13 December 2014

No Excuse

Somehow, the idea that if the use of torture produces, "actionable intelligence" it is acceptable has slithered into the debate arising from the Senate report. I am appalled. Nothing in the national experience or the literature suggests that torture produces useful information, and yet there is one thing that has to be shouted: it does not matter. There is no advantage, none, that justifies this evil.

One of the many things Ayn Rand was wrong about is the simple fact is that there are actual moral norms. Some things, torture among them simply never can be acceptable. Ever! Immoral conduct does not become moral because we might gain some (illusory) advantage.

If I were younger, and thought anyone would take me, I would consider emigrating. A nation that uses evil we once condemned at Nuremberg, no longer deserves allegiance. A nation that protects former Vice-president Cheney is no nation of laws. I recall being told by "conservatives" that, "America is the moral actor in international affairs." No one can defend that proposition after this report.

This is what Cheney and the torturers have done. They captured no terrorists, made the country less secure, and taken giant steps towards the destruction of our democratic country. I fear that such destruction is precisely what the theocrats want. If this is not bad enough, the failure of the Obama administration to prosecute the evildoers and incredibly using the defense offered at Nuremberg, obeying orders, makes the stench worse.

Maybe it is time to paint the wagon.

12 December 2014

So let it be with Cesar

When I was a high school student, Lyon's Twp High, uniquely in the Chicago area, required that we read a fair amount of Shakespeare. I treasure that aspect of my education. Knowing Shakespeare's plays or at least some of them, not only helps a person understand a lot of common phrases, it also leads, as our instructors believed, to an appreciation of good writing.

So, when I read this amazing report I was carried back to a part of Julius Ceasar I memorized and delivered back in 1961. Here is Marc Antony, in his famous eulogy for Ceasar
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.

Shakespeare, "Julius Ceasar," Act III Scene II found at:http://shakespeare.mit.edu/julius_caesar/full.html

Yes(!) the Anglican Communion Office still considers the Covenant to be under provincial review! I suppose we should not be surprised. One of the many criticisms that the No Anglican Covenant Coalition leveled was that it came without any time limits on ratification.

This is a problem we Americans know a bit about. The U.S. Constitution requires that amendments be circulated to the States for approval. Initially, no time constraints applied. At one point a number of amendments, some rather frivolous, were in the approval process and had been so for decades.

So now the question becomes what to do with a thoroughly discredited Covenant that no one really thinks will help the Communion either find or retain cohesion? The answer is "no one knows." What we do know is the thing is simply not going to be the governing framework for the Communion. England, Canada, Scotland, Brazil, New Zealand, and most of Africa have rejected it. TEC will never approve it, but was misled into a sort of limbo, away from simple honesty by a committee chair who certainly should have known better.

The good that Rowan Williams did while Archbishop is largely forgotten. The singular failure of his term, his decent into institutionalism, is enshrined in the Covenant and lives on. His successor cannot convene a "primate's meeting," nor a meeting of the ACC, because either would make the schism visible. Were he to call any such meeting, a substantial number of, "GAFCON" churches would boycott. The illusion of a unified or even fractious community would vanish. Only one on those meetings might be able to formally kill the Covenant. But even that authority could be disputed. No matter, there simply won't be a meeting.

And so, as is so often the case, the evil men, do lives on. Shakespeare was right about Ceasar and right about archbishops. While that evil lives on, those of us who helped, even in some minor way, stop the drive to destroy the Communion, must remain vigilant. Evil lives on.

01 December 2014

Another Embarrasment Departs

Elizabeth Lauten was until recently, a highly placed staffer for a Republican Congressman. Over the weekend, she ended her career when she Tweeted a nasty attack on Sasha and Malia Obama. The sisters, looking like bored teenagers attended the "pardoning" ceremony for Mac and Cheese, the two lucky turkeys Mr. Obama, "pardoned" this year.

This whole ceremony is a recent tradition. Mr. Truman began it in 1947. It appears a number or the "pardoned" turkeys were eaten over the years, but of late they have been given a chance to live out their lives on a farm.

The simple fact is the whole thing is sort of silly. But, silly can be cute, and America can use some cute in its excessively partisan world. One of the rules, not one in concrete or law, but deeply in custom, is that politicians do not attack each other's kids. Ms. Lauten broke that rule. Now she has, "resigned." "Resigned" is frequently in political circles a nice word for "fired." I do not know exactly what happened, whether she offered to resign or was asked. The impact of her lack of restraint is clear.

In our 24 hour, 7 day a week news cycle, with social media at the ready every moment, any lapse can be and likely will be costly. The question is should that be the way we live? Yes, the comment was beyond rude. And yes, it broke to no kids ar attacked rule. And yes Mr. & Mrs. Obama have stayed quiet and "above the fray" as the saying goes. And yes, Ms. Lauten has paid for her error.

My only question is should that be the result? Actually, I have two questions. The other has to do with the, "talk show hosts" who make her lack of manners look like great behaviour. How do they keep their jobs and influence?

29 November 2014

Statute of Limitations

Some of the news is making me think about how long penalties continue, or how long we hold something against a person.

Consider the sad case of Ray Rice. The facts of his conduct are not in dispute. He did punch his then girlfriend, and knock her out. The NFL, with its suddenly heightened sense of outrage suspended him, and his team terminated his contract. My understanding is that he and his now wife are working on anger management issues with professional help. Mr. Rice is now, thanks to an arbiter's ruling, eligible to play, and is a free agent. He can be signed by any team in the league.

Mr. Rice is a world class running back. Any team can negotiate a contract and pick up an impact player. He would need to learn the new team's playbook, but if your team is looking at a playoff run, he would be a potential asset. I do not know if he has been working out to stay in playing shape, but my hunch is he has.

So here the questions: will someone offer him a contract? If he does return, will the fans react with anger?

Another case, another profession. In Nevada, the speaker-elect, one Ira Hansen resigned after a newspaper article accused him of being a racist and homophobe. The accusations were based on things he said, some in columns he wrote for a Nevada papter, thirteen years ago.

This man may be a racist homophobe. I do not know. What I do know is that I would not want everything I said or wrote thirteen years ago examined and then used as evidence against me. In thirteen years, my views, and society's views have changed. I may have said something at least insensitive thirteen years ago. Happily, I do not recall, and I do not think anyone else does.

So here is my question. When is enough enough? We have reached a moment that makes, "racist" a totally destructive. "Homophobe," and wife or child abuser are not far behind. Mr. Rice has served his suspension time. Should he be considered by teams that need a running back -- now especially when almost no good backs are available?

I dunno. I have to believe people can learn, that repentance matters. If that is not true, my only hope for eternity is dashed. "Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone."

27 November 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving, with Mother's Day and Independence Day form the triad of civic holidays that in large part define America. We Americans, even and perhaps especially those whose ancestors had no part in the early colonies, claim the first European settlers. We claim their ideas of religious liberty, freedom of thought, rejection of monarchy, and the magnificent poetry Jefferson wrote to declare our independence as our own nation. We affirm our connection to our families in our faithful love of our moms.

In a sense there is nothing unique about this. Everyone, except for the nutcases that form the Taliban, loves and respects their moms. Most people claim and affirm their country, albeit a lot of them seem to want to leave them and come here.

If anything makes us unique, it is the diversity of our ancestors and our fanatic cleaving to our ideas about liberty. Only Canada can come close to our experience of immigrants. Few if any countries demand the "rights" Americans expect.
The temptation, especially on Thanksgiving is to paint the picture of this land in gold tone. We are one nation, under some god or another, joined in the immortal prose of Jefferson and Lincoln. Bound by the vision of Moroe, Madison and Adams, we are we say, one out of many.

Which is why, this day, this year, the violence and racism of Ferguson Missouri, and the disgusting racism in some reactions,  hits so hard. We do not like the mirror's report, nor should we. Ferguson, and Fox show us our failures and our realities: we do not like it.

We do not like the picture because it shows us something we want to deny. Black experience of America is that the police repress, kill, and limit. White experience is that they, "serve and protect." White experience is that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Black experience is that Lt. Berge (ex-Chicago Police) beats confessions from black and Latino people. White Americans tell themselves stories about how race is not the problem, that it is all a matter of class. Black Americans know they are a class.

This holiday, we cannot duck the mirror. We cannot duck the anger that leads African-Americans who should know better to burn their own neighborhoods. Riots never help. Decades after the last race riots in L.A. and Chicago, the burnouts are still visible.

We simply must fix this. Unless we actually become one people forged from many, we are doomed. Paul said that in the kingdom of God, there is neither slave nor freedman. A century and more after the Emancipation, Americans still do not get that. The worst offenders against the freedman, are the loudest proclaimers of the (silly) idea that America is, "a Christian Nation." Read Mathew on judgement, look at what we do, and tremble.
Note: In response to some offline comments. Yes I am sure some member of the Taliban loves and respects his mom. I think he is an exception.

25 November 2014

In the News ... ...

Politicians of all parties have learned to consider the news cycle when releasing information. There is nothing wrong with this. We create the peaks and valleys in impact because how we pay attention varies. That is not the politician's doing and they would be derelict if they paid no attention to our activity. Weekend news is sports news, especially during football season. So stories released in November on a Friday, raise suspicions. Friday evening releases are the intended kiss of death. Someone wants those stories buried - deep.

Bloggers and some news folks, have also learned. We look at what gets released at close of business Friday, and ask "why?"

Which leads us to Benghazi. Friday. At close of business, the House Intelligence Committee released its report on the Benghazi Consulate attack and response. The committee had its choice of release times. No one could compel it to choose one. And like all committees in the House, its controlling majority is Republican. To a significant degree, that is what is won, when a party wins the election.

So, the Republicans wanted the report buried in indifference and football. Now the question becomes why. We know what they did, it is the motive that is worth considering.

In the aftermath of the attack, Republicans have launched a series of over 50 investigations. The intent of these is always proclaimed to be a search for the conspiracy to cover up security failures, refusals of support to embattled security forces, and false statementsx. Over and over again, the investigations do not find any conspiracy to conceal any facts, nor have they identified any procedural failures by the security forces. One might think they are not finding it because it does not exist. Republican loony toons in Congress however, have simply announced another investigation.

Now, the House Intelligence Committee, which is of course controlled by the Republicans, issued its comprehensive report. Congress has subpoena power, and the committee was able to call and investigate anyone they thought might have information. Interestingly, to me at least, the Obama Administration made no assertions of executive privilege. The result? No plot, no refusals of assistance, and no cover up. If anyone has culpability on the U.S. side, it is Congress. The Administration has been asking for and not getting, increased funding for over-seas security.

The GOP now hopes the report, and the political noise around Benghazi will now quietly die. The loony toons, starting with Senator Cruz will forget their support of the vast conspiracy theories.

I do not think so. I think the Democratic Party would be crazy if it failed to waive the 50 some odd investigations the GOP has supported above the head of Speaker Boehner, and whoever is finally the presidential nominee. News cycle or no, this report will not die.

There is an issue out there. But we won't see it discussed. That issue is the pairing of a CIA station with a consulate. And there is another policy question: why did we have a CIA operation in Benghazi. Those questions, the Republicans do not seem to want to ask. And I wonder why. I suspect, but do not know, that the presence of the CIA operation rather than the presence of the consulate, that made the location a target. That no one wants to ask about that leads to the thought that there was something going on.

21 November 2014

Process and Writing

One of the "buttons" on the blog software's editor allows an author to delete a post. This button can be a really handy item.

I think many writers come to appreciate that delete key. We can vent, sometimes both vicious and vociferously, and when we have finished our rant, delete it.Sometimes that is the best thing to do, even when you are right.

That explains why I have not posted for a few days. Posts have been written, but then deleted.

I discourage reading my stuff, such as it is and what there is of it, by some groups. I do not, for instance, generally make the blog visible to the electronic community in my parish, and indeed block some of them. (Bloggers can do that sort of thing.)

My reasons for doing that vari, but the dominant one is a certain desire to avoid uneccesary conflict within the group. I am aware that at least some people are not interested, and are affronted if they are forced to consider, the topic. It is not my role to force them to think about things. And it is my role to try to avoid arguements in some groups.

So, nothing much new here today. I will see about tomorrow.
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