Saturday, January 22, 2005

All the news that's fit to print

I know it's the slogan of the New York Times. And I want you to know that I do read articles from the Times on a regular basis. But what I'm really talking about is the Guardian of London. Every morning when I boot up the computer, the first site I log onto is the Guardian. I trust it more than any American newspaper. I'm afraid I lost confidence in both the New York Times and the Washington Post for a number of reasons -- most pointedly due to their roles in beating the drums of war in the lead up to our adventure in Iraq.

There's been a banner advertisement for subscriptions on the Guardian web page just lately. Reading it validated my decision to turn to international newspapers for reliable information and also caused a great sadness to come over me. The banner reads:

Many US citizens think the world backed the war in Iraq.
Maybe it's the papers they're reading.

It is disgraceful that the outside world does not view our newspapers as worthy of respect. Then again it is disgraceful that we have a president who boasts of not reading the newspapers at all. When I was a freshman in high school I had a social studies teacher who basically put us all on notice that we would fail his class if we didn't read the paper every day. He was the teacher who insisted that we memorize the names of every cabinet member and Supreme Court justice at the time. As it happens, I was in his class when I got the news that President Kennedy had been shot. I suppose the juxtaposition of my teacher's encouragement regarding current events and the trauma of a president's assassination having taken place in the same class set the stage for my later intense interest in politics.

The Guardian article I want to call your attention to today is about the possible influence of the right wing Roman Catholic organization Opus Dei on the British government. "The group, long notorious for its secretiveness, its recruitment methods and its association with Franco's Spain, has never been popular in Britain, which prefers its religion to be understated." There is concern that Ruth Kelly, the new secretary of state for education, is a member or, at least, she will not deny being a member. If so, it is just one more example of the troubling trend of extreme relgious right wing influence in the governments of Britain and the United States. Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are indeed members of this highly authoritarian and repressive institution. Interestingly, Thomas has recently been quoted as saying that the oath a justice takes is not to the Constitution but to God. I always thought it was to the people while invoking God's help. Maybe I'm splitting hairs here but Thomas' comment makes me a bit nervous all the same.

I call these matters to your attention under the rubric of "theocracy watch". Secret organizations which have as their hallmark the severe restriction of freedom are definitely a concern of mine once they manifest within the corridors of secular power. That the manifestation is indeed taking place is indisputable.

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