Friday, September 26, 2008

What a mess! What is McCain thinking? Oh yea! The election. Maybe Sara could pray for us and have Bishop Thomas Muthee pray for us too? Actually, I really believe we should be praying, but with humility and a feeling for justice. Sort of like the Magnificat.

On October 17, 2005 in his blog James Howard Kunstler wrote this:

“Meanwhile, the mortgage industry, a mutant monster organism of lapsed lending standards and arrant grift on the grand scale, is going to implode like a death star under the weight of these non-performing loans and drag every tradable instrument known to man into the quantum vacuum of finance that it creates.”

Prophetic? Maybe a little. I feel uncomfortable, like maybe it is unjust, giving relief to the wealthy, while those “minorities and risky folks” Fox News’ Neil Cavuto refers to get screwed.

Who said racism and class distinctions don’t exist in the United States. How about this comment by a supposed educated, smart newscaster? Fox News' Neil Cavuto said that “Fannie and Freddie are a disaster. Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster.” Is someone going to call him to task for this?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

This is from catholicanarchy:

Sarah Palin: “Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America — [Obama’s] worried that someone won’t read them their rights?”

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “No human being should be treated as lacking human rights, and we have no business dividing humanity into those who are valuable enough to warrant protection and those who are not. Even this is not solely a Catholic teaching, but a principle of natural law accessible to all people of good will.”

How ironic that my last post before leaving on vacation was about racism. Take a look at this from the Oregonian – Effigy of Obama alarms George Fox campus

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How much opposition to Obama is really rooted in racism? One has to ask how someone who is “thinking” about the issues can go from supporting Hillary Clinton to supporting John McCain?

"One parishioner ruled out voting for Mr. Obama explicitly because he is black. “Are they going to make it the Black House?” Ray McCormick asked, to embarrassed hushing from a half dozen others gathered around the rectory kitchen. (Five of the six, all lifelong Democrats who supported Mrs. Clinton in the primary, said they now lean toward Mr. McCain.)"

Friday, September 12, 2008

“Truth is not inner peace. Truth is a traumatic, painful encounter.” — Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek is an interesting Slovenian philosopher who wants to enlist Christians to work against the enticement of pop culture and consumerism fueled by global capitalism. Very popular in Europe, he may be a passing fad or an enduring critic.

Ironically, he is the perfect thinker for global capitalism. He incorporates everything into his philosophy, from Oprah Winfrey to Stephen King. Like a multinational corporation, he will not be satisfied until he penetrates every market.”

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I'm afraid she is not off to a great start for her first time on her own.
Great name sake.

Since we (the United States of America) are neither an oligarchy nor a monarchy, nor are we a dictatorship or ruled by our military what are we then? As a democratic republic we governed by a constitution and the various laws established by our legislature. The President is charged with upholding and executing these laws. Following are a couple recent articles related by a broad stroke to this portrait of our Nation’s governance.

First from the Boston Review: Presidential Crimes: Moving on is not an option by Elaine Scarry

“We have at the present time two government leaders, a president and a vice president, who, according to all available evidence, have carried out grave crimes.”

Next from The New Yorker: The Florentine: The man who taught rulers how to rule, by Claudia Roth Pierpont

Odd, that an expert at winning should have lost so much, and then lost it all again. In however perverse a way, Machiavelli was no less a martyr to his convictions than Thomas More, who was beheaded—and eventually canonized—for his refusal to condone the royal power grab that Henry VIII purportedly learned from “The Prince.” Of course, More had the courage to stand in opposition to the moral direction of his times. Machiavelli was his times: he gave permanent form and force to its political habits and unspoken principles. Although it is often said that modern politics begins with Machiavelli, most politicians still run and hide at the mention of his name. In 1972, Henry Kissinger, the most arguably “Machiavellian” counsellor of princes this country has ever seen, recoiled at the insinuation that he had learned anything from the Florentine Secretary, stating, “There is very little of Machiavelli’s one can use in the contemporary world.” (Kissinger’s only competitor in this area, Karl Rove, is the subject of a new biography titled “Machiavelli’s Shadow.”) Yet we continue to flounder in the break between politics and ethics that Machiavelli made impossible to ignore: private life and public life; personal morality and Realpolitik. We insist that our leaders convince us that they are exemplary and (increasingly) God-fearing human beings, who are nevertheless able to protect us from enemies not so constrained. How is this to be done? Do we really want to know?

Most important, as we emerge from the century that gave Utopia a bad name—in which Hitler and Stalin and other genocidal princes believed they were building superior worlds, in which the means was annihilation and the end an illusion—we are still arguing bitterly over the question of whether the end justifies the means. Are there any acts that one’s sense of honor (or conscience, or ability to sleep at night) forbid one to commit—as an individual, as a nation—no matter what the promised end? Machiavelli did not question the use of torture for political purposes, even after he had been its victim. “When the very safety of the country depends upon the resolution to be taken,” he wrote in the “Discourses,” “no considerations of justice or injustice, humanity or cruelty, not of glory or of infamy, should be allowed to prevail.” This has doubtless been the tacit position of many governments throughout history; it is openly the position of a large segment of our government now, with Vice-President Cheney warning of the need for going to “the dark side” in dealing with terrorist suspects, and Attorney General Mukasey undecided about which methods of “enhanced” interrogation constitute torture. There is no question, however, about the method used on Machiavelli, the strappado—also known today as “Palestinian hanging”—which was responsible for the death of an Iraqi detainee in C.I.A. custody at Abu Ghraib in 2003: the prisoner was suspended by his arms, which had been shackled behind his back, and died of asphyxiation. Private morality may be presumed to prevail again when the country is strong and secure, although Machiavelli, unlike those who offer such consolation, admitted that the nature of mankind makes it unlikely that there ever will be such a time. “I love my country more than my own soul,” Machiavelli wrote, yet a full assessment of his work makes that decision far from clear. Then, as now, it is a terrible choice.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Here are the last words of Pulling the Curtain, (note the reference to the Wizard of Oz you nonKansans) E. J. Dionne's column, published in today’s Washington Post. Note that the McCain campaign trashed the NYT reporter for reporting the truth – instead of owning up to it.

An aside: I just recently watched the A Man for All Seasons, the 1966 Oscar winner for best picture, about Saint (Sir) Thomas More. I think Karl Rove would make a good cynical Cromwellian character in a contemporary political play about our current administration. Rove is the ultimate postmodern Machiavelli. I like this quote by More’s character when asked to give a little: “And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?”

But anyway, the Republican fear seems to be that Vice Presidential candidate Sara Palin can’t handle a few tough questions from the press. If that is the case, well ...?

It is hugely unfortunate that the first big story about Palin -- other than questions raised about whether she fired the head of the Alaska state police for refusing to dismiss her former brother-in-law -- concerned her 17-year-old daughter's pregnancy. It's not just that Bristol Palin should be left alone, but also that the intense interest in this story gave McCain's bullies an excuse to push aside legitimate questions about Palin's record and knowledge.

Of course, Palin's handlers are being hypocritical: They want to focus on her family life and her identity as a hockey mom when doing so helps them and to push aside any story that mars this perfect picture. Conservatives are always against identity politics until they are for it.

Nonetheless, what matters is not Palin's personal life but whether she is prepared to assume the presidency if called upon. The actions of McCain's lieutenants suggest that they know the answer. And they are doing everything they can to keep the media from finding it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Several articles on the Boston Globe’s website brought on by the impending publication of a new book by a member of one of our royal families.

In this brief quote from an interview with Kerry Kennedy she talks about a man, Kofi Woods, who she met in Liberia. Incredible!

[T]he Catholic church there also started their peace and justice program on the Catholic radio station, (which) was really the only voice of opposition throughout the Taylor regime, and the fellow who ran it was a guy called Kofi Woods, he was, because of his work, on those issues, with the Catholic church. He was picked up by the minister of justice and his three thugs during the Doe regime and tortured and left to rot in a prison cell, and then when the Taylor regime came into power...that minister of justice and those three thugs were picked up by Taylor, and thrown into the same prison cell he had been in. And he (Woods) had been freed, and he was a lawyer, and went to visit them, and he said, 'I've come to see if you've been mistreated,' and he said, 'I will take your case for free,' because there is no lawyer in the country who would defend them. So he went to defend his own torturers, and that was his sense of faith.

When will they get it? Justice Anne M. Burke talks of her frustrations with the Catholic Bishops for the little regard many have with the sex abuse problems in the Church.

Burke, who was interim chair of the National Review Board for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for two years, details the scope of her concern about the American bishops in an interview with [Kerry] Kennedy, a daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, in her book ["Being Catholic Now," which is being released tomorrow].

She says the board "started having problems with individual cardinals and bishops who thought we were too aggressive," and that "bishops got away with concealing crime," and "just when you think these bishops are getting it, they turn around and do something that in any other enterprise would result in their own dismissal."

She also alleges that, after Frank Keating, former governor of Oklahoma, was forced to resign as board chairman because he compared the bishops to the Mafia, the bishops declined to make her the permanent chairwoman because "there was no way they were going to appoint a woman to the position of chair."

HYANNIS PORT - Catholicism ran deep at the home of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy.

Prayers before and after every meal, when a family trip was beginning, when something got lost. Bible readings after dinner. St. Christopher medals around the neck. St. Francis pictures on the wall. Virgin Mary statues in the corner. Mass schedules by the bedsides. And Mass every Sunday, until Bobby was killed in 1968; then it was daily.

So begins a review – of sorts – of Kerry Kennedy’s new book, Being Catholic Now. Looks like an important book.

An important editorial from the National Catholic Reporter

Ways past the culture wars

The choice of Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware as the Democratic vice presidential candidate brought an immediate and predictable reaction from those intent on using this election cycle to revive the Catholic culture wars.

Suddenly pundits knew “what kind of Catholic” Biden is and they were eager to frame his deepest motivations on the basis of a vote here and there on “life issues,” which in the world of the culture warrior translates as only one issue -- abortion. And they picked up immediate encouragement from on high when Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput issued the pastoral wisdom that Biden should refrain from receiving Communion.

To take that last matter first, Chaput’s pronouncement momentarily grabbed a portion of the national news cycle, but Catholics shouldn’t overreact. They would do better to read his book, Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, a far more nuanced and challenging presentation of his view of Catholic responsibilities.

They’d do better, too, by reading the U.S. bishops’ valuable and thorough reflection on political responsibility, “Faithful Citizenship,” which, while placing the protection of innocent life as the central consideration in pursuing the common good, also acknowledges the complexities of political life and the ambiguities that can sometimes confound even the most purposeful legislator.

Mr. Biden is, we suspect, closer to the people most priests face in the pews every week than the culture warriors would have us believe: devout, faithful, prayerful and questioning. The problem for him, of course, is that he plays out his life in public. Most Catholics don’t have to contend with a chorus demanding absolutes where sometimes only compromise and negotiation can serve the common good.

According to a recent Associated Press story, Biden has said in the past that he is “prepared to accept” church teaching on when life begins, but at the same time he believes that Roe v. Wade “is as close as we’re going to be able to get as a society” to a consensus among differing religious and other views on the subject. We suspect that view is held by a lot of ordinary Catholics and more than a few bishops, albeit privately. So the dispute becomes more over political strategy than church teaching. How to attack the abortion problem from the political stump in the political arena -- where compromise is the coin of the realm -- is far different from pronouncing from the pulpit.

The reality, as shown in poll after poll, is that Catholics, like most others in the culture, are looking for a politics on the abortion issue that is far removed from either extreme, a politics that can begin to effectively reduce the number of abortions. Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good released a study Aug. 27 that shows a strikingly direct correlation between the availability of social services and a drop in the number of abortions. (See story on Page 7.)

There is more involved in creating a culture of life than simply seeking the elusive ban on abortion. The culture wars have cost the church dearly in terms of political capital and credibility, and in the election of legislators who promise lots on abortion, deliver little and frequently ignore most of the rest of the bishops’ social agenda. No political party holds the complete Catholic vision of society.

Seeking a significant reduction in abortion will require more from us than protest and vilifying politicians. It will require an approach to the common good that places high value on programs supporting women and children, on assuring access to jobs and education and on dealing with the causes and effects of poverty.

National Catholic Reporter September 5, 2008

Biden’s interview with Brokaw is all over the place now. Let me say I am a Catholic who finds Biden’s view defensible.

Following Chaput into the political fray is the headline of this brief interview. I am looking forward to reading his book Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, if my local library decides to buy one on my recommendation.

He is easy on McCain. I sense a double standard here.

Good comments by Frank Church in the New York Times. Here is an excerpt:

As The New York Times reported last Tuesday, Palin was sloppily vetted, at best. McCain operatives and some of their press surrogates responded to this revelation by trying to discredit The Times article. After all, The Washington Post had cited McCain aides (including his campaign manager, Rick Davis) last weekend to assure us that Palin had a “full vetting process.” She had been subjected to “an F.B.I. background check,” we were told, and “the McCain camp had reviewed everything it could find on her.”

The Times had it right. The McCain campaign’s claims of a “full vetting process” for Palin were as much a lie as the biographical details they’ve invented for her. There was no F.B.I. background check. The Times found no evidence that a McCain representative spoke to anyone in the State Legislature or business community. Nor did anyone talk to the fired state public safety commissioner at the center of the Palin ethics investigation. No McCain researcher even bothered to consult the relevant back issues of the Wasilla paper. Apparently when McCain said in June that his vice presidential vetting process was basically “a Google,” he wasn’t joking.

This is a roll of the dice beyond even Bill Clinton’s imagination. “Often my haste is a mistake,” McCain conceded in his 2002 memoir, “but I live with the consequences without complaint.” Well, maybe it’s fine if he wants to live with the consequences, but what about his country?

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Check out this two-part article in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Here is a funny Political cartoon from the Washington Post

One goggle and I chose this site simply because it was the first one to pop-up. Kids, all I am saying is, be smart.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Troopergate gets more interesting and the possibility of new revelations about Palin
Interesting situation. Lets see how it turns out.

I have this theory, it’s merely a theory, that I have more in common with my brothers and sisters in Christ at church whom I my disagree with profoundly about some issue than I do with a nonbeliever whom I agree with. I am reminded of something C. S. Lewis wrote – this is a paraphrase from memory which is very unreliable – about how Christians who reside at the heart of their chosen separated sects have more in common with each other than with nominal believers of one’s own sect.

There is an illuminating article in the New Yorker. I too wince a little at this comment.

The Saddleback event illuminated Obama’s greatest liability for faith-based voters: his resolute support for abortion rights. Many, including Doug Kmiec, winced when Obama said, at a town-hall meeting last spring, that he supported sex education because he didn’t want his daughters “punished with a baby.”

An example of “principle” over science. The last 8 years has seen continual politicalization, corruption and manipulation of science unprecedented in American history. The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov: The Story of Stalin's Persecution of One of the Great Scientists of the Twentieth Century by Peter Pringle tells the story of an extreme example of the subordination of science (thankfully we haven’t gone this far) to political goals. Following are a couple quotes from a review of the book.

Stalin hated genetics — and chromosomes in particular, not least because the idea of genes as physical structures passed down through the generations suggested that nature wasn't changeable.

The internationally acclaimed Vavilov was outmaneuvered by the "barefoot scientist" Lysenko, an uneducated peasant whom Stalin no doubt preferred to the unreliably bourgeois professor. Lysenko promised the Soviet leader that he would turn the Russian wasteland into a grain-laden Garden of Eden, using the bogus science of "vernalization" to eliminate the normal two-year growth cycle of winter wheat.

I don’t quite get this “lay off Palin for God’s sake” rhetoric. Even as conservative commentator as George Will is unhappy with the choice.

So, Sarah Palin. The man who would be the oldest to embark on a first presidential term has chosen as his possible successor a person of negligible experience.

Any cook can run the state, said Lenin, who was wrong about that, too. America’s gentle populists and other sentimental egalitarians postulate that wisdom is easily acquired and hence broadly diffused, therefore anyone with a good heart can deliver good government, which is whatever the public desires. “The people of Nebraska,” said the archetypal populist William Jennings Bryan, “are for free silver and I am for free silver. I will look up the arguments later.”

I don’t understand it. Can someone help me?

Something all opponents to abortion should pay attention to. Here is a link to the study. I challenge us all - pro-choice and pro-life to take this study to heart and face the real life difficulties of this world.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Governor Sara Palin did a super job with her speech last night. She is young and energetic, a good orator, and the crowd was well primed and coached, as was Gov. Palin, both ready for her national debut.

But I wonder:

Why does she denigrate the thousands of people out there who work day in, day out through church and civic organizations to help people and to make this world a better place? She could have been referring to Mother Theresa in this quote: “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities”

Now I agree that Sara Palin does more than talk the talk, she walks the walk too. I admire her for this. I know many folks in similar circumstances who walk the walk. We don’t give them enough support. But what concerns me is her profound disregard for science and common sense. Evolutionarily speaking women did not have babies at 44 years old very often. This profoundly biological process is likely affected by the degradation of both the male and female reproductive ability with age.

To the best of our ability we need to make good choices, and I am not referring to abortion. Palin has a pregnant 17-year-old daughter and a Downs Syndrome baby. This is not just because she opposes abortion. She shows a blithe disregard for science and common sense. Sexual reproduction is not a magical event. Now, of course, I regard my four children and four grandchildren as magic, but lets get real.

Palin opposes sex education programs that include any information other than teach abstinence. This view is contrary to all evidence and common sense as to what works to reduce the occurrence of teenaged pregnancy and, just as important, the spread of sexually transmitted disease. Abstinence is only part of a good program. Common sense and science clearly point to the necessity of good information about the biology of sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and contraception.

I suppose the next thing in Palin’s way of thinking is to dump biology class, replace it with creationism, and burn all the books we don’t like. Then we will produce a generation of illiterates. Sound a little 1984ish? Or maybe 1560ish? Maybe 1938ish? Barack Obama may not have extensive experience but he is less of an ideologue and more of a pragmatist and he has demonstrated prudence in selecting Joe Biden. Even if you don’t like Biden you have to concede that there is wisdom in the choice. We now have an idea of how John McCain would go about making important decisions. On a whim.

I see I am not the only one to recognize Palin's disparagement of community organizing. Check out this NCR article.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008, a little later.

Here is Sam Harris in the LA times. I disagree with ole Sam on a number of things. But I think he is on to something here.

Americans have an unhealthy desire to see average people promoted to positions of great authority. No one wants an average neurosurgeon or even an average carpenter, but when it comes time to vest a man or woman with more power and responsibility than any person has held in human history, Americans say they want a regular guy, someone just like themselves. President Bush kept his edge on the "Who would you like to have a beer with?" poll question in 2004, and won reelection.

This is one of the many points at which narcissism becomes indistinguishable from masochism. Let me put it plainly: If you want someone just like you to be president of the United States, or even vice president, you deserve whatever dysfunctional society you get. You deserve to be poor, to see the environment despoiled, to watch your children receive a fourth-rate education and to suffer as this country wages -- and loses -- both necessary and unnecessary wars.
McCain has so little respect for the presidency of the United States that he is willing to put the girl next door (soon, too, to be a grandma) into office beside him. He has so little respect for the average American voter that he thinks this reckless and cynical ploy will work.

And it might.

“John McCain's campaign on Wednesday angrily called for an end to questions about Sarah Palin's background...”

Are we not to fully explore the person who is a “heart beat” (LITERALLY!) away from leading the United States of America? Come on, John. Get real.

Former Kansas Congressman Bill Roy’s take on the lawlessness of the Bush administration.

The Bush administration not only has weakened our nation economically and militarily, but has endangered our basic freedoms by willfully ignoring or denouncing national and international law.

"We have at the present time two government leaders, a president and a vice president, who, according to all available evidence, have carried out grave crimes" writes Elaine Scarry in the Boston Review.

One thing that should distinguish the Government of the United States is respect for our Constitution and the rule of law. Ideology should always have its limits. This administration has little respect for this fundamental aspect of our union.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008, the third day of the Republican Convention and I am flabbergasted at the anti-intellectualism and selfishness that I see.

McCain – His wife is rolling in dough and won’t even acknowledge that she has two sisters. What sort of Christian behavior is this? Does McCain have any real values?

Palin – Book burner, creationist, Christian crusader (as in a messianic view of the war in Iraq – kill those infidels), vindictive, and laughs at someone suffering from cancer. These are Christ’s values?

I admit I am biased but come on, this is bad, especially the anti-intellectualism and ideolotry (the idolatry of ideology). This sort of thinking is dangerous for our nation. The world is complex and doesn’t bend to one’s ideology. This thinking threatens our freedoms of speech, religion, and association. And its just not nice.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Tuesday, September 02, 2008, the day after labor day, Gustav, and new revelations about Sara Palin.

Here is a long quote is from an article about Catholic voters showing-up in the September 8th, issue of the New Yorker. Senator’s Obama’s view on abortion expressed in this article is almost precisely my view. Like Ms. Palin, I had a pregnant 17 year-old daughter. My first grandchild is now a wonderful 16-year old young woman. I would never have counseled my daughter to have an abortion and I resent those who would use this situation as an argument for an abortion or not.

Kmiec eventually got an opportunity to air his doubts to Obama himself, at a Chicago meeting with a select group of religious figures. (Among them was the evangelist Franklin Graham, who asked Obama, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the way to God, or merely a way?” Obama responded, “Jesus is the only way for me,” and Graham left the meeting impressed.) “I even raised the objection to just talking about abortion as a vehicle for gender equality,” Kmiec recalls. “I said, ‘You know, this is not language that a Catholic will accept, and I don’t accept it. You don’t need to use it, if I understand your position correctly. So tell me your position.’ And out of that I got an answer that said, ‘I would never counsel my daughters to have an abortion. I view it as a profoundly moral decision. It is my purpose to discourage the practice. But it is also my belief that there’s no other actor on earth than the mother who can address this question. And to be pro-choice means that you contemplate that the choice can be the choice in favor of life.’ That suggests to me that he’s got the mental disposition to understand, at least from the Catholic perspective, how abortion is more a tragedy than a method of equality.”

What does the Palin imbroglio tell us? I like this quote from Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post -

We learned last week that John McCain is not who he is -- not, at least, who he claims to be. The steady, straight-talking, country-first statesman his campaign has been selling is a fictional character. The real McCain is either alarmingly cynical or dangerously reckless.

Here is the concluding prayer from today’s divine office

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the true light that lights all people’s paths to salvation.
Give us the power, we pray you, to prepare for you the ways of peace and justice. Amen.