Archive

November 5th, 2015

The Catholic Church’s Sins Are Ours

    It’s fashionable among some conservatives to rail that there’s insufficient respect for religion in America and that religious people are marginalized, even vilified.

    That’s bunk. In more places and instances than not, they get special accommodation and the benefit of the doubt. Because they talk of God, they’re assumed to be good. There’s a reluctance to besmirch them, an unwillingness to cross them.

    The new movie “Spotlight,” based on real events, illuminates this brilliantly.

    “Spotlight” — which opens in New York, Los Angeles and Boston on Friday and nationwide later this month — chronicles the painstaking manner in which editors and writers at The Boston Globe documented a pattern of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests and the concealment of these crimes by Catholic leaders.

    Because of the movie’s focus on the digging and dot-connecting that go into investigative reporting, it has invited comparisons to “All the President’s Men.”

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Speaker Ryan is the one who can't be trusted on immigration reform

    When it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, everything old is new again. All the obstruction and careless rhetoric about not trusting the president flung around by former House speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was picked up by new Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. And just because Ryan says it with such conviction doesn't make what he says true.

    Ryan made his unprompted assertion during an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd that aired Sunday on "Meet the Press." Let's unpack what Ryan said, shall we?

    "The president has proven himself untrustworthy on this issue, because he tried to unilaterally rewrite the law himself." The speaker is referring to the executive actions the president took a year ago to address some of the festering issues around illegal immigration.

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Remarkable turn for Incarceration Nation

    It’s not true that nothing gets done in Congress.

    You can’t have a resolution designating “National Day of the American Cowboy” and a designation of “Hockey is for Everyone Month” without bipartisan cooperation. Give our most embarrassing public institution some credit.

    Sure, generally what emanates from those corridors has all the functionality of a wad of gum under a bar stool. It’s not even good for display purposes. And yet, I can report that something miraculous – more miraculously, something bipartisan – is happening right now.

    Without any true mandate from well-fed and oblivious constituents, players from both sides of the aisle are addressing one of America’s most serious injustices.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee recently voted by a lopsided bipartisan margin – 15-5 – to reverse a tragically oppressive, generation-long build-up of our prison population.

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Finland may pay citizens just for being Finns

    Finland could become the first country to introduce a universal basic income.

    An official at the Finnish Social Insurance Institution, known as KELA, said last week that each Finn could receive 800 euros ($876) a month, tax free, that would replace existing benefits. Full implementation would be preceded by a pilot stage, during which the basic income payout would be 550 euros and some benefits would remain.

    KELA will present a proposal by November 2016, but for now the idea sounds unrealistic. Finland has one of the European Union's shakier economies. It has been in recession almost continually since mid-2012 and lacks growth opportunities. The traditionally strong pulp and paper industry is in decline and the tech sector hasn't lived up to expectations after Nokia lost its place as the mobile-phone market leader. Giving 800 euros a month to every Finn (the population is 5.4 million) would cost 52.2 billion euros a year, and the government projects revenue of 49.1 billion euros for 2016.

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Don't blame it all on the moderators

    The Republican debates have been a disaster for some candidates, a boon for others and an uninspiring spectacle for the nation to witness. But don't blame it all on the moderators.

     Not that the questioners are blameless, mind you. It's true that some of the queries at last week's CNBC encounter seemed designed to provoke rather than elucidate. Ted Cruz's memorable characterization of the questions sounded like a parody: "Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?" But the moderators, using different words, really did ask those things.

     They weren't crazy questions, though, even if they should have been framed in a less confrontational way.

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Blaming The Wrong Source For Embarrassment

    Republicans, it isn't the debate moderators who are embarrassing you. It is your candidates. It isn't the questions being asked causing you trouble. It is the answers, or lack of such, from your candidates.

    Lets face it. People running for the highest office of the land should expect all manner of inquiry, even some "gotcha" questions. Although I contend they have not been asked much of the latter, certainly not as much as they can expect from ordinary citizens as the campaign drags on. These moderators are required to keep the debate interesting and would be remiss if they stuck only to simple subjects.

    Admittedly, the occasion demands more profound questions but these candidates would probably be in even more trouble with such.

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Anti-immigration Republicans rein in Ryan

    House Speaker Paul Ryan has done what was expected of him: He blamed President Barack Obama for Republicans' inability to pass immigration legislation.

    Actually, House Republicans have proved eminently capable of passing legislation; they already passed an immigration plan this year. They voted in January to strip undocumented immigrants, including the "Dreamers" who were brought to the U.S. as children, of the protection from deportation that Obama had extended to them in a 2012 executive action.

    That vote represented the will of the Republican conference, which opposes legalizing the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. But chasing guiltless Dreamers out of the country sends the wrong message in a national election. So Ryan is required to repeat the cover story that his predecessor designed.

    In the hours after Obama's 2012 re-election, Speaker John Boehner said a "comprehensive approach" to immigration reform was "long overdue, and I'm confident that the president, myself, others, can find the common ground to take care of this issue once and for all."

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Yet another place the homeless aren't welcome: Reagan National Airport

    Did you know that it's against the law in more than 50 U.S. cities to give food to a homeless person?

    That nearly half of our cities prohibit people from sleeping in cars (according to a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty)? And that more than half of the nation's cities make it a crime to sit or lie down in certain public spaces?

    More and more in our compassion-challenged country, we're passing petty laws and regulations meant to outlaw the very things homeless people do to survive.

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When college students are afraid to speak up

    Maybe I'm a mite overconcerned about the findings of the just-released survey by McLaughlin & Associates about the attitudes of college students toward free speech. The survey, conducted during September on behalf of Yale University's William F. Buckley Jr. Program, found some disturbing responses on basic questions about just how free students think their own campus speech is.

    Before I begin, a word of caution. Young people nowadays are notoriously difficult to sample. The survey was conducted online, and the data were stratified "to reflect the actual demographic composition of undergraduate students in the United States," as reported by the federal government. But this adjustment cannot account fully for selection bias. Nevertheless, the report brings not entirely happy news for those who care about the quality of campus debate.

    I'll start with the good stuff. Most students surveyed (73 percent) don't want to scrap the First Amendment. True, a depressing 30 percent of self-described liberals think it's time to rewrite the amendment's guarantee of free speech. But I suspect the Constitution will survive their displeasure.

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Obama has a Syria plan, but it's no quick fix

    It's time to stop this constant refrain that President Barack Obama has no strategy for Syria.

    There is and always has been a strategy. From 2011 it has been to end the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, primarily through diplomatic rather than military means. Since 2012, the Obama strategy has been to use force to degrade and defeat the Islamic State.

    The basic element of the diplomatic strategy for ending Assad's rule, repeated in Friday's Vienna communique, says, "This political process will be Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, and the Syrian people will decide the future of Syria."

    Defeating the Islamic State in Syria, under Obama's strategy, rests on enabling local Syrian forces not only to beat back Islamic State fighters but to hold freed territory until a new central government, established in Damascus, can take over.

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