Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New Presiding Bishop-Elect

WOW!!!  The Episcopal Church (yea!!!) has just elected Bishop Michael Curry of NC to be the next Presiding Bishop.  He will be the first African-American Presiding Bishop of our Church.

The Guardian has a fine article about Bishop Curry and his election.  He sounds as though he is a fine choice.  He will be following in the footsteps of Bishop Henry Beard Delaney (you remember, Father of the famous Delaney sisters), the first elected African-American Bishop in the U. S. Episcopal Church, and Bishop Barbara Harris, first female Episcopal Bishop who is also African-American.  He also follows trail blazers Bishop Eugene Robinson (first openly gay Bishop) and Bishop Katherine Shori, first female Presiding Bishop.

I'm SURE that Bishop Curry could use any and all prayers and good will.  Presiding Bishop is sure to be a challenging position, so let's pray for him to have the grace, strength, wisdom, courage, and  astuteness to be a fine First Pastor to the Church.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Message from Charleston (Poem)

Message from Charleston

We must recognize not stigmatize, humanize not demonize, empathize not terrorize

          To lift each other higher

Time to update not stagnate, cooperate not aggravate, educate not obfuscate

          And clear the path to freedom

Togetherness and hopefulness, fairness and candidness, graciousness and peacefulness, kindness and forgiveness

          Must light the way we follow

          Toward the Dream still unachieved

Monday, June 22, 2015

Take it Down (Updated)

Following the horrible tragedy in Charleston, there have been prayers, vigils, questions, and a standing-room-only-and-people-also-outside worship service at Mother Emmanuel Church.  All part of coming to grips with the cold reality of the lives lost, not forgotten.

However, this has brought another issue back to the forefront: that of the confederate flag flying now at a confederate veterans' memorial at the State Capitol.  I believe in one recent Guardian article it was stated that a bill will be introduced in the legislature to indeed retire this hateful symbol.  And I make no apologies, for I feel that is exactly what it is.

You can read about the current controversy and the weaseling responses of presidential candidates in this story.  And I don't buy this "it should be decided by the people of the state" argument.  Ideally, yes, you would hope that the residents of say, SC, would do the right thing, but sometimes economic pressure seems to be the only way to overcome resistance.  I hope that if it becomes clearly necessary, folks would institute and support a boycott.

I'm certainly not a lawyer, but to me it seems as though a recently decided Supreme Court case has a certain parallel.  The decision supported Texas (!) in its bid to deny specialty licence plates for Sons of Confederate Veterans. "Texas had rejected the proposed plate, which includes a Confederate battle flag, arguing that it was offensive to a "significant portion" of the public."  The Supreme Court found that since the plate would be issued by the state, it would constitute government speech and Texas was in its rights to be able to refuse.   NPR News has a good recap story.  I would hope that SC would realize that this divisive symbol on government grounds is offensive to any person of goodwill (and by reading comments to The Guardian story above, it emerges that opposition to this flag is not limited to solely one racial or geographic group).

And let's be blunt about it.  It is indeed a racist symbol, there can be no doubt about that.  In the articles and discussions, the racism of the confederacy was chillingly told in some documents that writers and commenters have brought up, including this, from confederate VP Alexander Stephens:

"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."

That was from the so-called 'Corner-Stone Speech' of March 21, 1861.  If you have the stomach, the entire speech is here.

Therefore, I question what kind of Southern pride or heritage the defenders of this racist banner find go great.  

Folks, it is now 2015.
It is time to retire that flag.
It is time to REJECT the racism and divisiveness it represents.
Take down the flag.
Take it down now.


The SC governor and assorted legislators are calling for the removal of the flag.  A bill is to be introduced.  Note in the account at The Guardian the turnaround of the Gov. and some of those Presidential candidates.  That Gov. is a piece of work.  According to the article: "Haley had long defended the flag’s presence on statehouse grounds, declaring that its removal was not an issue because “not a single CEO” had complained about it."  Oh gee, guess that makes the rest of us the proverbial chopped liver.  Folks, if this is how our leaders see us, get a clue.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Charleston Elegy

The horrific event in Charleston, SC. that left nine dead is so incredibly sad.  I just cannot, cannot, understand why anyone would enter ANY HOUSE of WORSHIP to murder those just wanting to connect with their spirituality.  It's so twisted, my head just doesn't want to wrap around that demented thought and action.

Now that the victims are known, we must remember them and pray for them to rest in peace and pray for comfort for their families in what has to be an unbelievably brutal time for them.  The Guardian has a good report on the victims.

The youngest victim, Tywanza Sanders, was among other things, a fellow poet.  So a poem is called for:

Elegy for Nine in Charleston

May their names and spirits ascend like holy incense,
The victims of horror in an historic House of Prayer
Their shortened lives filled with purpose and meaning
Their devotion to faith and community created ripples
Their hopes and wishes have turned to shooting stars
Their memories now linger in hearts and minds
Of those who can only ask 'Why?'
As their tears freely fall
Uniting many in grief

...dedicated to the memories of: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Rev. Dr. Daniel Simmons, Myra Thompson... and to their surviving families and friends

Sunday, June 14, 2015

L'Affaire Tim Hunt

Whoa!!!  I don't usually blog about what everyone else is Twittering and writing about, but this one got to me.  I'd seen a headline about "distractedly sexy" on my NPR homepage, but didn't bother to check it out.  When I was perusing The Guardian today, I found out it was about Sir Tim Hunt and his inappropriate joke.  

Here's a quick recap.  This brief article lists links to three other articles which have examples of the tweets.  But the time.com one they give has my favorite; the one picturing Madame Curie.

Ok, so his "joke", remark or whatever was stupid, sexist, and inappropriate.  And pushback by tweets is ok.  But should he lose his job?  Sir Tim and his wife speak out to The Guardian.  I was particularly struck by the way the University almost heralded his departure after saying it would be "low key."

Now anyone who knows me or has read this blog knows I despise sexism, racism and all.  But I have to side with Sir Tim on this.  Haven't we all said something stupid or inappropriate at some point?  I don't think that should necessarily be cause to lose one's job.  There's also been another debate about should a person lose a job because of some social media post - done on their own time from home.  So do we also think that's ok?  Or what if Sir Tim had expressed some dissenting view critical of the UK government - or of his university?  Where does the slope end?

Universities in particular should be places of free interchange of knowledge and ideas.  Someone made the analogy of education being a messy bazaar.  We don't need to lose that.  I'm a STEM'er - a retired math professor.  I very well remember reading the research of a team of math researchers whose theme was that females were inherently not as good at math as males.  Certainly that made my blood boil, but I wouldn't call for their resignations.

I'd also like to share some of my experience.  My math professors were really quite supportive, and most of them were white males.  And the math students I had classes with generally were just fine.  I also remember being a lab partner with a fellow as a psych student (before I got into math) and we did just fine together.  And as a professor and member of a community college math department, our department was really quite diverse as far as gender and race. So I don't know if my experience was in any way typical, but I made out well.  I do remember interacting with a top-flight female scientist and businesswoman.  One thing she told me about women in science was that she'd observed that the men do tend to push the women out.  What a shame that would be.  We need all sorts of good minds in STEM, both male and female.  Of course attracting students to STEM fields is another discussion entirely - and there are of course, quite some other factors to be considered besides gender and sexism (i. e., does our society really value education the way it should and does it really value scientific careers?)

I'm sorry that Sir Tim feels that he was "finished."  I hope that he will find some way to keep contributing to the STEM community (and the larger community as well) to which he has already contributed so much.  What's that old saying about the door and the window?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

More on FBI Surveilling Protesters

A few posts ago in "Any More Doubts (2)" , we reviewed the story of the FBI ignoring its own procedures to snoop on anti-Keystone XL pipeline protesters.  

The Guardian has a follow-up.  At least some of those protesters have been subject to ongoing invasive scrutiny even though the program supposedly ended.  One activist, Bradley Stroot, was put on a list for Secondary Security Screening Selection . A person can be put on such a watchlist with no explanation nor due process.  Being on this list makes the traveler subject to more invasive physical searches, heightened searches of possessions, and more intrusive questioning.  And this can follow one for years or even - for the foreseeable future.  Another activist was denied entry to Canada to film the aftermath of a mine disaster because she and her companion "seemed like protesters."   A third activist tells his story in the article as well.  

From the article:  "Stroot and two other people involved in the protests were described in the files as having separate, larger “Subject” files in the FBI’s Guardian Threat Tracking System, a repository for suspicious activity reports and counterterrorism threat assessments that can be searched by all FBI employees."   Also:  "the FBI files obtained by the Guardian, which detail that the FBI had advance knowledge of the TransCanada sit-in and debriefed an informant on the event after it happened. "

Is this what we want our government agencies to be doing?  Surveilling peaceful protesters?  According to the article, the investigation was closed with NO finding of extremist activity. Still, the FBI will keep records on these people.  Not only is this against our civil liberties, it is also a huge waste of taxpayers' hard-earned funds.

Think this isn't happening?  Think again.  I'm sure those activists who told their stories weren't counting on this level of scrutiny.  We should insist that our government respect the interests and civil liberties of 'We, the People.'  Isn't that what a little thing called The Constitution is supposed to be for?  We should keep demanding our government follow what is supposed to be our highest law.