Saturday, December 26, 2015

ANS -- The Christmas story is all about God divesting Himself of power

Here is an interesting philosophical / theological article for those of you who indulge.  The comments are closed and there are over 1100 of them, but you can imagine the tones exhibited....

The Christmas story is all about God divesting Himself of power

Giles Fraser
At the centre of the drama is a helpless baby. But how many people would be prepared to follow a powerless God?
New born baby
 'A religion of the baby, one that has foresworn hard power, can no longer be a warrior religion. This is not a religion that can support Trident. Nor can it have any need of seats in the House of Lords.' Photograph: Tanya Little/Getty

Friday 19 December 201409.36 ESTLast modified on Friday 19 December 201419.08 EST

When the American theologian Thomas JJ Altizer first published his work on Christian atheism back in the 1960s, he received an avalanche of hostility, including death threats. But most people were just plain puzzled. Christians believe in some big God up in the sky. Atheists don't. There is no middle path. Surely it's that simple. So Altizer's big idea that the project of the Christian God was progressively to work himself out of existence, found few friends on either side of the God argument.

The fancy footwork of Hegelian dialectics – refusing to accept the simple binary of God existing/not existing – just did not cut it in an age where God's existence had become such a raw issue politically. Nonetheless, Altizer's account of the Christian God being in a gradual process of divesting himself of His God-ness is a pretty good way of recapturing some of the puzzlement and shock value of the original Christmas story. "He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant," is how St Paul described the incarnation in a letter to new Christians at Philippi. This word "emptied" – kenosis in Greek – has been argued about by scholars ever since. To some it implied that, in becoming human, God was almost giving up divinity, or at least giving up something of the power that we often associate with it. From here on in, God would cry, bleed, and (horror of horrors) defecate. No longer omnipotent nor omniscient, He would be vulnerable to the constituent conditions of humanity. And all this seemed a bit too much like the beginnings of atheism. Like a prince becoming a pauper, or Prospero throwing away his magic.

Yet the astonishing assertion of the Christmas story is that the God who comes as a pathetic child is all the more God-like for the total evacuation of power. It's a birth story at one with what would become the central message of His teaching: the first will be last and the last first. It sounds like a phrase from the French revolution, with the mighty being pulled off their thrones and the weak being held up high. But it's the buried message of Christianity, extravagantly heralded in the festival we know as Christmas. At Christmas, God becomes a child. Power is divested. Might and right no longer nestle comfortably together. But how many people would follow this new God if He were no longer able to smite enemies or call down a plague of frogs? For what the Gospel drama goes on to demonstrate is that if might (in this case, the Romans) and right (in this case, Jesus) point in different directions, many haven't the guts to follow what is right.


Of course, none of this is in the slightest bit acceptable to an institutional church that has looked to the state for comfort, protection and kudos. No Christian coronation service is going to proclaim the first being last, or the mighty being pulled off their thrones. No state is going to hold up banners to a powerless poverty-stricken God screaming in a dirty shed. Indeed the whole reason Christianity came to have official status with European political leaders is because the Emperor Constantine superstitiously believed it helped him win battles. Talk about getting the wrong end of the stick. The Christianity of Christmas is not the religion of a warrior like David – despite the irony that He was born in David's city. A religion of the baby, one that has forsworn hard power, can no longer be a warrior religion. This is not a religion that can support Trident. Nor can it have any need of seats in the House of Lords.

I know, this is a Christmas column and you might have been expecting carols and community. But this sentimental stuff is such a massive distraction from the earth-shatteringly radical nature of the Christmas story which tells us to forget about the God of power. That's not what God looks like. No, when thinking of God, imagine a tiny child, unable even to look after itself. Still, 2,000 years later, the full theological and political consequences of this astonishing about-turn continue to be lost, forgotten, betrayed, ignored and denied – and I'm talking about by us religious people.


ANS -- The General Election Electoral Vote Map: Hillary vs. Bernie

Here is one person's picture of what is likely to happen at teh 2016 election.  Read it.  It's important.  Find it here:    --Kim

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The General Election Electoral Vote Map: Hillary vs. Bernie

All elections are decided by turnout, but given how closely divided the American electorate is, the 2016 Presidential election is even more sensitive than the norm to turnout. 2016 will be decided by which party has the candidate that can accomplish three things: generate enthusiasm from their own base, add new members to that base, and doesn't inspire the other side's base to turn out in opposition.

In my view, who the Republicans nominate will have minimal effect on turnout; all of their candidates are roughly equal in motivating both bases and independents. The real variable will be who the Democrats nominate: Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. I am not the world's leading expert on elections but I do study politics for a living and I have followed US politics very closely for over 30 years. Based on what I have learned from past election results and applying that to the trends in this election cycle, here are the two possible electoral maps.

If Democrats Nominate Hillary Clinton:

Extreme? No. A Hillary nomination moves the General into Mondale or Dukakis territory. Polls consistently show Hillary's Unfavorable rating exceeding 50% and she is seen as dishonest and untrustworthy by 61% of Americans--that's greater than Trump, Hillary starts the race from behind, name-recognition her only asset, and with undecideds on her in single-digits, she has no path to victory.

But why the near landslide loss? It's a perfect storm, led by the nation's mood. Over two-thirds think we are on the wrong track. People want change. Hillary is The Establishment politics-as-usual candidate in an election cycle where a significant portion of the American electorate is demanding change. Hillary turns off every American wanting change which includes significant portions of the Democratic base. If Hillary is the nominee, there will be record low turnout from traditional Democratic constituencies like students, labor unions, and minorities. She will get little support from Progressives many of whom will, if they vote at all, vote Green. Among independents, Hillary is viewed unfavorably by a large majority (net -27 in the latest poll), and she strongly motivates the Republican base to vote to defeat her--Conservatives hate her even more than they hate Obama. A Hillary nomination guarantees Republican victory.

My only real doubt on this map is Illinois--Hillary could lose that state also if Chicago turnout is low enough to be overcome by downstate Republican votes. Some will express surprise that I predict Pennsylvania would go Republican but that state is far more in play than some pundits realize. Outside of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the state is solidly Conservative and therefore, a large turnout in the large cities is needed to overcome that. If the Democratic nominee cannot inspire a large turnout from the base and attract independents, Democrats cannot win. Similar arguments back my predictions about Virginia, North Carolina. Minnesota, and Colorado--states that would easily go Democratic if there is a candidate who motivates above average turnout from the Left. The balance is so on edge that Democratic turnout losing even 5% turns a comfortable victory into a huge defeat. Which leads us to the other possible electoral map.

If Democrats Nominate Bernie Sanders:

Does Bernie really make that much difference? Yes, because even a 5% swing of turnout means that many states flip from one column to the other. Bernie is the only candidate offering change and whether you like his Progressive ideas or not, Bernie is clearlynot an Establishment, status quo candidate. Arguably, even a smaller change in turnout could make this dramatic of a shift. Bernie excites the Democratic base far more than Hillary does, and he brings new voters into the Party who would sit out if Hillary is the nominee. Bernie polls better against Republicans with independents and rather than call Republicans to the barricades in opposition like Hillary does, Bernie actually attracts some Republican votes. Unions will find it much easier to motivate their members to turn out for pro-worker Bernie than for Corporatist Hillary and that swings Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania into the Democratic side.  My one doubt on this map is Wisconsin, which bizarrely thinks Scott Walker is acceptable. But even if Bernie can't carry Wisconsin and even Virginia and North Carolina, he still wins.

Mostly, it comes down to Ohio and Florida. These are states that slightly lean to Republicans, particularly on Conservative hot button social issues. so the question is whether the Democrats can offer a populist pro-working class message to overcome that. Hillary does not offer that; Bernie does.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

ANS -- The Second Amendment Check Boycott List

Here is a post by the NRA listing companies they think are bad (and want you to boycott) because they don't allow guns in their sites.  It has been recommended we use this boycott list in reverse and patronize these companies BECAUSE they don't want guns in their places of business.  For what it's worth:

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The Second Amendment Check Boycott List

All companies we boycott have received a 2ACheck rating of "F" for their lack of respect for the rights of gun owners.  Your experience with some of these companies will vary based on location, however, the boycott is based on the corporate policy toward responsible gun owners.

We believe guns in the hands of good people make everyone safer.  We encourage freedom loving Americans to boycott anti-gun companies until they improve their policy.  Please share this page.

We also strongly recommend everyone know the firearms laws applicable in their own state, and states they travel through.  We recommend something like the Traveler's Guide to Firearms Laws.

Print this image and post it publicly for all to see, take it with you, give it to friends, etc.

 Boycott List 2014.09.22

We are attempting to provide detailed rationale for the entries on this list.  Some, but not all have been provided.  We are working to get the rest updated ASAP.  Click on the name of a company below to learn valuable information about the company, its policy and other brands under the same corporate umbrella.

We provide you with contact information for every company on the list. We encourage you to contact them for the following reasons:

1) Verify for yourself that we have accurately described their behavior

2) Inform the company that they have lost your business

3) Encourage them to change their policy to be more respectful of the rights of gun owners if they want to earn your business.  Our long-term goal should be to try to influence them to respect our rights.  Never be rude.  Always be polite.


  1. A & P
  2. AMC Theatres
  3. BB&T Bank
  4. Bloomin' Brands (Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill and others)
  5. Brinker International (Chili's and Maggiano's)
  6. Buffalo Wild Wings
  7. California Pizza Kitchen
  8. Carmike Cinemas
  9. CBL & Associates Properties (Shopping Malls)
  10. CBS
  11. Chuck E. Cheese's
  12. Cinemark Theatres
  13. CNN/Time Warner
  14. Comcast/NBC Universal
  15. Costco
  16. Forest City Enterprises (Shopping Malls)
  17. General Growth Properties (Shopping Malls)
  18. Goodyear
  19. Groupon
  20. hhgregg
  21. Hooters
  22. Howard Hughes Corporation (Shopping Malls)
  23. IKEA
  24. Jack in the Box / Qdoba Mexican Grill
  25. Jo-Ann Stores
  26. Macerich (Shopping Malls)
  27. Modell's Sporting Goods
  28. Paragon Theaters
  29. Peet's Coffee and Tea
  30. Regal Cinemas
  31. Simon (Shopping Malls)
  32. Southern Theatres
  33. Sprouts Farmers Market
  34. Square
  35. Sterling Jewelers (Kay, Jared, Shaw & others)
  36. T.G.I. Friday's (and all Carlson Companies)
  37. The New York Times Company
  38. Toy's R Us / Babies R Us
  39. US Bank
  40. Value City Furniture
  41. Waffle House
  42. Walgreens
  43. Whole Foods Market

Thursday, December 03, 2015

ANS -- Former CEO found guilty of conspiracy in West Virginia mine explosion

Here is a small article about something finally going the way of justice.  
Just out of curiosity, did you hear about this anywhere else?
Sorry about the rough formatting -- it wouldn't cooperate.  

Former CEO found guilty of conspiracy in West Virginia mine explosion

Jury finds former coal executive Don Blankenship guilty of a conspiracy to commit safety violations that resulted in an April 2010 explosion that killed 29

Massey Energy mine explosion West Virginia Don Blankenship
 The Massey Energy Co CEO, Don Blankenship, speaks to reporters in Montcoal, West Virginia, in 2010. Photograph: Haraz N Ghanbari/AP

Thursday 3 December 2015 14.13 ESTLast modified on Thursday 3 December 201517.31 EST

Don Blankenship, the "outlaw" former coal executive and enemy of environmentalists, has been found guilty of a conspiracy over events that led to a deadly mine explosion in West Virginia.

Nine days of jury deliberation, which was put on hold over the Thanksgiving, have resulted in Blankenship being found guilty of a conspiracy to commit safety violations at the mine. But he has been acquitted of charges that he made false statements and committed securities fraud.

An explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in April 2010 killed 29 miners. A jury deliberated over the fate of Blankenship for six weeks, hearing testimony from 27 witnesses and sifting through more than 500 pieces of evidence.

Blankenship, 65, is the former chief executive of Massey Energy, a coal company that was acquired by Alpha Natural Resources in 2011.

A protester holds a sign behind Don L Blankenship during a Senate hearing on mine safety 20 May 2010 in Washington, DC.
 A protester holds a sign behind Don L Blankenship during a Senate hearing on mine safety in 2010. Photograph: Scott J Ferrell/CQ-Roll Call,Inc

He was charged with three criminal counts over his role in dodging federal mine safety laws at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County. He was also accused of committing fraud through a statement sent to shareholders following the mine explosion. He denied all of the charges from the outset.

Federal regulators said a series of unsafe practices led to the explosion, with US attorney Booth Goodwin telling court that "Don Blankenship ran a massive criminal conspiracy". Goodwin said an internal memo shows that Blankenship was aware of measures to make the mines safe but chose to not do so. Blankenship, according to Goodwin, was an "outlaw" who pushed miners to continue extracting coal in hazardous conditions.

Bill Taylor, Blankenship's defence attorney, said the federal government had provided "no witnesses, no proof" to back up its charges. Taylor had moved for a mistrial, arguing that the long distance travel required of jurors and the looming Thanksgiving holiday increased the likelihood of a rushed decision. Judge Irene Berger rejected the request.

Democratic senator for West Virginia Joe Manchin said he was pleased with the verdict.

"With this verdict, the state of West Virginia has set precedents and signaled that we will not allow the prioritization of production and profits over the safety of our workers," he said.

"While nothing can ever bring back the 29 beloved souls who we lost on that tragic day, I hope that today brings some closure and peace to the families of the miners."

The makers of Blood on the Mountain, a new documentary about environmental and economic injustice in West Virginia, also welcomed the outcome.

"This verdict has finally held a coal company executive criminally responsible for his crimes against his own workers for his own greed," said Mari-Lynn Evans, the film's director and producer.

"This guilty verdict affirms our faith in justice, and it will have a tremendous a tremendous and lasting impact on how the coal industry does business. For West Virginians, this verdict affirms that the lives of our coal miners is more important than the cost of a mule."