Archive for November, 2014

The Party of Jesus

November 30, 2014

A friend posted an interesting link from Salon, Why Conservative Christians Would Have Hated Jesus, on his Facebook page.

Jesus never could have been the pastor of a contemporary evangelical church nor a conservative Roman Catholic bishop. Evangelicals and conservative Roman Catholics thrive on drawing distinctions between their “truth” and other people’s failings. Jesus by contrast, set off an empathy time bomb that obliterates difference.

Jesus’ empathy bomb explodes every time a former evangelical puts love ahead of what the “Bible says.” It goes off every time Pope Francis puts inclusion ahead of dogma. It goes off every time a gay couple are welcomed into a church. Jesus’ time bomb explodes whenever atheists follow Jesus better than most Christians.

Put it this way: Godless non-church-going Denmark mandates four weeks of maternity leave before childbirth and fourteen weeks afterward for mothers. Parents of newborn children are assisted with well-baby nurse-practitioner visits in their homes.

In the “pro-life” and allegedly “family friendly” American Bible belt, conservative political leaders slash programs designed to help women and children while creating a justifying mythology about handouts versus empowerment.

In “God-fearing America” the poor are now the “takers,” no longer the “least of these,” and many conservative evangelicals side with today’s Pharisees, attacking the poor in the name of following the Bible.

So who is following Jesus?

Confronted by the Bible cult called evangelicalism we have a choice: follow Jesus or follow a book cult. If Jesus is God as evangelicals and Roman Catholics claim he is, then the choice is clear. We have to read the book–including the New Testament–as he did, and Jesus didn’t like the “Bible” of his day.

Confronted by bishops protecting dogma and tradition against Pope Francis’ embrace of empathy for the “other” we have a choice: follow Jesus or protect the institution.

Every time Jesus mentioned the equivalent of a church tradition, the Torah, he qualified it with something like this: “The scriptures say thus and so, but I say…” Jesus undermined the scriptures and religious tradition in favor of empathy. Every time Jesus undermined the scriptures (Jewish “church tradition”) it was to err on the side of co-suffering love. Every time a former evangelical becomes an atheist in favor of empathy she draws closer to Jesus. Every time Pope Francis sides with those the Church casts out he is closer to Jesus. Every time conservative Roman Catholics try to stop the Pope from bringing change to the Church they are on the side to those who killed Jesus.

These are all valid points and it may well be that Conservative Christians do not follow the teachings of Jesus as well as they ought to. Nevertheless, I believe that liberal Christians would hate Jesus more. Jesus had very strict views regarding marriage, divorce and adultery. He opposed divorce with the sole exception of sexual immorality. He taught that even looking at a woman with lust was adultery. (Matthew 5:27-32) Jesus almost certainly would have opposed the concept of same se marriage. (Matthew 19:3-9)  Actually, when Jesus”undermined” the Jewish Scriptures it was more often in the direction of greater rigor. Jesus loudly condemned the sophistries and the technicalities of the Pharisees. (Matthew 23:13-36)

Jesus did not preach any sort of post-modern relativism. He confirmed the authority of the Law and the scriptures ( Matthew 5:18)and when he did make alterations, he did so under his divine authority. He taught that the truth is real and that he was the Truth. Jesus did not preach that there are many paths to salvation but that He was the only way the Father.(John 14:1-6) Jesus forgave sinners, but he insisted they give up their sins. He did not tell the adulteress to continue her lifestyle but to go and sin no more. (John 7:53-8:11) Most liberals would condemn Jesus as being judgemental, narrow minded, prudish, bigoted, homophobic, and possibly racist. (Matthew 15:21-28) They would prefer the Jesus of the Jesus Seminar over the Jesus of the Gospels.

I am not arguing that Jesus is a conservative, liberal or anything else. The issue here is that people have been trying to recruit Jesus into their party, whether political or religious denomination, since the beginning of Christianity. Paul wrote about this very problem in his letters to the Corinthians and the Galatians. Jesus is not a Republican or Democrat, a conservative or liberal, a Catholic or Baptist. Jesus is Himself. He is not asking to join any of our parties. He wants us to join His party, and He insists that once you join, you put His party ahead of any other concerns.This means,among other things, that if another member of the party emphasises different aspects of His teachings than you do or if they serve in a different fashion than you, you ought not to argue or boast over who is the better servant. We all have our orders.

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Don’t try to define Me. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

But, we ought to be sure we are following orders from the right source. The only information we possess about the life and teachings of Jesus are the Gospels. Our guide, or orders, on how to behave as Christians is the Bible. The writer of this article seems to be deprecating the role of scripture.

“Worship in the Spirit and in truth,” is not about a book, let alone “salvation” through correct ideas or tradition. For people who call Jesus “the Son of God” you’d think they would also reject the veneration of the book he’s trapped in and church dogma that has crucified him again each time a gay man or divorced couple are refused the sacraments.

Evangelicals struggle to conform Jesus to a book, not the other way around. And the conservative bishops have aligned themselves with the American neoconservative wing of their church against not just the Pope Francis but against the emancipating logic of Jesus’ empathy time bomb. If Jesus isn’t the “lens” evangelicals and Roman Catholics read the Bible and their traditions through then whatever they say to the contrary they do not really believe Jesus is the son of God.

At present, scripture is the only way we can come to know who Jesus really is and what He expects of us. Naturally, we should take care, when reading the Bible, not to allow our own preconceptions to cause misunderstanding, and we should always consider the historical and social contexts. But, if we try to go beyond, or even against, the Jesus of the Gospels, we may find ourselves serving an imaginary Jesus. This has also been a problem throughout the history of Christianity among many denominations. If the Jesus you worship happens to be a Republican, Democrat, Catholic, American either White or Black, New Age hippie, environmentalist, capitalist, communist, or any other faction, then there is a real danger that Jesus is imaginary. You had better read the Gospels to find the real Jesus. Don’t worry. He is patient and really wants you to find Him.

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Thanksgiving

November 27, 2014

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. It is most unfortunate that this day has become little more than an excuse to gorge on turkey. Even worse, the obscenity known as Black Friday has begun to creep back into the holiday making what ought to be a day of giving thanks to the deity a day of frenzied shopping. We in America have perhaps more to be thankful for than any other nation in history and we are probably the biggest ingrates.

Well, anyway, the whole mythology surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday,with the turkey meal, etc is based on the Thanksgiving celebration held by the settlers of Plymouth colony in 1621. They had a lot to be thankful for. These Pilgrims had decided to immigrate to the New World so that they could practice their religion freely. They had intended to settle at the mouth of the Hudson River but their departure from England on the Mayflower had been delayed and the trip across the Atlantic had been rough. They reached America farther north then they had intended,at Provincetown Harbor in November 1620. While they did not really have a legal right to create a colony in what is now Massachusetts, no one really wanted to spend the winter at sea so on December 21, 1620 the Pilgrims began to build the settlement at Plymouth.

Model of a 17th century English merchantman sh...

Would you spend any more time in a leaky ship like this than you had to? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first winter at the new colony was very hard. About half of the colonists had died by spring. By what must have seemed incredible luck or divine providence, the colonists were able to make contact with two Natives who could speak English. One of these was named Samoset and he had learned some English from English trappers and fishermen. He introduced the Pilgrims to the other man, Squanto, who had a truly remarkable life. Captured by Englishmen, he was taken to England and instructed in the English language in the hope that he could serve as an interpreter. When he was brought back to New England, he was captured again, this time by members of John Smith’s expedition who planned to sell captured Indians as slaves in Spain. In Spain, some friars learned of this plan and had the Indians freed and instructed in the Catholic religion. Squanto was able to make his way back to England and then across the Atlantic. There, he discovered that his whole tribe had been destroyed by the diseases, probably smallpox, that the Europeans had already unwittingly brought to the New World.

Squanto was willing to help the Pilgrims and taught what they needed to know to survive in New England.The harvest in the summer of 1621 was good enough that the Pilgrims did not need to fear starvation that winter. They had a feast that Autumn to celebrate their good fortune and to give thanks to God. This celebration was not considered to be anything very remarkable. Thanksgiving celebrations were fairly common at the time, especially among people who had successfully made the difficult and dangerous voyage across the ocean. It was not really the first Thanksgiving.

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930). The First Thanksgiving took place in Plymouth in 1621. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There were proclamations of thanksgiving at various times in American history, especially during the Revolutionary War, but the holiday we know of as Thanksgiving really began in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation that a national day of Thanksgiving was to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November. It might not seem that there was all that much to be thankful for in the middle of the Civil War but the tide was turning in the North’s favor after the victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg that July and the country was continuing to grow in strength and prosperity despite the horrors of the war. Lincoln’s proclamation set the date for the national holiday that has been celebrated ever since. Franklin Roosevelt set the date a week earlier in 1939 in the hope that an earlier date would mean a longer shopping season for Christmas, thus helping the economy still mired in the Great Depression. This was not without controversy and in October 1941 Congress officially set the date of Thanksgiving on the fourth, and almost always the last, Thursday in November.

So,enjoy your turkey but please spare a moment or two to give thanks to the deity you worship. If you happen to be an American you really are one of the luckiest people on Earth.

Decision in Ferguson

November 25, 2014

I am not surprised by the decision of  the grand jury in Ferguson not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown. The possibility always existed that the grand jury would not find sufficient evidence that Officer Wilson had actually committed a crime and as more facts about this case emerged, I believed that it was less and less likely that Wilson would be indicted. Sadly, I am also not surprised that there is rioting in Ferguson as a result of this decision. I think the media has acted irresponsibly in this case, encouraging unrest and not reporting facts that tended to refute their initial narrative of an innocent young man gunned down in the street by a racist cop. Had they done their job properly, perhaps people in Ferguson, and elsewhere, would have better realized that an indictment was not very likely.

I do not know if the grand jury made the correct decision. Since I have not examined the sort of evidence and testimony they have, it would be presumptuous for me to second guess them. I think this holds true for nearly everyone who is commenting on this case. I think that many people who have commented on this case do not understand properly just what the grand jury has done. The purpose of a grand jury is to examine evidence and determine if criminal charges should be brought against an individual. In most cases, grand juries vote to bring criminal charges. Not delivering any indictments is fairly rare. This is because in most cases prosecutors do not bring a case before a grand jury unless they believe there is at least enough evidence to begin criminal proceedings. The fact that this grand jury declined to bring charges against Officer Wilson might indicate a very weak case indeed. There also seems to be a strange reluctance to bring charges against police officers, which might apply in this case. Whatever the reason, a trial, while satisfying the professional agitators, would have been a waste of time and money for everyone.

Now, since the purpose of a grand jury is to determine whether a crime has been committed, all this particular grand jury has decided is that there does not exist sufficient evidence that Officer Darren Wilson has committed a crime. It may well be that Officer Wilson acted inappropriately in shooting Michael Brown. The relations between the police and the community of Ferguson may be troubled. Race relations in America may not be what they should be. None of that was relevant to the proceedings of the grand jury. Their only concern was whether Officer Wilson had committed any crimes. They decided that he had not.

There seems to be an idea with some people that Officer Wilson should have been indicted because the police in Ferguson had behaved badly or African Americans have been oppressed in the past and in the present. The idea seems to be to offer up somebody, anybody as a scapegoat to atone for the sins of the community or perhaps for the great cause of Social Justice. This sentiment is not founded in the concept of justice under the rule of law. This is the mentality of the lynch mob. This is the sort of thinking we need to avoid.

As for the rioting, I wish the people involved would consider that they are not helping matters. They are working to destroy their community and blighting the lives of the majority of residents who would just as soon live in peace. The rioters are criminals taking advantage of a bad situation to better themselves. Something similar could be said for the parasites preparing to descend on the hapless community.

Inferno

November 24, 2014

I absolutely love Inferno by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, since after reading this book for the first time, I felt encouraged to try out the original source for their story, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, surely one of greatest works of literature ever. While Niven and Pournelle’s Inferno doesn’t quite rank with Dante it is still an update of Dante that is wonderfully fun to read with a serious exploration of why Hell might exist.

 

 

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Allen Carpentier is a science fiction writer who falls out of a window during a convention. Since Carpentier is an agnostic, he is astonished to wake up in Hell where he meets a man named Benito who assures him that Hell is arranged just as Dante described it in the Inferno and that He knows the way out of Hell. Carpentier cannot believe that he is in Hell at first, he believes it to be an artifact created by advanced aliens for their amusement, but as he and Benito make their way through Hell and observe the punishments meted out to sinners, Carpentier has no choice but to concede that he is, indeed in Hell. Then he must wrestle with the problem of why God would create Hell. The punishments seem to be just, but far out of proportion. No sin however great could be worth eternal agony. In the end, he learns who Benito really is and begins to have some idea why Hell might be necessary.

 

The authors largely followed the path described by Dante updating the sins and punishments when it seemed advisable. Thus, polluters are found among the hoarders and wasters, politicians voting along party lines rather than what they believed good for the country among the traitors etc. Like Dante, Niven and Pournelle included their personal causes and pet peeves in the story, damning to Hell the people they seemed to particularly dislike, but then that is part of the fun.

Inferno is a great science fiction/fantasy novel, worth reading. After you are done with it, see if you can’t tackle Dante too.

 

Surprised by Joy

November 23, 2014

I am not quite sure how to classify C. S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy. It is an autobiography, of sorts, but Lewis only wrote about his early, pre-Christian life. He had quite a lot to write about his childhood and adolescence and his early loss of his faith. He seemed to have less to write about his adult life, his service in World War I, and his career at Oxford and the narrative ends when he became a Theist. He seems to have ended just when many readers might want to know more.

 
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Lewis’s journey was not primarily a spiritual one. There was no conversion on the road to Damascus for Lewis. His journey was largely an intellectual one. His faith was shaken by the death of his mother but destroyed by his intellectual pride and a too ready acceptance of the materialist philosophies of his time. C. S. Lewis became a Theist when he realized that many Christians were quite intelligent men. He found that he could no longer believe that a writer like G. K. Chesterton or George MacDonald was brilliant despite his faith.

Lewis’s journey was also a lifelong search for what he called Joy, an indescribable longing for something not found in this world and that can never really be satisfied by the world. Lewis describes his search for Joy in pleasure, the world’s philosophy, and other such vanities. He got snatches of Joy in Nordic mythology, a feeling he called “Northerness”, in music, friendships, etc but it was never the real thing. Ultimately, Lewis found Joy after he stopped looking for it, in his Christian faith. He didn’t expect to find Joy there. Lewis described himself as a reluctant and miserable convert. Lewis’s lesson seems to be that you cannot find Joy by looking for it. If you seek for other things, especially the Ultimate Source of Joy, Christ, you may surprise yourself by finding Joy.

I do not believe that C. S. Lewis was ever really an Atheist. He was not being dishonest, except with himself. For a very long time, Lewis tried to convince himself to be an atheist, but it never really stuck. He never fully accepted the materialist, naturalist worldview that is necessary for true atheism. By his account here, Lewis always had a somewhat mystical bent, a feeling that there is more to the world than meets the eye. One of the temptations he faced in his youth was a fascination with the occult and Lewis admitted that if he had run into the right (wrong?) sort of people he might have ended up a magician or even a Satanist. This seems hardly the sort a Richard Dawkins is made of, but a Dawkins would never have responded to Christ’s call.

Surprised by Joy is one of Lewis’s better books. Some of his best lines, the ones people are always quoting can be found in this book. Lewis recounts his early life with good humor and the result is a very readable story. There are too many typos in the Kindle edition of this book which are very annoying. I hope this can be corrected.

 

The Bubble Boy Cured

November 20, 2014

One of the funniest episodes of the sitcom Seinfeld was The Bubble Boy, which naturally featured a boy with a severe immune disorder who lived in a “bubble”. The main characters of the show; Jerry, Elaine, George and George’s girlfriend Susan are all going  on a trip to Susan’s family’s cabin with a stop along the way for Jerry to meet a young fan of his who happened to be a bubble boy. Driving in two separate cars, the group becomes separated and George and Susan arrive at the bubble boy’s house not knowing where Jerry and Elaine are or how late they might be.

 

This episode aired back in 1992 and advancing technology has rendered the premise of a party being lost and separated obsolete. In our age of ubiquitous cell phones, Jerry Seinfeld and his friends could have easily kept in touch with one another. Even better, recent advances in medical research may soon make the whole concept of keeping children with severe immune disorders in sterile environments, or bubbles, as obsolete as the iron lung or bleeding with leeches. Here is the article from Time with the good news.

Alysia Padilla-Vaccaro and Christian Vaccaro owe their daughter’s life to stem cells. Evangelina, now two, is alive today because she saved herself with her own bone marrow cells.

 

Evangelina, a twin, was born with a severe immune disorder caused by a genetic aberration that makes her vulnerable to any and all bacteria and viruses; even a simple cold could be fatal. But doctors at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Broad Stem Cell Research Center gave her a new treatment, using her own stem cells, that has essentially cured her disease. She’s one of 18 children who have been treated with the cutting-edge therapy, and the study’s leader, Dr. Donald Kohn, says that the strategy could also be used to treat other gene-based disorders such as sickle cell anemia.

Known to doctors as adenosine deaminase (ADA)-deficient severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), it’s better known as “bubble boy” disease, since children born with the genetic disorder have immune systems so weak that they need to stay in relatively clean and germ-free environments. Until Evangelina and her sister Annabella were 11 months old, “We were gowned and masked and did not go outside,” says their mother Alysia Padilla-Vaccaro. “Our children did not physically see our mouths until then because we were masked all the time. We couldn’t take them outside to take a breath of fresh air, because there is fungus in the air, and that could kill her.”

 

The only treatments for SCID are bone marrow transplants from healthy people, ideally a matched sibling; the unaffected cells can then repopulate the immune system of the baby with SCID. But despite being her twin, Annabella wasn’t a blood match for her sister, nor were her parents. Padilla-Vaccaro and her husband, Christian, were considering unrelated donors but were concerned about the risk of rejection. “We would be trying to fix one problem and getting another,” she says.

That’s when the doctors at the Children’s Hospital at Orange County, where Evangelina was diagnosed, told her parents about a stem cell trial for SCID babies at UCLA, led by Dr. Donald Kohn. “As soon as they said trial, I thought, ‘my kid is dead,” says Padilla-Vaccaro of the last resort option. But a dozen children born with other forms of SCID—in which different mutations caused the same weak immune systems—who were successfully treated by Kohn convinced the couple that the therapy was worth trying. Kohn had one spot left in the trial and was willing to hold it for Evangelina until she matured more. Born premature, she was diagnosed at six weeks old and needed more time for what was left of her immune system to catch up to weather the procedure.

When she was two months old, Evangelina was admitted to UCLA and had bone marrow drawn from her tiny hip. It contained the stem cells that go on to develop into all of the cells in the blood and immune systems. Kohn treated them with gene therapy, co-opting a modified virus to carry the healthy ADA gene so it could infect the stem cells from Evangelina’s bone marrow. The idea was that by transplanting these healthy ADA-containing cells back into Evangelina, she would soon be making her own healthy immune cells. And because they were made from her own cells, her body wouldn’t reject them.

“After the transplant of this miraculous tube of stem cells, which literally took five minutes, we had to just wait and see for a good six weeks,” says Padilla-Vaccaro. “The week after Christmas [in 2012], Dr. Kohn came in and told me, ‘It worked.’ It worked. Those words…besides the birth of my children, that day will always be the best day in my life.”

There is more about how Dr. Kohn developed his procedure.

This is truly wonderful news and I hope that the techniques used in cases like this can be used to treat or cure other genetic diseases. As Glenn Reynolds might say, faster please.

 

Game Over for the Planet

November 19, 2014

Here is another message I just received from Moveon.org.

Dear MoveOn member,

In just hours, the Senate will vote on whether to push forward the Keystone XL pipeline—a disastrous and dangerous proposal that would, in the words of leading climate scientists and environmentalists, be “game over for the planet.”1

Either the Senate will send President Obama a Keystone pipeline bill TODAY—and we will need him to promise to veto it; or the Democrats will defeat the measure by one vote, which means that in just seven weeks, a new Republican majority will send him the pipeline—and we’ll need him to veto it in January.

Either way, President Obama is our last line of defense. So we’re joining with allies to mobilize grassroots support demanding that the president commit to vetoing the pipeline bill—today or early next year.

Will you chip in $3 to help stop the Keystone XL pipeline—and to push Democrats and President Obama to be bold in the fights ahead?

Yes, I’ll chip in.

We’ve already begun fighting back. We’re helping organize rallies outside wavering senators’ offices. We’re mobilizing calls to senators. And we’re providing organizers on the ground with access to MoveOn tools and connections to MoveOn members.  

We’re mobilizing because this is a hugely important fight on its own—and it’ll set the stage for the next two years.

When the Republicans take control of the Senate in January, we can expect a rush of right-wing, anti-climate, anti-science bills: a rollback of President Obama’s efforts to regulate carbon, bills to undermine his climate change agreement with China, and bills that give rein to the extractive practices of frackers, Big Coal, and Big Oil.

Following the midterms, some Democrats are feeling nervous—and they are hearing from the usual chorus of consultants and pundits who advise them that the way to win is to be more like Republicans. This is the kind of horrible advice that lost many Democrats their election—yet conservative Democrats continue to listen! And they won’t stop unless they feel sustained, passionate pressure from their grassroots base—the folks who they need to inspire in order to win future elections.

Will you chip in $3 to help us make sure Democrats stop the Keystone XL pipeline, stop listening to big oil and bad consultants, and fight for progressive values?

Yes, I’ll chip in to help stop Keystone XL and fight for progressive values.

This fight isn’t just a preamble to other environmental attacks—it foreshadows the large range of issues that the right-wing Republican leadership intends to tackle. We’ll face similar assaults on health care, women’s rights, equality, decent wages, Social Security, and civil rights.

In fight after fight, Republicans will push forward a radical agenda and then attempt to pick off a few Democrats to give them the supermajority they need, as well as the veneer of “bipartisanship.”

The only way to preserve affordable health care, see humane reforms in our immigration policy, ensure women make their own decisions about their health, and fully invest in Social Security is to make sure Democrats stand strong. And when the Democrats in the Senate falter, it will come to President Obama to be bold in the use of his veto pen.

Following the midterms, many Democrats are nervous. It’s our job to make them realize that the path to a stronger America, and to future electoral victories, isn’t through caving in—it’s through standing up for our shared values.

Whatever happens in the Senate today, we know one thing for sure: We’re going to need to be stubborn, strong, and stiff-spined for the next two years.

Can you chip in $3 to help us defeat the Keystone pipeline—and prepare for the fights ahead?

Yes, I’ll chip in.

Thanks for all you do.

Anna, Jo, Brian, Corinne, and the rest of the team

Are they serious? According to the geologists, this planet has been in existence for 4.57 billion years. In that time it has survived collision with an object the size of Mars, creating the Moon many other asteroid strikes including the one that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, whatever caused the extinction of ninety-five percent of all life at the end of the Permian Era, ice ages, climate changes, and who knows what else; only to be finally destroyed by a single pipeline.

The trouble I have with the Greens, besides their bullying and obvious lust for power, is that they seem to have some idea that the Earth has existed in a delicate, stable equilibrium from the beginning and that now Man has arrived to upset the balance. I think they get their ideas about nature from Bambi. The truth is that the Earth has changed drastically over the eons, in terms of climate, atmospheric content and even geography. For instance, during the Mesozoic Era (the Age of Dinosaurs), the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may have been as much as five times present levels, even without the nefarious activities of carbon polluters, causing a warmer Earth. Somehow life on the planet survived and even flourished. We have had ice ages over the last several millennia in which the glaciers extended not far north from where I am sitting, but the worst ice age, the glaciers extended almost to the equator. The only thing constant in the history of the Earth is that it is a dynamic, ever changing system. Even if everything the worst alarmists say about climate change were true, it would not mean the end for the planet. We might make ourselves very uncomfortable, perhaps even extinct, but the Earth will survive anything we could possibly do to it.

I should add that Canada is going to develop the tar sands regardless  of what we decide. If we don’t want the Keystone pipeline extended, they can just as easily sell the crude oil to China. I wonder which is a safer method of transporting oil, a pipeline or tankers. I should also add that if there is one thing needed to accomplish the goals Moveon.org says it wants, it would be a robust American economy powered by the recent surge in the energy industry. Rich countries with growing economies can afford to worry about decent wages and equal rights. Poorer countries mired in economic stagnation have to worry about surviving.

Obama Being Bold

November 18, 2014

I got an e-mail from Moveon.org praising Obama for going ahead with his progressive policies, even though the majority of the voters indicated that they do not like such policies. Remember, the voters did not give the Republicans a historic victory because they have developed a great love for Mitch McConnell or John Boehner. They hated what Obama and the Democrats have been doing. Anyway, here is the message.

Dear MoveOn member,

After the midterm election, many of us wondered: How would President Obama respond?

So far, we’ve been happily surprised. As The New York Times reports, “Mr. Obama has flexed his muscles on immigration, climate change and the Internet, demonstrating that he still aspires to enact sweeping policies that could help define his legacy.”1

These are welcome moves. It appears the President is setting his own course instead of listening to corporate lobbyists and consultants. As I told the Times, “The president has seen what happens when he doesn’t step forward and Democrats don’t inspire the public or their base—we win on the issues, but lose at the polls—so we can’t do worse. Let’s try being bold.2

Click here to sign a thank-you card to the president for his actions and rhetoric since the midterms—and urge him to keep being bold.

There have been other promising signs from national Democrats this past week. Most excitingly: Senator Elizabeth Warren gained a leadership position in the Senate Democratic Caucus. From championing student loan reform to reining in Wall Street, Warren is one of the most passionate and effective voices for the little guy (and gal). Having her in leadership is a huge deal.

But there’s no getting around it: The president will be the last line of defense in the next two years, as the Republican-controlled Senate and House muscle through bad bills on a range of fronts. He’ll be under tremendous pressure to make bad deals with obstructionists and extremists like Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz.

For the next two years, President Obama will have the power to deliver real change—if he has the confidence to follow through with executive actions on issues like immigration reform and climate change, and to stand up to the radical right.

So we need to show support when the president does the right thing—and then push hard to make sure he follows through.

Click here to add your name to the card we’ll send the president. The card reads:

Dear Mr. President,Thank you.

Since the midterm election, you’ve indicated that you’re willing to show real leadership on tackling climate change, protecting a free and open Internet, and reforming immigration—pushing for bold steps in areas where Congress has failed to act.

You’re not alone: Americans from all walks of life want and need you to follow through, and do even more. We need you to use the power of the presidency to make meaningful change on these and other critical issues—like expanding access to health care, pushing for a diplomatic solution to rein in Iran’s nuclear program, raising wages, and building an economy that works for all of us, to name a few.

We urge you to act boldly, and promise to stand with you when you fight for all of us in the months ahead. (And yes, we’ll let you know when we disagree, too!) 

We’ll send President Obama this card, with the names of all the MoveOn members who have signed it—and a personal comment if you want to add one—so he knows that when he stands up for progressive values, we’ve got his back.

Add your name to the card—thank President Obama, urge him to be bold, and be a part of the movement to propel our shared agenda.

The president is showing the grit that inspired us to elect him. We need to get his back when he stands strong—and keep the heat on through the fights ahead.

Thanks for all you do.

–Anna, Alejandro, Nick, Justin K., and the rest of the team

They want him to go full Bourbon and double down on the very policies that lost him control of Congress. If I were more cynical, I would sign that card and do everything I could to encourage President Obama to pursue unpopular policies sure to be a millstone around the necks of every Democrat in 2016, Maybe we can have another tsunami. But, I am not that cynical. The country would be far better off if President Obama worked within the confines of the constitution and tried to meet the opposition halfway than if he tried to rule by decree. Trying to shove unwanted policies down the throats of the voters,, breaking the system in the meantime will only make things difficult for all of us.

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He might lose his head.

 

 

The Comet and the Shirt

November 17, 2014

In earlier times people were afraid of comets. A comet in the sky was seen as a sure sign that impending disaster. It is not too difficult to understand why people would feel that way. Other heavenly bodies, such as the stars and planets move in predictable ways. The Sun rises and sets the same way every day. The Moon goes through its phases. The planets move across the background of the fixed stars. Eclipses were no doubt terrifying, but astronomers learned to predict them in ancient times. Comets, however, seemed to appear out of nowhere then disappear just as quickly. No one could tell what path they would take across the sky. Even the appearance of a comet inspired fear. The Sun and Moon looked circular and the stars and planets were points of light. A comet had a long tail streaming from it. To some the tail might look like a sword indicating divine displeasure with the inhabitants of the Earth. In any case, comets looked and acted like no other object in the heavens and that was enough to worry people.

It wasn’t until the eighteenth century that some of the mystery surrounding comets began to be dispelled. The astronomer Edmond Halley had come to believe that comets had to obey the same laws of gravitation discovered by Isaac Newton as any other object in the Solar System and beyond. He reasoned that comets orbited the Sun like the planets but they had to have extremely elongated elliptical orbits so that they would only come close enough to be observed after many years, perhaps centuries. Halley also noticed there were comet sightings approximately every 75-76 years apart and theorized that they were sightings of the same comet. He predicted that the comet, now called Halley’s Comet would return in 1758. Halley died in 1742, so he didn’t live to see his prediction come true, but his efforts showed that a comet was simply another celestial object with a motion that could be predicted, like any planet. There was nothing to fear from a comet.

Since Halley’s time, astronomers have come to learn more about comets and just this month the Philae lander from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe became the first man made object to land on a comet. The Rosetta probe itself was the first probe to actually orbit  a comet. This should be a proud moment for the European Space Agency and for Project Leader Matt Taylor. Instead, Dr. Taylor has found himself in the middle of a controversy and has been forced to make a tearful apology, because he wore the wrong shirt.

He helped mankind land on a comet, but Dr Matt Taylor may end up being remembered for his risqué sartorial judgement rather than his scientific acumen.

The space scientist broke down in tears today and apologised for wearing a gaudy shirt which featured cartoon images of women wearing bondage gear and firing guns.

During a press briefing this afternoon on the progress of the Rosetta mission, Dr Taylor, the lead scientist, appeared visibly upset and struggled to speak.

Eventually he said: “I made a big mistake and I offended many people and I am very sorry about this.”

Dr Taylor received a reassuring pat on the back from Andrea Accomazzo, the Rosetta flight operations director, as he went on to describe the current state of the mission.

In recent days the heavily-tattooed London scientist had become a firm favourite with the public for his unlikely appearance and enthusiastic interviews.

But the shirt has divided opinion, with many women in the science community accusing Dr Taylor of sexism.

Astrophysicist Katie Mack said earlier this week “I don’t care what scientists wear. But a shirt featuring women in lingerie isn’t appropriate for a broadcast if you care about women in science”

Here is Dr Taylor wearing the offensive shirt.

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Maybe the shirt is in poor taste, but so what? This man landed a probe on a comet. Surely that is more significant than his sartorial choices. After all, no one expects scientists to be fashion plates. What sort of person in their right mind is offended by this? Why do they conclude that Dr Taylor is sending some sort of misogynist message against woman in science? WHy can’t they seem to understand that this might simply be a shirt he happens to like?

With these sort of busybodies, nothing can ever be simply a personal preference with no great cultural message. No act can be a neutral one devoid of political meaning. No one can be a bystander or aspire to simply live their own life and mind their own business. You are either for social justice or against it and Gaea help you it you are perceived to be against it. These people are bullies and totalitarians, the worst sort since they are convinced in their minds that they are eternally on the side of the angels.

I think that Dr Taylor has done us all a great disservice by apologizing for offending people. He has nothing to apologize for and making apologies only enables the bullies. Instead of apologizing, we need to start telling them where they can stick their perpetual feelings of victimization.

 

Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot

November 15, 2014

That was a book written by Al Franken back in 1996, obviously to show he possessed the maturity needed to become a US Senator. This title is the personal opinion of Frankin’s. There are many who might disagree with the opinion that Rush Limbaugh is an idiot, including Mr. Limbaugh but the question of whether Rush Limbaugh is or is not an idiot is not one that is readily decided by any observations and cannot really be determined to be objectively true or false. On the other hand, the statement that Rush Limbaugh is in favor of sexual assault or rape is a statement that can be determined to be true or false based on Rush Limbaugh’s own statements. This is not simply a personal opinion. If someone takes Rush’s words out of context to make the accusation that he believes that sexual assault is acceptable behavior, they are making a statement that is false and potentially damaging to Rush Limbaugh’s reputation. If someone makes the statement, knowing it to be false,with the intention to cause damage to Rush Limbaugh, that is defamation and Rush Limbaugh can take legal action against them.

This is not just a hypothetical case. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee really did make such statements in a campaign to have advertisers boycott Rush Limbaugh’s show and Rush Limbaugh is really considering legal action against them. Here is the story from the Daily Caller.

Radio host Rush Limbaugh has threatened to sue the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) for defamation, The Daily Caller has learned.

Limbaugh retained the services of lawyer Patty Glaser and demanded that the DCCC “preserve all records in anticipation of a lawsuit for defamation and interference” after the Democratic Party group led a campaign against Limbaugh based on out-of-context statements the host made about sexual assault. Limbaugh’s legal team delivered a letter to DCCC representatives Monday informing them of the legal threat. Limbaugh has also demanded a public retraction and apology.

The Limbaugh team is currently proceeding from the standpoint of litigating and has not yet made a decision as to whether the DCCC could make any concessions at this point to prevent the lawsuit.

The DCCC “has intentionally disseminated demonstrably false statements concerning Rush Limbaugh in a concerted effort to harm Mr. Limbaugh, and with reckless disregard for the resulting impact to small businesses across America that choose to advertise on his radio program” according to the GlaserWeil law firm’s letter to the DCCC, which was obtained by TheDC. “Mr. Limbaugh clearly, unambiguously, and emphatically condemned the notion that ‘no’ means ‘yes.’”

“Let’s be clear: Rush Limbaugh is advocating for the tolerance of rape” the DCCC stated in a September fundraising email after Limbaugh mocked Ohio State’s new mandatory sexual consent guidelines. (RELATED: Democrats Attack Rush Limbaugh On Way To November Loss)

Limbaugh’s team said that the DCCC’s campaign against Limbaugh provides grounds for a defamation case, based on legal precedent.

“The DCCC may believe it to be immune from liability by quoting words, taken out of context. This is untrue,” Glaser said. “There is significant on point precedent in the 9th Circuit for holding an organization responsible for falsifying meaning through selective quoting. In Price v. Stossel, the court held that, if a party accurately quotes ‘a statement actually made by a public figure, but presents the statement in a misleading context, thereby changing the viewer’s understanding of the speaker’s words,’ that constitutes defamation.”

I don’t much care for litigation of any sort, but I hope Rush Limbaugh goes ahead with this lawsuit. The progressives have shown over and over that telling the truth is simply not an action they value very highly. If slander is useful to gain power and destroy their opponents, they have no trouble with slander. Maybe legal action will teach them better.


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