Monday's political stuff

Assuming anybody besides me actually reads this blog at all, some significant fraction of you are probably pretty sick of politics at this point. I could say something pretentious about the importance of political involvement in a democracy, but the truth is that a lot of boredom with politics is legitimate.

Far too many political discussions amount to one-sided tirades full of spin and character assassination, and the news media waste their time on endless analysis of of strategy and reporting of who's ahead or behind, rather than hard facts and things that really matters.

On the other hand, I still have lots of political stuff I think is worth at least a mention, and I don't think it's actually informative and not biased. (Then again, that's my opinion.)

So here's what I'm going to do: I'll try to limit the size and volume of political posts I put through here and mainly use them to point you to articles and blog posts you can read elsewhere if you're interested. Here are a few:

Steve Benen condemns some really sleazy attacks on Obama, such as recent smears against Obama's late mother (which I won't repeat) and Dinesh D'Souza 2010 book-length attack The Roots of Obama’s Rage, which has been denounced across the political spectrum for its major errors of fact and logic but has lately been adapted into a widely criticized movie. Reviewing D'Souza's book for the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, Andrew Ferguson wrote (among other criticisms -- the whole thing is worth reading),

The misstatements range from the very small to the very large. As “further evidence that this anticolonial reading is on the right track,” he cites Obama’s press conference after the Gulf oil spill.

“Time and again,” he writes, Obama “condemned ‘British Petroleum’—an interesting term since the company long ago changed its name to BP. Given our anticolonial theory, it’s no surprise that Obama wanted to remind Americans of what BP used to stand for.”

Right you are, Holmes! Except .  .  . I’ve read the transcript of the press conference, and Obama didn’t make a single reference to British Petroleum -- a name which, in any event, is commonly used by many people of a certain age (including me) who are sworn enemies of anticolonialism. D’Souza makes many errors of this sort, citing facts that aren’t facts in support of an otherwise unsupported conclusion. He says that Obama, in his memoir Dreams from My Father, never mentions his father’s drunkenness. Obama mentions it often. Indeed, D’Souza misreads the entire memoir: Far from admiring his father and emulating him, Obama makes his disillusionment with his father one of the themes of his own life story.

On another subject, tax-exempt contributions to charities and churches aren't supposed to be used for lobbying or political campaigning. This is in practice a very modest restriction. All that means is that such organizations aren't supposed to tell people directly how to vote or devote a major part of their activity to lobbying. Otherwise the organizations can take whatever political positions they want. In addition, they can set up a separately financed lobbying arm (contributions to which are not tax-exempt). And of course their members and office-holders are free to join political campaigns, back candidates or parties, and even run for office themselves, just as long as they don't do it on their own rather than in the organization's name or using its money.

In this amusing video, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield Illinois (and no, this isn't from The Simpsons) assures his parishioners that it's not his place to tell them how to vote. He just happens to mention that he's read the Republican and Democratic platforms, and while the former is pure as the driven snow, the latter is, in his view, pro-sin. And while again he's really, really not telling you how to vote, if you do happen to vote for someone Bishop Paprocki doesn't approve of, you are endangering your immortal soul. But really, it's up to you:

OK, this post wasn't as brief as I wanted to make it. I'll try to do better.

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