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Should Rep. Peter King Investigate The Catholic Church?

Rep. Peter King, the Long Island congressman who for years supported the Irish Republican Army as it waged a terror campaign to eject the British from Northern Ireland, says that track record has no bearing on his controversial decision to hold hearings this week on what he calls the “radicalization” of Islam in America.

The two examples are different, he argues, and the main reason is that unlike radical Muslims, the I.R.A. never launched attacks in the United States. (That made sense, since Irish-Americans were sending crucial material support to the I.R.A.)

“I understand why people who are misinformed might see a parallel. The fact is, the I.R.A. never attacked the United States. And my loyalty is to the United States,” King, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told The New York Times.

Okay, so how about investigating the Roman Catholic Church, another religious community — like Islam — and one to which the Irish-Catholic congressman also professes great loyalty?

As Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen pointed out on Tuesday, if Congress is going to start investigating religious groups whose members have attacked Americans, that could be bad news for the Catholic Church given the extent of the clergy sexual abuse scandal. (And Cohen’s piece was published hours before the latest shocker, the mass suspension of 21 priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia following a grand jury probe — the second since 2005 — of the sexual abuse of children by clergy in the city.)

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League jumped on Cohen — as is his wont — for citing an exaggerated figure of 100,000 possible victims of clergy abuse, noting, correctly, that the figure is more like 12,000 (though this crime is notoriously under reported). Donohue did not, however, dispute Cohen’s central premise about the problematic nature of King’s investigation of Islam, and a toll of thousands of children abused over five decades is hardly what the lawyers might call exculpatory evidence.

Little wonder that former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, a Republican, onetime FBI agent and federal prosecutor, and devout Catholic, likened some bishops to the Mafia when he was named in 2002 to be the first head of a lay oversight board to keep the hierarchy honest in its abuse-prevention policies.

Such characterizations got Keating forced out by the bishops after a year in the post, and his resignation letter still minced no words: “To resist grand jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church.”

Of course, a congressional investigation of the Catholic Church would be met with howls of protests from the likes of Donohue and most certainly Peter King, and rightly so.

The point is that the religious community that Muslims today most clearly resemble is the Roman Catholic Church, and it was thus as recently as King’s own youth, when John F. Kennedy barely won election due to concerns that one could not be a “good Catholic” and a “good American.”

Indeed, during the campaign Kennedy famously had to assure Protestant pastors that he would never take orders from the Vatican (a pronouncement many conservative Christians today now hold against Kennedy and his Catholic heirs in the Democratic Party — sometimes you can’t win for losing).

King’s hearing set for Thursday has been compared to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, while others speculated that they would be akin to holding congressional hearings on the role of Christianity in promoting violence against gays or abortion providers.

But the Islamic-Catholic analogy is most apt.

Like Muslims in America today, Catholics were seen as foreign-born immigrants who were subject to a foreign ruler, namely the Pope in Rome, who did not recognize religious freedom and democratic governance.

The latter charges were actually true, more or less, until the reforms of the 1960s, though American Catholics took little notice of such teachings, much as American Muslims would stare blankly if asked about the latest fatwa from some imam in Iran.

(In 1928, New York Gov. Al Smith, the first Catholic nominated as a presidential candidate, was challenged by a prominent Episcopal layman to explain how he could expect to uphold the Constitution if elected while at the same time accepting the teaching in papal encyclicals. “What the hell is an encyclical?” Smith reportedly asked. He still got creamed by Herbert Hoover.)

During the 19th century a major political party was founded to combat Catholic influence, and Catholic students were unable to attend public schools without having to imbibe Protestant teachings. Catholics were subject to outbursts of popular violence, and when the pope donated a stone for the construction of the Washington Monument in 1854, an anti-Catholic mob threw it into the Potomac River. Thomas Nast’s famous 1875 cartoon, “The American River Ganges,” showed St. Peter’s Basilica in the background with mitred Catholic bishops as crocodiles attacking the United States to devour the nation’s schoolchildren.

Such sentiments were all too common, as were efforts — as Paul Moses noted in Commonweal magazine — to stop the construction of Catholic churches in U.S. cities, almost a mirror image of the fierce arguments last year against construction of the so-called “ground zero” mosque, also known as the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan.

It was King, in fact, who had a key role in fomenting opposition to the Islamic center, saying early last year that it was “particularly offensive” because “so many Muslim leaders have failed to speak out against radical Islam, against the attacks” of 9/11.

Those arguments laid the ground work for King’s subsequent charges that American Muslims and their leaders are not cooperating with authorities to thwart terrorist plots and that 80 percent of mosques in America are controlled by radical imams. Even though King has provided no evidence for the charges — and the latest research counters his claims — he is going ahead with a hearing to “test” his hypothesis.

King continued his line of argumentation on the eve of the hearing, telling the Associated Press that radical Islam is a distinct threat that must be investigated regardless of whose sensibilities are offended.

“You have a violent enemy from overseas which threatens us and which is recruiting people from a community living in our country,” King said. He could have been talking about his own Catholic community in the 1800s.

It is also interesting to note that Catholics often reacted to such denigration by trying to prove they were more patriotic than the Founding Fathers which, as Notre Dame church historians R. Scott Appleby and John T. McGreevy have pointed out, sometimes led to excesses like Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist hearings of the 1950s.

That’s a historical parallel Peter King may also want to remember.

By: David Gibson, Religion Reporter, Politics Daily, March 9, 2011

March 10, 2011 Posted by | Constitution, Equal Rights, Homeland Security, Islam, Islamophobia, Muslims, Politics, Racism, Religion, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

School of Glock-Get Your Graduate Degree Here

It’s been nearly nine weeks since that tragic shooting in Tucson, and you may be wondering whether there’s been any gun legislation proposed in the aftermath.

Well, in Florida, a state representative has introduced a bill that would impose fines of up to $5 million on any doctor who asks a patient whether he or she owns a gun. This is certainly a new and interesting concept, but I don’t think we can classify it as a response to Tucson. Jason Brodeur, the Republican who thought it up, says it’s a response to the health care reform act.

A sizable chunk of this country seems to feel as though there is nothing so secure that it can’t be endangered by Obamacare. It’s only a matter of time before somebody discovers that giving everyone access to health insurance poses a terrible threat to the armed forces, or the soybean crop, or poodles.

Brodeur’s is one of many, many gun bills floating around state legislatures these days. Virtually all of them seem to be based on the proposition that one of the really big problems we have in this country is a lack of weaponry. His nightmare scenario is that thanks to the “overreaching federal government,” insurance companies would learn who has guns from the doctors and use the information to raise the owners’ rates.

However, it turns out that the health care law has a provision that specifically prohibits insurers from reducing any coverage or benefits because of gun ownership. A St. Petersburg Times reporter, Aaron Sharockman, looked this up. I had no idea, did you? Apparently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid himself stuck this in to make the gun-lobby folks happy.

Which they really aren’t. The gun lobby will never be happy, unless the health care law specifically requires every American to have a pistol on his or her person at all times.

Great idea! thought State Representative Hal Wick of South Dakota, who tossed in a bill this year requiring every adult citizen to purchase a gun. Actually, even Wick admitted this one wasn’t going anywhere. It was mainly a symbolic protest against the you-know-what law.

Actual responses to the Tucson shooting — that is, something that might actually stop similar tragedies in the future or reduce the carnage — seem to be limited to a proposal in Congress to ban the sale of the kind of ammunition clip that allowed the gunman to fire 31 shots in 15 seconds. That bill is stalled at the gate. Perhaps Congress has been too busy repeatedly voting on bills to repeal the health care law to think about anything else. But, so far, the gun-clip ban has zero Republican supporters, which is a problem given the matter of the Republicans being in the House majority.

Meanwhile in the states, legislation to get more guns in more places (public libraries, college campuses) is getting a more enthusiastic reception.

The nation’s state legislators seem to be troubled by a shortage of things they can do to make the National Rifle Association happy. Once you’ve voted to allow people to carry guns into bars (Georgia), eliminated the need for getting a permit to carry a concealed weapon (Arizona) and designated your own official state gun (Utah — awaiting the governor’s signature), it gets hard to come up with new ideas.

This may be why so many states are now considering laws that would prohibit colleges and universities from barring guns on campus.

“It’s about people having the right to personal protection,” said Daniel Crocker, the southwest regional director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.

Concealed Carry on Campus is a national organization of students dedicated to opening up schools to more weaponry. Every spring it holds a national Empty Holster Protest “symbolizing that disarming all law-abiding citizens creates defense-free zones, which are attractive targets for criminals.”

And you thought the youth of America had lost its idealism. Hang your head.

The core of the great national gun divide comes down to this: On one side, people’s sense of public safety goes up as the number of guns goes down; the other side responds to every gun tragedy by reflecting that this might have been averted if only more legally armed citizens had been on the scene.

I am on the first side simply because I believe that in a time of crisis, there is no such thing as a good shot.

“Police, on average, for every 10 rounds fired, I think, actually strike something once or twice, and they are highly trained,” said Bill Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner.

Concealed Carry on Campus envisions a female student being saved from an armed assailant by a freshman with a concealed weapon permit. I see a well-intentioned kid with a pistol trying to intervene in a scary situation and accidentally shooting the victim.

And, somehow, it’ll all turn out to be the health care reform law’s fault.

By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 9, 2011

March 10, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP, Guns, Health Reform, Insurance Companies, National Rifle Association, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Wisconsin Democrats Can Teach Washington Democrats

Consider the contrast between two groups of Democrats, in Wisconsin and in the nation’s capital.

Washington Democrats, including President Obama, have allowed conservative Republicans to dominate the budget debate so far. As long as the argument is over who will cut more from federal spending, conservatives win. Voters may think the GOP is going too far, but when it comes to dollar amounts, they know Republicans will always cut more.

In Wisconsin, by contrast, 14 Democrats in the state Senate defined the political argument on their own terms – and they are winning it.

By leaving Madison rather than providing a quorum to pass Gov. Scott Walker’s assault on collective bargaining for public employees, the Wisconsin 14 took a big risk. Yet to the surprise of establishment politicians, voters have sided with the itinerant senators and the unions against a Republican governor who has been successfully portrayed as an inflexible ideologue. And in using questionable tactics to force the antiunion provision through the Senate on Wednesday, Republicans may win a procedural round but lose further ground in public opinion.

Here’s the key to the Wisconsin battle: For the first time in a long time, blue-collar Republicans – once known as Reagan Democrats – have been encouraged to remember what they think is wrong with conservative ideology. Working-class voters, including many Republicans, want no part of Walker’s war.

A nationwide Pew Research Center survey released last week, for example, showed Americans siding with the unions over Walker by a margin of 42 percent to 31 percent. Walker’s 31 percent was well below the GOP’s typical base vote because 17 percent of self-described Republicans picked the unions over their party’s governor.

At my request, Pew broke the numbers down by education and income and, sure enough, Walker won support from fewer than half of Republicans in two overlapping groups: those with incomes under $50,000 and those who did not attend college. Walker’s strongest support came from the wealthier and those with college educations, i.e., country club Republicans.

Republicans cannot afford to hemorrhage blue-collar voters. In a seminal article in the Weekly Standard six years ago, conservative writers Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat observed: “This is the Republican Party of today – an increasingly working-class party, dependent for its power on supermajorities of the white working-class vote, and a party whose constituents are surprisingly comfortable with bad-but-popular liberal ideas like raising the minimum wage, expanding clumsy environmental regulations, or hiking taxes on the wealthy to fund a health care entitlement.”

Put aside that I favor the policies Douthat and Salam criticize. Their electoral point is dead on. In 2010, working-class whites gave Republicans a 30-point lead over Democrats in House races. That’s why the Wisconsin fight is so dangerous to the conservative cause: Many working-class Republicans still have warm feelings toward unions, and Walker has contrived to remind them of this.

Which brings us to the Washington Democrats. Up to now, the only thing clear about the budget fight is that Democrats want to cut less from discretionary spending than Republicans do. Quietly, many Democrats acknowledge that they have been losing this argument.

Thus the importance of a speech on Wednesday by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, intended to “reset the debate.” As Schumer noted, the current battle, focused on “one tiny portion of the budget,” evades the real causes of long-term budget deficits.

Schumer dared to put new revenue on the table – including some tax increases that are popular among the sorts of blue-collar voters who are turning against Walker. Schumer, for example, spoke of Obama’s proposal to end subsidies for oil and gas companies and for higher taxes on “millionaires and billionaires.” Yes, closing the deficit will require more revenue over the long run. But right now, the debate with the House isn’t focusing on revenue at all.

Schumer, who spoke at the Center for American Progress, also suggested cuts to agriculture subsidies and in unnecessary defense programs. He proposed changes in Medicare and Medicaid incentives that would save money, including reform of how both programs pay for prescription drugs. The broad debate Schumer called for would be a big improvement on the current petty argument, which he rightly described as “quicksand.”

To this point, Washington Democrats have been too afraid and divided to engage compellingly on the fundamentals of what government is there to do and how the burdens of deficit reduction should be apportioned. Wisconsin Democrats have shown that the only way to win arguments is to take risks on behalf of what you believe. Are Washington Democrats prepared to learn this lesson?

By: E. J. Dionne, Op-Ed Colunist, The Washington Post, March 10, 2011

March 10, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Deficits, Democrats, Federal Budget, GOP, Middle Class, Politics, Unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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