Caro Syrup

If my eight loyal readers didn’t anticipate this I’ll make it clear. My book is not going to be finished this year. I concluded over a month ago that to do it justice it would take a minimum of two more years. That’s on top of six off and on years of researching it. That means it won’t be a practical way for me to solicit contributions for my campaign for Congress.

I still haven’t decided for sure whether to file. Goodness knows I have my doubts that Cravaack can be defeated by the three announced DFLers. This ain’t Jim Oberstar’s old District and none of them are Jim Oberstar and even Jim lost the support of the MCCL in his hour of need. If Cravaack’s challenger goes down to defeat and I finish my book in two years I can certainly use it to raise cash to run against Cravaack in 2014.

I recently read this article on the biographer I stand most in awe of, Robert Caro. He and his wife, an archivist, have essentially given their life over to reconstructing Lyndon Johnson’s life and retelling it in what was first supposed to be a three volume set. I’ve been waiting for the fourth and final volume for ten years. In fact, I need it for my own book to put Hubert Humphrey in better context. It turns out that Caro is going to have to turn his life’s work into a five volume set if he lives long enough to complete it. The new volume four may be her this summer or fall. I may be another decade older before the last one is finished.

It reminds me of the time I visited Texas and we paid a call on LBJ’s old home in 2006 as I was beginning to research my own history. Lady Bird was still living there and she was sitting out front as our tour bus drove by. One of the National Park Rangers at the site told me that Caro had almost died after finishing the third volume and the Ranger was afraid he’d not get to read the continuing saga if Caro didn’t take better care of himself.

Lady Bird stopped talking to Caro after he published this Pulitzer winning first volume. I’m afraid that the dozen or so remaining insiders to my story won’t be very eager to talk to me either. If not, the Newspapers and courtroom testimony will have to do.

Stuck in the Fox Alternate Reality

I’m between Day 2 and Day 3 in Florida. That means I’m getting a near lethal dose of Fox News.

I’m hiding out in my Father-in-law’s kitchen hoping I don’t wake anyone up. Its 3AM. I did this last night too only then I was editing my book.

I’ve hitched onto some neighbor’s weak wifi to catch up with news from abroad and my favorite website. I’d rather be asleep but that treat is a little illusive at the moment. The weather is glorious and Florida offers me a wonderful escape from the massive construction project that has overtaken my Duluth residence. We’re having our front steps and porch rebricked and the entire house tuckpointed.

I tuckpointed the entire house myself 13 years ago – and used the wrong mortar. If the World Wide Web had existed then I’d have known better.

I got started when a fly by night mason – or pseudo-mason knocked on my door. I finished what he started and am lucky that all my bricks didn’t fall off afterward. It was my own personal Johnson Controls like swindle and the current work on my home is the piper I’m having to pay for it.

I got a call from the masons today. They blew a fuse grinding my old mortar out and because I locked the door when I left town I had to call my son to let them in to restore their power. They are finally getting some good weather and every bit of mortar they remove before I return will spare me from time listening to the whine of their grinders. Its a sound that is almost as jarring as listening to Fox News. At least its constructive.

JCI’s Birds of a feather

a letter to the editor sent to the Timberjay:

4/22/12
What are JCI and the school board trying to hide?
Mr. Helmberger:

My recent letter led you to an important exception ……. your suspicion of my contention that Keith Dixon, Duluth School Superintendent, was a major player in JCI’s selection for and execution of Duluth’s “Red Plan.” I contend that:

JCI would NEVER have been engaged to conduct the development of Duluth’s Red Plan without the direct, personal and deliberate input of Keith Dixon.

I then realized that you may have also been reluctant to believe that Charles Rick, St. Louis County ISD 2142 Superintendent of Schools, was complicit in JCI’s selection for their restructuring. Even without written evidence it is easy to link Keith Dixon’s persuasive influence over Rick’s decision to also hire JCI to conduct a similar study for ISD 2142.

JCI would NEVER have been engaged to conduct the development of St. Louis County ISD 2142’s restructuring plan without the direct, personal and deliberate input of Charles Rick with help and encouragement from Duluth’s Keith Dixon.

As an outside observer with many years of experience in the public/private professional services procurement process, JCI would not have been chosen to conduct those projects without Dixon’s and Rick’s support ……. and vice-versa.

I find Administrative Law Judge Eric Lipton’s double rejection of The Timberjay’s request for information about JCI’s professional services for ISD 2142 legally and ethically suspicious.

Judge Lipton and The Timberjay’s attorney Mark Anfinson should contact the Minnesota Board of Architecture, Engineering, Land Surveying, Landscape Architecture, Geoscience and Interior Design; the American Institute of Architects; the American Council of Engineering Companies; The American Society of Civil Engineers or The Minnesota Bar Association for clarifications of the roles and duties of “owners” and their professional consultants.

I am baffled that an official Minnesota board, responsible for the standards of practice of duly qualified and certified Minnesota professionals did not intervene or stop JCI from functioning as an uncertified pretender to Duluth and St. Louis County ISD 2142.

The assertion that JCI’s role in the planning, design and construction monitoring of ISD 2142 building projects was “not a governmental function” is absurd …. an intellectual insult and professional outrage.

JCI and its contracted sub-consultants were acting as legal “owner representatives” making independent decisions on ISD 2142’s behalf conforming to long-established national standards of professional consultant conduct. (Sometimes too independently)

All such ISD 2142 and JCI records are … and must be available for public inspection and scrutiny. What are JCI, ISD 2142 School Board members or Charles Rick trying to hide?

Charles Torkko

Denver, Colo.

and one comment:

On 4/23/12 at 12:01 PM, orrcountry wrote:
As a former Purchasing Manager and Contract Administrator, I concur. Here, here… Mr. Torkko.
Report inappropriate comments

Nebraska GOP majority sides against fetuses…

…to fight illegal immigration.

I missed going on the Internet at all yesterday I was so busy. I had a couple things I wanted to post about but this NPR story really was the chickens coming home to roost for me.

Long time readers know I’m pretty irritated with the self righteous zealotry of the GOP on the issue of abortion. Mississippi and North Dakota GOP legislators wanted to make fetuses citizens from conception on with all the Constitutional rights even if they were the products of rape or incest. That is a kind of laudable purity……..if indeed it stems from the belief that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception. I’ve always figured that for most elected Republicans its far more a matter of straitforward opportunism than religiously motivated purity. That seems to have been demonstrated in Nebraska recently when Republicans were given the chance to fund neo-natal health care for the unborn and a majority of them choked on paying for wetback fetuses.

You see the GOP is also adamantly against illegals and Nebraska legislators had to choose between sacred life and spending money on illegal immigrants. By a vote of 16 to 14 the anti-illegals GOP legislators chose fighting illegals over fighting for fetuses. They lost because Democrats voted for neo-natal care.

From National Public Radio:

The measure would require the state to pay for prenatal care to low-income women who have entered the U.S. illegally. It would extend coverage to an estimated 1,162 fetuses each year at a cost of $650,000 in state money and $1.9 million in federal tax dollars.

The measure advanced through first of three required votes Tuesday night, 30-16. Fourteen of the “yes” votes came from Republicans, who joined with a contingent of typically out-numbered Democrats.

From 1972 until 2004 I tried to be a pro choice Republican. From the earliest years I’ve appreciated honest pro-lifers. But I’ve always known it was the herd instinct that made the GOP a pure anti-abortion party. Why Second Amendment types would care about abortion never made any sense to me. Why pro military types would care about it made no sense to me. Why anti-tax fans would care about it I had no idea other than to conclude the GOP was a collection of special interests who each scratched each other’s backs.

In recent years anti-immigration hardliners have made their way into the GOP. Now we know that for them the unborn of incest are sacred, the unborn of rape are sacred but the unborn of illegals are not.

Strawman Poll

As for the thousand folks who supposedly showed up at the Tea Party in the DECC a lot of them didn’t bother to vote in the Presidential staw poll.

The three votes for Obama weren’t that embarrassing but the 309 total votes cast was a meager showing for the 5 grand spent to rent the DECC.

According to the TP it was 196 for Romney, 75 for Gingrich, 35 for Ron Paul and 3 for the communist currently occupying the Oval Office.

The Dip that the dip Mitt Romney promises

When I was in high school or college I recall learning that FDR was criticized for causing a second rise of unemployment during the Depression in about 1938 when he began enforcing austerity measures because the GOP was criticizing him for his excessive spending.

You can see that dip clearly in this chart which overlays the 1930’s depression Era economy with today’s recession and an imaginary line which is the average of the 5 worst Post War recessions of First World nations.

We are not eight years into the current recession as FDR was when he stopped spending federal money. If Mitt Romney is elected he is promising to do what Roosevelt did. In other words he is promising to stop spending money which will almost certainly drive up unemployment…..that is if Mitt’s promises are worth the spit he expends on them.

More on the graph here.

An agnostic thinks about John 20:19-23

The Choir sang “Were you there” …when they crucified our Lord? yesterday. As always I sat behind the pulpit and listened to the sermon which was proceeded by the reading of a portion of John 20 which was the text upon which the Sermon was based.

I paid particular attention as this was about the Apostle Thomas who is the one I most identify with.

I’ve always put myself in Thomas’s sandals. Until he could place his fingers in the wounds of Jesus he could not believe in the resurrection. As I was not there to do the same I lack the faith to become a member of any traditional church although that hasn’t stopped me from singing in our Presbyterian choir and attending Adult Bible classes for two decades.

Our pastor noted that John says that Thomas wasn’t with the rest of the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them. He was with them a week later when Jesus returned and persuaded the doubting disciple of his “rebirth” (shades of the Gettysburg Address).

Until I find a way to time travel to that room with Jesus and Thomas I will remain a pre-finger poking Thomas.

What I found interesting about this chapter of John was the assertion by our Pastor, which seems borne out by the NIV version of John 20, that when Jesus returned a week later he found the disciples “locked” in the same room he had first appeared to them a week earlier. Her contention was that despite his first appearance they spent a week holed up, “locked” in the room too paralyzed to follow his command to go out and preach.

Since the other disciples were in hiding it doesn’t surprise me that Thomas had a hard time believing that they had seen Jesus. Their’s was a pathetic display of conviction. That didn’t change until a week later when Jesus reappeared and let Thomas put his fingers in his wounds. Apparently the other disciples, who had spent a week in hiding, needed Thomas’s poking around because they didn’t follow the command to go out and preach until after the doubt of Thomas had been laid aside.

Since we have a Republican Party today that has become a quasi-religious organization and whose politicians shamelessly appeal to “conservative” Christians for votes it sort of impels the rest of us to read through the scriptures to see if those appeals really measure up to the scriptures. Does God really command small government?

I think that’s heresy although a simpler description would be “crap.” Today’s NPR story on this subject is worth considering.

I’m only an agnostic, a “Doubting Thomas” if you will, but it seems to me that Republican Christians have preformed cosmetic surgery on Jesus to patch up those ugly crucifiction wounds that Thomas had to examine. Jesus didn’t die for our sins so much as to give them free reign unencumbered by government regulation.

Party time

The biggest Tea Party yet in the Northland which seems to be no bigger than the one I passed leafelets out at a couple years ago was held at the DECC yesterday.

I read this quote in an MPR story from Becky Hall, whose husband fixed my broken finger a few years back. I stopped before completing the story to post a reaction:

“We don’t believe government can solve all our problems. We believe that too often, government is the problem.

“Remember: It’s we, the people. Not we, the government,” she said.

I’m increasingly aggravated by the GOP’s historical amnesia and its repeated misapplication of one of the greatest quotes from its own seminal founder Abe Lincoln.

The quote is from the Gettysburg Address. It was a speech which largely reframed the thinking of the Union about the reason for fighting the Civil War. At first it was all about “Union.” For the North fighting meant preserving the Union. In fact Lincoln changed name of the Republican Party in its third (and Lincoln’s second) national election. Lincoln chose a Democrat to be his running mate, Democratic Senator Andrew Johnson, and ran under the label of the “Union Party.”

Tea Partier’s revere exDemocrat Ronald Reagan not Lincoln. Reagan loved FDR until he started making real Hollywood money and discovered the now long retired 90% tax rates of the Depression/WW 2 Era. Somehow after Reagan’s departure from the White House a lot of his accolytes have confused his call for limited government with extinguishing government. They seem to want a glorified anarchy with enough police power to prevent poor from taking away the money accumulated by plutocrats whose powerful friends in Congress have tilted the playing field.

Here’s the original “of the people” Address:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

“A new birth of freedom.” You’d think that would appeal to Tea Partiers. That’s what Lincoln was driving at beyond mere Union. It refers to the Declaration of Independence which begins: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

That “pursuit of Happiness” business is remarkable. Some scholars have said a more pragmatic Declaration would have simply used the word “property” in its place. Afterall the Boston patriots who the Tea Partier’s like to ape were raising hell over losing their property in the form of taxes on tea to the British government. They weren’t throwing tea in the harbor because they thought “Happiness” was unalienable.

Lincoln’s address was pulling the Nation away from the notion that property rights – e.g. slave owning – was the foundation of the nation. It pointed to the Declaration’s call for unalienable rights including those of the slaves.

Union was on his mind as well and he didn’t abandon it. It would be the new wartime name for his party in the following year. His Address famously described the Union (including presumably slaves) as being: “government of the people, by the people, for the people…”

So when Mrs. Hall tries to divide the American people from their government she is trying to take the heart out of the body.

I much preferred wacko Ross Perot’s formulation that to find out what was wrong with the nation we only had to “look in the mirror.” I think the Tea Partiers…..and yes….Democrats as well as Independents should keep that in mind.

By the way. As I was typing this up I thought I heard on NPR’s Morning Edition that today is the Anniversary of the signing of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. I’m not sure how they tied today’s date into the Proclamation so I did a quick search. I obviously misheard. What did take place on this date was the freeing of all the slaves in Washington D.C. by the Civil War Congress. This took place well before the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address.

A newspaper in JCI’s pocket…

…get’s pulled out with the lint.

Apparently after cheering on JCI and the closing of the Orr School the Cook News-Herald is finding ad revenue hard to come by. That at least is what this letter sent to the rival Timberjay suggests:

4/4/12
Publisher should consider his positions
I read with some amusement that Gary Albertson, editor and publisher of the Cook News-Herald was upset that the Orr City Council decided to award the bid to print the council’s minutes and other official business to the competitor Timberjay. I’ve had a good relationship with Mr. Albertson, but what in the world did he expect?

He supported the closing of the Orr School. The Orr retail community is realizing the fallout from the closing now and the future in my mind doesn’t look bright. Orr has a mayor that supported the closing of the Orr School and sided with the school board and Johnson Controls because they had an exclusive contract with his employer, the 49ers Union. Between the two of them, and board member Zelda Bruns, Orr is struggling. There is no advertising money available to buy ads in Mr. Albertson’s newspapers and shopper. He should have given this more thought and reserved his fervor for the new JCI/Albertson school in the hayfield north of Cook. But no, instead of keeping his thoughts on the editorial page, he chose to editorialize his news coverage of the issue. Orr apparently voted their pocketbooks and decided Mr. Albertson was no longer a booster of the community and denied him the advertising revenue he could have enjoyed by continuing to print the Orr public information.

But don’t worry, Gary still has the St. Louis County School Board in his back pocket and they will continue to pay him monthly to print their newsletter that goes to the mailboxes in the district. I wonder how he might feel if the school board pulled the plug on this revenue source? Would he then think the new, needless, useless new teacher’s union school was worth his effort?

And Cook, don’t think you are immune from this economic disaster. Wait until your school closes this spring and watch how dead your downtown will become.

Jim Saranpaa

Orr, Minn.

Speaking of credibility

I like the way the DNT finds good counterpoints to balance off left and right, pro and con. The damning letter in the Sunday Trib will no doubt be followed by others from students delighted by the benefits of the Red Plan. But that will be for later. In the meantime the Trib published a same-day editorial about a serious problem that begins by twitting Red Plan critics:

At the risk of reigniting a tinderbox, remember back when the Duluth school district first decided to close Central High School? Remember all the angst and venom and suspicion that the district must have some deep-pocket buyer all lined up, just itching to pounce on that prime piece of hilltop real estate?

Wouldn’t that have been nice?

I never bought into the rumors about FonduLac buying the property for a casino although after watching the driven Chair Driver attempt to extend the existing downtown casino I’d be less skeptical of that rumor now. Mostly I remembered how the District sold five elementary schools for pennies on the dollar twenty years ago. Its a buyer’s market for old schools and the initial figure of $26.37 million in projected sales struck me as pie-in-the-sky not all that different from Johnson Control’s estimate of two million in annual energy savings after the completion of the Red Plan. BTW – where is that energy audit? We’ve had a couple years of energy savings under our belt by now haven’t we?

The DNT always trumpeted the “Move Forward” folks selling points. When critics of the Red Plan said the District wouldn’t negotiate Mover Fowarders said they had made tons of compromises.

All those compromises were for a bigger plan and more spending. That was not what the Red Plan critics were looking for. Remember the original price tag for the Red Plan was supposed to be something like $259 million. (not counting interests to the lenders – that wasn’t part of the cost according to the Red Planners) After all their compromises the price tag went to $293 million. Now as we know its up to $315 million and still Red Plan proponents like Judy Seliga Punyko are upset that some things may be shelved…….like the Grant and Congdon schools makeovers!

Upon reading the editorial Claudia commented that it was odd that the School District should be asking the City to help it out of its financial bind. I don’t agree. After bending over backward to let the Red Plan get around dozen’s of potential roadblocks I think the City Council is like the hero of the Chinese proverb who saves another man’s life. He takes on the obligation of protecting that man for ever.

The DNT editors blame the economy not Johnson Controls or Keith Dixon:

Blame the economy for the troubles. The original estimates were done in 2006 — right before the recession hit and the real estate market tanked.

Bullshit. The economy tanked in 2008 after a year’s worth of bad indicators in the home mortgage market and Red Plan critics were crying out for relief long before the bulldozers moved in and the District started compromising its plan upward to the tune of an additional $60 million worth of spending.

Its worth noting that Kerry Leider who explained the current economic difficulties of selling our old school to the Trib was around when we sold off the last lot of elementary schools for a pittance. At least I think he was. If not he was here shortly afterward and should have been aware what albatrosses around our necks old schools would be. Having a dozen to sell off at the same time should have been obviously much more difficult bad economy or not.

Leider goes on to say:

“The revenue from the sale of property will be used to make part of the debt payments on amounts borrowed.”

…and if the sales don’t pan out what will the school board use to pay off all our incurred Red Plan building debt? More operational expenses, of course. That’s sure to make Sunday’s letter-writer happy.

This is from a student in our schools…

…not me and my idle speculations.

Reader’s View: Duluth school district hasn’t kept its promises
If ISD 709’s plan was to make kids leave the district for Hermantown, Proctor or the Superior districts it’s doing one great job!
By: Morgan Nygaard,

If ISD 709’s plan was to make kids leave the district for Hermantown, Proctor or the Superior districts it’s doing one great job! Cutting more teachers and increasing class sizes again? That’s the big plan for reducing the deficit? In case no one from the district has noticed, it really isn’t working , at all (“More students per classroom, fewer hours per day,” March 21).

The Duluth school district promotes 21st-century schools, smaller class sizes, more learning opportunities, college-level classes, advanced-placement classes and more offerings in general. Oh, and as I recall, my personal favorite, the district claimed it would continue to provide all this without teacher cuts. It hasn’t done any of it.

As a Central High School junior last year and a Denfeld High School senior this year, I have gone through the heart of change. What’s really been accomplished: increased class sizes, fewer class offerings, 50 or more teachers cut, and the loss of emotional ties many kids had with their respective schools.

It has been an absolute joke. The district has zero credibility or trust from the Duluth people.

Keep proposing tax levies for more and more money and we’ll just keep shooting them down like before. Like on Nov. 8, when Duluth said “no,” “no” and “no” to three levy questions. Obviously, Duluth is done emptying its pockets for the district, which has lost our trust and is going to have one hard time getting it back.

I may only be a senior in high school, but if I could give one piece of advice it would be this: When you start caring more about how decisions affect kids than how they affect money then maybe Duluth will give you another chance.

Morgan Nygaard

Duluth

What we spend on things

Here’s an interesting graphic using Census Data:


The grapic on the original site can be hovered over to get more detail. I found it interesting that in 1947, three years before I was born, 11% of consumer spending went to “government. Today’s figure is 13%. RUN AND HIDE EVERYONE!

After the Cold War, the Federal Highway’s program, the Great Society and Medicare that seems pretty modest. I’m sure its more complicated than that. For instance, how much of “medical” spending is on Medicare?

Wisconsin and Michigan Republicans are in race…

… to alienate the most people.

Using anti equal pay for women reasoning like this Wisconsin closes the gap:

Whatever gaps exist, he insists, stem from women’s decision to prioritize child-rearing over their careers. “Take a hypothetical husband and wife who are both lawyers,” he says. “But the husband is working 50 or 60 hours a week, going all out, making 200 grand a year. The woman takes time off, raises kids, is not go go go. Now they’re 50 years old. The husband is making 200 grand a year, the woman is making 40 grand a year. It wasn’t discrimination. There was a different sense of urgency in each person.”

Maunday Thursday 9 PM – Pt. 1

This old agnostic went to our church’s Maundy Thursday service tonight and broke bread. Our pastor mentioned a detail about the Last Supper I’d not thought about before.

Just before the part where Jesus asks two of his disciples to secretly find him a place to break bread the Gospel tells about the decision Judas made to betray Jesus. The Son of God is, of course, omniscient and knows that he must plan the supper secretly to prevent Judas from turning him in prematurely. Jesus has serious business to attend to before he is put to death. He must steel his weak kneed disciples for the task of facing death themselves while humbling and abasing themselves just as Jesus will do when he washes their feet. It will fall to this pathetic group to spread God’s new gospel and Jesus can’t let Judas’s treachery interfere.

This and the next three posts, which I have arranged to read in order, (backwards) are all about the Christian and Republican gospels. Its the 4th Maunday Thursday post that really prompted me to post again after a week’s rest.

Its almost midnight. I guess I had a lot to get off my chest.

Maunday Thursday 9 PM – Pt. 2

I’ve followed fundamental thinking with great interest since Ronald Reagan and the Moral Majority did a Vulcan Mind Meld in 1980. In those early years of “big tent” precinct caucuses I came up with a metaphor for what was happening to the GOP. It reminded my of the cult sci fi movie classic “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” I imagined finding pods at every GOP meeting I attended that were essentially fundamentalists taking over the formerly sentient moderates of the GOP.

In time it wasn’t enough to take over the GOP. It became necessary for the pod people to remove the moderates. By redefining what a Republican was it became possible to treat formerly legitimate Republicans the same way Stalinists treated the followers of Lenin. Such Republicans were no longer Republicans they were RINO’s. “Republicans in Name Only.”

The crusade against these Republicans continues unabated. It is a religious crusade. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint has made sure that a half a million bucks has been funneled to a Super Pac that means to remove Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar one of the Party’s last remaining moderates in Congress.

Maunday Thursday 9 PM – Pt. 3

What puts pitchforks and torches into the hands of Republicans is Christian fundamentalism. It teaches that the Bible is inerrant. That means it makes no mistakes. When you read it you are reading the words of GOD! No exceptions.

I’ve always found that thinking primitive, foolish and wrong. Jesus himself second guessed the messages of what we call the “Old Testament” all the time driving the rabbi’s of his time crazy. According to the inerrant Bible they got the Romans to crucify him for it.

As a Presbyterian I learned early about the New Revised Standard Bible I was given back in third grade. That was 1958. I still have it. Scholars had been pouring over it for decades (centuries really) and the NRSV scholars footnoted the Bible like crazy pointing out how the often poorly educated monks of the early church often made mistakes in the translations of older Bibles they were hand copying thus passing all sorts of eccentricities on to future generations as later copyists kept the mistakes and made new ones for later scholars to puzzle over.

The current crop of evangelists in the “conservative” church don’t like to admit that our Bibles today are somewhat tatty remnants of ancient manuscripts that preserve ancient eccentricities. The Bible is God’s word. (Anyone who picks up a half dozen different versions of the Bible will find that most passages in all these Bibles differ from one another.)

But today I learned that apparently that there has come to be one exception to this for the fundementalists: John 7:53-8:11

I did a very cursory Google Search on the John Passage and found, sure enough a fundamentalist explanation that describes this passage as a “rare” example of something dubious. This would mean that Jesus’s mercy towards the fallen women who was about to be stoned to death is not to be taken very seriously by good Christians.

I find this exception remarkable. This is not merely a parable teaching like the Prodigal Son but an example of Jesus living his teachings. And yet to the othewise inerrantist Christians this story is a humbug.

From a heavily footnoted website I found this scholar who says the inerrantists claims are threadbare. He has a lot of evidence to back up this claim:

The Westcott-Hort based NIV has this misleading statement concerning the authenticity of John 7:53-8:11: “[The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11].” What are these so called “earliest” and “most reliable” manuscripts which do not have the pericope de adultera? They are Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, both 4th century manuscripts. Those who reject the pericope de adultera do so on a presuppositional bias that these 2 codices which omit it are superior manuscripts.

Are the above codices really reliable? According to Dean Burgon, a godly and renowned Bible defender of the last century, the codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus are among “the most corrupt copies in existence.” Burgon wrote, “I am able to demonstrate that every one of them singly is in a high degree corrupt, and is condemned upon evidence older than itself” (for a full discussion, refer to John William Burgon’s The Revision Revised [Collingswood NJ: The Bible For Today, 1981 reprint], 548 pp). Although the above two codices may be “earliest” they are by no means “most reliable.”

There is abundant evidence in support of the authenticity of the pericope de adultera. John 7:53-8:11 is found (1) in many Greek uncials and minuscules mainly of the Majority or Byzantine text-type, (2) in the ancient versions or translations: Old Latin, Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, and Ethiopic, and (3) in the writings of the Church Fathers: Didascalia, Ambrosiaster, Apostolic Constitutions, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine.

Jerome (AD 340-420), the translator of the Latin Bible called the Vulgate, said this about the pericope de adultera: “. . . in the Gospel according to John in many manuscripts, both Greek and Latin, is found the story of the adulterous woman who was accused before the Lord.” Jerome considered the pericope genuine, and included it in his Vulgate.

Self-styled textual critics who arrogantly say: “This text has no place in Scripture; I will never preach from it!,” should rather heed these wise words of Calvin: “it has always been received by the Latin Churches, and is found in many old Greek manuscripts, and contains nothing unworthy of an Apostolic Spirit, there is no reason why we should refuse to apply it to our advantage.”

My political question to God’s Own Party is this: If the crowd that took over and redefined what it is to be a Republican believes that the thousands of different versions of Biblical passages are no big deal except the one that shows the mercy of Jesus how can I believe you when you tell me what it means to be a “Republican?”

Call this Christian exceptionalism. It teaches the “prosperity gospel.” This is the perfect gospel for the GOP’s “1 percent.” If you earned it, it is God’s will and Grover Norquist will defend to your nation’s death your right not to have it taxed.

As a youngster I was an agnostic but I took the principal messages of Jesus pretty seriously including the story about the rich young man who asked Jesus how to get into heaven. Jesus told him to give all his riches to the poor and added for emphasis that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich man to enter God’s Kingdom.

In one of my first encounters with a Republican in Duluth who railed against taxes and the poor I mentioned this teaching. I was shocked when she told me that I had completely misunderstood the teaching. It seems that there was a famous doorway in Jerusalem that was very low and required a camel rider to dismount before getting through it. I was told this was what Jesus was referring to. One had simply to humble oneself not give away their treasure to get to heaven. Being a good Christian was no more difficult than dismounting from a camel.

I can’t claim to be a Christian. I’m fairly confident that the practitioners of the “prosperity gospel” don’t have much of a claim on the Church either. They’re just nouveau Republicans.

Maunday Thursday 9 PM – Pt. 4

Having just accused the new Republicans of not being Christians I’ll make an easier claim. They are lousy defenders of democracy.

I think I watched the Rachel Maddow show about two years ago. I’ve seen a few youtube clips of her but that’s about it. I was just doing some uncharacteristic channel surfing when I happened upon this story. She was saying something about the worst example of GOP excess since the 2010 election. I held on to watch.

What she reported about the Republicans of the Michigan legislature is truly vomit inducing. Its worse than a mandated transvaginal ultrasound. If I were a concealed and carry gun owner and a Democratic Michigan legislator I’d be tempted to use the “stand your ground” defense and shoot Michigan’s GOP legislators.

See for yourself. If you don’t agree that these bozos are acting like little fascists you are probably embarassed by Jesus and his defense of the poor and humiliated. (Sorry about the ad at the beginning)

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