Thursday, July 24, 2014

Impeaching Obama? A waste of time

So Sarah Palin and John Boehner are now calling for the impeachment of President Obama.

I hope people understand that they’re just making noise, because he’ll never be impeached. And even if he is, he’ll never be removed.

For openers, to convict him of “high crimes and misdemeanors” requires a super-majority — that is, two-thirds — of the U.S. Senate to remove him from office. The Democrats will never agree to that, not primarily over party solidarity but also out of respect for the political process. (Besides, they know full well that any Democrat will get the same treatment.)

How do they know this? The last president to be impeached: Bill Clinton.

Now, if you seriously believe that he was impeached simply because he lied under oath — truth be told, that was a set-up that turned out to be illegal anyway — you really need to reconsider.

During the summer of 1992, in the heat of the election campaign, conservative activists filed suit in Federal court in Little Rock, Ark., to have Clinton removed from the presidential ballot. See, they understood full that if he were successful they would be toast. (The suit was thrown out almost immediately.)

Then right-wing media went to work, alleging “corruption” but never proving anything of substance; when Clinton outfoxed Newt Gingrich on the Federal budget in 1995 Clinton’s reelection was virtually assured. On Election Night 1996 Grover Norquist vowed to have Clinton taken out.

And you know the rest of the story.

So what’s the point about Obama? Well, it seems that folks have this nutty idea that, if they merely remove an irritant, things will improve. But they got their wish in 2000 with George W. Bush and, eventually, a GOP-dominated Congress, and things went into the tank, costing it the Senate in 2006. True to form, when Obama became president two years later, they did what they do best — start sniping.

Hate may make people feel better at first but leads nowhere; you have to offer a positive alternative and none is forthcoming. That’s why talk of impeaching the president is just that.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Yes, blacks CAN be racist

In 1982, when I was attending the University of Pittsburgh, a white friend said that another black friend was breaking off their relationship. Reason? "My black friends are getting on my case." Needless to say, I hurt for my friend.

On the other hand, I wasn't at all surprised. I had years ago detected a considerable amount of "closing of the ranks" among African-American college students on white campuses and always refused to cooperate with that. It thus shouldn't surprise you that I had myself few black friends at Pitt, ironically almost all of those through the white fraternity to which I belonged.

Bottom line, I left the community before I could get "kicked out," which I knew I eventually would be. Indeed, I grew up in an atmosphere of "whitey this, whitey that," which as a teen I got fed up and wanted nothing to do with.

So it gave me quite the surprise when I first heard the ridiculous idea that "blacks can't be racist." The thinking goes that racism has to be "institutional" -- that is, a power problem not necessarily centered in people's hearts and having nothing to do with attitudes toward those of another race. Of course, that definition conveniently exempted African-Americans from being racist because, according to that narrative, they don't have power.

I noticed immediately a flaw in that argument: Everyone knows that the Ku Klux Klan is racist, but it hasn't had any real power since the 1960s. (Thank God for that.) And besides, if the people who run a certain institution repent of racist attitudes on their own, won't the institution change? That's why I was never convinced that blacks having more seats at the table would cause change, and I don't think it did.

On top of that, concerning my friend's mourning the loss of that relationship, was that not using the social power of ostracism to keep people in line? After all, that was in part how segregation in the South was maintained, with boycotts of stores that attempted to serve a "diverse" clientele.

In the last 20 years I've noticed that people of all colors have been crossing lines to build intimate relationships, what I've always done. That's the only cure for racism that has ever worked.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Suits = Sex?

I never thought I'd see the day when my sartorial choices would cause women to lust after me. And that day still may not have arrived yet - or maybe it has and I'm just not hip to it.

Yesterday I saw an entry, "When Suits Become a Stumbling Block," on "The Salt Collective" blog in which one woman initialed L.P. confessed that she gets sexually aroused whenever she sees a man in a suit.

That for me would become a bit problematic especially on Sunday mornings because, except during the summer, I almost always attend services wearing one. (I explained years ago that "I'm going to see the King and should be appropriately dressed.")

Now, I've been told that I look good in a suit, and I tend to agree. Twenty years ago I even bought a tuxedo - as a musician, I could justify the expense by saying that I might use it for gigs, which I in fact do - but which I've found that women appreciate. I last wore it in June for the banquet at the end of my annual writers' conference; indeed, one of its highlights has become just what I wear to it. (Most conferees are women slightly older than I, 53.) Many women wanted to take a picture with me after the banquet.

http://thesaltcollective.org/modesty-whensuitsbecomestumblingblock/

Keep in mind, however, that the larger point of her tongue-in-cheek commentary was that, when it comes to dress especially at this time of the year, the idea of causing someone to "stumble" is always addressed toward women, never to us men, with the idea that we men have to learn to control our desires and not depend on women to do so.

And it's more than just women's dressing habits; I understand that a large number of men even in the church, including some pastors, are consumers of pornography - an addiction I've managed to escape only by God's grace. (When I was in high school my dad had some hard-core stuff, so I know just what it is.)

But no matter. It's up to each of us to take control of our own God-given sexual impulses and not leave that up to the other person.

Although I will admit to some satisfaction when a longtime woman friend whom I've never dated apparently liked to hug me whenever I wore my tux.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Ben Carson fetish

My stepfather, James Kelly Jr., who would be 94 were he here today, was a man that most African-Americans could be proud of.

He grew up one of five boys in a single-parent household; his mother died when he was 12. Despite that hardship but encouraged by their father, he and his four brothers all got educations.

My stepfather ended up with eight degrees, including, if my facts are correct, two earned Ph.Ds. Previously a pastor, he finished his active career as dean of the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh, my college alma mater, and while in that position he helped a lot of people get through school — including myself, never using his authority for mere aggrandizement.

At one point he even faced down the university’s Black Action Society, which at the time was militantly making demands for more black presence. (He later told me that the BAS suffered constantly from “poor leadership.”)

Even though I never lived with him — I was 24 when he married my mother — it was through him that, looking back, I learned true masculinity.

Two things, however: He was a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. And when he was pastoring a church in the 1960s, in West Virginia, he marched for civil rights.

You’ll thus have to excuse me if I’m not jumping on the Ben Carson bandwagon.

Dr. Carson, the retired neurosurgeon whom most people heard of for the first time when he blasted the Affordable Care Act during last year’s National Prayer Breakfast, has since been touted as presidential material — by, of course, conservatives, who have since touted him as a black professional that everyone should emulate. A lot of people are even suggesting that he run for president.

How arrogant of such folks. Really.

I’ve come to recognize over the past few years that we as an electorate are transfixed by narratives — that is, "stories" — that have nothing to do with qualifications for public office. Although we don’t have an actual monarchy or nobility in this country, we often look toward our president as such. Perhaps Dr. Carson is seen as someone who will “transcend race” and not even bring up the issue as if it wouldn’t matter anymore.

However, most African-Americans, myself included, simply aren’t that naïve, especially considering last year’s George Zimmerman trial — which, contrary to popular opinion, didn’t simply stir up long-dormant racial strife (folks just hadn’t bothered to notice it).

In addition, it appears to be another attempt for conservatives to tout their own choice of black “leaders” who don’t challenge that worldview, especially since the vast majority apparently does. In doing so, however, and in also refusing to listen to anyone who takes issue with their attempt to whitewash the race issue, they in fact deepen the racial divide in this country. That’s why no conservative regardless of race, “story,” social standing or qualifications can and will ever have any standing in the black community.

It would be clearly slanderous for me to say that all, or even most, conservatives are racist; however, the movement does have a stain of racism in its history that they have never, ever addressed.

I’m sure that my stepfather, who died in 1999, would have beamed with pride had he seen Barack Obama become president. I doubt he would have had the same feeling about Dr. Carson, who represents an ideology he fought in West Virginia.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The real legacy of Richard Mellon Scaife

One might say that I owe my journalism career to Richard Mellon Scaife.

In 1996, as a media communications major at the University of Pittsburgh and when I was applying for an internship at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I had placed in my portfolio a column from The Pitt News referring to a "right-wing conspiracy" against President Clinton that pointed to heavy involvement from Scaife, publisher of the competing Tribune-Review.

While I was at work the internship coordinator, noticing whom I had written about and where I was applying, left a message on my answering machine saying, “Make sure they see that.”

Why?, I thought, because to me it was simply a good story; I didn’t find out until I got to the PG why it was such a big deal -- I came to realize that we were his number-one target. (I did get the internship that summer, was hired on full-time the following February and still work there today.)

Scaife passed away July 4, the day after his 82nd birthday, after releasing a statement some weeks earlier that he had inoperable cancer. And his legacy, especially for us in Pittsburgh, will be the partisan divide we see in this country today, not just the newspaper war.

Remember that “Vince-Foster-may-have-been-murdered” non-story of the mid-1990s? Well, Scaife had hired Christopher Ruddy, canned by the New York Post and now editor of Newsmax, to try to dig up something, but the stories were exposed by CBS’s “60 Minutes” as an elaborate hoax. In my investigation, I also learned from The Wall Street Journal that Scaife, worth over a billion dollars, was also funding a large network of conservative think-tanks and media as part of an elaborate machine that gave the impression of a groundswell of conservatism but in fact represented in this case an attempt to overturn an election.

So when, right before Clinton was impeached, his wife Hillary complained about a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” I knew she was telling the truth.

It finally hit me just how low some people were willing to go to get their way.

If you wonder why I argue with people so much about politics, especially when they quote partisan sources to support their opinions, this is the reason. I know for a fact that such sources are suspect and millions of dollars, many of them Scaife's, have been spent over the past 40 or so years on propaganda. I also know that the political left doesn't have that kind of organization, so when folks insist that it's "both sides" I tell them that they don't know what they're talking about.

It particularly bothers me that so many Christians read the Trib, especially considering his actual stances on issues that Christians find important, because the paper's editorial page is considered conservative (really, hard-core libertarian). Scaife was a financial supporter of Planned Parenthood and was in fact pro-choice on abortion (the national Republican Party vainly pleaded with him to change his position); indeed, he even wrote an op-ed in favor of government funding of PP. On top of that, his second wife was a paramour during his first marriage and, a couple of years ago, he came out in favor of "open marriage."

On top of that, if you do read that paper, did you notice that it contains no liberal opinion? I would want a give-and-take on the issues of the day.

I'm not happy that Scaife is now dead; after he released that statement about his condition I actually prayed for his salvation, which would have meant repentance; I would have loved to have seen him walk away from his former life à la Charles Colson. We will know only in the judgment were Scaife's soul ended up, but I have my suspicions.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Why Hobby Lobby's stance isn't really about 'religious freedom'

If you believe that Hobby Lobby merely wanted to preserve “religious freedom” by opposing a contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, you really, really need to think again.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by President Bill Clinton two decades ago and upon which the company’s claim was based, really was intended to protect certain rituals that had been declared illegal (such as certain Native American tribes using peyote, a controlled substance).

The company, which top management claims to run by consistent Christian principles, complained that under the ACA it would be forced to cover certain types of contraceptives that it considered tantamount to abortion. I understand and, to a certain point, agree with that.

Here’s the problem: HL imports a lot of goods from China, which only recently has relaxed its notorious “one-child-per-household” policy, which resulted in millions, if not billions, of abortions through the years. It seems to me that, if it wanted to make a religious statement, it wouldn’t do business in China in the first place unless and until that policy was abolished.

Some people have said that HL wouldn’t be able to stay in business if it took that stand. And that’s where the whole “religious freedom” defense falls apart — because operating by consistent Christian principles in this case would represent an inconvenience, in this case affecting its bottom line.

Pardon me for being a tad cynical, but in over 30 years I don’t recall any conservative Christian group that has argued, fought or worked for the freedom, religious or otherwise, for anyone except conservative Christians, whose real goal appears to be cultural authority. That, however, isn’t delineated anywhere in Scripture.

Liberal groups, on the other hand, appear to be more willing to put their money where their mouth is. In the 1980s many encouraged businesses and governmental entities to divest from companies doing business in South Africa due to that country’s unjust-by-any-standard apartheid system over the objections of many conservatives, some who said that doing so would hurt blacks and others fearful of a Communist takeover. Earlier this year, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to divest from Israel because of its political treatment of Palestinians.

Whatever your stance on those issues and whether their actions would have any effect, they decided that they weren’t going to be a party to what they saw as immoral actions on the part of governments — even if doing so cost them money or stature.

I’m sure that Hobby Lobby has taken some heat for its stance; I know that others have defended it. But don’t think for a second that it’s the result of purely religious convictions.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The REAL existential threat

If you’re continually concerned about "existential threats," chances are that you are one in your own right. That is to say, if you say “We need to defeat/kill/eliminate so-and-so because if we don’t our nation/culture/way of life is in danger,” you’re the problem.

There are two reasons for that. One, even if you were able to do so, without a change in attitude you’ll simply start looking for another target. Two, such an attitude allows you to do or say anything against whatever you hate – and that includes lying and gossip.

In other words, your own character will be corroded.

Politicians understand this, which is why we had something like the Holocaust. We can talk about how horrible that was, and it was, but let’s not forget what led to it: Resentment toward some other, tough times and a certain nationalistic pride that became a defense of indefensible behavior.

And do you know what’s behind that? Fear, primarily of losing control or power.

For the last few decades we’re witnessed a lot of hand-wringing about the civility — or the lack thereof — in our political discourse. However, it’s the unrepentant absolutists, to whom compromise is akin to defeat, who create the problem in the first place — people who refuse to see things from another’s viewpoint or admit that they don’t have all the information.

None of this is to say that people aren’t allowed to hold ideological views. But if you’re not willing to adjust them in the face of new information, you have a real problem.