Romney’s speech in Poland

To illustrate the point of the “gaffe” post, what did you learn from media coverage of Mitt Romney’s  trip to England, Poland, and Israel?  That he made people mad at him by questioning England’s Olympic preparedness and Palestinian culture?  Anything else?  Did you know he made a rather substantive speech in Poland outlining some of his key principles?  Whether you are for him or against him, I would think that would be worth at least some coverage.  Here is an example of more substantial reporting and analysis from columnist Kathleen Parker:

“Your nation has moved from a state monopoly over the economy, price controls and severe trade restrictions to a culture of entrepreneurship, greater fiscal responsibility and international trade,” said Romney.

“When economists speak of Poland today, it is not to lament chronic problems but to describe how this nation empowered the individual, lifted the heavy hand of government, and became the fastest-growing economy in all of Europe.”

Romney pointedly spoke of the “false promise of a government-dominated economy,” the importance of stimulating innovation, attracting investment, expanding trade and living within means. . . .

Romney also liberally sprinkled terms that correspond to two of the most important Catholic social justice principles: subsidiarity and solidarity.

Subsidiarity, in addition to being one of the features of federalism, also refers to the theological belief that nothing should be done by a larger, more complex organization that can be accomplished as well by a smaller, simpler organization. As developed by German theologian Oswald von Nell-Breuning, the principle is based upon the autonomy and dignity of the human individual and emphasizes the importance of small institutions from the family to the church to labor unions.

Inasmuch as the welfare state is an instrument of centralized government, it is in conflict not only with personal freedom but also with Catholic teaching, as John Paul II noted in his 1991 encyclical “Centesimus Annus.” He wrote that the intervention of the state deprived society of its responsibility, which “leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.”

All of this history and understanding were bound up in Romney’s few, carefully selected words — and Catholic voters surely heard them. They also would have heard “solidarity,” which resonates among America’s working-class Catholics who were inspired by Poland’s labor-led uprising in the 1980s. In what can only be viewed as a crowning achievement, Romney was endorsed by Poland’s former president and iconic labor leader, Lech Walesa. . . .

Romney’s message to voters by way of comments to our allies was that big government is the enemy of individual freedom, both economic and, clearly, religious. While the nation’s gaffe-seekers were enjoying a few moments of snark, Romney was articulating foundational principles with none other than the most prominent community organizer of them all.

via Kathleen Parker: In Poland, Romney addresses economic and religious freedom – The Washington Post.

The Chick-fil-A firestorm

Opponents of gay marriage are being demonized.  Not just disagreed with but condemned, attacked, and boycotted.  That’s what Chick-fil-A is learning after the president of the chicken sandwich chain told an interview that he supports traditional families.  Not just gays but liberals and right-thinking forces of tolerance everywhere are seeking to punish the company.  The whole city of Boston is trying to keep it out of town.  But the interview and the controversial pro-family comments were not even about gay marriage, as Terry Mattingly has shown.  Matthew J. Franck explains:

The highly successful Atlanta-based restaurant chain Chick-fil-A has been much in the news these days, because president and chief operating officer Dan Cathy (whose father founded the family-owned business) apparently came out in opposition to same-sex marriage. Or did he?

Terry Mattingly of the indispensable GetReligion site, which tracks all sorts of journalistic coverage of religion, first called attention to the manufacturing of a misleading story here. In an interview with a writer for the Baptist Press, Cathy was asked about the company’s “support of the traditional family.” His response was, “Well, guilty as charged.” And he went on to talk about the company’s commitment “to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families,” because many of the individual restaurants are family-run operations, and because the Cathy family and their company believe, as Christians, in family-friendly policies. (Their Christian faith and their desire to support families account for the restaurant chain’s being closed on Sundays, for instance, a decision by which the company forgoes many millions in annual revenue.)

At no point in the Baptist Press article did Dan Cathy say a word about the issue of same-sex marriage. The nearest the piece comes to the subject is when the reporter writes, “Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family.” The immediate sequel is the remark of Cathy’s I quoted above. But who are those opponents of the company’s policies? We are never told. Is it fair to surmise the reporter is alluding to advocates of same-sex marriage? Maybe, but it’s far from certain. And Dan Cathy is not, repeat not, on the record in this story as taking any position on that issue.

This did not stop CNN and many other outlets from reporting on the “comments of company President Dan Cathy about gay marriage.” And so a manufactured firestorm began.

via On Mau-Mauing the Chicken Sandwich Guy » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

He goes on to trace how the story grew and took on a life of its own.

But say the president of Chick-fil-A did say that he opposes gay marriage.  Is it not going to be allowed for anyone to oppose gay marriage?  Companies openly support the gay rights movement, and conservatives are chided if they consider a boycott.  But companies aren’t allowed to take the opposite–that is, the traditional–position?  Should companies be neutral about such issues in their philanthropic contributions?  If so, shouldn’t people who work for the companies or who run them have the right to express their opinions?  Should companies be punished for what their employees believe?  Should anyone or any corporation be punished for what they believe?

 

If you have no electricity, check your computer

My nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for letters to the editor, if there were such a thing, in the aftermath of the great power outage:

Monday, July 2, my third morning in the heat without power (and no power at my workplace), imagine my relief when I saw on the middle of the front page of my print version of the paper, topics listed with potentially helpful information about “The commute,” “Government workers,” “Summer school,” “Weather” and, most importantly, “Heat survival.” Then imagine my utter shock when we were directed to find this information at washingtonpost.com! Was I supposed to turn on my fan to cool off, and listen to my radio while I looked this up on my dead computer? I looked through the paper’s articles about the storm for any references to what seemed available only online. Not a trace. I was aghast. Was it a joke?

It was incomprehensible to me that those of us struggling with power outages were told to use our computers to find this much-needed information. Please use your heads.

Sharon Dodd, Rockville

via Without power, help online is lost – The Washington Post.

40 years of Watergate

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the burglary of the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate office complex.  That event on June 17, 1972, would bring down the presidency of Richard Nixon.

I remember news of the burglary and the subsequent dripping out of details and the final whole cascade vividly.  I was a college student at the time.  I realize many of you weren’t even born yet.  So I first ask those of you who remember it:  What has changed since the Watergate scandal?  Did it change the way you view the office of the president or our government or journalists?  Did it make you the cynic you are today?

To the rest of you and to anyone, what, to use grandiose language, is the legacy of Watergate?  It was uncovered largely by old-fashioned investigative journalism, as well as bipartisan Congressional investigation.  Do you think if an event like this happened today, in our media environment of 24-hour news, the internet, and yet cash-strapped newspapers, that it would be that big of a deal?  Are we in a state of scandal overload, so that the serious gets lost in the trivial?

Watergate scandal – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Obama’s data mining

Yesterday we posted about mining “big data,” how corporations, politicians, and researchers are delving into Twitter, Google,  Facebook, and other online information to forecast trends, target customers, and gain various competitive advantages.  Well, it turns out that the Obama campaign is mining such data on voters on a massive, unprecedented scale.  Politico’s Lois Romano reports:

On the sixth floor of a sleek office building here, more than 150 techies are quietly peeling back the layers of your life. They know what you read and where you shop, what kind of work you do and who you count as friends. They also know who your mother voted for in the last election.

The depth and breadth of the Obama campaign’s 2012 digital operation — from data mining to online organizing — reaches so far beyond anything politics has ever seen, experts maintain, that it could impact the outcome of a close presidential election. It makes the president’s much-heralded 2008 social media juggernaut — which raised half billion dollars and revolutionized politics — look like cavemen with stone tablets.

Mitt Romney indeed is ramping up his digital effort after a debilitating primary and, for sure, the notion that Democrats have a monopoly on cutting edge technology no longer holds water.

But it’s also not at all clear that Romney can come close to achieving the same level of technological sophistication and reach as his opponent. (The campaign was mercilessly ridiculed last month when it rolled out a new App misspelling America.)

“It’s all about the data this year and Obama has that. When a race is as close as this one promises to be, any small advantage could absolutely make the difference,” says Andrew Rasiej, a technology strategist and publisher of TechPresident. “More and more accurate data means more insight, more money, more message distribution, and more votes.”

Adds Nicco Mele, a Harvard professor and social media guru: “The fabric of our public and political space is shifting. If the Obama campaign can combine its data efforts with the way people now live their lives online, a new kind of political engagement — and political persuasion — is possible.”

Launched two weeks ago, Obama’s newest innovation is the much anticipated “Dashboard” , a sophisticated and highly interactive platform that gives supporters a blueprint for organizing, and communicating with each other and the campaign.

In addition, by harnessing the growing power of Facebook and other online sources, the campaign is building what some see as an unprecedented data base to develop highly specific profiles of potential voters. This allows the campaign to tailor messages directly to them — depending on factors such as socio-economic level, age and interests.

The data also allows the campaign to micro-target a range of dollar solicitations online depending on the recipient. In 2008, the campaign was the first to maximize online giving — raising hundreds of millions of dollars from small donors. This time, they are constantly experimenting and testing to expand the donor base.

via Obama’s data advantage – Lois Romano – POLITICO.com.

Do you think all of this data the president’s campaign is collecting is a game changer or ultimately trivial?  Does gathering so much information about you for political purposes bother you?

VeggieTales creator repents of moralism

More on our continuing series on Christianity & the Arts, how the Christianity part has to include not just law but gospel. . .

Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales, went bankrupt in 2003, sold the franchise, and turned to other ventures.  In an interview with World Magazine, he says how he realized that the “Christian” message of those talking vegetables was not Christianity at all.  (This is from last Fall, but I appreciate Norm Fisher, via some other folks, for bringing it to my attention.)

I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality. . . .

And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart. I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.

via WORLDmag.com | Not about the dream | Megan Basham | Sep 24, 11.