John Henry

Don't call me Nueman.

Rush Limbaugh, Race Baiter

I have to say, I try to keep my expectations for political personalities on the radio and television low. But this is pretty appalling:

It’s Obama’s America, is it not? Obama’s America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety but in Obama’s America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, “Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on,” and, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he’s white. Newsweek magazine told us this. We know that white students are destroying civility on buses, white students destroying civility in classrooms all over America, white congressmen destroying civility in the House of Representatives.

Let me get this straight, according to Rush: 1) Obama approves or is responsible somehow for white kids getting beat up on school busses. 2) Obama approves or is responsible somehow for people cheering while white kids get beat up on school busses; 3) Obama approves or is responsible somehow for the idea that white kids are all racists and deserve to get beat up on school busses; and 4) Somehow there is a connection to be drawn here to Joe Wilson’s intemperate outburst during Obama’s speach the other night.

How do people listen to this stuff?

H/T: The American Scene

Update: Re-reading the transcript again, I still think Rush is race-baiting, although not in the sense my comments above suggest. I don’t think Rush was actually intending to make a direct comment on Obama, much less about busses and school children. Rather, he was engaging in a caricature of lefty  outrage over various political and racial issues (e.g. Jimmy Carter’s recent remarks) . I think this type of caricature is irresponsible and foments racial tensions, even if Rush’s intention was just to foment partisan outrage. Race is a highly charged issue with good reason given our country’s history, and the risks of misinterpretation are very high. Accordingly, I think it is irresponsible and, in some sense, race-baiting, to belittle these concerns and treat them as if they were trivial. While I don’t want to be humorless or disingenuous, I agree with Megan McArdle that 1) if so many missed it, it’s not a very good satire; 2) what Rush is actually doing is quite bad enough.

Also, for those interested, Michael Iafrate thinks that many of the commenters in this thread are racists. I have not allowed his comments to come through because I do not think they will lead to a productive discussion here, and I will delete any comments that respond to Michael’s accusation. If you would like to discuss these issues with Michael, he blogs at Vox Nova and Catholic Anarchy.

Don't Flatter Your Honor Roll Student

I came across this book review last week in the Wall Street Journal, and thought it was interesting:

Now, in “NurtureShock,” Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman survey the newest new findings about child development. Little in the book is all that shocking, but given our enthusiasm for turning tentative child ­research into settled policy, the studies that the ­authors discuss are of more than passing interest.

A striking example is the latest research on ­self-esteem. As Mr. Bronson and Ms. Merryman remind us, the psychologist Nathaniel Brandon published a path-breaking paper in 1969 called “The Psychology of Self-Esteem” in which he argued that feelings of self-worth were a key to success in life. The theory became a big hit in the nation’s schools; in the mid-1980s, the California Legislature even ­established a self-esteem task force. By now, there are 15,000 scholarly articles on the subject.

And what do they show? That high self-esteem doesn’t improve grades, reduce ­anti-social behavior, deter alcohol drinking or do much of anything good for kids. In fact, telling kids how smart they are can be ­counterproductive. Many children who are convinced that they are little geniuses tend not to put much effort into their work. Others are troubled by the latent anxiety of adults who feel it necessary to praise them constantly.

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Which Comes First, the Church or the Party?

Well, I’ve read and talked more than I ever cared to about Ted Kennedy recently, may he rest in peace. And Darwin has already ably responded to this defense of the late Senator Kennedy from Michael Sean Winters. But something about Mr. Winters response has been ringing in my ears, and I think it’s because it summarizes in a few sentences what I perceive to be the tragedy of Catholic Democrats in the U.S.: they could have taken a stand for unborn life but were unwilling. As a result, faithful Catholics have either been driven into the Republican Party, become independents, or become disconcertingly comfortable with the status quo on abortion. Currently I think both the first and last options are incompatible with Catholic thought – at least without substantial departure from party orthodoxies. Where familiarity (with both parties) should have breed contempt, it has instead yielded unconscionable familiarity and acceptance. And Mr. Winters’ post provides a clear illustration of this reality:

To dismiss his [Senator Kennedy’s] career because of his stance on abortion is to be ignorant of the complicated way the issue of abortion manifested itself in the early 1970s: I think Kennedy got it wrong but I do not find it difficult to understand why and how he got it wrong.

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The Unavoidability of Faith

Over at the First Things blog, Joe Carter highlights an excerpt from an article by Randal Rauser, a professor of theology at Taylor Seminary, Edmonton, Canada:

At the end of his tremendously irritating film “Religulous”, Bill Maher states that “Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking.” With this strange definition Maher summarizes a notion of faith which has become enormously popular in recent years, particularly with the rise of the new atheists. (Consider Richard Dawkins who dismisses religious believers as “faith heads”.)

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So….What About the Other 10 Million?

By this stage in the health care debates, most people are aware that roughly 47 million individuals in America do not have health insurance. And many people are further aware that the 47 million statistic is misleading, because roughly 14 million of these individuals are already eligible for (but have not enrolled in) existing government programs, 9 million have incomes over $75,000 and choose not to purchase private insurance, 3-5 million are only temporarily uninsured between jobs, and roughly 10 million do not have the legal right to reside in the country. In the end, this means roughly 10 million U.S. citizens lack meaningful access to health insurance.  It has been noted elsewhere that insuring these individuals would cost a lot less than the $1 trillion proposal currently under consideration in Congress, and further that it would not require a dramatic (and costly) restructuring of the U.S. health care system.

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Archbishop Chaput on the News Media

Here is Archbishop Chaput with a worthwhile reflection on how Catholics should think about the media. A few excerpts:

Most of what we know about the world comes from people we’ll never meet and don’t really understand.  We don’t even think of them as individuals.  Instead we usually talk about them in the collective – as “the media” or “the press.”  Yet behind every Los Angeles Times editorial or Fox News broadcast are human beings with personal opinions and prejudices.  These people select and frame the news.  And when we read their newspaper articles or tune in their TV shows, we engage them in a kind of intellectual intimacy in the same way you’re listening to me right now….

…The media’s power to shape public thought is why it’s so vital for the rest of us to understand their human element.  When we don’t recognize the personal chemistry of the men and women who bring us our news – their cultural and political views, their economic pressures, their social ambitions – then we fail the media by holding them to too low a standard.  We also – and much more importantly — fail ourselves by neglecting to think and act as intelligent citizens…

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Caritas in Veritate Is Here

Link here. As with all of Benedict’s encyclicals, I am sure there will be much to reflect upon. Let the discussions begin!

Will Health Care Reform Create (More) Health Care Shortages?

MSNBC recently did an interesting piece on the shortage of primary care practitioners, which has become particularly acute in rural and low-income areas. As a result, many older doctors feel that they cannot retire because there is no one to take their place:

There are not enough general care doctors to meet current needs, let alone the demands of some 46 million uninsured, who threaten to swamp the system.

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Supreme Court Justices and Religion

To ask some questions is to answer them, and via Commonweal, I see that UCLA history professor emeritus Joyce Appleby has penned a lovely exercise in anti-Catholicism entitled, Should Catholic Justices Recuse Selves On Certain Cases?. Here is an excerpt:

But because of the Catholic Church’s active opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and capital punishment, it raises serious questions about the freedom of Catholic justices to judge these issues. Perhaps the time has come to ask them to recuse themselves when cases come before their court on which their church has taken positions binding on its communicants…

…Recusal sounds like a radical measure, but we require judges to withdraw from deliberations whenever a personal interest is involved. Surely ingrained convictions exert more power on judgment than mere financial gain. Many will counter that views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and the death penalty are profound moral commitments, not political opinions. Yet who will argue that religious beliefs and the authority of the Catholic Church will have no bearing on the justices when presented with cases touching these powerful concerns?

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Are All Abortions Equal?

As a matter of first principle, yes. As a matter of law, no, and such compromises are frequently necessary. Ross Douthat explains (is it just me, or does he seem somehow less influential as a New York Times columnist than he was as a blogger):

The argument for unregulated abortion rests on the idea that where there are exceptions, there cannot be a rule. Because rape and incest can lead to pregnancy, because abortion can save women’s lives, because babies can be born into suffering and certain death, there should be no restrictions on abortion whatsoever.

As a matter of moral philosophy, this makes a certain sense. Either a fetus has a claim to life or it doesn’t. The circumstances of its conception and the state of its health shouldn’t enter into the equation.

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Christopher West's Defenders

Christopher West came in for some criticism recently, much of it deserved, for his appearance on Nightline. In one sense, I sympathize with the critics. I have heard West speak, and found the simplification (bordering on sensationalization) of certain aspects of Theology of the Body somewhat off-putting. In a perfect world, people would read the writings of John Paull II and others to acquire a sophisticated, nuanced grasp of the subject matter. Nevertheless, that is not the world in which we live. That being the case I think, on balance, West’s work is valuable, difficult, and necessary.

And so I was somewhat surprised to see Dr. Schindler take the recent brouhaha as an opportunity to rather harshly criticize all of West’s work. The tension between academics and popularizers is nothing new (even writers as brilliant as C.S. Lewis and Chesterton had and have their academic detractors); but one would hope for a more restrained and sympathetic treatment given the difficulty of presenting the Catholic understanding of sexuality in the modern United States. I think the following defenses by Dr. Janet Smith and Dr. Michael Waldstein help provide a better context for understanding West and his work:

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Gallup: More Americans Identify as "Pro-Life" Than "Pro-Choice" For First Time

This is only one survey, but it is encouraging all the same. The denial of legal protection to an entire class of human beings is one of the most serious human rights issues of our time. Here’s an excerpt from the article, with some thoughts below:

A new Gallup Poll, conducted May 7-10, finds 51% of Americans calling themselves “pro-life” on the issue of abortion and 42% “pro-choice.” This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995.

Gallup1

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