Science-y tweet of the day

This also means that, since Jesus’ ascent to Heaven began only 2000-years ago, we ought to be able to use the Hubble Space Telescope to find Him and see how the trip is going.

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The Pope’s idea of family

Bill Donohue is unhappy today because some remarks by the Pope did not receive the widespread media coverage he thinks they deserve.

On June 16, Pope Francis spoke to an Italian family association, and following his scripted remarks, he made some unscripted comments. He denounced those couples who screen for abnormalities in the womb, likening the decision to a Nazi-like tactic. “Last century,” he said, “the whole world was scandalized by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves.”

The following media outlets covered this story:

AP, UPI, ABC Online, NBC NY, CNN, Chicago Tribune, Hartford Courant, New York Times, Orlando Sentinel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Portland Press Herald, Sentinel Sun, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

In the same spontaneous address, Pope Francis said only heterosexuals can form a family. “It is painful to say this today: People speak of varied families, of various kinds of family,” but “the family [as] man and woman in the image of God is the only one.”

With the exception of CNN and the Wall Street Journal, not one of the media outlets that covered the pope’s remarks on abortion had a word to say about this comment (CNN downplayed its significance).

[ … ]

Kudos to Pope Francis for speaking truth to power … [emphasis in original]

The fact in plain sight, of course, is that there are same-sex couples forming families all over the place, and their mutual devotion and care is real, heartfelt, and trustworthy; they are no less a family than the Cleavers. The truth is that Pope Francis, and Donohue, have a cramped view of family as a reproductive unit — for bookkeeping purposes, historically, so that the community knows whose children are whose and who owns the fruit of their labor and bears the cost of their maintenance.

And the inversion of the Pope and the Wicked Gay Conspiracy, such that it is the Pope who speaks truth to Power is delusional. Is it even possible that, after two unbroken millennia of abuse, Donohue is so out of touch with reality that he thinks it is the Pope who is disadvantaged in a confrontation?

Beam me up, Scotty. There is no intelligent life here.

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Honor for Sally Hemings

At long, overdue last, Sally Hemings is to be accorded the respect she deserves at Monticello.

Sally Hemings takes center stage in Monticello on Saturday when the Thomas Jefferson Foundation opens an exhibit in a space where she is said to have lived for some time. Her story is told through the recollections of her son Madison Hemings, the third of four children she and Thomas Jefferson had who lived to adulthood. His memoir, published in an Ohio newspaper in 1873, gives vital information about the Hemings family genealogy, his mother’s life and the course of his own history.

I discussed this exhibit when it was announced, here.

Even after blithe hand-waving about Jefferson being a man of his time, when misuse of slaves for sex was relatively common if little-discussed, it isn’t believable that the author of the Declaration of Independence didn’t recognize the hypocrisy and squalor of it. Though it isn’t possible to know what was in either Hemings’ or Jefferson’s head, it isn’t crazy to contemplate the irony that Hemings may have counted herself lucky for capturing the Master’s eye, and that Jefferson despised himself for it.

Life is messy, and history more so. In this age when so many Americans know so little about their own country, it’s good that this particular mess has been cleaned-up.

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A matter of perspective

An essay in the New York Review of Books looks at the day-to-day lives of ordinary Germans as Hitler rose to power.

In They Thought They Were Free, Mayer decided to focus on ten people, different in many respects but with one characteristic in common: they had all been members of the Nazi Party. Eventually they agreed to talk, accepting his explanation that he hoped to enable the people of his nation to have a better understanding of Germany. Mayer was truthful about that and about nearly everything else. But he did not tell them that he was a Jew.

In the late 1930s—the period that most interested Mayer—his subjects were working as a janitor, a soldier, a cabinetmaker, an office manager, a baker, a bill collector, an inspector, a high school teacher, and a police officer. One had been a high school student. All were male. None of them occupied positions of leadership or influence. All of them referred to themselves as “wir kleine Leute, we little people.” They lived in Marburg, a university town on the river Lahn, not far from Frankfurt.

[ … ]

He learned that Nazism took over Germany not “by subversion from within, but with a whoop and a holler.” Many Germans “wanted it; they got it; and they liked it.”

Mayer’s most stunning conclusion is that with one partial exception (the teacher), none of his subjects “saw Nazism as we—you and I—saw it in any respect.” Where most of us understand Nazism as a form of tyranny, Mayer’s subjects “did not know before 1933 that Nazism was evil. They did not know between 1933 and 1945 that it was evil. And they do not know it now.” Seven years after the war, they looked back on the period from 1933 to 1939 as the best time of their lives.

Hannah Arendt, in Eichmann in Jerusalem, tells a similar story. At the end of World War II, the personnel who staffed the death camps went home and resumed their lives. As the horrors of the camp were revealed, it caused neither they nor their families any discomfort; those Jews had to be killed, they would explain, because they were dirty and wouldn’t do as they were told.

This is all a bit much to swallow, and has the feeling of ex post facto rationalizations. But, then, many contemporary Americans know nothing about their own country’s history, know nothing about the Enlightenment ideals that gave it birth, and are oblivious to the indecencies of the Trump administration; they have no idea they are the proverbial frog in the proverbial pan of heating water. They are the ignoramuses who are exploited and used by demagogues — like Donald Trump.

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God’s plan for immigrants

Jeff Sessions inexplicably cited the Bible yesterday to justify separating the children of illegal border-crossers from their parents. So far as I am able to sort it out, here is what is going on.

Federal law forbids housing children with imprisoned parents who await prosecution. So far, so good; children should not be in prison.

The Trump administration’s new zero tolerance policy requires that all illegal border-crossers be imprisoned and prosecuted (the charge is a federal misdemeanor). Since the parents are in prison awaiting trial, the children are separated from them and removed to temporary housing.

The law didn’t contemplate prosecuting all attempts to cross the border, however, so what we have here is — maybe — an unintended consequence. I say “maybe” because gratuitous cruelty is a commonplace within Trump’s orbit, and a couple of administration officials have made offhand remarks that suggest a deliberate policy of separating children from their parents as a device for discouraging attempts to cross the border.

Enter Pious Jeff when confronted with reports that an infant was separated from the mother who was breastfeeding it.

I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.

Presidential Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, daughter of famed Holy Man Mike Huckabee, struck a similar note:

it’s very biblical to enforce the law.

The Biblical instruction at issue appears to come from Romans 13:

1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

So there you go: Jesus doesn’t want those children to be with their parents, and He put Trump and Sessions there to enforce His will — and you can look forward to eternal damnation if you don’t shut up, suck-it-up, and do as you’re told.

The other possibility, I guess, is that the Bible is full of degrading nonsense — but only wicked people believe that.

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