Boinkie's Blog

Universalis

Thursday, November 30, 2006

What the SD rejection of an abortion ban means

Barone balances the people voting against an absolute ban on abortions in S.D. and the election of Bob Casey Jr, whose father bucked the Democrats openly against abortion.

Most people are pro life, but recognize that there are severe reasons where abortion might be the lesser of two evils.

Or as one pious Catholic doctor said: I am against abortion, but if my teenaged daughter was raped, I want the option open.

The problem is that most abortions are merely convenient, often done due to careless women not using birth control, promiscuity, or that the child is inconvenient for the boyfriend.

The prolife movement has to offer the mother alternatives (and many people involved in the movement do).

We also need to start talking about sex: That sex is a good thing, but that waiting for sex with the right person is what makes it good, and why God established marriage as a way for spouses to help each other in life and in salvation.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Reconciliation as the way to peace

I am usually sarcastic about sweety nicey pacifist or religious organizations that talk about "reconciliation" and "forgiveness".

You see, as a doc, I've seen some pretty bad things, indeed, to use the non PC word, evil things.

But the link is not to a religious webpage, but to Strategy Page, a page that analyzes conflict causes and what's really going on in various wars and rebellions.

They begin the article starts with discussing the reconciliation between US veterans and Viet Nam, and predicts that country may need to confront the past to have peace (not that the communist countries of Europe have done that).

They then go on to discuss the South Africa's reconciliation committees:

Cynics tend to dismiss "reconciliation commissions" as feel-good gestures, but this is another case of cynicism masking ignorance, for these commissions offer hope to deeply fissured societies.

The most successful example is South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The commission was established in 1995 by then-South African President and 1993 Nobel laureate Nelson Mandela. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, another Nobel Peace Prize winner, served as chairman. The goal wasn't punishment for crimes per se, but open examination of suffering and suffering's individual and societal consequences...

They then go on to discuss how such reconciliation is needed in Ifrq to stop the tit for tat violence.

Alas, one suspects that the Shiites were willing to seek reconciliation, but after two years of suicide bombings, too many have decided aggression is the best defense..

Monday, November 27, 2006

LA Times actually gets it right on prayer

registration required

"....It is in prayer that people interact with God "most intensely," said Dorff, who is also a philosopher and ethicist.

"The regimen of prayer forces us to stop our normal activities and to take a serious look at life, and that alone may enable us to strengthen our moral resolve," Dorff said.

Like a close friendship, an intimate relationship with God also requires constant communication, the rabbi said.

Muslim scholar Muzammil H. Siddiqi, of the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove, said, "Prayer is nourishment for the soul."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Eugenics rears it's ugly head again

Richard Dawkins has now defended Eugenics. Not, of course, the terrible eugenics of Hitler, but the idea that

"if you can breed cattle for milk yield, horses for running speed, and dogs for herding skill, why on Earth should it be impossible to breed humans for mathematical, musical or athletic ability? Objections such as "these are not one-dimensional abilities" apply equally to cows, horses and dogs and never stopped anybody in practice.

I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler's death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons. Or why it is acceptable to train fast runners and high jumpers but not to breed them. I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me. But hasn't the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?"

Well, one is happy that Dawkins has read Plato. Indeed, his sentence about breeding horses and cattle is a direct paraphrase of an argument in that book.

In the Republic, the state is run by Guardians, who are trained and bred to each other to produce philosopher kings and make sure the rulers are superior to the normal people.
The Guardians, of course, hold women in common (so much for female equality) and raise their children in nurseries, where the mothers come periodically to breast feed children at random.

If a child is born from an inferior "breeding", it is "discarded", either raised with the common people, or presumably exposed. Similarly, a child born after the mother or father is outside the ideal age is similarly aborted or exposed.

What's wrong with this picture?

The first thing wrong is that although one could "breed" children from ordered matings, most women prefer a choice in the matter.

But, of course, genetic manipulation and testtube babies can eliminate the intimate part of the problem. Already couples can chose an egg from a talented college student, combine it with the sperm of the husband or a man chosen for his skills or IQ, and then pay a poor woman to carry the pregnancy to term.

Actually screening of the embryos for disease is already being done on a small number of embryos. So theoretically one could in the near future screen for various talents, body build, hair colour, or sexual orientation.

So what is the problem with selecting such talents, as Dawkins advises? Well, for a great athlete you need not only good muscles, but skill, i.e. coordination. You need a certain intelligence. You need self discipline to train. You need good eyesight. And for many sports, you need the ability to get along with your team.

All these things are from different genes.

For musicians, you have all of the above plus both the ability to comprehend music, creativity, and the ability to sublimate your emotions into the music you play. Without these skills, you may as well use computer generated music. It's good, but it will never be great.

A child "bred" by someone who is so heartless to chose to breed a child as an object will not make a good parent. So the next step, presumably, are professional nurseries to raise the child and train him from an early age: something that Plato discusses in detail.

Alas, reality shows that children brought up in large orphanages from infancy often have emotional problems, especially if the stay in the orphanage is prolonged. Those of us adopting such children know that good parenting and love can often reverse the damage of institutionalization, but not always and the cure is not always complete.

But what Dawkins-- and alas utopian planners for thousands of years manage to overlook is that conceiving and raising a child is a "human" thing, embedded not in our intellect but in our emotional and social being, not in our rationality but in our bodies. We are not angels, whose essense rises above bodily instincts, nor robots who can ignore that we are born, to quote St. Augustine, “Inter faeces et urinam nascimur.” We are born between feces and urine, and yet with an immortal soul.

Of course, there is an alternative to the cold utopian breeding programs.

Say two musicians (or athletes, or computer programmers) work together and have affection for each other. They live together, and have a child, who of course inherits the musical ability of his parents. The child is brought up by two people who are affectionate to him, so is emotionally stable. He is brought up in an environment of music, so he learns early and easily about music. Then, when he or she is old enough, he receives training...

Wait a second, that's not Eugenics. That's life.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Infanticide

Wesley Smith has written several articles about the debate on Infant Euthanasia that was started by the Royal College of Obstetrics/Gynecology in the U.K.
There is a bit of confusion in the press about this, especially since the UKTimes reported that the Church of England essentially said the same thing, which was not untrue.

One of the ways we "identify" evil is that two things occur: Lies and confusion.

I've had a lot of experience in these things, both in the USA and abroad, so let's start at the beginning. The "ethics" background I am using is that of the Catholic church, which has been around for quite awhile and has a nuanced approach to life and death decisions.

A person has to use ordinary means to stay alive, but if a treatment is extraordinary, or is burdensome to the patient, you can refuse it.

This is not the same as "killing" (in some cases, both in infants and in the elderly who we give comfort care instead of a cold and confusing Intensive Care Unit) the person actually does well with minimal care and lives. But when they die, they die with family around them, not with five tubes and three beeping monitors and a person pounding on their chest.

So when one of my patients had her uterus open and the cord fall out, and we thought she was 28 weeks, we did an Emergency Caesarian section. But when the child was born at 800 gms (1 lb) and only 26 weeks, and the nearest Intensive Care Nursery was 200 miles away, we stopped the resusitation after five minutes. Prolonging the resusitation when the child was not responding was cruel. So we gave the boy to his mom and he died peacefully five minutes later.

Yet, if the child was born two weeks later, or at a large hospital, where the survival rate was higher, my decision would have been different. When extraordinary care is available, and the treatment has a good chance of succeeding (i.e. over 5-10%) then you treat.

Similarly, if a child has Meningomyelocoel, a sac on their back from an unformed spinal column, we fix it...even though the kid will need surgery later to drain fluid from the brain and to fix the paralyzed bladder, and the child will probably need a wheel chair. The US is a rich country.

But in Africa, transfer to an Intensive Care nursery is not even considered. Even if we do surgery, the child will die of bladder infection, or bedsores, or malnutrition, or from treatment by the local traditional healer. The nearest University is 200 miles away, but the bus fare is equal to a months' salary...and even if the care is free, the mother may not be able to care for the child's many complications.

In both these incidents, the decision is made on how best to help the child live.

We respect the child as a human being.

The REAL danger is that of seeing a person or child as not quite a person.

That is the real danger. Abortion has made some people callus toward the dilemma of a woman carring an unwanted child. The women I see seeking abortion are in terrible emotional distress, and need emotional and often financial help. Yet as a society, in America, too often the "assistance" is to counsel them that nothing is wrong with abortion, and to teach them the "correct" answers to assuage their consciences in their stress.

It is these callus counselers who are echoing the propaganda of those seeking to dehumanize the imperfect.

So it is the Royal College of Obstetricians (who deliver babies) NOT the Royal College of Pediatrics who is proposing to "discuss" infant euthanasia.

Oh, it's only about the very tiny and very sick babies...not.
You see, most of those killed in the Netherlands are not 24 week premature babies, but retarded children or children with the meningomyelocoel who would be crippled...but who could be fixed in any large Medical Center.

Given these two facts, one suspects all the talk of "compassion" is really because they see it as compassionate to end the life of a retarded or handicapped infant.

There are too many "bioethicists" out there who have criteria on life and death that discriminate against the poor and minorities.

In the late 1980's,LINK
"... There were cases at Yale-New Haven, at Johns Hopkins, University of Oklahoma, which is depriving handicapped children for surgery for spina bifida based on the formula Q equals NE times H plus S, quality of life equals natural endowment times contribution from home and society.

Children were denied treatment not only because they were expected to be mentally retarded, but simply because they were poor and black. And that led to a court case that was settled out of court...."

--------------------------
I am old enough to remember the "good old days" and how things have changed, and not just in Medical ethics.

The way to destroy a moral rule is the same.

First, a professor or philosopher argues the rule should not hold in hard cases.

The next step is we need as a society to discuss the moral problem, and consider the problem "rationally", not just automatically follow outmoded moral traditions.

The next step is that some people actually do it. They are frowned upon, but then the press writes up the action as actually moral, and starts pointing to those condemning the action as bigots.

Soon the law changes, often by courts, not by social consensus.

The next step is that those who still oppose the activity and condemn it are now labled as immoral, and we are told they are the ones who should be social outcasts.

This has happened over and over again. First it was premarital sex, then abortion, then living together, then drug use, then homosexuality, then partial birth abortion, then starving the handicapped...

So for infanticide, we are now at step two.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

paid organ donations

Last year, a local quiz show was having an anniversary, and was promising many prizes for the studio audience. The crowds lined up, and alas, several hundred people were killed in the stampede to enter the theatre.


You see, unlike in the US, where if you work hard, you have the hope your children will be able to get an education and live comfortably, here too often there is little hope for advancement. So lotteries are seen as a blessing, the only way for a poor person to get rich.


What does this have to do with paying for organ donations?


The libertarian argument for organ donations insists that we are free agents, and that paying for organs will increase the supply with minimal problems for the donor.


Yet the reality is that poor people, who see no way to support their families, are open to be exploited by the rich who offer them huge sums of money for their organs.


Yet the promise of wealth is illusionary. A JAMA (journal of the American Medical Association) report found that if you went back and checked the donors, few actually benefitted from the windfall of wealth, since often their poor health afterward made it impossible for them to work.


Ah, but it could be regulated, could it not?


But a Frontline investigation shows how India, confronted with ethical lapses in the organ transplant industry, passed a law to regulate it...but in the 12 years since that law was passed, not one doctor/clinic had lost their license.


Ah, but that is the third world, isn't it. Such things would never go on in the United States, since we don't have such severe destitution.


In the USA, perhaps we could have a scheme that would pay friends and relatives to compensate their donation. That would be "ethical" since the idea of altruism still applies.


We see such altruism in students donating plasma, sperm, or eggs: They need the money, but there is an altruistic reason for them to chose to do this.


Yet some of us are old enough to remember blood banks paying for blood.

Some of my fellow medical students gave blood or donated plasma regularly, again for both money and altruistic reasons.


But it was also well known that blood banks in the slums didn't always screen their clients, taking blood from alcoholics and addicts: the result was hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Indeed, selling Plasma from Arkansas prisoners probably resulted in 42,000 cases of hepatitis C, and several thousand cases of HIV in Canada, a scandal that almost brought down the Canadian government, but was little covered in the US since it involved the then governor Clinton's Arkansas cronies...


This brings out the dirty little secret of any ethically questionable program, from cloning to IFV to selling organs.

When the ethics is questionable, thoughtful ethical people hesitate to do the research or procedure, and although most involved with the action are good ethical people, it opens the research or procedure to the ethically challenged.


In Arkansas, the prisoners received $7 a pint. Yet those running the program made large amounts of money.


Similarly, many in India who donated organs found they were not paid the fee that they were promised, and often pre op screening and post operative follow up was minimal.


Once organ donation became associated with "big bucks", expect the con men to come in. Most Americans are not poor, but one could forsee that a black market on smuggled organs-- or smuggling in poor people to donate organs--- would quickly arise.


But there is another side effect that is more ominous to the supply of organs.


Once taking organs becomes profitable, there will be a growing suspicion that doctors, or one's family members, might let a person die so that their organs might be donated for profit.


The previously cited Frontline article mentions that this is already a problem in India. But what about the USA?


Well, when I lived in Western Pennsylvania, every weekend some good old boys would wreck their cars driving home from the bars...those with head injuries were sent to Pittsburgh, which at that time was a major transplant center.

The Helicopter and ambulance driver cyncially called these transports "Body runs", because everyone knew the person was brain dead, but if they died in Pittsburgh, the organs could be donated, and often were. The families often were religious, and saw this as a way to make sense of the death.


Yet once money became involved, such trust might not continue. Even back then I was told by two separate nurses about a person declared brain dead who woke up and had to be rescued from the transplant team...both nurses swore the story came from a friend of a friend, and the identical story occured at two hospitals, so I am sure it was merely an urban legend. Yet the show "Law and Order" has already had an episode on a similar scenerio.


Yes, these are urban legends, but as the inevitable money scandals start about the lucrative organ trade, expect voluntary donations to plunge, especially among minority groups who already have a distrust of the medical system.


A medical system that allowed the Tuskegee study of the 1940's, the Red Lake study of the 1960's that withheld Penicillin from patients with kidney damaging strep infections, and the early 1980's Oklahoma City Children's Hospital program that withheld treatment from babies according to a "quality of life" scale that resulted in mainly children of minorities dying, and the Arkansas blood scandal cited above may still be trusted by upper class libertarians, but those of us who work with Blacks and Indians in Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Oklahoma recognize that these actions still have a negative effect on our patient's trust of the medical system.


Niebuhr's essay that the children of light underestimate the inginuity and aggressive tendencies of the children of darkness holds true here also.


Helping a person who freely donates an organ from altruism is probably fine. But experience shows that the adverse effects on society will soon outweigh the benefits to those suffering from end stage renal and liver disease.

paid organ donations

Last year, a local quiz show was having an anniversary, and was promising many prizes for the studio audience. The crowds lined up, and alas, several hundred people were killed in the stampede to enter the theatre.


You see, unlike in the US, where if you work hard, you have the hope your children will be able to get an education and live comfortably, here too often there is little hope for advancement. So lotteries are seen as a blessing, the only way for a poor person to get rich.


What does this have to do with paying for organ donations?


The libertarian argument for organ donations insists that we are free agents, and that paying for organs will increase the supply with minimal problems for the donor.


Yet the reality is that poor people, who see no way to support their families, are open to be exploited by the rich who offer them huge sums of money for their organs.


Yet the promise of wealth is illusionary. A JAMA (journal of the American Medical Association) report found that if you went back and checked the donors, few actually benefitted from the windfall of wealth, since often their poor health afterward made it impossible for them to work.


Ah, but it could be regulated, could it not?


But a Frontline investigation shows how India, confronted with ethical lapses in the organ transplant industry, passed a law to regulate it...but in the 12 years since that law was passed, not one doctor/clinic had lost their license.


Ah, but that is the third world, isn't it. Such things would never go on in the United States, since we don't have such severe destitution.


In the USA, perhaps we could have a scheme that would pay friends and relatives to compensate their donation. That would be "ethical" since the idea of altruism still applies.


We see such altruism in students donating plasma, sperm, or eggs: They need the money, but there is an altruistic reason for them to chose to do this.


Yet some of us are old enough to remember blood banks paying for blood.

Some of my fellow medical students gave blood or donated plasma regularly, again for both money and altruistic reasons.


But it was also well known that blood banks in the slums didn't always screen their clients, taking blood from alcoholics and addicts: the result was hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Indeed, selling Plasma from Arkansas prisoners probably resulted in 42,000 cases of hepatitis C, and several thousand cases of HIV in Canada, a scandal that almost brought down the Canadian government, but was little covered in the US since it involved the then governor Clinton's Arkansas cronies...


This brings out the dirty little secret of any ethically questionable program, from cloning to IFV to selling organs.

When the ethics is questionable, thoughtful ethical people hesitate to do the research or procedure, and although most involved with the action are good ethical people, it opens the research or procedure to the ethically challenged.


In Arkansas, the prisoners received $7 a pint. Yet those running the program made large amounts of money.


Similarly, many in India who donated organs found they were not paid the fee that they were promised, and often pre op screening and post operative follow up was minimal.


Once organ donation became associated with "big bucks", expect the con men to come in. Most Americans are not poor, but one could forsee that a black market on smuggled organs-- or smuggling in poor people to donate organs--- would quickly arise.


But there is another side effect that is more ominous to the supply of organs.


Once taking organs becomes profitable, there will be a growing suspicion that doctors, or one's family members, might let a person die so that their organs might be donated for profit.


The previously cited Frontline article mentions that this is already a problem in India. But what about the USA?


Well, when I lived in Western Pennsylvania, every weekend some good old boys would wreck their cars driving home from the bars...those with head injuries were sent to Pittsburgh, which at that time was a major transplant center.

The Helicopter and ambulance driver cyncially called these transports "Body runs", because everyone knew the person was brain dead, but if they died in Pittsburgh, the organs could be donated, and often were. The families often were religious, and saw this as a way to make sense of the death.


Yet once money became involved, such trust might not continue. Even back then I was told by two separate nurses about a person declared brain dead who woke up and had to be rescued from the transplant team...both nurses swore the story came from a friend of a friend, and the identical story occured at two hospitals, so I am sure it was merely an urban legend. Yet the show "Law and Order" has already had an episode on a similar scenerio.


Yes, these are urban legends, but as the inevitable money scandals start about the lucrative organ trade, expect voluntary donations to plunge, especially among minority groups who already have a distrust of the medical system.


A medical system that allowed the Tuskegee study of the 1940's, the Red Lake study of the 1960's that withheld Penicillin from patients with kidney damaging strep infections, and the early 1980's Oklahoma City Children's Hospital program that withheld treatment from babies according to a "quality of life" scale that resulted in mainly children of minorities dying, and the Arkansas blood scandal cited above may still be trusted by upper class libertarians, but those of us who work with Blacks and Indians in Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Oklahoma recognize that these actions still have a negative effect on our patient's trust of the medical system.


Niebuhr's essay that the children of light underestimate the inginuity and aggressive tendencies of the children of darkness holds true here also.


Helping a person who freely donates an organ from altruism is probably fine. But experience shows that the adverse effects on society will soon outweigh the benefits to those suffering from end stage renal and liver disease.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Merry Christmas

The LA Time article on Walmart now allowing their employees to say "Merry Christmas" ends with this quote:

"Changing store policy to cater to Christmas lovers is a risky calculation, said Keith Tudor, professor of marketing at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

"Are they going to offend people or attract people for having the fortitude to come down on the side of the religious right?"

What's wrong with this picture?

Culture is a delicate thing. It is entwined with the past and the future, and embeds us with our family, our neighbors and our country.

American culture, for better or worse, is an enlightenment/Protestant Christian culture.

Now that the Mainstream Protestant churches have surrendered to political correctness, alas, we have lost their lead in defining America's sense of itself.

More rigid Evangelical faiths are more scattered in beliefs, and Catholics are still considered a bit foreign and strange to the culture, so we are left with a culture war in trying to define our sense of self as an American.

So why the fuss about "Merry Christmas"?

After all, the early Puritans didn't celebrate Christmas.
But others did. And the holiday, with it's British overtones of yule and the German Christmas tree became part of the American landscape.

Christmas became a combination of celebrating the birth of Christ, the idea of goodwill for men and giving to charity, a holiday for giving presents especially to children, and the celebration of family reunions. And children up to 30 years ago could have Christmas celebrations at school that mentioned how the Baby Jesus was born in a stable, and could sing the carols of joy, mingling the secular celebration of good will toward men with the religious rememberence of a God who came to shepherds and kings.

The idea back then was that religion was good, and although we didn't believe in the same thing, nevertheless, we tolorated what others believed and didn't make a fuss about it.

Yet for most people, their approach to religion is that of the (Scottish) Masons and enlightenment Christian founding fathers, who tolerated all religions that saw men united as brothers under a benevolent Creator.

Back then, the ideas of freedom went back to the Greek philosophers, who said that freedom meant we were free to act as just men, not that we had the right to do anything we wanted to, which was considered anarchy.

If you honor a deity, then you would see yourself as free within the limits of a conscience that knew moral rules were not tyrannical but necessary to society. No one was above the law, be it the common law of conscience or the just laws of the state.

When men follow such rules, the need to micromanage behavior by the state becomes unnecessary, indeed, is viewed as tyranny.

So what happened to Christmas? Why would a major newspaper quote a professor insisting that wishing someone a "Merry Christmas" is giving into the religious right, and insulting many people?

After all, Muslims honor Jesus as a prophet, most non Christians celebrate the secular form of the holiday, and here in Asia Christmas is celebrated with gusto, not just in the Christian Philippines, but even in the secularized China, and a Buddhist Japan. So why the fuss?

Part of the fuss is the disdain of the elites for organized religion, AKA the culture war.

This is not just a rejection of Christinaity, but a force seeking to remove the secularized Chsritian ethic from society. A lot of this comes from the rebellion of the baby boomers, who saw any rules against sexual expression as tyranny, the bitterness of certain feminists who saw the family (and children) as burdens that limited women's individual freedom, and a rejection of Greek rationality in favor of "feelings" and subjective truth.

Of course, such broad characterizations of culture are not entirely true, yet it is interesting that the Regensburg speech of Pope Benedict warned of these very things- and was completely misquoted and misunderstood by the BBC and the NYTimes, not from malice but from ignorance. It is a sad commentary on our media that these elite institutions lacked anyone with the intellectual ability to understand what was actually said.

C.S. Lewis called these type of people "men without chests", because they have lost the ability to perceive the deeper meaning of things because they have rejected the wisdom of the past, and indeed now lack the ability to even perceive that they are lacking something important.

This inability to perceive the depth and complexities of traditional beliefs points to the second problem: The loss of our cultural heritage.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, and to bureaucrats who exaggerate what the court actually said, any religious term is taboo in school. Yet how does one explain Shakespeare, or Tolstoy, or Endo, or Tolkien, or Dickens, or any of the great books without such knowledge? Are not David versus Goliath, or the Lillies of the Field, part of our cultural heritage? By banning "religion", have we not made our children cultural illiterates who think Judy Blume and Rowlings are great writers?

The current idea is that we are free individuals, but as Mary Ann Glendon, in her book on Rights Talk, points out, few of us actually live as such.

We are not just free individuals, we are men or women, with spouses, children, mothers and fathers, cousins, friends, neighbors, and communities. We are not isolated but enmeshed in relationships with family, co workers, fellow worshipers, schoolmates, and neighbors.

Our environment is not just the biological ecology, but the ecology of our institutions, our customs, our churches, and our history.
Indeed, it is often through these institutions of memory that allow us to remember the wisdom and lessons of the past, and to teach them to our children via story and ceremonies.

That is why the government should tolorate and even encourage these formal and informal celebrations of the community, whether it be the Bols weevil Bash, St. Patricks' Day, or Veterans' Day. All of these festivals bring together communities, and all of them celebrate past and present, our heritage and the heritage of our neighbors, and behind every celebration lie the lessons of the past that teach us how to live today.

Yet how do we do this in a multicultural environment?

Perhaps what is needed can be found in Paul Woodruff's book Reverence: Renewing a forgotten Virtue.

Reverence is the idea that everyone has a place, and that we are under heaven. If we don't agree with a person, nevertheless, a reverent person honors that person by listening to them politely. An officer, president, or employer might be disliked, but he is honored for his position, not his personality. And every ruler, king or president, is reverent to the lowest of his subjects because he is answerable to Heaven.

So if we are in a ceremony where a Baptist prays to Jesus or an imman prays to Allah, we listen with reverence even if we do not follow their faith, because we are honoring their belief because they are honorable human beings.

We saw this in the celebrations after 9-11, and it is a lesson that we need again to learn.

So if I am Christian and my Hindu friend celebrates the Durga Puja, the victory of light over darkness, my Muslim friend celebrates the end of Ramadan, where fasting remind one of the poor and the need to find God, or a Jewish friend celebrates the victory of religious freedom at Chanakah, then I too am happy for them and celebrate with them, because they are friends and I love them, because they are human beings and I honor their beliefs, and because the core of what they celebrate is good, even if I don't share their actual beliefs.

And if so, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Son or God, or of Jesus the prophet of Allah, or the mythological birth of a philosopher of Western civilization, or just a happy day to give gifts to friends and children and feel good will to men, why not say "Merry Christmas"?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Eritrean gospel singer released

Helen Berhane was among about 2,000 members of illegal Evangelical church groups in Eritrea, who Amnesty says have been arrested in recent years.

She was reportedly imprisoned inside a metal shipping container and beaten in an effort to make her recant her faith.

Ms Berhane, a well-known singer at the unregistered Rema Church, had just released a cassette of gospel music when she was arrested in the capital, Asmara, on 13 May 2004.


We understand that she's at her home, or her family home. Of course we've had no contact with her because that's extremely risky for somebody who's just released from prison
Martin Hill, Amnesty International
She was being held at Mai Serwa military camp where many prisoners, including Ms Berhane according to Amnesty, are held in metal shipping containers.

The containers are swelteringly hot during the day and freezing cold at night, with no washing or toilet facilities, Amnesty International says.

The human rights group's researcher for the Horn of Africa, Martin Hill, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that he was delighted Helen Berhane had been freed.

"She's not in good health but at least she's released and Amnesty International really welcomes the release, which is the culmination of a massive international campaign," he said.

'Contact risky'

Amnesty International says Ms Berhane is confined to a wheelchair because of her injuries to her legs and feet.

"We understand that she's at her home, or her family home. Of course we've had no contact with her because that's extremely risky for somebody who's just released from prison," Mr Hill added.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Stuck on day two

I'm trying to work thru a cut down version of Ignatius' teachings.

No problem with day one: As Kreeft points out, the Simarilion shows us Eru singing a joyful creation into being, with the angels singing in harmony, and then Morgoth deciding his own thing.

But then I am supposed to put before the Lord my sinful life, and all my disrodered psyche, and that is painful.

IN the meanwhile. between the storms and the dust, I am wheezing and fatigued.

I'd say the fatigue was depression, but I am blogging up a storm, and if I were depressed I wouldn't be able to do that.

However, I am exhausted after doing ten minutes of housework. I am not anemic and have no other symptoms, so suspect it is heat fatigue, and I should slowly improve since we got the Airconditioner fixed on Friday (it was under working for two weeks).

The priest as another Christ

What is a parish priest?

Do US parishes run by (often liberal nuns who are ) pastoral assistants really mirror Christ's care for us?

Read the good Bishop's essay.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A "good" death

The NYTimes actually has a decent article about end of life care...

Dr. Karen E. Steinhauser and colleagues at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, N.C., examined the constituents of a good death for patients, their families and health care providers. The 85 study participants had no trouble describing a “bad death” — having inadequately treated pain while receiving aggressive but futile cure-directed therapy.

Patients felt disregarded, family members felt perplexed and concerned about suffering, and providers felt out of control and feared that they were not providing good care. Decisions not previously discussed usually had to be made during a crisis. Families unprepared for what happens when death is imminent often panicked and rushed the patient to the hospital, where last-ditch and usually futile attempts at resuscitation were made, when both patient and family would have preferred a home death.

The study identified six components of a good death, described in The Annals of Internal Medicine of May 16, 2000:

¶Pain and symptom management. Pain, more so than dying itself, is too often the cause of acute anxiety among patients and their families.

¶Clear decision making. Patients want to have a say in treatment decisions.

¶Preparation for death. Patients want to know what to expect as their illness progresses and to plan for what will follow their deaths.

¶Completion. This includes reviewing one’s life, resolving conflicts, spending time with family and friends, and saying good-bye.

¶Contribution to others. Many people nearing death achieve a clarity as to what is really important in life and want to share that understanding with others.

¶Affirmation. Study participants emphasized the importance of being seen as a unique and whole person and being understood in the context of their lives, values and preferences.

This study says that dying can, and should, be a much less painful experience for many more people and their loved ones than it now is.