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Olympics and Georgia

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 8:50 PM

It strikes me — as I know it does others — what an odd contrast we have had over the last week or so. The Olympics so far have been largely inspiring — seeing events such as the continual array of records broken by Michael Phelps is just marvelous. And, while I'm not a huge sports guy, tuning in for the great variety that is the Olympics and seeing our athletes do their best is encouraging. How can one not be happy to see people using their God given talents to their fullest extent?

Then there is Georgia. The Cold War Era-esque echos that come out of this event are startling, I think, even for those of us who have been watching in dismay as Vladimir Putin has been busy reconstructing a Soviet-esque totalitarian state in Russia. “What can be done” is the question that keeps passing through my head. Surely we cannot go into a head to head conflict with Russia, but how do we at the same time support pro-Western allies like Georgia and the Ukraine?

It is sad that the glories of the Olympics — fleeting as they are — must be overshadowed by such a disaster as Putin's little war. But, I suppose one might say it is a picture of life: the joys come with the sorrows. Somehow that seems hollow, though, when one sees the pictures of the bloodied, homeless, weeping people fleeing their cities as a madman in charge of a scarily powerful army bombs them.

Requiem to Sharper Image

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 4:23 AM

The Sharper Image is dead, it seems. That's too bad. For all the bad press they have gotten, I rather liked them.

An example is worth recalling. A few years ago, I received as a gift a little iPod speaker dock that performed a light show to the music. Shortly thereafter, I misplaced the AC adapter and after months of searching, gave up and wrote the Sharper Image's customer service, asking if they sold replacement parts. They informed me that they could not sell the AC adapter to me — but they'd send me one for free. And they did; rather quickly even, as I recall. They even apologized that I had lost my adapter!

The Sharper Image always had some interesting gadget for sale. I'll miss that. Alas, poor Sharper Image, I did not know thee well enough.

Amazing, Good News

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:14 AM

I'm more than a bit surprised, but it seems that through a series of amazing events, the 11 day old infant that had been abducted over the weekend, in the metro area, was given to authorities and returned to her mother. I have to say I doubted a happy ending to this — what wonderful news! Praise God!

Irrational Behavior and the Power Grid

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 3:48 PM

According to KMOX 1120 AM, the Rev. Al Sharpton is coming in to St. Louis today to protest the fact that minorities are still without power in St. Louis after the storm that hit last week. He joins a growing faction that is angry at Ameren for its “slow” repair of the power lines.

Let me get this straight. A storm with 90+ MPH hurricane force winds hits six days ago and knocks out almost 600,000 customers' power — the worst damage in the power company's history. The power company gets over 100,000 of those lines restored only to have a storm on Friday morning push the number back up to almost 600,000. Nevertheless, using over 4,000 Ameren and other power utility workers from all across the midwest, the number is inching down to 235,000, as of yesterday afternoon, and someone still has the nerve to suggest that Ameren is discriminating against minorities!?! Last I checked many non-minority areas in St. Charles were out of power all weekend, and St. Charles has the advantage of newer infrastructure with less large trees. St. Louis too is getting most of its power up, but there is a price to living in older areas, whether one is a minority or not.

People need to get a grip. Ameren has done an amazing job dealing with an “act of God” and to say otherwise is only to demonstrate one's lack of connection to reality. This isn't discrimination, its life after a major storm.

London Bombings

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:01 AM

I just do not know what to say, other than that this was sickening. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who perished in the attacks in London today. May whoever perpetrated these crimes be brought to justice swiftly. Somehow, we must bring terrorism under control, but I'm not sure how that might be accomplished.

I wonder… if it was al-Qaeda, why didn't we pickup any chatter prior to the attack? Of course, even the best of intelligence can only catch so much, but it has seemed quiet to me in the news lately. I just hope any additional attacks will be stopped before they occur.

In Memoriam: Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 8:43 PM

That phrase is a Roman proverb that is included in the ceremony of initiating a new pontiff in the Roman Catholic Church. Thus passes away the glory of the world. This seems like a good statement to meditate on when entering that high office, or really any position of importance; it helps to keep one humble.

Pope John Paul II certainly saw all the glory of his position fade as he suffered over the past few years from ailments. All the pomp and honor of one of the best known and most respected positions in the world does little to help with the cruel, slow onslaught of time on us. The pope died this afternoon at the age of 84. It is sad to hear of the loss of a man who did so much for the Catholic church with such grace and humility. Had I sat down with him to discuss theology, we likely would have differed in many nuances and even on few larger issues, but boiled down to the essentials, I believe every indication was that we were both on the same side. We most certainly agreed on the essential belief that is the heart of the Gospel: “Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Obviously, this is why the glory of the world is unimportant. Soli Deo Gloria. God's glory does not pass away, and so there is every reason to expect that His servant Karol Wojtyla is now enjoying the presence of true glory rather than the kind that simply passes away.

I know this news made me depressed, so I'm sure it is especially hard for all of my friends within the Catholic church. My prayers are with you and the church's leaders as the difficult process of transition to the next pontiff begins.

A Sea of Troubles

On the Terri Schiavo Case

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 2:15 AM
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream…

An astute observer of this blog might notice that while I usually opine on any major news going on, I've never blogged on Terri Schiavo, despite that case being in the headlines for several years now. I'm not sure if anyone noticed this, but if you did, I figured it is finally time to explain why.

On this case, I just don't know the right answer. I lean toward saying she should be kept on the feeding tube, but with major caveats I shall now explain.

I'm sure most of you know I'm a pro-life fellow. I oppose abortion and I oppose euthanasia; I wish that both were illegal in all parts of these United States. The problem is that I have always seen life support as a different issue from those. I support the right of a family to pull a loved one off life support, if that person's wishes were not to be kept alive artificially. My health directive says as much about myself.

What if I was in Terri Schiavo's position? Would I want to live like that? No. Would I want someone to kill me? No. Would I want someone to artificially keep me alive? No. There is no paradox here; I don't want someone to cause me to die, but nor would I want to live only because a machine was feeding a vegetative remnant of my former self. Now, Michael Schiavo claims that Terri expressed the same sentiments I just have. Unfortunately, she did not write them down or blog them. Can I believe that this happened? Sure, most people in their 20's and 30's don't think a lot about death (by that I do not mean that I do either, but I've been forced to watch it more than I would have liked due to the loss of ten or so close family and friends over the past nine years).

Now, the problem is things get more difficult from here. If she had written out a health directive, it probably would have said that artificial measures should be used if there is hope of recovery. In this case, it would seem Michael Schiavodid not properly attempt to rehabilitate Terri.

So here is my conundrum. I don't want the State to get involved to the point where legitimate desires to remove feeding tubes will become impossible. Well, “desires” is a bad word to use — in most cases, perhaps not this one, I doubt one would desire to do so, but rather think it the right thing to do. It is already too hard, which is unfortunate, because some people may opt not to give a loved one a feeding tube at all for fear that they will never be able to remove it if treatments fail. On the other hand, in this particular case, the feeding tube probably should not be removed unless and until proper rehab measures have been given and fail to help Terri. This would be a reasonable request. The problem is that I have not seen any attempts to argue for this, but rather simply to prevent the removal of the feeding tube, period.

I hope I am never in the state Terri is in, but if I was, I am loathe to think that I could be stuck there for decades simply because the court decided that was the way things are. I certainly would want to be given every chance of recovery, but beyond that… I just have my doubts about modern medicine. I believe we should utilize it when it helps people to recover, but too often it only seems to make dying more agonizing than it would have been in the past. I have said before and will say again that I do not fear death, but I do very much fear dying; modern medicine's increasing abilities bring not only the hope of living healthy and happy for longer, but also the terror of a longer, more terrible dying process.

Thus I sit on the fence. Yesterday, when I saw that Schiavo's feeding tube was removed, I felt sick to my stomach. But legal intervention to keep it in also would have made me queasy. I just don't see this as a black and white case, especially when I consider that its outcome will impact far more scenarios than just this one.

One thing I can be clear about is that I don't agree with Michael Schiavo. If he had been the grieving, loving husband who simply seemed to want to fulfill his wife's expressed wishes, it'd be one thing. But his actions seem to indicate an entirely different story. Who knows, perhaps the speculation that he did something to her to cause this might be true. Given that he has a live-in sex partner girlfriend and children, I don't think he's been fighting so long because he loves his wife so much that he has to do her very wishes. Maybe Michael wants her to die so she doesn't ever recover and reveal what he did.

There just aren't easy answers here. The implications on either side are huge. In the end, I suspect she should be put back on a feeding tube, and given rehab. But if it takes the strong arm of the government to some how do it (if at all possible), it will be a bittersweet victory in the larger legal landscape.

NASA Tomorrow

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 11:51 PM

Word, I hear, is that NASA has a very exciting Mars related announcement tomorrow. Details apparently aren't really very clear, but it sounds like they've discovered something interesting.

I'm anxiously waiting. :-)

So far, so good...

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:28 AM

Well, we've been in Iraq for a little over 48 hours now and it seems like all is going well. It was especially nice to see the peoples of southern Iraq welcoming the American troops. I hope they spread the word that we're nice guys so that this type of reception continues!

Now, if we can only figure out what to do with France. If you didn't catch it, it seems that Jacques Chirac has announced that France will not cooperate with the effort to rebuild Iraq if we and the Brits help lead that project. Apparently they fear that would legitimize our attacks on Iraq. Makes sense: they didn't want us to “hurt” Iraq… so now they are going to join in and hurt Iraq for us.

President Bush Speaks, War Begins

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 10:35 PM

Apparently, intelligence gave indication of where they thought Saddam Hussein was and tonight's attack was an “attack of opportunity” to try to “decapitate” the regime. It is not clear when the full attack will begin.

UPDATE: 12-24 cruise missiles were used in the initial attack.

Ironically as the initial follies are being exchanged, thunder crashes across the sky out my window. I guess over in Iraq a much more horrible sound now erupts across their skies. It seems to be a sobering reminder of what we have now embarked upon.

I sincerely hope and pray this war ends as suddenly as it begins. I worry it won't.

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