Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cardinal Timothy Dolan: Voice of Moral Authority

Catholics are in full rebellion against President Obama. That’s right. The Catholic Church has joined the ranks of true mainstream Americans in their fight against the ever encroaching Socialist regime of the country’s first Mau Mau President.
And Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York is leading the charge. In recent months, his eminence has cut quite the figure on the national stage standing up to the federal government’s repression of Christ’s message by opposing our legally elected President's attempt to provide health care for sick people who can’t pay for it. Despite the prelate’s affable demeanor he’s turned out to be a formidable opponent, quick to call the President out for his oppressive imposition of federally mandated law on American citizens. The Popes have long since decided for their flock that any form of birth control (or anything else that makes sex merely pleasurable) is mortal sin, and the government has no right to force Church owned or managed businesses to provide the opportunity for such temptation to its employees, regardless of the fact that these entities operate in the free market along with everyone else in the country. Never mind that “rendering unto Caesar” bullshit. This is America.

The Church and its leaders have always been consistent and constant in their opposition to anything that breaks God’s Commandments and makes our nation a more secular hell. The Bible clearly says “Thou shalt not kill.” That means no abortions, ever, regardless of the mother’s health, or whether she was raped by her father. When things like that happen, you “make lemonade.” (And speaking of killing, who among us can forget their principled stance against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq? Not to mention the Church’s universal opposition to the Viet Nam adventure.) ... (For that matter, who can remember them?) And in the spirit of Christ, the Cardinal displayed nothing but compassion for those true victims of the President’s failure to endorse the “One Man One Woman Marriage” stance: all those queers who are going to hell because they don’t believe what he believes. And of course, there was the Cardinal’s “act of charity” in Milwaukee, when he paid a pedophile priest $20,000 to go in peace. Or to just go. His subsequent denial of doing so is a model of Christian humility for the rest of us. To compare the sanctity and compassion of that charitable act with the government’s attempt to force Catholic employers to pay money for women’s health care when it could also be used to enjoy sex, is a sign of how far on the path to evil our country has drifted under its secular leadership.

Seriously, is it just me or has the selective intrusion of church leaders and spokespersons into the culture wars completely undermined their credibility as moral authorities and finally exposed just how politically calculated — and motivated — their sense of "absolute" morality is?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

An Open Plea to Chris Matthews...

…Lawrence O’Donnell, Rachel Maddow, David Gregory, Gwen Ifill, Wolf Blitzer, Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams and just about anybody else who gets the chance to interview political candidates and elected officials over the coming months.
Or, lets call this a Maybe Now? Redux. There’ve been some pixels and ink dedicated lately to the issue of partisan intransigence in the House and even the Senate. Initiated by an op-ed piece in the Washington Post last month by nonpartisan congressional historians Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, a number of writers, pundits and other public figures have alluded to the unwillingness, inability or just plain refusal of Republicans in elected office to compromise with Democrats in order to pass legislation. Some Republican candidates have been outspoken in their belief that their refusal to compromise is one of their strongest virtues.

I’m singling out Matthews in the title because Hardball has long been one of my favorite opinion shows and because he does a better job than most figures in his profession of cutting through an interviewee’s smokescreens and getting to the truth. He does this by refusing to accept answers at face value, and not treating their stated assumptions, prejudices or any unsubstantiated claims as facts. It’s this kind of incisive but even handed journalistic inquiry that is the only real hope of untangling the knot that our current government finds itself tied up in.


Obviously, Democrats will blame the current impasse on Republicans and Republicans will point to examples that put the onus on Democrats. But journalists have the tools and the opportunity to untangle the mess, exposing obfuscation and posturing while identifying genuine efforts at consensus building and problem solving.


The first question that has to be asked particularly of Republicans was suggested in the earlier post on May 4: “Do you believe that Democrats, Liberals and Progressives have a legitimate say – a legitimate right to participate – in governing the country?” The answer to this simple question will have profound implications for everything said afterward in the interview and for that individual’s subsequent words and actions. If the answer is “yes” then the follow-up question will have to be “Well what’s wrong with compromising then?” If the answer is “no,” follow-up questions can go directly to the heart of how they could possibly expect to get anything accomplished in a legislative body populated with people whom they regard as unfit to govern.

As long as our media outlets remain a welcoming platform for Republican legislators to simply excoriate their Democratic counterparts and ideas while repeating their own unchallenged bumper sticker talking points, they remain under no obligation to perform the duty they were sent to Washington for: to govern the country.


This doesn’t have to mean hunting down and harassing only Republicans. By all means, ask Democrats the same questions. But I have to say I got a damn good idea how different the answers will be: One need only read over a certain former Republican Speaker of the House's "memo" to his fellow legislators instructing them in the language they should use when describing their Democratic counterparts to gauge the respect GOP lawmakers have for their colleagues across the aisle. Besides, for thirty years, I’ve been cruising the radio dial, listening for the Liberal Media’s twisting of American ideals and strength of purpose. What I’ve heard is Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage and O’Reilly characterizing Liberals and Democrats as perverts and degenerates, nothing less than genuine enemies of America and of decency itself. Now that they run the Republican Party and dictate to their elected officials, how much does anyone think the GOP can actually accomplish as long as there are any Democrats left in government?


And further, how long will it take and -- more importantly -- how much will it cost, for the GOP to get rid of them all?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Insidious Moral Relativism Strikes Again

Right Wing pundits, commentators, theorists, champions and other gurus have for years belittled and denigrated their leftist enemies with the charge of "moral relativism." That cynical immoral "interpretation" of the Ten Commandments in order to justify whatever their narrow political objectives required at the moment. Proof of the moral bankruptcy of the left and all its adherents and sympathizers. The Ten Commandments are explicit, not open to interpretation and all moral choices are easily dictated by following these simple prescriptions to the letter.
Nowhere was this high handed judgment of everyone they disagree with more bombastically displayed than in Ross Douthat's May 9th column in the New York Times. The very title "Obama's Marriage Maneuvers" -- let alone the article itself -- was another self righteously scorching indictment of the President's utterly cynical playing of the gay marriage issue for political gain. According to Mr. Douthat, the President's refusal to take the moral high ground and plainly state his generally known support for gay marriage exposed him as just another craven, cynically driven politician afraid of alienating crucial blocs of voters.
Of course within hours of publication the President appeared on ABC News and in an interview with Robin Roberts declared his unequivocal support for the right of gay people to enter into same-sex marriage. Shedding his noncommittal "evolving" position on the issue and making such a forthright pronouncement was precisely the act that Mr. Douthat characterized in a roundabout way as taking a moral stance for something he believed in rather than engaging in political obfuscation for short term gain. 
And Mr. Douthat's response to the President's action? Just get a load of his blog entry from later that same day. Again, the title will save you the time: "The Success of the Gay Marriage Movement." In other words, the President made his announcement to appease the mounting pressure from gay rights activists.
So let me get this straight: Yesterday morning the President was exposed as a cynically calculating politician afraid of alienating crucial blocs of voters by refusing to take the moral high ground and plainly stating his support for gay marriage and today his plainly stated support for gay marriage has exposed him as just a cynically calculating politician caving in to a crucial bloc of voters. See the pretzel?
Wow, no wonder the right wing moral absolutists are ordained by God to lead our nation out of its moral turpitude.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Maybe Now?

I said in my inaugural essay this would be a once-in-a-while thing didn’t I?

Maybe, at long last, there’s going to be a shift in the ongoing national “dialogue” that actually begins the process of a genuine “course correction” for the Republic.


Some articles have appeared recently in the media that finally address the glacial slide to the right we’ve endured since 1980. The first was an op-ed piece in the April 27th Washington Post by nonpartisan congressional historians Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem. OK, it doesn’t sound nonpartisan but if you read the article, you’ll see that it is an accurate description of the GOP’s evolution over the past 30 years. Since then, both Paul Krugman and Timothy Egan writing in the New York Times have referenced the article to make their individual points about some current issues and how they’ve been affected by Republican intransigence in the House and Senate. This humble writer found it heartening to see serious pundits stop beating around the bush in the name of even-handedness and call things for what they are. But it has to go further and people like Chris Matthews, James Gregory, Chris Wallace, Brokaw, Couric, Gwen Ifill, Blitzer, et. al., have to pick up this ball and start running with it.


If we're ever to have a genuine national "dialogue" (as opposed to dueling monologues) on the problems of partisanship, government size and function, social and economic policies, then journalists, commentators and -- especially this year -- debate moderators are going to have to start asking Republican candidates and office holders one simple question: "Do they believe that Democrats, liberals and progressives have a legitimate say in governing the country?" It's a simple "yes" or "no" question. (Just like O’Reilly always asks!)
If the answer is yes, then the right wing media machine can be confined to where they belong – the unproductive, name-calling fringe -- and responsible Republican legislators can be free to engage in the process of governing with some political cover for their constituents at home who disagree with a vote or position they take. And ideologues of all stripes will finally be held accountable for their intransigence and refusal to compromise. If the answer is no, then the general public will have a clear picture, at last, of one of the root causes of a great many of our current problems.
Ideological purists, who see no legitimacy in other schools of thought, cannot govern a pluralistic nation. That’s what we are and will continue to be long after they give us citizen-tracking implants and fill the Rio Grande with crocodiles. And the Republican who points out Obama’s legislative failures when he had a majority in both houses only proves the point: this is a Republican problem. Democrats accept differences in thinking and political discourse. They have it within their own party, much to the frustration at times of their base. They understand what it means to advance an agenda through compromise with -- and accommodation for -- competing points of view.
That is called governing. It’s actually the point of winning elections.