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November 5th, 2004

Government Idol and Freeing the Bird





" The empire, long divided, must unite; long united,
must divide. Thus it has ever been."
'The Three Kingdoms,' Ming Dynasty, 1368 -1644


Hi folks,

" I asked my love to take a walk
To take a walk, just a little walk
Down beside where the waters flow
Down by the banks of the Ohio. "

Oh, such a joy to be an Ohioan! Part of me is ashamed and part is proud. Proud that my alma mater state had such an important pivotal role in this presidential election - and ashamed at the way it played it.

" Kerry won among young adults in Ohio, but lost in every other age group. One-fourth of Ohio voters identified themselves as born-again Christians and they backed Bush by a 3-to-1 margin. " (Associated Press)

I had a good weep, as I assume everyone who supported John F. Kerry did (with the anxiety of a parent after a long night with the midwife) - but I am not discouraged. I am re-invigorated for the challenge! I recall what Emmanuel Lasker, the great chess Master, said: 'Chess is not a game; Chess is a Struggle.' The same may be applied to this eternal quest for human rights and freedom. A Lifelong Struggle. There is no final score. Or end of the match. Not to ask :what is the meaning of Life? - but rather, how can I live my life so that it has meaning?


Hi Joe,
Scouts honour, yours is the only email not from friends that I do not delete on sight. Bash on, lad.

Hi Darlin' -- where is the spinach? Jasmine

(Note: Jasmine points out correctly that I left the main ingredient out of last week's recipe. Just testing you to see if anyone was paying attention. Yeah sure right! Anyway, it was 10 ounzes of cooked spinach (or 1 ten ounce package frozen leaf chopped spinach, thawed. ) Fortunately, I gave the website source at the end of the recipe. Weren't paying attention to that were you, Jasmine?)

If fundamentalist, George W Bush wins the 2004 election the most terrifying outcome will be his unshakable belief that Jesus Christ was completely responsible.
cheers ... 
Allan D.

(Note: No ifs ands or buts about it.)

We need a World Stupidity Day.
Alan W.
(Note: How about Nov 2 ?)

OH MY GOD!!!!!
Can't help wondering what state of mind you will be in. Guess we will find out in the next newsletter. Very sorry it turned out this way. You are fighting a good fight, Joe. Next time. Maybe with Hilary? Take care,

(Note: Annie, I still have my bottle of Lagavulin. I haven't opened it yet so that should tell you that I'm fine. Or maybe it should tell you that I'm not in my right mind - that's a hell of a good drop to keep caged up. Maybe tonight I'll free the bird.)

John Kerry's Concession Speech
The New York Times
Go here to read:

" There is more to politics than elections. Thousands of young people have discovered, as generations have before them, their efforts matter. Their actions matter because by getting in the game instead of straying on the sidelines, they are empowered, whether or not their candidate wins." Howard Dean


So readers, what's changed now? One thing for sure - we can no longer argue that the Bush administration has stolen the election from the American people. The MAJORITY of Americans put Bush back in office this time - no question. A mandate of over 4 million.

One simple thing that has to change - the way votes are cast. I mean, who in their right mind wants to go out and stand in the rain for up to five hours at night to vote? That's enough to discourage anyone. I'm for early voting and voting by mail, and even voting online, like paying your gas bill.

All the Democratic candidates who missed out on being chosen as their party's candidate this year, now look optimistically to the next election. And to the new great speakers and political leaders such as Barak Obama: " His victory to become the only African-American in the U.S. Senate was one of the few bright spots of the election. An early opponent of the Iraq war, Obama trounced his primary and general election opponents, even in white rural districts, showing he could teach other progressives a few things about broadening their base. As David Moberg, of In These Times puts it, " Obama demonstrates how a progressive politician can redefine mainstream political symbols to expand support for liberal policies and politicians rather than engage in creeping capitulation to the right. " (from ('Ten Reasons Not To Move To Canada.')

Columnist Mark Morford had an interesting comment: " Maybe the best we can hope for, at this ominous and slightly sickening moment, is one hell of a lot more patience."


One thing became apparent to me during the past week, the problem really isn't with George W Bush (he's just the current figurehead) nor is it even the Republican Party (they're just the current vehicle) but the real illness that has to be faced is the rise of the Evangelical Christian in the US - who are these people? What do they think? How do they get organized? What kind of spiritual blinders have they constructed for themselves that they cannot understand or respect the beliefs of others? And mainly: how can they stay so immune to the suffering that their actions cause? I will be spending a lot of time over the next few months trying to understand this type of new Christian Crusader. As the Marian Catholic mystic, Maximillian Kolbe, once said, about the Nazis, whom he non-violently resisted with his very life, but so desperately tried not to hate:

'It is important to study the beliefs of those whom you stand against, to incorporate everything that is good and decent about their beliefs into your own thinking, as quickly as possible, for in that manner, one can more effectively resist that which is incorrect and indecent about them.'

It's also apt to apply to America, Lord Durham's old dictum for Canada: "Two nations warring in the bosom of a single state." This election has exposed the division in the soul and morality of the American people, but it has also clarified exactly which States, and which percentage of which States, the Republican evangelical mindset is coming from. That is the most depressing fact. We can see how deep it permeates the fabric of American culture.

Looking at all those Red states in the centre of the American voting map reminded me of looking at an chest x-ray - hoping for the best, but getting bad news from the doctor: 'I'm sorry, Mr Citizen, the disease has spread.'

It also reminded me of a map of Australia - the vast uninhabitable central area - ringed by the people in the Blue states living around the East and West coasts. However, the Republicans would look at this same map as the beating Central Red Heartland of America and the blue edges as the diseased liberal and amoral fringe. (You gotta laugh - Ain't human beings grand?)

But, thankfully, most of our own crucial personal decisions aren't made by majority vote! Imagine if we required the popular vote to decide if a song was worth writing, a painting worth painting, a child worth having? (Sound like any recent political systems you can think of?) Unfortunately, the popular political vote (i.e. let's call it: Government Idol) is seeping into areas of abortion rights and gay marriage laws, which for many people are crucial personal decisions. Even those Republican farmers in New Mexico, inundated with illegal immigrants jumping their fences from Mexico, said there was no way they were voting for Bush this year because, 'how would you like it if people kept stomping across your own backyard, day after day - and the government didn't do anything about it?" I guess more of those Red State voters need someone actually stomping across their own back yards before it's going to sink in that the Bush administration is really not going to protect them from what they fear most - their own ignorance.

Bush Unbound
By Sidney Blumenthal

"This country is going so far to the right you are not even going to recognize it," remarked John Mitchell, President Nixon's attorney general, in 1970. Mitchell's prophesy became the mission of Nixon's College Republican president, Karl Rove, who implemented the strategy of authoritarian populism behind George W. Bush's victory. . . article

Bush, Republican Right, Extend Mandate
by Jim Lobe

The overall results constituted a vindication of the strategy pursued by Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, of mobilizing his right-wing base while appealing to "swing" voters on so-called ''wedge'' issues, particularly those emphasizing moral values, such as gay marriage.

Referenda prohibiting gay marriage were put on the ballot by Christian activists in 11 states, all of which passed Tuesday with strong majorities.

One political analyst, Noam Scheiber of 'The New Republic', pointed out the measures not only helped bring an unprecedented number of Christian fundamentalists to the polls, but also drew the support of older voters who, according to exit polls, gave Bush an unexpected 53-47 percent margin in the overall vote.

''My hunch is that, in addition to motivating evangelicals, gay marriage also helped Bush among seniors'', Scheiber wrote. ''Everything we know about the issue suggests that you're more likely to oppose it the older you are, and that goes for otherwise reliable liberals, too''. . . article

Fear Trumps Reason
by Rosa María Pegueros

We cannot fault John Kerry for this loss. He is a thoughtful man of character who deeply loves this country and who pulled all the stops out to win. Moreover, he got more votes than any other Democratic candidate in history.

It is, perhaps, precisely why he lost. People who think see the grays of life, weight the ethical concerns, read the newspapers, and change their minds based on new concerns. Real intellectuals have never done well with the American people because they want clarity and unequivocal conviction. It's hard to be absolutely resolute if one doesn't wear blinders. Besides, it is not in the nature of people who don't believe in absolutes to be absolutist. Not to be tautological, but if your faith requires a belief in absolute authority and absolute morality, then your entire world view flows from point: Easy for a religious fundamentalist to do; it is not easy or desirable for the rest of us. . . article

No Longer a Christian
by Karen Horst Cobb
I was told in Sunday school the word "Christian" means to be Christ-like, but the message I hear daily on the airwaves from the "christian " media are words of war, violence, and aggression. . .


Three women worked in the same office with the same male boss. Each day, the boss left work early. One day, the women decided that when the boss left they would leave too. After all, he never called or came back to work, so how would he know they went home early? The brunette was thrilled to be home early. She did a little gardening, had some playtime with her son, and went to bed early. The redhead was elated to be able to get in a quick workout at the spa before meeting a dinner date. The blonde was happy to get home early and surprise her husband. But when she got home, she heard a muffled noise coming from inside her bedroom. Slowly and quietly, she cracked open the door and was mortified to see her husband in bed with her boss! Gently, she closed the door and crept out of her house. The next day, at their coffee break, the brunette and redhead said they planned to leave early again, and they asked the blonde if she was going to go with them. "No way", she said. "I almost got caught yesterday! "


'These are times that try men's souls."
Thomas Paine

I've been reading the writings and the life of Thomas Paine recently and it helps keep these present political events in perspective. As Kinky Freidman says 'They Aint making Jews like Jesus anymore, ' - Well, 'They ain't making Republicans like Thomas Paine anymore' (I said that).

Born a Quaker, in 1737, in Norfolk, England, twice a business failure, Paine was persuaded, by Benjamin Franklin, with a personal letter of recommendation, to emigrate to America, where, as a publicist, he became involved in the colonial rebellion, writing a pamphlet called 'Common Sense. ' In Paine's view, the Colonies had the right to revolt against a government that imposed taxes on them but which did not give them the right of representation in the Parliament, at Westminster. He called for a declaration of independence. Due to the many copies of his pamphlet sold (500,000) Paine's influence on the official Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, is inestimable. But read an excerpt of the Real Thing - the original incendiary pamphlet:

" Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.

" In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest; they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto; the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labour out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him to quit his work, and every different want would call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune, would be death; for, though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.

" Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which would supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing but Heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen that in proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their duty and attachment to each other: and this remises will point out the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.

" Some convenient tree will afford them a State House, under the branches of which the whole Colony may assemble to deliberate on public matters. It is more than probable that their first laws will have the title only of Regulations and be enforced by no other penalty than public disesteem. In this first parliament every man by natural right will have a seat.

" But as the Colony increases, the public concerns will increase likewise, and the distance at which the members may be separated, will render it too inconvenient for all of them to meet on every occasion as at first, when their number was small, their habitations near, and the public concerns few and trifling. This will point out the convenience of their consenting to leave the legislative part to be managed by a select number chosen from the whole body, who are supposed to have the same concerns at stake which those have who appointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body would act were they present. If the colony continue increasing, it will become necessary to augment the number of representatives, and that the interest of every part of the colony may be attended to, it will be found best to divide the whole into convenient parts, each part sending its proper number: and that the ELECTED might never form to themselves an interest separate from the ELECTORS, prudence will point out the propriety of having elections often: because as the ELECTED might by that means return and mix again with the general body of the ELECTORS in a few months, their fidelity to the public will be secured by the prudent reflection of not making a rod for themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each other, and on this, (not on the unmeaning name of king,) depends the STRENGTH OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE HAPPINESS OF THE GOVERNED.

" Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. Freedom and security. And however our eyes may be dazzled with show, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and reason will say, 'tis right. " (from COMMON SENSE.)

That ought to be enough for one person in one life. But no. After the American Revolution, Thomas Paine returned to England and became involved in the FRENCH REVOLUTION! Though a true REPUBLICAN, he was imprisoned in 1793 under Robespierre, because he had voted against the execution of the dethroned King Louis XVI. During his imprisonment, the publication of his Age of Reason started. Age of Reason was written in praise of the achievements of the Age of Enlightenment, and it was on this book that he was accused of being an atheist.

After his release, he stayed in France until 1802, when he sailed back to America, after an invitation by Thomas Jefferson who had met him before when he was a minister in Paris and who admired him. Here are some excerpts from the Age of Reason:

"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church . . . . All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolise power and profit . . . Each of these churches shows certain books, which they call revelation, or the word of God. The Jews say that their word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say that their word of God came by divine inspiration; and the Turks say that their word of God, the Koran, was brought by an angel from heaven. Each of these churches accuses the others of unbelief; and, for my own part, I disbelieve them all . . . " But some perhaps will say, Are we to have no word of God, no revelation? I answer, Yes; there is a word of God; there is a revelation . . . .The word of God is the creation we behold . . . It is only in the creation that all our ideals and conceptions of a word of God can unite. The creation speaketh an universal language, independently of human speech, or human language, multiplied and various as they be. It is an ever-existing original, which every man can read. It cannot be forged; it cannot be counterfeited; it cannot be lost; it cannot be altered; it cannot be suppressed. It does not depend upon the will of man whether it shall be published or not; it publishes itself from one end of the earth to the other. It preaches to all nations and to all worlds; and this word of God reveals to man all that is necessary for man to know of God . . . .Do we want to contemplate his power? We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible whole is governed. Do we want to contemplate his munificence? We see it in the abundance with which he fills the earth. Do we want to contemplate his mercy? We see it in his not withholding that abundance even from the unthankful. In fine, do we want to know what God is? Search not the book called the Scripture, which any human hand might make, but the Scripture called the Creation . . . " (from AGE OF REASON.)


As the airliner pushed back from the gate, the flight attendant gave the passengers the usual information regarding seat belts, etc. Finally, she said, "Now sit back and enjoy your trip while your captain, Judith Campbell, and crew take you safely to your destination."

Joe sitting in the eighth row thought to himself, "Did I hear her right? Is the captain a woman?"

When the attendants came by with the drink cart, he said, "Did I understand you right? Is the captain a woman?"

Yes," said the attendant, "In fact, this entire crew is female."

"My God," said Joe, "I'd better have two scotch and sodas. I don't know what to think of all those women up there in the cockpit."

"That's another thing sir," said the attendant, "We no longer call it the cock pit.

Now it's the box office."
(thanks to Tricia)


Szechuan Steak au Poivre with Port-Ginger Sauce

* 1 1/2 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns
* 2 teaspoons drained green peppercorns in brine
* 2 6-ounce beef tenderloin steaks
* 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
* 1 cup ruby Port
* 1/4 cup minced shallots
* 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
* 1 1/2 tablespoons butter

1. Finely chop all peppercorns in processor. Rub pepper mixture over both sides of each steak. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
2. Heat oil in heavy medium skillet over high heat. Season steaks with salt. Add to skillet and cook to desired doneness, about 2 minutes per side for medium-rare.
3. Transfer steaks to plate; tent with foil. Add Port, shallots and ginger to same skillet; boil until liquid is reduced to thin syrup, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Strain sauce into bowl, pressing on solids and spoon. Return sauce to same skillet; boil until thick syrup forms, about 2 minutes. Whisk in butter; season with salt. Spoon sauce around steaks. Serves 2.


Psalm 24
Who is fit to hold power
and worthy to act in God's place?

Those with a passion for the truth,
who are horrified by injustice,
who act with mercy to the poor
and take up the cause of the helpless,
who have let go of selfish concerns
and see the whole earth as sacred,
refusing to exploit her creatures
or to foul her waters and lands.

Their strength is in their compassion;
God's light shines through their hearts.
Their children's children will bless them,
and the work of their hands will endure.

(The Psalms, translated by Stephen Mitchell)