Friday, May 30, 2008

marriage or liberty

Is it fuzzy thinking, or is there really no substantive difference between homosexual "marriage" and polygamous "marriage" when it comes to what our society will allow as marriage?

In a recent post - Til Death - Georgetown Professor Patrick Deneen points out the questionable foundation of the recent California Supreme Court's In re Marriage Cases decision which presumes to establish a "right" to homosexual marriage. The basis for their decision is individual liberty and personal autonomy.
. . . the constitutionally based right to marry . . . must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage that are so integral to an individual's liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the Legislature or by the electorate . . . . These core substantive rights include, most fundamentally, the opportunity of an individual to establish - the the person with whom the individual has chosen to share his or her life - an officially recognized and protected family . . . [opinion at p. 6]

Deneen aptly notes, however, that marriage is really more based on the voluntary abrogation of individual liberty and autonomy, in self-sacrifice.*

When we base a "right" of marriage on liberty - and a so-called liberty to choose whatever I like - on what basis do we prohibit any choice, so long as it is freely made? Why not polygamy? Why not child marriage? Yes, child marriage brings up the additional element of competency to choose but with the increasing panoply of rights and freedoms being given children, is it not just a matter of time before they - too - will be seen as at liberty to choose as they will?

Having chosen in "liberty", it is not a great distance to unchoose in "liberty."

Maybe the bigger question is the proper basis for marriage. Is it based in liberty? Or is based on a voluntary servitude - a sacrifice - for the good of the other and the community?

Having been persuaded to discuss the question of homosexual marriage in terms of liberty, I perceive we have greater "liberties" looming. Just waiting in the wings. . . .

Maybe somewhere in Texas, for example.
*He also makes a really interesting point about a Hegelian recognition as legitimacy instead of individual justification, but I will leave that as an aside. . . . Another aside I'd like to point out is the California Court's apparent assumption that marriage - and "right" to marry - is constitutionally based.

OK then.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

old words

Word-a-day has featured archaic words this week. For example:

sweven (SWEV-uhn) noun
Dream; vision.

[From Old English swefn (sleep, dream, vision).]

-Anu Garg (words at

"[The queen] went in to the Sultan and assured him that their daughter had suffered during all her wedding-night from swevens and nightmare."
The Arabian Nights (translated by Richard Francis Burton); 1885.

Sweven. What a great word!

Others were scrannel, point-device, and garboil. "Thin, or unmelodious" - "completely/perfectly" - and "confusion/turmoil", respectively.

I like words. Scrannel. Now that's a word you can sink your teeth into.
I'm going to shake you by your scrannel little neck!
Although that's rather violent as a first thought. . . . Sorry. Let me try again.
The worst thing about running a fever was having to endure the scrannel broth my grandmother was convinced was called for as its cure.
Better? Maybe not.
The first tones of the young mockingbird are apt to be a bit scrannel, but they improve rapidly.

Thank God.
OK - so maybe it's a tough-ish word to start the day with. 'Sweven' is much better!
Away with your swevens of grandeur! They are naught but garboil. The dulcet tones of the mockingbird high over the forest meadow are heaven, point-device.
I'm sure an ancient would be just as puzzled by my use of his words as I was, just seeing them for the first time. But perhaps I'll improve my use of them, with practice.

Our vocabulary has become ever more scrannel. And yet? Our thoughts ever more a garboil. . . . Point-device plain.

Friday, May 23, 2008

in which we find a picture and other musings

It's a bird! It's a plane!! It's a . . . crocodile!!?

He looks like a crocodile. He likes his new bed, that's for sure!

OK - here is our new creature, looking a bit more regal. His name is Luther.

I'm in for it, I can tell. He's slowly becoming more comfortable with his surroundings, which has translated into being a whole lot more demanding of constant attention. He is no longer content to lie in his crate for an hour or so, in quiet safety, for a snooze. Now, he's quite happy to snooze wherever he finds himself, in the middle of selective mayhem. Just a quick shut-eye, to renew his energies prior to renewed attach on the peony bushes, the concrete bench, the metal bracket that's supposed to hold the porch together, or a convenient foot or hand.

He's been seen making off with shoes.

He likes peanut butter.

The vet has told me that it is my job to make sure that his teething toys are "more attractive" than anything else he might find. Like dried magnolia leaves, mulch, brick, concrete, human flesh, clothing, rugs, dish towels, furniture, etc.

I don't know how to compete!

I do have hopes for the peanut butter. . . .

At present, he is blissfully asleep in his crate with his puppy-Kong chew toy on top of his nose. I shamelessly bribed him back into the crate by smearing peanut butter on the toy. I'd take a picture of him, but I don't want to wake him. (waaaaaahhhh! more peanut butter!!!!!!)

The funny thing is that I feel ridiculously like the worst new mother stereotypes! All fluttery and obsessed and focusing on bowel and potty events, food, teething, etc. . . . but I also have to worry about leash training and whether or not he'll run off. Let's face it, infants don't find the one hole in the fence large enough to wriggle through. Nor do you have to watch them every second for fear that if you turn your back for just a moment, a turd will appear on the rug.

Which is exactly what happened this morning, even though Luther had JUST been outside, to very good effect ["good business, Luther, gooooood business!"] and I figured we were safe for at least a half hour. He was practicing going up and down stairs, though, and I figure that the effort must have surprised another turd out of him, as when I checked [any sudden silence is alarming], there he was at the top of the stairs, looking at the turd as if it had fallen from the sky.

It is the first 'accident' he's had. . . . so I can't complain too much. He really has been splendid about it. I take him out every couple of hours to "do the business" - and he does! I figured we wouldn't get off scott-free, but I was rather hoping. . . .

It's hard to concentrate on much else. Laundry has piled up, as has clutter. I keep putting things up and 'out of his way', so there are stacks of papers, my purse, the mail - you name it - all kind of lumped in one pile in the middle of every table, as I try and use the other hand to take him off of whatever else he's already gotten into.

But I do get some time to think about other things, like how is it that we now look at political acceptances or rejections of "endorsements" by various people or groups? What's the deal with that?! If I'm a candidate for public office, and someone "endorses" me, do I have to take the action to accept or reject it? And do I have to look into their background, beliefs and opinions - including all past public statements - and decide accordingly? Think a minute about what that looks like.

No. I don't want that person - or any of his friends - to vote for me, because he's a narrow-minded bigot. [or said something "offensive" 10 years ago, or otherwise has the "wrong" set of beliefs. . .]

Right. That makes sense!

Now, while I may not be able to control the thoughts and opinions of someone who wants to "endorse" me for political office, I do have some "control" over the the thoughts and opinions of my spiritual leader (whether or not he "endorses" me for political office), insofar as I have chosen the spiritual leader I attend to. Pretty much gone are the days of the parish or diocese system, where you were expected to attend your local church, no matter who was in the pulpit. The control is still not the power to control another's thoughts, of course, it's the power to control the influence that a person who has those thoughts has over you.

Yet, I expect to hear comparisons between Obama's Rev. Wright and McCain's Rev's Hagee and Parsley, from Texas and Ohio, respectively. Hagee has apparently said that he can see in Hitler, the hand of God moving to bring the Jews back to Israel. (wow. with "friends" like that. . . . ) Parsley has apparently sounded off about Islam, opining that it is anti-Christ and inherently violent. Still, McCain attends neither of those two churches. Never has.

On the other hand, Wright. . . . ah, but we know about Obama's 20 years attending Rev. Wright's weekly vision of a black liberation theology in which America and whites are apparently cast as the power-mongering masters, will they, nil they. Somebody's got to play the bad guy, eh?

Anyway. . . . I see a difference. But I'll just bet we get treated to a whole lot of "There's NO difference!" sermons. Then maybe we can rant a little about intolerance. . . .

But I've got to go. Luther is pacing, and that either means that he's got to go 'do the business' or that he's bored - or both. My job: figure out which. My hope? To try and not be cast as the bad guy in the human-canine coexistence negotiations.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

puppy patrol & interspecies peace negotiations

OK, so I knew it was going to be a lot of work and a lot of attention. . . . But I had NO IDEA of what this boy-pup would eat if I wasn't watching him all the time!

Leaves, sticks, stones, mulch, bugs - and his favorite - concrete. His favorite chew toy is our concrete bench, currently serving as a coffee table on the front porch. Oh. He also favors brick.

Is this normal?

He goes to the vet today for his 12-week shots; I'll ask the vet.

My days - for the last 2 days - have entailed walking around with him, saying "tsst!" and "leave it!" and offering him the accepted chew toy. He eventually 'gets it', but his memory is short. Half hour later? Same thing. "Tsst! Leave it!"

Inside, the cat hid for almost two days, coming out only when Luther was in his crate. Last night, she sprung her new strategy. She waited until Luther was outside for his 'business' walk and then set up an ambush at the door. I could just imagine her thoughts: "If we can just keep him OUTSIDE, this will be a whole lot easier. . . ."

How would Cesar handle that one, I wonder?

After initially avoiding the confrontation (cat stays in kitchen; dog goes onto porch), we considered leaving them to 'fight it out' - in effect - on their own, namely to settle it between themselves. On further thought, though, it seemed to me that that is not what the pack leader would do - not this pack leader, anyway! So back on went the leash, and we marched out the porch door and back in through the kitchen door, where I sent the cat scurrying.

"Is that what Cesar would say to do?" asked the king, "Kick the cat?"

"I didn't kick the cat!"

"No. I know you didn't. Not really. I meant shoo her off. . . . Is that what we're supposed to do?"

I had to confess I really wasn't sure what I was supposed to do, but I felt it was important that Luther see that I was 'in charge' (even if I was wrong) and that a little cat wasn't holding me at bay, as I hunkered down out on the porch, leaving the cat to rule the entry door. . . .

The cat does not appear to have held a grudge. Luther does not appear to think I'm his hired gun, though, either. He gives the cat a healthy respect, but she needs to give him a little room, as well.

Harmonious life appears to be on the upswing again, though. Last night, the cat slept in her own bed again in our room, with Luther on the other side of our bed, in his bed.

Monday, May 19, 2008


It's going to be the blueboy, and he arrives tomorrow.

We still don't know about a name. There are two names still currently in the running, I think it'll be a matter of seeing which one sticks. . .

Friday, May 16, 2008

fugue for broccoli

Oh. My.

Must be seen and heard to be believed!

The broccoli has a better sound - amazingly - than does the carrot. More links to be found at Garden Rant's Playing With Your Food, including (in the comments) a whole vegetable orchestra. . . .

Thursday, May 15, 2008

life goes on

Life goes on - but it's a bit boring these days.

I have packing to do and old accumulated possessions to go through and discard, give away, consider posting on ebay or craig's list. No, we don't move for at least another 3 months, but this will creep up on me, and I'm only good for about an hour's worth of going through old stuff before it overwhelms me and depression beckons!

So I'll work in just hour increments, and that should keep me sane.

The garden is a wreck - altho some silly lady stopped the other day and complimented me on it. I was sitting on the porch, not working on the garden - which is why it's a wreck - but the "gardeners" hired by the rental agent had showed up the day before and smothered the whole thing in mulch, which smells like sewage. I can only assume this woman is a fan of mulch. She took a picture.

The "gardeners" carefully left most of the weeds in place - carefully mulched - but managed to bury or uproot the perennial geranium I had just as carefully carried back from Ireland with me 3 years ago when I moved back to the States to get married.

Well, it survived their depredations - twice yearly - for 3 years, I guess that's as much as I can expect. . . . sigh.

Who knows? Maybe they just ripped the leaves off, and the tuber is buried underneath a mound of brown shit-smelling mulch. Maybe I'll see the geranium leaves burrowing their way out from under the shit before we leave here!

One can only hope.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

a defining story

I watched "Homeless to Harvard: the Liz Murray Story" tonight.

It was inspiring - yes. Mind-numbingly depressing in the beginning. . . Liz Murray, a real person, has/had drug-addict parents who effectively leave her to raise herself. She ends up on the streets - her mother dead of AIDs, her father (also with AIDs) in a homeless shelter - but finally goes to school, and wins a New York Times scholarship that takes her to Harvard.

It was her "story" that got her the scholarship in 2000. In 2003, before she graduated, the movie of her story was done. The memoirs of her story were published in 2005 - don't know if she'd graduated yet (do know that she left Harvard and returned to NY to "help care for her father" and enrolled at Columbia. Thereafter, it appears she went on the speakers' circuit and speaks - you guessed it - on her story.

Young girl overcomes tremendous odds and spends the rest of her life talking about it.

Somehow, there's something missing in that formulation of a story. I wanted to know what she did at Harvard; what she studied; what she aspired to. I wanted to see her old life transformed - left behind. I wanted to see her step out of the old, into something - not just to get out, stop, and then endlessly rehearse the last step.

"I got out; you can too." is a great message, but "got out" to do what?! Is just the 'getting out' enough to get you going? Not for me it isn't.

It's as if her story ended before her life did. That's one of the saddest things I can imagine. But maybe she will move beyond this part, and do something with her life, whether or not we ever know about it. I hope so.

Monday, May 12, 2008

all those chickens. . . .

I fear that all my little chickens may be coming home to roost.

I wrote about the little ethical dilemma of what to do about the overlap of the last month or two of our rental agreement and the puppy's arrival which I (like the ethical coward I hate to admit I appear to be) sought to avoid by (1) consoling myself that I'd be on full-time puppy duty, so "how much damage could he cause?", (2) pointing out that, legally, the landlord will be getting her full recourse against us in any event, insofar as we're leaving anyway, and we'll pay for any damage [but see number 1, above], and (3) by assuming that no one of contractual relevance will ever be the wiser about the interloping puppy, so long as the neighbors don't feel compelled to track down the aging homeowner and upset her in her retirement living quarters.

But no.

With all the rain, it seems the skylight in the studio is going. Last night's torrential rains left a torrential mess. I'm thinking major roof repair, which means that the rental agent is going to be underfoot.


So much for trying to keep the puppy under wraps. First off, he has to be going out every couple of hours, while he learns potty manners. Second, he's going to be growing by leaps and bounds, so it won't be easy to keep him out of sight. Third, I imagine he's going to bark at strange noises and hammering on the roof. . . .

OK. Plan B.

Which is?

Well. . . . I imagine I'm going to have to come clean on this one. Saved by the roof, eh? And all those chickens roosting up there. . . .

Meanwhile, the name search continues.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

race or gender?

Race or gender - take your pick.

Both are at issue, and they're not going away. Two so-called 'disadvantaged' people categories are duking it out to take on the 'established' power-person category, but are in danger of fighting against themselves, rather than ever making a real run for the presidency of the United States.

Only half the people voting in the Indiana and North Carolina primaries thought that Jeremiah Wright was still an issue? Well, guess what? The voting was pretty close to that, certainly in Indiana - a bit less so in NC.

We're going fight race vs. gender now, then we get to focus on just one of them - either race or gender - again in the fall.

The most destructive battle will be if we face the race battle. Black man versus white man. White woman against black man just hasn't brought out all the nuances that the black man vs. white man battle would bring out.

Does that opinion make me sexist?

Possibly. According to some definitions, anyway. I think there is a difference between men and women, a difference that is not to be bridged. This difference does not make one gender "better" than another; it is "different" than the other.

They don't call it the "opposite" sex for nothing!

On the other hand, there is a 'sameness' about two men, regardless of skin colour. This 'sameness' will focus the difference like a laser beam, with similar potential for destruction. Let's admit it: we don't focus on the different 'platforms' of Presidential candidates anymore - although we pretend to - we're all about appearances; soundbites; slogans.

In both Indiana and North Carolina, exit polls showed Clinton receiving 6 out of 10 white votes; Obama received 9 out 10 black votes. I didn't see any numbers based on gender.

I think the fault-line runs along race. . . .

sigh. It's gonna get ugly.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

eenie, meenie. . . .

One of these two guys is coming to live with us in 14 days.

Large training crate? check.

Pooper-scooper equipment? enroute.

Food? on the list (and cheaper email source scoped-out).

Name? Name. . . . Gotta have a name! The book says you should have the name when you get him. This is important!

I don't have a name. . . . I do however, have the internet, and so spent this morning (when I was supposed to be finishing a long-languishing legal writing torture device - ahh - I mean: project) looking up names. From the Gaelic - from a variety of sources - we have Ronan, Mungan ("beloved, amiable"), Luag ("light"), Latharn ("fox"), Laise ("flame"), Lurnan ("iron, one of knowledge"), Dughall ("dark stranger"), Dublin ("black pool"), Cathal ("battle mighty"), Naoghas ("unique choice"), Oisean ("deer"), Osgar ("lover of deer"), Solas ("joy, comfort, solace"), Toag ("poet, philosopher"), Suibhne (pronounced SOOEEnyuh "well-going"), Calum ("dove"), Greer ("watchful"), Tavish ("Beloved" - but Hebrew, apparently?), Brodie - or Brodan ("2nd son"), Acair ("anchor"), Landon ("from the long hill"), Manus ("great"), Luthais ("famous in battle"), Galaway ("of the strong Gauls"), Feargus ("rock" or "man" or "choice"), Ennis ("the only choice"), Eamonn ("rich protector"). . . .

We were also thinking Luther. . . .

I don't know!

I'm really excited about his arrival, though, I can tell you that. I just hope that the cat holds her ground and doesn't go into hiding.

Meanwhile, today is yet another primary, isn't it? Two primaries, in fact, and the people of North Carolina and Indiana get to cast their votes for either Barack or Hillary. Which will it be?

Ah these difficult choices. . . .

Friday, May 2, 2008

God and enemies. . . .

April 28, 2008, National Press Club - Jeremiah Wright on Louis Farrakhan:

Louis Farrakhan is not my enemy. He did not put me in chains. He did not put me in slavery. And he didn't make me this color.

Is Wright in chains?

Which enemy put him there?

What I found most interesting was the last line: the implicated 'enemy' who made him "this color".

Who's your enemy, Jeremiah? Think about it.

Nope. Not tired yet.

Barack Obama has been trying to get past the Jeremiah Wright embarrassment by waving the "The voters are tired of this issue" flag to the media - per the recent comment by his wife (and is it just me, or does she interrupt him an awful lot and make an awful lot of substantive pronouncements? Who's running for president here - or is this a two-in-one deal?!).

"We hear time and time again voters are tired of this," she said in an interview with NBC's "Today" show.


I'm not tired of it. I'm still trying to understand it. Let me recap.

20-some years ago, Barack Obama met Jeremiah Wright, who apparently was instrumental in his conversion to "Christianity". What "Christianity" means, under Jeremiah Wright, appears to one of the main issues. But let's set that aside for the moment.

Moving back to the time-line: for the past 20 years, Obama has been a parishioner at the church founded, directed, and run by Wright. Wright performed the marriage ceremony when Obama married, and baptized the children that were born to the Obamas. Presumably, the Obamas attended the church, listened to the sermons, and interacted with Wright - who apparently became a close friend, if not like a member of the family. Fast-forward 20 years, and we have the revelation of the worst examples of the specifics of what Wright's church stands for, to Obama's complete surprise. Then followed Obama's attempt to smooth it over with the 'crazy uncle' example, calls for bringing the nation together rather than tearing it apart, Wright's National Press Club appearance bringing the divide right back to the forefront, and - finally - Obama's denunciation of Wright.

Since then - besides the "the voters are tired of it" excuse - we've heard that Obama shouldn't be judged by what Wright says, that Obama doesn't have to have exactly the same beliefs and opinions as does his spiritual father, we've heard excuses for what Wright might have felt and for what he said, we've heard of the inappropriateness of judging another's "faith", we've heard that this is a device to "distract" us from the "real" issue, which is the change that voters supposedly want, and Obama's long-standing commitment to "promoting common understanding" and sharing common dreams (of more 'change', undoubtedly).

OK. . . . if Obama has a long-standing commitment to bringing different people together, why has he - for 20 years - been a member of an "unashamedly black church" [see the church's website, here] whose primary commitment is to its "mother continent", Africa? What about whites? Hispanics, Russians, American Indians, India-Indians? All the other people groups?

Nope. Blacks; 'Christians'; Africans.

Obama tries to gloss over questions of "Liberation Theology" - supposedly the 'theology' of the 'black church' - as just so much mumbo-jumbo that really only theologians understand. But this brings me back to the question I set aside at the beginning: just what kind of "Christianity" did Obama embrace under Wright? With respect to the so-called black church's liberation theology, Obama said:
I am not a theologian. So I think to some theologians there might be some well worked out theory of what constitutes liberation theology versus non-liberation theology.

I went to church and listened to sermons. And in the sermons that I heard — and this is true, I do think, across the board in many black churches — there is an emphasis on the importance of social struggle, the importance of striving for equality and justice and fairness, a social gospel.

Now: if there is a "black" Christian church, is there also a "white" Christian church? And if there's a "black" social gospel, is there a "white" one? More to the point, is there a "social gospel" separate to the gospel of Jesus Christ in Christian churches of whatever description?

I'm just trying to get my mind around what would happen if President Bush's pastor of 20 years - let's say - suddenly started talking about the white church and its goals, aspirations, theology, and loyalties.

How is it that Obama can actually be heard to claim to be a mediator between people when he's attended a self-proclaimed black church - loyal to blacks and their "mother continent", Africa - for 20 years?

We don't tolerate white churches - politically, anyway.

And Jesus?

I don't think he sees colour. I don't think he has 'black' churches or 'white' churches. His body is the 'church triumphant', and insofar as either Wright or Obama talk about a 'black' church, I think they must be talking about a different kind of church - a human church - and not the church of Jesus Christ.

In the new testament, letters to individual "churches" are addressed geographically: the church that meets in Rome; in Ephesus; in Corinth; at the house of Aquila and Priscilla (I am not making this up: see Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 16, verse 19 and the book of Romans, chapter 16, verses 3-5.)

But the message was always the same - merely sent to different addresses. In fact, some of the letters carry the command that they are to be sent on to churches meeting in other locations. In addition, in his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul chastises the forming of factions:
One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? . . . the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God [and] we preach Christ crucified. . .

In his letter to the church that met in Galatea, St. Paul marveled that they had turned so quickly away from the gospel of Jesus to follow somebody else's 'gospel', "which is really no gospel at all." [Paul's letter to the Galatians, chapter 1, verse 7].

Did you know that 'gospel' means good news?

What 'good news' have we heard from Jeremiah Wright?

From Barack Obama?

Has any of it involved Jesus Christ?

Has any of it involved really good news?!

So: no. I'm not tired of this issue yet. I don't think we've reached the main issue. This is not about Jeremiah Wright, it's about the new face of racism and bigotry.

In a way though, that's nothing new. Just the latest example of why the 'gospel' of Jesus was - and is - so vital.

From a political perspective, though, could we maybe now stop talking about Barack Messiah?! And I - personally - would be relieved if Barack would quit already with the 'black-preacher-speak' speech delivery. If Wright does nothing more than remind Barack that he is a politician - and not a preacher - that might not be such a bad thing.