Thursday, October 8, 2015

POSTED: Thursday, October 8, 2015, 5:55 PM
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy walks out of a nomination vote meeting after dropping out of the race to replace House Speaker John Boehner, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

I guess today's a good day for blowing things up. Putin dropped some bombs on Iran (by accident, maybe) -- undoubtedly making Sen. John McCain a very happy man. Then there's Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the current House majority leader, who set off his own bombshell when he told his House Republican caucus that he now isn't running for speaker of the House, and throwing the race to replace the irreplaceable John Boehner into utter chaos.

What buried McCarthy's chances? Some say it was when he committed the ultimate "Kinsley gaffe" and uttered the harsh truth on the never-ending bowl of Benghazi hearings, that it was all about lowering Hillary Clinton's poll numbers (something that she's quite capable of doing herself, thank you). I think it fell apart late Wednesday night, when Stephen Colbert revealed that English is McCarthy's 2nd language, or maybe his 4th. Clearly McCarthy was not ready for prime time.

So who is? The funny thing is that -- true story -- the speaker of the House doesn't have to be a sitting member of the House. On the other hand, of the two men that the House GOP caucus admires the most, one -- Zombie Ronald Reagan -- isn't actually living while the other (Putin) isn't an American citizen. Both of those things are problematic.

POSTED: Wednesday, October 7, 2015, 6:08 PM
The faithful lining the Benjamin Franklin Parkway wave, scream and take pictures of Pope Francis travels in the Pope mobile Septmeber 27, 2015 enroute to an outdoor papal mass. ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)

Every time I proclaim the "last word" on Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia last's not. This is not the most important thing going on the world right now (more likely it's what we talked about yesterday) but the reporting that's been done on this topic so far is bothering me, so here's my 2 cents.

Some people continue to insist that 1 million people attended the papal mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Then there's some science dude who says it was no more than 142,000. The truth is out there, and it's not as hard as people are making this.

Where did the 1 million number come from? Well, it started with city officials and event organizers who estimated that 1 million people or 1.5 million even would show up, based on the World Conference of Families in other nations like the Philippines. Never mind that you're comparing Philadelphia to cities that are larger, more densely populated, more devoutly Catholic, with people who are more used to hassles and getting around without cars and who (for the most part) don't have an HDTV in every room of their house.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 6, 2015, 7:15 PM
Injured Doctors Without Borders staff are seen after explosions near their hospital in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. (Médecins Sans Frontières via AP)

The irony was painful -- and at the time we didn't even know the half of it.

I'm talking about the U.S. reaction to that airstrikes that Russia recently launched in Syria -- either against ISIS (if you believe Putin, in which case I want to speak with you after the blog post about the possibility of selling you this valid deed I have for the Brooklyn Bridge) or against U.S.-trained-and-backed Syrian rebels, and on behalf of Putin's mass murdering pal, Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad.

The nation that has dropped countless bombs across the Arab world from Afghanistan to Africa, from airplanes and from drones, including about 5,000 warheads against suspected ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq in just the last year, is now worried that Russia dropping bombs in roughly the same corner of the world could lead to serious unintended consequences. In a statement released through Turkey last week, a coalition of allies warned that the Russian bombing raids were already harming civilians and "will only fuel more extremism and radicalization."

POSTED: Sunday, October 4, 2015, 7:53 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement about the shootings in Oregon from the White House in Washington October 1, 2015. (Reuters)

Oops, I forgot to mention that I'm in the middle of a few well-deserved (not really) days off. Had I been around late last week, I would have noted this, that President Obama's statement in response to the latest gun atrocity in Oregon was passionate, moving, and maybe the finest moment in the seven years of his presidency. (The only comparison that springs to mind was his Selma address on the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday.") Feel free to add your agreement with me in the space below. I'll be back on Tuesday and I promise that I'll have a lot to say on some other issues in the news.

POSTED: Wednesday, September 30, 2015, 6:30 PM
Dawn Skorcik, left, of Marietta, Ga., and Dawn Barber, of Powder Springs, Ga., comfort each other while protesting outside of Georgia Diagnostic Prison in Jackson, Ga., Tuesday evening, Sept. 29, 2015, before the execution of Kelly Gissendaner. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

When Pope Francis' jet took off from Philadelphia International Airport at 7:47 p.m. on Sunday, you know who breathed a huge sigh of relief? I mean, besides Mayor Nutter. The nation's proud execution workers. They quickly grabbed their hoods -- or whatever executioners wear in the 21st Century -- and their briefcases full of lethal cocktails and went back to work, still partying like it's 1099.

It already seems like a long time ago that Francis stood up before a joint session of Congress and said this:

“Every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes,” he said. “Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”

POSTED: Tuesday, September 29, 2015, 6:22 PM
Keeping watch from a personnel carrier at the Camden base of the closed-to-traffic Ben Franklin on Saturday were National Guardsmen Tiffani Paulus of Phillipsburg, N.J., and Patrick Callan of Hamilton, N.J. (TOM GRALISH/Staff Photographer)

Just a quick last word -- hopefully -- on Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia. It was definitely a blessed day -- and not just because the Birds finally won a game and Jonathan Papelbon imploded at almost precisely the instant that the Vicar of Christ took to the big stage near Eakins Oval. For most people, the weekend was what it was -- the crowd wasn't remotely close to the 1.5 million that city officials once spoke of, and it was probably considerably less than the 860,000 number that widely circulated Sunday night. But I think -- and this is what really matters -- that the pious people who really, really wanted to see Pope Francis...saw Pope Francis. Does it matter if that number was 200,000 or 2 million?

Of course, some of the faithful only saw the pontiff on a Jumbotron. That security -- it was too much, man...and not in the good sense.

I took a long stroll around Center City late Sunday morning and the whole scene away from the Parkway was borderline apocalyptic. Some of it was surreal and cool -- watching a dad seize a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play soccer with his son in the middle of 16th Street, packs of cyclists cruising the city like they were on the Wissahickon Trail. But there were concrete barriers just strewn about like matchsticks in the oddest places, eerily empty windswept streets...and on almost every corner, a gaggle of fresh-faced National Guardsmen, in full camouflage, just hanging around.

POSTED: Monday, September 28, 2015, 7:19 PM

You probably missed it in all the hoopla over Pope Francis -- especially since the seemingly tireless 78-year-old pontiff was running around making some new, headline-worthy pronouncement every 45 minutes or so during his exhausting North American tour that wrapped up in Philadelphia. But the first-ever pope from the Americas actually said some pretty nice things about our capitalism.

It was just this summer, after all, that Francis called capitalism's excesses "the dung of the devil." It sounds kind of bad when you put it that way. But on Wednesday, the pope found himself before the millionaires-financed-by-billionaires known as the U.S. Congress. As Francis shows us time and time again, the man knows his audience:

"It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable," he said. “'Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good."

POSTED: Thursday, September 24, 2015, 5:55 PM
Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Listening behind the pope are Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Pope Francis delivered his historic speech Thursday to a joint session of Congress, and anyone expecting a fairly liberal bent to the pontiff's message wasn't disappointed. End the death penalty. More openness for immigration. Do something about poverty and homelessness. And, while you're at it, climate change. It was like your typical Attytood blog post, except more eloquent and without the typos. Conservative social causes? He has a few, but then again too few to mention, apparently.

There were a couple of surprises, however. One was Francis' invocation of two fairly radical American Catholic thinkers and doers of the 20th Century, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. The other was the pope's harsh and graphic condemnation of the international arms trade:

“Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?” he asked. “Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money – money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.


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