Daily Update: Friday, February 5th, 2016

Agatha

Today is the First Friday of the month, dedicated to devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Memorial of Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr (died c. 250).

The First Friday of each month is dedicated to devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Turning to today’s Saint, we have little reliable information about Agatha, who has been honoured since ancient times, and whose name is included in the canon of the Mass. Born about 231 in prison at Catania or Palermo, Sicily (sources vary), she was young, beautiful and rich, and lived a life consecrated to God. When Decius announced the edicts against Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit by Agatha’s sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her as a Christian. Handed over to a brothel, she refused to accept customers. After rejecting Quinctianus’s advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and her breasts were crushed and cut off. She told the judge, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” One version of her legend has it that Saint Peter healed her. She was then imprisoned again, then rolled on live coals; when she was near death, an earthquake stuck. In the destruction that followed, a friend of the magistrate was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died. Legend says that carrying her veil, taken from her tomb in Catania, in procession has averted eruptions of Mount Etna. Her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551. She is the Patron Saint of Sicily, her aid is invoked against fire, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, and her aid is also logically invoked against breast cancer. She is also a popular figure in church art, but it is hard to find a painting of her that is not somewhat pornographic in nature.

Last night our LSU Women’s Basketball team lost their game with #11 Mississippi State by the score of 52 to 71; our Lady Tigers will next play an away game with #18 Kentucky on Sunday afternoon. And our New Orleans Pelicans lost their game with the Los Angeles Lakers by the score of 96 to 99.

I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, and on our way to the casino I did my Internet Devotional Reading and said the Fifth Day of my Lenten Novena. I also requested The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell (our next Third Tuesday Book Club Book) from the Lafayette Public Library, but it’s already on hold, so I might not get the book before I plan to start reading it next Friday. It is not available either at my local library here in town or on Overdrive, so I might end up buying the book on my Nook. Once we clocked in at the casino, Richard was the Relief Dealer for Mini Baccarat, Pai Gow, and Three Card Blackjack (until they closed Three Card Blackjack), and I was on Mini Baccarat. They are trying an experiment at the Mini Baccarat table, allowing a player who wants a Macau game to play Macau style (for at least $50.00 per hand, which is the normal Macau minimum) while the other players can play under Mini Baccarat style (for at least $15.00 per hand). I do not like this idea; I like dealing Mini Baccarat, and I like dealing Macau Mini Baccarat, but I do not like having to keep track of players doing both at the same table.

After work I picked up my prescriptions at the Pharmacy, and on our way home I read the February 8th, 2016 issue of Sports Illustrated. Richard stopped off at the Superette to get a couple of rabbits to cook on Sunday or Monday. Once home from work I read the morning paper and ate my lunch salad; while I was doing that, Callie, Amy, Michelle, and the baby came by. We had a good visit, and got some good photos; Michelle asked me not to do her taxes this year, as she is going to have a friend of hers do them. After they left (more anon), I got on the computer and did a couple of Advance Daily Update Drafts for this weblog. After Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm, Richard and I went to Rocky’s Cajun Kitchen, where he had the seafood buffet, and I got three pounds of boiled crawfish. And when I finish this Daily Update, I will take a hot bath and continue my reading of The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian before going to bed. (And I did not do any First Friday devotions today.)

Tomorrow is the First Saturday of the month, dedicated to devotions to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Tomorrow is also the Memorial of Saint Paul Miki, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (died 1597). We will work our eight hours at the casino, and I will get back to reading Julian’s Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich by Veronica Mary Rolf. In the afternoon I will go to the Adoration Chapel to do my Weekly Hour of Eucharistic Adoration; and what I do for the rest of the afternoon depends on Callie and the baby, and on Richard’s sisters Susan and his brother Butch, who may be coming over tomorrow to see the baby. Our New Orleans Pelicans will be playing an away game with the Cleveland Cavaliers. tomorrow evening, and I will record the score of the game in tomorrow’s Daily Update.

Our Parting Quote this Friday afternoon comes to us from Robert A. Dahl, American political theorist. Born in 1915 in Inwood, Iowa, he received his Ph.D. at Yale in 1940 and served on its political science faculty from 1946 to 1986. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he was involved in an academic disagreement with C. Wright Mills over the nature of politics in the United States. Mills held that America’s governments are in the grasp of a unitary and demographically narrow power elite. Dahl responded that there are many different elites involved, who have to work both in contention and in compromise with one another. If this is not democracy in a populist sense, Dahl contended, it is at least polyarchy (or pluralism). His influential early books include A Preface to Democratic Theory (1956), Who Governs? (1961), and Pluralist Democracy in the United States: Conflict and Consent (1967), which presented pluralistic explanations for political rule in the United States. He was elected president of the American Political Science Association in 1966. He established the pluralist theory of democracy, in which political outcomes are enacted through competitive, if unequal, interest groups, and introduced “polyarchy” as a descriptor of actual democratic governance. An originator of “empirical theory” and known for advancing behavioralist characterizations of political power, Dahl’s research focused on the nature of decisionmaking in actual institutions, such as American cities. Dahl is considered one of the most influential political social scientists of the twentieth century, and has been described as “the dean of American political scientists.” From the late 1960s onwards, his conclusions were challenged by scholars such as G. William Domhoff and Charles E. Lindblom (a friend and colleague of Dahl).  One of Robert Dahl’s many contributions to political thought was his explication of the varieties of power, which he defines as “A” getting “B” to do what “A” wants. Dahl prefers the more neutral “influence terms,” (Michael G. Roskin) which he arrayed on a scale from best to worst: Rational Persuasion, the nicest form of influence, means telling the truth and explaining why someone should do something, like your doctor convincing you to stop smoking; Manipulative persuasion, a notch lower, means lying or misleading to get someone to do something.
Inducement still lower, means offering rewards or punishments to get someone to do something, i.e. like bribery; Power threatens severe punishment, such as jail or loss of job; Coercion is power with no way out; you have to do it; Physical force is backing up coercion with use or threat of bodily harm. In his book Democracy and Its Critics (1989), Dahl clarified his view about democracy. No modern country meets the ideal of democracy, which is as a theoretical utopia. To reach the ideal requires meeting five criteria: Effective participation – Citizens must have adequate and equal opportunities to form their preference and place questions on the public agenda and express reasons for one outcome over the other; Voting equality at the decisive stage – Each citizen must be assured his or her judgments will be counted as equal in weights to the judgments of others; Enlightened understanding – Citizens must enjoy ample and equal opportunities for discovering and affirming what choice would best serve their interests; Control of the agenda – Demos or people must have the opportunity to decide what political matters actually are and what should be brought up for deliberation; and Inclusiveness – Equality must extend to all citizens within the state. Everyone has legitimate stake within the political process. Instead, he called politically advanced countries “polyarchies”. Polyarchies have elected officials, free and fair elections, inclusive suffrage, rights to run for office, freedom of expression, alternative information and associational autonomy. Those institutions are a major advance in that they create multiple centers of political power. In How Democratic Is the American Constitution? (2002) Dahl argued that the United States Constitution is much less democratic than it ought to be, given that its authors were operating from a position of “profound ignorance” about the future. However, he added that there is little or nothing that can be done about this “short of some constitutional breakdown, which I neither foresee nor, certainly, wish for.” Dahl was awarded the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science in 1995. His last book was On Political Equality (2006) (died 2014): “If a matter is best dealt with by a democratic association, seek always to have that matter dealt with by the smallest association that can deal with it satisfactorily.”

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