Of Priests and Oilmen

Pope Francis’s positions have compelled a number of politicians once again to declare themselves Americans first, Catholics second. Rick Santorum, a GOP candidate who has long attributed his staunchly conservative views to his faith, dismissed the encyclical in advance, quipping that the pope should “leave science to the scientists”. (Perhaps it bears noting that the pope trained as a chemist before joining the clergy.)

Religion and politics: The Republicans have a pope problem | The Economist.

The Economist is not the first to report on this problem – The American Conservative has been discussing this at some length, including a damning piece by the devout Crunchy Con Rob Dreher excoriating Jeb Bush for being a “cafeteria Catholic.”

At some point, the Republican candidates for President are going to have to recognize that their messages on climate are looking increasingly like they are coming from the public relations departments of America’s largest fossil fuel producers.

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Johns Hopkins students: Chick-fil-A on campus a ‘microaggression’ against LGBT community

Johns Hopkins students: Chick-fil-A on campus a ‘microaggression’ against LGBT community.

Microaggression? Or hypersensitivity?

You decide. My money is on the latter in the vast majority of cases, this one included.

Republicans for Campaign-Finance Reform

Republicans for Campaign-Finance Reform: Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie, and Ted Cruz — The Atlantic.

David Graham’s excellent article explaining that campaign finance reform is not just a cause of the Left. There is now a growing shadow caucus of Republicans who, for different but parallel reasons, are tired of moneyball politics.

One cannot help but wonder about the sincerity of our elected officials about campaign finance reform. It is becoming plain that the way to bring about this change is my all but forcing it upon Congress. Why ever would an incumbent politician rock the boat on which he or she as bet their career?

The National Research Council on The Growth of Incarceration in the United States

The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences | The National Academies Press.

The National Research Council offers a thought-provoking account of why the rate of imprisonment in the US has quadrupled in the past decade and is disproportionately poor, young, minority, addicted, mentally ill, and badly educated.

The report makes the case that incarceration is now hurting our society rather than helping it, and recommends changes in policy as a result.

No doubt this the conclusions and recommendations will be vigorously debated. They should: it is time for a serious discussion about incarceration in this country that will result in our re-thinking the nature and purpose of our correctional institutions.

The book is available for a free download (or in paperback for $67.46) at the National Academies Press site.

RFRA: Not Like Jim Crow Laws at All

RFRA: Not Like Jim Crow Laws at All.

Jonah Goldberg provides a lesson in false equivalence. I am still on the fence about the RFRA: there are reasonable arguments about “slippery slopes” on both sides. Now that Indiana seems to have watered-down the vintage significantly, one hopes that we can all take a break and think through the issue of ourselves, rather than allowing the highly-exercised pontificators on both sides lead the day.

Part of that process, I believe, is reading and understanding the calm, reasoned arguments from both sides of the issue. You may not agree with Jonah Goldberg’s take on the RFRA, but you must appreciate the fact that employing fallacies in defense of your argument only winds up undermining your argument among those who either disagree or who have yet to be convinced. Worse, you are engaging in the worst kind of demagoguery.

Let us have a good debate in this country about religious freedom. But let us not employ fallacy or hyperbole on either side.

The Roosevelts who despised each other: The untold story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth – Salon.com

The Roosevelts who despised each other: The untold story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth – Salon.com.

Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth
Mark Peyser
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday
2015

I don’t often link articles from Salon, but this one is likely the perfect read for an Easter Sunday: a brief reminiscence of two cousins, one dubbed “Mrs. Democrat,” and one “Mrs. Republican,” who wielded power in Washington for decades on the twin engines of their heritage and their personal gravitas. In the process, they helped lay the groundwork for more women to step into roles of power and leadership in the US.

I will confess that I am a longtime fan of “Mrs. L,” not simply because she was Teddy Roosevelt’s favored child or because she was a Republican, but because she made it her life’s duty to tweak the nose of the Washington establishment. She demanded and received homage from presidents and power-brokers, smoked a pipe in her later years, and the sofa in her parlor boasted a crocheted pillow with a characteristic bastardization of the Golden Rule: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, come sit by me.”

Read the article, and pick up a copy of Marc Peyser’s book on the battle between the two women. It is a great read about Washington behind closed doors told through the story of two extraordinary women.