Center for Ethics and Leadership

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gay Marriage and Abortion, Abortion, Abortion. Newsweek Pushes the Envelope

Now Newsweek has really done it. This week's cover shows a Bible with the cover story's title, "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage." I saw the issue as it came into my home and thought that the magazine would get a very critical reaction in some quarters. It sure has. There has been a flood of e-mails and blog comments reprimanding both the magazine and the article's author, Lisa Miller. Actually, she did a good job. Miller has understood the questions many Christian ethicists and biblical scholars bring to Scripture's condemnation of homosexual acts and makes the broader case for the Bible's affirmation of loving relationship.

The case is not entirely convincing. Not all of Scripture can be explained away, but Miller is right in saying scripture does not present an open-and-shut case against gay marriage. Newsweek and Miller are to be commended for bringing into the mainstream media a conversation that has been going on among Christian theologians for a very long time.

Lost in the uproar have been Newsweek's three stories on abortion. The first laments a federal bill that will allow medical professionals to refuse to be involved in abortions for reasons of conscience and a state law (North Dakota) that will require abortion providers to read patients a pre-operative statement about the humanhood of the fetus and the negative physical and psychological repercussions of abortion. The second trumpets the advantage of stem-cell research that is not embryonic and consequently will require no destruction of embryos. The third worries that the combination of new prenatal technology to detect Down Syndrome earlier in pregnancy and some physician's misconceptions of the potential for a satisfying life for all involved with a person with Down Syndrome. There is much to discuss among these three articles and the different positions on abortion that seem to be implied by each writer's argument.

Newsweek has had a busy week.

Newspapers Aren't Dead Yet

No sooner had I written about the demise of newspapers when The Philadelphia Inquirer began running the sort of heavily researched government expose it had not published in years. Today is the fourth and final installment of Smoke and Mirrors: The Subversion of the EPA, an investigative report of the Bush administration's manipulation of the Environmental Protection Agency into a pussycat of a regulatory agency. It's all here -- the EPA's courtroom losses as it tried to step away from its mission, the frustration of its own scientists with policy decisions, the withdrawal of hard-hitting memos and the reissue of much softer documents. Extra! Extra! Read all about it! You can go to the Inky's website and retrieve the entire series if you like.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sportstalk Crosses the Line

WIP radio in Philadelphia may be the leading sportstalk station in the country, and its morning show is the best of the bunch. But earlier this week, host Angelo Cataldi pushed a point for controversy's sake that angered his co-host Rhea Hughes more deeply than I have ever heard her respond.

NHL troublemaker and all-around flake Steve Avery, who plays for Dallas, was in Calgary for a game. Avery has dated both Rachel Hunter and Elisha Cuthbert, both of whom now date other NHL players. Cuthbert is dating a defenseman for Calgary. Earlier on game day Avery deliberately called over a Canadian TV network and remarked about other players dating his "sloppy seconds." The NHL immediately suspended him. The Dallas organization fully agreed, and even his teammates refused to come to his defense, so offensive was the remark. As third co-host Al Morganti said, Avery's comment was clearly intended to start a serious fight when the game was played.

For readers who do not understand what Avery meant, let me explain. The phrase "sloppy seconds" refers to sexual intercourse. In its original context it refers to a woman's having sex with more than one man in a single session. There is no more degrading way to refer to a woman or to insult a man who is in a relationship with that woman.

Angelo praised Avery for his honesty in making the statement, and refused to budge when both Al and Rhea and even regular guest Hugh Douglas tried to explain the problem to him. Finally, Rhea said to a guy with whom she has worked for more than ten years, "You have no respect for women." She meant it. I have never heard her more angry, and I have heard Rhea yell at callers. And she didn't raise her voice.

I turned off the radio at that point. I had arrived at the office. Maybe they patched things up. But it wasn't funny, Angelo. And don't pretend that a 58-year-old man (you) didn't know the term and its offensiveness, as it seemed you were doing. You might as well know now that I listen less after football season because I grow weary of your verbal leering at cheerleaders and dancers from gentleman's clubs, and I'm no prude. Rhea, maybe you should get tougher with Angelo when he goes through his routine with attractive young women. Your protests too often are feeble. Angelo, be careful. You don't want to end up exiled to satellite radio like Howard Stern.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's a Shame Newspapers are Dead

Michael Smerconish, a Philadelphia-based radio talk-show host, also writes a regular Sunday column for The Philadelphia Inquirer. In his column a few weeks ago, he lamented the downsizing of news operations at even the nation's largest papers. He made an interesting point in saying that his work, talking politics on the radio, depends on journalists' most important work, reporting the news in depth. His concern was Martin Eisenstadt, a fictional character created by two would-be TV and film producers. Eisenstadt was described a a well-credentialed conservative political consultant, and his fictional news was picked up by several outlets. Smerconish points out that with the continuing shrinking of newsroom staffs, more and more professionals like him are liable to be fooled.

It's a shame. News operations have been shrinking for years, and gone are the days when TV networks such as CBS took pride in the fact that they fully funded their news operations regardless of those operations' ability to make a profit.

I still like to hold a newspaper in my hands and get more than newsradio headlines.