Saturday, November 03, 2007

Inspired By Chomsky

In my many volumes of Noam Chomsky, there is a quote that is difficult to find. I cannot remember it word for word, but it goes something like this: There is no reason to speak to truth to power, because they already know the truth. The important thing is to speak the truth to those who might not otherwise have access to it.

A further point I might add is that morons like Russert, neurotic woman-haters like Matthews and Carlson may actually believe they are lights to the world. They may actually believe every bit of garbage that flows from their sewer-ridden mouths. They are, however, even more stupid if that is so, because they are "useful idiots" (to borrow Lenin's description of western social democratic parties), being used by those who know the truth, but find it convenient to pump the egos of these truly stupid individuals. They are the mouthpieces of power, not just because they lie, but because they have no idea their lies serve a power that knows they are lies. They are to be pitied, in some ways, precisely because they are just too stupid to know that they are nothing more than tools, the hammers and saws of the destruction of our political life.

Saturday Rock Show

I was first introduced to Robin Trower's music in high school by a man who gave me the usual spiel about him being a Jimi Hendrix clone. Actually, unlike Hendrix, Trower's playing is spare, his blues the kind of British-white-boy blues one hears from Jimmy Page in his better moments, from Eric Clapton in his more sober moments, and occasionally from Jeff Beck, when he isn't doing Stevie Wonder convers, and thinking he is a jazz guitarist. I also think bassist James Dewar has an awesome voice. Should he come around, this song, "Bridge of Sighs", will most definitely put ER in the mood for a mind-altering substance.

Political Pornography

This is an instance where my political preferences and biases and my religious beliefs collide (my previous post, on the mainstreaming of torture even as we quibble over one method, is another). My recent series of posts on the press's treatment of Sen. Clinton has apparently ruffled Democracy Lover's feathers, to the point where he is offering me advice on how best to spend my time.

I have reached the point of no return in my contempt for the press. They are, to a person, irredeemable. If one needed any further proof, just peruse this week's "Media Matters" column by Jamison Foser. He opens with a quote from the odious self-professed gay basher Tucker Carlson:
Tuesday evening, Tucker Carlson announced that the "American public" has an "arrangement" with Bill Clinton: "We won't ask about your personal life. Don't talk about it. Right? I mean, that's kind of fair. I don't want to know who he is or is not involved with. I don't want to hear details about his marriage. But he keeps forcing them on us."


CARLSON: I don't want to hear details about his marriage. But he keeps forcing them on us. Example A, Bill Clinton on the night of their 32nd anniversary said this: "We were laughing and talking, and believe it or not, the campaign even gave her the night off. We had about decided by the end of the night that the key to a long relationship was never being bored with one another, and I would still rather spend the night talking to her than anyone I can think of."

Now, leaving aside the fact that that's just a provable lie --


CARLSON: -- it breaks the deal we have.

Foser responds: "The notion that Tucker Carlson and his colleagues in the media don't raise questions about the Clintons' marriage is absurd; the claim that they are the only couple granted such privacy is laugh-out-loud funny."

Yet, they continue to pretend that the Clinton's marriage is some kind of closed book, opened by them, and for that reason alone is fodder for discussion. This is what passes for political discourse in our country right now. This is the kind of thing that frustrated the bejeebers out of me back in the late 1990's. This is the kind of thing that keeps me from saying word one, even in a private, one-on-one discussion, against Sen. Clinton. This is, indeed, the reason why I find even what purports to be serious commentary on Mrs. Clinton is tainted by ready-to-hand right-wing talking points about her lack of principle and her opportunism. Part of what it means, to me, to be honest includes breaking free of these kinds of sick narratives, all linked to this most base, pornographic fascination with the private lives of two people.

Unlike Democracy Lover, I do not feel able to break away from all the filth by declaring myself somehow above it all. It is necessary to expose it for what it is, to turn over every little rock and watch the bow-tie-wearing bugs scamper away from the light.

This is where my religious beliefs come in to play. Not just the injunction against lying, or exposing hypocrisy. If we are to return some semblance of sanity to our collective lives, we need first to make sure that we do not participate, in any manner, fashion, or form, with any of the ways our current media game is played. I may be a tiny voice in a crowded field, but this is part of who I am and what I do. I spend my energies where they are best used, and calling Tucker Carlson a small-minded purveyor of the most base political pornography is part of what I feel called to do. That he is smearing someone with whom I disagree politically is beside the point. It is the sex-sodden, gratuitous nature of the beast that fills me with loathing. I would much rather peruse a magazine in a men's shop than the kind of filth he and others like him spew on an almost daily basis.

Just Say No

I have been following the maneuvering around the Mukasey nomination process with much interest. What I find most disturbing is, perhaps surprisingly or perhaps not, is much of what goes on among the lefty blogs I read, and link to, and admire. Among the greatest sinners in this regard is Glenn Greenwald, normally so clear-eyed, able to cut through the way issues are framed to the heart of a matter. On the issue of Mukasey, however, Greenwald loses himself in the way the Republican-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee is handling this entire episode (I say Republican-dominated, because if any of the Democrats had balls, Mukasey would not even have come up for nomination, let alone having New York's senior Democratic Senator, Charles Schumer, be the one to present him to the committee, said committee, upon which Schumer sits, usually to little effect). To make my point, I will begin with Greenwald's sins, and then move backward to what I feel is the way the insipid, stupid, even evil framing of this whole charade. I will end, I hope, with something from digby, who escapes just long enough from her own entrapment within the terms of the debate to offer a view that should make clear just how fall we have fallen.

First, from Greenwald:
This notion that Mukasey's unwillingness to declare waterboarding categorically illegal crosses some sort of bright Beltway line seems . . . unconvincing, even somewhat manipulative. It has long been known that the Bush administration directed the CIA (at least) to waterboard detainees who were convicted of nothing. There was very little real protest about any of that from any genuine Beltway power circles, including Senate Democrats.

My question is this - why not just declare that waterboarding is torture (as it is so defined in international law, in treaties to which the Unites States is a ratified signatory, giving them the force of law under the Constitution, which even now lies in a smoking heap upon the floor) and say that any person coming before the committee for confirmation on any national security or law enforcement position must either absolutely declare torture to be outside our legal and constitutional prerogatives, or they are unfit to sit in any office of responsibility. The wrangling about waterboarding is a substitute for a serious discussion - a principled discussion - on torture in general. Rather than have that discussion, we are allowing the entire process to be hijacked by those who want an answer to a question that anyone who has a moral bone in their body would know without even blinking.

If you read through these posts over at Think Progress, you will see what I mean. The entire discussion has descended to the level of discussing the acceptability of one or another method of torture, rather than discussing whether or not Mukasey should be disbarred for even having doubts about the legal or constitutional (not to mention moral) acceptability of torture. We have traveled too far down the road of dealing with this particular question for there to be serious recovery at this point, although I believe in this post, digby comes close to cutting through the nonsense and seeing clearly, even if for only one shining moment:
Every time they normalize state sanctioned sadism, from tasering to waterboarding, we are one step closer to fully accepting a police state. That's how they do it. It never happens over night. It happens one taboo at a time.

We are a torture culture, immoral, vulgar and profane. We actually think it's fun. If college boys and reporters can laugh about it, how bad can it be? Thanks Dick and George.

Rather than discussing what Mukasey may think and when he began to think it about waterboarding, someone on the Senate panel should just read that portion of digby's post I just highlighted. Of course, it would be just gibberish to most of those present, regardless of party. At least it would be on the record of the United States Senate that we are, indeed, a sadistic, torture culture.

It would be better if they turned Mukasey away with a recommendation for impeachment from his current lofty perch atop a federal bench. I can dream, can't I?

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Hits Just Keep On Coming

I know it feeds a sense of grievance, but I want to highlight a couple things Marshall wrote in comments further down. After posting his words, I will make a point, or ask a question, then open things up to you, my readers for comment.

Have a great weekend, by the way. Should you work in a job (unlike me) where you get weekends off, take time to be excellent to one another. Even if that means going to a parade. Or watching football.

Anyway, I shall let Marshall Art speak for himself. He certainly does that. Ahem. Exhibit A:
[K]ids don't need sex pushed down their throats because some liberal intellectuals WANT it to be better for them, not because it is. Why can't you let the kids be kids and enjoy what little innocence life nowadays allows? Is that too fuckin' much to ask? Is pushing the homo agenda so important that it can't wait until the kids are at least in high school? It's child abuse, for pete's sake.

First of all, I don't know of any "liberal intellectuals" who want to "push sex" down kid's "throats". On the other hand, as there is nothing intrinsically wrong with human sexuality, and forewarned is forearmed, I also think there is nothing wrong with educating kids about sexual difference from an early age. There is such a thing as age-appropriate information; thus, my wife and I have already had several general discussions with our older daughter, who is 10, especially as regards some of the upcoming changes her body will go through (she did not take the first of these talks well at all, poor thing). In Marshall Art's world, it is child abuse to educate our children about human sexuality, and to teach them the acceptance of the wonder of human variety when it comes to the sexual expression of humanity. Wow. I wonder if Marshall thinks it is child abuse that I let my kids watch this:

Or this:

I know people who would so think.

Anyway, on to Exhibit B:
Are you saying you're PROUD that your greatgrandmother was a bastard? That her parents were weak-willed crotch centered people? I would find it unfortunate to find such in my ancestry no matter the liklihood.

I do love the whole "weak-willed crotch centered people" line, although calling my great-grandmother, Sarah Gabriella Rockwell Shores (who has given her names to two different members of my family), a bastard is a bit much. What in the world could I possibly gain for having some kind of opinion about the way people lived? Especially people who lived in 1863? I mean, honestly, these folks are mostly names on paper, with a yellowing photo or two of them in their later years being the only remnants of lives long and varied. Sitting around in judgment would be a bit of a waste of time.

As for the provenance of the aforementioned great-grandmother, I have ancestors who were ex-communicated from the Catholic Church because, as a priest and a nun in Germany, they fled to America, where they founded a family in Chicago. One of their children became a bishop in the Church of the Brethren, a forerunner of the Evangelical United Brethren, which in the course of events, joined and helped form the United Methodist Church. This man's sister was another great-grandmother.

If I didn't think it would get back to me in a way that I would prefer it not, I could speak of my mother's intention to have five children, and the five different men she had already picked out to father each of them. Oops, I mentioned it, didn't I? Ah, well. Suffice it to say, she found one man who did the job quite well.

Every family tree has all sorts of stories and storied lives in it. I think it makes life far more interesting that we have people who lived real lives, than people who somehow fit some kind of preconceived idea of how people should live.

Hyperwanking - Tim Russert Needs To Be Fired (UPDATED)

Democracy Lover and I are having a bit of a meta-discussion over the question of how far, and how much, to criticize Sen. Hillary Clinton from the political left. I have made my position clear here and here, and Democracy Lover has made a plea in comments here that he and I divorce ourselves from the nonsense and have some kind of private discussion on the merits. In fact, on the merits, there is little to discuss, as I have said. I think Sen. Clinton the least liberal, progressive, politically strong candidate among the three major Democrats seeking the nomination. My own preference is for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) because of his stance on restoring the Constitution; I also lean towards Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) because of his commitment to social justice and equity (I am off-put by the whole Department of Peace thing, though). A nicer combination, or even running pair, in an ideal world could not be imagined, at least by me.

Alas, we do not live in some Platonic world of Forms, but in a country ravaged, by the time of next year's election, of nearly eight years of Republican rule in the Executive Branch, and 12 years of Republican control and 2 years of Republican dominance in the Legislative Branch. I believe that we have a long way to go before we can indulge our preference for the best of all possible worlds, and need to be honest about the world we live in right now. The dollar is collapsing. The economy drags itself along, somehow. Our military is broken as an effective deterrent, by our on-going mindless occupation of Iraq. Our diplomatic credibility evaporated long ago. Our physical infrastructure is crumbling (and no, I am not just referring to one bridge in the Twin Cities). Our political infrastructure is warped beyond the ability to function properly.

Worst of all, our Constitution is in tatters. We are actually discussing torture as a part of our national policy. We have ended habeas corpus, overturning nearly 800 years of Anglo-American legal history for no benefit whatsoever. Whether it is the Department of Justice, the EPA, or even the harmless NIH - there isn't an Executive Branch agency that isn't infected by this Republican virus of partisanship, insipid support for whatever nonsense they insist is true, and an erosion of standards of practice and conduct that once made these agencies models for the world.

All this is by way of preface. This is the context in which the up-coming Presidential election is occurring. One would think that those journalists in a position to do so, would conduct themselves professionally, with all the decorum and seriousness attached to covering an election of such importance. One would think that, wouldn't one.

Apparently not.
No candidate has ever been savaged by moderators as Clinton was savaged on Tuesday (details below); nothing even remotely resembling that debate has ever been staged.
Has there ever been a debate where one candidate’s character was hammered this way? In the evening’s opening question, the pattern was clearly established. Obama was invited by Williams to bang away. Please kill the pig, Williams said:

QUESTION 1, WILLIAMS (10/30/07): Senator Obama, we’ll begin with you. You gave an interview to the New York Times, over the weekend, pledging in it to be more aggressive, to be tougher in your campaign against your chief rival for the nomination, the leader among Democrats so far, Senator Clinton, who is here next to you tonight. To that end, Senator, you said that Senator Clinton was trying to sound Republican, trying to vote Republican on national security issues. And that was, quote, “bad for the country and ultimately bad for the Democrats.” That is a strong charge, as you’re aware. Specifically, what are the issues where you, Senator Obama, and Senator Clinton have differed, where you think she has sounded or voted like a Republican?

It isn't just Somerby. John Amato also noticed the circular firing squad around Sen. Clinton.
I was wondering when Russert would ask her if she killed Vince Foster. The hostility directed at her was pretty ridiculous. Disagree with her all you want and I certainly do, but Russert had a plan in mind and carried it out.(emphasis added)

Taylor Marsh is another who thinks that Russert and the rest of the boy-man crowd was a tad rough on New York's junior Senator, with Russert being equal parts unprofessional and outright dishonest.
[L]ast night's boy brawl showed more about Clinton than anyone is willing to say. She can take anything dished out at her. The innuendos didn't stop her. The attacks didn't phase her publicly, though at one point I thought she was going to really come out and call it what it was, nothing short of a two-sided attack, with Clinton the target, including from "moderator" Tim Russert who had no business taking sides.

About one question in particular - not about Sen. Clinton, but about her husband and his position on releasing documents to the National Archives from his Presidency - Marsh catches Russert in a falsehood. First, the exchange (via the transcripts from The New York Times:
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I'd like to follow up because, in terms of your experience as first lady, in order to give the American people an opportunity to make a judgment about your experience, would you allow the National Archives to release the documents about your communications with the president, the advice you gave, because, as you well know, President Clinton has asked the National Archives not to do anything until 2012?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, actually, Tim, the Archives is moving as rapidly as the Archives moves. There's about 20 million pieces of paper there and they are moving, and they are releasing as they do their process. And I am fully in favor of that.

Now, all of the records, as far as I know, about what we did with health care, those are already available. Others are becoming available. And I think that, you know, the Archives will continue to move as rapidly as the circumstances and processes demand.

MR. RUSSERT: But there was a letter written by President Clinton specifically asking that any communication between you and the president not be made available to the public until 2012. Would you lift that ban?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, that's not my decision to make. And I don't believe that any president or first lady has. But certainly we'll move as quickly as our circumstances and the processes of the National Archives permits.

Now, here is Marsh's takedown of Russert:
Once documents start being produced by a president, something has to be decided about what to do with them in case something happens to the president. I was told it was standard for presidents to choose the 12 year maximum to hold the documents, which are put in categories like national security, senior administration, secret, etc. The highest level documents often stay secret, and with regards to Bill Clinton specifically, are then run by Bruce Lindsay to decide whether to make them public. What Russert didn't bother to add at the time of his document waving drama, was that right after Bill Clinton left the presidency he asked that his documents be released immediately. But after George W. Bush came into office, he decided that presidential papers would be kept secret indefinitely, something Bill Clinton openly fought against, including opposing Bush on the 12 year secrecy procedure, but especially on the new indefinite stand. So back and forth the conversation went, with Bush pushing back on Bill Clinton.

Russert played a card that was not only disingenuous and meant to bring in Bill Clinton into a debate where Hillary Clinton is running for president, but did so using innuendos and outright falsehoods, according to any objective player.

I shall close with Marsh's words on the "moderator":
It's time to ask what Tim Russert's behavior reveals. When you compare his questions to Clinton with the ones that were asked of The Boys, there is only one conclusion to draw. Tim Russert used his position as moderator to single out Clinton in a fashion that was inappropriate, highly targeted, unfair, especially when you consider the numbers of questions to Clinton and their negative tone, opposed to Obama's cutesy questions.

Russert didn't moderate the debate. He became part of the proceedings, coloring the questioning and supporting the attack dog theme, the brawl theme that the hack pack press wanted. Because if Clinton's Democratic opponents weren't prepared to go at Clinton, it is clear that Tim Russert had deemed himself the man for the job. He'd give his buddies in the media the headlines they wanted today. It was a disgraceful performance of outright grandstanding in order to fit the debate to the storyline put forth in the press all day yesterday.

UPDATE: I can't say as I disagree with what Matt Stoller has to say:
I'm going to enjoy watching the male spasms of cowardice unleashed if Clinton wins, as she's sworn in and represents the more than half the population that is interrupted on a regular basis by men. It's probably the only part of the Clinton Presidency that I'll like, but it's not a small deal.

After all, as digby highlights some of Chris Matthews foaming at the mouth, it seems the paroxysms of fear are already beginning to spread in the Village:
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the Wellesly speech?

KLEIN: If she does it again, if she goes somewhere that isn‘t her Wellesly, isn‘t her own college, where she‘s whipping up students, and begins making this the issue in her campaign, I think then that will backfire terribly. This is one line.

MATTHEWS: No, no, no. Let‘s go to the jukebox, go back a bit. Remember where she said—she‘s made comments like this before about the woman thing. She does this. This is not the first time. She does this.

CILLIZZA: Chris, I do think one potential problem for her is she‘s trying to both at the same time be somewhat of a victim, in that these men ganged up on her—

MATTHEWS: What gives me experience of dealing with evil men; come on, what was that about?

KLEIN: She does try to play a solidarity card. I think it‘s always smart for her to do so. Hillary Clinton gets that she‘s got to solidify women to go against --

MATTHEWS: It works in the Democratic primaries because 60 percent of the participants are women in the caucuses. Will it backfire in the general? I think it‘s the first time in the campaign she‘s traded general election votes for primary votes and she‘s so far ahead. I don‘t know why she‘s doing it. We‘ll be back with the round table. I seem to be the odd man out here—the odd person out I should say. You‘re watching HARDBALL only on MSNBC.


MATTHEWS: We‘re back with the round table. Carla Marinucci, I was just triggered into thinking about the number of times Hillary Clinton has yielded herself to this gender card; I‘m your girl out in Chicago. What gives me experience in dealing with evil men, and now this one, rallying the troops up at Wellesly. Is she going to do a seven sisters tour now, a college tour now with Hillary to rally the women against the men?

MARINUCCI: Listen, the men have come after her too, Chris. Let‘s remember Rudy Giuliani last week, talking about what has she really done, what experience does she have to be president? She doesn‘t have my kind of executive experience. I‘m sorry, but that sounded like a Ward Cleaver (ph), 1950‘s guy coming home after work with the woman with five kids and saying what have you done all day?

MATTHEWS: Where did you learn these lines? Marinucci, you‘re too young to know the 1950‘s. How do you know them? That‘s my dad. My mother had to hide the magazines that she read that day from my dad. I think that‘s so great.

MARINUCCI: That‘s what I‘m talking about, Chris. That‘s what I‘m talking about. Women hear that and that‘s why this whole thing is working for her right now.

MATTHEWS: I love that stuff. Anyway, what do you think? Suppose one of the guys says, why don‘t we all get together, guys, and let‘s vote guy.

KLEIN: I‘m pretty sure—

MATTHEWS: Imagine one of them saying, let‘s vote guy this year.

KLEIN: Thompson is running on the fact that he‘s a very tall man.

MATTHEWS: Who did that?

KLEIN: Thompson did. I think it‘s his campaign platform. He‘s not only male, but over six feet tall.

MATTHEWS: Did he bring that up?

KLEIN: Everything you see about Thompson says he‘s huge.


KLEIN: He‘s tall. He‘s big. He‘s manly. The guy‘s running—


MATTHEWS: I think that was my problem with John Stewart the other night, by the way. That‘s just a hunch. What do you think?

KLEIN: I think when Hillary says I‘m your girl, when she invokes her femininity, I think that‘s fine and it‘s good for women voters. If she made this—if she the attacks on me are unfair—


MATTHEWS: Like the boys have got their club house. We can‘t get in the boys‘ club tree house.

KLEIN: She‘s the only woman in this race. She‘s the first time we‘ve ever had a woman that may win.

MATTHEWS: Cillizza, what do you think? Is Hillary right to keep up this torrent of abuse against—just kidding. This torrent of feminism or is she smart to drop it after today? I say drop it. You made your point.

I do believe I can hear Tucker Carlson crossing his legs.

I Need Clarification

In comments here Marshall writes the following:
[Y]ou all could not be more dishonest tahn [sic] to suggest that there doesn't exist an agenda by the homosexual community. It's found in a book, the title of which begins "After the Ball" I believe. It's visible to anyone with eyes with every little whine that emanates from their mouths. And people like yourselves have bought into it and are happy to put kids at risk by your easy-going attitudes regarding sexuality.

I might be wrong, but he might be referring to the book . . . And The Band Played On, which is about the AIDS pandemic. If anyone thinks differently, please let me know.

First, I want to know what this agenda I have bought in to is. Second, I would like to know what exactly are my easy-going attitudes towards sex. Other than it is a wonderful expression of my love for my wife, and the fact that my children are taught there is nothing wrong with a person having romantic interest in persons of the same gender, I don't think I have too much of a radical agenda.
Marshall also writes:
[I]f you think lust is necessary for a healthy relationship, yours is not healthy. Go ahead and test it. If you truly love your wife, sex is unnecessary. I dare ya.

My relationship, with a nice healthy dose of lust, with my wife is really none of your concern. The idea that a sexual relationship between two consenting adults could possibly exist without the simple physical cravings is just odd. No, I do not think I'll try it, thank you very much. Lust is useful for our marital life in the same way plum juice works for digestion - it helps ease the passage.

Any thought from anyone else? As I have declined Marshall's generous offer to attempt marriage without sex, or sex without lust for that matter, I wonder if there are any takers out there.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Naming Names

Today is one of my favorite feast days in the church calendar, All Saints Day. This is the day to celebrate and remember that "great cloud of witnesses" that surrounds, upholds, and gifts us by their presence in our lives. In the spirit of the day, I want to offer a partial list of those who have enriched my life, some of whom will never meet me, many of whom are long dead, and all of whom are faithful witnesses in their own way to the power of God's loving care. Should some of those listed prefer not to be associated with me, I can understand. Yet, I would be dishonest in the extreme were I to omit the names of those whose impact upon my life has been through admonishment, criticism, and (on one or two occasions) rejection.

First and foremost, almost without need of mentioning, are those sacraments of grace, my wife, the Rev. Lisa Kruse-Safford and my daughters, Moriah and Miriam. Minute by minute I am reminded of the nature of true grace - unmerited gift that demands a response of love in return. I am the most blessed man I know because this is my family.

As for the others, kind of in reverse order:

The members of North Boone Co-Active Ministry (Poplar Grove United Methodist Church, Blaine United Methodist Church, Hunter United Methodist Church) and the associate pastor, the Rev. Richard Holton; the people of Community United Methodist Church, LaMoille, IL; the people of Centenary United Methodist Church, Jarratt, VA; Steven Creech; the faculty of Wesley Theological Seminary, particularly those who, through direct instruction, taught me the true meaning of what the marriage of knowledge and vital piety could be - Rev. Dr. Sharon Ringe, Rev. Dr. John Godsey, Dr. Roy Morrison, Rev. Dr. James Cecil Logan, Rev. Dr. Josiah Young, Dr. David Hopkins, then-Dean Dr. M. Douglas Meeks, Rev. Dr. Laurence Hull Stookey, Dr. Mark Burrows, Rev. Dr. Douglas Strong, Dr. William Shopshire; my fellow students at Wesley Theological Seminary, especially Rev. Rodney Lorenzo Graves, Rev. Alpha Estes Brown, Rev. Scott Prinster, Mitchell Bond, Pamela Monn, Rev. Lauren Heather Lay, Rev. David & Sarah Roberts, Michael Jones; Rev. Kim Kathleen Capps; Janet Powers; Rev. Lisa-Jean Hoefner; James and Lucinda Krager; Revs. Hugh & Sarah Miller; Rev. Edwin Martin; Robert & Valerie Crocker; Rev. Richard H. Schuster (d.); Barbara Bouton; my teachers long-distance, most especially Gary Dorrien for his insights on the small, yet vital, movement of liberal Christianity in America; Gustavo Gutierrez; Rev. Dr. James Cone; those teachers who have passed from this life, but whose work illuminates the lives of many - Langdon Gilkey, Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Friederich Schleiermacher, John Wesley, Charles Wesley, John Calvin, Martin Luther, William Ockham, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, Origen, the Cappadocian Fathers, Tertullian, St. Paul, the Gospel writers.

Jesus Christ.

I know I have forgotten many, many people (and they are probably thankful).

Blinded By Stupid

As I wrote here, I didn't watch the "debate" the other night. I also noted that not having cable or satellite does have its benefits. Unfortunately, I am now typing on a braille keyboard, having lost my sight reading the following, from today's Daily Howler:
[H]ere’s the question one of Jack Welch’s top hires asked as the first break drew near:

RUSSERT (10/30/07): Senator Clinton, elsewhere in the region, let’s talk about Iraq. One of your military advisers, retired Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, while campaigning for you in New Hampshire, was recently quoted saying, quote, “I don’t oppose the war. I have never heard Senator Clinton say ‘I oppose the war.’” Senator Clinton, do you oppose the war in Iraq?

As it turns out, Russert was working extra hard to frame that insinuative question. Kennedy’s “recent” statement was made on October 6, and it was instantly disavowed, that same day, by Clinton and her campaign. (Spokesman Blake Zeff, in the October 7 New York Daily News: “Sen. Clinton has made it repeatedly clear that she opposes the war and that if George Bush doesn't end it, she will, She has voted against funding for the war and has offered a clear plan for bringing our troops home.’”) But so what? Twenty-four days later, Russert could be found on stage, calling this a “recent” statement and pretending there was something troubling here—something slippery that needed to be resolved. (Fuller text about Kennedy’s statement below.) But then, several of Russert’s questions were extremely disingenuous this night; if you want to be perfectly honest, in one or two he came close to lying. But this question was truly remarkable because of the follow-up questions it provoked. After Clinton gave her answer—Yes, she opposes the war in Iraq—Brian Williams “followed up,” asked this:

WILLIAMS (next question): Senator Obama, was Senator Clinton’s answer to the opposition of the Iraq war question consistent, in your view?

We know, we know—that isn’t quite English. But isn’t it amazing? After Clinton answered the tortured question, Obama was asked to give her her grades! And then, of course, Little Johnny went too! Williams’ next “follow-up” question:

WILLIAMS (next question): Senator Edwards, same question.




Homey Don't Play That Way (UPDATED)

It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and refuse to submit again to the yoke of slavery. - Galatians 5:1 (Revised English Bible)

Yesterday, I apparently hurt ELAshley's feelings:
What you're not seeing is your poor behavior... your snide and rude comments, and condescension toward those with whom you disagree. Civil discourse is lost on you. As evidenced at ER's place.

My response is what I wish to elaborate upon today:
Why should I be civil? What possible benefit is there for me to be civil with someone who honestly believes that I am not a Christian, and am destined for hell? I see no reason at all to treat you with anything but scorn and disdain precisely because
(a) you, and others like you, have refused to actually read what I write, and react to some caricature of the evil liberal who wants to surrender our country and our faith to heathens;
(b) you, and others like you, spout nonsense and ignorant gibberish and insist it is wisdom from on high, while those who are actually educated, thoughtful, prayerful, and hesitant in our faith are scorned as some dangerous anti-Christian elite bent on the destruction of the godly (just re-read Marshall's post where he talks about Sproul saying that the Bible should be kept away from the people for their own good; that there are still those who support such an idea tells me more than enough about you and those like you);
(c) I have yet to feel as if me, my family, my friends, or my thoughts actually mean anything to you or those like you.

Civility on terms set by those who don't know how to define words is a losers game. I don't play games. Sorry to break the news to you, but I am still fed up with nonsense, especially hate-filled nonsense spouted in the name of Jesus. Once you accept some kind of abstract rule set by others, you've already lost, and I don't plan on losing. In fact, I don't even plan on playing.

It is apparently lost on some people that "Christian love" does not mean putting up with bullshit. It is apparently lost on some people that the demand for "civility" and "politeness" is a demand to play by rules set by others. It is, finally, apparently lost on some people that in so doing, one is already conceding the game before it is even begun.

This summer I had the unfortunate bad luck to run across a blog from a fundamentalist. In trying to engage over there, I ended up, shall we say, in a less than congenial place psychologically and spiritually. A sampling of the after-effects can be seen by perusing some of these posts. I learned a valuable lesson from this excursion to the dark side - the fundamentalist is bent on yoking us Christians to a slavery to a particular dogmatic, doctrinal, and ethical standard that is contingent, arbitrary, un-Biblical, and empty of either grace or love or acceptance. In all my life, I have never been attacked as harshly as I was there.

While I know that ELAshley's comment was not pointed at me, as one of his "detractors" the following comment is a not-quite succinct summary of the kind of thing I have experienced:
I am convinced that our detractors, for the most part, are listening to ghosts OTHER THAN the HOLY Ghost. Because, as you've stated, any new "revelation" given MUST agree with the entire body of the "Received" and complete Revelation of God, FROM God, which is the Bible.

My pastor continually says from the pulpit that every verse of scripture has only one meaning-- in terms of context; to whom was it written, when, why, etc. --but many applications. The best thing is to allow the Bible to say what it says, where it says it. And if a contradiction seems to arise, we must understand it is our lack of understanding that is at issue.

To clarify, three rules I've devised for dealing with difficult/seemingly contradictory passages...

..::Axiom of Translation::..

1-- God cannot lie. (Num 23:19. Tit 1:2, Heb 6:18)
2-- The truth of one verse cannot negate the truth of another.
3-- If the truths of two or more verses appear to be contradictory, the verses must be viewed as possessing dissimilar contexts and/or dispensations.

The problem with our detractors is that they are relying upon their own human intellects, rather than relying on the guidance of the Holy Ghost for understanding. Jesus said the Holy Ghost would be a Comforter to us, a Friend who would guide us in ALL truth. If we are confused we are either not listening to the voice of the Holy Ghost, or worse, listening to the voice of some "other" ghost NOT of God.

I try to stay out of the kind of discussions that debate the validity of our numerous detractors own pet doctrines. But sometimes I have to wade in... mostly when I see that the Faith needs defending from spurious and specious attacks. God speaking through Jude tells us we are to "Earnestly. Contend. For. The. Faith. Which. Was. Once. [and for all]. Delivered. Unto. The. Saints!" [Jude 1:3]

Following a spirit that is not of God. Relying upon human intellect (as if there were some other intellect upon which to rely?). Confusion comes not from life, but from some kind of failure in "listening". I, and other of his "detractors", have "pet doctrines". That is a nice summary of what ELAshley considers "civil" - I, and others of his detractors are not Christian, and our protestations to the contrary are the result of listening to spirits other than those of God.


Because we don't believe the way he does.

I have two words in response:



Part of my response follows, in less scatological terms:
Yeah, I'm caught. I actually pray through a "Liberal Anti-Christ Spirit", a gay, fetus hating spirit that wishes nothing but death and destruction upon the world. How astute of you both to have found out the truth.


ELAshley, it would be a very shallow world indeed if the Bible had only one meaning. Fortunately, there are those who believe differently and yet, somehow, manage to live healthy, Christian lives.

This was my uncivil reply.

Why is it necessary to explain to some people that "rules" set by other people are a guaranteed loser? Why in the world would I play by the rules set by someone who insists that I am not a Christian? Why in the world would I play a game at all over an issue of serious import? It doesn't work that way, and I refuse to abide by someone else's idea of "civility" when that same person feels quite free to remark with finality and authority upon my spiritual status.

I quoted from Galatians above because this, to me, is a nice summary of Christian ethics. This is my approach to the Christian life. This is where true Christian living begins - in the freedom from religious bondage put in place by others who would demand our conformity to their own nonsensical drivel and authoritarian systems. I am happy to live under the grace of God offered in Jesus Christ, rather than the demands for civility from someone who thinks I am listening to the anti-Christ.

UPDATE: When someone questions my faith, I wonder why, exactly they think I should be nice to them.
Am I mistaken or do you classify yourself as a Christian with these kind of doubts?

More Reasons Why I Won't Hate On Hillary

Yesterday Democracy Lover and I had an honest friendly discussion on the merits of criticizing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton from the political left. I shall return to some points from that discussion in a moment. Today, among the first items to crawl across my screen (either my computer is dying again, or my local broadband server is in need of tuning, because things are just a tad ssssllllloooooooowwwwwww today) was this short item over at Tbogg, linking to this horrid bit of attraction/repulsion/sexual fantasizing about Sen. Clinton's sexuality. The lurid nature of the rumors is enhanced by an obsessive contemplation of the possibilities, not so much of scandal, but of the physical details of Sen. Clinton having a lesbian affair with one of her aides. Indeed, Mr. Ford puts up several pictures of the young woman, to show she is, in the parlance of the young, HHHOTTTT!

In considering what tiny merit these rumors might possibly have, it might be important to remember something I wrote in comments yesterday:
One thing I just thought of, and should be addressed to either the media doofuses who pretend that Hillary Clinton is a blank slate, or that she has deep dark secrets hidden in a chest buried somewhere (maybe next to Vince Foster). She and her husband have been in the public eye for 15 years now; tens of millions of dollars have been wasted exploring every aspect of their lives, public and private. Her every sentence is parsed, prodded, deconstructed, and forced through an exegetical and hermeneutical spiral of idiocy to the point where she usually ends up saying the exact opposite of her actual words. To pretend, as some do, that there might be some tidbit of information so precious and important that has not come to light about her, at this point, is ridiculous. She is as well known a figure as we have in this country right now in active political life.

Even if none of this were true, let us back up just a tad, and consider the whole thing from something foreign to the right - rationality. Let us suppose, for the sake of supposing, that Sen. Clinton thought for one moment that there was not an aspect of her life that wasn't under constant scrutiny for failure. Let us suppose that Sen. Clinton actually was a lesbian. Let us still further assume that the young woman in question is also a lesbian (did I mention that Luke Ford apparently thinks she's hot?). Let us finally assume there was mutual attraction, and a desire to consummate this relationship.

Why does anyone care, other than to sit around and fantasize about it while typing with one hand?

In any event, this is another piece of evidence in my arsenal of reasons for not being too hard on Sen. Clinton.

To return to my discussion with DL, I think the following blurb from his initial comments, while true, misses something he should consider:
Of course it is ridiculous for MoDo and others to attack Clinton on her husband's affairs, or her cleavage, or her makeup or her choice of apparel, but that is the kind of claptrap that passes for political discourse in the mainstream media these days.

Our "elite discourse" is little different from the kind of nonsensical garbage idiots like Luke Ford put up on the internet. Since 1991, the Clinton's have been a Rorschach Test of America's attitudes towards baby-boomers. Everything the right hated about the sixties and seventies, from political, social, and cultural radicalism, to feminism, to the so-called sexual revolution (which was really more a revolution in the acceptability of discussing the reality of sexual behavior rather than mainstreaming what had been, up to then, considered deviant behavior) was tossed at them in an effort to portray them as all that was wrong from our era of social and political experimentation. This illness manifested itself most clearly in the Monica Lewinsky affair, but was present in questions about Bill Clinton's correspondence concerning his draft status, questions concerning the role of Hillary Clinton in a Clinton White House, and on and on.

If Democracy Lover thinks we can have a serious discussion on the merits, divorced from the on-going reality of political tabloid journalism, whether of the Luke Ford variety, or the Maureen Down variety, I do believe he is living in a fantasy world. That will be the essence of mainstream coverage of Sen. Clinton, should she win the nomination. In fact, I believe that will be the essence of the mainstream coverage of whomever the Democrats nominate, and I think we had all be ready for some serious shit-slinging along these lines for the next twelve months.

The kind of weird, obsessive, hyper-sexual soft-core porn offered by Luke Ford is only different in degree from the commentary of Chris Matthews and Maureen Dowd, not different in kind.

Her staffer is hot, though.

ADDENDUM: Todd Gitlin weighs in.

ADDENDUM II: Jane Hamsher weighs in.

ADDENDUM III: While I did not watch the debate the other not (not having cable/satellite does have its rewards), apparently Russert doesn't understand what the role of a moderator is. The Blowhard from Buffalo is not the star, and should recuse himself in future from journalism. What a joke he is, as are all our pampered, overpaid, so-called journalists.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Music For Halloween

Happy Freakin' Halloween.

"Am I Evil" by Metallica:

"N. I. B." by Black Sabbath:

"Anti-Christ Superstar" by Marilyn Manson

Halloween Scrooge

I am a Halloween Scrooge. I don't understand it. I don't like it. I detest having my afternoon interrupted by children looking for treats I know their parents will dole out in small doses, throwing most of it away before Christmas.

I disliked it as a child. I think dressing up in costumes is stupid. I think the whole thing is a contrivance, one I would prefer we did away with.

"Halloween! Bah! Humbug! If I could work my will, every idiot who went around with 'Happy Halloween' on his lips should be boiled in his own hot cider! And buried with a pumpkin stem through his heart. He should!"

Why I Don't Hate On Hillary

Today's column by shallow, nonsensical scribbler Maureen Dowd (I use those adjectives freely because every column by Dowd seems to be shallow and nonsensical) is another piece of evidence in my case as for why, despite serious misgivings about a Hillary Clinton Presidency from a policy standpoint, I nonetheless refuse to raise serious questions about such a possibility. As a general rule, I would prefer to discuss thinks I like about the candidates I like (which is why I keep mentioning Sen. Chris Dodd's name). I also take it largely for granted that Clinton will be the party's nominee, and most likely the next President of the United States.

I wrote yesterday in comments at Democracy Lover's blog:
I . . . think that it is far too dangerous to go after Hillary Clinton from the left. That feeds right-wing talking points that are based less on a rational consideration of her policy positions and more on some kind of hatred and fear rooted in all sorts of Freudian overtones. This is why, while I disagree with her, and think she would be, at best, the least-worst choice among the major candidates, I will not talk against her, or refuse to vote for her should she get the nomination. . . .

The next Presidential election, like the previous two, is among the most important in our nation's history. The election of any of the Republicans, but most especially Rudy Giuliani, would only be a disaster. As I stated above, Clinton's election would be my least favorite choice, but still be far better than anything the Republicans could offer (as a side note, please notice just how abysmal the choices among the Republican candidates are; that should tell us all we need to know about the current state of the Republican Party).

If you are wondering what is so awful about Dowd's column, here is the opener:
It’s an odd cultural inversion.

The French first lady, the one in a role where wives traditionally ignored and overlooked their husbands’ peccadilloes for the greater gain of keeping their marriages intact and running the Élysée Palace, has fled her gilded perch, acting all-American and brimming over with feelings and feminist impulses.

The former American first lady, the one who’s supposed to be brimming over with feminist impulses, has ignored and overlooked her husband’s peccadilloes for the greater gain of keeping her marriage intact, as she tries to return to the gilded perch and run the White House.

Cécilia Sarkozy acts so American, while Hillary Clinton acts so French.

Combing a supercilious obsession with how horrid "the French" are, with the disdain only hauteur can bring to Sen. Clinton's management of her private affairs (no pun intended), I grieve that the person who wrote this column has an elite perch on the op-ed pages of the most important newspaper in the country, offering us drivel like this in place of serious commentary.

In short, I do not think that piling on Sen. Clinton with attacks from her left flank help her out. Indeed, they only feed the right-wing hate-machine that already considers her something of an anti-Christ figure. The mainstream media, in the persons of caricatures such as Dowd, Chris Matthews, Tim Russert, and others, continually use right-wing talking points, and often subliminally anti-woman, odd, Freudian-like hysteria to go after her; why in the world should we, right now, add to this kind of nonsense?

Things are far too precarious right now, and our public discourse infected with far too much venom for me to rest comfortably with the self-assured position that my own disagreements with Sen. Clinton exist on some higher plane than those on the right. By pouring blood in the water surrounding her, only more sharks, already circling, will come and feed.

Perhaps this is evidence of my own rather calculating political cowardice. I don't know. All I know is I do not wish to be even one more tiny voice in the swelling chorus of those who go after Sen. Clinton.

Scarecrow at Fire Dog Lake has more.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Somerby Is Right And Wrong

In today's edition of The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby gets it mostly right, but on one big thing I think he is screamingly wrong. Go and read the whole thing because, despite Somerby's obsession with what he calls the "War against Gore", he calls the stupid by its name - stupid. Whether it's Hillary Clinton's baseball preference, Gore on Love Story, or the continued viability of Social Security, the mainstream press manifest a combination of ignorance, laziness, and outright bias in favor of Republicans that would be shocking were it not so commonplace.

On the other hand, I think his contention that the media will somehow swing the election to whomever the Republicans nominate next year is flat out wrong. I think this for good, historical reasons. Here's my take.

When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, it was partly the result of a minor recession the country was only beginning to emerge from, along with Ross Perot's candidacy which drained off support for Bush. Clinton's success as President was always with a plurality, rather than a majority, at least until the Lewinsky/impeachment insanity. When it became quite clear that both the press and the Republicans hod gone off their nut about the whole thing, the people rallied around him, a fact studiously ignored with a haughty disdain from pundits and pols alike.

I believe the country was shifting ever so slowly towards the Democrats by 2000, and Gore's popular vote victory (I honestly do not know if the count in Florida favored him or Bush; there were so many problems from beginning to end with that process, I wanted an entirely new election, which was not provided for under Florida law) proved that. By its narrowness, it also showed that the voting public was still up for grabs. By 2004, even with a war going on, President Bush only won (barely) 51% of the popular vote (again, I have no opinion on any allegations concerning electoral hanky-panky in Ohio, although subsequent events in that state do give one pause).

Last year's mid-term Congressional elections showed that, even with favorable redistricting and the incumbent effect and more money, the Republicans could not hold on to Congress. They were aided, of course by the simple failure of the 109th Congress to do anything, plus the late-breaking Mark Foley scandal, which dragged House Speaker Dennis Hastert in to that particular pit of slime. Yet, even without the scandal, I think the outcome would have been the same. As it stands now, while both the President and Congress are low in the polls, they are so for different reasons.

Whomever the Democrats nominate next year, the Republicans will have the monumental task of distancing themselves from President Bush and his war on Iraq (plus his abject failure in pretty much every other policy matter) along with the added encumbrance of continuing to appeal to a base of support that is almost suicidally insane. Whether it's flipper-flopper Mit Romney or the truly insane Rudy Giuliani, or even, by some quirk of fate, that other Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, what will stick to them is everything the public loathes about the past six and a half years. No matter what the Republicans do, no matter how stupid and biased the press may be, the public is tired of the Republican Party, of their wars without end for no purpose, of their lack of any substance on issues of vital importance such as health care.

I believe the pendulum, while not completing its swing, is far enough over that the Democrats can run a positive campaign, and just allow the self-destructive insanity of whichever Republican gets the nod to do its work. Just because some, or perhaps even most, among the national press corps are stupid, lazy, and mendacious, does not mean the public is. While the press and the Republicans continue to tell us the public is dumb, and doesn't know what is in its own best interest, the people continue to show a remarkable wisdom and preference for their own benefit that continues to go unnoticed by the sycophantic press.

So, my dual predictions. More of the same from a really awful mainstream press. A Democratic victory in 2008.

Radio Free America

Via a blurb at Eschaton, I came across this post at Down With Tyranny, in which radio mega-giant Clear Channel is caught with its memos out, attempting to deny air time to the new Springsteen album. I don't normally write about this stuff, but it does kind of fit with (a) my deep and abiding love for music; and (b) my disgust with the strange mating of bad business models and even worse government decision-making. Having said that, I thought I would add a cent or two.

First, while the lack of radio airplay will not effect the sales of the new release (any more than it hurt the Dixie Chicks, as noted in the blog post), Springsteen is a special case, a kind of transcendent musical figure immune to the vicissitudes of fashion and time (although, as also noted in the Down With Tyranny post, his concerts have become a tad shorter as he has gotten older; two hours from a guy on the threshold of Social Security isn't bad, though). Other artists, however, especially new and more local artists, aren't quite so lucky. Behind this kind of thing is a strange way of doing radio, something that seems counter-intuitive, viz., restricting access to certain types of music and allowing others that industry insiders have decided, for no particular reason, would have greater appeal, therefore raking in more bucks.

One of the way this is driven home is the formatting process. Radio stations work within a designated format - playing only certain types of music - already restricting what disc jockeys play. Even more restrictive rules apply when considering rotation rules - certain songs get played more often than others. Thus, we get heavy rotation for some artists (their songs are played so many times each hour, or two hours), with a scale going back to those songs that might get played just once a day, or perhaps twice. These decisions used to be made by disc jockeys themselves (with the help of grease money from independent labels, of course, a practice known as payola). I was once in the offices of a radio station in a small town in north central Illinois. Actually, it was several radio stations in one, as most are these days. At a desk sat a woman in her mid-fifties, with a scroll list, copying and pasting on to a formatted page the playlist for the next day for the FM station operated out of the office. I was told that the program had guidelines, e.g., if she chose a song that had been designated low rotation too much, an error message would crop up. She had no knowledge of the music, no understanding of grouping songs together by certain similarities (known as a set list). It was all just words on a computer screen to her.

This is the way radio really works today, ladies and gentlemen. It should be stopped.

The nice thing is, of course, that with the advent of Satellite Radio, the growth of the internet (especially YouTube), and the collapse of the business model used by the major record companies (how many record/CD stores are in your local mall? The Sam Goody's at the CherryVale Mall down the road closed two years ago) offer an opportunity to think creatively about the possibilities for allowing greater access to a wider variety of music to the listening public. Unfortunately, as the rules are currently gamed in favor of giants like Clear Channel (and becoming even more so; the market dominance of Clear Channel is appalling) there are no incentives for smaller, more inventive ways of doing commercial radio. Of course, with a diminishing audience (how many times can one hear "Smoke on the Water" or "Fergalicious" without beating one's head against a cinderblock wall until one passes out?) the threat posed by any new player is immense. If a radio station, even a micro-radio station of say 100 or 200 watts, with an open format, playing six to ten hours a day, opened in this area, it would blow away the competition, threatening their ad revenue. The business violence done to competition for dwindling market share can be horrific.

So, we have the vast wasteland of radio as it currently exists. We have idiotic morning drive-time shows like the Bob and Tom show, syndicated around the country, where we get to hear a bunch of ninnies laugh at how stupidly clever they are. We have AM talk radio infecting our body politic like a cancer out of control. If one drives anywhere around the country, there is a dismal sameness to the music the floods one's ears; a country station in Wichita sounds the same as one in Minneapolis, Helena, or Charleston, SC; an urban contemporary (rap and r&b) station sounds the same in New York, Chicago, Denver, or Dallas; an adult contemporary station plays the same, tired songs (including, most likely, a call-in show in the evening where people request the same insipid love songs every night). There is no sense of any city having a unique, thriving local music scene with a tenor and flavor all its own.

In the 1920's, a Republican Congress and Administration pushed through a bill federalizing the radio spectrum - those airwaves are ours, ladies and gentlemen. Any radio station that operates on those airwaves merely rents the space, with the promise to serve the public's interest. Those latter regulations were all but lifted during the Reagan Administration (along with the so-called Equal Time clause, whereby any political issue discussed had to include the exactly equal amount of time to both, or all, sides of an issue), and need to be not only reintroduced, but enforced. Rules about market share within a listening area need to be made stronger, and enforced. This is one case where the market is failing not just the people who ostensibly are the owners of the airwaves, but the industry that uses radio as a revenue generator. Greater government regulation, tighter restrictions on station ownership, formatting (this is my own personal beef; let the damn jocks decide what to play for crying out loud), and access need to be set in place and enforced. Finally, Clear Channel's near monopoly in most major markets needs to be ended the same way AT&T's monopoly was ended, by breaking up the company.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Shut. Up.

Among the many vital questions of national urgency, the sexual orientation of a fictional character hardly ranks up there with Hillary Clinton's cleavage. Edward Rothstein, at the New York Times, goes a tad too far, however, in dismissing J. K. Rowlings assertions about her character.
But it is possible that Ms. Rowling may be mistaken about her own character. She may have invented Hogwarts and all the wizards within it, she may have created the most influential fantasy books since J. R. R. Tolkien, and she may have woven her spell over thousands of pages and seven novels, but there seems to be no compelling reason within the books for her after-the-fact assertion. Of course it would not be inconsistent for Dumbledore to be gay, but the books’ accounts certainly don’t make it necessary. The question is distracting, which is why it never really emerges in the books themselves. Ms. Rowling may think of Dumbledore as gay, but there is no reason why anyone else should.

If it doesn't matter, then why write about it? If, on the other hand, the coded language Rowling inserts does indicate Dumbledore's sexuality, then it is not just a "distraction", and it most certainly does mean that others should consider his sexuality as important. After all, throughout all the books, even the last one, after he died, he represents the forces of order, of the moral high ground against all those forces of compromise and cowardice that make the second rise of Voldemort all the easier. Dumbledore is a living embodiment of speaking the truth, regardless of consequences (even with his tacit admission, in a dream/afterlife sequence in the last book that he hid much from Harry that might have been important for Harry to know), against those "go along to get along" folks, including Cornelius Fudge, whose weakness and susceptibility to sycophants such as Lucius Malfoy cause such chaos.

Indeed, it would seem that his bravery might just stem from facing his own sexuality without fear. So, in the context of the story as it unfolds over the course of seven wonderful novels, it is most definitely important that Dumbledore is not only gay, but uncloseted. In the course of human history, however, including literary history, this isn't even a blip on the scale.

Please, for all our sakes. Shut up.

Music Monday

I was going to do a post highlighting my hometown radio station, but I heard this morning that country music legend Porter Wagoner died yesterday. I have become increasingly fond of country music over the past months to a year or so - from my mainstays of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams, to an increasing fondness for Randy Travis, Merle Haggard, and Mel Tillis. Porter Wagoner was a member of the Grand Old Opry, and among his many achievements was finding and promoting a talented singer and songwriter from the mountains of Tennessee named Dolly Parton:

Here he is doing "I'll Fly Away" with The Willis Boys, which included Stringbean and Grandpa Jones:

Here he is doing an old song of his own, "Satisfied Mind".

While it is easy to dismiss Wagoner for his outlandish suits, and later on his "hair", I think focusing on those trappings, which merely show he was a showman as much as a musician, misses the fact that he was a talented singer, and had an eye for talent. He will be missed, even by those who don't like country music, because he gave us a richer musical life.

I Visit A Right-Wing Blog, And Come Away With Nonsense

Over at Real Clear Politics, Tom Bevan criticizes Paul Krugman's latest column, and I must honestly say that I am not sure what he is attempting to say. He ends his "critique" thus:
It's pretty ironic, however, that Krugman slams the GOP for overhyping threats and using fear as a political tool, because that's exactly what he's doing in this column. So much so, in fact, it seems Krugman believes that President Giuliani would be more of a threat to the country than Islamic terrorists or a nuclear armed Iran.

Other than the fact that the last sentence represents a point-of-view that accurately represents reality, one wonders at Bevan's point. Do we fear a non-existent threat, or do we fear the implications of electing a sociopath to the White House? That is the real choice before us, should Giuliani get the Republican nod (I do not believe it will happen, by the way). It isn't "fear-mongering", either. It is a stark representation of the reality we will face in next year's election, whoever the Republican nominee is: Do we choose to set aside fear, or do we succumb to fear to those who pander to our most base feelings?

For the right, there is this bogeyman, the Islamic Threat To The Western World. To the rest of us, there is the horrid leadership of George W. Bush, war without end and without purpose, and the erosion of our national life accompanying the final demise of our Constitution. It seems to me the choice, both this stark and this clear, is a no-brainer. It seems that way to most Americans, too. Yet, the right is so wedded to this President and this war, they cannot but dig deeper the hole in which they continue to live. One of our hopes is simple - they continue to do so through next November. And, of course, offer up more "commentary" such as this.

Yet Another Internet Quiz

As Democracy Lover pointed out, these things aren't very scientific. They are a whole lot of fun, and eerily accurate. How would you describe your outlook on the world? Like I've been saying, I'm Postmodern:

What is Your World View?
created with
You scored as Postmodernist

Postmodernism is the belief in complete open interpretation. You see the universe as a collection of information with varying ways of putting it together. There is no absolute truth for you; even the most hardened facts are open to interpretation. Meaning relies on context and even the language you use to describe things should be subject to analysis.



Cultural Creative














The quiz can be found here. A tip of the ol' fedora to Makeesha at Swinging From the Vine.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Public Intimidation Officer

You know you've gotten under their skin when they write you unsolicited emails. Glenn Greenwald shares with his readers an unsolicited email from Col. Steven A. Boylan, the Public Affairs Officer and personal spokesman for Gen. David G. Petraeus. The email, which can be read in its entirety, unedited, here is among the most amazing documents I, for one, have ever read. A sample, which is illustrative of the whole piece:
I do enjoy reading your diatribes as they provide comic relief here in Iraq. The amount of pure fiction is incredible. Since a great deal of this post is just opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinions, I will not address those even though they are shall we say -- based on few if any facts. That does surprise me with your training as a lawyer, but we will leave those jokes to another day.


The claims about Steve Schmidt being out here on the staff in Iraq are just flat wrong. Pray tell, where do you think he is and how long have you fantasized that he has been here? Based on our records of who is in Iraq, I am really sorry to disappoint you, but he just isn't here. You are either too lazy to do the research on the topics to gain the facts, or you are providing purposeful misinformation -- much like a propagandist.

Schmidt was here, but at the time for the vote on the Iraqi Constitution, October 2005 for 30 days. He was never on the MNF-I staff and for that short period was actually detailed to the Department of State. He hasn't been back since. Sorry to burst your bubble, but a little actual research on your part would have shown that he is actually not here, but that would contradict your conspiracy theory.


For the third matter concerning the Beauchamp investigation and the documents that were leaked - it is very unfortunate that they were - but the documents are not secret or classified. So, there is your third major error in fact. Good thing you are not a journalist. The information that was released and it appears that has since been taken off the net is more of a matter concerning the Privacy Act. Since we don't know who released them, we are not able to take the appropriate actions and the media tends not to give up their sources -- good, bad or indifferent...I will not judge. That is our system and we must work with it.


You are not a journalist nor do you have any journalistic ethical standards as we found out from the last time I engaged with you. As we quickly found out, you published our email conversation without asking, without permission -- just another case in point to illustrate your lack of standards and ethics. You may recall that a 30-minute interview was conducted with the program that you claim to be a contributor. So instead of doing the interview with you, we went with the real talent, Alan Colmes.


I invite you to come see for yourself and go anywhere in Iraq you want, go see what our forces are doing, go see what the other coalition forces are doing, go hang out with the reporters outside the International Zone since that is where they live and work and see for yourself what ground truth is so that you can be better informed. But that would take something you probably don't have.(emphases added)

The italicized portions are, with one exception, plain, unadulterated ad hominem attacks. The one exception is the phrase concerning PR flak Steve Schmidt's presence in Iraq. From the original post, it is clear that Greenwald never claimed that Schmidt was currently there; only that he had been there, doing his slickly best to destroy the credibility of the "Public Information Office". It seems to have worked on this particular Colonel.

It is shocking that a currently serving commissioned officer in the United States Army would take the time and effort to construct an attack - an attack, mind you, that when not steeped in the grime of personal insult is blatantly false on the merits - upon a blogger. He as much as calls Greenwald a coward in the last sentence.

The destruction of the moral fiber of the military under a hyperpoliticized military is clear. Lucky for us, Greenwald is not cowed by such school-yard tactics and name-calling.

I do believe Col. Boylan needs some time home with his family, perhaps to give his tired soul a rest.

Virtual Tin Cup

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