Archive for November 2013
Religious scholar Reza Aslan said American conservatives are basing their criticism of recent comments made by Pope Francis on a “profoundly unhistorical view of Jesus.”
The pontiff has ruffled the feathers of U.S. conservatives with comments suggesting the church has focused too much on social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and contraception, rather than helping the poor.
But his first Apostolic Exhortation released earlier this week, in which the pope denounced the sacred economic theories of the American right – trickle-down economics and an unfettered free market – seems to have been the last straw for Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.
“These two paragons of the far right – both of whom regularly invoke the teachings of Jesus to bolster their own political views – have suddenly turned their backs on the man whose actual job description is to speak for Jesus,” Aslan wrote in a Washington Post column published Thursday.
The Iranian-American scholar noted Palin’s complaint that Pope Francis sounded “kind of liberal” when he decried the growing global income gap between the rich and the poor, although the former vice presidential candidate and reality TV star has since apologized.
But Limbaugh accused the pope of promoting Marxism in comments that had undoubtedly been written by someone else or forced upon him.
“Somebody did get to Pope Francis,” Aslan wrote. “It was Jesus.”
Pope Francis is a pontiff who has constructively broken all the rules of popery – so far to widespread acclaim. He’s faulted the Catholic church for its negative obsession with gays and birth control, and now he has expanded his mandate to economics with a groundbreaking screed denouncing “the new idolatry of money“.
As the Pope wrote in his “apostolic exhortation“:
The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings.
His thoughts on income inequality are searing:
How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality.
Saudi Arabia cautiously welcomed Monday a deal reached between world powers and Iran, describing it as a possible initial step toward reaching a comprehensive solution for Tehran’s nuclear program.
The statement by the Saudi Cabinet was the first official reaction from the kingdom to Sunday’s deal. Saudi Arabia, the Gulf’s main political power, has previously expressed unease about U.S. outreach to Iran, and Gulf countries generally view any normalizing of ties between Tehran and the West as a direct threat to their own stability.
The Cabinet statement, released by the official Saudi Press Agency, said that if there is “goodwill” then a comprehensive solution would also entail a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, a reference to Israel’s presumed arsenal.
“If there is goodwill, then this agreement could be an initial step toward reaching a comprehensive solution for Iran’s nuclear program if that leads to the removal of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, from the Middle East and Arab Gulf,” the Saudi government said.
The government added that it hopes the agreement is succeeded by “important steps” that ensure the rights of all countries in the region to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have already issued statements welcoming the nuclear deal.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first, here is my take. If you’re trying to decide what to think about the deal struck between the major powers and Iran, here’s a suggestion. Imagine what would have happened if there had been no deal.
In fact, one doesn’t have to use much imagination. In 2003, Iran approached the United States with an offer to talk about its nuclear program. The Bush administration rejected the offer because it believed that the Iranian regime was weak, had been battered by sanctions, and would either capitulate or collapse if Washington just stayed tough.
So there was no deal. What was the result? Iran had 164 centrifuges operating in 2003. Today, it has 19,000. Had the Geneva talks with Iran broken down, Iran would have continued expanding its nuclear program.
Yes they are now under tough sanctions but they were under sanctions then as well. And yet, the number of centrifuges grew exponentially. Despite all the sanctions, keep in mind, the costs of a nuclear program are small for an oil rich country like Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been opposed to a deal. But is it in Israel’s interest that Iran’s program keep growing in size and scope?
That’s a strategy that assumes that either Iran is heading for collapse, or that a military strike will take place that would permanently destroy Iran’s entire nuclear program and it wouldn’t get rebuilt. This seems more like wishful thinking than strategy. The agreement that the major powers have gotten in Geneva essentially freezes Iran’s program for six months and rolls back some key aspects of it while a permanent deal is negotiated.
In return, Iran gets about $7 billion of sanctions relief, a fraction of what is in place against it. The main sanctions against its oil and banking sectors stay fully in place.
This is a sensible deal signed off on by France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, as well as the United States and Iran. But it is just an interim deal and not a historic rapprochement and that’s why so much of the opposition to it is misplaced.
Washington has many points of disagreement with Tehran, from its opposition to Israel and its support for Hezbollah to its funding of Iraq militias. This is not like Nixon’s opening to China. It’s more like an arms control deal with the Soviet Union, with two wary adversaries trying to find some common ground.
Many countries in the Middle East, from Israel to Saudi Arabia, have legitimate concerns about Iran. But many of these countries have also gotten used to having a permanent enemy against whom they could rail, focusing domestic attention, driving ideological and sectarian divides, garnering support.
The Middle East is undergoing so much change. Perhaps this is one more change. Perhaps Iran will come in from the Cold. For now though, it is just one step, not a seismic shift. But it is a step forward.
President Obama “Good evening. Today, the United States — together with our close allies and partners — took an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program.
Since I took office, I’ve made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. As I’ve said many times, my strong preference is to resolve this issue peacefully, and we’ve extended the hand of diplomacy. Yet for many years, Iran has been unwilling to meet its obligations to the international community. So my administration worked with Congress, the United Nations Security Council and countries around the world to impose unprecedented sanctions on the Iranian government.
These sanctions have had a substantial impact on the Iranian economy, and with the election of a new Iranian president earlier this year, an opening for diplomacy emerged. I spoke personally with President Rouhani of Iran earlier this fall. Secretary Kerry has met multiple times with Iran’s foreign minister. And we have pursued intensive diplomacy — bilaterally with the Iranians, and together with our P5-plus-1 partners — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China, as well as the European Union.
Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure — a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.”
I had a great time seeing Thompson Gunner last night at Radio Bean. I worked 2-10:30 and somewhere around 7 I looked out the window and the snow was flying like crazy. I quickly walked the icy sidewalks home, did a quick turnaround, swapping sneakers for the boots, and headed downtown.
I walked in around 11:15 and Thompson were just about to go on. Dave Anderson was not there, but the rest of the guys were set up and ready to play. The lit in with country tinged rock and roll and played a great set . They slowed things down a little for a couple of songs, but most of the set just rocked. Caleb Thomas sang deep gritty vocals and played rhythm guitar, Conor McQuade did a bit of guitar shredding and played some cool electric piano, Jeremy Woods rocked the bass, I forgot the name of the new solid rocking drummer, and Aiden Lenihan played more of a lead guitar pedal steel. They played great versions of The Rutland Song, California’s Burning, and Dead Summer. They played a new song that was a bit more country, but at a rock pace and volume. They tossed in the cover of 16 Tons and they wrapped the night with a killer Empress Of Ireland. You would think with all of the guitar, that Dave’s lead guitar playing wouldn’t be missed much if at all. If you did not know the parts he played, you likely had a great time. I missed his leads and harmony vocals dearly, but still had a great time anyway.
After they finished, I grabbed my coat, said a couple of quick goodbyes and took the icy walk home. The ice was nice and chunky, so I kept a good pace, while singing Dead Summer in my head.
Bill Maher “Apparently, we are not leaving the region anytime soon. Barry, what happened? I thought we were getting out of Afghanistan. Well, the news this week is we struck a security deal to keep troops there until 2024. But, Obama said he made a promise to the Afghans, he said if you like the war you have, you can keep it.”