Some odds and ends this gray Sunday morning:
* UCA ETHICS: I’ve asked several questions to UCA President Tom Courtway and Sen. Gilbert Baker of Conway about Baker’s recent hiring as a $132,000-a-year lobbyist for the college. (I know. They claim there’s a “cooling off period” before Baker begins lobbying.) I’m curious if that means he won’t set foot in Conway City Hall, the Faulkner County courthouse, the Arkansas legislature or a Higher Education Coordinating Board meeting during that period and if it also means he won’t talk to any public officials about public policy issues during that period. Under state ethics rules, he’s also prohibited, if not registered as a lobbyist, from communicating with others so as to influence public policy. He couldn’t, in other words, give guidance to others at UCA on lobbying the legislature or other public employees without registering.
I’d also like to know if this job was advertised. I’d like to know when the discussions for hiring begin. I’d like to know what other perks — retirement, car, etc. — might be provided. Most of all, given the hiring of a sitting legislator who sponsored UCA budget bills for a $132,000 public job almost the minute he leaves the Capitol and given Baker’s involvement in ethical lapses during the Lu Hardin administration (special housing for his son; university expenditures on his political campaign; payment of university money into the treasury of a private foundation that employed Baker), I’m curious how Courtway and Baker will assure the public of a more ethical operation in the future. I could also wish a $132,000 vice president would talk to the Arkansas Times, but the recent past indicates that I need not pin any hopes on that.
I also hope anybody who spies former Senator Baker in Joint Budget in January will snap a photo and send it along.
* HOW BAD IS IT FOR THE HOGS?: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sports page gave top billing this morning to Henderson State’s football blowout of the crosstown Bible college. Has there ever been a lamer duck coach than poor old John L. Smith? But what can you do now? Fire him and bring in Jack Crowe for the last two games?
* FAITH DIDN’T LEAD THE VOTERS HOME: It was a bad election last week (in the U.S. and Europe) for the hierarchy of the Catholic church, but the pope and bishops aren’t giving up. Oppression of gays remains No. 1 on the Pope’s hit parade (with oppression of nuns close behind), ahead of all the historic and monumental social justice campaigns of the church.
It was, of course, also a bad week for the Religious Right, except in Dixie.
They are reeling not only from the loss of the presidency, but from what many of them see as a rejection of their agenda. They lost fights against same-sex marriage in all four states where it was on the ballot, and saw anti-abortion-rights Senate candidates defeated and two states vote to legalize marijuana for recreational use. [Iowa voters also ratified service by a Supreme Court justice who endorsed the opinion legalizing gay marriage there and Wisconsin, a state with an earlier anti-gay-marriage amendment and a retrograde governor, elected a lesbian senator.]
It is not as though they did not put up a fight; they went all out as never before: The Rev. Billy Graham dropped any pretense of nonpartisanship and all but endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Roman Catholic bishops denounced President Obama’s policies as a threat to life, religious liberty and the traditional nuclear family. Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition distributed more voter guides in churches and contacted more homes by mail and phone than ever before.
“Millions of American evangelicals are absolutely shocked by not just the presidential election, but by the entire avalanche of results that came in,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., said in an interview. “It’s not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn’t get out. It did get out.
“It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed,” he said. “An increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.”
Yes, but Mohler misses an important point. The growth in secular Americans is important. But there are millions of God-fearing Americans who believe contraception is not immoral. Who believe that abortion, particularly in the early stages of pregnancy or on account of grievous medical conditions, is not immoral. Who believe that homosexuality is a fact of human life, even ordained by God. There are churches full of homosexual worshippers, in fact. Anyone —open mind or closed — would do well to read this brilliant article, “Love on the March,” on homosexuality down through history in the current New Yorker. Conservative fundamentalists will reject the review there of what the Bible and Jesus say — or maybe don’t say — about homosexuality. But it might surprise them to know that some pretty distinguished scholars say that Biblical instructions are not so clear as they might think.
Salon’s Joan Walsh has this take on the divided country, by the way, beginning with a Republican talking point:
“’A broad mandate this is not.’
Really? Let’s review. Obama won 93 percent of African Americans, 71 percent of Latinos and an astonishing 75 percent of Asian Americans, a group that used to split between parties. He won a majority of Catholics, Jews and Muslims as well as the religiously non-affiliated (he only lost white Protestants.) He won women and young people. The only group he lost was white people, and particularly older white people and extremely particularly older white men.
PS Don’t get me wrong by the way. I know the culture war isn’t over by any stretch, as this Salon article argues well. But I welcome any election that isn’t solely decided on one-note dog whistles. (I know, the Arkansas voter DID respond to a one-note anti-Obama whistle.)
* DO I HEAR A SECOND? Speaking of the divided country. Lots of Internet attention to a teabagging Texas Republican official who was moved to call for secession as a response to the Obama victory. Better than a union with “baby-murdering, tax-raising socialists,” he says. Yes. Texas for sure. And maybe Dixie, too. Good time to re-run that viral red state/blue state email.