"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


He knows we can see these, right?

Reality is Fungible

That came second; this came first:
Are "write in votes" somehow illegitimate votes?  If not for that, I'd think the lawyers wrote it.  And, of course, Strange's numbers "went up mightily," but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  Despite Trump, Strange got stomped by Moore in the primary, and Trump supported Moore as much as he possibly could without just making a campaign contribution.  Not to mention all the tweets Trump deleted after Strange lost that primary.

And how was the deck stacked against Moore?  Maybe it was "fake news"!

No, "fake news" is only about Trump.  What was I thinking?

Advent 2017: December 13

Honestly, how could I not use it?

Lucy died during the persecutions of Diocletian at Catania in Sicily, being beheaded by the sword.  Her body was later brought to Constantinople and finally Venice, where she is now resting in the church of Santa Lucia.

Because her names means "light," she very early became the great patron saint for the "light of the body"--the eyes.  All over Christianity her help was invoked against diseases of the eyes, especially the danger of blindness.  The lighters of street lamps in past centuries had her as a patron saint and made a special ceremony of their task on the eve of December 13.

Saint Lucy attained immense popularity in medieval times because, before the calendar reform, her feast happened to fall on the shortest day of the year.  Again because of her name, many of the ancient light and fire customes of the Yuletide became associated with her day.  Thus we find "Lucy candles" lighted in homes and "Lucy fires" burned in the open.  In Scandinavia before the Reformation, Saint Lucy Day was one of unusual celebration and festivity because, for the people of Sweden and Norway, she was the great "light saint" who turned the tides of their long winter and brought the light of day to renewed victory.

A popular custom in Scandinavia on the eve of December 13 is for children to write the word "Lussi" on doors, fences and walls.  With the word always goes the picture of a female figure (Saint Lucy).  The purpose of this practice in ancient times was to announce to the demons of winter that their reign was broken on Saint Lucy's Day, that the sun would return again and the days become longer.

"Lucy fires" used to be burned everywhere in northern Europe on December 13.  Into these bonfires people threw incense and, while the flames rose, trumpets and flutes played to greet the changing of the sun's course.  These fires were greatly valued as a powerful protection against disease, witchcraft and dangers, and people would stand nearby and let the smoke of the incense reach them, thus obtaining the desired "protection."

--Francis X. Weiser

Lucy, whose day is in our darkest season,
(Although your names is full of light,)
We walkers in the murk and rain of flesh and sense,
Lost in the midnight of our dead world's winter solstice
Look for the fogs to open on your friendly star.

We have long since cut down the summer of history;
Our cheerful towns have all gone out
like fireflies in October.
The fields are flooded and the vine is bare;
How have our long days dwindled,
now the world is frozen!

Locked in the cold jails of our stubborn will,
Oh hear the shovels growling in the gravel.
This is the way they'll make our beds for ever,
Ours, whose Decembers have put out the sun;
Doors of whose souls are shut against the summer time!

Martyr, whose short day sees our winter and our Calvary,
Show us some light, who seem forsaken by the sky;
We have so dwelt in darkness that our eyes are screened and dim,
And all but blinded by the weakest ray.

Hallow the vespers and December of our life,
O martyred Lucy:
Console our solstice with your friendly day.

--Thomas Merton

My candle burns at both ends;
it will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

--Edna St. Vincent Millay

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Advent 2017: December 12

64:1 O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence--

64:2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil-- to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

64:3 When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.

Isaiah 64:1-3 (actual lectionary reading (partial) for Second Sunday of Advent this year).

Or get Doug Jones elected to the Senate from Alabama.  That would work, too.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Advent 2017: December 11

The secret is the Prokofiev!

God saw the world falling to ruin because of fear and immediately acted to call it back with love.  God invited it by grace, preserved it by love, and embraced it with compassion.

Peter Chrysologus, Fifth Century

"Where are you going?" asks Mary of Juan Diego.  He is stopped in his tracks.  He leaves his "important" plans and becomes her messenger  Build a church where the cries of the poor and the oppressed will be heard.  The bishop hears these gospel-laden words with shock and disbelief.  Signs, tangible signs, to know if this is true:  That is his demand.  But the words that the Indian brings are the answer.  The church must turn its institutional attention from its needs to listen to the solitary voice of one poor man.  It is a voice caught up in cultural traditions, old Indian ways, unpurified beliefs.  Juan Diego's nervous intensity comes not from self-interest but from the faith that his voice and prayer have been heard by God.  The words he speaks are the answer to his prayers.

What Mary has asked of the bishop is not meant to cause a division among the servants of the Lord.  It is not a condemnation of strategies or theologies.  Rather, it is a word of direction to move from the status quo operations of the day and to build up a place where the prayers, the cries, the heartbreak of people can be heard.  The place becomes symbolic of the fact that a mestizo church emerges from these birth sufferings of a conquered people.  The temple is symbolic of the age-old faithful word of God:  to be with the people.

Guadalupe's  significance is birth word and symbol.  She provides the answers to the prayers of her faithful people:  "God is with you!"  Her very appearance, as one of the poor, aligns her with them.  Guadalupe's proclamation can be seen as God's option for the poor.

"Where are you going?" echoes in the life of God's poor to this present day.

Arturo Perez

In an age which offers a variety of escapes from the human condition, Christians are more than ever a sign of contradiction.  They continue to believe that the search for God must begin with the acceptance of the human.  They believe this because it is in the stable of humanity that God has come in search of us.

In the human experience of Jesus, God became available to us as the depths of human life.  Thus, a Christian believes that the experience of ultimate meaning comes not from a leap out of the human condition, but a journey through its dark waters.

John Heagle

Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage
as streams in dry land.
Those who are sowing in tears
will sing when they reap.

Psalm 126:4-5

Be Careful What You Wish For

I agree with Rebecca Traister:

Or an overreaction. A powerful man who loses his job for an offense that, perhaps, doesn't merit job loss could put a halt to this.

I'm a feminist who believes this stuff needs to be talked about, who thinks this is a crucial and eye opening conversation. At the same time, I am hating it. I hate it. It is horrible to live through this every day. It's horrible to be hearing these stories. We all, on some level, want it to end, and I am probably among those who are most invested in it not ending. Imagine anybody without my ideological and professional and personal investments in this subject matter. It's painful; it's dredging up horrible memories for so many of us. It's confusing us in where our sympathies are, and who they're for, and where they're supposed to be.

It's a really hard conversation to have, and so I do think that lots of people will jump on any excuse to make this conversation stop. There'll be a moment where everybody just sort of is like, "Okay, we're not having this conversation anymore.”

I noted some pushback against the resignation of Al Franken, but that's already last week's news.  Interesting now is the reaction to the SNL "cold open" with Santa and his elf in a mall.  Vox is already trying to confuse that sketch by misplacing dialogue and erasing some comments in it:

"Can you tell me what Al Franken did?" asked one kid to kick off the night. It was an evening of recurring references to the downfall of Sen. Franken — a former SNL star and writer — that mainly acknowledged the elephant in the room was, indeed, there, before quickly changing the subject.

Thompson’s Santa found himself battling a number of piercing questions from observant children. When one child brought up the naughty list, he quipped, "It's not really a list; it's more of a registry."

Actually, that last line came from McKinnon's elf, not Thompson's Santa Claus.  And it was clear to me Santa's discomfort was not over Al Franken's alleged misdeeds (surely the allegations against Matt Lauer or Harvey Weinstein are more salacious and disturbing; even Charlie Rose is not in the same category as the stories about Franken) but the child bringing up such a hot topic (imagine this was the '90's and the kid was asking what Monica Lewinsky did to Bill Clinton, or what he did to her).  Santa kept trying to steer the conversations back to toys and Christmas presents, and away from the political news.  

“Well, you know, Santa tries to stay out of political matters. Our president may have said or done a few naughty things,” explained the diplomatic Santa, thankfully neglecting to mention that time Trump was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women.

“Nineteen accusers. Google it,” chimed in Santa’s helper, in a nod to the 19-plus women who have accused Trump of various degrees of sexual misconduct, including sexual-assault.

Santa was, well, a bit more child-friendly. “Look, Jessica, I think we can all learn a lesson from what’s going on in the news,” he said.

Cue Jessica: “We sure can! I learned that if you admit you did something wrong, you get in trouble. But if you deny it, they let you keep your job!”

Frankly, the best line of the sketch.

And then there was the sketch about the kindly old black man and the young executive, where the latter is fired for inappropriate behavior little worse than what Franken was accused of, while the former is nearly as crude as Donald Trump, but excused because he's old and black.  That one gets very close to what Ms. Traister is talking about.

The problem is precisely that we don't have a "community" within which to discuss these matters and in that vacuum everyone wants to enforce their own ideas of justice and morality.  Rebecca Traister carefully distinguishes between the law (justice) and morality, but that distinction vanishes for most commenters on the topic.  Justice is only done when the women are believed, even if the lies are not as transparent as those attempted by Project Veritas against the Washington Post.

Thought Criminal has been posting a series on the works of Walter Brueggemann about the framework we use to identify as society and our place in it, and the values it upholds.  The "#metoo" conversation, of course, is about values and which ones should be upraised, and which declared indefensible, and it's a goal I agree with.   The problem is:  how do we get there?  And the public imagination seems limited to the "solutions" or reprisals and retribution and punishment, rather than correcting attitudes and changing presumptions.  As Brueggemann explains it:

But the imagination of an insider is always an historical imagination.  It is not just any innovative thinking;  it is inventiveness driven and shaped by particular historical experiences  It is the capacity to return again and again to the concreteness of the past of this historical group,  Israel/the church, and to discern there new meanings.  The notions of “historical” (which means rooted in the meanings of a particular community) and “imagination” (which means open to urging pulses of meaning) are dialectical to each other.  That is,  the ideas of historical and imagination seem to move in opposite directions.  “Historical” points back to precise, concrete, identifiable experiences   “Imagination”  means to move out into new and fresh symbolic overlays from the experience.  Historical keeps the articulation concrete and particular, and the imagination looses it in unexpected directions.  But they are dialectical in that the two must be kept in tension, always correcting each other.  Historical without imagination tends to be arid and not compelling.  Imagination without historicality tends to turn to undisciplined fantasy.  

But where are the reins on this experience?  How many scalps will be enough to claim redress, and when are there "too many" and the backlash sets in?  I've seen this movie, I know how it comes out.  I expected a long-lived anti-war sentiment, having grown up in the '60's.  That sentiment didn't end with 9/11, it ended much earlier, with the "baby killer" allegations, and the apocryphal stories of soldiers being spat on in airports.  POW's and MIA's fired the imagination for decades, and went from  a symbol of a shameful war where we were defeated, to the betrayal of "our boys" by the government that sent them there (the seeds of "support our troops" today are in the spat upon soldiers, seeds watered by the mythos of POW's and MIA's).  I thought racism as good as dead, too, especially with millennial growing up in a largely desegregated world.  Wrong again.  So will the #metoo movement really represent a sea change?  The community of '60's college activists caught the public imagination, but were always a minority among college students, and the entire effort quickly dissolved into yuppies and "Morning in America" to wash the tase of failure out of the national mouth.  No small part of that "failure" was the legitimate criticisms of American society from feminists, civil rights activists, even (a bit later) gay rights activists.  All of those movements won gains, but suffered setbacks, too.  One step forward, two steps back, but forward momentum is hard to stop.  Using it to seize power and punish those you think deserving soon leaves everyone disgusted and longing for a more peaceful, and less just, past.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Advent 2017: And also....

"I think it's very uncommon in the First World. This is not a sight that one normally sees. I'd have to say that I haven't seen this," Philip Alston, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, told Connor Sheets of earlier this week as they toured a community in Butler County where raw sewage flows from homes through exposed PVC pipes and into open trenches and pits.


By many accounts, poverty in the U.S. is worse than in most developed nations, despite rhetoric espoused by President Donald Trump and others who claim that the U.S. is the "best country in the world."

According to the Census Bureau, nearly 41 million people in the U.S. live in poverty. That's second-highest rate of poverty among rich countries, as measured by the percentage of people earning less than half the national median income, according to Quartz.


“Some might ask why a U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights would visit a country as rich as the United States," Alston said. "But despite great wealth in the U.S., there also exists great poverty and inequality.”
Alston also pointed out that the U.S. "has been very keen" on other countries being investigated by the U.N. for civil and human rights issues.
"Now, it's the turn to look at what's going on in the U.S.," Alston said. "There are pretty extreme levels of poverty in the United States given the wealth of the country. And that does have significant human rights implications.”


“The idea of human rights is that people have basic dignity and that it’s the role of the government — yes, the government! — to ensure that no one falls below the decent level,” he said.  “Civilized society doesn’t say for people to go and make it on your own and if you can’t, bad luck.”

“Politicians who say, ‘there’s nothing I can do about that’ are simply wrong,” Alston told WKMS 91.3 FM, a public radio station in Ohio near one of the other sites under investigation by the U.N.

Advent is about preparation, both spiritual and physical.  One is not separated from the other.  Religion is not a purely private concern.  It is responsibility.  "Religion is responsibility, or it is nothing at all."--Jacques Derrida

Advent 2017: December 10

The Advent mystery is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not yet Christ.

--Thomas Merton

MERTON'S most important experience in his whole Asian trip came at Polonnaruwa. He went to visit the giant Buddhas and took a series of superb photographs of them.

I am able to approach the Buddhas barefoot and undisturbed, my feet in wet grass, wet sand. The silence of the extraordinary faces. The great smi les. Huge and yet subtle. Filled with every possibility, questioning nothing, knowing everything, rejecting nothing, the peace not of emotional refutation. . . that has seen through every question without trying to discredit anyone or anything-without refutation-without establishing some other argument. For the doctrinaire, the mind that needs well-established positions, such peace, such silence, can be frightening. I was knocked over with a rush of relief and thankfulness at the obvious clarity of the figures. . . . Looking at these figures I was suddenly, almost forcibly, jerked clean out of the habitual, half-tied vision of things, and an inner clearness, clarity, as if exploding from the rocks themselves, became evident and obvious. . . . I don't know when in my life I have ever had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination. Surely, with Mahabalipuram and Polonnaruwa my Asian pilgrimage has come clear and purified itself. I mean, I know and have seen what I was obscurely looking for. I don't know what else remains but I have now seen and have pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and the disguise.

That was on December 4. . . . [On December 10, after addressing the conference in Bangkok,] Merton had lunch and did disappear to his room, commenting to a colleague on the way about how much he was looking forward to having a siesta. In a long letter later written by the delegates at the Conference to Dom Flavian what then occurred was expressed in the following words: "Not long after he retired a shout was heard by others in his cottage, but after a preliminary check they thought'they must have imagined the cry.

"He was found at the end of the meridian (afternoon rest) and when found was lying on the floor. He was on his back with the electric fan lying across his chest. The fan was still switched on, and there was a deep burn and some cuts on his right side and arm. The back of his head was also bleeding slightly."

Perhaps any death brings with it both a sense of surprise and a sense of its inevitability. There are always those, and there were many after Merton's death, who feel that it somehow "had to be like that." Merton had, from time to time, both spoken and written comments that suggested that his death might come early. Some of his friends commented on the extraordinary, almost Zen-like way that death had come to him. Fewer people than one might expect noted that he died on the same day as the great Protestant theologian Karl Barth, and it was a measure of the ecumenism in Louisville, which Merton had been instrumental in promoting, that Catholics and Protestants there united in a joint memorial service for both of them.

Many years before Naomi Burton had made the suggestion, humorously, that Merton was accident-prone. "I couldn't help noticing that it's your visitors who get locked out of the church, and your server who forgets things, and your vestments that get caught in the folding chair. . . . I find your incredible adventures with nature and with publishing extremely endearing." Perhaps Merton was accident-prone; perhaps, like many intellectuals, he tended to get lost in his thinking, and absentmindedly forgot about the dangers of touching electrical equipment with wet hands; perhaps the fan was merely faulty. Perhaps, however, he had finished his life six days before at Polonnaruwa and was called to the God he had loved and served so well.

--Monica Furlong

The sermon I gave [at the conference on monasticism the morning after Merton's death] was a moment of talkinga bout Merton's search for God.  When a monk enters a monastery, what is asked of him is "Are you truly seeking God?"  The question isn't "Have you found God?"  The question is "Is he seeking God?  Is his motivation highly involved in that search of who and what God is in relationship to us?"  It's not philosophical--its' existential.  And Merton, to me, was a great searcher.  He was constantly unhappy, as all great searchers are.  He was constantly ill at ease, he was constantly restless, as all searchers are--because that's part of the search.  And in that sense he was the perfect monk.  Contemplation isn't satisfaction--it's search.

--Rembert Weakland

Charm with your stainlessness these winter nights,
Skies, and be perfect!
Fly vivider in the fiery dark, you quiet meteors,
And disappear.
You moon, be slow to go down,
This is your fill!

The four white roads make off in silence
Towards the four parts of the starry universe.
Time falls like manna at the corners of the wintry earth.
We have become more humble than the rocks,
More wakeful than the patient hills.

Charm with your stainlessness these nights in Advent, holy spheres,
While minds, as meek as beasts,
Stay close at home in the sweet hay;
And intellects are quieter than the flocks that feed by starlight.

Oh pour your darkness and your brightness over all our solemn valleys,
Your skies:  and travel like the gentle Virgin,
Towards the planets' stately setting,

O white moon full as quiet as Bethlehem!

--Thomas Merton

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Advent 2017: December 9

Cats know their place in the world.
(I know, I know; I'm going to hell.)

Ask not, doubt not.  You have, my heart, already chosen the joy of Advent.  As a force against your own uncertainty, bravely tell yourself "It is the Advent of the great God."  Say this with faith and love, and then both the past of your life, which has become holy, and your life's eternal, boundless future will draw together in the now of this world.  For then into the heart comes the one who is Advent, the boundless future who is already in the process of coming, the Lord, who has already come into the time fo the flesh to redeem it.

--Karl Rahner

At the coming of the Most Hight our hearts shall be made clean, and we shall walk worthily in the way of the Lord.  The Lord is coming and will not delay.

--Cistercian Liturgy

Da mercedes, Domine, sustinembus te,
ut prophetae tui fideles inveniantur.
Have mercy on those who wait for you, Lord,
and you shall find your prophets keeping faith.

--Monastic Liturgy

N.B.  It is an old custom to set up the Nativity scene during Advent, but leave the creche empty until Christmas Eve night, to signify the waiting for the birth, the reason for the Advent season.

Friday, December 08, 2017

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Can we even talk about what constitutes "sexual assault"?

But better than never:

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand spoke first: “When you have to start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation. We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of this is OK, none of this is acceptable.”

Gillibrand is right that none of it is OK but she is not right when she says we are having the wrong conversation if we attempt to make distinctions among bad actors. For now, Democrats think zero tolerance and swift punishment gives them the high ground. But they already have that. They should know by now there is no shaming Republicans who are so far below sea level it’s a miracle they can be heard from down there.
And there are questions about the charge that got the ball rolling. Why did Trump adviser Roger Stone know well ahead of time that Playboy model and radio host Leeann Tweeden would be going public with her charges that Franken kissed her against her will in rehearsals for an X-rated USO tour skit (they are all X-rated) and that she had a 2006 photo of Franken groping, or pretending to grope, her chest over a flak jacket as she slept? Stone sent a heads up to conservative website The Daily Caller about it hours before a story in The Washington Post.

There is also value in finding out if any of Franken’s accusers told someone in real time about the conduct, as victims usually do, and if they happened in the work setting or were a professional power play. The answers may not absolve Franken but there is an ethics committee in place where the questions could have been asked.

Making distinctions can only strengthen the movement. Establish standards and apply a finer gauge. Turn up the pressure on Congress to clean up its dirty little secrets. Abolish the internal Office of Compliance where everyone is on the take. Strengthen the ethics committee by bringing outsiders on board. Hear every accusation in a setting where there can be justice for both sides. No more NDAs. No more payouts.

But our hearts are pure, right Sen. Gillibrand?  Yup:

Progressives like Kate Harding, who wrote a Washington Post piece last month arguing that Franken’s resignation would do more harm to women than good, believed they were playing the long game when they encouraged Democrats to allow the senator to keep his seat. Kicking him out might make the party look good now, but the potential damage done by the ouster of a good liberal could last for years. I’d counter with an even longer game: Think about the Democrats with long, bright futures ahead of them, the rising stars, the next Obamas, the legislators who might pass universal Medicare or eliminate Medicaid abortion bans or become president someday.

Does this happen before, or after, we purge Bill Clinton from historic memory, and thus "baptize" the Democratic dead in order to move into this future so bright we'll have to wear shades?  Anybody remember "Landslide Lyndon"?  Voter fraud is a ripe issue in any democracy at any time, and no more so than today, with the President still crying about voter fraud costing him the popular vote, and continuing attempts to reduce the number of people who can vote without increasing the rolls of convicted felons.  And yet does anyone want to expunge LBJ's accomplishments because of LBJ's legacy before he became President?  Why not?  Once this ball is rolling, why stop it?

And yet still there seems to be some buyer's remorse on the morning after:

 “This is a requirement to be able to look at [women] with a straight face and say we’re the party that cares about them,” Guy Cecil, who heads the liberal Priorities USA and previously served as executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told Politico. “As long as Republicans don’t do that, there’s a very sharp contrast to be drawn.”

This is sagacious and intellectually honest commentary. It’s also transparently political. Sacrificing Al Franken—a safe thing for them to do considering that a Democratic governor will name his successor—was but a small price to pay for a brand image that serves as a stark contrast to Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

And yet the problem with that "sagacious and intellectually honest commentary" is that the Gov. of Minnesota is widely expected to appoint a caretaker to the Senate, with a special election to be held in November, 2018.  Al Franken only won the seat by 300 votes, Trump only lost the state by 4000 votes, and Virginia notithstanding, the Democrats have handed the GOP Al Franken as a talking point and political ad good through this time next year.  So maybe that small price will get bigger before the Year of Jubilee and all those "rising stars" take the stage; whoever they are.

But will it work?

The best-laid plans often go awry, and virtue signaling has a mixed track record of success. As liberal columnist Bill Scher recently lamented, “I’ve been alive long enough to know that Democrats having the moral high ground has never been like the linchpin to Democrats winning elections.”

Sadly, elections do not choose the noblest and best the country has to offer, or Donald Trump would not be President and Roy Moore would not stand a better than even chance of victory next week.  And LBJ probably never would have been elected in '64.  And then, of course, you have this problem:

When you take accusations seriously, you incentivize accusers to come forward. When you demonstrate that accusations are pointless and unlikely to result in change, you disincentivize them. Therefore, the party that does the most to address allegations will, ironically, be punished with more scandals.

The former approach doesn't make the accusations true; the latter doesn't prove they are false.  Oh, if only we had a process for sorting fact from fiction!  In the meantime, we will purge our office holders until only the pure in heart are left; or those who follow the Pence rule, whichever comes first.

Dec. 8: Immaculate Conception

Ne timeas, Maria.
Do not be afraid, Mary.

Monastic Liturgy

The Theotokos has been revealed on earth in truth,
Proclaimed of old by the words of the prophets,
Foretold by the wise patriarchs
    and the company of the righteous.
She will exchange glad tidings with the honor of women:
Sarah, Rebekah, and glorious Hannah,
And Miriam, the sister of Moses.
All the ends of the earth shall rejoice with them,
Together with all of creation.
For God shall come to be born in the flesh,
Granting the world great mercy.

Orthodox Liturgy

"That man say we can't have as much rights as a man 'cause Christ wasn't a woman.  Where did your Christ come from?  From God and a woman.  Man had nothing to do with it."

Sojourner Truth

Virtus Altissimi obumbrabit tibi.
The power of the Most High will overshadow you.

Monastic Liturgy

Hail, O most worthy in all the world!
Thou purest Maiden that ever on earth
Through the long ages lived among men!
Rightly all mortals in blithe mood
Name thee blessed and hail thee Bride
Of the King of glory. The thanes of Christ,
In heaven the highest, carol and sing
Proclaiming thee Lady of the heavenly legions,
Of earthly orders, and the hosts of hell.

 Thou only of women didst purpose of old
To bring thy maidhood unto thy Maker,
Presenting it there unspotted of sin.
Of all mankind there came no other,
No bride with linked jewels, like unto thee
With pure heart sending thy glorious gift
To its heavenly home. The Lord of triumph
Sent forth His herald from the hosts on high
To bring thee knowledge of abundant grace:
That in pure birth thou shouldst bear God's Son
In mercy to men; and thou thyself, Mary,
Remain for ever Immaculate Maid.

Author Unknown

Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Day Didn't End Soon Enough

I'm afraid to look outside.  Water will be running uphill.  Dogs and cats, living together!

I know Al Franken wasn't held to the legal standard for his alleged conduct, but there's a reason the legal standard for assault (the civil tort, not the criminal statute) is "a reasonably prudent person."

Assault, as a tort, is an offensive contact.  But what does that mean?  A contact that offends the person contacted?  No, that's too subjective.  Under that standard, simply bumping someone on the sidewalk or in a store could be a civil assault.  The legal standard, then, requires that the contact be offensive to "a reasonably prudent person."  Of course, under that standard, even grabbing someone's ass during a photograph might not be assault; because the jury would have to decide whether a reasonably prudent person would consider it offensive, or simply inappropriate.

The former is actionable, the latter isn't.  And the reason for the standard is pretty much this:

“I have to say that I’m so sad and appalled at his lack of response and him owning up to what he did,” Stephanie Kemplin, an army veteran who accused Franken of groping her while he was in Kuwait entertaining the troops in 2003, said on MSNBC.

“He just keeps passing the buck and making it out to be something that we — we took his behavior the wrong way or we misconstrued something or that we just — we just flat-out lied about what happened to us,” she continued.

Kemplin made the comments when asked if Franken’s resignation is justice for allegedly groping several women. Kemplin said that his resignation does not feel like justice to her and that she would like to see him acknowledge his behavior.

“Justice to me would be him owning up to what he did and to stop trying to pass the buck onto other individuals who possibly — they did commit the same things, maybe even more heinous than what he’s done,” she said, perhaps referencing to Franken’s comment in his resignation speech that President Donald Trump and Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore have not seen the same repercussions for their alleged sexual misconduct.
Justice in the courts is not justice as defined by any one individual.  What Ms. Kemplin wants is justice, by her standards.  What I say she wants, based on her statements, is a pound of flesh; or rather, an extra helping, since she has forced Sen. Franken to resign from the Senate without, as Tom Brokaw noted, any input from the voters of Minnesota.   But as long as it's about what offends an individual, a particular individual, a person named Stephanie Kemplin, then why not another punishment atop this one?  Why not a demand Sen. Franken please Ms. Kemplin by acknowledging his behavior in words that suit her?  And then go on to please every woman who made an accusation against him in the same personal, individual manner, and then perhaps say something that satisfies personally every Senator who called for his resignation?

This is where this nonsense goes, and to say it is as implacable as the sunrise (it is) is not to say it is just and right or even sound governance.  There is a reason there is a process, and it should be held to, even if that process is only the Senate Ethics Committee.

But process doesn't always end the way we want it to, so we should discard it when convenient, right?

Yet many of those same Democratic senators who called for Franken’s resignation joined in what appeared to be a sympathetic and supportive goodbye after his announcement. Franken’s speech and the ensuing response was much more partisan than the initial calls for investigation or his resignation. Franken made the sudden deluge of serious sexual harassment allegations against him sound like a pointed hunt, with innocent civilian casualties — and the room appeared to believe him.

In the opening lines of his announcement, Franken said America is “finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them.”

His final message: Just don’t believe all of them.
Because in this Manichean phase, there are only two options:  believe all women who make accusations, or disbelieve all of them.  The middle ground of assessment is simply betrayal by other means. The only innocent people are the women making accusations; everyone else is just someone who hasn't come forward yet (women) and those who haven't been accused yet (men).

Or something.

Anyway, it ain't justice, because "justice" always means the good guys win.  Now we just have to figure out who the "good guys" are.  But we don't need a process for that; we just know.

Nothing So Became Him As His Leaving

Sen. Al Franken resigns:

A couple of months ago, I felt that we had entered an important moment in the history of this country. We were finally beginning to listen to women about the ways in which men’s actions affect them. That moment was long overdue. I was excited for that conversation, and hopeful that it would result in real change that made life better for women all across the country and in every part of our society.

Then, the conversation turned to me. Over the last few weeks, a number of women have come forward to talk about how they felt my actions had affected them. I was shocked. I was upset. But in responding to their claims, I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard, and their experiences taken seriously.

I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that, in fact, I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.

I said at the outset that the Ethics Committee was the right venue for these allegations to be heard, and investigated, and evaluated on their merits. That I was prepared to cooperate fully. And that I was confident in the outcome.

You know, an important part of the conversation we’ve been having the last few months has been about how men abuse their power and privilege to hurt women.

I am proud that, during my time in the Senate, I have used my power to be a champion for women – and that I have earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside every day. I know there’s been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks. But I know who I really am.

Serving in the United States Senate has been the great honor of my life. I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a Senator – nothing – has brought dishonor on this institution. And I am confident that the Ethics Committee would agree.

Nevertheless, today I am announcing that, in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.

I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.

But this decision is not about me. It’s about the people of Minnesota. And it’s become clear that I can’t both pursue the Ethics Committee process and, at the same time, remain an effective Senator for them.

Let me be clear. I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice. I will continue to stand up for the things I believe in as a citizen, and as an activist.

But Minnesotans deserve a Senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the challenges they face every day.

There is a big part of me that will always regret having to walk away from this job with so much work left to be done. But I have faith that the work will continue, because I have faith in the people who have helped me do it.

I have faith in the dedicated, funny, selfless young men and women on my staff. They have so much more to contribute to our country. And I hope that, as disappointed as they may feel today, everyone who has ever worked for me knows how much I admire and respect them.

I have faith in my colleagues, especially my senior Senator, Amy Klobuchar. I would not have been able to do this job without her guidance and wisdom. And I have faith – or, at least, hope – that members of this Senate will find the political courage necessary to keep asking the tough questions, hold this administration accountable, and stand up for the truth.

I have faith in the activists who organized to help me win my first campaign and who have kept on organizing to help fight for the people who needed us: kids facing bullying, seniors worried about the price of prescription drugs, Native Americans who have been overlooked for far too long, working people who have been taking it on the chin for a generation – everyone in the middle class and everyone aspiring to join it.

I have faith in the proud legacy of progressive advocacy that I have had the privilege to be a part of. I think I’ve probably repeated these words ten thousand times over the years, Paul Wellstone’s famous quote: “The future belongs to those who are passionate and work hard.” It is still true. It will always be true.

And, most of all, I have faith in Minnesota. A big part of this job is going around the state and listening to what people need from Washington. But, more often than not, when I’m home, I’m blown away by how much Minnesota has to offer the entire country and the entire world. The people I have had the honor of representing are brilliant, and creative, and hard-working. And whoever holds this seat next will inherit the challenge I’ve enjoyed for the last eight and a half years: being as good as the people you serve.

This has been a tough few weeks for me. But I am a very, very lucky man. I have a beautiful, healthy family that I love, and that loves me very much. I am going to be just fine.

I’d just like to end with one last thing.

I did not grow up wanting to be a politician. I came to this relatively late in life. I had to learn a lot on the fly. It wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t always fun.

I’m not just talking about today. This is a hard thing to do with your life. There are a lot of long hours and late nights and hard lessons, and there is no guarantee that all your work and sacrifice will ever pay off. I won my first election by 312 votes – it could have easily gone the other way. And even when you win, progress is far from inevitable. Paul Wellstone spent his whole life working for mental health parity, and it didn’t pass into law until six years after he died.

This year, a lot of people who didn’t grow up imagining they’d ever get involved in politics have done just that. They’ve gone to their first protest march, or made their first call to a member of Congress, or maybe even taken the leap and put their name on a ballot for the first time.

It can be such a rush, to look around at a room full of people ready to fight alongside you, to feel that energy, to imagine that better things are possible. But you, too, will experience setbacks and defeats and disappointments. There will be days when you will wonder whether it’s worth it.

What I want you to know is that, even today, even on the worst day of my political life, I feel like it’s all been worth it. “Politics,” Paul Wellstone told us, “is about the improvement of people’s lives.” I know that the work I’ve been able to do has improved people’s lives. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

For a decade now, every time I would get tired, or discouraged, or frustrated, I would think about the people I was doing this for, and it would get me back up on my feet. I know the same will be true for everyone who decides to pursue a politics that is about improving people’s lives. And I hope you know that I will be right there fighting alongside you, every step of the way.

With that, M. President, I yield the floor.

Thank God we got rid of him, right?!  No more allegations of ass grabbing about Senators! Who cares if he can address the Senate like that, it's unexamined allegations from the past and anonymous sources that really matter!  And who cares if the seat goes to a Republican!  Our hearts are pure!

Now, if the Senators who called for Franken's resignation could just show half the grace and intelligence and character he did.  And yes, I mean all the Senators who called for his resignation; every last one of them.