aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Monday, August 20, 2007
Atheists, foxholes and the final blow
ELLEN JOHNSON: We’re all familiar with phrases, like - you know, I have to say it - Jews are cheap, Italians are in the Mafia, Blacks are on welfare, gays are promiscuous, and atheists are immoral.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Ellen Johnson is the president of American Atheists. But the phrase she hates most of all goes a little something like this.
KATIE COURIC: Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”
BOB SCHIEFFER: Wartime, there are no atheists in foxholes.
JOHN BURNETT: To amend the old saying about foxholes, there are no atheists driving trucks in Iraq.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That was CBS’s Katie Couric and Bob Schieffer, and NPR’s John Burnett. Those were just the three we got tape of. News people say it all the time. Ellen Johnson.
ELLEN JOHNSON: It’s demeaning to atheists. It’s saying that under very dire circumstances or frightening situations, atheists will stop being atheists. They will start believing. And this is really just a wish on the part of the religious, because it’s not based in fact.
JOHN BURNETT: I thought it was a good line for the tape.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: NPR’s John Burnett.
JOHN BURNETT: And I didn’t realize that it was so offensive to atheists. And I learned that in spades after this story came out. They spammed me for weeks with e-mail, saying, we’re outraged. So now I know.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And did you sort of see their point?
JOHN BURNETT: I do see their point. I literally hadn’t thought about it before. And, frankly, I will think twice about using the phrase again.
Also on the program, L.A. Times reporter Bill Lobdell, who was in the news again because his personal account of losing his born-again Christian faith after eight years on the religion beat was reprinted in The Week (evidently magazines turn to reruns in August, too).
The final blow came in a Portland courtroom. It was a hearing for a mother whose child was sick. She was trying to get more child support from the child’s dad, who happened to be a Catholic priest. And she really lived a miserable life. She lived in a friend’s basement for free. They got food from the food bank.
And the priest was on the stand. He had a great lawyer - just the sharpest attorney. She couldn’t afford one, and so it was this mom, basically, against this high-priced lawyer. And his defense was, I took a vow of poverty and I don’t have any money to give.
You know, I sat there and watched the Catholic Church pay for these high-priced lawyers so their priest could get out of paying child support. I saw the mom being crushed by this machine. And I sat there in the courtroom and I wasn’t surprised. I kind of lost that sense of outrage, even.
And at that point, I realized I just don’t believe any of this stuff anymore, and called my wife on the cell phone and just said, you know, I needed to get off this religion beat. It’s over.
I’m off to bed now. There I’ll be reading The Politics of God from yesterday’s NYTimes Sunday Magazine.
Daily Show on-the-scene reports from Iraq
Correspondent Rob Riggle, who has combat experience as a U.S. Marine Corps major, spent five days in Iraq last week with “Daily Show” writer Kevin Bleyer and field producer Glenn Clements. They went with a USO sketch comedy tour known as “Operation Feel the Heat”—armed with small, handheld cameras—and also brought back video that will be used for “Daily Show” about the troops and their lives in Iraq.
Although “Daily Show” spends time on topics related to Iraq and often has one of its correspondents appear against a greenscreen that simulates the Middle Eastern country, it’s the first time the fake-news show has gone the extra step and visited Iraq.
Riggle, Clements and Bleyer visited several bases—including Balad Air Force Base near Baghdad and two forward operating bases—over the course of five days. They performed with other comedians in 120-degree heat on makeshift stages, including a basketball court, then in between shot short videos for “Daily Show.” [...]
The “Daily Show” contingent said it is sensitive to the soldiers’ concerns, and the comedy this week from Iraq will focus on Riggle’s escapades while there. “Of course what’s going on is serious, and we take it very seriously,” Riggle said. “Any humor we did, it’s on me being an idiot. We know where the line is.”
Riggle and Clements went to the show’s producers in November to ask whether they could go to Iraq with a USO tour being planned and at the same time shoot pieces for “Daily Show.” After months of preparation and training in what to expect when they got there, Riggle and crew left Aug. 10.
Stop rushing the death penalty
Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, has this letter in the WaPo today:
Giving the attorney general the power to further "fast-track" the federal appeals process in capital punishment cases ["Gonzales to Get Power in Death Penalty Cases," news story, Aug. 15] is a recipe for disaster.
Even now there is irrefutable evidence that fatal errors in capital cases have gone undetected because of time limits imposed on federal judges.
Troy Davis, who is on death row in Georgia, is a case in point. His serious claims of innocence went unheard at the federal level because of arbitrary deadlines. Mr. Davis came within 24 hours of execution last month before a state parole board stepped in. This month, Georgia’s Supreme Court granted him an appeal to present new evidence.
Despite all this, he might still be executed.
Innocent men have come frighteningly close to execution; some may already have been put to death. Since 1973, 124 individuals have been released from death rows in 25 states because of wrongful conviction. Increasing the speed of executions flies in the face of that fact.
I’ve been arguing for liberals to abandon their faith in the courts and build legally binding, alternative institutions - based on mediation and rooted in social norms - that resolve issues before they ever even get to the courts.
Perhaps “abandon” is too broad. I might better advocate a two-pronged approach; build those alternate structures and reform the courts.
A reform worth considering:
...the creation of specialized health courts, where judges experienced in medicine would try cases without juries. The concept is backed by the nonpartisan legal reform group Common Good in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has donated $1 million to promote the creation of these courts in six states: Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Wyoming. [...]
Among the benefits of health courts:
• Judges would be assisted by neutral expert witnesses and guided by evidence-based practice guidelines. Unlike juries, they would issue written opinions that establish precedents and standards of care, removing much of the uncertainty physicians now practice under.
• Awards would be more consistent. Juries sometimes base awards more on sympathy than facts. An injury “worth” $100,000 in one place might bring $2 million or nothing at all with a different jury. Health courts could make awards based on a schedule of benefits, similar to workers’ compensation.
• More patients would be compensated. Under the present tort system, plaintiffs must prove negligence by a doctor or hospital. With health courts, claimants need only show that the injury would not have occurred if best practices had been followed. The standard would be whether the injury was avoidable or preventable, not whether a physician fell below the standard of care. The entire process would be far less adversarial.
• Although more claims would be filed, the average award would be considerably lower. That’s been the experience with the Kaiser Permanente system in California where 6 million patients have signed agreements to resolve malpractice disputes through arbitration rather than jury trials.
• Perhaps most important, health courts would promote patient safety. Reporting information about injuries to a central data base would allow experts to determine why errors occur and how they can be prevented. The current punitive system encourages defendants to hide mistakes rather than examine them.
Moyers on Rove
Via Joe Gandelman, who has the transcript. See also, Joe’s Did Media’s Story Narrative Needs Exaggerate Rove’s Political Prowess?
Gay Unions and Black Chruches
The The WaPo looks at Covenant Baptist, a DC area church where co-pastors Dennis and Christine Wiley have begun to conduct same-sex union ceremonies:
For years, disputes over homosexuality have convulsed predominantly white Protestant denominations—Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian and Presbyterian—but they have only recently hit black churches.
“It’s going to be a real challenge,” said the Rev. Carlton W. Veazey, minister at Fellowship Baptist Church in the District and founder of the annual National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality. “We’re just beginning to really deal with it.”
Most major historically black denominations have taken strong stances against homosexuality. [...]
[E]mbracing gays can come at a cost. Victory Church, a black megachurch near Atlanta, lost 2,500 members—half of its congregation—after its pastor, the Rev. Kenneth L. Samuel, started preaching acceptance of gays several years ago.
“I did not know that my theological view would be so negatively reacted to,” Samuel said. Even now, he said, “we are ostracized and criticized throughout the city by pastors and religious people of all types, certainly within the black community.”
A problem that would go away immediately if only more congregations - black, white or whatever - would embrace the lesbian and gay people among them:
The gays flocking to Covenant say the church’s deep Baptist roots link them with the rituals and traditions of their childhood. [...]
And that was fine with church member Martha Battle, who said she didn’t mind Covenant’s outreach to gays at first, because “everybody needs to be saved.”
But now, “straight people are leaving and gay people are coming in,” said Battle, who left the church with her 13-year-old grandson after the Wileys began performing same-sex union ceremonies. “They’re taking over. I’m sick to my stomach over this mess. It’s not right. Why should we have to leave and let them come in and take over the church?”