Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Palestinian Holocaust: Warsaw Redux

For those who bristle at the idea of calling Israel's attacks against the Palestinians a holocaust, I urge you to pay attention to what Israel's deputy defense minister, Matan Vilnai, told Army Radio on Friday, February 29, 2008

"… they [ the Palestinians] will bring upon themselves a bigger 'shoah' [a Hebrew word for catastrophe and a synonym for the Nazi Holocaust] because we will use all our might to defend ourselves."

He certainly doesn't seem to have a problem with using this word when referring to Israel's plan of action against the Palestinians. This is a holocaust. If you have a problem dealing with that, I would suggest that you address this with Mr. Vilnai and the Knesset.

What's going on in Gaza right now is no different from what went on inside of the Warsaw Ghetto. The Nazis first confined the Jews and then proceeded to deprive them of food and medical care. Soon people began to drop dead from diseases due to lack of treatment and lack of proper nutrition. When those in the ghetto realized what was in store for them, they used improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Molotov cocktails and whatever arms they could get their hands on to attack the Nazis. Did they think they could win? There was no way the weapons at their disposal could stop the Nazis from coming in and killing them all. Realistically, all they could do was peacefully die at the hands of the Nazis or die fighting. If they chose the latter, perhaps they'd manage to kill a few of the Nazis in the process, so I can understand why many chose to fight.

It should be mentioned that the fighters weren't all men. The Jewish women and children also armed themselves and fought to kill as many Nazis as possible. I can't imagine that any of the parents exactly liked the idea of allowing their children to become killers but I can also understand why someone in that situation might have felt as if there really weren't any other options and that even their children had a right to defend themselves against the Nazis who they'd already watched kill so many other children.

Ultimately, the Nazis went into the ghetto and set fire to the streets of the ghetto, block by block. When the smoke and flames drove the Jews out of the buildings, the Nazis shot them to death. You could say that the Nazis were just responding to the fact that the Jews were using their women and children to attack Germans, but that doesn't take into consideration who put the Jews in that position in the first place. Maybe we should ask ourselves a few questions.

If they had not been confined, deprived of food and medicine, and systematically killed, would the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto have taken up arms against the Nazis?

Was it immoral or unethical for the Jews of Warsaw to allow their children to take up arms against the occupiers of their homeland?

Should the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising be viewed as an attempt to destroy all Germans since the people the Jews were shooting and fire-bombing were Germans?

Does the fact that the some of the Warsaw fighters did kill a few of those who were keeping them in confinement mean that the Nazis were justified in killing thousands of Jews afterwards?

Were the Jews who chose to fight the Nazis responsible for the deaths of those non-fighting Jews who were later killed by the Nazis?

Did the non-fighting Jews in Warsaw deserve to die since they didn't prevent other Jews in their community from launching fire-bombs and using IEDs against the Nazis?

Was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising an act of self-defense?

If so, how can we decide which group was acting in self-defense?

If the occupation, confinement, and killings made it justifiable for the Jewish fighters to shoot and fire-bomb the Nazis, is there any reason why wouldn't that justification also apply to others who are experiencing the same thing?

South Bronx Shows Support For Gaza

This can be seen in the South Bronx from the Bruckner Highway.  on TwitPic

Photo by MamitaMala

Photo Description: The words "I love Gaza" are written in graffiti using a heart to represent the word "love". That background is black. The letters are white and the heart is red with a white lining around it. According to MamitaMala, "This can be seen in the South Bronx from the Bruckner Highway".

Monday, December 29, 2008

It's My Birthday! Come Give Me Hugs!

Hello everyone. Today is MY BIRTHDAY!! *does a happy little birthday dance*

Today, I made thirty-two years old. How amazing is that? When I started this blog, it was with the knowledge that I was up against the clock with very little time left before I checked out via the Bone Cancer Express. I was writing because my daughter was too young to understand everything that I wanted her to remember about me after I died. I wanted to chronicle the dying experience, so that she maybe she could put things into perspective and perhaps forgive me for not giving her a less tumultuous childhood.

Almost three and a half years have passed since then. Despite the fact that I still have cancer and lupus, I'M STILL HERE and I thank my Creator for that every single day. My life has been too amazing for me to attribute it all to luck or willpower. I don't believe there is enough luck in the world for me to have beaten so many odds and lived through so many difficulties. Life is just so precious to me now that I've gone through so many tragedies.

I still can't explain why I'm here and so many other good people, people who were equally deserving of life, are not. I do believe that my continued existence means I have a responsibility to make the most of what I have been given and work to complete all that I have been put here accomplish. I don't know what tomorrow will bring but I plan to contribute to making it something that everyone can benefit from.

As the new year approaches, I hope that everyone is looking forward to as much as I am. Thank you all for accompanying me through this wild journey and providing me with so much advice, encouragement, and support. I hope that I can also return the kindness and have the opportunity to show just how much I appreciate the way that each of you have blessed my life.

Euthanasia in Theory vs. Assisted Suicide Laws

A few days ago, I wrote about an assisted suicide initiative that recently passed in Washington State. Bollo commented that it seemed as if I was berating Catholics in that post. That really wasn't my intention at all. Because of my daughter's current religious exploration of Catholicism and my own nostalgic feelings about this religion's influence on the culture I grew up around, I often visit websites by and/or for Catholics. That's how I found out about what's going on in Washington State. I tried to make it clear that my suggestions about end of life issues apply to all of us who consider ourselves religious/spiritual/persons of faith.

That post was mostly about my conflicted feelings about assisted suicide. In reality, I think my position is really close to how many Catholics feel about it. I do believe that all life has value and that we shouldn't accept the idea that we should suspend this concept when it comes to people with disabilities.

If society really thinks that assisted suicide is ethical, then why do these laws limit it to those with disabilities? If we really believe that people with disabilities have just as much worth as those who are seemingly non-disabled, then why do people behave as if it's somehow acceptable for doctors to help end our lives but seek to keep it illegal for doctors to end the lives of the non-disabled?

It's not that I'm necessarily against euthanasia. I'm simply against the ablist philosophy that, in effect, says that we should support doctors removing certain kinds of people--disabled people--from society with as much haste as we can convince the doctors and patients to go along with. There's plenty of evidence that the same strategies that help non-disabled people dealing suicidal ideation also work to help many people with disabilities who are experiencing the same feelings.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Please, Please Don't Bring The Bible Into This

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Science has proven that the there is virtually no genetic difference between the Jews and all the other Semitic people in that area. The only difference is what religion each group claims. So, if having ancestors who lived there in the past gives one the right to claim the land now, then the Palestinians have more right to that land than any non-Semitic person who has ever converted to Judaism and currently resides in Israel. It also means they have just as much right to that land as those Semitic people who do call themselves Jews.

That is all...for now.

New Orleans Protests Massacre in Gaza TOMORROW

Stop the Massacre in Gaza

New Orleans Says No Murder In Our Name!
Mass Demonstration
Noon - 2:00pm
Monday, December 29
Corner of Canal Street and Convention Center Blvd, at the base of Canal street, across from Harrah's Casino

Indiscriminate bombing by Israeli Military forces and prolonged siege of the Gaza Strip, supported and funded by the United States, has led to:

  • At least 280 Palestinians, including scores of children and other civilians, brutally murdered in less than 24 hours by the Israeli Occupation Forces
  • Over 600 Palestinians wounded in mass bombing by the Israeli Occupation Forces
  • No medical care in the Gaza Strip for the wounded
  • No food supplies
  • No fuel

The Israeli Government has promised to continue to escalate its attacks against the Gaza Strip and acts of mass murder against the Palestinian people.


Demonstrations against this violence have arisen all over the world but our voices, here in the US, must be heard to demand an immediate end to the massacres and an end to US aid to Israel! The Israeli military is promising more bombing and killing, and the Bush administration has given its approval - we must say no NOW!

For the past year and a half, the people of the Gaza Strip of Palestine have been slowly starved to death by an Israeli-imposed siege on the Palestinians by air, land and sea, bombing all electric plants and hospitals, depriving Palestinians of their existing resources, preventing the entry of any more resources and the travel of the Palestinians seeking food, shelter and medical care, imprisoning the entire Palestinian population as they starved and died of lack of access to medicine.

This Demonstration is sponsored by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of New Orleans, New Orleans Palestine Solidarity, and many other organizations and individuals (list in formation). We invite everyone concerned about justice and human rights to join us.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Daughter's Christmas Present to Me

My kids made ceramic bowls for me and The German in their art class. This is the bowl that I received from VanGoghGirl for Christmas. As soon as I find my camera, I'm going to post pictures of the one we got from my darling son.

Photo Description: The outside of the round bowl is maroon with a mottled effect that exposes the white ceramic underneath it. Two blue and white ceramic seashells are affixed to the front of the bowl. The rim of the bowl is colored green and is inscribed with a quote from a popular children's tongue-twister. "She sells seashells by the sea shore" is carved into the rim.

Photo Description: The bowl has a lid that sits on top of it. The lid is colored blue with a mottled effect meant to evoke the sunlight reflecting off of sea water. It contains brown sandy flecks of color, as well. On the lid, a girl's face and neck were sculpted, creating a slightly raised surface. Her chin-length brown hair is loose on her head and is slightly wind-blown. Her lips are very full and blushing with the same maroon color as the sides of the bowl. Her skin is a very yellowish-brown and reminds me of my daughter. Her eyes are the same color blue as the background of the lid. She has light-brown freckles sprinkled across her nose and cheeks. The picture below this one shows the top from a different angle.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Right to Marry vs. Equal Rights for All

The point. You missed it. However, Bob Ostertag hasn't. In an article on The Huffington Post he discusses "Why Gay Marriage is the Wrong Issue". It should be read by everyone who is concerned about the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California and the steps that other states are taking to keep marriage limited to one particular kind of relationship (i.e. one man and one woman). He takes a different stance from what I've seen in most discussions on gay marriage. Ostertag says that by re-framing the fight, queer families could gain more allies and have a greater chance at receiving the important legal benefits that married people now enjoy.

Sadly, many of the people who commented on his article didn't seem to get it. Ostertag is making the point that making sure that EVERYONE can enjoy those benefits is even more beneficial to society than simply making a slight expansion to a system that is so flawed that it isn't even working for the folks who currently use it. I'm a woman in a relationship with a man and we can't enjoy the legal benefits that married couples enjoy because we can't marry. His insurance wouldn't cover the costs of treatment for my cancer because of the pre-existing conditions clause that the government allows the insurance industry to put into place. We'd love to be able to marry but if we did, then I'd die because I'd have no way of paying for the extraordinary costs of treating my ultra-rare cancer.

I know lots of families like mine. Many of them probably think that gay marriage wouldn't benefit them but they'd sure as hell ally with anyone who would be willing to take up the cause for equal rights for all kinds of families. The majority of other queer people I know don't despise people with disabilities even though they have never fought en masse for us to have the rights that they now want for themselves. It makes more sense to get both groups to see our struggles as a fight for equal rights for all. However, judging from the vitriol I'm seeing, that's not likely to occur any time soon.

As long as we allow the government to play "divide and conquer" with this country's marginalized populations, there will be no equality.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Our Christmas Tree 2008

This year the tree we bought is a lot skinnier than the ones we had during the previous couple of years. Most of our gift exchanging takes place at my mother-in-law's house on Christmas Eve but we still save some presents to share with each other on Christmas day.

We bought over a dozen new ornaments for the tree. We are Disney World fanatics, so several of them came from there. We also bought an old-fashioned Advent calendar from the German store in the Epcott park this past summer. It's the first year we've had one since The German insisted on making sure we had a "proper" German one if we were to have one at all.

If you happen to read this blog from time to time, I'd love to see pictures of your holiday decorations. Does anyone have photos posted of their's? Send me links, people!!

Photo Description: The pewter angel ornament that I selected stands with both wings spread. She wears a floor-length gown covered in flowers.

Photo Description: Inside of the glass ornament, that The German picked out, Mickey and Minnie Mouse are making a snow man that is decorated with a top hat and scarf.

Photo Description: The German picked this wooden snowman ornament that is covered with doves and stars and has the words "Peace on Earth" wrapping around it.

Photo Description: This transparent glass ornament that I chose is a replica of Cinderella's glass slipper and has a heart on the top of the toe of the shoe.

Photo Description: Jack Skellington (from "The Nightmare Before Christmas" Disney movie) stands in front of a Christmas tree. He is wearing a Santa Claus costume and holds a gift-wrapped present in his hands. A small child wearing his pajamas looks up at Jack thoughtfully.

Photo Description: Last year, my mother-in-law gave me this dragonfly ornament made of beads and fabric on a wire frame. I didn't know that she even realized how much I love dragonflies!

Photo Description: VanGoghGirl's favorite ornament from last year is a pewter cross with Gothic scroll work and a small faceted glass bead in the middle of it. Also, a silver reindeer ornament my mother-in-law gave us can be seen behind the cross ornament.

Washington State's Assisted Suicide Initiative

Washington State voters have approved an initiative allowing for medically-assisted suicide and many Catholic news sources have been writing about this latest development.

This issue really concerns me, in more ways than one. As a person living with an incurable cancer and systemic lupus, I know better than most how painful such diseases can be and how modern medicine often can not alleviate the excruciating pain that accompanies them without also bringing a person's life to an end in the process. I certainly can't blame someone for not wanting to die writhing in pain or after having to spend months on end heavily drugged into a semi-unconscious stupor.

That said, I am concerned about the sort of pressure that many people with incurable illnesses face. It's easy to feel like a burden when you know that staying alive may bring about financial ruin for your spouse and/or children, when you know that they can't afford to pay for you to get the sort of treatment that might make it possible for you to receive hospice care, when you know that a protracted final illness will mean dying in the cold, sterile environment of a hospital instead of the place of your choosing. Maybe if people of faith put as much effort into addressing these problems as they expend fighting about the perceived tragedy of abortion, then they might actually convince more people that they aren't just against women being able to control their own bodies.

Listen to the Pope: Save the Rainforest (and the gays)!

This past Monday, Pope Benedict XVI gave a rousing speech on homosexuality where he said, "(The Church) should also protect man from the destruction of himself. A sort of ecology of man is needed," and "The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less."

You know, I really am happy that the Pope has decided we need to do something to preserve the world's population of lesbian and gay people. Lots of folks have been eagerly awaiting the day when the Pope would recognize what a world without them might look like. Art, the sciences, sports, literature, and politics...these folks have been quite busy improving the world around them and making this a better planet for their hetero brethren, haven't they?!

That Day Without a Gay event must have really put the fear of God in Pope Benedict (no pun intended), and not a moment too soon, I might add! Personally, I thank the heavens above that America's lesbians and gays had mercy on us and didn't take this thing international. Seriously, people! Worldwide Day Without a Gay? Do. Not. Want.

What with all of the gay Catholic priests and nuns, the Church might collapse in upon itself! That's why I'm glad Pope Benedict is taking such decisive action to support them and the Church's gay laity members. Just think, back when he was first elected to the papacy, many gay Catholics were worried that he might continue to engage in the same sort of virulently homophobic speech that former popes used towards those who only sought to be treated with the same dignity that the Church says all of God's other (heterosexual) children deserve.

On Monday, Pope Benedict also said we need to "listen to the language of creation". Well stated, Pope!! I mean, have you ever seen the list of animals that are known to display homosexual behavior? Could the Creator have made it any more clear how natural homosexuality is? It would take more than a dozen lifetimes just to study the mammals on this list!

I'm glad that Pope Benedict XVI is showing just how seriously he takes Jesus' message of love and acceptance for all those who are looked down upon in society and his rejection of those who would use their position as religious leaders to cast aspersions on the downtrodden.

Photo Description: Pope Benedict XVI is a late middle-aged white male. He is wearing an absolutely FABULOUS gold and cream embroidered lace gown with matching cape and hat. He is flanked by a cadre of similarly-dressed priests. His left hand grasps a gold staff topped with a crucifix. His right hand is held out in front of him as he makes gestures to an unseen audience.

"He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us
He made and loveth all."
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Post-Suicide Holiday Season

Let's Work on Suicide REDUCTION Instead of PREVENTION: Let's Set Reasonable Goals

This will be my family's second Christmas without my uncle who committed suicide a little over a year ago. As it gets closer to the day, I find it hard to just enjoy what used to be my favorite time of the year. Unfortunately, my aunt and cousin don't live in this part of the country, so they'll be by themselves this Christmas. I wish my uncle was still here. He was so family-oriented that his death means we've lost one of the main forces behind making sure my mother's side of the family gathered together during the holiday season.

I miss him so much.

Today is the National March for Sex Workers Rights

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Picture Description: The words "I support sex workers rights" appear next to the outline of a long-haired woman sitting on an unseen surface.

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Picture Description: Eight people, wearing a variety of formal and casual clothes, stand holding a sign that reads "National March for Sex Workers Rights December 17th Washington DC".

I was having all sorts of weird dreams this morning where I was looking for Renegade Evolution. In my sleep, I finally realized what was going on and woke up. Today is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This morning many people, including Ren, will be participating in the National March for Sex Workers Rights in Washington, D.C. Please go over to her blog and voice your support for what she's doing today.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but I support sex workers rights. There are several reasons why I believe that sex work should be legal. For one thing, we let adults purchase all sorts of other goods and services that some people may not be interested in. I don't smoke but if an adult wants to buy tobacco products, then they can go to the store and get them. This doesn't stop me from abstaining from smoking.

Because certain kinds of sex work are illegal (e.g. prostitution), a sex worker who is the victim of a crime may be afraid to go to the police or seek redress in the courts. This is a problem. A lot of sex workers are women and many of them are also people of color. Because of this, they are already less likely to be treated with respect by the criminal justice system. When you add being a sex worker to any of the labels someone has applied to them, it can become a roadblock to receiving justice even in the most egregious cases.

Another reason why sex work shouldn't be illegal: the economy is in terrible shape. Let's face it. If we legalized prostitution, we could tax the hell out of it. Heck, we tax dern near everything else. Why should prostitution be exempt? Let everybody pay their fair share!

These are reasons why I think that sex work shouldn't be illegal but today's march is about more than that. It's about rights. That makes it simple for me. Sex workers are people. Because they are people, they deserve all of the same rights enjoyed by those who engage in other kinds of work. Disenfranchising sex workers creates a underclass that is antithetical to the ideals of an egalitarian society. That's what it all boils down to. Making sure that sex workers are able to enjoy the same rights as everyone else would bring this country closer to reaching its full potential.

Please keep today's marchers in your thoughts today and, if you have a blog, consider voicing your support for sex worker's rights as a show of solidarity.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Your Thin Won't Save You And Your Fat Won't Kill You

Paul Campos reports on some interesting weight-related facts that defy some commonly held misconceptions about obesity.

The "overweight" category is to the obesity panic what marijuana use is to the drug war: stories about an "epidemic" of fatness depend crucially on classifying the 35% of the population that's "overweight" as being at some sort of increased health risk. This is simply false, and is known to be false by the researchers who are quoted in stories like the one linked above.

But the situation is much more egregious than even this suggests. Note that the NHANES III data reveals that most people who are classified as obese have a lower mortality risk than so-called normal weight people. About two-thirds of "obese" Americans have a BMI of between 30-34.9, and currently we're seeing about 14,000 fewer deaths per year in this group than would be expected if the group's mortality risk was the same as that of "normal weight" individuals.

This subject always interests me. As a person who struggles to reach and stay in that "normal weight" category, I can tell you that there are many problems with the idea that thinner=healthier. All of the things that are supposed to scare people into wanting to be thin (e.g. cancer, heart problems, early death) won't be prevented just by losing weight. You can still die, you can still get cancer, you can still develop heart problems, no matter how much you weigh. Whether you will face these issues is not just determined by your weight. It's much more complicated than that. There are genetic tendencies that play a much greater role in this than weight does for most people.

Because Jane Hamsher is So-oo-oo Unfamiliar With Entitlement

Hat tip to Jeff Fecke at Alas, a blog

Ugh! This is why I detest Jane Hamsher. Can it get any more sexist than the tripe she's posted here? Today, on The Huffington Post, Hamsher writes about Caroline Kennedy's interest in being appointed to the senate seat that Hillary Clinton will be vacating to join Barack Obama's administration in January. Clearly, Hamsher doesn't think much of Kennedy but was this necessary?

"Really? She's 'making calls this morning to alert political figures to her interest?' I guess it was either that or get her nails done."

Really? Is Hamsher sure she wants to go there? Her own over-sized sense of entitlement has been noted many times over the years. I just love when privileged, white Americans like Hamsher try to pretend as if they have any idea what it's like to be a part of the world's "unwashed masses".

Isn't it funny that this article was written by the same person who also once wrote:

"No shit. Why is it the women are taking crap for this — from other women? One need look no further than the cracks about blond hair and tits from self-described “feminists” to see the reason for the sad state of feminism in this country today."

Thanks Jane, for showing why your brand of feminism is in such a sad state today.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Did Those Shoes Smell Like Roses, Bush?

Photo Description: The journalist is dressed in a suit and tie while reporting for al-Baghdadiya news.

I have been laughing all day long just thinking about the video that I woke up to today. In case you haven't heard about it already, President George Bush made a little surprise visit to Iraq today where he had shoes hurled at him by an Iraqi journalist. You have to see it for yourself. There are several videos that captured the footage but al-Jazeera is the only one I've seen that explains what hitting someone with a shoe means in the middle eastern world.

Muntazer al-Zeidi is a journalist for al-Baghdadiya who managed to throw, not one, but two shoes at President Bush before being tackled and led away. You can hear him yelling "Here's a kiss good-bye, you dog!" as he pitches them. If Bush means what he said about not feeling the least bit threatened by it, I'm sure he'll ask the Iraqi government to treat Zeidi accordingly.

By the way, isn't the mosaic of Bush Sr. that can be seen in the video footage just beautiful?

Let Them Eat Bibles? A Christmas Without the Book of Matthew

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Picture Description: A stained glass window depicts a dove holding an olive branch in its beak.

How out of touch can an entire organization be? Is it life imitating art or art imitating life? I'll let you guess for yourself. While getting my daily dose of stupid from World Net Daily, I came across an article called "A Christmas without the Bible". I can't begin to describe how spectacularly clueless religious people can be sometimes.

A ministry organization is urging Christians in the United States and other affluent parts of the world to celebrate Christmas this year like fellow Christians around the globe – without a Bible.

"Christians in the United States should try and conduct one worship service this Christmas the way that our brothers and sisters in the Third World regularly have to worship: without any Bibles," Fred Palmerton, executive director of Christian Resources International, told Assist News Service.

"Every day, more than 122,000 people become Christian, and most of those people are in Africa, Asia and South America," Palmerton said. "They're attending churches where even the pastors have no Bibles. In our country, the church isn't growing so much. But the pile of Bibles on every Christian's bookshelf sure is."

According to the report, research from the Christian Booksellers Association and Zondervan Publishers shows the average American Christian owns nine Bibles and is looking for more.

However, such resources are luxuries in many parts of the world, where pastors have been known to drive 800 miles for the opportunity to ask for a Bible to use in their ministries.

Palmerton suggests that Christians in the U.S. would be much more aware of the hardships encountered by their overseas brethren by such an experience.

"Often, the only resource worshippers in developing countries have is their memory, or what they write down on scraps of paper after visiting a church that does have a Bible," Palmerton said.

Christian Resources International said it is launching a campaign for people with abundant resources to share with those without those benefits, with its Bare Your Bookshelf program.

The effort moves donated Bibles and books from American Christians to overseas needy.

"The resources that are desperately needed in the developing church already exist," Palmerton said. "They are gathering dust on the bookshelves of American Christians."

CRI for 50 years has been driven by volunteers and moves Bibles to English-speaking recipients in more than 180 nations. The ministry gets more than 400 requests every month from pastors and Christian workers in developing nations where the churches have no Bibles.

"Statistics are not collected on the resources available to the typical Christian church in the developing world, but the extensive first-hand reports we've collected over the past 50 years indicate that the pastor of a typical developing church as access to – at most – one copy of the Bible, often shared with other pastors, and perhaps one or two theological books," the organization reports.

"One of CRI's volunteers, Doug Burnie, regularly takes used ambulances and school buses down to Guaymas, Mexico, to donate to charities, churches, clinics, schools and so on. Before each trip, he fills the vehicles with Christian books and Bibles to distribute to Christian in need of spiritual resources," the organization said.

During a recent trip, "Doug met a pastor who was visiting from a distant Mexican city. Doug was able to bless the pastor with an 11-pound bundle of theological and spiritual works," the organization said. Burnie later in the year headed out on another trip to the same destination.

"When he got there, he found that the pastor he had blessed previously had heard of Doug's return, and had again undergone the 800-mile journey to Guaymas. Why? To ask if he could have one more book," the organization said.

Now, take a look at this satirical article from The Onion entitled, "Poverty Stricken Africans Receive Desperately Needed Bibles".

MARADI, NIGER—More than 60,000 urgently needed Bibles arrived to allay suffering throughout the famine-stricken nation of Niger Friday, in one of the largest humanitarian-relief operations ever attempted by a Christian ministry.

"Come rejoice, and feast upon the word of Our Lord, Jesus Christ," said Christina Clarkson, executive director of the Living Light Ministries of Lubbock, TX. "Those who were hungry, hunger no more, for the Word brings life."

An exuberant Clarkson said the Bible drop was the culmination of one of the largest and most aggressive grassroots fundraising drives ever undertaken by the organization, which was able to fund the mission largely through local charitable events, such as bake-offs, barbecues, and pie-eating contests.

"We absolutely would not be here today if it were not for the amazing generosity of the people back home," Clarkson said. "People everywhere opened up their hearts and checkbooks to us and said, 'Dig in.'"

Niger, ranked as the second-poorest nation on Earth, is experiencing its worst famine in more than 20 years, as a brutal drought last year was followed by a plague of crop-destroying locusts. An estimated 3.5 million of Niger's 12 million people are currently at risk of starvation.

"That's why it was so important for this mission to happen right now," said Clarkson. "So many people here are suffering. Disease, starvation, and lack of shelter are day-to-day realities in Niger. But once they hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Lord and Savior—once they really take Him into their hearts—then they will see what poor comforts are the things of this world."

Due to the tireless efforts of Clarkson and other members of the congregation, the ministry was able to provide the needy with Bibles superior to the ones they use in their own church services.

"Handcrafted, genuine leather—best money can buy," said 61-year-old missionary Don Kostic as he ran his hand along the book's ornately embossed spine. "It's like my wife back home says: Nothing is too good for people who are ready to receive the Living Word of Christ."

Although the fundraising efforts were unprecedented, congregation members said Living Light would never have succeeded had they not obtained the generous support of an array of corporate sponsors, including Applebee's and Church's Fried Chicken.

"We spent so much money just to get here," Kostic continued. "After we had all the Bibles engraved, we still had to charter the plane. When we landed in Niamey, we could barely even afford ground transportation."

Undaunted, the missionaries purchased the best vehicle they could find, which turned out to be a used bread truck. "That old thing!" recalled Kostic, laughing. "We must've scrubbed it down a hundred times. You couldn't get the smell of freshly baked, vitamin-fortified bread out of it if your life depended on it."

Reaction among Niger residents has been mixed.

Moussa Yaouli, a 35-year-old farmer, was particularly interested to learn more about the doctrine of transubstantiation, which Living Light personnel told him involved the eating of wafers. "It is said to be a big wafer. I am sure it will feed many of my children."

Though "spiritually gratified" by their work, many of the missionaries spoke about the difficulties of working in an impoverished country.

"It can be so hard being away from the comfort of our homes and our loving families," Clarkson confided. "I will admit, there have been times when I prayed, 'Lord, just help me get through this mission and get me back to Texas!' But when we rolled into town and people started running after the truck with those big smiles on their faces, I couldn't help but smile back."

Clarkson added: "And when we opened up the back of the truck and they saw that it was full of Bibles... Grown men and women wept in front of their children. That's how moved they were by the Holy Spirit. That's how I know it's all been worth it."

Clarkson said her mission will succeed in bringing the people of Niger "the spiritual sustenance they've been deprived of," despite such obstacles as the nation's 18 percent literacy rate.

"You say you're suffering. I say, let the good Lord do the suffering for you," she said. "You say you're exhibiting the deleterious effects of severe dehydration and chronic malnutrition. And I say that no matter what ails you, the Holy Bible is the best medicine there is."
Sad. Just sad. I have nothing against people in impoverished and economically disadvantaged areas receiving religious material. What I do see as problematic is when organizations use the people in these countries to get people to donate and they don't even have the decency to make sure that these people are getting their basic physical needs met.

The twenty-fifth chapter of the book of Matthew (in the Bible) tells about a time in the future when Christians will have to stand before Jesus to be judged.

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Jesus is not going to ask whether we provided the poor with Bibles and religious tracts. The Bible says he's going to judge who loved God by examining what they did to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, care for the sick, and visit those who are in prison. Perhaps instead of mailing those extra Bibles to the world's poor, those who strive to be Christians should dust them off and read what it says we need to provide for those whose lack of books is the least of their problems.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

We're in your forests, scaring your tourists.

Via Kay at The Gimp Parade

This is one of the most puzzling disability-related signs I've ever seen.

disability hide

A few people on Kay's thread have speculated about what it might mean. The words coming from the person look like "RAA!" to me. I'd like to think of it as a warning about the presence of a scary wheelchair user in her natural habitat, lurking behind the trees just waiting to ambush the nature-lovers inside of her red circle of doom.

Friday, December 12, 2008

John Tesh is this generation's Moses

Not really, but my daughter and partner certainly seem to think so. Yesterday, I was imbibing my daily can of Pepsi Max, not bothering anyone at all when The German walks by and sees me. He keeps walking and says to VanGoghGirl, "You ought to tell your mom what The Tesh said about women and caffeine". She then starts into this spiel about how much caffeine a woman can safely drink before it starts affecting them negatively and how caffeine is so addictive that you shouldn't attempt to quit cold-turkey...blah blah blah.

What is it about this guy that they just love so much? Most girl's VanGoghGirl's age want to listen to hip hop or pop music when they get in the car. After school, my kid wants to listen to John Tesh's "Intelligence for Your Life". I swear, every other day she and my partner have some kind of advice for me courtesy of "The Tesh". I'll admit, I did used to watch him on that show Entertainment Tonight back in the nineties and I found it mildly amusing when he started making sappy new age music a few years ago, but when did this guy become a sage for all the ages?
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's SNOWING in Louisiana!!!

This morning we woke up to SNOW. I can't believe it! The meteorologists were saying it was a possibility but we didn't think it would really get cold enough for the rain to turn into anything other than maybe a little sleet. Boy were we wrong!

The German saw it first. He went outside to unlock the car to bring VanGoghGirl to the bus stop and he started yelling for us to come and see the snow. I thought he was just being a jerk and trying to make me get up for nothing. It wouldn't be the first early-morning prank he's pulled. Anyway, VanGoghGirl went and then she started calling to me too. These are some of the pictures we took.

VanGoghGirl was delighted to hear that they didn't cancel school today. I'm sure the teachers will have a hard time keeping the kids away from the windows as long as this weather lasts.

My neighbor came down to play with us as we threw snowballs at each other.

The snow blanketed all of the rooftops of the apartment buildings in our complex.

The snow right in front of my door.

I felt like I was walking inside of a snowglobe.

Mrs. Bugglesworth had to have her windshield scraped before The German could take VanGoghGirl to the bus stop.

In case you didn't know it, afros are natural snow-magnets.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I am the Walrus Goo Goo G'Joob

After watching this video, VanGoghGirl asked me if, instead of working towards getting a guitar at the end of the school year, she could request a walrus instead (preferably one like this one, I suppose).

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

That's right, Caledon! Screw The Disabled Kid, Right?

The National Post reports
The town of Caledon may force a three-year-old boy with cerebral palsy to give up his miniature pony after a neighbour complained about the smell.
Sam Spiteri’s grandfather gave him the pony, Emily, after he was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy shortly after birth. The boy can’t walk or crawl, and Emily is part of his therapy regime.
“When we take him off the pony he cries. Even if he’s tired he doesn’t want to leave her,’’ his mother, Antonia Spiteri, said today.
But at the end of July, the town notified the Spiteris the pony had to be removed due to the complaints.
Oh, but it gets even better than this and by "better", I mean "bogus".
Ms Spiteri said both her family and the complaining neighbour border on a cattle farm, and can’t understand how the smell was traced to Emily.
‘‘The cows go right up to their property too. We thought, ‘You’re kidding – seven cows to one miniature pony?’ We were quite shocked by what we thought was a joke at first.”
Of course, the Spiteris can ask the Caledon town committee to allow Sam to keep his therapy animal. It will only cost them $1,145. Even then there's no guarantee they'll say yes.

What Happens When Workers Have No One To Represent Their Interests

The New York Times has an article about how 34 year-old Jdimytai Damour was trampled to death last Friday as he worked at a Wal-Mart store in Long Island, New York. I'm going to get straight to the point. This was a totally avoidable tragedy and I'm way past exasperated about the way the shoppers in the front of the line are being labeled "savages" and "animals" who should be held responsible for the death of this employee (who was hired as a temporary maintenance worker). Instead of scapegoating, let's put the blame where it belongs and stop letting Wal-Mart off the hook for this.

As anyone who has ever been in the front of a large stampeding crowd knows, those who are closest to the destination point--and can see whatever barriers there might be--are propelled forward by the push of those in the back--who may not be able to see all of the barriers. With a crowd that big and unorganized, the people nearest the doors had no means of controlling whether or not they were pushed forward towards, on top of, and past the employee at the door.

If you put a loose cap on top of a two-liter bottle of shaken up soda, what do you think will happen? The cap is going to get knocked out of place and the soda bubbles are going to go shooting out. But who is responsible for the mess? The coke or the person who knew what could happen but didn't take the proper precautions? No individual bubble is responsible for the mess even if it did come shooting out before all the other bubbles. The person with complete control over how things went goes to the person who created a situation where what resulted was nearly inevitable.

It's not like Wal-Mart doesn't know what works. My partner did his "Black Friday" shopping at Wal-Mart. This store let people line up inside before the sale began. It was organized and well-staffed. No one got hurt and we got a brand new slow-cooker for ten bucks and lots of presents for my niece's first Christmas with our family. My sisters-in-law got game systems for my nephews and new computers for the family.

Wal-Mart made lots of money from sales, which more than exceeded the wages they had to pay the extra workers used to keep things safe and pleasant for the customers. Of course, this incident in Long Island shows that they could have just left all of the customers outside of the store until the beginning of the sale and placed one untrained employee at the doors who was supposed to control a crowd of hundreds of people, but why would they do such a thing?

If Wal-Mart takes bigger risks--at the expense of workers' safety, of course--it may be able to squeeze out even more profit. That might work, but there was the possibility that the crowd would be extremely eager to get inside after standing in the cold weather and the employee could get trampled and they'd have to deal with the resulting lawsuit(s) and handle all of the negative publicity surrounding the tragedy. However, as I said, it might have resulted in a bit more profit. So, it all came down to which one Wal-Mart cared about more: possible damage (i.e. injuries, death) to the employees or the possibility of increasing its profits by not paying for adequate security.

Is it a surprise that Wal-Mart chose to put the employees at risk for the sake of profit? Well, it wasn't a surprise to me because, before I started university, I worked at a few places without union representation. This is standard corporate behavior. The corporation is a for-profit entity. It has no reason to value the safety of employees and customers above all else.

This incident is a perfect example of why Wal-Mart workers need to be able to unionize. Without collective bargaining, the corporation doesn't have to respond to worker's needs. It's easy to ignore individual employees. If one temporary worker or minimum-wage employee complains about or refuses to work in unsafe conditions, the corporation can simply replace her/him with some one else instead of improving the work environment. Wal-Mart has been getting away with this for too long. I don't know if this incident will prove to be a catalyst for change, but I certainly hope this company isn't allowed to keep screwing over everyone else for the sake of outrageous profits.