Monday, February 24, 2014

YOUR RIGHTS...MY NOSE!

The Puritans fled England in order to worship free of government interference.  The first they did when setting up the Massachusetts Bay Colony was prohibit religious practices other than theirs.  Despite the ratification of the 1st amendment, Americans have tried to use their religious views for the purpose of discrimination for over 200 years.  Arizona is the latest battleground.

     The amendment prohibits a national religion.  Its purpose was to allow citizens to worship in any form they chose.  However, for a long time that meant your choice was to be white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant or find yourself excluded from the political and social life of this nation.  (usually it meant a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, male)  Under the guise of practicing their free religious beliefs, Americans sanctioned slavery, war and sanctified male chauvinism.  They constructed a public school system that denigrated Catholicism and Judaism, approved restricted clubs and organizations, and passed laws limiting the rights of fellow citizens using God and the Bible for justification.

     In Oregon, a state that had a large Klan presence in the early 20th century, a law was passed prohibiting parents from sending their children to anything but a public school.  This was aimed at the Catholic schools that dotted the state and originated from a hatred of the Church and its influence.  (it was overturned by the Supreme Court in its Pierce vs. the Society of Sisters decision)  When women started to agitate for the right to vote, the pulpits were filled with voices excoriating the idea of a fully enfranchised woman as being antithetical to biblical exhortations demanding women be obedient and subservient to men.  It was scripture which was used to justify the expansion of this country from coast to coast with adherents claiming God gave them a manifest destiny to conquer all the lands and either kill, or convert, the "heathens" they found.  Ironically, when Mennonites and Quakers pointed to their biblical, religious commitment to pacifism, and refused to serve in the military, they were thrown into federal prison.  I guess religious preferences can only go so far.  Despite the first amendment, their religious views did not supersede the nation's need for war.

     Across the land today, the cry of religious freedom rings.  It is the new way discrimination and prejudice are being packaged.  Catholic bishops claim they have the right to deny coverage of contraception to employees in their health insurance because they oppose contraception on religious grounds.  (not really since these same bishops approve of the use of the rhythm method which involves the same intention as any other form of birth control)  Landlords are trying to use religion to justify not renting to unmarried couples who might be engaging in biblically prohibited adultery or breaking other commandments behind closed doors.  (how do they know?)  Owners of pharmacies claim they should be able to refuse to sell the morning after pill because they oppose abortion for religious reasons.  (despite the scientific evidence which shows the Plan B pill is not an abortafacient)  And now, states like Arizona are attempting to pass laws permitting business owners to discriminate against same-sex married couples because of biblical jeremiads against homosexuality.  The action in Arizona continues an unbroken chain from Massachusetts Bay to Phoenix, of Americans trying to use their first amendment religious protections to impose their views and deny fellow citizens similar privileges guaranteed them in the Bill of Rights.

     Imagine if the Arizona bill allowed businesses to refuse service to mixed race couples.  You laugh?   Less than 50 years ago laws existed throughout this nation which made it illegal for an African-American to marry a white person.  The laws were defended by evangelical preachers using the Bible which, according to them, prohibited such arrangements in order to protect against the mongrolization of the races.  (do you remember the rule at Bob Jones University prohibiting races from dating each other; again claiming it was in accordance with their religious beliefs?)  Imagine if Arizona's law allowed businesses to refuse service to Catholics or Jews.  Jews?  Christian religious views have been used to massacre Jews and discriminate against them for 2000 years.  Prominent fundamentalists like Jimmy Swaggert, Oral Roberts and Pat Robertson have consistently claimed God doesn't even hear the prayers of Jews.  This is the same crowd which called the Catholic Church the whore of Babylon.  (we had a whole political party dedicated to anti Catholic sentiments called the Know-Nothing Party).  The Pope was frequently accused of unspeakable crimes.  How deferent should the constitution be to these views?

     In San Francisco, the Olympic Club was forced to admit women...Augusta National Gold Club shared the same fate...what if they claimed a religious belief in the subordination of women and were opposed to women and men mixing in social settings?  Could they engage in such discrimination?  Regressives have chaffed for years over their inability to impose their cultural norms on everyone in this nation.  They rail against a court system which has checked them each time they attempted to impose their views and to take away rights from other Americans.

     When the Catholic Church is engaged in religious activities in its churches and parishes, it should be, and is, free from government scrutiny.  However, when the Church operates secular institutions...secular businesses...such as hospitals, adoption agencies, universities, charities and is engaged in the secular world serving all people and employing many non-Catholics, it is subject to the same rules and constitutional strictures as any other business.  (the Catholic Church opposes divorce...should a Catholic employer be able to fire an employee who divorces his or her spouse?)  When a fundamentalist Christian opens a pharmacy, it isn't limited to serving only other Christians.  They engage in commerce and are open to all customers.  Their religious freedom stops at the tip of a customer's nose.


     Throughout our history, religion has been used to justify prejudice and discrimination and eventually the courts have stepped in, and sometimes actual Christianity has prevailed, prohibiting such actions.  Arizona regressives want to turn back the clock, instead of turning the other cheek, to an era when religion could be used as a cudgel to enforce and justify bigotry and prejudice.  The struggle continues and this too will end up in the courts at some point.  It is a shame the tenets of the little Jewish carpenter from Nazareth have been used for such immoral purposes rather than to draw us closer to God and each other.  I'm sure She wishes it were otherwise.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A MUSING'S...

 ...At least one anonymous NFL executive told ESPN his locker-room was not ready for an openly gay Michael Sam to be a part of that environment.  He didn't see how he could fit in or mix with the other players.  A New Orleans Saints player worried about showering next to a gay teammate.  If you substitute African American for gay you would think this a trip in the Wayback machine to 75 years ago in baseball and football front offices.  Do we never learn?

     ...Am I the only one to notice the Winter Olympics is not the most ethnically diverse athletic contest?  Does it matter?

     ...It appears Congress is going to pass a "clean" bill raising the debt ceiling.  This is on the heals of a bi-partisan budget agreement at the end of last year.  Experts say raising the debt ceiling without any drama, or threats of default, will go a long way to calming financial markets and the American economy.  Who should get the credit?

     ...It seems every other week there is another tweak to the Affordable Care Act.  Regressives scream each time that this is proof it has to be repealed and is a disaster and unconstitutional and the end of the world.  It is amazing how poorly it was written considering all the input lobbyists for the health insurance industry, the chamber of commerce etc were given into its construction.  (perhaps it would have been easier to just eliminate the insurance market completely)  It might be of note to remember when George Bush rolled out his Medicare prescription drug benefit, millions of seniors were immediately dropped by their pharmacies and could not get access to the medicine they needed.  Democrats in Congress immediately passed a number of fixes, including paying pharmacies to issue drugs to seniors, simply acknowledging it was a need that had to be met.  Can you see regressives doing the same thing?

     ...I like the sport of curling.  It seems to me to be shuffleboard, or bocce ball, on ice and while it should be as interesting as watching paint dry, I found it fascinating and like watching the skills involved.  (just once Id love to see one of them throw what is called in here a "hater" stone which is thrown as hard as possible with the purpose of just slamming into anything and everything in its way)

     ...Taking shots at Justin Beiber is like shooting fish in a barrel.  What would you have done if you were given millions of dollars when you were 16 or 17 with no parental supervision?  Come on...admit it...you would be just as obnoxious and out of control.  No excuse for his behavior, of course, especially driving while impaired, but don't lump him in with Miley Cyrus.  I suspect Dolly Parton is right when she observes everything Cyrus has done has been calculated to gain attention, press, and to expand her brand while Beiber hurts his by being a train wreck and not a wrecking ball.

     ...I'm still depressed by the 49ers loss to Seattle.  I think Seattle coach, and Marin County native, Pete Carrol is a coach who broke every rule he could to win some national championships at USC and was rewarded with a job in the NFL and left just in time to miss the sanctions and punishments his actions resulted in from the NCAA.  However, this is three chances for Jim Harbaugh and he is 0 for 3 and maybe it's time to stop the adulation and start asking some serious questions about his performance in big games.

     ...Have you watched the Crazy Ones with Robin Williams on CBS?  It is getting better and better and funnier and is my favorite new comedy, along with Mom, for the year.

     ...I want to highly recommend Doris Kerns Goodwin's new book about Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.  Even though it takes place more than 100 years ago, it could easily be describing the economic conditions in America today particularly the growing gap between the 1% and everyone else.  Then, Americans rose up, voted out the corporate stooges and benefitted from a Congress, and president, committed to advancing the cause of working folks and growing the middle class...a Congress which created the 8 hour day, 40 hour week, overtime pay, outlawed child labor, regulated safe working conditions, set aside national parks, broke up monopolies, created union friendly labor law and set the scene for 70 years of prosperity and the expansion of the middle class. (it's called progress and they were called Progressives)  So why can't the same thing happen again today?

     ...I know this is heresy among the morning news cognoscenti, but the CBS Morning News is the most watchable of the morning news shows.  I can't take the smile and smarm of George Steppinalloverit or Matt Lauer or the faux camaraderie orchestrated by ABC or NBC.  For at least the first forty-five minutes, CBS gives a straightforward, comprehensive presentation of the news.

     ...The founder of the Home Depot says he might not donate some of his millions to refurbish St. Patrick's cathedral in NYC because he is offended by Pope Francis I criticism of trickle down economics and his call for the Church to have a fundamental commitment to helping the poor and disenfranchised among us.  Ken Langone goes on to say he knows other wealthy Catholics who share his distaste with a Pope who condemns the powerful for exploiting the powerless.  Somehow I don't think Mr. Langone owns a WWJD bracelet do you?

     ...Average, working class folks are finding it harder and harder to afford to live in San Francisco.  If you could, how would you address this growing gap between those who live in the city and those who are paid to maintain it for all the rest but are excluded from the privilege of living within its boundaries?


     ...I'm being asked what job I should seek when I am no longer a guest of the federal government.  I would be interested in any ideas or tips you may have.

Friday, February 7, 2014

GOTCHA...

 Bill O'Reilly helped write books about the killing of Abraham Lincoln and Jesus.  Based on his performance before the Super Bowl, if given the opportunity to interview both men, O'Reilly would have asked Lincoln why his wife was spending so much of the tax payers money on sprucing up the White House, and for her own personal wardrobe, and he would have asked Jesus why He ran away from his parents...caused them so much anxiety and acted so irresponsibly when He was 12.

     In a ten-minute interview before the game, O'Reilly interrogated President Obama.  This interview comes at a time when, amazingly, Democrats and Republicans admit the gap between the rich and everyone else is the widest its been in over 100 years...economic stagnation has crushed mobility meaning if you are born poor you are likely to stay poor...(so long Horatio Alger)...Syria isn't getting rid of its chemical weapons or destroying the weapon's factories...Iran is still pursuing a nuclear weapon and wreaking havoc in Syria and throughout the region...tensions in Asia between China and its neighbors are rising...cyber attacks are now a bigger threat to this nation than physical terrorist attacks...stocks are taking a beating...we now know the N.S.A. is spying on every phone call, email and all internet activity including anything on your Facebook page, Twitter feeds and any web site you have ever visited (you would think he might be interested in the gutting of the 4th amendment)...job growth is anemic and what new jobs are being created don't pay enough which is why there is a huge debate about raising the minimum wage...and Jersey Shore has been replaced by a group of southern crackers who make Snooki look like a Rhodes scholar.

     So what does O'Reilly do with his precious ten minutes?  He jumps on Obama about the Affordable Care Act, firing Kathleen Sibelius, the attack on the consulate in Benghazi and the I.R.S. investigating regressive political organizations.  He wants to know if telling people they could keep their insurance if they liked it was Obama's biggest mistake in his entire presidency?  Really?  (in the latest polls, most Americans don't like how the law was rolled out, are skeptical about increasing costs but also say leave it alone and quit trying to repeal it)  O'Reilly went for the "gotcha" question right out of the box.  He continued with questions about why Obama didn't fire Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius?  (also something Americans waiting for the Super Bowl to start were vitally interested in)  In his way-back-machine-like questioning, O'Reilly moves on to challenge the president on Benghazi, "what did you know and when did you know it?"  "Did anyone use the word terrorism in front of you?"  "Were you covering up just to win the election?"

     As stated before, the Affordable Care Act is a settled issue for most Americans.  They aren't sure if they like it...don't know how it will affect them ultimately...millions have insurance who never had it before...and they say "enough" leave it alone except to tinker if necessary.  No one, except a Fox habitu√©, cares if Sibelius was fired or not...the Senate just issued a report from a bi-partisan commission, which did not find any Benghazi cover-up linked to the President...and due to the I.R.S. "scandal" the rules have been changed so regressive Republican rich guys can't hide behind non-profit 501(c)4 groups while they attempt to hijack elections.

     O'Reilly didn't ask a single question about what the American people worry about on a daily basis.  He played to his audience.  He failed any journalistic test.  (Which is ironic since he was apoplectic when I told him he wasn't a journalist, but rather just a talk show host, when I appeared on his show.  Sunday proved my critique was spot on.)

     Recently, the publication "The Week” ran an item about a poll showing Americans who neither watched nor listened to news on a frequent basis were better informed on issues than viewers of Fox News.  Glenn Beck now admits everything he said and did on Fox was a setup, a hustle, a sham intended to play to the audience and follow the Roger Ailes playlist.  Now, O'Reilly reinforces all of this by playing "gotcha" with the President, exploring no new ground, and only informing his Fox minions leaving the rest of the audience out in the cold.

     President Obama did not exactly cover himself in glory during the exchange.  When asked about his "...if you love it, you can keep it" comment, he admitted he shouldn't have said it, but didn't add much more than that, nor did he ask O'Reilly what his or Fox's substitute would be if the law were repealed.  (this could be because regressives have steadfastly refused to offer any alternative knowing it wouldn't cover as many people, nor would it reduce costs)  When asked about Sibelius, the President claimed he always held people in his administration accountable for their actions, even as he gave Sibelius a pass and did not fire her, which is exactly what he should have done.  Score one Bill.  On Benghazi, he would not say what then Secretary of Defense Panetta told him in the early moments after the attack, dancing around the word terrorism, when he should have answered straight up that the talking points issued after the attack were wrong and misleading.  (while pointing out all of the false "facts" put out by Fox and repeated by O'Reilly.)

     It was interesting to see O'Reilly so obviously toadying for his Fox bosses and the older, white, mostly male audience the network caters to, instead of demanding from the President what he will do now to create jobs...rebuild the nation's infrastructure...enunciate our foreign policy position vis-√†-vis the Middle East, Ukraine, China and the South China Sea...why he has been so unable to address the real concerns of Americans on Super Bowl Sunday.

     O'Reilly decided to shoot some fish in a barrel...pick off some low-hanging fruit...pander to his base...boost his own ego...rather than do the responsible thing and push the most powerful man in America about issues most Americans, other than Fox aficionados, wake up every day filled with worry.


     On Super Bowl Sunday, in those ten minutes running up to the kickoff, there was no new chapter in Profiles in Courage written by the "journalist" from Fox.