27 October 2014

Lies, Damn Lies, and

When I was doing a lot of statistical programing, it was often said that, "there are 3 kinds of lies, "lies, damn lies, and statistics." I cannot speak for others, but the people worked for and with, and I worked hard to let the data speak. We did not come to the data with preconceptions. And those who collected the data similarly, sought to gather reality, not some picture they were painting.

So, if I begin with, "Lies, Damn Lies, and _________" what goes into the blank? Thanks to radio ads, here is an answer! Thank you Jim Oberweis!

Oberweis is the current perennial candidate in Illinois. He has run unsuccessfully for various State offices, and is the current Republican nominee for Senate. I am cynical enough to think he got the nomination because no rational person wanted to run against Senator Durbin. Oberweis, whom I would never suggest is a reasonable person seems however to think he has a chance, and is running a lot of ads. He has an advantage to the GOP, a combination of unbridled ambition, and a lot of money. So he can largely self-finance a doomed campaign.

Which leads back to our blank. Believe it or not, Oberweis is out with an ad that tries to blame Senator Durbin for, "the gridlock in Washingon!" OK, go ahead and laugh: I did!

Washington where the (Republican) Speaker says success is measured by not passing bills, where (Republican) Senator Cruz and (Republican) Congressman Ryan consider letting the government shut down a good thing, in that Washington, somehow a Democratic Senator is responsible for gridlock!

Apparently Faux News logic is contagious. I suppose if Senator Durbin were in favor of dismantling equality for various minorities, impeaching the president for criminal Blackness, and outlawing unions, there would arguably not be gridlock.

So, my little blog has an endorsement. Illinois, re-elect Richard (Dick) Durban. As a US Senator, he is diligent, has a good record of being willing to work on a bi-partisan basis to actually solve problems, and maintains a commitment to equal rights. He is in short a reasonable choice. His opponent is the answer to the blank: Lies, Damn Lies, and Oberweis Ads.

24 October 2014

"Old Age Is A Shipwreck"

The story of Marshal Petain, the great general of WWI whose collaboration with the Nazis after France was invaded by Hitler dimmed his achievements is a great tragedy. When he was endorsing the verdict of the trial court that convicted Petain or treason, De Galle is reported to have said, "Old Age is a Shipwreck." Tonight as one of our longest friendships ends with the passing of Brian from life through death to glory, I see the waves breaking on the rocks.

Brian, a PhD mathematician, and amazingly bright man was always good for a joke or observation. He had the remarkably good taste to love Pat who has been Sue-z's best friend since they met in 1960. We four, camping buddies, drinking buddies, and yes sometimes pot smoking buddies, have shared a long road, and a loving road.

Old age is a shipwreck.

Brian lost a leg to diabetes, and a heart valve to aging. He was however in remarkably good spirits when last we talked. He was hoping to get out of rehab and home soon. Things did not work out that way.

He developed pneumonia, and became comatose early this week. As I write this, the hospital staff is withdrawing the life support technology. He likely will die before dawn. His wife will be with him and our prayers for him will carry him heavenward. Ah but it is hard, hard, to loose friends.

Old age is a shipwreck.

Sue-z and I are sitting with my daughter-in-law sipping sweet wine and toasting him and his entry into paradise. We have what our Lutheran friends call the "Glad hope of a joyous reunion." But we are still weeping.

Old age is a shipwreck.

18 October 2014

Tex-Mex Pork Pie

I posted this picture of this on Facebook and had some requests for the recipe. Here it is. I hope you like it.

  • 1 Tbs oil
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds pork shoulder or loin meat.
  • 1 can sweet corn or hominy (either color)
  • 1 Cup salsa (we like white corn and black beans but Salsa Verde might be interesting)
  • 1/2 Cup water
  • 1 shallot
  • 8 - 12 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese shredded.
  • 1 Tsp (or more) Goya brand Adobo all purpose seasoning with Cumin
  • 1 Tsp (or more)chili powder
  • 1/2 Tsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 package GF corn bread mix. We like LiveGFreetm which is the Aldi's tmhouse brand, but Bob's Redmill is good too
  • oil, milk and eggs as required by the mix.
  • A large skillet (I use a 12" cast iron pan, but any heavy oven proof pan will work.)
  • Alternately use two pans, one large saute pan and one large over-proof casserole dish or deep pie or pizza pan.

Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat.
Heat oven to 400f.
Trimming away excess fat, cut the pork into 3/4 to 1" cubes.` Season with Adobo, pepper, chili powder and cumin.
Cook stirring to brown all sides, over medium high until the pork is cooked through, about 7 minutes. Note: the Adobo is very salty. Do not add salt until you taste!
Mince shallot. Add when the pork looks done, and cook stirring frequently until the shallot is softened.
Add Salsa and water. Scrape the bottom of pan if it is not non-stick, to capture any fond. Turn off heat under skillet.
Mix corn bread following package directions.
Carefully taste the liquid in the skillet. Now is your chance to add seasoning if needed. The liquid should be below or at the top of the meat. Add more water if needed. (If you are using the casserole, spray it with non-stick pan spray and transfer the filling from the skillet.)
Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the pan, in an even layer.
Using a large spoon or a scoop, spot the batter over the filling. Use a spatula to spread it into an even layer.
Bake at 400 for 35 - 40 minutes, rotating the pan after 20 minutes. The pie is done when golden and a toothpick comes out of the corn bread clean. Do not go too deep only test the bread.

Remove from oven, let stand at least 5 minutes. Be careful the skillet will be HOT! Serve with a green salad, or for more "taco" effect, shredded lettuce, and guacamole.

16 October 2014

1945? Really?

I was born in 1946. Like most living Americans, I have never seen the Cubs in a World Series. I doubt there are any living Americans born before 1909. The last time the Cubs won was the 1908 series.

Yesterday, Kansas City's Royals won the American League title and a spot in the World Series. Comments by various fans and journalists noted that this is the first time they have done this since 1985. OK, Cubs, want to explain why it has been 69 years since you got to the series?

OK, I admit it - I am a White Sox fan. Our team does get to the series from time to time. Chicago was over-joyed last time we made it. Even Cubs fans were excited. I think it about time Cubs management wasted less energy on the ballpark, and put more into, you know(?) winning?

14 October 2014


There are several ways to look at Scripture. If we are honest with ourselves, we acknowledge the fact that our views, our modes of thinking, and yes our cultures, secular and (perhaps) religious, influence how we understand what we read. Perhaps, indeed, I should say, "the ways" we choose.

His Grace Archbishop Temple, a brilliant thinker on things Biblical is reputed to have observed that the great American heresy was treating the Hebrew Scriptures as a book of laws. Equally, some read the text seeking proof of God's forgiving mercy. Sometimes that works, sometimes it fails, and sometimes it takes chapter after chapter to catch even a glimpse. Others read it as history, or poetry, or in the case of skeptics, ancient magic thinking.

Problems with these approaches abound. Consider two. One, any approach that tries to assign one singular meaning to the entire Bible, is wrong. The text is not conformed to one theme or viewpoint. Two, if we approach with a presupposed over-arching theme, we are engaged in eisegesis - attempting to bring a story line into the text makes us read our thoughts, not God's, or even the author's.

Recently, my son Stephan and I have noticed a disturbing trend. Writers from both liberal sources (cf. Huffington Post) and very conservative (Jewish and evangelical "Christian" commentators) have sought to tie ISL, Hamas, and in some cases Palestinians generally to the ancient Amalekites. In one sense, this is predictable. The low quality of scholarship that infests those who seek to use God as a political tool is overwhelmingly evident on the American right wing. Given the incredible stupidity that the likes of Phyllis Schlafly, Rafael Cruz, and Mike Huckabee engage in, nothing should shock us.

None-the-less, when columnists, bloggers, and commentators start reaching for the same relatively obscure references in Judges, 1 Samuel, and 1 Chronicles, I am moved to ask why? No, I am not about to indulge in some fanciful conspiracy theory. For one thing, unlike Mrs. Schafly, I do not have the Obamas to use as demonic figures. Why, unlike her, I accept the clear reality that Mrs. Obama is a girl! And yet something it appears, is happening.

If you were fortunate to miss or forget the Sunday School lessons on any of the, few, very ancient references to king Amalek, or his people; here is a brief refresher or introduction. As the Hebrews were sojourning through the deserts South and East of Canna, they encountered indigenous people. Exodus 17 recounts their clash with the Amalekites who, unlike other kingdoms, did not respond well to Moses's asking for permission to march peaceably through their territory. So, reluctantly of course, the Hebrews fought. The Hebrews won. The story of the aftermath of the battle is in these verses.
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this as a reminder in a book and recite it in the hearing of Joshua: I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.’ 15 And Moses built an altar and called it, The Lord is my banner. 16 He said, ‘A hand upon the banner of the Lord![a] The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.’Exodus 17,14-16, New Revised Standard Version

Considering how obscure the story on this battle had become, we might argue that this had been done. No one, except a very few scholars, has been thinking about Amelek or his people for a long, long time.

So again, why the sudden references? Why conflate these ancient people with modern Arabs, Syrians, and Muslims in general? We need to look deeper.

And there it is!
One day Samuel said to Saul, “It was the Lord who told me to anoint you as king of his people, Israel. Now listen to this message from the Lord! 2 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has declared: I have decided to settle accounts with the nation of Amalek for opposing Israel when they came from Egypt. 3 Now go and completely destroy[a] the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.”1 Samuel 15: 1-3 New Revised Standard  Version

I began by saying that there are lots of ways to read Scripture. The worst, the most despicable, is to seek an excuse for evil. And here we are! Suddenly it is clear that what is going on is precisely that use. If we are seeking to eliminate the bad taste in the mouths of the West after the horror modern Israel visited on Gaza, well that is what God says should happen to the Amalekites! If Israel, Turkey, or USA contemplate scorched earth warfare against either the Syrian government, such as it is and what there is of it, or ISL, well, they are Amalekites.

And that, I fear this explains why suddenly we are being reminded of Amalek, Agog, and Saul. You see, Samuel renounces the kingship of Saul. Saul's failure is he does not kill all of Amalek's tribe and spares his descendant, King Agog, who incidentally was his cousin. And, if we follow the intellectually bankrupt argument to its logical conclusion, why we in the West can kill Amalekites too. After all, Samuel told us God expects us to wipe them out.

At the end of the day, I do find not a conspiracy. Rather a whole group of people trying for ,their own disparate reasons to justify unrestricted warfare, and killing. We might prefer the conspiracy!

13 October 2014

Open Letter to Stephanie Miller

I listened to your and Stephanie's reactions to a call today with some sadness. You took a call from, "Stephan" regarding marriage. He said that he thinks that the next barrier to fall should be those polygamous marriages that involve immigrants arriving, from Islamic or other countries that recognize such marriages. He suggested that the refusal of such recognition is an effective bar to immigration as second or other wives do not share legal status with the first wife. He would have noted that "bigamy" laws are also a disincentive.

Unfortunately, you chose to assume, incorrectly, that he is a rightwing troll seeking to tarnish the newly legal LGBT marriage rights. Neither you nor Stephanie gave him a chance to explain.

Stephan is my son. He is no rightwinger and raised in a family that has supported LGBT rights for decades, he is not opposed to marriage equality. He works for Muslims and actually knows that one argument against immigration can be the legal status of "second wives.

I can think of a dozen problems with polygamy, and probably miss a few. But in the case of previously married candidates for immigration, the objections fall. Our Anglican church has dealt with the problem for years in Africa, where converts come to us with multi-wife issues. We have learned that saying, "ok, but no more!" is the compassionate choice. Anything else places women at extreme disadvantage.

Which is where Stephan hoped the conversation would go. And frankly it should have gone.

Respectfully, you blew it.

09 October 2014

Is there something, anything, Republicans won't say?

One of the dolts given us by the Tea Party is busily lying about ISL. He has fabricated 10 jihadists whom, according to his fantasy, the Border Patrol stopped as they attempted to infiltrate Texas. His, "message?" Re-elect him so that he and his fellow paranoiacs can create a fortress America. A nation that will exclude Muslims, and Ebola carriers, which Mr. Obama because of his ties to West Africa (do not mention he is Black) won't do.

You have to hand it to him: finding another group even if it is imaginary, to exclude is in line with the ideology!

There must be some excuse for voting for these Tea Party mopes. I simply cannot think of what it is. Oh wait! Thanks to Laura Ingram, I think I found it. Mr.Obama is (a) a Democrat, and (b) Black. Sometimes writing a short post is a great way to work out the details.
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