Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Tom Stoppard - Artist Descending A Staircase

Tom Stoppard's Artist Descending a Staircase is both very much written for, and a tribute to, the medium of radio - the medium for which Tom Stoppard first started writing drama. Originally written for radio in 1972, [this production] this will be the first new production to be heard on the airwaves for 43 years. [Unfortunately the later production these notes were written for isn't available for listening right now.]

Taking its title from Duchamp's painting Nude Descending a Staircase No 2, Tom Stoppard's 1972 radio play is both a funny and moving exploration of the meaning and purpose of art and the constantly shifting uncertainties of so-called "reality". It is also a tragic love story.

It begins in classic murder-mystery mode. Donner, an elderly artist, lies dead at the bottom of the staircase. His last moments of life - ambiguous fragments of sounds and words - have been captured by the tape recorder, which his housemate Beauchamp uses to make ''tonal art''. But the meaning of these aural clues (which are replayed and re-examined nearly as assiduously as the tape in Coppola's film The Conversation), depends entirely on the radio listener's interpretation of them. Beauchamp and the third artist, Martello, assume - quite understandably - that the recorded clues can only mean that one or other of them is a murderer. But Stoppard aficionados will know that reality is never quite what it seems, and that there is a characteristic coup de théâtre (or coup de radio) awaiting them in the last scene of this beguiling drama.

I'm not Tom Stoppard's biggest fan in the world, but his radio drama made good use of the medium.  In William Ash's book,  The Way To Write Radio Drama he points out that Stoppard was one of a number of well known playwrights who consider their work for radio as being very important in their development as a writer and his radio plays are considered important in the development of the art. 

Sick Day Saturday Radio Drama - Adrian Penketh - A Special Kind of Dark

A year ago Caspar was locked up and declared criminally insane. Finally he breaks his silence to reveal a deadly tale of love and politics. But is he telling the truth? A psychological thriller 

This play is layered and complex in its narrative style, yet gives very little away. The narrator, is Caspar yet his telling is often so unrealistic that we question the reality of his other statements and claims of innocence. Yet the fact that the play repeats its beginning once the story has been told leads me to believe that the director knew that what they had done was unclear and felt that it was necessary to remind the audience what they had heard so that they could finally join up the dots.

Caspar: Paul Rhys
Helene: Fenella Woolgar
Felix: David Schofield
Baptiste: Christopher Fairbank
Elodie Testoud: Matilda Ziegler
TV Director: Sam Alexander

Play Directed by Toby Swift

As noted, I'm sick and can't write anything just now.   A really bad cold that has settled into my chest, hopefully not more.   I'm going to be with the Vicks and a hot water bottle.   Will post more plays when I get up.  Just a bit of fun. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Fats Navarro - Goin' to Minton's

Fats Navarro, trumpet
Leo Parker, baritone sax
Tadd Dameron, piano
Gene Ramey, bass
Denzil Best, drums


Fats Navarro, trumpet
Don Lanphere, tenor sax
Al Haig, piano
Tommy Potter, bass

Max Roach, drums

Good Question From a Guardian Columnist

Hate Mail - "Surprised You're Not A Priest"

I assume you don't mean that in the best possible meaning of the word, do you. 

Nah, it wasn't the Latin and the theology classes, or even the chastity that made that not happen, it was the obedience part of it.  I'm the thoroughly bad type, look at what a heretic of mushy-liberalish secularism I turned out to be. 

Going through some of my mother's old papers from when she was heavily involved with peace and social justice work,  I'd have no problem with identifying myself with the radical Catholic left of the Berrigans, Penny Lernoux, Sr. Megan Rice, etc.  I'd be proud if I had the courage that they did and do have.  I don't but I'd be over-honored if you called me that, a member of the radical Catholic left.  

Footnote On The Mornings Post

It's interesting to consider that it was the male children who were subject to infanticide, a common practice all through the Pagan world but more often, than not, inflicted on girls.  This quote is taken from Chapter 1 of The Historical Jesus by John Dominic Crossan, it is so specific that Crossan can date it to June 18, 1 BCE:

Hilarion to his sister Alis many greetings, likewise to my lady Berous and to Apollonarion.  Know that we are even yet in Alexandria.  Do not worry if they all come back (except me) and I remain in Alexandria.  I urge and entreat you, be concerned about the child and if I should receive my wages soon, I will send them up to you.  If by chance you bear a son, if it is a boy, let it be, if it is a girl, cast it out [to die].  You have said to Aphorodiasias,  "Do not forget me."  How can I forget you?  Therefore I urge you not to worry. (Year) 29 of Caesar [Augustus] Panyi 23.  

That was a note found on a sheet of papyrus dug up in Egypt.  You can see from much more than a thousand years after the Exodus narrative, infanticide was routine and ordered in passing in a note.

The Jews were pretty close to unique in not sanctioning routine infanticide for either gender.  I've heard people going on about the non-sacrificing of Isaac and even, among some of the more informed of the uninformed, the story of Jephthah's daughter.  If I've ever heard any of them mention the common, everyday practice of infanticide in the surrounding peoples, especially the routine murder of daughters, except as in the case of such as Darwin and Haeckel who claimed that it had salubrious effects on the ever more superior survivors, it escapes my remembering it.

Crossan's scholarship is wonderfully impressive and insightful, he has had a huge effect on my thinking about Christianity even as I find his conclusions in The Historical Jesus about the teachings of Jesus, his nature and identity and even his history to be unconvincing and, in many ways, beside the point.   I sense that, in some ways, it's a dated kind of scholarship that scrupulously applies methods that reduce the texts of their meaning and in opposition to the understandings and intentions of those who wrote them.  I find his reading of the papyri dug up to be much more sympathetic than his reading of the canonical scriptures.

You could contrast the popular and mid-to high brow intelligentsia's acceptance of that with a critical reading of 19th century biology which was written under a similar if not identical understanding and intention of methods but when you apply that to Darwin and those he cited, his immediate intellectual heirs (and even his actual heirs, his sons, daughters and grandchildren) the howls of protest are something to behold.

Meditation On Exodus 12:29 And The Slaughter Of Children

Now it was in the middle of the night: 
YHWH struck down every firstborn in the land of Egypt,
from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne . . .   Exodus 12:29

It's easy for people to look back in history at atrocities and see them as anything but real people being killed, real people dying, their pain and suffering, the suffering of those who survived them.  It is one of the great things about the Jewish Scriptures that they don't soften the blow of their descriptions but present even things that look harsh to us, today, in quite brutal terms.  It's one of the things the enemies of Jews have used against them, their admitting even the most troubling of things in their historical-religious narrative and accepting guilt for wrongdoing.  As Marilynne Robinson pointed out, they even accepted moral culpability for having lived in the path of conquering armies on their way to conquer other lands. 

If there is one thing you can say about the Jewish scriptures, they take reality very seriously in ways that secularism refuses to. 

That passage goes on to say that in the Passover, God killed the first born of every Egyptian down to that of the captive in prison to the first born of all of their cattle.   Which seems pretty unfair, considering captives were unlikely, in most cases, to have benefitted from the oppression and enslavement of the Egyptians and the cattle were no less exploited than the Children of Israel - though they were an economic asset of the Egyptian state. 

The six environmental plagues that preceded that final one of the deaths of the first-born, hadn't made Pharaoh relent and giving up the slaves that produced and maintained his wealth and power, it wasn't until his first-born, his heir, the continuation of his dynasty that he not only let the Children of Israel go and establish a new economic-political order one which served God and not Pharaoh.  It took that to make him relent where the devastation of the land and water and food supply of Egypt didn't.

It occured to me while thinking about the story that maybe you can't understand that last plague without considering that Pharaoh, in the beginning of the story, orders his own slaughter of more than just the first-born of the Hebrews, his order to kill all of the male children born to them.  It's something to consider that Abraham Lincoln wondered if God willed that every drop of blood that was shed by the slave-masters's lash be matched by blood shed in the Civil War.   I'm not sure God willed such a thing but the story of the death of the first-born must have reminded those who first heard it as part of their religious liturgy that Pharaoh had ordered a more extensive slaughter.  And that the hardness of heart which the scribes who set down the stories attributed to God didn't end there because no sooner had the Children of Israel fled slavery than Pharaoh reverted to old habits and went to bring them back into slavery.  Even that last event wasn't enough to change his heart and it ended up destroying him and his military-police - though it took another miracle to do that. 

In the story nothing but his own death, not even that of HIS first born stopped Pharaoh who would certainly have reimposed all of his worst edicts against the Children of Israel again, just the Civil War didn't end real slavery, the vestiges of which are still with us, the alliance of slave-power and the financial money men who first imposed the sin of slavery on the United States, embedding it into the very Constitution, are in power now.

If the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, Title Nine, the Americans With Disabilities Acts were seen as some kind of liberation - well, Pharaoh is taking all that back now.  Who knows how many they'll take down in the flood that is sure to come, this time. 

I've written this about the school shootings that already number about 20 this year less than two-months old without referring to it once.  But that's what this is about, that and the tens of thousands of others that you never hear about except in the local news.  That's a product of induced paranoia, not at all different than what led Pharaoh onto the path to his own destruction.   The road we're on too.

Maybe This Is Why All Those Republican Thoughts And Prayers Aren't Working To Prevent Gun Murder

We know that God does not listen to sinners.

John 9:31

I'll bet you don't see that tattooed on too many football players arms, do you. 

But it continues, 

but He does listen to the one who worships Him and does His will.

You get a load of how the Republican Senate put the final screw to the DACA recipients yesterday?  Not to mention the House voting to gut the Americans With Disabilities Act?  

Give The Guy At Least Some Credit

I will say this in mitigation of the criticism Eric Lipton brought down on himself with his injudicious tweet, he's a target of the industry-billionaire financed,  pseudo-public interest group, American Council on Science and Health, a group that doesn't get held up to nearly the amount of infamy it deserves.   Anyone journalist they go after can't be all bad, even if they do work at the NYT.   That group is one of the myriad of billionaire-industry financed propaganda fronts, the discrete, elite call-girl type of scientist-prostitution that does so much to spread BS.  It's the kind of whore house where most of the people working it are pimps. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

He Took It Down So We Know He's At Least Smart Enough To Realize He Gave Himself Away

There's no reason to not believe this kind of valuing children who are murdered on some perception of their value, it's pretty much the common belief among such as work at the New York Times.  I doubt he was any more likely to see people except in those terms when he worked at the Washington Post or the Hartford Current.   He worked at the Valley News - as did my one professional journalist ex-in-law.  And he's won all kinds of journalism prizes, including being part of a group Pulitzer award.  

Though I'm letting him stand for this attitude which is not uncommon among people in journalism, I'm not singling him out, he did that all by himself. 

The Thought Criminal Posts A Movie - Brian Friel - Philadelphia Here I Come

Donal McCann,  Gar (public)
Des Cave, Gar (private)
Siobhan McKenna, Madge 
Eamon Kelly, S. B. O'Donnell
Fidelma Murphy, Kate Doogan
Liam Redmond,  Senator Doogan,
Mavis Villiers, Liz Sweeney
Niall Toibin,  Con Sweeney 
Pat Layde,  Master Boyle
David Kelly, Conan O'Byrne
Niall Buggy,  Ned
Eamon Morrissey,  Joe
Donal Cox, Tom 
Des Keogh Francis King
O.Z. Whitehead,  Ben Burton 

Brian Friel's play is one of my favorites, funny and heartbreaking.    This movie sticks pretty close to the play, though, of course, they can use different locations that aren't in the play direction.   The acting is great.  Gar O'Donnell is played as the one everyone can see and the one that only he can hear.  In case some of the trolls get confused on that point.  I was going to post this later but wondered if it might get taken down before you got the chance to see it.

I'm sick so I'll probably not be posting again today. 

The ACLU Deserves Its Status As Part of Murder inc. 2018

If you think the ACLU doesn't belong in that list of those who are putting the guns in the hands of mass murderers such as the one who murdered 17 in Broward yesterday and the one who murdered 26, including 20 little children at the Sandy Hook elementary school, here is what the ACLU put out almost exactly a year ago as Republicans were passing the gun industry agenda.  In the words of Vania Leveille, Senior Legislative Counsel & Susan Mizner, Disability Counsel, ACLU whose names belong on a more detailed list.

This month, Congress repealed a rule that would have registered thousands of Social Security recipients with mental disabilities, who have others manage their benefits, into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to prevent them from owning firearms.

The American Civil Liberties Union does not oppose gun control laws. As an organization dedicated to defending all constitutional rights, we believe the Second Amendment allows reasonable restrictions to promote public safety.

But gun control laws, like any law, should be fair, effective and not based on prejudice or stereotype. This rule met none of those criteria.

In this era of “alternative facts,” we must urge politicians to create laws based on reliable evidence and solid data.

There is no such thing as a reliable way to identify someone as being dangerously mentally ill, though in the news coverage of both shooters in those cases, it was clear as to how there were signs, though what those signs meant didn't become clear until they'd killed many people.   There is no reason such people should have access to such guns, no one should have access to such guns and the goddamned ACLU is helping put them in the hands of mass murderers.   I think it is obviously part of an agenda held by any group, any party, any media organization that this far into the list of mass shootings they hold to no matter what.

Here is the crux of their argument and ass covering:

The ACLU and 23 national disability groups did not oppose this rule because we want more guns in our community. This is about more than guns. Adding more innocent Americans to the National Instant Criminal Background database because of a mental disability is a disturbing trend — one that could be applied to voting, parenting or other rights dearer than gun ownership. We opposed it because it would do little to stem gun violence but do much to harm our civil rights.

So, the two young men who murdered in Broward yesterday and in Sandy Hook had "a right" to have the guns they used to kill those children,  That's the real bottom line effect of this, not some enhanced level of rights for people with disabilities - I would like a list of those who have been disabled by people who have guns legally under the laws the ACLU supports or whose ownership of them would have been been illegal under laws they opposed.   I'd love to know if they think such "national disabilities groups" represent them in this stand the ACLU uses to cover its bare ass. 

The ACLU is an abomination that, beneath the few PR cases their agenda hides behind, enables the gun industry sponsored slaughter in this country.  It belongs on my list of those responsible.  Liberals who support it are chumps and dupes and idiots or they're liberalism is a fraud.

The Constitution Is Killing Us

With the NRA, the gun industry, the Republican Party,  the Supreme Court, the ACLU and the gun promoting media, who needs ISIS?  Who needs foreign terrorists?   They're allowing Americans to murder Americans in their schools, going to concerts.  They produce multiple 9-11s every year and the idolatrous worship of the Constitution  has created a cult of Moloch that makes the old one look like nothing. 

Our country isn't on the brink of disaster, it isn't in that famous "Constitutional Crisis" the goddamned 2nd Amendment in the interpretation the gun industry created and funded is the disaster and the crisis that kills thousands of us every year, even down to kindergarteners and first-graders.  Toddlers and babies.  

Our country has been brought to disaster through this kind of "freedom".   The Constitution is literally killing us, even as it fails to protect us against foreign enemies, billionaire mafia oligarchs, it is letting the gun industry and the Republican Party kill us and they are put into power by Putin. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sungji Hong - Emendemus in Melius for Choir

The Choir of the Temple Church
Conductor: Stephen Layton

Let us amend what we have transgressed
Through ignorance,
Lest, should the day of death suddenly overtake us,
We seek time for repentance
And cannot find it.
Hearken, o Lord, and have mercy,
For we have sinned against thee.

Help us, O God of our salvation,
And, for the glory of thy name,
Deliver us.

William Byrd 

The Sixteen
Harry Christophers, conductor

It's Terribly Dangerous To Hold Up Generals In Some Kind of Civic-Deification

As I've mentioned before, my father was a marine who fought in World War 2, he was wounded in battle and I've got his decorations in a drawer in my dresser.  For the record, my mother was also a veteran of WW2, that's how my parents met.   From my parents I never learned the present day mystique of the marines.  My father never had that attitude toward his own service or the service of others he fought with, though he certainly was proud of that.   He once told me that he was disgusted that Oliver North wore a marine uniform as he lied about the crimes he and others in the Reagan administration committed and thought he should have lost his status and been prosecuted for that.  He thought it was thoroughly dishonorable for him to have accepted immunity for his testimony, he held that the oath he took when he enlisted in the Marines as a volunteer after Pearl Harbour made it a point of honor to tell the truth to a legitimate Congressional committee without having protection against possible prosecution for crimes committed.

Listening to the conversation between Lawrence O'Donnell and Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen about John Kelly, reminded me of everything my father ever said about what he thought being a marine, a PFC and how the ridiculous romantic view of the marines has been so thoroughly bought by members of the media who never served in the military and how dangerous it is.  John Kelly's behavior, as pointed out in Kevin Cullen's column, is all the reason anyone needs for giving up that romance because it is dangerous.

But since he went to work for Donald Trump, Kelly has squandered so much of his honor, so much of his integrity, and so much of his identity that, frankly, I don’t recognize him anymore.

It pains me to say this. Because I deeply admired the man. I know people, Marines, especially, who can’t and won’t say a bad word about him. And, I think, that assessment of John Kelly, the man, the Marine, is mostly accurate. . . 

But the reason I am taking pen to paper, or, to be more precise, fingers to keyboard, is because once he left the military and became a political figure and hitched his trailer to an incurious fool named Donald Trump, John Kelly lost the plot and has, with every passing day and week and month, forfeited whatever goodwill he earned as a consummate military leader.

Though his joining the administration may very well have been motivated by his sense of duty to country, Kelly became caught up in and distracted by the daily chaos and melodrama that is the Trump White House, the most dysfunctional Oval Office in living memory. He became — at some human level not surprisingly — in debt to his political patron, the president of the United States.

As such, Kelly suspended his natural Marine BS-meter, doing the opposite of what the military taught him, which is that you are, in fact, allowed to ignore orders when they are neither moral nor lawful.

Before he knew what hit him, Kelly faced a difficult choice: serve his president and his country, or denounce the incompetent, crazy person to whom he pledged fealty.

Still, it is too easy and totally disingenuous to blame Kelly’s fall from grace solely on Donald Trump. Kelly has to own most of it. . . . 

And it bears repeating that Trump went out of his way to avoid military service. I don’t understand why, coupled with his attacks on war heroes and Gold Star families, any military person would have a shred of respect for the man.

This is merely a newspaper column, and as a result I have not nearly enough space to enumerate how great John Kelly was and how far he has sunk.

Let’s just stick with the sunk part for now.

As the secretary of Homeland Security, he sicced ICE agents on noncriminals, breaking up families, like that of Francisco Rodriguez, an MIT janitor from Chelsea who fled El Salvador in 2006 after a co-worker was murdered by a gang and he feared he’d be next. Rodriguez’s stay of deportation was renewed without issue for years, and then, under Trump’s ethos and under John Kelly’s orders, ICE began rounding up ordinary people like Francisco Rodriguez rather than use its limited resources on targeting criminals. By locking Rodriguez up, Kelly was essentially forcing American taxpayers to take care of Rodriguez’s three children, all American citizens. Beyond being mean-spirited, beyond being morally reprehensible in needlessly breaking up a family, how on earth does that make America great again?

And that's just a small part of the column in which he outlines how thoroughly dishonorable John Kelly's time in the Trump regime has been.  Only, I don't buy that this came out of nowhere, I can't believe someone who could have done this didn't have it in him all along.  While the discipline of the chain of command might have minimized his willingness to let the real John Kelly loose and his actions were not as dishonorable before, as with Mike Flynn, once that wasn't an inhibition on his inclinations, things went quickly to hell.  In coevering up for Trump and his regime, John Kelly is in a long line of professional military officers who, in civilian office, show less than the honor that the media and civilians often buy even as their dishonorable and dangerous actions are exposed. 

It was one of the worst effects of Watergate, the Woodward and Bernstein romance as played by Redford and Hoffman, that lots of college kids decided to take university based journalism courses and go into that profession, the alleged professionalization of what should have been a job taken by people who learned reporting the hard way, preferably after a stint in the military had disillusioned them in the way I'm regretting the present day press isn't.  Even worse, it made it even more a career choice of the scions of the rich.   I think they did a lot better job when they hadn't been to college, mostly, and learned a bit of prophylactic skepticism about uniforms and robes and those who wear them.

Especially given the fact that such a small percentage of the population has ever been in the military and the professions and media are full of people who I doubt has ever had a close member of their family in the military, the present day mystique of uniforms is extremely dangerous, especially when such people are, as the putrid Sarah Huckabee Sanders has demanded, aren't to be questioned.  That's an open door to fascism, one that the media, especially Hollywood, is responsible for having opened in the first place.

And the Political Posts Are Pretty Good, Too

RMJ does good Ash Wednesday posts 

"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed" Stephen Biko

As I mentioned last week, I've been taking Walter Brueggemann and the Jewish commentators I've been reading to heart and have started really studying the story of the freeing of the slaves in Exodus, the central narrative of the Bible, in relation to which everything else, including the Christian books, has to be considered.

As also said last week, I don't think that it's necessary to believe that the depiction in the story of Moses and Pharaoh and the plagues and the hardness of heart and what Pharaoh and his people have to endure before they give up their slaves and the product of their labor, a major source of their wealth, etc. are an accurate history for the story to be important   Though I do think the arguments that there was some kind of exodus from Egypt by some population of Hebrews are convincing.  I believe something happened which survived in the tribal history of the descendants of those who made that exodus and which took on layers of meaning in possible embellishment of their own central narrative, "we were once slaves in Egypt and God freed us,"  under one of the most radical and extraordinary streams of moral consideration in the history of human texts 

I also think, more and more as I read, re-read, read in different translations (I'm ever more coming to like the one that Everett Fox did) along with many, variant and disagreeing commentaries on Exodus, coming to believe it is incredibly relevant to the spectacle of American democracy disintegrating before our eyes.  I mean that in the most literal sense you could possibly read that last sentence in.

Everything from the forgetting on the part of the Egyptians of how Joseph, the Jew, had saved their ancestors from famine, to the paranoia of a later Pharaoh about the non-native aliens among the Egyptians, to the long misery of the enslaved Children of Israel, the continued and panicked paranoia of Pharaoh ordering the reduction of the numbers of the aliens among them (read Trump's travel orders and the ICEsapo raids and arrests) the civil disobedience of the midwives and the mother of Moses*, to the refusal to change in the wake of one catastrophe after another is warned of, not averted and those warnings coming true. . . the pride and arrogance and macho pride of Pharaohs all have either obvious or close to obvious parallels with what has happened in the United States in the past half century if not longer. 

We are in for some seriously hard times because I don't see any indication that Americans are going to be freed from the Pharaonic oppression of the Billionaires and the lies of the media that seduce The People into not only not throwing off that oppression but in opposing their continued rule over us.  We don't have any place to go, our liberation is going to have to be here and now.

In the story of Exodus, even in the immediate freedom from Pharaoh, large numbers of the freed slaves hankered to go back to the security of their enslavement, even ot the Pharaoh who had ordered mandatory infanticide among them.  In the face of the hardships of the journey the story talks about people so recently freed backsliding, either in wanting to go back to the oppression they were used to instead of the freedom they didn't know and backsliding into the same belief of lies and materialism (the golden calf incident) that had oppressed them. 

The story of Exodus isn't history, it's an instruction into how these things happen, how hard it is to free ourselves from ways of thinking and habits and institutional structures that mirror that thinking and those habits and the legal structures that embody them that enslave and destroy us.   I think some of those are embedded into the Constitution and the common law and certainly the Supreme Court doctrine and the firmly held beliefs of liberals as well as conservatives and those are what produced the regimes of Nixon, to Trump which have brought us exactly where we are in which we are having to wonder if it will be possible to get rid of a despot who is destroying the vestiges of democracy, equality, justice while in obvious cahoots with billionaires foreign and domestic, a true if not strictly Constitutional traitor and oppressor. 

I think there's a lot there to consider in the coming weeks.

*  In Everett Fox's commentary he points out that at every crucial point in the life of Moses, it is women who save his life and enable him to be there to fulfill his role as the one who brings about God's liberation of the Children of Israel and the long early instruction of the liberated slaves in the moral consequences of their experience. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Short Stuff

1.  Dopey,  OXFAM, WHICH I SUPPORTED YESTERDAY IS A SECULAR GROUP, NOT A RELIGIOUS GROUP.   If you guys were any stupider you would forget how to swallow.

2.  It's hilarious that people who think that prostitution is just another job, that it's "sex work" and that those who figure it shouldn't only not be criminalized but should be accepted as just a job would be so upset about what happened.   THAT IS THE KIND OF DOUBLE STANDARD THAT I'VE BECOME ACCUSTOMED TO FINDING IS A FIXED HABIT AMONG ATHEISTS. 

For clarity, I'm in favor of it being a felony to pay someone for sex because generally prostitutes are victims of prostitution and the few cases of a high price prostitute who benefits from it the sex industry will parade on TV aren't in any way representative of the reality of it.   That would ensure protection for the people who are trafficked while punishing those who support their exploitation and destruction.   I think pimping and procuring and trafficking should be felonies that carry serious prison terms. 

3.  So where are those atheist-materialist prohibitions on adultery?  If you can't find those in atheism, agreed to by at least a convincingly large number of atheists, your atheism leaves you with no legs to stand on when you want to bring up some snake-oil hallelujah peddler getting caught with his pants down to slam Christianity.   Said hypocrite was  not violating your faith, he was violating the faith that people who follow that faith really believe in.   If anyone has standing to criticize him it's the Christians who subscribe to that prohibition on adultery and who make the effort to not violate it, not atheists who don't subscribe to it to start with.

My entire life atheists have been propagandizing and promoting atheism and materialism be adopted and predicting that their triumph is inevitable as, they hope, religious belief dies.   So we all have a very real interest in knowing what kind of world that will be.   Me, I think Nietzsche did understand what the consequences of that would be for society and government, institutions and individuals.  It will be a world of total moral nihilism in which power or lack of power are the only limits of personal indulgence and violent assertion of will.   Natural selection in the human population, with entire groups suppressed, women, racial minorities, ethnic minorities, those who by chance live in places with fewer resources, what few they have stolen as they are destroyed by those with more, etc. 

That's the world on materialism in the absence of durable moral obligations, not some pubescent pop-music, movie fantasy of total freedom.  It will produce hell on Earth, if not the extinction of quasi-intelligent life that got suckered into that by slick PR exploiting our greatest weakness. 

Atheism is not inherently liberal, it is inherently destructive of the traditional American definition of liberalism which is incompatible with natural selection and the destruction of morality by materialism and scientism.   I've come to distrust atheists who pretend to be liberals through more than a half century of reading them and observing them.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Hate Mail

It's always so interesting to have a bunch of conceited blog rats largely centered in the mid-Atlantic states  gas on about your state when what they say proves they don't know anything about it. 

I'd rather not be told about it, thank you.  What gets said there is totally unimportant.  

Hate Mail - Oh Dear, Let Me Guess, You Don't Know What A Concordance Is Or How To Use One

There are many condemnations of hypocrisy in the Bible, both Testaments.   Looking for citations of "hypocrite" in this one, it lists

Showing 1 - 20 of 536 search results for Hypocrite

"Hypocrisy" turns up even more results

Showing 1 - 20 of 1435 search results for Hypocrisy

I've got to go out so I don't have time to read them all, I will just about guarantee you none of them uses either word "in the nicest possible way."

You know, your self-displayed ignorance isn't a refutation of what I wrote, it's just your ignorance in service to your own hypocrisy.  

The Oxfam Sex Scandal

I will be writing another check for Oxfam America, though I am as upset as anyone at the news that in the wake of the Earthquake in Haiti in 2010, at least a few of Oxfam's employees paid prostitutes for sex, holding a "sex orgy" in the villa (if you will) of the country director.  Apparently in 2011, Oxfam did an internal investigation and sacked several of the employees and others quit in the wake of the report.   I have read conflicting things about whether or not at least one of those fired got a positive reference when he went to work for another aid agency.

One of the men allowed to resign without disciplinary action was Oxfam’s country director in Haiti, Roland van Hauwermeiren, who, according to the report, admitted using prostitutes at the villa rented for him by Oxfam with charitable funds. Prostitution is illegal in Haiti.

Oxfam informed the charity regulator about the broad nature of the allegations but without specific detail and failed to provide the watchdog with a final report.

It also emerged that one individual embroiled in the allegations went on to work at another leading aid charity, which was not told of his involvement. A spokeswoman for Mercy Corps said: “An individual allegedly involved in this situation worked for us from July 2015 to November 2016. As part of our normal hiring practice, we conducted reference checks and received positive references from his previous employers, including Oxfam.”

Abby Maxam, the current president of Oxfam America has posted a piece on it today.

And, ashamed though I am of the behavior of these former staff, I am also proud that we have learned from how we responded in 2011 and have put better practices in place.  These measures help Oxfam better prevent abuse, sexual harassment, and exploitation from happening. Our response in 2011 clearly did not meet the standards that we have today. We could have done more including, but not limited to, sharing more information in our public communications.

When the Haiti allegations surfaced, Oxfam Great Britain responded quickly. The aim of their investigation was to root out and take action against those involved. At the time, Oxfam Great Britain, then the managing affiliate in Haiti, announced to the media both the investigation and the action taken as a result. Oxfam Trustees, the Charity Commission and DFID, as well as other major donors of our Haiti work including the EU, WHO, and UN agencies, were kept informed of the investigation and its outcome. Four members of staff were dismissed and three, including the Country Director, resigned before the end of the investigation. The Country Director accepted responsibility for his actions and the actions that occurred on his watch.

And yet this was not enough. The behavior of the leadership and staff identified in the incident in Haiti in 2011 was and is intolerable, deeply reprehensible and unacceptable. We honor those who came forward at that time to bring the issues to light, and we acknowledge the pain suffered by those who were victims of these shameful acts. Globally and at Oxfam America, we continue to have zero tolerance for abuse of people in any form and we offer our support to victims of these egregious violations of our principles, values, and what we hold dear and believe.

Since this incident, Oxfam has established a dedicated Safeguarding Task Force, co-led by Oxfam’s global Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima and me, and mechanisms are in place across Oxfam for reporting any cases of misconduct. These steps are among others designed to protect staff, partners, and those we serve from any potential misconduct.

I think transparency at the time, full public disclosure, would have prevented this from being as big a scandal now as it, no doubt, is, though I'm sure at the time part of the decision to handle it internally probably considered the damage to their work that having a scandal then would have been, then.   I am not someone who has worked in that kind of group so I don't know enough to know which would have been the less bad option but it's clear what they might have avoided then, they've got now.

Yesterday I pointed out that in a organization as huge as the Catholic church it was inevitable that there would be sexual sins and crimes committed by someone or other with some kind of official status in the Catholic church, that's as inevitable in any large group that is comprised of fallible human beings subject to evil inclinations and temptations.   It'st true of schools, the foster system, hospitals, sports, medicine, the military, the financial system, etc.   I doubt there have been many even relatively small groups that have totally avoided the risk of this happening.  The alternative to supporting none of them is to face the fact that this is one of the facts of life.   Holding them to very high standards isn't unreasonable, demanding they be as pure as human beings are never going to be is hypocritical and ridiculous.   It serves no good purpose.

Just as with the Catholic church, Oxfam and every other group that has ever tried to do good needs to have as much transparency as possible about these incidents while handing just as much information on a confidential basis as is necessary to find out what happened before making it public.  A demand for instant exposure of all accusations risks doing injustice to anyone who is falsely accused - and not infrequently people who are making accusations who might be injured by exposure as victims, something necessary to take into account when it's people who are sexually abused or exploited.  But when there are accusations or evidence of crimes, those have to be disclosed to a responsible civil authority if one exists.  In countries where Oxfam and other aid agencies operate, the civil authorities often are not responsible, sometimes they're everything up to totally corrupt.  So making a hard and fast rule that might make sense in Britain or the United States for all countries would probably cause more harm than good.   Americans and Europeans who pretend otherwise aren't going to do much to improve things.

Yes, I am going to make a donation to Oxfam America today with my eyes open to this problem.  They have been unusually transparent in their use of money donated to them and they have a good record of delivering aid.   I don't think I'm sponsoring perfection when I do it.  I don't know how to send angels a check.

It's Always So Interesting When Atheists Slam People For Violating Moral Standards They Reject

While it's an intellectual and moral limitation that isn't limited to atheists, hypocrisy seems to be pervasive among them.  As is a double standard, as is lying.

I have never heard about the right-wing hack you're talking about, Larry Alex Taunton, who, as so many other pseudo-moralists on the right can't seem to avoid breaking the commandment against committing adultery, even as he criticizes other people on their sexual activity. 

What atheist commandment did he break?  I've read lots and lots of atheist propaganda and even stuff that rises to the status of literature and I don't remember "thou shalt not commit adultery" ever being asserted in it.   I have read lots of atheists say it's no big deal when someone does commit adultery or even that it's positive.

Unless you can show me influential atheist writers and blog rats who have taken a strong stand against adultery, in the way the the Scripture and most churches that follow scripture do, then it's clear that while Taunton was violating Christian morality in both the adultery and hypocrisy he wasn't violating the amorality of atheism.   That's simply a fact.   Atheism inevitably corrodes morality, that's not something I first figured out, it's a recurring theme in atheist literature and practice.

Taunton doesn't look like much of a liberal so I don't have anything much in common with him.  Considering the milieu in which he's worked, I'm not surprised he's a hypocrite and a liar.  I don't much care about his claims about Christopher Hitchens having a death bed conversion, I wasn't there and I wouldn't much care if he did have one.   I've read Hitchens over decades of his public life and he was such a huge and amoral liar that it's amusing his fan boys would get worked up over a claim that he'd adopted a standard of morality on his death bed.  Considering his part in promoting the illegal and disastrous invasion of Iraq telling massive lies to promote a war that has killed hundreds of thousands of mostly innocent people, generated ISIS, etc. maybe he figured he'd better try to convert his way out of hell when he had nothing to lose in this life

As to Taunton, maybe he'll take the condemnation of that in the Scriptures to heart and reform because those commandments against adultery, lying and hypocrisy are in there, I'm not aware of any firm stand against them as moral absolutes in atheist literature.  Give me the citations of where those are.

Update:  I checked and his brother, Peter Hitchens, doesn't report any death bed conversion, I'd guess he's in a better position to know than Taunton.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Hate Mail - I'll Just Let Quincy Jones Say It

"Rock ain’t nothing but a white version of rhythm and blues, motherfucker."

Tomorrow is going to be the beginning of Lent for me, this is a Simps free blog from tonight till at least Orthodox Easter. 

What were your first impressions of the Beatles?

That they were the worst musicians in the world. They were no-playing motherfuckers. Paul was the worst bass player I ever heard. And Ringo? Don’t even talk about it. I remember once we were in the studio with George Martin, and Ringo Jones arranged a version of “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” for Starr’s 1970 solo debut album Sentimental Journey, which was produced by the Beatles’ frequent collaborator George Martin. The song, and album, are more than a bit gloopy.  had taken three hours for a four-bar thing he was trying to fix on a song. He couldn’t get it. We said, “Mate, why don’t you get some lager and lime, some shepherd’s pie, and take an hour-and-a-half and relax a little bit.” So he did, and we called Ronnie Verrell, a jazz drummer. Ronnie came in for 15 minutes and tore it up. Ringo comes back and says, “George, can you play it back for me one more time?” So George did, and Ringo says, “That didn’t sound so bad.” And I said, “Yeah, motherfucker because it ain’t you.” Great guy, though.

Paul Bley Trio - My Heart

Paul Bley - piano
Peter Ind  - bass
Alan Levitt - drums

My Old Flame 

Now That I've Read Something Substantial On The Barros Scandal I Can Say Something About It

A couple of weeks ago someone challenged me to write about the issue of Pope Francis appointing a bishop, Juan Barros,  to head the diocese of Osorno, in Chile and what he said when confronted about his decision on his recent trip to Chile and Peru.   I had only read a brief account of it online and heard a report about it on the radio, which was as much as I knew about it.   The person making the challenge didn't seem to know that much about it because they claimed "the bishop" was the one who had been accused of "raping little boys" when that isn't what he's accused of.  He's accused of knowing that a priest, Fernando Karadima, who has been convicted of child abuse by the Vatican was guilty of sexual abuse and who covered it up. 

Yesterday the British Catholic Herald had a very good, long commentary about what is known to the general public about it and why the Pope needs to address this with more than the last public word he gave on it.  I will say that I think, to a large extent, what he said is proof that even someone as competent and experienced as Pope Francis should be more careful about answering questions from the press in real time.   He, himself, seems to realize that the way he responded, that there was no "proof" of the accusations against Barros, wasn't either just or pastorally charitable.  But if he doesn't quickly give out more information as to why he decided to appoint and keep Barros in that position then this is going to get worse and destroy the credibility that he has repaired after the disastrous and immoral handling of the scandal of priests abusing children under his two predecessors. 

Pope Francis first accused the victims of calumny in a heat-of-the-moment exchange with a reporter in a press gaggle at the gate of the Iquique venue where he was heading to say Mass on the last day of his recent visit to Chile. News of the Pope’s “hot takes” overshadowed the final, Peruvian leg of his South American tour. The Pope then used his in-flight press conference – days later – on the return trip to Rome, to double down on his accusations of calumny, saying he has not received any evidence of Barros’ alleged wrongdoing, and that the victims had never brought their case to him. “You [reporters], in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward,” Pope Francis said.

Even at the time Pope Francis made it – again, during the in-flight presser en route to Rome from Peru, days after his impromptu response had garnered the attention of the press – the assertion was, to say the very least, problematic.

The accusations against Barros have been before the public since at least 2012. Victims have given testimony to Chilean prosecutors regarding the matter. It appears, therefore, that the Pope’s assertion can save itself only if it rests on a hyper-technicality: that he had no direct, personal acquaintance with the accusations. Upon hearing the Pope’s claim, however, the abuse survivor and former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Marie Collins, made it known that she had delivered an 8-page letter to the Pope describing life in the Chilean institute where their abuse took place and detailing Barros’s alleged role in their abuse. The letter, Collins explained to AP, was from Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of Karadima and Barros’s most outspoken accuser. Collins claims she delivered the letter in 2015, through the Pope’s own chief adviser on sexual abuse matters (and president of the Commission for the Protection of Minors), Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston.

About the letter and its delivery, Marie Collins told the Catholic Herald: “It was at the time a private letter [written in Spanish] from Juan Carlos Cruz [one of those accusing Kardima and Barros] to the Holy Father.” Collins went on to explain: “As well as I can recollect it was sealed when given to Cardinal O’Malley. It was in a simple plain envelope. I did have a general idea of its content as [Mr Cruz] had also sent a detailed explanation of events in English.” Asked specifically about Cardinal O’Malley’s confirmation of delivery, Collins told the Herald: “He said he had given the letter directly to the Holy Father and that at the same time he had discussed our concerns about Bishop Barros with him.”

The piece in the Herald gives four possible scenarios as to what led Pope Francis into making his decisions on the issue, centered around the letter,

At this point, there are four possibilities: Collins and Cruz are both lying about the letter; Cardinal O’Malley gravely misrepresented the diligence with which he discharged his promise to deliver it directly to Pope Francis (though Collins has expressed full confidence in him on several occasions); Pope Francis received the letter and did not read it; Pope Francis received it and read it, only to forget about it.

If O’Malley did not deliver the letter directly into the hands of the Pope, he needs to say so. If Pope Francis did receive the letter, only to put it aside without reading it, he needs to say so, and explain why he did not read it. If the Pope did receive it, and read it, then the only way to save him from an accusation of deliberate untruthfulness is to admit he is relying on another hyper-technicality: that he received nothing submitted specifically and explicitly as evidence in an open judicial process, 

I am going to break in here because I couldn't possible disagree more that this last thing is a "hyper-technicality" it is a ground-floor, absolutely necessary standard of making a judgement as to guilt  which is essential to protecting those who are falsely accused.  If you think that's unimportant then you really don't care about justice.   Consider the time when Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was accused and widely vilified only to have his accuser admit that what he said happened, never happened and he had been led to make the accusation through the manipulation of a "hypno-therapist."   The "ritual child abuse" hysteria in the United States - fueled by such irresponsible TV propaganda as Geraldo Rivera produced - proves that any relaxation of the regular standards of testing evidence are bound to lead to other disasters and injustices.  Any system for dealing with guilt and innocence that doesn't take into account the fact that there are false and mistaken accusations made for all kinds of reasons isn't going to be sustainable.  Though if that is the reason for what has happened, Pope Francis needs to say so.

or that he received no new evidence – i.e. evidence about which he had no prior knowledge of any kind in any capacity – or that he received no evidence of Barros’s wrongdoing as a bishop, such as would warrant investigation and possibly trial under pertinent law.

I can think of two complicating factors to those four possibilities,  Pope Francis may have other information that he thinks is more credible than that in the letter - which I haven't seen published anywhere - or that Barros may have told him things under the seal of confession, though I thing that's probably unlikely. 

If the Pope has other information he should publish it,  but even if it exonerates him, Barros should be asked to quit his post for the good of The People and the church and if he doesn't do that then Pope Francis should remove him.  I can't see how he could be an effective pastor of people who don't trust him.  If there is credible evidence that he broke the law then he should be prosecuted and sentenced, but I don't know anything about how that would be done in Chile.

Whatever led to this, the whole thing is a lot more complicated than the original reporting in the American media presented it as being.   But it is a major scandal that will damage the papacy of Pope Francis, which is a disaster for the Catholic church, as has been the unacceptably slow process of reform which has led members of the Pope's own commission to deal with this quitting and critisizing the process.   Whatever else is clear, the way it is being handled now, even if that's an improvement over what was done before, is not enough and it will generate more scandal and discrediting.

The issue of child abuse in the Catholic Church is a lightning rod in a way it isn't for any other institution.   Holding the church up to rules and standards imposed on no other institution might not be fair but it is how things are.  But that's no excuse for the church, it's certainly no reason to relax standards in this issue.   I would advocate ALL INSTITUTIONS AND INDIVIDUALS be held up to the highest of standards against this.   One of the most important things about this is to prevent it continuing into the future and if there's one thing that is clear, it will happen whenever adult men meet with minors in a private, intimate setting.  That's as true when it's policemen, coaches, teachers, leaders of youth groups, bosses . . .  who are the molesters as it is priests.   Institutions should have absolute rules that discourages if not prohibits private meetings between men and children.  Or adults and children.   The problem of that has been around since the dawn of history.   There are well over a billion Catholics in the world, if Catholicism were a country it might be the biggest one on Earth.  I doubt there is any practical way for the Church to monitor the behavior of such a huge entity and there will always be sex scandals among Catholics.  But that's no reason to allow the practices that gave opportunities to men who will sexually abuse children to continue,  those should be found and the physical access in private that leads to such abuse should be banned.  The Pope and bishops should certainly be able to impose such restrictions on the male clergy and religious who they impose so many other restrictions on, men who voluntarily accept the authority of their superiors in the hierarchy.

Confession should always be done through a tiny screen, I thought giving that practice up was a big mistake.  They should cut the kissing out, altogether.   From what I understand the molestation by Karadima largely involved erotic kissing.  Judas betrayed Jesus through a kiss, maybe they should think hard about that. 

They should also think really hard about making celibacy for the clergy optional.  While child molestation is hardly unknown among married me, mandatory celibacy in the Catholic clergy is one of the reasons this problem has come about.  Peter was married, it says so in the Bible, presumably some of the other apostles may have been too, Jesus didn't impose celibacy on them, why should an outdated medieval practice be retained when it has led to so many moral problems.  One of the biggest factors in the cover-up by bishops and even popes has been the fact of the drastic decline in the numbers of priests.   If there were a lot more priests, and the only place you're going to get them is by letting married men and, or women be priests, that pressure to overlook wrongdoing would not be there.