Monday, April 28, 2008

Do Souls Have Colors?

Paradisio 34 - by Gustave Doré

I’m white.

I’m American.

I’m Christian.

I’m not a racist.

And I’m offended by Jeremiah Wright. The Trinity United Church’s former pastor put on nearly an hour of smug mugging for the cameras at the National Press Club in Washington. Among other things, he repeated with a kind of glee that the attacks on 9/11 were retribution for America’s sins. He tried to distinguish African-influenced Christian churches in the United States from those that are not. He said, in part, that his recent plunge into the limelight “just might mean that the reality of the African-American church will no longer be invisible.”

What reality is that, reverend? How is reality visible or invisible? Is it a different reality from my church? Who says so? God? Or just you? What the heck, to be polite, are you talking about?

Let’s be clear: Reverend Wright has the right to say what he wants; that is the beauty of this country that he believes has so wronged him. His remarks are protected, even if they offend me, which they do. I, too, have rights, including the right to offend the Reverend, which I expect this will do.

I attend a Roman Catholic church where the pastor and most of the congregation are white. Yet my pastor would no more speak of white America, or the white church, or the hardships imposed on white people by the U.S. government because of affirmative action, than he would say “Goddamn America”. This does not mean that there is uniformity of opinion in my church. I know that my pastor and I disagree on issues of politics. I know that because we have talked outside the church, not because he preaches his politics from the pulpit. I would find it impossible to attend if he did this, because that would be an abuse of his position. His job is to help me in my quest for eternal salvation, not to tell me the kind of world he wants to live in until he and I achieve that goal.

He does not preach in order to divide. He preaches to bring comfort and hope to those in the Lord’s House.

Wright speaks about white racism while espousing the kind of hateful, bitter (yes, I know that word’s been used before) division between white and black that is the essence of racism. Do I know what goes on inside his head? No. But neither does he know what thoughts I secretly harbor.

“Be not deceived, God is not mocked,” Wright said, quoting Galatians 6:7. Reverend Wright, who dislikes being judged by sound bites, omitted the first passages of that biblical book. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden.”

Whose burden were you bearing when you spoke, Reverend? If Americans have sinned, are you ministering to them in the spirit of meekness? You speak of the black church, yes. But what of the white church? Do churches have colors? Do souls? Are you and your church superior to mine? Allow me to tell you: you and it are not.

Your words, reverend, were an affront to me, but of far more importance, to the Almighty. You can still atone, but remember, God is not mocked.

Check out the article at Fox News.

'Nuff said!!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Earth Day 2008

Unofficial Earth Day flag, by John McConnell: the Blue Marble on a blue background

Our Blue Marble holds so many breathtaking views - Happy Earth Day!

Our Blue Marble holds so many breathtaking views - Happy Earth Day!

Our Blue Marble holds so many breathtaking views - Happy Earth Day!

Our Blue Marble holds so many breathtaking views - Happy Earth Day!

Our Blue Marble holds so many breathtaking views - Happy Earth Day!

Our Blue Marble holds so many breathtaking views - Happy Earth Day!

Each year, the April 22 Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Among other things, 1970 in the United States brought with it the Kent State shootings, the advent of fiber optics, "Bridge over Troubled Water," Apollo 13, the Beatles' last album, the death of Jimi Hendrix, and the meltdown of fuel rods in the Savannah River nuclear plant near Aiken, South Carolina -- an incident not acknowledged for 18 years. At the time, most Americans were consuming leaded gas in massive V8 sedans. Heavy industry released smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity[citation needed]. Environment was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news. The 1970 Earth Day helped to change many peoples' minds.

On April 22, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. Denis Hayes, the national coordinator, and his youthful staff organized massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting the status of environmental issues onto the world stage. Earth Day on April 22 in 1990 gave a huge boost to recycling efforts worldwide and helped pave the way for the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

As the millennium approached, Hayes agreed to spearhead another campaign, this time focused on global warming and a push for clean energy. The April 22 Earth Day in 2000 combined the big-picture feistiness of the first Earth Day with the international grassroots activism of Earth Day 1990. For 2000, Earth Day had the Internet to help link activists around the world. By the time April 22 rolled around, 5,000 environmental groups around the world were on board, reaching out to hundreds of millions of people in a record 184 countries. Events varied: A talking drum chain traveled from village to village in Gabon, Africa, for example, while hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., USA.

Earth Day 2000 sent the message loud and clear that citizens the world 'round wanted quick and decisive action on clean energy. Earth Day 2007 was one of the largest Earth Days to date, with an estimated billion people participating in the activities in thousands of places like Kiev, Ukraine; Caracas, Venezuela; Tuvalu; Manila, Philippines; Togo; Madrid, Spain; London; and New York.

Founded by the organizers of the first April 22 Earth Day in 1970, Earth Day Network promotes environmental citizenship and year round progressive action worldwide. Earth Day Network is a driving force steering environmental awareness around the world. Through Earth Day Network, activists connect change in local, national, and global policies. Earth Day Network’s international network reaches over 17,000 organizations in 174 countries, while the domestic program engages 5,000 groups and over 25,000 educators coordinating millions of community development and environmental protection activities throughout the year. Earth Day is the only event celebrated simultaneously around the globe by people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities. More than a half billion people participate in Earth Day Network campaigns every year.

Check out the article at Wikipedia.

Happy Earth Day - a day late! Our Blue Marble holds so many breathtaking views! Photos don't do them justice... you have to see for yourself! If every day were Earth Day we could all breathe a bit easier!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Protecting the Pope

The Pontifical Swiss Guard is rich in history and tradition

The Pontifical Swiss Guard is rich in history and tradition

The Pontifical Swiss Guard is rich in history and tradition

President Bush greets Pope Benedict XVI on the tarmac

Pope Benedict XVI cruises by the White House in the Popemobile

On first look, the uniform worn by Pope Benedict XVI’s bodyguards — the colorful yellow and blue stripey uniforms, the red ostrich feather-plumed helmets, the tights and bloomers — might lead you to think your grandmother could take them on.

You would be gravely mistaken.

The Swiss Guards are renowned in the security community; they are the world’s smallest army, but have an excellent reputation, outstanding capabilities and a noble history. Although tiny in number, they are a force to be reckoned with — an elite, company-sized military force that has defended pontiffs for more than 500 years, a duty that has sometimes demanded bloodshed.

Trained and equipped to fight an armed enemy (should the need arise), they are like the American Marines at the White House and the Beefeaters guarding Buckingham Palace. The Swiss Guards stand watch throughout the Apostolic Palace from the Vatican’s exterior gates to the entrance to the Pope’s private apartments.

As in other elite military units, competition to join the Swiss Guard is fierce. Selection standards are extremely high — all recruits must be unmarried Roman Catholic males between the ages of 19 and 30 who are able to endure grueling 24-hour shifts.

To be selected, a candidate must also be at least 5-foot-8 and have completed military training in the Swiss armed forces.

Carrying on tradition, the selected recruits train to handle swords and the Guard's trademark weapon: a combination spear and battle-axe known as the halberd.

Armed only with Renaissance weaponry, this minuscule army successfully kept Nazi soldiers out of Vatican City during World War II as Germany occupied Rome.

While they still wear armor and carry antique weapons, it’s not all medieval warfare for the Swiss Guards. They must maintain a high degree of physical fitness and master modern weaponry, such as the H&K submachine gun and the SIG Sauer 9 mm pistol. To best protect the Pope, they also train at close-quarters fighting and tactical movement, as well as security and counter-terrorism techniques.

And battle-axe might not be the best tool to ward off religious fanatics determined to pass a message to the Pope or to threaten him, so the guards have also added tear gas and pepper spray to their arsenal.

Across the pond, during the first papal visit to the U.S. since Usama bin Laden accused the pope of leading a “new Crusade” against Muslims, the Swiss Guard will be joined by the very best from the United States as well.

The U.S. Secret Service, responsible for protecting foreign dignitaries alongside local Washington and New York law enforcement, will be providing Benedict XVI and President Bush the utmost protection.

Supervisory Special Agent Ed Donovan gave us the inside scoop that one lucky Secret Service Agent has the very important job of driving the Popemobile. The Secret Service has a long history of working with the Swiss Guard on previous Papal visits as well as presidential visits to the Vatican.

As the pope makes his way to New York this weekend, security measures will be rigorous, from airspace restrictions and blockaded waterways to streets being entirely shut down. Police helicopters will patrol the skies, and the waters will be protected by harbor units and scuba divers stationed in the East River.

While measures will be similar to Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1995, we will see on the streets a very visible uniformed police presence and bomb-sniffing dogs.

The security services have stressed that they are not aware of any specific threats to the pope during this visit, but they recognize that bin Laden was critical of the pontiff in his latest videotape.

While you may not see the Swiss Guard in their eye-catching garb or carrying their trademark halberds on this trip, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. In fact, it was a plainclothes undercover Swiss Guard who shielded Pope John Paul II and saved his life during a 1981 assassination attempt. The Swiss Guards, undercover and incognito, are on duty to protect the pope at all times.

Check out the article at Fox News.

The Swiss Guard is rich with history and tradition! You gotta have respect for these guys... they adhere to a very strict set of standards and are not to be trifled with! For more info, check out this article at Wikipedia.

For more information regarding Pope Benedict XVI and his Apostolic Journey, check out the Official US Papal Visit website.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Tigers visit the White House!

LSU National Champs visit the White House!

LSU National Champs visit the White House!

LSU National Champs visit the White House!

LSU National Champs visit the White House!

LSU National Champs visit the White House!

LSU National Champs visit the White House!

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President George W. Bush welcomed the national champion LSU football team to the White House Monday afternoon in what was an all-day event for the Tigers.

The trip marked the second time in five years that the Tigers have made the distinguished visit to the nation’s capital as they took their first trip after winning the 2003 BCS title.

The Tigers arrived at the White House at 12:45 p.m. and were given a tour of the building.

The highlight of Monday’s festivities was a photo opportunity on the South Lawn of the White House. With the LSU football team standing behind him, President Bush spoke for approximately 10 minutes as he congratulated the Tigers on their 2007 campaign.

Head coach Les Miles presented President Bush with a No. 7 jersey, in reference to the 2007 season, and senior captain Jacob Hester gave the 43rd president of the United States a bronze football.

After the recognition on the South Lawn, the 180-member LSU travel party took a tour of the National Mall area which including visits to the Lincoln Memorial, Reflection Pool, the Washington Monument, the National World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

On Tuesday, a group of Tigers will visit the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Additionally, the national champs will tour the Pentagon, meet with the Louisiana Delegation at the United State Capitol and then witness the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at the Arlington National Cemetery before returning to Baton Rouge.

Transcript from

THE PRESIDENT: Good to see you all. Welcome. Go Tigers! Sit down. Please sit down. Thanks for coming.

So I met some of these men in 2004 -- they feel pretty comfortable they were going to be back here. Some of them weren't so sure I was going to be back here. It's good to welcome you back. Proud you're here. Nothing like being called, "National Champs." LSU has the honor of being the first school to win two BCS titles. This year there is no split.

I appreciate Les Miles, and Kathy -- thanks for coming. Proud to have met you, Coach. It was a great honor for me to have called you after you won that day. And I know you told the team that at least one guy called to congratulate you. I welcome the LSU administrators, personnel, coaches, trainers, locker room folks, and most of all, the players.

I want to welcome members of Congress -- Jim McCrery. Jim, good to see you, sir. And, Scott and Clark, good to see you boys. Rodney Alexander -- Congressman, good to see you. Charles Boustany -- I'm glad to see you, Charles. Thanks for coming. I appreciate you taking time to be here. Out of the state government is State Treasurer John Kennedy. John, thank you for coming. Appreciate you coming up for that. Glad you brought Preston.

Is Breaux here? No, he -- he's working. Which is a major upset -- no.

Winning requires very strong leadership -- that's what it takes. After eight years of welcoming national champs there's always one common denominator, and that is it requires a strong leader to motivate people toward a common goal. And that's exactly what you have in Coach Les Miles. Coach Miles's three years has helped the team compile a 34-and-6 record. And this is a guy who's not afraid to take risks. He tried two fake field goals, fake punt, went for 4th down -- went for 1st down on 4th down -- 15 times. Made it nearly every time. Of course, he had the players who helped him take that risk.

He also had to deal with some delicate situations away from the field, like inaccurate press stories. Coach, let me just say, I know the feeling.

This is Coach Miles's first time celebrating here at the White House, and a lot of folks are going to remember it because it's the first time he's been seen in public without a hat on.

LSU fans had an amazing season. They -- first of all, in the season, the number one ranking changed hands six times. Of course, LSU was number one on the day it counted; that's why they're here. You had to overcome adversity to get here. You played as a team, and you won some dramatic football games. And when you lost, it was pretty dramatic, too. You beat Florida in a comeback with the largest crowd ever to watch a game at Tiger Stadium. Two weeks later, you rallied to beat Auburn on a touchdown scored with one second left on the clock.

After you lost to Arkansas, a lot of folks counted you out. But you held a team meeting and decided you had something to play for. In other words, you didn't let adversity affect you. You said, we're going to do something about it. And then you beat Tennessee to win the SEC Championship, and you went from number seven to number two -- and you went straight to the national title game, which didn't start off so good. And yet you had 31 unanswered points, like a true champion team, to win 38 to 24. And you're here at the White House, representing LSU University as the National Champs. And we congratulate you.

Being raised in Texas and growing up in Texas, I've got a lot of friends in Louisiana. And you inspired people across the state. I thought Matt -- quarterback Matt Flynn put it best. He said, "You can't dream it any better than that." And that's what a lot of people were saying around your state.

You earned your place in the record books. You scored the most points in school history. And the seniors will go down as LSU's winningest class. No other senior class has had a better record.

I welcome defensive tackle, Glenn Dorsey. And so did the team when he turned down -- when he decided not to turn pro last year. A lot of fans said, "Thank you, Glenn." A lot of opponents said, "No, thank you, Glenn." After all, he was the defensive player of the year for SEC, Outland Trophy winner, Lombardi Trophy, and Nagurski Award. He'll have his time in the NFL, and a lot of teams are sure anxious to have him play for them. Congratulations, and welcome. Glad you're here.

This is a team of great athletes. Two players were drafted by Major League Baseball. One of the stars, Trindon Holliday, holds the school record in the 100 meters. One of your linemen, Herman Johnson -- he holds a different kind of record. He was the largest baby ever born in the state of Louisiana, at 15 pounds, 14 ounces. That's why he's known as "The House," which puts him in good stead with his fellow teammates known as, "Putt," or "Surfer Boy," "L-Crazy," and "Cheese." Whatever nickname you prefer to be called, all of us here are calling you "Champs." And you deserve it. I want to thank you for being champions on the field.

I appreciate you understanding that once you're a champ on the field, means you have a responsibility to be a champ off the field, as well. And there's no better inspiration than Les Miles and his wife, Kathy. They host events that raise money for the Children's Miracle Network. They're active in cancer fundraising and the Special Olympics, the Baton Rouge Children's Advocacy Center. I told the coach that I was going to mention this, and that is, I'm aware, as the Commander-in-Chief of the finest military ever assembled on the face of the Earth, that he went to boost our troops in Iraq and Kuwait as part of a USO tour. I want to thank you, Coach, for doing your job.

I appreciate the example that Glenn Dorsey has set on the field and off the field to -- he works to educate children about the dangers of drugs, and encourages them to work hard. His advice is: "Dream big and make things happen." There's nothing better than a champ to help somebody dream big and to encourage them to make something happen.

And so when you leave here, I hope you leave here knowing that you've got a special responsibility, not only to represent your school on the football field, but to help make America a better place, just like Ciron Black did, when he heard the story of an 8-year-old LSU fan who was suffering from leukemia. And he took time to send an encouraging message, then he wrote the boy's name, Mikey, on his wristband during the national championship game. Sometimes people say, I can't help because I can't solve all the problems. But in this case, he showed that you can help one person. And in helping one person, he helped the nation as a whole. And I want to thank you, Ciron, for your leadership.

There's a lot of great stories about the character of the people behind me, but it's getting chilly, and I'm looking forward to getting my LSU jersey. And so I want to welcome you all to the White House, to the South Lawn of the White House. I'm so honored and proud to welcome the LSU Tigers here as the National Champs. God bless you. God bless LSU, and God bless America.

Check out the article at LSU Sports.

Sweet! Congrats to the Tigers for a well-earned trip to the White House! Geaux!!!