Sunday, April 30, 2017

Democrats Say They Now Know Why Clinton Lost?

Why did Obama Win?

Democrats say they now know why Clinton lost

Many Democrats have a shorthand explanation for Clinton's defeat: Her base didn't turn out, Donald Trump's did and the difference was too much to overcome.
But new information shows that Clinton had a much bigger problem with voters who had supported President Barack Obama in 2012 but backed Trump four years later.
Those Obama-Trump voters effectively accounted for more than two-thirds of the reason Clinton lost
Priorities USA released a poll last week, conducted in part by Cantor's firm, that found the Democratic base — including voters who usually sit out midterm elections —unusually motivated to participate in the next election. The group have said in recent months that Democrats can both reach out to white working-class voters and their base with a strong message rooted in economic populism.
My first question is why did Obama succeed when Hilary failed?

Remember Obama had his "guns and religion" off the record characterization of the white working class that could have been as bad as Hilary's ''deplorables"

Why was Obama not able to convince his supporters from the white working class to support Hilary?

Coffee with Jesus

One thing I've noticed about most Catholics is that they don't usually talk much about their personal prayer lives. How do you guys say prayers? I mostly follow the Ignatian colloquy - a conversation with Jesus. Sacred Space (the Irish Jesuits) describes it this way ...

"Imagine you see Jesus sitting close to you. In doing this you are putting your imagination at the service of your faith. Jesus isn't here in the way you are imagining him, but he certainly is here, and your imagination helps to make you aware of this. Now, speak to Jesus .... if no one is around, speak out in a soft voice .... Listen to what Jesus says to you in reply, or what you imagine him to say .... That is the difference between thinking and praying. When we think, we generally talk to ourselves. When we pray, we talk to God." - Anthony de Mello SJ

I try to do a good job of it but often turns out like this ;) ...

The books that have helped me most with prayer are those by Jesuit William Barry, especially God and You: Prayer As a Personal Relationship and The Practice of Spiritual Direction

Friday, April 28, 2017

Not all become elders

It seems that most of the former dotCommonwealers who read this blog are a bit beyond the first blush of youth.  My guess is that everyone here is mid-fifties+, with some of us quite a bit beyond that, which is still middle age. So perhaps they aren't yet contemplating the next stage because they are still too busy working and engaged with mid-life issues.

Those of us who have left that age and world behind, voluntarily or not, have lots of time to think about what next.   Mariann Budde is the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC. She has two grown sons, is in her late 50s, and, as Bishop, is still highly engaged with her vocation and her job.

Yet she too is thinking ahead a few years. She gave a homily recently on "the spiritual terrain of aging'.

She quotes a conversation between Krista Tippett and Fr. Richard Rohr

"Krista Tippett began an exchange by saying:
There is a true progression of life that comes with age, which is about an accumulation of experience, but this is not necessarily chronological. Everybody doesn’t become an elder. Some people just get old. .... 
Richard Rohr agreed. “Some of the young people today feel like old souls,” he said. “And some of my generation feel like old fools.” ((https://onbeing.org/programs/richard-rohr-living-in-deep-time/
We all get older; not all become elders."
Bishop Budde goes on to quote Dr. Lisa Kimball, a professor at the Virginia Theological Seminary. Dr. Kimball's  expertise is the spirituality of teenagers and young adults. Yet she pointed out "that the fastest growing demographic in our country consists of people over the age of 70. “The spiritual terrain of those years,” she said, “is under-explored and under-valued. This requires our immediate attention as a Church.” I’ve never forgotten that."
Bishop Budde asks - So what is the spiritual terrain of eldership?

 https://mariannbudde.com/2017/04/26/not-all-become-elders-the-spiritual-terrain-of-aging/
I ask the same Right now, getting frighteningly close to my 70s, I fear that I am more of an old fool than a wise elder.  Is it possible to change how we are as we arrive at the threshold of old age - old fool or elder?  What role can the church play? Should it bother? It seems most denominations, facing a sea of gray hair and very few young people in the pews, are mostly concerned about the younger generations.  Should the churches simply focus on the young, since the old are in the pews and the young are not?  If the aging are to become "elders", with wisdom to share with the younger members of their families, communities and parishes, should the churches also be investing in programs to help older people draw upon their life experiences and perhaps discover that they do possess a bit of hidden wisdom?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Elizabeth Warren: the future of the Democratic party

I saw Elizabeth Warren on The Tonight Sow talking about her new book and about the future of the Democratic party. I think the future of the party lies with her, not with (Independent) Bernie ....

And here she speaks on the Senate floor about women's reproductive rights ...

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

This photo shows a small portion of the crowd.  People kept arriving in the rain.  Some reports said around 10,000 but I thought it was much more. 
The rain became incessant but I was kept dry by that great  .scientific invention, Goretex.  At intervals, music was provided by Stay Human, Colbert’s Late Show band.  With band leader Jon Baptiste’s fantastic piano talent, lots of brass and saxophones playing rhythmy blues jazz, I had no complaints.  Acting as host was Veritasium creator, Derek Muller.  He introduced a whole series of young people who were doing research.  The emphasis was on how much  the research could benefit us all.  Every mention of possible benefit was vigorously cheered.  Many women and people of color, including a former astronaut, were presented to show the diversity among scientists and to promote recruitment.  This was augmented by folks from the ever expanding letter sequence, LGBTQ, including one trans-man, also vigorously cheered upon self-declaration.  The inclusiveness of scientific research message was in parallel with the message that science will save us all.  Derek Muller himself seemed to put some counterbalance by admitting that applied science also caused our present plight of pollution, global warming and weaponry. He says we must know both these sides of science.  I believe it was he that made some mention of the benefit of something outside science, i.e., literature.  So science isn’t everything.  One speaker that stood out for me was Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician who blew the whistle on the lead pollution in the drinking water.  For her, it was science that was the tool that revealed the problem.  She then brought out a little girl from Flint who talked about the water tasting bad and burning her skin, and how science could help the people of Flint.  I suppose the Republican governor would call that playing dirty and politicizing.  Well, screw him.  The photo shows the doctor supporting the little girl as she spoke standing on a box so as to clear the podium.  She started out shy but once she started, she cranked on to the end, getting more and more confident until she waved and smiled at the end.  Some of the water on my jacket was too salty to be rain.  So that covers the message that “Science is beneficial, inclusive and diverse”.  Next, I’ll cover some of the heavy hitter speakers and themes which I might characterize as “Science is more American than apple pie”.  Lord, I wish Unagidon were writing this.  Such depth compared to my cartoon mind.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Deficits Are Evil - Except When They're Not

In her previous post, Margaret Steinfels discussed the changing meaning of the term "conservative".  Following along those lines, one of the meanings of the word has been the fiscal sense.  That is, conservatives were those who believed in a balanced budget, and having a plan to pay for the things you want to do and have to do.  Turns out the Trump White House has a fiscal plan: http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/4/25/15383806/trump-white-house-tax-plan-budget-math.  But in no way would it be called conservative in the traditional sense: 
"On Wednesday, President Trump will unveil a new set of principles for what he calls “massive” tax cuts for businesses and individuals — a plan bigger “than any tax cut ever.”
Those massive cuts will come with a massive problem for Trump’s economic team: how to pay for them. The White House doesn’t appear to have settled on a means of making up the trillions of dollars in lost federal revenue that economists predict will accompany Trump-size cuts. But administration officials are signaling they may be leaning away from hard choices to finance the cuts, and toward highly optimistic assumptions about economic growth"
"....On Monday, Trump signaled that cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent is his top priority, according to the Wall Street Journal — a move that by itself could cost the government $1.9 trillion."
"...he doesn’t appear inclined to ax popular tax breaks, such as those for homeowners or real estate developers. His budget blueprint cuts domestic spending, but only to fund increases in military and homeland security spending. Without any of those options at his disposal, his only hope to avoid adding to the deficit is a near doubling of economic growth."
His plan for the budget appears to be the poker player's strategy of "betting on the come". The new term in government for it is "dynamic scoring".  Doubling economic growth is optimistic by any standards.  What could possibly go wrong?
Remember when the Republicans were moaning about the deficit under Obama?  Hopefully they will hold Trump's feet to the fire.  The good news is that his plans are unlikely to get the approval of Congress.

Monday, April 24, 2017

What's the difference between Bannon & Le Pen?

Jim Lobe at LobeLog    
TO WASH POST: Bannon "Conservative," Le Pen "Far Right"

Why does the Post refer to Steve Bannon as a conservative while it refers to Marine Le Pen as "far right," and her party as a "Specter of Fascism."
Lobe: My concern is that the use of the word “conservative” to describe radical right-wing individuals like Bannon and Sessions gives them and their views a respectable gloss that they don’t deserve and is very clearly misleading. It effectively legitimizes their ideas. “Conservative” has a reassuring connotation. “Far right,” “reactionary,” “extreme right” “radical”—even just “right-wing”—on the other hand are all words that have a far less comforting emotional effect on most people, to say the least. But if Bannon’s ideas are virtually identical to Marine Le Pen’s, why is he described as “conservative,” while she is “far right?” 
Why, is the Post so reticent about labelling Bannon's views for what they are?
LobeLog is not behind a fire wall.





Bernie, the Dems, abortion, and poverty

I saw an article today about why Bernie was wrong for supporting pro-lifer Mello and defending that by saying economics was what mattered and reproductive justice was just a side issue ... Abortion is about economic justice.

Here's an article by Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist to Vice President Biden, on that same issue ...

An anti-poverty agenda that excludes access to reproductive health care is woefully incomplete

[...] Having a child is much more than an economic event, but it’s also very much that, invoking significant direct costs and opportunity costs (and benefits too, of course). Thus, the inability to control such costs due to lack of access to reproductive health care is a potentially poverty-inducing problem for low-income women and their families (and 69 percent of those who seek abortions are low-income). Conversely, increasing use of the birth control pill, for example, has been found to significantly reduce the gender pay gap.

I was particularly struck by the findings from a research project in progress called the Turnaway Study .... A key finding from the Turnaway Study in the economic security space is that relative to women who were able to get the abortion they sought, women denied an abortion had three times the odds of being poor. A year after they were turned away, these women were 10 percent less likely to be working full-time (58 versus 48 percent), and 76 percent of them received public assistance, compared to 44 percent of women who were able to access abortion.

- Source: What the War on Reproductive Rights Has to do With Poverty and Race

There's more I could cite, but the point is that reproductive rights for women is not some unimportant side issue that can be optional if you really do care about poverty and economic justice.

About that deportation

I was in high dudgeon last week over Homeland Security deporting a guy who was legally entitled to be here. The story was, at the time, exclusive in USA Today, and it's never a good idea to get in high dudgeon over someone's exclusive.

The story turned out to be more complicated

 Of course, Homeland Security still has not covered itself with glory, consistency or transparency. Which leaves Innocent Bystander to wonder about its honesty. And its boss designates I.B. an enemy just for asking. Why does Homeland Security leave me feeling insecure?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Getting to the Science March.

Drove from Stroudsburg, PA to mother’s house near Philadelphia.  Caught a chartered bus nearby at 5AM to RFK Memorial Stadium and from there,the Metro to the gathering place by the Washington Monument.  Tagged along throughout the day with two nice women, a  young pussyhatted librarian and an older teacher, her friend.  As an engineer, I think I was the closest thing to a scientist on the bus.  Walking along the route from the Metro to the Sound Stage, I saw this guy who was there for the Scientism March.  His left sleeve affirmed “facts>beliefs”.  Not my gig, but these days a good dollop of this stuff goes with the territory.  I call it Saganism.  Passed by a small group carrying creationist posters that I didn’t understand.  More on the atmosphere and speakers later.

Remember Me When You Come Into Your Kingdom

We have been speaking of the life issues as they intersect politics, and also have lately observed Holy Week. Good Friday involved capital punishment, both of someone innocent, and others who were guilty of the crime they were accused of.  Coincidentally, on Thursday night the state of Arkansas executed a man who was convicted of murder. He has maintained his innocence.  Instead of a last meal, he asked to receive  Communion:  https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2017/04/21/man-executed-last-night-arkansas-chose-communion-his-last-meal.  I am reminded of Jesus' dialogue with the repentant criminal in Luke 23:42.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Here's what the candidate in Nebraska supports

I'd like to piggyback on Katherine Nielsen's post below on Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Party, and the struggle between economic and cultural issues. The story is about the mayoral election in Omaha, Nebraska.

Here is what Heath Mello, the Democratic candidate for mayor of Omaha, supports.
"Mr. Mello, a practicing Catholic, supported a Nebraska State Senate bill requiring that women be informed of their right to request a fetal ultrasound before an abortion. The anger over that position reflects a long-running argument among Democrats over whether, or how much, to support candidates who depart from party orthodoxy on abortion."
If the New York Times has it right, this bill does not require, as some states have tried, a fetal ultrasound, it simply says a woman be informed of her right to request one.

What is objectionable about that?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Tolerance for Diversity: Can We Find Common Ground?

What appeared to be a purely local mayoral race has garnered attention from  Bernie Sanders: http://www.omaha.com/news/politics/bernie-sanders-stumps-for-heath-mello-in-omaha-stirs-national/article_284457a1-a7d1-5d79-ae2e-9c8bc68ea31e.html.   No one who doesn't live there is going to be affected by who is elected mayor of Omaha.  However this race points to a larger issue of how we define a progressive.

"U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told a cheering crowd in Omaha on Thursday that he thinks mayoral candidate Heath Mello is part of the Democratic Party of the future. But some Democrats don’t agree, and Sanders’ appearance at a rally for Mello at Baxter Arena sparked a national debate about whether the party needs to focus on progressive policies and reject Democratic politicians like Mello who are opposed to abortion."
“The way we defeat money and power is by putting together a strong grass-roots coalition,” Sanders said. “The country is now looking at Omaha, Nebraska, as the first step.”

Sanders' endorsement of Mello drew some hostile commentary from Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/omaha-mayoral-candidate-under-fire-says-he-would-never-do-anything-to-restrict-access-to-reproductive-health-care_us_58f8e868e4b018a9ce590a84?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

The Republican party put together a coalition of about three different conservative or right-wing factions, and won the White House and both houses of Congress (of course now fighting among those factions impairs their ability to govern).  Are the progressives and social democrats so intent on ideological purity that they can't make common cause with people who basically agree with everything they stand for, such as Heath Mello, and others who are pro-life?  If so, they will set themselves up for defeat, IMHO.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Whatever happened to those Senate hearings on Russian hacking?

Someone (I think it was on Washington Week in Review) noted Trump's frenetic "quick, look over there!" tactics, which are designed to get everybody agitated about some other issue when one becomes inconvenient.

So what happened to the Senate hearings on Russian hacking? Last I heard, there were 20 more witnesses to be called, but I haven't read anything about this since the end of March.

News outlets seem to have dropped that story like a hot potato, instead chasing after the stories about making Syria and Afghanistan go ka-boom and the recent nyah-nyahing by Mike Pence and Rex Tillerson on the lotline between North and South Korea.

I worry that in dealing with a president whose tactics are distract-and-distort, the press is developing a sympathetic case of attention deficit disorder.

What other stories are fading that need to stay on the front burner? Obama's alleged bugging of Trump? Paul Manafort's involvement with Russians? Mike Flynn's ditto? Disruptions and expenses caused by Trump's inability to stay home? Broken campaign promises?

Bernie Sanders' High Favorablity Ratings

The Popular Populist

The above link documents the rise of Bernie Sanders popularity to a peak 59% favorable, 32% unfavorable, or net 27% favorability rating in October of 2016. Within the margin of error it remains  the same today!

October 15-18, 2016
April 14-17 2017
Favorable
Unfavorable
Net
Favorable
Unfavorable
Net
%
%
%
%
%
%
Sanders
56
33
23
57
32
25
Obama
52
46
6
Biden
47
36
11
Bill Clinton
45
50
-5
Pence
43
33
10
44
41
3
Hillary Clinton
40
57
-17
42
53
-11
E. Warren



38
32
6
Kaine
35
36
-1
Trump
34
61
-27
44
51
-7
Ryan
28
48
-20
34
47
-13
Pelosi
25
49
-24
31
48
-17
Reid
23
40
-17
Shumer
27
35
-8
McConnell
15
45
-30
23
41
-18
Sources
Economist/YouGov. Poll
Harvard-Harris Poll

Sanders is the only positive that the Democrats have going for them as is evidenced by a week long cross country speaking tour with Democratic Chairman Thomas Perez.   Obama, Biden, and Bill Clinton are out of the picture. Hillary's favorability has improved, and her unfavorables have diminished, but is that any more than a sympathy response. Elizabeth Warren has a net positive rating, however there are still many people who do not have an opinion about her.

Pence has kept a net positive rating. Trump, Ryan, and McConnell have all decreased their net negative ratings. Congressional leadership by both parties remains unpopular; the leaders have difficulty in rising above a 33% base.

Is Sanders merely a star, someone who has a very loyal following perhaps far beyond that of Trump, or has he, as the article in the heading claims:
successfully established a premise, a vocabulary, and a program for social-democratic politics in America.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Alec Baldwin

My latest check-out from the public library is by Alec Baldwin, Nevertheless: A Memoir. Like Eric Clapton in his autobiography, Baldwin mentions his relationship with God having helped him overcome drug/alcohol problems. Here's a review: In ‘Nevertheless,’ Alec Baldwin Charts His Course From Long Island to Bumpy Fame

As with Clapton, I wasn't sure if I could like Baldwin as a person, though I liked his work. Baldwin has been accused of being a racist, a homophobe, and a bad parent - this would be reason enough for me to not like him - but in his book he refutes the allegations, believably, I think. And he does have redeeming characteristics, spending a lot of money/time on AIDs research, breast cancer research, animal welfare, voting reform, campaign finance reform, and more. And then there's his Trump impersonation ... Alec Baldwin Gets Under Trump’s Skin

If you like Baldwin's movies, as I do, you may find the book interesting.

Judge John T. Noonan, Jr. (Updated)

According to a post yesterday on Mirror of Justice by Patrick Brennan, Judge John T. Noonan, Jr., has died at the age of 90.

See the obituary from Courthouse News Service.

American Temple Guards

American Temple Guards

... Or Gestapo, depending on your taste. USA Today has the story of the first immigrant with designated deferred status, which is still the law,  to end up in Mexico -- despite the pudgy president's promise that such things will not happen because of his big heart.
 It took the Praetorians only three hours to get him out of the country. They were able to move so fast because they didn't allow him time to get his wallet to prove who he is.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/04/18/first-protected-dreamer-deported-under-trump/100583274/

The people supervising deportations these days are not trained police officers. They sure as heck are not FBI or Secret Service. Too many of them were simply attracted by the chance to wear a uniform, carry a gun and push people around. Every country has them. Our country winnows most out at police academies. But then they reappear as "homeland security" first offenders, I mean first responders. Whatever.
 That is why many real law enforcement people don't want to work with, or even get near, them. For which the real law enforcement people are accused by our "big-hearted" president of having "sanctuary cities."

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bilingual liturgies: the agony and the ecstasy!

In New York City, the Christmas Midnight Mass, the Holy Thursday liturgy, and the Easter Vigil are de riguer bilingual liturgies in parishes with other-than-English parishioners. Generally the other language is Spanish, but other possibilities are Tagalog, Polish, French/Creole. Holidays with special significance, e.g., the patrimonial feast of the parish, holy days of quasi-obligation, etc., will have a bilingual celebration.

The Easter Vigil just passed brings to mind some of the virtues, and otherwise, of the practice. Bilingualism--English and Spanish--says everyone is welcome. That's a positive.
When they are well done and with the handy missalette available for the alternation in readings, the practice creates a sense of community and equality.

But....there are downsides..
1. the same sermon, given in two languages, especially if the homilist goes full bore;
2. switching back and forth between languages especially in the Eucharistic prayer;
3. the musical cacophony that comes with two very different musical tradiitons;
4. bilingual liturgies can be twice as long as single language liturgies--(3 hours at our parish last Saturday; 1.5 downtown at my friend's parish);
5. spending the downtime at the liturgy thinking about what's wrong with it.

What to do?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Easter Vigil: Time to Reform the Reform?

A lot has been packed into the Easter Vigil. As we exited after three hours on Saturday night, I asked myself: Is this truly an Easter liturgy? Or what? What do you think?

To be frank (what else),  I'll venture what I think down the line of comments.

South Korea: First in Life Expectancy by 2030?

Future Life Expectancy in 35 Industrialized Countries

The original Lancet article; Telegraph, CNN, and WAPO coverage. Best coverage with graphs award to VOX; but the best single graph award goes to The Economist

The study uses 21 forecasting models and past data to come up with a best prediction of future life expectancy. This study, which does not make America look good, was funded in part by the US Environmental Protection agency which had no role in the study design, etc.. None of the forecasting models attempted to predict the behavior of North Korean and American leaders.
 
There is a 57% probability that life expectancy at birth among South Korean women in 2030 will be higher than 90 years!

This achievement would continue the impressive past gains in South Korean women’s life expectancy. It has increased by on average 3·7 years per decade since 1985, when they were ranked 29th.

The probability that South Korean women will have the highest female life expectancy in 2030 is 45%, with a 27% probability of being in second place.

For men, South Korea is tied with  Australia, and Switzerland for occupying the top three places. There is a 95% probability that men’s life expectancy at birth in these three countries will surpass 80 years in 2030, and a 27%  probability it will surpass 85 years.

The female–male gap in life expectancy is projected to close in most countries. This is consistent with historical data, when there was no female advantage in the distant past. Current gender differences in life expectancy are due to differences in deaths from injuries, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Risk factors (eg, smoking) are different for men and women.

Why is South Korea likely to become the world leader in life expectancy?

Recent gains in life expectancy in South Korea have been largely due to postponement of death from chronic diseases. 

Happy Easter :)

One of my favorite parts of the film, The Gospel of John, is at the very end, where the post-resurrection Jesus meets the dispirited disciples on the shore, cooking for them. It's also one of the most intriguing parts of that gospel ... why does Jesus ask Peter three times if he loves him, is he foretelling John's immortality when he says he wants John to live until he returns, and where does he take the disciples when he tells them to follow him? ...

Friday, April 14, 2017

Two Foreign Policy Hotspots

The good news is that Trump seems to be finally realizing that foreign policy isn't a walk in the park.  The bad news is that he is still behind on the learning curve. There may not be time for him to get up to speed fast enough to keep the US from having a situation blow up in our face. First on the list is, of course, Syria:  http://www.staradvertiser.com/2017/04/14/breaking-news/russia-iran-and-syria-issue-warning-to-u-s/  Predictably Russia, Iran, and Syria are upset with the Trump team; maybe Russia most of all.  And the Americans aren't the only ones they are peeved with.  Russia is reportedly furious with Assad, and some predict that the skids are already greased for him to be out when  the time is convenient:
http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/04/russia-us-chemical-weapons-attack-assad-putin-tillerson.html  I am not under the illusion that the Russian commitment to Assad is anything but self-serving.  The question is, what is their ultimate end-game, besides asserting their sphere of influence?

The other hotspot is North Korea.  Trump has cooled his rhetoric about China's currency manipulation, hinting that their cooperation on the matter of N. Korea's increasingly aggressive stance regarding nuclear weapons is more important right now.  The Chinese have their own position on N. Korea: http://www.staradvertiser.com/2017/04/14/breaking-news/chinese-foreign-minister-no-winners-if-korea-war-breaks-out/  Of course North Korea is deflecting blame to the US: http://www.staradvertiser.com/2017/04/13/breaking-news/n-korean-official-blames-trump-for-regions-vicious-cycle/
We live in interesting times.

The anti-Trump

A tv series I've been watching lately on the computer is Designated Survivor ...

an American political drama television series created by David Guggenheim, starring Kiefer Sutherland .... On the night of the State of the Union address, an explosion claims the lives of the President and all members of his Cabinet except for U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman, who had been named the designated survivor. Kirkman is immediately sworn in as President, unaware that the attack is just the beginning of what is to come.

I really like it so far and I'm constantly reminded of how different the president Sutherland plays is from the one we're stuck with in real life. In the episode I watched tonight, the president had a town hall meeting in which an unemployed factory worker from Virginia asked the president how he could help him get his job back. I was reminded of Trump and his insane plan to end the fictitious war on coal and bring miners' jobs back. Here's how the tv president responded to the question ...

That's the kind of president we need!

More: Coal country's message to Trump: We want jobs of the future

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Trinity Pieta


Everyone has seen pictures of the famous Michelangelo Pieta, representing the grieving Mary holding Jesus' body.  There are many other pietas, different artists' version of the same theme.  However we forget that Jesus also had a Father. This image is a detail of a painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1472-1553. I have always liked it, because it portrayed God the Father as a father. It is hard to see in this small image, but his eyes are grief-stricken, looking straight out.  His cheeks are furrowed with tears. The body of Jesus is not the buff, perfect physique portrayed by Michelangelo or Raphael, but frail and thin, acquainted with poverty. This is not the image of an implacable God who demanded the sacrifice of his Son, but a father heartbroken by grief.  The incarnation has cost God greatly.

Easter: not the atonement

Easter brings up atonement theory - the idea that God sent Jesus here as a sacrifice to die for our sins. But there's another way to see the Easter events ... the primacy of the incarnation ... the idea that Jesus came here to live, not die, that even if there had been no Fall and no Original Sin (and we now know there never was a golden age when all creatures lived peacefully together in Eden), Jesus would still have been incarnated.

It's a view that sees the early followers of Jesus as grasping at explanations for why things had gone so terribly wrong (the crucifixion), and over time creating what became atonement theory. This incarnational view has been held in opposition to the atonement view by Franciscans like Duns Scotus.

Here's a bit of an article by Ken Overberg SJ on this ...

[...] Why Jesus? The answer most frequently handed on in everyday religion emphasizes redemption. This view returns to the creation story and sees in Adam and Eve's sin a fundamental alienation from God, a separation so profound that God must intervene to overcome it .... At times God has even been described as demanding Jesus' suffering and death as a means of atonement—to satisfy and appease an angry God. In many forms of theology, popular piety and religious practice, the purpose of Jesus' life is directly linked to original sin and all human sinfulness. Without sin, there would have been no need for the Incarnation .....

An interpretation that highlights the Incarnation stands beside this dominant view with its emphasis on sin. The alternate view is also expressed in Scripture and tradition .... It holds that the whole purpose of creation is for the Incarnation, God's sharing of life and love in a unique and definitive way. God becoming human is not an afterthought, an event to make up for original sin and human sinfulness. Incarnation is God's first thought, the original design for all creation. The purpose of Jesus' life is the fulfillment of God's eternal longing to become human ...

I was glad to come upon this article because I have never been able to believe in the atonement. As Jeffrey John once said about it ...

I don't know about you, but even at the age of ten I thought this explanation was pretty repulsive as well as nonsensical. What sort of God was this, getting so angry with the world and the people he created, and then, to calm himself down, demanding the blood of his own Son? And anyway, why should God forgive us through punishing somebody else? It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath. If any human being behaved like this we'd say they were a monster ...

Sadly, his controversial 2007 BBC Lent talk can't be found online now but I have much of it here.

Alternative Facts of Yore



  I recently reread The Quest for the Dream by John P. Roche, which made a big impact on me when it was published in 1963. It’s a social justice history of America from 1910 to 1963, during which time Catholics and Jews won the right to dream the American dream. African-Americans made gains, but still lagged; the Civil Rights Movement was about to come into full flower as Roche was writing. And German-Americans lost some of their rights.
  LGBT and handicapped rights were inconceivable.
  I want to discuss one section of the book at some depth later, after Holy Week. But I noted something else that, in this post-factual era, I simply have to share.


Trump Administration Does an SNL

I am not a fan of Saturday Night Live!!  Nonetheless, the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House and Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump on the WH Set at SNL is like catnip. (I am also not a fan of cats!!). Is their a growing convergence?

This morning's (April 11) NEW YORK TIMES enumerates the diverse pronouncements of Trump Administration officials and its spokesperson who sounded the ridiculous and anarchic patter of SNL on U.S. policy toward the Assad government and Syrian civil war.
 "As various officials have described it, the United States will intervene only when chemical weapons are used — or any time innocents are killed. It will push for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria — or pursue that only after defeating the Islamic State. America’s national interest in Syria is to fight terrorism. Or to ease the humanitarian crisis there. Or to restore stability." [Ital mine]
All that is missing from these mixed cast, multi-messages about U.S. policy is President Trump. He has yet to tweet the meaning of the Tomahawk missiles bombing the al-Shayrat air field and the trajectory of US. policy in Syria.

Is he waiting for Alec Baldwin to speak? Has SNL infiltrated the White House? Stay tuned.

The Russians, "furious with Assad," want to know too....Al-Monitor

Friday, April 7, 2017

"If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear"

While we were being distracted by Gorsuch, Xi, and the Syrian missile strike, Congress and Trump sold our privacy ... It’s Done. Your Internet Provider Can Sell All Your Web History ...

Yesterday, as expected, President Trump signed a resolution reversing the previously approved FCC internet privacy rules. The former Obama-era regulation set privacy requirements that internet service providers (ISPs) would need to follow before they could share or sell their consumers’ private and sensitive data, such as their financial or health information or browsing history.

It was argued against, of course. Here Mike Capuano (Captain America's uncle! ;) speaks ...

But to no avail. When people like me worry about government sanctioned abuse of privacy, others often say, "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear". Here's Edward Snowden commenting on why that's wrong ...

Now Trump knows how to bomb. UPDATE

First take: The media seems pretty excited about Trump's decision to bomb the Syrian military air field from whence, it is said, the chemical weapons came that killed and injured Syrians in the province of Idilb. But nothing is simple, even where and if there is a sense that President Assad got his! But did he really/

Watching the president's announcement last night, I was reassured to see his head swivel from one teleprompter to the other...no ad libbing! And doubly reassured that the announcement was taped...in case he went off message.

So how will this go? Your thoughts? Premonitions?

1.5 take:
  • Johnathan Freedland at the Guardian: "Sometimes the right thing can be done by the wrong person. Donald Trump’s bombing of a Syrian airfield seems to belong in that category, though even that verdict depends on events yet to unfold." Freedland has a catalog of why Trump is the wrong person.
  • Paul Pillar, LobeLog:  "Syria and the Call of the Quagmire."
2.0 take: The opposite of what we "know" from a Brit:  "Trump's 59-Tomahawk 'Tweet,"
(but in agreement with Stanley Kopack's comment below).  The author, Alastair Crooke is still waiting for confirmation that the chemical weapon was sarin and that the Syrian Air Force dropped it. He reports the contrary scenario (a chemical weapon held by the opposition or Nusra, instead of the conventional weapons the Syrian Ari Force expected). Presumably he does not buy the report of Turkish officials who declared it was sarin.