From Kyle Hill of Scientific American:
I hope that the father of the “modern Stone Age family” has thick skin, or else he is going to lose his legs.
Let’s put aside the fact that Fred Flintstone basically runs to work and therefore doesn’t really need his wheels (or that he would need the quads of a god to get them moving). What is much more interesting is the way he stops his caveman car.
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In response to Burr Deming's
Bush Years - the Baseball Presidency
Which makes me cranky because as far as I can see, he was always more interested in golf, baseball, and pretty much everything except the world of public affairs.
- Jonathan Bernstein, April 23, 2012
as quoted by FairAndUnbalanced.com
If you were to substitute basketball for baseball, that would very aptly describe our current president. Oh, and I would also add domestic affairs and foreign policy to the end of that sentence.
The world is crumbling around us and our aloof, corrupt, and opaque president has basically said to the American people, “Let them eat cake”. Bush had some serious flaws, but in the contest of who is the worst president we have ever had, Obama has raced to the very bottom. Carter must be relieved that he no longer holds that honor.
The fact that this arrogant and narcissistic fool has seemingly intentionally further divided the nation, ignored and indeed buried terrorist acts of war such as Benghazi, while calling the Fort Hood terrorist a case of “work place violence”, and intentionally curbed and infringed on numerous constitutional rights for us should have been enough to have an overwhelming call for his impeachment. Of course the progressive ideologues will continue with their unabated agenda, while the low information voters remain ignorant to the liberties they are losing.
It is truly sad when as poor of a president as Bush was, Obama still makes me long for those days of George W.’s administration regardless.
T. Paine, a frequent and generous contributor, also writes for his own conservative site, where the occasional arrogant and narcissistic liberal fool is suffered with unfailing good cheer.
Please visit Saving Common Sense.
The opening of the Presidential Library of George W. Bush draws commentary from Bloomberg's Daniel Drezner. Drezner has always held President Bush in what the late Everett Dirksen, in other contexts, called "minimal high regard." And there is mixed reaction to his mixed review.
Andrew Sullivan pulls, without comment, the concluding sentence:
At best, George W. Bush was a well-meaning man who gave the occasional nice speech and was thoroughly overmatched by events. At worst, he was the most disastrous foreign policy president of the post-1945 era. Am I missing anything?
Kevin Drum of Mother Jones Magazine objects, in a sort of backhanded way through agreement, to Drezner's faint praise.
First, he's been a great ex-president. For such a polarizing political figure, it's remarkable how successfully Bush has receded into private life.
Drum's reaction: "There's not much question that doing nothing puts Bush in his best light."
From George W. Bush, comes this comment about critics in general.
There's no need to defend myself.
Lot's of room for snide agreement there.
Jonathan Bernstein takes issue with the idea, presented by Drezner as a sort of aside, that the image of Bush may improve with time. Bernstein is irritated by the very idea of the Bush presidency itself. He thinks it was irresponsible of Republican officials to shepherd him through to the nomination:
Which makes me cranky because as far as I can see, he was always more interested in golf, baseball, and pretty much everything except the world of public affairs.
My own thought, sent on to Bernstein,is that President Bush could have been a very capable President. It was not a lack of intelligence, or some sort of negative savant incapability. I presented the best case I could just before his Presidency ended in the form of a post from years ago. It focused on one incident involving a connection between foreign policy, which seemed to bore our then President, and baseball, which was his passion.
Jonathan Bernstein responds with an endorsement:
That is a terrific post.
I'm sure I've said this here at some point, but Bush isn't just memorizing batting averages. I've heard him talk about baseball, and he sounds genuinely intelligent -- and I have a pretty high standard when it comes to sounding intelligent about baseball.
It is a generous reaction that has the virtue of being true.
The link will lead to the entire post. This was my original case, presented in May, 2008:
About 2½ years ago, baseball enthusiasts everywhere finally had their triumph. 16 teams from around the world would participate in an international playoff hosted by the United States. It would be a true World Series.
But there was one last major snag. Cuba had some of the best players in the universe, so they pretty much had to be included for the tourney to have any credibility. But our national law made it illegal for any event that would put US currency in the hands of Cuba. The International Baseball Federation said they would cancel the event if Cuba was kept out.
President George W. Bush is a great fan of Baseball. His mind is not attuned, shall we say, to public policy, but he has memorized batting averages back to the 1950s.
So our President intervened. He personally hammered out a solution with the State Department, the Justice Department, the US Treasury, the Cuban government, and organization officials. It got complicated, but President Bush kept negotiations going, and got it all settled. Cuba would play, and would agree in writing to donate all financial proceeds to Katrina victims. The event was a success and Japan came in first. A good time was had by all.
You ready for the point? President Bush proved he could be an effective President. He was not only NOT inept, he was positively … I dunno … ept? He just had to be mentally engaged.
- May 10, 2008
The country would have been better served had every policy been seen through the prism of some sort of baseball analogy. But you can't have everything. We have to be grateful for the blessings we did have.
After all, we survived.
The Second Amendment solution has made its way back into Republican rhetoric.
To be fair, the April newsletter of the Benton County Republican Party in Arkansas mostly talked about throwing out of office anyone who voted the wrong way, which is to say the conservative way, on Obamacare. It began with the busy session of the Arkansas legislature and how hard those representatives were working. But Obamacare had risen up.
The legislature approved the “private option” health plan with 75 percent majorities in both the Senate and House. It’s called the “private option” because it takes Medicaid dollars and uses them to purchase private health insurance for people whose yearly income is less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
This raised concerns:
I have deep seated concerns about this huge expansion of government and the differences of projections of costs to Arkansans with no assurance of better access nor improvement of health care.
From there, the emotional tone became more heated but, for the most part, went into political threats. That is democracy in action, no matter whether the temperature goes beyond what most activists might find comfortable. Threatening election prospects of politicians is what citizens are supposed to do.
There was one disturbing sentence. "I don’t feel the same way about the Democrats as bullet backstops as I do about the Republicans who joined them."
That was a little intemperate. In these days of casual killings of Colorado, Texas, and Virginia officials, as well as a classroom of little kids, an implication like that ought not to go unchecked. Still, the context was one of emotion. As in "I feel so angry I could just..." spit would have been better I suppose. Anything but language that could be taken as a threat.
Chris Nagy is not a Republican official. He is not elected to any GOP position. He is the husband of the county Republican Party secretary.
But his self described "scathing letter" was in the official newsletter of the county Republican Party. Hard to get around that.
The problem with rhetoric by a highly motivated political activist is the temptation toward extreme heat rather than light. Nagy was headed for danger with this. "Part of me feels that this betrayal deserves a quick implementation of my 2nd amendment rights to remove a threat domestic."
Then he dove right on in.
The 2nd amendment means nothing unless those in power believe you would have no problem simply walking up and shooting them if they got too far out of line and stopped responding as representatives. It seems that we are unable to muster that belief in any of our representatives on a state or federal level, but we have to have something, something costly, something that they will fear that we will use if they step out of line.
This was in the official newsletter of the Arkansas Benton County Republican Party.
Some bit of wisdom must have spoken softly inside Mr. Nagy's fevered brain. He acknowledged, with regret, that shooting RINOs, Republicans who had betrayed conservatism by voting to accept federal funds, is not a solution that is in reach. "Personally, I think a gun is quicker and more merciful, but hey, we can’t."
Well, at least we have that.
You can't make too much out of stray comments by some overwrought minor official. And it appears that the author does not have even that status. You have to take a breath when it appears in a publication issued by a political party. But there are a lot of counties out there, and you have to figure someone, somewhere, will put material out that will cross many lines.
As long as Republicans disown those sorts of comments, we might best let it go.
So what are the odds of a conservative uproar along the lines we would have seen a decade ago, when Republicans were far less extreme? What are the chances any national Republican will regard such official rhetoric to be exceptional enough to merit any comment at all?
Oh! There was a more positive note:
The newsletter also proudly announced that "Governor Nikki R. Haley from South Carolina will be our guest speaker at our Lincoln Day Dinner Event"
How generous of the governor to lend her support to such a organization.
Listen As You Go -
Bombing Suspect Killed, Bombing Suspect Hunted Down - Click for Podcast
Introduction, Traditional Service,
9:00 AM, April 21, 2013
St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Florissant, MO
Sunday Message: St. Mark's Mini School
What is our reward when we give of ourselves?
How do we profit from a time of teaching?
What compensation are we given for care?
What payment for kindness?
Each recognition of human worth,
saying a word, helping a friend, teaching a child,
each act of compassion,
sends out a ripple of hope.
Each wave of hope carries a vision.
When we see a child's success
in reading a story,
when we experience a smile of triumph in math,
when children play, when they learn,
we see a brighter future beyond ourselves.
We catch a glimpse of the mountaintop.
We have a newer faith in the promised land.
And we know God's kingdom is now.
Joe Hagstrom at Mad Mike's America is more than a little impatient with discussion, rights, negotiation, or any other internal hesitation about making home countries of terrorists glow in the dark. Sometimes venting can be a palliative.
James Wigderson finds a way to explain to a young children how evil can plague the world. He eloquently bears witness to similar efforts in homes everywhere. It is an important message of helpless wisdom. The only thing harder than being a parent is being a kid.
Infidel 753 reviews speculative, defensive, accusatory reactions to initial lack of information. Some folks can't let a blank page wait. If necessary a dedicated extremist can find substitutes for actual facts.
Chuck Thinks Right is back (YAY_Y_Y_Y) briefly with something truly important, along with a lesson on how to blame a President for not curing a Republican near depression more quickly. Sadly, some criticism of the lack of an instant cure for economic cancer is not well considered. Fortunately, Americans chose not to respond by voting for the cancer.
Ryan at Secular Ethics promises to reprise a traditional, interesting, debate about the existence of Hell. One avenue, that of the threat eternal fire as a motivation for good, was also a topic here, here, and here a while back.
Chris Clarke, writing for Pharyngula, takes us to a small college with an unexpected way of addressing sexual assault and rape. They firmly and apologetically go after the victims for reporting the rapes.
The paralysis of analysis sometimes catches the highly creative. Vincent of A wayfarer's notes dares that trap to close. You can either talk about creativity or you can be creative. Vincent, surprisingly, manages to do both as he talks about the purpose and direction of his writing. Philosophy, scripture, and Richard Dawkins, all have a part. Vincent is amazing.
Sent by a close relative:
They killed one of the bombers and are now hunting down the second one like a dog. They felt like great men when they were blowing little kids legs off. Bet they don't feel so great now.
The fact that there are two suspects makes the Boston bombing a crime resulting from conspiracy. It also makes it less likely the result of some private grudge on the order of the recently hunted and slain police murderer in California, more likely the product of ideologically motivated terrorism.
Today is the anniversary of the first Boston Marathon, a testament to community tradition, the desire of people to belong to, and to include others in, a shared event.
Today is also the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, a testament to the human capacity to dismiss the value of fellow mortals, brothers and sisters, as subordinate to an ideological ideal.
The accidental images of the apparent bombers in videos taken at the Marathon bombings are striking in their casual stroll out of sight. The seeming absence of inner hesitation connects one act of terrorism to others. There is a common membership in a denomination of one shared value.
The complete commitment to an ideal, a perverse purity of spirit, results in a disregard of mere individuals. It goes from a hidden headquarters in Abbottabad to those hiding in bushes during the bombing of a church in Birmingham to the pubs of plotters of countless acts of violence in Belfast. It goes through human history.
It is a twisted communion of blood and flesh, that of random innocents offered in sacrifice to ideology.
It comes from that most dangerous of creatures: those humans who know that God is on their side.
One marathon murder suspect is dead. A second is on the run.
There is hope this one horrible incident of humanity gone wrong, mitigated by so many heroic incidents of humanity gone right, is coming to its close.
History tells us such souls, captured by ever higher visions, will always be with us.
Conservatives across the nation are high fiving over a five minute congressional presentation.
Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) aggressively questioned witnesses in committee about voting laws this week, according to reports. But the news carried on various conservative sites was less about aggressive questions than an aggressive defense of additional Photo ID requirements that South Carolina and other states are putting into place, requirements that will restrict minority voting.
The argument has been going on for a while. Republicans can point to long lines, new laws essentially requiring those voters who do not have drivers licenses; bus and metro riders, students, retirees; essentially to register twice. In Virginia, they will be required to register three times, since newly required Photo IDs they have already gotten have recently been replaced with yet newer, newly required, Photo IDs.
By federal law, the new IDs have to be available and people can't be charged a fee for them. Charging for voting was a common means of keeping "undesirables" from participating in elections in the old south during civil rights struggles. The practice was outlawed. But that doesn't stop states from tossing up a few non-financial roadblocks.
Some states, like Texas and Ohio, combined the new requirements with actions to make it harder to apply for new Photo IDs. Making bus riders travel to less accessible points has been one tactic. Offices in certain areas were suddenly closed. Hours in other offices were restricted. State employees were ordered to refrain from giving directions to remaining offices issuing the new IDs.
The ostensible purpose of all this is to prevent voter fraud. In fact, so little election fraud involves voters it is difficult to find genuine cases of it actually happening. That is because penalties are high, too many people have to be involved in any effort to steal elections with illegitimate voters showing up to vote, and it is easy to get caught. Election stealing happens with creative new ways to fix vote tallies, fiddle with counts, or stuff ballot boxes. None of what works in stealing elections involves voters. It can't.
The wink, nod, and nudge purpose occasionally gets mentioned. It is to make it harder for people to vote if they are more likely to vote for the wrong candidates.
So the Justice Department frequently gets involved. Civil Rights era laws to guarantee voting rights targeted certain areas that actively kept minorities from voting. Conservatives nodded in agreement when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia called voting rights a "perpetuation of racial entitlement".
Which brings us to Representative Trey Gowdy. There were glowing reports in conservative media of his attack on federal supervision. Conservative Noah Rothman of Mediaite offered one of the best, most articulate, of the adoring reports. The headline was "South Carolina GOP Rep. Eviscerates Claims That Voter ID Laws Are Racist During Hearing" which is a pretty good indication of the enthusiastic tone of the report. And sure enough, the key sentence in the introductory paragraph read thusly:
In the space of five minutes, Gowdy knocked down the claims, one by one, that a voter ID law passed in South Carolina in 2011 discriminated against African-Americans or was dissimilar to laws the Justice Department had cleared in a variety of other states.
Wow. All that in just five minutes.
That five minutes was indeed a condensed version of the points conservatives have been offering for restricting voting.
The laws can't be racist because minority lawmakers still get elected. In fact some conservatives lawmakers from mostly white areas are black. Gowdy pointed to two representatives from South Carolina to prove his point: one liberal, the other conservative. The governor is also of minority descent.
The new laws provide photo IDs without cost, which makes them easier to get.
Other parts of the country restrict voting, so its unfair to force South Carolina to allow its citizens to vote.
- The percentage of black citizens who will not be allowed to vote is only 1.6 percent more than white citizens who will not be allowed to vote.
Perhaps conservatives can forgive this weary, aging, liberal Democrat for finding these to be tired old arguments that have been so often discredited, seeing them again is like watching last season's episode of The Walking Dead.
The whole point of gerrymandering is to to push most opposing voters into as few as possible highly concentrated districts so they will elect fewer opposing lawmakers. It's been going on for a very long time. When carried to excess it becomes illegal. It is an interesting phenomenon, one worthy of debate. But it is a separate issue.
The willingness of white conservatives to elect black conservatives speaks well of some aspects of the evolution of conservatism. Similar non-racist credentials are sometimes offered on this site by conservative friends: "I have voted for both Alan Keyes and Herman Cain in the past." I have no doubt Mr. Gowdy and other conservatives also have black friends.
It is difficult to see how any of that can be offered as a reason for making it harder for legitimate voters to vote. We won't let you vote, but don't worry, we'll elect people of a race different from our own but who agree with our views. Now go away, take the bus home, and let us vote in your place.
Does the success of some other regions in voting obstruction make it right? Most mothers of small children would reject that logic. The kid down the street beats up his little brother. Why can't I beat up my little brother?
The statistical argument is striking to me. It may be a telling argument to the mind of Representative Gowdy and to many conservatives that most black people know how to drive, that most black people own automobiles, and that most even have drivers licenses. The issue is that non-drivers are targeted for this special treatment. Anyone who guesses why they are targeted gets to stay after class and help clean the erasers.
It is an accident of income distribution that, of those who do use public transportation to commute to work, a disproportionate number are racial and ethnic minorities. The motivation of Republicans, as expressed in a occasional public statements and exposed in more private memos, is mostly motivated by political considerations. Representative Gowdy is making use of a state calculation that 8.4 percent of potential white voters don't have drivers licenses, and 10 percent of non-white voters don't. So, yes, the difference is 1.6 percent. What that would mean is that minority voters would be 16 percent more likely not to have the new Photo IDs.
One problem with Gowdy's calculation is that it is based on incomplete data (pdf). He is playing with numbers. He is quoting a state calculation that left out inactive voters, voters who had not voted in the last election. It may be my overactive liberal imagination, but I have to ask why the state of South Carolina, arguing the legal case in favor of new restrictive laws, would take the step of leaving that information out?
The arguments some conservatives are celebrating are arguments that those with rational, honest minds have to blush over when the cameras are off.
In point of fact, real live people are being obstructed from rights many others have died to ensure. Those rights were bought in blood, paid for with a history of bodies decorating tree limbs, final resting places hidden in swamps and earthen dams, church bombings, and occasional driveway shootings.
The plain truth is that conservatives are losing the public debate on policy. So some are tempted to make up their voting deficit by sabotaging democracy.
Those who do not oppose voting obstruction on principle have to be lacking the requisite principle.
Chaos theory, where order of sorts comes out of chaotic randomness when examined from afar, sometimes uses the butterfly analogy. A butterfly flaps its wings in South America and a tornado eventually clobbers Texas and carries away Governor Rick Perry over the rainbow into Oz. Okay, I made up the governor part. Oz, of course, is real.
In actual life, the tornado misses Texas, blows up the butterfly into a great Vishnu butterfly, the destroyer of worlds, which then attacks Europe.
Here's how it works.
A lot of misery has come from austerity policies in Europe. The reasoning is highly mathematical and more than a little complex. As translated into something approaching standard English it sounds something like this:
No pain, no gain. Suffering now will result in good things later. Life teaches the more mature among us that delayed gratification, immediate sacrifice, brings later rewards.
The countries whose citizens are suffering brought it on themselves. There is an element of simple morality involved. Living large results in large payment.
- Math. You can't keep spending and not paying. What goes out must be replaced. Somthing goes out, something must come in. Economic Karma
It's all very intuitive. And it goes back beyond the memory of anyone who still dwells within this mortal coil. Living within our means, government tightening its belt like families do when times are hard, pay as you go, were ideas advanced as much during the roaring twenties as they are today.
This common sense logic was crushed over 80 years ago, at least for a while, by the bitter hardship of the Great Depression. Economist John Maynard Keynes introduced a new, complicated, counter-sensical economic model. Liquidity, monetary policy, different levels of money supply, macro-economics, came to be respected, if not understood by ordinary minds: Anything to get out of Hoovervilles and back into happy days.
Essentially, Keynes said, government is not a family.
A family will cut back during hard times because it is necessary for survival. This tends to contribute to a general spiral into poverty. Not spending means someone is not earning. But we do what we must. Families have a greater duty to survival than they do to the microscopic betterment of the financial condition of the nation.
A government is much larger, and the effect of government is much larger. As Peter Parker teaches us (we draw on anything to make a point), with great power comes great responsibility. Families have no responsibility to raise the financial well being of the nation. Government does.
What it comes down to is this:
Deficits are good during hard times. When families are tightening their belts, partly at the expense of other families, government should spend much more than it is taking in.
- Deficits during hard times should be paid back during good times. That's when financial winter is over, and economic summer comes to us, and the living is easy, and fish are jumping, and the cotton is high, and families are spending more because they have more to spend. That's when government should look for surplus. Payback time isn't so hard when your daddy's rich and your momma's good looking.
It's a lot more technical than all that. The sidewalk version will do for now. It did not seem to fit everyday experience. It did fit the evidence, and worked just about everywhere.
But people forget. The depression has faded into forgotten history books. Common sense is coming back to fore and all that evidence and data is taking a back seat.
And Europe has the euro. Two decades ago (okay 21 years ago), a dozen and a half countries (okay 17 countries) pooled their currencies into one huge bloc. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But it meant that the countries had to give up a lot of decision-making.
Those who manage the euro decided that it was time to pull the plug on the good times, especially since hard times seemed to be upon us. Countries had been spending too much and taxing themselves too little. Financial crisis seemed to be the order of the day.
Time for a bit of belt tightening. The belt tightening started a slide into hardship. So it was time for a whole lot of belt tightening.
This wasn't done entirely as a result of yahoo-ism. A bunch of economists didn't just get together and throw out 80 years of study for what seemed like a good idea to their buddies at the local bar. There was seminal research that yielded an important piece of knowledge. The research was called "Growth in a time of debt" and it was packed with numbers within numbers.
A ton of wisdom there. It involved research on country after country, 20 countries in all. There was a commonality. When the debt of a country went to about 90 percent of annual Gross Domestic Product, horrible things began to happen. Economic growth fell by as much as half.
The authors were Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. These folks are big wheels, very big wheels, in economics. Rogoff is a Harvard professor, a former International Monetary Fund official, and the Chief Economist of the World Bank. Reinhart is a contributing member of so many prestigious economic research groups it must be a nightmare to organize the plaques on her walls.
So economists all over Europe were in awe. And they put in their austerity program, horrible hardship and all. Anything to keep government debt way below that 90%.
Paul Ryan used the study to advance his version of austerity for the United States, proposing to end Social Security as we know it and turn Medicare into a voucher program. Not taxing the rich, of course. Can't carry austerity too far.
There were some mainstream Keynesian economists, like Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who saw some holes. One thing they noticed was that countries with their own currency didn't seem to hit a wall at 90 percent. There may be a practical ceiling, but it is, as yet, undiscovered.
But for the dozen and a half countries in the eurozone (okay, 17 countries) austerity became the policy, whether those countries or their citizens wanted it or not. And make no mistake, many of those countries were pushed by the new policy into the middle of a not quite Great Depression. It isn't the biblical epic of the 1930s, but it is really, really hard. Really hard. Sell apples on street corners and rummage through dumpsters type hard.
And here is the semi-stunning news.
Some researchers were doing a little fact checking in a book published this year by Kenneth Rogoff, one of the authors of the debt-is-very-bad study. Things weren't quite adding up. So they went back and got the shock of their economic theorizing lives. It was the academic equivalent of finding air-tight proof that stars are little points of sparkle painted on a gigantic roof in the sky. It was world-inside-out stunning on stunning steroids.
They found mistakes in the original Reinhart-Rogoff study, the study the whole euro austerity you'd-better-eat-dirt-and-like-it program is largely based on. These were not little rounding errors, either.
The original research left out major time-spans when debt was high and growth was phenomenal. And the calculations counted times of low growth much, much, more heavily than other times.
And here is the stunner that combines the previous stunners into a mere semi-stunner.
Reinhart and Rogoff apparently didn't hit the recalculate button in the Excel spreadsheet they used to produce their complicated thesis. Their figures were fantastically wrong due to a recalculation error.
Kevin Drum calls it the "Excel Error Heard Round the World." Some egghead forgets to punch a computer key, and a continent of people goes into years of mini-Depression.
A butterfly flaps its wings and half of Europe gets eaten alive.
After a crime like yesterday's Boston bombings, it can be worthwhile to reflect on how we've reacted to similar tragedies. Consider the case of Richard Jewell.
A terrorist detonated a bomb at Atlanta's Olympic Park, during the 1996 Olympic games. That terrorist was Eric Robert Rudolph, who pled guilty to the crime along with a number of abortion clinic bombings. Mr. Rudolph is presently a guest at the ADMAX hotel in Florence Colorado.
For nine years, Richard Jewell labored under suspicion that he'd been the bomber.
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Not much is yet known as the investigation continues into the bombing of the Boston Marathon. Sadness and fury combine in the knowledge that a happy day of celebration; men, women, and children lining Boylston Street; became the target of some anonymous shadow dweller.
Some reports say small unsophisticated devices were the cause of the blasts. The growing ease with which explosives can be formed into massive engines of death has given us a weakest link world. We are vulnerable to the unstable, to those who are unable to express an ideology, or a personal grudge, or simple unfocused rage, with anything other than undifferentiated violence.
One reported victim was an eight year old child. It is a reminder that we entrust a large part of the care and protection of our children to a widening net of professionals and ordinary citizens. We have accounts of first-responders rushing into the wreckage to save lives. Those accounts include reports of non-professionals who joined police and rescuers, rushing into danger areas, bystanders who became participants in rescue.
Living in the Midwest, I happen to have few personal acquaintances in Boston. My daughter calls to tell me of friends who have texted messages telling her they are safe. A hotel worker says she has turned around and gone back to work, making her way in spite of disruptions in public transportation. There may be people who need a place. A hospital worker texts to say he declines to leave at the end of his shift, just in case.
They are part of a larger force of informal response. We have so many reports of small ripples of generosity joining into a spontaneous tsunami of kindness. Strangers invite strangers to share homes. People walk or carry the injured toward treatment. The Red Cross receives so many blood donors so quickly the need for more is quickly gone.
The low ratio of death to injury is a blessing that carries with it a sort of sad reality. Harsh and bitter practice is allowing us to get better at this sort of thing. Among those injuries are what medical people know as traumatic amputations, people who lost arms or legs at the scene. We learn from each fatality in every deadly incident. There were two tragic deaths as the night wore on, and yet over a hundred injuries. We are getting very, very good at this.
The news of coordinated emergency medical response is matched by that of law enforcement. Federal, state, and local authorities work in tandem, the result of drills and training. An FBI agent at a microphone answers questions, then politely but firmly refuses to provide investigative details. Inter-agency friction is reportedly non-existent.
The White House is said to have evaluated the uncertainties of a low-information situation. They quickly settle on a general strategy. Official word will stay away from proclaiming an act of terrorism until the possibility has been eliminated of a lone, deranged, non-ideologically motivated individual, a lone wolf. The President announces a determination to seek and find whomever is responsible. Only in background do aides talk of terrorism.
A few of the usual suspects infer the guilt of those they see as the usual suspects, but even the political fringe seems to have learned from past rushes to judgment. Premature accusation is at a minimum.
We react to what we know in the only way we can:
We mourn the victims.
We pray for the injured, for those who hover along the ragged edge of survival.
We react to what we do not know in the only responsible way we can:
This coming Sunday will mark ten years since we lost the great Nina Simone. I had heard of her as a kid. My dad played a recording of one of the songs from Porgy and Bess, and told me the singer was Nina Simone. But it wasn't until I was in college that I had a heart-to-heart with a classmate who was derisive and angry about my lack of knowledge.
She had been an outstanding singer and pianist as a small child in North Carolina. She was good enough to be featured in a special concert. Her parents were told to move from their front row seats to make room for white attendees. She refused to play until they were moved back to the front row. She was a few years older when, after an exceptional audition, she was denied a music scholarship to a top school in Philadelphia. She was told, unofficially, it was because she was black.
My college friend introduced me to "Mississippi Goddam" and a few other songs about Jim Crow. Well meaning "moderates" in those days were urging a go-slow approach. Her song was the musical equivalent of Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail" from the previous year. She would mention in song other segregated states, ending with the bombings and killings in one state, "Mississippi Goddam!" and that "to do things gradually would bring more tragedy."
College kids were anxious in those days to get ahead of the curve. In a way, we wanted to be on the right side of history, on the long arc toward justice. Motives are often less than pure in mortal beings. There was also an element, for some, of the sort of unofficial high school training a lot of kids still go through, the sweaty palmed determination to get in with the cool kids. The cool kids were kind of horrified at segregation and degradation.
At a public meeting, a student who had been known as a sort of conservative stood to advocate more cultural diversity in college sponsored concerts. It was a bit unexpected. He really had wavered somewhere between hostility and indifference to black struggles of the day. He would have been comfortable this year at recent CPAC discussions. But he had been studying the matter, and he thought college events had been too restrictive. We should try to get more ideas in the mode of Julian Bond, and more music in the style of Nina Simony.
That was how he pronounced it. Nina Simony. He was hooted down.
I thought of that college kid from too many decades back in my past as I heard and read about Rand Paul's unfortunate presentation to students at Howard University in Washington, DC. Paul tried to school those young scholars on the origin of the NAACP, begun with support from a great many liberal Republicans. How many of the students knew that? Paul wanted to know. He found out in a nano-second.
It is not a mystery to young students that liberals were once mostly Republican and that overt racists once expressed their hostility toward people of color through the Democratic Party. Yes, yes, Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation and had sponsored the Thirteenth Amendment. But most had gone beyond Rand Paul to more advanced history. They could have instructed Mr. Paul on how racists and black people pretty much passed each other as they switched party affiliation in the 1960s and 1970s.
The nervous dissembling by Rand Paul that came in the wake of that terrible beginning included blatant misrepresentations of his own history. Never expressed any opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Really?
That he expected this audience to be unfamiliar with American history of the last 50 years, or with the Paul family history since then, or with Rand Paul's publicly expressed opinions, was the sort of bigotry of low expectations that was not at all soft.
National press, pundits, and bloggers have had some fun with that. Certainly, the reaction is tempting. And we should acknowledge that a possible bit of cool-kid-wannabeism might be involved.
We have tended to pass by the small part of the Rand Paul dialogue that produced well deserved cheers from the assembled students. He spoke of the genuine meeting of his brand of libertarian conservatism and those who aspire to a more fair America. One nexus is in drug policy. He spoke about how two young men, one white, one black, broke drug laws. Both escaped, through luck, the consequence that trapped so many others into long-term jail sentences and a lifetime lack of employment opportunity. Both became United States Presidents. His mention of George W. Bush and Barack Obama was generous in his lack of mention of Bill Clinton.
"We should stand and loudly proclaim enough is enough. We should not have laws that ruin the lives of young men and women who have committed no violence."
For all of the national wish for honest discussion of race and discrimination, we might consider that such a discussion cannot be expected without serious missteps. The issue that earned applause was the obvious injustice of drug laws and their enforcement. But we should acknowledge that, while he initially blew it, he was open to the very public rebuke that came from his audience. That is a rare form of courage in any political life.
I can't go back to that presentation of decades ago, and the shouting down of a mispronounced name. The opportunity passed before I could respond to the faint inner urge to defend the young man who didn't know the name of a famed singer.
Perhaps it's time to defend the mercurial Rand Paul as he subjects himself in open forum to a tough crowd and, more important, to acceptance of the tongue lashing that he initially earned from them. He also earned a grudging respect, from them and from us.
Even if he thought her name was Nina Simony.
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10:30 AM, November 20, 2011
St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Florissant, MO
Sometimes I wish I could change the past.
But, in this moment, I can learn from the past.
And I’m grateful that God forgives me.
Sometimes I wish I could control the future.
But, in this moment, I can prepare for the future.
And I’m grateful that God has a plan
and I’m part of it.
We don’t live for the moment.
But we can live in the moment.
And I’m grateful, I’m grateful,
I am ever, ever grateful
for every moment God gives to me.
Video of same song from April 24, 2011
Easter Sunday worship service
at Lakewood Church