And God said……….

Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, ...
Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, face detail of God. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend’s 3-year-old, I recently read on Facebook, concludes her mealtime/bedtime prayers with “Ah, man.” Her mom thinks it’s rather endearing. I think the kid may be onto something. I just have a feeling that God/Allah/Jehovah/Whomever (and I am quick to admit I believe quite deeply in the one who said we should love one another) is somewhere in cyberspace shaking Her head and saying, “Ah, man.”

I mean, look at the messes we’ve gotten into because somebody knew what God said. You can start with the crusades, but it would be just as easy to start earlier. In any event, today is an exemplary peril.

Take Egypt, for example (since it’s too painful to start with the U.S.) In the August 26th New York Times, David Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheikh report on the Egyptian military’s latest move, enlisting Muslim scholars to persuade soldiers and policemen that it’s their religious duty to kill their friends and neighbors who are supporting the recently deposed President Morsi. Why? Because God said to. On the side of the military in this is a televangelist (the U.S., it turns out doesn’t have a corner on televangelists) Amr Khaled who is out there assuring the troops, “You, you conscript in the Egyptian military, you are performing a task for God Almighty!” Ah, man. I have long since lost track of what whose god is telling whom in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and assorted African countries. In China no one seems to be listening to the Buddha, although it was indeed distressing when the monks got angry in Myanmar.

Closer to home, the troubles I am most often confronting these days have to do with what several groups presumably listening to the same (as in, Jesus) God believe that god is saying. “Life begins at conception. Abortion is murder.” What that correct? Or did She actually say, “All you children are made in my image. You may control your own bodies.” Who knows?

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone would quit believing he or she knows exactly what God is saying and started listening instead for the voice of god? I have no theological training, but I’d be willing to bet God isn’t saying “Now remember, abortion is murder.” Or even, “Get out there and perform this task of killing your friends and neighbors.” More likely, She’s somewhere in the ethernet saying, “Ah, man. Could you try to get along?”

Decisions Congress shouldn’t make

English: View of Capitol Hill from the U.S. Su...
English: View of Capitol Hill from the U.S. Supreme Court Česky: Pohled na Kapitol z budovy Nejvyššího soudu Spojených států (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent New York Times op ed piece by Judy Nicastro tells the wrenching story of an abortion she had at 23 weeks.

The decision — which involved aborting a fetus that would have faced only suffering if it survived — was made after agonizing weeks. It was informed by sonograms, an M.R.I., tests, studies and extensive discussions between Nicastro, her husband and many medical professionals.

The decision to tell her story was prompted by the House vote on June 18 to ban abortion after 22 weeks. No one among those who voted for the bill (which is not expected to pass the Senate) has experienced anything like the agonizing struggle Nicastro and her husband went through, or even just a troubled pregnancy — most of the votes were cast by men, after all.

The decision was anguished, soul-searching, unique — and above all, private.

Which raises the question:

Should a decision about an unintended or unadvised pregnancy be made by the woman involved, with advice from medical professionals, after discussion with her partner, in consideration of the unique circumstances that apply?

Or by the U.S. Congress?

Dying way too young: Journalist Michael Hastings

News of the death of 33-year-old Michael Hastings in a fiery car crash June 18 has left everyone who knew him stunned. And it’s also left a giant hole in the heart of Real Journalism. Hastings was a Real Journalist.

I never knew Michael Hastings. But a few years ago, when we were both contributing to the late lamented True/, he sent me a comment on something I’d written. That led me to check out what he was writing, which left me in the dust within a very few minutes. For a storyteller like me to get an affirmative nod from a journalist like Hastings felt like sort of a large gold star.

This is not to knock storytelling, which I consider one top way to convey truth (especially about difficult topics like death-and-dying or abortion.) Storytelling is broadband, real journalism is specific and it is a rare and precious thing.

Real journalism is fearless, aggressive, relentless and uncorruptible. When practiced by people like Michael Hastings it lets the rest of us know what is really happening in our democracy — which is the only way a democracy survives.

Former True/Slant now New York Times editor Michael Roston summed up the best advice to aspiring journalists who survive Hastings: “Try to be like him.”

The invisible women of Afghanistan

Afghan women wearing burqas when going outside...
Afghan women wearing burqas when going outside in northern Afghanistan. Deutsch: Afghanische Burkaträgerinnen Français : Deux femmes afghanes portant la burqa Suomi: Afganistanilaisia naisia pukeutuneina burkaan 日本語: アフガニスタンの女性ブルカ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




See if you can get your mind around this:

Afghanistan’s parliament has rejected a law which would have offered a few tiny protections for women and girls against violence because –


One, “It is wrong that a woman and man cannot marry off their child until she is 16,” according to Obaidullah Barekzai, a member from southeast Uruzgan province. Female literacy rates are at rock bottom in Uruzgan.


And two, well women’s shelters are just “houses of prostitution and immorality” – this from Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb last year


Plus: those laws about punishing someone just for beating his wife are definitely un-Islamic – this from all those mullahs who know exactly what Allah has in mind.


The New York Times story on the above was illustrated by a photo of a man in a Kabul store, dressed in a tee shirt and colorful scarf, standing amidst racks of pale blue burqas. Burqas, shapeless head-to-toe coverings, also come in black, but perhaps that’s another store; they are requisite outdoor-wear for women in many areas. If you look closely at the Times photo there is an actual woman in the background; you can tell because her hands are visible. An even closer look reveals what seems to be another woman in another burqa, though it’s hard to tell; the idea of the burqa is to render the woman inside invisible.

Many of us think that the U.S., given the history of countries trying to intervene in Afghanistan, should never have tried to intervene in Afghanistan. Probably many more of us simply want the U.S. to get out.


But if you’re a woman in the U.S., holding the women of Afghanistan in your heart, it’s hard not to weep for them all – and to count your blessings.






Guns, Guys & NRA Hidey-Holes

NRA (Photo credit: the|G|™)

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun,” says Wayne LaPierre, “is a good guy with a gun.” This seems to be the favorite statement of NRA members, fans and boosters everywhere. Those who utter it are usually white men draped in American flags, camouflage shirts or flag-themed outfits, and they assume we know they are the Good Guys. I’m not so sure.

LaPierre, Executive Director of the National Rifle Association, responded (a week later) to the tragedy of the Newtown school shootings with the recommendation that we put armed teachers and staff in all schools along with armed guards; the answer to gun violence being, as always, more guns.  In short, everyone with a legally purchased gun is a good guy, ready to stop the bad guy. Seriously?

I wonder if these guys ever read Alice in Wonderland? The part about the rabbit hole?

Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, despite the unspeakably terrible thing he did, may not have been a bad guy. A sick guy, troubled guy and ultimately terribly dangerous guy indeed, but who knows if he was a bad guy? What we do know is that he had easy access to a variety of guns.

One of the best assessments of the craziness of LaPierre and some NRA members is in a recent New York Times editorial aptly titled The NRA Crawls from its Hidey Hole. “(W)e were stunned” said The Times, “by Mr. LaPierre’s mendacious, delusional, almost deranged rant.”

Perhaps LaPierre and the NRA will have the decency to go back into their hidey hole while the country has a rational conversation about how to protect innocent children. But I’m not holding my breath.

Plan B and America’s future

Plan-B (Photo credit: grasshopperkm)

Much is being made of a recent recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that Plan B One Step, or Next Choice, be more widely available to teenagers younger than 17.  The recommendation is, specifically, that pediatricians talk to their young patients about the “morning after” pill, and send them home with a prescription. And it is, as New York Times reporter Roni Caryn Rabin writes, “the latest salvo in the contentious debate over access to emergency contraception.”

That debate is part of the broader debate about reproductive rights, abortion (though Plan B prevents conception, and is not an abortifacient) and America’s children.

In a perfect world, the theories of abstinence only and efforts of the National Abstinence Education Association would prevail, girls under 17 would not have unintended pregnancies and all babies would be wanted. But for now, we live in an imperfect world. The better we care for teenagers now and ahead, and for the unwanted children already here, the less imperfect it will be.

Bravo for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Surprise! Contraception reduces abortion rates

Much is being made of a recently completed study by Washington University in St. Louis that showed use of contraceptives reduces abortion rates. Well, duh. All those teenagers who didn’t get pregnant subsequently didn’t need abortions. Nor did they need to wreck their lives bringing unwanted children into the world, and there might have been an instance or two wherein some young person avoided contracting HIV, though these issues were not studied in the study.

Could someone point this out to all those folks who want to ban contraceptives? You know, inhabitants of that parallel universe wherein no one ever has sex except to procreate?

The two-year Contraceptive Choice Project enlisted more than 9,000 women in St. Louis, many of them poor and/or uninsured, and offered them a range of free contraceptives. The results? As reported in the New York Times, there were 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in the study, compared with the national average of 34 births per 1,000. There were 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared with 13.4 to 17 per 1,000 women in the St. Louis area. The national rate is close to 20 per 1,000 women.

There seems to be a triple-disconnect loose in the land: Sex happens, even when the participants aren’t thinking about making babies. Unwanted pregnancies happen, especially when people can’t get contraceptives. Abortion happens when women — and teenage girls — get caught in human biology.

Why would it not make sense to quit shouting obscenities, making judgments and trying to force one group’s belief on everyone, and focus instead on these realities? Who knows, fewer tragedies of messed up lives and unwanted children could result.

Big, fat (unfortunate) U.S. secret

You mean, in spite of everything we’ve heard, Obama actually DID GOOD? Amazing.

That’s what Michael Grunwald says in his book The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era. He has meticulous, exhaustive data to back up his contention that the stimulus worked, a whole lot was accomplished, but nobody got the word out… and if he’s a voice crying in the wilderness about it at least his book is on the New York Times bestseller list (and in a recent, interesting editorial.)

Grunwald was at the Commonwealth Club a few nights ago, on a panel moderated by Climate One founder Greg Dalton and also including Managing Partner Nancy Pfund of DBL Investors. (Grunwald, in addition to his book-writing adventures, is Senior National Correspondent for Time Magazine.) The panel, titled the Green New Deal, was all about modernizing the electricity grid, cleaning up nuclear waste, improving energy efficiency here and there and saving clean tech jobs… just a few of the things Grunwald says we can thank the $800 billion stimulus bill for having accomplished.

Calling the stimulus “one of the most important and least understood pieces of legislation in the history of the country,” Grunwald says the bill that almost everyone loved to hate  actually “helped prevent a depression while jump-starting the president’s agenda for lasting change. As ambitious and far-reaching as FDR’s New Deal, the Recovery Act is a down payment on the nation’s economic and environmental future, the purest distillation of change in the Obama era.”

Who knew?

Screenshot of, which went live af...

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