Saturday, February 10, 2007

Giving Them the Smack Down - Who is the Real Republican Base?

I have purposely avoided the whole Pelosi-plane phony scandal precisely because it was just that. The big blogs and sites worked hard getting the facts out there, yet still the House Republicans kept at it, even when they had to know it was all a lie. One Democratic member managed, in less than five minutes, to do what many Democrats around the country have been wanting to do for years - put a serious rhetorical smack-down upon Republican nonsense, including refusing, even within the decorum of the House of Representatives, to allow even one instance of reframing or baiting. It was a beautiful thing to behold, and the aides sitting in the background are clearly enjoying it; just watch them smile and snicker as they watch a master rhetorician tear the "Republic" Party in the House and its pet phony scandal apart.

One question that was answered by this entire affair was who, exactly constitutes the base of the Republican Party, who benefits from this whole ado. As the story was disproven almost immediately, yet such "proof" was ignored; as even Tony Snow - God alone knows I find it difficult to say anything nice about this guy - has called the whole thing "silly" and stuck to the facts rather than the "facts" for a change (did his head come close to exploding, one wonders?) - the question, I shall ask again, is; Who benefits from all this?

Certainly not the Repulicans, who look more and more like fools and knaves. There is no public constituency who benefits from this nonsense, either, especially as the whole thing was discredited in no time whatsoever. A clue, I think, comes from this - talk radio and the Washington Times (owned by the Moonies, who also own and manage Insight magazine, that tried and failed miserably to smear Barack Obama) hyped these stories, planting the filthy little lie in the ears of various people, thus starting this particular ball of dung rolling down hill. So, we now understand who is the real base of the Republic Party - Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, FoxNews, the whole right-wing noise-and-lie machine. This is who the Repubican members of the House were trying to please. It was for their benefit the story was kept alive, like a strange but very dangerous and ugly bug in a jar. The only ones who win are those whose ratings depend upon keeping up the noise, even when those whom they nominally support, the Republic Party members of the House of Representatives are demonstrably hurt, and given such a concise and public smackdown.

Short Take

All I have to say about this post at Eschaton, which you should read in its entirety, is that Duncan, er, Dr. Black, gets it all right.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Tucker Carlson - Bow-Tie Wearer, Bad Dancer, Right-Wing Sock Puppet, Theologian

Media Matters has a piece on Tucker Carlson's comments on Barack Obama's church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Apparently, if you can't smear a person by calling them a closet Muslim, perhaps even a closet terrorist (he went to a madrassah, you know, in Indonesia), then you can at least question the bona fides, not so much of his faith, but of the faith of an entire congregation. Man, Tucker, I'm impressed - you managed to get all that in. How do you do it?

The part that has Tucker's tie spinning like something out of The Three Stooges is the church, a predominantly African-American church, includes in its own mission statement what Carlson calls "a disavowal of the pursuit of 'middle classness'", and Carlson says that is somehow, not just un-American, but (gasp!) un-Christian. That would be true if Jesus had been a middle-class white guy from the suburbs, the figure that probably comes up in Carlson's fetid mind whenever he hears the name mentioned. Except, of course, Jesus was a dark, long-haired, carpenter/stone-mason who spoke Aramaic and resembled Yassar Arafat more than he did Jeffrey Hunter (if you haven't seen The Greatest Story Ever Told, you're missing a really campy rendition of the Gospel story; Hunter committed suicide not long after the release of this movie). More to the point, the refusal to pursue "middle classness" is, as a pastor-theologian has pointed out, the refusal to align the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the dominant ethic and lebensweld of bourgoise America. Nothing wrong with that, unless you are an upper-class twit who knows nothing about the actual content of the Christian message, or its revolutionary message.

As per the previous post, please hold on as this particular point of view makes its way around the right-wing. I feel sorry for the folks at Trinity UCC, going about the business of figuring out how to live as faithful Christians, and having a ninny in a bow-tie dis them on national television. There might be some good that comes from this, but we need to make sure the idiocy stops where it started.

The IG Report and the Press - Some Context

When I heard the lead headline this morning on NPR - the business about the Office of Special Plans making up stuff for the Vice-President to use on national television to sell the Iraq war - I wondered why it took nearly four years for the rest of the world to catch up with Seymour Hirsch. Back in 2003, Hersch published a story in The New Yorker detailing substantially the same information that was released by the Inspector General's Office, and suddenly thundered as NEWS. If you win a Pulitzer for whining about Bill Clinton's wierd repulsion/attraction and bad oral sex like Maureen Down, you are a serious journalist. If you pimp a war, and continue pimping it even after it is lost, like Thom Friedman, and win a couple Pulitzer's in the process, you are a serious journalist. If you uncover a massacre by US troops during one illegal war (and win a Pulitzer), write a book detailing the abuses of power by Kissinger and Nixon, write an issue-length story on another alleged massacre that the mainstream press called a "battle", and continue to hound an Administration bent on lying and leading us to destruction, first in Iraq then in Iran, you are not a serious journalist, like Seymour Hersch. Except, of course, Hersch was right, and everyone else - and I mean EVERYONE ELSE IN THE MAINSTREAM PRESS - was wrong, WRONG, WRONG.

Glenn Greenwald (of course) gets it exactly right:
It is vitally important to ensure that those who were responsible for the deceit that led us into Iraq are identified and held accountable.

But that responsibility extends beyond Bush officials into most of the nation's most influential media outlets.(emphasis added)

Read the whole post.

I think this is an important and necessary point that I want to emphasize. To many mainstream journalists, the business over "flawed intelligence" is "old news" because, well, we're in Iraq, and we should be spending our energies figuring out what to do there. The problem with such a position is that it completely ignores the role the media played in getting us into Iraq in the first place. Responsibility, accountability - these are things the press seems to demand of others, but not of itself. More to the point, the run-up to the war is a sub-set, a horrific instance of a much larger phenomenon in which the press has failed and continues to fail us. An example of the former is the two-year media-frenzy over impeachment, a nightmare from which we are all trying to awake. An example of the latter if the business over "Pelosi's plane", with some examples of wonderful myth- and lie-shattering over at TPM Horses Mouth, here and here. It isn't bad enough that the whole thing is a lie - it has been uncovered as a lie since the very day some idiots started harping about it, and the story seems to have "legs" in the same way centipedes do. The right-wing just keeps it up, figuring that if they keep shouting the lies they will become the truth. And, of course, the press just keeps eating it up. FOR THE SAKE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY, PLEASE JUST STOP!

Tristero at Hullabaloo has an excellent piece on this same topic, and Duncan has this to say on a symptom of the larger disease, as revealed by Tim Russert on the stand at the Scooter Libby perjury trial:
Russert only reports what people agree to let him report.

By admitting on the stand that his conversations with "Washington players" as it were are always off the record unless explicitly stated otherwise, he admitted that he does not hold to certain journalistic standards, and thus allows himself to be used by officials who see a convenient mouthpiece for the drivel they put out. Rather than, say, assuming an adversarial stand and insisting the it be "off-the-record" that is explicit, he has surrendered his journalistic credibility (or at least the last filthy tatters of it) for access.

We have had a victory or two in the past few days, including the whole Edwards' blogger business, and riding the truth about the attempted right-wing smear of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (although it hasn't quite caught on, and the story continues to fester, like a boil on the ass of the body politic). We need to keep working it, keep pushing, not just shouting down, but "Facting down" the noise- and hate- and lie-filled nonsense that for too long has taken over our national media.

Discover Disc Cover

I have decided to start a new blog that deals only with my musings about music. It can be found here. Come have a look-see, and return, if you so desire. I hope you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

What Happens When Bloggers Go Mainstream

The whole Edwards' blogger affair (just click a link to the right, you'll find something about it) is interesting on several levels. First, it tells us that, despite a certain rhetorical courage (it comes with little political cost as he is out of the Senate and need only appeal to Democratic primary voters for his stance on Iraq), Edwards is, essentially, still a pre-'06 Democrat. He wants to make certain moves to appease more liberal voters, but his eye is still on the money prize (just go and read his televised speech to a conference in Israel; he sounds as much like Joe Lieberman on Iran as anyone), and that means appeasing the DLC types, and bowing under the pressure of the mainstream media. Rather than display the kind of courage that got the Democrats the Senate and House, he is displaying the kind of caution that lost us Congress, and Presidency, for years. Should he fire these bloggers he's hired, he will have proven he is more concerned about the opinion of Michelle Malkin and other truly loony right-wingers than he is with getting out a consistent populist-progressive message.

Another point is the whole brouhaha centers on - what? - the us of foul language? Oh. My. God. Are we in eighth grade here? Ann Coulter calls for the assassination, in turn, of a President, a Supreme Court justice, the fire-bombing of the New York Times building, and harasses 9/11 widows, yet her bony visage is continually corrupting TV networks. Had she called Bill Clinton a motherfucker, or insisted that before he was assassinated, Justice Blackmun should be gang-raped by a bunch of hardened criminals, perhaps she might find her network dance card emptier. And that's just Coulter. Malkin, the one responsible for spreading the nonsense about Edwards' bloggers, is directly responsible for a woman's suicide, has all sorts of ties to racist groups, and spouts off some of the most heinous rhetoric imaginable. Of course, she doesn't use four letter words, so I guess she's OK.

One would have hoped that we could have a more mature conversation in this country, but apparently we are perpetually stuck in Junior High School, where we giggle and clique about, worried over dirty words, and rumors of dirty words. One would have hoped, when the issue exploded over the previous couple days, Edwards would have said, "Yeah, so?" and refused to make another comment. It would have assured at least this blogger that (a) his courage was real, because it came when it counted; and (b) he was more mature than the gaggle of ninnies who want to control our national dialogue, who continually fret over left-wing "foul language" and (gasp!) "incivility". He did not, has not, and most probably will not; like Biden, who managed to mangle his Presidential bid on the same day he declared it, Edwards will most probably find support, espcially out here in the blogs, slipping away. A coward is a coward, and that is as telling as anything.

UPDATE: So Edwards hasn't caved . . . completely. You can see a copy of the press release here at Sadly, No!. I have to admit that I am, well, less than happy, shall we say with the tone and tenor of the statement. Rather than tell the mainstream press and the right-wing bloggers to please, for the love of God and all that is Holy stop, they said, "Gee, you know, maybe I was a bit harsh here and there, and it will never happen again." So, they keep their jobs, but they lose their creative freedom in the process. Sorry, but that's too big a price to pay. I would prefer freelancing for any candidate than whoring under the condition that I dress up nice and play by someone else's rules. That's just me, though.

One lesson we have not learned is to turn a sharp eye to the right-wingers spewing this nonsense; as has been pointed out ad nauseum, they are much worse, and much more consistently worse than anything these supposed "foul mouthed" bloggers have ever posted. Unfortunately, for some reason known only to them, God, and their therapists, the likes of Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter and (gag!) Glen Beck are still on rolodexes all over the mainstream press. I suppose that is the next important task the progressive blogs need to address - this absolute blackballing of real liberal, progressive, and left-wing views from our national media. Anyh thoughts on how to do so?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Two Items

1) Over at, Matt Taibbi has an article in which he pulls no punches against favorite left-wing blogosphere whipping-boy Joe Klein. I have wondered why Klein has become such a favorite target, and it comes down to two things - his arrogant attitude toward lefty blogs, with his constant "how dare they" pose whenever his integrity or even his thought processes (such as they are) are questioned; and his utter refusal to admit he was wrong about Iraq, and that in being so wrong, he has a duty now that he has seen the error of his previous position to acknowledge the correctness of his adversaries. I find his constant harping on dirty language and civility to be tiresome, to be honest; an additional strike against him (and one Tiabbi brings up).

Part of Klein's problem is that he actually believes that his judgement and understanding are superior to those of us who do not have the kind of access he does. That he has been wrong, again and again and again, should perhaps tell him something about his judgement. That he cannot take criticism should tell him and us something else - he is thin-skinned and needs to toughen himself up a bit. As for the foul language thing, all I can say is, Joe, deal with it.

2) Think Progress highlights part of a Vanity Fair article in which anti-tax guru Grover Norquist, no friend of the neo-con hawks in the Defense and State Department, makes clear that the Bush Administration is gearing up for some serious air action against Iran. You think? Two carrier battle groups and increased troop levels in Baghdad unrelated to any plan for their use in Iraq clearly show that he is plpanning for the likely contingency that Iran would launch a ground war against US forces in Iraq subsequent to some kind of massive air assault against their country.

The time is long past for Congress to put the brakes upon any of this. Forget the surge in Iraq; get on record, not in some nonsensical non-binding way, but in a way that ties the hands of the Administration, forcing some kind of serious consequences (can we all say the word impeachment?) should he ignore the mandate of the legislature and launch. Our current situation in Iraq will come to look like a pleasant afternoon in the park with family and friends should Bush unleash hell upon Iran. And that is only for starters. I cannot emphasize enough - we need to force Congress to act NOW to stop this before it happens. Waiting for the planes and missiles to take off from our ships in the Persian Gulf is far too late; by then we all need to buckle our seat belts for the roughest ride by far we have taken since the Second World War.

By the way, since I was right about Iraq before it even began, I trust my own judgement on this as well. If we attack Iran, we are in far deeper trouble than just a shooting war. The very life and health of our Constitutional form of government will be at stake.

Clarifying My Position After Talking to My Wife

Immediately after I wrote the previous post, my wife read it, and she and I talked about it. For a variety of reasons she took me to task for what I wrote, and after thinking about it, I have decided to change my mind about a couple things, the most important being the whole question of "foregiveness". I suppose I should apologize to someone, but I'm not sure who, so I'll just say, "I'm sorry", and be about what I want to do.

An Open Letter to Ted Haggard:

Dear Mr. Haggard,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! My name is Geoffrey Kruse-Safford, and I like you am a fellow Christian. I am writing as a fellow-Christian, a brother in the family of God, united by the Holy Spirit in the great fellowship that worships the God who has created us, loves us as we are, and offers us a chance for change and hope for final victory over sin and death. I would hope that you take what I have to say in the Spirit in which it is offered, one of love and concern for a brother who has stumbled but through God's grace shall never fall.

Specifically, I am writing to you concerning your recent completion of "therapy" for your sexual confusion, and all that surrounds the events that led to your very public and painful fall from public favor last autumn. My concern here is that, quite honestly, I do not believe you have dealt honestly with the problem of your own sexual confusion, and the damage such confusion has wrought to yourself, your family, your church, or the public at large. As President of the National Association of Evangelicals, you were in a position of some authority, speaking on behalf of millions of faithful Christians around the country. During the time in which you were leading your double life, you were vocal concerning issues of gay rights, specifically arguing that such demands were a demand for "special rights"; that same-sex marriage was a threat to traditional marriage, indeed to the very social fabric; that any recognition of the legitimacy of same-sex desire posed such a threat.

One of my fervent wishes was that you would have emerged from your sexual counselling with a greater awareness of the nuances of your own sexuality; specifically, I would have hoped for a statement in which you acknowledged a certain level of same-sex desire. You need not have come out as a gay man; bisexuality, or even a certain ambivalence concerning exclusively heterosexual feelings is neither unknown nor would it have been surprising considering your own actions and life choices. I was sad, therefore, to read that you are "definitely heterosexual". I would have hoped for a more honest assessment of your own sexuality.

I say this because it leads me to two points. First, I do not believe you have dealt at all with your own sexual confusion in anything like an honest way. This failure tells me that you are still living within a view of the world in which your greatest sin was committing same-sex acts. Second, this lack of self-awareness, this refusal to honestly appraise yourself and your actions, and the depth of national anger aimed at you, is exacerbated by your refusal to denounce your previously-held positions vis-a-vis the social position of gays and lesbians.

As to the first point, by refusing to deal honestly with the problem, and seeking a cure for something that is not a sickness, you are not facing the problem as it exists; you are still living within some kind of bubble of denial in which, if you can only rid yourself of desire for men, you will be cleansed of sin. Same-sex desire is no sin; love is never wrong. Your sin was not gay sex. Your sin is lying - to yourself, to your family, to your church - concerning the reality of your own sexual ambiguity. Had you emerged with a statement in which you not only acknowledged that ambiguity, but accepted it as how God has made you, and therefore part of the good creation that is Ted Haggard, I would have rejoiced.

Instead, you continue to deny who you are, and I fear you will fall back, not necessarily with Mike Jones, but perhaps other willing partners, professional or otherwise. We lie to ourselves best, because there is no one to hold us accountable. Unfortunately, the psychological toll is tremendous, and when the break occurs, it can be devastating, as you have learned. I would pray for your sake, for your family's sake, that you open yourself to new possibilities, including the grace to accept a less rigid understsanding of human sexuality in general, and your own in particular.

As to the second point, my own anger and frustration with your refusal to acknowledge not just the reality but the legitimacy of ambiguous sexuality is compounded by your silence on issues of gay and lesbian rights. One would have hoped that, having been shown publicly to be sexually confused, you would have made certain retractions of public statements and positions concerning the place of gays and lesbians in the church and in the life of our country. As you refuse to countenance the reality of your own tendency to enjoy the company of other men, however, I doubt whether you would consider such retractions as warranted. You need to understand, however, that the public positions you have held have injured people, as you were part of a larger socio-political movement that sought to deny to those like yourself who have same-sex attraction any place in our national life. You have a responsibility not only to be honest with yourself about your own sexual ambiguity, but to those who have suffered in part because of your very public stance and work to make amends.

As a Christian brother, I am offering my help by giving you the opportunity to be accountable for your actions, both personal and public. In light of all the events surrounding your removal from the pulpit, and the very public nature of the pronouncements concerning your own sexuality, I do not feel untoward in making this offer. I believe it encumbent upon all Christians to hold each other accountable. Jesus said to those whom he healed, "Go, and sin no more." First, you need to recognize the reality of your sin was not performing gay sex. Your sin was breaking faith with your family, and refusing to confront the reality of your own sexuality in a way that was either healthy or honest. As you continue to refuse to do so, I would ask that you consider the option that you are, in fact, if not a gay man, a man who certainly has same-sex desire. It may take time to discipline these feelings, put them in their proper place, and continue to live a life of integrity and honesty. But first, you must make public a statement that you are not "definitely heterosexual" because that is simply not true. Honesty about yourself is the necessary first step to true healing, and a true assesment of what actually took place last fall.

Second, I would insist that part of your accountability would be to read what you have written and said, whether from the pulpit, in conferences, news conferences, even in private correspondence, that in any way is discriminatory or harmful to sexual minorities. I would then insist that, like St. Augustine at the end of his life, you print a book, the proceeds of which would go to the church of your choice for education on sexual realities in the church today, entitled Retractions in which you would publicly denounce any previous such statement you had made, and offer detailed reasons as to why that statement is wrong. Such a public conversion, the metanoia demanded by Scripture and tradition as a sign of true salvation, would serve as a sign that you were now dealing honestly with the reality not only of your own sexual ambiguity, but also dealing with the reality of sexual variety as part of God's good creation. Such a public statement of error would be followed by tireless efforts on your part, working for the full inclusion of gays and lesbins into the life of the society and the church. Surely you must recognize this double necessity. It would not be "penance" in the traditional sense, but rather an honest outgrowth of your own recognition that life and human beings are more complex and wonderful than you used to believe true, and that such complexity is a part of the mystery that is God's creation.

I offer this letter in the Spirit of love that unites us, the Spirit of faith tha guides us, and the Spirit of hope that offers us comfort in times of affliction. I would also offer the same your wife and family, as they struggle through these difficult times of change. Hold fast to what is good, St. Paul wrote, and that would be first those who love you. May God's peace and mercy and love shine in you and through you, sir.

In Christ,
Geoffrey Kruse-Safford

Ted Haggard, Sexuality, & Foregiveness

So Ted Haggard has been "cured" and is definitely heterosexual. Never mind three years with a male prostitute (not to mention alleged but denied methamphetamine use). Never mind a record of anti-gay statements and work all the while he was servicing a man for money.

Sexual confusion, never explored in youth, repressed through a virulent hatred fed by a bigoted and narrow religious world-view can be explosive. I am a firm believer in the "continuum" theory of human sexual desire, and that all of us, from time to time, might feel an urge to explore avenues we might not normally consider. Usually, this occurs in adolescence, a time when we are figuring out who we are, and trying on new identities as often as we try on new shoes and pants. Unfortunately for Haggard, that outlet was denied him in youth, so once he was an adult with a certain amount of freedom and power, he abused his position to the detriment of his family, his ministry, his honor, his integrity, and potentially his health. I do not doubt that, more than likely, Haggard is primarily or at least preferentially heterosexual. That is not to deny the reality of his gay encounters, it is only to (potentially) place them in some kind of context within his sexual psyche.

As sexual identity is something that cannot be programmed or set (apart from seriously deviant forms, such as pedophilia, bestiality, and other extreme sexual perversions), but is hard-wired into us, I doubt if his time in sexual rehab has changed Haggard's sexual identity one iota. Therefore, to come out and say he is "definitely heterosexual" is a lie. It compounds three years of lying, not just about himself, but about his views concerning gays, gay sexuality, and gay sexual acts.

When Jesus forgave people, he told them to "Go, and sin no more." Apparently the new standard is "Go, and bugger no more, or at least don't admit to it publicly." I do not wonder about the ultimate foregiveness coming from God, as that is not dependent upon anything we human beings do or can do. The question, however, is how seriously we are to take Haggard, taking all these things into consideration, and the insistence that honesty - honesty about ourselves; the integrity that follows from living out truthfully the life God has given us; loving others fully and without condition, including sexual orientation - is necessary in order for acceptance back into the community of faith to take place, I cannot help but feel that Haggard is making a quite public show that is meaningless on its face, and only a useful tool for him to return to his previous seat of power. That makes me sad, because this was an opportunity for real growth, real change, for a real, honest, integral life to emerge from the ashes of the brokenness of Haggard's sin. Unfortunately, he has taken the easy road, a road Jesus himself said was broad, and led straight down (as it were).

While I do not doubt God loves Ted Haggard just as he is, I wonder if Ted Haggard loves Ted Haggard just as he is, sexual confusion and all. Until I hear from Haggard that his sexuality is more complex than "definitely heterosexual", and expresses that reality by working for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the society at large, and specifically the church, I withhold any foregiveness I can give, for the simple reason that I do not think he is sorry for what he did. He is sorry he got caught.

The Greek word in the Bible that is often translated "change", referring to a spiritual change is metanoia, quite literally a turning around, a one-hundred-eighty degree turn. It is a complete and utter transformation of a person's life. Haggard has not done that at all. That is why I do not think he is really sorry; he has not changed, he has only said he was confused, won't do it again, and "Hey, I'm straight!" He has learned nothing - not humility, not compassion, not the depths to which human longing can take us if it is not directed properly through a disciplined life - and so I withhold foregiveness and will continue to hold him accountable for his actions, not just in the future, but right now.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Health Care in a Global Economy in Joe Klein's Universe

Over at Swampland, Joe Klein has this on John Edwards' health care proposal. While not saying this or that about the proposal itself - I haven't read the whole thing, and much of the discussion has been about (gasp!) tax increases to pay for it. One thing Klein points out as a con against the plan is that it is continues the employer-based insurance system that has existed in the United States; by creating certain unfunded mandates for private employers, Klein argues that, in a global economy, this places a competetive burden upon US companies.

There is one problem with this analysis. In a global economy, US companies do business all over the world, and abide by tax and regulatory regimes that make our system look positively libertarian. Just consider the mandatory holiday time in Europe - four weeks mandated vacation in Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, and Belgium; six weeks in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, New Zealand (not Europe, I know, but you know what I mean). Tax policies in these countries, for all the current trend toward corporate friendliness are, in comparison to our own, almost confiscatory. Yet, hundreds of US-based companies do business and profitable business in these environments. So, rather than place such an onerous burden on employers, perhaps they should be taxed and provide universal health care - kind of like these other countries have.

Of course, in Klein's world, none of this exists. Or does it? I wonder if he even understands the realities companies face overseas. Or cares.

Pundit Accountability

Of course, Duncan had to put it perfectly. I wonder, exactly, who these folks think they are. To whom are they responsible, beyond their editors and publishers and the producers who continually put them on the air? If not to the American people, then whom? Their own consciences? What?

Back in the late 1980's there was some discussion concerning journalistic oversight. There was a move to make newspaper ombudsmen more visible, forcing some kind of accountability. Yet, the arguments raged, mostly over First Amendment issues, often highlighting tabloids and scandal sheets as a counter to the more respectable journalism of the mainstream press. If that is the standard against which they wish to be judged, or to which they wish to be held, I suggest their sights are awfully low. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech. It does not guarantee freedom from accountability. A person can get up and say, or print, or blog, any thing they please. If they expect to be free from criticism, however, they might want to consider another line of work.

Punditry is a dying art, thankfully. Even as Klein, Broder, Shields, Kristol, Friedman, and the rest of the mouthy class continue to spew forth their opinions as truth, their perspective as wisdom, and their contacts with various Hill and EOB staffers as connections, they are taken less and less eriously, not just by the right and left, but by the broad mainstream of America. Just read the comments section of Swampland whenever Klein posts - he is hardly treated with the respect he thinks he deserves.

Opinions are like something else everyone has, as the saying goes, and too often what is produced in mainstream punditry is reminiscent of what flows from that ubiquotous orifice. One need not lunch with members of Congress of Supreme Court Justices in order to figure out what is going on, and use judgement, common sense, and insight to form an opinion. The people are finding their voice, and the official pundit class needs to shout to be heard. And whine about other people taking them to task for being wrong.

Why Did I Write About Purity Balls?

I have berated myself a bit because of my post on the Colorado Purity Ball, because, I wondered, what possible relevance does it have to my own interests, etc.? I suppose this is rationalization of some kind, but I realized that these were done in the name of the Christian faith, and therefore deserved some kind of comment. They deserve more than an "icky-poo", however much that may be my first reaction.

First, the taboo-pushing nature of the Balls, done in the name of "Christian family values", shuld provide, for a disinterested observer, a peek into the nature of those values. It might not be a question of bordering on certain, ahem, inappropriate relationships as it were; indeed, I doubt if you asked the question that most participants would understand such a qualm. Rather, if one sees it from another point of view, the striking thing is the authoritarian patriarchy of such an event. It is not so much the quasi-incestuous nature of such vows, but the fact that daughters pledge to their fathers that which should be kept to themselves until it is shared with a man outside the family. Control over sexual behavior, responsibility for such behavior, is transferred from the individual girl or woman to a man, whose responsibility it is to guard it.

The second thing to notice about these ceremonies is their public nature. We often prefer to keep our sexual behavior, and our decisions about it, as private as possible. One of the cultural right's complaints about American society is its highly sexualized nature. Yet, here, right here, a very public display - an entire ceremony, complete with all the trappings of a festive occasion - regarding the sexuality of young women. Moving from the private sphere to the public sphere in this way creates an entirely new set of problems; now we have a social event in which the sexual behavior of young women becomes a matter not just for public scrutiny and comment, but examination.

Finally, and I know this question should not have to be asked - where are the ceremonies in which young men make similar pledged, either to their mothers or to their fathers? Of course, such pledges would violate certain rules of patriarchy, espcially those in which young women are perceived less as persons and more as property of men. Men do not need to make a pledge such as this because they do not owe anyone an explanation for their behavior, whereas women do. THe subtext, of course, is (to be crude) young men can dip their wicks whenever they want to, without consequence, without responsibility to anyone but themselves, whereas these young women are pledged and, if they become sexually active, they owe their fathers not just an explanation, but the fathers, implicitly, can punish them for violating their vows. Of course, if all these young women are chaste, the response may be, with whom could the young men possibly canoodle? We shall merely let that question hang in the air as one of profound naivetee . . .

I submit that such events as these, as bizarre and borderline taboo as they may be, will not become either very popular or very numerous. Nor do I think they will have any effect whatsoever on the sexual behavior of young women; quite the opposite, I think they might actually enhance the possibility that young women become sexually active, because, having made such a public display of their chastity, they now have a respectable cover for their private behavior. Such ceremonies, in other words, would encourage duplicity and promiscuity, rather than enhance honor and abstinence.

My one question, and it might seem irrelvant to most is - where is either the Biblcal, theological, pastoral, historical, or liturgical warrant for such a ceremony being done in the name of the Church of Jesus Christ? This is neither rhetorical, nor is it asked naively. I want an answer, not some kind of cultural answer, but a serious, thoughtful response to this in the terms set forth within the question above. If no answer is forthcoming, then maybe some Christians somewhere should maybe, you know, stand up and say something about this horror show being done in our name.

Note: I have been having serious computer problems, and it may be a couple days before I get them all fixed. That and time limitations and the weather (I have a broadband connection that doesn't work as well as it might in heavy cloud cover) seem to be conspiring against me spending the kind of quality time I want doing this. That includes commenting on my freinds' blogs, repsonding to comments, etc.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ick . . . Just . . . Ick

There is a link over at to an article in Glamour magazine on a tradition in Colorado called a "Purity Ball". Like a cross between a cotillion, a wedding, and a prom, fathers and daughters dress to the nines, get together, and the daughters (I can hardly keep my gorge down as I type this) pledge their virginity to their fathers. They promise to remain abstinent until marriage, making the vow public. They do it, however, in a way guaranteed to make most thinking, emotionally stable parents want to wash the creepy icky off.

You know, as a father of two girls, even if they wanted to do this, and insisted it was important to them to do so, I wouldn't do it. The gag-reflex is just a bit over-stimulated by the whole idea of my daughter pledging her purity to me.

I have to go shower again.

Asking the Right Questions

Democracy Lover and Dan Froomkin (h/t FireDogLake for the link) both offer specifics and general rules for a proper journalistic approach toward Bush Administration claims concerning Iran. DL does a good job, not only of asking the right questions, but of answering them with facts, without hype, spin, fearmongering, or nonsense. Froomkin offers both specific and general guidelines to an industry that quite simply failed us in the run-up to the war in Iraq, and now refuses to admit it failed.

What astounds me more than anything is the persistent reliance in the mainstream press upon sources who, quite simply, are conniving, duplicitous, and conspiratorial. More to the point, as the rhetoric heats up, has no one noticed that much of the nonsense spewed by the Bush Administration is almost identical to that put out in the fall of 2002 in the run-up to the Iraq war? They changed one letter, "q" to "n", and the rest is the same tired, nonsensical drivel that proved so fatal to tens of thousands.

The Bush Administration lied about Iraq. They lied about lying about it. When they were caught, they lied about lying about lying about it. They are institutionally incapable of telling the truth. The American people know this; have you seen polls recently? Why doesn't the press corps jump on board? Why doesn't just one journalist, when confronted with Bush perfidy, say, "You know what, I'm not buying that sack of monkey crap"? It would end, right then, right there.

And if wishes were horses, I'd have a stable full.

At least there are those out here who know what the press should be doing. The task is to get them to do it.

I Guess I'm un-American

I couldn't care less about the Super Bowl today. Not if Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice threatened to come to my house and explain to me what victory in Iraq would look like; not if Ted Haggard would explain how he is being cured of being a gay man by a bunch of closeted homosexuals; not if the Britney Spears/Paris Hilton sex video were played at half-time - if any of these things occurred, the amount of emotional and other energy I would put into the game would still be less than zero. That's right, I actually am working at not caring.

I do wish I didn't sound tedious, or earnest, or sophomoric, or humorless, but I just can't seem to get excited about what is, after all, less a football game than it is a media event when things are the way they are - here at home, in Washington, in Iraq, and maybe, just horribly maybe, in the Persian Gult as we race towards an apocalypse with Iran. The whole thing is about as fake as it gets, and the worst thing is that people get sucked into it - they feel they have to go to parties, or hold parties, or root for one team or another, or bet in office pools, or whatever. Just because everyone else is.

No, you don't.

I wish you all a football-free, hype-free, care-free Sunday. Spend the time watching a good movie, having special time with a significant other, shopping at your favorite store (everyone else will be somewhere watching the game, so even malls will be empty), or listening to your favorite music and reading a book. Anything but switching on the idiot box and watching a game that really, really, doesn't mean a thing, listening to imbeciles prattle on as if anyone cared ot listen to them. Commentators are a hold-over from the days of radio, a hold-over that should be discarded. I think we can watch the game without being told what is happening.

DO I sound like your typical humorless liberal yet? Good. The whole thing is making me so grumpy, I think I need to go listen to some Tom Waits to cheer me up. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Virtual Tin Cup

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