Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saturday Night Radio Drama - James W. Nichol - Midnight Cab - The Mystery of the Perfect Daughter

I like this one because it shows how much you can fit into a half-hour of listening time when you don't have to look at pictures.  

I've got to go out for the rest of the day.  I'll probably post more tomorrow.  

To be a Christian now means to have the courage to preach the true teaching of Christ and not be afraid of it, not be silent out of fear and preach something easy that won't cause problems

You might want to look at this site of seven meditations for Lent on excerpts from the sermons of St. Oscar Romero.  I like one for the fourth week, which we're coming up to.

Commentary on the Fourth Work of Justice and Peace

from the homilies of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador

+ Protect the poor and powerless---- listen, learn, educate,
organize, empower participation, and respect life from the moment
of conception to the time of natural death.

Nothing is so important to the church as human life, as the
human person, above all, the person of the poor and the
oppressed. Besides being human beings, they are also divine
beings, since Jesus said that whatever is done to them he takes
as done to him. That bloodshed, those deaths, are beyond all
politics. They touch the very heart of God. March 16, 1980

Another thing the church does in El Salvador is its commitment
to defend the poor. The poor masses of our land find in the
church the voice of Israel's prophets. There are among us those
who sell the just for money and the poor for a pair of sandals,
as the prophets said. Thee are those who pile up spoils and
plunder in their palaces, who crush the poor, who bring on a
reign of violence while reclining on beds of ivory, who join
house to house and field to field so as to take up all there is
and remain alone in the land. These texts of the prophets are
not distant voices that we read with reverence in our liturgy.
They are daily realities, whose cruelty and vehemence we live
each day. And therefore, the church suffers the fate of the
poor, which is persecution. February 17, 1980

Even when all despaired at the hour when Christ was dying on the
cross, Mary, serene, awaited the hour of the resurrection. Mary
is the symbol of the people who suffer oppression and injustice.
Theirs is the calm suffering that awaits the resurrection. It is
Christian suffering, the suffering of the church, which does not
accept the present injustices but awaits without rancor the
moment when the Risen One will return to give us the redemption
we await.

To be a Christian now means to have the courage to preach the
true teaching of Christ and not be afraid of it, not be silent
out of fear and preach something easy that won't cause problems.
To be a Christian in this hour means to have the courage that the
Holy Spirit gives in the sacrament of confirmation, to be valiant
soldiers of Christ the King, to make his teaching prevail, to
reach hearts and proclaim to them the courage that one must have
to defend God's law. December 3, 1977

This is why the church has great conflicts: it accuses of sin.
It says to the rich: do not sin by misusing your money. It says
to the powerful: Do not misuse your political influence. Do not
misuse your weaponry. Do not misuse your power. Don't you see
that is a sin? It says to sinful torturers: Do not torture. You
are sinning. You are doing wrong. You are establishing the reign
of hell on earth. December 8, 1977

It is very easy to be servants of the word without disturbing
the world: a very spiritualized word, a word without any
commitment to history, a word that can sound in any part of the
world because it belongs to no part of the world. A word like
that creates no problems, starts no conflicts.

What starts conflicts and persecutions, what marks the genuine
church, is the word that, burning like the word of the prophets,
proclaims and accuses: proclaims to the people God's wonders to
be believed and venerated, and accuses of sin those who oppose
God's reign, so that they may tear that sin out of their hearts,
out of their societies, out of their laws -- out of the
structures that oppress, that imprison, that violate the rights
of God and of humanity.

This is the hard service of the word.

But God's Spirit goes with the prophet, with the preacher, for
he is Christ, who keeps on proclaiming his reign to the people of
all times. December 10, 1977

When we struggle for human rights, for freedom, for dignity,
when we feel that it is a ministry of the church to concern
itself for those who are hungry, for those who are deprived, we
are not departing from God's promise. He comes to free us from
sin, and the church knows that sin's consequences are all such
injustices and abuses. The church knows it is saving the world
when it undertakes to speak also of such things. December 18,

For the church, the many abuses of human life, liberty, and
dignity are a heartfelt suffering. The church, entrusted with the
earth's glory, believes that in each person is the Creator's
image and that everyone who tramples it offends God. As holy
defender of God's rights and of his images, the church must cry
out. It takes as spittle in its face, as lashes on its back, as
the cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even
though they be unbelievers. They suffer as God's images. There is
no dichotomy between man and God's image.

Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being,
whoever outrages a human being, abuses God's image, and the
church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom. December 31,

Death is the sign of sin, and sin produces death right in our
midst: violence, murder, torture (which leaves so many dead),
hacking with machetes, throwing into the sea -- people discarded!
All this is the reign of hell. July 4, 1979

When Father Rafael Palacios was murdered in Santa Tecla, and his
body was laid out here, I said that he was still preaching,
calling attention not only to crimes outside the church, but to
sins within the church. The prophet also decries sins inside the
church. And why not? We bishops, popes, priests, nuns, Catholic
educators -- we are human, and as humans we are sinful and we
need someone to be a prophet for us too and call us to conversion
and not let us set up religion as something untouchable. Religion
needs prophets, and thank God we have them, because it would be a
sad church that felt itself owner of the truth and rejected
everything else. A church that only condemns, a church that sees
sin only in others and does not look at the beam in its own eye,
is not the authentic church of Christ. July 8, 1979

Hate Mail - Atheists Make Demands On Religion That They Would Never Accept For Themselves

In a discussion of an essay that Orwell wrote a while back, an old friend of mine suggested that I look at the row between him and the Irish playwright, Sean O'Casey, steering me to the later volumes of O'Casey's long autobiography.   I did that and looked up some other stuff both of them said and have to say it is a real eye-opener in so far as Orwell's legend and how, when looked at closely, it is rare that the record a real person leaves matches the superficial legend.  But that will have to wait, for the most part.  I'll leave you with this, the very same people who condemn anyone who named names to HUAC but who hold up Orwell as some kind of superhero have to contend with the fact that he named names to British Intelligence, not on his knowledge in many cases but based on his suspicion of communism.   He named names, lots of them, more than most of the Hollywood figures held up to disdain on that basis.   Here's a PDF of the names he named.   The comments, if not Orwell's sure sound like his columns.   I'm not up on the nuances in Brit slang but one outraged Brit who discovered his hero had done this called him not only a "grass" but a "super-grass".   You can compare the relatively modest namings of others who got them condemned to being permanent pariahs, perhaps with justification.  Though if they'd named Nazi collaborators instead of Stalinist ones, no one would condemn them.

I will have more to say about Orwell and O'Casey later, I've got to read more so I'll know what I'm talking about and to see if my ideas are accurate.

Before you can wonder what that has to do with the title, this is all about double standards and their use in polemical dishonesty.   I'm challenged with the dubious assertion that "the United States is the most religious country on Earth" and that "religion didn't save it from fascism".  Well, first I doubt the United States is the most religious country on Earth and my piece yesterday morning asserted that the religion, Chritianity, of a very large percentage of those who claim it the hardest is as phony as their claim to democracy, freedom, concern for the working and middle-class, children, fetuses, etc.  The fact is that a very large percentage of those who claim to be Christians voted for the anti-Christ in the last election, that certainly was not done out of an effort to make their actions match what Jesus said in the Gospels, what his closest followers said in their canonical writings, what the Law and the Prophets Jesus said he was upholding say.   The "Christianity" of an enormous percentage of those claiming to be Christian is shown to stand in total contradiction to the very words of the man they claim they believe speaks with divine authority.   They are anti-Christians, Mammonists, in fact, just as I said in that piece.  Can't atheists read?  

As to what saves people from fascism, you can look at the major supporter of fascism in the world today, the post-Soviet materialists of Russia, virtually all of whom were Communists under the Soviet system, presumably, most of them atheists as was required of their positions in the Communist system.  Their actions after the collapse of that criminal enterprise as they set up one in which they stole, literally, everything they could get their hands on, murdering, imprisoning and stealing, using the most vicious of the practices of organized criminals to do it.  Those who make a pose of embracing the Russian Orthodox church - corrupting it in the process - are merely more clever than the old line true believers in Marxism..  Perhaps they took a lesson from American Republicans and saw how they flourished by taking advantage of the vacuum left when it became unfashionable for American liberals to be religious.  They certainly learned other thing from us, taking advantage of our every short-sighted practice, taking advantage of the regime of lies set up by the Supreme Court which the hardly religious media used to put us on the slide into fascism.   

And to that you can add what is sometimes listed as the most atheist country in the world, China, which went from a Marxist-Maoist dictatorship in the name of socialism to a one-party-state fascist version of Victorianism on steroids, crushing workers as raw resources, with fewer rights than those under the putrid British class system ever had, with what presumably is 100% atheist rule.  Marx certainly got it wrong, his system doesn't produce a state-less paradise, it devolves into the fascism that any materialist system will.   See Steve Bannon, Leninist, for more.  

There is something of an irony in reading Orwell rail against the Irish and Catholics in general, blaming them for fascism when the British government he worked for as a Sergeant propping up the decaying empire in Burma played a large role in producing the conditions that led to it.  It is absolutely putrid to read him even in the post-war years rail against the Poles in that regard.   It is also an irony in that Mussolini was an overt atheist and the Nazi high regime was full of atheists whose actions and private communications showed that they saw the Catholic Church as one of their main obstacles in achieving ultimate control.   The closer the Catholic and Protestant churches got to the Law, the Prophets and the Gospel, the farther they got from fascism and Nazism - both based on a total inversion of the morality of the Bible - and the more of a danger to fascism and Nazism as well as Marxism they are.   

In Latin America the main focus of the fascist's violence and oppression was those Catholics who tried to follow the social justice and economic justice teachings of the Bible.  At times those Catholics had to do so working against the opposition the corrupted power holders in the Church.  The two Popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI couldn't see past their narrow European context to see that their interpretation of Latin American Liberation Theology was wrong.  Perhaps that's due to the unfortunate choice for the theologians to reference Marxism in their critique of capitalism - there might have been other framings of that critique.   And there was the impact of Americans who lied about the situation in Latin America as well.  Perhaps they realized they could take advantage of the experience of those two men who witnessed the Soviet exploitation of the collapse of the Nazi system as well as they did Nazism*.  Many of the most powerful and astute critics of those two conservative papacies were from Catholics, in Latin America and North America as well as Europe.  

Now, Pope Francis, from Argentina, a country which experienced a similar form of capitalist-fascism supported by the United States, brings both a more direct knowledge and a more accurate frame of reference.  I hope he canonizes at least as many of the martyrs to Latin American fascism as JPII did European martyrs to Nazism.  To the bigoted anti-Catholic mindset, the Catholic church is an absolute dictatorship, its members brainwashed to follow the dictates of the Pope, none of them seem to be able to get past the level  of Thomas Nast's nastier anti-immigrant, WASP nativist cartoons. That is still not an uncommon thing among British intellectuals or would be intellectuals and it's certainly typical of American atheists of the kind who write me nasty comments.  They're rally not very smart and they are as uninterested in reality as any Trump supporter.   

I wish I had a higher class of trolls but, then, no one else seems to get them online, either. And mine come mostly from a "brain trust". 

* Learning more about Nazi paganism, overt paganism, as an actual quasi-pseudo religion, I could understand why those two got so freaked out by the neo-Pagans.  They'd seen one revival of paganism during the Nazi regime.  Just as they were unable to recognize that Liberation Theology wan't Marxim, they couldn't see that the stuff they saw after the war was a different thing.  At least until recently.  Much of current, online paganism is overtly white-supremacist and Nazi, mixed in with American, Las Vegas, Hollywood neo-confederate hell raisin' neo-Confederate content.  

The best way to counter that is with the actual moral content of the Hebrew scriptures, the Gospel and the rest of the Second Testament.  Atheism, as seen in Russia, just leads to the same fascism.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

John Coltrane - Aisha

John Coltrane — tenor sax
Eric Dolphy — alto sax
Freddie Hubbard — trumpet 
McCoy Tyner — piano 
Reggie Workman — bass 
Elvin Jones — drums

Dahomey Dance 

Romero Is One Bio Pic That I Can Endorse

The movie "Romero" in which the great actor Raul Julia played St. Oscar Romero is one of the rare religiously themed movie and one of the few supposed biographical movies I would support people seeing.  The only criticism I'd have of it is that it didn't note how the terrorists in the movie were trained at the "School of the Americas" in Georgia, where Latin American terrorists were trained by the American military paid for by American taxpayers.  

The people of Latin America know that St. Oscar Romero is a saint, his martyrdom on behalf of the people of El Salvador and the Gospel in the very act of saying mass certainly meets every traditional qualification for sainthood.   To let the cause of his canonization get caught up in politics is a scandal which I hope Pope Francis knocks over soon.  

What Do You Know, A Robocall I Was Thrilled To Get

In the contest to be named the head of the Democratic National Committee, my favorite candidate was the one who had the least chance, Pete Buttigieg, with Congressman Keith Ellison my second favorite, though I would have been totally unhappy to see him give up his House seat to take the job. I didn't have anything against Tom Perez, he just wasn't my favorite in the race.

Having said that, the other day I was surprised to have a robo-call from the DNC in which Tom Perez encouraged me to get in touch with my congressman to oppose pending legislation.  Of course, in my district, represented by the great Chellie Pingree, such a call would have been moot since she can be depended on to not cave to Republican-fascism.  

I was talking with a friend who is a former Democratic legislator in Maine about it and neither of us could remember the last time we got such a call from the leader of the DNC, if ever.   He agreed with me that it's a good sign and if that's any indication of how Perez intends to go, it's a vast improvement over the former chair and interim chair. 

We're looking forward to being pleasantly surprised at how good he is at the job, he and his Deputy Chair, Congressman Ellison.  

And Now For Something Completely Provocative

As noted by The Reverend Richard Brand:

Trump Gives Evidence of Being An Atheist 

President Trump made a great effort to attract the evangelical Christian community, and he seemed to have succeeded. But it appears that the evidence suggests that he is really an atheist.

A. He showed absolutely no knowledge of the Bible.

B. When he went to the National Day of Prayer all he could talk about was his former TV show.

C. He has not attended worship since he has been in the White House nor has he attended services in Florida.

D. But most obviously he does not believe in Heaven or a final judgment as described in the New Testament as his budget is a complete attack on all the things that Jesus suggested will get you into heaven.

Martin Luther, the German Luther of the reformation, said that atheists were often closer to God than those who profess faith. So I am not suggesting anything negative about being an atheist. I am suggesting that one who has pretended to be such a devout Christian as Trump needs to be called out for what he really is.

I think this goes along with my post below.  I don't believe any of the Republicans in the House who will vote for any of their legislation really believes in any god except Mammon.

I will agree that there isn't anything wrong with some individual atheists.  But a majority materialist nation will inevitably produce fascist depravity and Bannon-Thiel style amoral nihilism.  There is nothing in materialism or atheism to wage either an internal or external struggle against selfish, egotistical narcissism with.  Politically, that failure has the gravest of consequences because without that which atheism lacks, triumph of the most ruthless and vicious and cruel is the eventual result.  And, don't fool yourself for a second, in such a world of amorality cruelty is a huge advantage in getting ahead and to the top.  Trump, Ryan, McConnell, and the man of the hour Neil Corsuch are good examples as is the Putin and every other materialistic despotic regime in history.   I can thin of at least a handful of sayings of Jesus that would support that contention.

Republican-Fascists Should Have The Bible Thrown In Their Faces Every Single Day

So, the Republicans can't get their Trump non-Care bill through the House yet because it doesn't do enough to kill enough people, it doesn't hurt enough people, it doesn't cause enough pain to the most in need, the powerless, the least among us.

The Republican Party is the most flagrantly Anti-Christian entity in the United States in service to American Mammon, in violation of The Law, The Prophets and The Gospels it is obvious that they not only don't follow it but are actively working against those.  Yet they almost uniformly claim that they are motivated by all three when they aren't.   In order to do that and everything else they do they lie, they lie massively, they like blatantly and they lie incessantly.  And the media lie and have lied on their behalf.  The media that also mostly and with the slightest of exceptions also serve that American Mammon.

And, as it obvious with the Trump regime and the actions of House and Senate Republicans, they're more than willing, along with the American Mammon to sell off the actual country to the Russian Czar who is believed to have murdered, imprisoned, terrorized and robbed his way into being the richest man in the world, the highest Emperor in the order of Mammonites.

I could go on and on, giving detail after detail of the Republicans violations of morality and even patriotism - another thing where they go through the motions while destroying the United States and giving it to a tool of Putin - but I'm going to say something else.

In every single thing that they do Democrats should insert citations from the scriptures to point out the hypocrisy of Republicans.  And, since even most of those who thump the Bible the hardest don't seem to know it very well, actual passages.   They should put it in their faces, they should shove it down their throat, they should get it out over C-Span they should push the economic justice and social justice  in that document and force the Republicans to argue against it.   Republicans have long claimed that the Bible is the basis of the Constitution, they have claimed that it is the basis of their actions while it is absolutely obvious that other than a few ambiguous mentions of same-sex, sex, they don't have a leg to stand on.  And their personal lives show that they are hardly willing to practice the kinds of sexual restraint contained in the Bible.   And when they bring those up, it's more than possible to call them on their adulteries, divorces and remarriage, and their covert same-sex relationships that are seldom within a faithful marraige.

Neil Gorsuch, under questioning, especially by Senator Al Franken has shown that underneath the patrician, elegant, staged role as a Supreme Court member, he is as cruelly callous as any of the Roman aristocrats of the time of Jesus.  His unconcern for the poor was expressed back as far as his adolescence and, though he's covered up his youthful expression of it with Federalist-fascist, Ivy League Law School legalese, he's as much as a thug as the most thuggish members of the House "Freedom" Caucus.  So are the Republicans who put him on the Court, so is, obviously, their president who named him after he was chosen by the Federalist fascists and the American Enterprise Institute.   He is another voice on the court for Mammon, though one whose cruelty and callousness was voted down by the sitting eight members of the court.   I think he has the potential of being the cruelest, most callous justice on that court within living memory if not ever.  And he's got lots of competition in that, especially Antonin Scalia, the man who joked about the pain inflicted during a botched execution from the bench.

See Also Donald Trump's Gospel Is Not The Gospel of Jesus

What does Donald Trump teach and preach by his words and actions? Trump's behavior is the antithesis of the Gospel. He teaches so many things contrary to the Christian way of life. He is a "scandal" in the literal sense of the word; that is, a stumbling block. He impedes our own proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ.

We teach our children not to be bullies. He is a bully.

We teach our children to tell the truth. He openly lies and repeats those lies with greater and greater insistence, until they become truth in his own mind. For example, "Obama was born in Kenya."

We teach our children to be kind and respectful of others. He open mocks the disabled and belittles his opponents, e.g., "Little Marco" for Sen. Marco Rubio and "Lying Ted" for Sen. Ted Cruz.

We teach our children to be generous with the poor and the needy. He is selfish in the extreme and gives little or nothing to charity.

We teach our children not to be prejudiced on the basis of race or ethnicity or looks. He ranks women by their looks. He speaks with open racism. He stereotypes Latinos and African-Americans. Remember his remarks about Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Remember his characterizations of African-American culture and living conditions.

Jesus began his public ministry with a proclamation of the need for repentance, that is, "re-thinking" our lives. Trump has said he isn't sure that he has ever asked God for forgiveness.

In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus called on us to repent as he began his ministry. Immediately afterward, he gave us the Beatitudes. In those eight couplets, Jesus gave us the formula for Christian life.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Generally we take this to mean we should be "detached" from worldly goods. We don't have to dwell in poverty, but we don't measure the value of life or people by their wealth. Trump brags about his wealth. He lives ostentatiously. He sees such enormous wealth as perfectly OK, even laudatory. He does not think he needs to contribute even the socially required minimum to the commonweal, the common good, by paying his taxes. He ignores the needs of the poor.

"Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted."

Jesus meant for his followers to be empathetic, sharing in the joys and sufferings of others. If we want to be comforted by others we must mourn with them in their sorrow.

Empathy is a part of the Christian life. Donald Trump mocks people for their looks and handicaps. He mocks those who are empathetic. When Jeb Bush said immigrants come here out of love for their families whom they support, Trump mocked him.

Even by traditional standards of Republican oligarchy, Trump and the Republican-fascists who upport him are depraved.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

37 Years Ago Tomorrow Oscar Romero Was Martyred While Saying Mass Shot On The Order of American Trained Terrorists

It's remarkable how fluent the graduates of Ivy League and Ivy equivalent law school products are in double speaking their way around answering questions.  Especially when they're members of the Federalist fascists.  Gorsuch is lying through his teeth just about whenever he talks.  Is it any wonder why people don't have any respect for the profession or the justice system they run?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I Don't Have to Work that Big

I liked this movie about the Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard made about forty-four years ago.

Here he is in a more recent video.

The Truth Of Trump’s “I Alone Can Fix It” Canard

It's a good thing I'm not within an arm's length from Neil Gorsuch because right now my strongest desire is to punch him in his smirking, smug, entitled face. 

This Is Why Gorsuch Must Be Filibustered

Blow Up The Mythical Senate Traditions Over The Lying Gorsuch

I listened to some clips of the Gorsuch nomination hearings, mostly the questioning by Al Franken and Patrick Leahy with some from Dianne Feinstein, against my better judgement.   And, as predicted, Neil Gorsuch lied through his teeth in such a transparent way that anyone who has any knowledge of the issues involved would know he's lying through his teeth.  On that alone Democrats should try everything they can to block him.  If he is confirmed he will work to destroy pretty much the entire 20th century liberal and progressive agendas and he will try to destroy much of the 19th century, perhaps going back to the beginning to destroy selected measures to prevent overt oligarchy.  The man is a middle age Ken doll who can serve as a false front for corporate fascism, destruction of the environment, the profiting of the filthy rich, the destruction of workers.

Also against my better judgment I listened to a bit of NRP yesterday and heard Nina Totenberg - former court reporter, present day Cokie Roberts imitator - describe him as looking " like a Supreme Court Justice"  a tall, stately patrician, white male, grown up in privilege, given an elite Ivy League education, member of what I've read is a pretty vile fraternity, even by privileged, white-boy, Ivy League standards.   He is a Washington DC Insider - Federalist fascist, American Enterprise Institute fascist dream boy.  

All of that is worth blowing up the myth of the power of the Senate Democratic minority over, it's worth giving up the myth that Democrats in the minority have the power to filibuster his nomination over.  That same myth that seems to, when Democrats are in the majority, always disable Democrats and empower Republicans in the minority.  The Senate is screwed up to start with, its rules and traditions are obviously a fraud that are to be gamed to make the worst of the facists win.

Gorsuch is a purjurer as were Alito, Robert, Thomas and other Republican nominees who went on the court and ruled exactly as everyone who heard their lies knew they would.  So will Gorsuch.  He is a totally known quantity, he is not going to turn into a Warren or a Souter, rare examples of Republicans who, sometimes and not always wisely, didn't meet Republican expectations.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Only True Surprise? Trump’s an Idiot

Brueggemann's American Dream Isn't The Jillionaire Lifestyle As Seen On TV

Someone took exception to a sentence in what I typed out of Brueggemann's book,  The Bible Makes Sense, which, by the way, I would recommend as a real eye opener as to what it really says in those books and as a curriculum for studying them.  His is not the only point of view but it is one which he is able to defend better than most.

Anyway, the thing that set off an objection was his mention of "the American Dream" in this:

Our expected future, which God has promised in the Bible, has many points of commonality with the best of civil religion and with the substance of the American dream.

To start with, no, in no way does what he said violate the establishment clause of the Constitution.  People have the right to have religious motives in any of their civic actions or expressions, the establishment clause only applies to governments.  I wish you people would stop with that nonsense.  It also has nothing to do with "American exceptionalism" it is not a claim that "God is with us" it is a claim that we'd be better off worrying if we were with God - which we are far from.  I doubt any contemporary speaker on these issues is more aware of that than Brueggemann, he make just about all of the official radical rebel and lefties sound like moderates in their critique of the United States.  If the law of the United States dealing with economic justice was The Law as set down in Deuteronomy, it would be the most radical redistribution of wealth to the poor in the modern world.

Other than that atheist cannard, the only way to find that objectionable is if you define "American Dream" in a way that was clearly not intended.  The "American Dream" as ususally promoted by TV, the movies, radio, etc. is more of an American nightmare of stealing, swindling and destroying other people and the environment into being an obscene jillionaire, a pathologically vulgar practitioner of conspicuous consumption and egotistical display (Trump is a but not the only current model) or a ruthless manipulator who uses his wealth to seize power and exercise both an insatiable desire for ever more ownership and ever easier theft of other peoples' labor.

That's not really an American Dream, it is a psychopathic fantasy of the kind encouraged by the consumption and ignorance machine that American TV is.  When enacted, everyone's American nightmare.  As we're about to find under Republican-fascist rule.

What Brueggemann was talking about was well summed up by his fellow member of the United Church of Christ. Marilynne Robinson in a passage* from her great and suppressed book, Mother Country.

The most difficult struggle of our civilization has been to find the means to create autonomy for ordinary lives, so that they might not be plundered or disposed of according to the whims of more powerful people.  Ideas like civil rights and personal liberty come directly from this struggle, which is not terribly well advanced at best, and which is untried, failed or abandoned in most of the world.

Which is also revealed in the next sentences Brueggemann wrote.

But the texture of this future is expressed in the staggering inversions of a life which contains not only gifts, but also harsh judgments against those who resist the vision or seek to have a piece of it on their own terms. The future held for us by the Bible is not a blissful blur.  It is a promise of an historical future in which human dignity and human joy are valued and human worth is celebrated. This vision seriously challenges present arrangements for the sake of what is promised.

In so far as any country, the United States or any other, enacts those radically redistributive measures will be the extent to which they are exceptional (seewhat M.R. says about some such redistributive measures in the United States as compared to even Fabian Britain below).  But the exception isn't an expression of God's partiality, whatever status that would be gained would be through people choosing to adopt justice and equality.

I will speculate that the idea that God assigns to people the responsibility of being agents of God's justice is intimately tied in with the Genesis insight into the truly exceptional position that human beings have in the world.  Genesis says we are made in the "image of God" not as a compliment to us as favorites over the other animals and beings but as a responsibility to be agents in creation unlike that of any other species in the history of the planet. We have certainly been given exclusive power to destroy everything, a responsibility which, seventy years on, seems to not be taken especially seriously.  It is exactly that responsibility that the Republican-fascists and, yes, a large cohort of those who claim to be religious have given up and refused to even recognize.  Why God would have arranged things in that way is nothing I have any special insight into other than to say if it were going to be done, one species or another would have had to have been given it.   But that is, for now, a side issue.

Oh, instead of me going on about how that relates to the American Dream as adequate if not liberal physical security - not filthy wealth - in which everyone can have a secure, decent, life at peace with themselves and their community and a sense of their own decency, I'll give the wider context of the quote from Mother Country

I am haunted by the sense that a changeling has been put in the cradle of American culture.  Adam Smith, the supposed capitalist, whose influence among us is notorious, developed an economic system in which prison, the poorhouse, and starvation have no role and in which the flourishing of the people ( a term he prefers to "the poor") is the desired end.  Compare the Fabians, those most sedulous of strainers of mercy, Why are Smith's proposals for public projects to enhance the economy, taxes that weigh less heavily on the poor than the rich, and education to alleviate the effects of industrial work, called capitalist, while subsidies of the cost of labor and visits of inspection to the homes of the poor to assure that their destitution was perfect before they were relieved - that women had sold their wedding rings, for example - are called socialist?  Why do the Land Grant Act, the Homestead Act, and the G.I. Bill, three distributions of wealth to the public on a scale never contemplated in Britain, have no status among political events, when the dreary traffic in pittances institutionalized as the British Welfare State is hailed as an advance of socialism?...

The mainstream political tradition in America is represented insistently now as unrelievedly "capitalist" whatever Marx might have said about it, and as compromised  grubbing and mean-spirited because of the supposed relative prevalence of "private property" - whatever Marx might have said about that.  On both the right and the left, capitalism, not democracy is represented as the basis of our institutions.  If Sellafield is sometime sold to private owners, as the government has long intended that it should be, then overnight it will become a classic capitalist enterprise by Marx's definition. 

There is a third option, however, described by both Smith and Marx, and , as luck would have it, indigenous to America, of a society based upon individual autonomy, to be achieved through policies of government that by act or omission enhance the specific, tangible material well-being of individual people, by creating or protecting conditions of life that enhance vigor and morale.  These include education, fair wages, wholesome food and water, and reasonable hope for one's children.  These things correspond in a general way with what Americans consider to be "Western values," yet they have have never described, and do not now describe, the condition of life of ordinary British people.  To the inevitable reaction, that people do not miss what they have never had, that the austerity of their lives has spared them the corruptions of materialism, that legal protections are needed only where society is a war of each against all that there is the dole to assure them security from cradle to grave, however tedious the passage, or however swift, the reply must be that the history and present condition of ordinary British people make it clear enough how they have been used and in that spirit, by capitalists and by socialists, in tacit or declared collaboration.  The best American political impulses occur outside this sham opposition.  'they need to be rediscovered as valuable impulses.  Certainly we need to rediscover the complexity of our own political history, which deserves vastly better than to be seized upon by capitalists or dismissed by socialists. 

When Abraham Lincoln said of a hypothetical black woman that "in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands ... she is my equal, and the equal of all others,"  he expresses an economic proposition which is by no means the commonplace or inevitable.  Lincoln based the woman's rights on what she earned, not what she needed, a departure from "subsistence theory" and an implicit acknowledgement that labor creates value - that is, a margin between the cost of the worker's subsistence and the amount of wealth she creates - and that she has a right to share in this overplus.  One learns from Adam Smith, Thomas Carlyle, E.G. Wakefield, and others that subsistence was assured to slaves as it was not to free workers.  In Britain before the Second World War, employers still felt day laborers' arms before they hired them, so that men who were frail or malnourished could be turned away.  Under ordinary circumstances slaves would have had as much as economic theory, up to the time of Beveridge, promised or allowed fully employed working people in Britain - enough to maintain them in a condition of physical efficiency.  Lincoln made the case, successfully, that in justice more was due anyone.  If he had used Marx's language, he would have declared the right to "self-earned private property."    Against a history in which vulnerability triggered the crudest abuse - the history of the British poor, into which Africans were swept up fairly late - so modest a statement as Lincoln's sounds like beatitude. 

The most difficult struggle of our civilization has been to find the means to create autonomy for ordinary lives, so that they might not be plundered or disposed of according to the whims of more powerful people.  Ideas like civil rights and personal liberty come directly from this struggle, which is not terribly well advanced at best, and which is untried, failed or abandoned in most of the world. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Most Telling Thing About the FBI’s Probe into Trump

Footnote Answering A Silly Snarky Frippery

Since you snark, I can date the beginning of the end of my apostasy to my first reading The Historical Jesus by John Dominic Crossan, which must have been in the early 1990s, after it came out in paper back.  What's funny about that is, as I've read more and more and thought more, Crossan's books and those by his fellow members of the Jesus Seminar have seemed ever more beside the point, to me.  I still respect a lot of what he said in the book, it's just that other authors and, especially, reading the texts of the Bible using a hermetic of their intent mattering more than their age, the central issue for Crossan and his Seminar colleagues, makes sense to me.  The texts were written as an assertion of the obligation to do justice to the least among us - the thing which Jesus made central to our ultimate judgement and disposition, not an unimportant detail in the texts and why they were written, after all.  No one bases their study of other texts beginning by ignoring the intent of them except religious ones. 

I have come to see the wisdom of what Brueggemann and some others have said about the relative unimportance of such things as the "higher criticism" and the obsession with chronology.  I know that those have been important for atheist and other attacks against Christianity and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Judaism, but they come from a hermenutic of dismissal of the importance of the meaning of the texts, anyway.  I think it is entirely relevant in judging that intellectual movement that those engaged in it are primarily of the upper middle - upper class or who aspire to that economic status.  Brueggemann's story about the janitor who asked him to explain the dispute to him and who said that if there isn't going to be some eschatological delivery of justice then people like him were just lost is all anyone should need to know about why the academic hermenutic  which starts out demoting or dismissing that concern of justice for the poor and marginalized is fatally problematic.  As my post this morning says, it is also fatal to the cause of economic and social justice and, eventually, egalitarian democracy. 

Because of that, the other great influence on me in those years, the various liberation theologians, those from Latin America and elsewhere - mostly Catholic- and the Black liberation Theologians, especially in the United States and South Africa - mostly Protestant - seem to me to be entirely more important than all of the academic historical-critical stuff put together.  

I do think that history demonstrates, subtly, the truth of what the entire line of Hebrew prophesy, from Genesis to the last people who wrote in the Second Testament said.   The closer that contemporary religion stays to that message, the better off it and we are.  I think one of the most important things that Vatican II did was to emphasize texts from the First Testament in the liturgy.   

I No Longer Expect That Change Is Going To Come From The Affluent Secular Left

In my approximately two-decade long return trip to the religion of The Law, The Prophets and the Gospel, a lot of the old assumptions I made about how to get equal justice, economic justice, justice for women, Black people, Latinos.... and my own LGBT minority were left behind.  They were left behind because of seeing those assumptions fail under testing and how other things which had succeeded were foolishly given up by the left.   I could make two lists of those things but it would not be news to those who understood it and it wouldn't make the slightest difference to those who didn't.

One of the problems with the secularism of the failed left is that secularism is a weak fuel to motivate people in the resistance they need to overthrow the entrenched power of the privileged.  The assertion of Constitutional texts is a very weak fuel, especially by the lawyers who are congenial colleagues with their classmates working for privilege.  Its results are certainly mixed and, as we see one after another of those hard won rights fall to the Republican-fascist court, somewhat ephemeral.  The assertion of identity and the self-interest of people on that basis is hardly effective to attain unity of purpose and, I think, has made conquering a self-divided left easier.   I was encouraged, last night, listening to Callie Crossley's Under the Radar* program from last week, to hear a discussion of Intersectional Feminism which has the potential to get past the divisive aspects of identity while maintaining the empowerment that identity politics can have.  If they manage to make their intentions of one for all and all for one work, it will be very important.

But I don't see the left, in general, making such an effort, I don't really have faith that it will work.  I really don't think anything that excludes the belief that we are to sacrifice and labor, without giving up because that is how God has made the human presence in the world and it is, in fact, a binding commandment will be strong enough to make change.  From Walter Brueggemann's book, The Bible Makes Sense

A fresh perspective of a covenental- historical kind transmits to us a special expectation for the future and a dynamic which lets that promised future come among us.  The shape of our expectation is quite concrete even though it tends to be expressed in poetic imagery.  We live toward and await the coming of a community of justice and righteousness,  in which the last ones will be first (Luke 13:30), in which the humbled ones will exalted (Luke 14:11), in which the hungry ones will be fed (Luke 1:53) and in which the ones who mourn will be comforted (Matt, 5:4).  Our expected future, which God has promised in the Bible, has many points of commonality with the best of civil religion and with the substance of the American dream.  But the texture of this future is expressed in the staggering inversions of a life which contains not only gifts, but also harsh judgments against those who resist the vision or seek to have a piece of it on their own terms.  The future held for us by the Bible is not a blissful blur.  It is a promise of an historical future in which human dignity and human joy are valued and human worth is celebrated.  This vision seriously challenges present arrangements for the sake of what is promised.  

Moreover,  this future, which staggers us by envisioning what we think not possible, offers the dynamic of a Promise-Maker and a Promise-Keeper,  God himself.  That is what is covenantal about this tradition.  We are not in covenant with a good idea which is simply there or with our best intentions which depend on us.  We are in covenant with an active, caring intervening God who keeps his promise.  Thus the Bible strangely affirms that we are to embrace the promise of a quite different society which God himself initiates.  Yet this future to which we look forward is peculiarly historical which is to say the future is breaking in now, and when it breaks in, it does so peculiarly among the powerless, despised, and weak.  Bible reading is for the sake of remembering where we peculiarly come from and what is not peculiarly promised by this God who is graciously committed especially to those who have lost their utility and who have been written off by the world.  The future here envisioned is not a withdrawal from history, but a renewal of humanness in history, so the new humanness may emerge especially among those whom we treat with disdain.  It is of course a shock and an affront to us to notice how the power of the Bible is especially received among the powerless.  But we can not avoid the evidence that it was especially the poor and the powerless who responded to Jesus and who were able to trust God's promises.  It may give us pause to wonder that the poor may be strangely open to such promises, and perhaps in our affluence, it becomes more difficult and problematic to let God's promises have power among us. 

Elsewhere Brueggemann makes two points which are important.   One, from the Book of Exodus, in which God, after giving a detailed list of what he promises to do to free the Israelites from the Pharonic system, he tells Moses that he is going to be his agent of making them free.  Human agency is an essential and, apparently, non-negotiable part of this covenantal relationship.   It's not going to just happen by a natural process but will be a product of human intention in concert with the intention of God.

Another point which has to be made is given in this Youtube in the Bar Theology series, in which in response to a question about the "mean God" of the First Testament and the "nice God" of the Second Testament,  Brueggemann points out that the Old Testament God is far from the stereotype of him and that the divine will as presented by Jesus was far from being without serious consequences for not doing justice, not supporting the poor, etc.   In one of the most meaningful parts of the Second Testament, Matthew 25:31-49. we generally stop reading about verse 40 in which the reward of those who "did to the least among you what you did" to God is promised.  But the next part of it tells what awaits those who don't feed God, clothe  God, give God drink, welcome God into their homes, see them while they are sick or in prison.  Judgment.   "I tell you, whenever you refused to help one of these least important ones, you refused to help me.’  These, then, will be sent off to eternal punishment, but the righteous will go to eternal life.”   I won't quibble about the meaning of "eternal" as a universalist, but I think even avoiding long term confinement in a house of correction wouldn't be worth risking when it will be God giving judgement from the bench, as it were.

I look at the secular left, those who will say nice things about Neil Gorsuch this week, his liberal teachers, fellow students, colleagues, law clerks, etc. who will say what a swell guy he is and how smart he is and, yeah, he might screw the poor to death but, well, he's a nice clean proper member of the club - don't bother looking at his youthful, privileged pigishness and frat boy years.  That secular left, the ACLU - free speech industry, etc. certainly don't figure that that screwing of the poor is anything they need to worry about because, well, they'll get paid to make the losing argument before the Roberts court and they'll fight the good impotent fight.

I don't have any faith that secularism will, in the end, have the power to do it and I think the very people who those affluent lefties figure should make the change are the very ones who will not make it, a few reversible advances, here and there, notwithstanding.

*  Callie Crossley is about my current favorite radio host.   You might find this segment about the importance of and promotion of the books of the late Octavia Butler, one of the rare, black women who had success in the science fiction genre interesting.

Democrats Should Filibuster And Force Republican-fascists To Show Exactly What The Senate Under Their Control Has Been

Neil Gorsuch will lie under oath during his confirmation hearings, he will claim he has not come to any opinion in matters he has come to a fixed opinion on and those opinions will determine how he will rule on matters before the Supreme Court.  Alito and Roberts lied through their teeth during their confirmation hearings, every Senator who went through the ritual, those for and those against their nominations knew they were lying, everyone will know that Gorsuch is lying today.  

He will rule on the court with obvious consistency against the rights of people without wealth and power, members of minorities which are discriminated against, those who are injured by corporations, those who are blatantly robbed by them.  He will vote consistently to trash the environment as his mother did when she tried to destroy the EPA three decades before Trump will probably succeed in doing so.

Neil Gorsuch is a button-down, pretty-faced, false front on American fascism.  I feel little inclination to watch the hearings because of all the committees in Washington, with few exceptions, the Senate Judiciary Committee is one of the smarmiest, most hypocritical and most predictable.  Every Republican on the Committee will vote for his nomination, if any Democrat attempts to bring up their not only shameful but malfeasant refusal to so much as give Barack Obama's nominee for the seat stolen by Senate Republicans to be filled by the worst excuse for a president in the history of the United States, they will suppress any discussion of that.  They will do everything they can to provide cover for Neil Gorsuch.

I sincerely hope that Democrats mount a filibuster and that the Republicans will choose the "nuclear option" to push him through. It's what is bound to happen if Democrats try to assert the mythical power of the minority in the Senate.  If it's not exercised, it's not there, anyway.   It's about time that the last fig leafs covering the shame of the Senate be removed to see the bare-assed assertion of Republican-fascist for what it is.

Dusan Bogdanovic - 5 Miniatures Printanières

Jon Minei, guitar

Spring music for the first day of spring north of the equator.  

Manuel M. Ponce - Thème varié et Finale

Oman Kaminky

Kaminsky is one of the best guitar players in the world.  I've heard this piece played by several of the big names in guitar but he found music in it I don't think I ever heard before.    Ponce isn't one of my all time favorite composers but I'm going to be giving him a second hearing now that I've heard this.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Late Hate

Big deal, Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan sent a fan letter to Chuck Berry, well, good,  I'm happy for all three of them.   I don't have anything against Chuck Berry - it was Steve Simels who said he was an SOB, not me, I don't know anything about his personal life, only, since it's Simels calling him that, well, I'm old enough to remember when people said irony was dead.

I wonder how much of the publicity out of the letter Sagan and Druyan figured would fall onto them instead of Berry and who made it public.  

Obviously none of the morons at Eschaton have bothered to read what I actually said as they will insist I've got something against Chuck Berry.  Eschaton is like the Trump inner-circle in that they don't care if what they say and read is a lie as long as they like what the lie says.   If it's Simps or Freki, it's almost certain to be a lie.   Eschaton is like a game of telephone where what gets spread around just gets lieier.  

Update:  I doubt you know the definition of "aficionado".   Being a musician,  I think the more you know about any branch of music the less you'll think of yourself in terms like that.  I am glad there's a lot I don't know because, as my post of music recorded almost a century ago shows,  I'll never run out of new musical experiences to have.  You would seem to be addicted to listening to the same old, old, old, old, old [hit the turntable] stuff that got old fifty years ago. 

Update 2:  

There is a rock critic, illiterate, 
Who, though, is a liar, inveterate,
His text comprehension,
Is lax, so invention, 
Is what he spews out like an idiot. 

Marika Papagika - SMYRNEIKO MINORE (1919)

Marika Papagika, voice
Kostas Papagika, cymbolom
Markos Sifnios, cello
I don't know who the violinists are but her husband always recorded with her and Markos Sifnios is the cellist on her recordings that had a cello.

Manaki Mou (1925)

I had never heard of Marika Papagika before hearing her on Carol Coronis's Aegean Connection show yesterday.  Papagika was a Greek singer who emigrated to the United States in 1915 and became one of the first, if not the first Greek musician to record in the United States.  She and her husband Kostas had a greek cafe (and speak easy) in New York until it closed in 1930 during the crash.  Her recording career (about 225 sides) ended about the same time.

As you can hear, while others might have been called "red hot mamas" she was one hot singer. Lots of the others were like luke warm buttermilk.  

You can hear more on the podcasts of yesterday's Aegean Connection along with lots of other music. I listen to her for the same reason I listen to the program before hers, Polka Party, because I hear things I've never heard and probably would never hear.  That's what I like to do while some people like to listen to the same old, old, old, old, old, old [hits turn table] things.

This Morning At Ducan Black's Alternative Alternative Facts Blog

Apparently I'm being slammed at Duncan's for what they think I'll do but which I've never done, criticized the late Chuck Berry because of what he was like off-stage.   As I do a search term search on the blogs I write for or wrote for, I don't find that I've ever mentioned Chuck Berry before, I doubt I've ever commented on him or his music and I know nothing about his biography, legendary or real. Apparently his music never caught my interest sufficiently to lead me to know more than I heard on AM top-40 station I happened to hear when I was young and that's all.   I have no opinion on it. 

Apprently the morons at "Duncan's Brain Trust" (they really do call themselves a "brain trust") don't notice that the only person involved in this who claimed Berry was "an SOB" in his off stage life is their resident rock and roll journalist who got made redundant at the already quite redundant ad flyer he used to write for.  I never said a word to that effect.  But, then, Duncan's rump of regulars aren't much on reading comprehension.  

He was 90, for crying out loud.  Is it a surprise to them that 90 year olds have a tendency to, you know, die?  

Update:  Oh, and, though I generally dislike him and his blog for obvious reasons, good little post making a completely unoriginal point, Duncan.  I remember when it used to be worth reading what you said even as your rump of regulars made the comment threads increasingly unreadable.  Count me as one of the few who liked your infrastructure posts.  No one else was doing it for a general audience of mid-brow college grads. 

Update:  Hey, all I did was point out that you're the one who called him an "SOB" not me.  And then you accused me of being guilty of going to have been saying that.  As I've pointed out in the past you don't quite get how time works so I don't think there's a tense in English that expresses what you said.
I didn't even give an opinion on his music because I have none.  You, on the other hand, prove that like something else, everyone usually has an opinion and like that something, they often stink.

Update:  Moron says what?

I think the only things I ever said about Guy Lumbardo was that he was one of Louis Armstrong's favorite musicians and that he had more musical competence than a lot of rock musicians.  Or rock critics, though I don't think I said that.  You can tell when Dopey is lying because his lips or fingers are moving.   Louis Armstrong, by the way, is one of the greatest geniuses in musical history, Dopey isn't.   Who would you suspect is more credible?

How Stupid Does a Snobby College Grad Have To Be To Tell That Lie in 2017?

Anyone who asserts that Charles Darwin and his theory,  natural selection, was not the instigator of eugenics. are either knowingly lying or too ignorant of the topic to have any idea on it that should matter.

Francis Galton, who is rightly credited as the inventor of the idea of eugenics was absolutely specific in naming his friend, colleague and cousin, Charles Darwin and his theory of natural selection as what gave him the idea of eugenics.  I've pointed that out repeatedly as well as the absolute fact that a list of just about every single figure in the history of eugenics who wrote on it in as a scientific matter made that very same attribution.  The list includes Francis Galton, Ernst Haeckel, Willhelm Schallmeyer, Alfred Ploetz, everyone of dozens of American and British eugenicists I reviewed in the past decade and virtually every German eugenicist right up through the Nazi period.  I can't remember an exception to that.  The list includes four eugenicists who had a unique authority in making that attribution of eugenics to Charles Darwin, his four sons Leonard, George, Francis and the far less voluble Horace, Darwin who all knew him even more intimately than even Francis Galton did.

The post-World War Two eugenics-free Charles Darwin is a post-war invention that no one I have ever found who knew the man claimed or who was presented in any claims about him before the eugenic crimes of the Nazis were revealed to the world.  It is, lock stock and barrel of plaster to make their phony St. Darwin with, a lie, a lie invented after the war with the intent to cover up that history and a lie to be repeated by those ignorant of that history - including all those folks at the BBC and PBS and those who wrote books in the post-war era that told that lie.

Now that virtually all of his writing, including a huge percentage of his correspondence is available for reading, online, free of charge, that lie which depended on the previous paper-based, library based means of conducting such research, that lie will, gradually, eventually, topple that statue.  Anyone who cares about legitimate research into evolution should get out of its shadow because, like it or not, it's coming down.  \

If you get upset with me for making this point, again, I'll point out that the lie is nearly ubiquitous among the college-allegedly educated class today so it is a lie that must be repeatedly contradicted if it is to be made innocuous.  Charles Murray and a number of neo-eugenicists with an ambition to effect government policy and laws regarding the distribution of resources away from the least among us to the richest among us depend on that lie which insists that British-American eugenics was innocuous and, anyway, something from the past.  No it isn't, some form or other of neo-eugenics is the common thinking of a dangerously large number of people, right now and it is embedded in the Trump budget and the aspirations of those like Paul Ryan.

Note:  A careful reader of this will note something they could point out as an inconsistency, I'm going to let that be as a test to see how well my trolls read.   I'm not expecting them to catch it.