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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Mom has started visiting a church here whose premise is unity. I haven't gone with her, and I'm not sure I will, but the idea of being inclusive in theology instead of exclusive appeals to me.
When the moral mafia stole the Southern Baptist Convention and started economically raping it in 1978 at first many of us fought tooth and nail to keep it from happening, but their cutthroat and nasty tactics won and those of us who were on the losing side either left creating the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Mainstream Baptist organization like my brother, or stayed in the churches being forced to bite our tongues as the leadership in our local churches became rabid Republicans, pro-life, mercantile, zombies.
I endured eight years of those in my Sunday School classes calling Bill Clinton the anti-Christ and how he ruined the presidency and another eight years of inane, sycophantic praising of everything W. Is it any wonder that I started playing golf on Sundays?
I wish I could fellowship with other believers of like mind, but there's not many Mainstream Baptists in New Mexico. I'm not ready to go interdenominational. The concept of "Let's focus on what we agree on and not talk about what we don't" is a little too watered down for me.
In that vein, I once had a good friend. He gave me some of the best advice I ever received as a teacher. The principle was giving me loads of grief that year and I was as stressed out almost to the breaking point. He saw how depressed I was in the teacher's lounge, in fact the principle was riding him even harder than me that year so we had exchanged our gripes. He looked at me and said, "Remember you're permanent, she's temporary."
Those words put the rest of the year in perspective. I relaxed, the year ended and then next year said principle and I got along much better.
The man in question was a Mormon Bishop. Theologically you don't get much further apart. We had many conversations about our faith, but not our theology. He would talk about all the hospital visits he was making, the squabbles he had to settle in the congregation and how much stress it was to be a bi-vocational church leader. 
At the time I was music minister at a small church and I had plenty of similar comments.
He died of a heart attack the next year, slumped over in his garden doing the one thing that helped him relax. His funeral is the only time I've been in a Mormon church. Listening to the eulogies of his friends and fellow congregants was eye opening. They told a story of a man who fiercely questioned all the beliefs of his church and became grounded in his faith.
I experienced the same journey from the Baptist perspective and found my faith. I recognized that in him and he the same in me, which made us such good friends.
Theologically I have no idea which one of is right and won't until it no longer matters on this spiritual plane.
What I've concluded is that those who have questioned their beliefs and become comfortable in their faith have a certain serenity about them, and get bugged by others who try to coerce them into conformity with dogma. Those who have been brainwashed into their belief have this incessant need to argue, convince, cajole and ultimately force others to believe as they do as validation for a faith they have little confidence in.  

Friday, March 27, 2009

Relaxing Break

Spring break is over and Monday it's back to the old grind, for another eight weeks.
The diet didn't work out. Grinnygranny and I gave up after two days.
I have spent a few days just taking it easy and destressing, haven't even looked at the novel.
Yesterday I got in a nice round of golf. The weather hasn't been too good for it. Hopefully this weekend it will warm up and not be as windy.

I did run across an interesting article at Ethics Daily. Michael Helms a pastor in Georgia says that some people spend too much time going to church thinking that is was a Christian should do, than actually living the Christian life. In his words:

Studying about missions is different from doing missions. Hearing a sermon about doing for “the least of these” is different from doing for the least of these. Talking about evangelism is different from doing evangelism. Many have become keepers of the aquarium instead of fishers of men.Dropping money in the offering plate to send people to Africa or the Middle East is different from interacting with and ministering to someone of another race or culture in your own community.

Great thoughts.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Breathing time

Spring break this week. I'm going to try working on my novel, get some quality golf in and start a new diet the wife and mother are dragging me into. Be back next week.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Soul Searching

Governor Richardson signed the law making New Mexico the 15th state to put capital punishment in the history books. 

I've had many opinions concerning the death penalty over the years. 
  • It's easy to think in black and white when your young and life hasn't muddied the water for you. In high school when we'd debated this issue (yes my class had opinions and we voiced them at the top of our lungs) the argument I bought was that murderers and such were a cancer on society and society had the right to cut it out. Nice and tidy, good analogy, pure and simple.
  • In college, Jim Vanderbilt, a trainer for the men's basketball team, who I knew for two years, left to attend another college. My junior year the news was filled with a horrific story of a state senator's daughter murdered. Jim hit the news a few weeks later when he was arrested for the crime. It took the jury in Amarillo thirty minutes to convict him and thirty minutes to sentence him to death. My first experience with Texas assembly line capital punishment. It's also not as black and white when there's a face on the person sitting on death row. When your senior year as you leave a classroom and walk past this person's obviously distraught wife who is coming in, that returned to finish her degree. For a number of years I had no opinion either one way or the other on this issue. I was way too conflicted. 
  • When I became a father and looked in the crib of my son and later my daughter along with the love and pride came the realization that if someone did anything to harm them I'd be just like that father in Amarillo who'd move heaven and earth to see them punished. That kind of ended my conflict temporarily.
  • In the 1980's New Mexico had a death penalty melt down. 1. Four members of a biker gang who were on death row were let loose because the real killer found God and confessed to cleanse his soul. He had proof of his crime. 2. Tony Anaya was elected governor. As liberal as they come. He was morally opposed to the death penalty and announced that no one would be executed while he was in office. When he lost re-election in 1986, Gary Carruthers, the newly elected governor made it clear the four men on death row at that time would suffer their sentence. Tony Anaya then announced that he could not in good conscience leave office and let this happen. He commuted their sentences to Life. Every few years it hits the news that one or more of the men are up for parole. It is always denied. 
  •  Anaya commuted these sentences in Nov. of 1986. That same month a 9 year old girl was found raped and strangled in Artesia, her name was Dena Lynn Gore. The family of the killer turned him in, Terry Clark, who had been convicted of raping a 7 year old just months earlier in another town, but was out on bail pending appeal. We now have the Dena Lynn Gore law that stops violent criminals from being free on bond after conviction. Terry Clark was told by his attorney that if he pleaded guilty at his arraignment in early December, that should he be sentenced to death before the new governor took office, Anaya would commute the sentence. He pleaded guilty, the judge set sentencing for February and he was sentenced to die, too late for a commutation. At the time I was glad the judge held off on the sentencing and he got what he deserved. A part of me still does.
  • The next year a college student was abducted in front of her home, held for over a week, drugged and forced to make porno films. They found her body under a culvert. The outrage was palpable in the press. Three men were arrested for her murder. Two turned states evidence and testified against the person they say put them up to it. Johnny Zinn, who worked at his uncle's bakery not far from where we lived. Rage turned to complete shock. That bakery was a fixture of the whole town. Everyone had eaten either at the bakery or what they had baked. The family had money, though the bakery was quietly closed. He was convicted, but at sentencing was given life. *note, both Terry Clark and Johnny Zinn are white as were the victims, race was not an issue*. I was totally taken by surprise when the sentencing verdict came in. This should have been a slam dunk for the death penalty. I learned that money and good attorneys really do make a difference. 
  • In the 90's I started teaching law and decided to do a unit on the death penalty. With computers and the www it's been pretty easy getting material from both sides. Teaching in the following years at two high schools known for major gang problems it's not unusual that some of the students in my class have more first hand knowledge of the criminal justice system than I would ever want to know. These students may give their other teachers trouble, or sleep, but in my class -- at least for the criminal justice part -- they are full of questions. Most have family either in prison for murder, or have had family members murdered. No I don't come to school in an armored car and wear kevlar, they're just kids who've experienced more in fifteen or sixteen years than I have in over fifty. Surprisingly they all favor the death penalty, even if it would apply to their own family. I've not done a scientific study on it, wouldn't want to; it's a general observation from a raising of hands both before and after the unit and from reading their extended response questions.
  • In 2001 Terry Clark requested all further appeals on his behalf end. Fifteen years after he pleaded guilty, Millions in state dollars spent on the endless appeals plus the cost of all those years of incarceration, the state was finally going to see justice done. Most of the people in the state had to be reminded or informed about the crime. It was like ancient history. The newspapers ran numerous articles on the crime and the history of the death penalty in the state. With the exception of the five years I was exiled to Texas going to college and seminary, I've lived here since 1963. It never dawned on me that this was going to be the first execution to happen in all that time. The previous execution took place in 1960 by gas chamber. It was mentioned that we switched from hanging to the gas chamber in the early 1950's (to make good use of the nazi's preferred means of killing people), and that this was the only time it was ever used. Millions of dollars spent at tax payer expense in 1950's money to be used only one time. That boggled my mind. Terry Clark died by lethal injection. A much cheaper means of execution, not counting the cost of fifteen years of legal bills the state coughed up for both sides of the appeals.
  • That's when the math hit me. Why don't good fiscal conservatives do the math, at least for this state. Texas has it down to a science in cutting costs and railroading people to the gurney. It costs $35,000 dollars per year to house an inmate in maximum security. Life without parole, given the offender is in his late teens or early twenties, say thirty years before they die of natural causes on average. That comes to $1,050.000. Round it off to one mil. Now Terry Clark was costing taxpayers his room and board for 15 years so out of the one mil we still payed five hundred grand. In essence we spent millions of dollars to shorten his miserable life so we could save half a mil. Even if he lived another ten years we'd have only saved another 350 thousand. The state won't mention exactly how much we payed for all those legal appeals, but it would be a pretty safe bet at the going lawyers fees to be well over 5 possibly 10 million bucks. Did we get a lot of bang for it?
  • I'm not without pity or heartless concerning the pain the Gore family went through in all those years and still do. And as I said earlier when looking down on my children, now my grandchildren, I'd still want any and all things done to those who would hurt them in this way. But in my soul searching I've concluded locking the animals up in a pen for the rest of their lives to protect society from their crimes is more important than my need for revenge, and that society shouldn't have to foot the bill for whatever closure I might or might not feel in watching someone put to sleep like a rabid dog.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Knocked for a loop

Came down with a bug and have been out of it for a couple of days. Grinnygranny has had her hands full.
The only good thing about the last few days is that I had it this week and not next week. It would have been a real bummer to get sick during Spring Break.
Just two more days and hopefully I'll be recovered enough to get some good golfing in. Paako Ridge has opened up and I can't wait to get back up there.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Women's History Month

March is Women's History month.
There are many notable women to remember. Last week at Southwest Writer's Workshop Shirley Raye Redmond, author of numerous children's books and magazine articles, gave an interesting speech about Nellie Bly. I thought I'd pass along some of the fascinating adventures and accomplishments of this remarkable woman Ms Redmond spoke about.

She was born Elizabeth Jane Chochran in 1864. Choosing journalism as her profession she picked the name Nellie Bly from a Stephen Foster song.
At age 21 she spent half a year in Mexico writing on the conditions there under the dictatorship of Profirio Dias for the Pittsburgh Dispatch. Threatened with imprisonment for her articles she was forced to return to the U.S. Her articles were later released in a book entitled Six Months In Mexico. Leaving Pittsburgh she went to write for Joseph Pulitzer and the New York World.
Most people remember Hearst for his editorials that led to the Spanish American War, or perhaps the fictionalized version of his life in the movie Citizen Cane. He started what is called "Stunt Journalism" and Nellie did some memorable stunts for him.
The first one was to spend ten days in an insane assylum. Her articles shocked her readers and started improving conditions in these institutions. Ten Days in a Mad House is a compilation of those articles.
After reading Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days. She talked Hearst into letting her try to do it even faster. The clincher was telling him she'd only take one bag for the entire trip. (No heavy trunks costing a fortune is luggage fees or porters to escort her) When she reached London news came that another woman, Elizabeth Bisland, was traveling in the opposite direction for Cosmopolitan Magazine. In France she was greeted by Jules Verne, who wished her well (the excitement this contest was creating greatly increased the sales of his book).
On the trip she faced many hazards. What almost ruined it was coming into the U.S. from Asia. There was a two week mandatory quarantine. The captain of the ship, who had done everything possible to get her from Japan to San Francisco in record time, talked the doctor into doing a quick exam (he made her stick out her tongue) and let her get off the ship. New Mexico nearly killed her. A bridge near Gallup was under construction. They'd just taken all the pins holding the rails down when the train went over it at full steam. The bridge held just long enough for her train to reach the other side before collapsing.
She beat the other reporter arriving from the 24,000+ mile trip in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds. Accomplishing this unchaperoned made her a role model for women's independence.
Nellie left journalism and married a wealthy industrialist 44 years her senior. In 1904 she invented, patented and started manufacturing the 55-gallon drum still in use. After her husband's death she was forced out of the business and returned to journalism, where she reported on WWI in the trenches on the Eastern Front. After the war she devoted her time to charitable organizations, mainly orphanages. She died of pneumonia in 1922 at age 57.
Wikipedia list these as her legacy:

Bly was the subject of a 1946 Broadway musical by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen.[6] She was also the subject of a musical entitled "Stunt Girl" by Tony Nominee Peter Kellogg and David Friedman.
The Nellie Bly Amusement Park in Brooklyn, New York City, is named after her, taking as its theme Around the World in Eighty Days. The park recently reopened under new management.
Nellie Bly is a character in the computer video game Worlds of Ultima: Martian Dreams.
Nellie Bly was one of four journalists honored with a U.S postage stamp in a "Women in Journalism" set in 2002.[7]
She was the subject of a musical play performed at the Albany Civic Theater.
From early in the Twentieth Century until 1961, the Pennsylvania Railroad operated a parlor-car only express train between New York and Atlantic City that bore the name, "Nellie Bly."
Nellie Bly's investigation of the Blackwell's Island insane asylum is dramatized in the 4D experience shown in the Annenberg Theater at the new Newseum in Washington, DC, which opened in 2008.
The comics and other versions of the charecter of Lois Lane has Nellie Bly as her idol and role model for lady journalist.[citation needed]
Provides the hinge of a scene in which Abbey Bartlet declaims Bly's achievements to President Josiah Bartlet in The West Wing episode "And it's surely to their credit". [8]

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hard Times

Are we going into a recession or a depression. That depends: if you are out of a job, losing your house, car, etc it's a depression, if you are still working, making ends meet, even if just barely, then it's only a recession.
I still see many posts, articles and such talking about the U.S. and even the world beginning another Great Depression. There are some similarities, but there are also some big differences.
During the Great Depression the stock market tanked, banks went under, unemployment was over 20%, deflation bankrupted farmers creating the dust bowl and low food supplies, and people were starving. (William Manchester in his book The Glory and the Dream mentions that 40% of the men who showed up for induction into the military for WWII were unfit for duty due to poor eyesight (beri beri) and bowed legs (rickets) attributed to malnutrition while children. He concludes that had Hoover won election in 1932 and his policy of non-intervention continued we would not have been able to field an army in the 1940's.)
Today the stock market is tanking, the banks are going under, unemployment is rising, but I don't foresee mass starvation in the near future (at least in the U.S.).
Here's what we have today that was not available in 1929:
1. FDIC -- the banks may go under, but those who  have money in the banks won't lose it (unless you have more than 100 grand in it.
2. Social Security -- It's not much, and those who have to live off of it entirely struggle mightily, but with Medicare the elderly are less of a burden on their children and are not left out in the cold. They took a huge hit from 1929-1935.
3. Unemployment Insurance -- Again it's not much, and most likely won't save mortgages, but your not cut off without a dime to your name like people were back then.
4. Welfare, food stamps, free and reduced lunches for school children, and other social services in place now that our (great) grandparents didn't have.
5. A speedy response. What made the Great Depression so damaging was nearly four years of Hoover refusing to admit there was a problem and that the if there was, the market would fix itself. Obama's stimulus package may not be as large as Krugman and other economists think is necessary, but it's at least timely and more may be on the way if needed. Even the pork everyone is complaining about in the budget just passed and signed yesterday, that money will help stimulate the economy. Just about any spending that keeps people employed or creates jobs helps.
6. We have a stable food supply, it may not be as safe as we want it, but our biggest problem nutritionally in this country is not malnutrition it's obesity. A luxury not present 80 years ago.
7. The great fear is that as the Great Global Depression ended only by World War II and that this one might spark another great war. Certain factors are lining up for this. A) Europe is having economic problems, maybe even worse than us by some accounts, but they have formed a union and are not split into rival camps. There's less fear of National Socialism there at least.
B) Russia, China and Japan are too dependent on U.S. returning to a stable economy for their economic health, and any warlike actions bring up nuclear responses. C) the only trouble spot is the Middle East, but what's new there? It was a problem when the economy was booming and will continue to be a problem until the end of the world.

The closest parallel to what we are experiencing is Japan's lost decade, as painful as that was it didn't have the same problems as The Great Depression.

This is also at my Captain's Log site.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Nail on the Head

Frank Shaeffer, has an article in the Huffington Post that hits the nail on the head. Read it.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Friend's Loss

I received this e-mail from my spiritual twin, Anne Littlewolf today. She is in great pain right now from the loss of her pet Raven, a Wolf/Malamute cross.

Well, the news is sad, but thought I would let you know that Raven passed into the spirit world this afternoon. She was chasing deer and some vigilante shot her before she had a chance to respond to Deryl's whistle. He was trying to call her back, but she was what she was and I don't think she ever got the chance to hear the call. Right now it doesn't much matter. Our sweet friend has crossed over and we're very sad to lose her. She was a great teacher and companion who taught us joy, outright grinning joy of sunshine and streams, running just because you could, laughing at people, sharing with her family of horses, cats, dogs and anyone who'd rub her tummy. Gold fish crackers were her passion, and she never did get the cats to like her, try as she may -- I guess somethings are pretty near impossible. I am grateful for her life with us as is Deryl, but right now he's crushed beyond description because he lost a dear friend. Me too. But Raven graced us with her life and we lover her still, and are grateful to the Great Spirit Creator for the love in her heart.
Raven, a superb friend, companion and gift from the wild.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Springing into action

The weather has been so nice the last couple of weeks it's  hard to want rain or more snow. That's what we need, but the forecast for the next few days is cooler weather with strong winds. That makes for high fire danger in the mountains and grass lands.
I bought a couple of rose bushes a while back, they've been sitting in the vestibule waiting to be planted. I planted them in the back yard yesterday. They were already leafing out. I'm just going to have to keep an eye on the nightly temperatures to keep them covered if it gets down to freezing. Yesterday morning it was 51 degrees when we got up, which is what made up my mind that it was time to plant them.
The local community college library discarded a bunch of books and the school librarian grabbed a box full. She had a student bring me the box. She's so nice. It does pay to get on the good side of some people in a school. 
My students have Chinese banners on the wall of the library as well as Viking ships they made from many different materials and runestones (on brown butcher paper). She appreciates having things to display so she gave me the books. Most of them were law books, (4 volume set Judicial Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice)  which really helps my law class. There was a 100 years of National Geographic book with great pictures, three volumes the Complete Atlas of World History, Penguin Atlas of Recent History, numerous books on Socrates (Law classes use the Socratic Method), and social and legal issues.  A gold mine.
I've made transparencies of the maps of Europe from 1848 - 1914 to have some visual aides as I'm starting to cover the unification of Germany and Italy. History teachers love maps.
Two more weeks till Spring Break!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Good Day

Grinnygranny and I were loading up to spoil a nice walk with a little white ball when I heard something overhead. A hot air balloon was coming over the house (happens all the time). Mom was in the balloon. Someone in her Bible study class owns a balloon and took her and a few other people up today. They landed in the field behind the house. We went out and helped get the envelope off the bushes.
Had a nice round of golf, had a nice dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants.
When we got home Mom came by to chat for awhile. 
When I finally got time to check my e-mail Anne Littlewolf sent me another painting she just finished (it's on the header) she calls it Ancient Power. Does kind of look menacing doesn't it?
Overall an enjoyable day of rest.
Mom and I are taking Auntypesty to see her doctor tomorrow so I'm taking the day off. There should even be enough time after the appointment to get in another round of golf. Need to get in as much golf while the weather is this good. Come March it starts getting really windy and more storms come through.
Juniper pollen season hit last week. Hat tip to Michael Prescott who had a blog post a few weeks ago extolling the virtues of Nasalcrom. I started using the stuff Friday when the Zyrtec D I've been using wasn't doing anything to stem the tide. Nasalcrom says it takes one to two weeks to be effective, but it really helped today, which really did make this a good day overall.