Saturday, January 20, 2018

Atanas Ourkouzounov - 11 Preludes-Etudes

Atanas Ourkouzounov, guitar

I posted some of these before, someone posted them with the music.   I don't know why but I hear so much more in the music when I can see the notes.    But even without it I love these

Hate Mail - When Did It Become Unacceptable To Not Comment On The Basis Of Not Knowing?

I, like you, know absolutely nothing about the facts of the case in Chile but unlike you I'm not going to assume I know anything about it while claiming I do.    Knowing nothing about it, I can be certain I don't know as much about it as Pope Francis does, but I'm not even speculating that he's got it right even as you, knowing nothing about it, presume he's got it wrong.   

Until I know something about it, I've got nothing to say on it. 

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Claudine Toutoungi - The Inheritors

Francois Chédid is the falafel king. Who knew there was so much money in Lebanese food? Or that his three delightful grown-up children would be sent into such a spin when he tries to share his good fortune? Comic drama by Claudine Toutoungi.

Jasmine ..... Montserrat Lombard
Francois ..... Kulvinder Ghir
Nadia ..... Katie Lyons
Frank ..... Samuel James
Diane ..... Sanchia McCormack

Directed by Toby Swift

"Why do we not know this yet?" On the Day When Republicans Shut Down The Government Using Sick Children And The Stranger Among Us To Shaft The Poor Even More

One of the characteristics of our modern so-called intellectuals is that there are large numbers of them who peddle themselves as a sort of budget rent-a-scholars, who every so often write a magazine article or a book of scant intellectual gravitas which they peddle around on the higher-mid-brow talk show circuit.  Or at least that was how it was done until fairly recently.  I get the feeling that even that level of intellectual life in the English Speaking People is giving way to the tendencies within it to celebrity culture and fandom.  The "Bright" lights of the new atheism could be a quintessential example .   But there are certainly those whose stock and trade is religion who do that, though since about the 1990s, not so often in the liberal denominations.  One of the earlier ones was the once ubiquitous Episcopal bishop,  John Spong who would every few years write a book and in between would be asked on to debunk the religious tradition that, somehow, took him to be bishop material when it was clear he really didn't believe much of the central faith holdings of Episcopal Christianity.  If you want a good take down of Spong's road show you could do no better than to read the first section of Marilynne Robinson's essay,  The Fate of Ideas: Moses, in which she dismembers Spong's nasty and mean spirited and surprisingly, for a bishop scandalously uniformed, presentation of the Old Testament and, in particular the Mosaic Law.   There is a familiar conservative critique of Spong's act, this is the far less familiar traditional American liberal critique of it.

I say that because while I'm tempted to post what she said about Spong and that genre of writing,  I'm only going to recommend you look for it in the collection,  When I Was A Child I Read Books, because I want to post something that gets right to the heart of the matter and which has the power to expose a lot of the religious fraud from those who thump on the Bible without, as well, seeming to know much about what it says.   As Brueggemann said last year, we need to take back and rescue the Ten Commandments (which Spong insists are in need of junking) because they are what we need to save justice under an egalitarian democracy.   Risking a cease and desist, I'm going to give you a big chunk of the essay because I can't do better at making the argument than Ms. Robinson does.  And it is so important.  Remember that a lot of our law and legal tradition and culture comes directly from the English common law that is in almost every instance far more brutal than the much maligned Mosaic Law of the Old Testament, and where it was harsh English law tended to be as harsh if not harsher.

After centuries of neglect and suppression the Old Testament became a much studied and lovingly translated text at the time of the Reformation.  Its beauty rewarded the attention of Christian humanists and was the occasion for the definitive emergence of modern languages such as English and German as literary languages.  The religious significance ascribed to it and the method by which it was interpreted varied with the theological setting in which it found itself.  Yet never was it justly dealt with or properly valued by any major Christian tradition, nor is it now. 

In his Utopia,  Thomas More, the sixteenth-century statesman and scholar, notes one great difference between the regime of Christian England and the laws laid down by Moses.  English thieves were hanged in great numbers, sometimes twenty on a scaffold, whereas “to be short, Moses; law, though it were ungentle and sharp, as a law that was given to bondmen, yea, and them very obstinate, stubborn and stiff-necked, yet it punished theft by the purse, and not with death [emphasis mine].   And let us not thin that God in the new law of clemency and mercy, under the which He ruleth us with fatherly gentleness, as his dear children, hath given us greater scope and license to the execution of cruelty upon one another.”  More wrote his book in Latin, and the learned could not be hanged (if they were male) – that is the actual meaning of “benefit of clergy” - so those to whom his thoughts would have been of pressing interest would not have been among his readers.  But a very valuable point is made here, which is seldom made, and which, if we were honest, would force us to consider many things. 

Moses (by whom I mean the ethos and spirit of Mosaic law, however it came to be articulated) in fact does not authorize any physical punishment for crimes against property.  The entire economic and social history of Christendom would have been transformed if Moses had been harkened to only in this one particular.  Feudalism, not to mention early capitalism, is hardly to be imagined where such restraint was observed in the defense of the rights of ownership.  Anyone familiar with European history is aware of the zeal for brutal punishment the terrible ingenuity with which the human  body was tormented and insulted through the eighteenth century at least, very often to deter theft on the part of the wretched.  Moses authorizes nothing of the kind, nor indeed does he countenance any oppression of the poor.  More is entirely conventional, as he would be still, in describing the law of Moses as “sharp” beside the merciful governance of Christ.  But how could Europe have been more effectively Christianized – understand the sense in which I use the word – than by adherence to these laws of Moses?  Granting the severity of the holiness codes in the Torah, they do not compare unfavorably with laws touching religious matters in More's England.  More himself called for the burning of William Tyndale, the great early translator of the Bible into English, who was in fact burned.  It is often said that Europeans learned religious intolerance from the Old Testament.  Then how did we happen to skp over the parts where the laws protect and provide for the poor, and where oppression of them is most fiercely forbidden?   It is surely dishonest to suggest we learned anything at all from the Torah, if we have not earned anything good from it.  Better to say our vices are our own than to try to exculpate ourselves by implying that our attention strayed during the humane and visionary passages.  The law of Moses puts liberation theology to shame in its passionate loyalty to the poor.  Why do we not know this yet? 

Utopia describes the consequences of the nightmarish policy of clearance and enclosure, persisted in for centuries, which drove the rural poor out of the English countryside. 

"For look in what parts of the realm doeth grow the finest and therefore dearest wool, there noblemen and gentlemen, yea and certain abbots, holy men no doubt . . . much annoying the public weal, leave no room for tillage.  They enclose all into pastures; they throw down houses; they pluck down towns, and leave nothing standing but a church to be made a sheep-house . . . [The poor] must needs depart away, poor, silly, retched souls, men, women, husbands, wives, fatherless children, widows, woeful mothers with their young babes . . . Away they trudge, I say, out of their known and accustomed houses.  finding no place to rest in . . . [ When they have sold whatever they have] what can they do but steal, and then justly be hanged, or else go about a-begging?  And yet then also they be cast into prison as vagabonds, because hey go out and work not,  whom no man will set a-work, though they never so willingly proffer themselves thereto."

As I will demonstrate from the text, all this violates the laws of Moses, in letter and in spirit  How it is to be reconciled with any conceivable intention of Jesus I cannot imagine, but that is not the issue here.  In fact, the laws of Moses establish a highly coherent system for minimizing and alleviating poverty, a brilliant economics based in a religious ethic marked by nothing more strongly than by an anxious solicitude for the well-being of the needy and the vulnerable.  

I will go on with this essay because she does, in fact, demonstrate that, far from the characterization of The Law and the "Jewish God" that is current among the college educated English Speaking Peoples, if the economic provisions in it, alone, were adopted as our law it would be a more radical redistribution of wealth and power than has ever happened after any Communist revolution, such as we're still supposed to be hankering over, though their equivalent of the "holiness code" made the severity of the one in Leviticus look like a slap on the wrist.

As she asks, "Why do we not know this yet?"  It's not as if the book isn't there to be read, though I doubt more than one in a hundred of its casual online slammers has ever really read it, depending on the clippings of such mid-brow ersatz intellectuals or, more likely, what they heard on Fresh Air or some TV talk show.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Swab Four

Image result for smart mop head

This is what came up when I googled "Smart Mop Head" 

Mauro Giuliani- Two Rondos For Guitar And Fortepiano op 68

Enrica Savigni, chitarra "Pasquale Vinaccia", Napoli 1828
Laura Savigni, fortepiano "Clementi & CO.", Londra around 1820


They are so good.   The romantic era guitar and the fortepiano are just about perfect together.

One Thing In Our Politics Which Has Achieved A De Facto Level of Scientific Certainty

Chris Hayes' segment from last night with Julia Ioffe discussing the relationship of Russian oligarchs with covert ties to the Putin crime regime and the National Rifle Association and the possible illegal funneling of Putin mafia cash through American organizations to put Trump in office should have made your jaw drop.   It's a sign of just how common this kind of corruption has gotten in the United States that my jaw didn't drop when I heard it.   But that was largely because I was following what the Supreme Court and the "civil liberties" industry has done to American democracy through a line of rulings, one of the last and most damaging of which was the Citizens United case which Ioffe mentions as contributing to hidden money from even foreign organized crime regimes being funneled into our political system through "free speech-free press" orthodoxy. 

I don't know how much more explicit it can get, the ACLU joining with overt fascists in advocating an interpretation of the First Amendment which their opponents warned would lead to exactly this kind of thing yielding the results their opponents predicted would mean that the case that Citizens United and the theory of the First Amendment which is the doctrine and dogma of all right-thinking lefties and everything right down to our explicit domestic terrorist-Nazis is proven by a test given it in real reality instead of lawyerly theorizing and blather about precedents  in previous terrible decisions in that line of decisions.   I have no doubt that the next case like this the ACLU will brief in favor of the same line which has produced this disaster. 

If the NRA did, in fact, take Putin crime money - or any money from any foreign oligarchs - to influence the American election OR IF ANY OTHER UNITED STATES ENTITY DID that means that the ACLU-"civil liberties" industry line on that is incompatible with the only reason for the First Amendment to exist, to protect egalitarian democracy, the right to a government elected on the basis of informed consent of the governed by elected representatives who will protect and defend us from all enemies foreign and domestic.   

I am quite confident that the NRA isn't the only entity which had such Putin-Russian oligarch or other oligarch money given to it to help influence the election.  With the articles I read in them I strongly suspect some of that money was going to either some of the media organs of the alleged left and if not them directly, to fund the writings of their contributors.   I suspect that an investigation of the Green Party, of the sort which was reported to be one of the areas the Mueller investigation had taken up might be on to something there, too.  And if you can say that about the covert Republican-spoiler "left" it's even more likely to be true of the pro-Republican right. 

The fact is that the ACLU and the "civil liberties" industry has been as much a tool of billionaire oligarchs foreign and domestic as we may find the NRA has been.   They certainly made it more likely that the Putin crime regime and their allies would succeed in using, as Ioffe pointed out, things invented in the United States for their own purposes.  It would certainly not have been a secret to them that Citizens United was a gift to them, given by the Republican majority on the Supreme Court with the help of the "civil liberties" industry because the American free press, not to mention opposing briefs filed with the Court pointed out what they were doing.   I'd go so far as to say that the members of the court who voted for Citizens United were guilty of treason, certainly of violating their oath of office in doing so.   They and the lawyers and groups who briefed them in favor of Citizens United can't claim ignorance because they were warned that this would result from what they did.   

These are days when you have to make such strong statements because our country has not been in this kind of self-made crisis before,  I don't think the Confederacy was as serious a challenge to American democracy because that treason was geographically isolated, that of today is made general by such things as Supreme Court rulings.   I don't know any other way to say it than this because I've paid attention to this for a long time now and I remember the warnings that have been given and ignored because "The First Amendment" .  Well, now it's obvious that's led to the same thing that is the desired result of those constantly yelling "The Second Amendment".   Fascism. 

Perhaps it is the coming of this kind of death which we are experiencing in America today because we have not regraded life as a task which the national community must address.

Walter Brueggemann wrote that sentence I took as a title forty years ago.  What he based it in was written more than 2500 years ago.   If I hadn't chosen that sentence from the part of his book, The Bible Makes Sense I started to go through this week, I'd have chosen the end of this one which is so resonant with Trumpian-Republican rule:

The kings of Israel, prototypes of those who forgot the task of life,  turn out to be the agents of death, i.e., the cause of the unrelatedness that leads to disintegration. 

Think about that during the coverage of the shut-down vote, especially as it relates to insuring sick children and those who were covered by DACA.   Not to mention the Republican billionaire bonanza they passed last month.

Life Is A Task

The Bible regards life/death as a two-sided issue.  And the two sides must be kept in careful tension with each other.  On the one hand, life is a task.  It is a work which is assigned to a community and which the community must intentionally undertake.   If the community quits on the task,  the community disintegrates and there will be death.  Perhaps it is the coming of this kind of death which we are experiencing in America today because we have not regraded life as a task which the national community must address.  The prophets of Israel in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. were most articulate about such a situation.  The Israelites in that period were secure and complacent and took everything for granted.  Not unlike ourselves, they presumed upon the pride and affluence they saw everywhere.  They concluded that it would never end and was eternally guaranteed.  It is the prophets who announce to the community of meaning and destiny that life never just happens.  It requires sustained, disciplined effort to enhance and continually reform the community.  The kings of Israel, prototypes of those who forgot the task of life,  turn out to be the agents of death, i.e., the cause of the unrelatedness that leads to disintegration. 

The prophet Amos issued such a call to life as a task:

Seek me and live . . . 
Seek the LORD and live . . . 
Seek good, and not evil . . . 
Hate evil, and love good . . . 
establish justice in the gate (Amos 5:4-15).

The task of securing life means to turn away from all other loyalties except to the LORD, the God of the Bible.  It requires sharing his vision and rejecting every other vision of what community can be.  Concretely it means to seek “good” which is the well-being for all members of the community, and to establish justice; that is, to care for the weak and powerless, to give sustenance to the helpless.  It means to orient and reorganize public institutions so that the weak and powerless are not excluded as unqualified.  These are the tasks of life in ancient Israel and in every community.  Isaiah echoes the task in a series of imperatives:

Wash yourselves;
make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes;
cease to do evil, 
learn to do good;
seek justice, 
correct oppression;
defend the fatherless, 
plead for the widow (Isaiah 1:16-17).

When these tasks are not embraced, death surely comes (cf. Amos 5:1-2).

I will have more to say on this but in the meantime I will call your attention to this essay from the Canadian blog "azlewis," Martin Luther King Jr., the Prophet Amos, and the Vietnam War.

It's so well said that I'll just repost this excerpt:

Though both King and Amos have international concerns, their main focus is domestic poverty and issues that distract from its alleviation. Amos rails against the cult in its collusion with the state and other powerful people. Those who are wealthy enough to own two houses (3:15) seem to care nothing for justice in the streets. (4:1; 5:12) In his book of woes in chapter 6, he describes in detail extreme wealth and how God will send the wealthy into exile first. Complicit in the affluent of Israel are the religious leaders who are so corrupt that they will not hear the words of God when they do come through Amos. (7:13) The cult is obviously meaningless to the people since they wait for the ceremonies to cease in order to do more business and exploit the poor to their own gain. Amos quotes God as saying that God hates the religious festivals and will not even accept their offerings. The cult ceases its usefulness and that is the impetus for one of the biblical phrases King quotes the most in his career and the line that King uses to conclude his speech: “Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (5:23-24)

Though the ostensible subject of King’s speech is the injustice of the War in Vietnam, note that the title is “Beyond Vietnam.” The war, he claims, is merely a symptom of a larger problem and when he lists his reasons for “bringing Vietnam into the field of [his] moral vision,” his first is that the funds going toward the war distract from the programs that went towards the “rehabilitation of [America’s] poor.” Meanwhile the government sent the children of the poor to fight and die in the war itself.

Geesh, do I wish I hadn't wasted so much time reading the sterile, pointless, fruitless secular left most of my life.  I regret that time wasted almost as much as I do watching TV.

Hate Mail - "Natural selection operates by random chance, there is no directionality involved"

The claim that Darwinism doesn't make claims about teleological ends in evolution is often made but it is generally contradicted by other claims of the materialist-Darwinist, at times in the same document or speech or conversation.   The claim that natural selection, or, I would guess, any conception of evolution that involves a framing that sees the overriding fact of evolution in terms of qualitative inequality would have to involve, at the most basic and unavoidable levels of meaning, that some claim of teleology in the proposed mechanism even as a whole host of linguistic and (ultimately doomed) logical contortions are gone through as those are pointed out. 

I haven't made an in-depth study of the various editions Darwin published of On the Origin of Species to point out the competing claims of chance, non-directionality, and on the other hand, "progress" and other teleological claims.  I have pointed out that he explicitly tied Natural Selection to Survival of the Fittest in the 5th and 6th editions, the final ones before his death, at the behest of his co-inventor of NS, A. R. Wallace.   Oddly, and illogically, Wallace didn't like the term because he said it implied some kind of conscious choice, even as tying it to "fitness" would have inevitably reinforced that concept.   I think claiming that natural selection operates to enhance "fitness" makes that inevitable  but I have heard one Darwinist point out that Darwin often talks about "progress" as the product of natural selection, progressive fitness even as he far less often talks about "evolution".  I can give you this example in the last paragraph in the recapitulation and summary of his claims in the first edition, especially the sentence in blue:

We can so far take a prophetic glance into futurity as to foretel that it will be the common and widely-spread species, belonging to the larger and dominant groups, which will ultimately prevail and procreate new and dominant species. As all the living forms of life are the lineal descendants of those which lived long before the Silurian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken, and that no cataclysm has desolated the whole world. Hence we may look with some confidence to a secure future of equally inappreciable length. And as natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.

If, as you claim, I've misrepresented what "science" says about teleological ends in evolution, you're going to have to take it up with ol' Chuck as he said it about ninety years before I was born.

Considering natural selection is all about organisms dying and being destroyed, as I believe as orthodox a Darwinist as Karl Pearson called it something like "progressive death rate" or some such construction, Darwin's claim that it "works solely by and for the good of each being" is an incredibly stupid claim.   The idea that such a non-conscious entity could work "for the good of each being" even as it killed them off with a mercilessness that the amoral, immoral Parson Malthus would have admired, is so bizarre that I'm surprised I've never come across someone pointing out its self-serving double-speak.   I think that even if they came to a less illogical articulation of "natural selection" it would still inevitably be saturated with the intent of Malthus, Darwin, Pearson, etc. because that was its origin, that is embedded in the concept as deeply as the concept of species.  It differs from the laws of physics because those are based on what can be observed and measured, the study of evolution can't have the same kind of basis and it is inevitable that any claims made about evolution will include a far wider range of the thinking and feelings of those who are making the claims.   If it is science, it is science in an entirely different way that that being done by people like Faraday and Rutherford.

For more overt atheist-materialist advocates of scientism to further their atheist ideology to claim natural selection could be compatible with operations of random chance was always a stretch.  Natural selection was invented by an upper-class Brit who was massively conceited about the qualitative superiority of his family line - in that characteristically Brit way in order to make claims of a teleological process that would render his family and his line superior to the British poor and other ethnic groups, the Irish, the Fuegian, the Tasmanian, etc.  The only reason I believe it was retained was because it allowed conceited scientists to believe they had cracked the puzzle of evolution, in a way that physicists had really cracked some far less ambitious riddles about the physical world, when they hadn't and because it told the rich, White, male elite that nature had rewarded them with the crown of earthly wealth and power due to their biological superiority.   I think today it is retained mostly due to the vestiges of its usefulness to atheists in their ideological campaigns though there is certainly a lot of its citation among conceited scientists such as Francis Crick, Jame Watson, and R. A. Fischer (not an atheist, by the way) because they like the idea that their intelligence is a product of their biological superiority and not the chances they had in life unrelated to biology.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Joshua Redman - Jazz Crimes

Joshua Redman (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone);
Sam Yahel (piano, Wurlitzer piano, Fender Rhodes piano, Clavinet, keyboards);
Brian Blade (drums);
Bashiri Johnson (bongos, congas, shaker, tambourine).

My brother made me a convert, so many facets to Redman's music. 


Tumpisher Beobachter

I am asked what I think of the New York Times editorial page being devoted, entirely, to the approximately 34% of Americans who support Donald Trump and the first thing I note is that 34% is about 2.8% less of the electorate who supported Hitler in 1932.  And the second thing I will point out is that if the Trump regime declared martial law, suspended the Constitution and started rounding up and murdering its opponents the New York Times would probably do the same thing, again. 

The New York Times is a tool of the billionaire oligarchs just as it was the tool of the multi-millionaire oligarchs before now.  It was the rag that started the descent into Trumpian fascism when it got itself the permission to lie with impunity.  That is what it really is, that really has had a devastating effect on American democracy, it is one of the most effective tools of billionaire oligarchy. 

Illustration Of The Exception

"Life means to be significantly involved in a community of caring, meaning, and action." "That's why King knew he was going to win even when he lost by human sense."

In Bill Moyers' discussion with James Cone on his brilliant sermon, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, one of the most difficult passages was this:

JAMES CONE: The core of it is, is helping America get over its innocence. Helping America to see itself through the eyes of people from the bottom. And you see, America likes to think of itself as innocent. And we are not. No human being is innocent. And so, I-- that would be the book I would recommend him to read. But since he's a Christian, I would especially recommend that he reads Beyond Tragedy. Niebuhr tells us that Christianity takes us through tragedy to beyond tragedy by way of the cross to victory in the cross.


JAMES CONE: Meaning that the cross is victory out of defeat.

BILL MOYERS: And the lynching tree?

JAMES CONE: And the lynching tree is transcendent of defeat. And that's why the cross and the lynching tree belong together. That's why I have to talk about the lynching tree. Because Christians can't understand what's going on at the cross until they see it through the image of a lynching tree with black bodies hanging there.


JAMES CONE: Because what the Christian Gospel is is a transvaluation of values. Something you cannot anticipate in this world, in this history. But, it empowers the powerless. It is-- what do you mean by power in the powerless? That's what God is. Power in the powerless.

BILL MOYERS: But, the victims of lynchings are dead.

JAMES CONE: No. Their mothers and fathers aren't dead. Their brothers and sisters aren't dead. I'm alive. I have to give voice to those who did die. And all of us do. That's why we can't forget it.

BILL MOYERS: But, you know, Dr. Cone, I went online and-- and watched the video version of your speech at Harvard where you talked on Strange Fruit -- the Cross and the Lynching Tree. I must say that audience didn't seem very comfortable with that-- with that linkage, right?

JAMES CONE: No, they did not. No, because I said it at a divinity school. And that's mostly whites there. Blacks felt comfortable with it. They're-- they like that. They like that connection because it gives them a perspective on the lynching that empowers them rather than silences them. People who have never been lynched by another group usually find it difficult to understand why it is blacks want whites to remember lynching atrocities. Why bring that up, they ask? Isn't that best forgotten? And I say, absolutely not! The lynching tree is a metaphor for race in America, a symbol of America's crucifixion of black people. See, whites feel a little uncomfortable because they are part of the history of the people who did the lynching. I would much rather be a part of the history of the lynching victims than a part of the history of the one who did it. And that's the kind of transcendent perspective that empowers people to resist. That's why King knew he was going to win even when he lost by human sense.

One of the things I've learned about The Bible from reading authors such as Walter Brueggemann is that often the words used in Scripture have to be understood in vastly wider way than a narrowed sense of meaning, that to read them in a narrow sense can distort the full meaning of them in context and as the authors may have meant them.  One which I never noticed before but which I recently got from listening to a speech by John Polkinghorne is Genesis 1:24,

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.”

And it was so cited to make the point that the language of Genesis, not only was supportive of Big Bang cosmology at a time materialist-atheist cosmologists rejected and sought to suppress the idea but that that passage is entirely compatible with any claims made that life arose out of the chemicals and physical conditions found on the Early Earth or elsewhere, God made the Earth, itself, the physical and chemical stuff of the Earth give rise to life on Earth.  It's not compatible with a fundamentalist reading in the sense of "young Earth creationism" but it is entirely compatible with the idea that life arose and, especially as the next verse continues, its fecundity led to diversity - though the scriptures don't mention anything like that, though it is entirely compatible with that passage.   That kind of "intelligent design" is at no point incompatible with whatever the physical evidence of evolution can be, though that doesn't include the ideological imposition of science such as in the demand that science proves that evolution is by random chance events and that evolution is non-progressive (something no conventional Darwinist really believes even as they claim to) and that there is no directionality in evolution.  Which are ideological stands, not scientific ones.

But this is about this passage from Chapter 7 of The Bible Makes Sense in which Brueggemann points out that the Bible doesn't give the narrow, modern meaning to "life" and "death" that is commonly given to those ideas, now, it gives them a far broader meaning as a way to promote life over death, over human conduct that leads to life over deadly ways.

7 “From Death to Life”

Life Means Relatedness

The Bible has notions of life and death which are very different from those we have today.  Whereas we think of life as the continuing functioning of the individual organisms and death as the cessation of such functioning, the Bible understands life and death in covenantal categories  Life means to be significantly involved in a community of caring, meaning, and action  Death means to be excluded from such a community or denied access to its caring, meaning, or actions.   Life means a capacity to enter into covenants and the ability to make covenants which are also community-creating possibilities for others.  Life and death do not have to do, in biblical perspective, simply with the state of the individual person but with the relation between the person  and the community which identifies that person and which gives personhood.   A German scholar,  Jungel, has recently shown that life in the Bible means relatedness. Conversely death is to be unrelated.  Thus the Bible calls into question two of our dominant presuppositions:  (a) that life is concerned primarily with biological functioning and (b) that life concerns a personal unit in and of itself.

The central life-death moment in the biblical perspective is entry into and participation in a community of identity and mission.  Birth is embrace of covenant community, whether we speak of birth or rebirth.  And death is departure from the community, either by force or by choice.  Thus to “choose life or death” (Deuteronomy 30:19) means to decide upon relationship for or against the life-giving community.  

In the Old Testament, such an embrace of life means incorporation into the covenant community whereby people are invited in and take vows of allegiance and oaths of fidelity (Exodus 24:1-8, Joshua 24:1-38).  In the New Testament, such a dramatic, intentional act is likely to be identified with baptism which means “putting off an old nature”  and coming into life in “ a new nature” (Ephesians 4:1-24).  The community of meaning and destiny thus has it within its power to give life and consign to death.  In the earliest community this had to do with the pronouncement of blessings and the declaration of curses (especially Leviticus 26Deuteronomy 28).  While this may strike us as primitive, it is psychologically and sociologically correct, given a biblical understanding of personhood, that life is the experience of being identified with community and that death means exclusion, banishment, excommunication.  The key issue is relationship, and the primal events are dramatic (liturgic) adts of inclusion and exclusion.  While this sounds alien to us, the same dynamic is clearly operative for a teenage who does not get included in a peer group, a young boy not chosen for a team, a small child rejected by a parent.  The breaking of a significant relationship is an experience of death.

The key to understanding, along with actually reading what the Scripture says instead of ideologically motivated distortions of it, is to understand that when it talks about "life" and "death" it isn't "PRIMARILY" or "SIMPLY" what we mean when we assign words those merely biological significance, the Bible uses those in far deeper, far richer, far more meaningful but related denotations and connotations because its interests are far broader than biology or even the social sciences Brueggmann mentions, it use them in the ultimate context of them to mean all of those and, in addition to that, the wider ramifications of life and death in community and in covenant with each other and God. 

I think in the context of Martin Luther King's holiday and the struggle over immigrants' rights to justice, dignity and a place in our community,  it's a useful coincidence this overview got here today.
It how how fractured large parts of the Jewish-Christian-Islamic* religious populations are and how alienated we are from the substance of what we profess.  That's certainly true in the United States for the past thirty years. 

* All three traditions teach the moral obligation of hospitality to the stranger among us, the alien and acceptance of them on equal terms, I wouldn't hesitate to say that I think Islam, today, focuses on that entirely more than Christianity does - with exceptions both ways in both groups.   The Republican "Christian" orientation is at a particularly low nadir of fulfilling that moral obligation, or so it would seem, these days.  Trump and the Republicans, people like Kevin McCarthy, John Kelly, are total heretics in that regard.   And that's not to mention the racists and other bigots among the Bible thumpers who apparently don't read it closely.

The Stupid Play Left Is A Putin Asset Just As They Used To Be Before The Soviet Regime Turned Into An Overt Mafia

Samantha Bee is an exception to the general rule that Canadians who come to live in the United States are generally not the best that Canada has to offer,  Simp's buddy Thunderboy is an example supporting the rule, not the exception. 

There are, maybe, three people I know of who still occasionally visit Duncan Black's blog who might be held to be grown-ups, the more reliable rule is that the last adults gradually stopped going there years ago.  If Simps and The Simpletons never mentioned me I'd probably have stopped thinking about it, entirely.  If he didn't get money from it, I'll bet Duncan wouldn't remember to put up his typical tweet length posts there most days.  

I learned several important things from Eschaton.  A. that the materialist downgrading of human minds is deadly poison for democracy, B. that atheism, which I'd always figured was a far more sophisticated ideology is nothing of the sort and that it is also fatal to democracy and, so, unsurprisingly, ballot box poison and so, C. the part played by atheists under various guises has been, by and large, more useful for fascists than real liberals, and D.   the "civil liberties" industry, the bigger little magazines of the alleged left, such as The Nation and The Progressive and In These Times, not to mention the even cruder and stupider forms online such as Alternet, many of the organs of the organized, "secular" left are unreliable and frequently dishonest as to their ultimate motives and interests.   I have to say that witnessing them over the past two decades has led me to totally reconsider their predecessors who were Soviet or Maoist assets.   I think just as the Soviet nomenklatura immediately turned into the Putin mafia which covertly put Trump into office. their assets in the United States media and the lefty organizations, such as the Green Party, similarly do what they did then and promote the interests of the same criminal establishment.  

As an aside, I think the history of Denis Kucinich can legitimately be understood in light of those lessons, as can the idiotic "left" who are enthusiastic about the Senate candidacy of Chelsea Manning which is more symptomatic than anything else.  That Manning, who leaked classified information to a Putin asset, Wikileaks, is now acting as a Republican spoiler, one of many I suspect the Putin crime regime will support covertly, doesn't surprise me at all.  I'm losing any sympathy I once had for Manning.   Anyone who could support either of them, with their histories and the near certainty that they could not win but could spoil the chances of a Democrat who could, after seeing such "leftist" erudition put George W. Bush and Trump in office, is a total fucking idiot.  Kucinich is one of two people I regret voting for in a caucus because they turned out to be fucking idiots and traitors to the real left.  Kucinich sucking up to Trump after Trump's Nazi content inaugural speech killed off any expectations that he was any better than that.   He can go to hell. 

Eschaton, run by a trustafarian, frat boy, Ivy-league liberalish libertarian is one of the smallest potatoes in that phenomenon.    I wouldn't even have included it to make this point if I hadn't been told of Thunderboy and Simps' discharge mentioning me.  I don't think Eschaton and its owner are, actually, covert supporters of the Putin regime here, but they are suckers for the ones who are, directly or indirectly.   Their ideology, the ubiquitous snobbery and atheism are the kind of ballot box poison that aids them as it aids Republican-fascism. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wednesday Night Radio Drama - Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn - Tuesdays and Sundays

A love story, Canada, 1887, Prince Edward Island  Inspired by a true story (Prince Edward Island, 1887)

William, an eighteen year old farm boy Mary, a sixteen year old farm girl living in 19th-century rural Canada meet on New Year's Eve.  This lyrical, intense drama is played out through a series of assignations between them. 

The spirits of William and Mary, awaken into a void. As they question where they are, they recall and begin to relive the story which brought them there: the initial giddy courtship and the overwhelming passions of first love, the pangs of a six month absence from each other - an unplanned pregnancy and a guilty and shameful young man amidst a community in which respectability is of utmost importance. And as they try to cope, to keep love amongst the fear and confusions of youth, these two spirits stumble upon their own tragic ending, ultimately answering where they are and how they got there.

William....David Tennant 
Mary....Clare Yuille.
Director Sara Benaim

I Just Tried This On My Snow Shovel And It Works Really Well

I had the hose clamp and an old dog leash that I could use to do it with, so it cost me nothing.  I sewed the doubled up strap together to make a couple of different hand holds like in the thing they used.   I'm still getting used to it but it was both faster and easier on the back than shoveling without it.  You can throw the snow farther out of the way, too.  It's a fairly light snow here today but if you don't try to move mountains at a time I'm sure it works on heavier snow too.

Figure if it saves one other person's back it would be worth posting it.

Brave Unregulated World

If my parents hadn't brought me up with morals and I hadn't paid attention in 10th grade biology and 11th grade chemistry I could have been a sleazy rich crook who gets stupid people with too much money killed.

But, before you scoff, here's what Alternet at its own site and through reposting at Salon were pushing.  To make the same point about everyone going totally stupid when you call it "sex" and take that brave stand against "Puritanism" and prudery.   About the same time I first noticed that a lot more porn was including oral-anal in its normal routine of advocated, promoted sexual practice.  It's proliferated like full arm, full torso tattoos.   And I've never felt less aroused in my entire life. 

Electing Someone Awful Once Might Be A Mistake, Reelecting Him Makes It A Choice

Any congressional district that could elect someone like Matt Gaetz might be suspected of being a shithole, since his shitty statements about Haiti last night on Chris Hayes show, not to mention his shitty record, including what I suspect was using his state senator daddy, Don Gaetz, to get out of losing his license when he refused to take a sobriety test when he was stopped for drinking while drunk.   Matt Gaetz isn't what I'd count as a quality citizen of the United States, despite his privileged background and his elite education.  His words and deeds expose him as a sleaze.

I suspect his congressional district is a shithole for electing him, if they reelect him they will have removed any doubt about that.   Any district, town, county, state or country can make a big mistake, it's repeating that mistake that proves it wasn't a mistake and if the Matt Gaetz-Donald Trump electorate supports them as they practice stereotyping of that type then their supporters have no legitimate grounds to complain about when they are judged by their own practice.

Haiti's condition is a direct result of the racist sabotaging of the aspirations of the Haitian People by presidents and Congresses of the United States going back to one of the earliest of our racist presidents,  Thomas Jefferson.   That sabotaging continues right up till today with the United States undermining and removing anyone who aspires to bring egalitarian democracy, economic justice and the rule of law to their country, often with the complicity of the American elite, including the media.
They might not be able to do anything about earthquakes or hurricanes in Haiti but the damage that U.S. policy, explicit and covert, to Haiti is what has kept it down.

Real Life Is Real Not Legal Let's Pretend Though That Pretend Could Get Us All Killed For Real

I know several doctors,  it being really late when the question occurred to me I asked one if he would make the prediction that someone with Donald Trump's age, borderline obesity, reported diet and other reported physical conditions and habits was going to remain healthy in what should be a stressful job (not the playtime schedule that Trump is reported to follow) for the next three years.  The answer was of course not

If Dr. Admiral (how you combine those titles, I don't know) Ronny Jackson's reputation will suffer from his role in the certification of Donald Trump's health, I don't know.   I do know I don't believe him.  I don't know how anyone who valued their reputation would agree to have something to do with Trump considering how an association with him can damage even real reputations. 

Did they do any drug testing? I wonder.   I think that we should have mandatory drug testing for presidents with the results being made public.  It's not a right to be president, it is a privilege (one which should be granted ONLY to the actual winner of the popular vote) it is a privilege that The People have a right to know just who it is they're being asked to bestow that privilege on and that they are maintaining their fitness for the job.  There should be no doctor-patient privilege when the patient might get us all killed, a deranged president is far more dangerous than even a deranged private citizen.  That danger made more dangerous for the position of power they asked for should negate any such confidentiality convention.   If a retail outlet can make such disclosure mandatory before they hire a clerk, we have a right to it in a president.

Among the huge range of changes in law and the Constitution that the disastrous Trump regime makes mandatory if we are going to have a democracy instead of Trumpian fascism is that there has to be a distinction made that holding the presidency is not a right it is a privilege and, therefore, certain rights to privacy should not be available for presidents and presidential candidates BECAUSE THEY ARE ASKING TO BE GRANTED A PRIVILEGE, NOT SOMETHING THEY ARE ENTITLED TO BECAUSE THEY ARE A CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES. 

Certainly The People being asked to give that right have a right to see the income tax and other records that would expose corruption and crimes and other matters they need to know before they give someone that privilege.

We The People have a right to know if the person asking for that privilege is taking drugs or have other issues in their life that would impinge on their ability to do one of the most dangerously powerful jobs in the world.  The president can go to war, even nuclear war with only a thin layer of what is rather stupidly known as "fail safe" mechanisms between the world and total destruction. 

To any of the idiot civil liberties industry lawyers and law theorists who would complain about that being a violation of the candidates' and presidents' Constitutional rights as citizens, they're not asking to remain mere citizens, they're asking for a job and the nature of and powers of the American presidency mandate that they give up their rights which they can maintain by not asking for that privilege.

We have to make a lot of distinctions that the civil liberties industry and lawyers and judges and what we laughably call "justices" don't like to because reality is not theoretical, it isn't a hypothetical fable, REALITY IS REAL.   The life of the law may not be logic and reason, though it's only made so by the choice of lawyers and judges, BUT LOGIC AND REASON ARE CERTAINLY VITAL TO REAL LIFE IN REAL REALITY.   The permission that judges and justices give themselves to make believe that a president with the nuclear codes is just another citizens could get us all killed and they should not be able to continue in this.   Civil liberties lawyers in courts or on cabloid talk shows (I can hear the blathering, interrupting ranting of the Dersh on FOX as I type this) who make those kinds of noises should be given the treatment Jake Tapper gave Stephen Miller because they're too stupid, dangerous and dishonest to waste time on.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Hate Mail

I'd answer you but your comment reminds me of the time, a number of years back, when I quoted something from John Polkinghorne, eminent mathematical physicist, member of the Royal Society, one of the discoverers of the quark, etc. and some idiot online atheist told me he didn't know what he was talking about as they put up Bill Nye as a more credible figure.  

In other words, even the best argument isn't going to fix stupid. 

This Is Why Christians In The United States Are In Need Of Conversion, Those Reborns, Too, and Me

Continued from where the book left of yesterday:

Bad News and Good News 

The theme of conversion, of course, is no less central in the New Testament.  It is widely agreed that a call to repent is the central teaching of Jesus  That is what he came to say first and it may well be the core of all that he had to say:

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;  repent, and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).

This announcement has three parts:  (a) the call to repent, to enter a new arrangement; (b) the empowerment to repent found in the good news; and (c) the substance of repentance is positive and not negative.  It is not to leave but to enter, not to give up but to embrace the new arrangement.   Too often talk about repentance is.  Jesus is not a teacher of a new moral done without good news and without the positive invitation to an alternative, either more rigorous or more permissive.  He is the proclaimer and bringer of a new age in which the claims of the old power relations have lost their force and in which the joyous rule of God has begun to be fulfilled.  It I good news that we live where God rules and it invites us to new ways of life.   Jesus appeals not only to individuals;  he announces that a whole order has lost its power.   People need no longer spend their lives serving loyalties and values which demand and destroy but do not have the power to give life.  He believed and showed that consent may be withdrawn from the order of the old age because the old arrangements have lot their credibility. 

Jesus' announcement of a new possibility and the urgency of choosing it is expressed in two forms to two elements of society.  On the one hand he carries on a ministry of well-off people who had long ago settled in and presumed that God's good rule was already present in the ordering which blessed them so well.  To these Jesus exposes the distorted and partial quality of such existence and invites people to abandon it (Mark 10:17-22). Indeed in every way he announced that the oldness is over and must be given up.  To such people conversion means letting go of an arrangement which benefits them at the expense of others.  Such a call to conversion is a hard demand that old compromising ways be terminated  Obviously this is bad news.  It is the embodiment of what the New Testament means by crucifixion, of declaring in our lives that the deathly ways of the old age have no power over us and that we can reject them.  This is what Jesus did that Friday and what he calls his people to do with him. 

But Jesus' call to conversion is also good news.  It is bad news to those who crave the old order.  It is good news to those neglected by the old order who desperately yearn for newness which can't be any worse and surely will be better.  The ones neglected by the old order obviously include the poor and those denied a fair share of the well-being of the community.  But in a society based on competence, the rejected can also be those who succeed in the system but are exploited and dehumanized by the system.  They also are finally made powerless even though they manage the system itself.  To those Jesus gave power.  By his presence, his word, and his incredible actions, he inaugurated a new power arrangement no longer interested in coveting, control, and manipulation but consisting in freely given gifts.  The old age which people are called to leave is a righteousness based on law which measure and rewards everything by goodness, obedience, competence and success.  The new age which people are called to enter is based on a new righteousness which comes from God, which is freely given and for which there are no preconditions for qualification (Romans 10:1-5).  And he taunts them by saying,  “Should I heal or forgive?”   And they want neither because by doing so he declares that their notions of sickness had lost their power and their notions of guilt were now irrelevant.  And the power of that new definition of reality permitted the man to go home.  “Home” is a powerful image in the Bible and in our time.  We are of course aware of the pathos of displaced persons.  But Peter Berger has recently shown how the whole society is organized to keep people “homeless,” i.e., living so that life is never coherent or integrated.  Many people then and now, are not poor but they are alienated so that they do not belong anywhere.  And the good news is that displaced persons are empowered to belong, to have both dignity and security!  To do so, Jesus must expose the exile producing powers of culture.  It is no wonder people were amazed;  they had defined the situation so that no newness was even thinkable.  And now it had come!   It had come because the Kingdom comes where he brings it.  Amazement is the appropriate response when God's newness overcomes our arrangements.

The ministry of Jesus is to bring people to decide between these two ways of organizing life.  He requires that they should choose between them, although the choice he offered caused people terror and amazement.  Some were terrified because they clung desperately to the old ways.  And some received gladly because the newness was welcome to them.  They were the ones who not only experienced the crucifixion of abandoning what is old but also the resurrection of receiving the surprising newness of God.  Both those who were terrified and those who were amazed had their characteristic reactions:

The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the city sought to destroy him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people hung upon his words (Luke 19-4-48).

The passage posted yesterday presented what Walter Brueggemann said, with justification, was the most radical claim in the entire Bible, that God cares so much of us, yearns so much for a relationship with us, that God is willing to accomodate our weakness and our ingrained propensity to do evil without always having a sufficient power of even good will to reliably over come it (Romans 7:9).  This passage, following immediately after it in the book, shows that the Gospel of Jesus is a further call to try and to succeed in overcoming that weakness.

I certainly demonstrate in what I say here that I'm hardly good at that,  we all enjoy taking down our opponents too much to always be exactly good while we do it.   On the other hand, imagine how bad I could be if I didn't think I should at least try to be good.  Maybe some of the atheists might like to think about what it would be like if I didn't believe I had a moral obligation given to me by God to make the attempt.

The contrast between what The Bible says and what the supporters of Donald Trump do while claiming ownership of The Bible are too obvious for me to need to point them out.   It would be an insult to anyone who doesn't support Trump for me to go over his actions in light of The Law, The Prophets and the Gospel.

Oh, I can't help but point out that before the election of Ronald Reagan, homelessness in the United States was looked on as a national shame, after Republicans took over and their media saw they didn't need to make that geture anymore,  the homeless are regarded as the shame and annoyance and the police are tasked with harassing them away out of the good neighborhoods, into invisibility and non-existence.   Those who thump the Bible the hardest, some of the most hard-hearted of those supporters of Republican-fascism.

The Racist Rhyme Of History Repeats In The Trump Regime

The emperor became a cruel tyrant, as well as an abettor of cruelty in others. Of this the cause and origin was Aelius Sejanus.  Tacitus

The news that it is John Kelley is the hardline white supremacist who, with the bizarre Jewish/Nazi,  Stephen Miller, is controlling the malleable, vestigial mind of Donald Trump on immigration and DACA makes you wonder if the media is still peddling him as one of the "adults" who are supposed to save us from the autocratic idiot, Donald Trump.

The fetish for braid and stars - what my mild spoken, universally kind, WWII veteran mother only once in my hearing mocked as "scrambled eggs" -  by our almost exclusively non-veteran media is bizarre.  While there are some admirable people who attain high rank in the military, some of fine character and who are as moral as anyone could be while in the military, there are plenty of bigoted, racist, cruel and plain sleazy generals, lt. cols. etc. in the United States military.   The military answerable to civilian control and a more active code of honor might keep the worst of them in check, the Trump regime mixed with a general like John Kelly has exposed himself as being brings out the worst in someone like him.

I've been ever less impressed with the professional, college-educated media, staffed largely with people who have never been in the military or, in many cases, has ever known someone who is of the class of people who volunteer in the military.   I'd feel a lot better if a lot more people who had been in the military and learned to be as skeptical of generals as my parents, my in-laws, my friends, and others who have direct experience of military officers made up a far larger percentage of the alleged news media.   There were a few, a very few generals who had my parents respect, but they never turned them into cinematic heroes, they respected them for their honesty, responsibility and concern for the military and the civilians who their decisions fell on.  I think there's one thing we know about John Kelly, he has enormous contempt for the civilian rule of the United States and a huge contempt for The People who weren't of the military class.  That he does so on behalf of a rich boy who could buy his way out of the draft in a war he supported does nothing to polish his shithole character.

John Kelly, especially after his lying, defamatory attack on the Black Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, he's not that kind of man, he's the kind of man who uses government to further white supremacy by manipulating a mentally deficient and even more morally deficient president.    He's no General Marshall, he sure as hell isn't any Cincinnatus,  he's the Lucius Aelius Sejanus of the degenerate Donald Trump, only Trump aint' no Tiberius, he's our Nero if not some even more degenerate Roman despot. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

There is no more radical idea than this in the entire Bible.

The trouble I've been having with my eyes has made me pause in typing out passages from Walter Brueggemann's book, The Bible Makes Sense, but it's eased a bit and I will continue now. 

Still from Chapter 6:

At Once a Human Task and God's Work

These texts set conversion as a human task and so it surely is.  But the Bible is also realistic about what human persons are able to do by will power.  It knows that we get so enmeshed in habit and vested interest that we cannot change even if we will to.  As Israel's history moves toward exile,  her poets become aware that Israel is unable to repent (Jeremiah 13:23, cf. Romans 7:19-24).  

Jeremiah 13:23
23 Can Ethiopians change their skin
    or leopards their spots?
Then also you can do good
    who are accustomed to do evil.

[I'm sure this will be opportunistically misread so I will point out that it is saying that just as a person's skin color or an animals markings can't be changed the human tendency, temptation or, if you insist on making it a question of biology "instinct" to do evil might not ever be changed in any of us BUT UNLIKE PERMANENT CONDITIONS WE CAN CHOOSE TO ACT AGAINST THAT CHANGE. The analogy with skin color or an animals markings points the permanence of the temptation not that skin color is any sign of moral character.  And it asserts that unlike the innocuous permanence of our skin, the moral nature of people can be changed if we choose to do change. Though that metaphor can be used to assert evil by those who choose to act in accordance with the human inclination to do evil unless we choose not to, religious metaphor is hardly the only kind that can be used that way.  I have written about the lavish use of scientific metaphors and metaphors mistaken as fact to do so over and over again, but the texts used that way don't carry a claim that we can use them for good.] 

Romans 7:19-24
19 For I do not do the good I want, 
but the evil I do not want is what I do. 
20 Now if I do what I do not want, 
it is no longer I that do it, 
but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

The texts are no less interested in and concerned for conversion than the older voices of the tradition.  But we know it must come another way.  If there is to be newness, it must have another source.  So we may note two remarkable suggestions in this regard.  

First, Ezekiel has a fresh idea.  He lived in a period of keen discouragement in the exile when no future seemed possible.  He called for repentance in vigorous ways (cf.  Ezekiel 18)  but he knew it was not possible.  And so he describes the LORD as prepared to take a radical step,  to give Israel new organs of decision-making which could replace the old ones which have now become dysfunctional. 

And I will give them a new heart, and put a new spirit within them;  I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,  so they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them;  and they shall be my people and I will be their god (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (36:26 cf. 18:31:14).  

The covenant depends now not on the turning of Israel but the gift of a new possibility worked by the LORD himself.  When the old organ fails, an organ transplant is envisioned.  Thus conversion is not only a work required by God's people, but it is a work of God who freshly equips his people for a reorientation .  Conversion is possible because God empowers it. 

Second and even more radical,  when there is a dysfunction between the LORD and his people and a fracture is unavoidable, when Israel is called to repent and cannot,  the LORD himself repents.  There is no more radical idea than this in the entire Bible.  God is presented not primarily as all-knowing, all-powerful but as a covenant partner who freely makes intervention and fresh decision toward his covenant partner who in his faithful compassion can act in various ways to renew and transform.  The radical announcement of the Bible is that God himself is converted on behalf of his people.  

Hosea expressed this most poignantly.  After a sharp and abrasive reprimand to his people in Hosea 11:1-7,  there seems no way out.  The covenant is over, Israel is so turned form the LORD that she is unwilling, even incapable, of returning to covenant.  But God so wills the relation that he acts.  He is converted to a new way:

My heart recoils within me, 
my compassion grows warm and tender, 
I will not execute my fierce anger, 
I will not again destroy Epharim,
for I am God and not man, 
the Holy One in your midst, 
and I will not come to destroy (Hosea 11:8-9)His “godness” consists not in remote indifference but in compassionate freedom to sustain his relation with his people.

In Amos the same note is sounded.  Amos prays to the LORD on behalf of Israel, interceding that he not act in his justifiable wrath against Israel.  And he is moved by the prayer:

The LORD repented concerning this
“It shall not be,”  said the LORD (7:3, 6)

The narrative of Jonah is parallel:

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them;  and he did not do it (Jonah 3:10).  

This verse expresses a double conversion,  Nineveh to God and God to Nineveh.  The notion of the LORD's capacity to repent affirms both his deep compassion but also his extra-ordinary freedom to act according to his purposes and not according to any preordained rule or stereotype.  Such a motif suggests to us the profoundly covenantal and deeply personal character of the LORD.  He is not like any other god in the world, ancient or modern.  And he will not fit conventional religious notions.  He wills covenant.  He insists on his people turning to him, but he asks nothing of them that he himself will not do.  He turns to his people.  He is radically for his people.  And it is in his turning that makes their turning possible.  Such a surprising notion of God yields a remarkable understanding of humanness,  for we are “made in his image.”  It announces that our mature humanness consists in the capacity to repent, in our willingness to care so deeply and to change so freely that we can make vows and keep them.  In our doing this, we are most like the God who has created us and continually calls us to himself.

In the point from the story of Jonah, there is a real chance to see how a superficial, "literal" reading of these books, a reading of them as if they are books of history or science in the way we're taught to read everything in this materialistic-scientistic, industrial-mechanistic culture, we don't begin to understand the texts, why they were written, the reason they were written as they were instead of as a modern historical-scientific discourse instead of a book to assert these radical claims about the radically good character of the GOD they were teaching. 

I will bet you that if you asked 100,000  or a million high school-college educated Americans or Brits what the story of Jonah was about, a large majority of those who knew anything about it would tell you about him being swallowed by the "big fish" and spat up on the shore, if they even knew that much about it.  I'll bet that even those who had read it would have missed what Brueggemann points out about the incredibly radical claims about the nature of God and the possibilities of people contained in it if you read it on terms closer to its own than those of 18th century European "enlightenment" thought.  There was a reason that The REVEREND Martin Luther King jr. made such constant referrals to the Prophets of Israel, over and over again.  And it didn't have much to do with the fish story or the historical fables and, yes, accounts, that these radical assertions about morality are embedded in and claimed through.

Since the motivation for me starting to go through this book was reading the reviews of that Bible Museum they opened in DC, I'll point out that the extent to which it focuses on the historicity or scientific accuracy that the texts can be made to have it misses the entire point of the Books of the Bible.   I'd say the same thing is even more obvious in the "creation museums" and displays that are a more obviously vulgar business venture only different in detail and academic participation and not in kind.  There is no more cluelessly non-self aware venture than the fundamentalist reading of these texts, no claim more ignorantly aware of its self-defeating use of the same methods of reading the Bible that modern atheism uses to discredit the God so credibly presented in a non-literal, non-fundamentalist reading of these texts. 

Read the book, read the texts cited, think about what Brueggemann says, read other such authors and do his exercises at the ends of the chapters, the museum admissions will get you a few hours of looking at artifacts and exhibits, that's not the point of the Bible.  Neither is "teaching it as literature".  Considering it as you would a novel or story book so you can write a paper and take tests and get a grade or make allusions to it in witty writing is as certain a way of not understanding it.  It might be worse than a fundamentalist reading of it, no wonder Dawkins claims to advocate that.

As You Deplore Trump On This MLK Day Consider The gods Of The Judiciary And The Damage To The Lives of Black People and All Of Us In Their Mild Words

The well manicured, well spoken racism of Rehnquist and Roberts, of Alito and Scalia, the twisted hatred of people of color of Thomas, was doing worse than Trump before Trump started running for president, the most damaging attacks on civil rights, on the most basic rights of The People of all races which Martin Luther King jr. gave his life for.   Trump is just catching up to what these black robed judicial klansmen have been doing with the frequent help of Kennedy and their new colleague in judicial klansmanship,  Gorsuch.  Because they've all been to elite universities and have law clerks from the same prep-ivy pipeline of servants of plutocracy their racism isn't issued in gutter talk, it's worse for being issued in anodyne, scholarly words that have real legal and political potency that all of Trump's tweeted and babbled racist language doesn't.   They are the real force behind the real attack on minorities, women, on the poor, on any group which is likely to vote for Democrats instead of the Republican party which has practiced the politics of racism for more than half a century, now.

Trump will be gone one way or another either this year or in another.  His drugged up dementia will force that if his guzzling cheeseburgers in bed and other self indulgences doesn't bring on the inevitable heart attack or stroke he's overdue for.  The elite racists on the Supreme Court will be there for the rest of our lives. 

I have come more and more to think that the reputation of the Warren court, built on Brown v Board of Education and other such rulings was made too easily.  Along with that ruling they issued other rulings that were a time bomb enabling the multi-millionaires and billionaires who are the real danger to civil rights and democracy, the lives of people in the economic underclass, including many if not most of the people the Civil Rights and Voting Rights act were passed to protect.  It is no accident that when he was murdered Martin Luther King jr. was starting a campaign for economic justice, which had always been a component of every liberation movement in American history.  Slavery was an economic injustice, the theft of the lives of Black People for the economic benefit of the slave holders and the Northern economic interests that worked with them to cement racism and slavery into the Constitution, the legal tools and implements that were put there to benefit White Men including that which gave Trump the presidency even as he lost the election.  Jim Crow was the reimposition of slavery and it benefits to the white elites as certainly as the laws favoring wage slavery were.   And what you can say about the economic oppression of Black People, you can say about the poor of any identified group. 

Many of the most liberal members of past courts, even Thurgood Marshall, were part of rulings which ended up enabling the billionaire oligarchs to propagandize the American People out of democracy, they were encouraged to do so by the American Civil Liberties Union lawyers, many of the most prominent of them from the same prep-ivy pipeline mentioned above.  As it is turning out, the Court, which gave itself the power to strike down laws based on its reading of the Constitution is the real foundation of the Republican-fascist-racist power, the modern successor of the slave power which has blighted this country since before the Constitution was written of by and for them and for the perpetuation of that power.  The law schools indoctrinate their students in the deification of that document and including all of its malign text and lore.  The history of civil rights in the hands of the Supreme Court shows that what they give so parsimoniously they take away many fold.   The real history of the Supreme Court, told as if The People matter, as if equal rights under the law, equal justice, and democracy matter would be a scandal that makes Trump look like a small time player.

I have lost any faith that things improved will not be dragged back down under the Constitution as it is and when the Court has the ability to drag it down on behalf of the billionaire oligarchs.  I have seen through the ACLU and the civil liberties industry for which what I said about the court could be said, perhaps more so.  I think the motives of many of the members of the ACLU were never really about civil rights, certainly less so the rights of poor people, I think they were a counter-productive series of stands perhaps mostly focused on attacks against religion.   Their part in the rulings such as Buckley vs. Valeo, Citizens United and other such "free speech" rulings have negated just about everything they love to put up as their emblematic stands.   What they did in those washed away the laws passed by Congress, bought with the blood of so many martyrs with lawyerly ink.   They have enabled billionaires with their "money-speech" to drown out the speech of those without billions, to turn the mass media into an industry that lies on behalf of the billionaires.   Any rational, informed liberal who puts their faith on such things is duped by their mild words and soft hands and elite credentials.  And some of the smartest among us have been such dupes.  Especially those in the media who have a financial and professional interest in the very media so enabled and so used.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

I'm Entirely For The Commutation of Her Sentence, I'm Entirely Against Someone Who Did What Chelsea Manning Did Holding Public Office

Chelsea Manning or anyone who did what she did should not be eligible for office in the federal government. I'm entirely sympathetic to her and her story but what she did was get duped by Wikileaks, a Putin crime front who she gave more documents than she could have known the implications of. If she'd released it to a reputable and responsible news operation it would still have been irresponsible but it wouldn't have been stupid and reckless.

Just because I think she should have been pardoned, that doesn't mean that her judgement doesn't disqualify her for any position of public trust again. She should be a free citizen of the country, not a Senator. People who were convicted of what she did shouldn't be eligible to hold public office.  That the law doesn't disqualify someone like her only shows that our Constitution and laws have left us at the mercy of modern crime methods.