View from the Loft 

war and peace, politics, books, rants, the passing parade ...


Friday, February 27, 2004

A Matter of Conscience

I really, really respect Joel Gassiz-Sax, a principled socialist and pacifist who started Acts of Conscience, the website of the ring Conscience (to which I still belong). But I have to part ways with him when it comes to this:
Many have said to me that their stand of "Anybody but Bush" is a matter of conscience. I say to them that this is bs. As I said on my own weblog, Conscience is when you stick to your view and are willing to make the sacrifice of life or freedom in the name of nonviolent resistance. What you are demonstrating [is] partisanship, which requires no such sacrifice. Partisanship is not the same as conscience. Don't cheapen the latter by confusing it with the former.

Men and women of real conscience understand what I mean. A vote for a politician of your own party when you oppose what he stands for and what he has done is not a stand of conscience.
Until now I had not worked out a detailed response to Joel's assertion. But today on kos I read a post that articulated what I've been thinking. DHinMI, writing about Max Weber's ideas on ethics as they relate to politicians, quotes Weber:
However a man who believes in an ethic of responsibility takes account of precisely the average deficiencies of people...he does not even have the right to presuppose their goodness and perfection. He does not feel in a position to burden others with the results of his own actions so far as he was able to foresee them; he will say: these results are ascribed to my action.The believer in an ethic of ultimate ends feels "responsible" only for seeing to it that the flame of pure intentions is not quenched...To rekindle the flame ever anew is the purpose of his quite irrational deeds, judged in view of their possible success. They are acts that can and shall have only exemplary value.
DH goes on to comment:
Acts of exemplary value are not to be disparaged. But they have an appropriate context in which they are acceptable and not acts of narcissism or nihilism. I have been inspired by many people known primarily for their acts of exemplary value. The German students known collectively as The White Rose group executed in 1943 for speaking out against the complicity of everyday Germans in the crimes of Hitler and the Nazis. The young man who stood resolutely in front of the tank in Tiannmen Square. Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on the bus. When there is no other means of affecting justice and change, many believe that exemplary acts will accomplish nothing productive, or worse, will go unnoticed by the world. But it is then that exemplary acts are most powerful. As Hannah Arendt wrote in Eichmann in Jerusalem, "holes of oblivion do not exist. Nothing human is that perfect, and there are simply too many people in the world to make oblivion possible. One man will always be left alive to tell the story. Thus, nothing can ever be `practically useless,' at least not in the long run." But exemplary acts are the acts of saints or those with nothing else left to lose in the short run, but they are ethically responsible only as long as--and this is crucial--other people do not have to bear the risks and potential costs of their actions.
"And this is crucial--other people do not have to bear the risks and potential costs of their actions."

That's the sentence that got me. Because I don't think it applies only to politicians.

In my eyes, a vote for anyone other than the eventual Democratic nominee would expose the entire nation to horrendous "risks and potential costs." I don't think I have the right to suck away support from a nominee who can mount a credible challenge to George W. Bush. It's true that I dislike Kerry and find him far from inspiring, but if he is the nominee, then he'll get my vote. My conscience tells me that another four years of Bush would take a terrific toll on people already reeling from what he's done so far. If Bush hadn't been selected, we would not have seen the deaths of over 500 soldiers and who-knows-how-many Iraqis. That should be on Nader's conscience, blame the election results on whomever you will. Allowing Bush to remain in office is the one thing our consciences should not allow us to do. Getting rid of Ashcroft, the neocons, and the entire disgusting BushCo gang should be a top priority if we care about the well being of our fellow citizens, many of whom are hurting in quite tangible ways from Bush's economic and foreign policies.

To save real people from the worst, which I believe even a vote for Kerry would do, is better than "seeing to it that the flame of pure intentions is not quenched."

When you look at what George W. Bush has done, and continues to do, to this nation and its people, it seems to me that a vote for Anybody But Bush is indeed a principled, conscience-driven act. Joel says that "Conscience is when you stick to your view and are willing to make the sacrifice of life or freedom in the name of nonviolent resistance." But I don't have the right to sacrifice the freedom or lives of others to satisfy my conscience. It is not, as Joel says, a matter of partisanship, because it isn't because I'm a Democrat that I'll be voting for the Dem nominee. I'll do it because I am so very determined that George W. Bush will not get a second term in which to deny people health care, continue a policy of preventive war, maintain fiscal policies that are causing real suffering in the here and now, and forcing more and more people into poverty and hunger.

I remain ABB, and I dare anyone to tell me that this is not an act of conscience.

Bone Loss and the Pancreas

I found the news intriguing:

Scientists have pinpointed a hormone which prevents bone loss in the body.

They hope the discovery could lead to new treatment for the brittle bone disease osteoporosis.

The hormone, amylin, is secreted by the same cells that produce insulin in the pancreas, and whose failure leads to diabetes.
The intriguing part is the knowledge we now have that a diet high in carbohydrates takes a toll on the pancreas. Every time you eat refined carbohydrates, you experience a spike in blood sugar, which in turn causes the pancreas to release insulin to combat the sugar. Over time, the pancreas just begins to wear out, and the body experiences insulin resistance.

Americans' diets are high in sugar, white potatoes, white bread, and other sources of carbs that cause these spikes and the resultant insulin spikes. We've seen a big increase in diabetes in this country, which many scientists attribute to Americans' diets (the obesity that results as well as the high intake of refined carbohydrates). Might it be possible that the high rate of osteoporosis in this country, which occurs despite the fact that Americans get more calcium than almost any other country in the world, is due to the depletion of the cells that produce insulin?

No one can say right now, but the possibility is a very interesting one.

Contact Sen. Levin


Senator Carl Levin has not, to my knowledge, announced whether he supports or opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA). (Senator Stabenow has come out against it.)

Please e-mail him and urge him to oppose the amendment. Just write "marriage amendment" or "FMA" in the subject box provided and then compose your comments.

A point I made is that even if one opposes gay marriage, a Constitutional amendment is not the way to address the issue. A recent poll found that a majority of Americans oppose the amendment. Another talking point is that the issue is one that should be left to each state to address. These are the grounds on which I believe the amendment can best be defeated. I doubt that a debate on the pros and cons of same-sex marriage is productive, given the heated, emotional nature of the debate.

I urge you to request a response from Sen. Levin. We should get him to go on record on this issue.

Who commissioned the study--Rick Santorum?

Alas, no.

I'm talking about the study that found a link between oral sex and mouth cancer.

The study was conducted by Johns Hopkins University and found that the human papilloma virus, which causes cervical cancer, was found in a small number of people with mouth cancer, and that it was more common in those who practiced oral sex.

Well, if throwing caution to the winds, living dangerously, and tempting fate can ever be justified, this would seem to be one such case ...

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Sign the petition for marriage equality

Sign the Million for Marriage petition and let your views be known. There are over a thousand benefits of marriage--I'm talking legal, financial, civil, etc., not the intangibles!--that are denied to gay couples because they can't marry.

With Bush coming out in favor of an amendment to prohibit gay marriage, the time to act is NOW. Your signature is at least a beginning in standing up for equal rights.

Vote on Gibson

Run on over to NewsMax, if you can stomach it, and cast your vote calling Mel Gibson an anti-Semite.

I left blank the question that asked, "Should Mel Gibson have portrayed Jesus' death so accurately?", as I had no idea whether he portrayed the death accurately or not. Neither does anyone else know, since the Gospels, even if they were taken as literal eyewitness reports, tend to contradict each other in the details. Also, I said I thought it should be shown in theaters, because I'm against censorship, after all.

Gibson is a nutcase. His daddy denies that the Holocaust ever happened, and when questioned about whether he himself believed that the Holocaust had occured, Mel could only come up with "It was a big war, a lot of people died. Some Jews died." His father started the ultraconservative Catholic sect that pretends nothing in the Church changed after 1962.

The whole things disgusts me. I wonder how Mel reconciles some of his movie roles with his religious beliefs?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Greider on Dean and the media:

In forty years of observing presidential contests, I cannot remember another major candidate brutalized so intensely by the media, with the possible exception of George Wallace.
What he said.

Winter Blues

Okay, it's not just winter. I took Dean's dropping out of the race pretty hard. I'm not a Kerry fan and at this point I'd rather see Edwards pick up some steam and challenge Kerry for the nomination.

But for now I'm going to talk about winter-related blues. (Say, maybe I could get my son to write me a blues song about it ...)

It's been a classic winter, cold and snowy. The past few days we've seen some melting of snow, but last night it snowed again--how much, I don't know (it's dark as I write this), probably just enough to make everything look clean and white. We had some high winds that stirred up some dirt from somewhere or other and laid a layer of faint brown over the surface of the snow--not pretty.

But we have had some lovely winter days, and winter in the country is so much more beautiful than in an urban or suburban setting. We've got vast fields of pure white, drifts eight feet tall, woods where streams snake between snowy banks ... really, it can be gorgeous.

But the problem with winter is that I can't garden. Spring, summer, and much of fall, I'm out there, planting, weeding, anxiously checking for bugs or signs of fungus, and--at last!--harvesting. That's another thing: no fresh, home-grown veggies. True, the surplus peas, beans, zucchini, eggplant, etc., that I put in the freezer are far superior to the commercially frozen stuff, and sometimes better even than what I can find "fresh" at the supermarket. But there's nothing quite like going out to the garden and harvesting tonight's dinner.

What's a gardener to do? There's only one thing you can do--page through seed catalog after seed catalog.

I've already ordered seeds and plants for the hanging baskets. And I've planned out just what new items we really mustinclude in this year's garden. Haven't tried watermelon before, but the time has come ... Blue potatoes? Can't resist the sheer novelty of it. And I've had a request for pickled hot peppers, so I'm planting two varieties that should work well for that ...

But meanwhile, the garden is buried under snow, and James bought a shovel to keep in the new car. (The other day we were out on a country road that had drifted badly and we discovered that a shovel is a necessity of winter driving out here. But that's another story.*) Sigh. I'd much rather wield a hoe than a snow shovel.

*("We didn't get stuck!" says the spouse. "We were almost stuck." Yeah, for about 20 minutes, we were "almost" stuck.)

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