal afterall, he was the first to actually fund it federally! Your article is quite misleading about the President's actions.

I'm sure you wouldn't take the tack that your tax dollars should fund research into things that you find morally wrong, would you? But your article makes no allowances for those who find stem cell research abhorrent. If Parkinson's research discovers a genetic stamp that would allow us to know if a baby will develop Parkinson's later in life, would you support aborting Mort's wife, or Michael J. Fox, or Muhammad Ali? I mean, just look at their quality of life, isn't it better to never have been born?

Next time, make the case as to why dying from Parkinson's is so bad that it's much better to never have been born. If you can make that case, then you'll win over those who believe all life is sacred, no matter how small, just like in "Horton Hears a Who". Make the case for boiling that dust speck, Mr. Cohen, change the ending of Seuss' book and let's all read it to our children and grandchildren and see how they like it when the Who's are boiled in oil. Your children and grandchildren, after all, are the ones who will have to live in the world you imagine... in the world where Horton's tormentors boil the dust speck even after they hear the Who's screaming.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

If President Bush went around claiming that he had been on a secret mission 30 years ago, and even carried around a black briefcase that had an old hat in it as a reminder of that secret mission, when it is clear that none of it ever happened, just what do you think David Letterman, Jay Leno, all the network anchors and news shows, the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc... would say? Just what would they all do if he would whip out that old hat and put in on and tell grampa-stories about those old, false, secret missions?

John Kerry told those stories, even as recently as May of 2003 to the Washington Post. And what are all those listed above doing, what are they saying?

Nothing. Even though Kerry was never in Cambodia, even though he never had a super secret CIA man to drop off in Cambodia, even though he has now decided to say he has misremembered what was seared -- seared -- into his memory. They are saying nothing. So John Kerry, though he has told this false story for decades for his own political gain, is getting a pass.

And you know what President Bush would get, because he got it already at the Unity Journalist event:

Helen Ubinas, another attendee, wrote in The Hartford (Conn.) Courant that she was "in the minority, as it were" who acted like "a professional, not a partisan" in responding to Kerry. There was snickering during Bush's address and the crowd rose at the end, "but not for much longer than it took to head to the door."

Akilah Johnson, a reporter at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Delray Beach, Fla., told USA Today, "It was a little awkward for me. I guess a lot of people were acting like citizens, not reporters."

Seattle Times reporter Florangelea Davila told her paper, "It was so offensive and awful, and I hated it. It was clearly inappropriate. It was ridiculous."

Houston Chronicle Suburban Editor Pete McConnell said he was "embarrassed" by the crowd reactions to Bush and Kerry: "As a group we should have kept ourselves in check."

Bob Steele, ethics expert at the Poynter Institute, called public outbursts favoring one candidate "unprofessional and unethical."

So there you have it. Bush comes to speak to a bunch of journalists and gets snickers while Kerry gets standing ovations. Who here thinks that those same journalists will ever take note of John Kerry, skulking around in his own lie of a hat.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Jesus at the Well 

We studied Chapter 3 (Jesus: Lord and Messiah) of Michael Pennock's "This is our Faith" last night in RCIA. I enjoyed the class, we talked much more about the text than about ourselves. We discussed 1st century thought and problems. The instructor let us branch out to side discussions and get off topic if interest led that way. The text was a good guide, although the Bible translations it uses (from the New Jerusalem Bible) are unpoetic in the extreme and often out of sorts with any translation I've heard before.

Example: Here's Luke 3:21-22 (when God spoke from Heaven when Jesus was baptized):

"Now it happened that when all the people had been baptized and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in a physical form, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, today have I fathered you." (Lk 3:21-22)

I don't know about you, but I'm much more used to the voice of God saying, "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased." Our teachers seemed to agree that although we aren't used to such translations, the New Jerusalem Bible is an excellent literal translation so there must be something in the original language text that led them to translated it into those words.

In closing, our instructors also asked us one of the discussion questions, "What is your favorite Jesus story from the Bible."

I chose Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman (John 4). I chose this for two reasons. 1) I admire Jesus for his ability to accept people as equals, even people distant from himself in so many ways, even sinners. Jesus accepts the woman at the well for who she is. This is something I struggle with... accepting people for who they are, warts and all, with love and kindness. So I like the story because it teaches me how I should try to behave, but also, 2) I like the story because it tells us that Jesus knows everything about us and accepts us anyway... the story allows me to put myself in the shoes of Jesus (or sandals, rather) and tells me to work on accepting the lives of others with grace and forgiveness, and the story also allows me to put myself in the shoes of the woman, of someone Jesus approaches with full knowledge of my life's highs and lows, ready to forgive me, ready to accept me despite my flaws and sins.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Monitoring US Elections 

In a suprising move, suprising to me anyway, our State Department has asked an International group to monitor the US elections this year. We are probably the oldest democracy currently on the face of the earth, and we're a country of laws. In fact, each state has hundreds of laws on the books about holding elections, and fiddling with those laws (as happened in Florida in 2000) just throws the whole process out of whack. Question: if this group, "The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe" (OSCE), decides that there's a problem in Florida, or Iowa, or Wisconsin and yet our laws find no problem... what happens? Can a candidate challenge an election based on evidence from some international body of observers?

Most countries probably looked up to our method of democracy before Gore took it to court in 2000. The resulting mess took us down countless notches in the eyes of the world. Now, if this group goes about the country and documents how poorly our voter rolls are kept, how doddering our poll workers are, how small our voter turnout is... what good can come of it?

RCIA tonight.

Until then, read about how minority journalists responded to Kerry's and Bush's speeches at the Unity Conference.

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