Drilling The Coasts, Ctd

OBAMAGTOWNJimWatson:AFP:Getty

Brad Plumer wonders if the move is simply political:

According to the EIA, gas prices are expected to go up quite a bit this summer (probably shooting north of $3/gallon), and the administration may want to step out ahead of the inevitable teeth-gnashing and garment-rending over the issue. So this could be more about the midterms than rounding up votes in the Senate. Though, granted, this drilling announcement won't affect summer gas prices in the slightest.

I don't recall Obama ever railing against this in the campaign, although I might be wrong. I see it not as a mid-term tactic but, once again, as a strategic move to show he is open to ideas from his opponents, while his opponents are rigidly and ideologically opposed to anything he might suggest. It slowly seeps in – among Independents and even among many traditional Republicans – that he is the reasonable guy in the room.

Goodbye to all that, remember? And you do it gradually, undramatically, constantly. Meep, meep.

Punishing Renters, Ctd

A reader writes:

Punishing renters?  I've lost $150,000 in down payment, principal repayment, and improvements on this old house bought six years ago and I'm probably $100,000 underwater. After losing half our income, we spent 10 months calling BofA, faxing BofA, talking to different BofA people and departments weekly, starting repayment plans, stopping repayment plans. Trust me, homeowners have been punished.

The house needs new paint ($7000), new shingles ($10,000), and I think I used Chinese drywall in the bathroom remodel ($??!).  I pay $6,000 in property taxes for a 1,000 sq ft house – five to ten times what my neighbors pay. My credit is ruined, my partnership is stressed, my hair is turning gray, I'm sometimes sleepless, and it feels like there's a boot on my neck. I might lose the first house I ever owned, and my grandmother helped me buy it (probably the reason I fight on). Trust me, homeowners have been punished.

Another writes:

To understand the rationale behind helping home owners avoid foreclosure you have to expand the analogy beyond the two brothers. If one brother loses his house, it doesn't just hurt him — foreclosures drive down real estate prices throughout the area, decrease property tax and other use/excise tax receipts that help fund the renters' schools, roads, and fire/police departments, and drive up the price of credit as banks shift the cost of foreclosures and REOs to their credit card and auto loan customers. While there are certainly good arguments about how much to bail out people who are upside-down on real estate, it's not as simple as renters subsidizing owners.

News From A Parallel Universe, Ctd

A reader writes:

Surely you understand the difference between “balanced” or “middle-of-the-road” news programming and dull and banal news programming, of which CNN is the supreme leader. Leaving aside the other two cable news networks, CNN has terrible problems understanding 21st-century ways of being and knowing, offering the insipid (John King), the blank (Wolf Blitzer), and the vapid (Don Lemon) as, apparently, beacons of “objectivity.” But objectivity is meaningless without directed, forceful, and constant engagement with ideas and their consequences.

These news personalities (sic), alas, come up short. And the attempts to connect with an audience via twitter, instant polls, and viewer-submitted “iReports” are just embarrassing. 

As always, The Daily Show gets this right, mocking MSNBC and Fox for their absurd partisan caterwauling and CNN for its inability to find the story or push through the banalities of providing “balance.” Stewart and company (especially Colbert) exposed the empty style of furrowed-brow, “concerned” journalism (think Anderson Cooper) more than a decade ago. 
CNN is the network that hides Fareed Zakaria and, for “edge,” gives us Rick Sanchez and Campbell Brown. Oy!

“An Aesthetic Obsession”

BENEDICTFrancoOriglia:Getty

E.D. Kain has an incredibly wrong-headed and simplistic defense of the Pope:

I think it is entirely an aesthetic obsession which motivates Benedicts fiercest critics. Let’s face it, unlike the charismatic John Paul II, Benedict has a somewhat sinister look about him. He has aged in such a way as to make him look less the cuddly grandpa and more the evil

villain; he bears an uncanny resemblance to Emperor Palpatine.

Good God. Many of us concerned with Ratzinger's theology have been closely following his rise for years and have really had nothing to do with aesthetics – apart from occasional amusement at his obsession with various hats, Prada slippers, and very starched lace. Actually, I love the way Benedict has helped resuscitate some of the rituals, pageantry and liturgy of the past. If only he had not simultaneously tried to undo the Second Council. Here are two articles I wrote from around the time he was elected – an event that ended my pathetic attempt to quit blogging five years ago. Money quote from one:

Reading Benedict for a struggling gay Catholic like me is like reading a completely circular, self-enclosed system that is as beautiful at times as it is maddeningly immune to reasoned query. The dogmatism is astonishing. If your conscience demands that you dissent from some teachings, then it is not really your conscience. It is sin. And if all this circular dogmatism forces many to leave the church they once thought of as home? So be it.

Benedict once wrote of the 18th century church, roiled by the Enlightenment, that it "was a church reduced in size and diminished in social prestige, yet become fruitful from a new interior power, a power that released new formative forces for the individual and for society." That is his vision. If the church withers to a mere shadow of its former self, then that is not failure. It is success. And even in a short papacy, Benedict might just manage it.

I became obsessed with Ratzinger and what he meant for the future of Catholicism as long ago as 1988. I wrote a review-essay on him for The New Republic back in July of 1988. Sadly it isn't available online. But here is part of the conclusion:

The metamorphosis of Joseph Ratzinger from Augustinian theologian to Augustinian policeman, and finally to policeman, may in part be due to the metamorphosis of the Church itself. The forces of change have been so great in the Church during the past two decades that some form of simple assertion of authority may have a prudential justification. John Paul II, however, has balanced Ratzinger's zeal with a more humane approach. Together, they have played a "good cop, bad cop" routine with recalcitrant faithful.  Ratzinger's great gift to a Church all too easily distracted by the world is to call the faithful back to the fundamentals. But it is difficult not to feel dismayed by the way in which his earlier inspiration has ceded to the dictates of coercion, and his theological distrust of fallen man has translated  so easily into disdain for Christians trying to live obediently in modernity. The man who might have guided the Church through reason has resorted to governing by force.

What About The Girls?

June Thomas asks:

So many of the news stories focus on priests taking advantage of their position to rape and otherwise sexually traumatize boys and young men. Now, I have no way of knowing this for sure, but I’ll bet that thousands of girls the world over were similarly abused. Is anyone else wondering if young women have been left out of this story, and if there’s some agenda that’s driving that absence?

Moore Award Nominee

"It’s always been obvious David Brooks has always had a problem with women who succeed, but even I was surprised that his vendetta against famous, successful women became so hysterical this morning that he insinuated that Sandra Bullock should have been at home making a sandwich instead of winning an Oscar, and that would have saved her marriage," – Amanda Marcotte, Pandagon. Joyner scratches his head.