Vatican

The Beltway Sketch (Civics: General and Particular)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump speaks about trade in the Oval Office of the White House, 31 March 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

What additional commentary could possibly go here? You will, eventually, encounter a conservative complaining about Democratic obstructionism, and these are some points worth keeping in mind:

1. Democrats are in the minority, and don’t control the Senate calendar.

2. Filibusters on executive-branch nominees have been eliminated. Senate Dems can slow the process down a bit when they want to, delaying votes by a couple of weeks in some instances, but they don’t have the power to block any of Trump’s nominees on their own. It’s simply not possible as a procedural matter.

3. In order for nominees to be confirmed, they have to be sent. Of the 559 key positions in the administration requiring Senate confirmation, Trump has not yet nominated anyone for 442 of the posts. This is especially true when it comes to ambassadors: for the vast majority of these diplomatic positions, the White House hasn’t yet nominated anyone. Josh Barro noted that only five countries currently have U.S. nominees awaiting Senate confirmation: Bahamas, Ethiopia, Holy See, Japan, and New Zealand (and the Vatican doesn’t really count as a country, per se).

All of this is of particular interest right now because there is no current U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, which affects our response to the two recent British terrorist attacks. Trump chose Woody Johnson for the post months ago, but the administration never formally nominated Johnson, so the Senate hasn’t been able to even consider acting.

Trump apparently wants to blame Democrats for this. Even by his standards, that’s completely bonkers.

(Benen)

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The One About When the Pope and the Adulterer Walked Into a Bar

Pope Francis adjusts his glasses in front of his chair, which has an image of the Shroud of Turin woven into the red fabric, as he leads a mass during a two-day pastoral visit in Turin, Italy, June 21, 2015. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino

A whiff of scandal always helps grab the interest:

Williams is a vulnerable messenger for such a critique: He was a priest of a secretive and influential religious order, the Legionaries of Christ, a longtime favorite of the Catholic right, which the Vatican has been trying to overhaul after revelations of lurid sex and money scandals.

He later left the priesthood to marry a woman — the daughter of Mary Ann Glendon, a conservative Catholic law professor and ambassador to the Holy See under President Bush — with whom he’d secretly had a child while he was still a cleric.

(Gibson)

Okay, that’s not the real scandal, except it probably should be, and there is no actual, real scandal.

So here’s how it goes. Among those invited to a very large reception for Pope Francis are some gay Catholics, gay advocates, and even a gay Episcopal bishop. Oh, and a nun who apparently doesn’t know how to keep her mouth shut, or something, because we’re all supposed to be really, really upset about the lot of them, or something like that.

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Francis the Red?

Pope Francis is presented with a gift of crucifix carved into a wooden hammer and sickle, the Communist symbol uniting labor and peasants, by Bolivian President Evo Morales in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, July 8, 2015.  Apart from the carved hammer and sickle, Morales gave Francis another politically loaded gift, a copy of "The Book of the Sea," which is about the loss of Bolivia's access to the sea during the War of the Pacific with Chile in 1979-83.  Morales said things ahve changed with this pope and the Bolivian people are greeting Francis as somone who is "helping in the liberation of our people." (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Sometimes, the unsaid really is that important.

This is something worth considering:

Pope Francis avoided altitude sickness in La Paz, Bolivia, but he may have woken Thursday with a ringing headache anyway.

The day before Bolivian president Evo Morales gave Francis a large garish cross carved into the shape of a hammer and sickle – the symbol of Communist unity between workers and farmers.

That’s a bit bang-on-the-nose for his holiness, who has been branded a Marxist by Rush Limbaugh, and dogged by claims that he is a radical with dreams of toppling the global economy.

To be fair, a communist is typically defined as a member of the party, which denies the existence of God. That’s not Francis. But the pope is indeed a bit of a radical with dreams of a fairer global economy. In a much-anticipated papal letter released by the Vatican last month, he warned “every living person on this planet” about the reckless pursuit of infinite growth and boundless, buyable pleasures.

(Dokoupil)

Every once in a while, conspiracy theories arise among conservative Christians having to do with Catholics, communists, and other groups, such as Wiccans, as one iteration had it, trying to redefine morality and destroy Christianity in the New World Order.

The question of whether or not Pope Francis is a “card-carrying member” of the Communist Party is pretty much a distraction. In truth, a Christian’s command to seek from each according to ability and give to each according to need predates Karl Marx (1875), Louis Blanc (1851) or Étienne-Gabriel Morelly (1755).

He diagnosed it as “the deification of the market,” and argued that if we hope to flourish, we need “a bold cultural revolution” in the way we live and work. But by Thursday morning, Francis was busy pushing back on the c-word.

“When I talk about this, some people think the pope is a communist,” he told a gathering of peasants and workers, according to the Associated Press. “They don’t realize that love for the poor is at the center of the Gospel.”

One wonders about politics, and whether the straightforward Biblical truth would simply make too many Christians’ souls explode in confusion.

Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.

(Acts 4.32-35 (RSV))

Critics who worry that Pope Francis is communist are missing the point.

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Image note: Pope Francis is presented with a gift of crucifix carved into a wooden hammer and sickle, the Communist symbol uniting labor and peasants, by Bolivian President Evo Morales in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. Apart from the carved hammer and sickle, Morales gave Francis another politically loaded gift, a copy of “The Book of the Sea,” which is about the loss of Bolivia’s access to the sea during the War of the Pacific with Chile in 1979-83. Morales said things ahve changed with this pope and the Bolivian people are greeting Francis as somone who is “helping in the liberation of our people.” (L’Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

Dokoupil, Tony. “Is the pope a communist?”. msnbc. 9 July 2015.

Weigle, Luther, et al. The Bible: Revised Standard Version. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1971.

Not Helpful (National Sunday Law Edition)

State Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-6), then representing the Fifth Legislative District, speaks at a Nullify Now! rally in Phoenix, Arizona, 29 January 2011.  (Detail of photo by Gage Skidmore)

Oh, for ....

This was one of those crazy bills in which lawmakers want people to be able to bring concealed weapons into public buildings. Allen got upset because a few people expressed common sense opposition to the idea. Lawmakers here cannot abide common sense.

Allen said, “Probably we should be debating a bill requiring every American to attend a church of their choice on Sunday to see if we can get back to having a moral rebirth,” adding “that would never be allowed.”

She hinted that guns in public buildings might be necessary until there is a moral rebirth.

(Montini)

Okay, this is actually really important.

The idea is called National Sunday Law, and is a particular paranoia of certain Christian sects in the United States. And it ties into anti-Catholicism, conspiracy theories about the influence of Marxists and Witches in the New World Order, and even the black helicopter tinfoil, because apparently at some point the U.N. is going to send its secret army to invade the United States and arrest all the Sabbatarians and put them in tiger cages to await execution. Or, at least, so says at least one version of the conspiracy theory.

And if one has never heard of this discussion, perhaps some of our hardline right-wing discourse seems shot through with some sort of incomprehensible fear. And, yes, these conspiracy theories are actually exceptionally important. This is one of those seemingly incomprehensible fears; there are more believers than we might ordinarily guess.

One easy way to familiarize yourself with the idea is to walk into a Seventh-Day Adventist bookstore and simply ask someone to show you the section on National Sunday Law.

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