Mourning In America

A New York Democrat on politics, journalism, and the Mets

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Saturday, January 24, 2004
 
Catholic League Responds Bill Donohue's answer? Mel Gibson should be defended because the Vatican is LYING!
There is little doubt the words, "It is as it was," are exactly what the pope said. There is also little doubt that some Vatican officials now think it better to keep the pope out of the controversy.

For the record, the Catholic League's mission statement contends that it exists to defend "individual Catholics and the institutional Church from defamation and discrimination." It doesn't explain how accusing Vatican officials of lying -- a sin, the last time I checked -- defends them from defamation.

I'll admit it -- the Catholic League really gets under my skin. While it's become common for Conservative politicians to talk from both sides of their mouths -- contending, for instance, that they stand for the common man while pursuing economic policies that only widen inequality -- it strikes a particular cord with me when they try to frame honest, two-sided political arguments as a matter of religious certainty.

The League is nothing more than a tool of the Washington right-wing elite. Its advisers include Brent Bozell, Linda Chavez, Dinesh D'Souza, and Alan Keyes. The League's pronouncements often stray far from its Catholic-focused mission to serve the right's larger goal of removing our Constitutionally-protected barriers between church and state. Check out this press release, where Donohue contends that Catholics support posting the King James Bible's version of the ten commandments in the Iowa Statehouse:

In fact, the Catholic League would like to see the display of the Ten Commandments in every statehouse, and it matters not a whit whether it is the Catholic, Protestant or Jewish version.

Glad to see our "defenders" being so magnanimous. Why do I feel confident that you'd never hear Falwell or Robertson make the same decree?

What's more, the very existence of these toothless crusaders plays into the cult of victimhood that Conservatives so often decry on the left, but which has largely been co-opted as a tool of the right. Bottom line: Despite various self-inflicted wounds, the Catholic Church is strong, as are individual Catholics -- its teachings carry a moral weight and are respected, if not necessarily accepted, throughout most of the nation. We don't need to be "defended" by an overgrown Long Island schoolyard bully who prefers intimidation to debate.

Cinema St. Peter's Oh, and by the way, how did the Pope end up seeing the movie in the first place? This comes from the UK's Guardian newspaper, although the story's been reported similarly elsewhere:

Mr McEveety [the film's producer] met Archbishop Dziwisz [the Pope's personal secretary and alleged source for the quote] in the company of Jan Michelini, who worked as an assistant producer on the film, and his father Alberto, a well-known Italian journalist and politician.

Alberto Michelini and Dr Navarro-Valls are both leading members of the traditionalist organisation Opus Dei ... That connection explains how Mr McEveety managed to secure the private papal screening, and the subsequent meeting with the archbishop.



Friday, January 23, 2004
 
An Open Letter to Catholic League President Bill Donohue

I am writing to inquire about the Catholic League's official reaction to the recent revelation that the producer of Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion" fraudulently contended that the Pope had endorsed the film.

As a Catholic, I find Producer McEveety's actions utterly reprehensible. The Pope is not Gene Siskel -- his name should not be used in a cheap effort to secure commercial success for any movie. This entire episode redefines "Hollywood cynicism" and belittles genuine beliefs.

The movie makers' lies have destroyed any credibility their film may have had. In addition, the lengths to which they were apparently willing to go in their marketing efforts lend new credence to the argument that they mounted a concerted effort to foment tension between Christians and Jews because they thought it would sell tickets.

This cannot be rewarded. I will never again view any Mel Gibson movie, or act in any other way that could enrich these jokers. Despite your previous support of the movie's makers, I urge you to advise your members to do the same.


Thursday, January 22, 2004
 
Hey, Didn't You Used to be Jason Sehorn?


Career Giants backup QB Jesse Palmer will be ABC's next "Bachelor." (Click here for analysis from ESPN.com's excellent Dan Shanoff (HBS '02!), or here for my favorite headline on this story from Google news: "Canadian Jesse Palmer says he's next Bachelor." Way to keep it real, CTV!

Palmer, forced into service when previously indestructible Kerry Collins was injured late this year, is not a very good quarterback. Joe Montana probably couldn't have saved this year's version of the Jints, but Palmer certainly did his part to send the team to 8 straight losses to end the season.

Nonetheless, he has a pretty face (I guess -- I don't claim to be an expert. Not that there's anything wrong with that!), like a certain overrated cornerback who used to wear blue. All I can say is: We're WAY ahead of the Redskins on this stuff.


 
The Party of Values This morning's Boston Globe has a shocker: GOP staffers to the Senate Judiciary Committee stole confidential Democratic talking points and discussion memos for more than a year!

The intrusions only ceased after the Democrats recognized direct quotes from some of their documents in a Robert Novak column -- apparently, between this and the Valerie Plame story, Bob was the GOP Washington Establishment's leakee of choice.
UPDATE: The Daily Kos points out that these actions may violate the cyberterrorism provisions of the USA Patriot Act. I knew that law was a good idea!


Tuesday, January 20, 2004
 
Nailed It Ryan Lizza, the New Republic political correspondent who's writing a campaign trail blog, captures a nice quote from one of Kerry's last Iowa appearances:
Go to your caucuses tonight and don't just send them a message, send them a President of the United States

Of course, Kerry then went overboard and added "so we can say, 'Mission Accomplished.'" Hey, it can take a while for a newly emerging frontrunner to refine his applause lines. At least this shows some life in the campaign.

Meanwhile, as I seek out the answer to my earlier question about whether Kerry's performance really reflected an improvement in his campaigning style and ability, I'm very interested by this account from the NY Times, which says Kerry began catching fire when he began cutting his speeches dramatically and filling the time with extensive Q and A -- it played to his strength as a very well-informed veteran of governing, and helped him connect with the audience in a way he didn't from the podium, from which he often appeared aloof.


Monday, January 19, 2004
 
There's an Iowa Pride... Didn't much care about the runup to the Iowa caucuses -- the questions about their integrity (on-site registrations are allowed, leaving the door open to massive fraud), and the whole dual-elimination voting process (If your candidate gets less than 15% in the first round of voting at your caucus site, you either go home or pick another. Either way, your initial choice is never reported), just seemed awfully screwy.

Nonetheless, they're what we got, and tonight's results are interesting. I didn't watch Kerry closely enough to see if this showing was the result of him finally learning how to campaign. As I've said, I think his background and experience makes him a great candidate, but had questions about his campaigning skills. Maybe I spoke too soon. Will have to watch more closely in New Hampshire.

Chris Matthews had an interesting observation about Kerry on the Imus show last week -- he said Kerry's position on the war, in which he supported a drive to eliminate a regime with "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and is upset to learn that we didn't find any, was in line with much of the electorate. Seems about right. Will people hold Bush accountable for these intelligence failures? That's the question.

Meanwhile, I'm surprised by how little is being said about John Edwards, who, despite his late surge in the polls (driven by his consistently "positive" message), had been set up as the candidate with the most to lose (the conventional wisdom was that his lack of organization would hurt his ability to cash in on the poll strength, making his showing look disappointing. Clearly that did not happen).

In a lot of ways, Edwards is the most comfortable of the candidates when it comes to picking up Bill Clinton's mantle and discussing domestic policies that are forward looking and equality seeking. His speeches are very good. I'm still not sold -- he looks awfully young to me -- but maybe matching his message (and Southern roots) with Kerry's gravitas on a Kerry-Edwards ticket would be a good ride.

That said, it's way too early to jump to that conclusion -- Kerry and Clark now emerge as the key players in a showdown in New Hampshire (where, by the way, Dean is in an almost no-win situation. He had a 20 percentage point lead at the new year, and now he's going to be fighting for every last vote. Even if he wins, it will be discounted if it's not a blowout, and it won't provide much of a boost to his chances in the more hostile states like South Carolina).

I guess tonight will serve as a farewell to Dick Gephardt, which is a shame in some ways -- he has built an impressive record of public service, and did a lot of good in his career. But on a policy level, his union-driven anti-trade stances were never something I could get very excited about.