Saturday, 13 December 2014

(1) Retired/Un-retired/Retired again/Un-retired again. (2) OR to amuse Kim Hardy. (3) OR "My week"

(1) I retired in 2006.  'Twas one of the best decisions of my life.

In 2007 I un-retired, and began to share in ministries at St. David's, Englewood FL; All Angels by the Sea on Longboat Key, FL; and St Boniface on Siesta Key FL.

In 2011 I retired again, feeling weary and dispirited, and ready to kick it all in.

I recovered (!), un-retired,  and came back to engage in some shared ministries at St. Boniface in October 2012.

(2) Kim Hardy should be amused by this, 'cause back in 2011 she wondered how long it would be before I was "back in the saddle".

(3)  My week:  back in the saddle I am!

WEDNESDAY 10th    Prayer Service at Resurrection House, Sarasota's day shelter for homeless people.

THURSDAY 11th  Presided and preached at the St. Boniface Thursday morning Eucharist.

FRIDAY 12th  Visited and prayed with Edythe T at a Nursing Home in South Venice, FL (15 miles away)

SATURDAY 13th  Visited and prayed with Bob H and his partner Frank P at the Blake Hospital in Bradenton  (14 miles away, but always a 40 minute drive due to ever congested roads, and a million and one traffic lights en route). 

You will remember that Bob H is the man who suffered grave head injuries in an industrial accident three week ago.  He was not expected to recover, but he is making a "miraculous" recovery.  He even grinned at one of my corny jokes today. 

Today I was able to pray with him, with Frank, and with Billie Hicks.  She is an old friend of Bob and Frank and she happened to be visiting with them today.

On Tuesday Bob, (who served in the military), will move to the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Tampa, FL for intensive therapy.  That'll be too far away for regular visits, but I will stay in touch with him, and with Frank, by 'phone/

TOMORROW (Sunday 14th)  I'll share communion with Carl,  a St. Boniface Parishioner, Choir member, and Junior Warden in the assisted living community where he lives, in Lakewood Ranch FL. There will be an added bonus - 'cause I'll stay for lunch with Carl.


None of this is because I am a nice person (which I am every now and then, but not always!).

It's for two reasons:

a)  Because my ordination as a Minister in the Christian Church demands that I engage in ministry all the days of my life.

b)  For selfish reasons:  I am a more contented and relaxed person when I "get out from under my feet", and try to do a bit each day for the love of God.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Sunrise, Rice Pudding, and the dog.

On my second walk with Penne this morning I noticed and enjoyed the glorious sunrise, with the fabulous rippled clouds.
I did not have my camera with me.  But my Facebook and Church friend  Susan R enjoyed the same sunrise -  and this is her picture.
Susan R lives in the Gulf Gate SRQ area.
Later today (probably because it's been chilly in SRQ)  I decided to make a rice pudding -  (comfort food). I had memories of the wondrous rice puds my mother used to make.
 In those days, before milk was homogenized, the cream of the milk would rise to the surface, and then be baked into a tasty crust. I also remember that she grated some nutmeg into the pudding.
I could not find un-homogenized milk (more's the pity) so I used heavy whipping cream instead.  I also used "pre-ground" nutmeg.  Here's my rice pud.  I have eaten a few spoonfuls and it is good  -   but not as good as Mum used to make.

In the meantime my blessed and glorious dog Penne decided to take a gander at what I was concocting in the kitchen.
\Gosh and be-golly  She is a lovely beast

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Cats and politics

My cats have been fighting all day.  Fur has been flying. 
Adelaide (l) has been the teaser. Ada (r) has been the aggressor.
At the end of the day, weary of their fights, they share a pillow on my dining room table.
Lord above we are in a mess.  Our Representatives, Senators, and President are sending us down the river with a ghastly Finance bill which panders to the oligarchical "special interests" at the expense of "We The People".
I did not expect anything better from the Republican Representatives and Senators.
I have come to understand that the Democratic Senators and Representatives are no more than "Republicans with a smile".
And President Obama, instead of being the Great Reconciler has become the Great Compromiser.
What has this to do with cats?
Not a thing.  But most of my Blog and Facebook followers seem to be more interested in "cute" (damn how I hate that word) dogs and cats than in the perilous state of my beloved Nations: -  The U.K. where I was born and raised, and the U.S.A.  in which I make my home and hold my citizenship.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Behind the Senate's torture report



By Andrew J. Bacevich  December 09, 2014

The just-released Senate report on CIA interrogation practices since 9/11 contains nothing that would have surprised the journalist and critic Randolph Bourne. Back in 1918, in an essay left unfinished at the time of his death later that year, Bourne had warned that “war is the health of the state.”

And so it is. War thrusts power into the hands of those who covet it. Only the perpetuation of war, whether under the guise of “keeping us safe” or “spreading freedom,” can satisfy the appetite of those for whom the exercise of power is its own reward. Only war will perpetuate their prerogatives and shield them from accountability.

What prompted Bourne’s pungent observation was US intervention into the disastrous European war that began a century ago this summer. In 1917, Congress had acceded to President Woodrow Wilson’s request to enter that stalemated conflict, Wilson promising a world made safe for democracy and vowing to end war itself.

Bourne foresaw something quite different. War turned things upside down, he believed. It loosened the bonds of moral and legal restraint. It gave sanction to the otherwise impermissible. By opting for war, Bourne predicted, the United States would “adopt all the most obnoxious and coercive techniques of the enemy,” rivaling “in intimidation and ferocity of punishment the worst government systems of the age.”

And so it has come to pass, the United States in our own time having indisputably embraced torture as an allowable practice while disregarding the rule of law and trampling underfoot the values to which the chief representatives of the state routinely profess to adhere.


How did this happen? To blame a particular president, a particular administration, or a particular agency simply will not do. The abuses described in the report prepared by the Senate Committee on Intelligence did not come out of nowhere. Rather than new, they merely represent variations on an existing theme.

Since at least 1940, when serious preparations for entry into World War II began, the United States has been more or less continually engaged in actual war or in semi-war, intensively girding itself for the next active engagement, assumed to lie just around the corner. The imperatives of national security, always said to be in peril, have taken precedence over all other considerations. In effect, war and the preparation for war have become perpetual. If doubts existed on that score, the response to 9/11, resulting in the declaration of an ambiguous and open-ended global war on terrorism, ought to have settled them.

The abuses described in the report prepared by the Senate Committee on Intelligence did not come out of nowhere.

The consequence of our engagement in permanent war has been to induce massive distortions, affecting apparatus of government, the nation, and the relationship between the two. The size, scope, and prerogatives accorded to the so-called intelligence community — along with the abuses detailed in the Senate report — provide only one example of the result. But so too is the popular deference accorded to those who claim to know exactly what national security requires, even as they evade responsibility for the last disaster to which expert advice gave rise.

“It is worth remembering the pervasive fear in late 2001 and how immediate the threat felt,” Senator Dianne Feinstein writes in introducing the report prepared under her direction. Yet “pressure, fear, and expectations of future terrorist plots do not justify, temper, or excuse improper actions taken . . . in the name of national security.” Hers is a carefully reasoned judgment. As such, it deserves a respectful hearing. Sadly, however, it falls well short of being adequate.

Critics will accuse Feinstein of endangering the nation’s safety, soiling its reputation, hanging out to dry patriotic agents doing what needed doing in our name. This is all nonsense. Her actual failing is far worse. She and her colleagues are doing what the state always does for itself in these situations: administering a little public slap on the hand, after which an ever-so-quiet return to business as usual will ensue.

War is the health of the state. Headline-grabbing scandals involving the national security apparatus come and go. Today’s is just one more in a long series extending back decades. As long as the individuals and entities comprising that apparatus persist in their commitment to permanent war, little of substance will change. Bourne grasped that essential truth. Until Americans come to a similar appreciation, they should expect more of the same.

So few responded, so I post it again

Senator John McCain's noble speech to the U.S. Senate yesterday.
(N.B.  McCain was a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, and was himself tortured)
“Mr. President, I rise in support of the release – the long-delayed release – of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s summarized, unclassified review of the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that were employed by the previous administration to extract information from captured terrorists. It is a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that I believe not only failed their purpose – to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies – but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.
“I believe the American people have a right – indeed, a responsibility – to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values.
“I commend Chairman Feinstein and her staff for their diligence in seeking a truthful accounting of policies I hope we will never resort to again. I thank them for persevering against persistent opposition from many members of the intelligence community, from officials in two administrations, and from some of our colleagues.
“The truth is sometimes a hard pill to swallow. It sometimes causes us difficulties at home and abroad. It is sometimes used by our enemies in attempts to hurt us. But the American people are entitled to it, nonetheless.
“They must know when the values that define our nation are intentionally disregarded by our security policies, even those policies that are conducted in secret. They must be able to make informed judgments about whether those policies and the personnel who supported them were justified in compromising our values; whether they served a greater good; or whether, as I believe, they stained our national honor, did much harm and little practical good.
“What were the policies? What was their purpose? Did they achieve it? Did they make us safer? Less safe? Or did they make no difference? What did they gain us? What did they cost us? The American people need the answers to these questions. Yes, some things must be kept from public disclosure to protect clandestine operations, sources and methods, but not the answers to these questions.
“By providing them, the Committee has empowered the American people to come to their own decisions about whether we should have employed such practices in the past and whether we should consider permitting them in the future. This report strengthens self-government and, ultimately, I believe, America’s security and stature in the world. I thank the Committee for that valuable public service.
“I have long believed some of these practices amounted to torture, as a reasonable person would define it, especially, but not only the practice of waterboarding, which is a mock execution and an exquisite form of torture. Its use was shameful and unnecessary; and, contrary to assertions made by some of its defenders and as the Committee’s report makes clear, it produced little useful intelligence to help us track down the perpetrators of 9/11 or prevent new attacks and atrocities.
“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering. Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored.
“I know, too, that bad things happen in war. I know in war good people can feel obliged for good reasons to do things they would normally object to and recoil from.
“I understand the reasons that governed the decision to resort to these interrogation methods, and I know that those who approved them and those who used them were dedicated to securing justice for the victims of terrorist attacks and to protecting Americans from further harm. I know their responsibilities were grave and urgent, and the strain of their duty was onerous.
“I respect their dedication and appreciate their dilemma. But I dispute wholeheartedly that it was right for them to use these methods, which this report makes clear were neither in the best interests of justice nor our security nor the ideals we have sacrificed so much blood and treasure to defend.
“The knowledge of torture’s dubious efficacy and my moral objections to the abuse of prisoners motivated my sponsorship of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ of captured combatants, whether they wear a nation’s uniform or not, and which passed the Senate by a vote of 90-9.
“Subsequently, I successfully offered amendments to the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which, among other things, prevented the attempt to weaken Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and broadened definitions in the War Crimes Act to make the future use of waterboarding and other ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ punishable as war crimes.
“There was considerable misinformation disseminated then about what was and wasn’t achieved using these methods in an effort to discourage support for the legislation. There was a good amount of misinformation used in 2011 to credit the use of these methods with the death of Osama bin Laden. And there is, I fear, misinformation being used today to prevent the release of this report, disputing its findings and warning about the security consequences of their public disclosure.
“Will the report’s release cause outrage that leads to violence in some parts of the Muslim world? Yes, I suppose that’s possible, perhaps likely. Sadly, violence needs little incentive in some quarters of the world today. But that doesn’t mean we will be telling the world something it will be shocked to learn. The entire world already knows that we water-boarded prisoners. It knows we subjected prisoners to various other types of degrading treatment. It knows we used black sites, secret prisons. Those practices haven’t been a secret for a decade.
“Terrorists might use the report’s re-identification of the practices as an excuse to attack Americans, but they hardly need an excuse for that. That has been their life’s calling for a while now.
“What might come as a surprise, not just to our enemies, but to many Americans, is how little these practices did to aid our efforts to bring 9/11 culprits to justice and to find and prevent terrorist attacks today and tomorrow. That could be a real surprise, since it contradicts the many assurances provided by intelligence officials on the record and in private that enhanced interrogation techniques were indispensable in the war against terrorism. And I suspect the objection of those same officials to the release of this report is really focused on that disclosure – torture’s ineffectiveness – because we gave up much in the expectation that torture would make us safer. Too much.
“Obviously, we need intelligence to defeat our enemies, but we need reliable intelligence. Torture produces more misleading information than actionable intelligence. And what the advocates of harsh and cruel interrogation methods have never established is that we couldn’t have gathered as good or more reliable intelligence from using humane methods.
“The most important lead we got in the search for bin Laden came from using conventional interrogation methods. I think it is an insult to the many intelligence officers who have acquired good intelligence without hurting or degrading prisoners to assert we can’t win this war without such methods. Yes, we can and we will.
“But in the end, torture’s failure to serve its intended purpose isn’t the main reason to oppose its use. I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world.
“We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily.
“Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. This executive summary of the Committee’s report makes clear that acting without conscience isn’t necessary, it isn’t even helpful, in winning this strange and long war we’re fighting. We should be grateful to have that truth affirmed.
“Now, let us reassert the contrary proposition: that is it essential to our success in this war that we ask those who fight it for us to remember at all times that they are defending a sacred ideal of how nations should be governed and conduct their relations with others – even our enemies.
“Those of us who give them this duty are obliged by history, by our nation’s highest ideals and the many terrible sacrifices made to protect them, by our respect for human dignity to make clear we need not risk our national honor to prevail in this or any war. We need only remember in the worst of times, through the chaos and terror of war, when facing cruelty, suffering and loss, that we are always Americans, and different, stronger, and better than those who would destroy us.
Thank you.”

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Torture: the rant I did not need to make

I anticipated that I would have to  rant following the release of the U.S. Senate's report on C.I.A. sponsored torture.
Mercy me, I did not have to rant.    This is because John McCain, the REPUBLICAN Senator from Arizona said it all for me.
And he said it with an eloquence and credibility which I could never achieve.
Senator McCain speaks of the better nature of we American citizens.  I applaud his words. 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

If only American Christians were grown-ups...

If only American Fundamentalist/Republican /Tea Party Christians were grown-ups... we would not need to fuss about seasonal greetings.
But since many of them are silly, immature, and ill-educated we need this reminder  (with thanks to Susan R who posted it on Facebook).