Archive for the ‘Various Memories and Opinions’ Category

Renovation of the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days on Haitus   Leave a comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  April, 1400s

Image in the Public Domain

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I will return to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days eventually.

The renovation of ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS is in progress.  I still have to change the dates on many posts, for example.  I also have a composition book containing drafts of new posts, which I will add to the weblog on schedule.

I also plan to continue to share a variety of thoughts here.

Until later….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

Against Xenophobia and Other Sins   2 comments

Above:  Superman on Diversity, 1949

Confirmed here:  http://www.snopes.com/superman-1950-poster-diversity/

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I tend not to be shy about expressing myself on my weblogs.  Usually I make comments in the context of a particular saint, some passage of scripture, or a theological or ethical principle that comes to mind because of that saint or scripture.  This post belongs to a different category–thoughts that simply occupy my mind.

Xenophobia, nativism, racism, and homophobia are sins.  They violate the highest principles of ethical monotheism and the ideals of the United States, as well as mere human decency.  These four sins are also endemic in human history and current events.  Holding up ideals is far easier than living according to them, after all.  Fear–not the variety that prevents one from touching a hot stove, but the sort that leads to hatred and flows from misunderstanding–is ever with us.  It leads us to deny our fellow human beings the civil rights God has granted them.  Even worse, we frequently engage in these sins while justifying them with religion.

May we respect the image of God in each other.  May we love one another as we love ourselves.  May we eschew bigotry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

Posted April 18, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Various Memories and Opinions

Tagged with , , ,

The Hitler Analogy   Leave a comment

Above:  The Front Page of Stars and Stripes, May 2, 1945

Image in the Public Domain

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Just leave Hitler out of it.

Morning Joe, April 12, 2017

As Sean Spicer has learned this week and, to his credit, he should have just left Hitler out of a discussion of the crimes of the dictator of Syria.

The Hitler analogy is one I hear people of various political stripes invoke against their opponents frequently.  The analogy applies well to only a select group of individuals that includes Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, the body count of each of whom exceeds that of the Fuherer, responsible for the Holocaust.  I recall that my Paul Broun, Jr., my former Congressman, compared Barack Obama to Hitler and Stalin–one a Fascist and the other a Communist–two opposing ideologies.  I remember hearing someone say “Hitlery Clinton” years ago.  I also recall hearing more than one person liken advocates of gun control to Nazis.  Oddly enough, I do not remember hearing anyone condemning the ownership and driving of Volkswagens, vehicles of which Hitler approved, due to the Nazi connection.

The crimes of the Nazis–especially Hitler–were of such magnitude that one should never trivialize them.  If every other thing is as bad as something the Nazis did, how bad could the Nazis have been?  The answer to that question is or should be obvious:  (1)  The Nazis were especially evil, and (2) Very little has ever risen to the level of evil of the Third Reich.  Evil of a magnitude lesser than that of the Nazis has long existed; examples have included Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad.

As Jeffrey Toobin has said, “arguments are easy at the extremes. ”  I conclude that the comfort level with the simplicity of easy arguments makes many people want to avoid the messier arguments between the extremes and leads them to resort to fallacies such as the misuse of the Hitler analogy.  Doing so also weakens their arguments and reveals them to be idiots.

Can we just leave Hitler out of it when he does not belong there?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2017 COMMON ERA

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Speaking Out of One’s Ignorance   Leave a comment

I make an effort, whether I am speaking in public or in private, or writing on a weblog, to do so out of knowledge.  Toward this end I prefer to do homework and check facts.  In conversation I am not afraid to say something to the effect of

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I know where I can find the answer,

with the intention of doing so and reporting back.  I would rather do that than be inaccurate.  Even better is to know the answer ahead of time.  At a weblog I strive for accuracy also.  If I can find the answer to a given question before publishing a post, I like to do so.  If my sources prove to be inaccurate, I accept factual correction.  Objective reality is what it is, after all.

I am also a fan of science fiction.  My inherent attention to detail, in combination with my fandom, has made me a person full of science fiction trivia, especially with regard to Star Trek, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, and other franchises.  Recently, when watched the entirety of Lost, I kept track of many details that my viewing partner had missed.  I kept reminding her of scenes from previous episodes or the same episode.

I also know that there is much I do not know, so I endeavor to learn.  Toward that end I consult a variety of sources.  Tor.com, I have found, is a fine source of information about various science fiction franchises, especially Star Trek series, episode by episode.  For Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine the official series companion volume sets the standard for other volumes of that genre.  Certain reviewers who create and post video reviews are also fountains of knowledge.  Many podcasters and reviewers at YouTube, however, routinely speak out of their ignorance.  I have decided to stop listening to a number of podcasters and reviewers there because of this fact.  As I have listened to them profess their lack of knowledge or go off on tangents I know to be baseless in universe I have thought or uttered something to the effect of

I know more about this subject than you do.  Why do you have the podcast?

I have also caught myself correcting them audibly.

One can do homework of these matters easily enough.  I know of websites with detailed information about these series, including by episode and character.  Finding them is quite simple.  One can consult the special features on DVD or Blu-ray sets, if one has those.  I have found special features quite informative.  Commentary tracks have proven especially helpful.

So, those who analyze episodes, series, and movies online, do your homework first, please.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

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CBC/Paramount Versus Quality   Leave a comment

ares-class-starship

Above:  The Ares Class Starship from Prelude to Axanar

Image Source = link

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The golden age of Star Trek fan films and series, available on YouTube, has ended; CBS/Paramount has exercised its rights under copyright law to neuter the Axanar project, intended to be a feature film.  Axanar will instead be two fifteen-minute-long episodes, consistent with the draconian rules the corporation has established for fan productions.  Prelude to Axanar has become a foretaste of a production that will never come into existence.  With substandard products such as Star Trek:  Voyager (1995-2001), Star Trek:  Enterprise (2001-2005), Star Trek:  Nemesis (2002), and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), many fan films, despite certain limitations regarding acting,  sets, uniforms, and special effects, are superior, given their better stories.  Star Trek:  New Voyages/Phase II  and Star Trek Continues have proven to be generally enjoyable and watchable series.  I have also enjoyed Starship Farragut and Starship Exeter, among others.  The overlapping Star Trek:  Hidden Frontier, Odyssey, The Helena Chronicles,  and Federation One series, which rely more heavily on green screens than on sets, have also proven fascinating.  I have also become a fan of Star Trek:  Intrepid. Furthermore, I would rather watch Star Trek:  Of Gods and Men than Star Trek (2009).

To the extent that fan productions constitute competition with official productions, that is the case because so many fan productions are superior and more interesting than the corporate productions, which frequently have less creativity than the fan films.  CBS/Paramount ought to learn from fans who make their own films, not impose draconian rules upon them and even sue them.  CBS/Paramount should even hire some of these fans and give them a large budget and creative control.

That will not happen, of course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

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THE ADMINISTRATION IS NOT THE NATION-STATE.   Leave a comment

john-adams

Above:  John Adams, President of the United States from 1797 to 1801

Image in the Public Domain

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The administration is not the nation-state.  This is a simple fact that political dissidents keep having to repeat, even in my native land, the United States of America.  To oppose the presidential administration is not to be disloyal.  The Constitution of the United States even builds debate and dissent into the political system, complete with contested elections.

The failure to acknowledge the fact that the administration is not the nation-state during the Quasi-War with France during the administration of President John Adams (1797-1801) contributed to the abomination that was the Sedition Act of 1798.

SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That if any persons shall unlawfully combine or conspire together, with intent to oppose any measure or measures of the government of the United States, which are or shall be directed by proper authority, or to impede the operation of any law of the United States, or to intimidate or prevent any person holding a place or office in or under the government of the United States, from undertaking, performing or executing his trust or duty, and if any person or persons, with intent as aforesaid, shall counsel, advise or attempt to procure any insurrection, riot, unlawful assembly, or combination, whether such conspiracy, threatening, counsel, advice, or attempt shall have the proposed effect or not, he or they shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and on conviction, before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and by imprisonment during a term not less than six months nor exceeding five years; and further, at the discretion of the court may be ho]den to find sureties for his good behaviour in such sum, and for such time, as the said court may direct.

SEC. 2. And be it farther enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the constitution of the United States, or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act, or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted and declared, That if any person shall be prosecuted under this act, for the writing or publishing any libel aforesaid, it shall be lawful for the defendant, upon the trial of the cause, to give in evidence in his defence, the truth of the matter contained in Republication charged as a libel. And the jury who shall try the cause, shall have a right to determine the law and the fact, under the direction of the court, as in other cases.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That this act shall continue and be in force until the third day of March, one thousand eight hundred and one, and no longer: Provided, that the expiration of the act shall not prevent or defeat a prosecution and punishment of any offence against the law, during the time it shall be in force.

APPROVED, July 14, 1798.

Source = The Avalon Project, Yale University

Adjusting dollar amounts for inflation is crucial.  Know then, O reader, that $2000 (1798) is $39,800 (2015) and that $5000 (1798) is $99,400, according to MeasuringWorth.com.

It was a partisan law applied to opposition newspaper editors and Representative Matthew Lyon of Vermont.  One might also notice that the law permitted (by omission) all manner of negative press and speech regarding the Vice President, who was Thomas Jefferson, a leader of the opposition party.  Newspaper editors went to prison, newspapers closed, and Lyon became a federal inmate.  Lyon was hardly the most polite of Congressmen, but all that he had uttered and published negatively regarding the Adams Administration fell within the bounds of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Federalists who supported the Sedition Act of 1798 mistook partisanship for treason and trampled upon the First Amendment.  Lyon had argued in a letter to Spooner’s Vermont Journal that the allegedly power-hungry president had “swallowed up” “every consideration of public welfare.”  He had written this letter prior to July 14, 1798, so the legal principle of ex post facto protected him prior to the date that Adams signed the Sedition Act into law.  After the law had gone into effect, however, Lyon repeated those charges repeatedly and added more criticisms of Adams and the Federalist majorities in Congress (such as that Adams fostered “ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice” and Congress should send the President to a mad house).  The federal indictment (October 5, 1798) accused Lyon of having “malicious intent to bring the President and the government of the United States into contempt.”  The verdict was guilty.  Lyon went on to win reelection from his prison cell.

Alas, Jefferson was not a paragon of virtue with regard to freedom of the press.  Although he, as Vice President, opposed the Sedition Act of 1798, which expired in 1801, he encouraged partisans to use similar state laws against Federalist critics of himself and of his administration.  There was, for example, People v. Croswell (1804), which targeted Harry Croswell (1778-1858), editor of The Wasp, a Federalist newspaper in Hudson, New York.  Croswell was openly critical of President Jefferson.  Croswell lost that case, in which the prosecution convicted him of having committed both libel and sedition.  The editor kept losing libel lawsuits.  In 1814 he left journalism for the Episcopal priesthood.

The unfortunate tendency to confuse the presidential administration for the nation-state has recurred frequently, drawing support from the “rally around the flag” mentality.  Resurgence of this confusion in the form of jingoism has been especially egregious during times of war, whether declared or otherwise.  During World War I, for example, the federal government sent some antiwar activists to prison not for inciting violence, but for inciting nonviolence.  Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., disappointingly, compared the rhetoric of nonviolence during time of war to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.  “My country, right or wrong” has never impressed me, for as the great Voltaire wrote,

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

And, as the moralist Samuel Johnson observed,

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

Dissent is as American as the First Amendment.  That is a patriotic statement.  Those who enter public life should either have thick political skins already or grow them quickly.  President Harry Truman‘s maxim that those who want a friend in Washington, D.C., should bring a dog remains true much of the time.

I am convinced that another contributing factor to the identification of the administration with the nation-state is fear.  Out of fear individuals and institutions tend to trample people and ideals–even foundational principles.  A time of crisis, however, is properly a time to double down on acting in accordance with those foundational principles, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the fact that dissent is patriotic.  As Tom Dobbs, the character the late, great Robin Williams portrayed in Man of the Year (2006), said,

If dissent were unpatriotic, we would still be British.

I bristle whenever I read or hear someone accuse dissidents of being stupid at best or treasonous at worst.  One reason for my bristling is principled; I affirm that, in the words of The Use of Force in International Affairs (1961),

If what your country is doing seems to you practically and morally wrong, dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

What I think of the content of that dissent is irrelevant with regard to my estimate of the patriotism of the dissident.  Another reason is personal; I know the feeling of hearing and reading people question either my intelligence or my patriotism or both because of a political difference.  Dissent, however, is as American as the First Amendment.

Administrations come and go, but the United States of America persists.  The administration is not the nation-state.

As Martin Luther probably did not say,

Here I stand; I can do no other.

I will do no other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

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I derived much material for this post from Geoffrey R. Stone, Perilous Times:  Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (New York, NY:  W. W. Norton and Company, 2004).

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O, For the Wisdom of the United Methodists!   Leave a comment

I spent much of my youth as a preacher’s kid in the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church.  Thus I became familiar with the mechanics of church polity regarding the process of appointing ministers.  The one-year renewable terms ran from June to June; appointments (of less than a yea) that began in other months were rare.  On mornings in certain Junes my family and I awoke in one parsonage.  By midday we were settling into another one, as my father’s successor was settling into the one we had vacated.  The process was quick, with just a few hours separating pastoral terms.  The process was not without its flaws, though; the terms should have been longer than a year.  (I have concluded that a four-year term would have been better.)  Nevertheless, the appointment system has demonstrated its virtues.

Recent events in my Episcopal parish have caused me to deepen my appreciation for the United Methodist appointment system.  In August 2015 my rector suffered a stroke.  Supply priests filled in while she remained the rector, going on disability in June 2016.  Our third supply priest continued to serve until late 2016, when our interim rector began to serve the parish.  The search process, which will include a survey leading up to the writing of a parish profile, will take at least a year.  I have not seen a survey yet.

Had I been a United Methodist parishioner, the district superintendent would have moved immediately in August 2015 to change the appointment of the pastor who had suffered a stroke to disability leave.  The district superintendent would also have moved quicklty to appoint a new pastor, to serve until at least June 2016.  There would have been no ongoing saga, with its stresses for the parish.  I know this because, a few years ago, when my father, then a retired minister serving in Americus, Georgia, became unable to serve his congregation due to the regrettable progress of dementia, my mother called the district superintendent, who retired my father fully, appointed an interim pastor immediately, and, in short order, appointed a pastor to succeed the interim pastor.

O, for the wisdom of the United Methodists!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CENTRAL AFRICA

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARY LUNDIE DUNCAN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

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