Archive for September, 2015

lalokjhSome men hate women.

This is not news to readers of this blog, but it bears repetition in light of the hearing held by the House Committee on Oversight yesterday. The only witness called by the committee was Cecile Richards, the director of Planned Parenthood. “Witness” is a misnomer, because, even though she obviously came prepared with lots of data, she was not allowed to say much. Her files remained unopened, along with her mouth, as Rethug members of the committee exercised their male prerogative of interrupting her every attempt to speak.

She did manage to catch the the odious Jason Chaffetz (Mormon, Utah) in a lie.  He put up a chart which implied that PP performed far more abortions than other services, claiming it came from PP’s own records. One of Richards’ lawyers was hip to that, and she informed the world that the chart had actually been produced by an anti-abortion group. Caught performing chicanery on national television, Chaffetz didn’t even have the decency to look ashamed.

Democrats on the committee stoutly defended PP and Ms. Richards, when they were allowed to speak. And even the men among them noticed the rampant misogyny displayed by the Rethugs:

“Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) later said the disrespect’ Chaffetz showed to Richards is reflective of a much broader problem Republicans have with women.  ‘My colleagues like to say there’s no war on women. Look at how you’ve been treated as a witness,’ Connolly said. ‘Intimidation. Talking Over. Interrupting. Cutting off sentences. Criticizing you because of your salary. How dare you! Who do you think you are, making a professional salary as the head of a premier national organization and daring to actually make decisions as the head of that organization?'”

If you really want to hear the bile spewed by these cretins, NPR has helpfully posted a few snippets from the hearing.  And Rachel Maddow interviewed a very tired Richards on her show last night.

The hearing reinforced for me a point made long ago by the second wave of feminism:  this argument isn’t really about abortion, or contraception. It’s about women’s freedom to be and become whoever they wish to be.


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Holy Soshulist

foxnews-obama-popeToday’s Arizona Repulsive features hysterical editorials and letters to the editor whose writers are concerned that Pope Francis is a socialist.

I mean, what TRUE Christian would ever say something like “love your neighbor?”

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Il Papa

MW-DV006_pope_c_20150924101155_ZHPope Francis addresses the US Congress

Well, sure, I like this pope. He appears to be a friendly, joyful fellow. His love for people is readily apparent. He rides around in a little Fiat and shuns other ornate trappings of the papacy such as the red Gucci slippers. His actions are especially moving when he walks slowly and unafraid through crowds, caressing small children and speaking to disabled people.

But (you knew there would be a “but.”) Just when I’m thinking Francis is a truly cool dude, I remember the teachings of the institution he represents. No women in the priesthood;  no divorce without the shame of excommunication;  no abortion and no contraception either;  no recognition of the huge contributions made by nuns who labor in remote parts of the world with no recompense;  the silly notion of original sin, etc. etc.

Francis seems uncomfortable with some of this, and one can only hope that he can manage to change a few things.  And the second I think this, I remember the efforts of John XXIII to do just that. After John died, the conservative curia who really run the church did away with nearly all of John’s changes. (So much for the claim that popes are infallible).

Progressive popes are sort of in the same position as Obama:  they can tinker with the technical stuff but can’t make lasting changes to doctrine because they operate in a climate of blind and reactionary conservatism.

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No, Not The Same

ncf_g_orangebowl_600Turner Gill Prepares To Throw The Famous Two-Point Conversion Attempt

Yesterday Nebraska played Miami in the second of a home-and-home series. They lost 36-33. This morning the pundits on ESPN are comparing this game to the famous 1983 Orange Bowl, where Miami beat Nebraska 31-30. That game is famous because Tom Osborne, Nebraska’s coach, decided to try for a two-point conversion to win, rather than tie, the game. The attempt failed and Nebraska lost its chance to become national champion that year.

That was a shame, because Nebraska was undefeated until the Orange Bowl game. They beat everybody they played that season by 50 points or more. Miami, on the other hand, lost its first few games, but managed to win its conference. In other words, both teams were very good that year.

All that being said (political pundits use this phrase when they are about to diss a candidate), that’s where the similarity to yesterday’s game ends. Neither of the current teams is very good. Nonetheless, Miami was the better of two middling teams for most of the game, scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter before Nebraska even figured out where the goalposts were. The gameplay was rife with missed tackles and dropped passes, and so disastrous for Nebraska, that I turned it off during the third quarter. I don’t remember ever doing that before.

Desert called me a few minutes later and said “Turn it on–Nebraska has tied the game!” Sure enough, the score was 33-33. Apparently Nebraska’s quarterback, Tommie Armstrong (great name for a QB), decided to win the game all by himself. He threw pass after pass and scored 23 points in the final quarter. But it wasn’t enough. Miami managed to kick a field goal in the final seconds of the game.

So now Nebraska has one win and two losses. The team has not turned in such a lackluster tally since the horrible days when Bill Callahan was coach in the early 2000s (those games were so bad I used to hunt for photos of Callahan on the sidelines, just to make sure he had remembered to attend). During the early quarters yesterday I reckoned that we’d end up 5-7 on the year, which, as someone mourned on a Nebraska website, puts us in “Iowa-Minnesota territory.” Trouble is, Iowa and Minnesota are both pretty good this year.

Predictably, the Nebraska forums are full of naysayers who are ready to fire the new coach. Mike Reilly. I’d bet my social security check that these are the same clowns who argued so ferociously for Bo Pelini to be fired last year–the tone of their rants is exactly the same.

They should calm down. Reilly is a better coach. He has helped Armstrong enormously. Furthermore, Reilly knows how to adapt to new situations–something Pelini was never able to do. Reilly’s team has lost two games by single plays–a hail Mary and a late field goal. In other words, his teams don’t give up, as Pelini’s sometimes used to do. And after all, Ameer Abdullah is now playing in Detroit.

Given time and Nebraska’s resources, Reilly has the potential to get Nebraska winning again. But maybe not this year.

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052013-national-Obama-Morehouse-CommencementCan someone explain to me what Rethugs mean when they say “Obama has wrecked the country”?

Hmmm.  Saved us from an economic disaster, passed a health care bill, oversaw negotiation of an important nuclear treaty, killed Bin Laden, etc.  I don’t agree that all of these are stellar accomplishments (although there are many others which are stellar, such as his attention to climate), but they are . . . accomplishments.  On the face of things, Obama has been a far better prex than any recent Rethug, and I imagine historians will say as much.

Is this claim code for Obama’s preference for negotiation over war?

Or should we read it as code for “Obama has softened the country into political correctness?  multiculturalism?”  Ie is this claim just more racism, albeit more heavily veiled than usual?

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A Reminiscence

huskers1965offenseOn Saturday last, the University of Nebraska honored members of its 1965 football team. That was the first Nebraska team ever to be ranked first nationally. They were good–the ’65 team won all their games in the Big Eight by double digits. Their only defeat came in the Orange Bowl, where they lost the national championship to Alabama.

That year marked the beginning of Nebraska’s glory days, although none of us knew that at the time.

I graduated from Nebraska in 1965. Students’ season tickets sold for ten dollars, believe it or not, and I attended every home game–as did every other student I knew. I wasn’t acquainted with any of the football players personally, but of course every student at Nebraska had heard of Freeman White, Tony Jeter, Frank Solich, and so on. It was a mark of pride even by association to be able to say something like “my girlfriend is dating the fullback.”

I’d been to parties where these fellows occasionally appeared, usually during summertime and usually to much acclaim. I was never introduced, perhaps because I was, after all, an English major. In senior year, though, my roommate and I were proficient at shuffleboard (in those days women had to have an excuse to hang out at the local bar) and we occasionally played against hulking guys whose entry into the bar would engender a whispered “wow–that’s so-and so.” Usually football players were not very good at the game, given that it requires subtlety rather than brute strength. No matter; they cheerfully bought us the requisite beer when they lost.

Ah, memories. I’m happy the university recognized these great former players, most of whom did not go on to the NFL but made successful careers in other ways. I was sort of shocked, though, to see that they have all grown old.  ; )


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George-Washington-Praying-SCI’m reading David Sehat’s The Myth of American Religious Freedom (Oxford UP 2011). Its thesis is that Protestant Christianity has always been the established religion of America. This remains true, Sehat writes, despite that pesky clause in the first article of the Constitution.

This claim will not come as news to three groups of Americans. The first group is the fundies who have been busy writing a fake American history for about thirty years now, a history that sez Jesus appeared every day before breakfast to the folks gathered there in Philadelphia in 1787 in order to instruct them about their day’s work. The second group consists of believers who are not Christian–Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, etc., who practice their religions at the risk of invisibility, insult, and sometimes actual danger. The third group is unbelievers, who are made aware every damn day that you dissenters had just better get with the program.

The reason for this is that Christian morality still saturates American legal and political thought. And the reason for that is its dominance among those who wrote the founding documents. According to Sehat, “for much of its history the United States was controlled by Protestant Christians who sponsored a moral regime that was both coercive and exclusionary. Proponents of the moral establishment claimed the religion was necessary for the health and preservation of the state” (8). So contemporary conservatives who claim that America is a “Christian nation” are not entirely wrong. But they are nonetheless mostly wrong, at least on legal (if not moral) grounds, because, as Sehat points out, if America was ever a Christian nation, “it was not so by consent.”

To understand this historical point, we need to remember that eighteenth-century America was very much a class-ridden culture wherein hereditary and/or financial elites were used to making all the decisions. Furthermore, elites were afraid of democracy, afraid of what “the rabble” would do if they were free to govern themselves. Hence they found (or invented) the notion of “the moral establishment,” on which judges often and actually relied in rendering legal decisions. Apparently this unspoken ideology concerning right and wrong was thoroughly Christian, just as it is today.

So now you know where blue laws originated.

The lone founder who swam against this ideological tide was James Madison, who did not trust said elites to practice democracy without resorting to coercion. So he worked hard to write actual democratic principles into the Constitution. Thus we have him to thank for that clause about “no establishment of religion.” In the Virginia legislature Madison struggled with Patrick Henry, a die-hard Christian, who cried that the “sacred and lovely thing Religion, ought not to rest on the ingenuity of logical deduction” (43). Despite Henry’s hysterical eloquence (or perhaps because of it) Madison won that round, arguing that a state constitution was a product of law, and hence should be based on reason rather than faith.

Then he had to fight the Christians all over again as a member of the federal House of Representatives. His first draft of a proposed amendment to the federal Constitution reads as follows: “the civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall a national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed” (45). Hooray!

As you can see, this beautiful (if radical) language was eventually rejected in favor of more tepid clause about “no establishment of religion” that now appears in Article I. Nevertheless, that clause is still protecting us unbelievers, and we owe an enormous debt to James Madison for smuggling it into the Constitution at a time when virtually everyone else saw nothing wrong with establishing Christian morality as the law of the land.

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