Tuesday, October 21, 2014


[NOTE: A story in the 19 October Telegraph alerted me to Pope Francis's 13 October homily delivered at Santa Marta and published by Vatican Radio.  I write in disappointment and alarm at his words.]

The adoration of Pope Francis has swept all before it.  The man inspiring people in the Catholic Church and appealing to people outside it, he has earned a reputation as a leader who appears liberal in outlook and kindly in approach to divisive issues, mostly concerned with marriage, divorce, and abortion.  Whether he can lead the Catholic Church to different practices, if not different doctrines, on these issues remains to be seen.  Certainly, the result of the latest synod, which first floated, then deflated, a statement welcoming to those whose conduct departs from church teachings, raises questions about his effectuality, but not about his enlightened, progressive views sincerely held and forthrightly advocated.

While the synod was debating a statement initially favorable to gays, lesbians, and divorced individuals, Pope Francis was delivering a homily surprisingly regressive in its views of Judaism.  In essence, it countered changes of attitude toward, and position on, the relationship between Judaism and Christianity begun by Vatican II over 50 years ago.  Under Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, the Church not only notably repudiated its past position that all Jews then and since shared responsibility for the Crucifixion, but also more controversially implied a dual covenantal view of the relationship between Jews and God, and Christians and God.  The short form of the justification for this view is, “God did not, and does not, make mistakes”—or, I might add, renege on his promises.  In essence, the Church tacitly acknowledged that Judaism is a complete, coherent, cogent, and, for its believers, compelling faith independent of any other faith.

Pope Francis reverted to a traditional view that Judaism is merely a consistent and self-contained code of rigid laws which constitutes an incomplete, thus an imperfect, faith because, he claims, it did not, and does not, recognize the full trajectory of its prophetic teachings fulfilled by Jesus the Messiah.  Thus, on 13 October, at Santa Marta, this Pope declared, as reported by the Vatican Radio, that “‘a path is not absolute in itself,’ it is a path towards ‘the ultimate manifestation of the Lord.  Life is a journey toward the fullness of Jesus Christ, when He will come again’....  Pope Francis added, ‘they [“the Doctors of the Law,” as he calls them] failed to understand that the law they guarded and loved’ was a pedagogy towards Jesus Christ. ‘If the law does not lead to Jesus Christ’ - he said – ‘if it does not bring us closer to Jesus Christ, it is dead....’”

Nothing can save Pope Francis from the implications of his words.  His homily echoes centuries of anti-Judaic preachings in its pejorative depiction of Judaism as a faith of the “dead” under the “law.”  The characterization of Judaism as a faith defined by laws is false to, and disrespectful of, Judaism.  The representation of Judaism as a dead legalism and the disregard of its moral merits and religious integrity because it does not accept Jesus as the Messiah condemns Jesus’ faith only because it is different from Christianity.  Bad enough is his re-assertion of anti-Judaic views which repudiate the best thinking of religious thinkers, many of them Catholic, since the Second World War.  Worse is his revival of the old canards about Jewish believers as something rather like religious zombies, living dead, untouched, and untouchable, by Christian truth or stubborn in its denial—and what all else?  The old canards newly stated or implied by Pope Francis have had dangerous and deadly consequences for Jews in the past.  Is this Pope prepared to accept responsibility for their consequences in the future?

As Pope Francis advances sympathy for, and acceptance of, Catholics who have deviated from Church teachings on social issues, he retreats to scorn and rejection of Jews, who never accepted them in the first place.  The Pope’s views are enlightened when it comes to Catholics (Christians, more generally) but benighted when it comes to Jews.  It is easy for him to win acclaim on the Left, for the New Left combines approval of LGBTs and disapproval of Jews and Israel.  For many Church leaders, his liberal views on same-sex marriage, divorce, and abortion may be anathema, but his conservative views on Judaism and Jews reveal prevalent Catholic attitudes and beliefs hidden by a half century of hypocrisy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


[NOTE: to


access the blog, use the date list to the right

14-03-15 The Real Americans Are Not "Real Americans"
14-03-01 So Gay about Rights
14-02-15 Creationism versus Evolutionism: Ham versus Nye
14-02-03 Down and Out in New Mexico and Las Cruces
14-02-01 Obama’s Presidency—Toward an Adverse Assessment
14-01-18 SCOTUS: Undemocratic and Anti-Democratic
14-01-04 Fundamentalist Christian and Reform Jew: An Exchange about Christmas
13-12-21 "Free Market" Is a Swindler's Fiction
13-12-14 Is Christmas Necessary?  It Depends.
13-12-07 Why More Testing for Public Education in New Mexico?
13-11-23 Can You Believe--Think Tanks in New Mexico
13-11-22 Another Date Which Will Live in Infamy
13-11-09 If You Want to Be Equal, Work Harder
13-11-06 Dumb and Dumber-Common Core Dumbs Us Down Even More
13-10-26 Tea Partiers Are People, Too, My Friend
13-10-19 Nissen vs. DACC and NMSU—Eye Opener and Game Changer
13-10-12 Knowing Jesus; Believing in Christ
13-09-28 Social Engineering in Public Education to Serve Government and Business Interests
13-09-14 Revitalizing Public Education, not Ruining It with “Reforms”
13-09-09 To Attack or Not to Attack Syria—That Is the Question
13-08-31 Rotten to the Core: Common Core State Standards
13-08-17 Privatization Is Parasitism Exploiting and Impoverishing Public Education
13-08-17 Racism in Profiling, Voting Rights, Advisory Notice on LCCC Testimony (3)
13-08-04 Anti-Abortionists: Ignorant, Arrogant, Intolerant
13-07-28 Anthony Weiner's Wife: "A Woman of Valor"
13-07-20 End Affirmative Action
13-07-17 That Conversation about Race Which We Are Supposed to Have
13-07-07 GOP: Grand, No; Old, Yes; Party, Over
13-07-06 The Sorg Perversion
13-06-22 Edward Snowden: Traitor, Patriot, or Something Else?
13-06-21 Bait and Switch: Las Cruces Golf Course Re-Zoning Proposal
13-06-12 Anti-Abortion Arguments and Their Unavoidable Failures 
13-06-08 NAACP--Its Slide toward the Dark Side of Its Force
13-06-05 SNAFU: Situation Normal, A Fiasco Underway, or Las Cruces Plans for a Boondoggle
13-05-25 Obama--No Hope of Audacity
13-05-18 The Establishment Is Nervous about NMSU’s New Presiden
13-05-11 Sex and the Services
13-05-05 Local Oxymorons: NMSU Education, Las Montanas Education
13-04-27 A Politics of Literature and Live, or What Does King Lear Have to Do with Me?
13-04-12 Gun Control: Whom Do Udall, Heinrich, and Pearce Represent? [same as foregoing w/new title]
13-04-10 Whom or What Do Representatives Represent?
13-03-29 Second Amendment Does Not Prohibit Gun Control
13-03-27 My Same-Sex Marriage Avowals
13-03-16 Spending Problem: Military Boondoggles for White-Collar Workfare
13-03-09 Learning Lessons from Recent Wars
13-03-03 The Left Lies on Nuclear Power (as the Right Lies on Guns)
13-02-23 Gunboys--What Is Their Problem?
13-02-16 The Second American Civil War
13-02-02 Is New Mexico a Failed State?
13-01-30 Let's Go to the Dogs--A Tribute to Cowboy
13-01-26 DACC Nursing Program Report and Its Chances of Losing State Accreditation
13-01-19 A Democrat by Any Other Name Is a Democrat, or Being Social without Being Socialist
13-01-06 Stupid Is as Stupid Says, and Stays So--Why?
12-12-22 Assault Weapons, Politicos, Psychos, and the Second Amendment
12-12-15 Assault Weapons Are for Murdering Dears
12-12-08 Education Reform Needs to be Reformed
12-12-01 Government and Growth in Las Cruces
12-11-24 John McCain: Sham Hero, Real Shame
12-11-19 Thanksgiving Blessing(s)
12-11-15 Regents Pretend to Transparency in NMSU Presidential Search
12-11-09 Post-Election Ode to Billie Joe and Betty Lou
12-11-03 If Republicans Take Washington: Four Predictions and One Speculation (8)
12-10-27 Perils of Exceptionalism: Making War in the Muslim World
12-10-24 Alberson: Untrustworthy in Character and as a Candidate [local only]
12-10-20 Alberson vs. Soules--Contrasting Candidates in NM Senate District 37
12-10-13 NMSU’s Giveaway Deserves a “No” Vote on Bond Issue #3
12-10-10 Campaign Debates: Ignore the Math; the Issues, not the Numbers, Matter
12-10-06 Sex, Secret Agendas, and Stealth Candidates
12-10-03 Regents Disclose What They Meant to Hide
12-10-01 Is Couture a Scapegoat for the Greater Sins of Others?
12-09-29 Con Job: Privatizing Government
12-09-29 Republicans Attack 47 Percent of the Franchise and Then Some
12-09-26 Couture on Leave - Where Does It Leave NMSU?
12-09-19 Romney, American Royalist
12-09-16 Bomb, Bomb, Bomb--Bomb, Bomb Iran//Bombing Iran--A Really, Really Bad Idea
12-09-15 Romney--Much Ado about a Nobody
12-09-09 Class Warfare: Who's Winning
12-09-05 The Race Is On [The Better Horse: Secretariat or Seabiscuit]
12-09-01 Why Christians Fail when They Fail
12-08-30 The Romney/Ryan Strategy: “Bain-Capitalize” the Federal Government
12-08-25 Reconsidering Abortion and Considering Candidates
12-08-21 DCAA’s Loss of Accreditation Discredits Local Leaders & Note on Regents' Meeting
12-08-18 Two Stories of a Small Town Stifling Free Speech, and a Moral
12-08-15 Nursing Wounds at Dona Ana Community College and New Mexico State University
12-08-11 America Is Exceptional for Its Mass Murders
12-08-08 Regarding Harbison [local; not posted]
12-08-04 My Theory of Everything
12-08-02 Obama vs. Romney: The Difference in Their Records
12-07-21 Supreme Court Conservatives Convert Democracy to Oligarchy
12-07-17 Why Romney Dodges Disclosure
12-07-14 The Tea Party Declares Its Independence on the Fourth
12-07-07 Dumbing Down Democracy
12-06-23 Romney Disses Hispanics; Leaks of Secrets Do No Harm
12-06-09 Hot Topics: Forest Fires, Same-Sex Marriages, and Abortions for Gender Preferences
12-06-07 On Wisconsin: Plutocratic Politics
12-05-26 Brown Farm Fiasco--The Saga of Foibles and Failures Continues
12-05-23 Hooks's Lines Are Sinkers: "Republicans Don't Hate"
12-05-12 Thinking in the Tank: Sinking by the Rio Grande Foundation
12-04-28 Secret Agendas, Stealth Candidates--All Republican
12-04-15 Supplement to Blog on Dismal Science
12-04-14 Dismal Performances by Local Practitioners of the "Dismal Science"
12-04-13 Sundry Political Reflections
12-03-31 Christianity under Attack in America
12-03-17 Evaluating Teachers--Good Luck with That
12-03-14 Heather Wilson Knows Little and Cares Less about "Religious Liberty"
12-03-12 Out of Afghanistan--Yesterday If Not Earlier
12-03-07 Rio Grande Foundation on Shaky Foundations
12-03-03 Keeping Company with Republicans
12-03-03 Republicans Have a Sense of Humor
12-02-22 Republican Leaders Abandon First Principles to Wage War on Women
12-02-18 "Math Wars"--Another Front in the "Culture Wars"
12-02-10 Exorcising or Exercising Religion—or Neither of the Above?
12-02-05 The Pre-Election Resurgence of Republican Racism
12-01-21 No Public in the "public" Schools
12-01-11 Moving the District Forward to Mediocrity
12-01-07 Education Reform in New Mexico--Impediments and One Proposal for Now
11-12-23 The Story of Christmas and the Sources of Anti-Semitism
11-12-10 Say "Yes" to Class Warfare
11-11-24 Doing One’s Duty to Constituents and Country
11-11-12 Boomers and Boomlets Going Bust
11-10-29 The State of Israel Is in a Sorry State
11-10-26 Jeopardizing Public Trust in High School Redistricting, Transition, Transfers 
11-10-18 His Plays Were Written by Another Man Named Shakespeare

11-10-15 The Tea Party Is God's Own Party
11-10-02 Privatizing America--Impoverishing Democracy
11-09-17 The Hidden Agenda of Ending Social Promotion
11-09-12 Ending Social Promotion
11-09-09 Open Letter to Gen Mitchell, of the Las Cruces Tea Party
11-09-03 Governments' Brown Farm Fiasco
11-08-20 Obama, Leadership, and Election Rejection
11-08-17 Jim Harbison's Communitarian Nonsense
11-08-07 Communitarianism: A Guide to the Unacceptable and the Criminal
11-08-01 The American Revolution of Declining Expectations
11-07-24 Unintended Consequences of Women’s Liberation
11-07-09 Justice Done
11-07-01/02 In Memoriam
11-06-25 Gessing’s Reactionary Federalism: Misreading the Constitution for Misleading Policies
11-06-11/20 A Word on Anthony Weiner
11-06-11 Preliminary Prognostications
11-05-14 Religion—Belief or Conduct: My Credo
11-04-30 Reflections on the Royal Wedding
11-04-16 Shakespeare Professors and Tea Partiers
11-04-02 "A Modest Proposal" (a la Jonathan Swift) to Discourage Abortions
11-03-19 The Consequences of Natural Catastrophes Are Man-Made
11-03-05 Considering the Constitution in Celebrating the Fourth
11-03-02 Huckabee for . . . Fox Commentator
11-02-19 Behold the Wonders of the Free Market
11-02-07 Masking the Truth about Mosques
11-01-22 Targeting Abuses of the Second Amendment
11-01-08 Accountability in Public Education
10-12-27 Failed Presidency of Barack Obama
10-12-12 Palin by Comparison
10-11-27 The Weaker Sex
10-11-13 Merit and Money in Public Education
10-10-30 Election Intimations and Anticipations
10-10-23 Talking Ourselves out of Democracy
10-10-16 The Election Campaign Is a Wake-up Call
10-10-09 We Remain Passengers on the Mayflower
10-10-02 Giving Public Education the Business
10-09-18 Who Can Win the Culture War?
10-09-08 The Sins of the Many Are Visited upon the Few
10-09-03 Wake Me when the Election Is Over
10-08-21 The GOP: A Gathering of Prejudices
10-08-17 You Have Constitutional Rights, but You Should Not Exercise Them (1)
10-08-07 Flip-Flopping on Democracy
10-08-02 Sea of Love, State of Hate
10-07-24 Dumb Enough to Diminish America
10-07-21 The Shirley Sherrod Story: Does Anyone Belive in Truth or Right?
10-07-10 Double Standard in the Middle East
10-06-26 Is America a "Christian Nation"
10-06-23 What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?
10-06-12 Identity Politics and Public Education
10-06-06 Palin by Comparison
10-05-29 Fixing Public Education: Its Future Should Recover Its Past
10-05-17 It's Elementary: Education Is What Teachers Teach
10-05-01 Go Nukes—Nuclear Power in America’s Twenty-First Century
10-04-17 Evolution vs. Whatever
10-04-13 Memos on Meanness and Mendacity
10-04-04 Shoot to Kill the Second Amendment
10-03-25 Once "Never, "Now "No"
10-03-25 Encouraging the Republicans--Just Kidding
10-03-20 Abortion and the Conception of Life
10-03-19 Midweek Musings on Health Insurance Reform
10-03-06 Do Americans Vote against Their Interests?
10-02-20 It's Time to Mess with Texas
10-02-19 A Three-State Solution in the Middle East
10-02-06 Talking about Talking about Race
10-01-23 Sympathizing with Tea Party Members
10-01-09 Strangers in the Land of Egypt
09-12-26 The GOP's Four Truths and the Economics of Reality
09-12-12 What to Do about "All Men Are Created Equal"?
09-11-28 Divided We Are Failing
09-11-20 Let Palin Be Palin
09-11-13 Are We All Multiculturalists Yet?
09-10-30 The Failing Obama Presidency
09-10-16 Reflections on the War in Afghanistan
09-10-11 Obama's Nobel Peace Prize
09-08-03 Reply to Leon Panetta, CIA Director
09-07-31 Test Scores and Teacher Ratings
09-07-30 Review of Generation Me
09-07-16 Buchanan on Sotomayor (& of Thomas)
09-07-15 Random Thoughts
09-07-14 Dunce Caps on Trade
09-07-11? Krauthammer Reliably Unreliable Again
09-07-11 Anti-Abortionism as Idolatry
09-07-09 Pelosi vs. Panetta
09-06-15 Krauthammer at It Again
09-05-23 I'm Telling You so that I Can Tell You, "I Told You So"
09-05-01 Exceptions to the Ban on Torture?
09-04-30 Strong, Two-Party System
09-04-27 Reforms-What Might Have Been and What Should Be
09-04-22 Republicans Defend Torture
09-04-18 If You're Brown, You Can Hang Around
09-04-16 Tax Talk and Talk and More Talk
09-04-14 It's a Taxing Day
09-04-11 Shooting from the Lip
09-03-21 AIG Is Us
09-03-19 Ladies First
09-03-14 Paying More for Nothing More
09-03-08 Working Their Way through College
09-02-28 The Bridge--Prediction of Boondoggle and Debacle

Saturday, March 15, 2014


When she ran for office, Sarah Palin distinguished “Real Americans” from “not-quite-real” Americans.  She never defined the phrase and would make a fool of herself if she tried.  We can try to infer its definition, or at least its meaning, from some features about those to whom she or the term appeals.  “Real Americans” are white, fundamentalist Christian, conservative, Republican, lower middle class, and rural or rural-descended).  Ersatz Americans are of all colors (white, too); mainstream Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other small denominations; independents, moderates, and liberals; the poor and the upper middle class; and urban and suburban dwellers.  Palin has little appeal to “juniors” and divides seniors.

Of course, inferring the import of this phrase from demographic features is futile, and a serious effort at such inference implies that the phrase has serious import.  It does not; the phrase is meant to be rousing, not rational.  Its logic intends it to be divisive and it is divisive—“real” versus whatever is not “real”—by implying that some Americans are better in some unspecified way or ways from other Americans.  “We the People” are only Palin’s people and exclude most others.  That is the important point.

Probably the most common criticism of Palin and her followers is that they are racist.  I believe they are, but they could be any demographic “ist,” and I would have a problem with them.  For any effort making any of the usual demographic factors the cause of moral, legal, and political differences among Americans is un-American.  That term can also be pernicious, but I mean to give it a meaning consistent with traditional American values, which identify those who accept or reject them, not a demographic group.

I begin with three well-known phrases: “We the People,” “E Pluribus Unum,” and “One Nation.”  Thus begins the Constitution, thus says the Great Seal, and thus asserts the Pledge of Allegiance.  These phrases reflect a myth increasingly divorced from reality.  All three phrases arose during times when the only “visible” people were whites, who assumed that they all shared the same cultural values, which sharing makes for unity.  Not only the “invisible” non-whites, but also some groups of whites, did not share the same cultural values.  So the phrases have been misleading because they are mythic.

The facts of history tell a different story.  Never, from its founding, has America been a nation, that is, a people united by a shared culture of attitudes, beliefs, experience, and values.  Dissenters from the Anglican Church settled New England and quarreled among themselves; royalists settled the South.  In the early seventeenth century, bad blood between them followed them to America.  To the cultural disparities of these groups was added even greater disparities of the many cultures of the slaves imported from Africa, and, later, cultural disparities of immigrants from other areas.

Ever since the Declaration of Independence declared the equality of “all men,” America has struggled militarily, politically, and morally, to achieve this paramount ideal.  The struggle for the equal legal and political rights of “others”—Catholics, Jews, blacks, women, Indians, and other minorities—has been uneven, with advances followed by retreats.  The Civil War amendments establishing the equality of white and black men spurred the reaction of the Jim Crow laws which prompted the civil rights legislation of the 1960s.  The Nineteenth Amendment established the equality of women, but recent efforts to restrict women’s’ freedom to choose some forms of health care for themselves threaten their integrity as equal citizens under the law.  The last frontier is the rights of LGBT citizens to enjoy the same civil rights as other citizens.  Whatever the back and forth in matters of the franchise, the “trajectory of history” has been toward equality as the basis of “justice for all.”

As this trajectory indicates, the unstated corollary of equality in America is inclusion.  In a democracy, every person counts, however diverse the people are.  Whatever their differences, they cannot sustain a democracy unless they are inclusive.  It should be evident that as cultural diversity proliferates, the idea of a nation unified by a single, shared non-civic culture is an impossibility.  The issue is whether Americans can follow a path of emotional, moral, and psychological development and direction which ensures cultural identity of individuals and cultural association in groups, yet enables national cohesion by a shared civic culture.

For the short-term, one group’s struggle to maintain its hegemony and all other groups’ struggle for their share of political and economic power will divide us.  Thus, Republicans controlling state governments are passing bills or enacting laws and are making administrative decisions to curtail Americans’ legal rights to vote.

Republicans forget or ignore that the Founding Father followed their grand statement about equality and unalienable rights with another grand statement about the purpose of government: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  Believing in the organized reasonableness of men, they further believed that government was the guarantor of these rights, not guns in the hands of seditious citizens, thus by ballots, not bullets.

By rejecting the basic belief of democratic government in “the consent of the governed,” Republicans are attempting to erode and, ultimately, to eliminate democratic procedures except as political charades.  For, if the demographic threat to their political power motivates Republicans to destroy, it would motivate them not to restore those procedures.  If their efforts succeed, they will create different classes of citizens divided by disparities in rights, with some dominating others.  If conflict among these different classes were to continue for more than a decade or so, the older adage “united we stand, divided we fall” foretells America’s future.

But the country can survive these short-term, presently intensely hostile, divisions by reaffirming that a democratic society can be unified, or re-unified, by cleaving to a civic culture based on the ideals of political equality and demographic inclusiveness.  Allegiance to, and advocacy of, equality and its corollary inclusiveness distinguish those who believe in democracy from those who do not.  Those who believe in democracy must insist upon these ideals as the defining characteristics of Americans, “real Americans,” as it were.  To this end of democratic cohesion, such Americans must apply these ideals as criteria in judging candidates and causes; and laws, regulations, and administrative procedures; and social programs across the spectrum, for child care to criminal justice.

Vote accordingly this fall.