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Scratching the itch to ruminate, meditate, contemplate and deliberate, then bloviate, perorate, or even objurgate about ministry, music, miscellanea, politics, people, places, the hazardous, the hopeful, the horrendous, the ambiguous, the dubious, the numinous, the nebulous and sometimes even my necrotizing nemesis - Multiple Sclerosis.
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legions of heavenly host,
bright faces covered, praising,
all chanting, voices raising.
chaos yawning, swift and deep,
known, yet unknown. Fear unfurling,
death and darkness churning, swirling.
One last look at golden glory.
The Three part; He is now One.
The Father’s voice says, “Go well, my Son.”
into the abyss.
His next memory will be a Mother’s kiss.
~ Denise Day Spencer, January 1999
On January 20th, President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office using the same Bible upon which President Lincoln was sworn in at his first inauguration. The Bible is currently part of the collections of the Library of Congress. Though there is no constitutional requirement for the use of a Bible during the swearing-in, Presidents have traditionally used Bibles for the ceremony, choosing a volume with personal or historical significance. President-elect Obama will be the first President sworn in using the Lincoln Bible since its initial use in 1861.
Thomas A. Schweich served the Bush administration as ambassador for counter-narcotics in Afghanistan and deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement affairs. In Sunday's Washington Post, he writes, "The Pentagon is muscling in everywhere. It's time to stop the mission creep."
Identifying himself as a "lifelong Republican," the opening paragraph of his opinion piece begins with this stunning statement: "We no longer have a civilian-led government." It ends with this sentence: "Our Constitution is at risk."
Read the entire article here.
Ordinary workers have suffered. It took years to get a lousy little boost in the minimum wage for the working poor. Attempts to expand health insurance coverage were fought almost to a standstill. Guaranteed pensions vanished. And the maniacs who set fire to the economy with their incendiary financial instruments (yet another form of voodoo) were hot to privatize Social Security.
As Andy Stern, president of the huge Service Employees International Union, told me on Friday: "We've had a 25-year experience with market-worshipping, deregulating, privatizing, trickle-down policies, and it has ended us up with the greatest economy on earth staggering, and with the greatest amount of inequality since the Great Depression."
Working people have been treated like enemies, a class to be preyed upon. Labor unions were ferociously attacked. Jobs were shipped overseas by the millions. People were hired as temps or consultants so benefits could be denied.
Deep Thought - Josh Marshall, TPM
It's going to take a lot of money to make the rich people rich again.
A Cast of Thousands - Lillian Daniel, Leadership Journal
The mission of the church is not efficiency, but developing all its people.
The church cares less about getting the job done and more about the people doing it. We are not in the efficiency business. Our business is to make disciples. We want to offer as many people as possible the chance to know Christ in service and in community.
A Tip from Brett of The Hendricksonians
The report, endorsed by Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Armed
Services Committee, is the most forceful denunciation to date of the
role that Rumsfeld and other top officials played in the prisoner
abuse scandals of the last five years.
The document also challenges assertions by senior Bush administration
officials that the most egregious cases of prisoner mistreatment were
isolated incidents of appalling conduct by U.S. troops.
"The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the
result of a few soldiers acting on their own," the report says.
-- LA Times, Dec. 12
But let's be clear. The problem isn't farmers. It's the farm lobby -
hijacked by industrial operators - and a bipartisan tradition of
kowtowing to it.
Modern confinement operations are less like farms than like meat
assembly lines. They are dazzlingly efficient in some ways, but they
use vast amounts of grain, as well as low-level antibiotics to reduce
infections - and the result is a public health threat from
An industrial farm with 5,000 hogs produces as much waste as a town
with 20,000 people. But while the town is required to have a sewage
system, the industrial farm isn't.
An online petition that can be found at www.fooddemocracynow.org calls
for a reformist pick for agriculture secretary - and names six
terrific candidates, such as Chuck Hassebrook, a reformer in Nebraska.
On several occasions in the campaign, Mr. Obama made comments showing
a deep understanding of food issues, but the names that people in the
food industry say are under consideration for agriculture secretary
represent the problem more than the solution.
The most powerful signal Mr. Obama could send would be to name a
reformer to a renamed position. A former secretary of agriculture,
John Block, said publicly the other day that the agency should be
renamed "the Department of Food, Agriculture and Forestry." And
another, Ann Veneman, told me that she believes it should be renamed,
"Department of Food and Agriculture." I'd prefer to see simply
"Department of Food," giving primacy to America's 300 million eaters.
-- Nicholas Kristof, New York Times
WSJ's Dennis Berman tells colleague Evan Newmark that although tens of thousands of people have managed to hold on to their jobs, there isn't much work to go around. Instead, he says, Wall Streeters are working to appear busy.
HT: Barry Ritholtz via The Big Picture
The subtle myth pervading much of ministry holds that we minister most effectively when we are at "the top of our game." I remember a speaker who urged young seminarians to be secure in their faith because they are to stand on the dock and throw out the lifesaving ring to those who are drowning. There is a degree of wisdom in the picture, but it gives the idea that we minister out of our competence to those who are spiritually incompetent. The metamessage we send out is this: Once I was messed up just like you, and now, since I've gotten my life squared away, wouldn't you like to become like me? Over time, that puts intense pressure on the minister to keep looking good so that people will want to be like the minister. And we miss the joy and power of ministering out of our weakness: "Therefore I am content with weaknesses,…for whenever I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10) pg. 87
MCFADDEN: Is it literally true, the Bible?
BUSH: You know. Probably not ... No, I'm not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from it, but I do think that the New Testament, for example is ... has got ... You know, the important lesson is "God sent a son."
MCFADDEN: So, you can read the Bible...
BUSH: That God in the flesh, that mankind can understand there is a God who is full of grace and that nothing you can do to earn his love. His love is a gift and that in order to draw closer to God and in order to express your appreciation for that love is why you change your behavior.
MCFADDEN: So, you can read the Bible and not take it literally. I mean you can -- it's not inconsistent to love the Bible and believe in evolution, say.
BUSH: Yeah, I mean, I do. I mean, evolution is an interesting subject. I happen to believe that evolution doesn't fully explain the mystery of life and ...
MCFADDEN: But do you believe in it?
BUSH: That God created the world, I do, yeah.
MCFADDEN: But what about ...
BUSH: Well, I think you can have both. I think evolution can -- you're getting me way out of my lane here. I'm just a simple president. But it's, I think that God created the Earth, created the world; I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an almighty, and I don't think it's incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution.
Obama said he wants to avoid "groupthink" and signaled that he wants to hear a range of opinions before deciding on the best course.
If he can manage them, it's likely the best way to govern, analysts say. If not, he could be stuck mediating a bunch of feuding egotists unable to coalesce even once he's made a final decision.
"It tells us how he wants to govern, with the best and brightest, with strong, often different and conflicting views helping to hammer out the best option," said Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist and scholar of the presidency at the University of Texas at Austin. "We have to watch to see if he can make it work."
The Supreme Court is expected to announce on Monday whether or not it will consider two cases contending that Barack Obama is not a "natural born citizen," as the president is required to be under Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. One case, referred to the court by Justice Clarence Thomas after Justice David Souter had rejected it, argues that because Obama's father was a citizen of Kenya, at the time a British colony.
At least four of the court's nine judges must approve before a case is heard, and the great majority of the petitions brought before the Court are dismissed without comment. Still, it's further grist for what's been an active conspiracy mill.
"I think there are just a lot of people who just want to believe it," said Paul Waldman, who has studied the conspiracy theories over Obama's citizenship for Media Matters.
Waldman said that like with the claims that the Clintons killed White House Counsel Vince Foster, a certain segment of the population will continue to believe Obama won on illegitimate grounds no matter how often the claim is disproved.
Like a field goal that perfectly splits the uprights. Like 3-point shot that swishes through the net without touching the rim. Like sinking a 30 foot putt, making an eagle on a par 5 or even scoring a hole-in-one. So it is with Obama's master stroke of naming Eric Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Few could make the point better than James Fallows of The Atlantic:
Obama is elevating the man who was right, when Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, et al were so catastrophically wrong -- that is something that neither Obama nor anyone around him need say out loud, ever. The nomination is like a hyper-precision missile, or what is known in politics as a "dog whistle." The people for whom this is a complete slap in the face don't need to be told that. They know -- and know that others know it too. So do the people for whom it is vindication. And all without Obama descending for one second from his bring-us-together higher plane.
Shinseki was Army Chief of Staff who told Congress in 2003 that it would take several hundred thousand troops to maintain peace in a post-war Iraq. His opinion ran counter to the Bush administration's desire to stay lean and mean in carrying out the war. The dispute with Rumsfeld led to the naming of Shinseki's replacement a full year before his term was up. Such an unprecedented move by a vindictive Secretary of Defense effectively cut Shinseki's feet out from under him ending any real effectiveness.
The Washington Post released an excerpt from a 12 page letter the General sent to Rumsfeld at the time of his resignation: People are central to everything we do in the Army. Institutions don't transform, people do. Platforms and organizations don't defend the nation, people do. . . . Without people in the equation, readiness and transformation are little more than academic exercises.
Also, in that same Washington Post article we read:
Juan Cole, a University of Michigan history professor who writes about the Iraq war and Islam, called Shinseki's appointment ironic. If Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and [former undersecretary for defense Douglas J.] Feith had listened to Shinseki, there wouldn't be as many wounded veterans to take care of," Cole said. "I think this is a way of saying, 'Here was a career officer who had valuable insights who was shunted aside by arrogant civilians, and we're not going to make the same kind of mistakes.'"
In recent days, The Washington Times and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review have published op-eds by members of the Heritage Foundation containing the false claim that union autoworkers earn $75 an hour in wages and benefits. In a November 28 Washington Times op-ed, Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner claimed that "UAW [United Auto Workers] employees earn three times as much as an average blue collar worker makes -- $75 per hour on average in wages and benefits." Similarly, in a November 25 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review op-ed, Heritage fellow James Sherk claimed that "UAW workers are among the world's most affluent. They take home an eye-popping $75 an hour in wages and benefits -- triple what the average private-sector worker earns." In fact, autoworkers do not take home an average of $75 per hour. According to General Motors, these claims are based not only on current workers' hourly wages and benefits, such as health care and retirement, but also retirement and health-care benefits that U.S. automakers are providing for current retirees.
HT: Media Matters