So there have been some new developments in some stories that I have covered on this blog, so I thought I’d do a quick rundown of the most significant ones.
First of all, let’s get the bad news out of the way. The Senate voted down the Manchin-Toomey compromise on gun background checks today. Just when I thought we could make some real headway on gun policy, it just proves how horribly backward our thinking on this issue is as a country. If we can’t even agree on a basic measure like this that does nothing to endanger the ability of law-abiding citizens to own a gun, how in the world are we supposed to curtail the recent spike in mass shootings here? In case you want to check how your senator voted, here’s a chart. The chart also exposes part of the problem with the Senate today: a measure in which a majority voted for it still did not pass. Because filibusters are so easy to execute these days, more or less any bill faces the threat of filibuster, and needs 60 votes to pass rather than 50, as one would think. Props to McCain, Collins, Kirk, & Toomey for crossing party lines and doing what no other Republican senator could do, reach a productive compromise.
Now, the good news: I may have been slightly wrong about Pope Francis. While I still don’t believe he is a John XXIII-like transformative figure, his first actions while in office have led me to believe that he at least is dedicated to reforming the elitist perception of a Papacy that frequently appears to lord its power over the people and build disgustingly opulent churches while failing to feed the hungry.
Francis set the tone right away by accepting the cardinals’ congratulations standing, rather than seated on the papal throne like past popes. In his first appearance as Pope, he wore simple white garments, eschewing the fancy red garments previous Popes have worn, and declined to wear a gold cross.
Perhaps his most interesting actions since ascending to the Papacy have been taking substantial steps to reform the Curia, the central governing body of the church, which has been criticized for, among other things, being not at all representative of the faithful. Francis has called for all senior Curia officials to provisionally remain in office until further decisions could be made regarding their continued status. In addition, rather than washing senior Church officials’ feet on Holy Thursday, as is the custom, he went to a juvenile detention center in Rome, and washed and kissed the feet of several juvenile detainees, telling them, “Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope.” There are not many times in recent history where I have looked at the actions of a Pope and said to myself, “This is exactly what Jesus would do,” but this is one of them.
Pope Francis seems to want to be known as a reformer, who brings the Church’s message directly to the people, and that is an admirable aspiration. I am very encouraged by his recent actions, and he has a good chance to be better than his immediate predecessors.
Finally, I just wanted to report on where the Orioles stand this season. Currently, we’re more or less right where I thought we’d be, sitting at 7-7 and third in the AL East division. Our offense is driving most of our early-season success, as we’ve scored 4.7 runs per game, 11th in MLB. Our starting pitchers have struggled some, with only one of them posting an ERA below 4.00. But closer Jim Johnson is picking up right where he left off last year, having yet to allow an earned run and recording six saves.
But the biggest story of the Orioles’ young season has been the absolutely torrid start of first baseman Chris Davis. Davis hit a home run in each of his first four games, and recorded 16 RBI in those games, a Major League record. Davis did hit 33 home runs last year, so this power surge is not completely unexpected. Outfielder Adam Jones has also had a predictably good start to the year, hitting .400 and posting a .411 on-base percentage. He also ranks second on the team with a .564 slugging percentage.