April 24, 2004

I can't imagine Cardinal Arinze's edict being anything other than a huge political break for John Kerry, and a non-starter for the Roman Catholic Church. In his passionate defense of the Church, Why I Am a Catholic, Garry Wills notes that for much of American history, the Roman Catholic Church officially opposed the Constitutional doctrine of the separation of church and state; instead, the Church held that it was the only true religion of state, that "error had no rights" and that toleration of Protestantism or Judaism was not permitted in Catholic dogma. This lasted until the late-50's, when John F. Kennedy's nascent campaign for the Presidency brought to the forefront the internal debates within the Church about its proper role in the modern, democratic world.

Kennedy, remembering the anti-Catholic bigotry that sank Al Smith's Presidential campaign in 1928, took great pains to disavow any notion that he would be the Pope's servant in the White House, and in a famous speech in Houston, shamed the Protestant majority into acknowledging the patriotism of American Roman Catholics. Kennedy shrewdly realized that his independence from the Church was not only necessary to winning the Presidency, it was a stance that had no downside with rank-and-file Catholic laity, who had grown increasingly distant from the reactionary policies of Rome. Not wanting to torpedo JFK's candidacy, the Church was forced to accept the doctrine of church-state separation, and the assumption of John XXIII to the papacy further accelerated efforts at reform which culminated in the Second Vatican Council in 1962 (Wills, pp. 214-221).

Now, a second JFK is being challenged to restate his position on the separation of church and state. Cardinal Arinze's trial balloon has no official standing as Church dogma, so American bishoprics will continue to remain divided on permitting dissenters to receive the Eucharist. Any further action to impose sanctions on pro-choice Catholic politicians will prove to be ineffectual, and may do more than a thousand attack-ads to reverse the perception that Kerry's views are malleable. A candidate who would seemingly risk excommunication in order to remain true to his principles would certainly be viewed as a formidable political force, one not to be underestimated, and certainly not one whose toughness to deal with terrorists could be challenged. So if Rome wants to press this issue further, I say, "Bring it on !!"
Dr. J gives Friends the warm, loving tribute it deserves.

April 23, 2004

The tinfoil-hat-wearing brigade, when they aren't making dark allusions to John Kerry "faking" his injuries during the Vietnam War, are now obsessed with the so-called "oil for food" scandal involving the U.N. While it does seem obvious that Saddam profited rather handsomely from the foreign aid that trickled into Iraq after the first Gulf War (surprise, surprise), conspiracy theorists who see the U.N. as a satanic front are using documents "uncovered" within the Iraqi Oil Ministry as evidence that the entire Security Council (save the U.S. and U.K.) was on the take. I suppose I would take this "scandal" more seriously if I didn't see the fingerprints of the Iraqi Governing Council and Ahmed Chalabi all over this. Forged documents implicating the enemy de jour have been abundant since we pulled the statue of Saddam down last year, and it's not as if baksheesh is all that unusual in the Middle East. I mean, when was the last time a Likud Prime Minister wasn't on the take?

In short, the "oil for food scandal" is a desperate attempt to shift the blame for the debacle now occurring in Iraq from the incompetents who started the war to those countries that refused to buy into our rationale. It isn't France's fault that Paul Wolfowitz is a clueless putz, and Russia is not to blame for the chickenhawk's great adventure into oblivion.
Pat Tillman, R.I.P. No one can say that he was just a cheering from the sidelines.

April 22, 2004

The person whom Meryl Streep says she patterned her character after in the upcoming remake of The Manchurian Candidate, Peggy "the Dolphin Queen" Noonan, has written another one of her fellative tributes to God's Holy Warrior. I guess it's one thing to feign surprise that Bush's approval ratings did not immediately plunge as a result of the setbacks at home and abroad the past two weeks; after all, Jimmy Carter's approval ratings soared after the hostages were taken in Tehran in 1979, and again after the failed rescue attempt in the desert in 1980. The immediate instinct of the public is to rally behind the leader when bad news hits. It's quite another to claim that President Bush is a "popular" president, liked and admired by "the people". His approval ratings are between 47 and 52 percent, hardly the marks of a beloved leader (and about ten points below Bill Clinton's the day he was impeached), and the most recent polling shows him anywhere from five points up to four points down against Kerry. He might still win reelection, but "the people" barely tolerate him.
A new poll in the LA Times shows Kerry with a commanding 12-point lead over the President in California. Since Gore defeated Bush by 13 points in this state last time out, the Times poll is in line with national polling that shows a dead-even race. After everything that has happened the last three years, the political dynamic doesn't seem to have changed a whole lot.

April 21, 2004

The "Sakharov of Israel", Mordechai Vanunu, was released from prison this morning, eighteen years after he had been kidnapped in Rome by the Israeli Secret Service. Vanunu, who spent much of his time in prison being held in solitary confinement, was convicted of "treason" in 1985 in a secret trial for detailing that nation's nuclear secrets (and lack of security over same) to the Times of London. Upon release, Vanunu immediately defied the gag order that had been imposed on him as a condition of his release (another condition, btw, forbids him from accessing the internet, so don't hold your breath waiting for the VanunuBlog), renewing his attack on Israel's nuclear program. Mazel tov !!

April 20, 2004

Nothing says "freedom" in Iraq like the Second Amendment.
The Bush Serenity Prayer, as told by Neal Pollack:
Heavenly Father, give me the power to try to change what I cannot, and to not change what I can. Give me the strength to believe what is obviously false. And grant me the lack of wisdom not to know the difference.
Two new polls are out showing Ralph Nader with between 4-6% of the vote if the election were held today, turning a dead-even race into a Bush win. I don't pretend to be an insider, but I'm quite sure that almost nobody believes he will attain that level, particularly since he got only 2.7% of the vote last time, when he was on the ballot in almost every state, running at the head of a legitimate (albeit minor) political party, and still possessing a positive reputation with the public. Frankly, I'd be surprised if he topped one percent in November (Pat Buchanan, who was on the ballot in every state in 2000, got less than half a percent), and any pollster that continues to treat him seriously is committing malpractice.

April 19, 2004

As Prof. J. reminds us, this will not be the first Presidential election at risk from the threat of terrorist thugs....
George Bush got a lot of mileage in the mid-term elections by attacking Democrats who opposed his version of the legislation creating the Dept. of Homeland Security because it didn't contain labor protections for employees of the new department. It was a cynical maneuver; as we have learned from the Kean Commission, the mistakes that led to 9/11 resulted from policy neglect, particularly from the Bush Administration, and not because of lax overtime standards in the Defense Department. As a matter of policy, though, it was also a shortsighted attack, since it is precisely those occupations where organized labor is still strong, such as the police, that often have the best view as to our vulnerabilities to a terrorist attack.

One particularly important union in any effort to stop terrorism is the ILWU, representing longshoremen and maritime workers. While the attack on September 11 has us increasingly focused on attacks from the sky, it is no less important that we be vigilant elsewhere, especially in our nation's ports. This letter, sent last month from ILWU President James Spinosa to the Director of Port Security for the D.H.S., chillingly details the complete failure of port operators to implement basic security measures mandated by the government. Even more disturbing has been the lack of response by the DHS; apparently, trying to enforce regulations against private companies violates the political credo of this administration, while bashing unions remains par for the course.