Orbiting Dicta

Monthly Archives: December 2009

Christmas 2009

Reports that a first-century burial shroud dug up in Israel differs from the Shroud of Turin has Shroud-skeptics all a-twitter.  They don’t match.  Funny.  The tee-shirts I got from Sears and Penny’s don’t match up either.  I guess they didn’t have a Wal-Mart in Nazareth in gospel times.

And that reminded me of the reconstruction a few years ago of the head of a first-century Palestinian on the remains of a skull dug up over there which led “observers” to declare that it must be what Jesus looked like.  Funny.  A forensic scientist reconstructed a head from a skull found in the woods near home and it doesn’t look at all like me.  I thought we all looked alike, the way people did in Jesus’ time.  I don’t look like Tiger Woods, either, even though we have the same last name. Strange world.

I wonder if the Republican Congressmen trying to get home to the Midwest for the holidays might have come to believe in climate change.  Of course, they should be used to snow-jobs by now given their desperate tactics to derail the Health Reform bills at any cost. Especially to the desperately poor and middle class folks who will mainly benefit.

Four Irish bishops have now resigned in the wake of the devastating report on cover-ups in the Archdiocesan sex-abuse cases in Dublin.  Everyone feels better now.  Except possibly the hundreds of victims and their families.

The world was shocked when some crazy lady knocked Pope Benedict down as he was processing into Mass at the Vatican on Christmas Eve.  As I read history, it seems evident that almost all the popes for the first three hundred years died a martyr’s death, and a number did afterwards, usually at the hands of politicians.  It’s a job risk.  We can always elect a new pope.  We can’t get a new Church.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happier, Holier New Year!

Copenhagen Blues

The jury is coming in on the UN Conference on Climate Change recently concluded in Copenhagen – “jury” in this instance being critical observers from around the world who warn of the worsening worldwide situation especially for poor and “developing” nations.  The verdict is mixed – no one is calling the “accord” an unqualified success.  Some are calling it a disaster, others a shameful capitulation to the pressure from the developed nations to avoid effective but costly cuts in carbon emissions that are virtually universally agreed to be driving climate change.  (Yes, Virginia, “the science is settled.”)  If there seems to be a general sense of what was or was not accomplished by a conference that was to take the world “beyond Kyoto” it is disappointment.

China, it would appear, has been identified or designated the villain of the piece, for vetoing the imposition of legally binding cuts in carbon emissions.  But China is not alone in resisting the strenuous measures that are now necessary to prevent further environmental deterioration on a global scale.  The rich and powerful nations of the world all seem loathe to restrict industrial production effectively in view of inevitable long-term environmental harm given the short-term demands of a global economy in tatters.  China is engaged in particularly harrowing effort to achieve social and economic progress while simultaneously forestalling massive environmental deterioration.  With a population larger than that of the United States and Europe combined, that is no small challenge.  Hindsight may well reveal that it was also not a reasonable excuse for scuttling Copenhagen.

President Obama’s timely but disappointing appearance at the conference only underscored the consequences of US indebtedness to China, our major trade partner whose monetary investments alone are a central pillar supporting a still-fragile American economy.  Despite his strenuous efforts to hammer out an acceptable deal, not even Barack Obama is likely to bite the hand that feeds us.

Another UN climate change summit is scheduled for next year in Mexico. It is possible, if now unlikely, that it will be able to enact a balanced, legally-binding accord which will commit developed nations to greenhouse gas reductions of at least 40% by 2020 – based on 1990, not 2009 levels.  But without such an accord, and without greatly increased funding to assist poor and emerging countries develop green technologies and protect themselves from the worst impacts of climate change, the future health of the world – environmentally and economically – will be dire indeed.

As with the US health reform bill that is creeping like a whipped dog between the House and Senate, politics is the art of compromise.  But compromise is also the bane as well as the art of politics.  The freakish weather plaguing Europe and the eastern seaboard of the United States in mid-December may serve as a timely warning.  The window of opportunity to achieve needed reform (both in environmental policies and health care) is inexorably closing.

Celebrity Sins

The weekend news media continued to dwell to my mind somewhat obsessively on the serial adulteries of Tiger Woods, arguably the world’s greatest golfer and now a celebrated sinner along with a bevy of politicians, government officials, and men of the cloth

It is not clear how long the Scarlet A will be emblazoned on the doublets of Messrs Woods, Sanford, Spitzer, et al.  Given the recovery of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and other sports figures, and the political rallies of Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Silvio Berlusconi, Rudi Giuliani, and other outed adulterers, we might expect a short stay in the electronic pillory.  Woods, after all, was a billion-dollar property.  His share alone from the year’s prize winnings is said to be around $275 million, not to mention his annual take from endorsements.  Not bad.  The weeping and gnashing of corporate teeth over his “fall from grace,” as one commentator put it, apparently has less to do with family values than the prospect of diminishing his allure to consumers who might be put off from purchasing the hundreds of products  hawked under the Tiger’s toothy smile.

The case of Governor Mark Sanford is somewhat different.  It lacks glitz.  Americans will tolerate some marital malfeasance among public servants and, in the case of Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, Bishop Eamon Casey (if you’re Irish enough to remember), and as far back as Aimee Semple McPherson,  the clergy – so long as they are sufficiently glamorous.  But when adultery becomes a political or financial liability, the path to the dust-bin of history can be short and not very sweet.  Even so recovery and forgiveness seem to emerge after the tsunamis of scandalized media voyeurism have calmed.  (Not so for clerical child-molesters, however, for whom forgiveness seems beyond reach even when repentance is at least as sincere as that of holy adulterers.   Perhaps it’s because many also suffer from a recognized personality disorder.  Sin is easier to forgive than illness.)

In the meantime, there’s the matter of the Copenhagen Conference, during which the fate of the planet is being hotly debated, to coin a phrase, not to mention the unpleasantness in Afghanistan, both of which received about half the “news space” devoted to the familial woes of the Tiger.  And to be fair, the Health Care Reform bills wandering back and forth from House to Senate merited a few moments of commentary.

 That being said, it’s fascinating to see members of the Republican Party carping and whining over the alleged trillion-dollar cost of the attempt to stave off disaster in the health-care  “business,” or even sweating bullets over the projected costs of curbing greenhouse gas emissions before the climate changes  inexorably for the worse.  When their own party was in power, and the trillion-dollar cost of the most needless and wasteful war in modern history was managed by the largest-scale borrowing in history, they did not seem to mind nearly as much.  Nor did they much complain when newly elected President Bush quickly turned a $237 billion budget surplus into the biggest deficit in history.  That was “then,” of course.  Still, I wonder what is it about providing health care for the neediest of America’s citizens that they find so frightening?