From USA Today:
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tom Petri says he is "distressed by the innuendo" that there is a conflict between his personal financial interests and his official actions in Washington so he took the unusual step on Sunday of asking the House Ethics Committee to investigate him.
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And if at this point you think I’m judging you and crying about it, let me go on and say you really aren't a Christian or, more charitably, you are too ignorant of your faith to have standing in these cases.
- Erick Erickson, February 9, 2014,
on Christians who tolerate homosexuality
I share with most Christians, I suspect, a certain reticence. There is an aversion to speaking as a spiritual authority. At the house of worship I attend, we join our pastor in the same weekly prayer. He expresses the hope that the sins and contradictions in his life will not keep us from hearing God's word. My imagination tells me that many of us in the congregation are inwardly repeating that acknowledgement.
Occasionally the intolerance with which popular media intertwines faith pretty much compels us, in spite of our flaws, to speak out. While Mr. Erickson may draw a circle to exclude folks like me from true Christianity, I try to draw a larger circle that keeps him in. He remains my brother in Christ.
That said, there are times when family becomes a source of embarrassment. The real damage comes as those who want and need something more in spiritual life turn away from faith when it is represented as bigotry. Intolerance is attractive only to those who share profound prejudice.
Erickson is passionate about righteousness, and so he presents his case with a fervor that clouds the reasoning behind it.
But essentially, he reacts to those of us who have disagreed with an absurd mindset. There really are believers who hold that the Old Testament is against homosexuality and therefore God hates homosexuals. You see such believers in the news, carrying placards of hate.
When someone brings up Leviticus, it strikes me as fair to quote prohibitions from the same source against the eating of shellfish. Other books detail the punishment to be meted out to children who are disrespectful to parents (that would be public execution), the prohibition against short people or those with poor eyesight from approaching the altar in worship, and the caution that we must provide for a money-back guarantee when we sell our daughters into slavery.
Reductio ad absurdum: if you can throw scripture at me to "prove" what I see as tragically silly, I should be allowed to throw scripture at you to show what we both see as absurd.
Erickson points out that Leviticus was the old law. Jesus provided for a New Covenant that replaced the old law. So we are unfair when we bring up Leviticus, lobsters, execution, and slavery. That was the old law. The new law, says Erickson, provides the same condemnation against gays. He points mostly to the writings of the Apostle Paul.
There are those who see Paul as less authoritative than Jesus, but Erickson is scornful of that view. Jesus himself defined marriage as between a man and a woman when he quoted Old Testament law to support a new view that women have rights, even in a marriage. At least that's Brother Erick's strained interpretation.
As I read it, the unifying theme in the teachings of Jesus is that Old Testament law does not exist on its own. It flows from a more primal directive, that we should love God and each other. It is only from that premise that other laws should be seen and followed.
This is not explicit. It is a reasonable observation, especially in the definition Jesus gives about love for God and for all God's children: "On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." It is on this basis that Jesus lays claim to fulfilling the law. It is by following the underlying first principle of love that the purpose of the law is met.
Paul is more explicit. In addition to his emphasis of love over law, Paul does give examples of how law can only flow from love in order to be valid. Homosexuality is sometimes given as one of those examples. But it is often described as an affliction flowing from some sort of idolatry: the substitution of something else for God and God's love.
Paul does something else as well. He considers himself not to be the authority on which folks like Erick Erickson should base their beliefs. He seeks to explain his vision of Jesus, but includes in his explanations such phrases as "I speak as a fool" or "I speak as a man." Once he expands this to "What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord, but as it were, foolishly, in this confidence of boasting." He is saying that he does his best to show what Jesus means, but that he cannot, in good conscience, speak other than his own opinion.
When Erickson denigrates those who do not see Paul as the final authority of sexual ethics, Paul must join us as subject to Erickson's harsh judgment.
All things considered, that Paul does not consider himself as the final authority is a good thing. One advantage to a long life in these times is that a few of my days on earth overlapped with those of the last of the slaves of Abraham Lincoln's time. I remember reading of one elderly woman who forbade any mention of Paul in her house. He had encouraged a runaway slave to return to a slave owner, one of those times that Paul did speak as a man.
The writings of Paul that brother Erick selects are often very near to passages he overlooks. For example, in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, that letter, as Erick points out, in which Paul mentions homosexuality, he also tells us that all things are lawful but not all things are helpful.
From healing on the Sabbath to overturning tables in the temple, Jesus found his antagonists in literalists. As he walked among us, his greatest anger seemed reserved for the substitution of law for love.
Those ancient literalists find their spiritual followers in today's literalists. Brother Erick's mistake, as I see it, is in a basic view of the New Covenant. Rather than follow those Old Testament laws as a substitute for the law of God's love, our brother in Christ forcefully advocates what he sees as New Testament laws as a new substitute for the law of love.
So one barrier to God's love is to be replaced by another.
That's not how I read it.
New Republican Ethic - May the Best Candidate Win (5:16) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
Why Governor Christie Can Be Seen as Innocent (7:18) - Click for Podcast
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In Response to Burr Deming's Fox News Blues, Wall Street Journal, Money Votes, Hillary
For accuracy, I go to the various revised standards. But, as pure poetry, I can't get beyond reading and listening to renditions of the King James version.
- Burr Deming, February 15, 2014
“For accuracy, I go to the various revised standards.”
The Bible Project is producing an actual translation of the Bible, without trying to add personal interpretation as part of it. I don't think this has been done before (so far as I know). I am not sure if personal opinions will be included. The head of this project, assuming he is still doing it, is a Christian Scholar of the highest order. I just discovered his existence a few months ago, but he thinks a lot like me about Christian theology, and Pauline Christianity specifically. He is like me, only with more credentials, knowledge and intelligence.
I used to study Hebrew, and I became intimately familiar with the other parts of Genesis in Hebrew. Not that this is a scholarly source or anything of the nature, but I just found a translation of the early passages of Genesis, ones I can recite in Hebrew from memory. They are close to exact, and I like that. I was astonished to read an exact translation!
Note: Elohim is the early Hebrew word for God. I believe that the translators chose not to translate that, but merely to use it, because of the controversy around what it “literally” means. It has come to be familiar on its own merits as a proper name, and to translate it would have been akin to “translation interpolation,” which is the very problem the project seeks to solve.
However, Elohim is a word, not just a proper name in our understanding, so I think it’s fair, if only parenthetically, to introduce it. Keep this in mind: English translations of the Genesis say that that God made man in “our” image, for example. The idea of the early concept of Jewish polytheism did survive prior translations.
“Elohim” is the proper name of the “Gods” as a unit, who created the heavens and the earth. Adding “im” to the end of a Hebrew word, makes it plural. The author of Genesis 1 was polytheistic. (note that I am not implying or suggesting that the author of most of genesis was anything other than monotheistic).
Transparent English Bible (TEB) Genesis Chapter 1:1
At the first of ELOHIM creating the skies and the land [I would have said “in a beginning, he created, God, the skies and the land”] — 2 and the land was desolation and emptiness; and darkness was over the face of the deep, and the spirit of ELOHIM was hovering over the face of the waters 3 and ELOHIM said, “Let there be light”; and it was light. 4 And ELOHIM saw the light, that it was good; and ELOHIM separated between the light and between the darkness. 5 And ELOHIM called to the light “day,” and to the darkness he called “night.” And it was evening and it was morning — day one.
I anxiously await the entire translation.
Noted religious skeptic John Myste has frequently advanced discussions at Fair And UNbalanced with additional insight and research. We are always grateful for his generosity.
Jonathan Bernstein, writing for Bloomberg, has helpful advice for Hillary Clinton. She should ignore all the helpful advice she gets/a<>, especially from journalists.
Either I have an extraordinarily odd sense of humor, or Max's Dad conducts very funny rants. The two possibilities are not mutually exclusive. This time, Max's Dad takes on, in his own vicious way, the Wall Street Journal.
James Wigderson says he'll vote in a Republican primary against a terrible candidate, mainly to keep from having to later choose between Mr. Flawed and the Democrat. I suppose it would be sort of a conservative political Hobson's choice. Freeze to death or burn to death.
Last Of The Millenniums brings us poll results on what caused the collapse of the Roman Empire. It's a commentary of sorts that it took me a moment to recognize it as satire, and that I'm still not 100% sure.
Vincent at A wayfarer’s notes quotes a piece by the late poet and scholar, Laurence Binyon, and offers his own thoughts on the Bible as a literary contribution. For accuracy, I go to the various revised standards. But, as pure poetry, I can't get beyond reading and listening to renditions of the King James version.
- Infidel 753 brings us a thought-provoking French film on sexual role reversal. Starts with the seemingly fairly predictable, ends up serious. Worth a look. You'll probably get angry.
Before the President was killed, Robert F. Kennedy had earned a reputation for toughness. When John F. Kennedy encouraged Americans to work at physical fitness, it was his brother Bobby who responded with fifty mile hikes, his exhausted staff in tow.
But the tough image had not been developed on the hiking trail. Bobby Kennedy had, as counsel for the Senate Investigations Committee, then as President Kennedy's Attorney General, gone after underworld crime figures with a single mindedness that bordered on obsession. As one reputed crime lord under interrogation laughingly declined to answer questions during a public hearing, Kennedy interrupted with a comment: "I thought only little girls giggled, Mr. Giancana."
During his brother's political campaigns, Robert Kennedy alternately cajoled and bullied delegates and politicians. Some didn't like it.
Bobby's reputation went from tough to ruthless.
A few months after John F. Kennedy's murder, Bobby almost lost his remaining brother. Edward Kennedy was in a plane crash in mid-1964. He was dragged by the wreckage by another passenger, family friend Birch Bayh. Edward lapsed into unconsciousness. When medical people got him to the hospital, he had no pulse and almost no blood pressure. Doctors were barely able to save him.
He awoke a few days later to see brother Bobby hovering anxiously over him. His first words were reported to have been, "Is it true that you are ruthless?"
The reputation of ruthlessness followed Robert Kennedy. In 1968, polling came up with a startling finding. In the midst of a cold war with the Soviet Union, with periodic rioting and calls for law and order, the image seemed to be helping him with voters. This was not a bully, swinging at ordinary people. This was the fellow who pulled no punches with gangsters, the KKK, and politicians. Just the guy people might want to handle street crime, the one who could face down the Soviets.
I was thinking of the figure of hope from those decades ago as I read the newest exposé on Hillary Clinton. The papers of a close Hillary Clinton friend, who recently died, have been released. Apparently the scandalous revelations center mostly around the fact that she had unkind things to say about Monica Lewinsky in the mid-1990s. She is said to have felt a combination of betrayal, confusion, and self-blame.
Political antagonists and women who claimed relationships with her husband each received a measure of scorn and hostility.
The Washington Beacon headlines the story: The Hillary Papers with a sub-headline:
The conservative Patriot Post follows up: Should 'Ruthless' Clinton Be President?
Differing shades of conservatives join through books, blogs, pundits, and columnists. Hillary is ruthless.
Rand Paul is on a bit of a roll with a variation. Bill is a predator and Hillary is complicit. Matt Drudge and others carry the narrative forward.
If Hillary Clinton takes a shot at becoming a new President Clinton, perhaps it will work. After all, I have been wrong before.
I don't see it. While strong women have traditionally encountered a double standard, regarded as shrewish or unfeminine, that tradition is fading fast. Even back in the day, it was successfully challenged at times. Think Margaret Thatcher.
Tactics from two decades back are unlikely to work more effectively now than they worked then. Attempts to view the former First Lady, the former Senator from New York, the former Secretary of State, as insufficiently dainty in her reactions to sexual scandals seems unlikely to work.
Karl Rove who, during the Bush administration, targeted a CIA operative. He was saved from blowing her cover only by the fact that another Bush appointee got there first. It does not seem possible that Rove would hold back on ethical grounds. When he warns Rand Paul that his attacks on Hillary Clinton will backfire, my imagination tell me he is sincere.
When General David Petraeus, who headed the CIA, describes her as "extraordinarily resolute, determined, and controlled" under pressure, he is referring to her demeanor as the Benghazi attack unfolded.
It's what you might expect from someone whose reputation has gone, at times, to a point midway between tough and ruthless, with occasional lurches to the ruthless side of the fence.
Ruthless. Just what the country needs.
From the National Journal:
Our gay, coke-head Kenyan president is facing divorce from the first lady while sleeping with Beyoncé.
Reports of reports of a rumored forthcoming Washington Post article say that President Obama has been having an affair with Beyoncé.
Curious that the two, who are some of the most followed and cloistered individuals in the world, could keep the relationship quiet until now. (Though in a strange PR move, the Washington Post has denied the existence of its own scoop.) Curiouser still that this is coming from Obama, who has long been reported to be gay. But this president has managed to keep a lot of his nefarious past and present quiet.
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From A.V. Club
Following the simple and easy-to-use building instructions imprinted on the back of their ideological boxes, Fox News has constructed another controversy out of a work of children’s entertainment—this time The Lego Movie. Like its past outrages over The Muppets and The Lorax, the network has lashed out at the film for attempting to indoctrinate the naïve with simpleminded messages about capitalism, only for the wrong team, blasting a movie based on a global, multibillion-dollar toy manufacturer—and the reinvigoration of its branding through movie-generated merchandising—as being “anti-business.”
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Sent by alert reader BS with this note:
You don't hear boogie woogie like this much any more; and never likely have you heard it played on twin pianos.
Hope you get a three-minute kick out of this rare musical presentation.
Richard Hasen is a law professor, which is akin to the Grand Canyon being a hole in the ground. It is and he is, but there is more to it. He is a Chancellor's Professor. Fewer than 1 professor out of 30 ever makes it to that position. You have to show academic accomplishment that goes way beyond the norm, and you have to show every sign that the trajectory of your path will continue upward.
It's not hard to see why he got to that position. He began early, clerking for a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th circuit. A Court of Appeals is a step away from the Supreme Court. Not a bad start. He co-founded a distinguished legal review, the Election Law Journal. He writes prolifically. He specializes in election law.
Lately, he has been writing about Republican attempts to suppress voting. Now, the attack is on early voting. Working people with less than flexible employment schedules, especially minorities, tend to take advantage of early voting. Early voters generally vote more Democratic. So Republicans want to keep them from voting.
But Richard Hasen detects a philosophical underpinning that can be found both in action and in rhetoric. Republicans argue that they improve democracy by allowing fewer people to vote. This used to be the open secret of voter restrictions. Now it is becoming more overt, an actual stated goal.
There is a growing rationale, an important bit of reasoning, behind that goal. It involves the purpose of voting.
Democrats, in general, see voting as taking power from the elites and giving it to those being governed. In recent tradition, this has been a shared goal across party lines. Not always, of course. We can look to the voting denial part of Jim Crow laws to see a time that wasn't true. But in more recent years, pretty much everyone saw voting as giving power to as many people as possible.
Even during the voter suppression efforts by Republicans, conservatives gave lip service to the right to vote. They didn't want to keep legitimate voters from participating in elections. They just wanted to prevent voter fraud. If non-citizens voted, or if eligible citizens voted more than once, it would weaken the very basis of democracy.
This was a nearly transparent subterfuge. Voter fraud was such a rarity that it was less than a single percent of a single percent of a fraction of a percent of the total vote. Other forms of election stealing, not involving individual voters, have always been safer and more effective. And not everyone had photo identification.
When Republicans went to moving polling stations to hard-to-get-to places, restricting hours, reducing the number of voting machines, and voter purges that were so thorough they removed wholesale numbers of clearly legitimate voters, it was harder to see their activities as anything other than a way to erect roadblocks.
Even though it was clear what Republicans were up to, they always kept up the polite fiction that keeping legitimate voters from casting ballots was the farthest thing from their minds.
But Richard Hasen sees rhetoric catching up with reality.
The purpose of voting for many Republicans is not to distribute the power of government to citizens of the Republic. It is to elect the best people. Hasen sees the debate about early voting as an extension of a more general election ethic.
Those who vote a few days earlier will not hear the entire election debate. They will be less informed. They will make rash decisions. They will vote whenever they feel like it. These are all actual objections to early voting.
Hasen points to some notable voices carrying forward the argument into previously forbidden territory. Voting ought to be harder. The ignorant should be discouraged from voting. The ignorant, the rash, the uninformed, the ill-prepared, the unqualified are defined by result. They are those who vote the wrong way.
I don't think my view is at all unusual among Democrats. I suspect many, if not all, Republicans still join in. I'm willing to put my ideas, and my candidates, to the test in periodic elections. If we lose, I'm okay with waiting until the next election to try again.
I want the best people to win. More than that, much more than that, I want the winners to win in a fair and democratic vote.
Some Republicans are increasingly vocal in pursuing a very different objective, one focused on result more than process. They also want the best people to win.
Whatever it takes.
From the New York Times:
DODGE CITY, Kan. — It is hard to find anyone who has seen Senator Pat Roberts here at the redbrick house on a golf course that his voter registration lists as his home. Across town at the Inn Pancake House on Wyatt Earp Boulevard, breakfast regulars say the Republican senator is a virtual stranger.
“He calls it home,” said Jerald Miller, a retiree. “But I’ve been here since ’77, and I’ve only seen him twice.”
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After a comment on the sinfulness of homosexuality -
One last note on this. For those of you who claim to be a Christian who worship your own personal Jesus instead of the real one — many of you too rely on the shibboleths of the damned and those of us committed to the gospel really must wonder if you’re sincerely a Christian or just posing as one out of some sense of tradition, standing in your community, or just maliciously posing to undermine the faith.
And if at this point you think I’m judging you and crying about it, let me go on and say you really aren’t a Christian or, more charitably, you are too ignorant of your faith to have standing in these cases.
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Four minutes is a very small investment for this wonderful Mother-Son Dance on his Wedding Day
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey has gone on a sort of press defense. In fairness we should consider what he says as true unless proven otherwise.
On August 13, 2013, Chris Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, sent a very short email message to David Wildstein at the Port Authority. It concerned lanes entering the busiest bridge in the world:
Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.
Let's stress that Governor Christie, Bridget Anne Kelly's boss, knew nothing about that message, and that he would not have known what it meant.
David Wildstein knew, though. He answered with an even shorter message.
If the Governor had eavesdropped on that exchange, he still would have had no idea at all what they had in mind. "Time for some traffic problems" followed by "Got it" might lead a reasonable person to imagine that this was part of a plan that had been kicked around for a while, but Governor Christie had no part in the kicking.
Governor Christie was Bridget Anne Kelly's boss, but not David Wildstein's boss. He might as well have been, though. Wildstein had gone to Chris Christie's high school back in the day. His position at the Port Authority had been especially created for him at the insistence of the Christie administration.
But Governor Chris Christie knew nothing about the messages. He knew nothing of any plan. He was too busy campaigning for reelection against his Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono to have time for any curiosity. Everyone knew Christie would win against Barbara Buono. Christie knew it. Voters knew it. I suspect all of Barbara Buono's friends and relatives knew it. Maybe Barbara Buono knew it as well, not being Mitt Romney. Chris Christie would win, Barbara Buono would lose.
That Christie would win was for sure. Barbara Buono had no chance. The question was whether Christie would win so overwhelmingly the Republican Party would make him President in 2016. Republicans hate Hillary Clinton. Not as much as they loath Barack Obama, of course. She's not from, you know, Kenya. But she does generate hate. So maybe they could go for Governor Christie as the anti-Clinton candidate. That would be if he could win by enough in New Jersey.
So Governor Christie wanted to beat Barbara Buono by so much, Republicans would promote him from Governor Christie to President Christie.
David Wildstein told people at the Port Authority to close lanes from Fort Lee onto the George Washington Bridge, the only bridge going over the Hudson River for miles. That was what the Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee was about. Wildstein ordered workers not to notify the police of the lane closures. He told them it was part of a traffic study.
We should be clear here that Governor Christie knew nothing of any of this.
In the first week of September, 2013, commuters waiting to go onto the busiest bridge in the world waited longer than they expected. The wait went to hours. Many hours.
Of course commuters were late to work. Very late. Summer vacation had just ended. Children on buses were on the way to the first day of the school year. The kids were trapped on those school buses for hours. Many teachers were not in the classrooms anyway, being themselves trapped for hours. Ambulances were delayed getting to injured people. In one case, the crew abandoned their emergency vehicle and ran on foot to the medical emergency. In another case, the ambulance carrying a heart attack victim, Florence Genova who lived in Fort Lee, got caught up in the jam. She died shortly after she got to the hospital.
Another email exchange, also involving David Wildstein, was gleeful. An unknown participant in the closing of the lanes emailed Wildstein. Is it wrong that I'm smiling. Wildstein answered No.
The same person emailed I feel badly about the kids. I guess and Wildstein reminded the unknown conspirator of the upcoming election: They are the children of Buono voters.
It must be stressed that Governor Christie knew nothing of the closing of the lanes. He knew nothing of the gloating email messages.
The traffic tie up went for four days. The Port Authority is run jointly by New York and New Jersey. New York authorities insisted the traffic block be ended. Leaks about their concerns appeared in the press. On the New Jersey side, Christie loyalists were furious. Not about the traffic hardships. They were angry about the news leaks and New York interference with the lane closures.
Initially, the Governor denied knowing of the traffic tie up until it was over. As details of the conspiracy surfaced, several Christie people were fired or quit, including David Wildstein and Bridget Anne Kelly.
In the famous press conference in which the Governor explained that he didn't know about the traffic tie up until it was all over, he also explained that he didn't know David Wildstein all that well. Back in high school, student Christie was a rock star athlete, widely known and admired, while Wildstein was a nobody doing whatever he was doing.
Wildstein wants immunity from prosecution for what he did. He released a lot of the emails that pretty much prove there was a conspiracy. His lawyer says Wildstein knows about solid evidence the Governor lied, that Christie knew what was going on during the traffic tie up.
Later the Governor clarified. He hadn't lied. Of course he knew of the traffic delays. They were in all the papers. He did not know about the conspiracy was all.
Later on, Governor Christie's office sent a message out detailing how bad Wildstein was. They said a lot of what he did, day to day, at work was considered unproductive. They said he had sued the school board while he was a high school student. His social studies teacher had said he was deceptive in some unspecified way when he was 16.
The letter generated some mirth. people made fun of it. But it was not written by Christie. It was sent by someone who was "familiar with the situation." Christie knew nothing of the letter.
The Governor did not know that his deputy chief of staff was engaged in a plan to cause traffic problems.
The Governor did not know that his representative at the Port Authority was administering the plan.
The Governor barely knew of David Wildstein's existence.
The Governor did not know there were traffic issues beyond what was usual.
The Governor did not know of those gloating emails to and from his staff.
The Governor did not know of the messages that were part of the conspiracy.
The Governor did not know about the conspiracy.
The Governor did not know David Wildstein in high school.
The Governor did not know about the letter from his staff about Wildstein.
It now appears that funds from the federal government for desperate victims of Hurricane Sandy were being used to reward or threaten those victims for the officials they elected.
But we can trust that the Governor did not know about that either.
We now have an understanding of Governor Christie's innocence. He did not know.
We also have an idea of the governing philosophy followed by his administration.
Hear no evil. See no evil. And evil.