Friday, August 31, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I think I am incapable of being unbiased when it comes to posting about France due to my incredibly positive experience with their cheese. Thus in that spirit I will disagree with George Will's refusal to acknowledge Sarkozy's election as a good sign for those hoping to see liberalizing reforms of the French economy.
What Will doesn't recognize is that the anti-globalization and anti-Americanism of the left which stifles reform in France is so historically blind, and discredited due to snail-like rates of growth and high unemployment that it has come to occupy in France the position that right wing talk radio occupies in America. Don't forget that in France the Socialists are the conservatives. They are the ones who don't want change, and against all good sense they want to protect a statism whose entitlements they try to intertwine with French identity. And like talk radio they make the same intellectually impoverished and ideologically dogmatic claims about resisting a gravitation to a more liberal system which inevitably gets compared to America.
When I was in France during the tumult over de Villepin's attempt to liberalize French labor laws a friend, who opposed him, could do nothing more than speak in vagaries claiming that unlike America, France had no "working poor" and other such horrors of the American system. It apparently passed him by that they do in fact have quite a lot of non-working poor.
Will's pessimism about Sarkozy needs to be tempered. At least now a French politician has been elected on different rhetoric, and speaking kindly of America and of economic liberalization is no longer anathema to the electorate. Many economic neo-liberals here were overly ebullient at his election and expressed hopes- calling him the French Margaret Thatcher -that he won't be able to satisfy, but he is a step in the right direction and if nothing else will make talk of reform politically tenable in the near future. If you keep in mind that in France the socialists are the conservatives this makes sense. They are the ones who represent what they think is more traditionally French. And as the right here uses cultural demonization of liberals and Reagan-worship, so too do the socialists in France use Mitterrand-worship and anti-Americanism. That's not Sarkozy.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Good news. South Park's rather ham-fisted pillorying of the main stream media's cowardice when faced with threats from Islam has turned out to be right as a string of newspapers have refused to publish an episode of the comic Opus for fear of offending Muslims. This will come as news to no one. Not for lack of publicity though but because the world I think has divided into two camps on this issue. One camp who simply expects this sort of thing and treats the perpetrators with the contempt and derision they deserve (South Park), and another who thinks this drooly-chinned cowardice (sorry, "respect") is appropriate.
Here's Volokh's take.
In a telling sentence Dreher goes the path that all the faithful travel when attempting to approve of separating religion from government when he inveighs that he would not like to live in a theocracy:
in part because there's no telling whose Theos will be the source of authority.
Ah yes. So I think I may safely assume that if there were only someway to guarantee that it would be Dreher's "theos" in charge then there would be no problem. I doubt he would agree to this either, at least publicly, but the statement lies there lacking any qualifier so I can't help but think it didn't give Dreher much pause to write it. But it is unfortunately an oft found attitude among the religious that they don't value secularism for it own sake but merely because they can't guarantee their own control over the theocracy. Without going into an extended study I should think that the economic and social progress of Western secular societies should give him some reason abjure theocracy.
I can't remember from whom I heard it but the view that, "It is characteristic of the radical that he views power as a good thing so long as it is consolidated in his own hands," seems applicable here, as well as regarding religious believers generally. I could also substitute the word "totalitarian" for "radical" and it would I think, be even more appropriate for after all a belief system predicated on constant, divine, eye-in-the-sky supervision can't help but be so. They don't value our rights, and they don't value the society we have created. It is a society in which they must begrudge us a secular government out of fear for their own fantasy. When they begin to be a bit more popular though just see how separate they keep their religion from their ideas about governance.
Friday, August 24, 2007
But Sullivan goes on to rehash all the current objections to the continuation of the war. It was bungled, Bush has instituted a torture regime, it was a terrible lack of foresight that we didn't anticipate the Sunni-Shia civil war, new terrorist sanctuaries have been created, ect. He is right to claim that those conservatives who equate dissent with treason are engaging in the worse kind of thought stopping agitprop, but this as well as Sullivan's objections to the conduct of the war don't constitute any kind of critique of whether or not the war ws in the first place worth fighting, or whether or not it still remains so. The most common objection to the war is that it as been bungled. This is an indictment of Bush and his incompetence not the war itself. To object to the fact that the war was bungled implies that if it simply weren't managed so badly then it would not have been a mistake to fight it. But if it was at one time a worthy cause I don't see how mismanagement of it makes it now not worth the effort. I fail to see how the fact that a mess was created means that the mess is not worth fixing.
Assuming we are acting as mediators between Sunni-Shia civil war, we are accomplishing this:
1. We are forestalling what will be one of the most terrible genocides in recent memory until a regional government can strengthen itself enough to control these murderous factions. If you don't believe this then only small amount of research into the way they treat each other will suffice to convince you.
2. We are denying force which represent only the most abject ideological darkness control over a region second only to Israel in strategic importance. Consider the motivation for the first Gulf War.
3. We are fighting and defeating jihadists in the arena that has become their cause celebre. The truth of this last point was borne out by the death of Abu Musab-al Zarqawi, the founder of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
These are goals worth attaining and those who object to this war know it. They don't criticize the nobility of the cause but claim that it was not prosecuted to their liking. They never bother to explain how Bush's incompetence in waging war, now means that the war is not worth waging. They don't offer any constructive solution to the Iraq problem but only criticism (valid though it is) of the way it has been conducted. The morality of abandoning the country to the most retrograde of ideologies- which, by the way, we have already done to the Kurds who have until now done nothing but prosper from our presence- and the consequences, are rarely discussed.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
The department with the highest proportion of signatories was African & African-American Studies, with 80%. Just over 72% of the Women's Studies faculty signed the statement, Cultural Anthropology 60%, Romance studies 44.8%, Literature 41.7%, English 32.2%, Art & Art History 30.7%, and History 25%. No faculty members from the Pratt School of Engineering or full-time law professors signed the document. Departments that had no faculty members sign the document include Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, Genetics, Germanic Languages/Literature, Psychology and Neuroscience, Religion, and Slavic and Eurasian Studies. Many have criticized the group for rushing to judgment in condemning the lacrosse players, but some in the group maintain that the ad made no mention of innocence or guilt, but rather elaborated on this "social disaster."
So essentially academics from departments whose political mission had a vested interest in the guilt of the lacrosse players signed the document while members of departments where actual learning happens, on average had a slightly more balanced approach. This never gets mentioned on Fox News because it doesn't feed the right's persecution complex.
The title has a bit of a problem with it claiming, "No quota for conservatives" which implies that donations to the Republican party are the only metric that can be used to tell if someone is conservative. According to the hacks I have seen approvingly quoted on his site before like Schlafly and Malkin conservative does equal Republican loyalist, so I think it is safe to assume Harry agrees. But of course in the world of right wing (I refuse to call it conservative) ego massaging the fact that the Republican Party has been transformed into something that is many things but not one of them conservative, is unmentionable.
Never is the notion entertained that the reason academics don't give to the Republican Party might be not because there is a problem with academia but with Republicans. It is again just assumed that a good education means ideological diversity (which of course means equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats) and retreats into a form of relativism where each side is equally correct and must be presented. Far be it academia's position to exercise some intellectual authority and maybe try to push new ways of thinking rather than blandly presenting different ones as all equally good. Relativism and diversity are apparently just fine for the Christian Right when it suits their purposes. It remains the case, however, that it is going to be hard to get the most intellectually elite and engaged portion of the population excited about a party whose main tactics include appeals to religious fundamentalism, (John McCain can't even say he would support teaching evolution in high schools) xenophobia, (just see how much the talking heads love to plaster the faces of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes all over the media) truthiness, (Conservapedia) and big government Christian socialism (George W. Bush). Any conservatives you will find in academia are not going to be populists and in abandoning their traditional fiscal policies, conservatives will lose much of the support they ever had.
That right wingers so often make such unquestioning assertions such as this is symptomatic of the lack of nuance underlining their worldview. It is a pathetic type of relativism to complain that one's ideology deserves to be presented simply because it doesn't get heard enough. It is a sad fact that not all ideologies are on equal footing. Creationism does not deserve to be taught along with evolution and it is very possible that the underlining ideology of the current Republican Party does not merit serious discussion. But in the rather Manichean world of the right, if the Republicans aren't getting air time then the Democrats are. Independent thought does not occupy a place of reverence for them.
None of these questions are asked. I don't really know the answers and I haven't done thorough research but i feel qualified to make the last few educated guesses about why the Republicans aren't popular with academics. Unfortunately for most right wingers its easier to just get angry at pie charts.
Lately though I have been readng Gordon Wood's Revolutionary Characters and have learned of the views the founders of this country especially Madison, which centered around the need to protect minority rights. The men who founded this country were not believers in democracy but favored a republicanism which would prevent what is oft referred to as the tyranny of the majority. James Madison was chief among them. During the Constitutional Convention of 1787 he proposed that Congress have a veto power over state laws. This was an impractical proposal then and would be today if only for the fury that giving Congress such authority would unleash, never mind the enormous increase in useless deliberations. Nonetheless Madison was perennially concerned with minority rights and wanted to create some check to protect them against the Constitutional abuses of the majority. The judicial branch over time filled this role and it is doubtful that Madison would have looked unfavorably upon the concept of "judicial activism" and it is obvious now that the right- having become little more than religious populists- little understand why their numbers don't put them on the side of the Constitution or the founders whose names they appropriate so liberally.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Yes, indeed: Today, 15 percent of the vote at the Iowa Straw Poll; tomorrow, majoritarian theocratic tyranny. (Hitler came to power by democratic means, you know ...)
Yes so lets just ignore the growing sectarian nature of our politics and not wonder if this is at all worrisome. The Hitler reference is a pathetic and transparent attempt to paint people who actually might believe that in a pluralistic society arguments should be made in secular terms and that leaders should avoid florid, sectarian proclamations in a spirit of making the rest of us feel confident we won't end up living under a government guided by religious principles we neither share nor believe nor understand, as hysterics. I believe Godwin's Law states, "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." Well Douthat seems to have just preempted what will be the conclusion of the irrational argument spawned by this.
I would go on, but it would just be the usual tedious argument about how Andrew misunderstands American history, American religion, and the intersection thereof, and how he's trying apply a continental model of faith and politics to a context where that model has never applied, and so and so forth. Instead, I'll punt to Larison:
Yes we all know the historical argument that because religion has never been legally interwoven with politics it has been allowed to grow and thrive without becoming a humiliatingly (for it) arm of the state, and that as such expressions of faith by American politicians do not reference an age of theocracy everyone is happy to have behind them. But apparently Douthat doesn't think there is any danger in our political discourse taking on an increasingly sectarian tone, and as he noted those who do are hysterics. He really seems open to discussion.
He ends by approving of Brownback's statement as a legitimate expression of faith, if a bit vulgar. His closing line is more revealing of the knee jerk piety afflicting Douthat when he says of Sullivan, "with its snobbish overtones and arm's-length distaste for Mother Teresa (!), is the most unfortunate - and revealing - part of the whole post." Is he oblivious as to the reassessment of Mother Teresa that in the years since her death? It is another post entirely but i will conclude by linking to some sources that should give a fair minded person enough doubt of her holiness to at least not punctuate a reference to some one's distaste for her with a childish exclamation point.
Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict
If a response in the affirmative was elicited then what I intended to argue was that pro-lifers are not truly convinced of their oft repeated slogan that life begins at conception. The truth of this, they often say, is demonstrated by science but they show themselves to have quite little grasp of what it means to make a qualitative judgment based on facts and a quantitative one.
But I digress. If a pro-lifer allows that an abortion be permitted in cases where the mother's life is in danger then he has by course of logic admitted that a fetus is not a full human being and that sentience plays a role in the moral status we afford biological organisms. If life truly did begin at conception then the pro-lifer would be obliged to hold that no matter what stage of development and no matter what the risk to the mother, a fetus could never be aborted. I ask a person to contemplate to themselves whether it would be moral to force a woman to carry a fetus for nine months knowing that its development and delivery could mean the end of her life, and were it to come true would it be an acceptable outcome. I cannot rationalize to myself allowing a fully sentient woman undergo pain and death for the sake of an organism which is clearly not as capable of suffering as she is. It is clear that with regard to the fetus we are not talking about something that is fully human if in times when the life of the fetus and the life of the mother are in conflict, we give priority to the mother. Otherwise, as stated before the death of the mother should be a perfectly acceptable risk.
As I am not a doctor I do not know under what circumstances a partial birth abortion would be necessary to save the life of a mother but if it could be demonstrated that they would never be necessary then I would support the ban because the viability of the fetus is sufficient to grant it a moral status that precludes terminating it. This is provided that the decision is left in the hands of experts and not subject to external review where considerations other than medical would be brought to bear on the question. However, as viability is essentially a judgment call on the part of a doctor I would be wary of establishing laws, and punishments, which have as their basis judgments that are never exact. However unless there is a entirely urgent medical concern then I cannot justify granting a fetus which could be easily delivered by C-section the moral status of a turnip, which is what we do if we allow it to be terminated at will for we don't even allow that to happen to most animals.
Another question to be asked of pro-lifers who believe life begins at conception is what penalty should be imposed on a mother who has an illegal abortion if it were illegal? Under the belief that a fetus upon conception is fully human, the only fitting penalty to my mind would be that commensurate with a charge of first degree murder. Again if the organism terminated was a full human life then they would be obliged to pursue such charges. I am not sure who believes this to be a rational policy. I would not be surprised if they existed and I am sure they do but I suspect these people would be afflicted with such a fanatical and fundamentalist way of thinking that they would be incapable of rational discussion. And if the decision regarding the legality abortion were left to the states then I can easily see scenes reminiscent of Dred Scott being replayed with women fleeing states to escape murder charges and being dragged back. Quite fittingly, like Dred Scott, they would probably be fleeing north.
To say that life begins at conception is a useful slogan but one that has little correlation with reality both our intuitive moral sense of humanness and the practical consequences which would follow from legal implementation of such a view.
-Christopher Hitchens's reaction to 9/11
The civilization vs. mentality question is unimportant in my view. This woman was raised in the culture she condemns and epitomizes why we need to fight this war. Asking the question; "Why do they hate us?" should tell us not what we have to fix but what we have to preserve. It is the battle between the genuine article of a mentality that strives toward human happiness on one hand and one that would shackle it in the name of fantasy. That they hate us only makes me think better of us, and it is paramount that we not we not try to alter ourselves to please them. Yes they have specific complaints about our troops on Muslim holy lands (holy lands? what a joke) and other such things but this is the present incarnation of a struggle that has gone on for centuries and their hatred is symptomatic of a mentality that cannot tolerate the existence on equal terms of difference. That they hate us we should take as a sign that we have accomplished something good and in the face of that threat be more rigorous in saving what we have and not resorting to this.
A pharmacologist from Britain comments on the rise of these phenomenon which are not only fraudulent and ineffective but corrupt our way of thinking and detract from real medicine and science. Our "tolerance" for these beliefs because of people's emotional attachement to them has pernicious effects.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Other provisions in the White House-backed bill added to the Democrats' discomfort. For instance, a Democratic bill would have authorized warrantless surveillance "directed" at individuals reasonably believed to be outside the United States. But the administration's draft -- and the one passed into law -- permitted collecting data "concerning" people reasonably believed to be outside the country. Democrats said the difference between collection efforts "concerning" foreigners and "directed" at foreigners could be enormous, allowing intelligence officials far greater leeway.
The bill was reported as giving the NSA the authority to surveill foreign to foreign communications without warrants, but the language of the bill is considerably more liberal. What exactly does "concerning" mean. Lederman still claims the bill covers only communications "directed at" someone overseas. While I am not a lawyer and I could be very wrong I do not think that overseas warrantless wiretapping violates anything in the Constitution or any Court ruling, nor do I am I sure it violates the "spirit" of the laws. Maybe the "directed at" phrase is a bit more restrictive than "concerning" but it certainly too vague for my comfort especially given this administration's ability to defy common sense in its interpretation of civil liberties and the wording of legal documents. Remember Alberto Gonzalez's opinion of the Constitutional right to habeas corpus?
I think it would be prudent to more clearly define who is a foreigner.
Also Lederman reports that the Democrats deliberations on this bill included a fear that they would give Bush an excuse to call them weak on defense as was basically his 2006 strategy. That the Democrats can't stand up to a President as politically weak as this one and with approval ratings as low as his shows how ineffectual they truly are. That at this point in his administration they can't come up with some rhetoric to counter that of the Bush/Rove team is astonishing. The Congress has a 17% approval rating and I have long since joined that 83%. I suspect it they are legislating to cover for their presidential candidates.
The opinion is historically blind for one. Lee Atwater did much the same before Rove for Republicans and Reagan and Nixon's "silent majority" campaign was essentially the same. This has always been done and on the Democratic side Dick Morris and James Carville are no less insidious.
Much more the only issue on which the country was prepared to be united was the war in Afghanistan and the further War on Terror. And in this Rove only started to demonize the Democrats when the war in Iraq turned ugly and opposition became a bit more salient. But the so called "wedge issues" existed before Rove's tenure as White House political advisor and they were used as wedges before. They were even used by Rove when he took a lesson straight from Atwater's tactics against Dukakis, and asked the people of South Carolinia their opinion about John McCain's illegitimate black son. Rove was never a visionary made for uniting the public and was always a henchman who aimed to win elections. The issues of gay marriage, religion, abortion, immigration, and race always existed and the arguments of opposing sides on them would never be made more digestible to each other by a terrorist attack. It is rank idealism to think that these issues would fade from significance and that Americans on the reactionary extremes would be able to live with each other peacefully because of a brief bout of communal flag waving.
Moreover it was not incumbent upon Rove to attempt this. He had a job to do and would be in danger of losing it if he performed poorly. In the end he stayed in the White House and left on his own terms. That people who oppose this president think his legacy is evil is something that a person with only a modicum of common sense could easily have predicted.
Rove, says Sanchez, blindly pursued a goal which in the end was petty. Well most of politics is petty and he was political strategist. And in light of the old axiom that "all real politics is local" it was folly to think a terrorist attack would change that. Instead of hating Rove for doing the job he was hired to do, it might be better to stop conceiving of the US population as easily led sheep and blame the people who voted for this disaster of a president, and then try to argue against the prejudices which allow these wedge issues to gain such currency.
Andrew Sullivan notes that Rove threw away the opportunity he had for the sake of short term expediency. Well that is the nature of his job. He worked for the current resident and was in charge of getting him and others elected only in the immediate. He was not a Republican political philosopher in charge of formulating a GOP philosophy of governance.
Here's the JWR version
Now here is the version published at the Washington Post.
Notice how the name Ronald Reagan is nicely edited out by JWR so Will's recounting of Reagan's distinctly unconservative record as governor of California doesn't appear. Well it does but it just ends with Reagan's name edited out which makes Will's whole digression senseless. Anyway, very Orwellian.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Beauchamp it seems did as well but recorded conduct by himself and others which viewed through the lenses of an armchair conservative moralist looks... well unfortunate. The more unfortunate fact for them though is that none of it was illegal and certainly nothing but an indication of trivial insensitivity on the part of combat troops, who obviously have a bit more on their minds than choosing their words properly to suit the image of them that the Weekly Standard would like to peddle.
I can't help but think that if they really appreciated the sacrifices made by US military personnel then they would be able to have a slightly more nuanced view of them than something we might see in WWII recruitment films. They don't have a mature view of the military, the war, or the world in general and thus can brook no challenge.
Now that their bid for membership has been blocked and faded from view the Islamist party seems poised to take power and undo many of the secular principles on which Ataturk founded the republic. This is, needless to say, not good. Turkey is a country with a population of over 71 million and until now has been a friend to the US. If Turkey is lost to Islamic radicalism a vital strategic ally in the region is lost and another large Mid East state may eventually go the way of Iran. The need for a war of ideas against Islamism has never looked more pressing.
For an instructive lesson in the puerility of religious conservative thought I suggest a healthy dose of Dinesh D'Souza. He asks the question "Do atheists disbelieve in God or do they hate Him?" This is a common thought among religious conservative who have been so cocooned in their religious communities that they find it impossible that anyone could take exception to them without being motivated by anything but base anger. He goes on to attack the recent advocates of atheism such as Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris with arguments that can be described only as willfully ignorant, and which lead me to believe he has not read any of the works he criticizes nor has ever bothered to do so much as watch an interview.
Even if God's existence could be proven, Nietzsche writes in The Antichrist, we would still refuse to accept him. When I read atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, I don't get the impression that they are motivated by mere unbelief. I don't believe in unicorns, but I don't go around writing books full of rejection and bile about unicorns. When I read The God Delusion and God Is Not Great, I see that their authors do not so much disbelieve in God as they hate Him.
Sorry Dinesh but people don't base their entire view of reality on their belief in unicorns. They don't attempt to justify their ethical opinions based on convoluted and archaic books about unicorns, and they don't subsequently damn each other to hell and begin suicide bombing missions based on their belief in unicorns. Again D'Souza seems under the impression that religious beliefs can do no harm.
Consequently, the arguments spelled out in these atheist books are out of sync with the actual vehemence of their authors.
A brief scan of the insane proclamations of people such as Jerry Falwell (who D'Souza defended against Hitchens) will convince a fair-minded reader of who is more vehement and hateful.
Dawkins and Hitchens contend that God is not demonstrable according to the scientific method. But then, lots of things are not demonstrable according to that method. Can Dawkins and Hitchens give a scientific account of consciousness? Can they locate free will under a microscope? What about "equality" and "justice" and "rights": none of these things have any material existence, so does that make them illusions? Since even Dawkins and Hitchens have no problem accepting the existence of lots of immaterial things, they never explain why God is the one immaterial entity that stirs up their skeptical indignation. Somehow the scientific case against God seems to be an inadequate explanation for their belligerent atheism.
It is good to see firstly that D'Souza has been untouched by any of the Western tradition of humanism. Apparently we can't gain any insight into ethics through the study of man and human society. No we must make unfounded and empty conjectures about the nature of god(s) to do this. Never mind rely on holy books which have all the moral relevance and authority of a the ignorant and brutal societies which produced them. He is ignorant, wholly ignorant, of the insights of biology, anthropology, neuroscience, psychology, ect. into human nature and into the reasons why we might behave as we do. Steven Pinker, Robert Wright, Scott Atran and many others have written tomes about our understanding of the human race but apparently D'Souza thinks that books written by ignorant nomads with utterly no understanding of the natural world are still better. There are definitely gaps in our understanding of the world and Homo Sapiens but how does that lend support to the wild, baseless, and unsupported dogma of religion? This is just an argument from ignorance.
Then in a weird turn he lauds Michael Onfray and his "Continental atheism" which D'Souza finds more darkly appealing and dangerous. The French tradition of atheism has been often bundled with the postmodern/Marxist writings of people like Derrida, Foucault, Sartre, and Althusser which are virtually indecipherable and all very actively wish for a destruction of Western values. D'Souze here is so dishonest it reminds me of a parent inculcating these superstitions to an inquisitive child, and having to lie. D'Souze doesn't find Onfray's atheism more appealing so much as he wants his incurious fans to think that atheism is destructive to Western values. Values I might add which have only a tenuous basis in his treasured holy books and which have rarely found support from his beloved religious institutions. The fact that atheism might be destructive to Western values is something D'Souza says, "Dawkins and Hitchens have not even considered." Has he read these books he scorns? Or is he willfully ignoring the fact that this is simply untrue? It is impossible to discuss it here but simply flipping through the tables of contents of these books will show that both Dawkins and Hitchens (not to mention Sam Harris who is more thorough on this point than either of them) have gone to pains not only to show that atheism is fully compatible with Western values but is indeed more compatible with a system of ethics palatable in the West than the religious books on which the great monotheisms are based.
A quick look through the comments section on his blog at AOL will show that he is just about universally hated by the people who read him, and on every one of his posts about religion the majority of comments either disagree or outright mock him. He is a child in a man's suit, and an intellectually cloistered dork with nothing even resembling comprehension of the meaning of intellectual rigor.
Why is it I am always told that I spend too much time worrying about religion? This is a man running for President. Oh well.
I am wondering whether Romney will wish to be sworn in on the Book of Mormon and whether that will attract the same criticism. He undoubtedly won't. He has said that atheists should not be elected to political office and that only a person of faith should occupy the presidency. Apparently though it doesn't matter a stitch to Romney what that faith actually is as shown by his annoyance at being questioned on his religious beliefs. Well screw him I say. He has categorically labeled an entire group of people as unfit for office because of their beliefs. He is entirely fair game for vetting based on his.
If elected I have no doubt he will be sworn in on the Bible and claim he has no problem with it. After all he is plenty willing to abandon any number of beliefs to please the public. But i would just love to see the explosion of theocratic fury if a pol ever asked to be sworn in on the Constitution and not the Bible. Is the Constitution an unfit document not reflective of American values? Is it subordinate to the Bible? They would be compelled to say such things or remain silent. Michael Newdow should bring a lawsuit.
How will Mormons react if he does use the Bible?
At about 2 mins Graham and Webb start discussing whether or not the troops support the war and Graham repeats the often heard mantra "they want to win... let them win." Well obviously they want to win. This idiotic, jingoistic philosophy somehow encompasses the belief that people in opposition to the war believe that soldiers enlist in the military to lose wars. But more important it seems strange to me that Graham, and the right, conceives of the military as some kind of autonomous body of policy formulation. Does he understand that the military is under civilian control and that what the troops want to do is no more important than what I want them to do? I may be crazy but I thought that political leaders (the president) were elected to command the military to serve the interests of America as expressed by the people. I wasn't under the impression that the military made up its mind about what it wants to do and we the citizens who they apparently serve must defer to their wishes despite what we find our interests to be. According to Graham the military apparently commands itself. I'm quite sure that the situation was similar in South American military juntas.
I don't think this is an event with any real significance and I think that he has been unfairly vilified by opponents. I don't doubt that he used the tactics he did and that he was every bit as ruthless as the blogosphere claims he was, but the impression one gets when reading about him is that he somehow created divisions in American society that were not previously there and is uniquely responsible for the rather chaotic nature of public opinion these days.
Andrew Sullivan, who's hatred of Rove is well documented and I think largely motivated by what he sees as Rove's exploitation of Christianists fear of gays, gives him a bit much credit in creating the current debacle.
Religion was already a poinson pill in American politics. It was not Rove who created this division. A segent of the population, the evangelicals, which is so fanatical and at odds with reality is not going to vote for Democrats. If Rove maybe marketed The Decider to them then it is a small sin and took no great Machiavellian genius to do. Hateful appeals to religious bigotry were made under Reagan, and hateful appeals to racism and resentment were made to Nixon's "silent majority." It is nothing new. Sullivan further blames him for a resurgent Al Qaeda and the catastrofucks in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't have any clue how the White House political advisor is responsible for this. He didn't plan the wars and had nothing to do with their conduct. He may have marketed them to voters as the right strategy in the War on Terror but by this standard he is no more guilty for their failure than Tony Snow. Rove is the advisor who got the most unpopular president since Carter elected twice. But he is nothing more than a campaign manager. He had no and in policy formation. He was just a sales guy, a political pitch man. We don't blame Dick Morris for the fact that Clinton bombed a drug making plant that provided needed medication in Sudan, so why blame Rove for what Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, and Wolfowitz planned? Getting mad at Rove is akin to getting mad at defense lawyers for doing their job.
One of the few god insights to come out of postmodernism (which I would like to add I consider largely gibberish) is to to found in Michel Foucault's first volume of the History of Sexuality. Once the effort was made to tame it and explosion of discussion, documentation, and study of sexuality followed, which produced a lot of truly bizarre theories most of which were designed to legitimize repressive control of human sexual behavior. The most repressive age was simultaneously the most perverse. A quick trip over to the blog Catholic Dads will make one a bit queasy if looked at with a mind to finding perversity.
These guys are truly sick. They are obsessed with controlling sex, and constantly need to rationalize their very human impulses to be simpatico with a very deranged theology. If you want proof go to the site and see how many of the posts deal with sex, especially their daughters and sex. They need to know how to prevent it happening before marriage, ways to stop it, they endlessly cheer each other up by affirming how right Catholic teaching on the subject is, they can't even deal with a bit of discussion about birth control, are obsessed with their manliness, and endlessly want to find ways to prevent their children from having any exposure to or knowledge of it. The obsession with their daughters is so rampant that I got a bit nauseous. Moreover these guys actually believe that Satan and Hell lie in wait for people who act on sexual desires that to a sane person are utterly harmless.
Despite the charge that we are sex obsessed the most discussion of it seems to be on the religious right. A brief trip into the past to review the examples of Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, David Vitter, Newt Gingrich... well you see my point. What they may complain abut is pop-culture but if they are yearning for a time when the masses didn't crave bawdy, dirty, and low brow entertainment then they will be sorely disappointed.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Mercifully the pollution of Andrew Sullivan's blog is soon to end with the departure of his guest bloggers. Toward the end Liz Mair makes a statement to the effect that 9/11 conspiracy theorists are just as crazy as Biblical creationists. Another guest blogger retorts as follows:
Being the disgruntled atheist I am, I have to point out that George W. Bush definitely exists, and 9/11 definitely happened. So even if some nuts are making an irrational and stupid connection between two facts, there's still some factual basis.
This "God" character, and the alleged marvelous actions attributed to him, on the other hand...
And Mair revealingly replies:
Well, Eric, as a Catholic, I obviously have to (and do) disagree with you. And point out that it appears that all but 6% of the country would disagree with your premise. While simultaneously recognizing that my husband also thinks that a core belief of mine and, apparently, 91% of the American population, is erroneous.
I find it astonishing that almost irrespective of a believers level of education or erudition they still make these claims. I want to know if they truly understand why the fact that a lot of people agree with them that a god exists has any relevance as to the actual truth of the proposition. There was a time when 100 percent of people thought the Sun revolved around the Earth and that the Earth actually was created in Seven days. The extent to which a population believes something has no relevance as to its truth but according to Mair's logic if enough people actually believed in creationist theory then it would be more credible. Does she even believe that for a belief to be credible it has to square with evidence from the real world and not the warm happy thoughts in her head, even if they bear a vague resemblance to the warm happy thoughts that others have?
I would also point out that 91% of the population does not agree with her as they are fractures into innumerable sect ranging from Christian to Muslim, Catholic to Protestant, Baptist to Methodist all of which condemn each other to hell with varying ferocity.
I have seen this pattern of argument and belief my whole life. Part of the comfort and warmth people derive from religion is the sense that they are not the odd men out. They are part of the majority opinion and thus feel as though they can bully challengers with their numbers. They are totally blind to the fact that the esprit de corps they feel has nothing to say about the truth and reality of their beliefs, which have about as much basis in reality as unicorns, and whose followers often display all the intellectual maturity of a high school football pep rally.
And the caveat that "as a Catholic" she has to disagree with him is an odd one. Does she have to disagree with him as human being? Does she think that the fact that she has decided to react with credulity to the assertions of a beuracroacy of elderly virgins entitles her to entirely different standards of proof, reason, evidence, and honesty than the rest of us? Apparently because she has chosen to ally herself with one of thousands of Balkanized sects, she is entitled to a different (a Catholic) view of reality. I often hear people use phrases like "a Catholic perspective" or a "Christian perspective." Just replace the word perspective with "reality" and see how abusrd you sound. Is there such a thing as "Catholic chemisrty," "Catholic math," or "Methodist phyaics?" No. Then why would she have to disagree with Eric as anything other than a reasoning human being? Because as a religious person she has alas sacrificed her reason to credulity.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Giuliani, however, is someone I may be able to get my arms around. After years of big-government Christianist interventionism I was hoping for a president who actually believed in controlled spending and low taxes and wasn't deranged by theology. Rudy may be a bit of a fascist and an authoritarian and yes he may show less respect for the Constitution than the Bush administration but I still (possibly naively) have a bit of faith in checks and balances.
Some twit named Andrew Goldstein though has recommended that Rudy choose Rick Snatorum as his running mate. Santorum leaves behind him a Congressional career marked by opposition to almost any advance of modern science and a litany of gaffes portraying his outright stupidity. He blamed Catholic priests molesting children on Mass liberalism, said there was no right to privacy in the Constitution, wanted federal money spent on marriage counseling for couples considering divorce, and is generally anathema to anyone who values reason. If Rudy puts him on the ticket he can pretty much kiss goodbye anyone with a secular-libertarian bent goodbye, say goodbye to any small government conservatives, and any moderate who just flat out doesn't want to vote for a Democrat (me). The biggest merit Goldstein can find in favor of a Giuliani-Santorum ticket is that they are in agreement over "Islamic Fascism," which I like to refer to as Islam. Well Giuliani happens to be in agreement with Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris on this issue so we really need not find a Christianist to present a united front.
I don't think Giuliani should attempt to shore up social conservative votes. It is a dying wing of the party and one which has caused most of the problems which lost Republicans both the Senate and the House, and which has been the guiding force behind the Bush administration's disastrous foreign and domestic policies. It will die soon and if a Giuliani administration is tied to them it will only increase the probability that he will sit in office for one term.
Liz Mair rightly called this the worst idea of the month.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Mitt Romeny was obviously created on an assembly line. I think the factory manager basically said lets try to create the most inoffensive, shallow, mechanistic, and photogenic cog we can. But as with all programmed machines there are bound to be deficiencies. Here towrds the end Romney defends the fact that none of his sons joined the military by saying that his sons are helping the country by helping him get elected. This is one of the dumber moral equvalences I have ever heard. Andrew Sullivan gives these kinds of people the Michael Moore award, which for Romney may not be appropraite but I'll get the staff on it.
Monday, August 6, 2007
I just looked up "religious cult" on Wikipedia and not to my surprise most of the article was spent attempting to define the term to very little avail, and all that could be reasonably settled upon was that they were socially cohesive groups outside the religious mainstream. Whatever that means. The question of whether the Mormon religion is in fact a cult is one not often discussed in the media except when attempting to paint those who ask the question as Christian zealots and bigots. The article devoted quite a bit of time to discussing the difference between cults and New Religious Movements (NRMs) which Mormonism once was, but also to little avail. I can't think of a reason why the question isn't valid and given the theology, practices, and history of Mormonism I don't see why it would not be a viable candidate for designation as a cult. I can't claim to be a scholar of Mormonism but even on my very lean knowledge I think I wouldn't be unjust in calling them a cult, and were I to learn more I suspect I would be further confirmed in my, as of now, educated guess. Much of the reason Mormonism has not been classified as a cult in this country is because the state and society tend not to take an interest in religious beliefs until they become dangers to the believers or outsiders.
Other countries are not so lenient in how they designate religious beliefs. Scientology and its principle bufoonish avatar Tom Cruise have suffered much in Germany which has very restrictive laws governing these matters. Due to the demands Cruise makes on set for accomodations to his religious beliefs he has incurred no small amount of legal harasment. What I am wondering is what difficulties would this raise for a Mormon president when dealing with countries with such restrictions. If Mormonism is a cult (which I think it along with Scientology are) then what problems for countries such as Germany would this cause. Mormonism encompasses beliefs which are demonstrably false on firmer evidence than most relgions (whose beliefs, I hasten to add, are so shrouded in darkness and ignorance that they forbear rational discussion) and are definetly outside the mainstream. What kinds of problems would this pose for Mitt when visiting a country like Germany which forbids what it considers cults? Romney is not vetted on specfic beliefs by the mainstream media because I think they might consider it a somewhat absurd and pathetic display to have two educated, 21st century men arguing over whether or not Jesus will be resurrected in Missouri, but his religion may have practical consequences not of his own making.
Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour from huffpost and Vimeo.
Yeah sure some may say they are fanatics. And some may say that they don't represent the American mainstream. Well, I don't know how anyone could maintain that when One Congressman (Tom Delay) and another US Senator (Joe Lieberman) attend the conference and encourage these people in messianic delusions. Delusions I might add which advocate a foreign policy based on bringing on Armageddon. These politicians dont cater to people who don't have clout. And much more obviously people without money and clout don't have meetings in function halls like the one they obviously occupied for this group think session.
Hitchens is as always quite lucid even through all the booze.
Hat Tip: Matt Yglesias
Sunday, August 5, 2007
He apparently can't understand why an editorial may have license to use rather more tendentious language than a hard news story. But he goes on to try to goad the Globe into giving Robinson the same upbraiding that one of their editorial writers gave a Catholic Bishop in 2004. This is a bit of self pity. When a person thinks, as Catholics do, that they have some greater insight into the mind of the creator of the universe (what a claim!!!) I guess they would be upset when a newspaper fails to show total consistency of nasty meanness with editorials of two years ago. I guess any small affront would be so intolerable. I don't, however, think I am being overly churlish when I suggest that it is simply self pity, induced by the realization that not everyone thinks Catholicism is the same insight into the mind of the creator of the universe that he does.
Here's the post.
Tancredo apparently thinks it a good idea to threaten the Muslim world with immediate retaliation against Mecca and Medina if another terrorist attack occurs in the US. Aside from the fact that you have to be almost a sociopath to believe it is moral to blindly attack people for an action in which they had no complicity and that it would unleash a paroxysm of anger making the current situation look tame, he successfully channels the right wing thought stopping politics of resentment where if knowledgeable experts call you utterly out of your mind it is somehow a badge of honor.