February 2011


It’s been a bad year for baseball legends. First Bob Feller, now the Duke of Flatbush:

Duke Snider played center in Ebbets Field and stickball on the streets of Brooklyn. He was immortalized in a song recalling a golden era in baseball and was once part of one of the sport’s great debates.

Snider, the Hall of Famer for the charmed “Boys of Summer” who helped the Dodgers bring their elusive and only World Series crown to Brooklyn, died Sunday. He was 84.

“Duke was a fine man, a terrific hitter and a great friend, even though he was a Dodger,” Giants Hall of Famer Willie Mays said, remembering his crosstown rival.

Snider hit .295 with 407 career home runs, played in the World Series six times and won two championships. But the eight-time All-Star was defined by much more than his stats — he was, after all, part of the love affair between Brooklyn and “Dem Bums” who lived in the local neighborhoods.

Ebbets Field was filled with stars such as Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges during that 1955 championship season. Yet it is Snider’s name that refrains in “Talkin’ Baseball.”

“Willie, Mickey, and the Duke,” goes the popular ballpark song, which marks its 30th anniversary this year.

“Talkin’ Baseball,” by Terry Cashman

The Whiz Kids had won it,
Bobby Thomson had done it,
And Yogi read the comics all the while.
Rock ‘n roll was being born,
Marijuana, we would scorn,
So down on the corner,
The national past-time went on trial.

We’re talkin’ baseball!
Kluszewski, Campanella.
Talkin’ baseball!
The Man and Bobby Feller.
The Scooter, the Barber, and the Newk,
They knew ‘em all from Boston to Dubuque.
Especially Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

Well, Casey was winning,
Hank Aaron was beginning,
One Robbie going out, one coming in.
Kiner and Midget Gaedel,
The Thumper and Mel Parnell,
And Ike was the only one winning down in Washington.

We’re talkin’ baseball!
Kluszewski, Campanella.
Talkin’ baseball!
The Man and Bobby Feller.
The Scooter, the Barber, and the Newc,
They knew ‘em all from Boston to Dubuque.
Especially Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

Now my old friend, The Bachelor,
Well, he swore he was the Oklahoma Kid.
And Cookie played hooky,
To go and see the Duke.
And me, I always loved Willie Mays,
Those were the days!

Well, now it’s the 80′s,
And Brett is the greatest,
And Bobby Bonds can play for everyone.
Rose is at the Vet,
And Rusty again is a Met,
And the great Alexander is pitchin’ again in Washington.

I’m talkin’ baseball!
Like Reggie, Quisenberry.
Talkin’ baseball!
Carew and Gaylord Perry,
Seaver, Garvey, Schmidt and Vida Blue,
If Cooperstown is calling, it’s no fluke.
They’ll be with Willie, Mickey, and the Duke.

Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
It was Willie, Mickey and the Duke (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
I’m talkin’ Willie, Mickey and the Duke (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. (Say hey, say hey, say hey)
Say Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. (Say hey, say hey, say hey)

The moonbats are starting to come out to play on the religious left as the drama in Wisconsin continues. Today it’s Anthony Stevens-Arroyo, the Washington Post alleged expert on all things Catholic. It seems there’s a conspiracy afoot:

The Wisconsin governor’s proposal to repair the state budget has acquired the characteristics of a conspiracy. Catholic teaching (Caritas in veritate, #25) unequivocally opposes the plan to strip union workers of their right to collective bargaining, but with evidence that this proposal is part of a secret and well-financed plot to coordinate the same effort in key states, the opposition of the Church assumes a new moral dimension. It may have been a prank phone call made to Gov. Scott Walker by someone pretending to be the billionaire, David Koch, but the Republican governor spilled out the outlines of a conspiracy.

I have no doubt that my use of the word “conspiracy” will be challenged. After all, a conspiracy implies secrecy and many pundits had already discerned the connection between a state budget bill and a nationally coordinated political attack on labor unions.

What do you say to something like this? “Yeah, there’s a conspiracy, all right. Bilderbergers and the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission and the Knights Templar are all getting into their black helicopters and preparing to breakup the lovefest on the streets of Madison.” Does it really need to be said that there is no “nationally coordinated political attack on labor unions” nearly so much as an effort in a handful of states with budget problems to bring standards for public employee unions in those states into line with the rest of America? Would it matter if it were? One gets the distinct impression from the likes of Stevens-Arroyo and Susan Thistlethwaite that facts and reality no longer matter, that they are caught up in some political fantasy in which its 1968 all over again.

Speaking of detachment from reality, a couple of University of Wisconsin grad students chime in over at Sojourners:

It’s been inspiring to see the camaraderie among the protesters at the capitol and people throughout the city. While protesters wave signs and shout, “Kill the bill!,” no one is violent.

While Governor Walker’s unwillingness to compromise is disheartening, the attitude of the city and the spirit of the protesters are truly inspiring. It is neat to see a city and many parts of the state rally around the rights of their fellow citizens.  It has been a moving experience to take part in.

There’s good reason to doubt that claim, but there’s no question that there’s been violence aplenty in the language used on the streets, featuring signs too obscene to put on this blog, signs comparing the governor to Hitler, Mussolini and Osama bin-Laden, signs calling for him to be shot, with his face imposed on crosshairs, etc. Of course, when conservatives put up maps that use crosshairs to indicate congressional districts that will be targeted for special attention during an election campaign, that’s “provocative” and “incendiary,” and bound to push the “unstable” over the edge into murderous rampages. When the public employees unions and their allies on the left take violent languages and images to their demonstrations, that’s “camaraderie” worthy of a high-five at Sojourners, which has had not one word to say about the, shall we say, incivility of so many of those in Madison.

Camaraderie.

The State of the Union could be a good time to call us to move beyond the exaggeration, caricature, misinformation, and demonization that occur too often in our public discourse today. Instead, President Obama could call us to clarify honest disagreements and identify potential points of unity.

Jim Wallis, who has been silent about the hate flowing in the streets of Madison, advising President Obama on how to incorporate the call for civility into his State of the Union address

CNN runs a “Belief Blog” that, according to the description, “covers the faith angles of the day’s biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers’ lives.” Apparently there’s a raging controversy that has tossed up the scribblings of one Timothy Beal, a religion professor at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Beal has made a monumental discovery that he wants to share with CNN readers: apparently, there are multiple versions of this Bible thingy. Who knew?

Ronald Reagan once said that if he were shipwrecked on a desert island and could have only one book to read for the rest of his life, it would be the Bible.

I wish someone would’ve asked, which one? Which version? Protestant? Jewish? Catholic? Orthodox? Syriac? Each has a different table of contents.

The Jewish one obviously doesn’t include the New Testament, but it also has a different order, beginning with the Torah, considered the core of scriptures, then the Nevi’im, or “prophets,” then the Ketuvim, or “writings.”

And you know that when you put the books in a different order, that can be confusing and stuff. Someone might turn the page after finishing Kings and come to Isaiah rather than Chronicles, and start questioning their faith and wondering if maybe Scientology has the answers and, and, well, I just can’t imagine the problems that would stir up.

The Catholic Bible includes all of the Protestant Bible plus seven additional books, known as the Apocrypha, as well as significantly different versions of and additions to the books of Esther and Daniel.

Different Orthodox Bibles (Greek, Ethiopian, Slavonic, etc.) include those plus other apocryphal books as well as a collection of poems known as the Book of Odes. So does the traditional Syriac Bible, but it does not include Revelation and four other New Testament books found in other canons.

This has, obviously, been a point of debate among Christians, and I don’t want to downplay the important of the argument. But it is also the case that most of the difference between Christians don’t revolve around whether Tobit is in the canon or not.

And which translation would he bring? There are dozens available, and they vary widely in both style and theology. Many of the most popular ones today are highly interpretive “meaning-driven” versions in which translators don’t translate word-for-word but instead write what they believe conveys the equivalent meaning of larger blocks of text.

So “my cup runneth over” might become “you blow me away.” Or a passage buried in Leviticus that prohibits a man from lying with another man as though with a woman (other no-no’s in this list include adultery, sex with a woman on her period, and marrying a divorcee or a brother’s widow) becomes a universal ban on homosexuality. Put two translations side-by-side, and you may find yourself hard pressed to know if they’re even translating the same passage.

This is the stuff you expect from a village atheist, not a religion professor, who should know that the vast majority of translational difference don’t make any difference in what Scripture teaches. In fact, most varying translations are easily discerned to be saying just about the same thing. As for the multiplicity of versions, that may be good or bad, but again has little to do with actually understanding what the text says.

Oh, and that reference to homosexuality is probably the key to understanding where Dr. Beal is coming from. There isn’t actually any debate about how the verses that refer to homsexual behavior should be translated; the real debate is over how they should be applied.

And which edition would he bring? A good old-fashioned floppy black leather one? Or a niche-market edition like “The Golfer’s Bible,” loaded with full-color pictures and “inspirational messages teed up to reach the golfer’s heart.”

Then again, depending on the terrain and climate of his island, “The Waterproof Bible: Sportsman’s Edition” might be a more practical choice. How about one of the many Manga Bibles on the market? Or a Biblezine, a Bible in magazine form filled with jump-off-the-page callouts and graphic features on balancing work and play, shopping, healthy eating, and finding love? Or one of the thousands of study Bibles loaded with notes and commentaries telling you what it means according this or that (usually conservative) viewpoint?

And at this point he’s just making himself look foolish. Ask yourself this: suppose you listen, back-to-back, to two versions of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. One is by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Herbert von Karajan, the other by the Wiener Philharmoniker under Leonard Bernstein. (I use these because I’ve heard them both.) Are they recordings of the same symphony? Of course. Are they identical to one another? No–there are small, minor variations that reflect the personality and interpretation of the conductor. If you take von Karajan to a desert island rather than Bernstein, do you have to spend the rest of your pitiful existence decrying the fact that your on a desert island without Beethoven’s Ninth?

Or take an example even closer to the subject at hand. In my library, I’ve got two editions of The Way of a Pilgrim, the classic work of Russian spirituality. One is the classic translation by Reginald French, the other is translated by Gleb Pokrovsky and contains annotations. There are minor differences in the language, but the message is clear in both. The annotations in the Pokrovsky version are helpful, but not essential. So, if I take French’s version to a desert island, so I have The Way of a Pilgrim with me or not?

Dr. Beal sums up what he’s getting at with all this when he writes:

There is no “the Bible,” no book that is the one and only Bible. There are lots and lots of Bibles. They come in many different physical and digital forms with a great variety of content – different canons, translations, notes, commentaries, pictures, and so on.

To which I say, what’s your point? Anyone who knows anything about the Bible, who has taken any time at all to acquaint himself with it and its background, knows all this. There is nothing mysterious about it, and there’s no real significance to most of it except the canon question. So what is he really getting at?

I suppose you can probably guess the agenda through the reference to homosexuality. It isn’t about the answers, but about the questions, allegedly:

Life is crazy uncertain, so it’s understandable that many of us want religion and especially the Bible to offer deliverance from it. But it doesn’t. It’s not a rock but a river, not a book of answers but a library of questions. When we take it seriously, and soberly, it calls us deeper into the wilderness – away from the sunny shoreline of the island and toward the uncharted interior.

Yep, the Bible: it’s not a book, it’s a map of Transylvania in Klingon; it’s not a religious text, it’s a broken GPS system. It’s not a book of answers, so we get to provide those ourselves, and voilà–we get to remake God and His commands in our own, liberal, academic, postmodern image. Ain’t life without any answers save the ones you’re comfortable with grand?

Two German lawyers, grandstanding for attention no doubt, have filed charges at the International Criminal Court against Pope Benedict XVI. The charges: that the Pope is…whisper it…Catholic. According to the Irish Times:

Christian Sailer and Gert-Joachim Hetzel, based at Marktheidenfeld in the Pope’s home state of Bavaria, last week submitted a 16,500-word document to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the Hague, Dr Luis Moreno Ocampo.

Their charges concern “three worldwide crimes which until now have not been denounced . . . (as) the traditional reverence toward ‘ecclesiastical authority’ has clouded the sense of right and wrong”.

And what are the crimes with which Joseph Ratzinger is believed by these two heroic attorneys to be guilty?

They claim the Pope “is responsible for the preservation and leadership of a worldwide totalitarian regime of coercion which subjugates its members with terrifying and health-endangering threats”.

In other words, he’s the Pope. He leads a world-wide church that elected him in a manner that those who are members presumably agree with, and he leads that church through the power of moral suasion. Anyone can ignore him and his pronouncements if they like, and if they are are excommunicated (one of the very few “totalitarian” weapons at his disposal) they would likely not care, because they don’t buy into him having that power (which is why they ignored him in the first place). In other words, the idea that Benedict can “terrify” anyone speaks more to the condescending view that these two have of Catholics than to the power of the papacy.

They allege he is also responsible for “the adherence to a fatal forbiddance of the use of condoms, even when the danger of HIV-Aids infection exists”

In other words, he dissents from the modern view of birth control and unbridled sexual license. How very medieval of him. Look, you can argue with the official Catholic view of birth control (a view that is, ironically enough, pretty much universally ignored in the lawyer’s home country and throughout the rest of the West), but they are unquestionably correct that the best way to avoid getting HIV/AIDS through sexual activity is to keep your pants zipped. As far as it goes, I’ve got to wonder if these guys even read the press in their own country–Benedict has said that condom use may be permissible as a way of fighting disease, though that doesn’t make it right for birth control. I’m not sure exactly how you reconcile those two perspectives, but if this a “crime against humanity,” I’m a pimento loaf.

and for “the establishment and maintenance of a worldwide system of cover-up of the sexual crimes committed by Catholic priests and their preferential treatment, which aids and abets ever new crimes”.

And now their just committing libel. They have no proof of a such a charge, except that there have been sexual crimes committed by Catholic priests (at a far lower rate than, say, public school teachers, at least here in the States), and that some bishops have covered those crimes up. The link to Benedict, even before he became pope, is basically a figment of some fervid imaginations.

They claim the Catholic Church “acquires its members through a compulsory act, namely, through the baptism of infants that do not yet have a will of their own”. This act was “irrevocable” and is buttressed by threats of excommunication and the fires of hell.

It was “a grave impairment of the personal freedom of development and of a person’s emotional and mental integrity”. The Pope was “responsible for its preservation and enforcement and, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of his Church, he was jointly responsible” with Pope John Paul II.

Not sure whether this is the third charge, or merely foaming at the mouth, but in any case what they are again suggesting is that the Pope is the head of a church that teaches and practices certain things. If these junior-grade Madalyn Murray O’Hairs want to ban religious freedom in Europe, they should just say so, and see what kind of reaction that gets. In the meantime, they should be disbarred for legal malpractice.

(Hat tip: Kevin Curtis via Facebook.)

It was only a matter of time before the credentialed heavyweights started weighing in on the Wisconsin labor dispute. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, former UCC seminary professor and president who now works for the partisan think tank Center for American Progress, brings all her intellectual firepower to bear on the situation and…completely misconstrues it. She writes in the Washington Post in an article entitled “We need a new Social Gospel: the moral imperative of collective bargaining”:

Where is Walter Rauschenbusch, the great theological voice of the Social Gospel, today? Well, he’s been in Madison, WI and now he’s showing up in Indiana and Ohio as American workers and their pastors and religious leaders begin to realize that when the right to form unions and bargain collectively is under attack, something fundamental to human dignity is under attack.

The rights of workers to join together and bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions is not just a civil right, it is a fundamental way we recognize that human beings have an inherent dignity and worth. This idea, that human dignity, what Christians call “the image of God,” is what connects Christian moral reasoning and action for worker rights in the Social Gospel, the Civil Rights movement, in the Solidarity movement in Poland as seen in the work of John Paul II, and now, I believe, in a reawakened American labor movement.

She goes on and on in that same man-the-barricades vein, and frankly it isn’t worth quoting. So what doesn’t she get?

1) The right of Wisconsin public employees to be members of a union is not being attacked.

2) The right of Wisconsin public employees to collectively bargain for wages is not being changed.

3) The right of Wisconsin public employees to enjoy the other benefits of being members of a union are not being challenged.

Now, one can make a good case that public employees should not be allowed to unionize. Franklin Roosevelt thought that, and Jonah Goldberg makes a pretty good case that such unions have an inherent conflict of interest that should lead to their abolition:

Traditional, private-sector unions were born out of an often-bloody adversarial relationship between labor and management. It’s been said that during World War I, U.S. soldiers had better odds of surviving on the front lines than miners did in West Virginia coal mines. Mine disasters were frequent; hazardous conditions were the norm. In 1907, the Monongah mine explosion claimed the lives of 362 West Virginia miners. Day-to-day life often resembled serfdom, with management controlling vast swaths of the miners’ lives. Before unionization and many New Deal–era reforms, Washington had little power to reform conditions by legislation.

Government unions have no such narrative on their side. Do you recall the Great DMV Cave-in of 1959? How about the travails of second-grade teachers recounted in Upton Sinclair’s famous schoolhouse sequel to The Jungle? No? Don’t feel bad, because no such horror stories exist.

Private-sector unions fight with management over an equitable distribution of profits. Government unions negotiate with friendly politicians over taxpayer money, putting the public interest at odds with union interests, and, as we’ve seen in states such as California and Wisconsin, exploding the cost of government. California’s pension costs soared 2,000 percent in a decade thanks to the unions.

The labor-politician negotiations can’t be fair when the unions can put so much money into campaign spending. Victor Gotbaum, a leader in the New York City chapter of AFSCME, summed up the problem in 1975 when he boasted, “We have the ability, in a sense, to elect our own boss.”

This is why FDR believed that “the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” and why even George Meany, the first head of the AFL-CIO, held that it was “impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”

Thistlethwaite makes the same mistake–or deliberate obfuscation–that so many on the left are making today by confusing private and public employee unions, and acting as though they are the same thing. She goes on and on in her paean to unionization, and simply ignores the political and monetary feedback loop that is set up when public employee unions can, as Gotbaum said, elect their own bosses, who are then beholden to those same union for campaign contributions. It amazing, really, that the same people who are so certain that corporate campaign donations taint the political system can’t see that the most egregious corruption is the featherbedding relationship between politicians and the public employee unions who elect them. Can you say quid pro quo? If you’re Susan Thistlethwaite, apparently you can’t.

Now, this feedback loop just so happens to benefit almost exclusively (to the tune of 98.5% of all contributions) the party that Thistlethwaite spins for, so I guess it makes sense for her to try to defend this system. But there’s something really galling about her citing Solidarity and John Paul II to try to defend the corruption that surrounds most American public employee unions. She is right in one regard, however. This is a moral issue: the immorality of public employee unions and politicians conspiring to fleece the public they are supposed to serve.

Come November, residents of San Francisco are going to be voting on whether to repeal the First Amendment in the socialist paradise by the Bay. Well, at least insofar as it pertains to Jews. According to the San Francisco Examiner:

Most bans in San Francisco are enacted by the Board of Supervisors, but come November, it sounds like voters will have the opportunity to jump on the ban wagon by deciding whether to ban male circumcision.

San Francisco resident Lloyd Schofield said Thursday he is “on track” to have enough  signatures to place his proposed measure on the November ballot that would make it illegal to “circumcise, excise, cut or mutilate the foreskin, testicle or penis of another person who has not attained the age of 18.”

Schofield said he became the proponent of the local ballot measure after being asked to champion a local bill during a July symposium on circumcision held at the UC Berkeley. Schofield said he was approached by those affiliated with a group pushing for a federal bill to “end male genital mutilation in the U.S.,” according to its website, mgmbill.org.

He said he thought about it for two weeks and then decided to do it. “I always knew this was something wrong to do to a child,” he said.

The proposed measure would assess of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail for someone who performs a circumcision.

And why is it necessary to abridge the First Amendment rights of Jews and threaten them with fines and jail time for obeying the Torah? The key is found at the link in the story. According to the people pushing a bill to end “male genital mutilation”:

MGMbill.org is a private non-profit organization based in San Diego, California, seeking to pass a law that will end the practice of male genital mutilation (circumcision) in the United States of America. Currently, girls are protected from genital mutilation by U.S. federal law, but boys are not.

Although legal protection of only girls from circumcision would seem to violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the fact remains that it is still widely considered to be legal in this country to mutilate a boy’s genitals in the name of social custom, hygiene, religion, or any other reason. This is true despite the well documented lifelong damage that male circumcision causes each of its victims.

They had me going with the equal protection argument, but then I was brought up short by that last line. What “well documented lifelong damage” does circumcision cause? Well, given that this ban is being pushed in San Francisco, it should be obvious. According to the FAQ page:

The male foreskin performs a number of functions. First, it directly enhances sexual pleasure via specialized erogenous nerve endings such as the frenulum, the ridged band, and stretch receptors called Meissner’s corpuscles. The foreskin also serves to protect the moist, mucous membrane of the glans (the “head” of the penis) and the inner foreskin from outside elements, similar to the way the female foreskin protects the clitoris. When the foreskin is removed, the penis is transformed from an internal organ into an external one, initiating a desensitizing process known as keratinization. Keratin is a tough, skin-like substance similar to a callus that forms on top of the nerve endings of the glans, resulting in significant loss of sexual sensitivity. The foreskin also provides a gliding mechanism during sexual intercourse that reduces friction and locks in moisture, acting as a natural lubricant. The foreskin provides a number of other important functions as well.

Important enough not to merit mention, apparently. The FAQ goes on to make a claim that made me laugh out loud:

Many men who are circumcised suffer the same psychological effects found in rape victims. A sense of great loss and feelings of anger, distrust, and grief are common among circumcised men who are aware of the functions that the foreskin performs. Problems with intimacy in adult life, long term post-traumatic stress disorder, and feelings of personal powerlessness are also reported by men when discussing their circumcisions.

It would seem that these guys have been watching both too much Oprah and too much porn.

As a male of the Jewish persuasion, I can personally assure you that this is utter nonsense. But don’t take my word for it–most American men are circumcised (though obviously in most instances not for religious reasons), and can tell you that they don’t spend their waking hours contemplating their mutilated genitalia and wondering what might have been. They don’t hold it against their parents, they don’t have savage flashbacks, they don’t feel like rape victims (and by all means, suggest to a real rape victim that circumcised men know just how they feel and see if she offers you anything but contempt).

Oh, and let’s throw this out there as well: this is San Francisco we’re talking about. They would defend to the death the right of a 12-year-old girl to get an abortion without her parents’ knowledge and consent, but they would forbid a 17-year-old boy seeking to do his religious duty the right to be circumcised. How that for a double standard?

The equal protection argument might hold some validity if female circumcision were a matter of religion, but it isn’t. It’s not religious, it’s cultural. There’s nothing in Islam that mandates it, and there are Christians in sub-Saharan Africa who have practiced it. It’s also the case that it genuinely mutilates the genitalia of females, whereas as the “mutilation” involved in male circumcision is mostly in the heads of those men who get PTSD contemplating it. The legal protection for girls thus both makes medical and legal sense, while the abridgement of religious freedom for the sake of some bogus kind of “equal protection” does not. Here’s hoping that wiser heads prevail in San Francisco, and yes, I know how silly that sounds.

(Via Hot Air.)

I didn’t realize until this morning that the AFL-CIO has started to call the mob action in Wisconsin the “Cheddar Revolution.” That word comes to me via the “On Faith” column in the Washington Post, where Chicago Theological Seminary student and UCC member Wendy Cooper demonstrates why, in general, it’s inadvisable for M.Div students to write for public consumption:

Walking through the dense crowd of protesters inside the Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin on day 3 of what is now being called the “Cheddar Revolution,” I was struck by the identification of the crowd with the people of Egypt, despite the stark differences between their circumstances.

The demonstrators in Madison, WI don’t look much like the demonstrators in Egypt. They come from the heart of conventional middle class America gathered by the thousands, with a strong sense of elementary school classroom etiquette at work. After all, public school teachers were a major group present. When quiet was needed among the thousands of protesters, fingers went up in the air – and magically the classroom technique of bringing quiet worked throughout the vast rotunda of Capitol building.

But what has reminded me, as a Protestant religious leader, of Tahrir Square is the looks on the people’s faces. People here are extremely determined and somewhat awestruck as well by their numbers and their determination. There is the same sense of revelation among the protesters. While comparisons between Governor Scott Walker and Hosni Mubarak were humorous, the mood among protesters was deadly serious. And the connection with the Egyptian people went deeper than simply sharing the act of protest.

I didn’t know that being an M.Div student made one a “Protestant religious leader,” but what do I know–maybe she’s a grand poobah in the UCC. What’s really striking is that she swallows hook, line, and sinker the “identification” between the Egyptians struggling for freedom against a dictatorial regime and Wisconsin public employee unions desperately trying to hold on to the privileges that elevate them above the peons in the private sector. If I were an Egyptian, I’d be insulted by the American left trying to hijack my revolution.

Oh, and about those “humorous” comparisons between Walker and Mubarak (and a certain other historical figure), Ed Morrissey at Hot Air put up some of those on Saturday. A couple I can’t even put here because of their obscenity, but here’s a sample of the “humor” (call it the “new civility”) that been in evidence on the streets of Madison:

Very funny. Cooper goes on to say:

For many people around the world it might be hard to imagine the American middle class needing revolution or liberation. Yet, a veil has been pulled back from before the eyes of many middle class Americans in Madison, who suddenly seem to understand their vulnerability in a new way.

Yep, those Cheesehead unionists are in mortal danger of being treated…the way public employee unions are treated in Virginia. See, you’d get the impression from the brave souls up in Madison that they are the only thing standing between the plutocratic state and slavery. In fact, the collective bargaining abilities granted to Wisconsin PEUs are among the most powerful in the country, and what Walker has proposed is scaling them back so that they look more like the standards that prevail in many other states. But guys like Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Andy Stern of the Service Employees International Union think like fundamentalist Muslims–once you given up a piece of ground to them, it is theirs forever, and to the devil with the consequences. So no matter what current economic conditions call for, no matter how costly the stranglehold unions have on states might be, the citizenry (which voted for Walker and his platform last November) will have to pry that ground from their cold, dead fingers.

Wendy Cooper, Protestant religious leader, may think she’s supporting some kind of liberation movement, but I suspect that when the voters of Wisconsin get done with them, the public employees unions may wind up bearing more resemblance to this guy:

UPDATE: Seems we have a growing meme on the left, some elements of which have apparently  lost all ability to draw meaningful distinctions when its enthusiasms are at work. Jake Olzen, a graduate student at Loyola University in Chicago, writes at Sojourners:

A week after a shocked world reveled in Egypt’s incredible moment of freedom and people power, Wisconsin is reviving its own unique tradition of people power and creative protest. Follow the latest updates with Mother Jones. Tens of thousands descended upon the state capital in Madison to protest Republican Governor Scott Walker’s legislative proposals to cut collective bargaining rights for public employees. In an attempt to stall the vote from happening (see: quorum), the state’s Democratic senators have refused to show up for work and have fled to Illinois. Gov. Walker, and Republican lawmakers have sent the state police out after the boycotting Democratic senators in an attempt to force a vote to the floor. The Assembly has since been suspended until Tuesday and there is no indication as to whether or not the Democrats will break their strike. Provocative comparisons to the nascent revolutions in the Middle East are already being made by Democracy Now (“Democracy Uprising in the U.S.A.?) and Yes! Magazine co-founder Sarah van Gelder (”Wisconsin: The First Stop in An American Uprising?).

There’s something pathetic about well-fed, physically safe, and politically free wannabe academics and political activists trying to glom on to the aura surrounding an event like Egypt’s revolution, kind of like the father of a star high school athlete who parades around as if he scored the winning touchdown in the big game rather than his son.

Of course, a piece like this wouldn’t be complete without some pseudo-academic nonsense:

There are indisputable differences between Egypt and Wisconsin. Any serious comparison of Mubarak to Walker lacks mature political understanding. But in terms of people power and nonviolent protest, there are some similarities in both Egypt and Wisconsin — which is why Walker and the power elite find these protests so threatening to their vested interests. Nonviolent action is predicated upon the assumption that the power of a dictator (or any power holder) depends upon the consent of the governed to comply with the directives and requisites handed from above. It is a hierarchical understanding of power. When 80,000 people show up rejecting that paradigm from operating as usual, it sends a shock to the system. Without the people in the streets and the national attention toward the Democratic senators in a Rockford hotel, momentarily becoming an ally to the will of the people, injustice would have continued unabated. This is a monumental moment in people’s movements for equality, justice, and democracy because, after decades of dwindling progressive politics, we are literally witnessing the might of nonviolent people power actually making a difference in our own backyard. We are experiencing new life being breathed into democracy from the bottom.

So…the public union employees carrying obscene placards making ridiculous comparisons and trumpeting cliches is “nonviolent people power,” expressing “the will of the people,” breathing “new life…into democracy,” but the vote last November that put Scott Walker  and his platform into power, and turned the Wisconsin legislature over to Republicans for the first time in years, was just the working of the plutocracy, I guess. The truth is that this kind of thinking is profoundly anti-democratic, essentially pretending that the loudest, most obnoxious voices are more authentic expressions of popular will than elections.

45% of Americans believe President Obama was born in Kenya and is holding office illegally.  8 out of 10 of these believe the president is gay and a affiliated with organized crime.

All support the arrest of President Obama for treason.  The majority have expressed the desire to see the president assassinated.

This group, America’s “nutters” include 99% of America’s white Evangelical Christians.  In fact, it is almost exclusively made of people from this unique “Christian” sect.

The same group is even more hostile to Jews though Evangelical Christians openly support “Zionism” and the return of Jews to Israel, by force if necessary, as part of their belief in “apocalypse” prophesy.

Gordon Duff, Veterans Today editor, contributor to My Catbird Seat, “new friend” to Christian Century contributing editor James Wall, and occasional IPMN source, just makin’ stuff up (his concern for Jews is touching, however; I wonder if he’ll clue his staff writer, neo-Nazi J. Bruce Campbell ["All Julius Streicher did was tell the truth about Jews"], in on his new-found love of the Hebes)

At Sojourners, it’s the 1930s all over again. Woody Guthrie is singing “This Land Is Your Land,” the Wobblies are leading the charge against predatory capitalism, and Hoovervilles are being constructed on the steps of the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin:

An estimated 30,000 people converged in Madison, Wisconsin’s Capitol Square and inside the Capitol building on Thursday to protest Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to meet the state’s budget crisis by breaking the public employees’ union.  He’s pushing a bill through the state legislature that would almost totally eliminate the bargaining process for state workers.  Adding to the drama, Democratic legislators left for Illinois, leaving the legislature without a quorum. Demonstrators included thousands of state employees, including teachers, prison guards, and others. The governor has threatened to call in the National Guard if state services are disrupted by protests.  It’s an attack on unions and a worker fightback we haven’t seen in this country for many years.

Yes, well. What it actually is is an effort to bring under control an unbalanced state budget that has been thrown out of whack by, among other things, extraordinarily generous benefits for state workers. State workers in Wisconsin contribute nothing toward their pensions, and significantly less toward their health insurance than in the private sector. In fact, if Walker were to propose that state employee benefits were tied to private industry standards, they be looking at much bigger percentages than he is proposing. And he proposed making these changes in benefits in lieu of laying off workers. But instead of making a contribution to solving the budget problems that their benefits helped bring on, Wisconsin’s public employees are taking to the streets, demonstrating the new tone of civility the left has been talking up by comparing Walker to Hosni Mubarak and Adolf Hitler. And there’s Sojourners, ready to hit the barriers with them, despite all of its talk about civility in recent weeks.

Duane Shank goes on to quote Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas In Veritate, which argues for unionism in general but has nothing to say about the current situation (and to the extent that it says anything about the extent to which unions should be able to bargain about particular items, it makes the same mistake that people like the National Council of Churches does, claiming that a prudential policy issue is a matter that the church has some special insight into). He then concludes:

Similar anti-union legislation is being considered in several other states. The Pope’s core message — “the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past” – is one that should become the motto for a new union support campaign.  As the assault on poor and working people accelerates in this country, support for unions is a struggle we should join.  It’s a struggle we all benefit from.  And it’s the right thing to do.

Right. We should help government workers continue to have a significantly higher standard of living than the people who pay them, including poor and people working in the private sector. We should help them engage in thuggery such as demonstrating at the homes of public officials with whom they disagree in a blatant attempt to intimidate. We should stand with them as they walk off their jobs, not because they are being oppressed, but because they might have to actually pay into their pension accounts. Folks, this isn’t the Great Railroad Strikes of 1877, and those teachers calling the governor a dictator aren’t being beaten by Pinkertons. They’re living better than most of the people who pay for their salaries and benefits, and doing so through a cozy arrangement whereby their mandatory union dues goes to elect the politicians who then keep them on an ever-ascending banquet at the public trough. If that’s who Sojourners wants to ally itself with, fine. But it ain’t 1934 any more.

UPDATE: Guess which neo-fascist conservative union-buster said this:

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that “under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government.”

That would be Franklin Roosevelt.

(Quote via Anchor Rising.)

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches is meeting this week in Geneva (presumably the Politburo will meet shortly thereafter). The Presbyterian News Service’s Jerry Van Marter has a story up at the PCUSA site about discussions regarding the theme for the next meeting of the Comintern General Assembly, which will be held in 2013 in South Korea:

But with the central committee poised to choose between two proposed themes — “God of life, lead us to justice and peace” and “In God’s world, called to be one” — for its 10th Assembly in October 2013 in Busan, South Korea, Altmann argued for the adoption of both.

“The proposed themes should not be seen as basically alternatives,” Altmann said in his address to the 150-member central committee, meeting 16-22 February here. “Each of these two perspectives is part of the one overall understanding of the ecumenical calling and commitment that unites our fellowship.”

Presumably that’s because the WCC is far more interested in unity in political goals than anything else.

The focus on justice and peace is necessary, said Altmann, because events such as the global financial meltdown and recently successful democracy movements in Arab countries “bring to our attention the risks of policies that affront human dignity and oppress whole populations.”

That’s why, Altmann said, “the eradication of poverty, the campaign against hunger and commitment to justice in international economic relations must remain on the WCC’s programme agenda.”

“Recently successful democracy movements in Arab countries”? A little premature there, don’t you think? I mean, we’re all glad Mubarak and that guy in Tunisia is gone, but they haven’t been replaced by anything that look remotely democratic yet. I also find it amusing that Altmann would bring that up given the WCC’s fixation on Israel as the world’s most supremely evil regime, and the complete lack of concern about human rights and oppression in places like China, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, etc.

As for the rest of it, that’s all fine and good, but the WCC has no answers to the world’s economic problems that don’t come straight out of a Marxist playbook. But I repeat myself.

He called for the WCC to “place even more intensively on its agenda our concern for the Middle East, especially also for the Holy Land.”  He expressed particular concern for the Christian minorities in many Middle East countries, noting that the WCC’s efforts “contribute to creating and maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect and recognition on which peace with justice can be built.”

Translation: Israel should pack up and move to Canada’s Northwest Territories, or Australia’s Great Victoria Desert, or somewhere else where the Joooos would never bother anyone ever again. Then the Middle East would be restored to an Edenic paradise, and Christians there would live happily ever after.

Tveit sounded the same note in his address a short time later. “We are focusing on what it means to be one through the perspective of ‘just peace,’ as we are preparing for the ecumenical peace convocation in Jamaica in May.”

That event marks the culmination of the WCC’s “Decade to Overcome Violence.”

“We are called to be one so that the world may believe,” Tveit said, “that peace is possible.”

Acttually, we are called to be one that the world may believe that Jesus Christ has been sent by God, and that God loves His people even as He loves His Son. But Tveit was probably just reading from a new WCC translation of John 17.

Tveit intimated that he, too, supports the dual themes for the next assembly. “The WCC in one way or another must know and focus on how, in everything we do, to respond to the call to be one in our role to bring reconciliation and peace into all contexts.

“I understand that the WCC can have a role far beyond our fellowship of member churches by being ‘the including other’ and not ‘the excluding other.’”

And what in the name of sweet Fanny Adams that means is anybody’s guess. I suppose it means that the Muslim Brotherhood will soon be offered WCC membership. Or something. I certainly hope that he doesn’t think the world is going to start actually listening to the WCC. There’s as much chance of that happening as there is of the Kansas City Royals winning the World Series this year.

UPDATE: You’d think the bureaucrats in Geneva read this blog. According to Reuters, it’s finally dawned on them that calling their decision-making body the “Central Committee” might not be the best form of public relations:

The World Council of Churches, the main global grouping of Protestant and Orthodox Christians, revealed on Wednesday it aims to scrap the communist-style name of its governing body, the Central Committee. The name, identical to that of the policy-setting body of the old Soviet Communist Party and of other anti-religious hard-left parties around the world, is long known to have embarassed many WCC member churches and their leaders.

News of the planned change — 63 years after the WCC was set up as the East-West Cold War was born — was outlined at a Geneva meeting of the committee by its moderator, Brazilian Lutheran Walter Altmann. “We should not underestimate (the change’s) importance in terms of visibility and of identification with our churches and partners,” he said. As far as he knew, no individual church had a “central committee”.

“But I do know that there are political parties that call their governing bodies by that name. It is certainly not the best name for an organisation like the World Council of Churches,” declared Altmann.

Duh.

(Via the Religion News Service blog.)

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