We have reached a new level of political absurdity when the right is mad at the pope and the left wants to anoint his head with oil.Frank Bruni shows that, while the Pope might be willing to offend sensibilities, those seeking political office in America are much less flexible.
Everyone seems to have his own special version of Pope Francis. Liberals have declared him a crusader for social justice, especially regarding his comments about global inequality. Conservatives fear he just might be a commie. ...
Upon reading the pope’s words about greed and inequality, Rush Limbaugh threw down the word “Marxist” like an overcooked rib-eye. The pontiff’s words, said the man of many words, was “just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.” ...
Next comes Adam Shaw, news editor for FoxNews.com and a Catholic, who wrote that the pope is like Obama — the worst invective a good conservative can hurl this side of “You’re a tool of Satan!”
“Just like President Obama loved apologizing for America, Pope Francis likes to apologize for the Catholic Church, thinking that the Church is at its best when it is passive and not offending anyone’s sensibilities,” Shaw wrote. Both men, he implies, “pander to enemies ” and are “professional grievance mongers.” And so on.
Pray, where does one see passivity in Pope Francis? The man is an activist, a street-worker, a foot-washer and an evangelizer. There’s nothing passive or pandering about him. And it would appear that Francis is quite willing to offend sensibilities.
You can make a successful run for political office in this country without an especially thick resume, any exceptional talent for expressing yourself, a noteworthy education or, for that matter, a basic grasp of science.In the spirit of protecting both religion and democracy, I'd like to propose that any politician who mentions their personal religion should be subject to a zillion dollar fine and 400 years in purgatory. Any politician mentioning their opponent's religious beliefs should immediately forfeit the race and have to go to lunch with Bill O'Reilly.
But you better have religion. You better be ready to profess your faith in and fealty to God — the Judeo-Christian one, of course. And you better be convincing. ...
As full of insight and beauty as the Bible is, it’s not a universally and unconditionally embraced document, and it’s certainly not a secular one. Yet it’s under the hand of almost every American president who takes the oath of office.
It’s in classrooms, some of which teach creationism. The Texas Board of Education has been withholding approval of a widely used biology textbook because it presents evolution as more than just a theory. Thus, in the nation’s second most populous state, whose governor essentially kicked off his 2012 presidential campaign with a stadium rally for tens of thousands of evangelicals, religion is trumping scholarship, at least for now.
"So help me God." "Under God." "In God We Trust." Perhaps we’re meant to register these ubiquitous phrases as unspecific inspirations, vague recognitions of an undefined higher power, general appeals to generous living. But they’re rooted in a given religious tradition and are arguably the gateways to the Arkansas ridiculousness and to the overwrought accusations of a “war on Christmas” that herald the holiday season as surely as Frosty the Snowman and Black Friday do.
Three of four Americans are at least nominally Christian. But that leaves one in four who aren’t. One in five Americans don’t claim any binding religious preference or affiliation, and their ranks have grown significantly over the last two decades. Out-and-out atheists remain a sliver of the population, but a restive sliver at that. On some Sundays in some cities over recent months, they've gathered by the hundreds for church-style celebrations without psalms, making the point that good will and community don’t depend on divinity.
Now that we've been to church, let's see what else is up this morning. Come on in.
Eugene Robinson says a minimum wage increase is not just essential, it's doable.
We know from the debt-ceiling fight... that House Republicans can be induced to do the right thing — if the political cost of doing the wrong thing is unacceptably high. And this looks like an issue on which Obama and the Democrats should be able to get real traction.Australia's system, where most benefits are divorced from the control of employers, tremendously changes the balance between corporations and workers. You want economic mobility? Give workers the option to take a better job when they see it without risking the health of their family or their eventual retirement.
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is shamefully low compared with minimum-wage levels in other industrialized countries — nearly $13 in France, for example, and around $10 in Britain and Canada.
The highest minimum wage in a major country is Australia’s — in U.S. dollars, about $15 an hour at the current exchange rate. Conservatives would howl if anyone in Washington proposed such a thing. According to Republican dogma, such a high minimum wage would be the ultimate job-killer, a disastrous move that could only choke off the recovery and perhaps send the economy back into recession.
Apparently, nobody told all this to the Australians. Unemployment there is 5.7 percent, versus 7 percent in the United States. The Australian economy escaped the Great Recession of 2007-08 and in fact hasn’t seen any kind of recession in 20 years. (Oh, and Australia has universal health care, too, but perhaps that’s another column.)
Doyle McManus directs your attention to the new star of the Obama administration.
He was Obama's second choice as secretary of State (after Susan Rice). He's the same windy, stiff Bostonian who ran unsuccessfully for president a decade ago. And he's taken on a list of assignments that looked distinctly unpromising: nuclear negotiations with Iran, peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the civil war in Syria.He'd have been a helluva president.
But in 10 months, Kerry has embarked on a whirlwind of diplomacy. He helped conclude an interim deal with Iran that puts a ceiling on Tehran's nuclear enrichment. He launched new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks with the goal of producing a deal next year. And he secured a date for negotiations to end the war in Syria, although it's still not certain who will show up.
...give Kerry credit. He has dared to take big risks — in notable contrast to his revered but risk-averse predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton tended to subcontract out the unpromising assignments to special envoys like the late Richard C. Holbrooke, her deputy for Afghanistan. But Kerry has taken them on himself, personally and visibly. If any of them fail — and they all could — he'll take the fall himself.
Maureen Dowd never seems happy with sitting Democratic presidents, but appears to be fond of dead ones.
On Thursday night, we sat around, talking about the lawyer and constitutional expert in the White House, a leader both didactic and charming, peacenik and hawk; the Ivy League academic who improbably ascended to the Oval Office on brains, not beholden to anyone; the Democrat, eager to fight economic inequality and help the 99 percent, who would give a government bailout if he had to; the dapper man with large ears, elegant speeches he wrote himself, a love of golf.But if you think this is going to be an unvarnished praise-fest.
We sat around talking about Woodrow Wilson.
Despite the superficial similarities to the other smarty-pants in the White House now, Wilson was better in one way — he haunted the President’s Room in the Capitol to keep a sustained dialogue going with members of Congress — and far worse in others.History's judgement in this is spot on.
As one young woman from the Wilson Center put it, "History has judged Wilson as a racist and a sexist."
David Ignatius sees a conflict brewing between increased need for global intervention and increasing reluctance to get involved.
The crackup ahead lies in the mismatch between the challenges facing America and the public’s willingness to support activist foreign policy to deal with them. Simply put: There is a splintering of the traditional consensus for global engagement at the very time that some big new problems are emerging.I believe you can stop right there, Mr. Ignatius. If the best example you can find is the effort that led to going into Iraq, then your argument moves directly to "screen door on a submarine" on the scale of effectiveness.
The traditional American response to such puzzles has been to form a bipartisan commission. A model is the pathbreaking 2006 Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by James A. Baker III...
Ross Douthat quite literally spends an entire article saying... well, not nothing. There are word-ish items lined up into sort of sentency structures. But it's about as close to nothing as you can come while filling a column. Basically, yes Obamacare is fixed, but it's still got problems and maybe those problems will remain a problem and if they remain a problem then Democrats have, you know, problems. Or not. But, they could. So... there.
The New York Times wants more interesting math and science.
American students are bored by math, science and engineering. They buy smartphones and tablets by the millions but don’t pursue the skills necessary to build them. Engineers and physicists are often portrayed as clueless geeks on television, and despite the high pay and the importance of such jobs to the country’s future, the vast majority of high school graduates don’t want to go after them. ...Or it could be that they're being taught by dedicated teachers with a strong interest in their subjects, only those teachers keep getting interfered with by politicians who want to prove they are "doing something" while being scientifically illiterate, groups that promote science ignorance, teaching fads driven by academic "stars" who appeal to one of the above, billionaire dilettantes with axes to grind, and media organizations who are certain that they know better than the people actually doing the work. Anyway...
One of the biggest reasons for that lack of interest is that students have been turned off to the subjects as they move from kindergarten to high school. Many are being taught by teachers who have no particular expertise in the subjects. They are following outdated curriculums and textbooks. They become convinced they’re “no good at math,” that math and science are only for nerds, and fall behind.
Finding ways to make math and science exciting for students who are in the middle of the pack could have a profound effect on their futures...I suggest we start off teaching students that decent education requires decent funding, that the state lottery is a miserable method of securing funds, and maybe toss in some basic economics on how middle class wages have been trending down since trickle down while corporations are sitting on record cash. Maybe that will stir up a little interest in math.
Dana Millbank defends Michelle Obama against FLOTUS critics.
The chattering class is conducting one of its periodic evaluations of Michelle Obama, and, as usual, is finding her wanting. Before, she was too outspoken; now, too demure. A month ago, the New York Times reported that she has been “derided by critics who hoped she would use her historic position to move more deeply into policy.”Andy Coghlan looks at what it takes to eat healthy. Namely, more money.
Then came Politico’s headline calling her a feminist nightmare. The author, Michelle Cottle, wrote that Obama's "Ivy League degrees, career success and general aura as an ass-kicking, do-it-all superwoman had some women fantasizing that she would, if not find a clever way to revive the 2-for-1 model pitched by the Clintons so long ago, at least lean in and speak out on a variety of tough issues. It was not to be."
...the real flaw in the nightmare critique is that the first lady's traditional take on the role has nothing to do with gender, or race, or anything at all about Michelle Obama. It’s about politics. She simply has no practical alternative.
Eating healthily costs about $1.50 more per day per person, according to the most thorough review yet of the affordability of a healthy diet.
"For many low-income families, an extra $1.50 daily is quite a lot," says Mayuree Rao of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, who led the analysis. "It translates to about $550 more per year for one person, and that could be a real barrier to healthy eating."
Rao and her colleagues reached their conclusions after analysing 27 studies from 10 high-income countries, mainly the US, comparing price data for healthy versus unhealthy ingredients and diets. For example, one study compared the cost of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables versus one that was deficient in them. Another compared prices of specific healthy and less healthy items, such as wholegrain versus white bread.
Individual items were closely matched in price. Meats saw the largest difference: healthier options cost an average of 29 cents per serving more than unhealthy options.