Archive for September 2015

The Pope and Ms. Davis

This could be titled losing the high moral ground.  The Pope made a horrendous mistake in meeting with Kim Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk who denied gays marriage licenses.  But let me give you his side, before I poke holes in it.

The Church does not countenance gays and especially gay marriage.  What gave us hope was his “Who am I to judge” moment in an earlier trip, when he was asked what he thought about a devout gay priest.  He has preached forgiveness and tolerance, and of course religious freedom.  The Daily Beast tells us:

On the flight back from the United States on Sunday, Terry Moran from ABC News asked the pope on behalf of the English-language journalists on board whether he “supported those individuals, including government officials, who say they cannot in good conscience, their own personal conscience, abide by some laws or discharge their duties as government officials, for example in issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Do you support those kinds of claims of religious liberty?”

Francis replied, “I can’t have in mind all cases that can exist about conscience objection. But, yes, I can say the conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right. It is a right. And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right. Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying ‘This right that has merit, this one does not.’ It [conscientious objection] is a human right. It always moved me when I read, and I read it many times, when I read the Chanson de Roland, when the people were all in line and before them was the baptismal font and they had to choose between the baptismal font or the sword. They had to choose. They weren’t permitted conscientious objection. It is a right and if we want to make peace we have to respect all rights.”

ABC’s Moran followed up with the question: “Would that include government officials as well?” Francis replied, “It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.”

Now I agree with the statement, “… the conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right.”  We always have the right to object and not to do something.  We also may have to bear the consequences. But the next statement I have some heartburn with: Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying ‘This right that has merit, this one does not.’ It [conscientious objection] is a human right.  

He seems to be saying that government should allow one to refuse to perform due to a moral objection as a natural right without any consequences.  But whose morals?  His?  ISIS’s? What he is essentially saying is that the moral dictates of a religion allow you to shirk any responsibility you don’t like and be free from consequences.  He is legitimizing discrimination based upon religion and he forgets how many religions are out there.

I would also argue that we absolutely should choose which right has merit and which doesn’t. I think he is just flat wrong on this one.  As we have learned, gays don’t choose to be gay, they just are.  So he is telling us we can’t apply that knowledge to deciding if it is right to discriminate because some church tells us it is okay?  Again, he is legitimizing religious discrimination against our fellow man.

Finally, he says that being a conscientious objector “is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right.” Again I agree.  If I wanted to say I am a pacifist because of my strong religious beliefs, I believe the government can’t make me kill as a soldier, and we don’t.  But I can not undermine the war effort for those who aren’t pacifist because my belief is against all killing. And that is exactly where his logic with Kim Davis leads us.

That is where Pope Francis made his giant mistake.  Kim Davis did not just withdraw because she is a conscientious objector to gay marriage.  She probably could have worked out an accommodation in her office.  The judge offered her one and she refused.  Instead she attempted to undermine the function of government and use government to force her belief on others by refusing to let others issue those licenses.  It was the very opposite of religious freedom, it was religious tyranny. In effect she was a religious terrorist, attempting to blow up lawful government by undermining the laws of our country and creating chaos.

That’s a whole different thing and the Pope legitimized and encouraged it.  And in doing that he voided his moral authority over any of us.  He told us to be empathetic and to do onto others as we would have them do onto us, and then he turned around and said, unless of course they are gay. And following this logic you could use the same reasoning to say, unless they are black, or Muslim, or in a mixed marriage, and it goes on and on.  It makes his whole moral construct a house of cards. How sad. May the Catholic Church slowly sink into the sunset.

Wednesday Morning News Mismash

Well … First I see that Kim Davis is claiming a visit with the Pope, and since they (the Vatican) haven’t denied it, I sadly think it might be true.  If the Pope did allow her access and gave aid and comfort to Kim, he just delegitimized his moral authority and tarnished his message in America.  I say that because what he did was to legitimize someone who is trying undermine the role of government in making sure we are all treated equally.

He also undermined his message about tolerance when Kim Davis and her ilk want to use government to discriminate against gays.  He basically reinforced the idea that his religion supersedes government and the will of the people.  It is the opposite of what the Founders established in our Constitution that respects all religions, but requires tolerance. He lent his comfort to intolerance.  So much for the moral authority of the Catholic Church.

We are seeing Congress moving forward on a clean funding bill for three months so we can go through this again in December.  It simply kicks the conservative war on America down the road until they can regroup after the Boehner move.  Then we do this again, but with a new speaker who will either be willing to thumb his nose at the radical right, or we will shut down the government.  As one Democrat put it, either a Republican is willing to lose his job with a challenge from the right or go along with crazies.

I opined yesterday about what is the real issue, Republican conservative ideology has failed and with no new ideas, you either distract from real issues  with made up issues (Benghazi, emails, Planned Parenthood), or you throw logic and data out the door and believe what you believe as a religion.  That would be the radical right.  This morning in the NYT Norman J. Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (not exactly a bastion of liberal thinking) and the co-author of It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, told us what he thinks:

The major issue in our current dysfunction is the struggle within a Republican Party that is not the traditional battle between moderates and conservatives — there are no moderates any more to speak of — but between radical insurgents and right-wing realists. The realists, like Boehner, understand that divided government requires compromise; the radicals’ credo is “never give up, never surrender.”

… More likely is that come December, we will be back to brinksmanship over government shutdowns, Planned Parenthood, Obamacare and the debt limit, while other national priorities linger unresolved. All that will happen on the eve of the formal start of a presidential campaign where virtually all the G.O.P. candidates are catering to radicalism and confrontation over realism and compromise — and bashing their own party’s leaders as much as they are Barack Obama.

Republicans are leading us into the abyss with divisive attacks on gays and women.  They are waving the neocon flag again (these are the same guys who got us into Iraq as a cake walk).  The core group of Congressmen who control the Republican Party takes no prisoners.  That means there will be no negotiations on anything.  Are you awake out there? If you want government to work again, don’t vote Republican. It is as simple as that. Democrats are not perfect and have their own warts, but they do actually want to govern.

UPDATE 0840:  Pope visit confirmed.  I can now ignore him as a moral leader.  He is purported to say conscientious objections have a long tradition.  He missed the point.  There was nothing wrong with her refusing to perform her job and stepping aside. She did not do that, but actively tried to force he her religious beliefs on others using our government.  Now I understand why the Catholic Church can’t figure out gays or woman’s right to choose, much less women in the clergy or celibacy.  He just undid all the good he thought he did here.

Russia and Syria

If you want to be distracted from the terrorist take over of our Congress by people who want to blow up government, let’s turn to Syria.  We are all agitated by the Russians moving in.  Soon the Russians will own Syria! If only.  Anybody paying attention to what is happening in Afghanistan as the Taliban makes a giant comeback?  How much treasury and lives did we waste there?  Have we learned nothing?  Getting embroiled in the Middle East is a repeat of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby.  Slap it and you are stuck to it.  And it is intractable.

The Russians may soon find themselves the new evil Satan in the eyes of most Sunnis.  And it is like they learned nothing (we sure didn’t) after their incursion into Afghanistan.  Here is how I read the situation there.  The Russians are supporting Assad and quite frankly Assad and his army are the only reliable fighting force against ISIS in the country.  The rest of the country is in total disarray, all hating Assad and his brutal suppression.  But sorting our who are democracy loving patriots and who are Muslim extremist is impossible. There is no reliable fighting force on the ground to either counter Assad or ISIS.  Given that reality, what is your choice of what to do?

One possible scenario is to team with the Russians, and hold your nose here, Assad, to counter ISIS, with the stipulation that after ISIS is forced out of the country, Assad steps down, but we maintain the government infrastructure to run the country, with an international force there to keep the peace and make all parties compromise.  That is what Thomas Friedman suggested this morning, more or less.  Isn’t that kind of what we did in Iraq, except keeping the government infrastructure thing?

Of course we would be siding with the Shiites against the Sunnis, but in our perpetual optimism, we can get them to all work together.  I doubt it, and I doubt that it would work, even if we could get a plan similar to the one above in place.  The other options are simply worse.  So when you decide to bash President Obama on his Syria policy, ask yourself again, do we really want to go there?  Are there really any good options?  The Middle East is a mess of their own making.  In the end only they can solve it.  In the meantime we want to staunch the refugee flow, and do something humanitarian to stop ISIS and the killing.  I have no idea what that should be because every choice has major blow back.

Cheered up yet?  Well back to the House of Representatives where the people who hate government and are living in the 19th century are being put in charge.  Hot digity!

UPDATE 0800:  I see where John McCain is going to weigh in and we should all sit on the edge of our chair.  John thinks we could have “won” the Vietnam war and most people today don’t even know what that was about.  Now I can give you a preview:  Bash the President for not picking the unpickable and getting involved on the ground. If we get to a way forward, which he may dodge because of all the above, he may go down the Lindsey Graham road, invade again.  Yikes.

UPDATE 0835: John McCain spoke and as predicted, bashed President Obama for not being tougher in the world.  What that means for going forward, is anybody’s guess.  What does get tougher mean except more military involvement?

Baseball Junkie

As some of you may know I am an A’s (Oakland Athletics) fan, but also a baseball fan in general.  I just like to watch really good baseball.  Now that may seem counterintuitive since the A’s were anything but good this year, but a fan is a fan.  The one thing about being a long time A’s fan is that almost every team has an ex-A’s player so you root for them to do well. Some of the best players in baseball today are ex-A’s players (Donaldson, Cespedes).

Add to that, that we are entering the playoff season and this last week is exciting because even those out of contention are playing teams that are trying to get a wild card slot, so they are meaningful.  The other thing I like about this sport is the camaraderie  between all players.  If there is sportsmanship and class left in professional sports, you will find it in baseball.

Well last weekend the A’s had the big three (Hudson, Mulder, and Zito) back for the fans to show their appreciation.  Mulder is already out of baseball due to an injury.  Hudson is in his last year pitching for the Giants before retirement, and Zito was just called up from Triple A in a last attempt to get back into the Show before he retires too.  The A’s were playing the Giants, so on Saturday the Giants started Hudson, and the A’s started Zito.  Both lasted only 2 innings, but it was a moving moment.  When they left the game (it was played in Oakland) the fans demanded that they take bows.

This was a class act by not only the Giants and the A’s, but by the fans who wanted to show their appreciation for some of great moments (remember the 20 game winning streak) these guys gave us even after they went on to other teams.  I guess that is why I love baseball.  We are having a love affair with the game and the people who play it well.  The Giants and A’s fans made that point Saturday and Sunday when all three appeared on the field to receive their tribute.  What a nice moment and way to say goodbye to these guys.  I love this sport.

Some Tuesday Insanity

If you have watched the Planned Parenthood hearings, you may have to buy a new TV after throwing a chair through it.  I really have no idea how Republicans can be so stupid.  If they didn’t alienate every woman in the country by now, they certainly did today.  Continuous interruptions and rude treatment was the order of the day from the Republicans who were obviously not interested in the facts, but scoring points with their base that wants to outlaw all abortions.

I am not going to try and rebut all their nonsense and misogyny.  Here are the facts on funding and how it is spent from NPR.  It is clear Planned Parenthood has broken no laws and are not using federal funds for abortions or any other illegal activity.  It is also clear after five state investigations that the allegations about selling fetal tissue for profit are also patently false.  Finally, it is clear that these Republicans are trying to use false accusations and innuendo to achieve an end, destroying Planned Parenthood, that is clearly allowed under our laws.

One other thing you might want to think about. Stem cells are on the front lines of curing many diseases and the development of vaccines.  Today there was a story that the British are using it to cure blindness.  What these Republicans would do is stop all that research in America and set back our biotech industry years.  Of course as soon as they or one of their loved ones could be helped by this technique, you would hear a different tune.  It is why Republicans originally voted for allowing the use of stems cells and fetal tissue in the first place.

In a related story that should tell you all you want to know about Carly Fiorina, Chuck Todd of Meet the Press directly challenged Ms. Firoina on her falsehoods about what the video’s she watched purported to show.  She denied she had said anything untrue (baby on the operating table being kept alive to harvest tissues by Planned Parenthood) and restated her lies.  That is what has been documented about Ms. Fiorina in her CEO career.  She is denial about her failures and shoots the messenger.  Great credentials for a President, right?  But it is a great way to not be informed by reality.

Finally, I see where after 18 years, and an obviously rehabilitated woman, Georgia is going to go ahead and execute her today.  I guess the Pope’s words fell on deaf ears (Probably Southern Baptists).  So we show the whole world what a tribe of savages we are because revenge is everything.  It accomplishes nothing except continuing the ever widening circle of killing begets killing with one justifying the other and pandering to most base emotions of families.  Great.  Now we can have more victims.  I am so ashamed.  Where is my wine glass.

Lower Taxes and the Economy will Take Off

That is the basic Republican mantra now chanted by Donald Trump. And of course jobs will be created. Oh, and let’s not forget the giant bonus, with the growth in the economy, they pay for themselves with increased tax revenue.  Who wouldn’t want to do this? If this works, it’s genius. Except there is a problem.  It has never worked.  The rich got richer, the deficit got much bigger, and the jobs along with economic growth did not materialize (Business Insider).  But they did grow economic inequality. Yeah Team.

We have the Bush years and the present day example of Governor Brownback in Kansas (Prospect) to look at for evidence of massive tax cuts and job growth (Forbes).  In both cases deficits soared because the growth did not materialize and neither did the tax revenue.  Further evidence comes directly from the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), who was appointed by GOP lawmakers earlier this year to do their “dynamic scoring” of budget proposals, and to their shock, he said at a press briefing that tax cuts don’t pay for themselves:

“No, the evidence is that tax cuts do not pay for themselves. And our models that we’re doing, our macroeconomic effects, show that.” (The Hill)

What’s a poor Republican to do?  His whole basis for free lunch economics does not stand up to scrutiny.  Well as the Prospect cited above points out, they don’t care about no stink’in evidence:

But the real source of the conservative support for tax cuts is moral, not practical. They believe that taxes are inherently immoral — the government stealing from you the fruits of your labor (or inheritance or wise investments, as the case may be) to enact its nefarious schemes. Taxes should therefore be as low as possible. Conservatives also tend to believe that progressive taxation is doubly immoral, since it takes more from the most virtuous among us.

So we now have two tax plans presented by two of the Republican candidates (Bush and Trump) and thanks to Vox here is their impact:

And neither are “revenue neutral.  Trump’s is estimated to cost $10.8 trillion in its first decade.  Bush’s tax plan would cost $3.6 trillion over 10 years.  Read deficit here deficit hawks. Yikes.

The reality is that we need more tax revenue, either from a growing economy (remember what happen under Clinton when he raised taxes and the economy continued to grow and deficits shrunk?) or from just raising taxes.   We need to pay for what we need while maintaining a reasonable debt.  And many of those things we need, like making education affordable, single payer health care, a secure retirement system, improved infrastructure, are the very things that will grow our economy for the future and make our debt smaller.  So we need a tax system that is fair, allows a fair gain for risk taking, yet makes sure that all of us share in its growth, while properly servicing our debt,

Certainly this means that one of things we will have to do is revise the tax code.  How we do that is grist for another blog, but beware of strangers bearing gifts.  As you can see from the above analysis, there is no free lunch, and Republicans are wolves in sheep’s clothing selling old failed policies as new ideas.  What else is new?  Happy Tuesday.

Republican Dysfunction

First we ought to start with the conventional wisdom.  Republicans are in disarray because a small but powerful group of right wing representatives are unhappy that conservative government (majorities in the House and Senate) has not resulted in the policies they want to see.  Their attempts at hostage taking politics (we will shut down government unless you …) is resisted by more moderate Republicans as ineffective and counterproductive.  So what do these right wing conservatives want?  Here is a list:

  1. Defund Planned Parenthood – Problem with this is that abortion is legal, no federal funds go to abortion, Planned Parenthood has broken no laws, and if defunding them were successful, millions of women would lose reproductive healthcare
  2. Rescind Obamacare – Problem with this is that the plan has been a success holding down costs and insuring millions.  There are many parts of Obamacare that Republicans love like no denial of coveage for existing conditions, and the Republicans have no plan on how they would replace it.  It would leave the country and healthcare in chaos if they were successful
  3. Massive cuts to government through defaulting on our debt by not raising the debt ceiling – Problem with this could cost the country trillions of dollars if we actually default on bills we have already incurred.  Instead of identifying highly popular programs to cut, they just want to ruin our county’s economy by defaulting on our debts to reduce government
  4. Restrict a womans right to choose – This not only includes abortion, but many forms of contraception.  Problem with this is that they are not satisfied with having the right to choose for themselves, they want to use government to enforce their religious beliefs about life on the rest of the country
  5. Make marriage only between a man and a woman – The problem with this is similar to restricting a woman’s right to choose, they are not satisfied with having the freedom to not have to enter into gay relationship, they want to use government to prevent anyone else from exercising their right to do so.  Again they are trying to legislate their religious beliefs on the rest of us
  6. Religious Freedom Laws – The problem with this is that while these laws pretend to protect a person’s right to worship as they see fit, they already have that right, and what these laws do is attempt to legitimize discrimination in the public square.  Churches are free to not marry gays, or restrict membership as they see fit.  But in the public square we all get treated equally and they want to end that.
  7. Larger tax cuts and rescinding many regulations – The problem with rescinding regulations is that the financial melt down of 2008 is completely forgotten as unregulated banks ran amok.  It ignores lesson after lesson of what unregulated greed in the capitalism leads us to. They want to further cut taxes yet they have no plan to rebuild our aging infrastructure except a belief that tax cuts will create more revenue which even their own guy in the GAO has debunked
  8. Balanced Budget Amendment – The problem with this is that it is an attempt to ignore the last 100 years of economic experience that says that the government can reduce stress due to business cycles by deficit spending in downturns.  Without deficit spending we would never have funded WWII or gotten out of the Depression. What this would do is return us to being totally at the mercy of business cycles with no tools to deal with them

Now as John Boehner has pointed out as he is leaving is that none of this is going to happen with a Democratic President and a Senate that can filibuster.  So the conservative right wants to use shutting down the government (extortion) to get what they want, which is unacceptable to the majority in this country, but they do not care because they really do hate government. Sadly 35 years of government is the problem propaganda starting with Ronald Reagan has taken its toll on rational thinking among these radical conservatives. Hostage taking is not governing and they don’t care.  They want less governing.

Now all of that is true (the conventional wisdom of the problem), but there is a bigger problem for the whole Republican Party.  They have no new ideas.  If they are not part of the right wing caucus and don’t buy most of the above, and most of it is nonsensical as I demonstrated, then they are mostly economic conservatives who buy into low taxes, trickle down economics, smaller government, and less regulation bunch.  But we did lower taxes and trickle down economics and it failed.  Less regulation has led to gross abuses throughout our economic system, from safety and health, to banking system failures.  That fact coupled with the fact that tax cuts don’t spur growth, and the Republican economic theory collapses.  And they have nothing left to offer our ailing economy.

Republicans will talk reducing economic inequality, but it is their policies that facilitate it.  We have a system that lets the wealthy keep most of their earnings in the false assumption they will invest it.  It has not happened. So the Democrats want to challenge that cash flow with raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, revising the tax code to incentivize investment, and tax the wealthy fairly.  They have plans to reduce the cost of education and raising taxes to pay for infrastructure upgrades and improvements.  But Republicans come to the table with the same shtick of cutting taxes, reducing regulations, and trickle down.

So the real dysfunction is that what the Republicans have believed in, only works for the 1%.  And what they are trying to hide from is that they have no idea how to fix the economy.  So we are entering a period where the Republican Party is in disarray because a minority are crazy and reality doesn’t enter their calculations for success, and the rest have a dearth of new ideas about how to fix the economy after their old ideas have failed.  They are going into a defensive crouch of denial and swinging wildly.  See attacks on Planned Parenthood and Hillary’s emails.  Anything to distract from real problems and real solutions. The country is in for a rough ride.

Oh, and this dysfunction explains the Republican presidential primary where all the nutty outsiders (Trump, Carson, Fiorina) are way ahead of the traditional party favorites like Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, or John Kasich.  All the pundits have not been able to figure out why these outsiders with wild angry trust me plans for our future are leading the pack.  The answer is that your conventional Republicans are offering the same stuff that almost everyone out there now knows doesn’t work.  So where are the new ideas? Well Trump, Carson, and Fiorina don’t really have new ideas, but they sound new and different, or at least wildly radical.  If we ever get down to rational policy making based on facts, Republicans are in deep, deep trouble.

Pope Visit – Who Won?

Sadly that is where we are in our political world.  The Pope brought us many messages about how to treat our fellow man, from taking care of the poor, to immigration, criminals, refugees, global warming, and the death penalty, and the question is not how to do this better, but who got more points, liberals or conservatives.

I really do have to laugh.  Since the basic message was empathy for our fellow man, and the definition of Republican is a dearth of empathy, who do you think won?  While pundits and talking heads will spin it as a message for both sides to work together (false equivalency), it was blatantly a message to the conservatives that most of what they do is mean spirited and selfish.

Oh, he touched on life at all phases of development must be protected, but then he turned to the death penalty leaving conservatives hanging.  He made a passing mention of traditional marriages, but nothing specifically about gays.  In fact his message that all lives are important really negated most of the traditional marriage stuff. Most of his visit was focused on helping the common man where most Republicans like to blame the common man for his plight.

So who won?  We all did if we ignore all the God stuff and focus on the fact that we are all in this together.  Oh wait, I forgot!  Republicans earned what they got and the rest of us are just lazy people looking for another handout.  If you help us, you will just be encouraging us to slack some more. Oh and let’s build a wall and keep all brown people out.  Who do think most of the Pope’s messages were aimed at?

Religion or Republican Dysfunction?

I picked Religion today, Republican dysfunction tomorrow.  Why? After the 24/7 coverage of the Pope turning most of our news media into the Catholic Channel, maybe we need a little balance.  Well maybe not balance, but an alternate point of view.  I am not talking about the basic issue the Pope put forward, empathy for your fellow man of which I have no argument, but the whole idea of God.

We as a nation are so steeped in religion that we never just step back and look at it and ask why?  Let’s take the 9/11 ceremony which involved most of the great religions of the world.  Almost every one of them told us how great and wonderful God is, and each had elaborate ceremonies around that worship.  Why?  It is an old argument, but if he is so good, why do bad things happen?

Some cultures used to see bad things as God being mad. Those were tough times for virgins. Of course that strain of thought still runs deep in many conservative Christian religions. Remember Katrina was because God was mad at us for accepting gays. I wonder how he felt about Hitler or ISIS. What did the Jews or Shiites do to piss him off? Well you get the drift. It’s nonsense.

If we give him thanks for the bounty, why do we not hold him responsible for the famine?  Yeah, right.  God works in mysterious ways, or if you think about it, does not work at all and we just infuse everything we see with our mystical God. Maybe the ceremony part is to add mystery and weight to the belief.  Maybe it is to give a hierarchy of those who perform it.  Maybe they are to lend the perception of power to the church.  Maybe all of these.

But here is the real issue that bothered me throughout all of the religious observances and 24/7 Catholic propaganda:  Good only comes from God.  God gives us the power to be good, therefore without God, good does not exist.  We are too weak to do good things on our own.  I found that a very disturbing message hammered home again and again in this coverage.  There was this continuous drum beat that the good we can do in this world only comes from God.  It is really a pretty negative message about us.

So what we had was a six day infomercial on the existence of God and your need to believe in him to do good in the world when everything around tells us this is not so.  Here would be my counter question:  If you need God to gain the strength to do good, how come so many people use God to find the strength to do evil?  The Pope’s underlying message was that we are all in this together and we must have empathy for our fellow man and help him along the way.  So why do we need God for that message to be true?

We don’t.  We need our good sense, logic, and a healthy respect for our fellow man and that is all.  Whether you do good and help your fellow man through this adventure called life for God or for you is really not relevant.  It is the doing good that is the real issue.  By continuously reinforcing the belief that is only comes through the belief in God, religion was self promoting itself and no one was asking the hard questions about the down side.

One of the downsides is absolutism. If you believe in God then you have his word that is inviolate.  So then when his word is questioned by science or the reality of the evil the belief facilitates, your only recourse is to reinterpret the word. Must have misunderstood the Gospel and then we have facilitated the ultimate power wielder, the interpreters.  Why not just do away with all that (Kim Davis) and examine the belief in terms of logic and reason? Well back to the infomercial so that the power of the church and the belief in God can be wielded over you.

So I do not expect a 24/7 look at a life without God, but once in a while during all this hype, we might have stopped and paused and thought about those who do not believe and yet do good.  We might have asked why we need all this pomp and ceremony to really bring us a very simple message, we are our brothers keeper.   Remember some of those God thumping priests have done amazing acts of evil in his name and use the belief and ceremony to hide behind.  We should have been asking some of these questions too about where the belief in God can take us and whether the church should be our ultimate moral guide. In fact we should be questioning some of the Church’s beliefs to show it is anything but infallible.

But in a country steeped in religion, what we got was very little questioning and whole lot of fawning.  Well, I have questions.

The Catholic Channels

The coverage of the Pope by MSNBC and CNN has been anything but news.  Don’t get me wrong.  The Pope did make news when he spoke to Congress or his 9/11 visit.  His message about having compasion for the common man has been inspirational.  But mass after mass, Pope mobile parades, and transfer to his nightly abode is not news.

But that isn’t what was so blantantly bad about this coverage.  What was so blantantly bad was that it was turned into an infomercial for the Catholic Church, basically white washing all its problems. and of course belief in God.  Catholics pushing their version of their religion endlessly and white collar experts that spun the message and their problems.  Sure there are lots of people who are very interested in every move of the Pope.  But as major news networks serving the whole population, there should have been balanced coverage.

The abuse of the church of children is still a problem even if the clergy interviewed tried to present it as a societal problem.  That’s a gross oversimplification when you take the families spiritual advisor who has inordinate authority and then abuses that authority to ruin peoples lives in an absolute rejection of their religions dictates.

But what I found most interesting was the lack of discussion about some of the church’s more socially questionable policies like birth control, abortion, women in the church, and gays.  And I learned something really important as a non-Catholic and non-believer about these positions.  They are generally not supported by the Gospel.  Fareed Zakaria, as a non-Christian, wrote an op-ed about this and I will repeat some of it here because it really does raise serious questions about these policies as the world of God:

When I came to the United States in the 1980s, I remember being surprised to see what “Christian values” had come to mean in American culture and politics — heated debates over abortion, abstinence, contraception and gays. In 13 years of reading, reciting and studying the Bible, I didn’t recall seeing much about these topics.

That’s because there is very little in there about them. As Garry Wills points out in his perceptive new book, “The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis,” “Many of the most prominent and contested stands taken by Catholic authorities (most of them dealing with sex) have nothing to do with the Gospel.”

The church’s positions on these matters were arrived at through interpretations of “natural law,” which is not based on anything in the Bible. But because those grounds looked weak, conservative clergy sought to bolster their views with biblical sanction. So contraception was condemned by Pope Pius XI, Wills notes, through a pretty tortuous interpretation of a couple of lines in Genesis that say Onan “spilled his seed on the ground” — since it involves ejaculation without the intent of conception.

The ban of women in the Catholic clergy is a similar stretch. When the Anglicans decided to ordain female priests in 1976, Pope Paul VI presented a theological reason not to follow that path. Women could not be priests, he decreed, because Jesus never ordained a female priest. “True enough,” Wills writes. “But neither did he ordain any men. There are no priests (other than the Jewish ones) in the four Gospels. Peter and Paul and their fellows neither call themselves priests nor are called priests by others.”

Wills even takes on abortion, opposition to which some Catholics have taken as fundamental to their faith. “This is odd,” Wills writes, “since the matter is nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament or New Testament, or in the early creeds. But some people are convinced that God must hate such an immense evil and must have expressed that hatred somewhere in his Bible.” In fact, Wills points out, the ban is based on a complex extrapolation from vague language in one verse, Psalm 139:13.

Clearly many of these policies may just be flat wrong and have nothing to do with the Holy Books.  Maybe the press could have spent some time on these questionable polices, instead of trying to conflate their righteousness with Pope Francis’s message from Jesus, “Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.” Oh, and that is decidely an un=Republican message.  Yes the visit was political.