Thursday, August 20, 2009

Health care and the Mark of Cain

A blogger who criticized Obama quoting Cain about being my brother's keeper,. because Cain was being sarcastic, misses the fundamental point, for a debating point.The story of Cain slaying Abel is in the very first book of the Bile, Genesis, which even St. Augustine read as allegory.

The fact is, that other than eating the forbidden fruit, the story of Cain and Abel is the story of the first crime: murder.

Cain's question may have been defiant: "Am I my brother's keeper?" but it was the first step in scripture towards what many regard as the universal law of morality: To treat other as we would be treated as ourselves, which is in turn corollary of a deeper command: to love our neighbor as ourselves.

In the New Testament, Mathews telling of the "parable" of the Last Judgment is a lecture on what loving your neighbor really means. We demonstrate our love by what we do to the neediest of our fellow human beings. Among other things: "I was sick and you visited me."

The inanity of some fundamentalists who insist that world is only 6,000 years old, and the excesses of religious authoritarians have turned many off to the message of the scriptures, but I can not understand how the self-styled Christians on the Right can so blithely ignore the commandment of love upon which "all the law and prophets" depend. Or as Rabbi Hillel said a generation earlier than Christ: All the rest is commentary.

To those who so mindlessly echo the right wing attack themes, and so easily turn their backs on the stricken among us, and who so openly flaunt their Christianity: be afraid not of Obama, but of the judgment of your God. Be very afraid.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Winter Rules and Lies

In golf, amateur hackers (such as myself) will often play by winter rules: that means if your ball is lying in a really bad spot you can correct its location to make for an easier shot. The theory is that it’s winter and the course is in bad shape. Of course, sometimes you play winter rules in mid-July.

Two events in the news bring this to mind. One is the intention of the golf grand Pooh-Bahs to punish Tiger Woods because he objected to a functionary hurrying play in his latest tournament so that his opponent who had a one stroke lead rushed into a triple bogie (3 over par) on the sixteenth hole allowing Woods to catch-up and take the lead.

That Tiger objected to his opponent being rushed was a generous display of sportsmanship that is all too rare these days. Forget all his great wins and remarkable record, in my book it is his finest moment because this fierce competitor revealed his respect for his fellow competitors and a refusal to gloat over what he regarded as a tarnished victory.

Would that the participants in the current debate on health care showed some of the same class. Unfortunately we are witnessing a hard truth that we have yet to cope with: that there is a determined right wing in this countrty that is always playing winter rules and lacks a sense of sportsmanship that is a hallmark as politics at its best.

Compare if you will the Clinton, G.W. Bush Administrations and the first seven months of the Obama Administration. The Clinton Administration was hobbled from its outset by a series of investigations and outlandish charges, including that Bill and Hillary murdered one of their closest friend, Vince Foster. The culmination was the Lewinsky affair which paralyzed the Clinton administration for its last two years.

Yet, the country enjoyed great prosperity during his term, and he had some amazing successes, including bringing a semblance of peace to the Balkans which for centuries had been synonymous with ethnic hatred and political instability – the precipitant cause of World War One being an assassination in Serbia.

The press feasted on his travails.

Then came eight years of the utterly incompetent George Bush Administration which ignored pointed warnings about Bin Laden plotting to attack America, let him slip though our fingers in Afghanistan and lied us into war in Iraq.

In the meantime “regulatory reform” laid the ground work for the gravest financial crisis since the time of the Great Depression.

The media essentially gave GWB a free pass. Mendacity and manipulation in the White House was scarcely noted. The Democrats, cowed by the media, more or less played possum until the 2006 election. John Kerry, when faced with outrageous accusations about his combat record in Vietnam, turned turtle.

And now after seven months of the Obama Administration, we have seen the most vicious attacks since the Clinton era and a media which reports gravely on the most atrocious lies and in a fair and balance manner, giving the lies legs.

Tiger Woods, in giving his opponent his due, was a lot like the Democrats: playing the sportsman. But the Obama opposition is beyond sportsmanship and truth. It’s all winter lies, moving the ball for a better position to destroy your opponent.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The God of Probabilities: How voting fraud in Iran demonstrates the existence of God

Is the title of this piece a jest? Am I kidding? What possible relationship could there be between voting fraud and the issue of God’s existence. Well there is, at least metaphorically; but it will take some explanation. Bear with me. You may actually find a pay-off here.

When I was but seven years old, I began catechism class in the Catholic Church. Once a week we were “released” two hours early from public school so that we could go to our local churches for religious instructions. As I recall, the very first lesson we learned from our blue-covered Baltimore Catechism was that we could never understand God because he was immortal, had always existed and his ways were beyond human comprehension. Having taught me at age seven that God was incomprehensible, the Church has spent the last 65 years explaining God to me. I think there’s a incongruity there.

I transferred from public school to Catholic school for grammar school and high school. I won a gold medal for science and although I didn’t pursue science as a career, it has always been an interest of mine. So to has been my religion for which I also won a gold medal.

It is a fact of history that science and religion have been at best uneasy intellectual partners in the quest for meaning of the human condition. Many things that were thought to be divine and supernatural in earlier times have yielded to scientific explanation. The supernatural became the natural. Early gods included fire, wind, the oceans, volcanoes, star, planets, comets, the moon, and the sun, among other phenomena we now explain blithely in scientific terms.

Twenty or so years ago, I suffered a mild crisis of faith. I had been become familiar with a smattering of chaos theory and quantum analysis. I was startled to learn that atoms were not like miniature solar systems. The popular conception was a nucleus of protons and neutrons around which electrons orbited. Rather, this basic structure of all matter was chaotic and the location of “particle” of it unknowable at any given moment. It seemed that all of existence, at its most basic level was governed by the “Law of Probability.”

That’s a tough thing for a person of religious bent to digest. Is all of existence merely the result of a cosmic coin flips? But then another thought took hold. If there is a “Law” of “Probability” whose law is it? Why should the chaos of quantum existence ever be ordered by anything?

Concurrent with the scientific thought that all existence was chaos ordered only by the Law of Probability, has been scientific investigations into the issue of human consciousness and, as is claimed by some, the interaction of human consciousness with a greater consciousness which some claim to have observed. Piere Teilhard Chardin and others have discerned a “noosphere” of intertwined human consciousness that has evolved from interactions that lower level of consciousness are incapable of joining. Freud’s heretical protégé, Carl Jung, postulated a “collective unconsciousness” which might be better described as collective consciousness.

Ironically, perhaps, scientific experiments designed to explore the issue of collective consciousness rely primarily on the applications of the law of probability. Among the most accessible is that of The Global Consciousness Project: Meaningful Correlations in Random Data whose work is explained at

The purpose of the project is “”to examine subtle correlations that may reflect the presence and activity of consciousness in the world.” It’s principal activity is to “collect data continuously from a global network of physical random number generators located in 65 host sites around the world.” The issue is whether major events that effect the psyche or consciousness of large masses of people distort the results of the random number generators into more than standard deviations from the norm. In sum, the scientist involved in this project believe they do, and their data demonstrates they do.

There are a number of other projects of a similar vein described by journalist Lynn McTaggart in The Field, (Harpers, New York Updated Edition 2008). Among the experiments she describes are coordinated remote prayer. The Field has an extensive bibliography if you are interested. The results reported by Ms. McTaggert all show consciousness interactions that distort results beyond those expected from standard deviations of the law of probabilities.

So how does election fraud in Iran relate to the issue of God’s existence?

On June 20, 2009, the Washington Post, published a study by Bernd Beber and Alexandra Scacco, Ph.D. candidates in political science at Columbia University. They analyzed the results of the Iranian elections. Their thesis was that given the length of the numbers reported in the results, that the last digits, irrespective of their original authenticity, should have reflected the law probabilities. In sum, there are ten digits, 0 to 9, and in the absence of consciousness intervention by humans attempting to jiggle the results, there ten digits should have been distributed relative evenly in the last column (i.e. each digit approximately 10% of the time). This was of course subject to standard deviations which depend on the size of the sample and in this case the length of the numbers preceding the last digit.

The point of the authors was that the variations were not in accord with the law of probabilities and well beyond standard deviations. They also used a second neutral analysis (the number of non-adjacent digits in the last two columns). That also exceeded standard deviations.

Their conclusion was that the probabilities of the election results not being manipulated was one in two hundred. By applying the law of probabilities we learn that there has been conscious intervention. This is not the same thing as the Global Consciousness Project, but it is at least a metaphor about the interplay of probabilities and consciousness on a cosmic level. But then, even St. Augustine recognized the Genesis was not history but a metaphor for deeper truths - truths that have now been overtaken by science in the “Big Bang” theory and evolution.

So existence is governed by the law of probability, but deviations from law are evidence, at least in some cases, for conscious intervention. In Iran, the conscious intervention was by the operatives of a corrupt regime engineering a fraudulent election. But, in the chaos of quantum existence, the evidence of conscious intervention leads ultimately to a consciousness beyond just humanity, beyond just this universe, but inclusive of all the infinite number of universes that may exist.

All hail the God of Probabilities who creates the law and then lights the way to move beyond it. I believe that way is love. But that’s another story. See

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Obama, Notre Dame and the Ghetto Catholic mentality

Notre Dame has invited President Obama to speak and the radical right wing of the Church is having a cow. How a Catholic University invite the President of the United States to address its commencement. A recent comment on this by editor Joan Walsh, engendered a flurry of responses.

I am saddened by the number of her readers who described themselves as Ex-Catholics, even atheists. For all of its two millennia of folly, the fact is that the Catholic Church is still the most direct route back to the preacher who lived and died in the land between the seas, and taught us what love meant.

The Church has always been much bigger and more diverse an institution than the Vatican likes to admit. Umberto Eco's masterpiece, “The Name of the Rose,” was much more than a medieval mystery story. It was a snapshot of the ferment, and intellectual diversity, of the Church in the Middle Ages. That ferment and diversity persists.

It was also a paean of praise for St. Francis who single-handily staved off the reformation for two centuries. I remain a Catholic because the essential issue of the Reformation was salvation by faith alone. Luther was reacting to the scandal of the Church pedaling indulgences. He ignores St. Paul. I believe that love engenders faith and I am one with St. Paul: I can have faith so as to move mountains, but without love, I am nothing. Only I believe that literally: without love there is only oblivion.

I attended a Catholic High School and we had to spend a buck to get a black bound copy of the New Testament. More than fifty years later, I still have it, and refer to it. I once remarked to one of my sons and a friend of his that the trouble was nobody feared the judgment of God anymore and they laughed. But that was before I could explain what I meant by the judgment of God. It's all there in my little black book.

There is but one commandment, one truth and one existence. It is love. When we love, we play with eternal fire. If we don't love, we lapse into the hell of oblivion. I believe that. I also believe that it is the essence of a Catholic life.

The problem with Donahue, Opus Dei, the new Newman Society et al, is that there is no love in them. Only an intellectual self-indulgence pointing the way to oblivion.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Catholic Thing to Do

Pope Benedict has done it gain. His tin ear and tin policies has led him to reinstate the Pius X Society, a collection of renegade Catholics with a history of Anti-Semitism who were excommunicated by Pope John Paul II (not exactly a cutting edge liberal himself).
I don't mean to downplay the impact of anti-Semitism of the Pius X Society’s recall to the bosom of the Church, but if Jews have a problem with this, so too I believe will many, many Catholics, especially those who actually read the Gospels.
The concept of a militant Church shedding members by the millions may be okay with Pope Benedict but I am not sure the Christ who commanded his disciples to teach all nations would agree.
While the actions of many Christians might make it hard to believe, the essence of the Christian message boils down to just one word: Love. The mark of any Christian is his or her understanding that love is he foundation of all, not just their faith but existence itself. In the halcyon days of John XXIII, we used to sing a song called: “You will know we are Christians by our love.” But singing it isn't enough, it must be lived.
In the jungles of Central America, many Catholics, including one Archbishop, several Jesuit priests and their house keepers, nuns and lay workers followed love to a martyrs grave. But because in their work they sometimes brushed shoulders with Marxists, their martyrdom is an embarrassment to the Vatican and unrecognized.
Instead, we find organizations founded by fascists like Opus Dei and the Pius X Society afforded honored places in the Vatican.
Some of reaction to Pope Benedict’s action have focused on the activities of saint in waiting Pius XII in the thirties in reaching a compromise with the Nazis. But if there is any more dramatic point that political expediency of the Vatican may not reflect the "Catholic" view, the simple fact is that of all the religious and demographic groups in Germany (excepting Marxists and Socialists) the most opposed to the Nazi's were the Catholics, Pius XII be damned.
There was a report on Sixty Minutes some years ago about righteous Gentiles (I believe it was Poland) who hid Jewish children during the Holocaust. If discovered by the Nazi's, the parents were forced to watch while their own children were hanged, and then their posterity destroyed, they were hanged.
One woman, who was a little girl at the time, was interviewed by CBS. "I asked my mother, 'Why are we doing this?' She replied ‘Because it's the Catholic thing to do.’"
I happen to be a vanishing relic of American demographics: a second generation German-American, all four of whose grandparents emigrated to the US before the turn of the last century. Unlike Pope Benedict, the members of my family did not serve in the Wehrmacht and one of my cousins is buried in the American Cemetery perched on the bluff above Omaha Beach. (See
God is love, John the Evangelist wrote. In the words and work of the Pius X Society, I see no love and no God. In so many ways, large numbers of Catholics do get the message. The scandal is that it is often despite of, not because of, the Vatican.
I remain a Catholic, it’s just the Roman part that is getting difficult.