27 February 2012

Pity the Demagogue

Boy am I glad to be have been away for two weeks.  Actually eleven days, but when we got back from Mexico last Thursday the airways were saturated with punch drunk campaign ads.  One for Santorum punching Romney, followed immediately by one punching Santorum on behalf of Romney.  Then another for Santorum and another for Romney.  It all looks like the end of Rocky, which was a split decision. 

Anyway, I am forced to let go of my foreign exploits and refocuRepublican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, center, and supporters as they prayed earlier this month in McKinney, Texas. s on the American Taliban that is the modern Republican Party.  That sounds extreme until you read things like this: Santorum Defends Saying JFK Speech On Religion Makes Him Sick : The Two-Way : NPR

The former Senator is apparently taking the tonsure, that is, stepping into the role of national Savonarola.  To those who shares his views he must seem quite impressive for ‘calling like it is’ meaning as they see it.  But to me, and probably a few more, he is stepping quite close to demagoguery.

What strikes me, though, is that there is something almost pathetic about his fervency.  He seems to saying these things in order to get support, to win approval not rally the troops.  Senator Santorum has taken this road because it gets him the attention and approval he seeks.  He is more Joseph  McCarthy than Joe Stalin, which does not mean he is not dangerous, but that he is not impervious.

For those who do not remember or know, the McCarthy hearings fell apart one day when a witness, Jack Welch, dared to call McCarthy out.  “The afternoon of 9 June 1954 brought the emotional climax of the hearings, an exchange replayed in myriad Cold War documentaries. Ignoring a pre-hearing agreement between Welch and Cohn, McCarthy insinuated that one Fred Fischer, a young lawyer at Hale & Dorr, harbored communist sympathies. Welch responded with a righteous outburst that hit all the hot buttons: "Until this moment, senator, I think I never gauged your cruelty or recklessness....Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" 

Where are the Welches today, though?  In Renaissance time the pope knew Savonarola was wrong, but the princes of the church today cavil to the desperate demagogue.  Romney and Gingrich refuse to call him out on his intolerance, more proof of their own moral cowardice.  But where are the Ed Murrows?  the Walter Cronkites?  The Emile Zolas? 

Is not the press duty bound to hold him and others accountable for their massaged facts and slipshod reasoning?  Or are they also too bound to their market? 

Who will say,  “Shame on you sir.  You shame America with your self serving pieties and aggrandizing moral posturing.  Worse, you betray the Christ you claim, with haughty judgments and bitter pronouncements.” 

This self styled emperor of values has no clothes.  Who will say so, though?

11 February 2012

Public Reality Radio :: Faith and Reason

I am not quite as shameless at self promotion as some, and probably need to do more.  Bill Freeman and I host a weekly call-in radio program which you can find here:

Public Reality Radio :: Faith and Reason

Two hours of largely, ok mostly, unscripted stuff from the loop left and and other fun regions of faith and politics.  It happens most Fridays at 10am Eastern Time (yes we are still in the eastern time zone here.)  Even on Fridays we are not live, we are rebroadcast and if you clicked on the link above you know you can listen online, through your computer.  Heck, WPRR 1680 also has an Iphone app.  You can listen there too.

Why?  I hear people moaning about all the conservative media attention, and yes there is Rachel and Keith and Bill and even Jon, but none of them let you be part of the show. 

Except us. 

You want Occupy Radio?  We got it.  Or better, “You are it.”  Our best times are provided by listeners who ask questions, provoke us, or just want some answers. 

images“Mr. Know It All” (the Bullwinkle character not the Kelly Clarkson song) would be me, and I have clarified all sorts of questions theological and historical. 

Mad Max (that would be Bill) love to play the flame thrower which has me saying “Well, imagesCAXKHVYLwhat Bill is trying to say is…”  

Worth dropping in.  Should I send you a reminder?

05 February 2012

Why Politics is Messed Up

Everybody wants to know why national politics is so bad, and almost everyone agrees that money is a big part of it.  But even if money is the problem, no one is asking how it got that way. 

Then, a few days ago I happened upon an article in either the NYTimes or the Washington Post that detailed how much influence college football has over the colleges where they play it, especially Division 1 schools  Now I can’t find it but after searching, this one squib will hint at it: Increases in Television Money Boost College Football Coaching Salaries – Forbes

College Football seeks money tor the same reason politics seeks money – influence.  And in America influence comes through your TV.  Politicians get elected by advertising, and the more they advertise the more likely they will be elected.  Gov. Romney won Florida because of his advertising as much as anything else.  By one account, The LA Times, TV is the dominant persuasive force.

You spend money to get votes (or viewers in the case of college football) and getting said votes or viewers makes you powerful.  That in turn requires even more money to stay there.  Those who are successful are rewarded with elected office or lucrative contracts. 

Sport and politics are a means to another end, power.  And once power is obtained, money keeps you there. 

This was always true, but until the advent of cable TV it was limited to a few outlets – NBC, CBS, ABC, and a rag tag of UHF stations.  Once cable TV came, and with it more news stations and more channels and a more scattered audience, the places college football teams could be televised and politicians could advertise exploded. 

The problem is not money, but the desire for TV time.  And with cable or satellite companies now offering hundreds of stations the market is virtually infinite.  That’s why only the campaign with the most money can hope to win, because TV is the way people get their political ideas and only those who can saturate TV can hope to prevail.

But there is hope.  Instead of limiting money, which is (according to the courts) a form of speech, let’s limit the time available to advertise.  Who says TV stations must sell as much time as someone wants to buy? 

Yes, I know about the market.  But let’s not confuse the market with the forum.  Political advertising is like a candidates forum, and when you go, one candidate cannot do all the talking, right?  If four candidates showed up and one claimed the right to do all the talking we would say that isn’t fair.  How can we choose when only one gets to speak?  Or one gets to do most of the talking? 

Democracy demands that we give all voices an equal chance to be heard so people can make a reasonable choice.  I say, let’s limit the amount of TV political advertising because broadcasters (even cable ones who still send their signals through the air before they get to you) are licensed to broadcast because the airways are publicly owned. They must limit the amount they sell and cannot sell more than a portion of that to any one candidate. 

We rightly call it corruption when politicians use public goods for private and partisan advantage.  TV and radio and the internet are public byways, essential to the working of democracy.  When any one person or party effectively controls them, that is corrupt. 

I’m all verklempt from my birthday yesterday.  Discuss!