Whose values does this Pope really represent?

I don’t know whether to call it “Pope Power” or “Francis Frenzy,” but whatever it was, I wasn’t impressed.

You’d think that I would be. After all, I like what the guy has to say about capitalism, global warming, and international conflict. Hey, anybody who channels his namesake, Francis of Assisi, and calls money “dung” has at least a few points coming.

But what I can’t get past is that, for all his quasi-neo-liberation theology, His Holiness Francis I is also the latest supreme earthly embodiment of an institution that has at its heart a sacralized, hierarchical, and authoritarian doctrine that spins in a direct line from the Council of Nicea in 325 CE.

Continue reading

No flags for me this patriotic week

Confederate battle flags unfurled at state capitals. Ten Commandments monuments in courthouses. Swastika tattoos on the forearms of skinheads.

It’s pretty easy to dislike and descry totems like these, isn’t it?

The first is a sad remnant of not just a lost war but a morally bankrupt way of life, one based on the false presumption of the inherent inequality of different iterations of our single species. The second enforces the desire to impose the majority mythology on the personal, social, and political lives of everyone, believer or not. And the last is nothing else than a declaration of ignorance, hatred, and violence.

This week, with Canada Day on the Tuesday and U. S. Independence Day on Saturday, one question begs to be asked: How about adding the Maple Leaf and the Star Spangled Banner? Do they belong on the same list of evil influences as the others?

Most people will say no, and many will find the very question offensive, if not nonsensical.

Not me.

Continue reading

Dancing around the truth of Charleston

At the core of the right’s self-serving reactions to the Charleston massacre is one truth that’s so obvious that it must be its blinding clarity that keeps conservatives from seeing it. America’s racism is so deeply engrained in the culture that to many people it has become invisible.

How else to comprehend explanations like Mike Huckabee’s, that a young, male white supremacist’s slaughter of nine black churchgoers is most importantly another secularist attack on Americans’ right to pray? Or the NRA’s loathsome cry for — what else? — more guns, so that those targeted churchgoers could have gone all O.K. Corral on the perp’s ass?

This mass murder — no, it’s not an “incident” or an “event” — highlights how hard it is for some white people to admit the widespread reality of racism. No, it hasn’t gone away. And ignoring it won’t make it go away. Continue reading

Killing a killer is killing

Why capital punishment?

What makes a society kill with calculated, cold-blooded rationality?

If I were ever going to support the death penalty, certainly the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bomber, would qualify for my approval. After all, he and his brother killed four people and injured more than 250 others, apparently without a thought for the lives they were changing, wrecking, and ending. Tsarnaev is reported to have shown little or no remorse, nor has he ever denied his part in the attack. He was quite willing to plead guilty and accept life in prison without parole if the state would take the death penalty off the table.

But even in this case, I am as revolted by the penalty verdict as I was by the initial outrage.

Perhaps more revolted.

Continue reading

Which view of the “Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015” is really “immoral”?

Need more proof that the Republicans in the U. S. Congress are really, really, out of touch with the lives of most Americans?

The Huffington Post reports that the House of Representative has voted to repeal the 100-year old estate tax — best viewed as a retro-payment for the government protections, infrastructure, and (in some cases) subsidies that have helped the 0.2% of the population who would ever have to pay the tax to acquire (and in the case of inherited riches, retain) so much wealth in the first place.

Continue reading

Let the market save the wilderness?

The previous two posts have dealt with the Harper government in Canada, in particular, and with the doctrines of neoliberalism, in general.

This post focuses on another arm of the neoliberal beast: “New Conservation.”

The traditional conservation movement is being challenged by a new species of “environmentalist” with the goal of reframing conservation efforts by replacing “conserve” with “manage.”

The core of this approach is the idea that the only way that we can motivate the level of political and financial support needed for conservation is to give up on trying to save the earth, the animals, the plants, or the climate because they’re intrinsically worthwhile or valuable. Instead, their argument goes, it’s only when we frame the struggle for survival in terms of entirely human goals and needs that success will be possible.

Continue reading

Courage is one thing, heroism quite something else

Several years ago, I wrote a Remembrance/Veterans Day post in which I expressed admiration for the aged veterans of WWII, people whom I came to know through sharing a cardio-fit group with them.

Although my own father had been a combat vet in that war, he and I never spoke about it. When I was young, he was still too traumatized to talk about the war. And when I grew older, he and I had a distancing conflict over my decision during the Vietnam occupation to refuse induction and leave the U.S. permanently. It was through my years on the next recumbent bike to survivors of my father’s war that I came most fully to appreciate their humble but crucial parts in preserving Western democracy, in what is rightly called the last war to ensure freedom.

So it is with a large dose of respect and sympathy for the individuals whom this day honours that on this Remembrance Day I have to agree in large part with David Masciotra’s provocative and hugely controversial Salon article, “You don’t protect my freedom:  Our childish insistence on calling soldiers heroes deadens real democracy.”

Continue reading

All the Uzis you can shoot!

OK, America, you’ve done it again.

Considering that you’re the country of my birth, where I lived until my mid-twenties, it shouldn’t be this easy to shock me.

The latest tragedy is today’s headline story of a 9-year old girl killing her gun instructor with, and this is the first shocker, a fully-automatic, live-round Uzi. You know, the Israeli submachine gun that’s designed to shoot Palestinians, not Americans.

When I read about this sort of thing, it reminds me just how far I’ve drifted from the “values” of my homeland. To be fair, I never much wanted to shot (at) things when I was a teenager. I’m sure that this lack of blood lust contributed to my eventual decision to tell Richard Nixon what he could do with his “Greetings from the President of the United States” letter, and a little while later my exodus from the land of the free-at-any-cost.

There are several more levels of shock and dismay in this story.

Continue reading

It’s hard to wring out the truth

“Flight MH17 went down over territory controlled by self-defense forces of the autonomous regions …”

 

“There are now thousands of mosques throughout Europe. With larger congregations than there are in churches. And in every European city there are plans to build super-mosques that will dwarf every church in the region. Clearly, the signal is: we rule.”

The first passage above refers to the crisis in the Ukraine. The second comes from a speech urging support for Israel in the Gaza conflict.

They are very different in content, but they share at least two characteristics. First, both passages come from material sent to me by e-mail. Second, and much more important, both are carefully crafted to reflect the political biases of their creators.

Continue reading