The Wages of Socialism Are Greece

Look to Greece, the cradle of democracy, to see what happens when the people no longer are able to vote themselves bread and circuses.

From the Voice of America:

Screen grab from a YouTube video - I can't embed it for some reason, but click image for video

Workers in Greece are in the second day of a 48-hour general strike, and the country is all but shut down by the protest action against the new round of austerity reforms.

Some 20,000 demonstrators gathered in Athens on the first day of the general strike Tuesday. Initially peaceful, the protest turned violent. At least 4,000 police officers armed with stun guns, tear gas and batons fought protesters who hurled rocks and firebombs.

Many protesters feel the $40 billion austerity plan will impose harsh penalties on workers and pensioners, while sparing the wealthy.

EU officials had warned that Greece had no choice but to adopt the austerity plan.

Eventually somebody takes the credit card away.

(Update: I fixed  the image link — NOW you can get to the video by clicking the image.)


On Gay Marriage, NY vs. NJ, and the Maplewood Bubble

Larry and I have exercised our right to be married for many years. (Our wives are named Cathy and Nina.)Â Our gay and lesbian friends deserve the same right.

My friend Mary Mann at Maplewood Patch has resurrected a photo the Web Goddess took of me and another St. George’s parishioner demonstrating for equality at the Statehouse in late 2009.  She used the photo with a story in advance of this afternoon’s first Maplewood Pride picnic, which suddenly became in part a celebration of New York’s historic decision yesterday to allow same-sex marriages.

The Web Goddess and I put on our marriage equality T-shirts and took our beach chairs to the park to enjoy the beautiful day, the music, and the company of gay and straight friends.

At an early break in the music,  the mayor took  the microphone to recognize the event on behalf of the Township Committee.  One of the organizers led the crowd in a cheer for the New York legislature, and shouted, “New Jersey is next!”

Designed by the Web Goddess. Click on the shirt to order it at no markup from Cafe Press.

A wonderful sentiment, but unfortunately untrue.  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whom I admire and otherwise support on almost every issue, vowed before his election to veto any bill legalizing same-sex marriage.  On that basis alone, I voted for the Democratic incumbent.  Since the New Jersey legislature was unable to pass a marriage equality law in the waning days of the Corzine administration, there is no realistic chance of same-sex marriage in New Jersey as long as Christie is governor.  This will be a gut-check issue for me if Christie runs for re-election.  Some days it’s not easy being a socially liberal Republican.

As Ronald Reagan may once have said,The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.”  Christie’s brand of fiscal conservatism addresses an urgent need in a state which, when he became governor, was facing an $11 billion deficit on a $30 billion budget.  As Christie put it, “New Jersey is a failed experiment.”

Pew Research Center, March 2011

Martin Luther King said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  Pew Research has found that support for gay marriage is growing inexorably, and there’s no reason to believe anything will reverse the trend.  As a happily married straight man, it’s easy for me to be patient.  Many of my gay friends are understandably less serene.

The fact that I can accurately refer to “many of my gay friends” reflects what one of those friends, a former church warden, once described as “the bubble we live in.”  Compared to the state and to society as a whole, gay people are over-represented in Maplewood (in the judgment-free, statistical sense of that term).  Within Maplewood, gay people are over-represented at St. George’s Episcopal Church, where the Web Goddess and I have both served as elected members of the Vestry.

The large majority of members of the parish are straight, but gay and lesbian couples are always in evidence. Many of the leadership positions of the parish are filled by gay people, including the senior of the two Wardens and four of the nine other Vestry members.  The Rev. Bernie Poppe is gay, although he consistently focuses on being the Rector of a diverse parish, rather than “a gay priest.”

Such an environment makes it easy to be comfortable with the existence of people whose orientation differs from my own. I see gay people kneeling in prayer, raising their children, bringing food to the church picnic.  They obey the laws, they pay taxes, they complain about paying taxes (I’m looking at you, Tom).  Children who grow up in that environment will almost certainly be gay-friendly citizens as long as they live.

Same-sex marriage is a basic civil rights issue, and the only acceptable outcome is full marriage equality.  With every passing year America will bend further in that direction.  Faster, please.

Obama Swats the Gay Ping-Pong Ball

While I was at the Karen Armstrong lecture last night, President Barack “Marriage is between a man and a woman” Obama was walking back his position on one of the few issues where I have found myself politically to his left: Same-sex marriage.

He didn’t use the word “marriage,” but last night at a New York fundraiser said “I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every couple in this country.”  New York is debating a bill that would provide marriage equality for same-sex couples.

I’m glad he’s changed his mind, but it’s fascinating that marriage equality once again becomes a vehicle for pandering to the base.  Obama’s predecessor, who was certainly no homophobe, in 2004 calculated that he had more to gain among evangelicals than he had to lose among the few gay people inclined to support him, and endorsed the (anti-equality) Federal Marriage Amendment.


Karen Armstrong Preaches Compassion in Morristown

Karen Armstrong (Photo by the Web Goddess)

I tried to bait the famous author into a partisan screed, but she was having none of it.

“America is at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now our Nobel Peace Prize winning president is taking us into war in Libya.  I’d be interested to hear your take on how some of the things you’ve talked about relate to the wider geopolitical scene,” I said to Karen Armstrong, author of more than two dozen books, most recently Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.

She spoke tonight before a crowd of 500 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown.  It was the initial offering in the John Shelby Spong Lectureship, named after the uber-liberal former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark.  (The event was financially supported by the diocese, where the Web Goddess is Director of Communications and Technology, but she bears no responsibility for what I write here.)

“I’m sorry about these wars, is all I can say” Armstrong said. “After 9/11 there was such an outpouring of support for America, there were demonstrations in Tehran… Unfortunately, these wars have further radicalized people.”  All true enough.

Armstrong said all the world’s major religious traditions call for us to have compassion for others, although that does not mean that the religions are all the same.  The Golden Rule, which Christians know as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” was formulated independently many times, starting with Confucius, 500 years before Christ.

Armstrong struck a number of humorous notes, telling of repeated cab rides in London where the cabbie, upon hearing that she was a religion writer, declared that religion is responsible for all the wars in world history.  She described something as a “pie in the eye” notion, showing again that America and Britain are two nations separated by a common language.

I’ve not read any of her books, but I’m looking forward to her latest, 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life, with its deliberate overtones of Alcoholics Anonymous.  (The Web Goddess stood on line to get it autographed by the author.)  “We’re addicted to our prejudices,” Armstrong said.

In addition to her book, Armstrong is plugging the Charter for Compassion, ” which grew out of a $100,000 TED prize she won in 2008.  The charter is “a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national difference. Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter activates the Golden Rule around the world.”

“I don’t have much hope of politicians,” she said.  I led a modest burst of applause when she described how the most fervent and effective backers of the Charter are businessmen.

If I can get the *#$*&$ voice recorder software to work, I’ll post more comments from Armstrong’s talk this weekend.  In the meantime, if you buy her books through my Amazon widget, I supposedly get a tiny piece of the action 🙂

Quick Take: VDH on Obama’s Afghanistan Speech

Victor Davis Hanson on last night’s presidential speech about Afghanistan:

We are on the hinge of history, unsure whether we swing to 1974 and give up, or swing back to 2006 and win. For those who demand immediate and complete withdrawal, a victorious Taliban will likely do to women and liberal reformers what the Vietnamese once did when they sent millions to camps or fleeing the country for their lives.Bottom line: I tried to fathom the president’s speech, and I sympathize with his dilemmas, but I have absolutely no idea what his ultimate strategy is — and can only pray the enemy does not either. And Afghanistan was supposed to be the “good” war that Obama once chest-thumped about and campaigned on with promises of seeing it stabilized, while the “bad” war in Iraq is one that he is now taking credit for, through following the very Bush-Petraeus plan that he once demonized.

And, I might add, the Afghanistan war is the one my favorite sailor is supporting through his service.

I didn’t watch the speech — life intruded, I was meeting with contractors as part of a committee considering proposals for a new heating system for St. George’s church.  As head of the property committee, I spent $13,000 of unbudgeted money making emergency repairs to the existing steam heating system, but it’s toast — that boiler will never be turned on again.  Now we have to spend an order of magnitude more money, also unbudgeted, to have a forced-air system in place before the weather gets cold.  Forward in faith!

You Go Girls! Saudi Women Risk Jail to Drive

Religious tolerance not a strong suit in "Saudi" Arabia

One of the biggest impediments to a much-needed Islamic Reformation is the location of Islam’s holiest sites. Nothing symbolizes this more powerfully than the fact that Saudi women risk jail or worse if they drive a car.

Islam was born in Seventh Century Arabia, and now has (depending on whose numbers you believe) about 1.5 billion adherents, behind only Christianity among the world’s major religions.

Only 26 million of those adherents — less than 2% — live in “Saudi” Arabia.  (The scare quotes are aimed at the deeply corrupt House of Saud that has ruled Arabia with an iron fist since only 1932.) But that misbegotten kleptocracy has way too much mindshare in the world’s second-largest religion.

Seventh Century Arabia was a barbarous place, and it spawned sharia, a barbaric social and legal code under which the hands of thieves are amputated and the penalty for renouncing Islam is death.  Sharia is incompatible with modernity.

Yes, yes, lots of evil has been done in the name of Christianity as well.  Yes, there are despicable passages in the Christian Bible and the Jewish scriptures.  But women drive in Rome and Greece and Israel and the American Bible Belt and any other place that could be accused of being the cradle of Christianity or Judaism or democracy or Western Civilization.

Islam is not the enemy.  Barbarism is the enemy.  There are Muslims who are not barbaric, and there are barbarians who are not Muslims.  But the 21st century’s most dangerous strain of barbarism has its center of gravity in a culture that produced 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers.  A culture whose organizing figure consummated his “marriage” to Aisha when the girl was 9 or 10.  A culture where even today, women risk jail if they drive.

Given all of this, should Obama have taken up arms against Muammar Gaddafi?  I dunno.  But I know who I’m rooting for.

Lemme Get This Straight — BILL Clinton Thinks Weiner Should Resign?

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman"

Apparently the former president thinks Anthony Weiner should take one for the team:

First Read: “While embattled Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner seems intent about staying in his job — and he’s been bolstered by a poll showing that a majority of his constituents say he shouldn’t resign — we can report that Democratic leaders, including former President Bill Clinton, are frustrated and some even furious at him. The reason: He isn’t doing his party any favors by staying in his job. The VERY few folks advising him to stay are the only folks he is listening to. Monday will be intense for him, because the House is back and the Democratic caucus may speak as a group.”

I voted for the man twice (three times if you include my vote for Gore in 2000), and I generally think he was a pretty successful president.  But Bill Clinton — he of the cigars and the perjury and the finger-wagging and the 14-month impeachment ordeal and the professed ignorance of the meaning of “is” — should leave it to his wife to deliver any resignation advice.  Bill Clinton is the poster child for why Weiner should try to ride out the storm.

(Photo: US News & World Report)

There Are a Billion Muslims — We Better Make Friends With Some of Them

Father Butler (Montclair Times photo)

The Web Goddess is an Episcopal communicator, and posted last week on the Facebook page of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark about the grief a priest has been catching in Montclair, some 20 minutes north of our own beloved parish in Maplewood:

The Rev. Andrew Butler of Montclair’s progressive St. John’s Episcopal Church has been receiving hate mail, calling him a “damn fool” and saying that he has made a “mockery out of Christianity,” because he decided to hold an interfaith worship service for both Muslims and Christians. …

The service at the church, at 55 Montclair Ave., began with a call to prayer. Verses from the Quran and the Bible were read, led by the church’s rector, the Rev. Andrew Butler, and Abdul-Alim Mubarak-Rowe, assistant imam at Masjid Waritj ud Deen in Irvington, and journalist Anisa Mehdi.

“We have interfaith couples in our church, so the whole notion of being married to someone of a different faith is not new for a lot of folks here, so it really wasn’t that much of a stretch for our parish,” Butler said.

But some people don’t see it that way – including, apparently, some men of the cloth.

One of the emails came from a retired Orthodox priest who wrote: “To read selected bits from the Koran, in a so-called Christian Church service, is apostasy. What a fool you are to believe that Christianity and Islam worship the same God … You are the sort of priest that has made a mockery out of Christianity, one that is unable to stand up for the faith … Let me give you a bit of advice, son, the entire meaning and purpose of life is to attain heaven. If you believe that this sort of compromise is going to bring you or your congregation closer to heaven you’re a damn fool. Chip it in stone.”

Butler said many of the people who wrote to him called themselves “concerned Christians.”

Set aside the arrogance of presuming to know who is and is not going to heaven.  Set aside theological issues of all sorts.  The complainers have chosen a particularly short-sighted way of manifesting their religiousity and their revulsion of Islam.

America is at war with a global enemy motivated by Islam — but if Islam itself is the enemy, we’re all in trouble.  Father Butler should be commended, not attacked, for working to build bridges between Muslims and Christians.

Avid readers of All That Is Necessary — if such people exist outside my family — may at this point be saying “Wait a minute, Petersen: how do you square this post with your repeated objections to the Ground Zero mosque?”

The Ground Zero mosque — which is two blocks from Ground Zero and is much more than just a mosque — thankfully seems to be stalled for financial reasons.  If you look at some of the links in the previous paragraph, you’ll see I’ve argued that the site proposed for a $100 million, 13-story Islamic trophy building is a deliberate provocation.  My go-to guy for Muslim moderation, M. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has my back.

Father Butler’s interfaith service is exactly the opposite — a deliberate effort to find common ground between the world’s two largest religions, or at least to increase their comfort level with each other.  I wish I had been there.

Strange Bedfellows: House GOP Leadership Has Obama’s Back in Libya Showdown With Kucinich

GOP backs Obama vs. Kucinich

When Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama launched an air war against the Libyan regime without Congressional approval in March, he said he expected the action to last “days, not weeks.”  In a post about “the bizarreness of it all,” I tried to keep an open mind about the intervention and said I was hoping for a more realistic “weeks, not months” timetable.

New layers of bizarreness emerged today, as the GOP leadership in the House appears to be helping Obama fend off a challenge from his left.

Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich has sponsored legislation aimed at forcing the Obama administration to stand down from the Libyan adventure. As reported in The Hill:

GOP leaders faced the possibility that the measure could pass unexpectedly and embarrass the Obama administration on the world stage.

“We don’t want necessarily to call for withdrawal, but a lot of our members are saying, ‘Why are we in Libya and not in Syria?’ ” a House Republican leadership aide said.

The aide said some members who have concerns about the president’s Libya policy are also worried about the precedent that would be set by passage of a resolution calling for immediate withdrawal. Other members dispute the constitutionality of the War Powers Resolution, which grants Congress the power to force a drawdown.

As Andy McCarthy notes, the War Powers Resolution probably is unconstitutional — certainly every president from either party has so claimed since the legislation was passed in 1973.  But it is the law, and President Obama clearly is in violation, or about to be.

But the fascinating aspect of this episode is that the GOP leadership is passing up an opportunity to score points against a President of the other party to avoid undercutting that president on the world stage.  Compare that with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid’s disgraceful 2007 declaration that “this war is lost” — just as the war in Iraq was starting to be won.  (A war launched after months of debate, and with broad bipartisan support in Congress.)