A Cautious Man
July 30, 2009
Thursday? Night Springsteen (????)
Yeah, I know, the "Sunday Night Springsteen" hasn't been added to, lately.

But I saw this, this evening, and it had not been viewed much at the time.

Mr. Springsteen in Bilbao, with Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell". There is accordion, in case you were worried about that.

July 24, 2009
"If An Officer Stops You ...
... Promise you'll always be polite,
that you'll never ever run away
Promise Mama you'll keep your hands in sight."

- B. Springsteen, American Skin

The latest kerfuffle in the news involves comments made by President Obama when asked about the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates at his own home. Professor Gates needed help to push open his door, when he arrived home last week after a long flight; someone who saw two black men pushing open a door suspected a burglary, and called the police. As even the President said when asked about the incident: "But so far, so good. They're reporting -- the police are doing what they should. There's a call, they go investigate what happens." The President didn't make a negative comment about the response to the call, he made a negative comment about the decision to handcuff and arrest Professor Gates even after it was clear that he was who he said he was, and he was in his own home.

Was Professor Gates shouting angrily at the police? Yeah, he probably was. He was tired from a long flight, he had trouble getting back into his own house, and so was probably more than a little cranky already when a police officer came to the door and asked him to prove that this was his house.

Should he have been arrested? People are going to argue about that - I think not. Even in account from the official police report, the officer was out of the house, off the porch, and down the steps in front of the house, while Professor Gates was on his porch shouting. As reproduced at The Smoking Gun" website, this is what the officer wrote (click below to enlarge) -

The officer does not report that he felt threatened by Professor Gates, and as noted the officer was already out of the house, and with other officers. At the point where the officer is outside, in front of the house, and Professor Gates is on his own porch shouting - was that the time to take out the handcuffs, walk back up on to the porch, and cuff the Professor's hands behind his back. In my opinion, it was not.

[Edited 7/29/09 to add] Well, this is interesting. The Fox News legal expert, Judge Andrew Napolitano, concludes that Professor Gates shouldn't have been arrested for being disorderly if he was on his own porch - and adds that he thinks the officer shouldn't have even asked to come inside the house, based on the information he had at the time. (via ThinkProgress)

July 10, 2009
Leap of Faith
Well, President Obama once again pals around with another leftist leader. Well, maybe not "pal around", and maybe "leftist" isn't exactly the right word. But, if you're looking for somebody with a fairly left-wing view of world economics, who has a big megaphone and is not afraid to use it, then consider the guy who released this material earlier this week:

The processes of globalization, suitably understood and directed, open up the unprecedented possibility of large-scale redistribution of wealth on a world-wide scale ...


Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty.
That would be the Capo di tutti capi of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI (a/k/a "B-16"). President Obama and the Pope had a meeting today, but you won't hear the same howling from the right about a Benedict-Obama handshake as you would regarding, say, a Hugo Chavez-Obama get-together. Actually, the right-wing is probably upset with the Pope for this meeting, but that's another story.

The Pope may not be a party animal, but on economic issues he's not exactly in step with the Republican Party line. In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), released earlier this week, he addressed international economics, the environment, immigrant workers, and other related issues. He's definitely a "big picture" guy, and his picture involves a lot more international cooperation and less cut-throat capitalism -

Economic activity cannot solve all social problems through the simple application of commercial logic. This needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution.

As described by commentator David Gibson -

But what is clear, whether one reads every word or just excerpts, is that the pope is a liberal, at least in American political terms. He says this is not a document proposing "technical solutions," and stresses the greed and sin at the heart of the current economic crisis. Yet he rigorously and consistently applies the Golden Rule to economics and finance, calling for greater regulation of the markets and -- get this -- "a true world political authority" that can put "real teeth" into international governance.

Not even the purportedly "socialist" Barack Obama, who will meet with Benedict on Friday for the first time at the Vatican, would imagine going that far.

As several commentators have noted, the hostile attitude of right-wing American Catholics (which the press and especially Fox News love to highlight) just doesn't carry over to the Home Office in Rome. As noted by E.J. Dionne -
But the Vatican clearly views Obama through a broader prism. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal nuncio in Washington, has privately warned American bishops that harsh attacks on Obama threaten to make the church look partisan.

The Vatican press has been largely sympathetic to Obama, and in a recent article, Cardinal Georges Cottier, who was the theologian of the papal household under Pope John Paul II, praised Obama’s "humble realism" on abortion and went so far as to compare the president’s approach to that of St. Thomas Aquinas. (Pray this won’t go to Obama’s head.)

[T]he pope and many of his advisers also see Obama as a potential ally on such questions as development in the Third World, their shared approach to a quest for peace in the Middle East, and the opening of a dialogue with Islam.

American conservatives will continue to hammer away with complaints about "European-style socialism" as they oppose President Obama's proposals. Taking a step back, I would suggest, just might show that reference to an older philosophy may be more applicable. As President Obama noted in a meeting with some of the American Catholic press last week, there is much "common ground" to be explored.

[Edited to add] A slide-show of President Obama's peek at the Pope.

[Edited 7/13 to add] A pertinent cartoon, making this same point, found on today's "The Week in Editorial Cartoons" on Daily Kos -

July 06, 2009
Born In The USA (Not)
Via Lawyers, Gun$ and Money, Hugh Laurie of "House" fame doing a "Song for America" -

You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet
Governor Sarah Palin has been unleashed. Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride. She combines the unhinged, say-whatever political approach of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann with a dash of the "Know Nothing", nativist and dangerous hate-mongering of Hal Turner.

She's Bachmann-Turner Overdrive!!!!

July 02, 2009
The Catholic Traffic
Interesting story via dotCommonweal -

The current president has cited the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin before, most recently in his speech at Notre Dame: ”He was a kind and good and wise man,” Barack Obama said then of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. “A saintly man.”

And the “Common Ground” approach of Chicago’s Bernardin and Chicago’s Obama have great resonances. At a meeting this morning with eight [mainly] Catholic journalists ahead of his meeting next week with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, Obama invoked Bernardin again–and, as the WaPost’s Jackie Salmon writes, he “promised a ‘robust’ federal policy protecting health-care workers who have moral objections to performing some procedures.” (I think that’s the sound of another anti-Obama talking point falling.)

The whole thing is a terrific antidote to the "manufactured outrage" of some Catholic right-wingers (ably assisted by Fox News). There are links to other Catholic publications which were represented there, including the more right-leaning National Catholic Register -

In his remarks, the president said that he had a wonderful conversation with Pope Benedict XVI right after his election. He said that he sees his visit with the Holy See in some ways like any other government in that there will be areas of agreement and disagreement. He also said that he sees the Holy See as more than a government because of the Church’s influence on this country and the world. He said that it would be a great honor to meet the Pope and was looking forward to talking about the Middle East, climate change and immigration.

“The most noteworthy thing during the meeting was his dispelling of what you might call the expectation of the worst regarding conscience clauses,” said Father Kearns [editor in chief and publisher of the National Catholic Register, who was one of the attendees]. “He said that the confusion regarding the issue was due to the timing of everything rather than what he was going to do. His administration saw the previous administration’s 11th-hour change as problematic, and so they undid that. He said that in Illinois he was a supporter of a robust conscience clause, something he reiterated in his Notre Dame speech. He added that the government has received hundreds of thousands of public comments, and he promised that there would be a robust conscience-clause protection in place, and that it would not be weaker than President Bush’s 11th-hour change. Still, he added, it won’t please everybody.”

In addition, Father Kearns noted the president’s analysis of the divide in Catholicism.

“The president said he had fond memories of Cardinal Bernardin and that when he started his neighborhood project, they were funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development,” he said. “After the first question, from the National Catholic Reporter‘s Joe Feuerherd, the president jokingly asked, ‘Was there really [a controversy at Notre Dame]?’

And as reported by the National Catholic Reporter representative, the President noted with respect to Cardinal Bernadin's "seamless garment" approach which also encompassed poverty, the treatment of children, the death penalty, and war and foreign policy -

“And that part of the Catholic tradition is something that continues to inspire me. And I think that there have been times over the last decade or two where that more holistic tradition feels like it’s gotten buried under the abortion debate.”

The president continued, “Now, as a non-Catholic, it’s not up to me to try to resolve those tensions. As I said, all I can do is to affirm how that other tradition has made me, a non-Catholic, I think reflect on how I can be a better person and has had a powerful influence on my life. And that tells me that it might be a powerful way to move a broader set of values forward in American life generally.”

Read all the links, for a variety of points of view of this sit-down, if you're interested in this sort of thing. I find it fascinating, especially the way the President seems able to, once again, disarm potential critics by engaging them in an intelligent discussion.

Tunnel of Love
I can feel the soft silk of your blouse
And them soft thrills in our little fun house
Then the lights go out and it's just the three of us
You me and all that stuff we're so scared of
Gotta ride down baby into this tunnel of love

- Bruce Springsteen, Tunnel of Love.

I tried to resist giving in to temptation, but I couldn't resist the "sparking". So, a brief post about Governor Sanford of South Carolina. Talking Points Memo sums up his dilemma pretty well -

After days of assuring the public he was firmly in control after admitting a scandalous affair, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford detailed other encounters with his Argentine "soul mate," dalliances with women before her, and his struggle to salvage his 20-year marriage.

Sanford, who last week used a televised news conference to throw himself on the mercy of the public, state leaders and his wife, chronicled his affair and tortured emotions in interviews with The Associated Press Monday and Tuesday. This time, he said, he wanted to "lay it all out."

But as more details of his private life spill out, what Sanford has done in the name of love is too much even for some of his friends in state government.


"I don't want to blow up my time in politics," he told the AP. "I don't want to blow up future earning power, I don't want to blow up the kids' lives. I don't want to blow up 20 years that we've invested. But if I'm completely honest, there are still feelings in the way. If we keep pushing it this way, we get those to die off, but they're still there and they're still real."

He has trouble, he said, shutting down the love he feels for Maria Belen Chapur, the Argentine woman he first met in 2001.

Sanford also said he's "crossed the lines" with a handful of other women during 20 years of marriage, but not as far as he did with Chapur and not since the two met.

"Without wandering into that field we'll just say that I let my guard down in all senses of the word without ever crossing the line that I crossed with this situation," he said, referring to his affair with Chapur.

He insists he can fall back in love with his wife, Jenny, even as he witnesses his "own political funeral."

There is just So. Much. Wrong. There. Leaving aside the whole hypocrisy thing, where he's "defending the sanctity of marriage" while making plans for weekend trysts, it's the post-discovery piling-on. As Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo put it yesterday -

In part two of his leave-no-rock-unturned interview with the Associated Press, Mark Sanford says that at least he will "be able to die knowing I had met my soul mate,"... . And if that's not enough, he says that for all the grief his affair has caused, that if the affair means he can never run for president (think the ship's sort of sailed on that one), that it will have been worth it.

I know there are a lot of people who are genuinely questioning Sanford's sanity at this point -- when you put together the furtive trips and the endless new revelations. But am I the only one who thinks that he appears to be deeply in love with this woman and should just go be with her?

Of course, when you're a middle-aged man facing the collapse of your life's work and abandoning hope of being with the woman you call your 'soul mate' rational decision making or a clearly considered plan may be too much to expect. But it does seem like there are two guys here. One saying he wants to serve out his responsibility to his state and reconcile with his wife and another using the press to broadcast a free form love poem to the girlfriend in Argentina.

I wouldn't go too far down the "tortured soul" road. Look, I know that marriages break up, but I also know that we can make choices in life. We can choose to do things that help keep our marriages strong, or we can do things that weaken or detract from them. Governor Sanford decided that a woman whom he saw infrequently, but who he corresponded with via email, was more "real" to him than the woman he had courted, married, been helped in his career by, and parented children with. Instead of spending time thinking about how exciting things would be with "Maria from Buenos Aires", he could have tried to think of ways to enhance the life he was living with his wife. For crying out loud, he was a successful, rich and popular politician, so his life wasn't that miserable to begin with.

He may fallen victim to the age-old failing, the confusion of love and lust. Emailing his far-away innamorata may have been more "thrilling" than his everyday life (but see the part above about being rich, successful and popular in that "everyday life"). In Book 2, Chapter 2 of his Confessions, St. Augustine wrote of his former life with words that could have come from a Governor Sanford presser -

But what was it that delighted me save to love and to be loved? Still I did not keep the moderate way of the love of mind to mind--the bright path of friendship. Instead, the mists of passion steamed up out of the puddly concupiscence of the flesh, and the hot imagination of puberty, and they so obscured and overcast my heart that I was unable to distinguish pure affection from unholy desire. Both boiled confusedly within me, and dragged my unstable youth down over the cliffs of unchaste desires and plunged me into a gulf of infamy. Thy anger had come upon me, and I knew it not. I had been deafened by the clanking of the chains of my mortality, the punishment for my soul’s pride, and I wandered farther from thee, and thou didst permit me to do so. I was tossed to and fro, and wasted, and poured out, and I boiled over in my fornications--and yet thou didst hold thy peace, O my tardy Joy! Thou didst still hold thy peace, and I wandered still farther from thee into more and yet more barren fields of sorrow, in proud dejection and restless lassitude.

In case it's not evident yet, while I feel sorry for the Sanford family as a whole, I'm on the side where there's little sympathy created by the pathetic spectacle that he's been presenting.

It ought to be easy ought to be simple enough
Man meets woman and they fall in love
But the house is haunted and the ride gets rough
And you've got to learn to live with what you can't rise above
If you want to ride on down
In through this tunnel of love


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