Daniel's blog

Alaska Positive

I hope I haven't posted about this before, but the Alaska State Museum has an online exhibit of photography called Alaska Positive 2006 that is just breathtaking. Click on the slide show link to see some incredible photographs.

No images reproduced here for good copyright reasons, but please take a peek!

Catholic Worker Digest May 2006

The May 2006 issue of my Catholic Worker Digest is now available on my personal web site. I am now caught up and I imagine I will receive the Jun/Jul issue this week.

New FGI Discussions: June 12, 2006

Activity at Free Government Information (http://freegovinfo.info) picked up this week as volunteers posted more stories and we welcomed a new guest blogger.

Our June BOTM, Jessamyn West, opened with a posting EPA - can a database replace a library? which parallels the concerns of some government documents librarians.

Our regular volunteers posted the following stories this past week:

As always we hope that you will stop by and join our conversation.

If you haven't already, please vote in our poll on archiving gov't e-docs at http://freegovinfo.info/node/476. We've got 102 votes and nine comments, and we'd like to see all 229 depository libraries who gave a positive response to question 65 to weigh in.

No FDSys related activity has been observed at the main FDSys site or at the recently revived FDSys Blog during the past week.

If you use Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com/) or some other RSS reader, consider subscribing to the FGI Feed at
http://freegovinfo.info/blog/feed to get FGI stories as they are posted.

Another hike in beautiful Juneau

Today I hiked the Dan Moller trail in Juneau. It is two miles of pretty mountain meadows and nary a biting insect. It was really inspiring. Thanks to Flickr, I can show you the other photos I took along the trail.

Mar/Apr 2006 Catholic Worker Digest Now Available

I've gotten moving on another of my labors of love and so the Mar/Apr 2006 issue of the Catholic Worker Digest is now available.

May 2006 is next on my list, but I'm setting no deadlines.

New FGI Discussions: June 5, 2006

This week we bid goodbye and give thanks to our May BOTM Cindi Wolff. We are also thrilled to announce that for June we will have the blogger who put the 'rarin into librarian. That's right, Jessamyn West of librarian.net is Free Government Information's guest blogger for June. Thanks Jessamyn!

Cindi posted to the end, and our regular volunteers posted the following stories this past week:

Cindi's postings:

Politics Thursday: Care for God’s Creatio

Today we reach the final major theme of Catholic Social Teaching, Care for God's Creation, in other words, Catholic Environmentalism. As with my other six themes, let's start with what the US Bishops have to say on the subject.

The following paragraph is from US Catholic Bishops " Renewing the Earth: An Invitation to Reflection and Action on Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching", as taken from the Diocese of Juneau web site:

The whole human race suffers as a result of environmental blight, and generations yet unborn will bear the cost for our failure to act today. But it is the poor and the powerless who most directly bear the burden of current environmental carelessness. Their lands and neighborhoods are more likely to be polluted or to host toxic waste dumps, their water to be undrinkable, their children be harmed. Too often, the structure of sacrifice involved in environmental remedies seems to exact a high price from the poor and from workers.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that abuse of the environment and/or natural creatures is the same as stealing:

The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation. Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral, vegetable, and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from respect for moral imperatives. Man's dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.

In the Catholic catechetical community around the country, Catholic Social Teaching is often referred to as Catholicism's best kept secret. If so, then the teaching on the environment is a secret within a secret. Catholics I know who are well aware of the Church's stands on abortion and war didn't know the level of commitment to the environment the Church professed until we found ourselves in a class on Catholic Social Teaching.

You can think of the Church's stand as one of stewardship. Like our wealth, our environment is only lent to us by God. We have a responsibility to use that environment for the common good and pass it on to the next generation in at least as good condition as we found it. We can also hone our sense of solidarity by ensuring that no animal suffers more than is necessary.

Some Catholics take this too far for me. I've seen some Catholic writers point to this teaching and say that it shows that all species are equal and that humans and snails have the same value to God. I don't believe that this is what the Church teaches, and I can't take it seriously. I'm against factory farming, I don't want to repeat harmful animal tests just for student practice, etc, but if my home is burning, I don't think God will blame me for putting my wife before my cats.

So, I have completed the vow that I made seven weeks ago, to hold my tongue (at least in my journal) regarding current events on Politics Thursdays. I'm not sure what the future holds. For that matter, I don't know that anyone cares. I'm sure I'll find something to write about some weeks, but I'll still try to stay away from any news story less than a week old. There may be weeks, I don't feel like writing about politics at all. We'll see. Thanks for being patient with this experiment.

Selected Resources

New FGI Discussions: May 29, 2006

This week was a light one for our guest blogger Cindi Wolff and our regular Free Government Information volunteers, but we still managed to post the following stories:

Cindi's postings:

Volunteer postings:

Memorial Day

First started during the Civil War, Memorial Day has been used to remember the sacrifices of those who have given their lives in service to their country.

FirstGov has a page of resources including the history of Memorial Day, and facts about veterans who have served in the wars of our century.

If you're an American, I hope you will take some time today to honor their lives, reflect upon their deaths and pray for any surviving relatives, whether from the Iraq War or WWI.

My hike today

This is one of the pictures that I took on a hike on Juneau's Point Bridget trail. I've got others that I can share, thanks to Flickr.

Way too many biting insects, but lots of lovely scenery.

Politics Thursday: No more excuses!

For those keeping score, this is the first time in a month where Politics Thursday will actually be available on a Thursday!

So, here you go:

This is my next to last essay on the seven major themes of Catholic Social Teaching, as enumerated by the US Catholic Bishops. Today we examine Solidarity.

The following paragraph is from US Catholic Bishops "A Century of Social Teaching", as taken from the Diocese of Juneau web site:

We are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers (cf.Gen4:9). In a linked and limited world, our responsibilities to one another cross national and other boundaries. Violent conflict and the denial of dignity and rights to people anywhere in the world diminish us. This emerging theme of solidarity, so strongly articulated by Pope John Paul II, expresses the core of the Church’s concern for world peace, global development, environment, and international human rights. It is the contemporary expression of the traditional Catholic image of the Mystical Body

Marvin L. Krier Mich provides some examples of individual responses to the teaching on solidarity in his book The Challenge and Spirituality of Catholic Social Teaching:

A young German woman has just finished her master's of divinity degree and has a few months open before looking for a job teaching theology in a German high school. So what should Julia do with her open time? Take a long vacation in Spain, Italy, or the Greek islands? Those are great ideas, but Julia wants something with a little more depth and meaning. After checking out the Internet, she settles on a shelter for homeless women in a tough neighborhood in Rochester, New York. Sight unseen she arrives in January 2003 at the doorstep of Bethany House, a Catholic Worker house in one of the snowbelt cities of upstate New York. She has come 5000 miles to volunteer at a home for women and children who are homeless, often because of domestic violence or drug abuse.

About the same time in Washington State, Jessica is about to make a similar decision. She has decided to join another Catholic Worker house, St. Joseph House of Hospitality, which feeds the needy and houses homeless men. Jessica travels three thousand miles to live a life of voluntary poverty and serve the people most Americans try to avoid.

Katie and Matt are a retired couple living in a small burg in Wisconsin. While doing all the things grandparents do to help out their grandkids, children, and great-grandchildren, they also make time to involved in civic organizations and volunteer one day a week at the clothing and food cupboard in a nearby town.

Closer to our cyberhome, Mdoneil makes repeated trips to Haiti to offer medicines and medical care to those people completely unable to afford such things and who do not have access to emergency rooms like the poverty stricken in America.

At its heart, in my view, Solidarity is all about carrying out Christ's commandment to love others as we love ourselves. But to love others as ourselves, we must first realize that everyone else is just as human as we are. We must understand them. We must be willing to at least try to see the world through their eyes. This understanding isn't to excuse moral failings, but to make people more than one-dimensional villains or victims.

It is a spirit of solidarity with the poor that makes me and many others in the Church to say that it is unjust that the United States by itself controls 40% of the world's wealth with only 6% of the world's population, but feels rather than spending more on development than the rest of the world combined instead spends more on its military budget than the rest of the world combined. It is a sense of solidarity with my fellow Christians that says that it isn't right for Saudi Arabia to demand freedom of worship for Muslims worldwide, but deny that right to Christians and people of other faiths in their own country. It's a sense of solidarity with villagers in Iraq that makes me angry when we're willing to do aerial bombing of towns knowing that we will kill civilians because we likely will get some insurgents. We wouldn't send F-15s against violent street gangs in America, and it's wrong to do so in Iraq. Solidarity transforms "collateral damage" back into people who have lost their sons, daughters, husbands, mothers, brothers and sisters because we won't fight on the ground.

Next week I close with what for me is the hardest tenant of Catholic Social Teaching: Care for God's Creation. I don't think that the US Bishops go too far, but some individual Catholics do.

Selected Resources:

Gandhi on the Eiffel Tower

Recently I've been reading The Story of My Experiments with Truth By M. K. Gandhi. I was struck by this observation on the Eiffel Tower:

New FGI Discussions: May 22, 2006

This week found our guest blogger Cindi Wolff and our regular Free Government Information volunteers posting the following stories:

Cindi's postings:

Volunteer postings:

Politics Thursday: Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

Today, we examine a tenet of Catholic Social Teaching that underlies a lot of the Church's work in the economic realm, that is, the dignity of work and the rights of workers.

The following paragraph is from US Catholic Bishops "A Century of Social Teaching", as taken from the Diocese of Juneau web site:

Work is more than a way to make a living; it is an expression of our dignity and a form of continuing participation in God's creation. People have a right to decent and productive work, to decent and fair wages, to private property and economic initiative. Workers have the strong support of the Church in forming and joining union and worker associations of their choosing in the exercise of their dignity and rights. These values are at the heart of Rerum Novarum and other encyclicals on economic justice. In Catholic teaching, the economy exists to serve people, not the other way around.

This has been a counter cultural stance of the Church for centuries. Despite lip service paid to the value of hard work, societies since antiquity down to our present day tend to look down on our laboring classes. We reward the celebrities, the business tycoons, our professional sports players. We have lotteries and game shows to give the working a person chance to break out of their dull existence and live a "real life" without the tedium of actually working for a living. I think it is also hard to argue that the people who work hardest in our society - the maids, the janitors, restaurant help, child care workers, etc are not only not valued for their hard work, but are too often looked upon as losers.

The Church says NO to this view of work. Work is seen as taking part of God's continuing process of creation. Work is seen as an essential part of spirituality, as judged by the number of religious orders who incorporate manual labor into the life of their community. "Prayer and Work" is the motto that guides the Benedictine order in their spiritual journey. Work isn't a necessary evil brought on by the Fall of humankind, it is sacred.

Because work is sacred, the Church has held, at least since Rerum Novarum, that a day's work should at least bring a day's room and board. It would be unjust to do otherwise. That's the motivating spirit behind many just wage campaigns around the country being waged or aided by local Catholic dioceses.

Another area that this part of Catholic Social Teaching touches is the Church's work with undocumented workers. Many undocumented workers face harsh working conditions and often go unpaid. They cannot complain about these conditions or they would be deported. The Church in many parts of the country work for better work conditions because the undocumented themselves cannot.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that while the US Catholic Church has been at least somewhat effective in preaching this principle to others, it has more work to do in living it out. Many diocesan workers and especially those in Catholic education and health care work for low wages and in some cases the religious run institutions have resisted the unionization that many Popes have said is the right of all people.

As I've noted in other posts, the Catholic Church is a very large and very human institution. I also believe that it is one guided by the Holy Spirit, or we would have never made it through the Popes of the 1400s and 1500s. This guidance is often subtle and painful. But in the end I think most of the Church works very hard to uphold the rights and dignity of workers.

Next time (hopefully Thursday, but I've said that before), we will examine the principle of Solidarity, which places many obligations on us Christians here at home and to people in every nation.

Selected Resources:

Disciples with Microphones

It looks like Catholic Podcasters are banding together at a site called Disciples with Microphones. According to their web site:

Politics Thursday: Perhaps it needs a new name?

Like Arthur Dent, I'm having trouble getting the hang of Thursdays, at least from a blogging perspective. Expect something on the Catholic view of the rights of workers sometime this weekend. In the meantime check out what fresh Alaska Grown (tm) vegetables are available in my fair state.

If I don't get my act together next week, perhaps I'll have to initiate "Politics Weekend."

New FGI Discussions: May 15, 2006

This week found our guest blogger Cindi Wolff and our regular Free Government Information volunteers quite busy with the following stories:

Cindi's postings:

Volunteer postings:

As always we hope that you will stop by and join our conversation. As of May 12, 2006, a couple of users have emailed to say that they're having problems posting comments. We are looking into this problem. If you experience a problem posting a comment, please email us at admin AT freegovinfo DOT info and we'll post the comment for you. Don't let our technical difficulties keep you from contributing to the discussions.

If you haven't already, please vote in our poll on archiving gov't e-docs at http://freegovinfo.info/node/476

No FDSys related activity has been observed either at the main FDSys site or at their blog, which has been dormant since January. If someone from GPO knows whether the blog at http://fdsys.blogspot .com has been officially abandoned, I'd appreciate hearing from them.

If you use Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com/) or some other RSS reader, consider subscribing to the FGI Feed at
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Politics Thursday: The Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

Today, a few days late, we examine a controversial tenet of Catholic Social Teaching, "Option for the Poor and Vulnerable", also known as "The Preferential Option for the Poor." Actually, the basic concept isn't as controversial as much as its application is. Let's first examine how the US Catholic Bishops see this concept.

The following paragraph is from US Catholic Bishops "A Century of Social Teaching", as taken from the Diocese of Juneau web site:

Poor and vulnerable people have a special place in Catholic social teaching. A basic moral test of a society is how its most vulnerable members are faring. This is not a new insight; it is the lesson of the parable of the Last Judgment (see Mt.25). Our tradition calls us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. As Christians, we are called to respond to the needs of all of our brothers and sisters, but those with the greatest needs require the greatest response.

I think most Christians and Americans accept the call of charity to help the less fortunate, and this is how many Catholics view this call. Others who trace this option from Biblical times believe the call to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first as more radical. Rather than trace this development myself, I will quote a few paragraphs from Marvin L. Krier Mich's "The Challenge and Spirituality of Catholic Social Teaching." (I'm not including an Open WorldCat link for this book as it was not in OCLC as of this writing.):

The "preferential option for the poor" is a central theme in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. The foundational event in the history of the Hebrew community was God's response to the cries of the oppressed in Egypt: "I have heard the cry of my people and I see how they are being oppressed" (Ex. 3:9). God instructs Moses, "Go to Pharaoh and tell him that Yahwah says, "Let my people go"" (Ex 8:1). This event reveals what kind of God Yahwah is and what kind of people Israel is to become. As Jorge Pixley notes, "The correct referent [for God] is always that God who redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt. Any god who is not the savior of the poor and oppressed cannot be the true God of Israel." He continues in language that could be applied to today's use of religion to justify slavery and oppression: "A god who legitimates the oppression of peasants, no matter how solemn its cult, is not the true God of Israel, for the true God is only that One who hears the cries of the oppressed and frees them from their oppressors."


God's identification with the poor and outcast is clearly evident in the Christian Scriptures when God chooses a poor, young, single woman to be the bearer of the Christ child. The message and action of Jesus continues the tradition of social justice proclaimed in the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus stands on the shoulders of the prophets and the psalmist who proclaim God's love for the poor in many words and actions.


In 1968 the bishops of Latin America met in Medellin, Columbia, to examine the situation in light of the new approaches of the Second Vatican Council. The bishops came face-to-face with the growing poverty in Latin America. In their analysis they shifted their support to the poor: "It is necessary that small basic communities be developed in order to establish a balance with minority groups, which are the groups in power...The church—the people of God—will lend its support to the downtrodden of every social class so that they might come to know their rights and how to make use of them."

The bishops confirmed a new direction in Latin America. As Father Alfred Hennelly noted, the Medellin documents "provided legitimation, inspiration, and pastoral plans for a continent-wide preferential option for the poor, encouraging those already engaged in the struggle and exhorting the entire church, both rich and poor, to become involved."


Pope John Paul II echoed the preferential option for the poor in his writing and speaking. He used the phrase "preferential love of the poor" and interpreted the prior one hundred hears of Catholic social teaching as evidence of the church's option for the poor even before this phrase was coined. Pope John Paul II characterized the preferential option for the poor as a "call to have a special openness with the small and the weak, those who suffer and weep, those that are humilated and left on the margin of society, so as to help them with their dignity as human persons and children of God."

So much for the basic concept. The controversy I keep referring to is related to an outgrowth of Medellín known as liberation theology. You can read about it at the wikipedia entry above. I personally believe that it is a matter of degree. If you focus exclusively on raising the wealth of the poor through any means necessary, then you have fallen into the same trap of materialism as though who defend their wealth by any means necessary.

Have Catholics lived this out? No, but many of us try. Does the Church? Now more than it used to. As we aspire to live it out, it is a beacon letting us know that our treasure is not on Earth but in heaven and that all we think we own is merely in trust for God and others. If more people would live this out, I think a lot of social problems would solve themselves.

A last word, and this goes back to the Bible's apparent support for the poor and weak (people and nations) against the elites and empires of the the day. This preference terrifies me and it should terrify you as well. None of the great empires (Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Rome) survived. All were swept aside by God. All of them once straddled the known world and insisted it was their way or the highway. As do we today. What then might have God in store for us if we continue to see ourselves as a law unto ourselves? This is assuming God still deals with nations. Looking at the New Testament, it seems like God deals more with individuals than with the larger societies that surround them. This gives me some hope.

Whew. Now you know why this entry couldn't go up on Thursday! This Thursday (I hope!) we will examine "Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers."

Selected Resources:

Politics Thursday: Delayed - How does Norma do it?

Hi All,

While it's the height of arrogance to assume that there are readers just dying to read my latest installment of Politics Thursday, I still wanted to say that nothing political here will be posted until at least Sunday.

I've been busy at my other blog on a topic that was a recent conversation starter on govdoc-l. Plus I've started spending evenings with my wife helping her get her ceramics shop open.

How does Norma manage to keep up six blogs???

Vote in new poll on saving gov't e-docs

Free Government Information has a new unscientific poll on how or whether libraries and individuals save electronic government documents.

Please hop over and provide an opinion. Feel free to tell us what you think about the subject - three others already have.


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