Afternoon Open Thread

I’m a big fan of Melissa Harris-Perry’s new show on MSNBC, mainly because of discussions like this (in contrast to whatever the Sunday Bobbleheads are usually spouting about.)

Things never before heard on a Sunday politics show: “See what happens when you invite a theologian to the table.” And I hate Sunday shows. I watch this one. I’ll continue to watch this one.

And it bears repeating that on any other cable news show discussing the religious implications of birth control and women, the panelist would have been male.

Open thread.


Fomenting Insurrection

This is kind of shocking:

The still-lingering controversy over the Obama administration’s mandate about health insurance coverage that includes contraception spread to American Army posts all over the world before the matter was settled.

For the Army, it started when Timothy Broglio, the archbishop for the military services, sent a letter to all Catholic chaplains in the military objecting to the administration’s new mandate, calling it “an alarming and serious matter.”

Broglio, who oversees all Catholic chaplains in all branches of the service, also wrote: “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law.” He wanted Catholic chaplains to read the letter aloud during their sermons on Sunday, January 28.

The Navy and Air Force had no objection to the letter, but the Army chief of chaplains, himself a Catholic, was worried that the line about not complying with the law was close to a call for civil disobedience. So he told the chaplains to not read it in Mass, but instead pass out copies after Mass was over.

Archbishop Broglio objected to this and after a meeting with the secretary of the Army, John McHugh, he agreed to remove the one sentence about complying. McHugh gave the OK for the letter to be read at Mass last Sunday.

So basically, the Archbishop was fomenting an insurrection against the government. Imagine if this was about any other issue, and there were radical clerics calling for insurrection against the government.

And it is important to remember who we are looking to for moral leadership- Folks like this guy (via):

In 2002, at the height of the outcry over the sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests, the Archbishop of New York, Edward M. Egan, issued a letter to be read at Mass. In it, he offered an apology about the church’s handling of sex-abuse cases in New York and in Bridgeport, Conn., where he was previously posted.

“It is clear that today we have a much better understanding of this problem,” he wrote. “If in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.”

Now, 10 years later and in retirement, Cardinal Egan has taken back his apology.

In a interview with Connecticut magazine published on the magazine’s Web site last week, a surprisingly frank Cardinal Egan said of the apology, “I never should have said that,” and added, “I don’t think we did anything wrong.”

I am so sick and tired of these moralizing religious blowhards. I don’t care how important he may be to millions of people and I don’t care if he speaks latin, likes incense, and wears a funny hat, that guy is an asshole.

And this goes for all of you- I am so sick and tired of fighting stupid petty battles because of your damned religion. I am sick of getting bogged down in these stupid arguments. I am sick of you using your religion as a way to divide people. I’m sick of you using your religion to get in the way of other people’s lifestyle and healthcare choices. I am sick of you using your religion as an excuse to bomb people. I’m sick of your religion getting in the way of policy making. I’m sick of you using your religion to stifle scientific progress. I really am. Do whatever the hell you want in your home and in your church, but just get out of my face with whatever horseshit you believe, be it anything from judaism to catholicism to mormonism to islam to jehovah’s witnesses to the church of the flying spaghetti monster.

Whatever the voodoo that you do is, keep it your damned self. I am officially sick of your crap.

Over There

While I have so recently been reminded by our friends in the 101st Chairborne that I’m some arugula-chomping, word-chopping, bubble-bound faux-American, it happens that even folks from my particular corner of Alinskystan talk to people whose daily life is as real as it gets.

Which is to say that one of my friends most often in my thoughts is an infantryman to the bone, decades in uniform, absolutely dedicated to the idea of service and his men.  He’s an enlisted man, on his third tour in the Iraq/Afghanistan long war — and you can take this to the bank:  if you or your child had to hump up some hill where folks sought to do you or yours ill, you’d want my friend there too.  He’s one of nature’s sergeants, I’m trying to say, the kind of guy who knows what he’s doing to some very deep level, and takes the use of that knowledge as an obligation he owes anyone under gaze.

In December, I wrote him a quick note — just a “happy holidays – hope you’re OK” kind of thing.  When I got his reply, I asked for permission to post it here — which I’ve just received.

My friend speaks for himself. I’m not going to gloss it further except to say this:  I’m past tolerating being told by comfortable American Exceptionalists about the necessity of the next war, or the war after that.  My friend and his friends carry the load for all such  Dulce et Decorum posturing.

So.  Notes from Over There:

I am still in Afghanistan in [Deleted] province at an altitude of [Deleted] feet. We have no heat in our bee huts (plywood shacks that sleep six), the temperature at night is in the low teens. They tell us they are working on getting a heater.

It is a tough tour.  We lost six men to an IED three days before Christmas, [not his unit] we worked closely together and I knew them well. We have lost twenty Americans since I arrived. Today I was on an air mission we flew high into the mountains in a heavily Taliban controlled area, luckily we had no trouble. War is a strange thing, going out on missions almost everyday and not knowing if it will be your last day on earth.

We work with the provincial governors and sub governors to build roads, bridges, schools, and give out humanitarian aid, but the leaders steal most of the money and little gets down to the people. I am out in the boonies, we fire artillery all day and night and they rocket us. Soldiersare killed and wounded almost weekly, the call goes out over the loud speaker all this type or that type of blood report to the aid station. I have carried wounded on to helicopters in the field and carried others off the helicopters back at base. It always makes my eyes water and heart hurt to see their broken bodies. It is surreal. I will finish my tour in [Deleted], I had a short leave home in [Deleted]. It is interesting; we raid villages at night and capture terrorist responsible for the bombings, we caught the ones who killed the [men lost before Christmas] the night before last.

I am fine. I am an old soldier, and still tough, I plan missions and lead them and so far, thank God, I have not lost one of my men. The fighting in Ramadi Iraq was more bloody, but this place is no joke either. I will never understand why nations go to war, I know the politics, countries do bad things, but it is so ugly. I now have a collection of faces of men that I knew who have been killed in action that live in my head. I am sorry to write like this but I guess I was feeling philosophical.

I hope you join me in sending every good wish and hope to my friend and those with whom he serves.  That is all.

Image:  Rembrandt van Rijn, Old Soldier, undated — first half of the seventeenth century.

Required Reading, MLK Day edition

I’m ashamed to say that until Charlie Pierce in his own, powerful essay on MLK day pointed me to it, I had never actually read Lyndon B. Johnson’s speech to Congress urging — almost ordering — the legislators before him to pass the Voting Rghts Act.

Here’s a sample:

But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.

Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.

And we shall overcome.

As a man whose roots go deeply into Southern soil I know how agonizing racial feelings are. I know how difficult it is to reshape the attitudes and the structure of our society.

But a century has passed, more than a hundred years, since the Negro was freed. And he is not fully free tonight.

It was more than a hundred years ago that Abraham Lincoln, a great President of another party, signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but emancipation is a proclamation and not a fact.

A century has passed, more than a hundred years, since equality was promised. And yet the Negro is not equal.

A century has passed since the day of promise. And the promise is unkept.

The time of justice has now come. I tell you that I believe sincerely that no force can hold it back. It is right in the eyes of man and God that it should come. And when it does, I think that day will brighten the lives of every American.

For Negroes are not the only victims. How many white children have gone uneducated, how many white families have lived in stark poverty, how many white lives have been scarred by fear, because we have wasted our energy and our substance to maintain the barriers of hatred and terror?

So I say to all of you here, and to all in the Nation tonight, that those who appeal to you to hold on to the past do so at the cost of denying you your future.

This great, rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all: black and white, North and South, sharecropper and city dweller. These are the enemies: poverty, ignorance, disease. They are the enemies and not our fellow man, not our neighbor. And these enemies too, poverty, disease and ignorance, we shall overcome.

Pierce calls this “the greatest speech an American president has delivered in my lifetime.”

Mine too.

Read it.

One last thought: One strand I draw from Johnson’s speech is that it is possible to have a politics that transcends the mere purchase and sale of interest; one in which words have both power and integrity.

I want that politics back.

Update: Boss Bitch points us to newly recovered audio of an MLK speech to an Ohio High School in 1967.

Image:  Lyndon Baines Johnson with Martin Luther King on August 6, 1965, at the signing of the Voting Rights Act.


I Am Never Going To Be A Steelers Fan But…

…this is how a class (and smart) act behaves:

Ryan Clark sat down in Mike Tomlin’s office and did something a little out of character for the normally verbose Pittsburgh Steelerssafety. He listened.

And when Tomlin told Clark he couldn’t play in Sunday’s wild card game at Denver because of a sickle-cell trait that becomes aggravated when playing at higher elevations, Clark just shrugged his shoulders and nodded.

“I said `OK coach,”‘ Clark said Wednesday. “It wasn’t any fight … does he seem like a man who changes his mind anyway? I knew there wasn’t going to be any changing in that.”

And for that, Clark is grateful. If given the choice, Clark would give it a shot even when faced with potentially dire consequences.

“Y’all have seen me play, I run into people all the time, so clearly I’m not that bright,” Clark told reporters with a laugh.

Tomlin told Clark that if Tomlin’s son Dino was in the same situation, he wouldn’t let him play, the kind of blunt assessment that Clark has grown to appreciate during Tomlin’s five years on the job. (via Sports Illustrated)

I’ve been watching football for a long time now.  I enjoy doing so, though I find myself taking less and less pleasure in it over time, the more I learn about the way the game — played as directed — eats up and spits out young men.

(Alas, for the viewer, consider the alternatives):

Nothing in this story changes that essential dynamic, of course.  But at least Tomlin — and the Steelers organization — get one key fact right.  The game (even a playoff game, forsooth!) is not life.

Ordinarily, in a Denver v. Pittsburgh matchup, I’d be struggling to decide who to hate more. (Born in Raider country, spent more than half my life in the land of the Pats.)  Not this weekend.

Though I struggle to type it:

Go Stillers!

Image: Winslow Homer, The Croquet Game, 1864