Sunday, November 10, 2013

I'm A Believer


I was always a kind of spiritual person, but one who was repulsed by religion. All my acid trips were spiritual. I talk to God every day. I admire some of the incredible Gothic churches of Europe and the Vatican art collection is spectacular but I've always tended to stay away from organized religion and tend to see all of them as Satan's paws on earth. Lately I've had Pope Francis on my mind. I liked him as soon as I heard he had taken the name Francis. I've been wondering about embracing Catholicism. The Church has way too much baggage for me and God only knows what kind of garbage will grab the Papacy after Francis-- so, no, it's not going to happen. But it was odd for me to even contemplate it. Maybe I'll think about it again when Francis gets rid of the head of the Catholicism-without-Jesus faction inside the Curia, Raymond Cardinal Burke, the former bishop of La Crosse and archbishop of St. Louis, the kind of hate-filled monstrosity that has alienated millions of God's children from the Catholic Church over the centuries.

Today's NY Times explored why right-wing Catholics, the ones who admire religio-fascists Burke and figures like Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor, dislike Pope Francis.
In the eight months since he became pope, Francis has won affection worldwide for his humble mien and common touch. His approval numbers are skyrocketing. Even atheists are applauding.

But not everyone is so enchanted. Some Catholics in the church’s conservative wing in the United States say Francis has left them feeling abandoned and deeply unsettled. On the Internet and in conversations among themselves, they despair that after 35 years in which the previous popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, drew clear boundaries between right and wrong, Francis is muddying Catholic doctrine to appeal to the broadest possible audience.

They were particularly alarmed when he told a prominent Italian atheist in an interview published in October, and translated into English, that “everyone has his own idea of good and evil” and that everyone should “follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them”-- a remark that many conservatives interpreted as appearing to condone relativism. He called proselytizing “solemn nonsense.”

They were shocked when they saw that Francis said in the interview that “the most serious of the evils” today are “youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old.” It compounded the chagrin after he said in an earlier interview that he had intentionally “not spoken much” about abortion, same-sex marriage or contraception because the church could not be “obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines.”

Steve Skojec, the vice president of a real estate firm in Virginia and a blogger who has written for several conservative Catholic websites, wrote of Francis’ statements: “Are they explicitly heretical? No. Are they dangerously close? Absolutely. What kind of a Christian tells an atheist he has no intention to convert him? That alone should disturb Catholics everywhere.”

In an interview on Friday, Mr. Skojec said he was overwhelmed by the positive response to his blog from people who said they were thinking the same things but had not wanted to say them in public. He said he had come to suspect that Francis is a “self-styled revolutionary” who wants to change the church fundamentally.

“There have been bad popes in the history of the church,” Mr. Skojec said. “Popes that murdered, popes that had mistresses. I’m not saying Pope Francis is terrible, but there’s no divine protection that keeps him from being the type of guy who with subtlety undermines the teachings of the church to bring about a different vision.”

Most American Catholics do not share Mr. Skojec’s objections. A poll released last month by Quinnipiac University found that two in three agreed with Francis that the church was too “obsessed” with a few issues.

In parsing Francis’ statements in recent weeks, other conservative Catholics are concluding that nothing he has said contradicts the Catholic catechism, with some of his language even echoing Benedict’s. But in interviews, the words that conservatives used most often to characterize Francis were “naïve” and “imprudent.” They believe that he is saying things in ways that the news media and the church’s “enemies” are able to distort, and that there are consequences.

Some pointed to a vote on gay marriage just last week in Illinois. Two Catholic state legislators who voted to approve same-sex marriage there cited the words of Pope Francis: “Who am I to judge?” The pope said those words in response to a question about gay people during a long, freewheeling interview on an airplane in July. But Francis has not changed Catholic teaching, which holds that marriage is between only a man and a woman and that gay sex is wrong but gay people are worthy of mercy and respect…Some conservative Catholics are sharing prophecies online that foretell of tribulations for the church.
Yeah, I'm not converting. I'll contemplate Jesus' message and stick to what Dylan said about not following leaders and watching my parking meters. Except Elizabeth Warren. I'll follow her.
Get sick, get well
Hang around an ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
Try hard, get barred
Get back, write Braille
Get jailed, jump bail Join the army, if you failed
Look out kid
You're gonna get hit
But users, cheaters
Six-time losers
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool
Lookin' for a new fool
Don't follow leaders
Watch the parkin' meters.
Maybe I'm a fool but I want to think I can tell the wheat from the chaff. I knew better than to vote for Obama in 2012 and I didn't. I want to see Warren elected president before I die. Noam Scheiber has a major piece about the prospect in the New Republic today. Maybe, he offers, Hillary is not as inevitable as the corporate media insists she is. "[A]nyone who lived through 2008 knows that inevitable candidates have a way of becoming distinctly evitable. With the Clintons’ penchant for melodrama and their checkered cast of hangers-on-- one shudders to consider the embarrassments that will attend the Terry McAuli ffe administration in Virginia-- Clinton-era nostalgia is always a news cycle away from curdling into Clinton fatigue. Sometimes, all it takes is a single issue and a fresh face to bring the bad memories flooding back." If, as Scheiber asserts, the 2016 election cycle is going to be about "the power of America's wealthiest," Hillary isn't going too be the best-suited nominee. A populist she's not. What potential nominee is? Scheiber seems certain it's Warren. From his lips to God's ears.
In addition to being strongly identifed with the party’s populist wing, any candidate who challenged Clinton would need several key assets. The candidate would almost certainly have to be a woman, given Democrats’ desire to make history again. She would have to amass huge piles of money with relatively little e ffort. Above all, she would have to awaken in Democratic voters an almost evangelical passion. As it happens, there is precisely such a person. Her name is Elizabeth Warren.

A Harvard law professor and best-selling author who led the congressional task force overseeing the bank bailout, Warren was already a liberal icon before she set foot in the Senate last January. Her public floggings of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner helped make her a fixture on MSNBC, The Daily Show, and the Hu ffington Post.

…For its part, the Obama administration appears to regard Warren with its own special wariness. Take the successful campaign to block the would-be nomination of Larry Summers to be Federal Reserve chairman. Brown and Merkley played critical roles in halting Summers’s momentum and rounding up “no” votes among fellow Democrats. But Warren’s contribution is hard to overstate. “Elizabeth did something only she could do,” says a source close to the Fed chairman selection process, “which was engage with the administration on the subject and make clear that, if they insisted on moving ahead, the whole weight of her capacity could be brought to bear.” This “was a different order of magnitude,” says the source, alluding to Warren’s outsized fundraising heft-- $42 million raised for her Senate race, half of it online-- and her media magnetism. A Warren aide doesn’t dispute this, saying only that “she passed along her concerns to the White House.”

…Warren has been preoccupied with the plight of the middle class since her childhood, when her father su ffered a heart attack and her mother took a job in the catalog department of Sears to keep four kids clothed and fed. “I watched Obama get completely obsessed by health care reform… and realized it was all about his mother on her death bed,” says a longtime Warren friend. “For her, it was her father.” As a law professor in the 1980s, Warren conducted research demonstrating that most of the people who filed for bankruptcy weren’t deadbeats, contrary to the popular perception, but hardworking, often middle-class households who’d endured staggering economic hardship.

In the mid-’90s, Warren began a lonely, decade-long crusade against the financial industry’s e fforts to make it harder for people to declare bankruptcy. Not long before the banks finally got their way in Congress in 2005, Warren published her book The Two-Income Trap, co-written with her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi. It was a popular treatment of 25 years of academic work, and it proved so successful that Dr. Phil invited her on-air to discuss it. Warren wasn’t sure daytime talk was the proper venue for a Harvard professor, so she asked the school’s then-dean (now Supreme Court justice), Elena Kagan, if she should accept. Kagan told her to do the appearance if she thought it would advance her mission. “[Warren] said, ‘Yeah, I’m sick of working with one committee on the Hill. If I can mainline my message to six million people, I’d like to do it,’ ” recalls the friend. “That was big.”

Ever since, Warren’s mindset has been utterly brass tacks. When I asked about her views toward Geithner, one progressive activist who has worked closely with Warren told me it can be tempting to try to understand how people in power might be acting in good faith, even if they’re wrong. “Elizabeth is neither sentimental nor vindictive,” the activist said. “She’s not that interested in why people carry water for Wall Street or what they think of her.” She spends her time trying to beat her adversaries, the activist explained, or at least hold them accountable. As Warren told the Hu ffington Post during the fight over financial reform: “My first choice is a strong consumer agency. My second choice is no agency at all and plenty of blood and teeth left on the floor.”

The proper interpretation of Warren’s prodigious p.r. eff orts, then, isn’t that she’s especially taken with the idea of media stardom. It’s that she is relentlessly, perhaps ruthlessly, maybe even a bit messianically, focused on advancing her policy agenda. Everything else is merely instrumental.

This is what the banking industry and its Republican allies (as well as internal opponents like Geithner) didn’t fully appreciate when they e ffectively killed Warren’s hopes of permanently heading the consumer agency in 2011. Anyone who knows Warren will tell you she had no particular ambition to be a senator. She decided that the Senate would suffi ce as a way to agitate for her issues only when Obama stiff ed her for the CFPB job-- an enormous disappointment after she spent months lining up support among banks. “It’s poetic justice. At end of the day, if the banking community hadn’t been so apoplectic, everyone could have decided it’s this little tiny agency, who really cares?” says Anita Dunn, Obama’s White House communications director in 2009. “Instead, she ends up as a senior senator from Massachusetts on the banking committee, blocking Larry at the Fed.”
Polling indicates that grassroots Democrats-- if not K Streeters, Big Money funders and Beltway professional Democrats-- are on the exact same page as Warren in terms of the issues, especially any issues that involve Wall Street banksters. And, "Increasingly," posits Scheiber, "Democratic donors are looking for more than just a person to support; they’re looking for a candidate who represents something larger than their own ambition. With Obama, it was all about hope and change. With Warren, it would be about a distinct worldview. But as di fferent as their sources of appeal are, both allow donors to feel as if they’re part of a larger crusade. By contrast, the long-standing knock on the Clintons in these circles (unfair in many ways) is that they primarily represent the cause of themselves. 'Warren has core convictions that would allow her to answer the question, "Why are you running?" and not spend a lot of money on focus groups,' says Dunn." She raises more money for Democrats than anyone short of Obama and Hillary Clinton and her videos go viral and attack hundreds of thousands of viewers. This one had over a million:

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At 5:37 PM, Blogger mahakal said...

Yes. Can I please have Elizabeth Warren for President? Thank you.

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" ... the long-standing knock on the Clintons in these circles" is utterly fair in these specific ways:

1) Defense of Marriage Act - unconstitutional
2) DADT - dumped
3) Telecom Deregulation Act of 1996, aka "Rupert Murdoch Enabling Act"
6) “end of welfare as we know it”
7) repeal of Glass-Steagall Act
8) legalization of OTC derivatives, with #7, the impetus for current Depression 2.0
9) Extension of and presiding over Pappy Bush’s war crime of Desert Storm “economic sanctions” that were collective punishment of Iraqis and, as easily predicted for such sanctions, were merely a strategy to “soften up” a target country in preparation for (another) war --- not to mention having killed 1 million Iraqi's, half of them children (see Madeleine Albright's famous "it was worth it" quote.)

John Puma


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