Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday Rock Show

Here's the theme song for my new favorite candidate:

Cthulhu '08! Vote for him, or face the consequences . . .

Oh, and Nyarlahotep for VP - she is a woman after all, need to balance that ticket.

The Southern Baptist Convention Kicks Out Another Congregation For Following The Bible

Pastor Dan at Street Prophets has a story on Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC being booted from the Convention for becoming an inclusive church. By welcoming gays and lesbians without qualification, they are, apparently, violating some rule or other that SBC has about not loving others as we love ourselves.

The church's pastor wrote a letter, which reads in part:
[W]e, like Peter in the Book of Acts, have overcome our original resistance to the inclusion of gay and lesbian persons as Peter overcame his resistance to accepting Gentiles into the people of God. He saw the Holy Spirit fall upon the Gentiles, he saw God working in their lives and said:

“If then God gave them the same gift that He gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?”

We could base the unity of our fellowship on any number of issues of Biblical interpretation: speaking in tongues, war, abortion, death penalty, divorce, homosexuality, and on and on. Let us base our unity on Jesus Christ as Lord and his call to discipleship and on the competence and freedom of the individual to open scripture and interpret it for his or her life guided by the Spirit of God.

"Let us base our unity on Jesus Christ as Lord". What a horrid, un-Biblical thing to even think, when we all know Jesus calls us to hate gays and lesbians, call them sinners for being who God made them, compare their sexual activity to bestiality (God knows why this always comes up, but it does), and even refuse to consider the possibility that same-sex attraction is an emotional, not sexual, thing.

Iran Or Saudi Arabia

So, a rape victim is punished "for meeting with an unrelated male", which is quite clearly beyond the pale. Just so we're clear on the concept of who our friends in the Middle East are:
Women are subject to numerous restrictions in Saudi Arabia, including a strict dress code, a prohibition against driving and the need for a man’s permission to travel or have surgery. Women are also not allowed to testify in court unless it is about a private matter that was not observed by a man, and they are not allowed to vote.

In Iran, women do have to appear in public veiled, although that is hardly an encumbrance. They have the franchise, have representatives in the Iranian Parliament, and even argue vigorously for a feminist interpretation of the Holy Q'uran, borrowing hermeneutic tools from Christian feminists. In Saudi Arabia, such crimes would probably deliver the perpetrator to the chopping block.

It is true that once upon a time, the Iranians stormed the US embassy there and held our diplomats hostage for over year. It is also true that the violent anti-American sentiment was rooted in a history of violence perpetrated against the Iranian people by a regime that was, in essence, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the United States. The SAVAK got their training in the United States, after all.

Of the two countries, however, Iran is, for all intents and purposes, a far more enlightened, cosmopolitan place than the medieval nightmare on the sands. While the reasons (oil) for preferences (oil) should (oil) be obvious (oil), it just astounds me that people carry on as if Saudi Arabia had a society (oil) worth protecting (did I mention oil?). It may be in our interest to deal with the Saudis; it is most definitely in our longer term interests to set aside our neurotic fear, based mostly on lies, of Iran, and deal with them as well. After all they have (oil) certain qualities (oil) that would attract (oil) much attention (oil) from the US (oil), including influence over Hezbollah in Lebanon (oil), and would be a good ally in the struggle against the Sunni Al Qaeda (oil). Since the Saudis practically fund them, we might be working against our own interests (oil) by continuing to support the Merovingian House of (Oil) Saud.

I am quite sure someone will say, "But . . . But . . . Ahmedinejad is a Holocaust denier! He wants to wipe Israel off the map!" As to the first, well, yeah. As to the second, I don't live in Israel, and while that is a horrible statement, it is hardly realistic and so is just so much rhetorical fluff. Besides which, Ahmedinejad isn't Iran (as we're constantly told), but the Mullahs in the Clerical Council run the show (only in areas where sharia might apply), and while Grand Ayatollah Khamenei may still hold an animus against the US, I think he might be persuaded (dollars for oil) to see reasons (dollars for oil) in a realistic diplomatic strategy that appealed to the Iranian sense of national self-interest (dollars for oil; oh, and releasing Iranian assets frozen since 1979).

That's my modest proposal for this Saturday. We switch our allegiance from an insane monarchy, a nation which provides material support to enemies of the United States, as well as several nationals who flew planes in to buildings here, to one that, despite a convoluted history and much bad feeling and enmity on both sides, shares many more things with us, including a desire to keep Sunni militancy from undermining the relative tranquility of Islam.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Back In My Good Graces, And I Go A Step Further

Yesterday, I wrote a post critical of Glenn Greenwald. Today, he has managed to return to the fold, as it were, by pointing up the (unintentionally) hilariously unreflective speech Pres. Bush gave to the Federalist Society.

As I was reading through Greenwald's takedown of Bush's farcical speech, a thought occurred to me. Greenwald reminds readers of John Yoo's memorandum, written soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001, which read in part:
In both the War Powers Resolution and the Joint Resolution, Congress has recognized the President's authority to use force in circumstances such as those created by the September 11 incidents. Neither statute, however, can place any limits on the President's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response. These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make.

That Memorandum also "conclude[d] that the Constitution vests the President with the plenary authority, as Commander in Chief and the sole organ of the Nation in its foreign relations, to use military force abroad" and hailed "the President's inherent constitutional powers to use military force" free of Congressional interference. It declared "the centralization of authority in the President alone . . . in matters of national defense, war, and foreign policy." And while the powers of Congress are virtually non-existent, "congressional concurrence is welcome."

As I was reading through Yoo's memo, it dawned on me that he was actually advocating military dictatorship, a coup d'etat via the President of the United States. By refusing to recognize any legal or Constitutional authority to which the President is accountable, Yoo's memo is a detailed description of the overthrow of the United States government.

So, Bush was funny, although without meaning to be so. Greenwald notes the funny, and includes further possibilities for more laugh-track moments from our Clown-in-Chief, only to discover that Bush's reality has outstripped the ability of satirists to keep up. Yet, buried within the verbiage, from the hand of a current law school faculty member, is the justification for the military takeover of the United States Republic.

I realize that sounds pretty breathless, perhaps even over the top. Reread the pertinent parts of Yoo's memorandum, however, and think about it. Yoo is arguing that the limits of Congressional authority are reached when considering the President as Commander-in-Chief. As C-in-C, the President has "inherent" authority to do pretty much whatever he (or she) wants, as military commander.

This is the essence of military rule. This is the "silent coup" we keep hearing may happen.

Folks, it seems it already has.

Messages In Bottles

Last night, after the girls were in bed, but before my wife came back from wherever she was (I know where she was, but tain't none of your business), I was cruising through my stupendous archives. One thing I try to do every once in a while is check to make sure no comment spam has erupted in older posts. Lucky for me there isn't a whole lot of that since I got word verification. What I did find, however, was something so much better than a Viagra ad, or a link to a Korean porn site, that it got me thinking.

Back in April, I wrote a piece on the women's sexuality, and the way some men perceive a confident, independent woman as a threat. It's a good post (even if I do say so myself), but far too much attention was paid, in comments, to a photograph I found that accompanied the post. To a person who found the photograph "pornographic", I responded:
To view this particular photo as porn reveals a certain, um, prudishness (to be kind) toward the exhibition of the human body. This is most definitely not "pron" (I'm assuming that's a typo), but most definitely an artistic rendering of Augustine's idea of original sin as concupiscence. It also demonstrates visually one of the ideas I was trying to convey, viz., that the power women have through their sexuality is threatening to many men. Your reaction, it seems to me, proves my point more than you might imagine.

I am quite proud of that particular piece, and the accompanying photo, and was dismayed as I read through the comments by how much time was spent on the non-issue of the pornographic nature of the photo.

Then, as I was scrolling down, I came across two comments I had not previously seen. I thought, for a moment, I had comment spam, but a quick glance showed me otherwise. The first was from someone called "The Flip Flop Girl":
I"m sorry you had to go through that silly arguemnt with that ignorant prude! I love your essay and it helps me to see some really healthy and balanced expression from a Christian point of view. We are living in very strange times indeed. One must hope, and pray, that a Democrat is elected president in '08 to, at the very least, help clean up the current mess and abuse of power. My blog deals with sexuality and pop culture from, well, my point of view, a young woman. It has been interesting to me to read my responses, predominantly from men. Many do provide thoughtful and sensitive feedback which is reassuring. Then there are those who seem to see me more as a sex object than anything else, or exclusively as a sex object, and I feel sorry for them. Finally, I love the photo on your blog. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it!


That was a nice affirmation.

The second was from Rebecca:
Hello! I am neither Christian nor male, but I loved this posting and have added an extract from it to my own blog. I've recently moved to Egypt and I'm experiencing my sexuality in a new way, simply because the men in the street here harass women so much. I'm seeing more clearly than ever in the streets of Cairo how female sexuality is a powerful force that makes men uncomfortable. I loved reading your perspective - it was a positive contribution in my efforts to get my head around women's sexuality. Thanks!

There are few things more gratifying than to find these kinds of comments. It is the kind of affirmation of what I'm doing that tells me I am not wasting my time. I put these little missives up, and wonder, "Does anyone get what I'm doing here?" Indeed, even when I get a reaction, as I did here, it usually revolves around something tangential, irrelevant to the main point (or demonstrative of it in a scary way . . .). Yet, here are two young women who found something affirming. To touch someone in that way . . . Wow. It's a kind of miracle in a way.

By the way, I do believe the abstract point I was making here is now on full display by some of the lesser lights of our political media figures. We have Chris Matthews almost daily fight to regain his masculinity against the threat of Hillary Clinton (his latest nonsensical goofballism is his insane obsession with her hand-clapping). We have Tucker Carlson crossing his legs when he hears her voice. These are blatant, public examples of the kind of existential threat a strong woman poses to men who, for whatever reason, fear for their masculinity.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I (Shudder) Agree With Sidney Blumenthal (UPDATE With Link)

Something tells me I spend too much time on the computer on my days off.

Ezra Klein wonders at Sidney Blumenthal's decision to leave Salon and join Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Presidency. In particular he sites the following paragraph as something "novel":
The Democrats at key junctures have been seduced by the illusion of anti-politics to their own detriment. Anti-politics upholds a self-righteous ideal of purity that somehow political conflict can be transcended on angels' wings. The consequences on the right of an assumption of moral superiority and hubris are apparent. Their plight stands as a cautionary tale, but not only as an object lesson for them. Still, the Republican will to power remains ferocious. The hard struggle will require the most capable political leadership, willing to undertake the most difficult tasks, and grace under pressure.

In the post in which he comments on Blumenthal's decision, Klein writes:
[W]hile competent leadership is good, I've not seen much evidence that she sees her role as ideological, rather than technocratic, in nature. This is a moment to do for progressivism what Reagan did for conservatism. It's not that I don't think she's up to that task so much as I don't even know that she's interested in it.

The whole Reagan thing is a bit much. We can debate the issue of Sen. Clinton's competence (especially in foreign policy, where she seems to be toeing a Joe Lieberman line which is quite frightening) but it seems to me that Klein skipped ahead a few years by concentrating on a Reaganesque Democrat (in style if not in policies) by not concentrating on a point Blumenthal made in a previous paragraph to the one just quote above:
[Republicans] fear more than loss in one election; they fear the end of the Republican era beginning with Nixon.

This sounds right to me, as does his critique of the politics of meta-politics. Republicans have been running as non-politicians for decades, only to practice the most devious, ruthless politics once in power (see the careers of Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Reagan himself for details).

This is also why I am wary, even quite tired, of Obama's constant talk about ending "politics as we know it". We cannot be above politics, nor should we even want to be. One of the reasons, I think, the Democrats keep getting the pants beat off them is they think they can be above it all. The Republicans, who are more cunning than they are expert, manage to then run rings around them while the Democrats continue to bemoan "politics".

Politics is a necessary part of life. It can even be ennobling, as the careers of George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Harry Truman showed us. Rather than be above it all, "floating on the clouds" as Blumenthal says, we should much prefer someone who not only understand how to play the game, but how to set the rules in the first place, and therefore control the outcome. This means there must be a degree of ruthlessness, of calculation if you will, in order to move things the way you want them.

The Republicans fear Hillary Clinton for the same reason they hated and feared (and still do) her husband. They know she isn't some flaming liberal. They know he didn't run our country in to the ground for eight years. They hate and fear the Clinton's because they are both smarter, and more ruthless, than any Republican politician on the scene today.

An ideological election right now would be too much. I also do not think basic competence is enough to win next year. We need something in between - a commitment to the Constitution, to a restoration of the balance of powers, an end to the political perversion and manipulation of our public institutions. I do not believe that Sen. Clinton adheres to these things. I believe that Sen. Dodd does.

To say, however, that Blumenthal hasn't diagnosed the problem properly (even if I can't agree with his suggestion for a cure, a Hillary Presidency) misses the point. The Democratic Party must embrace, not so much "politics as usual" which is a meaningless political phrase, but just politics - the willingness to exercise power for public ends.

UPDATE: I really like Oliver Willis' take on Blumenthal's decision to join the Clinton campaign.
More than anything, it's probably the single issue I'm most in line with the Clinton people on - the media is something to beat up, not woo. No matter who the Democratic nominee is, I hope they get that through their heads.

The media is not your friend. Not even remotely.

No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, the Joe Pesci rule from Lethal Weapon 2 will apply: "They fuck you at the drive-thru."

Whether it's Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Dodd, or Kucinich - these people do not like you, Sam I Am, and they will do everything in their power to destroy you.

Now I Know Who I Am Voting For

I have found the perfect candidate. As a long-time fan of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, I cannot resist giving my vote to . . .

(h/t to Brian @ Second Breakfast)

True Fairness

I have to admit that I am uncomfortable doing so, but I have to hold up Glenn Greenwald's piece on Mit Romney as an example the kind of thing I find irrelevant, and underhanded. Part of me wants to say to Greenwald, "So, Mr. Big-Shot Lawyer, why don't you put up or shut up and act on all your convictions all the time?"

It is completely fair to criticize Romney's support of Bush's War Without End. It is completely fair to criticize Romney for claiming his children's work on his campaign is morally equivalent to military service in Iraq. It is, finally, even fair to criticize Romney's support of the Vietnam War.

It is irrelevant to say that his support of Vietnam was hypocritical because he did not serve in the military. It is irrelevant to say that, because he had the opportunity to serve and did not do so, any statements about Vietnam in the first instance, or Iraq in the second, are to be discounted. Implicit in Greenwald's piece is the idea that, in essence, Romney was a coward then, and a political opportunist now, willing to risk others' lives but not his own for wars he supports but isn't willing to fight (or send his sons off to).

Unlike Bill Clinton's complicated maneuvering about his draft status, Romney received a perfectly legal missionary deferment. Millions of college students also received deferments. By not serving, was their protest of the war in Vietnam as illegitimate as Romney's lack of service coupled with a support of Vietnam? In the end, Greenwald's argument boils down to one of two possibilities - either only those who have actual military service are qualified to speak out, for or against, military engagement; or in this instance, Romney's position, while perhaps hypocritical, is qualitatively different from the position of millions of other Americans who may support the war but do not, have not, and will not enlist in military service. In either case, he is wrong.

The piece is really a snide attack on Romney's "character"; Greenwald is, in essence, saying to Romney, "You have never put your blood or the blood of your sons on the line in military service; how dare you demand others do what you have never done?" This is merely the flip-side of the argument that only those who have served in the military are qualified to be President because the President is Commander-in-Chief, and only those with experience understand the military lifestyle.

This is not only unfair, it is among the cheapest, shallowest pieces I have read from a person whose writing, up until now, has been quite flawless. It is one thing to discuss the merits or lack thereof of candidate Romney's position on the war in Iraq. It is quite another thing to say, in essence, "Romney is a big chicken, yet a blood-thirsty one as well because he is quite willing to send others to do his dirty work for him."

The bit about the treatment Romney and his fellow missionaries in France received versus the harrowing life-threatening situations of his age-cohort confreres in Vietnam is perhaps the silliest, cheapest, most meaningless thing I have read on a left-wing blog in a long time. There is no absolute scale of suffering here; Romney and his fellow missionaries were in France to do a job, and it was most likely quite difficult because of the stupid, criminal war in Vietnam. Comparing the problems Romeny faced in France with those combat personnel encountered in Vietnam is snide and irrelevant.

You know, sometimes I hate being fair. The truth is, I was quite shocked by Glenn's piece, because it was exactly the kind of shabby, shoddy writing I really detest so much. The fever, it seems, has struck him, too. It is far easier to carry on about trivia and use inaccurate and unfair analogies to attack a candidate that to just say, "His position on this issue is wrong," and then go on and explain how wrong, and why it is wrong.

George Will's Racing Form (UPDATE With Link)

Today's column by George Will is the kind of thing that makes my eyes glaze over. Of course, most of the things George Will writes make my eyes glaze over, but this is particularly egregious because Will is offering the kind of pseudo-insightful horse-race nonsense that only makes sense to bookmakers in Las Vegas and political reporters who tire of (or aren't interested in) serious policy matters. Offering the kind of anecdotal evidence from history (Estes Kefauver's surprising primary wins in 1952, before primaries were the main vehicle for a party's nomination) that makes Will appear insightful to himself but is in fact irrelevant, the column reads like a racing form, with the various horses - Clinton, Obama, Giuliani, Romney - discussed without reference to whatever their various strengths and weaknesses might be.

Another analogy is the kind of deciphering necessary in a close contest at the end of a baseball season; the Red Sox might make the playoffs if they win three out of their last five games, but the Blue Jays could still be spoilers if they lose to the Yankees in the last series of the regular season and Baltimore beats Kansas City. It's fascinating for the baseball fan, but nearly indecipherable to anyone else. And the analogy comes up short because politics isn't about winning and losing, or at least it shouldn't be. Winning and losing should be about what the politician offers as reasons to support them (or, conversely, not to support an opponent). Just as, in a horse race, serious followers of The Sport of Kings consider every detail of the history of a horse - do they run well in drier conditions, or is the jockey a bit heavier than the horse is used to - as they consider where to place their bets, so, too we need to consider what the politicians are offering the public as reasons to support them. Being successful in a campaign can become a self-fulfilling prophecy (nothing succeeds like success), but there is scant mention of why Sen. Clinton continues to be the front-runner in the Democratic contest (although it is healthy sign that both Obama and Edwards are catching up in Iowa) or why Giuliani is skipping Iowa and New Hampshire (he will get beaten, badly in both contests).

I have seen Will attempt this kind of breakdown before, and he rarely gets it right. Even finding some kind of historical example usually fails because history is a poor guide in politics (like "the incumbent party always loses seats in an off-year election"; "Vice-Presidents always lost their bids to replace the Presidents they serve"). Politics is the ultimate example of contingency in action - things are never the same in politics precisely because the context (the economy, the social matrix, the cultural setting, significant events) is always shifting.

By the way, while it is probably as meaningless as Will's Kefauver anecdote, I think a better historical analogy, at least on the Republican side, would be the way the Republican Party bosses managed to steal the nomination from Sen. Taft of Ohio, who had a majority of delegates going in to the Republican convention in 1952 without having enough to actually win the nomination, and give it Eisenhower, who announced late (like Giuliani) and did poorly in the primaries (as it seems Giuliani, despite all the polls giving him a "national" lead, will do). Look for something like this should Mit Romney do well in the early primaries. Combined, of course, with the kind of nasty campaign ads and push-polling the Bush campaign used so effectively against John McCain in 2000, after McCain beat Bush in to the dirt in New Hampshire.

UPDATE: Although it pains me to do so, I must be fair to George Will, and point to this post at Talking Points Memo in which Josh Marshall does much the same kind of thing as did Will. Both are examples of the kind of nonsensical horse-race stupidity that is meaningless. In Marshall's case, I think the only response is that Huckabee won't win in Iowa. Period. Even if he comes in a close second, I do not believe he is as smart as Bill Clinton was in 1992 and turn a loss in to a victory. In any event, my money in the Republican Party, despite my fears that the Big Wigs may stack the deck in Rudy's favor, is on Romney going all the way. In many respects this would be a good thing - a Mormon, a northeasterner, a relative moderate in a party dominated by ideologues. Of course, it also means all the Romney baggage - opportunism, flip-flopping, etc. Be these things what they are, however, Marshall's bit is no better than Will's.

They Might Trash The Place Again (UPDATE With Link; UPDATE & LINK II)

The Washington Post is really trying to irritate by continuing to publish David Broder. Today's offering is a double-header of stupid.
As the Democratic presidential race finally gets down to brass tacks, two issues are becoming paramount. But only one of them is clearly on the table.

That is the issue of illegal immigration. A very smart Democrat, a veteran of the Clinton administration, told me that he expects it to be a key part of any Republican campaign and that he is worried about his party's ability to respond.
It was the pummeling she received from Barack Obama and John Edwards during and after that debate (and from moderator Tim Russert) that brought her husband, former president Bill Clinton, into the campaign, with the charge, as he put it, that "those boys have been getting tough on her lately."

The former president's intervention -- volunteered during a campaign appearance on her behalf in South Carolina -- raised the second, and largely unspoken, issue identified by my friend from the Clinton administration: the two-headed campaign and the prospect of a dual presidency.
In his view, which I share, this is a prospect that will test the tolerance of the American people far more severely than the possibility of the first female president -- or, for that matter, the first black president.

As my friend says, "there is nothing in American constitutional or political theory to account for the role of a former president, still energetic and active and full of ideas, occupying the White House with the current president."

No precedent exists for such an arrangement, and no ground rules have been -- or probably can be -- written. When Bill Clinton was president, the large policy enterprise that was entrusted to the first lady -- health-care reform -- crashed in ruins.(emphasis added)

The reason immigration reform has failed is because the Republicans who continue to drive the agenda of this Democratically-controlled Congress wish no reform, but prefer to keep the issue open, thinking that Bashing Brown People is a sure fire winner (no doubt, the "Democratic operative" Broder talked to has drunk the same Kool Aid and believes this, too, despite the polls). Sen. Kennedy's attempt at a "compromise" died a quick death because it was not a compromise at all, but just the pasting together of disparate positions on immigration that was destined for failure.

As to the whole Bill & Hillary thing - please, help me. We have a sitting President whose father was both Vice-President and President, and is still alive, vigorous, and even appeared recently on FOXNews in an interview defending his son's tenure in office (probably one of the most challenging things H. W. Bush has ever done). No one even mentioned this in 2000, or 2004, when George W. Bush ran for office.

Here's Broder, however, carrying on as if having a former President sitting in the White House as First Gentleman is a threat to our republican form of government. Of course, there is a sexist background to this that Broder leaves unspoken; a wife is in need of protection and guidance from her husband, so there are all sorts of "dangers" inherent in this situation.

As for the health care reform proposal that crashed and burned, that can be laid at the doorstep of two groups - the Republican Party that mounted an all-out, fact-free attack upon the proposal (I am tired of hearing about socialized medicine as if it is the end of true medicine as we know it; I want socialized medicine, so I do not understand how it can be bad) and Washington-based insider journalists like Broder who carried on during the entire "debate" as if the positions of the two parties were of equal merit. The Democrats has a proposal on the table that was workable, comprehensive, hardly radical at all, and supported (at least early on) by the American people. The Republicans waged a PR offensive with a phony bill, TV spots that mischaracterized the Democratic plan, and the journalists pretended they were two equal but opposite serious policy choices rather than one serious policy choice and a chess piece in a power play by Republicans.

Be that as it may, Broder's "concern" over having Bill Clinton in the White House is meaningless. Anyone's "concern" over having Bill Clinton in the White House is meaningless. Broder is the guy, after all, who feels the Clinton's "trashed the place [Washington] and it's not their place", so anything he says about the Clinton's will be forever tainted by this kind of Village snobbery.

More to the point, like Bill Clinton's infidelity, this is only an issue because blowhards like Broder make it one. We do not elect the First Family; they are the unfortunate baggage that accompanies a President, and have only become celebrities in their own right with the rise of our ubiquitous tabloid culture and its desire for ever more famous people to stalk, photograph, and pretend are important. Bill Clinton is indeed healthy, vibrant, brilliant, and voluble. The issue is not so much that he is a former President, but that he is a man, and his wife, who could be, possibly, President of the United States, is a woman. It seems that Broder can't imagine a husband deferring to his wife on issues of importance in public, professional matters.

I suppose I would whine a bit about the "Clinton Rules", as I do not remember Broder, who pimped Libby Dole's aborted Presidential run as if it were the most exciting thing in the world, ever once typing a column in which he wondered about the professional relationship between Sen. Dole and her husband, former Sen. Dole. This is true, and probably significant, but hardly the point here.

The truth is, Broder hates the Clintons. He does not like the fact that he is an uppity, southern White Trash governor who managed to have a successful, two-term Presidency despite the best efforts of some of Broder's buddies, or even listening to the sage advice of the Aristotle of the Potomac. He likes Hillary even less because she is a woman who would presume to know more about public policy than Broder (she does) and has the temerity to run for President. If she wins, Broder's "place" is in for at least four if not eight more years of "trashing" and he wants to fight that off at all costs.

UPDATE: David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo reminds readers that less than a week ago Broder pledged, during an on-line forum, not to write about the Clinton marriage. Since this doesn't involve S-E-X, I suppose Broder doesn't consider it part of his pledge. Yet, he does write about the marriage.

UPDATE II: Digby keeps her narrative of Washington Insiders "disappearing" President Bush alive by pointing out the sneaky way Broder writes of a Hillary Presidency as if it were a direct succession.
I wrote the other day that the Village was disappearing Bush and were portraying the Clinton candidacy as a direct succession. Never have we seen it more starkly than this. The most powerful Vice President in history,a man who chose himself for the office, who has operated a presidency within a presidency, who even submitted the novel defense that his office wasn't part of the executive branch (with the attendant implication that he didn't answer to the president), who came into office with express purpose of enshrining the "unitary executive", and who insisted that all decisions be routed to him before they went to the president --- that guy, David Broder hasn't had a problem with.

Bill Clinton coming in a trashing the place with his presence? Houston, we have a problem.

In contrast to what I just wrote in regards to Glenn Greenwald, this is serious media and political criticism done the way it should be.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Some People Actually Listen to Marshall Art - In Colorado Anyway

I was going to go to bed, when this jumped out at me over at Daily Kos:
The Colorado Supreme Court cleared the way Tuesday for an anti-abortion group to collect signatures for a ballot measure that would define a fertilized egg as a person.

The Kos diarist sounds like some of the people who tried to talk to Marshall about this:
I'm still waiting to hear any sensible argument by which a fertilized egg is a "person." A full set of human genes? Every cell in my thumb has that. A unique genetic signature? In that case, are identical twins one "person?" Are people who have more than one genetic signature (rare, but not that rare) more than one person? Is it Biblical mandate? I sure can't find it in my Bible.

These are all sensible arguments. The only thing the diarist comes up with as an answer to such asininity:
It couldn't be that this is just a completely pulled out of someone's behind definition, designed for the purpose of outlawing both abortion and stem cell research, could it?

Yeah, pretty much.

As the diarist says - let's hear it for microscopic Americans.

Fear & Loathing Among The Saved

During a session of the Progressive Bible Study at Street Prophets, Pastor Dan asks some questions not exactly rhetorical for serious reflection, concerning the eschatological dimension of Christianity, its narrow interpretation by certain elements within the Christian tradition, and the way fear of "The End Times" is exploited by some for nefarious reasons:
Given its authentic presence in the Christian tradition, what place should [Apocalyptic] be given in that tradition? Do we ignore it, explain it away, or try to recover it? And how can we explain to those outside the faith the difference between belief in Christ's return and black helicopter fantasies?

Another set of questions presents itself. The apocalypse is always with us, as noted above. Why then are some Christians so easily moved by fear, as with 9/11? How does fear of the apocalypse lead to easy manipulation by cynical authoritarians, and how can those of us not so afflicted lead our fellow believers out of their captivity?

Or to put it another way, how can those of us who trust that God will not allow a hair on our head to perish lead those who believe in a continual existential threat away from a presenting and re-presenting "wars and conflict...natural disasters and cosmic terror" and toward the realization that "when these things begin to take place, (you should) stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near”?

These are not unimportant questions. In fact, in light of the way Apocalyptic has been exploited in the past generation (The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lyndsey is among the biggest "Christian" best-sellers in publishing history), the questions are highly pertinent.

While I do not endorse it, German Reformed theologian Jurgen Moltmann made the daring move of taking Karl Barth at his word and reformulated Christian theology almost entirely from an eschatological perspective. With this hermeneutic, Moltmann was able to incorporate much of the neo-Marxism of Ernst Bloch, especially The Principle of Hope in to a Christian context, opening up opportunities for rethinking the possibilities of Christian renewal and even revolution in contexts where the Church had heretofore been an adjunct to reactionary power.

I think it is important to deal honestly with the fact that this aspect - whether we call it apocalyptic, chiliasm, eschatological thinking, or what have you - is part and parcel of the Christian tradition, and has been used in a variety of ways throughout the history of the faith. Whether it's Augustine historicizing it in Civitatis Dei, various dispensational plans from the medieval Joachim of Fiore through contemporary dispensationalists who see us perpetually on the brink of both a bloody catastrophe and their earnest hope to avoid all the trauma - we must accept the very strange idea that Christianity teaches as part and parcel of what it is that some day, God will make right, once and for all, what has been wrong with the world since Eve listened to the serpent rather than walking away.

In the near term, the exploitation of the fears of apocalypse by those who interpret it both narrowly and (in my humble opinion) incorrectly, result in a political opportunism ripe for exploitation. Yet, why exactly are they afraid? According to their own readings, they certainly have nothing to fear. By their own statements, they also spare little sympathy for those who will be "left behind". Yet, their fears have become our fears; their distaste for Judaism and condemnation of Jews is tempered only by an insistence that the contemporary state of Israel last long enough for the Jews to rebuild the Temple (on the site of the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem) signaling he return of Jesus on clouds; and the constant search for the new anti-Christ (at one time it was Saddam Hussein; as he is now a worm smörgåsbord*, I think their attention may have shifted to Ahmedinejad. Or maybe Hillary Clinton.

In any case, I think that it is one thing to profess a faith in the final triumph of God's righteousness, even in the midst of the chaos of life. It is another thing altogether to exploit the fears of that chaos in order to move forward a narrow political agenda that is destructive of God's creation, and the well-being of the people who inhabit it.

*As a footnote, I would just like to note that when I typed "smörgåsbord", spellcheck didn't recongize it without the Swedish umlauts and such. Among the choices offered, besides versions with those little Swedish helpers, was "orgasm". I found that funny. Who would have linked a meal with many wonderful varieties with an orgasm?

Screwing Up Other People's Lives

I have recently had some exchanges with people who find it necessary to pass judgment upon the ways my wife and I raise our children. I find this both fascinating and mildly annoying. Fascinating because I can't imagine for the life of me how one adult could possibly imagine such unsolicited advice would be welcome by another adult; mildly annoying because the opinions of these folks mean nothing to me, but the unmitigated gall and presumptuousness is quite surprising.

Tbogg has a post today on Kathryn Jean Lopez' obsession with the private life of Bill and Hillary Clinton. These two points - the right-wing busybodies who think they have every right to tell people how to live; the right-wing busybodies who think they have every right to know all the details, sordid or mundane, of the private life of a First Family - show similar characteristics. While I do not know for certain, part of me thinks that folks who think this way truly believe that private matters should be their concern because they have the key to Truth and Morality. Whether it's Bill Clinton's receipt of an inexpert blow-job, or my wife's and my insistence on teaching our children to accept pretty much anyone they meet (I would include conservative busybodies in this category) for who they are without thinking them good or bad, these things seem to matter because the people who intrude upon these private spheres just KNOW that these things are wrong. Since they KNOW it, it is their bounden duty to demand a change of behavior. Whether it's oral infidelity or the acceptance of GLBT as human beings of worth, dignity, deserving of love and friendship without any judgment - to some people these are just WRONG, perhaps even EVIL, and therefore the idea that such private matters are no one's business is foreign to them. These private matters, whatever their intrinsic merits or demerits (and I would submit that infidelity of any sort is certainly a demerit) - it just isn't anyone's business.

The American people showed a profound common sense in the 1990's, rejecting right-wing panty- and dress-sniffing in favor of a certain understanding, an allowance for human foibles, and a recognition that even for that most public of personages, the President of the United States, there should remain a zone of privacy. While Tbogg is crude, his forthrightness nonetheless captures the essence, not only of the American people's rejection of the whole Impeachment Clown College Commencement of the 1990's, but implicitly also, I think, a rejection of any attempt by others to poke their noses in to the lives of others:
When Bill Clinton lied on the stand about having an affair he did what just about every man in America would do under the same circumstances. I know I would. This wasn't lying to a grand jury regarding matters of national security (we'll leave that to Scooter Libby). This was lying about fucking around on his wife and, as hard as K-lo may find this to believe, there are a lot of people in this country who acknowledge that this happens and many of these same people don't care where other men put their dicks. No. Really. It's true. And after watching Ken Starr blow through tens of millions of dollars only to come up with a stain on a blue dress, well, let's just say that no climax has ever been so anti-climactic.

It Is Designed, Just Not Very Intelligently

Some of the few reasons for ever keeping cable television are PBS' series Nova and Frontline. Both present intelligent, thoughtful, incisive documentaries, the former on science and technology, the latter on political and social and cultural issues. The latest Nova is a kind of wedding of the two, covering the Dover, DE Intelligent Design Case. Greg Anrig writes about it today at TPM Cafe:
In watching the documentary, I was struck by the parallels between the Dover story and movement conservatism generally. The selling of “intelligent design,” and the idea itself, has much in common with Social Security privatization, supply-side economics, the invasion of Iraq, school vouchers, and other half-baked causes that the right has relentlessly been pushing in recent decades.

For example, central to the selling of the intelligent design idea was the creation in 1996 of The Discovery Institute’s Center for Renewal of Science and Culture, initially funded by the Ahmanson family and the MacLellan Foundation (which supports organizations committed to “furthering of the Kingdom of Christ”). The Center housed and otherwise supported an eclectic mix of people, usually affiliated with universities, who in one way or another tried to come up with examples that would reinforce their claims about intelligent design.

It developed an internal game plan called the “Wedge Strategy,” which states as an overarching goal the replacement of science as currently practiced with “theistic and Christian science.” What the center was most effective at was developing a soft-sell marketing pitch intended to minimize the opposition that would arise against a creationism hard-sell. So, for example, it advocated that biology classes “teach the controversy” as a means of incorporating its attacks on Darwinism into lesson plans, rather than insisting that intelligent design replace evolution.

Basically, the Discovery Institute’s Center was in the business of marketing—not research. . . .

Now think about the role played by the Cato Institution and the Heritage Foundation in selling Social Security privatization. Akin to the “Wedge Document,” they developed the 1983 game plan “Achieving a 'Leninist' Strategy.” For years they honed a pitch aimed at reassuring everyone that, far from phasing out Social Security, they actually wanted to bolster it. They even softened the lingo from “privatization” to “private accounts.” When confronted with fundamental flaws with the concept, such as the massive additional federal debt it would create while imposing added risks on Americans, the think tanks came up with lame excuses while steaming full speed ahead with the same ill-conceived idea that would advance their broader agenda. Just as some intelligent design advocates outright lied in saying religion had nothing to do with their motivations, many privatization advocates lied in saying they wanted to strengthen Social Security.(emphases added)

I would add that, not only is "Intelligent Design" more a marketing strategy than anything closely resembling a serious scientific theory, it also uses the kind of coded language - referred to derisively if truthfully by some as "dog whistle politics" - that Republicans have developed to appeal to southern racism since Richard Nixon honed the infamous "Southern Strategy". By blabbing about "law and order" and "State's Rights" and "Reverse Discrimination", Republicans have made appeals to racist sentiments as a wedge to divide the old Confederacy from their multi-generational ties to the Democratic Party. While there is a sense of "good riddance to bad rubbish" in that instance (the IQ of both parties increased when Strom Thurmond became a Republican), the deeper issue here is that, like the "Southern Strategy", Republicans can pretend a certain plausible deniability in regards to the religious nature of Intelligent Design. By refusing to admit they have tried to put lipstick on the fetal pig of creationism, and by playing around with such wonderful sounding things as "teaching the controversy", they make themselves look all high-minded and open, and the scientists who oppose them appear dogmatic and narrow. To the extent that it was a successful marketing strategy, it worked like gangbusters, just like the Southern Strategy gave us Jesse Helms (who ran an ad showing white hands crumpling a rejection letter, clearly indicating that minority set-asides had denied a job to a qualified white man for an unqualified black man), Newt Gingrich (a whole book could be written about this guy; several, if one includes psychological profiles), and a whole host of not-quite-closeted bigots who have disgraced our public life.

Lucky for us, and especially for Dover Public Schools, since the question became a court case, which deals in facts rather than political marketing, the issue of the religious nature of Intelligent Design could be decided on the merits, and was. No amount of blowing on the dog whistle could change the fact that not just lipstick, but rouge, a dress, and pumps had been put on the creationist pig, only to be stripped away revealing . . . a pig.

The judge in this case admitted that, although this particular case was over, the fight would continue only shows that the "Designer" may have been "Intelligent", but some of those so designed were not gifted with that same attribute. Lucky for us we have Nova to remind us that, no matter how much you try, a pig in a dress is still just bacon on the cloven hoof.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

While I'm Navel-Gazing: A Traffic Report

I got Site Meter in January last year so I could get a handle on how much traffic I was getting. I got Neo-Earthworx for a more detailed breakdown, plus it's very cool. Neo-Earth has the advantage of giving me the IP addresses of who visits; I get what provider is being used, not any information like your own site URL or anything like that.

Since April, my traffic has been quite steady, at around 1500 visits a week. Minuscule, to say the least. Even though I have enjoyed a couple notices from the national (internet) press, from Slate, and David Frum at NRO, I have been slaving away in obscurity, relishing my modest role in the great goings on around me (I am most proud of the Frum piece, because he threw a partial quote from me in with one from digby, Duncan Black, and My Direct Democracy; I was in elite company there).

Over the past couple days, however, my readership has spiked, nearly doubling. Indeed, I am getting more readers in a day than I was in a week for the first months or so I had site meter recording hits. As I have not been doing anything differently over the past few days, I have to wonder - what in the world is going on?

Part of me hopes this spike is a trend. Part of me hopes things settle back down. I have a sense of responsibility about what I do here, and if my traffic increases, the pressure to continue to do the best job I can will only increase. I do get a bit over-awed at the fact that people quite literally all over the world check in to this blog if not daily then at least on a regular basis. Having more of them, well, that will be just more stress.

Any thoughts, folks?

I'm It! I've Been List-Meme Tagged

Angry Ballerina has tagged me with a list-meme, so here goes a bit of navel gazing:

1. Fears - night-time home invasion

2. Things I like - lobster bisque; smart, strong-willed women; any music that's good; sitting down with a good book; kissing my wife; sitting with my children at night

3. Things I do not like - wax beans; apple sauce (it feels like vomit in my mouth); people who don't use turn signals; listening to Toby Keith or Nickelback

4. First kiss - embarrassingly, I do not remember her name; my first real girlfriend for all too brief a time was named Holly, and she did much better when she hooked up with my best friend for a year and a half (we've reconnected over the past year and are becoming friends again)

5. First job - swim instructor

6. Favorite books - if trapped on an islancd, and given a choice of only five books, they would be Waiting for the Galactic Bus, One Hundred Years of Solitude, A Suitable Boy, Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell, and Church Dogmatics, Volume IV, Part 2: The Doctrine of Reconciliation

7. Quirks - I am a bit of a slob at home (my wife will heartily agree), but I am almost obsessively neat about my work space

8. I once stood and chatted with Edwin Meece when he was Attorney General.

9. I was forty years old before I decided I really did like pie after all, and now cannot get enough of it.

10. I had a crush on the same girl from about fifth grade through my senior year of high school, and despite the fact that we were close friends, I never quite got over the initial "crush" thing. No, I will not give names, because I think some folks from school read this site, and I have no intention of embarrassing myself (or her) by giving her name.

I now turn it over to ER and Marshall Art. Gentlemen?


Surrendering to my own conscience for failing to do what I have wanted to do for several weeks, I am doing a post on my hometown radio station, WATS(WAVR is an FM simulcast of the AM content).

WATS is operated by a friend, Chuck Carver. While I was growing up, it provided an education in '70's AM pop that I treasure (more on that in a moment), and continues to be a voice for our little cluster of communities on the New York/Pennsylvania border. When we are going for a visit, the signal usually strengthens around Elmira (this being only fifteen miles from Waverly, you can tell the signal strength isn't much, although the presence of the ubiquitous hills probably doesn't help).

In case you're wondering what I mean by '70's AM pop, here's a sampling:

And another:

And, finally, this:

Along with these usual suspects, I remember even earlier examples, among my favorites being Peter Nero playing "Autumn Leaves" with that chromatic declension after the first phrase; any song by Dionne Warwick; and Barry Manilow. I was still immersed deeply in the music of WATS when I saw a copy of The Sex Pistol's Never Mind the Bullocks LP at the Waverly Free Library and decided to take it home. It was all up after that. But, the station is still there, doing good community-based radio, and I miss it. What was your hometown radio station, and what fond memories do you have?

"Distortions And Smears"

A couple weeks ago I did a series of posts in which I highlighted the egregious conduct of the mainstream press towards Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. In the process, I think I disappointed Democracy Lover, because I seemed to be advocating for Sen. Clinton, even though I have stated that I much prefer Sen. Dodd as a candidate because of his stance on restoring the Constitution, and Rep. Kucinich because of his stance on socio-economic issues. The reason I was defending Sen. Clinton against the scurrilous, inaccurate, and psychologically problematical attacks from Tim Russert and Chris Matthews is summed up by Glenn Greenwald today:
I'm not trying to be Ron Paul's advocate but, still, outright distortions and smears are distortions and smears.

One does not have to support a candidate for office to decry bad, dishonest, scary-creepy journalism. All one need consider is a bit of journalistic history to see a pattern, which Greenwald highlights:
It has become fashionable among certain commentators to hurl insults at Ron Paul such as "huge weirdo," "fruitcake," and the like. Interestingly, the same thing was done to another anti-war medical doctor/politician, Howard Dean, back in 2003, as Charles Krauthammer infamously pronounced with regard to Dean that "it's time to check on thorazine supplies." Krauthammer subsequently said that "[i]t looks as if Al Gore has gone off his lithium again."

For a long time now, I've heard a lot of people ask: "where are the principled conservatives?" -- meaning those on the Right who are willing to oppose the constitutional transgressions and abuses of the Bush administration without regard to party loyalty. A "principled conservative" isn't someone who agrees with liberals on most issues; that would make them a "principled liberal." A "principled conservative" is someone who aggressively objects to the radicalism of the neocons and the Bush/Cheney assault on our constitution and embraces a conservative political ideology. That's what Ron Paul is, and it's hardly a surprise that he holds many views anathema to most liberals. That hardly makes him a "fruitcake."
This whole concept of singling out and labelling as "weirdos" and "fruitcakes" political figures because they espouse views that are held only by a small number of people is nothing more than an attempt to discredit someone without having to do the work to engage their arguments. It's actually a tactic right out of the seventh grade cafeteria. It's just a slothful mechanism for enforcing norms.

Again, I am not supporting Rep. Paul, or Sen. Clinton. I am calling out the way journalistic and political narratives are used that include inaccuracies, character assassination, and outright lies to destroy a candidate who is perceived to be "outside the mainstream". Digby makes this larger point best (as always):
This is not about Hillary. All you have to do is read The Daily Howler's archives to see that the press ran the same game on Gore, to an almost comic degree, and we all watched them help the Republicans turn John Kerry into a "phony soldier." They'll do it to Obama, to Edwards or any of the rest --- they've already laid the groundwork on all of them. This is nothing personal. The Clinton Rules apply to any Democrat. It's just the way the Village does business.

THAT is my point. If Obama believes he will be treated with respect by these people he is either naive or delusional. If Edwards thinks the haircut/"Breck Girl" narrative will disappear should he get the Democratic nod, he is kidding himself. While it is true there is a visceral hatred and fear of Sen. Clinton among many of our top "journalists", do not think this will impede them from howling with rage at whoever the Democrats nominate.

That's why I don't hate on Hillary, or attack her from the left. The fire is raging all over the place, and will consume any Democrat who runs for high office. To pretend otherwise is to deceive oneself. To think it possible to engage in serious discussion and criticism outside this larger, hate-filled framework is to live in cloud-cuckoo land. It isn't about Clinton, or Paul, or Obama, or Edwards, or Kucinich. It's about the distortions and smears.

Between A Rock And A Stupid Place

Once again, I must confess disappointment with a column by E. J. Dionne. The opening sets up a false dilemma:
Democrats in Congress are discovering what it's like to live in the worst of all possible worlds. They are condemned for selling out to President Bush and condemned for failing to make compromises aimed at getting things done.

The column then goes on to talk about the attacks upon Congressional Democrats from both the electorate (where the approval rating for Congress continues to sit in the basement) and from two of the leading Presidential candidates, Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. and Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards. This is the first half of the formula - the rock, if you will. There is nothing uncontroversial about this.

To the other part, being criticized for not compromising enough, the only evidence he presents is a letter from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to President Bush, in which the to insist that President Bush do real political work (i.e. compromise) rather than make demands and refuse to budge until the Democrats accept the Administration line. While Dionne notes that this is "fair", he doesn't expand on this point, and it begs the question, obviously, of just who it is that is demanding the Democrats "compromise" to "get real work done".

Since this has been a theme the President has used, in speeches, press conferences, and the like, for the past couple weeks, the answer is clear. Besides the President, we have the constant bleating from idiots like David Broder about "bipartisanship", which is another term of art for "compromise". It all ends up in the same place, however, when dealing with this Administration - the toilet.

The Democrats real problem is not that they are caught between the Scylla of public disapproval and the Charybdis of their own refusal to deal honestly and above board with the Bush Administration. Rather, they are caught between the increasing anger and frustration of a public who elected them to stand up to the Bush Administration, and an entrenched, corporate bought-and-owned party "leadership" that refuses to upset their paymasters by actually confronting head-on the radical refusal of the Administration to budge on issues. Only idiots worry about compromise and bipartisanship - and only weaklings and cowards care about what those idiots say.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Music Monday

I keep putting off that post on WATS! Last week I heard a World Cafe interview with Joni Mitchell, and I thought, "That's for Monday!" She is one of those performers about whom much has been written, so I will not add to the flood-tide of verbiage, and just let her music speak for itself.

First, a song I must admit I first heard done by The Indigo Girls on their live CD. "River":

"Chelsea Morning":

This live clip of "Coyote" includes Pat Metheny on guitar and the late, great Jaco Pastorius on bass:

Reaching For Your Wallet

As you can see here, my wife and her associate are continuing their holiday from the lectionary with another Worship Series. Yesterday's was on looking at the Church Budget (yes, it's that time of the year) as a theological document. The sermon at PGUMC was actually preached by one of our lay speakers, and the chair of the Finance Committee, and he did an admirable job of making the point that giving isn't about dollars and cents, but about why we give.

The whole "Butterfly Effect" thing is part and parcel of making a difference. When my wife and I were discussing the issue as she prepared notes for her sermons at Blaine and Hunter United Methodist Churches, I told her that I looked at it this way: One week I may give only five dollars, but through the twistings and turnings of the connectional system of the United Methodist Church, that five dollars may just provide a meal to a hungry child who would otherwise go hungry, or provide a school textbook in Liberia for a student who wouldn't have it otherwise, or be matched by Nothing But Nets to provide a mosquito net to protect a woman from malaria. Since I have no way of knowing beforehand how that money will be used, it is the act of giving that is faithful.

Lying behind my own thinking is a somewhat strange idea - the money in my wallet, my paycheck, and what I get from DJing on weekends isn't mine. It isn't ours, either, in the sense that it is my wife's and mine. Rather, it is all a gift from God. Every penny I earn, every extra dollar that I get as a tip from a satisfied bride's father, isn't "mine". In the end, I look upon all that money as God's to be used wisely, faithfully, prayerfully, and with a sense of humble service. My wife and I will never be wealthy, at least by American standards, but we are far more comfortable than our parents were, and our income prospects will only increase with time, but it isn't about us. It's about how we can serve others through this weird process of giving out of the abundance provided for us by the mysteries of God's grace.

The entire series will be available for purchase once it is finished, and I invite you, if you so choose, to check out all her sermon series this past year, and if you feel moved, to buy one or two. The money goes to the church for its work, so it isn't making anyone rich. But, like a butterfly flapping its wings, it might just cause a chain reaction and bring about a hurricane half-way across the world. That is the strange way these things work.

Liberal Hawks Forget About Google

I was interested in reading why Paul Berman won the coveted Julian Casablancas Award for High Wankery over at Eschaton today, so I cruised over Slate and was pleased to see that the award was fully justified.

There are a couple points to note about Berman's article. First, ever since the Iraq war went tits-up (early summer, 2003), liberal war hawks have been wearing sack cloth and ashes, trying to justify their support for the biggest single cock-up/war crime in American history. Except for Christopher Hitchens, of course, for whom the kind of serious self-reflection such would entail might prompt him to attend AA. What amazes me more than anything is that these folks sold their souls to the devil, and now want to tell us that, in fact, it is the devil's fault they will spend eternity in hell, because the devil, to them, committed false advertising. Alas and alack, this is not true at all - all of these folks knew exactly who George Bush was, what his Administration represented, and no amount of rewriting their own history can change the fact that they snookered themselves in to believing that somehow, in some way still to be identified, some kind of silk purse could be made out of this train load of sow's ears.

What makes Berman's article worse is the fact that he is a lying sack of crap. His self-justification in Slate includes no references to anything he actually wrote four years ago, because, if he did, he would be forced to admit that, like every other booster for the war, he has been wrong from the get-go. Matthew Yglesias has the take down.

So, Berman was wrong then. Berman is wrong now. Berman lies about what he said then, and is caught at it. It is almost not even commenting about, except these liberal hawks consider themselves so politically and moral superior to the anti-war crowd. Yet, they are a bunch of lying, self-promoting hacks who, as I wrote above, have sold their souls to the devil, and cheaply at that. While some who supported the war, like Josh Marshall and Yglesias, have repented, the folks listed by Berman in his Slate piece have yet to admit that they managed to become intellectual whores for the most criminal regime in our history. The only one I excuse is Hitchens because, being drunk most of the time, he is not responsible for his actions.

BTW, this will probably get another "Who freakin' cares?" comment from Marshall Art. While he always denies that my calls are correct, in the post where he denies my prescience, he goes on to prove me right, so let's see, eh?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

. . . And The Deficit Is Clinton's Fault, And The Anthrax Letters Were Sent By Clinton, And The Housing Bubble Collapse Is Clinton's Fault . . .

I had seen the headline this morning, but other things got in my way - church, sleeping so I could work tonight - but I returned to the full story, and it is one of those that put me on the point of a pin. Do I laugh hysterically, or weep? Is there any chance that any journalist, reputable or not, will ask him, "Mayor Giuliani, are you serious, or was the crack just kicking in?"

If you're wondering what I'm on about, click here and just read the headline. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Did you do it?

If not, I shall quote from the story. Ahem:
Here's the top story out of the Iowa local press: Rudy Giuliani told an audience at Iowa State University that the American military needs to be bigger, and he lashed out at Bill Clinton for cutting the military during the 1990's.

"Our military is too small to deal with the Islamic terrorism threats," Giuliani said, "but it really is too small to deter would-be aggressors to even think of challenging us. And that's due to Bill Clinton."

While he's at it, why doesn't he just go ahead and say that Bill Clinton planned 9/11, helped Osama escape in Tora Bora, set the fires in southern California, and weakened the levees in New Orleans so the city would flood during a hurricane. All of these claims make as much sense as Giuliani's.

Fall In

In honor of Veteran's Day, my own family Honor Roll:

Landis Safford, GAR, 1964-1865

Everett Shores, AEF, 1917-1918 (killed in action, August 18, 1918)

Daniel Safford, Unites States Army, 1945-1946

Bernard Safford, United States Navy, 1943-1946

Eugene Johnston, Jr., United States Navy, 1941-1946

David Johnston, United States Marine Corps, 1945-1955

Ivan Johnston, United States Navy, 1955-1969

My great-uncle (my paternal grandmother's brother), Everett Shores, was originally buried in the American cemetery in France. My great-grandparents requested his remains be disinterred and brought to the US for burial in the family plot in Wysox, PA. My grandfather, a railroad man, had to go and positively identify the body, per US War Department regulations. My father told me a few years back that, despite two years in French soil, it was clear that Corporal Shores died from the blast concussion from a shell, whether German, American, or French will never be known. Dad told me that his father said there was not a mark on his body. My father's brother, Bernard, who passed away in 1999, gave to me a small jewelry box, that contained an itemized inventory of the contents of Corp. Shores' pockets, and a handful of coins, some of them completely faded with age, others in great shape, that were all that was left behind. Corp. Shores, like many young men, traded money with French and British forces, including the French colonial forces, so I have old coins from France, Britain, and Morocco in that box. I also have the plaques sent to my great-grandparents by Gen. Pershing and by the French government, framed and hanging in our house.


I am by turns amused and confused by various reactions to some of my blog posts by those on the right. I am not picking on Marshall Art, but as he is the most frequent right-winger to post here, I will use him as an example, for the good reason that examples abound from his very keyboard. He wrote here of "liberal intellectuals" (when he was actually referring to judges interpreting the law); he wrote here the following:
It's also legitimate to question the faith of someone who so proudly rejects long held beliefs about the faith as backward or uneducated, as if education is a basis for determining good or evil.

In one of his very first blog posts, he attempted to prove "scientifically" that a fetus was a human being because of the presence of unique DNA in fetal tissue. When I pointed out to him, politely but firmly, that he didn't seem to understand the way science works, and I wrote a post on the subject, all I got in response was a change in tactics. I also pointed out that trying to argue for the personhood of a fetus ignored the fact that we are nation of laws, and the response was a bunch of Bible verses thrown at me. In other words, rather than argue, the ground continued to shift to keep the argument from centering on something that might disprove his assertion.

In 1963, Richard Hofstadter wrote a Pulitzer-Prize winning book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. In this book he explores the history what he calls "anti-intellectualism" in politics, religion, and social life. While I agree with my old college professor, Robert Heineman, who in his own book, Authority and the Liberal Tradition, raises many questions about Hofstadter's work, including the quite elitist notion inherent in the term "anti-intellectualism", there is abundant evidence in Hofstadter's work to back up his thesis that there is a history of rejecting out of hand the thoughts and opinions of people who are well-educated, articulate, and knowledgeable about a great many things. This is not to claim some victimhood, to have a pity-party for all the smart people suffering at the hands of stupid people. It is merely to point out that it exists, and to wonder what, exactly, we can do about it.

The funny thing about this subject is that it becomes confused, and complicated, by a tendency among some of the most ignorant, anti-science, anti-thought movements in the country to create institutions similar to serious intellectual ones. Therefore we have the Institute for Creation Research, and its accompanying journal, which is almost a parody of serious, peer-reviewed scientific publications. We have various "universities", like Bob Jones, Liberty, and Regent (the last having lost its accreditation long ago, even as its law school graduates infect our Federal Justice Department) which produce students good at dressing well, but totally ignorant of basic biology, chemistry, geology, and American history.

There are the propagandists of the right - Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Michelle Malkin, with their "books", their "arguments", and their constant talk. We are flooded with talk We are overwhelmed by it, drowned by it. That none of these people has any serious moral, intellectual, or political acumen at all is ever brought up (well, maybe the moral part) when they are dragged out from under their various rocks and presented to the American people. It isn't just that they aren't educated (actually, Coulter is a lawyer); they are ignorant, and their ignorance runs so deep and is so profound, it staggers my own imagination that anyone takes them seriously at all. Yet, they are serious media players despite being deeply flawed individuals.

Finally, all this filters down here, on the Internet, and we have people who actually argue that there is no such thing as evolution, or that the big bang doesn't take all that much imagination to picture, or who claim that DNA proves that abortion is murder. What are we to make of it all?

I have written that I refuse to argue certain things because they are beyond the point of argumentation. Whether it's evolution, or the age of the Universe, or some other scientific issue, an anti-science position does not deserve to be taken seriously at all, and any response confers upon it a legitimacy it does not deserve. I suppose, for that reason, that I am elitist. Yet, what other choice is there?

Where do all these musings lead? Only here. In the first place, I do not consider myself an "intellectual", but a consumer of intellectual work. It is one thing to argue about the merits of a work based upon what the author presents. On the other hand, to dismiss out of hand someone's writing this way:
Another lunatic is on the loose. Talk about over-inflated sense of self-importance. This kind of talk makes me sick, with all it's psuedo-elitism, "I'm immune to such lowly nonsense" nonsense. People like this add nothing to the culture, the system or the social interactions of real people living real lives. We're talking about a professor of holier-than-thou.

it seems to me the only proper response is no response at all. Refusing to engage non-arguments, based upon some person's pride in their own ignorance, is the only way to keep moving forward.

Virtual Tin Cup

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