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By Tom Cushing


Uploaded: May 31, 2015

Here are some further developments on topics that have occupied this blog from time-to-time.

The 215: There's a generation gap splitting the majority GOP Senators. The elders want to reauthorize the USAPatriot Act on the basis of National Security, whereas their more Libertarian-leaning juniors are inclined toward an actual bi-partisan(!) bill already passed by the House on a relatively timely basis (the Patriot Act expires on Monday).

The successor USA Freedom Act is still seriously intrusive, in that the same phone call metadata (as in: all of it) are mandated to be maintained, but in the hands of your friendly global telecomm giant. It can then be accessed by the same secret, ex parte FISA Court process that currently rubber-stamps such requests, but at least it'll diffuse the data, and thus defuse the ability of the NSA or others to abuse the collected pile.

Given the paucity of actual indications that the accumulation of metadata is, indeed, useful in fighting the Forces of Evil, I'm dubious and would prefer a full dismantling. But nobody will vote for that, of course, lest they be blamed for any subsequent incident (related or not). What's most likely is that the elders will crumble and accept a compromise that forces a six-month extension, while the phone companies figure out how to store and transmit the metadata (and, of course, how to bill for it. Will they offer the NSA a new, unlimited meta-data plan?).

That said, stay tuned. Link

BradyGate. It would appear that others share an abiding concern for things like contextual fairness and whether the current Commish is over-matched in his position. This teapot tempest also pales in comparison with new Euro-futbol scandalage allegations ? those guys seem to know how to misbehave on the grand, global scale that befits their stature as rulers of the World's Game. Link

Iran Nukes deal. Even some Conservatives seem to be rethinking whether the proposed final-draft deal will be the Worst Thing Ever ? including this commentator in the American Conservative: Link

The Pope means it. One of the more intriguing sub-plots in Pope Francis' approach to his tenure has been his non-Eurocentric view of the world, and his Church's place in it.

His immediate predecessors were cold warriors, but Francis' lenses were focused by Latin America's struggles between the poor and the corrupt regimes that have controlled their lives. These rulers may have been individually venal, but they also administered a systemic oppression that kept their people in poverty, powerless and nearly mute. Out of that misery grew a movement called Liberation Theology, which holds that The Church needs to be a countervailing force for good, advocating for the peasantry against the powers-that-were, and are. It focused on land and other reforms that would improve the poor's living conditions in the here-and-now, rather than the sweet by-and-by.

To Popes John Paul II (from Poland) and Benedict (Germany), that smacked of Marxism -- and anyway, it represented a movement from the backwaters of their sensibilities. Their political activism was real and distinctly anti-communist; there was little room for the problems of the developing world. Liberation Theology was discredited, and its disciples mostly sidelined, or worse.

Enter Francis, whose prior career has borne witness to dire consequences for good men who speak fundamental truths to unfettered power. He has recently met with the now-old Peruvian theologian (Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez) who initially spoke-up and provided the philosophical underpinnings of the Liberation Theology movement (in candor, they're not hard to find in such writings as the Sermon on the Mount).

Francis has also proceeded with the beatification of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, a towering figure of political dissent in Central America, who was assassinated in the 1980s ? while celebrating Mass, no less. He lived, and died, for the Liberation Theology approach to his calling, and is a hero to millions in the region. His celebration speaks volumes about the Pope's primary concerns.

This summer, Francis will travel to this, his native hemisphere. Visits are scheduled in the US, Cuba and South America. He is expected to use the opportunity to further enunciate his political priorities, including the role of environmental degradation/depredation in the continuing plight of the poor. He may use the visit to demonstrate the distinctions between Liberation Theology and Communism, as practiced in Havana. Oppression comes in many forms.

But lest we get too First World smug, I'm guessing he may also inveigh against systemic, economic inequities in our corner of the globe, as well. After all, he seems to embody the old axiom that the role of religion is to comfort the afflicted ? and to afflict the comfortable. Link

Uber. Finally, Mo Dowd plays the curmudgette in her column last week about Uber and other options in the latest incarnation of the "new economy." It is fun, and refreshingly not about The Clintons. Link