Why so many pro-life Catholics backed Obama
It would appear from the pre-election polls that more than half of American Catholics voted for Barack Obama. How could they do that when their bishops ordered them to vote for John McCain? In fact, no such order was issued, though some bishops came pretty close to it. Most bishops were content with a somewhat obscure statement about the evil of abortion which also urged Catholics to consider all the items on the Catholic pro-life agenda.
Smears mean no black man in White House
The decisive issue next week is Barack Obama. Can a Kenyan American become president? Despite the polls, I don't think so.
The key word for those who hate and fear the possibility of an Obama presidency is "Afro-centric." I don't know where they picked it up -- maybe they heard it on the Fox network or read it on one of the Web pages about the ineffable Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But it means the destruction of "our America" as we know it.
Palin, McCain stir up storm of ugly racism
'South Pacific" is a morality play for our time. Sarah Palin is the Ensign Nellie Forbush -- an All-American girl as racist, this time a racist with her eye on the White House. She can stir up crowds to shout "Kill him!" at the mention of the presidential candidate of the other party a couple of weeks before the national election.
China will pick up the tab for most of the $700 billion of the rescue fund approved finally last week just as it has picked up the (almost) trillion-dollar tab for the Iraq war. China is the banker that serves up the gold to pay for most of this country's trillion-dollar debt. The Chinese have replaced the Arabs as the leading lender of money to our impoverished nation.
I was wrong about the first McCain/Obama debate. A third of the way through the event, I said to one of my guests, "My guy is getting creamed!" Note that I did not say, "My candidate is being beaten into the ground." I don't have a candidate. Priests, like columnists, are not supposed to endorse a candidate. But one of the candidates is from my state and my city, and we shared a pulpit once. So of course I hope he wins. But that doesn't mean I endorse him. As I have said repeatedly in this column, I think he will lose because the country is not ready for a smart, attractive, charismatic man -- if he has skin slightly darker than a Sicilian's.
There are a lot of ironies in the fire as a Republican administration, the most conservative since Herbert Hoover, strives to invest $700 billion to create a socialist financial system. The current president uses the same style of intense concern that was typical in his advocacy of the Iraq War, apparently the only tone he has available for a crisis.
Next chapter for radical right: Burn books
Let's fill some trucks with books, drive them downtown and burn them in front of the Chicago Public Library. Let's drive other trucks to the regional libraries and burn them, too . . . I mean the books, not the libraries, though libraries are the source of the problem. If it weren't for the libraries, it would be hard for innocent young people to be corrupted by the filth pouring out of the country's printers.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Is racism more important than income?
The sudden new vitality in the "born again" political moments has raised the question of the resurgence of "culture wars" -- the allegedly polarizing struggle between the religious right and the liberal left over such issues as gay marriage and abortion and evolution. In fact, the culture wars are mystical, indeed mythological, and they exist only in the interstices of the news cycle --that is to say Never-Never Land. They consist of press releases and statements made by the leaders of activist movements to fill up vacant space and time when nothing else is appearing on the cable networks.
The moment during the Democratic convention was astonishing. In my imagination I fell on my knees and muttered the Bible prayer appropriate when one has witnessed a miracle: "Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace!" ("Now, O Lord, you may dismiss your servant in peace!") Simon, the holy man in the temple, had seen Mary and Joseph enter the temple with Baby Jesus in their arms and recognized in him the presence of the future kingdom of Israel. Grace had flooded in with the modest threesome. Ever since then, pious Catholics react the same way when God hits them over the head with a surprise that is like a cosmic baseball bat. Such as the decree on religious freedom at Vatican II.
Someone is going to have to explain to me the rage of the commentariat and the McCain campaign's rhetoric about Georgia. Will they please tell me how the American invasion of Iraq is different from the Russian invasion of Georgia? Both invaded countries are small and powerless against a giant. Both invasions violate the boundaries of a sovereign nation. Both attacking powers claim that they are trying to protect the lives of their own citizens. Both have little international support for their actions. Neither war measures in on international norms for a just war. Both have imposed death and destruction on the inferior country. Both focus on oil-rich regions of the world. Most of the world sees reckless imperialism at work. When phony arguments about weapons of mass destruction are abandoned, both Russia and the United States take over smaller and defenseless countries because they can do it. Both probably presage sustained guerrilla wars and ethnic cleansing. The United States is hung up in another Vietnam, Russia in another Chechnya.
'Speak Softly," said President Roosevelt (T), "and carry a big stick." Sounds like good strategy for a country ready to take on the whole world. Yet for much of its history this country has been just the opposite. Many Americans believe the military power of the country is absolute and the leaders of the country can win any war they choose to enter if they are only resolute enough to push through to victory. In fact, often the bluster is hollow. Wars are lost, we are told, because Democrats surrender. The insistence that "we've never lost a war" persists as a slogan, though often it is the Republicans like Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon who surrender.
"All the Olympics are a little unnatural, of course, they are genial intervals of make-believe," writes Charles McGrath, the Irish-American litterateur in residence at the New York Times, "when the world pretends to be a happier and friendlier place."
The typical article written about Chicago politics by a journalist from somewhere else tells us as much about this city as does the too-long-by-an-hour "Dark Knight." You come into the city, talk to some of the approved journalists and political outsiders (the so-called independents), clip stories from newspaper archives, and begin to write. Thus American Pharaoh, a biography of Mayor Daley Pere. The metaphor of a sacred king of Egypt for Da Mare would be hilariously funny if it were not so grotesquely irrelevant.
America's leaders violated one of the Commandments
T.S. Elliot summarized the issue, "When good does evil in its struggle against evil, it becomes indistinguishable from its enemy."
Taint funny! There are two audiences for the New Yorker magazine -- exiles from the so-called Big Apple and new immigrants who have moved into it. The former are people who used to live in New York and have had to move out of it, either across the Hudson River or the East River or the Narrows and are desperate to stay in touch with the politically and culturally correct fashions from Manhattan Island. The latter are the hayseeds who have moved onto the island and do not want to be perceived as hayseeds. Either way, they are snobs. Despite its occasional excellent journalism, its mean-spirited cartoons and turgid short stories are aimed at snobs who want to imagine that they are au courant in the mores of The Island.
Sometimes Sen. Phil Gramm is not all that wrong about American protests over high pump prices to sustain their behemoth autos as they soak up the oil reserves of the world. Ever since President Jimmy Carter, warnings have been issued about the risks of dependence on foreign oil.
Last weekend, Americans indulged in phony patriotism, accompanied by fireworks and trumpets and pompous voices trying to sound like George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln. Little attention was given to the people who Americans have oppressed -- the aboriginal people, the African slaves, the hated Asians, Jews and Catholics. Nor was there any mention of the many unjust wars that Americans have fought.
The Russians call World War II "The Great Patriotic War." The current longest of our wars could well be called the same thing. It is a war that originated in the orgy of patriotism ("U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!") that followed the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and has been sustained by the patriotism of those who support it ("Our soldiers are defending American freedom") and false promises of some latter-day prophets ("We are winning the war in Iraq.") It is likely to be revived by the Iranian attack that the McCainites see as their main chance of winning the election.
The obsequies for Tim Russert were a wonderful showcase for the Catholic heritage. They were the celebration of our memory of a man who exemplified the role of a Catholic layman and also a demonstration of how Catholics cope with death.
Most Europeans don't like the EU. They don't want to leave it, and they don't want to destroy it. But they are offended by the busybody behavior of the Brussels bureaucracy as it interferes with their daily lives in their own countries. The last Polish government, headed by Opus Dei members, tried to get traction with the public opinion by attacking the EU and blaming it for Poland's troubles. It didn't work.
Fall election hinges on race
The end of the longest primary last week was high drama. Some might want to compare it with the work of the great Greek playwrights, such as Euripides and Sophocles, for hubris and catharsis and purification. It is difficult, however, to see how characters such as Harold Ickes, Howard Wolfson and Terry McAuliffe would fit into such a drama. They might be better suited for a Swedish film by Ingmar Bergman or, even better, a surrealistic Italian play by Luigi Pirandello such as "Six Characters in Search of an Author" or perhaps "Right You Are, If You Think You Are."
VATICAN CITY -- "You will encounter traffic when you exit to the crypt." The young and very bright preceptor warned as we left the underground tomb of the first pope and entered the crypt of St. Peter's, where most of the popes are buried. We were almost swept away by a crowd of Polish pilgrims, singing loudly (and on key) as they marched to the tomb of John Paul II. He is their great folk hero, and their enthusiasm is justified.
VATICAN CITY -- I went down several levels of archaeological history at the tomb of St. Peter on a recent morning in search of Peter, whom we Catholics believe was the first pope. Only Peter didn't know he was pope and didn't know there was a Catholic church, either. All that would come later. The Peter of the Gospels was no great star. He was a loud-mouth braggart, and he denied Jesus in a moment of crisis. Why did the early Christians commit their devotion to one so undistinguished? Why did Christians try to make a hero out of a man who, yes, gave his life for his cause, but was really not so heroic? Why do Catholics link their respect for their leaders, a respect that often seems idolatrous to others, with such a patently unprepossessing man?
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Image of Obama the pol misses the point
Rev. Wright said it: Barack Obama says what he says because he's a politician.
As the Bush administration winds down, people will reflect on the strange ideas that have emerged during this disastrous era in our country's history. We also will wonder about the arrogant ignorance that shaped the tragedy of the last eight years. It is imperative to consider where the ideas came from that will live after Jan. 20, perhaps through the McCain years.
I fail to see that the envious and bitter attacks of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright should have created the crisis in Sen. Barack Obama's campaign when the remarks of Pastor John Hagee have not created a similar crisis in Sen. John McCain's campaign. Why is McCain somehow not responsible for Hagee while Obama is responsible for Wright? I suggest the difference is that the senator from Illinois is a Kenyan American and the senator from Arizona a white American.
Catholic racism in Pennsylvania? Seventy-two percent of Catholic Democrats in the heavily Catholic state of Pennsylvania voted for Sen. Hillary Clinton, according to the MSNBC exit polls, and more than half of them said they would not vote for Sen. Barack Obama if he won the nomination. The finding gave me a chill. On the other hand, most Obama voters said they would vote for Clinton if she should win the contest. Is Catholic racism rearing its ugly head again?
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
No one except the hard-line haters of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and British atheists such as the ineffable Christopher Hitchens can find fault with the pope's response to the sexual abuse scandal in the United States.
The argument in the Capitol last week was about victory. Legislators such as Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham believe, against all the evidence, that victory in Iraq is possible. They insist like puppets that "the surge has been a success" and see signs of victory. The president proclaims that we are winning the war. Gen. David Petraeus says that the progress is fragile and reversible, that there is not yet light at the end of the tunnel, victory is not right around the corner and the champagne is still at the back of the refrigerator.
I was swept away last week by an avalanche of hate mail, far more than I usually receive (and favorable mail usually outnumbers the contentious)
When Chicagoans who know Sen. Obama read the columns about him turned out by the national punditocracy, we tend to gasp and shake our heads in bemusement. He has become an ink blot for sick minds, very clever sick minds. Call up realclearpolitics.com and see what I mean. My favorite recent outbursts of hate come from Thomas Sowell, an African-American conservative economist, and from Naomi Schaefer Riley, the "assistant taste editor" of the Wall Street Journal (which title may be an oxymoron). Both write about Obama's connection with the Trinity United Church of Christ.
The ghost of the late Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy is abroad in the land. "Tail gunner Joe" was a master of the art of guilt by association.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I wish to advance a modest (and tongue-in-cheek) proposal to diminish if not eliminate the pandemic of adultery among the hardworking, hard driving, sexually greedy business leaders and public officials whose wives must undergo the public humiliation of standing by their erring husbands. I propose that civic and religious leaders make available to such men on application (countersigned by their wives) a license for polygamy.
Democrats find themselves in lose-lose situation
Once again the Democrats seem determined to steal defeat from the jaws of victory.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
King David's downfall holds lessons for U.S.
The first reading in Sunday's liturgy suggests a better way to select a leader than the one in which we are presently engaged. All you really need is a prophet, one with a proven record of speaking truth. Then you send him out to wander through the land to search among prominent families. If your prophet finally uncovers such a family and there are many sons, then you must demand that a missing son be brought in. Any really good prophet will know that the handsome kid, who plays a guitar, sings beautiful songs and writes poetry is the one to be anointed. It would save time, money and effort. One would be spared a score of debates, almost as many election night cliffhangers, and the resultant lunatic spins of the professional spin masters -- to say nothing of editorials masquerading as news stories, madcap outbursts on blogs, and masses of vicious e-mails from true believers.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Church failed to adapt in new era
Immigrant Catholicism flourished until 1965. The churches were filled with worshippers, the rectories were filled with priests, the schools were filled with students. Novitiates and seminaries were filled with vocations. New parishes, new schools and new high schools sprung up all around Cook and Lake counties.
During the farce of the "impeachment" of President Clinton by the Newt Gingrich, lame-duck Congress, I urged the position that public people, especially presidents of the United States, had the same right to personal privacy as did every other American. The reason is that their privacy is everyone's privacy. If salacious tabloids and keyhole-peeping gossip columnists can violate the privacy of public people, there is nothing to prevent them from going after the privacy of any one of us. I argue the same position about the unfortunate young women who have become media starlets, taking a stand against those who would destroy their careers and their lives by trolling the cesspools of Hollywood and against the hard-eyed readers who revel in their torments.
I find myself wondering why the New York Times Newspaper (as Jimmy Breslin calls it) is out to get Barack Obama. He is a celebrity, of course, which means that he is a legitimate target for destruction. But why is the Times so eager to take him down?
A couple of weeks ago I challenged the conventional wisdom of some Catholic liberals that celibacy is the cause of sexual abuse of children and young people by priests. I pointed out that it was also a problem for married Protestant clergy. What was unique for Catholics was the cover-up by church authorities -- a strategy that worked for a long, long time. Celibacy does not cause abuse, and marriage is not a cure for it.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Andrew Greeley: Did the Clintons know what they were doing? I believe that they were unaware what they're doing to themselves by their vicious negative campaign against Sen. Barack Obama. They and their colleagues set out to destroy him by innuendo, distortion and smear.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Politically correct votes absurd
In Chicago, we have a long line of judges to vote for. Because most voters know very little about any of the people on the list, we tend to check the names from our own ethnic lists. I suspect that the Irish were the first to start this process. If we stand before a judge, it's always reassuring to be able to say, "Hey, doesn't my mother know your mother?"
Was there ever a more experienced candidate for the presidency than James Madison? He had drafted the Constitution and written most of the Federalist Papers and had served as secretary of state in Thomas Jefferson's cabinet. Yet he was not a successful president. He split the country over the War of 1812 -- New Englanders called it "Mr. Madison's war." He and his wife had to flee Washington to escape the British forces, who then set fire to the White House. His war was the first war that this country ever lost, despite the pretense that Andrew Jackson's victory at New Orleans after the peace treaty had been signed had reversed the defeat.
This man may have had less experience than anyone who ever ran for president. He had little education, no experience beyond his native state, no sense of foreign policy. He served a few terms in the state Legislature and one term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He lost in his single race for the U.S. Senate. He was an awkward and ungainly man who dressed unfashionably. His family life was not happy.
I'm a Catholic. You got a problem with that? I'm a Christian too. You other guys got a problem with that?
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
We need a better way to choose our leaders
Democrats want to lose elections. The madcap primary races every four years, more insanely self-destructive than ever, have produced a long list of losers: Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter (OK, he won the first time, but he was still a loser), Michael Dukakis, Al Gore. Since FDR, there have been only two winners, John Kennedy and Bill Clinton. (Truman and Johnson were vice presidents who inherited the presidency).
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Why Christmas season is time of hope
There are but two answers to the question of whether hope is valid during this season when we reassert our hope. The first was expressed by Shakespeare's Macbeth -- "Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing." The alternative was expressed by Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin -- "There is something afoot in the universe, something that looks like gestation and birth."
Would you buy a used car from the so-called intelligence community? Or a used spy? What reason is there to trust a National Intelligence Estimate created by the same crowd that said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Are we now to trust those who filled poor Colin Powell's U.N. presentation with what was, if one may not use scatology, rubbish? Mr. Secretary, I knew Adlai Stevenson and you are no Adlai Stevenson.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Priests are happy without wives
It is time that knee-jerk Catholic liberals give up their knee-jerk response to the sexual abuse problem. "Let priests marry, let them have legitimate sexual pleasures and then they won't become pederasts."
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Bishops' message wins few votes
If we are to believe the media, the Catholic bishops warned American Catholics that if they voted for a candidate who supported abortion, their eternal salvation might be in jeopardy. I don't think that's what they really said, but, alas, the bishops generally have a hard time making clear what they actually are saying. The media don't do nuance very well, and bishops have a hard time conveying their intent in words that fit into a 750-word story or a 90-second TV clip. Hence, they add confusion upon confusion, and many Catholics simply dismiss them with a snide comment about the sexual abuse of children.
I was troubled by the meeting of the Catholic bishops last week, not because the new president and vice president are both Chicago priests. It was a perfect Chicago balanced ticket -- one Cub fan and one White Sox fan, good men both despite the calumny spread about them. It seemed to me, however, that the bishops backed off on both their opposition to the war (consistent, if unheard) and that the people who are doing research for them on the cause of pedophilia were telling them what they thought the bishops wanted to hear instead of what they needed to be told.
New York City: This town is a world-class city. Indeed, the case could be made that it defines world-class. It is the artistic, musical, financial, athletic, literary and political center of the world. And I can't stand it!
Hate mail is fun. Rarely do the writers respond to what you have written. Rather, they pour forth their own personal venom -- usually scatological or obscene -- because they lack the maturity and the vocabulary to form a rational comment. A single word such as aliens or dictator sends them into paroxysms of filth.
Michael Mukasey, the president's nominee for attorney general, is a very dangerous man. His predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, was an incompetent buffoon, a hack from Texas who launched the campaign to turn the country into a military dictatorship in his "secret" memos ridiculing the Geneva Conventions.
I am ashamed for America. Note carefully that I do not say I am ashamed of America. Despite all its inherent flaws and all its tragic mistakes, the United States stands, however incompletely and with whatever imperfections, for the highest standards of freedom and democracy that the world has yet known.
Will we fall for war vs. Iran?
It would appear, according to news reports, that the hard-liners in the Bush administration, led by the vice president, are pushing for a war with Iran. The tactics are the same. Once you've played the fear card to start one war, the second time is easier.
to get back
A nationally syndicated columnist has recently urged that Americans forget about 9/11, become adults, and "get back our groove." Thomas Friedman is the senior columnist at the New York Times and hence de facto the most important columnist in the United States. That he disapproves of the 9/11 cult makes it official. As America's uber wise man, he has certified that the national obsession with the World Trade Center attack is a sign of weakness and fear. Yet in the marvelous Yiddish phrase, "Already, all right, enough!"
Why are there no
I've watched two episodes of Ken Burns' "The War." I don't think I'll watch any more. It was young men of my generation who fought those battles. The kids killed on Guadalcanal or storming Monte Cassino were only a couple years older than I was. Nor will I read the late David Halberstam's book The Coldest Winter about Korea. My friends died in that winter cold. War is inherently ugly, destructive, horrible. The lives of young men are cut short. Parents, spouses, friends, children are marked for life by the losses they suffered. It is astonishing that despite the four wars of the last half century, we Americans do not remember the horror. Instead we blunder into new wars, blithely confident that it will be easy, short and almost bloodless. We are always mistaken. Perhaps we don't want to remember.
There are times when American society tends to make major shifts. Polite people in polite society do not engage in certain slurs, certain nasty stereotypes. This does not mean that the prejudice against Jews, let us say, goes away, but it does mean that certain words are not used -- like the k-word. And certain stereotypes are indeed shared -- Jews are dishonest in business -- but only with those with whom you know you can get away with it. The n-word is absolutely forbidden, but you can whisper in the dark that blacks are too dumb to be NFL quarterbacks. Stereotypes about Catholics cannot be whispered in most contexts, but in certain faculty lunchrooms one can still hear -- quite out loud -- that Catholics just can't think for themselves. Italian stereotypes can still be celebrated in an immensely popular TV series.
Why won't Bush admit mistakes?
Last week was a strange one. The commander in chief, the president of the United States, took refuge behind a military field commander to achieve credibility with the American people. Through constant repetition of his name, almost an invocation, George Bush built up Gen. David Petraeus as the man who finally found a strategy that would work in Iraq. Because he said it would work, therefore, it had worked.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Bush not swayed by
Here's the question that senators ought to have asked General Petraeus (the current Colin Powell):
Is President Bush able to distinguish truth from falsehood? Is he too caught up in the double-talk generated by his spin masters to grasp the difference? After reading his talk to the VFW last week, I think that at this stage of his presidency he is utterly incapable of honest communication with the rest of the country.
A church 'scandal' that
Now, as the poor
battered Catholic Church
tries to recover from a
bushel basket of
scandals, it must cope
with the Mother Teresa
scandal. Someone has
found the poor woman's
private letters in which
she confessed how weak
her faith and love
seemed. Spread around
the world by Time
magazine, the letters
are taken as evidence
that she was not the
saint we all thought she
was. On ABC Evening News
on Friday night, an
offered the opinion that
she was a hypocrite.
In the 1980s, the Reagan Era, an attitude slipped into the corporate world, especially with the young people who were pouring into the financial services sector: Greed is good! The purpose of a corporation is to promote the net wealth of the stockholder. CEOs should be rewarded for producing stockholder wealth by huge salaries -- more in a day or even an hour -- than their workers earned all year. Anything that was not against the law was virtuous so long as it made money. It was the old laissez faire notion that individual and corporate greed contributed to the general welfare of the economy. The maximization of wealth swept away the idealism of the '60s. Greed was now good.
The president's comment that the CIA was just guessing is spinless truth, for a change. In fact, the agency knew virtually nothing about what was happening inside of Iraq, and hence described the worst possible case, just as it was unaware that the Soviet Union was falling apart at the end of the Stalinist era. The best intelligence about the Soviets was contained in the books written at the time by the reporters from the Washington Post and the New York Times.
''The structure of our intelligence organization is faulty. It makes no sense. It has to be reorganized and we should have done it long ago. Nothing has changed since Pearl Harbor. I have suffered an eight-year defeat on this. . . . I will leave a legacy of ashes. . . .''
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Will we betray our Iraqi workers?
I see by the papers, as Mr. Dooley used to say, that the American ambassador in Iraq is trying to obtain passports for Iraqi members of the embassy staff and isn't having much success. The United States hires Iraqis to work for them but does not want its employees to have an escape hatch when the end comes. Homeland Security is combing the list for possible terrorists. It might be easier if the department gave them passports and then forced them to live in the toxic house trailers it has stockpiled for Katrina victims.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Better bishops would be blessing
"How can the pope say that the other denominations are defective when American Catholicism had to pay $2 billion because of predator priests?"
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Immigration 'win' is no victory
The screaming mobs of immigrant-hating nativists are celebrating their victory over "illegal" immigrants. Using the cry of "no amnesty" as a shibboleth, they have blocked any opportunity for current immigrants to gain American citizenship, which used to be the goal of "Americanizers." They have also blocked serious efforts at border defense, such as the big wall that was to stretch from the Ocean to the Gulf, from sea to shining sea. They have cut off their noses to spite their faces when in fact the 12 million "illegals" have de facto amnesty.
Friday, July 6th, 2007
made JFK a great leader
"All war is stupid." -- John F. Kennedy Although support for the Iraq war diminishes daily, even among Republican senators, the neocons continue to write articles about why "we" must stand firm. That's what neocons do: They write articles and memos. "We" have an obligation to the Iraqi people, they tell us. "We" must stand by them in their struggle for "democracy." "We" have a moral obligation to continue the war...
Friday, June 29, 2007
Ethnic biases stronger than ever
As the 19th century turned into the 20th, Americans began to worry about the stability of their society and its culture. Strange languages were spoken on the streets, strange-looking people in strange clothes were shopping in our stores. Strange smells percolated in certain neighborhoods. Strange customs were appearing on strange holidays. These strangers were pouring into our country. They threatened our democracy, our way of life, our culture, our religious beliefs, our economy, our blood stock. Why didn't they stay in their own countries?
Friday, June 22, 2007
The vice presidency, John Nance Garner is alleged to have told his fellow Texan Lyndon Johnson, isn't worth a bucket of warm spit. A lame-duck presidency isn't worth much more. While George W. Bush was traveling through Europe on what should have looked like a triumphal journey, back home, Republican senators were burying his immigration reform bill and the secretary of defense was confessing that he could not reappoint Bush's handpicked chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Does Bush comprehend that the public and Congress are repudiating him? His jaunty swagger on the shore of the Baltic Sea does not look like a man with his back to the wall.
Friday, June 15, 2007
An ending with
I must confess a temptation to complacent laughter at the frustration of all ''The Sopranos'' fans at the conclusion of the series. It was the most important television project ever, comparable to Don Quixote, Shakespeare, maybe even St. John's Gospel.
Friday, June 8, 2007
Plan B is beginning to emerge -- the followup to the strategy of the "the surge," which is the current strategy. The president recently has been comparing the Iraq war with the Korean War. Both, he has suggested, are "long wars.'' The one in Korea technically continues, and American troops still are stationed there. Iraq also will be a long war. Some folks at the Pentagon whisper that the Army might start drawing down troops next year (just in time for the election!), but half of them or maybe only a third will remain in Iraq. Thus, there will be a timetable of a sort for withdrawing American troops, which will satisfy the public, but a refusal to give up, which will satisfy the president and his loyal followers.
Friday, June 1, 2007
Bigotry never goes away. When it becomes unfashionable, it goes underground and waits until a new hate group appears into which it can project its twisted sickness. Racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism and anti-immigrant nativism are chronic infections in the American body politic. Rush Limbaugh singing the obscene tune ''Barack the Magic Negro'' is inviting prejudice and violence. However, for pure irrational rage, the current crop of nativists are some of the worst to come along since the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s or those God-fearing Protestants who burned convents in Boston in the 19th century.
Friday, May 25, 2007
As the immigrant haters demolish the current version of "reform," the wise person tries to reflect on these three propositions:
Friday, May 18, 2007
Spain's history of sorrows
SEVILLE, Spain -- Flamenco music, particularly the songs that accompany the dances (usually sung by men) reminds me of African-American blues: Both lament powerfully the sorrows, the pains, the disappointment of life. The dances are something like what the Irish step dances might become if the Irish could reach a state of abandon -- which, of course, we will never do. The beating of the feet and the castanets suggest a vitality that can never be snuffed out.
Friday, May 11, 2007
History lesson on whom to trust
TOLEDO, Spain -- For a half millennium, give or take, Christianity and Islam battled for Spain. Some leaders of both sides believed that the only good infidel was a dead infidel. Others, however, on both sides practiced for long periods of time a pragmatic tolerance from which we might learn today.
Friday, May 4, 2007
Dispute over power of the church still reigns in
MADRID -- ''Why is everything new in Pedro Almodovar's films?" I asked, "Schools, jails, hospitals, apartments, offices?"
Friday, April 27, 2007
How Chicago can lose its bid for the 2016 Olympics
Like most Chicagoans, I believe that this city should win the big prize in 2009 when they choose an Olympic site. Only Rio can beat Chicago for the beauty of its setting. The trouble with its beaches is that large numbers of teens with automatic weapons are up in the favillas waiting for opportunities to terrorize the city. None of the other contestants has a plan like Chicago's to put all the venues within a fairly compact area. Chicago is a fascinating and variegated city despite the constant putdowns from New York, which blew its opportunity to have the Olympics.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Sexist, racism hurt both students at Rutgers and Duke
Both the women basketball players at Rutgers and the men lacrosse stalwarts at Duke were victims. The former were victimized by racism and sexism, the latter by reverse racism and sexism. The former were assaulted by a media culture which seeks to tear down the barriers of political correctness and the latter by paragons of such correctness -- academic faculty and administrators. The former were victims of their black skin and their role as women athletes, the latter of their white skin, thick necks and huge muscles ("farmyard animals," one Duke professor called them).
Friday, April 13, 2007
Endless war, endless spin:
GOP keeps lying about Iraq
Most of us thought that the last election settled the Iraq issue. The voters by a substantial majority rejected the Iraq war. It now appears that Iraq will be the focus of the presidential election next year. In an exercise of political legerdemain almost as ingenious as that which launched this stupid, inept and immoral war, President Bush has somehow reintroduced it as the focus for political debate this year and next year.
Friday, April 6, 2007
Protestants may yet find
excuse to delay N. Ireland peace
Ireland finally made it big in the American media last week: front page in the New York Times and three minutes on the evening news. Protestants and Catholics had made peace in Northern Ireland. The heads of both warring political factions sat at a table with each other and made statements about political cooperation. Finally, a conflict that went back to Oliver Cromwell had come to an end.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Bush team is adept only at
The Bush administration reminds me of Jimmy Breslin's comic novel, The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. The premise of the novel was what if you had a Mafia gang whose members were incompetent at the things that mafiosi are supposed to do. Similarly, the Bush administration has often shot itself in the foot because its key players are not qualified for their jobs. They make a mess of the job and are protected by secrecy; or if that isn't possible, by spin.
Friday, March 23, 2007
U.S. attorneys need legal restraints
Years ago, a U.S. attorney said to me: ''We can indict anybody on La Salle Street we want. Maybe it would be more difficult to get a conviction, but we still have the power to ruin him.'' Justice Robert H. Jackson, one of the Supreme Court's greats in the 20th century, warned of the power of the federal prosecutor when he said that the power is enormous and easily perverted. ''The prosecutor,'' Jackson said in 1940 when he was U.S. attorney general, ''has more power over life, liberty and reputation than any other person in America. That power must be shielded from politics and even from the Department of Justice.''
Friday, March 16, 2007
Searing attacks on religion
are wholly smoke
On March 4 there were two devastating attacks on religion in major national media: the Discovery Channel and the New York Times Magazine, both of which ought to know better. The former presented a long (and dull) program, ''The Lost Tomb of Jesus,'' which argued that Jesus and his wife Mary Magdalene were buried side by side in a tomb outside of Jerusalem. It presented dramatizations of the loving couple with their son Judah.
Friday, March 9, 2007
Betraying the truth
betrays the troops
I see by the papers that Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have been "dinged" by the "researchers" (mud collectors and mud throwers) because they have asserted that lives and money have been "wasted" in Iraq. How dare they say that the lives of "our troops" were wasted? Have they no respect for the feelings of the survivors of "our troops''? Must one maintain the illusion that these brave men and women died for something important, like American freedom or democracy or to prevent another World Trade Center attack?
Friday, March 2, 2007
TUCSON -- This is a period when the American Catholic Church is as dry and dull as the Sonoran Desert. The hope and joy generated by the Vatican Council is dead. The separation between the leaders and the followers has grown wider. The former speak on many things; the latter barely hear them. The latter have created for themselves a Catholic identity based on the resurrection of Jesus, concern for the poor, Jesus in the Eucharist, God in the sacraments, and devotion to the Mother of Jesus; the former hassle them about secularization and relativism. To the repulsive sexual abuse crisis, one must now add the financial embezzlement crisis.
Friday, February 23, 2007
The collapse of the shah in Iran was the beginning of American troubles in the Middle East. The shah was "our guy," an absolute ruler who was secularizing the country and freeing his people from the shackles of religious superstition and obscurantism. It never occurred to our foreign policy thinkers and experts that the people of Iran wanted their obscurantism and old-fashioned religion. The American leadership did not see the ayatollah coming and was unprepared for the defeat of the shah. Educated as they were in the great secular universities, our foreign policy gurus did not have a clue about the importance of religion in Middle Eastern countries.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Be cautious about impeaching Bush
Impeach the president? Impeach President Bush? We learned from the attempt to oust President Bill Clinton that there are few rules for indicting and convicting a president.
Friday, February 9, 2007
U.S. needs the strength to be patient
We are told that it is a time for Americans to demonstrate courage, strength, power. We must not accept defeat in Iraq and the "dire" (favorite new word) consequences of failure -- such as region-wide chaos in the Middle East. It is not clear who these "we" are. Not the senators or columnists or editorial writers who are calling on us for sacrifice. They are not in combat themselves, they do not have children in combat. By what right do they lecture those who do and those who now perceive that it was the wrong war, carried out in the wrong way?
Friday, February 2, 2007
You want to live in the White House? You can buy it for $5 billion! That's what the experts say the campaign of '08 will cost. It will be split between parties and within the parties and among candidates, perhaps $200 million, $250 million for the winning candidate.
Friday, January 26, 2007
The film "Babel" is vehemently anti-American. Directed by the Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, it won the Golden Globe from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and a nomination for the Academy Award. American critics seemed to miss the subtle anti-gringoism of this brilliant ensemble movie, a kind of globalization version of last year's equally brilliant Academy Award-winner, ''Crash.''
Friday, January 19, 2007
The presidential address last week was pathetic enough to make one feel sad for the poor dear man, as they say in the old country. With little emotional affect he read a lecture about his ''new strategy,'' which was in fact nothing more than a new tactic, growled at Iran and Syria, threatened the Iraqi government, and promised that the United States would emerge the winner in Iraq.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Unjust Iraq war raises painful question: Why?
TUCSON -- I become angry every time I see a spread in a local newspaper of the recent military casualties. They are mostly young, their lives still ahead of them, victims of a stupid, unjust, criminal war. Many more have been maimed for life. I think of the suffering families, parents, spouses, children whose lives will be forever blighted by the pain of the death of someone they love.
Saddam execution is stain on America
Americans cheered enthusiastically last week for President Ford, who pardoned Richard Nixon. Simultaneously they celebrated the fact that President Bush did not insist on pardoning Saddam Hussein -- in fact didn't even think of it. Those who wanted Nixon behind bars only wanted revenge. Those who wanted to see Saddam attached to a rope just before he died were not seeking revenge.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Catholicism absorbing Latino culture
TUCSON -- The New York Times magazine last Sunday suggested that American Catholicism is being ''Hispanicized.'' As usual, when the subject is the Catholic Church, the "good, gray" Times is tone-deaf.
Friday, December 22, 2006
God shows up where we least expect
The film "Stranger Than Fiction" has the same structure as a parable of Jesus. There is a hapless, clueless victim (Will Ferrell), a powerful personage who can destroy him (Emma Thompson, who is writing a novel about him in which he will die at the end), and a "third man" (Dustin Hoffman) who urges her to go ahead and kill him, it will be her greatest novel. Once she finds out that she is God in his life, mercy and affection take control of her and she acts like God. She sacrifices her novel that he may live and find happiness.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Bush doesn't seem capable of admitting his serious errors
The long-awaited report of the Iraq Study Group was dead on arrival. It was designed as a proposal by a bipartisan commission of wise men that would provide President Bush with a way out of the Big Muddy into which he had led the country. There was no particular reason to think that any of the major recommendations would in fact change the situation in Iraq.
Friday, December 8, 2006
. . but if he does, he'd better be ready to face nasty
Should Sen. Barack Obama run for president? It will be a tough call for the senator and for those who admire and respect him personally. If he runs, he has a good chance of winning because he represents what Americans want in their president at this very troubled time in their history, a man of firm principles but not an ideologue, a moderate who can sympathize with his opponent's position, a modest man with self-deprecating wit, a politician who tries to bring people together instead of polarizing them against one another.
Friday, December 1, 2006
Moral health tip to America: Stay out of draft
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) celebrated the Democratic election victory by proposing to renew the military draft. His oft-repeated argument is that the draft would produce an army with social and racial equity. White, college-educated young men and women would have to serve as target practice for Shiites, Sunnis and other murderous tribes in Iraq when they take time out from killing one another.
Friday, November 24, 2006
What is the point of Iraq deaths?
My mother used to tell me when I was very young a story about the last American to die on Nov. 11, 1918, at 10:59 in the morning. It was an urban folk tale of that era, doubtless, though indeed there was an American who was the last victim of the war. His death was pointless, that was the sentimental irony of the story. But so was the death of everyone else who died in that absurd, insane mass murder. The "Great Powers" of Europe stumbled into the war because of a toxic mix of arrogance and ignorance and couldn't find a way out of it. Nothing was settled, the war went into a recess to be renewed 20 years later with even more demonic fury.
November 17th, 2006
Latest disastrous plan: More GIs
Many of the wise people in this country who supported the Iraq war at the beginning now contend that the answer to the problem is to send more troops to Iraq. Sen. John McCain says that 20,000 more should be enough. Some of the military "experts" on television are hinting that 100,000 more will do the job.
November 10th, 2006
Friday, November 3rd, 2006
Friday, October 27th, 2006
October 20, 2006
October 13, 2006
October 6, 2006