Saturday, October 9, 2010
The right answer can end up being different from what we thought we wanted, at least at first. As Steve described it to us 15 seekers gathered in a circle at a golf resort in suburban San Diego, discernment is different from making a moral choice because we're usually choosing not between right or wrong but between two goods. It's also different from the classic lone-wolf model of American male decision-making, because by definition we can't do discernment by ourselves. God's part of the conversation, of course, but so's the community. Discernment entails putting as much stock in how others see us and our dilemmas as we do ourselves.
AAs (who often are the most spiritually sophisticated among us, since a mature relationship with God has become a requisite of survival) understand this as a willingness to submit themselves to a higher power as well as to regular accountability in a group setting where questions and observations can be severe (if also, usually, loving). Asking for and accepting others' judgment and insights can be scary. It can also be freeing, once we release ourselves to the belief that God and the Holy Spirit have us and all things (even our anxieties, fears, illnesses, broken relationships, joblessness, bankruptcies) well in hand.
We had teaching and discussion sessions Friday night and Saturday morning and evening, and we'll share Holy Eucharist together Sunday morning before heading home. From this summary you may have discerned that Saturday afternoon was set aside for what used to appear on the schedule of overachieving secret napper Richard Nixon as "staff time." I asked a buddy in his 40s when he'd last had a weekend afternoon off. "You mean, just for me?" he said. "I think it was when I was in graduate school."
Meeting up again before dinner, we enjoyed comparing notes on our sabbath time. Four played golf. Others hiked, worked out, played guitar, read, watched football. Several mentioned naps. I bought a bottle of water and followed the magic blue dot on my phone up Penasquitos, through wafts of afternoon BBQing and past houses already ready for Halloween, to a dead-end street called Avenida Maria (guide me, Holy Mother!), where I found a gate leading into the Black Mountain Open Space Park. The hike up a steep, rocky trail through chaparral and fragrant sage liked to kill me. I hoped for an ocean view, but not quite. But I could smell the sea, as you almost always can in San Diego. On the ridge line, I captured this image of discernment -- a fork in the trail, lying before a man with time to kill. Two good choices, surely.
I took the path that led back down to Albertson's, where I bought a loaf of sourdough bread which, standing for the last time in our sacred circle tomorrow morning, we'll consecrate as Jesus Christ's body. Thinking of ourselves as having that authority, freedom, and unity, and resisting the prevailing worldly illusions of scarcity and constraint, may be the most daring discernment of all.
The Rev. Cody J. Sanders, a Baptist minister in Fort Worth, framed antigay bullying as a theological issue. “With dualistic conceptions of good and evil and hierarchical notions of values and worth,” Mr. Sanders wrote in an essay for the Web site Religion Dispatches, “it becomes easy to know who it is O.K. to hate or bully, or, seemingly more benignly, to ignore. And no institutions have done more to create and perpetuate the public disapproval of gay and lesbian people than churches.”
Friday, October 8, 2010
Our facilitator will be entrepreneur, spiritual director, and episcopal spouse Stephen Bruce, who genially busted my chops as a member of my discernment committee during an internship at the Church of the Messiah in Santa Ana lo! these many years ago. Man kept asking me, "So where's God in that?"
Great question, it turns it. Here's our prayer for the weekend:
Holy Father, we understand that our lives entail one decision after another, decisions that affect our family and work lives, decisions while driving and while at rest, decisions that can come out right or wrong. Our faith teaches that you are listening, cautioning, and counseling whenever we turn to you. Sometimes, we forget to listen. Other times, your voice seems hard to hear. During this weekend of fellowship, inquiry, worship, and rest, help us learn to quiet our busy minds so that we can hear your voice loud and clear. We pray in the name of our LORD Jesus Christ, Amen.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Republicans should note well, however, that the gist of the inadvertently taped conversation among Brown and his boys is that he may be tougher on public employee unions that Whitman.
Tonight HBO aired a wonderful documentary about the year Springsteen and his colleagues spent in the studio grasping after a sound characterized by what he calls "apocalyptic grandeur." iTunes has just released one of a score or more of previously unreleased songs from the session, "Save My Love," with lots more to come on Nov. 16 (including a song called "The Promise," which sounds amazing, based on the snippets we heard tonight). Springsteen's a canny businessman who's extruded old material in time for Christmas before, and I'm glad, because when there's new music from the greatest rock and roller ever, even when it's old, life is good.
Decades of conflict, shifting borders and occupation are the root causes of the poor economic situation that is forcing Christians to seek better lives abroad, [PNA official Hanna] Eissa said.
Rising Muslim fundamentalism, a trend across the Middle East, concerns some. But most cite Israeli occupation as the prime cause of emigration and the decline of their community.
"If there was no political problem, the economic situation would be good, so the problems are linked," Eissa said.
Chapin was jailed for perjury in Watergate's wake. He's making news at the Nixon library by charging that Nixon was present when chief of staff H. R. "Bob" Haldeman gave the order to create the dirty tricks unit. Until now, Nixon was never directly implicated.
Nixon's foundation is currently enjoying a Haldeman renaissance. Joining Chapin at the USC event will be Haldeman's aide Larry Higby, who also features in the library's proposed new Watergate exhibit.
Netanyahu is thought to be proposing the change because the Israeli side is pressuring the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish homeland. Maybe he's giving himself domestic political cover for a concession to the Palestinians on settlements, which would keep the peace talks alive at least for another two months.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
My God. Have not listened to this in 20 years. I assumed it would sound like a dated psychedelic artifact. Naw. This is a record about loneliness, depression, age, death, suicide…masked in a circus-musico format. The end of the world at Coney Island, with raunch guitars, superb vocal arrangements, and gut wrenching singing. It’s the Beatles, of course. Unfair to compare them with anyone else. This was like finding a forgotten Van Gogh in the closet. The record was recorded on a four track tape machine 33 years ago. Where has our technology taken us? I would borrow from William S. Burroughs in inferring that modern digital technology may be leading us toward boredom and oblivion....
He has discomfort with women in his workplace, yet he’s a champion of women’s rights in his decisions. He’s uncomfortable about abortion, but his privacy decisions make Roe possible. The press infuriates him at a personal level, and yet he’s a champion of the press.
And yet as Cathleen Decker's recent Times analysis demonstrated, almost nobody's immigration position is logical, especially Republicans'. The party's whipsawed between those who want to militarize the borders and a Main St. cohort whose members depend on undocumented workers. The former seem to predominate among party elites, which is why it's a miracle Whitman got nominated after coming out against Arizona's relatively draconian law. That move may prove to the smartest of the year, since Whitman still seems to be doing far better among Latinos than Sheriff Fiorina in her U.S. Senate race against Barbara Boxer.
As for Whitman's opponent, Democrat Jerry Brown's policy on the budget is just as illogical as Whitman's on immigration. He says he wouldn't raise taxes without voter approval. Gov. Schwarzenegger tried that and got schooled. What magic formula does Brown have in mind for fixing the state's structural deficit, except breaking his promise?
For instance, next month in Yorba Linda, there's something up for a vote called Measure Z, which, depending on the sign, is supposed to be about either ethics or local control. Another sign says that a City Council candidate who is seeking reelection is against this "ethics measure." Does that mean she's unethical? Coming to that conclusion requires, among other things, an assumption that Measure Z is really about ethics. Often enough, proponents and opponents of state and local ballot initiatives unethically claim that they're about something they're really not.
Yes, I do know how to figure it all out. I could pour over the materials that come in the mail from the Registrar of Voters and scour the local weekly for the occasional reference to municipal policy debates. I could watch City Council meetings on cable TV, and if there were a pressing issue that affected me or my family, I could dig even deeper.
Perhaps I should be ashamed to say this, but I really don't have the time. And there's shame in numbers. In many if not most smaller southern California communities, elections for city councils and especially school and water boards are dominated by those who habitually and sometimes obsessively take an ongoing interest or are motivated by passion or ambition related to single issues. In some local elections, no more than 20-30% of the jurisdiction's eligible voters will turn out.
If the group of those who are active is small enough, can it be construed as a special interest? Perhaps. It would be better if more people paid attention, but saying so and its coming to pass are wildly different things.
In many cases, such as in Yorba Linda, the electorate's disinterest is justifiably blissful, a consequence of the city being well run. On the other hand, there's the scandal in the nearby city of Bell, where elected and staff officials were allegedly looting the treasury with the broad impunity that can only be granted through a tacit agreement between oblivious voters and negligent journalists (though it was the LA Times, while looking pretty slim and haunted these days, that finally broke the story). The Bell rang as a warning for most of us in suburban southern California whose passion about municipal government usually extends no further than complaining when candidates don't collect their multicolored litter soon enough after election day.
I've also learned from local columnist Jim Drummond that campaign signs aren't supposed to be posted within 15 feet of an intersection, which means that some of our candidates are technically scofflaws.
Lehman was one of the leading providers of the bond funds that Bob leveraged against each other. As Lehman went under, calls against all of its investments drew down the values of all of their funds to fire sale levels. For Bob, all the investments were down in his hedge fund and the fund was bankrupt.Almost 20 years of work and the reputation that goes with it was almost all gone. Bob took the remnants of the fund and started over. And the point is that Bob did nothing wrong. He was the prudent investor and advisor. The problems with Lehman cascaded into his business. They also cascaded into other small investment businesses that went bankrupt that season.Had TARP or something like it been in place when Lehman went under then the cascade would have been prevented and Bob’s fund would have been saved.The conclusion is that TARP was intended to provide a firewall around some of the innocent investors who, like Bob, did nothing wrong. These are the people who responsibly managed the retirements of lots of small investors whose retirements are now either gone or severely impaired. The impact could have been disastrous for so many.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
You won't find Taybeh beer at Trader Joe's. Two strikes and it's out: It ships without preservatives and with a label reading "Made in Palestine." Israeli checkpoints make it hard (but not impossible) for the brewery to get its beer into Jerusalem. It's controversial on the home front as well, according to the Times:
Subtle Muslim-Christian tensions were apparent Saturday during the festival's opening ceremony. The mayor spoke of the need for a "moderate Palestine." Later, the regional governor, a Muslim woman wearing a head scarf, invited Oktoberfest attendees to enjoy the locally made products, such as olive oil and spices. But she couldn't bring herself to mention the beer.If you visit the brewery, as I did during pilgrimages in 2007 and 2009, you get a tour and free samples. That's my elder daughter, Valerie (left), on last year's trip with Madees Khoury, daughter of one of the brewery's co-founders. The Khourys make a non-alcoholic beer (with a label in Hamas green) for abstemious Muslims. Maybe they should send a few cases to help loosen up the Israeli and Palestinian peace delegations. As for us St. John's pilgrims, keep some in the fridge for us, because, in January, Taybeh, here we come.
Monday, October 4, 2010
The fundamental problem with The Most Dangerous Man is that it's not really a documentary at all. Narrated by Ellsberg and based largely on his 2002 autobiography, it's more of an illustrated memoir. Though it includes interviews with reporters, Ellsberg colleagues and other figures in the case, virtually all of them treat him as an unalloyed hero.
The exceptions are Richard Nixon and a few henchmen who can be heard on White House tapes cursing Ellsberg and plotting vengeance. ``We've got to get this son of a bitch,'' snarls Nixon in one of the milder excerpts. They tried, filing criminal charges and even burglarizing the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist in search of dirty laundry -- an act of over-enthusiasm that would help topple Nixon's presidency.
Nixon and his minions make easy (and, in many ways, appropriate) villains. But The Most Dangerous Man makes no attempt to put the government's side of the story in perspective. Ellsberg had just leaked 7,000 pages of classified documents and not just to reporters: A Russian double agent told the FBI a set had been delivered to the Soviet embassy in Washington.
Nobody knew what else Ellsberg had lifted from Pentagon files or what he might be planning to do with it. His ex-wife, though an anti-war activist, told the FBI she thought he was having a mental breakdown. Some of his accomplices were not merely anti war but pro communist, openly supporting North Vietnam's Stalinist government. If Nixon was paranoid about Ellsberg, he had good reason.
The Most Dangerous Man goes beyond omission to outright falsification in its implication that Nixon was trying to suppress the Pentagon Papers because they showed he was thinking of using nuclear weapons in Vietnam. In fact, the papers contained not a single word about his presidency; their account of the war ended in 1969, before Nixon took office. Nor was he escalating the war, as The Most Dangerous Man implies. When Ellsberg leaked the papers, Nixon had reduced the number of troops from the 536,000 deployed by Lyndon Johnson to 157,000.
Take Kennedy’s claim that President Eisenhower had fallen asleep (or gone golfing) during his command and allowed a perilous “missile gap” to grow between the U.S. and the Soviets. In fact a huge gap had grown (roughly six thousand for us, three hundred for the Soviets)Hat tip to Mick Gilford
Might this qualify as an “outrageous claim” by Kennedy? Not if your source is Ted Sorensen and the New York Times. In fact, prior to the debates, CIA director Allen Dulles had briefed Kennedy on the genuine missile numbers. But rather than respond to this genuinely outrageous claim, Nixon bit his tongue. Disclosing the real number (that JFK knew perfectly well) in public would alert the Soviets to how we got their number, and jeopardize U.S. national security. Which is to say, to blindside his Republican opponent Kennedy relied on that opponent's patriotism. ...
"The Republicans have allowed a communist dictatorship to flourish eight jet minutes from our borders!” Kennedy charged during the second debate. “We must support anti-Castro fighters. So far these freedom fighters have received no help from our government."...Short weeks before the debates Allen Dulles (on Ike's orders) had also briefed Kennedy about Cuban invasion plans (what became the Bay of Pigs invasion). So the “Real Story” (as you well know Mr Ted Sorensen) is that Kennedy was again lying through his teeth. He knew [very] well the Republican administration was training Cuban freedom fighters. And since the plans were secret, he knew [very] well Nixon couldn't rebut. So Nixon bit his tongue again. He could easily have stomped Kennedy on it. But to some candidates national security trumps debating points.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Democrats pointed to positive signs in recent weeks, including that Senator Barbara Boxer, a third-term Democrat, appears to be running ahead of her Republican challenger, Carly Fiorina, in California. Mrs. Boxer’s seat is among those Republicans have been working to capture.