Friday, February 12, 2016

DEMOCRATIC DEBATE - THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2016


The debate tonight was the best thus far in the presidential campaign, in no small part due to the excellence of Gwen Ifil and Judy Woodruff as moderators and that the sponsor was PBS.  The two asked intelligent, probing questions without venturing into easy gotcha territory.  The contrast between Democratic and Republican debates is stark.  What I saw on the stage were two adults engaged in a civil debate.  I admit that with only two candidates in the race, the appearance of a free-for-all is easier to avoid, but, even if the GOP narrows the field down to two, I doubt we'll see a debate of this caliber.

To me, Clinton looked strong and won the debate, though Sanders got in a few good licks about her vote in favor of the Iraq war and her reference to Henry Kissinger's compliment on how well she ran the State Department.  By now, Clinton probably hopes young people don't know who the hell Kissinger is.

Once again, Sanders answered a number of questions by turning away from the substance of the question to commentary about Wall Street, thus reinforcing the impression of a Johnny One-Note.  Of course, he is not, but he's beginning to remind me of Young Marco Rubio with the Wall Street repetitions.  Clinton scored with the reference to Sanders' votes on gun regulations and his recent and not-so-recent criticisms of President Obama.  Though Sanders often caucused and voted with Democrats, he remains a newly-minted Democrat.

Clinton appeared calm and composed, while Sanders seemed impatient and even agitated at times, waving his hands with his face turning red.  A number of people call Clinton cold, and I understand how calm can translate to cold, but I'm not looking for a BFF for president, and I prefer calm to agitation. When Sanders repeatedly raised his hand as a signal that he wanted to speak, I couldn't help but think, "Teacher, teacher!  Call on me!"

Both candidates favor health care coverage for everyone, but they have different approaches to get there.  Of Sanders' plan for a single payer plan, economist Paul Krugman notes that the numbers don't add up.

Also, while Sanders calls his plan "Medicare for All", it is no such thing because on his campaign website, he says:
As a patient, all you need to do is go to the doctor and show your insurance card. Bernie’s plan means no more copays, no more deductibles and no more fighting with insurance companies when they fail to pay for charges. 
Sounds great, but Sanders' plan is not "Medicare for All".  I know because my health insurance coverage is through Medicare, and I pay deductibles and copays, even with a supplemental insurance policy. So, is it "Medicare for All" or something entirely different?  Also, as Krugman notes, getting a single payer plan through the House of Representatives is likely to be a non-starter, even if Democrats regain a slim majority in the Senate.  The GOP will retain a majority in the House after the election because so many hold safe seats due to gerrymandered districts.

Clinton's health plan takes a more gradual approach, building on Obamacare to universal coverage, rather than replacing it and starting from scratch. Though there is no guarantee that her plan will pass in Congress if Clinton is elected, it seems somewhat more possible and definitely more realistic.

Clinton's closing statement was powerful and served to define her campaign.  A quote is below:
We agree we've got to get unaccountable money out of politics. We agree that Wall Street should never be allowed to wreck main street again.

But here's the point I want to make tonight.  I am not a single-issue candidate and I do not believe we live in a single-issue country. I think that a lot of what we have to overcome to break down the barriers that are holding people back, whether it's poison in the water of the children of Flint or whether it's the poor miners who are being left out and left behind in coal country, or whether it is any other American today who feels somehow put down and depressed by racism, by sexism, by discrimination against the lgbt community against the kind of efforts that need to be made to root out all of these barriers, that's what I want to take on.
 
Below is a quote from Sanders' closing statement, which also defines his campaign.
This campaign is not just about electing a president. What this campaign is about is creating a process for a political revolution in which millions of Americans, working people who have given up on the political process, they don't think anybody hears their pains or their concerns.
 Young people for whom getting involved in politics is as, you know, it's like going to the moon. It ain't going to happen. Low income people who are not involved in the political process.
 What this campaign is not only about electing someone who has the most progressive agenda, it is about bringing tens of millions of people together to demand that we have a government that represents all of us and not just the 1 percent, who today have so much economic and political power.
Yes, "like going to the moon."  In the real world, the only revolution we're likely to see in the near future is if Republicans take the presidency, the majority in the Senate, and the majority in the House (which is certain), and it will not be pretty.

Keep in mind that when Sanders first entered the race, I favored his candidacy and contributed to his campaign, but, over the course of time, I've come to favor Clinton.  I still believe that having Sanders in the race is a net positive, but I hope the supporters of the two candidates don't tear each other apart before the election.  From my experience, Sanders supporters have been much more intemperate in their criticism of Clinton and her supporters than the other way around, even to the point of declaring that if she is the nominee, they will not vote, or they will vote for Trump.  That, in my opinion, is madness.  The stakes in this election are high, and the country will be in a very bad way with Republicans in control of Congress and the presidency.  Make no mistake: If Sanders is the nominee, he will surely have my vote.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

'INDOCHINE" AND "THE LAST METRO"

Two recent films from Netflix, Indochine (1992) and The Last Metro (1980), both starring Catherine Deneuve, were enjoyable and well worth watching.   As a side note, from the first time I saw Deneuve in a film, I longed to look like her, and I was well past my teen years.  I still want to look like her.

Indochine is long and sometimes moves at a rather slow pace, which I don't mind, so long as the movie holds my interest.  Scenes throughout Indochine interrupt the slowness to startle, sometimes with violence and nearly always with a rush of events taking place in a short space of time.  The setting is French Indo-China during the 30s and 40s when the seeds of rebellion against colonialism were already sprouting.  I remembered very little of the film besides the gorgeous scenery and cinematography, Deneuve's usual beauty, and her romance with the younger French naval officer, so it was a bit like seeing the film for the first time.  Little had I realized what a beautiful country Vietnam is before I saw the movie the first time.  The story is well-scripted and directed, and the actors, especially Deneuve, are excellent.

It's still a mystery to me why the powers-that-be in the US ignored the recent history of the French war in Indo-China that lasted 15 years and foolishly decided to launch a war in the country, which resulted in deadly, tragic consequences.  The domino theory of the threat of the spread of communism in Asia, along with our hubris in imagining we could stop the movement and impose our version of democracy in the country produced a folly beyond our imaginings.  Colonialism is always cruel, but our attempt to "fix" the country was no less cruel.

The Last Metro (1980), written and directed by François Truffaut, takes place during the occupation of Paris by the Nazis during World War II.  Along with Deneuve, a young Gérard Depardieu, appears in the film.   A number of the scenes in the movie are dark, literally, because they are set outside at night or in the basement of a theater, where Deneuve's husband (Heinz Bennent), the owner and producer of the theater, is hiding from the Nazis because he is Jewish.  The darkness is quite appropriate as the occupation of Paris was indeed a dark time.  The title refers to the curfew when Metro service was cut off at a certain time in the evening, and Parisians could not be out and about. As is often the case, Truffaut leaves us in the end with surprise and ambiguity.

Both films are in French with English subtitles, for which I'm grateful.  I hate dubbed foreign language movies.  I'll never forget the dubbed Italian film during which I could hardly keep from laughing out loud in the theater, as I watched the Italian actors speak with Midwestern American accents.   I intended for the reviews to be short and sweet, but I'm too much like The Long-Winded Lady, Maeve Brennan, who wrote for The New Yorker some years ago, except I don't write nearly as well.

The Netflix DVD mail program is a treasure trove of fine older films, which will probably end sooner or later as the company moves exclusively to streaming, but I will be very sorry.  One plus for the DVD program is that new movies are usually available on DVD sooner than for streaming on the internet.   Also, once the company owns the DVD, it is theirs, whereas streaming rights can be withdrawn at any time.

Monday, January 25, 2016

AS THE ANGLICAN WORLD TURNS CONTINUED- JUSTIN WELBY REFLECTS ON THE PRIMATES MEETING

The Anglican Communion is a family of churches with roots in Anglicanism and the Church of England.  Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is "first among equals" of the primates (chief bishops) of Anglican churches around the world.  He is also the leader of the Anglican Church in England. 

After a recent gathering of Anglican primates in Canterbury, England, Archbishop Welby published a reflection on the meeting.
As leaders of the family of Anglican churches in a world so racked by violence and fear, we gathered in Canterbury with much to share and discuss – from climate change to religiously motivated violence.  A significant part of the week was spent discussing how – or even if – we could remain together as the Anglican Communion in the light of changes made by our brothers and sisters in The Episcopal Church (the historic Anglican Communion church in the USA and some other countries) to their understanding of marriage. (My emphasis)
The present policy in the Episcopal Church is to welcome all members of the church to all the sacramental rites of the church, including Christian marriage for faithful, committed couples of the same sex.  The question as to whether Christian marriage always consists in the lifetime union of one man and one woman would seem to me to have been settled by acceptance of divorce by Anglican churches.  Jesus himself never spoke of same sex marriage, but he spoke clearly about divorce.  If it was possible for Anglicans to overcome their scruples about divorce, then why has the union of faithful couples of the same sex become so serious a matter as to provoke threats of schism before the primates gathering?  As it was, the primate of the Anglican Church in Uganda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, left the meeting early to protest the failure of a vote for a resolution asking the primates of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to leave the meeting.  Later in the meeting, sanctions were imposed on the Episcopal Church. 
We remain committed to being together, albeit we asked that TEC, while attending and playing a full part in our meetings and all discussions, will not represent the Anglican Communion to other churches and should not be involved in standing committees for a period of three years. During this time we also asked that they not vote on matters of doctrine or how we organise ourselves.
So. The Episcopal Church was pushed to the margins of the Anglican Communion for instituting policies and practices that include justice and equality for all its members.  Archbishop Welby continues.
There will be wounds for each other, but we must repent of wounding others who are especially vulnerable, whether they are LGBTI people or those menaced by religiously-motivated violence, terrorism and exile. Some, of course, will fall in many categories.

But that unity is also joyful and astonishing, renewing and nourishing – because it is unity in love for Jesus Christ, whose single family we are, often argumentative, sometimes cruel (which is deeply wrong) but created by God and belonging to each other irrevocably.
From my vantage in the Episcopal Church, it's impossible for me to view the "unity" that came from the primates gathering as "joyful and astonishing, renewing and nourishing". What a strange way to comment on a policy which wounds and continues to discriminate against the Episcopal Church for practicing justice and equality.

Also, since marriages of couples of the same sex remain forbidden in the Church of England, how is it possible for Justin Welby to imagine that LGTB persons and their supporters in his own church take joy, renewal, or nourishment from the outcome of the primates meeting?  Pain and astonishment perhaps at the continuing injustice which wounds the members of the archbishop's own church, but there is no joy.  That's not to mention LGTB members of Anglican churches in other countries in Africa and the Global South, where persecution and discrimination are much more severe, who look to Christians in the West for help and support.

Does Justin Welby himself believe what he says? Does he expect LGTB Anglicans and members of TEC to believe what he says? The archbishop apologizes for marginalizing groups of people, but he does not change his ways.  How is his apology in any way sincere when he continues to wound and marginalize? The marginalized will believe him when he practices justice and equality.

In the end, church policies affect real people, which I wonder if Anglican church leaders forget, or, if they remember, they quickly put such thoughts out of their minds.  Since I have gay and lesbian friends in the Church of England, I care very much about policies and practices that not only hurt my friends and many others but also result in destructive, long-lasting consequences in their lives.

Photo of Justin Welby from Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

AS THE ANGLICAN WORLD TURNS

Colbert King, of The Washington Post, writes in an opinion piece on the continuing drama:
Last week, the Anglican Communion, the worldwide collection of national and regional churches that consider themselves Anglican or Episcopalian, suspended the U.S. Episcopal Church from full participation in the global body because of its decision to perform same-sex marriages. The suspension should have been the other way around. It is the Anglican Communion that deserves sanction. It, not the Episcopal Church, of which I am a member, has departed from the faith and teachings of Jesus with its un-Christian treatment of gay men and women.
The information in the column is generally accurate, but I'd note a few corrections. It was a gathering of Anglican primates (chief bishops) of the various member churches, not the Anglican Communion, that "sanctioned" the Episcopal Church. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby of the Church of England, the first among equals among the primates, later referred to "consequences" rather than "sanctions". Whatever. The majority of the primates are opposed to our church's welcoming LGTB members to all sacramental rites of the church, including Christian marriage. The gathering of primates has no power to legislate or enforce such "sanctions", "consequences", or "suspension", so we shall see what follows for the church.

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, spoke with grace and eloquence following the meeting. 
This has been a disappointing time for many, and there will be heartache and pain for many, but it’s important to remember that we are still part of the Anglican Communion. We are the Episcopal Church, and we are part of the Jesus Movement, and that Movement goes on, and our work goes on. And the truth is, it may be part of our vocation to help the Communion and to help many others to grow in a direction where we can realize and live the love that God has for all of us, and we can one day be a Church and a Communion where all of God’s children are fully welcomed, where this is truly a house of prayer for all people. And maybe it’s a part of our vocation to help that to happen. And so we must claim that high calling; claim the high calling of love and faith; love even for those with whom we disagree, and then continue, and that we will do, and we will do it together. 
The link above includes the full text and the video of Bishop Curry's comments.

Monday, January 18, 2016

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR - IN MEMORIAM


I temporarily lost my Thunderbird email account and spent most of my day trying to retrieve it. which I finally, finally did after many failed attempts and much frustration.

Since we honor the memory of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr today, I wanted to post my own memorial, but the day is nearly past. I was going to voice a reminder that Dr King's courage and strength in the struggle for justice and equality for African-Americans was rooted and grounded in his Christian faith and in his reverence for the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. A friend posted the following link to an article in Salon on his blog which I share here. Please do not be put off by "macroethcs" in the title. I learned much from the article of Dr King's suffering during the struggle and about what kept him going. It's well worth a read.

A brief quote:
As the leader of the Montgomery bus boycott, King’s home telephone rang constantly with hateful sworn oaths that an ignominious death was soon to greet him. After many days and nights of venomous threats, he received one that was particularly chilling: In no uncertain terms the caller promised to murder King’s entire household unless he resigned his leadership of the boycott and left town for good. For the 26-year-old King it was finally too much; he decided to cast the mantle of leadership upon other, less fearful shoulders. King relates that as he agonized over how he might remove himself from leadership without appearing to be a coward, be became aware of a voice speaking to him. The voice said, “Martin Luther stand up for righteousness, stand up for justice, stand up for truth.”
Thanks to Rmj at Adventus for the link.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

HOUSE OF DEPUTIES RESPONSE TO SANCTIONING OF EPISCOPAL CHURCH BY PRESIDENT JENNINGS

Statement from Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church.

Well said, Gay.
The practical consequences of the primates’ action will be that, for three years, Episcopalians will not be invited to serve on certain committees, or will be excluded from voting while they are there. However, the primates do not have authority over the Anglican Consultative Council, the worldwide body of bishops, clergy and lay people that facilitates the cooperative work of the churches of the Anglican Communion. I serve as a representative to that body, along with Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut, a four-time deputy before his election as bishop, and six-time Deputy Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine of the Virgin Islands, and I am planning to travel to Zambia for our scheduled meeting in April and to participate fully. 
Excellent.  The Anglican Consultative Council will have to follow up with action or the "sanctions", (which apparently are now not really "sanctions", but rather "consequences"), voted on in the primates meeting will have no force.   The majority of the primates at their gathering intend to put the Episcopal Church on the naughty step because of its policy to welcome everyone to the church and to extend equality to same sex couples to share in all sacraments and activities in the church.

EPISCOPAL CHURCH SANCTIONED AT ANGLICAN PRIMATES GATHERING

Canterbury Cathedral

Susan Russell says it well at The Huffington Post.  Imagine! The Episcopal Church was sanctioned for being inclusive!
Today's statement from the Anglican Primates sanctioning the Episcopal Church for moving forward on marriage equality was sad but not surprising. The Episcopal Church being blamed for "impaired communion" between constituent members of the 38 autonomous churches making up the worldwide Anglican Communion is news to absolutely no one who has followed the long running saga of the Anglican Inclusion Wars.
If you wonder what a primate is, or you think you already know, an Anglican primate is the chief bishop in a country or region. If you think that perhaps a more suitable label could have been chosen, I agree.

Our primate, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, made me proud with his response to the announcement of the sanctions.
Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all. While I understand that many disagree with us, our decision regarding marriage is based on the belief that the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians are true for the church today: All who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A NEW DAY IN LOUISIANA - GOVERNOR JOHN BEL EDWARDS


Today is Monday, January 11, 2016, and inauguration day for Governor John Bel Edwards. All good wishes and blessings to our new governor and his family.   The other Edwards, Edwin, (no relation) was there on the platform, looking good, along with other previous governors, Kathleen Blanco, Buddy Roemer, and, of course, Bobby Jindal. Bye-bye, Bobby.

I noted that in the oath of office of the newly elected officials, support for the laws of the US Constitution is mentioned before the support of the laws of the Louisiana Constitution, indicating that Louisiana is indeed still part of the United States of America.

Edwards offered hope to citizens of Louisiana after eight dispiriting and depressing years of governorship by Jindal, but he did not mince words about the difficulty of lifting the state out of the morass into which the previous governor and legislature left Louisiana.  I view the members of the previous legislature, with exceptions, of course, as complicit, because Jindal could not have plundered Louisiana without their cooperation.   I hope the next legislature, which includes many Jindal supporters, will be willing to lay aside their differences and cooperate with the new governor to rebuild institutions and programs that were destroyed during Jindal's eight years in office.

As Governor Edwards said:

The breeze of hope that got us here today will also drive a current of change as mighty as the Mississippi. But this river can't flow unless the breeze continues. We must put action before idleness, unity before party, and citizenship before self in order to put Louisiana first.
The text of Edwards' inaugural address may be found here.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

WHAT IF THE WORST HAPPENS?


Michael Gerson in the Washington Post:
Every Republican of the type concerned with winning in November has been asking the question (at least internally): “What if the worst happens?”

The worst does not mean the nomination of Ted Cruz, in spite of justified fears of political disaster. Cruz is an ideologue with a message perfectly tuned for a relatively small minority of the electorate. 
....

No, the worst outcome for the party would be the nomination of Donald Trump. It is impossible to predict where the political contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton would end up. Clinton has manifestly poor political skills, and Trump possesses a serious talent for the low blow. But Trump’s nomination would not be the temporary victory of one of the GOP’s ideological factions. It would involve the replacement of the humane ideal at the center of the party and its history. If Trump were the nominee, the GOP would cease to be. 
Michael, Michael, the "humane ideal at the center" of the Republican Party disappeared years ago, and the racist, sexist, loathsome Donald Trump candidacy of today is the creation of the GOP, your very own Frankenstein's monster, who is now out of control.  Trump says in plain language what the other so-called establishment Republican candidates speak in veiled code language.  (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, you know what I mean.)

As for Hilary Clinton's "manifestly poor political skills", I wonder if you watched any part of the eleven hour Benghazi!!! hearings, in which Clinton made Trey Gowdy and the other Republicans on the committee look like bumbling fools.  Maybe it's just me, but I thought Clinton's political skills, intelligence, and stamina were very much in evidence.  She would not only perform well against candidate Trump but perhaps send him over the edge to the point where even Republicans would vote for her, or, if they could not bear to cast a vote for a Democrat, they would not vote and perhaps even stay home, which would affect not only the presidential vote but down-ticket Republican candidates. 

Further, the GOP "conservatism" of today quite obviously does not involve "respect for institutions and commitment to reasoned, incremental change" and has not for quite a number of years.

You say:
Liberals who claim that Trumpism is the natural outgrowth, or logical conclusion, of conservatism or Republicanism are simply wrong. Edmund Burke is not the grandfather of Nigel Farage. Lincoln is not even the distant relative of Trump.
You are wrong, Michael. The members of the so-called "center" of the GOP, who no longer have an influential voice in the party, stayed silent through the worst of the excesses perpetrated by Republican members of Congress, thus giving them free rein to vote for their extremist agenda, with the result that the two candidates who now lead in the polls are Trump and Cruz.

Two quotes come to mind:

Silence is the voice of complicity.  (Fr Roy Bourgeois)

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.  (Hosea 8:7)

Friday, January 8, 2016

"MEANWHILE, IN OTHER MINDS..." - A POEM BY MARTHE G. WALSH

While you were living
    your life far away
the ones left behind,
    remembered in stray
thoughts between grieving
    and hints of regret,
got on with the business
    of calm and upset,
getting and spending
    and counting their hours
of meaning as special
    to no one in towers,
each decision made
    or left up to fate
creating a story
    of personal weight.
While you were living
    some thrived and some died,
saved letters unanswered
    a question of pride,
an after effect
    of striving to be,
fault, flaw or a strength earned,
    but never quite free
of lingering truth,
    a perception built
(how flimsy the cover!)
    on spit shine and guilt,
pretend that the bridge
    is the water gone,
no way of return or
    flash flood on your lawn.
While you were living
    in backwash still trapped
the ones carelessly used,
    just twigs to be snapped,
prospects promising
    melted like late snow
scattered by Spring’s first breath
    in a rush to go
anywhere not here,
    something new the lure,
change and motion required
    to escape the sure
effects of choices,
    the slippery slide,
want or need pragmatic?
    Let the dust decide.
While you were living
    no real turning back,
just rare sentimental
    re-shuffling the stack
of photos fading
    and intentions kind
accounted as actions
    then put out of mind,
no time to trouble
    with troubles not yours,
unchosen, conflicted,
    charity check chores.
And yet we hold you
    in memory clear,
as if you were standing
    still close, ever dear.
Splendid poem. I see myself in some of the lines. I'm grateful to Marthe for sending her poems and allowing me to publish them on my blog, which, alas, languishes from neglect.