Friday, June 23, 2017

America: The Case Against Oligarchical Philanthropy

It is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 19:23 NIV)

In Lords of Charity (its title in the June 26, 2017 print edition of America) Nathan Schneider, a reporter and professor of media studies at the University of Colorado, argues the case against oligarchical philanthropy as we know it, specifically targeting Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. 

Is Bill Gates giving his money away?  Isn’t he buying control of additional sectors of the economy, setting the agenda in health care and school reform. His foundation rivals the World Health Organization. At least the WHO has some government accountability. He holds influence over the US public school system which his foundation consistently steers toward Microsoft products. He went to private school and was a college dropout; he is a good salesperson of a monopolistic product. Does that qualify him to redirect large areas of the economy outside his expertise, solely because he has money?  Is what he is doing philanthropy, love of humanity?  Schneider compares it to buying indulgences.
Yet long after anyone remembers the misfortune of running Windows Vista, Mr. Gates can expect enduring praise for pouring money into humanitarian pursuits.

What are the alternatives?  Schneider proposes giving it back in several ways:
1. To the employees:
2.To the users of Facebook in the case of Mark Zuckerberg.
3. Direct gifts of cash to accounts of poor people.

Schneider details creative ways of doing all this that would increase democracy by letting employees, users, and the poor decide how the money is to be spent. Against fears that it might be misspent, Schneider quotes Francis “for a homeless man maybe a glass of wine is his only happiness in life.”
If philanthropy means love of others, it must prove itself by entrusting the material of that love to the intended recipients. To believe in the dignity of other human beings is to honor their capacity to choose.

My Comments

Thursday, June 22, 2017

All The President's Minions

We are moving along as if the Supreme Court upheld Richard Nixon's contention that "if the president does it, that means it is not illegal." The novel understanding of the divine right of presidents is necessary because our president -- as Speaker Ryan pointed out -- is not a politician, so he has no knowledge of what is and isn't legal in government.

So OK, an eight-year learning curve for Donald J. Trump.

But now the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled, 4-2, that all the president's men can't be prosecuted for violating people's First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, even though they used to be prosecuted for such things. Because 9-11. A good story from New York magazine is  here.  The SCOTUS opinion is here. More after he break.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Georgia 6 and the future of the Republic

What does Democrat Jon Ossof's loss to Republican Karen Handler foretell?

True, he was not a strong candidate, but neither was she.

Millions of dollars were spent by both sides. Didn't make a difference for either.

Are there some districts that are immune to voting for Democrats (even if it was close).

The comforting notion that the Democrats are going to take the House in 2018 looks to me like it's going down the rabbit hole. 

Democrats Seethe After Georgia Loss: ‘Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump’


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Otto Warmbier

UPDATE, 6/21: Still no answer on why Otto, who had been stable for over a year in a persistent vegetative state, would suddenly die (What Killed Otto Warmbier? Maybe an Infection or Blood Clot), but today I saw that his family refused to allow an autopsy, which seems a bit suspicious to me. Did they deny him medical care or food/water? That would not have been illegal but I wonder about the ethics.

In the news - Otto Warmbier dies days after release from North Korean detainment. We have all been following the story ... What Happened to Otto Warmbier? ... and it's very sad to see it end this way.

According to Wikipedia, Otto's condition was that of "a state of unresponsive wakefulness"—a condition commonly known as persistent vegetative state, like that of Terri Schiavo. Of course, I don't know the cause of Otto's death, but I recall that when Terri Schiavo died, there was a lot of Catholic press and a lot of questions were raised about end of life stuff.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. If I were in a persistent vegetative state, I'm pretty sure I would want to die, but how do you make that decision for someone else? The closest I've had to come to that was trying to decide at what point my elderly sick cats were suffering so much that they would rather be dead, and I still wonder if my choices were really made for them or for me. What does the church say about this? what do you guys think?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Essence of Being

I got into a rather metaphysical conversation with my oldest son the other day.  I forget how the subject came up; but I said that I wished I had finished college before getting married.  It would have been a lot easier when my parents were paying for it, and I didn't have family responsibilities, than it was when I went back to school a lot later. And it certainly would have made things easier financially for us.  He said, rather anguished, "But Mom, I wouldn't exist if you had done it that way!"  I said, "Of course you would.  We would have had kids, it just would have been delayed a bit."  Said my son, "You don't understand.  That kid that you eventually got around to having wouldn't be me.  He or she would have been my alternative reality sibling."  I quickly reassured him that of course, if that were the case, I don't regret anything, I was totally glad I had him.  My theory had been that if the timing of our conceptions had been different, we would still be the same souls, but in a different body.  My son might have been a short blonde male, rather than a tall dark haired one.  He said, "I don't think so, Mom.  I think my one chance for existence was the time it actually happened. I don't think bodies and souls are interchangeable units, they happen together."  Gave me food for thought.  And a headache.  And I have decided that I have no regrets; the butterfly effect and all that. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

More QATAR from someone who knows something

Gary Sick:

Gary Sick, a scholar at Columbia University, served on the National Security Council under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis. 

He writes: "First, as a member of the US policy team that first applied sanctions against Iran when our diplomats were being held hostage in Tehran, we drew the line at food and medicine. That has remained true in the succeeding 37 years. Despite all the onerous sanctions that the US has imposed against Iran over the years, which verge on economic warfare, there has never been a formal restriction on sales of food or medicine, including by US companies. The Saudi-UAE boycott, however, closed off food and medicine shipments to Qatar wherever possible, in the middle of Ramadan. I don’t know if this technically constitutes a breach of international humanitarian law, but it is certainly drastic by modern standards of political conflict."

He goes on to make several other telling points, including the fact that the U.S. military does not seem to be in sync with Donald Trump's pronouncements on the subject.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

RNS: What will future houses of worship look like?

Headlands Beach State Park, Lake County, Ohio

NIV John 4 21, 23-24  Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, "Believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth."
Where is the best place to worship?  An old question is being asked in a new form. Architects from Catholic University and the University of Hartford asked architectural students at Catholic University to design a house of worship for millennials. Here are the results; be sure to use the handles to see them all. And read the story to understand their rational.

Some questions for discussion?

Do we need buildings for worship?  In the Old Testament high places and springs were places of worship.

Is your home a house of worship?  House churches were the earliest Christian churches; increasing it is becoming evident they were used long after public places of worship became available.

Should we have multi-use public buildings of worship? In medieval times in some places the nave was considered the responsibility of the laity and used for secular events, e.g. markets.

Multi-faith buildings for worship?  should we have buildings and places for spirituality?

Ecumenical buildings for worship? with Christian symbols but non-denominational. Non-denominational congregations are growing fast.

Some  of My Places for Worship in Lake County