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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Video, Philip Endean SJ

I came upon this video talk by Fr. Endean at Holy Cross' McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture ....

'Ignatius Loyola and Why It's Not Quite Enough to Do What Jesus Would Do'

Rev. Philip Endean, S.J., tutor of theology at Campion Hall, University of Oxford, suggests that being a believer is about more than doing what Jesus would do. "There is more to the knowledge of God than any encounter with Jesus Christ," he says. One of the Deitchman Family Lectures on Religion and Modernity, this talk was given November 8, 2011.


You can find the video here

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Today ...



- hmmm - since the movie Lincoln has been out, I've been getting hits on my past post about the movie The Conspirator .

- Christianity Today has a past interview with the creator of the movie Primer (see my previous post) ... A Primer on Filmmaking

- a US Catholic article about how Francis of Assisi created the first nativity scene with and ox and a donkey. I like his Francis' take on the nativity better than the pope's ;)

- speaking of the pope's book, Bart Ehrman has a post about it.

- Oh, and I almost forgot ... coming to a theater near us, Jurassic Park 3D :) ...






Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Primer

This week's movie was Primer ....

a 2004 American science fiction drama film about the accidental discovery of a means of time travel .... Primer is of note for its extremely low budget, experimental plot structure, philosophical implications, and complex technical dialogue .... The film collected the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2004 before securing a limited release in US cinemas, and has since gained a cult following.

A couple of young engineers work in their free time on various projects, stumbling upon a method of time-travel by accident. The movie is purposely undramatic/realistic almost to the point of incomprehensibility meets boredom .... as I watched, I should have been thinking, "this is so mundane that the time-travel aspect is made even more shockingly real!" but instead I was thinking, "do these guys really wear slacks, ties, white shirts 100% of the time?" ;)

But I shouldn't joke - it *was* refreshing to see a time-travel movie that didn't incorporate DeLoreans, Terminators, or Red Matter. And the interesting thing was the thing that's always interesting: how that time traveling affects the characters' lives. Roger Ebert liked the movie, giving it 3.5 stars out of 4 in his review, and he wrote ...

The movie delights me with its cocky confidence that the audience can keep up. "Primer" is a film for nerds, geeks, brainiacs, Academic Decathlon winners, programmers, philosophers and the kinds of people who have made it this far into the review. It will surely be hated by those who "go to the movies to be entertained," and embraced and debated by others, who will find it entertains the parts the others do not reach. It is maddening, fascinating and completely successful.

Here's a trailer ...



Sloths :)

I've been reading about the sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica which has been made famous by the videos viewed by millions. Here's one ...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Squirrel and bluejay







Seen on my travels

- Coming next month, Zero Dark Thirty. from the creators of The Hurt Locker, which details the hunting down of Osama bin Laden. Looks both interesting and disturbing on a whole number of levels ....



- Wwill the UK Parliament make the Church of England accept women bishops? Lots of links here on this.

- the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has said birth control pills should be sold over the counter. One downside would be that health insurance would not cover the cost of the pills. I believe the fears about the health risks of otc BC pills are over-blown .... for some perspective, think cigarettes.

- i see there's a film about Dorothy Stang. A trailer about it ...




Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dresden visits the Field Museum



My latest read is Dead Beat, book 7 of The Dresden Files novels - somehow I missed this one when going through the series. Harry Dresden, private investigator and wizard, searches for a mysterious book written by a dead necromancer while trying to avoid getting killed by zombies ;) His search takes him to the Field Museum, which hosts Sue. From the book ....

I went in the front entrance. It's impressively big. The first thing my eyes landed on was the crown jewel of the Field Museum - Sue, the largest, most complete, and most beautifully preserved skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered. They're the actual petrified bones too - none of this cheap plastic modeling crap for the tourists. The museum prided itself on the authenticity of the exhibit, and with reason. There's no way to stand in Sue's shadow, to see the bones of the enormous hunter, its size, its power, its enormous teeth, without feeling excruciatingly edible.



:)

I have seen a T Rex - the one at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco - but I believe it's only a cast model, not the actual skeleton ....





Keith Ward on heaven and God

Keith Ward is asked about life after death. What he has to say is really interesting, especially in the second part of the interview in which he posits a God who isn't exactly immutable and impassible .....




Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Jesuits: like the angels

I read today that the British Jesuits are to hand over the parish of the Sacred Heart in Wimbledon, south west London, to the Archdiocese of Southwark, after serving the parish for more than 130 years due to a lack of men and resources - there are currently only 200 British Jesuits in the order (read the letter of the British Jesuits' Provincial). This reminds me of an article I saw last year about the Jesuits in the US - Fewer Jesuit priests this Easter, but more people learning Jesuit ideals.

Though the Jesuits mentioned in both articles are fairly sanguine about the situation, I find it sad that someday there will be no Jesuits. I can't help trying to imagine ways the order could reverse this decline. First Thoughts had an idea on this too - it was to basically turn the Jesuits into the new Opus Dei ;) but I have something else in mind. If there was one thing Ignatius of Loyola was, it was practical: he was a fan of adaptation. As the letter of the Provincial states .....

From the early days of the Jesuits, it is the flexibility of response for this mission which Ignatius so prized: a man did not join the Jesuits to do a particular thing, but he did so to offer himself to God through the Society of Jesus to be used where the needs were greatest, doing whatever task might be required at that time – whether that be hacking his way through the dense forests of north America, protecting the Amerindians from the slave-traders in Paraguay, teaching schoolchildren in a college in Prague or training to be an astronomer in the Court of the Chinese Emperor. Jesuit spirituality is one of availability for mission and so (to be true to our charism in a changing world) we should be open to constant metamorphosis in our mission and practice. St Ignatius would approve of the observation of Blessed John Henry Newman: “In a higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

And so what I propose is changing one thing about the Society of Jesus: allow celibacy to be optional. It's not as though Ignatius had nailed down the celibacy requirement for Jesuits: his only statement on the issue was that the Jesuits should be in this like the angels. Brian O'Leary SJ writes in an article in The Way ...

In part VI of the Constitutions, Ignatius will insist that through their chastity Jesuits imitate the purity of the angels. Purity here does not mean chastity (disembodied spirits cannot be chaste) but rather single-mindedness, single-heartedness. This was the medieval understanding of the word ‘purity’ that Ignatius inherited. He is saying that through their human chastity Jesuits are to imitate the single-mindedness and single-heartedness of the angels. And what does the Christian tradition teach about the angels? Angels are part of the heavenly court, standing before the throne of God in uninterrupted contemplation and adoration. But angels are also God’s messengers, sent to comfort, enlighten, warn or accompany human beings. Yet in being sent (we would say, in being missioned) they never leave the throne of God. They remain in God’s presence, they continue to be contemplatives, even when carrying out whatever project God has entrusted to them on this earth. It is easy to see how they were, to adapt Jerónimo Nadal’s phrase, contemplativi etiam in actione, contemplatives even in the midst of action, and how they could appeal so much to the sensitivities of the early Jesuits.

I suggest that there's no reason why one cannot be a single-hearted and single-minded contemplative in action while also engaging in intimate human connections. I don't believe God sees love as a contest of loyalties and in fact there are plenty of examples of committed people achieving extraordinary ends without sacrificing their relationships .... one example: the original society of Jesus, the apostles :)


Friday, November 23, 2012

What I saw today

- NT Wright, Women Bishops: It’s about the Bible, not fake ideas of progress

- a recent talk by Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno SJ ... CS Lewis and The discarded Image, etc ...


- podcast at Philosophy Bites: Gary L. Francione on Animal Abolitionism

- Alison Milbank (wife of John Milbank) talks about Dante's Divine Comedy and the idea of life and death as a religious journey ...






Thursday, November 22, 2012

This sucks

Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a brave and committed peace activist for 40 years, has been laicized, excommunicated, and expelled from his order - I'm amazed they didn't try to burn him at the stake as well. Meanwhile, Bishop Finn, convicted of covering up the sex abuse of children, gets not even a reprimand from the church.

Read more - Former Maryknoll head decries Vatican interference in Bourgeois case

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ghost of Thanksgiving past


- I don't have many photos of Thanksgiving when we were little but here's a later one of my cousin Jill (L) talking to my sister (R). You can kind of see my grandmother between/behind them, and you can see the back of my head ;) at the far right

I haven't experienced a "traditional" Thanksgiving since my grandparents died - they were the glue that kept out family together. And as an adult, I never participated in that rite of passage: the preparing/cooking of the turkey .... I've been a vegetarian since college and during the short time I was married we had T day with the Japanese in-laws. Tomorrow I'm going over to my sister's for Thanksgiving veggie pizza :)



But I thought I'd time-travel back in thought to what Thanksgivings were like for me when I was small ....

The dinner was held at my grandparents' home. My grandmother would spend the day preparing all the usual stuff - turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, salad, pumpkin and mincemeat pies - and my aunt, uncle and cousins would bring green bean casserole and sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows. My grandmother's sister, Aunt Alberta, would always bringing along a bunch of Medjool dates.

The adults who weren't helping with cooking would play Pinochle and we kids would watch tv or play board games. At dinner, the adults sat at the big dining room table, but we kids were relegated to card tables, and that's usually when things would begin to unravel. One of my cousins would inevitably anger my short tempered uncle and be sent outside to sit in their car, and Aunt Alberta would harangue us on the dangers of communism (she was a John Bircher) and on religion (she was a member of the Eastern Star) - yikes! At least there'd eventually be pie :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What I saw today

- at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral: the Provost of St. Mary's Cathedral (Glasgow), Kelvin Holdsworth, of What's in Kelvin's Head, gives a Forum interview here about same-sex marriage, Scottish independence, and his own coming out of the closet during one of his sermons - interesting stuff.

- The Top 10 Essays Since 1950 at Publishers Weekly, including Annie Dillard's Total Eclipse and David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster.

- Cardinal Pell not only tries to blame shift on sex abuse but also says that priests who suspect someone of a crime shouldn't hear their confession - WHAT?

- women bishops in the Church of England voted down :( ....



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Four years ago today ...

my cat Kermit died. She was the last of my four cats - her mother, sister, and brother died three years earlier - and she was 18 years old. She had a lot of health issues and needed to be given sub-Q fluids daily and near the end also had to be syringe fed. I still miss Kermit. I hope someday I'll see all my cats again in heaven. Here's what I wrote four years ago ...

Kermit passed away today. She went in for an operation to look at her throat to see why she couldn't swallow food, and they found a tumor. They could still have put in a feeding tube but I thought she might suffer too much and so they didn't wake her up from the anesthesia. I don't know if I made the right choice - maybe I let her down and did what was easier for myself. I miss her so much, can't ever talk to her anymore, can't ever pet her again, or see her little face again.



Friday, November 16, 2012

Will rockets fall on Jerusalem?


- An interactive map showing Hamas’s rocket range inside Israel, Washington Post

:(

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

A good article about the sex abuse problem in Australia at ABC Religion & Ethics by retired Bishop Geoffrey Robinson - Confronting the culture of abuse within the Catholic Church. It's really a shame that the bishops who are usually willing to speak up about this stuff are retired .... the climate of fear :(

Tee hee

Not having TV service, I hardly ever see commercials anymore, so I've chanced upon Brad Pitt's Chanel perfume ad late. When I did see it, I couldn't help but laugh :) ....



Brad Pitt's Chanel No 5 ad: the smell of disaster

[...] He was doing so well to shake off his reputation as barely sentient eye candy. But there he is – shaggy-haired with a David Brent beard, desperately trying to inject hammy profundity into lines such as, "The world turns and we turn with it," that he all but bursts an eyeball in the process – all that good work undone in a stroke.

All the hoary old perfume ad tropes are here – the hushed delivery, the awed look upwards as his brain tries to grapple with the majesty of planet Earth, the way that he clearly wishes he was performing the entire poxy thing directly to Yorick's skull – and, worst of all, they come without the slightest trace of self-awareness. We expected more than this ...


Oh well, it's not quite as bad as Bob Dylan's rather creepy Victoria's Secret ad ;) (Tangled Up in Boobs). Ah, let's remember him this way instead ...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What I saw today ...



Neat photos of a fruit bat eating a smoothie :)

Ask Andrew Sullivan Anything: How To Be Gay And Catholic? .....


Vigils in Ireland for Indian Woman Who Died After Being Denied Abortion

UN calls family planning an 'essential human right'


Interview with Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox


- Source: The Daily Telegraph

Reading about the awful Catholic Church sex abuse story in Australia - Australia to launch national investigation of child sex abuse. A 30 year veteran Senior Detective in the NSW police, Peter Fox, has alleged a cover-up by the church and has urged the government to investigate ...



You can read/watch a more in depth interview here - Studio interview with Senior NSW Detective Peter Fox.

Cardinal Pell takes no responsibility for the abuse or the cover-up .... our church is so rotten at the top! :(

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Some yard photos

- a squirrel on the telephone pole with a pecan in his mouth :) ...


- the pecans have been falling off the tree and I've been leaving the ones I find on the ground in this tree stump for the squirrels ....


- this is what happens when they're ready ....


- there are still some hollyhocks around ...


- but there are more mushrooms now than flowers ...


Monday, November 12, 2012

Some links

- "Jesus would have voted Democrat" from Intelligence Squared: the debate, including Giles Fraser, that I mentioned earlier ...



- an article by Oliver Sacks (Awakenings) on hallucinations - Oliver Sacks shares his hallucinations. I'd recently seen a video of him on a similar subject here. I've been having some "hallucinations" myself - people with diminishing vision sometimes see things that aren't there, as well as not seeing what *is* there, so I found it all pretty interesting.

- Brazil’s Truth Commission to investigate the role of the church during dictatorship

- from Oxford University's philosophy blog, Obama’s debt to Rawls?. I like John Rawls' idea of justices as fairness.

Oh, and I'm learning to read a Chinese menu in Mandarin at The Guardian :)



Ready Player One



I'm reading Ready Player One and have reached the place where Wade mentions the recommended reading/watching list for all those seriously interested in finding a zillion dollar easter egg hidden by the deceased James Halliday witinn his created virtual world, the OASIS (p. 62) .....

**********

When it came to my research, I never took any shortcuts. Over the past five years, I'd worked my way down the entire recommended gunter reading list. Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Neal Stephenson, Richard K. Morgan, Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Terry Pratchett, Terry Brooks, Alfred Bester, Ray Bradbury, Joe Haldeman, Robert A. Heinlein, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jack Vance, William Gibson, Neil Gaiman, Bruce Sterling, Michael Moorcock, John Scalzi, Roger Zelazny. I read every novel by every single one of Halliday’s favorite authors.

And I didn’t stop there.

I also watched every single film he referenced in the Almanac. If it was one of Halliday’s favorites, like WarGames, Ghostbusters, Real Genius, Bet-ter Off Dead, or Revenge of the Nerds, I rewatched it until I knew every scene by heart.

I devoured each of what Halliday referred to as “The Holy Trilogies”: Star Wars (original and prequel trilogies, in that order), Lord of the Rings,The Matrix, Mad Max, Back to the Future, and Indiana Jones. (Halliday once said that he preferred to pretend the other Indiana Jones films, from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull onward, didn’t exist. I tended to agree.)

I also absorbed the complete filmographies of each of his favorite directors. Cameron, Gilliam, Jackson, Fincher, Kubrick, Lucas, Spielberg, DelToro, Tarantino. And, of course, Kevin Smith.

I spent three months studying every John Hughes teen movie andmemorizing all the key lines of dialogue.

Only the meek get pinched. The bold survive.

You could say I covered all the bases.

I studied Monty Python. And not just Holy Grail, either. Every single oneof their films, albums, and books, and every episode of the original BBC series. (Including those two “lost” episodes they did for German television.)

I wasn’t going to cut any corners.

I wasn’t going to miss something obvious.

Somewhere along the way, I started to go overboard.

I may, in fact, have started to go a little insane.

************

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Talking head Jesus

Mark Goodacre's NT Blog has a post - Gospel of Thomas Movie - about a film showing an actor as Jesus reading the sayings from the Gospel of Thomas. There are various versions of the film you can choose at the website - a gentle Jesus or a passionate one, etc. Watching the sayings read made me especially aware of their lack of context - I guess I like my sayings served best via a storyline :) Here's the 'gentle western' styled Jesus ...



Saturday, November 10, 2012

Video interview with ABC Justin Welby

He likes Ignatian spirituality and he says nice things about The Episcopal Church - maybe he'll turn out ok :) ...

Friday, November 09, 2012

Mushrooms





The Avengers



Up late watching The Avengers ....

a 2012 American superhero film ... based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name ... directed by Joss Whedon and features an ensemble cast that includes Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård and Samuel L. Jackson. In The Avengers, Nick Fury, director of the peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D., recruits Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, and Thor to form a team that must stop Thor's adoptive brother Loki from subjugating Earth.


- Captain America (Evans) and Iron Man (Downey, Jr) meet

When I was a kid I avidly read all the Marvel comics - Thor, Spide-rman, the Fantastic Four, Captain America, etc., so it's been fun to watch the movies, and this one was no exception ... witty banter, nice special effects, evil aliens, self-sacrificing heroism ... it's all good :)


- Dr. Banner (Ruffalo), who becomes the Hulk when upset


- in the movie, liked the character of Captain America best


- but in the comics, I liked Thor better

After the movie credits are shown, we see the characters meeting for a meal of Shawarma. Notice Captain America isn't eating? Maybe he's a vegetarian :) ...



Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars in his review. Here's a trailer ...





Thursday, November 08, 2012

Religious experience

Keith Ward is all about philosophy and theology, as you'd expect from a past Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, but in this part of a longer interview about atheism, he mentions that he had a religious experience that helped him believe God exists. He hasn't written about this experience in any of the books of his I've read - if anyone knows of where he writes about it, please let me know.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

New ABC

It looks as though Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, will be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. What little I've read of him seems to say that he's not liberal like the Bishop f Liverpool, and not super conservative, like the Archbishop of York (yet still conservative - against same-sex marriage), he's not a lefty academic like Rowan Williams but a former oil executive who went to Eton like David Cameron. You can read more about him at Thinking Anglicans.

For those conservatives ....

who have been saying that only a minority of citizens are for marriage equality or for choice -

Historic Night for Same-Sex Marriage

Majority Of Voters In Key States Support Legal Access To Abortion Services

For decades, the religious right has been pre-occupied with two issues above all else: abortion and homosexuality. And on both of those issues, they have wielded power and influence by claiming the moral high ground — claiming to represent the godly, “biblical” truth of right and wrong. Anyone who disagreed with them on these issues was portrayed as less moral, less godly, less good.

That claim — that framing of these issues as right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, biblical vs. unbiblical, moral vs. immoral — was asserted and accepted for most of the religious right’s 30-year run.

But not any more. That claim is still being asserted, but it is no longer being accepted.

Part of what happened on Tuesday was that millions of people rejected that claim on moral grounds. This was not just a political or pragmatic disagreement that preserved their essential claim of godly morality. It was a powerful counter-claim — the claim that the religious right is advocating immoral, unjust and cruelly unfair policies on both of its hallmark issues. Knee-jerk opposition to legal abortion and to gay rights weren’t just rejected as bad policy, but as bad morals — as being on the wrong side of right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, biblical vs. unbiblical, moral vs. immoral.

- Why the white evangelical religious right can no longer presume to claim moral superiority

Deciduous and not

In the back yard, the plum tree is losing its leaves onto the pine tree :) ...





Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Yay!








Monday, November 05, 2012

Some links

For Guy Fawkes Day, a bit about cartoonist Alan Moore and V for Vendetta ...



Morbid Symptoms: The Catholic Right’s False Nostalgia by Eugene McCarraher

2012 Photomicrography Competition from Nikon

Listen to ABC Rowan Williams' Final Presidential Address here, or read text here

David Attenborough: force of nature, The Guardian

And a virtual visit to San Francisco :) ...



Sunday, November 04, 2012

Romney and the environment

ThinkProgress has a series explaining what actions Romney will likely take on certain issues if he wins the election. One issue that's important to me is the fate of the environment. Here's a bit of the article - read the whole thing to get the supporting details and links ...

What Would a Romney Victory Mean for the Environment?

[...] 1. States would oversee fossil fuel development on federal lands .... 2. Regulations would be weakened .... 3. Coal companies would get to do pretty much whatever they want .... 4. He would open new areas to drilling .... 5. The Keystone XL pipeline will be approved .... 6. Greenhouse gas emission regulations would be halted .... 7. Say good-bye to new fuel-economy rules. .... 8. No more clean-energy loans ...

I'm sad to say I have not seen a single Catholic blog mention the environment in discussions about the upcoming election, even given the Sandy storm. Wake up, people - do you really want the future to look like Soylent Green meets Blade Runner? ;) I jest, sort of, but really this is serious - for the sake of our environment, vote for Obama.



Saturday, November 03, 2012

Before I Go to Sleep

UPDATE: Nov. 5 - I've now read far enough into the book to decide I don't want to keep reading it. I am curious how it ends, but I just can't stick with the main character: she doesn't seem authentic or likeable to me. You know the way something can leave an icky taste in your mouth - well, the story has begun leaving an icky taste in my head ;) so, on to another book.

My latest book is Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson, which is soon to be adapted to film by Ridley Scott. As a blurb at Wikipedia states ...

The novel is a psychological thriller about a woman suffering from amnesia. She wakes every day with no knowledge of who she is and the novel follows her as she tries to reconstruct her memories from a journal she has been keeping. She learns that she has been seeing a doctor who is helping her to recover her memory, that her name is Christine Lucas, that she is 47 years old and married and has a son. As her journal grows it casts doubts on the truth behind this knowledge and sets her on a terrifying journey of discovery.

What made me look for the book was a mention by Todd at Catholic Sensibility. The library just had one audio copy so it's taken me a while to finally capture the popular novel. I'm just beginning the book but I'm finding it interesting so far. It reminds me of a past movie, Christopher Nolan's Memento, about a man with anterograde amnesia.

You can read an excerpt from the start of the book here

And here's an interview with the author .....



Friday, November 02, 2012

How would Jesus vote?

There was a recent Intelligence Squared debate in the UK on who Jesus would vote for in the upcoming US presidential election. Conor Gearty argued Jesus would vote as a Democrat, James Boys argued he'd vite as a Republican, and Giles Fraser argued in the debate that Jesus would have abstained from voting. Sadly, I can't find the text of the debate, but there should be a forthcoming video of it out soon. The Tablet blog commented on the debate - Jesus would have voted in the US election.

This all makes me think of the recent flurry of Catholic Bishops' exhorarions to vote Republican ... I don't know if Jesus would vote or not, but I don't believe he'd vote for Romney.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Rain

Not many trick-or-treaters last night because it rained ...




I've voted ...

early and I voted for Obama again. Today I saw two radically different posts about voting. One was at Vox Nova, Don't Choose Evil, which championed not voting for either candidate because neither is, well, perfect. I think that attitude is a bad one for a whole number of reasons, many of which are expressed in the comments at this past dotCommonweal post. The other post I saw was at A Thinking Reed, Why I voted for President Obama (again), which could have been written by me (ok, if I was a better writer, maybe :).

Here's a bit of what Lee wrote ...

[...] the vision that the Democrats still represent, and that I embrace, is that government has a indispensable role to play in establishing the conditions for individuals to flourish. The Dems want to preserve and strengthen the welfare state; the G.O.P. wants to dismantle–privatize, federalize, “voucherize”–it. Democrats think collective action is necessary to fight climate change; most Republicans won’t even admit climate change is happening. Democrats think that some degree of regulation and redistribution is necessary to smooth the rough edges of capitalism and reduce inequality; Republicans decry this modest vision of a mixed economy–a vision more conservative than the one embraced by most center-Right parties in Western Europe–as “socialism.” Heck, there even now seems to be a debate about whether there’s a proper federal role for disaster relief!

Some progressives have argued that Obama is too compromised –too cozy with big business, too promiscuous in his use of deadly military force–to support. And these criticisms have merit. But what I haven’t seen is a plausible account of how an Obama defeat (which ineluctably means a Romney victory) would strengthen the hand of progressives in building the kind of society they want. (The Bush years, for example, were not exactly a high-water mark for progressivism.) ...