SEMI-PARTISAN SUMMARY

CULTURE

In an interesting piece from Slate Magazine, Hanna Rosin delves into the deeper meaning behind the fact that the men strived to protect the women as the horror of the Aurora Colorado shooting unfolded. In an interesting and poignant article, noting the various ways that traditional “manhood” is being eroded by economic and social forces, she concludes: “Throwing your body in front of your girlfriend when people all around you are getting shot is an instinct that’s basic, and deeper. It’s the same reason these Batman and Spider-Man franchises endure: Because whatever else is fading away, women still seem to want their superhero, and men still seem to want to be him.”

Through the prism of astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s memoirs and a recent Soyuz rocket launch, Atlantic magazine takes an interesting look at the intertwining of human spaceflight endeavours (perhaps the pinnacle of our scientific accomplishment) with religion and the sacred world. As well as the obvious example of Aldrin taking communion while on the surface of the moon, the author also considers other examples: “here is a priest, outfitted in the finery of a centuries-old church, shaking holy water over the engines, invoking God’s protection for a journey to near-earth orbit. That these two spheres of human creation co-exist is remarkable. That they interact, space agencies courting the sanction of Russian Orthodox Christianity, is strange”. A long article, but well worth a read.

Mike Huckabee thinks that Chick-fil-A’s decision to come out in opposition to gay marriage equality is just super, and is proposing that Americans make this Wednesday “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” in recognition of their “principled” (some might say irrelevant, because a corporation is harmed by gay marriage even less than a heterosexual human being) stance.

NPR reports in depth on the Vatican’s decision to send a crack team of Bishops to oversee the Leadership Conference of Women Religious – an organisation representing the majority of nuns in the United States – due to concerns that they are promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith”. Sister Pat Farrell, whose interview forms the basis of this article, sees things rather differently, and while she says that the LCWR will do its utmost to engage with the Vatican in good faith, there may be some elements of the mandate with which they cannot comply. Money quote from Sister Pat: “The question is, ‘Can you be Catholic and have a questioning mind?’ That’s what we’re asking … I think one of our deepest hopes is that in the way we manage the balancing beam in the position we’re in, if we can make any headways in helping to create a safe and respectful environment where church leaders along with rank-and-file members can raise questions openly and search for truth freely, with very complex and swiftly changing issues in our day, that would be our hope. But the climate is not there. And this mandate coming from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith putting us in a position of being under the control of certain bishops, that is not a dialogue. If anything, it appears to be shutting down dialogue.”

A British couple holidaying in British Columbia caught a big fish. A really, really big fish. A really, really, really really big fish. The creature weighs nearly half a metric tonne, is 4 metres long and is estimated to be at least 100 years old. Makes for some good bragging rights back at the local pub when they go home…

 

BRITISH POLITICS

Minister of the Bleeding Obvious states the bleeding obvious in this story from The Telegraph. Treasury minister David Gauke informs us that it is “morally wrong” to pay tradesmen (plumbers, builders, electricians etc.) with cash in hand, as this makes it easier for them to evade VAT or income tax. Aside from the fact that every cabinet member from Cameron on downwards needs to quit the moral preaching (why can’t you just say “illegal” or “wrong”?), his basic point is right. Until he goes on to say: “Getting a discount with your plumber by paying cash in hand is something that is a big cost to the Revenue and means others have to pay more in tax”. Seriously, Mr. Gauke? You expect us to believe that the black economy makes our taxes higher? You would tax us just as much as you already do even if you could get your hands on this missing slice of revenue, you would just find new ways to fritter it away on pointless, undeserving goals. So let’s not pretend that the cash-in-hand job that your local plumber does on the sly is the one thing standing between us and an actual competitive tax code. You must think we’re all really dumb.

The Commons Culture Committee has reported that they believe the UK’s current gambling laws are outdated and have not kept pace sufficiently with technological innovations such as online gaming. Overall, this appears to be a liberalisation of the market, which is good news. However, the proposed bill has been somewhat watered down in an attempt to assuage the concerns of detractors who worry about potential negative externalities.

It’s starting to get real. The BBC reports that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided to charge eight individuals with a total of 19 charges relating to the “phone hacking scandal”. Included in those facing charges are Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson. So now the Long-Winded Leveson will not be the only thing keeping this dull story in the news. Hooray.

 

AMERICAN POLITICS

Inspired by the movie “Legally Blonde”, 22-year-old US State Senate candidate Mindy Meyer has blinged up her website with a lot of bright pink, bad MIDI sound files and other bells and whistles. If you ever wanted to know what you would get if you crossed a political website with MySpace at the peak of its popularity, here is your answer. She would clearly make a great state senator, because according to her homepage, she is against corruption. Says Meyer: “This is how politics has to change. There is always corruption, but I have the intention to follow my values and ensure that none of what happens in my district is corrupt.” Well, that’s sorted, then.

Commentary magazine takes a hatchet to President Obama’s reputation for being a brilliant orator. Alana Goodman calls Obama out for his recent speech in Roanoke, Virginia, not because of his “you didn’t make that” line but for dull, flat words and delivery when he goes off the autocue. She takes the line where Obama says “There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires” as a particularly egregious example of pedestrian speech-giving. She concludes: “For the past four years, liberals have tried to sell us on the idea that Obama is one of the greatest speakers of all time. Now they’re complaining that conservatives are taking his words literally and not cutting him enough slack. Which one is it?”.

In an excellent, frank op-ed in the New York Times, David Blankenhorn charts his evolution from opposing to supporting the idea of gay marriage. Though disappointed that society no longer thinks of marriage primarily in terms of providing the optimal environment in which to raise children, but instead as an official sanctioning of private relationships, he concedes that given this is how marriage is now viewed by most, the best thing to do is to try to strengthen the institution under its new definition, by welcoming committed gay and lesbian couples into the fold. He eventually comes to the conclusion: “So my intention is to try something new. Instead of fighting gay marriage, I’d like to help build new coalitions bringing together gays who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same”.

A good long-form article from The Daily Beast explaining some of the underlying factors and influences behind the GOP’s sinister anti-Muslim hysteria. I thought I had heard pretty much everything when it comes to crazy quotes uttered by Republican lawmakers and “intellectuals” on this topic, but this article introduced me to a few more sad examples.

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