Sunday, August 31, 2014

Scripture And Song For The Week: I Peter 5 Edition

1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock.
4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
11 To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

What Would Happen If An Orthodox Christian, A Taoist, And An Ancient Pagan Walked Into A Bar

I teach a short unit on Dante in my world lit class, so I have been following big boy blogger Rod Dreher's American Conservative posts about Dante with interest. (He has far too many to link to) Because I also teach a unit on Taoism, his most recent post provoked some musings that I still haven't sorted through completely. This paragraph, which explained the events that prompted the post struck me as rather interesting:
This week, I stumbled across a book that gave me real insight into this problem. As you know, we moved to a new house recently. The moving process unearthed, so to speak, books of mine that have been out of sight and out of mind for a while. One of them is a book I bought five years ago, when I was reading about Taoism and its parallels to Orthodox Christianity. The contemporary Orthodox priest-monk Damascene wrote a book called Christ The Eternal Tao, in which he interprets the basic Taoist message in Christian terms. The basic idea is that outside of the Hebrew tradition, Taoism is the most complete understanding of what Christianity teaches, and, rightly understood, prepares one to accept the truth of the Gospel. The book by no means teaches syncretism, but rather identifies aspects of Taoist thought that correspond to the way Orthodox Christianity understands the spiritual path. Tao simply means “the Way”; in Chinese bibles, Jesus’s words, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” come out as, “I am the Tao, the Truth, and the Life.” For Taoists, yielding to the tao is the path to restoring harmony between body, soul, and the cosmological order, which isn’t necessarily deistic.
Something about that paragraph and the tone of Dreher's post reminded me of these passages from C.S. Lewis's "Myth Became Fact" which I have in an old paperback version of The Grand Miracle.
Now as myth transcends thought, Incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens--at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass form a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle. I suspect that men have sometimes derived more spiritual sustenance from myths they did not believe than from the religion they professed. To be truly Christian we must both assent to the historical fact and also receive the myth (fact though it has become) with the same imaginative embrace which we accord to all myths. The one is hardly more necessary than the other…We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology. ....
...Those who do not know that this great myth became Fact when the Virgin conceived are, indeed, to be pitied. But Christians also need to be reminded - we may thank Corineus for reminding us - that what became Fact was a Myth, that it carries with it into the world of Fact all the properties of a myth. God is more than a god, not less; Christ is more than Balder, not less. We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology. We must not be nervous about 'parallels' and 'Pagan Christs': they ought to be there - it would be a stumbling block if they weren't. We must not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome. If God chooses to be mythopoeic - and is not the sky itself a myth - shall we refuse to be mythopathic? For this is the marriage of heaven and earth: Perfect Myth and Perfect Fact: claiming not only our love and our obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child, and the poet in each one of us no less than to the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher.
To answer the question posed by this post's title, I think they'd all have a beer and some good conversation. I'll leave it to others to prove Lewis and  Damascene wrong. I still have much musing to do.

Quotation OF The Day: Reading History Edition

From this Adam Gopnik piece in the New Yorker:
The real sin that the absence of a historical sense encourages is presentism, in the sense of exaggerating our present problems out of all proportion to those that have previously existed. It lies in believing that things are much worse than they have ever been—and, thus, than they really are—or are uniquely threatening rather than familiarly difficult. Every episode becomes an epidemic, every image is turned into a permanent injury, and each crisis is a historical crisis in need of urgent aggressive handling—even if all experience shows that aggressive handling of such situations has in the past, quite often made things worse. 
As a side note, I'd guess that not reading history produces a similar misguided optimism: the present successes have never been equaled nor can they ever be surpassed.

Friday, August 29, 2014

So If Republicans Complain, No EB-5 Questions Will Be Asked?

A few days ago, Pat Powers complained that South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke was too biased to moderate today's gubernatorial debate because Sombke tweeted "northern beef plant has a suspicious history...."

Today, Carrie Law moderated the debate. That may have been the intention all along. David Montgomery reports Ms. Law saw no need to ask any questions about EB-5 and, presumably, the beef plant.
One of the most intense topics at last week's Dakotafest debate was the EB-5 program, which South Dakota has used in the past to recruit foreign investment for local projects. Most of the EB-5 support came under Daugaard's predecessor, Gov. Mike Rounds, but Democrats have criticized Daugaard for not investigating the program aggressively enough.
None of the audience-submitted questions chosen by the moderator addressed EB-5. Wismer said after the debate that she respected that and didn't try to shoehorn it in. The only mention of EB-5 was from Myers in his closing statement.
With the caveat that correlation does not equal causation, it beggars belief that no one in the audience submitted an EB-5 question. The results of the event leave the impression that Republicans complained and the debate hosts and moderator caved to the pressure. Even if one grants that there are other issues more important than EB-5, public events worthy of being called debates cannot avoid uncomfortable issues.

If EB-5 was not discussed because Republicans complained, then, as the young'uns say, it's time to throw the BS flag because those sorts of expectations of elite privilege belong only in a banana republic.

All The Political World's A Stage: Shakespeare Allusions Abound

And all the politicians merely players who strut and fret their hour making their exits and their entrances; and most in their time play many parts.

During the next few weeks political junkies can anticipate the grand performance at the September 24 (Government Operations and Audit Committee) GOAC hearing. Chairperson State Senator Larry Tidemann has invited Joop Bollen to attend and explain how money went through his non-banks and disappeared into the ether. Democrats have invited Governor Dennis Daugaard and former governor Mike Rounds to explain their roles in EB-5, Norther Beef Packers, and expensive but guaranteed visas.

Susan Wismer has sought to recuse herself from the proceedings to avoid even the appearance of political evil. Some have opined that the lady doth protest too much.

The next few weeks will be full of sound and fury. Alas, the buildup will likely be better than the final staged performance. Bollen will decline the invitation. Rounds and Daugaard will submit letters full of legalese and jargon signifying nothing.

And those who want the truth will be left to mutter curses, not loud but deep.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Minor Musing On Anger, Scandal, and Political Dominance

PNR wonders if and when people will respond to the IRS the way the residents of Ferguson, Missouri responded to that city's police force. I'd like to broaden the question a bit. What does it take to prompt voters to actually decide to limit the power of South Dakota's dominant party?

Cory succinctly sums up the Rounds/Daugaard record of governance and economic development:
. . . the bankrupt beef plant, the bankrupt dairy, the lost jobs, the lost tax dollars, the lost investments, the bank franchise tax evasion, the profit-seeking privatization of a state function, the lack of oversight and the abuses of power.
Moving beyond the EB-5 fiasco, Darrell Solberg's letter to the editor points to other Republican failures.
. . . South Dakota [has] the dubious honor of being one of the top 10 most corrupt states.
Lack of government openness and transparency led to questionable practices, pay to play, tax rebates for oil pipelines and no-bid contracts.
Increasing the number of state employees, many of whom were relatives or friends, increased the state’s expenses and dependency on federal dollars.
Failure to properly fund education left our teachers last in the nation in pay, — $8,000 lower than North Dakota, the next lowest state — and kept the state near the bottom in state funding of education.
Their lack of attention and commitment to education funding has caused a severe teacher shortage in the state.
College tuitions are on an upward spiral; South Dakota college graduates have one of the highest educational debts upon graduation, forcing many to leave for better paying jobs.
In a sane political universe, that record should be enough to motivate voters to give the other party the keys to the executive offices for at least one term. South Dakota is not Richard J. Daley's Chicago  or the Long's Louisiana yet, but a single party dynasty is the quickest way to approach those levels of malfeasance.

Going a step further, Republicans themselves admitted that Secretary of State's office needed to experience a return of integrity and their nomination of Shantel Krebs to replace Jason Gant was seen as rebuke to Gant. Once again, a sane political universe would contain enough voters who would believe that it would take both a different person and a different party to avoid the same problems.

I don't disagree that people should take to the streets more than they do, although my best pitchfork and pike days are behind me. Before folks get angry enough to duplicate Ferguson, I'd prefer they'd get angry enough to show and vote for different people from different parties.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Minor Musing: Democrats, Shanghaiing, And Bush-League Edition

When I was young, people who were pressured into doing something they would have preferred not to do claimed that they had been shanghaied. Used informally, the verb means to "coerce or trick (someone) into a place or position or into doing something:" Another word one doesn't often hear is the term "bush-league." Maybe only old  baseball fans keep its usage alive when they want to refer to an action or event that is "of an inferior class or group of its kind :  marked by a lack of sophistication or professionalism."

If true, this "skuttlebutt" from Northern Plains News provides a classic example of both words being put into action.
  • Heard through the grapevine that several Sioux Falls area Democrats who were on the ballot for legislative races as placeholders asked for but received no help from the state party to get off the ballot. My source indicated this was the idea all along.
Having been a teacher for a long time, I have learned through hard experience that some folks need to see the definition along with an example, and they also need to see the words used in a sentence that explains the example. I offer the following:
When South Dakota Democrats ask someone to help out and serve as a placeholder but then fail to assist the placeholder who seeks to remove his or her name from the ballot, they are, in effect, shanghaiing the person into serving as a candidate. These actions epitomize bush-league behavior and weaken efforts to be taken seriously as a party. 
 I'm not a Democrat, but if I were and discovered the rumor to be accurate, I would be calling for someone's head over this rude bungling.