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Fri Jul 25, 2008 at 09:46 PM PDT

Your Weekend Reflections

by Milos Janus Outlook

"Violence finds its only refuge in falsehood, falsehood its only support in violence."
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 1970

"...the UK can no longer rely on US assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the Government does not rely on such assurances in the future."
British House of Commons, July 9, 2008

The subject of "torture" is probably not on your list of weekend reflections, but maybe it should be.

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Who is not hurting from the high gas prices? Forgive me for wondering if our President and Vice President are bothered at all. Well, they may be bothered just a tad by the anger directed toward them because they have looked after the interests of Big Oil for the past seven years with narry a nod to consumers.

Yesterday, in a White House press briefing, Dana Perino announced

"in an effort to address the root causes of high energy prices, House Republicans are introducing their American Energy Act. Their proposal includes many of the provisions the President called on Congress to act upon, including opening up access to our energy resources in the Outer Continental Shelf, up in ANWR, allowing development of oil shale resources, and streamlining permitting processes for refineries."

Poll

Do you favor drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?

14%7 votes
86%43 votes
0%0 votes

| 50 votes | Vote | Results

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I’ve written a number of articles on torture—"Verschärfte Vernehmung Revisited," "Of Torture, Garlic, and Vampires," and others—but I’m not sure we can talk enough about it. I asked a friend if I could publish a paper he wrote recently on the subject, and he agreed. Dave Nagler is pastor of Nativity Lutheran Church in Bend, Oregon. However dismayed about the reality of the practice by our government, I am encouraged by the fact that there are some pastors talking to their congregations about it and some congregations listening.

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This report may only be encouraging to United Methodists who have been struggling for years against their denomination’s stand on homosexuality. As delegates meet in five regional (jurisdictional) conferences around the country this week, their main task is to elect and assign new bishops. But, as was evident yesterday from the conference in Dallas approving the Bush library at SMU, electing bishops is not their only business. In sharp contrast to the action taken at the United Methodist General Conference last spring, delegates to the denomination’s Northeastern Jurisdiction Conference meeting in Harrisburg, PA voted Thursday to support clergy in California who choose to perform same-gender marriages.

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Today, the delegates to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church meeting in Dallas affirmed their Mission Council’s earlier decision to lease land to the President George W. Bush Presidential Center. It also passed a petition said to protect the integrity of both SMU and the jurisdiction itself by indicating that the proposed institute "does not speak" for either.

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A thorny issue will confront at least one of the five Jurisdictional Conferences of the United Methodist Church that will be meeting this week. These quadrennial regional meetings—held this year in Dallas (TX), Grand Rapids (MI), Harrisburg (PA), Lake Junaluska (NC), and Portland (OR)—have as their main business electing and assigning new bishops.  

When the South Central Jurisdiction convenes in Dallas tomorrow, in addition to electing bishops, they will have to decide what to do about the actions their bishops took to approve the lease of land to SMU for the Bush library, museum and institute. The General Conference in May referred a petition opposing the action to the jurisdiction for action. This means the assembled folk in Dallas will have to do something on record, something I suspect that they wanted to do even less after the story of bribes to pay for the library broke in Sunday’s London Times.

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Fri Jul 11, 2008 at 07:36 PM PDT

Iran, GWB, and Nukes

by Milos Janus Outlook

What Iran and Other Have Not Nations Are Learning from North Korea

I may be going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing that the fireworks around my neighborhood on July 2nd were not in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the agreement in which the United States and other nuclear powers agreed to eventually eliminate their nuclear weapons, and non-nuclear states that signed onto the treaty agreed they would not seek to develop nuclear weapons capabilities.

As treaties go, this one is said to be more significant than others.

The Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States. Opened for signature in 1968, the Treaty entered into force in 1970. A total of 187 parties have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States. More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, a testament to the Treaty's significance.

Read on to see what non-nuclear-weapon states are learning.

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Tue Jul 08, 2008 at 07:26 PM PDT

A Truth Commission?

by Milos Janus Outlook

I’ve been off for a few days gardening, celebrating the Fourth, and a trip to attend the first worship service led by a good friend after a leukemia diagnosis a year ago and a successful stem cell transplant in November. What a celebration it was!  

Catching up on some of the issues I’ve been following for the last six months, several things caught my eye. I’ll be writing briefly about some of them in the next few days. One of them was Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed column in Sunday’s New York Times.  Kristof called for a "Truth Commission."

When a distinguished American military commander accuses the United States of committing war crimes in its handling of detainees, you know that we need a new way forward.

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Thu Jul 03, 2008 at 09:01 AM PDT

Remembering Our Roots

by Milos Janus Outlook

Would Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin have been in church on Sunday? The short answer is yes, no, and maybe.

During that hot summer of 1776 in Philadelphia, when you try to imagine the core leadership of that Continental Congress, without whom the Declaration of Independence might not have been written and approved unanimously by the delegations from the thirteen colonies, what names come to mind?  I know that we and historians could debate this for a long time without consensus, but I suspect few would leave out these three: John Adams from Massachusetts; Thomas Jefferson from Virginia; and Benjamin Franklin from Pennsylvania.  Would you agree?

This takes us back to the question I asked at the outset: would these three patriots have been in church when Independence Day fell on a Sunday? There is much made of "the faith of our founding fathers" that is much more a myth of how some folks wish it had been with these giants in our history than how it actually was.

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You couldn’t be blamed for turning away from this title. After all, you probably read, listen to, or watch the news every day. In the last couple of days we’ve been reminded of more flooding in the Midwest, wildfires in California, the stock market’s continued decline, record prices for crude, the mortgage crisis with Congress tied in knots, and all of that is without mentioning Iraq or Afghanistan. If all of that is not enough to depress you, then maybe you need to see a psychiatrist, or else chuckle at Lord Acton’s words below.

If the title and recitation of recent headlines doesn’t turn you off, my lack of qualifications to write about them might. My training is in history and theology, not economics and engineering. But because of friend who is an engineer and financial observers like Joseph Lazzaro (a.k.a. "Hunter" on Kos), I decided that it was time more of us non-specialists need to try to grasp this larger economic picture. It seems to me that we are experiencing the first waves of several mini-catastrophes, the confluence of which would constitute a major one. These mini-catastrophes are all inextricably linked: war, a sick national and global economy, global warming, and a collapsing infrastructure.

Read on at your own risk.

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Meet Diane Smock—member of the Greenville City Council in South Carolina, attorney and former judge. She’s also a member of a United Methodist Church where she considers herself an "average" member. She has served on church committees and taught Sunday School, but she hasn’t been involved in the regional and national workings of the church. Until now, that is.

Meet George W. Bush, soon to be retired president of the United States, and his wife Laura, graduate and member of the board of trustees at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Also meet Dick and Lynne Cheney, who like George and Laura claim membership in the United Methodist Church.

A special connection was created between these United Methodists when Smock learned that SMU was the proposed site for a presidential complex. She did something she had never done before; she sent a petition opposing the plan to the denomination’s top lawmaking body, the General Conference.

Read below to see what happened.

Poll

Do you think United Methodists should allow the Bush Institute at SMU?

3%13 votes
85%337 votes
9%38 votes
1%5 votes

| 393 votes | Vote | Results

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My days writing a blog seemed filled with catastrophe, war, and outrage at those who do not stand up for what is right. But when the history of last month’s cataclysmic earthquake in China is written, the story of Ye Zhiping will be remembered. Hopefully, it will not only be remembered in China.

I can’t say for sure that Principal Ye knew the story of  the "The Foolish Old Man Who Moved the Mountains," but I suspect that he did, as well as the Sangzao Middle School students and their parents. This ancient Chinese folktale dates back to the Han Dynasty and is well known throughout China.  

When I first read about Principal Ye, I thought of this story. I realize that it is not ecologically sound—the image brings to my mind actual scenes of mountains in Appalachia decimated by coal mining—but I hope that doesn’t get in the way of appreciating the old tale. This is the way I remember it:

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