Archive for May, 2013|Monthly archive page

Catholicism and Secular Liberalism: Who’s off the Reservation?

Martyrs of Uganda Catholic Church in Detroit

Martyrs of Uganda Catholic Church in Detroit

by Doughlas Remy

In a post from last Thursday (5/23), Gil Bailie opines about the challenges conservative Catholics face as they attempt to move freely about in a society that is “thoroughly suffused with and monitored by secular liberalism’s worldview and presuppositions.” 

This is a telling admission about the dilemma of modern Catholicism. Bailie himself seems pained by the idea that the Catholic worldview has been marginalized to the point that most educated people find it foreign, unintelligible, and at times shocking: “… liberal opinions are expressed breezily, as though those who might dissent from such views live far, far away—maybe in Kansas, wherever that is.” When one voices views informed by Catholic teaching, he writes, “one is immediately thought beyond the pale of decency.”

As if this is almost too much to contemplate, Bailie briefly engages in wishful thinking. It is the secular liberals who are marginalized: “Many secular liberals have lived most or all of their lives on these intellectual and moral reservations,” he writes. But let’s get real. Bailie is not visiting the reservations; he’s visiting from the reservation. 

Émile Durkheim correctly saw that God is the community. Monotheism’s requirement that there be a single community and a single law accounts for its expansionist and universalizing tendencies, as expressed in the Catholic teaching that there is no salvation outside the Church. Retrenchment of the sort we’re seeing in modern Catholicism creates just the kinds of dilemmas that Bailie experiences in his own dealings with the world. Catholic ideology is no longer universal, widely understood, or necessarily considered legitimate. The “default” worldview has long since become unmoored from Catholic teaching. Quel chagrin!

Take up thy crossWhat to do? Retreat? (hard for a schmoozer like Bailie) Play along? (and deny Christ?) Evangelize? (And be thought beyond the pale of decency?) These are difficult choices when one is, after all, unsure whether one really intends to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus. 

Below, I’ve included Gil Bailie’s post, followed by Timothy Brock’s response, and then by Dean Hansen’s:

Gil Bailie writes:

Many of us live and move and have our precarious being inside a social network thoroughly suffused with and monitored by secular liberalism’s worldview and presuppositions. Many secular liberals have lived most or all of their lives on these intellectual and moral reservations, whose unexamined presuppositions they share. Among the pre-conscious but widely held assumptions is that everyone who is intelligent and educated is a secular liberal. If an intelligent and educated person happens to have a religious hobby or two that is not particularly held against him or her, as long as this religious interest is attenuated enough and is deferential to secular liberalism’s various sacred cows.

When one meets people in such settings, it is so confidently assumed that intelligence and education correlate positively with the degree of one’s liberal outlook, that liberal opinions are expressed breezily, as though those who might dissent from such views live far, far away —maybe in Kansas, wherever that is.

laughin_henry_gibsonOne is then faced with either playing along, just to be polite, or voicing one’s views, which—in these settings—are so shocking to the locals that friendships may well not survive the shock. One is immediately thought beyond the pale of decency. And the very worst part is that—in the interest of salvaging the moment and possibly a friendship—one feels the need to insert little liberal sentiments into the ensuing conversation in order to reassure one’s interrogators that one is not, in fact, a Nazi or a George Wallace admirer. It’s a strange, self-enclosed world, and self-reinforced world. 

One does one’s best.

Timothy Brock responds:

Gil, what you’ve written offers a truly fascinating perspective into a conservative Catholic’s experience of a society from which he feels increasingly alienated. I gather from what you’ve revealed about yourself that you move about in the world. You give lectures, you go to conferences, and you meet a lot of people. You’re hardly reclusive or introverted, and the cloistered life would not appeal to you. Retreat is not an option. Obviously, however, your outer-directedness and your sense of calling are increasingly at odds with the world in which you move. It is becoming harder for you to get traction in the world of secular liberalism. Certain values are “assumed,” especially on the West Coast where you live, and they are a strong current to swim against. 

A real and urgent civilizational crisis

A real and urgent civilizational crisis

Our modern world is in many ways in “crisis,” as you say, but perhaps not for the reasons that you think. Even more obvious to me, however, is that the Catholic Church is in crisis, and your musings about your difficulties finding traction in secular settings is one of the symptoms of that crisis.

You are aware of the widening gap between secular society and the teachings of the Church. Sometime in the late 19th century, the Church emphatically rejected modernism. Unfortunately, that entailed a rejection of much that is good about modernism, especially the efflorescence of scientific inquiry. Today, the Church is going its own way, drifting ever farther from the mainstream. In fact, “mainstream” has become a dirty word. It is ridiculed as the “fashion du jour” when in fact outcomes sometimes show that it is coursing in the right direction.

I believe the Church’s blanket repudiation of modernism has contributed mightily to the growing alienation that conservative Catholics feel with regard to their ambient culture. 

Where there is alienation, there is little or no engagement. And yet you have committed yourself to engage with the culture and change it. I think you’ve got an uphill struggle in front of you—and a very frustrating one. Your faith will no doubt give you courage for the task.

Dean Hansen responds with his own translation of Gil Bailie’s post:

Translation:

Not-pleasantJesus (who loves everyone) has nevertheless told me to be wary of people that he loves because they are probably “secular liberals,” and we know that Jesus has no truck with sek’lar libruls. Of course, they’re not quite as bad as ni**ers, kikes, faggots and abortion doctors, but Lordy, Lordy, they’re bad enough!  I know this because I know that Jesus is angry at them since they think for themselves and arrive at conclusions based on rational sense about how the world works. In short, they refuse to live in the same hermetically-sealed, biblically-sterilized world that I do. Now, ironically, I’m tempted to agree with them from time to time, because they make a lot of sense, and I really have to fight the impulse to join with them, which is overpowering at times. I became aware of this tendency on those rare occasions when I doubted my own convictions, when I would be confronted with a profound sense of fatigue, and a corresponding feeling of emptiness. But fortunately, I was able to interpret these feelings correctly: Loss of essence.  Of course, secular liberals sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid liberals, dear friends in Jesus, but I do deny them my essence.  Since I don’t want Jesus to hate me, which he would probably do if I were like them, I have spent my entire life resisting the impulse to be human and share myself with those who would otherwise be my friends.  Bastards!

Peter Sellars and Sterling HaydenThe Bible has provided me with a template which has to be spray painted on everything to test it for reliability. If the conclusions reached by others fall outside the lines of that template, they must be rejected along with the people who hold them, because God is a stickler for accuracy and perfection. Since I am obsessed with doing things correctly and never making mistakes which would result if I actually thought for myself, I will allow myself to be completely blinded by my own presuppositions, because otherwise, I would fall under the sway of my own judgment, and then I would explode. I will do my best therefore to make it sound as though others have rejected me, because I enjoy the illusion of difference that identifies me as being distinct from everyone else. How else can God be on my side unless he’s against everyone else? Being a contrarian about everything is hard, because it goes against the better angels of my nature, but I don’t want to be cast out forever, so I’ll make life hell for myself now and will then be better equipped to enjoy the beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly while being permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell as the special reward granted to the conservative libertarians of God.

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The Cornerstone Forum Opposes Obama Administration’s International Efforts on Behalf of GLBTs

Georgian church clergymen and activists unite to protest against a gay pride rally in Tbilisi, Georgia, Friday, May 17, 2013. Thousands of anti-gay protesters, led by Orthodox priests, occupied a central street in Georgia's capital Friday, with some threatening to lash with nettles any participant in a gay pride parade which was to take place there. Police in Tbilisi guarded several dozen gay activists and bused them out of the city center shortly after they arrived at the gathering.  Three officers and nine GLBT demonstrators were hospitalized. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

Georgian church clergymen and activists unite to protest against a gay pride rally in Tbilisi, Georgia, Friday, May 17, 2013. Thousands of anti-gay protesters, led by Orthodox priests, occupied a central street in Georgia’s capital Friday, with some threatening to lash with nettles any participant in a gay pride parade which was to take place there. Police in Tbilisi guarded several dozen gay activists and bused them out of the city center shortly after they arrived at the gathering. Three officers and nine GLBT demonstrators were hospitalized. (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

What follows is a copy of the blog thread following Gil Bailie’s posting of 5/15/13 opposing the Obama Administration’s international efforts on behalf of GLBTs. A copy of Mr. Bailie’s post follows the comments from Jim Swenson, Dean Hansen, and Timothy Brock.

Jim Swenson:

Gil, you and Robert Reilly appear to be endorsing anti-homosexual laws of the most backward and undemocratic countries in the world: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, Gambia, Somalia. Is this a complete rejection of democracy and modernism?

Since 1979, Iran has executed more than 4000 people charged with homosexual acts.

Saudi Arabia also has very severe punishments for homosexual acts: whipping, fines, imprisonment.

Jamaica imposes a ten-year jail sentence for homosexual acts.

These are just a few examples of “state” violence against homosexuals.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned laws that make homosexual relations between consenting adults a crime.

The UN Human Rights Committee has also ruled that such laws violate the right to privacy that is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

And then there is criminal assault, which is rife in the countries I listed, in most of Latin America, and in the most backward parts of the US.

It doesn’t matter that criminal assault is “already” against the law in these countries. This is what you and Reilly don’t “get.” There are basically two ways of reducing the levels of criminal assault. One is to strengthen the police state (the Leviathan), and the other is to change people’s attitudes. Changing people’s attitudes is extremely difficult when they are simultaneously being told (by their churches) that homosexuality is against natural law and that it is “disordered.” Yup, they get the message, and after you’ve delivered it, it does absolutely no good to say, “But be compassionate toward them!” The bullies do NOT understand the language of compassion. They are just looking for a green light to beat people up.

I’m really proud of the Obama Administration for trying to reduce the levels of anti-gay violence in many of these Middle Eastern and African hell-holes. More power to them!

Jim Swenson:

The face of homophobia in France. Wilfred de Bruijn was brutalized by homophobic thugs in Paris in early April 2013.

The face of homophobia in France. Wilfred de Bruijn was brutalized by homophobic thugs in Paris in early April 2013.

Gil, even in NYC, one of the most progressive of U.S. cities, gay men continue to be assaulted for merely holding hands in public or just for “looking gay.” There were three incidents just last week, when six men were brutalized. So you can imagine what life must be like for gays in Latin American and Middle-Eastern countries.

What measures or policies do you think we could adopt to help stop the bullying and brutalization of homosexuals in these places? If the Church doesn’t lead on this issue, then it is up to the secular State. And then you wonder why the State is now more trusted than the Church and the Church is rapidly losing credibility? The Church is proposing precisely nothing to alleviate these problems but is instead contributing to them with its pseudo-scientific language of “disordered behavior.” The scientific establishment—including all the major health organizations—are attempting to bring us to our senses about this and to prevent more violence. They will eventually prevail, and the Church will once again have disgraced itself.

This is about violence prevention, and it is a very pragmatic issue. Is there some way you can get “on board” with that? Please tell us what you would propose.

Gil Bailie:

To call something “intrinsically disordered” is to speak the truth. One has only to imagine the act of sodomy or the act of abortion. I hardly expect everyone to agree about that these things are intrinsically disordered, but I agree with the Church about that. I also agree with the Church that people suffering from same-sex attraction deserve understanding and must never be the object of mistreatment. But when their plight is used to turn unnatural acts into human rights to which other rights must sacrificed—which is happening all across the Western cultural landscape – there is a problem. The plight of homosexuals in many places is being used to turn unnatural acts into privileged rights, as we have done with abortion, etc. Human rights, the inherent dignity of each and every human being, and the protection of each person from persecution by the powerful is the bedrock principle. Let’s stick with that. No special categories for homosexuals or the lame or the hearing impaired or those who want to marry their siblings.

Dean Hansen:

You’re not calling some nameless something intrinsically disordered, you’re calling a whole class of people intrinsically disordered. In short, the “something” you’re speaking your obnoxious “truth” to is nothing other than your fellow human beings, who dream, bleed, breathe, love, hurt, and feel just as you do, and expect quite legitimately to be accorded the same privileges and dignity you demand for yourself. A God who dies for humanity as an act of love and self-sacrifice dies for all humanity—not just for an imagined perfection in some hoped-for future but for a flawed, real, and imperfect present. But I’m going to follow your example this time and spare you that dignity, because you are not entitled to it. Your endless proclamations about evil in others is no longer just wearisome and endlessly repetitious. You’ve reduced yourself to a petty little crank who trolls for the Catholic hierarchy. You possess a kind of rabid and willful cluelessness that makes Rush Limbaugh look good. He at least is working from an intellectual deficit as wide as his bigotry and as thick as his waist. My apologies to the overweight. You have no such excuse. Your absolute refusal to confront your own bigotry is a disgrace, not a badge of piety or honor. But then, you’re merely imitating what you’ve been told, which is precisely what you hope to generate in others: blind, unswerving, unquestioning obedience to authority. Nothing you ever say or do can eclipse the poisonous attitudes that keep you in complicit awe with the church’s ongoing failings.

“Agreeing with the church” will not suffice when the church is wrong. To deny that fact is to ignore the historical reality that follows when men who assume perfect knowledge of God set themselves apart from those they are pledged to serve as equals—who could otherwise be an aide in that understanding—and insist through their own failings on instituting laws and restrictions that compromise or distort grace into forms of slavery both real and psychological.

You mentioned “protection of each person from persecution” as though it were a separate category instituted to nurse your own illusions. Apparently, your Christianity has morphed into the equivalent of an Indian caste system of untouchables based on the illusion of innate spiritual purity. You declare in mocking tones that you want “no special categories for homosexuals or the lame or the hearing impaired or those who want to marry their siblings.” Your slippery slope metaphors aren’t hyperbolic enough. How about some bestiality, coprophilia, necrophilia, or autoerotic asphyxiation to get the ball rolling? Or should I say the gag ball? They’re all just around the corner if we allow the definition of marriage to be inclusive. You may want to check with Balaam about how to proceed in the slippery slope wars. I’m sure the word “ass” is too laden with allusions of sodomy. You seem more than casually captive to extreme sexual fear and lame prognosis. A captive is someone who has no freedom to choose alternatives to avoid something. Your “freedom” is not compromised by captivity but by refusal to open the door you insist on closing behind you. Jesus began his ministry by proclaiming the very things you would deny:

“…The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

How do you propose to claim release from the heart of blindness when you refuse to see?  Like a typical Tennessee lawyer (which was your intended profession at one time) you parse things into oblivion or bury them beneath a blizzard of overly large words for the sake of “clarity,” and you end up missing everything Christ said and embracing everything he didn’t say. You call the resulting consequence oppression. It brings to mind Will Rogers’ adage, “I never doubted the ancestry of Tennessee folks until they tried to establish it by law.” But the law you honor is more oppressive than the justice bestowed by laws you fear. Your version of vigilantism is an inverse form of tolerance—tolerance for leaders who have lost their moral sense and vacated their moral authority in the name of doctrine, tradition and unquestioning obedience.

I think that will have to be our working definition of intrinsically evil: Something which is contained wholly within the church on which it acts. Maybe instead of gay reversion therapy, you could try “pray the predator away and save the prey camp.”

Jim Swenson:

The idea that either homosexuality or homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” is a purely religious notion that is flatly contradicted by consensus medical opinion. Sodomy (narrowly defined) may be unhealthy and dangerous, but it is practiced by minorities of both heterosexuals and homosexuals. It is no more “intrinsically disordered” than skate-boarding, poor dental hygiene, or over-indulgence in fast foods. No one should be imprisoned or executed for any of these behaviors. If all risky and unhealthy behaviors—let alone the sexual ones—were punishable by imprisonment, then few people would be left outside the prisons.

Execution and imprisonment are at one end of the spectrum of mistreatment that homosexuals are subjected to. In the middle range are school bullying and violent assaults. Then we get to kids thrown out of their homes and onto the streets, and finally there’s the more insidious steady drip of stigmatization, discrimination, and hate speech originating almost entirely in “Christian” churches.

This is the spectrum of mistreatment, and I’m very glad we can agree that homosexuals should never be mistreated. Let’s work to eliminate all these forms of mistreatment. We can do that by truly supporting “human rights, the inherent dignity of each and every human being, and the protection of each person from persecution by the powerful.” (your words)

I believe that is exactly what the Obama Administration is trying to do with regard to the widespread persecution of homosexuals in some of the most regressive and repressive countries of the world, and I applaud him for that.

You may fault Obama for not respecting the “rights” of embryos, but it is wrong to hold gays and lesbians hostage in that fight. It is wrong to fault him for trying to stem the tide of violence against gays and lesbians.

Timothy Brock:

My eye just caught Johan Lindahl’s comment on another post nearby. He wrote: “The truth of the scapegoat was right in front of him, but he did not recognize it.”

ScapegoatI want to borrow those very words for this comment. What could be more obvious than the scapegoating of homosexuals in our culture? But it’s only obvious to its victims and to those who care about them.

If LGBTs were not victims of scapegoating, then we would be having a national conversation about behaviors and not identities, and we would know how to avoid generalizations and stereotypes of the same sort that were once applied to Jews.

If you don’t approve of sodomy, then talk about sodomy, not about homosexuality, because sodomy is practiced by both straights and gays.

If you don’t approve of unsafe sex, then talk about unsafe sex, not homosexuality, because unsafe sex is practiced by both straights and gays.

If you don’t approve of promiscuity, then talk about promiscuity, not homosexuality, because many or most homosexuals are no more promiscuous than their heterosexual counterparts.

Discrimination against entire classes of people on the basis of what some of their members do is just wrong and bigoted. When that discrimination is selective—condemning in a disfavored class what is tolerated in a favored one—you have scapegoating in its starkest and ugliest form. What is happening in countries like Iran, Pakistan, Uganda, and Saudi Arabia is simply unconscionable by any moral measure. If we have any influence over these regimes, we must use it to help those who are oppressed by them.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t scapegoating one of the major themes of René Girard’s work? Maybe it’s time to revisit those chapters, as well as his entire book on the subject.

Gil Bailie’s post (5/15/13), to which the preceding comments are addressed:

Remember multiculturalism? I figured it was a swindle, but many swooned over every exotic culture, even though none of the exotic cultures believed in multiculturalism for a minute.

But that was way, way back in, say, 2005 or thereabouts. Now that the multiculturalists have their hands on the levers of power, they are determined to … get this … impose Western multiculturalism on those benighted cultures that Western multiculturalism found so quaint and charming and worthy of great deference just a few years ago.

SO . . .

I ask my friends who support gay “rights” to resist the urge to dismiss Robert Reilly’s argument and to read his article to the end. This is about a lot more than sexual orientation. Reilly is making a very important and very cogent philosophical argument about the political folly and international arrogance of scorning natural moral law in favor of “rights” assigned to behavior or lifestyle— “rights” that in effect undermine the very concept of human rights—leaving the weak—regardless of their sexual preferences—more, not less, vulnerable. The article concludes with moral reasoning of the first order.

The Benghazi Affair and Selective Amnesia

BenghaziScoop

by Dean Hansen

[Editor’s note: Dean Hansen is responding to a post by Gil Bailie on The Cornerstone Forum, dated 5/10/13. I have included a copy of Mr. Bailie’s post following Mr. Hansen’s response.]

I find it more than passably interesting that your own church decided to honor Saul Alinsky by awarding him the Pacem In Terris, an award given in commemoration of the 1963 encyclical letter “Peace on Earth” by Pope John XXIII. It was given in 1969 by a number of Catholic archdioceses and organizations that apparently had the bad taste to overlook the ogre-like qualities you have associated with Alinsky in your bid to demonize anyone who was ever associated with Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Short term selective amnesia is not a good thing when you’re on the offensive against lies, deceptions and “failures of character.”

Different-strokes-for-different-folks-106812717617I would guess that these deficits are operating at full speed to repress memories of the lies told by Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. You know—using the IRS, the FBI, the CIA, and the Secret Service to go after opponents; stealing the Presidential election in 2000; lying to the American people about weapons of mass destruction; suggesting that Saddam Hussein had the capacity to send unmanned aircraft to the U.S. carrying everything from chemical weapons to nuclear bombs;  Ignoring the U.N. and launching a war when the Security Council refused to do so; pressuring Colin Powell to present false evidence to the U.N.; and launching the second Iraq war, leading to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and more than a million refugees as a years of sectarian violence took hold on Iraq. Compare the four killed at Benghazi to the nearly 6,700 U.S. soldiers that have died in the Iraq and Afghan wars as a result of Bush and his lies.  Unlike Clinton’s “mawkish” performance at Ambassador Stevens’ funeral, Bush never attended any soldier’s funerals but did manage a bit of phony stage craft with his premature “Mission Accomplished” boondoggle. (This from a guy who used his father’s influence to avoid the military draft.) The Bush White House created the offshore military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as secret detention sites in eastern Europe to evade domestic and military justice systems. The Iraq war created the federal debt crisis that we are still trying to dig our way out from. The total costs of the Iraq and Afghan wars will reach between four and six trillion dollars, when the long-term medical costs are added in for wounded veterans, a March 2013 report by a Harvard researcher has estimated. Earlier reports said the wars cost $2 billion a week.

Of course when you have tunnel vision, you only acknowledge the side of the equation that favors your own tortured view of reality. You of course would never have that view of reality orchestrated by anyone but the most trusted news agency in the world. Here’s a tip from the “evil” Saul Alinsky and those who are mentored by him:  “…One of the most important things in life is what judge Learned Hand described as “that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you’re right. If you don’t have that, if you think you’ve got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated.” That sounds pretty subversive to me all right, but not in the way you might imagine. Perhaps both you and Mark Steyn can ruminate on failures of character by starting where it’s most noticeable. Mainly in yourselves.

If obstinacy, dereliction of duty and simple ignorance are any clue, then the Senate’s prime mouthpiece for global warming denialism shows an equal adaptability at conflating, avoiding or misinterpreting facts everywhere else he looks. When it comes to weaving grand narratives of duplicity and purposeful wrongdoing that happen to involve Benghazi and our current President—who just happens to be a secret Muslim shapeshifting alien from Kenya—Senator James Inhofe marches in goose-step with the paleo-orthodoxy of the current G.O.P. via incessant promptings of Fox “news.”  Could anything be more transparent?  The “I-word” that Inhofe injects so coyly into his conversation does not mean Idiot, because he wasn’t talking about himself. He is of course invoking the neo-con’s favorite talking point in their poorly nuanced contempt for the President by suggesting he should be removed from office via impeachment.

This of course is a secondary rather than a primary goal. The real emphasis is on Hillary Clinton and the fact that the Republicans have no one they can mount as a challenge who can generate anything approaching the wattage she can muster if she decides to run for office in 2016.  Witness stankmeister Karl Rove’s feeble demonization attempt at everything Clinton in a preemptive knee jerk ad. This is premature campaign propaganda aimed three years in the future at best. If the unbelievably low approval ratings of the present Congress are any clue, midterm congressional elections will deflate Republican hopes even further come the next presidential election.  If Benghazi catches fire politically, and stains Clinton’s reputation sufficiently to ruin her chances, they will all clamor to crawl as far up the collective asses of Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, John Boehner, Lindsey Graham, and Dick Cheney as is humanly possible. Without Benghazi as a souped-up narrative for malfeasance, there may not be a Republican party by 2016, so in that sense, it’s extremely important to them to win one for the Gipper, or Ayn Rand or whoever the hell is in their lineup.

Rabid scandal-mongering and conspiratorial hatchet jobs are nothing new with the Republican party.  But when you consider issues such as drone warfare, environmental and species collapse, drug abuse, thuggery from the IRS, rampant gun violence, predatory lending, bank fraud, the energy crisis, the Israeli Palestinian conflict, Iran’s nuclear program, North Korea, the India/Pakistan conflict, and Afghanistan—all of them real and damning issues confronting us in the 21st Century—Benghazi by comparison is a feeble joke.

The irony of this overblown attempt at scandal is that the administration knew full well that the GOP would attempt to spin events related to acts of terrorism in their own favor, especially before the last election. The catch-22 is that what looked like an attempt to cover a dispute between two government agencies eager to exonerate themselves from blame for events seemingly beyond their control was heightened by the expectation of blowback that would shine a negative light on them. The relentless contempt for the president combined with the pressure to find something impeachable in his actions led in no small measure to the events as they played out.  The truth remains that it was a terrorist attack, and that both the President and the Secretary of State have acknowledged that and knew it from the start. Was this incompetence not to call it what it was straight out? Yes and no. When you’re working day in and day out with people whose modus operandi is to undermine everything you do for political leverage, it’s no less understandable. No one in their right mind would dare to argue that the President is “soft” on terrorism.  The greater frailty of this administration is its apparent willingness to leave in place legal mechanisms initiated by George W. Bush, which raise serious constitutional issues about the use of torture, the suspension of habeas corpus and the intensifying militarization of U.S. policy both at home and abroad through the use of drone strikes, surveillance here and abroad, and continuous boots on the ground in numerous countries.

The Republican leadership in Congress, obsessed with high crimes and misdemeanors, meanwhile seems intent on ignoring every mandate for useful change demanded by the public who voted them in to office. In their collective attempt to derail the president’s executive power, they have made countless attempts to either sequester, gerrymander, filibuster, obstruct, or foul every important piece of legislation that has come their way. Forget for a moment that there were 64 attacks on American diplomatic targets during President George W. Bush’s administration. If you narrow it down to between January 2002, and September 2008 there were 60 people killed and numerous wounded at 13 different U.S. consulates, compounds and embassies. Where is the uproar about those events? American diplomatic facilities have been targets of anti-American sentiment for decades. When embassy officials are being fired on by enemy combatants and are in imminent danger of being overwhelmed,  you had better have in place a system to protect them. That means first and foremost a hot line connected directly to battle-ready military resources that can act quickly, make snap decisions independent of bureaucratic misdirection, and not be deterred by conflicting orders from multiple sources.  Clinton accepted complete blame for the failures at Benghazi, but the fault certainly does not rest with her alone. It is the system itself that needs fixing. In spite of that, the Republican aisle of Congress has been reducing diplomatic security budgets in recent years. Between fiscal years 2011 and 2012, the Republican-led House of Representatives sought to cut more than $450 million from President Obama’s budget request for embassy security funding. Although the Senate was able to restore some of this critical funding, it was not enough. All of this creates a nice self-fulfilling prophecy if you don’t mind shooting yourself in the foot in the process while blaming those who must live (and die) with the actual fallout.

The ugly downside of all this is that for voters who think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history, 39% of them don’t even know where it is. Ten percent think it’s in Egypt, 9% in Iran, 6% in Cuba, 5% in Syria, 4% in Iraq, and 1% each in North Korea and Liberia with 4% not willing to venture a guess.

The-Good-Ship-GOPVoters trust Hillary Clinton over Congressional Republicans on the issue of Benghazi by a 49/39 margin and Clinton’s +8 net favorability rating at 52/44 is identical to what it was in a national poll conducted in late March. The moment that Fox declared “everyone was waiting for” and that was ginned up by the likes of Sean Hannity, Lindsey “Butters” Graham, Steve King, Gretta Van Susteren, Megyn Kelly, and the other squeek boxes at Ailes clown cafeteria of the air, may yet be in the works.  That is, if they don’t mind singing a collective dirge on the deck of  the S.S. Republican Party as it takes down the media rats with the sinking ship.

On 5/10/13, Gil Bailie links to a National Review article by Mark Steyn and writes:

To conjure up obfuscations in order to defeat a bill before the Illinois legislature that would outlaw infanticide is to lie—to others and, arguably, to oneself. Mr. Obama’s response to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scandal in 2008 was a tissue of lies, as was his response to questions about his close association with terrorist William Ayers, in whose home Obama launched his political career. Lies always require more lies. The most egregious lies in the Benghazi affair are Ambassador Susan Rice’s lies to the five networks on September 16; the President’s UN speech, during which he mentioned the YouTube video six times; and Secretary Clinton’s shameless words to [the] grieving family of Tyrone Woods that “we’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video.”

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Plan B in the Crossfire

Plan BGil Bailie writes:

The FDA lowers to 15 the age at which girls can buy the Plan B morning after pill without a prescription. That’s the pill that wreaks havoc on a young woman’s body, potentially affects her later fertility, and induces an early abortion when fertilization has occurred. We live in a culture where children are robbed of their childhood and adolescence is prolonged almost into middle-age. We are now providing 15-year-old girls with the wherewithal to behave immorally, act irresponsibly, and endanger their future health and happiness, all for the sake of testing just how far we are willing to sink in deference to the sexual revolution’s normless nihilism.

Dan Hansen responds:

Some inconvenient truth: No one wants young girls and boys to be robbed of their innocence or pushed into experiences they are not ready for. That especially includes the experience of abortion.  This kind of misplaced sentimentality that restricts knowledge under the guise of parental protection is dangerous and ultimately futile.  Trying to shelter young people from reality by denying them legitimate knowledge about sex and procreation paves the road to ongoing disappointment. As for the morning-after pill, Plan B is safer than aspirin. The only thing it wreaks havoc with is the endless drama generated by conservative religious panic designed to control other people’s lives. Unwanted and unplanned pregnancies don’t have to happen.  The unborn don’t have to be the “preborn” or the “soon to arrive” waiting for a scalpel or a vacuum pump. With all the false thresholds thrown up as evidence for the wanton destruction of life and the endless moving of goal posts to sustain them, it makes little sense to argue against the prevention of an unwanted pregnancy after intercourse has already taken place.   A prevented life is not a destroyed life. It is at best a postponed one, at worst an unwanted one. Not everyone wants, needs, or feels fulfilled by having children, or by continuing to have them when additional pregnancies would strain their resources to the breaking point. For those who choose not to have children, postponement is a form of emancipation from the constraints of religious and moral opprobrium passed down by the church that tell both men and women that they can only be truly happy or fulfilled as human beings if they walk some imaginary party line instituted, ironically, by a group of celibate octogenarians whose sexual experience is more than occasionally limited to abusing the children of those who still believe them. This is the result of having marinated oneself in ageless proclamations about sexuality being either immoral, sinful or nihilistic. The kind of norms conservative members of the church are petulant about and endlessly long to see the return of possesses one major flaw: If they truly made us happy, or brought settled meaning into our lives, we wouldn’t have abandoned or redefined them in pursuit of something better.  If priests who claim to be captives of Christ can feel this way, so can anyone else.

The morning-after pill, marketed under such names as Plan B, Next Choice or Ella, are all preventative measures with high degrees of safety and reliability. They ensure that abortion is unnecessary and that pregnancy does not have to be an automatic consequence of sexual activity.  IUDs are even more desirable in terms of their long range effectiveness. They have a 99% success rate at preventing pregnancy. Those who argue vehemently against abortion are really arguing for it by obscuring and obstructing these medical facts. The best way to ensure a means of “wreaking havoc” on women is to pile endless guilt on them in the futile and divisive attempt at distracting them from their decision-making power and by so doing, divesting them of a moral agency that isn’t flat, one-dimensional or lacking in vision or empathy.

Perhaps Mr. Bailie would like every teenage girl who gets pregnant to deliver a child regardless of her circumstances, but that’s where his moral concern for life and his refusal to think beyond the severe constraints of his paleo-orthodoxy  takes a sharp drop off the moral precipice. What if she’s a drug addict who got pregnant from prostituting herself to support her habit and dreads supporting the unwanted child that results from that enterprise? Will he adopt it? What if she lives with her parents and they decide to kick her out of their house because “we didn’t raise our daughter to be a tramp?” Will he welcome the fruit of her womb into his home? What if she was made pregnant by a rapist? You might ask the women who were nearly killed by their abusers if they believe those little bundles of joy growing inside their collective bellies are “sacred and precious in God’s eyes.” Is he going to raise one of them to prove it is so? Excuse my cynicism, but I feel confident in assuming the answer is no in all these cases.

I believe that almost every high-minded, pro-life advocate is just one unwanted pregnancy away from being pro-choice.  Until that happens, having a better system of addressing the unchanging facts of our sexual lives is already with us. And it doesn’t involve useless and wasted ablutions to a God who gave you the capacity to think for yourself and use the common sense he already bestowed on you.

In sharp contrast to the tribal nihilism inherent in Bailie’s endless denialism about climate change and the very real havoc it will unleash on us if we continue to do nothing, he manages to invoke the same mental habits he clings to as descriptors of anyone who is sexually active outside the rapturous confines of the mystically-charged nuptial bed. In case Mr. Bailie and others who share his views haven’t noticed, teenagers are already sexually active in large numbers at increasingly younger ages. They did not stumble into the widening gyre of nihilism and immorality because they discovered they were sexually alive.  That’s when they made an earnest attempt to assess their futures without purging what it means to be human in the process. Science attempts to provide women with the tools to keep that future intact. The god Bailie claim to know understands this. Why in heaven’s name doesn’t he?