fragments of an attempted writing.


happy memorial day.

Saw this here.  The one comment in the thread is the sort of thing you hear a lot of when you live in a place like Tennessee.

You can buy yourself one of these American flags here.  I suppose it's made in China at that price but I guess that is something of the point.  This flag allows for a more honest and forthright American patriotism.

Somehow a conversation about GSH here turned in a direction which reminded me of how in love I am with Goldie Hill.

Gil Scott-Heron, R.I.P.

Two things that tie me, as it were, to Gil - he spent much of his childhood in Jackson, TN, not to far from Memphis and a town my parents used to live in, and he went to college at Lincoln University in PA, where my dad worked many moons ago and where me and my buddy Nathan used to pick crab apples in front of Langston Hughes Memorial Library.

from here.  I don't care about trains, but I love brass tubing.

what happens when industries engage in technologies named after battlestar gallactica swear words...

Fracking is not a new technology. It was first put into commercial use in 1949 by Halliburton, and that company has made billions from employing the extraction method. But it really wasn't until 2004 that fracking really took off, the year that the EPA declared that fracking "posed little or no threat" to drinking water. Weston Wilson, a scientist and 30-year veteran of the agency, who sought whistleblower protection, emphatically disagreed, saying that the agency's official conclusions were "unsupportable" and that five of seven members of the review panel that made the decision had conflicts of interest. (Wilson has continued to work at the EPA, and continues to be publicly critical of fracking.)
A year later, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act with a "Halliburton loophole," a clause inserted at the request of Dick Cheney, who had been Halliburton's CEO before becoming vice president. The loophole specifically exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the CLEAR Act, and from regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency, and it unleashed the largest and most extensive drilling program in history, according to Josh Fox, the creator of the film Gasland.
Fracking was approved back in 2004. Since then drillers have set up fracking operations throughout the United states. There are countless reports (herehereherehere and hereto name just a few) of contaminated drinking water and foul air near drill sites--evenflammable faucets. And more disturbingly, no one knows how long these sites will remain toxic and how wide an area the toxic plumes effect. There is a possibility that the aquifers that supply drinking water to the most populated regions across the country are already contaminated, or slowly becoming so. In North Texas, home to some 3 million people, water is in high demand and droughts are common in the hot summers. Any amount of contamination would devastate the already dwindling supply. If we think there's a water problem now just wait a few years.
And now we know that the fracking process can stimulate earthquakes. It not only has been happening in Arkansas, but in Texas as well.


If this song doesn't make you want to drink a warm glass of whiskey you are dead.

Berry my head at wounded prose. Me on Berry on JPII - elements of stylin, obscenely long tangents, some contra Rod strands of thought because in all things I seek to be his dialectical opposite, and other useless ephemera.

Those two half gallon growlers last night left me feeling a bit strange this morning.  Fortunately I have the gear needed to deal with that.  Well, OK, I had to borrow some items from my nephew and niece. 

The Nation came in the mail yesterday, with a cover story on JPII - The Shame of John Paul II: How the Sex Abuse Scandal Stained His Papacy by Jason Berry.

I'm writing this post not because I have any interest in religion, but only because a story in The Nation peaked my interest.

Being a mostly laid off worker, I stopped paying for the Nation ages ago and they still send me their magazine most of the time and still let me onto their website.  It's like you can't stop being a subscriber if you ever subscribed.  That might annoy some people but I think it better than the outrageous amount of money The Progressive charges customers for writing that is even worse than one finds in The Nation.  The Progressive cut me off the moment I thought of not renewing my subscription, and on that rare occasion I want to read an article of theirs online they want me to pay $45 and offer one of my children's organs.  One would think that the progressives at The Progressive would offer a discount for those unemployed workers they claim to care so much about, but, surprise, surprise, all 400 of their readers are locked into income via their tenure, and it never occurred to them that an unemployed factory rat might actually read their rag.  Bourgeois liberal filth.

OK sorry for that tangent.

Berry does not once mention the fact that JPII came from a country where one of the ways the state attacked its adversaries was to trump up charges against someone deemed an enemy of the state - and that one of the most routine character assassination ploys involved accusing the enemy of the state of being a homosexual.  The Nazis did the same with their Sittlichkeitsprozesse intended to bring the Catholic Church into disrepute.  Berry does not mention that persons close to JPII have said that as a rule he dismissed allegations of homosexual activity against bishops and other clerics because of his previous experience with the then communist Polish state.  I don't believe that this in any way justifies any particular "policy decision" on the part of JPII, and, yep, it seems like an argument custom made for a red baiting American Catholic conservative audience, but fair is fair folks and any writing concerning what JPII did and didn't do concerning the sex scandals might-should mention this fact.

I will also say this - Berry, perhaps unwittingly, paints something of a good picture of BenXVI.  He notes the efforts Ratzinger made trying to bring the hammer of Church justice to Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder and long time head of the Legion of Christ and notorious sex abuser.  As Berry puts the narrative, Ratzinger tried to administer justice but was twarted by Vatican politics, but BenXVI brought the hammer down almost immediately (by papal standards) after becoming pope.  Berry never draws this conclusion, but the narrative he paints leaves no other conclusion to be drawn.

On the first page of the article Berry quotes Richard McBrien, that master of understatement.  In the quote in question McBrien asserts that the Roman Catholic sex scandals are "the greatest crisis to confront the Catholic Church since the Reformation on the 16th century."   Whatever.  I would think that the fact that most Catholics in Europe stopped going to church a generation or two ago a slightly bigger crisis for the Catholic Church than the sex scandals.

This is my fundamental take on the sex scandals: there is an elephant in the room which Berry and critics akin to him always seem to ignore.  It is now well documented and indisputable that an alarming number of bishops at every level of Church bureaucracy protected sex-abuser clerics and actually facilitated the abusers by allowing them to continue to get into positions which made the abuse possible.  But for all that the institution of the Catholic Church nefariously protected sex-abusers, for all that the so-called lavender mafia ruled with its limp fist, the statistics on both pedophilia and clergy sexual abuse within the RCC are on par with what is seen in other Christian groups and in other organizations which have a lot of adults working with a lot of children.  Catholic priests do not and have not abused at higher rates than we see with males across the board.  It would seem to me that any depiction of the Catholic Church as a haven for abusers should have to make this point - that if there was some sort of despicable intent on a systemic level to maintain a haven for sex abusers - such an intent did not actually succeed at making the RCC any more a haven for such persons than the next large religious body happens to be.  If the Catholic bishops were incompetent at being good guys, which they were, they were also in this arena incompetent at being bad guys, as their bad guy numbers are not any higher than anyone else's.

So back to the article, we are told by Berry that JPII was a "staunch traditionalist on sexual issues and theology."  Yeah, the theology of the body Pope is a staunch traditionalist because anyone to the right of Matthew Fox is a staunch traditionalist.  Please.  Where is Berry getting this JPII as trad language?

And then Bry calls the Legion of Christ an "archconservative religious order."  Conservative in the nomenclature of most Catholics writing in English today is to the left of traditionalist.  That nomenclature can be learned by talking to Catholics with a knowledge of the spectrum of contemporary Catholic thought, but, you know, it could also be learned by using this vehicle of Catholic Church gnosis known as Google.  So Berry paints JPII a trad and the Legion as conservative.  Being a journalist must be so damn easy brereezy.   

Next we learn that Fr. Marcial Maciel, former leader of the Legion, was "the greatest fundraiser of the modern church."  OK, winning the world for Bourgeois Jeezus by winning the elite is straight up sick in my book.  And of course the Legion is flowing in cash.  [After reading this article I looked up the Legion website and found it as disturbing as I suspected - not least because of the whitewash over the sexploits of the Legion's founder and other troubling aspects of their past.  One has to go to the Our History page on their site to get any mention of it.  Funny that nothing is said of the Maciel debacle on the FAQ page.]  So, sure, I'm no fan of the Legion - but I couldn't help but chuckle when reading this line about Maciel being the greatest fundraiser of the modern church.  Why?  Not that I dispute the data, had there been any offered - though I think it somewhat ridiculous to think we can know who is doing the most fundraising in a group with 1.2 billion people in it.  No, the reason I had to laugh was that another Nation writer, Christopher Hitchens, asserted that his arch-nemesis Mother Teresa was the greatest fundraiser of the modern Church.  He asserts this in his book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, which started out as essays in The Nation, and Hitchens also ties his target to a vast network of Vatican corruption.  The people that The Nation dislikes are always top notch fundraisers.  Got it.

Moving along we encounter the ditty that Ratzinger is "a moral absolutist who had persecuted liberal theologians."   Because everyone knows that Ratzinger is a Kantian, as we see with his recent treatment of the moral nuances involved with the question of condom use on the part of male prostitutes.  

I wonder if we as a society could ever come to a common understanding of the term persecuted.  It seems that Berry is following the usage of the term persecuted one finds in academia, where getting assigned an office 4 feet further from the restroom than your colleague's office is considered persecution.  

I'm a few years shy of 40, but I vaguely remember when persecution required something that actually hurt another human being -- pulling someone's fingernails out and then dipping their raw fingers in battery acid is definitely persecution.  Waterboarding is persecution.  Placing a person in prison might be persecution.  Firing a person is surely sometimes persecution.  Excommunicating people after years of paperwork warnings and dialogging and bureaucratic hand-wringing doesn't seem so much like persecution.  Being asked for a clarification of positions is not persecution.  Being told that you can no longer call yourself a "Catholic theologian" when despite this you still keep your tenured teaching position in a Catholic institution and can one day get paid to write a memoir about your persecution is not persecution.  Those things might be annoying, but is every annoyance caused by someone in a power structure within an institution you belong to an instance of persecution?  

I say all this as someone with sympathies for Gustavo Gutiérrez, of course.  Despite his former "persecution," whatever that means, Gutiérrez remains a priest in the Catholic Church.  I just saw a picture of a baptism he did of the kid of some CW's in the most recent Houston CW paper.  He seems like a happy fellow.  I mention Fr. Gustavo because twice in the article Berry chides JPII and Ratzinger for going after liberation theology.

Now that liberation theology is as dead a horse as possible, it is safe to paint Gutiérrez a quaint old man with silly dated views on things, and BenXVI thus far seems like he will let that old dog lie.  If I were BenXVI I would have a hell of a lot more respect for Gutiérrez than a gobshite like Hans Küng, as Gutiérrez does not have the long record of stabbing former friends (or adversaries, for that matter) in the back in the manner that Küng does.

Anyway, if you can look past the sillinesses like those above, Berry does have a few gems.

For instance, when Berry is discussing his 1997 article done with Gerald Renner reporting on Maciel's sex abuse, he reports on the responses he got from Maciel's ideological allies in the RCC:

William Donohue of the Catholic League responded immediately with a letter to the Courant, scoffing at the allegations.  The order set up a website, LegionaryFacts, which charged the accusers - and us - with fomenting a conspiracy against Maciel.  Father Richard John Neuhaus, an influential Catholic conservative and editor of the journal First Things, called the accusations "scurrilous" and proclaimed Maciel's innocence "a moral certainty."  William Bennett, a national lecturer on ethics who later became a CNN analyst, also voiced support for the Legion.  Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, who lectured at the Legion university in Rome, derided the accusations and praised Maciel's "radiant holiness."  George Weigel, a biographer of John Paul, weighed in for the Legion, too.  

Berry follows this up later in the article with:

The LegionaryFacts website disappeared after Maciel's 2006 punishment; none of the conservative ideologues who had so staunchly defended him apologized to the victims, though George Weigel, who has a research chair at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, called for a Vatican investigation of the Legion in 2009. [This was long after large amounts of damning information concerning Maciel's decades of abusing young men under his authority had been made public and verified.]

Berry then notes that Weigel excuses JPII's neglect of dealing with the Legion's trouble by asserting that JPII was "ill served by associates and subordinates who ought to have been more alert to the implications of [Maciel's] cult of personality... Despite the negative implications of John Paul's reputation that some of [his] critics quickly drew, what was at work in this scandalous affair was deception in the service of the mysterium iniquitatis"  Berry continues:

- the mystery of evil.  That's it folks.  The pope who took on the Soviet empire was duped by the "mystery of evil."  Nothing about Sodano pressuring Ratzinger.   [Cardinal Sodano is the Vatican hack who got in Ratzinger's way of pursuing Maciel.]  Dziwisz, Weigel concludes, "was susceptible to misreading personalities."  [Dziwisz was JPII's secretary at the Vatican and the man who took bribes in return for getting the rich and powerful near the pope.  Dziwisz was given a lot of money by the Legion, which in turn got the 
Legion into good graces with JPII - or so the Berry narrative paints things.]

This really hit close to home because, uh, I have been guilty myself, in a former blog life, of betting really bad on the wrong bishop.  He was enemy to my enemy and friend to some of my friends, so I sang his praises like Rod Dreher waxing on about his latest religion.  Then he turned out to be a destructive controlfreakisiarch with the world's biggest martyr complex.  Maybe I should issue a public apology.  Naah, Berry is a bit of a prude.  And nothing written on blogs actually means anything, right?

Hypocrite that I may be, there is little more enjoyable than to see such an outlandishly self-confident pundit like RJN (Buckleyesque pomposity in Roman black and white) getting things so unbelievably wrong.  I suspect as years go on we will have more and more evidence of RJN's lack of discernment concerning his allies.  Not that anything will top some of the things he wrote concerning Dubya's supposedly good and Christian character back in the early days of Dubya's administration.    

The case of the Legion being a source of some of the worst abuse documented in the recent Church scandals perhaps undercuts the argument that liberal theology or lax praxis are related to increased incidents of sexual abuse.  Berry's reminders of the confidence Maciel's ideological allies had in their man should warn all of us of the danger in assuming that "one of ours" can't possibly be that sort of person.

These things can be tricky.  A friend just emailed me today and asked me if I thought that a repressed homosexual traditionalist pathology is a driving force in a small American religious group with which I am familiar.  Whew.  I think I'll end on that note.  

Tap Root

The earth keeps the tap root of death

The flesh covering bones will rot,
or, if it does not, will remain
as stone relics
for antiquarians,
fragments of a city under heap.

The flesh of leaves will descend into oblivion,
blood filled limbs becoming clay,
veins of branches clotting coldly.

Without a root in the earth
death's finality is our death,
like snowflakes on a river's current, 
like the birds' designs in the sky:

There is no resurrection where there is no earth.

- Euros Bowen

Bowen was a Welsh poet of the Rhondda Valley.  His father was a Congregationalist minister, though Bowen became a priest in the Anglican Church.  He wrote this poem in Welsh, and this is his translation from the Welsh.  Bowen was strongly attracted to Eastern Christianity.  He twice won the crown at the National Eisteddfod.

One of the greatest anti-war songs "of all time" as we say.

I will always think of this as a Planxty song (see here, but ignore the bad distortion in the audio and enjoy the hurdy gurdy), but Rusby will do, of course.  Drinking with my brother again last weekend, now fighting America's petty domestic wars (he's a Memphis cop) after finishing his duty fighting our foreign ones, I am reminded why it is I that "I wish the queen would bring home her armies."

It's not their people who fight their wars, it's my people.  So whatever your politics, perhaps you'll understand why I will till the day I die say fuck them.

a decade.

1.  St.Thomas Aquinas in his hometown of Roccasecca, Italy.  He's lost some weight in pomo.  Damn The Biggest Loser, there are no limits to its god awful reach.

2.  Reason #1 I like a low Latin - for about half of the Mass I can't hear anything but the kids who aren't sitting quietly, the crazy old dude in the back who loans used tissues to snot nosed kids, and the birds outside.  The older I get the more my interest in birds grows.  My dad is a birdwatcher.  Reason #2 I like a low Latin -- the priesthood of believers song and dance is complete bunk.  I'd rather do business; the kind wherein I know I don't have shit to say, so I let my agent do the talking.  I then just nod in agreement a few times when I'm supposed to and sign something at the end.  Works for me.  But I can mumble/sing On Eagles Wings if you need me to.  I'm versatile that way.  No complaints anymore unless the homily is longer than 7 minutes or there are parking issues.  

3.  Josef Pieper

One time I tagged along with Henry to a book deal he did with this old German couple who had been close friends with Pieper.  Their house is magical in my memory.  One of those old St. Paul family homes that a postman used to be able to afford, with nooks and crannies all in spectacular woodwork that surprises you in a home of modest size.  I only spent a few minutes with these folks but they were special, and their souls radiated through the building they had spent many years in.  Decent architecture can work that way with a human life.  No wonder my life is so screwed up with my junkfest leaking molding creaking dismally crafted ranch with original plastic siding.  

Pieper has been a constant friend through any number of twists and turns.  Some of them regrettable but hell I'm still trying to figure out this tricky one shot I have at a human life.  Long time readers will know that I am especially indebted to Pieper for his take on flattery in modern language, but upon picking up his other works again I am reminded that he reads like butter.  Not that factory made crap that is sold in sticks, but big asymmetrical chunks of farm butter that creams the soul.  I've noticed that not everyone has my reaction to Pieper.  And some people who know me well can't understand why I of all people like him so much.  Tough call.  He is like my literary comfort food.  I have hope that there is meaning and order in the universe again when I read him.  Then I put him down and everything goes to slop and muck.  Perhaps the answer is to never have a Pieper work away from my person.

4.  Jacques Maritain and the question of taking him seriously.  Very difficult, for several reasons, but chief among them is my perplexity concerning the whole Josephite marriage to Raïssa thing.  She was cute:

and she remained a good looking woman as she aged:

To make things worse, she even did sensual looks well into middle age just to tease old Jacques:

"In order to dedicate ourselves to philosophy" my ass.  These are the sorts of horrors that must have taken place before theology of the body came around to fix everything.  If only the Maritains had lived in the era of Christopher West.  

I will say this in due respect of the man.  I read once that really old Jacques, in the last 7 or 8 years of his life, had a diet which consisted only of a little coffee, scotch, water, a little bread, cigarettes/pipe, and very occasionally a small piece of sausage.  This makes me very happy because if by some very strange sequence of events I manage to outlive my wife, it is good to know that there is a religious order out there I can go to which will see to my own culinary priorities.  Maritain joined the Little Brothers of Jesus in his evening years.  

5.  Disturbing as the above may be, even more disturbing are religious bloggers who give every indication that there is no possible way they could get laid gleefully becoming Roissystas.   I'm something of a cataloger of the pathetic and banal, but this phenomenon folks, is indisputably the all time cake taker.

6.  My favorite religious blog posts are the ones where some guy waxes on and on (drowning in the affect of a strained world weariness, even though he seems like the sort who would struggle to get through two beers and probably still feels all ex-Evangelical guilty when he swears) about the dangers of internet religious blogging - noting the irony that he himself is doing it, while admonishing presumably less wise readers as to what sort of things should be avoided.  It reminds me of that time when I was a kid and Mac Davis sang Lord It's Hard to Be Humble on the Muppets:

Of course this analogy isn't exactly right - because the sort of blogger who does one of the posts in question always predicates his thought on the fact that he fails, and he is a hypocrite, and yada yada.  Shouldn't we all know that game by now? -- I mean, uh, yeah, to be the perfect, meet, and right religious blogger you have to point at your faults in the very predictable and obligatory fashion.  To be perfectly humble you have to claim your sins, while inferring that they aren't anywhere near the same category of bad as the media sins of the guy or type of guy who you can't stand and are about to criticize (you can't assert this much, but only infer it, as an assertion here would break the rules).  It's all part of the program.

Why is it that religious Americans (in most camps) keep going for those practiced token phrases of self-deprecation-as-humility as if they mean anything anymore?  Certain religious milieus, such as one where an astounding number of people close emails with "the chief of sinners" or "a sinner" and similar phrases, seem to buy into this game a lot more than others.  Perhaps it is that Americans who get into religion are the most gullible people on earth.  It seems they sometimes actually believe that a person who publicly calls himself a sinner or a spiritual failure in a direct fashion actually intends to convey something about himself that is honest.  And what is worse, they assume the integrity of the intent here on the part of said blogger, but don't think him hopelessly lost in deluded megalomania in the event that really is his intent.  This phenomenon is truly remarkable.  I've got some swamp land in Syosset to sell you people.  We religious Americans may be the stupidist people in human history.

Maybe the song above would be more analogous if the lyrics were - "O Lord, it's hard to be humble, when you're as close to perfect repentance as one can be but still shy enough of the mark to have the desired street cred and also have people identify with your stated deviations enough to view you as having insight into their lives all the while expressing a gentle warmheartedness you not so subtly contrast with the type of people whose anti-humility you describe so as to, ahem, help others less wise than you."  Not as catchy as the original lyric though, come to think of it.

7.  Memphis finally made it on to the greatest religion blog of all time:

I personally don't see what the big deal is.  There are plenty of places in Memphis other than the ECUSA cathedral where women both wear boas like that one and collect money from an audience.  OK, yeah, that's the best I could do.  Sorry.

I agree with the organist/choirmaster who comments on the thread in defense of his Canon Pastor; Memphis is a funky city.  That is what most concerns me here - because this pictured example seems pretty tame by both Memphis and Bad Vestments standards.  My longstanding fear is that the wanna-be bourgeoisie in this city would succeed in gentrifying it and make it boring.  If this is the best bad vestment Memphians can come up with my fears are all the more confirmed.

8.  I'm not sure that you can be three things at once - an American, a person who is "serious" about God, and someone who really isn't all that interested in baseball.  I like college football, I really like 6-man and 8-man high school football, I like high school and college wrestling (as in Dan Gable, not Jesse Ventura), I like boxing (straight up good old fashioned boxing and not this brazilian do whatever you want in the fight crap or anything like that), I like soccer if my nephew is playing or if it's the Welsh national team.  I like many winter olympics sports, particularly the biathlon.  I even like softball, not to play it, but to watch it -- this came about after the time my friend Tommy and I were making fun of softball in front of his sister who went on to a scholarship in softball at Miami of Ohio.  She was a pitcher.  She forced us out to the ball field near the water reservoir and threatened to beat us up if we didn't swing.  My hands still hurt from when I finally made contact with a ball.  She could pitch.  Hard.

But I've never been able to get into baseball.  My family all knows that this is due to the fact that my mother (she claims accidentally) ran over my t-ball stand when I was 5, which ended my enthusiasm for the sport.  Anyway, I've resigned myself to the idea that because I am not a real baseball fan I am thus obviously incapable of being "serious" about God.  I do hate the Cubs though, but only for class warfare reasons.  My boss dragged me to some Cubs games on a trip to Chicago once, and the el driver quite enthusiastically espoused his White Sox loyalties over the PA as a large group of folks who looked like they might otherwise be going to a Southern Baptist youth camp got off the el.  Solidarity brother!

I do like to go to Redbirds games here in Memphis, but pretty much entirely for relatively cheap drink, friends, and food.  Maybe I glance out to the field for a total of 20 minutes during a 2 1/2 hour trip to the park.  Memphis style BBQ nachos don't grow on trees folks, sometimes you have to go to a crowded place to get them.

9.  Mary, this consecrated virgin I used to work with at the bookstore, makes rosaries out of seeds that come from a Kentucky coffeetree in her yard in South St. Paul.  This is one she made for me years ago:

Each seed is maybe 2/3" of an inch wide or so.  This one went to some old dodger whose fingers didn't work well enough for a small rosary.  So Mary is making me a Franciscan Crown rosary out of the same bead material as the above one.  I've always wanted a Franciscan Crown rosary because I believe it is the one kind of rosary that need not be blessed to work and blessings are a huge hassle.

The last rosary I had blessed the kids destroyed.  The bishop who blessed that rosary was the bishop of the best town in which to drink beer in the whole state of WI at the time, but now he is Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.  Hope that doesn't turn out to be an omen.  My kids thought it would make a cool necklace but once the fight over it ensued it turned out to be more of a leash and just as I was about to restore order and end sacrilege it turned into beads flying all over the living room some of which we still find on our once a year vacuum trips into the nether regions.  Perhaps the Cardinal casts a forgiving eye towards incompetence though.

10.  I got this whilst on a mission trip to Mexico in 1994:

During this trip a group of us were walking up a mountain and just to the right of us on the path there was this large concrete aqueduct or irrigation tube of some sort that seemed to take water from somewhere above us on the mountain downward, with smaller pipes coming off the big concrete tube at a field every so often.

The aqueduct was 4 or 5 feet in diameter and above ground and every so often there were holes in the top.  Anyway, someone in our group decided that the tube would make the ultimate waterslide, so, long story short, the group of 7 or 8 of us went in.

Jeremy was the first one to go in, thank God.  I was second.  It turned out that the inside was extremely slimy and the part above water (the water came up to fill the tube about half way) was thick with daddy long leggers.  Really thick.  It was also pitch black once you moved a few yards from one of the openings in the top.  We slid quite quickly and via yelling at each other finally figured out and instructed each other in the proper technique needed to slow our speed to the point of maintaining some control.  It was disgusting and and freezing and scary in the tube and as soon as we could moderately control our speed the next focus was on getting out.

We were at this point in a line where each of us was right behind the person in front of us.  We could maintain this position because Jeremy had been a star linebacker in high school and could squat over 500 lbs. His strength meant he could use his legs to maintain a slow speed even with the rest of us bumping into the person(s) in front of us which resulted in a hell of a lot of pressure on Jeremy.

So Jeremy had to do two very difficult things - he had to control the speed of the group with his legs by pressing with a great deal of force at an awkward angle against the slimy concrete walls of the tube and he had to reach up and grab as we passed under an opening, which amounted to maybe a 2 foot diameter hole in the ceiling of the concrete tube.  The first time Jeremy tried to reach up and grab the edge of the hole the train of people behind him collectively slammed into him, he lost his grip, and we kept moving down the mountain.  This happened again and again.  I remember yelling to him at one point "what the hell happens to us if you can't hold on!!"  I'm not always up to speed on the best motivational techniques.  Anyway, at one point after 4 or 5 failed attempts Jeremy lunged toward the opening with a peculiar fierceness, timing his grab perfectly.    We all slammed into him again.  He roared and then cried out in pain as one arm bore God knows how much weight against it, but we all stopped.  I then climbed up Jeremy to get a grip at the top, and Jeremy then basically pinned me to the top of the concrete, thus holding everybody else in place, and positioned himself so the his legs were hanging into the hole far enough down that no one would slip past him.  He reached down one by one and pulled as out.  Flung might be a better verb there - he flung us out with his adrenaline in full gear.

We all laid on the side of the mountain next to that hole after we were all out.  We were silent for perhaps a minute, and then the hysterical laughter that comes with a narrow escape.

A farmer had seen us come out and came running up the mountain yelling at us.  It turns out that there were usually grates in the tubes but in order to clean out debris every once in a while they pull the grates out to clean out the junk that gets in there.  The grates were not located where the holes were, but in a few locations where they extended the seam between two sections of tubing.  Had those grates been in that day, we would have had to go uphill backwards in the slime to get out - almost certainly an impossible prospect.  The farmer impressed upon us that we were the epitome of stupid.

Jeremy was an epileptic.  He had been offered a full ride to play football at a real college but turned it down to go to missions school.  He was an epileptic and it was a big deal that an epileptic was such a standout high school football player in a serious football state like PA where he was from - he showed me some of the newspaper articles that had been written about him once.

He later got engaged to a beautiful Arab girl he met in the Evangelical missions world, but while they were engaged one night Jeremy died in his sleep of some sort of undiagnosed heart condition.  Once, in the summer of 1996, when his parents and siblings were at the cabin they rented at a lake in interior Maine each year I spent a day with all of them fishing (I was living in Maine that year).  Jeremy had a brother and two sisters.  Within a few years of that day both Jeremy and his brother were dead - they both died within a year of each other, his brother in a car accident.  As I recall I think his father died not too long after that.  I hope the women in that family have somehow managed.

When I think of Jeremy I usually think of dorm room antics or that day fishing in Maine.  For some reason I don't usually think of him saving my life in Mexico unless I am thinking about Mexico.  But digging this old cross out I thought of him pulling me out of darkness in Mexico.

Jeremy's family owned a small family business which supplied flowers to florists.  Maybe I'll have the kids "accidentally" pull some of the neighbor's flowers and I'll set a few near this cross.  Requiescat in pace old friend.  

...lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy...
I recall a conversation a year or so ago, in which which my interlocutor, in response to my usual rhetoric, told the story of his priest visiting a flashy wealthy parish that had build some fancy community center or activities building or somesuch. The priest says they would have been better off to have built a soup kitchen. This sort of thing is supposed to appease when the topic of systemic injustice comes up. Let the poor have their soup kitchens, and let us retain our middle class comforts and in addition to that provide ourselves with more opportunities to pat ourselves on the back. Enough of those stories in one lifetime and one might commit one's self to class warfare and the destruction of the condescending classes.

work, or, on one legged lesbians who work at adult novelty shops, or, family values Memphis style, or, this is the world as best as I can remember it....

So I was repairing a lantern at work this morning.

The weather has been cool here in Memphis this week.  Usually it the heat has started to flex a bit of muscle by now, which gets you bracing for the agony which will be here come August when you won't remember what cool is.  The shop is in a metal building with no air conditioning and poor air circulation.  It gets so hot that fans are pointless as they are just blowing hot air on you - one of the most irritating sensations in the world when your body wants nothing but some cool air.  The little coppersmithing furnaces you see here (there are 13 or 14 of them clustered close together) and the much bigger blacksmiths' forges don't help.

It was good to see G.K.F. back to work today.  She had a stroke recently.  A heart attack in her 40s and now a stroke in her 50s, but I have no doubt we will be having conversations again soon when she takes a break to smoke her long skinny cigarettes out back and get a little respite from the inferno.

When we moved to Memphis some guy in a pressed Izod golf shirt at the C.S. Lewis society meeting was kind enough to inform us in as condescending a manner as possible that we had just moved into the "poor gay trash" neighborhood.  That neighborhood is near my shop.  Anyway, it turns out that Memphis does have a community of gays which is definitely not among the creative classes or bobos or the trendy sort of gays that one thinks of as gentrifying bad neighborhoods and all that wine and brie jazz.  We even have dike motorcycle gangs here that do battle with other local gangs.  Neat stuff.

Anyway, G.K.F. is among the "poor gay trash" that jackass was talking about.  She grew up in a white trash (she describes it thus) family wherein her father beat the shit out of her, then married a white trash man who beat the shit of her, and eventually hooked up with a woman who she has been with for many years now.  Their big hobby is bowling and they are in a local bowling club called Dikes & Strikes.

G.K.F.'s daughter also lives with her.  The daughter is also a lesbian.  The daughter only has one leg.  Her missing leg went missing when she was hit by a truck while changing a tire on the side of a highway (Sam Cooper) which runs through Memphis.  The daughter doesn't ever wear a prosthetic leg - I don't think she has insurance because she works at an adult novelty store and I don't suspect they offer health insurance.  I would think their might be some charity somewhere for people who can't afford prosthetic limbs but G.K.F.'s daughter has a very strong "fuck you" attitude when you first meet her, and I sometimes wonder if she likes going around with a leg obviously missing just so that she can continue to glare and grunt at the people who stare at what is not there.  Once the daughter (her initials are E.F., but I don't want to confuse this post with too many initials) helped me when I was working on my truck outside of my shop.  She saw me with the hood up and the truck on ramps, asked what the problem was, upon hearing sighed, shook her head at me like I was a dumb ass, grabbed the wrench from my hand, and proceeded to fix the problem.  No other words were exchanged except at the end when she was done and I offered to give her some cash and she told me to go to hell and then hopped away.

G.K.F.'s daughter has a son who is now maybe a little less than 2 years old.  He is one of the cutest and most sweet hearted little kids I have ever met, which stands in stark contrast to his mother and grandmother, who can be a bit on the rough side, temperament wise, the first 4 or 5 years you know them (they do warm up to people with time).  I don't think the daughter could afford to get artificially inseminated or whatever bourgeois lesbians do, so I assume G.K.F.'s daughter found some other way to get pregnant.  Not that I would ever dare ask for those kinds of details - these people would answer that question at the drop of a hat.

G.K.F. was really hard on me when I first came to the shop, like she is with everybody when they are newbies at the shop, which is anybody who hasn't been there at least a few years.  Things didn't really improve much when I was made foreman, a job which she felt she should have gotten.  After my promotion and also the promotion of another guy from the shop floor who got the production manager position, she wrote to the grandmother of our boss to list all she had done in her (G.K.F.'s) years there and why she deserved the job.  She was right, of course, her argument was sound, but had my boss made her foreman then half the shop would have quit, some of them because they were men who would never work under a lesbian, some of them because G.K.F. was the sort of person not afraid to make enemies.  She is also a hardcore perfectionist who will always put getting the job done absolutely right over keeping production numbers up, which just doesn't work when the goal is to keep the owners living the good life.  Anyway, when I admitted to her that she had been treated unfairly, and deserved my job more than I did, she and I warmed up to each other a bit.  We took a foundry class at the metal museum together and during breaks she told me the story of her life.  Like everybody else's story I guess, except with a few more instances of being beaten unconscious after not performing "good enough" fellatio after being forced to do so in order to "learn to like dick" than you hear in most people's stories.

The conversation with G.K.F. today was short and to the point, per usual.  I told it was good to see her up and about and asked her how she was doing and she immediately showed me that even with her hand shaking she could still hold a metal blank well enough to set up a stop on the sheer.  It's usually like that with G.K.F. - all business, her letting you know that she can do the job exactly as it needs to be done.

I saw her smile once, when on a break one day she was holding her grandson in the little cage within the shop that is G.K.F.'s area for working on antique hardware.  She caught me seeing her smile (I was a bit dumbfounded at the sight of it) and she put on her stern face again.  In reference to a conversation we had had years before this event, all she said was, "I won't let anyone hurt him."  

2 for Tuesday.

1.  Two olfactory irritations - that the police can now invade your property in the event they smell something they think might be illegal, and the start of chemlawn season.  My next door neighbor has a yard that is almost as crappy as mine.  He mows once every 2-3 weeks in summer, I mow once every 4-5, and let me tell you, in Memphis, that means very high grass.  Our neighborhood is quickly moving from questionable to nobody's asking the question anymore - it's not like a chemlawned lawn impresses anybody here, let alone does anyone on my street give a damn if you have dandelions or not.  Anyway, neighbor dude gets chemlawn.  Why?  His grass is 8 inches high half the summer.

We live in a world where police can invade my home for smelling weed outside my door, and my neighbor can invade my home with the smell of his lawn chemicals.  Not nice, world, not nice at all.

2.  Obama was in Memphis yesterday to give the commencement address at a "thriving" high school in a "bad" neighborhood.  Here is a bit of his speech:

That’s why I came here today – because if success can happen here at Booker T. Washington, it can happen anywhere in Memphis. It can happen throughout Tennessee. And it can happen all across America. 

Translation: if you ass-backwards, dimwitted, poor dumbshits from crack whore homes (Obama spoke of his single parent childhood, of course) who speak a dialect of Ebonics that is the purist form of Ebonics found anywhere can be taught to show up to an institution most days and get almost mediocre scores on dumbed down standardized tests, then any idiot anywhere can do it.  Yeah for people everywhere!

The local paper's headline today was INSPIRATION.  Uh, yeah, being told that if you are able to achieve something then it is a sign that absolutely everyone else everywhere else is able to do that same thing - that is really inspiring.  That would make me want to get up in the morning and work towards something.  Does Obomber ever listen to himself speak?  What a condescending bourgeois liberal prick.

Oh, and this part was fun too:

 We live in a new world. Believe or not, when you’re looking to get a job, you’re not just competing against people in Nashville or Atlanta, but in places like Beijing and Mumbai. That’s some tough competition. And you need to be prepared for it. As a country, we need all of our young people to be ready – to earn those high school diplomas, to earn those college diplomas, to get certified in a trade or profession. 

He left out the part where he tells them that their high school diploma is worthless, and that the local colleges that most of them are going to are worthless unless you major in one of the few majors which might result in decent wages down the line.  He also forgot to mention that one reason Memphis kids will likely be competing against folks in Beijing and Mumbai is that after the neo-liberals (such as those which completely control government in TN, not to mention all of Obomber's Goldman Sachs friends who he handed the U.S. economy to) finish shock doctrining the American economy, there will be plenty of $4 a day jobs in Memphis competing against those $4 a day jobs in other part of the world.

At least one line here is reasonable.  Obomber says that the kids need to earn their college "diplomas."  Last I checked "real" colleges offered degrees.  My old bartending school offered a diploma.  I think some beauty colleges offer diplomas too.  Take that you Beijing suckers!  Someday these kids are going to have a wage slave job barely making it by way of pouring Colt 45 at a Memphis bar or putting weaves in at Nappi by Nature, all the while thinking about those poor bastards in Mumbai who wished they could live the good Memphis life.
Archpriest Dmitri Smirnov, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for Relations with the Armed Forces, said that certain days should be set aside for volunteers to cleanse Russia of all traces of the “monster” Lenin.

I noted this on the blogs of some politically conservative American converts to Eastern Orthodoxy (see here and here). Upon reading the comments of the archpriest I can't but help think of Marx's derogatory comments about Russians and Russian political life.  There is something which seems to attract Russians of various political persuasions to cartoonishly totalizing political campaigns which completely "cleanse" the nation of this or that aspect of its culture or past.  It would seem to me, if I hated Lenin, I would not wish for a concentrated campaign to remove all traces of Lenin from the Russian mind as this would only increase the likelihood that another Lenin would come along down the line.  But such cleansings seem to be the Russian way of things.

The notion that Russia "never had a monster like [Lenin] before" is a rich truism.  Well, of course.  If treating considerable numbers of human lives as politically and economically expendable makes him a monster then he is one on a list of Russian leaders who were monsters, but surely each of them monsters in their own unique way, not seen before or since.  When he his fiercely hated it is nearly always a hatred based on his not having been on "my side."  Gosh I hate it when the other guys win too.

In those societies which Marx called "backwards," like Russia, there was/is a high degree of social homogeneity and conformity among persons within their classes (aristocrat, merchant, serf, etc.) and the "monster" is often the unique one with regard to expressions of idiosyncrasies and nonconformity.  Russians seem to have a long history of appreciating the brutally idiosyncratic tyrant.  And given that Tsarist tyrants are in dialectic opposition to communist tyrants, supporters of one side will hate the tyrants of the other.  [This is the time on sprockets when a "third wayer" talks about hating all tyrants - too cute - and not an option when "on the ground" in the throes of Russian history.] 

But the sport of it all is bourgeois or bourgeois wanna-be American Christians gleefully parading such politically and culturally überparochial comments as those which Fr. Dmitri provides, as if Fr. Dmitri's comments were expressions of a universal truth.  As if when a Russian who is likely a theocratic monarchist or something quite akin to that talks about cleansing Russia his language means anything akin to the neo-con or American libertarian meanings approximate to such terms.  Good show and thanks for the laugh.

For crying out loud folks, if you find Lenin so disagreeable, you can always get your politics from Rosa Luxemburg.  

Since bluegrass has long since been taken over by nice SUV driving Baptist homeschooling families from the nice suburbs with a stay at home mom and a dad who makes his money in finance or in sales for a company like Comcast but yet likes to listen to cds of people playing banjo and singing about hardships, I now have to have my man of constant sorrow via other genres.  My gain.

This guy seems to have a lot of feelings.  But hell, he is a British male younger than 40 and was born in a Sufi commune, so that is to be expected.  Kids and wife like him, and the whole son of Fairport Convention gives me warm fuzzies, so what the hell.
If only I had this guy's hair.  Then I might get accolades from Damian Thompson and First Things and finally get the respect I deserve.

slave and free according to paul....

As Murphy's law would have it, after I got laid off and we lost our health insurance my wife and I have had a number of health issues arise that have cost us in the tens of thousands of dollars, and we have a number of things, especially dental, that we are just not dealing with until we have insurance and more income again.  Such is more than just a pain in the ass.

There was a time before kids when we talked about leaving the U.S.  We wish to God we had now.  Our friends in the UK have a level of economic stability we will never have here, in large part because medical conditions are not something which will lead them to bankruptcy so easily as here.

Part of this experience has involved both of us making use of the local "Church Health Center" which has solidified in my mind what a God awful nightmare it would be to have to rely on Christian charity to get healthcare.  The services there have rarely risen above the level of useless, and we still have to pay for them, though we have learned that it is almost always more cost effective to put a few hundred dollars on a credit card for real health care, not knowing how we will pay it off, than it is to spend 40 or 80 bucks or whatever they charge us sliding scale that week for the charity health care.

Some thoughts:

1.  If a "right" to health care requires slavery, then quite obviously a "right" to having police, and interstates, and a military, and state parks, and state funded medical research, and a trademark office, and many such other things also requires slavery.  The Paulies will of course assert that there is this magically immutable piece of paper ratified 224 years ago which leaves the state with the right to sometimes take things away from me to suit its ends in a few situations, which in those cases presumably is not slavery, but does not give it the right to do so in other situations.  Uh, how this in any way relates to a meaningful use of the term slavery is beyond me.  If the government may kick my door down when I refuse to move in a case of immanent domain, I can't see how this is any less slavery in this loosey goosey use of the term than forced universal health care is.  I did not choose to be born into a society with a magical immutable document which grants the state the right to enforce immanent domain rulings.  I wish the hyper free market libertarian people who call me a hypocrite for being a communist who uses a computer and the internet would go the route of the old Catholic Worker hero Eamonn Hennessey and stop using roads.

2.  A curious thing.  A number of libertarian folks I know expressed contentment at me receiving unemployment when I was laid off because I had (or rather my employers had for me) paid into unemployment insurance for many years.  Thus I was getting a return on money I had put in.  But when these same folks found out I took government grants to go to school, there was the usual libertarian disgust.  Again, do these people not drive on government roads?  But aside from roads we might focus on the incredibly sophomoric view of "what is mine" or "what I have coming to me" involved in the sort of assumptions typically made by libertarians on these issues.

Behind the assertions made by libertarians there is the underlying conviction that there are clear delineations to be made with regard to what is mine, what I have rightly earned, and what is rightly due me in our finance/credit driven late capitalism.  Rubbish.

I have worked for 3 large corporations in my lifetime, one among the 200 largest privately owned businesses in the country, one a publicly traded Fortune 100 company, the other publicly traded and in the Fortune 500.  At all three of those corporations any observer of average intellect could quickly observe that pay did not at all correspond to performance or quality of work, especially in management positions.  In one company I worked for a department head was promoted to a vice president position because of work that had been done by two staff members under him (neither of which was me, by the way), both of whom he did not hire but had inherited from his predecessor.  He took enough credit for the work to get the promotion, the people who actually did the work got nothing - no increased wage, no increased Christmas bonus.

That sort of story happens over and over and over again in American business life.  The people who succeed at making the most money are generally not the brightest or the most talented or the most productive.  Generally speaking, they are the most ruthless and ambitious and are among those with the prettiest faces and most practiced in the arts of corporatist charm.  I worked in the mail room of a large corporation (the private one) and all of the managers in the engineering department went golfing each Friday afternoon (weather permitting) with their VP (when the weather was bad they went to an indoor computer golf range place with a bar).  When the VP there was being moved to take over a sister company and he needed to be replaced, his replacement (which he picked), was the manager who was his long time golf partner in the Friday afternoon games.  Everyone in the department, as well as people out of the department who had no reason to be jealous, remarked that the new VP was the dumbest and least productive of the managers in the department, but he was the best golfer.  This sort of thing is how business in America works at almost every level.  If you think otherwise you are fooling yourself.

I have also worked, indeed spent most of my adult like working, for small family owned businesses.  You know - the sort of businesses that often have to actually pay taxes because they don't have as much means to shelter their money from taxation in the manner large corporations do.  The one I worked fulltime at here in Memphis before my layoff, and now work partime at, is typical - the business was started by a man with a utility job he worked during the day.  At night he came home and made chandeliers, literally bending brass tubing over his knee.  He was hardworking and talented.  His wife then sold the lights out of their living room during the day.  Nice story of American entrepreneurial spirit, right?  Uh, yeah, but it ain't the whole story.  The man who did the knee bending came from Southern aristocracy, but his family had lost everything after the Civil War and had been poor for three generations.  Still, in the South coming from a "good family" means you can marry into another one, even if your "good family" has no money and hers does. Hers did.  Memphis elite of the highest caliber.

So when our hardworking man is spending his nights making lights, daddy-in-law is telling all of his elite friends and associates they have to go buy some for their homes and businesses.  In keeping with the rules of Memphis society they do so.  And the lighting business takes off. But to say it took off because of hard work is only part of the story.  It came to be worth many millions because of a social connection that most people have no access to.   And in not a long period of time some of those same lights would be made in sweat shop conditions in Memphis (the rest made in sweat shop conditions elsewhere).  When the knee bender dies, his wife would have to come in and sign checks and she would literally break down crying the first time she did it, upon seeing how little her employees made.  Everybody got a couple dollar an hour raise - which wasn't bad in the 90s, but brought a lot of folks up to just a little past minimum wage.  It would take the founder's grandson to fight with his father to get wages at all comparable to what one might make in a non union Toyota plant in Mississippi or somesuch.  The second generation of this company revealed little business talent, certainly no skill at making or designing or selling lights beyond the means to do those things which he inherited, but the company continued to grow because by the time the founder of the company died it was an establishment among wealthy people in Memphis.  If you have money in Memphis, you go buy your lights there.

Another small business I worked for had an owner who was adept at business, and pulled himself away from almost certain business demise a number of times by securing deals which brought in needed income at the last second.  But this man married a lady who grew up on Martha's Vineyard, and her father, of east coast old money, had to bail out my boss several times over the years, and, again, had it had not been for this father-in-law I never would have worked at that business as it would not have existed.  While this same man (the owner) was able to charm people into seemingly implausible deals from time to time, he had no sense whatsoever when it came to many practical things.  For instance, he always insisted that we take the company van to the Ford dealership the company had bought it from.  We put a lot of miles on the van, and it was in the shop all the time.  Eventually some of us noticed that the van seemed to be going back to the shop for the sames things over and over again.  Finally one of the managers got out all of the receipts from van repairs for the previous 3 years, and discovered that in 3 years time the company had paid more in repairs than they had paid for the van itself.  Considerably more.

In the companies I have worked for, taken as a whole with the occasional exception, I believe I can say without hyperbole or exaggeration that I have contributed far more to the company than the wage I earned - I made a lot of money for them.  I worked hard to make mediocre men, whether owners or managers/execs, richer, while I got very little in the way of financial security or a means to provide for myself long term.  In most cases, the owners or managers/execs I worked for provided the company/corporation little in terms of real net gain.  They have mostly been window dressing.

I realize that this is all anecdote, but I have been fortunate in my life to have worked in a number of settings which brought me into contact with a lot of working people outside of my own workplaces, whether travelling to institutions to buy books, or dealing with designers, retail sales folks, and other shop foremen when I was foreman of a small metal shop.  Perhaps my own workplace experiences and the vast majority of workplaces I have visited are anomalous, but I am inclined to think that my experiences are rather typical.  Having read a lot of American labor history in recent years only increases the strength of this inclination.

Thus when someone talks about it being stealing or "slavery" to tax people like these owners, managers, and execs I describe above in order to pay for health care for folks like me, I can't but scratch my head.  I would not in that case be stealing, nor would anyone or any agency be stealing on my behalf.  I am getting what is due me.  I've spent the bulk of my life working for these and their kind, allowing them to live lives of comfort and ease in return for little more on their part than polished social skills and a pretty face.  And while my caricature of the contemporary man of business may not apply to all - anyone who makes income on the financial markets, or "secures" their wealth on the financial markets, is making or securing wealth via means which necessarily result in wealth distribution not correspondent to skill and productivity.  This means that virtually everyone in America today who has considerable wealth has made it and/or secures it through means which involve doing what has been done unto me - taking the labor of the little guy in order to fill the pockets of people who don't earn what they make by way of a labor that in any meaningful way corresponds to their wealth.  Of course there are exceptions, and the aggregate of those exceptions tends toward the smaller of entrepreneurs. Thus it would seem an appropriate tax scheme might be one which hits the CEO of Goldman Sachs a hell of a lot harder than, say, my friend Henry who sells books out of his home.  But current tax structures are not so ordered.

Aside from the moral equations either side wants to use, in the end it is about the securing of interests.  As Buffet put it, it is class war and his side is winning.  The Rand Pauls of our social order are working to secure the interests of a minority whose wealth and ease is secured because of the work of a majority.  Naturally, I am concerned with the interests of my own family, and the families of my friends, and the interests of those folks requires conflict with the interests of those for whom Rand Paul is an operative.

In this sense, there is one level of discourse I am comfortable with in the language of the libertarian.  There is scarcity in the world.  There are limited resources.  Because of this reality, economic dispossession will always be with us.  The question is who is going to be gaining from the dispossession.  In the current neo-liberal order we see clearly where the lines of dispossession are occurring throughout the world, if we bother to look.  Those with my economic convictions want to see dispossession occur for a decidedly different set of people.  And let's face it - most people endorse a given approach to economic life for reasons that have to do with what they will believe to be best for them and their families.  Find me a person who embraces an economic ordo that they believe will hurt them.  In prior ages we had aristocratic Fabians, but such persons are harder and harder to find as mass capitalism plays out its hand.  Yes, one sees many working class folks in America embracing Rush Limbaugh nonsense, but this is only because they have drunk the kool aid which has convinced them of such lies as tickle down economics still bringing about good jobs and the like.

3.  When talking to Christians who are libertarians, there is an unfortunate moral/spiritual line of thought which enters the discussion.  Namely, that when the state acts as the redistributor of wealth, the opportunity for charity is diminished.  Again this strikes me as specious in the same manner of my roads above.  If we want to be childish in our embrace of truisms, we should note that by providing a military to protect me, the state denies my neighbor some potential opportunities to lay down his life defending me from the attack of a foreign army.  And there is no greater love than laying down your life for a friend, right?

If I were again to sink into anecdote I would note that in my experience in countries with universal health care, local Christian charity work involves less collecting of money than American Christian charities do, but more in the way of volunteering of time, but that is just a tangent.  Another thought that comes to mind is that this is another arena in which the libertarian irrationally asserts that large government efforts are somehow always and of necessity more inhuman than large nonprofit or forprofit efforts.  I wish some of these folks could experience health care at both my local public health clinic here in Memphis and then at the local large charity clinic so as to note the difference in quality of care.  Such an experience might incline them to change their minds on the government always worse regurgitations, though I doubt many libertarians have minds capable of change.

The truism about the loss of potential charity is an assertion with some huge blinders on.  No doubt certain opportunities for individual volitional charity are lost, but then again, opportunities for individual self-righteousness increase exponentially when government redistribution is gone.  The Church Health Center here in Memphis never ceases to miss an opportunity to assert its self-importance and to treat its clients in a condescending manner in which they are informed of how wonderfully Christian the folks providing them "help" are and how wonderful the donors are.  Having lived and worked in a homeless shelter for a year and grown up involved in Christian charities of all sorts I think this rather the norm.  Christians who give the sort of money it takes to keep such formal charities running tend be very assertive about their giving and seemingly incapable of not letting the right hand know what the left it doing.

When the state taxes you in order to provide health care for others, you can know that some of your hard work goes to provide medical care for others.  But you are not special in this manner, as everyone else who works is giving in the same manner.  No one is singling you out for your charity, no one is giving you a pat on the back.  You don't get that good feeling you get when you spend one afternoon every 3 months at a soup kitchen providing for the poor.  And never mind that a single payer health care system could potentially be much better run and much more efficient than a bunch of various and sundry Christian charity programs if such a government program could ever exist free from corporate domination (such as we see with Obamacare) and be allowed to flex government muscle against corporate interests.  Never mind that when you get outside the arena of homeless sheltering and rehab programs and the like and start dealing with issues pertaining to long term support for the working poor Christian charities often have a notorious reputation among other nonprofits dealing with those groups.

Charity seeks what is best for others.  It does not concern itself with the contribution/role it plays in bringing about that best for others outside of a concern for the other person.  But this whole "denial of potential charity" line seems to assume that all human interaction takes place in some sort of anti-human vacuum of social exchange.  As if I don't have the opportunity of being charitable if the government is coordinating charitable acts.    Come with me to the VA hospital sometime and let us watch the different nurses there in action.  The nurses working on a given floor are all making in the same ballpark in terms of salary.  They are all working for the government.  But the degree to which charity is involved in their work varies considerably. Somehow I think the capacity of humans to have charity toward others would survive a single payer health care system just fine.  I have never noticed a decided poverty of charity among practicing British Christians in comparison to practicing American Christians.

To be continued...