08 April 2005

GOP Values: "Culture of life" only when financially convenient

The latest fight within the Florida GOP reflects the divisions within the party and shows how the various constituencies of the party are at odds with one another. The Republican Party constantly panders to the religious right, but at the same time, they are aware that their campaigns are financed by big business. When the two special interests come into conflict; however, the GOP makes their choice clear. Money talks and Christianity walks!

Representative Marcelo Llorente (R-Miami) has filed House Bill 839 which gives either parent the legal right to recover for "his or her own mental pain and suffering, emotion distress, and any economic damages" for medical expenses related to a miscarriage or termination of pregnancy caused by the negligence of another. This bill appears to support a "culture of life," and of course the GOP would support it, right? Wrong.

Representative Dennis Baxley, the same politician who led the fight on behalf of Terri Schiavo's parents by claiming that the Legislature must always value human life, actually argued against the bill. Baxley said that it would be wrong for unborn children to be "denigrated" by being made the subjects of litigation. Of course, Baxley's comments echoed those of the insurance companies, hospitals, doctors organizations, and lobbyists who spoke against the bill because it could cut into their profits. The Republicans refused to vote on the bill, because they obviously believe that depriving a corporate executive of his millions was more tragic than robbing a mother of her child.

The Senate version of the bill, Senate Bill 1974, sponsored by Senator Bill Posey (R-Rockledge), has not yet been heard in committee. Its first committee of reference is the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Daniel Webster (R-Winter Garden), who recently partnered with Representative Baxley in the Schiavo fight. Apparently, Webster agrees that the "culture of life" should only be pursued when financially convenient.

The hypocricy of the GOP members of the Florida Legislature is only outdone by that of President George W. Bush. During the Schiavo saga, our president told anyone willing to listen how he wanted to institute a "culture of life" in our country. Unfortunately, President Bush has not been consistent on this issue. As governor of Texas, Bush spearheaded a law that would allow a hospital to remove life support from a patient if the care of the patient hurts the business' profits, even when the family opposed such measures. Last month, Bush's law resulted in the death of Sun Hudson, a six month old boy whose mother wished for him to be kept alive but eventually lost her court battles with the hospital's executives.

Llorente's bill appears to be stalled for the session. The Florida GOP was forced to choose sides between corporate profits and human life, and they made their choice. The religious right continues to provide much of the necessary grassroots for the Republican Party during election season, but when push comes to shove, the GOP is willing to drop them like a bad habit. The party's real loyalty is to big business, because while prayer is nice, it doesn't pay the bills.

07 April 2005

Florida GOP politicized Pope's death

As the first item of business today in the Florida Senate, Senator Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) sponsored a resolution honoring the legacy of Pope John Paul II. While the thought was considerate, it is the political rhetoric of the resolution that should offend all Catholics and non-Catholics who equally mourn the loss of this great man.

SR 2736, entitled Pope John Paul II, was a very thoughtfully worded piece, but one section sunk this resolution into the realm of GOP partisanship. At the bottom of page one of the resolution, the author credits Pope John Paul II for his fight against communism, then grants a gratuitous plug for former President Ronald Reagan. This follows along with the typical GOP talking points, which attempt to credit Reagan for everything the discovery of fire to the stars in the sky.

Why didn't the Senate Republicans cite other presidents? How about President Truman, who deserves the most credit of all our presidents since his Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan laid the initial groundwork in our fight against communism? How about Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson who maintained strong opposition to the spread of communism? How about President Kennedy who saved the world through strength during the Cuban Missile Crisis? How about President Nixon who opened the door to China and allowed American capitalism to weaken the hold of communism in that country? And how about President Jimmy Carter, who was the first one to declare that the struggle against communism was a human rights issue? All of these presidents deserve as much, if not more, credit than Reagan, but I'll tell you why they shouldn't have been mentioned. Because in a resolution remembering Pope John Paul II, it would have been inappropriate. Shame on the GOP for dishonoring the Pope for their own political gain.

The idea that the Senate Republicans would use a memorial for the Pope to push their own pro-Reagan propaganda is sad and disgraceful. Considering their despicable behavior regarding the Terri Schiavo case however, we should not be surprised.

BREAKING NEWS: Mel Martinez and staff distributed infamous Schiavo memo

Hitting the wires this morning is news that the infamous memo that called on Republicans to politicize the issue of Terri Schiavo originated from the office of Florida's U.S. Senator Mel Martinez. The document, drafted by a senior staff member, was left anonymous and handed out to GOP senators. Mel Martinez has since admitted that he himself passed out the memo on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Apparently, Martinez handed the memo to Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who had sided with the Republicans on the controversial issue.

This revelation comes on the heels of a Washington Post report by Howard Kurtz that expressed the opinion that the memo may had been produced by Democratic staffers and distributed as a way to embarrass the GOP. So much for the liberal media! Now that the truth is known, let's hope that the Washington Post will issue a retraction and an apology to the Democratic Party and more importantly to the family of Terri Schiavo.

06 April 2005

Religious Right: Be careful what you wish for

President George W. Bush has aggressively reached out to people of faith, trying to cement their loyalty within the GOP. One of his election promises, which has appeared to be nothing but empty campaign rhetoric, was to implement his faith-based program. Of course, nearly nothing has been done and the religious right has almost nothing to show for their efforts in the last election; however, the plan is on the table. Now, the issue has hit the Florida Legislature, and it may remind the religious right of that old saying: "Be careful what you wish for."

On Monday, the Florida Senate Government Efficiency Appropriations Committee approved Senate Bill 2, which is the upper chamber's voucher bill. An amendment was attached to the bill that would prohibit religious discrimination by private schools that receive public money through one of the state's voucher programs. The amendment was challenged by Senators Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) and Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach), but they were unsuccessful.

"So if a Nazi wanted to go to a Jewish school wearing a swastika, the school would have to let them?" asked Posey. Of course, Posey's real concern was that Christian schools would no longer be able to discriminate in their admissions process, but he decided to use a typical GOP scare tactic of citing the Nazis in order to persuade the committee's lone Jewish member, Senator Steven A. Geller. Fortunately, Geller didn't bite and voted for the amendment.

Thomas Jefferson called for a "Separation of Church and State," and constitutional experts have theorizing that this is what was implied when the founding fathers created the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The founding fathers may have been correct. The religious right may be seeing its first hint that faith-based programs could be poison to their congregations. The Separation of Church and State was not meant to protect government from religion; it was meant to protect religion from government. The religious right is opening a pandora's box and will probably regret in the long run their decision to seek government welfare.

Faith-based private schools are quick to run to the Congress and Legislature looking for a handout, but they need to be careful. By accepting the government's money, these schools may be opening themselves to being required to fall under the government's rules. If you look at the laws passed by the politicians in Washington and Tallahassee, it is clear that we need more religion in government. (How many politicians do you think ask "What would Jesus do?" when they vote on a budget that rewards the wealthy and neglects the poor?) But what we don't need is more government in religion. Unfortunately, this might be what the religious right will be bringing to your local congregation, whether they intended or not.

04 April 2005

Is the Associated Press moving to the right?

With cable news moving to the right, are the wire services doing the same?

Unfortunately, FOX News, MSNBC, and CNN have become networks dedicated to advancing the conservative line. Wire services, such as the Associated Press and Reuters, have always maintained a sense of impartiality and lack of bias. Now, times may be changing.

In an article regarding the political consequences of the Schiavo situation by Brendan Farrington of the Florida AP, Farrington offered his own opinion in defending Governor Jeb Bush over the Schiavo case.

In his piece, Farrington discusses whether Jeb Bush would be harmed by his over-the-top reaction to Terri Schiavo's circumstance. Various political experts are quoted as stating their opinions of what ramifications may exist for the Florida governor. Just prior to including a quote by Governor Bush stating that the Schiavo case was "not a political issue," Farrington editorialized. "Either way, Bush's motivation wasn't votes." (emphasis added)

How does Farrington know what the governor's motivation was? Just because he said so? This is the kind of editorializing that has become a cancer on cable news. I hope that this is just an isolated incident.

Farrington is a good journalist. It would be a shame to lose him to the dark side. We'll have to keep watching ... and reading ... and make sure he continues to do his job in his usual professional manner.

03 April 2005

Pope John Paul II: The End of an Era

This weekend is one that the world will always remember. Our great brother and global moral leader, Pope John Paul II, left this world yesterday, and we mourn. We do, however, celebrate his life and feel sincere gratitude for the way he change our lives. Pope John Paul II will be remembered as probably the greatest pontiff that the Catholic Church has ever had. For progressives and those who yearn to make the world a better place, he will be forever seen as an inspiration.

The Fall of Communism

Last summer when America lost its 40th president, most of the talking heads discussed the fall of communism and attempted to assign credit for its demise. The conservative media, such as FOX News, MSNBC, CNN, and talk radio, credited Ronald Reagan for communism's fall, which was nice considering Reagan's death, but far from accurate. Of course, the American presidents who were most responsible for communism crumbling were John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, and most of all, Harry S. Truman. Reagan did play a role; however, he would not have been successful if it had not been for the groundwork laid by two great Christians of our time, President Jimmy Carter and Pope John Paul II.

During his first term, Reagan declared the Soviet Union an "evil empire." His rhetoric was too offensive, and it failed to resonate around the globe. It wasn't until he retreated from this approach and returned to the style of Jimmy Carter, who argued that communism was destined for collapse because of its lack of Christian-like principles and its failure to recognize the value of human life. Once Reagan adopted Carter's arguments, he was able to fall behind the leadership of Pope John Paul II. The relationship may be best explained with a football analogy. Carter called the play and dished the ball to Reagan. Reagan then followed Pope John Paul II into the endzone. Unfortunately, TV pundits fail to recognize Carter's strategic brilliance and the Pope's brute strength; they merely remember Reagan's touchdown dance. Presidents Carter and Reagan were largely responsible for the ultimate fall of communism, but the end would not have been realized when it was if it had not been for the strength and leadership of our late, great Pope.

A True Culture of Life

Many have said that John Paul II was a conservative pope. This is not correct. Perhaps in relation to his predecessors, he may have been to their right on the political spectrum, but one cannot honestly say that this Pope was a conservative. On issues such as abortion and gay rights, he was a conservative, while on issues like the death penalty, war, and the role of government, he was a liberal. However, the issue that is most prominent within the Catholic Church is helping the poor around the globe. On the issue of poverty, Pope John Paul II was as liberal as Jesus Christ himself.

In American politics, the newest focus group-tested phrase is "culture of life." President George W. Bush and Senator Mel Martinez claim to support a culture of life, but their records fail to support such a statement. Defending a culture of life requires more than the desire to make abortion illegal. In fact, there were more reported abortions in the 12-months prior to the Roe v. Wade decision than in the 12-months following the high court decision. In fact, reversing Roe would do little to stop or even reduce the number of abortions. Pope John Paul II recognized that the best way to protect the unborn was not through the politician's laws, but through the people's hearts. Yes, the Pope wished for abortion to be illegal, but he never threw up his hands in frustration like the religious right in this country. He continued his quest, in any manner that he could, and continued to make a difference in this battle. Additionally, Pope John Paul II recognized that a "culture of life" pertains to ALL life, and he expanded this struggle to the death penalty and more importantly, the poor. This is a consistency that is never seen in our country's so-called moral leaders.

Life Without Pope John Paul II

As previously stated, Pope John Paul II hastened the fall of communism by building his credibility around the globe and by becoming a true moral leader of the world. As our generation faces the threat of terrorism and increasing death and destruction in places like the Sudan, we must truly recognize the enormity of this loss. The leaders of today, from President George W. Bush to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, fall far short of the leadership needed to succeed in our complex, global crises. It takes a man or woman of Pope John Paul II's character to relieve the tension that exists between Muslims and with Christians and Jews. It was this Pope that recognized and addressed the Catholic Church's reprehensible behavior toward the Jews in World War II, and his efforts to mend those fences spoke volumes of the size of this man's heart. It will take more than the swagger of an arrogant president and the willing ignorance of a secretary-general to solve the problems of this generation. The world needs to follow in the steps of Pope John Paul II. Only then will good finally triumph over evil.

I cannot describe the sadness in my heart this day. Our Holy Father will be greatly missed by the world and of course by this Catholic author. The world will never forget him, and we will always attempt to follow his guidance in the pursuit of social justice, heavenly greatness, and brotherly love.

Farewell my Father, and thank you!