To Be Honored
February 17, 2012
This past Wednesday, Feb. 15, a large group from East Hampton attended the reception given for Lee Hayes. The reception was given by the Riverhead Historical Society. The date and time of this event were well published in advance.
As most know, Lee is a Tuskegee airman — bombardier and pilot. He served at a time when racism was prevalent.
I would estimate the crowd attending numbered close to 200. The most ever to attend an event at the historical society. Lee was honored by officials (legislators, supervisors, mayors, etc.) from all over Long Island. Some came by busloads. Noticeably and embarrassingly absent were any officials from East Hampton, Lee’s hometown! Very embarrassing!
Lee is a soft-spoken, humble man and will not expound, unless asked, on his accomplishments.
He is to be honored. Lee Hayes: The citizens of East Hampton salute you!
EVELYN S. BATES
February 15, 2012
I am a fourth grader at Springs School. I went to “Zima!” at Pussy’s Pond in Springs over the weekend, and I wanted to thank Kate Mueth and Josh Gladstone for the great time I had.
In the beginning, there is a lonely traveler, Winter, asking people to go on a path to help find his lost love, Spring, and Winter asks them if they will ever be reunited. One time there is a Ram Man (his horn is hooked on a branch), and there was a group of shy fairies playing. At the end of the trail there is a lady named Spring. The answer has a twist, which I will not reveal, but it was very inspiring.
It brings out the creativity of the mind for all ages. I hope they repeat this program, and I would encourage my friends to attend. It was a little cool on the trail, but I didn’t even notice the weather.
February 12, 2012
To the Editor,
Due to the latest onslaught of erosion at Georgica Beach I wonder whether the parties involved in the illegal fence erection on the beach have accepted any responsibility for the 30-odd posts, which were washed away and are now partially submerged in the surf.
These posts are at least 8 feet tall and 3 inches in diameter of galvanized steel and represent a real hazard to surfers and swimmers. They are, at the least, an environmental concern and are a true risk to those of us who use the ocean.
The parties involved exhibited a total lack of respect for the movement and strength of the ocean and should be forced to hire a salvage company to locate them and remove them.
If they think they have been washed out to sea and out of context they are wrong, as is obvious by the ship’s skeleton to the west of the lifeguard stand, which is periodically unearthed.
The whole situation was and is a travesty and a blight perpetrated by greed and territorialism. They should be held answerable.
Ruins the Reputation
February 19, 2012
To the Editor,
First, it is not artists versus the veterans.
The Montauk Artists’ Association has no argument with the veterans’ group. Our event does not use the area west of the hedge, the Memorial Garden. We have offered to include their events schedule in our promotions and advertising, at no charge. We have sent copies of our event’s proposed full-page ad to the members of the town board. Our event is Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and we are packed up and picked up and off the green by twilight on Sunday. We bedeck the gazebo with our flags and leave them there for the Memorial Day events. We are not in their way.
Yesterday, I walked the huge fine-arts and crafts show ArtiGras in North Palm Beach. Many of our artists participate in the show and I asked them, if our show is moved to Second House would you still come to Montauk? They all said that they would not come to Montauk if the show is banished from the green. They all said that the message sent to all the public that the finest Hampton does not value fine art ruins the reputation of the quality of the area. All said they really love Montauk and come here in spite of the costs they incur. There really is no other venue in the Hamptons that reaches the mark of the Montauk green.
Paul Monte, president of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, was in touch with Bill Wilkinson after the public meeting on Thursday. Mr. Wilkinson informed Paul that the vote will probably take place the week of the 27th. He also said that he has recused himself from voting since he is a veteran. That means the remaining board members have to be lobbied by the artists and friends to vote for the sharing of the green.
Get as many of us as we can to write or call over the next week. Reiterate our advertising offer of including their schedule of events in our promotions, the patriotic decor of the event, the desire of the artists and visitors (many of whom are veterans too) to participate in the ceremonies and presentations at the flagpole and the parade on Main Street.
Cooperation is the only positive choice.
ANNE T. WEISSMAN
Montauk Artists Association
Treasurer and Event Director
February 17, 2012
To the Editor:
It looks like Bill Wilkinson has indeed profited from his business experience with Disney and Co. Judging by his performance record as elected town supervisor, he has become a first-rate corporate conniver.
Such chicanery of late has enabled him to veil his actions from bothersome public scrutiny and to ramrod his programs through while at the same time cleverly evading debate. High marks for that!
On the other hand, he’s a lousy deal maker, judging by the giveaway prices he’s placed on a number of town properties.
In regard to the ongoing (ad nauseam) Surf Lodge issue, why doesn’t someone propose amending current laws to protect our citizens from this type of depredation currently being inflicted on all but the gleeful owners? Why can’t we simply padlock the doors of this disgusting enterprise? Something is very wrong here.
The only solution may be to consider initiating a recall of our supervisor. It may be about time.
February 21, 2012
Now entering its third year, the Wilkinson administration has established a distinctive, if dangerous, style of governing: slapdash — as defined by Random House, “hasty and haphazard, without order or planning.”
Look at the continuing campaign this majority has initiated to sell off East Hampton public assets. Starting with Fort Pond House and the town docks in Montauk, they rushed to put these on the (weak) market without a thought to community use and-or need. Result? The attempt to sell the Fort Pond property led to a lengthy and expensive lawsuit against the town; the docks disaster revealed an embarrassing ignorance of the town’s own code.
Then the rush to sell the popular town facility at Poxabogue, again without thought or public input to its use and value. And then, not many months into the new year, more rushing into real estate deals, this time trying to sell town office units at Pantigo Place, units that currently house the town’s own Planning Department, Zoning Board of Appeals, tax assessor, tax receiver, Building Department, and Natural Resources Department. Where is a plan for the relocation of these offices and-or the renovation of the old Town Hall, which is somehow linked to the revenue of the condo sale? And why the haste to sell so low? The fog thickens as the current bidder pulls out of the deal.
And now, the Wilkinson administration is rushing to sell for a pittance the town-owned scavenger waste plant to a single bidder — without proper vetting, without public input, without an environmental study or serious consideration of the far-reaching consequences of this sale.
These are more than enough examples of slapdash governing. The new year has brought change to the town board. The new minority members are asking necessary questions and are bringing these important issues to light where the public can see them. Let’s hope the majority will take their point, although there’s little evidence so far.
Wants the Control
February 20, 2012
The East Hampton community is very fortunate that we have two council members, Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc, minding the store. They are an example of how important careful planning and developing quality evaluations are to making our government more efficient and less costly to the taxpayers. The three Republican members of our town board seem to hurdle into decisions without that evaluation.
At the Thursday evening’s town board meeting, three resolutions were turned down because of Sylvia and Peter’s evaluation and diligence. One of the resolutions called for proposals for architectual services to renovate the old Town Hall. How can they call for proposals without a plan to either renovate or tear down the old Town Hall building? What if renovation is not a safe way to go? More discussion is obviously needed in this area before any money is authorized.
The second resolution, the contractor law, written by Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, leading her staff of attorneys, was not given time for consideration. Some of the items were challenged by Mr. Van Scoyoc, who is a contactor and quite knowledgeable.
The main problem appeared to be that Sylvia and Peter did not have enough time for evaluation and input. It was all what Ms. Quigley wants, and she has Supervisor Wilkinson pushing the time button. Ms. Quigley wants the control, and pushing things through seems to be the supervisor’s theme.
The third resolution was the waiving of a building permit extension fee for $2,600 with no apparent reason except that the prosperous owner, a supporter of the Republican majority, blamed the delay on a tenant. Taxpayer money is being given out as payback to a supporter.
I’m far from alone in this accolade to our new council members. Andy Sabin, a Republican supporter, withdrew a bid for town condominiums, stating this board should “get on board and figure out what they want to do.” Mr. Sabin said that he had intended to hold the condominiums until the commercial real estate market improved. This Republican board should not be giving away our assets for bargain sale prices.
If you have a chance, watch Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc at the town board meetings on Channel 22, LTV, the first three Tuesdays of the month and the first and third Thursday of the month.
Owes an Apology
February 18, 2012
To The Star,
Having gone to the town board on Thursday to offer comments on dredging efforts during the public portion of the meeting I then stayed to listen. It was very, very educational.
Person after person with issues of all sorts got up, said their piece, and were acknowledged in a useful and respectful procession. In the midst of this image of small town governing, one shrill speaker broke boundaries. She got up to vociferously complain that Deputy Supervisor Theresa Quigley used I in describing her thoughts and feelings. Excuse me? Being elected to office prohibits the first person, never mind the First Amendment?
I was comforted in some way to find out that this out-of-sorts person, Rona Klopman, was a failed and bitter candidate venting her spleen. At least it wasn’t the average citizen, whoever that might be.
Having been around politics for a while, and not once having offered a personal remark, I am making my first. Politics don’t require personal spite and Ms. Klopman owes an apology to the town board and to Ms. Quigley for her complete nastiness.
February 20, 2012
I was agog at your front-page story Feb. 9 about another building permit fiasco. First our building inspector approves a permit for a substance abuse rehab facility in a residential neighborhood. His decision is endorsed when the supervisor, police chief, and town attorney sign off on a licensing application. Then the building inspector rethinks his decision after a competitor and the neighbors complain. Now there’s another lawsuit against the town, which has hired outside counsel to defend the reversal, needless to say at taxpayers’ expense.
Where are the ground rules for building inspector decisions? What guides our lawyers when the decisions are tricky? Our supervisor says he’s running our town like a business. Sounds like Mickey Mouse to me.
Old Town Hall
February 20, 2012
First things first! In another hasty move by Supervisor Wilkinson, a resolution was brought up at Thursday night’s town board meeting, a request for proposal called “Architectural Services for the Renovation of the Old Town Hall.” Once again, the Republican town board majority appears to be acting without forethought. Before any renovations can begin, goals must be established and questions must be answered.
An initial evaluation of the building condition must be conducted to determine what parts, if any, can be saved. Because there is so much communication infrastructure in the basement (necessary to the new Town Hall), it would be best if the basement could be reused. But there may be little value left in the rest of the building, even if it is structurally sound. Until a proper inspection and condition report is made, we will only waste time speculating.
As an architect with a background in programming and planning, I would also suggest that we have the opportunity before us to finally get our Town Hall “right.”
The proper procedure for the renovation of the old Town Hall should first begin with a program — a functional analysis of town services and employees. Which departments serve the public, which departments benefit from being close together, and which departments can share services and equipment? Many important questions like these need to be asked and answered. This will allow the process of consolidation and renovation to occur in a thoughtful manner.
At the same time, it is essential that the town study all aspects of the current Town Hall site, including existing and potential parking areas, pedestrian and vehicular circulation, circulation between buildings (including the Justice Court), drainage, orientation, and handicapped accessibility, to name just a few. The hodgepodge of existing buildings will eventually make sense if we put time and energy into the planning process first, ask the right questions, and find the best answers.
Professional analysis and study will lead to efficient square-foot usage and result in lower costs of construction, operation, and maintenance. However, it is simply not possible for an architect to propose anything until there is an agreement upon what parts of the old Town Hall will be kept, and what operations will go into it.
Escort Him Out
February 20, 2012
The scavenger waste issue is not as complex as it appears at first glance. Here we have a facility that serves the people by performing one of the most basic services there is in any community. It is out of date. It releases toxins, and even an odor, into the surrounding area and our groundwater.
It has been cited by the state for doing just those things and without even a real study performed to determine exactly what we are dealing with, the supervisor seems ready, and indeed is pushing, to cut a deal.
This man is unfathomable. I am aghast! What goes on in his head? I watched one meeting in Montauk where he looked ill, [. . . ], or just downright bored with the whole thing. If he no longer wants the job he secured with a 15-vote landslide and a few nasty deals (like bilking Zach Cohen out of the Independence Party candidacy), if he doesn’t have the stomach, the will, the patience, or the morality to do the right thing by the town, then perhaps he should get out — or maybe we should escort him out the door Gov. Walker-style. What’s good for Wisconsin might serve us well here.
Is he such a child that he can’t understand how important this is to the future of East Hampton? And to hear Ms. Q. talk about sewers is ludicrous. You don’t want to spend the money to bring this facility into the 21st century, but you want to spend millions and millions on sewers? Girl, where is your head? We can’t even get LIPA to put its wires underground.
There needs to be some reality-checking going on at Town Hall.
PHYLLIS I. MALLAH
Waive Fees Issue
February 20, 2012
As you surely know, the rules of our town require a property owner who obtains a building permit to pay an annual charge for every year the permit remains open. These fees can mount up if the owner fails to apply for and obtain a certificate of occupancy on a completed project. The bills that ensue are a source of revenue for the town and a warning to some to be more attentive in the future.
So what do we think when an owner with substantial business interests asks the town board to waive $2,600 in fees on one of his rental properties, and the majority puts a resolution to that effect on its calendar? When our economy-minded supervisor and deputy supervisor are so motivated to decide in the applicant’s favor that they say they will revisit the issue at the next meeting after a tie vote, with Democrats Overby and Van Scoyoc opposing and Mr. Stanzione absent, defeats the resolution.
Surely it’s not because this landowner claims the whole thing was a tenant’s oversight. No landlord I know escapes obligations because it was the tenant’s fault.
Might it be pertinent that the property owner is a contributor to the Republican Party? That he had issues before the board on which it allegedly more or less gave him a pass before the last election? That it reputedly made some promises about not putting a parking lot near his oceanside property? Special consideration for a special friend?
East End Ice
February 17, 2012
In your editorial on Feb. 9 you criticized the lease the town gave to Sportime to manage the multi-rink facility on Abraham’s Path known as the Arena. Since my stories in The Independent about the facility prompted the town to put the management of the facility out to bid I’d like to clarify some of your points, with all due respect.
You indicated the deal “brought in just $30,000 to the town last year . . . the concessionaire got a pretty sweet deal and the taxpayers relatively little in return.” That’s $30,000 more than the previous management, East End Ice, gave the town during the entire length of their five-year lease.
Here’s some background: After the town spent almost $2 million enclosing the facility it gave a five-year lease to East End Ice, one of the officers served on the police force with then-Town Supervisor Bill McGintee for about 18 years (another was a retired N.Y.C. cop). Mr. McGintee and Pete Hammerle, a board member at the time, “pushed hard” for East End Ice, according to Pat Mansir, another board member at the time. On corporate filings with the state and the Internal Revenue Service the management was identified as a youth hockey organization. The board was told in public session the facility was to be used for the youth hockey programs.
The board simply handed East End Ice the keys to the facility. East End Ice set up a cushy office with rugs, computers, and desks. There was a concession stand, which was against the terms of the lease. As my article revealed, youth hockey games took up only a minute amount of time. Assorted adult soccer leagues, primarily Latino, took the great majority of the 700 or so hours the facility was used each year. We revealed the organizers paid $100 an hour, estimates ranging from over $40,000 to $78,000 a year — in cash. We were also told spectators were being charged admission, also a violation of the lease with the town.
All those people at the soccer games got thirsty in the musty, sweaty arena. There were soda machines dispensing cans by the thousands, because there was no running water and nothing else to drink.
In March of 2008, East End Ice, after prodding from The Independent, listed net vending machine profit to be $2,071 in 2006 and $3,423 in 2007.
But The Independent had obtained a federal income tax filing from East End Ice for 2006 dated March 8, 2007 — before The Independent’s editorial questioning the soda machine revenue — the federal form pegs net revenues from the soda machines at $290 in 2006. It came out to something like 26 cents per day per machine — less than the cost of a single can.
The town paid all the utility bills. The town was responsible for the repair of the Arena. There was a one-page summary of the facility’s financial situation filed with the town — that was it. There was absolutely no oversight of any kind. Mr. McGintee and Mr. Hammerle failed to disclose their involvement with East End Ice when the corporation was given exclusive management rights in 2006. Both were on the board of directors of East End Ice; neither revealed as much on their financial disclosure forms as is required by law.
The current board didn’t give away the facility as your editorial indicated. If anything, it reined in an out-of-control situation and created a vehicle that will yield a profit for the town instead of costing taxpayers money. All it did was open up the management contract to all bidders rather than select in private who to give a sweetheart deal to.
It doesn’t appear to us that “several” community programs have ended as a result of the deal, as you indicated — we aren’t certain, though. We intend to put Sportime under the microscope in the manner we examined East End Ice. If the company is violating the terms of its lease, we’ll find out.
Only Two Hours
February 20, 2012
First, I am a member of the Dark Sky (not dark ground‚ Mr. Nash) Society. We provide educational information about quality night-lighting that improves safety, security, commerce, and energy conservation.
Second, I quit Town Councilwoman Theresa Quigley’s lighting committee when it became apparent that she only wanted to use my name and the name of my organization for her own purposes, which is to repeal our 2006 smart-lighting code and replace it with one that will be ineffective in addressing light pollution (glare, light trespass, energy waste, and sky glow) throughout the town. After only two hours of meetings (with committee members with little to no experience in writing legislation or about dark sky lighting criteria), Ms. Quigley advanced her legislation to the town attorney. It includes “grandfathering” of all lighting, even if illegally installed.
Third, the few legitimate and verifiable issues with our current code can be addressed with simple amendments, as Councilwoman Sylvia Overby (who has experience in reviewing lighting plans) is attempting to enact. I support these amendments, not Ms. Quigley’s efforts.
Dark Sky Society
Was a Racist
February 14, 2012
I just got done reading the piece titled “Margaret Sanger, The Mother of Birth Control” that was on the front page of your Feb. 9 edition, and wonder why there was absolutely no mention of the fact that Margaret Sanger was a racist.
In her own words from her autobiography, “I accepted an invitation to talk to the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan. . . . I saw through the door dim figures parading with banners and illuminated crosses. . . . I was escorted to the platform, was introduced, and began to speak. . . . In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered.” (“Margaret Sanger: An Autobiography,” page 366)
“We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” (Margaret Sanger’s Dec. 19, 1939, letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, 255 Adams Street, Milton, Massachusetts. Original source: Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, North Hampton, Mass. Also described in Linda Gordon’s “Woman’s Body, Woman’s Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America.” New York: Grossman Publishers, 1976)
Also missing from the Feb. 9 article is the fact that Sanger was also a believer in eugenics. Sanger espoused the thinking of eugenicists — similar to Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” — but related the concept to human society, saying the genetic makeup of the poor, and minorities, for example, was inferior. (“Pivot of Civilization,” by Margaret Sanger, 1922, page 80)
“Eugenics is the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems” (Margaret Sanger, “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda,” Birth Control Review, October 1921, page 5)
There are countless speeches and interviews that Sanger gave throughout her life that prove that she was a racist, yet many in our society hold her up as some great hero. Insanity.
I wrote a similar letter to the editor of a Massachusetts newspaper back in 2010 after reading an article about Robert Byrd shortly after his death. I pointed out to the editor of the paper that nowhere in the article was there any mention of the fact that Robert Byrd was at once a member (and recruiter for) of the K.K.K., and actually achieved the status of kleagle and exalted cyclops of his local chapter.
That letter to the editor was never published? Will this one be published?
February 19, 2012
To the Editor,
The speaker of the House called a closed-door meeting of the Republicans’ representatives to use the high cost of gasoline against President Obama as a means to defeat him. Why didn’t he ask them to get the petroleum companies to start the new drilling approved by the president?
They also have not upgraded the refineries to produce more gasoline in this country. They want to build the Keystone pipeline from Canada to the West Coast to ship the oil to China — more money for those officials who own some of the land to be used, while we, the taxpayers, subsidize the oil companies who charge us these high prices — while they have reported making billions of dollars these past few years. Don’t be fooled by our Congress.
Is a Danger
February 20, 2012
To the Editor,
My reading of the Constitution indicates our country is blessed with the freedom of religion. I don’t believe religious rights belong to any one religion. Have American Catholic bishops forgotten about the separation of church and state?
This is not just a Catholic issue; every religion has its share of fundamentalists, even Christianity. Finally, one of history’s greatest lessons is that once a state embraces a religion, the nature of that religion changes radically. It loses its nonviolent component and becomes a force for war rather than peace. I believe there is a danger when any religion demands “their rights” above others. Our government is not a theocracy.
February 18, 2012
To the Editor,
The Catholic Church seems like a water balloon filled with holes in its battle over the contraceptive insurance debacle. Rarely has a public institution been more susceptible to public ridicule and derision in its policies, and because of its historical abuses. Given this level of susceptibility, only the most deranged of our political deviants would insist on making a spectacle of this issue.
The concept of separation of church and state is being transformed from religious intervention in the operation of government to government intervention into church policies. It’s analogous to feeling sorry for the poor slave masters when their slaves turn on them. This outpouring of misdirected sympathy is such a bag of mindless tripe that could only happen in America.
In its simplest form the Catholic Church receives billions of dollars from taxpayers for services it provides: hospitals, schools, etc., money well spent. It also has a tax-exempt status and pays no taxes on its extraordinary wealth. No matter how much its real estate appreciates or its business interests earn profits, it pays zero taxes. Yet, despite its extraordinary status, it is asking for a special exemption in its health care coverage, supplied by independent carriers, to exclude contraception.
The U.S. Constitution provides for the right of all religions to be practiced freely. It does not, however, provide a tax exemption to religious institutions. That exemption has been legislated. The Constitution has always identified the laws within it as the basic laws of the land and beliefs to the contrary are to remain in the private domain. That the church has a problem with contraception is the church’s problem, but when it enters into the public domain and takes publicly generated taxes for its services it is obligated to abide by the law of the land. It doesn’t have to practice contraception but it can’t deny it to those people who wish to do so.
The real issue, here, is not about state and church or the opposite. It is about human sexuality and the idea that religious institutions have the right to manipulate people’s sexuality in order to exercise control over their behavior. Historically, this kind of sexual manipulation has been effective and debilitating. It persisted even though it flies in the face of basic human instincts and the belief that we are all God’s children and somehow had a life of its own despite its essential venality.
Contraception was practiced thousands of years before the church came into being. As the world’s population increases it takes on greater significance. The church has every right to maintain its no-contraception doctrine, but it has no right to impose it on anyone else. Contraception, in the greater realm of women’s choices, is a private issue. Fewer institutions have been more backward and regressive than the church on women’s issues. We left the Dark Ages behind for a reason. Bringing them back for the sake of political dissonance does a disservice to everyone.
February 19, 2012
As one of 13 children from a devout Catholic family, the issue of birth control has never been of waning interest to me. As Catholic bishops politically dance with fundamentalist evangelical Protestant preachers on the issue of birth control, they too have learned to bark and howl at how the Obama administration (humanists, liberals, socialists, atheists, progressives, Democrats, secularists, Marxists, intellectuals) is the enemy of freedom of religion and of free choice.
His administration persecutes Christians, because, they say, he’s out to destroy American family values that are at very heart of the Judeo-Christian values upon which this country was founded. These astonishing, wildly awful comedians now running for the Republican presidential nomination have taken up this absurdity, giving further credence to the realization the Tea Party and evangelical conservatives have taken hold of the Republican Party by the short hairs: extremism in the name of liberty is again no vice, since conservatives claim liberty as their true devotion. They celebrate themselves as heroic patriots saving the True Cross of the Constitution from Obama and his fellow liberal Democrats.
To the nation, this farce becomes more unbelievable each passing day. This Christian persecution avenue of attack went full frontal with accelerated decriminalizing of gays, who could no longer be denied constitutional rights of equality. In recent years fundamentalists have more loudly claimed that giving gays constitutional rights was an attack against Christianity and Christians. Gay rights were an attack on natural law which God himself, Judge of Judges, directly hard-wired into us and certainly never the un-natural law of the gay agenda or as Rick St. Foreign put it, Satan’s sgenda, not to mention a slap in the face of our nation’s founding fathers, who championed Christianity and liberty, and most certainly not the Islam of any Barack Hussein Obama.
Once, in Ireland, I went with a friend to a pharmacy to buy condoms, only to find they were unavailable in Ireland, then against the law. Not just Irish law, the pharmacist told us in her soft Irish lilt, but against natural law too. Then, the Irish Catholic Church adamantly declared birth control against God’s will, forbidden, a mortal sin. Why? Voluptuaries or penitential ascetics in Rome decided contraception to be against natural law, the one which would later render them infallible. The one true faith holding title to heaven’s real estate (keys to the kingdom), was reserved only for those who have kept faith with the divine authority of an infallible pope.
Not so very long ago, contraceptive items were famously banned in Boston, too, by power and decree of a church in political ascendancy. Catholics are the largest United States Christian denomination, yet the vast majority who self-identify as Roman Catholic, like myself, pay very little attention to celibating bishops’ weird obsessions with “impure” sexuality. The faithful approve and use contraceptives overwhelmingly, according to all polls.
The present pope caused no little comment when he said recently that male prostitutes were exempt from the prohibition against condom use. If not a big rip in that seamless fabric, it was a first for the seamless fabric of life, a giant leap of faith for mankind. From the ubiquitous R.C. clergy sexual scandals that were global, is there any doubt the clergy should have prophylactic protections from higher risks of sexually transmitted diseases and morally hazardous venereal delectation for careless male prostitutes?
Don’t worry, the pope didn’t go all hog wild to include female prostitutes, just as the church forbade the use and distribution of birth control for the wives and girlfriends of African men in the maelstrom of a lethal pandemic. President Bush promised to stop aid monies to any nongovernmental organization, religious or secular, that offered or supplied “artificial” birth control to obtain the American bishops’ tacit endorsement. Included in that directive issued, abortion was forbidden to be even mentioned, in print or speech.
Keeping his promise, large numbers of African women were left, excepting abstinence, without birth control or prevention of AIDs, for mother and fetus; men too, of course. AIDs took a calamitous economic toll upon poor nations as well as upon human bodies: 25 million now dead from AIDs, an estimated 22.3 million are now infected with H.I.V. in sub-Saharan Africa, almost 90 percent of the 16.6 million children orphaned by AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Crackpot paranoid Ron Paul tells us he’d put an end to all foreign aid as if the U.S. is on a separate planet. If even its celibate clergy evidently pay little attention to their bishops about sexuality or their own behavior, why would Republican politicians so impulsively, amateurishly, jump, willy-nilly, upon a collapsing stage of moral grandstanding, joining in an absurdist feeding frenzy that every sperm is holy, each one is great, every sperm is sacred, every one a keeper, every sperm is good, every sperm in the neighborhood, as Monty Python sang, from a high-kicking chorus line, in finest raiment of red silk capes, over embroidered, ankle-length white gowns, with matching red hats, the lovely livery of cardinals, princes each?
Could it possibly be because Rick St. Foreign, catering to religious fanaticism, was coming up in the polls, championing abstinence as foundational to Judeo-Christian family values‚ values for which African orphans fervently pray for too, no doubt. The Newtster and Willard, their evangelical bona fides suspect, climbed aboard this pious vessel of abstinence, not to be outdone by that upstart former senator.
“In this country the government doesn’t get to tell you or your organization what your religious views are, and they could well be minority views, but the Bill of Rights is designed to protect the minority from the will of the majority,” Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate Minority Leader, said on CBS’s Face the Nation, Feb. 12, 2012.
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing the majority decision in Employment Division v. Smith: “When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.” Or as members of American society, the Catholic bishops have to live by the rules of American society. Scalia wrote in the same decision: “We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the state is free to regulate.”
On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise of jurisprudence contradicts that proposition. Justice Scalia, who apparently can rationalize most anything to conform to received conservative authority of the protected social order, might inform Mitch McConnell discreetly on this matter, to set him straight. He, in turn, could remind his party’s unbelievable candidates seeking the Republican presidential nod they could champion our Constitution, rather than appearing to score puny, pathetic, political points to undermine Obama’s efforts to lead our country out from the debacle of squandered resources and economic calamity from unbridled greed run amok, with unenforced regulation over gambling dens by a Republican administration openly bought out and ensconced in office by corporate funds.
This undermining intransigence appears to be the Republican holy grail for assuring Obama’s defeat, no matter what good solutions are blocked, no matter the good appointees blocked, and departments in hiatus without direction, important work not being done, no matter the harm or costs to the nation. Never mind what is good for the country as long as it benefits political protection for the wealthy, making certain [that] government fails in its regulatory oversight so that fairness is not feasible and life opportunities are not equally accessible to all Americans.
My mother and father, who followed church teaching, made certain that, at the announcement of engagement (marriage bans in Catholicism) of any of their children in the parish bulletin, their children had full knowledge and supply of “artificial” birth control. They knew the impossibility and unmitigated hardship of listening to celibates’ prattle, but they remained practicing Catholics up to their Last Rites and Requiem Mass. How infuriating my parents would have found this issue in a political campaign.
This debate is not primarily about the separation wall between church and state. It’s about a separation wall between medicine and state. It is about the freedom and liberty of autonomous, rational agents to make moral and medical decisions for their families without interference from the state or pronouncements from a celibate clergy. At its core, it’s the fraudulent anti-science of arrogant, authoritarian, superstitious, and fundamentalist strictures that unfortunately holds the G.O.P. in such thrall.
Opinions of Others
February 15, 2012
Louis Meisel obviously doesn’t want to be identified with the clowns on the right running for the Republican nomination. He would rather just applaud the opinions of others and be cute.
Well, Mr. Meisel, if you have something to add to the discourse raging in the political spectrum about the most important presidential election in your lifetime, and object to the adjectives used by those opposing right-wing hypocrisy, fabrication, and stupidity, why don’t you have the guts to jump in yourself and put your name beneath your comments so the rest of us can see what descriptive adjectives we can apply to you?
Your history to date is such that I doubt we will hear from you.