Casting Stones

The Rev. Andrew Greeley, Catholic priest, best-selling novelist and well-known commentator on a wide range of issues, is an outspoken Obama supporter–I think. In a column he wrote Oct. 1, he said (in the same paragraph, no less) the following things: “I don’t have a candidate,” “I hope he wins,” and “that doesn’t mean I endorse him.” Such use of language is beyond obtuse, it is jibberish.
In his column Oct. 15, Rev. Greeley calls Gov. Sarah Palin a “racist.” On what grounds does he employ that corrosive and vicious label on Gov. Palin? He does so based on unsubstantiated reports that someone at a Palin event in Scranton, Pa., shouted “Kill him,” at the mention of Obama’s name. People who attended these rallies dispute that such an event ever occurred.
Shouldn’t Rev. Greeley have checked for himself before attacking Gov. Palin?
No less an authority than the Secret Service agents attending the event (who are responsible to investigate any such comments as possible threats on a candidate) could find no one other than the one reporter who supposedly heard the “Kill him!” remark. Since no one else heard it, it is safe to assume Gov. Palin did not hear it.
When John McCain did hear negative comments from supporters at an earlier rally, he reprimanded them in no uncertain terms.
To call Rev. Greeley’s comments about Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain irresponsible would be criminal understatement. They were scurrilous and beneath contempt. They are also dangerous.
Racism still exists in this country, and when the real thing surfaces it needs to be denounced. When “racist” is used in such a cavalier and reprehensible way, it devalues the term and makes it more difficult to denounce true racism successfully when it rears its ugly head.
And yes, as a clergyman myself, I do hold clergyman to a higher standard than the general public. Rev. Greeley, “Shame on you!”

In an article that will appear in the Oct. 19, 2008 edition of the New York Times Magazine, reporter Matt Bai quotes Barack Obama making a startling assertion: “I am convinced that if there were no FOX News, I might be two or three points higher in the poll.” The senator went on to say that FOX News portrays him as “the latte-sipping, New York Times-reading, Volvo-driving, no-gun-owning, effete, politically correct, arrogant liberal.”
As a matter of fact, several objective studies have found that FOX News has had the more balanced coverage of the presidential campaign, compared to the other major networks. When Sen. Clinton’s staff discovered this (most of them had not been watching FOX News), they and Sen. Clinton began doing interviews.
I do think Sen. Obama is right that he would be doing better in the polls if FOX News didn’t exist. However, I disagree with his explanation as to why that is so. The real reason Sen. Obama is right is because FOX News is the only national network that isn’t treating Sen. Obama with all the objectivity of a homecoming queen with a heavy crush on the tall, handsome football star.
FOX is just dealing with the senator objectively, and the network’s coverage of him is far from the caricature and stereotype enunciated by Sen. Obama.
Furthermore, it is not just the news media that fawns over Obama in an embarrassing way (Sen. Clinton noticed this as well when she was Sen. Obama’s opponent in the primaries). The entertainment industry is supporting Sen. Obama virtually en masse (Republicans, in general, and conservatives, in particular, often feel the urge to enter the witness protection program in Hollywood).
This one-sided treatment even extends to Jay Leno and David Letterman. As reports, “the Kings of Late Night are not equal-opportunity destroyers this year when it comes to telling jokes about the candidates for president and vice president–they’re hammering Republicans a stunning seven times more often than they skewer Democrats.” (“Late-Night Comics Skewer Republicans 7 to 1, study finds,” by Jennifer Lawinski,, Oct. 16, 2008).
Sen. Obama is right that FOX News is keeping his poll numbers from being even higher. The real reason is not FOX News’ bias, but the rest of the media’s bias against the senator’s opponents in both the primary and general elections.

As responsible human beings we should be concerned always about doing harm to this planet we inhabit together. As a Christian I believe people of faith have a sacred responsibility to engage in creation care – never treating the earth or its atmosphere as though it is ours to do with as we please. It is God’s creation and He has commanded us to be good stewards of it.
Sometimes, however, in our eagerness to do good, we act in ways that have a very negative impact on our fellow human beings. Such is the case with the rush to biofuels. An article in Wednesday’s New York Times, “U.N. Says Biofuels Subsidies Raise Food Bill and Hunger” by Elisabeth Rosenthal, highlights that the road to catastrophe is often paved with the best of intentions.
The article does not bury its lead:

“A United Nations food agency called on Tuesday for a review of biofuel subsidies and policies, noting that they had contributed significantly to rising food prices and the hunger in poor countries.”

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization did not pull its punches. It points out that over the past decade, out of legitimate concern over carbon emissions, many countries in the developed world have created incentives and subsidies to encourage the biofuel industry. Unfortunately, the result has been huge increases in worldwide grain prices with a decidedly harmful impact on the food intake on the poorest and most economically marginalized people in the developing world.
In addition, the report notes that the emphasis on government-subsidized biofuel has actually harmed the environment – forests have been cleared in developing countries to produce crops for biofuels.
This story of the unintended human consequences of the government biofuel initiatives should serve as a caution to all of us. We must seek always to discern what the impact on other humans will be (particularly the most defenseless and marginalized) of any and all environmental policies. We owe that to our fellow human beings with whom we share this small planet.

I had the honor and privilege of attending last night’s second presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Some commentators and reporters have described the debate as subdued and uneventful. I can assure you, as someone who was actually in the audience, it was anything but.
The town hall format reminded me of the town hall meetings which so dominated the early history of our settlement of this continent. Not surprisingly, McCain supporters thought McCain won and Obama supporters thought Obama won. My guess is that those who were undecided are still undecided.
I must confess that I was unprepared (This was my first presidential election debate to attend.) for the palpable excitement and energy in the room. Everyone from young people to senior citizens seemed caught up in the spirit of the evening. I suspect that most of them had some point during the evening thought to themselves, as I did, “What an incredible privilege it is to live in and be a citizen of this great and wonderful country.”
I am fearful that too often our familiarity with our great freedoms, although it doesn’t breed contempt, does breed familiarity. We are among the most privileged people on earth to have our common citizens have the opportunity to decide the great policies of our nation. “Government of the people, by the people and for the people” was alive and well in Nashville last night. No matter which presidential candidate you support in this election, we are all winners in that we have these wonderful freedoms, this open process, and this great republic as a birthright. I have never felt more grateful to be an American, and I’ve never been more proud of my country.