Pentacles Approved

The pentacle has been added to 38 symbols the VA already permits on gravestones. They include commonly recognized symbols for Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism, as well as those for smaller religions such as Sufism Reoriented, Eckiankar and the Japanese faith Seicho-No-Ie.

Well it’s really nice to see that even Seicho-No-Ie must finally acknowledge Paganism as a real faith. The pentacle is actually only representing Wiccanism according to the article, but it is the closest thing to a universal symbol that Paganism is likely ever to get. With the exception of certain Discordians who will remain nameless, other recognized symbols used by Pagans, such as Thor’s hammer and the ankh, appeal to a more narrow segment than the pentacle. It is likely that there will always be Pagans that do not use or identify with this symbol, but now in the spring of 2007, upon reaching this settlement with the Veterans Administration, the pentacle is the most widely accepted symbol that Pagans have.

Congress Can’t Have It Both Ways

What you put out into the world, comes back to you three times.

Congress has made it clear that it wants to put the brakes on the “war” in Iraq by stipulating a troop withdrawal deadline in the current funding bill. With the Democrats holding the majority, they are now attempting to undercut the President’s constitutional role of commander-in-chief with their own mandated job of holder of the purse strings.

I’d be more comfortable with our Senators and Representatives taking the high road and staging this cleverly executed end-run around W if they were at all willing to take responsibility for their own actions in the current conflict.

I placed “war” in quotations because we are not now, and never have been, at war with or in Iraq. I know this because the Congress is the only body that is entitled to make such a declaration, and the Congress abdicated this role. Instead of actually having the balls to declare war if they felt so strongly about the Hussein regime, they simply authorized our President to invade.

Now, after countless dollars and a fair amount of lives have been spent on the effort, the legislative branch seeks to hide its own malfeasance by demanding a strategy that can do nothing but fail. Leaders take their responsibilities seriously, and admit their failures with grace. Our congressional leaders, most of whom voted to support Bush’s actions in the first place, have done nothing of the sort. Instead they seek to misdirect all the blame onto a President who certainly is equally tainted in this debacle. Tainted Bush is, but he could not have engaged our military in Iraq without the willing compliance of Congress. That Congress should have either declared war, or declined to permit the President to act. To decide several years later that they would simply deny our soldiers funding is a weak act, not one worthy of leadership.

Perils of Political Polling

First, do no harm.

The polls for the 2008 Presidential race are in full swing, detailing how John Edwards has surged ahead since the disclosure of his wife’s tragic illness, but not enough to eclipse Hillary (who somehow has managed to almost entirely ditch her last name since entering politics). I’ve gotten my share of calls from pollsters, and every politician lives and dies by those numbers, since one’s ability to raise funds for campaigning is pretty closely tied to how one tracks.

Polls frustrate me. It may be interesting to see how any particular candidate would fare in the election if it were held today, as a measure of current stated positions and name recognition. It may be fun to predict what will happen based on how much we’ve learned. But they’re undeniably dangerous.

High-polling candidates get more coverage in the media, both paid and free. Those that slip tend to tweak their positions to improve their numbers. Everyone claims that polls don’t matter when they’re doing well, and care a great deal about them when they’re doing poorly. Why is it, exactly, that the polls are given such great value, considering that the only poll that has legal significance is the election itself? It’s actually pretty easy to explain: it’s the stupid people.

I’m not saying that people of low intelligence are, as a rule, more likely to use a poll as a guide in their voting decisions; I’m saying that people who are stupid enough not to spend time educating themselves about issues and candidates are. These are the people that are targeted by the commercials that cast the opponent in an unflattering light, literally, as well as in black-and-white with a wide-angle lens that adds twenty pounds. People who are far too lazy to have a clue what the debates over Iraq, illegal immigration, education, and the environment can do to the lives of they and their children. People who will stumble, bleary-eyed, into a voting booth after a long day at the office, basing the decision of their voting franchise on the results of exit polls they heard on the radio. These people scare me.

The right to vote is the right of choice, and it a right that was paid for in the lives of many patriots. Choice is personal. I used to be a critic of people who did not vote, particularly those who complained about the results afterwards. However, I am garnering a new respect for those who choose not to vote, because they do not feel they have educated themselves well enough on the issues. Making a voting choice based on a hunch, commercial, poll, cocktail party conversation, or opportunity to improve one’s chances in bed is guaranteed by the Constitution. If, however, you are not prepared to live with the consequences of that sort of half-witted decision, I implore you to do no harm by making a choice not to vote.