Monthly Archives: October 2012

In Memoriam – George McGovern, 1922 – 2012

George McGovern, a former U.S. senator from South Dakota and 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, died Sunday morning, October 21.  He had just been admitted to hospice care in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which is where he passed away.  He was 90.

McGovern was born on July 19, 1922, in Avon, S.D.  He had just married Eleanor Stegeberg on October 21, 1943, when he left to fly a B-24 in World War II.  He flew 35 missions and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In 1956, he ran for Congress and became the first Democrat from South Dakota to be elected to the House of Representatives in 22 years.  After two terms, he ran for the Senate in 1960, but lost.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy asked McGovern to open an agency to send surplus food abroad.  By year’s end, McGovern had Kennedy’s “Food for Peace” program operating in a dozen countries.  The following year, he became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from South Dakota in 26 years.  His chief interest was world peace.  He challenged the United States’ “Castro fixation,” denounced America’s capacity for nuclear “overkill” and proposed a $4-billion reduction in the U.S. defense budget.  He also supported Medicare, school lunches and the war on poverty.

In 1963, McGovern became one of the first politicians to warn against the war in Vietnam, eventually opposing increased military involvement and ultimately deeming the conflagration a “moral debacle.”

He launched an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1968, losing the Democratic Party’s nomination to Hubert Humphrey.  But, although he earned the party’s nomination four years later, his campaign was troubled from the start.  He initially chose Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri to be his running mate.  When Eagleton admitted that he’d had shock therapy to treat his depression, he bowed out of the race.  This was a time when no one discussed mental health issues openly, especially men.  McGovern selected Sargent Shriver of Maryland to replace Eagleton, but the public relations damage was too great to overcome.  McGovern lost in a landslide to incumbent President Richard Nixon.  Ironically, it was McGovern’s campaign that led to the notorious Watergate fiasco.

McGovern was an icon of liberalism in America.  He condemned the Iraq War and proposed impeachment for both President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton sent McGovern to Rome as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.  In 2000, Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.  A year later, the U.N. made him its first global ambassador to ease hunger.  In 2008, McGovern and his former Senate colleague Bob Dole shared the World Food Prize, often called the Nobel Prize for combating hunger.

Eleanor McGovern died in 2007.  Their son, Steven, died this past July.  McGovern is survived by his daughters, Ann, Susan and Mary, 10 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren.

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Kateri Tekakwitha – First Native American Catholic Saint

In a historic move, Pope Benedict XVI canonized the first Indigenous American into sainthood on Saturday, October 20.  Kateri Tekakwitha was born in 1656 to an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father in what is now central New York State.  She was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church at age 20.  After being rejected by her family, she moved to a Jesuit mission near Montreal, Canada, where she taught children until her death four years later.

American Indians have been appealing for Kateri to be canonized for more than a century.  She was given the special status of venerable in 1942, the first step towards sainthood, and was beatified in 1980.

A person must be deceased for at least 5 years, even before he or she can be considered for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.  Afterwards, there are 4 steps in the process.

  1. When the subject arises that a person should be considered for Sainthood, a Bishop is placed in charge of the initial investigation of that person’s life.  If it is determined that the candidate is deemed worthy of further consideration, the Vatican grants a “Nihil Obstat,” a Latin phrase meaning “nothing hinders.”  Henceforth, the candidate is called a “Servant of God.”
  2. The Church Official, a Postulator, who coordinates the process and serves as an advocate, must prove that the candidate lived heroic virtues.  This is achieved through the collection of documents and testimonies that are collected and presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.  When a candidate is approved, he/she earns the title of “Venerable.”
  3. To be beatified and recognized as a “Blessed,” one miracle acquired through the candidate’s intercession is required in addition to recognition of heroic virtue (or martyrdom in the case of a martyr).
  4. Canonization requires a second miracle after beatification, though a Pope may waive these requirements.  (A miracle is not required prior to a martyr’s beatification, but one is required before his/her canonization.)  Once this second miracle has been received through the candidate’s intercession, the Pope declares the person a “Saint.”

More than 700 Native Americans, many in full regalia, took part in the ceremony in St. Peter’s Square honoring the woman known as the “Lily of the Mohawks.”  A choir singing an Indian hymn was among the participants.  At a Mass on Monday, the 22nd, inside St. Peter’s Basilica, Native Americans will conduct a “smudge” ceremony by burning sage, according to an American church official.

Among those in attendance was a delegation from the Archdiocese of Seattle that included Jake Finkbonner, a 12-year-old boy whose recovery six years ago from necrotizing fasciitis, a rare flesh-eating disease, was accorded the status of a miracle by the church.

His survival was anything but certain when his parish and Native Americans around the U.S. and Canada began praying to Kateri.  His recovery was the key in the decision to canonize Kateri, said the Rev. Wayne Paysse, executive director of the bureau of Catholic Indian Missions.

Finkbonner’s family, who are members of the Lummi tribe, live in Bellingham, Washington.

Anyone who knows me personally, or follows this blog, is fully aware of my harsh views of the Roman Catholic Church.  The Church’s relationship with the Western Hemisphere’s native peoples is written in blood.  It’s the longest and most widespread chronicle of genocide in world history.  Of course, that’s pretty much the case with any branch of Christianity.  Early Spanish conquerors viewed Indigenous Americans with contempt and tried to destroy them.  Spain’s Queen Isabella I put a stop to the bloodshed, however, demanding that her representatives in what are now México and the United States baptize the Indians into Roman Catholicism.  Many Indians conceded; more I think as a matter of survival than acceptance of the strange, new religion.  Nothing can ever compensate for such brutality.  But, the canonization of Kateri is still a measure of goodwill.

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“Big Tex” Lives!

“Big Tex” isn’t dead after all!  He’s found a much more lucrative, yet less stressful job as a marquee on a South Dallas liquor store!  Praise the Lord and pass the 6-pack!

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Cruising for Trouble

Okay, I know the title of this essay is a bad play on the name of Ted Cruz, the former Solicitor General of Texas, who hopes to replace Kay Bailey-Hutchison in the U.S. Senate this year.  He’s a Republican, of course, and since I’m not too fond of Republican politicians – especially the species creeping out of Texas – I have to criticize him.  Cruz isn’t just a Republican; he’s a “Tea Party” Republican – that wacky band of closet Nazis who emerged after our biracial president took office.  The “Tea Party” clan has grabbed the GOP by the throat and wants to send America back to the good old days of the 19th century, when only White heterosexual Christian males had power.

Cruz has been playing right into the gnarly hands of the far right; placating them with a variety of outrageous claims and blatant lies.  For example, he thinks billionaire businessman George Soros and the United Nations are conspiring to eliminate golf in the U.S.  As if that would be a bad thing.  Cruz also apparently adheres to the growing reemergence of nullification; a 19th century philosophy that states can invalidate any federal laws they don’t like.  The Affordable Health Care Act has become their favorite target.  In his first campaign ad, Cruz states, in his role as Solicitor General, he made it easier for Texas to kill an “illegal alien.”  It’s a reference to a 2008 case, Medellin vs. Texas, in which the state argued that it shouldn’t have to comply with the Vienna Convention.  The Vienna Convention is a 1969 treaty requiring countries to inform foreign nationals who are arrested that they have the right to legal counsel from their home country.  As of 2010, 112 states had signed it, including North Korea, which even honored it when it captured 2 American journalists in 2009.

Cruz has an apparent disdain for illegal immigrants – which I do, as well, to some extent.  But, from a cultural standpoint, you have to understand where this could lead.  Cruz hopes to appeal to Texas’ growing Hispanic population – most of whom are of Mexican or Central American extraction.  Most of them – despite what you may hear on FOX News – are either native born residents or legal immigrants who don’t commit crimes.  Here’s where it gets really interesting and personal.  Cruz is only half-Hispanic; his father was born and raised in Cuba where he had fought against and been tortured under the brutal regime of Fulgencio Batista.  Batista had come to power in 1933 and ruled Cuba until Fidel Castro led a successful coup in 1959.  Batista was an anti-communist ideologue, which endeared him to the U.S.  But, he revoked many personal liberties, such as the right to strike.  His secret police force allegedly killed thousands of people on the island nation.  Under his command, only a handful of families owned most of the land and therefore, held the bulk of the wealth and power.  As in most Latin American nations at the time, a wide gap existed between the wealthy and the poor; kind of like how the U.S. is becoming now.  Cruz’s father fled to the U.S. in 1957, arriving in Austin, Texas with $100.  But, Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada, that bastion of socialist anxiety right-wing extremists generally hate so much.  The “Tea Party” crowd frequently compares the Affordable Health Care Act to Canada’s universal health care policies – e.g. socialism.

Back to the Hispanic thing.  While most Hispanics trend Democratic when voting, Cuban-Americans, in particular, lean Republican.  And, as a group, Cubans seem to despise other Hispanics, mainly Mexicans and Puerto Ricans.  I don’t know why, but I’ve seen it and felt in the overall Hispanic community in Dallas.  I think it’s because Cuba is such a devoutly communist country; one of the last remaining bastions of Marxist theology in the world and the only one in the Western Hemisphere.  Therefore, when its residents flee to the United States, they are truly running for their lives.  But, no such compassion lands upon the shoulders of refugees from war-torn nations elsewhere in Latin America.  To paraphrase comedian Paul Rodriguez, ‘when Mexicans come here illegally, they take them to jail; when Cubans come here illegally, they take them to Disney World.’

Like any good Republican extremist, Cruz despises Barack Obama; believing the President is collaborating with Soros and others to turn the U.S. into a “European socialist union.”  He wants to gut both Social Security and Medicaid, feeling they have already pushed the U.S. towards that dreaded socialist state.  It doesn’t seem to matter that those programs have prevented millions of elderly and / or disabled people from slipping into poverty.  Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan feels the same way.  Neither will probably get much of the Hispanic vote and will have a tough time sweet-talking senior citizens.

Cruz is facing Democrat Paul Sadler, an attorney and member of the Texas House of Representatives.  Surprisingly, the Dallas Morning News endorsed Sadler for the U.S. Senate; amazing in that the paper has almost always recommended the Republican candidate.  That’s why I scratch my head in confusion every time some local right-winger hollers like a cow going into labor that the News has a leftist agenda.

Alas, I’m afraid Ted Cruz will win that coveted Senate seat next month.  When many Texans go to the polls, they seem to leave their brains in their vehicles, while making sure they have their guns.  It’s getting dangerous even for us moderates here in Texas.  And, the fact that a far-right fundamentalist like Ted Cruz could end up in such a powerful position doesn’t bode well for the United States as a whole.

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More Drama at the Texas State Fair

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worst at the Texas State Fair – they did!  After a fiery start to yesterday’s festivities, the “Stratosphere” ride suddenl malfunctioned around 9 P.M. local time, trapping 24 fairgoers 200 feet in the air for more than 2 hours.  Dallas Fire and Rescue personnel who had just been on the scene yesterday morning returned to oversee the rescue operation.  This gives me greater incentive never to visit the Texas State Fair again.  Of course, I haven’t been there since the early 1970s, when my mother bit into a corndog and discovered it had a green center.  Normally, it’s red.  I don’t necessarily believe the fair should be shut down altogether, even though it’s an early 20th century escapade in a 21st century world.  I mean, with all the fried foods they serve, who needs overpriced parking and crowds anyway!  Kids can eat fried foods they want, while sitting on their fat little butts in the safety of their own homes anyway.

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And, He Barely Got Out Alive!

“I hate to say this on FOX – and I hope I’ll be allowed to leave here alive – but I don’t think there is any way we can cut spending enough to make a meaningful difference.  We are going to have to raise taxes on very rich people; people with incomes of like say, 2, 3 million a year and up, and then slowly move down.”

– Conservative economist Ben Stein on FOX News.

This is Earth-shattering!  A well-known conservative saying taxes should be raised on the upper classes!  I know Stein must have been terrified; feeling like a Jew in a Catholic church during Easter mass.  But, the facts are what they are.  Mitt Romney’s economic scam – er – plan just doesn’t add up.  I can only hope at this point that the American people will see that I’m right, especially in the so-called swing states.

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Real Power

Yes, knowledge is mightier than the gun or the bomb.  That’s why religious lunatics – including those here in the United States – don’t want people to learn too much.  They might actually begin thinking for themselves!  If it wasn’t for religious ideology, we’d have landed people on Mars by now.

Stop Violence Against Children

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“Big Tex” Burns

This is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen.  “Big Tex,” the iconic figure that has greeted people arriving at the annual Texas for 60 years, caught fire and burned this morning.  Only the statute’s metal frame, hands and belt buckle remained intact.

Mitchell Glieber, vice president of marketing for the State Fair, said it appears the fire was started by an electrical short circuit.  “There’s obviously some electronics inside of Big Tex that leads to the ability for his mouth to move when he speaks,” Glieber said.  “I believe there was an electrical short, but that hasn’t been confirmed or investigated.”

Nearly six hours after smoke began pouring out of Tex, State Fair spokeswoman Sue Gooding confirmed the theory – and that it began in his boots.

“At this point, investigators believe the fire was caused by an electrical short that started in his right boot,” she wrote in a statement.

Dallas Fire and Rescue responded quickly and put the fire out within a matter of minutes.  However, those at the scene said it only took around 5 minutes for the blaze to swallow the 52-foot-tall structure.  Police evacuated the area immediately surrounding the figure, even though few people had been nearby when the fire started.  No one was injured.

“Big Tex” was originally created as a 49-foot tall Santa Claus in Kerens, Texas.  The State Fair of Texas bought it for $750 and transformed it into “Big Tex.”  The fair will remain open until this Sunday, when it was scheduled to close.


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October 16, 2012 – 67 Days Until Baktun 12

Survivalist Tip:  The November / December 2012 issue of Archaeology Magazine, a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America, has a detailed analysis of the ancient Mayan calendar.  It’s well worth the read; if anything, to develop a greater understanding of it, but also to realize just how truly mathematically and astronomically advanced the ancient Mayans were.

Then – as now – the Mayans recognized that the elements of the natural world, the cosmos and their own bodies functioned according to observable cycles and therefore, were interconnected.  Keeping track of the sun, the moon and other celestial bodies was a means of harmonizing their universe.  Curiously, the ancient Mayan calendar operated on a 260-day cycle, which is the same duration of the average human pregnancy.  But, it is their “Long Count” calendar, which was used to tally the number of days since the mythological date of their creation, that has drawn the most attention.  This is the calendar that archaeologists say ends on December 21, 2012.  (Some claim the actual date of the end of the current Baktun is December 23.)

When calculated according to the “Long Count” calendar, the Mayan date of creation is set at or around August 11, 3114 B.C.  “Long Count” dates were written as a series of 5 numbers.  January 1, A.D. 1, for example, would be  This is a highly complex system; too much to explain here.  While pundits and mystics debate what exactly will happen on December 21, 2012, one thing is certain: we all need to be more respectful of our place in this universe.  We also need to have as much chocolate to enjoy the ride!

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A Thousand Words

You remember the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words?  This one was taken at a “Teabagger” rally and clearly says: ASSHOLE!

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