“I ask everyone with political responsibility to remember two things: Human dignity and the common good.” Pope Francis
Why all the flap about whether or not President Trump’s campaign for the presidency was backed by Russian hacking? Who cares if this hostile foreign power influenced our election?
Didn’t President Trump say it wasn’t true?
Didn’t President Putin jump in and defend President Trump and say it wasn’t true? (Which was the first time in my long life that I remember a Russian president defending an American president. Just sayin’.)
Didn’t Jullian Assange say it wasn’t true?
Didn’t the alt right go all wacko crazy and start ad hominem attacks on people who thought it might be true?
Didn’t Fox News go off after another report and so completely muddy the issue that a lot of people forgot the real report?
Why then, you have it. No problemo. No Russian hacking of the election. No President Quisling.
After all, these people are known for always telling the truth. Right?
I mean, President Trump would never tell a lie. He’s as honest as Abe. He’s totally forthright and transparent about everything. Right?
And he has no motivation for lying about this. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Right?
Here, for those of you who are willing to read through it, is a link to the actual joint CIA/FBI/NSA report in which they unanimously agree that the Russians hacked the DNC in the recent election and that they did it in order to elect the man who won, President Trump.
This is not the “dossier” everyone is talking about. That’s a different document which has not been vetted by the CIA/FBI/NSA. It was put together by a former M16 officer in British intelligence named James Steele.
The document I’m referring to was released jointly by the CIA-FBI-NSA. They state that all of these agencies are in unanimous agreement that the Russians hacked our election for the purpose of electing Donald Trump.
I would love to publish the whole document here, but it’s 25 pages long and that would take too much band width.
You can read it yourself, and I encourage you to do so. I also encourage you to make a copy of it and keep it. I think it’s likely that this report is going to be suppressed by the Trump administration, and that the people who helped author it will lose their jobs.
The first victim of the Russian hacking was the American people’s right to chose their own leader. The second victim is likely to be America’s intelligence community, which may very well be gutted. After all, President Trump’s main response to the report — other than his usual denials — was to praise President Putin and then threaten an “investigation” of those who authored the report.
At no time did he express dismay or concern about our national security in the face of this violation of our democratic process.
Here are the main findings from the report. Remember: It is a unanimous joint report by the FBI/CIA/NSA. Remember also that the heads of these agencies have stood by this report despite enormous political pressure to recant.
You owe it to your country to read it in full.
Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections
ICA 2017-01D 6 January 2017
Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.
We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.
- We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.
- Moscow’s approach evolved over the course of the campaign based on Russia’s understanding of the electoral prospects of the two main candidates. When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on undermining her future presidency.
- Further information has come to light since Election Day that, when combined with Russian behavior since early November 2016, increases our confidence in our assessments of Russian motivations and goals.Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or “trolls.” Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on US presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin.
- Russia’s intelligence services conducted cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with both major US political parties.
- We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data
This report is a declassified version of a highly classified assessment; its conclusions are identical to those in the highly classified assessment but this version does not include the full supporting information on key elements of the influence campaign.
obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.
- Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards. DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.
- Russia’s state-run propaganda machine contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences.We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes.
Now for a little palate cleanser.
I wrote this before either of my latest posts about President Elect Trump. But, publishing being what it is, it showed up after they came out.
Whatever the order of their publication, I think the summation of all these posts is that I’m thoroughly disenchanted with both political parties.
I’ve talked about converting the Democratic Party before, and what I’ve said seems to fall on deaf ears. Most pro life people just don’t seem to hear me when I say it’s the only real political action we can take that will work to convert this culture.
On the other hand, whenever I criticize the Republicans for their crazy policies and behavior, some fool always pops up to tell me I am not pro life and am going straight to the infernal regions. That reached it’s peak a few months ago when I was told that I was not only not pro life, but not even a real Catholic. Why? Because I directly quoted then candidate Donald Trump and linked to several of his unquotable-because-it’s-too-vile comments.
This came from someone who has stood up with me at press conferences, fighting for pro life legislation. But … evidently party loyalty and Trump trump reason.
The truth is, neither of these political parties is worthy of holding power in this great nation. They are both corrupt. And neither one of them gives a care about you and me. The public reaction to the constant stonewalling and overall bad governance we have received at the hands of both parties played a huge part in the emotional meltdown that drove the Trump campaign.
I’ve reached a point where I despair that We the People will ever wake up. Our predilection for looking for someone on a white horse to save us from the exploitative practices of the Rs and the Ds has led us into following anyone who yells loudly enough and will say things we want to hear. We follow these demagogues, even when they are clearly amoral reprobates and compulsive liars.
Meanwhile, the Democrats continue down the road of same-old, same-old. They just won’t open the party up to pro life people. In fact, they do everything they can to drive us away.
Where will it end?
What do you think?
Here, from the National Catholic Register, is my discussion about the Democratic Party’s closed door policy against pro life Democrats.
Recently, Democrats for Life sent me an email asking for money to help a pro-life Democrat who was in a run-off in Louisiana for the United States Senate. I donated money to the guy. It wasn’t much money, but it represented my best wishes and fading hope that we can one day reclaim the Democratic Party for life.
I didn’t pay attention to what happened after that, so it was a while before I learned that the Democrat lost to the Republican in this race, and it was a while after that before I looked into it to see what happened. It turns out that the Democrats practically abandoned their own pro-life candidate — which is emblematic of why so many Christians turned out at the polls in November to vote for a presidential candidate whose moral life might have disqualified him in another era.
These Christians felt compelled to vote for what was essentially the lesser of two evils. The reason they ended up backing Donald Trump was that they honestly (and with good reason) felt that Hillary Clinton was bound to continue the invidious attacks on them and their ability to practice their faith without government harassment that was so aggressively promoted during the Obama administration.
The behavior of the national Democratic Party leadership in the election in Louisiana underscores and upholds that fear.
The United States Senate is almost at a tie, with the number tipping by what before the election was a slender balance of one or two votes in favor of the Republicans. What that means is that there is a lot of raw power swaying first one way and the next in every single electoral battle for every single seat in that legislative body.
The election in Louisiana did not stand to tip the balance decisively. It would, rather, have narrowed the margin to one vote, instead of two. The Democrats, if they had gone to bat for the pro-life Democrat on the ticket in Louisiana, had the chance to run up their total to 49 senators.
But winning that senate seat would not have helped them oppose defunding Planned Parenthood. If the Democrats had gained that Senate seat, they would not have gotten a vote to buttress their war on the unborn.
Rather, they would have gotten a vote to strengthen the war they should be fighting, which is for the safety of America in the face of legitimate concerns about treasonous activity. They would have gotten another vote to keep the social programs such as Social Security and Medicare together. They would have gotten another vote on committees and the floor in key situations involving the breadbasket issues that the party should be focused on.
But, sadly, the Democratic Party is not focused on those breadbasket issues. It has become an outpost for those who equate abortion with feminism and claim that legal abortion is all there is to women’s rights. It has also, due to the direction in which President Obama has taken the party, become the think tank and the political leadership for official, governmental attacks on religious freedom in general and the Catholic Church, in particular.
A pro-life Democrat, even in a closely-balanced United States Senate, was so unwelcome, so antithetical to the true focus of the leadership of this once great party, that they did not lift a finger to help one win this important election.
The Republicans plowed into that senate race intending to win it. They put their money and their mouths behind their candidate. The Ds, at least the Ds at the DNC, sat the thing out. (Read the rest here.)
It’s Martin Luther King Day, and one of the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement has issued a new call to action.
Congressman John Lewis testifies against the confirmation of President Elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General of the United States, Senator Jefferson Sessions. Senator Sessions was previously refused confirmation as a federal judge because of his racism.
Congressman John Lewis says that he will not attend President Elect Trump’s inauguration because President Elect Trump was put in office with Russian interference in our election. He adds that President Elect Trump is not a “legitimate” president.
President Elect Trump fired back at Congressman Lewis with one of his usual trashy tweet attacks. Here’s our President Elect’s response to Congressman John Lewis:
Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to……mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!
Notice that he did not bother to address the serious question of Russian interference in his election, but instead launched a red-herring attack on Congressman Lewis. This is typical. He does it so much it’s almost become an intelligence test for those who read his crude commentary. If you go off after the President Elect’s latest red herring and abandon the issue, you’re probably not too smart.
Fox News defended President Elect Trump with it’s own red herring reply. This time, they are trying to claim that the issue at hand is whether or not Congressman Lewis is sacrosanct and may not be criticized; not whether or not our president elect is a Russian quisling. I bolded the statement where they tacitly admit that President Elect Trump lied in what he said about Congressman Lewis’ district. This is a small point, since President Elect Trump lies like a sociopath, which is to say that he lies constantly.
In 1965 John Lewis was beat up on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama by a local regime of racist cops enforcing the unjust laws of segregation. Lewis has since become a member of Congress, representing a district in Atlanta.
As a Congressman his views are subject to analysis and criticism, as are the views of every other member of Congress.
But as an “icon” of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s he is not subject to contradiction or criticism. He is John Lewis. He speaks. You listen. And you hear his words in respectful silence, save for occasional mutterings of affirmation.
You may not disagree when John Lewis speaks from his lofty perch of icon. His word, as civil rights icon, is final.
John Lewis was interviewed by Chuck Todd on Friday for Meet The Press, and said he would not be attending the inauguration of President-elect Trump on Friday because Trump’s election was interfered with by Russia and therefore Trump would be an “illegitimate” President.
Evidently that is the rule Democrats and opponents of Donald Trump seek to impose on the rest of us. Democrats are not unanimously joining Lewis in declaring Trump illegitimate, but they are aghast that anyone, even Donald Trump, would be so bold as to backtalk to John Lewis.
Anybody who has witnessed the two year long Presidential campaign would have predicted Trump would object, and he did.
Trump tweeted “Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get!”
That may or may not be true of Lewis’ actual district, but Trump’s point about the dysfunctional and dangerous districts in some predominantly African American communities certainly is true. One only has to look at Chicago and Baltimore, just to name two, to see the truth in Trump’s retort.
However, Trump obviously did not get the memo about John Lewis. Democrats and liberals are using his reaction to Lewis to fundraise, and stoke outrage that Trump would dare come back at Lewis.
Are we getting ready to inaugurate a Russian quisling as our president? That is the only question that matters.
2016 was an annus horribilis.
It was also a turning point, for me personally, for Christianity in America, and for America herself.
Here’s hoping that 2017 is a better year, a year in which we take advantage of the second chance it offers us to renew our faith and our faithfulness, to go back to Jesus and away from following the little g gods of this world.
If we turn back to Him, then no matter what happens in 2017, it will be a bonum annus.
I wrote about this for the National Catholic Register. Here is part of what I said.
If there ever was a year I was glad to see kicked to the curb, 2016 was it.
I think of it as the year of cancer. It was, largely, a lost year. Thanks to the drugs and the tune-out thing of sickness, I don’t even remember big parts of it.
I remarked to a lifelong friend that my precious granddaughter was born in 2016, and one of my sons got married, giving us a wonderful new daughter. She answered that I really would have had a good year, if it hadn’t been for the cancer.
That’s a little bit like saying that if it hadn’t been for the iceberg, the Titanic would have had a great crossing. Nope. So far as I’m concerned, 2016 was the year of cancer and an execrable presidential election in which, no matter who won, We the People lost.
New Year’s Eve felt like relief to me.
Life goes on, one day falling unnoticed into the next without remark or notice. We grow up, grow old and move toward death in a seamless glide that makes the changes seem inconsequential. For our sanity, we must find ways to draw lines, to mark spots on our long passage through the years where we pause, take notice of what’s happening, and begin again.
New Years’ Day is one such place. The old year passing and the new year beginning are in reality just theoretical constructs we humans have given ourselves to aid our understanding of what our lives are about. We need places to begin again. We need second chances, new beginnings and the hope of fresh starts.
I felt relief when 2016 slid into history. It was like a load lifted. It signaled the end of the year of cancer and the beginning of a hopeful new epoch in which I can get stronger and move into whatever is left of my life without the baggage of the time just past.
It meant something to me, and it gave something to me. It gave me the promise of a new beginning, a page turned, a painful passage done and done.
That is the magic of second chances. It is the power of hopeful beginnings.
It is exactly what every Christian possesses each day they live and on into eternity. T. S. Elliot wrote that being a Christian means that we never have to say goodbye, not even when someone dies. That is true. As King David said of his dead son, “I will go to him.”
All Christians know this hope, this power of eternal life that lifts us out of the mire of our finiteness. But we sometimes lose sight of the fact that this transcendence is ours now, as we plod through our days in this world.
Christianity is the message of limitless new beginnings, of second chances for the asking. It is the hope — the Hope — of never having to say “there is nothing I can do.”
For Christians, there is no fate in which things are “written” before they’ve happened. There is no karma that comes back and bites us from our past. There are actions and consequences, and there is forgiveness and second chances. Christians never have to wallow in the ugly, sin-spotted misery of their failures from the past. They can — always — begin again in Christ. (Read the rest here.)
I sew on the kitchen table.
Let me repeat that: I sew on the kitchen table.
I kneel down to pull my sewing machine off the bottom shelf in the shelves where I store my pots and pans, and I drag my serger in from the spare bedroom where we keep the exercise equipment, and I pull out the Stanley tool box in which I keep my notions, and I get the little lazy Susan dealio where I put the things I use a lot while sewing such as scissors and — heaven love ’em — seam rippers, and I get thread out of the self same exercise room and then I get the fabric from the exercise room closet and I get the pattern from the file box on the top shelf of the exercise room shelves, and … ahem … I’m sorta ready to sew.
That is, until I think of something that I’ve got to have that I forgot to get that is behind the second shelf where sewing incidentals share space with real-life casserole dishes and such. Then, I’m back, digging it out and lugging it to the kitchen table.
When I finish, I do all this in reverse and add a bit of sweeping up, polishing the table surface, and, sadly, trying to get the new marks I’ve accidentally made on the surface of my table up and off and out.
I’ve looked at a ton of websites that claim to instruct sewists in the fine art of sewing organization. Most of them are built around the notion that there will be a dedicated sewing room and at least $10,000 for decorating. The emphasis seems to be on expensive specialized sewing furniture to put in the sewing room.
Not only are these “dedicated sewing spaces” beyond my reach, they specialize in cute, and by that I mean the kind of cute that creates permanent visual clutter of the nerve-jangling variety. Among other things, they recommend that the sewist “go vertical” with her supplies by papering the walls of her “sewing space” with pegboards festooned with spools of thread, scissors, ribbons, elastics and such. The designers of these spaces evidently assume that people who sew not only love looking at that mess, but that they are all basketball players, since these displays are often pictured going straight up to the ceiling.
I don’t have the spare room or the $$ for decorating, and the thought of hanging such a bunch of stuff on the walls where I have to look at it makes me break out in hives. I want the what nots out of sight unless I’m using them. I want things to look calm, not all jangled up. I feel so strongly about that, you could call it a rule.
There are a few sites that talk about “sewing in a small space.” These seem to focus on cute; as in too cute by at least half.
They give advice on how to achieve cuteness that includes such impracticalities as storing expensive sewing notions in oh-so-precious, used cardboard egg cartons with the lids cut off. (I kid you not.) These uber cute knick knacks are photographed after they’ve been painted and decorated to make a pretty display. The photos show them with things like expensive pressure feet nestled in them, just waiting to be lost forever.
Several of these sites show cunning photos of a “sewing space in a closet.” There are shelves and a desk or table all neatly piled up to the ceiling with fabric and the tiny tools of sewing in a two door closet that is just about the size of the one that I have currently stuffed with fabric, batting, interfacing and things such as golf clubs and weights (It was a full-time exercise room before the sewing bug bit. My husband still thinks it’s an exercise room.)
All of these “sewing space in a closet” deals look claustrophobic. I think they’re more like “sewing-space-in-a-cell.” They are crammed so full that the view from inside has to be constant visual chaos.
Staring at a wall, or, for visual relief, shifting my gaze to boxes full of random stuff, is not my kind of vista. I want to have a supply closet. I don’t want to live in one.
I’m the kind of gal who falls asleep when she’s getting an MRI. (No joke. I really do fall asleep during MRIs.) But I would find one of those old-sewists-in-a-shoe-had-so-much-stuff-she-didn’t-know-what-to-do cute, cute, cute “sewing-spaces” crazy making.
Besides, where would I cut the fabric? Where would I put the serger and the ironing board? Etc. Etc. Etc.
How do I organize this mess into something more functional?
I’ve already decided that I need to undo the year-long neglect I have inflicted on my poor house. It’s been licked and promised ever since I was diagnosed with cancer, and it’s getting to the point that I can’t stand it. My office — which I pretty much abandoned during the time of active treatment — became a catchall. Didn’t know where to put a thing? Put it there.
During the year, we had our first grandchild which added a ton of baby paraphernalia, I took up sewing and brought in major hobby paraphernalia, and I had surgeries and sickness mess which added its own piles of paraphernalia. Behind every closet door and in every drawer, there lurks a confused mess. All my newly acquired sewing purchases — and when I was in the sick-but-getting-better phase of being sick, I shopped online as … ummmm … let’s call it therapy — all my sewing purchases are just mess piled on top the mess.
I’m going to clean this house as it deserves to be cleaned, but I don’t have the stamina to do it on one big swoop. I’m going to have to go through it systematically, sorting, tossing, reorganizing and cleaning one area at a time. First, I will clean out closets, drawers and storage. And by that, I mean that I will clean out part of a closet. And rest. Then, I’ll clean out another part of the same closet. And rest. And so on, moving from one closet to the next until the job is done. It will take weeks.
Then, I’ll move on to steam cleaning the showers, dusting the tops of the ceiling fans, door casings, shampooing the carpets and polishing the wood.
I’m taking the pledge. No more retail therapy. I’ve taken out loans to get the medical bills under control. I’ll be paying them back for a good, long while, which is, odd as this sounds, kind of heartening. It assumes that I’ll be around to make those long-term payments. It seems the bank is optimistic about my future, and I’m happy to know it.
But I’ve still got to pay those bills. And I don’t need any more stuff. I’m full up on stuff right now.
So, the buying is finis. And the using is under way. I’m in the process of turning that fabric into clothing, both for me and for my granddaughter.
But the rest of it — the sewing machine, serger, notions and what nots of sewing — will remain. And I don’t have the first clue how to organize it so that I can sit down to sew at my kitchen table without spending a half hour getting things out and then another half hour putting them away when I finish.
Cleaning out the closets and drawers will open up storage space. I will have enough room to store everything. But how do I do it in a way that makes it easy to move what amounts to a major work area from storage and to the kitchen table, then back again?
Do any of you have ideas? You don’t have to sew to help me think this through. People who work on cars or do woodwork have remarkably similar organizational problems. That’s why my Stanley tool box is the single best organizational tool I’ve found for my sewing.
If you had to move your woodworking tools, supplies and projects from storage in disparate closets to the kitchen table, and work on it there, then put it back and clean up the mess afterwards, how would you simplify it? It’s pretty much the same sort of deal with sewing.
I’ve looked at big tool boxes that stand alone and would hold my sewing machine. But a sewing machine is too delicate for the garage — or at least I think so — and putting things out there would still leave me with the lugging it in/lugging it out problem. Besides, my husband thinks the garage is his. I park my car on my side of his garage. Other than that, I’m not allowed. He would pitch a fit if I started putting my stuff out there.
I need to organize and store the equipment and supplies of my sewing hobby in such a way that I can enjoy it without feeling like I’m preparing for a full-scale invasion of an alien planet every time I sit down to sew.
Ideas? Thoughts? Advice?
I spent several hours yesterday wrapping presents.
And I still have a couple of really tough-to-wrap presents to go.
That, and I need to buy one more gift for one of my sons since the mail isn’t going to get what I already bought here in time.
My husband went to Advent confession this week. I confessed a while back.
My daughters-in-law are pitching in to help with the Christmas cooking, as is the best friend of one of my kids that I call my adopted son.
I’m not going to super clean the house for Christmas. I don’t have enough gas in my tank. I’ve been lick-and-promising this place for a year now, and I’ve got to do more as soon as I can. Every closet, every drawer, needs to be emptied, rearranged and the no-longer-needed things sent along to Goodwill.
I’ve been working on a slightly complex piano solo of O Come, O Come Emmanuel, one with variations and pretty additions, for a while now. I’m also learning George Winston’s version of Carol of the Bells. It’s pretty stuff … when somebody else plays it. With me, it’s sort of plunky. But I love the doing of it.
One reason it took so long last night when I was wrapping was that I spent quite a bit of time playing with my granddaughter’s new toys. She’s 11 months of miracle, and her toys are the most fun of any gift under the tree. One, a bug-like thing that’s incredibly soft and squishy and that makes lots of cute little sounds every time you touch it, makes me laugh every time I fool with it.
Christmas with a baby is the absolute best of life.
Here are the things that matter most:
My granddaughter’s laughter.
Her sweet little self, snuggled against me in bed while we count fingers and toes.
Making baby girl sandwiches with her Paw-Paw in which we kiss and squish her from both sides as she giggles with delight.
My two tall sons who are both good men of gentle and loving character. I am so proud of both of them.
My 91-year-old baby girl, my Mama, who never stops telling me how much she loves me and whose eyes always glow with love when she looks at me.
My husband who sometimes doesn’t understand me in the Mars-Venus way that men usually don’t understand their wives, but who is my other half, my spouse, my friend and my love.
My few friends — it is always a very few for any of us — who stick with me even when they disagree with me, and who pulled together to form “Team Becky” to get me through the tough year just past.
My Church which is a highway to heaven, if we will just have the humility to walk its way.
The pastors I’ve been blessed with, good men who try their best to be good shepherds.
My country, my beloved country.
My guardian angels who have walked me through more than one fire.
St Michael the Archangel, who, odd as this sounds, feels like a friend.
And first, foremost and forever, my Jesus and His dear mother.
I did my best in my own uninformed way, to consecrate my efforts to Mary’s … how do I put this? … to her disbursement of them. I did this a couple of years ago.
I pray every night for everyone I know who has died and for all those who don’t have anyone to pray for them. I pray and give them whatever weak merits I’ve earned. I place those merits in her hands to use according to Jesus’ will.
I don’t fully understand what I’m doing. But I just ask Jesus’ mother to use whatever good I can do in a way that it will do what Jesus wants.
I can’t do that myself because I don’t know enough. But she can.
That’s the key and the core of Christmas as I understand it. Because of that birth in a humble stable of a baby boy that, even then, the powers of this world wanted to wipe from existence, we are free to approach the throne of God. We have access to God made man and His mother, to whom He entrusted us.
The Old Testament tells us that no one can look on the face of God and live.
But the shepherds did. The wise men did. And we can.
God made Himself as weak and humble as possible to allow us to see Him and know Him.
There is no sound in this world sweeter than the laughter of a baby.
There is no hand so soft, belly so kissable, no face so trusting and pure as the face of a baby.
There is also no human more vulnerable, more helpless, more in need of our constant care and love. Without love, babies literally waste away and die.
As do we all.
We no longer have to say that if we look on the face of God we will die. We can look to the manger and the helpless baby lying there and see God, shorn of His glory in an act of love for us.
Life, all human life is sacred. Because He made it so.
You and I matter, because we matter to Him.
I love my granddaughter with a the same blinding love that I felt for my own babies. I would kill or die, and never care which one it was, to protect her.
That, my friends, is how God feels about every single one of us. He became one of us to save us. He died for us.
Our salvation begins where the human story always begins. It starts with a baby.
Merry Christmas my dear friends. Thank you for sharing this journey with me.
I wrote a post a while back in which I asked whether or not President Elect Trump was gaming the American populace with his manner of doing his cabinet appointments.
I focused specifically on the little set piece that he and Kellyanne Conway were playing with Governor Mitt Romney over the position of Secretary of State. I posited that President Elect Trump and Mrs Conway were using the position of secretary of state as a way of publicly humiliating Governor Romney and making him bow before the Trump.
I based this on the rather obvious observation that President Elect Trump is a cruel, petty and vengeful man who enjoys putting his foot on the back of people’s necks.
It turns out that the answer to the question I posed is that yes, the President Elect was gaming us, and Mrs Conway was helping him. The new Secretary of State is not Governor Romney. He is what Okies call an Oily. Given President Elect Trump’s cabinet appointments, I think the American people should go to school about oilies, and indeed what happens when this industry takes over a government. An excellent case study would be to look at little old Oklahoma.
But, more on that later. It’s enough for now to say that President Elect Trump and Mrs Conway were indeed gaming the press and the American people with a rank exhibition of the use of power to get a little bit of stunningly petty sadistic payback. This is the man who will soon have control of the Justice Department and the CIA.
For those who don’t remember, here’s the run-up from my previous post:
Are President Elect Trump and his erstwhile campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, gaming all of us?
I kinda think they are.
Here’s the dealio.
President Elect Trump is doing his run-up to the oath-taking in much the same way that he did his cruel little game show, The Apprentice. You know, he called in a bunch of people and waved a “job” in front of them, then made them jump through hoops while he sat there like a little lord of the universe and either “fired” or “hired” them.
It was a sadistic show with a sadistic premise. And millions of people grooved on its sadism.
Now, we’re getting a re-run of the same show, only this time the “jobs” in question are cabinet positions and high-level postings within our government and President Elect Trump’s upcoming administration. Just like in his television show, President Trump calls in lots of candidates and puts them through various hoops in a kind of elimination finals. He parades them in front of the press and gets a fix of having people grovel before him. Then, he moves on.
I was talking about this shoddy way of doing business with friends a week or so ago and one of them remarked that they thought the Donald was using these “meetings” as a way of polling each contender for government office with the public. They think that our President Elect runs potential candidates for positions in his administration up the media flagpole of media and then watches to see how the public reacts.
That’s an interesting idea, and it probably has a bit of truth to it. But there are other factors in everything our President Elect does which I think we’re going to have to consider when interpreting his behavior going forward.
Foremost among them is the simple and obvious fact that he’s a cruel man. And he’s a vengeful man. And he cannot abide any slight to himself.
I think the latest expression of his cruelty is the very public dog and pony show he’s been running concerning the position of Secretary of State. Given the dark shadow of nuclear weapons, this is a position of some importance to our continued survival as a species. It also will have a lot to say about whether or not President Trump ends up spilling our children’s blood in an unnecessary war.
But, once again, President Elect Trump has played it like another episode of his sick little television show. Only this time, he’s gone over the top with it in order to settle a grudge.
Do you remember how he behaved after he got the Republican nomination? Remember the nasty little game he played with House Speaker Paul Ryan about how he was “considering” whether or not to endorse him? That was payback for Speaker Ryan’s refusal to endorse candidate Trump earlier, when the nomination was still a bit undecided. It was candidate Trump, playing his nasty little pay-back game and showing himself to be what he is.
I didn’t keep up with the campaign early on because I was occupied with my own life. But evidently Governor Mitt Romney opposed candidate Trump’s bid for the presidency rather vigorously.
So, everyone was tres surprised when President Elect Trump trotted out Governor Romney for consideration for Secretary of State. But there they were, smiling for the cameras, with Governor Romney looking like a puppy dog, shaking and twittering in his eagerness to please, doing the public grovel before the man he’d critiqued a few months before.
Then, just to make things spicy, Kellyanne Conway took to Twitter and the airwaves, going on about how many tweets she’d gotten from Trump’s followers denouncing the idea of Secretary of State Romney.
Now Mrs Conway has, especially since the big win in November, said things about President Elect Trump that are basically fawning in their admiration and support. She’s toed the Trump line so hard that I’ve lost faith in her willingness to part company with him if he deep-sixes pro life behind closed doors — which I am pretty sure he’s going to do.
There was a time when I regarded Mrs Conway as the canary in the pro life mineshaft. I thought that if/when President Trump sold us out, she would go at him over it and thus let us know what had happened. But I’ve put that idea away.
I’ve watched her behavior since the election, and it’s verging more and more to the role of flattering court sycophant. Just for the record, that’s what I expect to see a lot of, going forward, because I think that’s what our new president elect demands.
To get back to Governor Romney, for some reason Mrs Conway jumped off the Trump ship and began berating the Governor publicly. It appeared for all the world that she was going against President Elect Trump.
Now, I’m not stupid. I knew that wasn’t the deal. I mean, just think about her “reason” for opposing Governor Romney for Secretary of State. It had nothing — and I mean absolutely nothing — to do with what is good for this country. Nope. She said that Governor Romney had “hurt” President Elect Trump during the campaign. That was her reason.
The ridiculous reason Mrs Conway gave for opposing Governor Romney’s nomination was straight out of the Henry VIII Court Sycophant’s Playbook. None of this added up.
Meanwhile, the dummies in the press were going all agog about the “fight” inside Trump transition headquarters, the breakdown among his team over Governor Romney. As if.
Here’s what I think is happening. I think that President Elect Trump wanted big time payback against Governor Romney for his behavior during the campaign. One thing I’m sure of about our president elect is that he’s into petty score-settling.
I think the consideration of Governor Romney is phony. I think President Elect Trump gets off on making people who opposed him come groveling.
I also think that the dealio Mrs Conway is doing with the press is a deliberate thing, a planned act, to, you know, turn the knife a bit. I think they’re gaming us.
I also think it’s not the first time we’ve been gamed and it certainly will not be the last.
Our President Elect is a cruel man.
Sexual assault is cruelty. Going into the dressing rooms at a Miss Teen America pageant and oogling and humiliating the underage girls as they stand there without clothes is cruel. Grabbing people and ramming your hands up inside them against their will, or as he put it, “grabbing their p——“ is cruel.
Terrifying millions of people with the threat of breaking up their families is cruel. Racism is cruel. His television show was cruel.
He is cruel.
And the way he’s auditioning people for his administration is just another act in the crude, trashy way that he uses power to practice his cruelty. (To read the rest, go here.)
I will never play this piece of music. It’s right up there with jumping the Grand Canyon flat-footed and breaking the sound barrier without an airplane.
In fact, I have to listen to hear it intelligently, and every time I hear it, I hear something else.
It’s Chopin’s Ballade No 1 in G Minor. I’ve taken to listening to it a lot lately, especially as it’s performed by various artists. It seems to speak of the times we are entering, at least to me.
Here is Chopin’s Ballade No 1, played in a grand manner by Rubenstein. This version includes the music so you can follow along as you listen. Be patient with it. There are a couple of written quotes at the first of it before the music begins. Notice how the Ballade changes constantly all the way through.
Here it is, performed by Lang Lang. I love to watch him as he plays. He feels the music, is transported by it. His playing is more lush, with big emotionality.
Here is a thoughtful interpretation by Martha Argerich. Do you hear the more introspective way she approaches it, compared to Lang Lang, who is full-on with it? It’s also interesting to hear the difference in the pianos they use. Do you hear that?
This incredible piece of music talks to us through each of these artists, and what it says is a bit different, depending on which of them has control of it. Their genius shows in that whichever one of them is playing, they are not just pounding out notes. They have control — although you sometimes feel as if their control is just barely there — of the music in the notes.
I change my mind a lot about which interpretation I like best. They’re all so good, each in a different way. Do you have a favorite?
It amazes me that people can do this. Chopin heard this music before he wrote it, felt it before he heard it. These pianists are able to overcome the technical difficulties and complexity of this piece of music to master it to the point that they can then take it and put pieces of themselves back into it, making it their own.
We are wondrously made. Chopin wrote this wonderful music after the partition of his beloved country. He somehow managed to pull the longing, the chaos and the clash of this disaster out of the piano. The history of the Ballade alone nominates it as music for our times. But the Ballade itself reaches across the century and speaks of today as if then was now.
It is not a marching tune. You would break your leg, marching to this. I can’t even tell for sure which key it’s in a big part of the time. The Ballade is a technical power house that only a genius like Chopin could tame into a not-quite form.
As I said, I have to listen to even really hear it.
Such is the genius of the human being.
Of us, who are fearfully and wondrously made.
Our Papa is 80 years old today.
If you would like to wish him a happy birthday, you can do so by making a comment in his Twitter account, @Pontifex, his Instagram account, or use one of the seven email accounts the Vatican created for this purpose.
I hope you take the time to wish our Holy Father a happy birthday. I also hope that those of you have fallen in to the trap of attacking the Pope will call a time out for the day and join the rest of us in sending him your good wishes.
We are blessed to have this good man as our shepherd in these times. It is foolishness not to know it.