Something I never knew or more likely forgot, this from a book review in today’s New York Times:
Since the early 1900s, parents who willfully withheld medicine in the name of religion have been prosecuted and convicted. But, Offit tell us, beginning in the ’70s, the prosecutors’ task became difficult. The blame for this setback can be ascribed to two powerful men in the Nixon administration, H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, both famous for their roles in the Watergate scandal, and both Christian Scientists. They became involved because of Lisa Sheridan, a 5-year-old who in 1967 died of pneumonia. Her mother, Dorothy, a Christian Scientist, had opted for prayer instead of antibiotics. The autopsy of the child showed a quart of pus in her chest, and the Massachusetts district attorney charged Sheridan with manslaughter. She was sentenced to five years’ probation. This was around the time when Walter Mondale was working to introduce the landmark Child Abuse Protection and Treatment Act (Capta).Ehrlichman wavered in his faith by accepting dialysis treatments in 1999, and then died after discontinuing them. Haldeman, resolute in his nuttiness, refused treatment for the cancer that killed him anyway in 1993.
“Elders in the Christian Science church saw the trial of Dorothy Sheridan as a wake-up call,” Offit writes. “If she could be prosecuted for following the tenets of her faith, all of them were at risk. Capta was about to shine an unwanted light on their way of life. Something had to be done. So church authorities turned to the two men they were certain could help.”
Haldeman and Ehrlichman inserted a religious exemption into Capta: “No parent or guardian who in good faith is providing a child treatment solely by spiritual means — such as prayer — according to the tenets and practices of a recognized church through a duly accredited practitioner shall for that reason alone be considered to have neglected the child.”
I just came across this specimen of young American manhood in a photo gallery attached to an unrelated story from yesterday’s Orlando Sun Sentinel. Here is the caption on another old photo from the same gallery:
Ku Klux Klan members rally in front of the Eckerd Drug store at Griffin Road and University Drive in Davie on Saturday, September 14, 1991. About a dozen Klansmen stood along the road protesting the refusal by a different Eckerd’s store the previous week to print KKK photographs.Which brings us to an interesting question, in view of the recent troubles in Indiana and Arkansas over efforts to ease the pain of “Christian” bakers forced to violate the deepest tenets of their faith by selling wedding cakes to gays. Should the state have forced Eckerd’s, back in 1991, to print those photos?
(Note: the quotes above reflect my doubts that Christ ever said anything at all about homosexuality, good or bad. For that we have to go to Leviticus, where we are also commanded not to eat or touch the carcass of any seafood without fins or scales.)
In a post on Scott Walker at Gin and Tonics, Ed has the best 16-word description of the GOP you’re ever likely to come across:
“… A coalition of smart people trying to sound dumb and dumb people trying to sound smart; Walker is a tool of the former and the archetype of the latter.
…brought to you by Alternet:
In Israel, Jewish women fought for years for the right to pray at the Western Wall, braving routine threats, abuse and harassment by ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews who believe the holy site should only be open to men. Finally, the reformers won a ruling in Israel’s courts, opening up a designated prayer section at the wall for women. The ultra-Orthodox responded by ordering their own wives and daughters to show up en masse and pack the women’s section, so that the women who actually want to pray there and who fought for the right to do so couldn’t get in.
Let Carl Strock tell you what it’s all about:
I am all in favor of fairness, but I do think it’s a dangerous business to tout reason on so public a stage as a license plate, which can be seen by innocent children whose minds are not yet fully developed…
From The Angry Bear, on the Hobby Lobby silliness which our Republican federal courts are using to cripple the Affordable Care Act and expand the already enormous control that corporations exercise over our government.
The second momentary jolt for me was [Justice] Kennedy’s repeated indication that he believes that the constitutional rights that he said in Citizens United — he wrote that opinion — accrued to the corporation only derivatively as an “association of citizens,” in other words, through its members rather than as a separate entity, extend to all constitutional rights…
The First Amendment right Kennedy proclaimed of people unaffiliated with the corporation to hear the speech of the corporation was, of course, as I said yesterday really a proclaimed right of unaffiliated people to hear the corporation’s CEO’s speech, funded, though, by all the shareholders — or, as Kennedy out it, the association of citizens. The idea was that the political speech advanced the financial interests of all of the association’s citizen members, because they shared an interest in the financial success of the corporation and the political speech they were funding concerned financial matters. The premise was ridiculous; union members who owned shares of the company through their pension fund probably would not have supported anti-union candidates, for example.
Lots of good stuff in this Council on Contemporary Families symposium. Here’s a sample:
White Catholics and Mainline Protestants are less likely than the average American to be divorced, with 12.4 percent and 12.5 percent of their populations being currently divorced, respectively, compared to an overall average of 14.2 of Americans currently divorced.
But white Conservative Protestants and Black Protestants are more likely than the average American to be divorced, with 17.2 percent and 15.7 percent of their populations being currently divorced, respectively. Indeed, Evangelical Protestants are more likely to be divorced than Americans who claim no religion.
Thus the common conservative argument that strong religion leads to strong families does not hold up. Some have argued that evangelical Protestantism (the typical example of “strong religion”) is correlated with low socioeconomic status, and that this explains the increased risk of divorce. However, new research by Jennifer Glass and Philip Levchak suggests that evangelical Protestants’ cultural encouragement of early marriage and discouragement of birth control and higher education attainment explain the higher divorce rate in counties with a larger proportion of evangelical Protestants. In fact, living in such counties increases the likelihood of divorce for all couples, regardless of whether they themselves are evangelicals.
This is the conclusion of a long and closely reasoned essay by John Michael Greer arguing that the GOP has become, literally, the party of Satan. He may or may not be entirely serious, but I’m convinced. What else could explain Ted Cruz, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Antonin Scalia, and etc. and et cetera and so on ad infinitum?
Only one of the seven deadly sins has gotten by without extravagant praise from so-called Christian conservatives in recent years — it’s hard to glorify an economic system that depends on avarice, gluttony, envy and sloth, and a foreign policy defined by pride and wrath, in any other way — and no doubt they’ll find a way to fit lust in there somewhere one of these days, and finish collecting the whole set.
At this point, though, it’s hard to see any reason why the Satanists in the GOP need to keep the pretense going any longer. In an era when most discussions of the Christmas season in the mass media fixate on whether retailers are making a big enough profit to keep the economy stumbling blindly onward for one more year, I think a strong case can be made that America is ready to shake off the last of its qualms and openly embrace a Satanic political agenda. Among its other benefits, putting public devil worship at the heart of the GOP, where it so evidently belongs, can’t help but improve the flagging ratings of Republican national conventions; the otherwise tedious proceedings of the 2016 GOP convention, for example, would be enlivened no end by a Black Mass celebrated by the GOP nominee, perhaps with Ann Coulter’s nude form draped over the altar and a chorus of delegates chanting “Evil, be thou my good!” from the bleachers.
Your thought for the day, from the pagan Syrbal:
Me? I’d tax ALL religious property, I’d happily see all public religious symbols outlawed. Your gods are invisible….so should be your worship, if you ask me. We all seem to agree that life-affirming things sexual should be private, I SO wish good manners and law dictated the same for religious practice. And fighting and killing over who and how one worships? Madness, madness…..so many broken bits of history tinged with religious hatred; and we don’t learn. The Bible lost me when Abraham took his son up the mountain. Any god that needs ME to do his killing for him isn’t worthy of my worship.
This from Syrbal at Herlander-Walking:
So, all you holy-rolling-fetus-ophiles? Ignoring the pains and suffering and needs of not only living CHILDREN and their inconveniently mouthy MOTHERS is working against your “every sperm-result-is-sacred” mission. Maybe women wouldn’t reluctantly (I have yet to meet a woman choosing abortion who is happy with the choice) select to NOT be pregnant if they weren’t treated so poorly WHILE pregnant. And maybe – just maybe – if they thought they might get a reasonable amount of aid AFTER they had the helpless little thing that would attach to a kneecap within months of leaving the womb, even nasty evil liberal feminist “bitches/sluts” like me would be more inclined to select “live birth” on some survey?
Besides, wtf is your beef? After all, all those wee dead fetus-beings? They are innocent and go direct to the arms of your loving (if singularly neglectful) Jesus, right? What, heaven isn’t good enough for the wee tissue-bits? They HAVE to go through the same shit on earth as the rest of us first? Well, now …. just how loving and gentle “let the little children come unto me” is that shit? Maybe you all anti-abortion allegedly pro-life sorts are just afraid that the full measure of mean-minded ‘told you so’ suffering is being escaped by SOMEbody?
Syrbal has been pregnant at least seven times and has three living children, which gives her what lawyers call “standing” in the current anti-abortion debate. In a perfect world she’d be called before Congress to explore the issue with Tennessee Representative Marsh Blackburn, who is the GOP’s attempt to put a female face on the effort to pass what Rachel Maddow calls “the most sweeping restrictions on reproductive rights to reach the floor of Congress in a decade.”
Not that I’m suggesting a ladylike discussion of ladyparts conducted under Robert’s Rules of Order. I’m thinking more under the Rules of the Knife Fight here — “There are no rules in a knife fight.”
Congressperson Blackburn and Syrbal are pictured below. See if you can tell which is the witch and which just rhymes with it. (h/t to Nancy Reagan. But you knew that already, didn’t you?)
This just in from Israel. What if you’re not only a woman, but a black Jewish one from Ethiopia? Can you even get on the bus at all?
The sweeping ruling comes after several years of mounting tension and legal battles over the treatment of women in Israel’s public sphere, particularly the requirement that they sit in the back on bus lines through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, which set off civil disobedience campaigns involving many Jews from overseas.
After the Tennessee State Capitol got a $16 million makeover in December, some members of the Congress were curious why a utility sink, formerly mounted on the wall, was moved to the floor. Some wondered, was it a sink for Muslims to wash their feet before praying?
According to the AP, Legislative Administration Director Connie Ridley wrote in an email:I confirmed with the facility administrator for the State Capitol Complex that the floor-level sink installed in the men’s restroom outside the House Chamber is for housekeeping use … It is, in layman’s terms, a mop sink.
Although Jesus is certainly welcome to use it (John 13:12) if He decides to land in Tennessee and can find any disciples there. Good luck with that, guys.
This from The Caucus slipped past me last week. I should have paid better attention, and it should have been given better play by the Times. If the Evangelicals and the Baptists are dusting off the social gospel and lobbying for it, good things could happen. At the very least the Golden Rule is a welcome change from vaginal probes, gay marriage, and the War on Christmas.
Leaders from some of the nation’s largest and most influential Christian congregations are urging President Obama and members of Congress to end their fiscal brinkmanship and find a way to agree on new revenue and spending cuts that will reduce the deficit while protecting the poorest Americans.
In a public letter, to be released on Monday just days before severe budget cuts are scheduled to go into effect, the groups urge that the fiscal debate be framed in terms of “moral choices.” The letter blames both parties for slowing the country’s economic recovery and risking the possibility that more people will slide into poverty…
Almost 100 pastoral leaders signed the letter, including the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the president of the National Baptist Convention.
A group of feminist activists stripped off their shirts and flashed their breasts in the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris in celebration of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.
They were members of Femen, a Ukraine-based feminist group that has spread around the world and that frequently organizes topless protests. Femen has protested abortion restrictions in the Ukraine, and has also protested in support of the Russian band Pussy Riot. They have also staged anti-rape demonstrations in France.
Let us now consider Richard Mourdock’s view of God’s role in childbirth. Mourdock (have you forgotten so quickly?) is the Republican who lost his U.S. Senate bid last fall after telling the voters of Indiana that pregnancies caused by rape are all part of God’s plan:
“I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” Mourdock said during Tuesday’s Senate debate, choking up.
On the likely assumption that Mourdock believes God to be both good and omnipotent, the Almighty must therefore have intended for Mrs. Darwin to carry Charles to term. What did God have in mind with that? While we’re at it, why did Mourdock’s God forsake him on election day? And wouldn’t an actually good God have forsaken Obama on election day? Furthermore, why didn’t Barry Bonds make it into the Hall of Fame? God made steroids, didn’t She?
From the Congressional Record of September 16, 1981:
The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism.
From an interview with Gail Collins on her new book, As Texas Goes: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda.
Martha Rosenberg: You write, “Quite a bit of the information Texas students are getting seems to have arrived from another era. An abstinence-only program used in three districts assures them that if, ‘if a woman is dry, the sperm will die’ — which harks back to colonial-era theories that it was impossible for a woman to get pregnant unless she enjoyed the sex.”
From the Kansas City Star:
Republican Todd Akin compared his Democratic opponent in the Senate race, incumbent Claire McCaskill, to a dog at a Springfield fundraiser Saturday.
In audio leaked to PoliticMo, Akin is heard saying, “She goes to Washington, D.C., it’s a little bit like one of those dogs, you know, ‘fetch.’
“She goes to Washington, D.C., and gets all of these taxes and red tape and bureaucracy and executive orders and agencies, and she brings all of this stuff and dumps it on us in Missouri.”
The Pope won’t let his bishops dodge and duck when it comes to abortion, even in election years. But the Mormon God is evidently a more reasonable sort of fellow, who just wants to see His boys get ahead in life.
Geoffrey Dunn, at Metroactive:
As a founder and member of the editorial board of Exponent II, Dushku had helped usher Sheldon’s anonymous account of her tribulations with Romney (then unnamed) into print in 1990. So when Romney was claiming to be a proponent of choice in his 1994 Senate race against Kennedy, Dushku knew better. She publicly identified Romney as the previously unidentified ward bishop in Sheldon’s chronicle of the disquieting encounter over her pregnancy.
Moreover, she directly confronted Romney about his apparent flip-flop, which she clearly believed was politically motivated. According to Dushku, Romney told her that his change of position on the issue of choice had been approved in Salt Lake City. “They told me it was OK to take such a position in a liberal state,” Romney said.
A hundred and fifty-one years and still counting, the Civil War goes on. The Confederacy morphed into the Dixiecrats and then into the GOP which was easily swallowed by the Tea Party and here we are. I cannot think of a single core principle of American conservatism which does not, upon close examination, serve the interests of the master over those of the slaves. Wage slaves to be sure, and no longer exclusively black, but a slave is a slave.
An excerpt from Michael Lind’s analysis of the Confederacy’s continuation of war by other means:
…Notwithstanding slavery, segregation and today’s covert racism, the Southern system has always been based on economics, not race. Its rulers have always seen the comparative advantage of the South as arising from the South’s character as a low-wage, low-tax, low-regulation site in the U.S. and world economy. The Southern strategy of attracting foreign investment from New York, London and other centers of capital depends on having a local Southern work force that is forced to work at low wages by the absence of bargaining power.
Anything that increases the bargaining power of Southern workers vs. Southern employers must be opposed, in the interest of the South’s regional economic development model. Unions, federal wage and workplace regulations, and a generous, national welfare state all increase the bargaining power of Southern workers, by reducing their economic desperation. Anti-union right-to-work laws, state control of wages and workplace regulations, and an inadequate welfare state all make Southern workers more helpless, pliant and dependent on the mercy of their employers.
A weak welfare state also maximizes the dependence of ordinary Southerners on the tax-favored clerical allies of the local Southern ruling class, the Protestant megachurches, whose own lucrative business model is to perform welfare functions that are performed by public agencies elsewhere, like child care…
It’s always fun to read about evaluations of evidence issuing from the Vatican. The church hierarchy likes to give the impression that the church is a family with the normal family strife but a solid underpinning of universal love. This is based in part on the Christian tendency to deny the personal shadow and pretend to live entirely in the consciousness. As a result the shadow material is projected onto the nearest and most appropriate targets. "No, it’s not me that’s lying, it’s you!" Which might explain the level of discontent required to bring the pope’s butler to leak secret documents that embarrass a member of the pope’s inner circle, whom many others in that group felt had become a liability.
Thus, I admit, when the Vatican weighs in with its impressions of the findings of professor Karen King at the Harvard Divinity School I tend to arrive with some preconceptions. When the editor-in-chief of L’Osservatore Romano, a paper considered to voice the positions of the Vatican, opines that “Substantial reasons would lead us to conclude that the papyrus is actually a clumsy counterfeit” one wonders whether the statement was mistranslated and he actually means “transubstantial reasons”. “In other words,” he says, “in any case it is a fake”.
When I read such pronouncements I can’t help thinking of Gibbon’s description of the Donation of Constantine, a fraudulent document used by the church in various ways on occasions from the eighth through the fifteenth centuries CE. This document claimed to be part of the will of Constantine I, who established the Christian church as that of the empire, providing that wealth and power in the here and now in which church theorists disclaimed interest. Constantine is supposed to have left the entire Western Roman Empire to the pope, plus a bunch of what we now call the Middle East to support the people ruled by the popes. The document was immediately assailed as a forgery, but not until 1439-1440 was the fraud definitively proven by an Italian priest and Renaissance humanist.
As Gibbon says:
Fraud is the resource of weakness and cunning; and the strong, though ignorant, barbarian was often entangled in the net of sacerdotal policy. The Vatican and Lateran were an arsenal and manufacture, which, according to the occasion, have produced or concealed a various collection of false or genuine, of corrupt or suspicious acts, as they tended to promote the interest of the Roman church. [...] The popes themselves have indulged a smile at the credulity of the vulgar...
On the substance of the matter, the document seems to be genuine. What I find odd is how threatened the Vatican appears to be. So what, there’s a second-century document talking about Jesus being married? All that means is that there was a tradition in that regard, which we know is true.
Gibbon’s masterpiece, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", is largely an account of the rise of Christianity. In it he tells the story of the creation of the Christian Bible in the third century CE. Essentially, a large convocation of cardinals and bishops, carefully selected, met to vote on various writings as to whether they were or were not canonical. After much wrangling choices were made, and orders went out to the farthest reaches of the Empire that every copy of certain books not in the canon was to be destroyed. Books like the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary were lost for centuries, and only discovered in a cave in Egypt in the 1940s. Called the Nag Hammadi gospels, these books were a revelation to scholars who knew of their existence through references from books that weren’t burned but had never seen their contents. They detail traditions that were much more Gnostic and therefore did not fit into the hierarchical system of earthly wealth and power that the popes were developing. Included in those accounts are traditions in which Jesus calls Mary Magdelene his most important apostle because she understands his teachings better than anyone else.
Believing Christians should recall that every document we have, including those in the Bible and those not for one reason or another, was written at least 50 years after the events they recount, and in many cases hundreds of years. Much forgery went on, as people realized that by inserting words into the Bible they could get others to believe blindly. Much mistranslation took place as the text went from one language to another and another. We have, in fact, no solid data establishing any particular truth about the matter; not only about whether Jesus was married but about any events in his life, given the contradictory accounts available to us. Thus believers can choose to believe whatever improves their lives.
Which, to my mind, was the original point of creating the myth, so the whole thing works out pretty well.
A Pew survey from 2009 asked about the permissibility of torturing people suspected of terrorism. The religiously unaffiliated and those who never attend church were more likely than Catholics, evangelicals or mainline Protestants to say that torture can rarely or never be justified. The nonreligious were also more likely than Protestants, Catholics or Mormons to oppose the war in Iraq…
Paul Ryan’s intellectual development was tragically halted in his teen years by exposure to a Russian atheist calling herself Ayn Rand. To this day the congressman requires his staff to read her books, which are very long and full of words arranged so as to resemble thought, if you are a semi-bright 19-year-old coming across books for the first time.
Presumably, though, Ryan’s staffers are not required to adopt every single one of Rand’s insights, any more than conservatives are required to believe some of the New Testament’s more preposterous notions, such as the Golden Rule and the Rule Against Eating Eagles [Leviticus 11.13]. They are permitted to pick the cherries and ignore the lemons, or let’s hope so.
Because this is what the childless Philosopher Queen had to say about abortion:
An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).That was from Rand’s book, The Voice of Reason, not one that Ryan passes out to Republican staffers on Capitol Hill. And here’s another salient quote Ryan and his cronies ignore, from The Ayn Rand Letter: “Never mind the vicious nonsense of claiming that an embryo has a “right to life.” A piece of protoplasm has no rights — and no life in the human sense of the term. One may argue about the later stages of a pregnancy, but the essential issue concerns only the first three months. To equate a potential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable...
Abortion is a moral right — which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?
Observe that by ascribing rights to the unborn, i.e., the nonliving, the anti-abortionists obliterate the rights of the living: the right of young people to set the course of their own lives. The task of raising a child is a tremendous, lifelong responsibility, which no one should undertake unwittingly or unwillingly.
Procreation is not a duty: human beings are not stock-farm animals. For conscientious persons, an unwanted pregnancy is a disaster; to oppose its termination is to advocate sacrifice, not for the sake of anyone’s benefit, but for the sake of misery qua misery, for the sake of forbidding happiness and fulfillment to living human beings.”
It is practically never that Thomas L. Friedman commits good sense in good writing, both at the very same time. Let us all rejoice, therefore, in this:
I’ll make this quick. I have one question and one observation about Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel. The question is this: Since the whole trip was not about learning anything but about how to satisfy the political whims of the right-wing, super pro-Bibi Netanyahu, American Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, why didn’t they just do the whole thing in Las Vegas? I mean, it was all about money anyway — how much Romney would abase himself by saying whatever the Israeli right wanted to hear and how big a jackpot of donations Adelson would shower on the Romney campaign in return. Really, Vegas would have been so much more appropriate than Jerusalem. They could have constructed a plastic Wailing Wall and saved so much on gas…
Frank Rich explores the history of the GOP’s devolution from birth control crusaders to vaginal probers. You will be astonished to learn that politics and not primitive religious doctrine was behind the shift. A taste:
…The GOP started backing away from its traditional beneficence on women’s issues at the tail end of the Nixon presidency. Nixon had a progressive GOP take for his time: He supported the Equal Rights Amendment, appointed an impressive number of talented women, and in 1972 signed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act to strengthen the policing of workplace discrimination. But, in a telling shift a few months earlier, he also vetoed a bipartisan bill enabling child care for the millions of mothers then rapidly joining the workforce. As Melich observes, it would have been consistent with GOP frugality if Nixon had rejected the bill solely because of its cost. But his veto was accompanied by a jarring statement that child care would threaten American families by encouraging women to work. The inspiration for this unexpected reactionary broadside came not from fundamentalist clergy but from cynical, secular political strategists eager to exploit the growing backlash against the sixties feminist movement, much as the “southern strategy” was exploiting the backlash against the sixties civil-rights movement.
This tactic preceded Roe v. Wade, which was decided in 1973. The new GOP was hostile to female liberation, period, not just female sexual freedom. The pitch was articulated by Newt Gingrich in his first successful congressional race in Georgia in 1978. His opponent, a state senator named Virginia Shapard, crusaded for the Equal Rights Amendment and bankrolled her own campaign. That uppity profile gave the Gingrich forces an advertising message: “Newt will take his family to Washington and keep them together; Virginia will go to Washington and leave her husband and children in the care of a nanny.” Newt won by nine percentage points. One of his campaign officials tied his victory to the strategy of “appealing to the prejudice against working women, against their not being home…”
This is a letter dated 17th July 1902 to Mr. W.F. Clark of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, from George F. Baer, president of the Philadephia & Reading Railway Company. Mr. Clark had urged Mr. Baer to end an ongoing strike of his railroad:
I see that you are a religious man; but you are evidently biased in favor of the right of the working man to control a business in which he has no other interest than to secure fair wages for the work he does.
I beg of you not to be discouraged. The rights and interests of the laboring man will be protected and cared for — not by the labor agitators, but by the Christian men to whom God in His infinite wisdom has given the control of the property interests of the country, and upon the successful management of which so much depends. Do not be discouraged. Pray earnestly that right may triumph, always remembering that the Lord God Omnipotent still reigns, and that His reign is one of law and order, and not of violence and crime.
The Hearst paper in New York said, “The pious pirate is no new thing. Baer and the relations between a just God and the thieving trusts must be left to the pulpit for adequate treatment.” The Times said the letter “verged very close upon unconscious blasphemy.”
The religious newspapers went farther. From Chicago: “selfish ignorant cant that this captain of industry mistakes for religion. This is the sort of thing that makes anarchists.”
From New York: “A ghastly blasphemy.”
From Boston: “The doctrine of the divine right of kings was bad enough, but not so intolerable as the doctrine of the divine right of plutocrats to administer things in general with the presumption that what it pleases them to do is the will of God.”
Today these hostile reactions from the MSM of 1902 read as odd relics of the nation’s remote pre-Christian past. Today Mr. Baer’s views have become the guiding principle of one of America’s two large — I can’t bring myself to say great — political parties.
Ohio state legislator Nina Turner has decided to dramatize the War On Women: Contraceptive Theater of Operations by attempting to place an equivalent burden on men:
...the Democrat has become the latest in a series of female state legislators to give her male colleagues a taste of their own medicine by introducing a bill that limits men’s ability to get a Viagra prescription without meeting certain government conditions.
Not bad. But I suggest we think in different terms. This is a calculated burden on a settled issue of the rights of American citizens. I modestly propose we burden another settled right, to dramatize that fact. Therefore, no one should be allowed to purchase a firearm in this country without being required to watch a 30-minute montage of coroner’s photos of children who have been killed by firearms in this country. The montage’s soundtrack should include “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton and “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. Remaining music should be left up to the states, in acknowledgment of the Tenth Amendment.
Undoubtedly we will hear that this violates the Second Amendment. But since it doesn’t actually prevent anyone from acquiring the means to slaughter additional children, that argument should be easily countered.
A philosopher goes mano a mano with a pol and his pope over abortion:
…Assuming that the Pope is correct, I said, there is something that I find troubling, and I offered the hope that Santorum could enlighten me. I assume you believe that abortion is murder, I said, because it is the termination of the life of a person with a soul. That was pretty close to being a rhetorical question under the circumstances, and of course, in my imagination, he agreed.
Well, I put it to him, there are, according to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, roughly 4.3 million live births each year in the United States. Now, Wikipedia tells me that as many as 50% of conceptions are spontaneously aborted by the body in the first three months, frequently before the mother even knows that she is pregnant. That means that perhaps four million pregnancies spontaneously abort.
This process of spontaneous abortion is a natural process, regulated by the laws of nature. And inasmuch as God is the author of those laws, we may say that He is personally responsible for the abortion of some four million or so fully besouled in utero persons every year in the United States alone. The mind reels at the thought of how many abortions He is responsible for world wide…
Professor Wolff did:
The nation’s Catholic Bishops, a shameful cabal of child molesters and enablers of child molestation, have found in Rick Santorum the perfect embodiment of their ideal altar boy.
Sure, it’s Alabama. But still…
Alabama legislators were given a 62 percent raise in 2007, and State Senator Shadrack McGill (R-AL) says the raise discourages corruption among lawmakers. The previous low salaries “played into the corruption, guys, big time,” he says. “You had your higher-ranking legislators that were connected with the lobbyists making up in the millions of dollars. They weren’t worried about that $30,000 paid salary they were getting.” By paying lawmakers more up front, he says, they are less susceptible to taking bribes: “He needs to make enough that he can say no, in regards to temptation.”
However, if teachers were given pay raises, then people who are not “called” to teach would begin joining the profession, he says. “Teachers need to make the money that they need to make. There needs to be a balance there. If you double what you’re paying education, you know what’s going to happen? I’ve heard the comment many times, ‘Well, the quality of education’s going to go up.’ That’s never proven to happen, guys. It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach. To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK? And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach.
The Rude Pundit quotes Martin Luther King:
Dives went to hell because he sought to be a conscientious objector in the war against poverty.
Exactly. Greenspan and the Chicago boys. Newtie. Governor Walker. The Koch brothers. Cantor. Perry. Reagan. Bush the Lesser. McConnell. The Tea Party. The two Pauls. On and on. All of them conscientious objectors in the war against poverty. And all of them bound, if the Bible is right, for the same place as Dives.
Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest and a history professor at Barnard College, writing in RD Magazine:
When I lived in Iowa in the 1970s, my father was pastor of one of the largest evangelical congregations in the state. Although he remained a Republican to his death, my father was resolutely apolitical in the pulpit.
Things began to change for Iowa evangelicals — and for politically conservative evangelicals elsewhere — in the late 1970s. Iowa, in fact, was the proving ground for abortion as a political issue. Until 1978, evangelicals in Iowa (as elsewhere) were overwhelmingly indifferent to abortion, even after the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973; they considered it a Catholic issue.
The Iowa race for United States Senate in 1978 pitted Dick Clark, the incumbent Democratic senator, against a Republican challenger, Roger Jepsen. All of the polling and the pundits considered it an easy win for Clark. In the final weekend of the campaign, however, pro-lifers (predominantly Catholic) leafleted church parking lots all over the state. Two days later, in an election with a very low turnout, Jepsen narrowly defeated Clark, thereby persuading Paul Weyrich and other architects of the religious right that abortion would work for them as a political issue.
Politically conservative evangelicals in Iowa began to mobilize. Ronald Reagan carried Iowa in 1980 over Jimmy Carter, the incumbent, evangelical Democrat. In 1988 I returned to Iowa for the precinct caucuses to write about evangelicals negotiating the vagaries of political life. Many were self-identified “housewives” who were “lobbying from the kitchen table.”
The religious right in Iowa never looked back. Concerned Women for America, Beverly LaHaye’s organization, became a political force. Rush Limbaugh and other fixtures of the downstream media became staples on WHO, Iowa’s Clear Channel radio station. The radio station KWKY, located — literally — in the middle of an Iowa cornfield, became a beacon of evangelical political rhetoric, most of it leaning toward the hard right. Gannett’s purchase of the Des Moines Register in 1985 diminished the newspaper’s independent voice.
Here’s a post from W.W., on The Economist’s Democracy in America blog. You won’t get any argument from me, except over the author’s assumption that religions other than Mormonism are not equally “weird and made-up”:
Pundits keep talking about the “non-Romney” candidates, but what they really mean is the “non-Romney, non-Paul” candidates. Mr Paul, who clinched a close third-place finish Tuesday night, filled Iowa’s airwaves for months with ads aimed squarely at social conservatives, but he didn’t win anything close to Mr Santorum’s support from evangelicals or tea-party movement symps, despite the fact that Mr Santorum barely advertised at all. Why? Because Ron Paul is anti-war.
Mr Weigel, citing Sarah Posner, is spot on; the tea-party movement is “a new framework for the same conservatives who dominated the GOP a month before the Tea Party began.” Which is to say, the tea-party movement is just another expression of the American right’s signature brand of identity politics. It’s overriding concern is elevating the power and social status of those who hold dear a certain conception of American authenticity — white, evangelical, exceptionalist nationalism — and it does this, bizarrely, using the rhetoric of constitutionalism, limited government, and free markets.
Actual laissez-faire constitutionalists, such as Mr Paul, don’t stand a chance as long as they insist on leavening their exceptionalist rhetoric with the insistence that it is appropriate to evaluate American foreign policy by the same standards we use to judge others. Mr Romney’s desperate, almost lunatic jingoism keeps him in the running, but the suspicion that he is a squish on zygote murder and gay nuptials, in addition to his membership in a weird, made-up religion, keeps American-authenticity conservatives casting about for a better champion.
Mr Santorum may or may not have the talent necessary to obscure his brand of big-government, right-wing paternalism with tea-party rhetoric. But it’s certain he can’t obscure his Catholicism, which isn’t nearly as bad as Mormonism, but sure isn’t great. I reckon a combination of Mr Santorum’s popery and unusually explicit hostility to freedom will do him in. That’s why Rick Perry’s staying in the race, I think. American-authenticity conservatives don’t mind that much if their man can’t utter a non-mangled sentence, as long as he’s right with God, and it’s the right sentence.
A vicious, extremist nut is a vicious, extremist nut whether disguised as a Christian, Moslem or Jew. It would be nice to think that a just God exists, able to consign the whole lot of them to hell. It is particularly sad to see this sort of swine slowly taking over Israel, a nation born of such bright dreams.
The Israeli public has been rocked by a series of recent reports about the behavior of extremist Jewish groups, which has included forcing women to sit at the back of public buses, erecting signs calling for the separation of the sexes on sidewalks and even the physical assaults of schoolgirls by ultra-Orthodox men who found their school uniforms immodest.
Naama Margolese, an 8-year-old American immigrant who attends the Orot school in Beit Shemesh, became a focal point of the outcry after an Israeli news station filmed her facing daily abuses from extremists. TV news footage showed the shy, bespectacled second-grader shaking and brushing tears from her eyes as she described men who spat at her and called her “prostitute” for attending the school.
A group of extremists has taken issue with the Orot school’s location, near a hard-line religious school for men. Though the Orot school was exclusively for Orthodox girls — nearly all of whom dress in long skirts and long-sleeved shirts — in August a group of men began gathering every week to curse and threaten the students.
“My stomach hurts every time I need to walk to and from the school and I know those men will be there,” Naama said. “They are scary.”
From McClatchy News:
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's case drew international attention after she was sentenced to die by stoning for adultery.
“This lady is accused of two crimes,” Hojatoleslam Sharifi, the judiciary chief of Eastern Azarbaijan province, told reporters at a news conference on Monday, the semi-official Iran Student’s News Agency reported. “One is adultery which is punishable by stoning to death, and the other is assisting in her husband’s murder. She is currently serving 10 years for helping to kill her husband.”
He said “we did not have the needed facility for stoning…
From God is Not Great, by the hell-bent Christopher Hitchens:
Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason marked almost the first time that frank contempt for organized religion was openly expressed. I had a tremendous worldwide effect. His American friends and contemporaries, partly inspired by him to declare independence from the Hanoverian usurpers and their private Anglican church, meanwhile achieved an extraordinary and unprecedented thing: the writing of a democratic and republican constitution that made no mention of god and that mentioned religion only when guaranteeing that it would always be separated from the state. Almost all of the American founders died without an priest by their bedside, as also did Paine, who was much pestered in his last hours by religious hooligans who demanded that he accept Christ as his savior.
From New York magazine:
The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” finally opened Wednesday at 45–51 Park Place. Last year, Park51, as the mosque–community center two iconic blocks from the WTC is called, was the flashpoint of the most heated New York City public debate in decades, prompting raucous community-board meetings, much incendiary rhetoric about the supposed Islamization of America, and, eventually, the uncommon sight of Mayor Bloomberg crying on television while defending New York as an unending beacon of tolerance where “no neighborhood is off-limits to God’s love and mercy.”From Kevin Drum, in Mother Jones:
On Wednesday night, however, aside from the cop car that sits outside the building 24/7 and a number of burly, black-clad bouncers, Park51’s recent history was little in evidence…
No one I talked to wanted to discuss the outrageous events of the past year. In fact, neither Pamela Geller or Robert Spencer — the firebrand bloggers who concocted the bulk of the anti-mosque talking points — even mentioned the Park51 opening on their sites. Then again, they may still by lying low in the wake of the disclosure that their views were widely quoted in the papers of Norwegian gunman Anders Behring Breivik.
The mosque was introduced to the public in December 2009, Pamela Geller shrieked about it, and no one cared. In May 2010 the project was approved, Pamela Geller shrieked about it, and no one cared. A week later, a New York Post columnist wrote a piece called “Mosque Madness at Ground Zero,” Pamela Geller continued shrieking about it, and —
And suddenly Rupert Murdoch’s other New York-based news operation took notice. After all, there was an election coming in November, and what better way to rally the troops? It was just one more log for Fox to toss onto its Bonfire of Xenophobia last summer..
Turns out Michele Bachmann doesn’t have a title yet for her forthcoming campaign bio, so The 6th Floor asked readers to help:
The Age of Disenlightenment: How Science and Reason Ruined America
Good with Animals
Certifiable: Michelle Bachmann in Her Own Words
Doncha Know: Words of Wisdom from the Queen of Flyover Country
I'm Straight-Talking, and So Is my Husband
Not As Dumb as I Sound
Are You There, Michele? It's Me, God
A little one-sided? Well, so were the comments. What did you expect from Times readers? But here’s one from Brad, in Arizona:
Here’s an excerpt (via Jay Bookman), but watch the video for the full intellectual experience. That Rick Perry will probably be the GOP’s White Hope in 2012 would be hard to believe — if we hadn’t just lived through eight years of George W. Bush.
SMITH: Governor, why does Texas continue with abstinence education programs when they don’t seem to be working? In fact, I think we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate in the country.
PERRY: “Abstinence … works.”
SMITH: “But we have the third highest teen pregnancy rate among all states in the country. The questioner’s point is, it doesn’t seem to be working — abstinence education.”
PERRY: “It, it, it works. Maybe it’s the way it’s being taught, or the way it’s being applied out there, but the fact of the matter is it is the best form of — uh — to teach our children.”
SMITH: “Can you give a statistic telling me that it works?”
PERRY: “I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life, abstinence works …”
What’s clear from the record is that [Michele] Bachmann brought deeply held religious values and legal training from outside the mainstream to her career, values shaped during her unusual law school experience at Oral Roberts University.
“It was a real shocker for me to show up and hear people speak in tongues in chapel,’’ said Burnetti, Bachmann’s classmate. “It was a very exceptional place to go to school.’’
In the interest of knowing thine enemy, I direct you to this. Don’t laugh. These pre-Gadarene swine are behind you, and catching up:
…Even the most conservative evangelicals said they were “New Testament Christians.” In other words, they believed that after the coming of Jesus, the harsher bits of the Bible had been (at least to some extent) transformed by the “New Covenant” of Jesus’ “Law of Love.”
By contrast, the leaders of Reconstructionism believed that Old Testament teachings — on everything from capital punishment for gays to the virtues of child-beating — were still valid because they were the inerrant Word and Will of God and therefore should be enforced. Not only that, they said that biblical law should be imposed even on nonbelievers. This theology was the American version of the attempt in some Muslim countries to impose Shariah (Islamic law) on all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
It was my old friend, the short, stocky, bearded Armenian American Rousas Rushdoony who in 1973 most thoroughly laid out the far right/religious right agenda in his book, The Institutes of Biblical Law. Rushdoony changed the definition of salvation from the accepted evangelical idea that it applies to individuals to the claim that salvation is really about politics. With this redefinition, Rushdoony contradicted the usual reading of Jesus’ words by most Christians to mean that Jesus had not come to this earth to be a political leader: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
According to Rushdoony, all nations on earth should be obedient to the ancient Jewish/Christian version of “God’s Law,” so that the world will experience “God’s blessings.” Biblical salvation will then turn back the consequences of the Fall, and we’ll be on our way to the New Eden. To achieve this “turning back,” coercion must be used by the faithful to stop evildoers, who are, by definition, anyone not obeying all of God’s Laws as defined by the Calvinist and Reconstructionist interpretation of the Bible…
Somehow I missed this beauty when it first came out. In case you did, too, the full story is here. As far as I can tell from Google, the case has not yet been resolved in court.
RALEIGH, N.C. — A Bible-waving preacher protesting at a gay pride event was kissed on the cheek by a female gay rights supporter — a 74-year-old woman who was charged with simple assault, with the preacher’s blessing.
Joan Parker admits she kissed a preacher on the cheek at the Saturday event in Salisbury, N.C., proclaimed by the mayor as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Day.
“He was just waving his arms and has a Bible in one hand, up and down, and screaming at the top of his lungs, ‘sodomites’ and ‘you’re going to hell,’” Parker said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “I thought he needed a hug. So I gave him a hug…”
Rory Collins, police chief in the town located about 45 miles northeast of Charlotte, said Belcher wanted to press charges, which he hadn’t expected. Belcher contends police would have charged him if he had touched a 74-year-old woman and that he didn’t personally pursue charges…
Belcher contends the kiss “was just one of many attempts to silence the preaching to those in need of salvation who practice a death style that they call a lifestyle.”
…and that nice Bachmann couple have made it:
Along with offering faith-based counseling at his clinic, Bachmann also gives presentations at various conferences. In November 2005, he and Rep. Bachmann both ran sessions at a “Minnesota Pastors’ Summit” in Eden Prairie, Minnesota: hers focused on the gay marriage amendment she was trying to push through the state legislature, and his was titled “The Truth About the Homosexual Agenda…”
The climax of the presentation was when, according to Prins, Bachmann brought up “three ex-gays, like part of a PowerPoint presentation.” The trio, two white men and a black woman, all testified that they had renounced their homosexuality. “One of them said, ‘If I was born gay, then I’ll have to be born again,’” Prins recalls. “The crowd went crazy.”
I don’t often finding myself writing these words, but here goes: read Thomas L. Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times. He doesn’t mention Israel because he’s Friedman and it’s the New York Times. Being neither I will point out, as I have once or twice before, that those three countries are the greatest actual threats to America’s actual national security.
“…Like the hijackers of 9/11, who were also Saudi-Wahhabi ideological exports ... Saudi Arabia’s reserve army of potential terrorists remains, because the Wahhabi factory of fanatical ideas remains intact. So the real battle has not been with Bin Laden, but with that Saudi state-supported ideology factory.”
Ditto Pakistan. The Pakistani ruling bargain is set by the Pakistani Army and says: “We let you civilians pretend to rule, but we will actually call all the key shots, we will consume nearly 25 percent of the state budget and we will justify all of this as necessary for Pakistan to confront its real security challenge: India and its occupation of Kashmir. Looking for Bin Laden became a side-business for Pakistan’s military to generate U.S. aid.
From Herman Cain, currently the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2012:
KEYES: You came under a bit of controversy this week for some of the comments made about Muslims in general. Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim, either in your cabinet or as a federal judge?
CAIN: No, I would not. And here’s why. There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government. This is what happened in Europe. And little by little, to try and be politically correct, they made this little change, they made this little change. And now they’ve got a social problem that they don’t know what to do with hardly.
This is an excellent start, and I heartily encourage Mr.Cain to stick to his guns on this one. Mr. Cain is onto something important here, and now just needs to broaden his focus. Because the simple fact is this: Muslims are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The real problem is...
Who attacked us on 9/11? Monotheists. Who was behind the Spanish Inquisition? Monotheists. Who launched the Crusades? Monotheists. Monotheists fired on Fort Sumter. Monotheists started World War One. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and John Lennon were all shot by monotheists. At least one self-admitted monotheist is involved in the collapse of our economy.
I tell you, these people are nothing but trouble. And I want them out of my government. Now. Two thousand years of this crap is enough!
So you go, Herm! Together we will end this scourge, one vile subsect at a time…
In 1960 I wrote a mystery which went unpublished because I was too young and stupid to make a handful of changes the editor wanted.
By now I barely remember the plot, except that the murder somehow hinged on an abortion doctor’s efforts to avoid prison — abortion being illegal although common in most states.
The idea came to me from my stepfather, who then lived in Virginia’s horse country. A gynecologist friend of his was correctly suspected of performing abortions, and the more respectable physicians of Rappahannock County called an unofficial meeting of the local power structure to decide how to deal with this outrage.
In the middle of this, the abortionist himself showed up and took the floor. “I thought I might be able to help you fellows out,” he said, and began to list the wives and daughters of the gentry assembled on whom he had performed abortions. He had barely begun when the sense of the meeting was discovered to be that the state police and the Commonwealth’s Attorney should immediately turn their attention to other matters.
For years my manuscript lay quietly in various attics, and in 1973 Roe v. Wade gave it the final coup de grâce. The book’s motive for murder would now seem a quaint anachronism, like speakeasies or the Hays Office.
But time, in the United States, has a way of running backwards—
Though Personhood USA has a reach into every state — and has collected almost 1 million signatures supporting personhood legislation throughout the country — the umbrella organization and its affiliates are currently throwing the most effort at Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska.
On Valentine’s Day, Personhood began a matching program and challenged supporters to help raise $50,000 to make $100,000 to push anti-abortion rights legislation in North Dakota, Montana, Iowa and Mississippi. Today is the last day of the challenge.
Mississippi is the biggest target, as it has a personhood amendment on the ballot that will get a vote in November. If passed, the constitutional amendment would effectively make abortion illegal.
—and now has caught up with my poor little manuscript. Unfortunately, though, I can’t find the damned thing.
Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, whose heart brimmeth over with compassion for the littlest people of all, spake thus to the Conservative Political Action Conference:
“My first year as governor my pro-life agenda was adopted by our Democrat-majority legislature, and Americans United for Life, I am proud to say, named Mississippi the safest state in America for an unborn child,” Barbour said.
He made no mention of born children, perhaps because life expectancy in Mississippi, 73.6 years, is fiftieth among the states. Topping the list at 80.0 years is Hawaii, where President Obama may have been born in the summer of 1961. If so, he can be expected to live until August 4, 2041, a Sunday.
It’s curious that Senator Jim DeMint should call himself a Christian when his religious beliefs are revealed by his political ones to be in every important respect the opposite of what the Prince of Peace commands. This, for instance, is what he considers to be sacrilege:
“We shouldn’t be jamming a major arms control treaty up against Christmas; it’s sacrilegious and disrespectful,” he told POLITICO. “What’s going on here is just wrong. This is the most sacred holiday for Christians. They did the same thing last year — they kept everybody here until [Christmas Eve] to force something down everybody’s throat. I think Americans are sick of this.”
And here’s a similar view of what constitutes “disrespect,” from another gentle Christian soul:
DeMint’s comments echo those of Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) who said Tuesday that Reid’s voting schedule is impossible to accomplish “without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians.”
This is excerpted from Claude G. Bowers’ 1925 study, Jefferson and Hamilton: The Struggle for Democracy in America. I would like Christine O’Donnell to read it and take it to heart. I would also like pigs to fly.
Just as the landed aristocracy of Virginia pursued him [ed. note: Thomas Jefferson, a Famous Founding Father] with increasing venom because of his land reforms, the clergy hated him for forcing the separation of Church and State. When he made the fight for this reform, it was a crime not to baptize a child into the Episcopal Church; a crime to bring a Quaker into the colony; and, according to the law, a heretic could be burned. If the latter law was not observed, that compelling all to pay tithes regardless of their religious affiliations and opinions was rigidly enforced.
This outraged Jefferson’s love of liberty. The Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists, who were making inroads on the membership of the Established Church, were prosecuted, and their ministers were declared disturbers of the peace, and thrown into jail like common felons. Patrick Henry and his followers fought Jefferson’s plan for a disestablishment — but he won. The ‘atheist’ law, which was never forgiven by the ministers of Virginia and Connecticut, was simple and brief:No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burdened in his mind or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
From Larry Beinart’s political thriller, The Librarian:
They had two prophets. The first, of course, was Jesus Christ. Scott claimed to have been saved, and the hard core of his support were Jesus people…
Their second prophet, and to Hagopian their real prophet, was Adam Smith, the eighteenth century economist and philosopher who had coined the phrase “invisible hand” to describe the surprising, unplanned, and unlooked-for effects of each individual pursuing his own domestic plans for gain.
To the intellectual mind, that was a simile, an “as if,” but to the believer mind it was God and God wanted us each to pursue profit to our utmost and then His “invisible hand” would combine those efforts and guide them to the true good.
Adam Smith had also said, “Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.”
Hagopian thought that was true.
If Scott’s people were men of vice, merely greedy, there would be limits to what they might do. If they were men of virtue, there were no limits, no point at which they would stop. There was no lie they would not tell, no fraud they would not perpetrate. No murder they would not commit.
A planned Quran burning Saturday in Amarillo was thwarted by a 23-year-old carrying a skateboard and wearing a T-shirt with “I’m in Repent Amarillo No Joke” scrawled by hand on the back.
Jacob Isom, 23, grabbed David Grisham’s Quran when he became distracted while arguing with several residents at Sam Houston Park about the merits of burning the Islamic holy book. “You’re just trying to start Holy Wars,” Isom said of Grisham after he gave the book to a religious leader from the Islamic Center of Amarillo.
New Left Media, may Allah smile on all its works, went to the Glenn Beck pray-in so you wouldn’t have to. Take a look at the result, in case you suffer from American exceptionalism. Something is certainly exceptional about us, and certainly Jesus hasn’t been able to cure it. Maybe we need more mosques. More libraries. Less TV. Who knows? Just help us for God’s sake, any God at all, because we’re on the point of drowning here. Already we’re up to the lower lip in stupidity.
Should we let those terrorists build that mosque on what Chris Matthews keeps calling hollowed ground? Or not until they let us build a megachurch in Mecca? Or until hell freezes over? Or is the whole squalid fuss actually, literally, about nothing? It looks that way, to judge by a Politico story which has so far attracted zero attention.
In GOP World, however, enormous structures can be fabricated easily and profitably on the basis of impossible hypotheticals. One might think the suckers would have wised up by now, but one would be wrong. Look at the birther myth, which has no more substance than a floating figure in a Macy’s parade. Or than a nonexistent non-Mosque never to be built on the unhallowed ground formerly occupied by a Burlington Coat Factory.
When President Barack Obama turned the battle over a planned New York Islamic center into a national debate over religious freedom, he unwittingly allied himself and his party with an ill-planned, long-shot development project described by one of its most prominent allies as “amateur hour.”
The efforts to launch the $100 million Cordoba House (now dubbed Park51) two blocks north of the World Trade Center site have been an uphill battle from the start, and not just because of controversy. And even as the “Ground Zero Mosque” emerges as a hotly debated national symbol, New York government officials and real estate insiders are privately questioning whether the project has much chance of coming to fruition.
The Cordoba Initiative hasn’t begun fundraising yet for its $100 million goal. The group’s latest fundraising report with the State Attorney General’s office, from 2008, shows exactly $18,255 — not enough even for a down payment on the half of the site the group has yet to purchase…
From the Times coverage of the Reverend Glenn Beck’s revival meeting:
Becky Benson, 56, traveled from Orlando, Florida, because, she said, “we believe in Jesus Christ,” and Jesus, she said, would not have agreed with the economic stimulus package, bank bailouts and welfare. “You cannot sit and expect someone to hand out to you,” she said. “You don’t spend your way out of debt.”
People in the crowd echoed Mr. Beck’s ideas that “progressives” were moving the United States toward socialism and that entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid must be ended.
Maureen Dowd shoves it to the Pontiff:
“The future pope, it is now clear, was also part of a culture of nonresponsibility, denial, legalistic foot-dragging and outright obstruction. More than any top Vatican official other than John Paul, it was Cardinal Ratzinger who might have taken decisive action in the 1990s to prevent the scandal from metastasizing in country after country, growing to such proportions that it now threatens to consume his own papacy.”
If Roman Polanski were a priest, he’d still be working here.
The Associated Press reports from Jerusalem:
Parents of European, or Ashkenazi, descent at a girls’ school in the West Bank settlement of Emanuel don’t want their daughters to study with schoolgirls of Mideast and North African descent, known as Sephardim.
The Ashkenazi parents insist they aren’t racist, but want to keep the classrooms segregated, as they have been for years, arguing that the families of the Sephardi girls aren’t religious enough…
Most of the demonstrators were men wearing the long beards and heavy black clothing typical among ultra-Orthodox Jews. “The Supreme Court is fascist,” said one poster.
Esther Bark, 50, who has seven daughters, said the issue is keeping the girls away from the temptations of the modern world. “To suddenly put them in an open-minded place is not good for them,” she said.
Steve Benen writes:
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) spoke to about 300 constituents earlier this week at Dixie State University. His remarks included some advice for conservatives.
He said the Republicans need to organize and pull together just as unions, environmentalists, personal injury lawyers and gay rights activists do for Democrat candidates. “Gays and lesbians don’t pay tithing, their religion is politics,” said Hatch.
I’d love to know what that means, exactly. Gay people can’t be religious? The LGBT community necessarily cares more politics than the rest of the country?
Here’s what it means, Steve: “My religion is politics.” It’s a pure case of Freudian projection. Look at the millions of dollars that Mormons — mostly Hatch constituents in Utah — poured into California to support Proposition 8.
Having learned their lesson from the pedophile priest sex abuse scandal, Catholic leaders are taking prompt action to head off another moral scourge: children with lesbian parents. For the second time in 3 months, a Catholic School in Massachusetts has rejected an elementary school-aged child because his parents are gay…
In a world that has elevated hypocrisy to an art-form, an unprepossessing, virtual unknown emerged this week as the solid frontrunner for the 2010 Superheroes of Hypocrisy Title. By day, George Rekers is a 61-year-old father of three; a Baptist minister; co-founder, with James Dobson, of the Family Research Council – the lobbying arm of US Christianity; a professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina; a sex therapist specializing in teenage gender identity “issues”; an officer of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH); and a prolific author with a bad back. That’s enough to keep two men busy. But, lo and behold, when Daddy gets his ticket punched and slips out of his mild-mannered “Professor George” persona he’s a wild man worth every inch of that Superheroes title.
Professor George’s “closet” is bigger than a walk-in and needs to be, because that’s where he likes to spend his quality time with rent boys younger than his own kids. Not for Professor George, the quick grope in a public restroom or sexting with Congressional aides — no, Professor George is a stylish man of means who knows how to do things right. Professor George took his rent boy on a ten-day tour of Europe, a sublime getaway for man and boy, that might have been a totally fabulous performance except that the good Prof didn’t quite “stick the landing.” George Rekers (gotta love that name) was “caught on camera” coming down the stretch on his triumphal return to Miami International Airport with his rent boy — er, travel assistant — still in tow.
Rekers is an old hand at his chosen lifestyle, though, and immediately flew into damage control mode … which makes for entertaining reading because Rekers is no ordinary closet-case; this Extreme Gay Makeover has constructed his entire life around secretly embracing and publicly denying his gender identity. Every waking minute of Rekers day is spent on some aspect of homosexuality. He has two websites dedicated to counseling teenagers who are troubled by gender identity issues — one is called “Professor George” (gimme a break) and the other is called TeenSexToday.com that promises that readers who submit questions can “count on me to be logical, ethical, and scientific in my answers.” Right. This is Rekers’ favorite subject and favorite age group — color me cynical but this is just a front for a cyber-peeping Tom.
Rekers was recently paid a handsome $87,000 to serve as an “expert” witness in a case to determine whether the state of Florida’s ban on gay adoptions was legal (the judge ultimately ruled against the state). Reker’s testified that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt for the usual fact-free homophobic pseudoscience reasons. For whatever reason, while he had the microphone, Rekers also decided to throw Native Americans under the “no adoptions” bus. At the end of that trial, Judge Cindy Lederman singled out Rekers’ testimony for Dishonorable Mention thus:
“Dr. Rekers’ testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers’ beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court can not consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.”
The usual suspects have dealt quite expertly with the more salacious details of Rekers’ “Roman holiday” which leave little room for doubt about the true nature of Rekers’ tryst — in other words, I, happily, do not need to go into detail over what did and did not occur. For me, and other Hypocrisy Epicures, the juiciest tidbits lie in how the cornered hypocrite chooses to extricate him/herself from a world of trouble.
At 61, Professor George has set himself up pretty well, none of his lucrative gigs — ministry, expert witnessing, screed publishing, teen sex therapy etc. require any “heavy lifting.” The only thing that could put a dent in his little homo cottage industry would be exposure as a cynical, hypocritical charlatan making money giving advice to others from a thoroughly self-delusional background. That could mess up everything …
So it is that the good professor has decided to go the absolute denial route — and, as he thinks of even better excuses, he piles them on as he goes. He started, of course, with the lame story that his hunk-y “rent boy” was selected for his baggage handling skills. Professor George isn’t getting any younger and his doctor warned him to do no heavy lifting. Since the Prof was interested in “renting a boy” to lug his bags all over Europe, rentboy.com was the logical place to look, right? Now, I defy anyone reading this article to spend just a few minutes trolling through the rentboy.com site and come back and tell me (with a straight face) that you never would have guessed that those boys were gay male prostitutes. Our “expert witness” claims that he was fooled, indeed he claims it wasn’t until halfway through the trip that he guessed that his travel assistant was a male prostitute.
How unreasonable is it to expect that a man who has dedicated his life to counseling teenagers on gender identity and offering therapy to “cure” unhappy gays, would immediately recognize rentboy.com for exactly what it is?
After the media responded with a collective snort of derision, Reker amended his position on his Facebook page (which is predictably MIA, at the moment) in this way:
“If you talk with my travel assistant you will find I spent a great deal of time sharing scientific information on the desirability of abandoning homosexual intercourse, and I shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him in great detail.”
“My hero is Jesus Christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes. Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them.”
From having Jesus as his hero, Rekers made the leap to litigant declaring that he would be suing the Miami reporters who wrote the original Rekers story for defamation. Which just goes to show that Rekers is living in his own nasty little world where being gay is grist for the “defamation” mill. The juridical trend, these days, is that calling someone “gay” is not defamatory. Such rulings have been made in many states; although I wouldn’t recommend testing it, yet, in states like Texas, Arizona or Arkansas.
As usual in such cases, former associates “vote with their feet” lest they get some of this doody on them. The CEO of Family Research Council was quick to point out that he never heard of Rekers and that when he did a little digging he found that it had been decades since Reker played an active role in FRC.
NARTH, for its part, weighed in with this:
“While NARTH is focused on the science of homosexual attraction, personal controversies often deepen the existing cultural divide on this issue. Such is the case in the recent news stories concerning one of our members, Dr. George Rekers.”
“NARTH takes seriously the accusations that have been made, and we are currently attempting to understand the details behind these press reports. We are always saddened when this type of controversy impacts the lives of individuals, and we urge all parties to allow a respectful and thorough investigation to take place.”
“NARTH continues to support scientific research, and to value client autonomy, client self-determination and client diversity.”
In closing, I’ll say that I honestly feel bad for George Rekers. Not because he appears to be gay – I’m gay and surrounded and supported by a mixed gay and straight community of gifted and loving friends; and, despite Professor George’s dire warning about gays’ parenting abilities, I raised a son who is brilliant, successful, heterosexual and who has presented me with an equally marvelous granddaughter. My life is rich and full and ultimately very satisfying. The reason that I feel bad for George Reker is because I seriously doubt that the life that he has built to “fix” his gender identity crisis and live a lie is cold comfort to him today.
Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazim Sadeghi on CNN:
— Women who dress provocatively and tempt people into promiscuity are to blame for earthquakes, a leading Iranian hard-line cleric has apparently said.
The prayer leader, Hojatoleslam Kazim Sadeghi, says women and girls who “don’t dress appropriately” spread “promiscuity in society.”
“When promiscuity spreads, earthquakes increase,” he says in a video posted Monday on YouTube, apparently of him leading Friday prayers in Tehran, Iran, last week.
— The newspaper carried the story in our local area, that was not carried nationally, that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it would was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other gay pride parades.
So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the Day of Judgment, and I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.
…where it is no longer legal to hold you down and insert a microchip in your head:
In Gov. Roy Barnes’ stump speech, the bill has become a routine example of the Republican tendency to attack problems that don’t exist, and ignore the ones that do. Besides, Barnes argues, if someone holds him down to insert a microchip in his head, “it should be more than a damned misdemeanor.”
Three states have instituted bans, and others have considered the legislation. In Virginia, a bill supporter declared microchips to be the “666” mark of the beast referred to in the Book of Revelation…
At the House hearing, state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Kennesaw), who is shouldering the legislation in the House, spoke earnestly for better than a half hour on microchips as a literal invasion of privacy.
He was followed by a hefty woman who described herself as a resident of DeKalb County. “I’m also one of the people in Georgia who has a microchip,” the woman said. Slowly, she began to lead the assembled lawmakers down a path they didn’t want to take.
Microchips, the woman began, “infringe on issues that are fundamental to our very existence. Our rights to privacy, our rights to bodily integrity, the right to say no to foreign objects being put in our body.”
She spoke of the “right to work without being tortured by co-workers who are activating these microchips by using their cell phones and other electronic devices.”
She continued. “Microchips are like little beepers. Just imagine, if you will, having a beeper in your rectum or genital area, the most sensitive area of your body. And your beeper numbers displayed on billboards throughout the city. All done without your permission,” she said.
It was not funny, and no one laughed.
“Ma’am, did you say you have a microchip?” asked state Rep. Tom Weldon (R-Ringgold).
“Yes, I do. This microchip was put in my vaginal-rectum area,” she replied. Setzler, the sponsoring lawmaker, sat next to the witness — his head bowed.
“You’re saying this was involuntary?” Weldon continued. The woman said she had been pushing a court case through the system for the last eight years to have the device removed.
Wendell Willard (R-Atlanta), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, picked up the questioning. “Who implanted this in you?” he asked.
“Researchers with the federal government,” she said.
“And who in the federal government implanted it?” Willard asked.
“The Department of Defense.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
The woman was allowed to go about her business, and the House Judiciary Committee approved passage of SB 235.
…or did you already know that? From today’s New York Times:
Lawyers for the father of a Marine who died in Iraq say a court has ordered him to pay legal costs for the anti-gay protesters who picketed his son’s funeral. The protesters are led by Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. The father, Albert Snyder of York, Pa., had won a $5 million verdict against Mr. Phelps, but it was thrown out on appeal. On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Maryland, ordered Mr. Snyder to pay the costs of Mr. Phelps’s appeal.
The United States Supreme Court agreed earlier this month to consider whether the protesters’ provocative messages, which include phrases like “Thank God for dead soldiers,” are protected by the First Amendment. Members of the church maintain that God hates homosexuality and that the death of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is God’s way of punishing the United States for its tolerance of it.
From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON — Catholic nuns are urging Congress to pass President Barack Obama’s health care plan, in an unusual public break with bishops who say it would subsidize abortion.
Some 60 leaders of religious orders representing 59,000 Catholic nuns Wednesday sent lawmakers a letter urging them to pass the Senate health care bill. It contains restrictions on abortion funding that the bishops say don’t go far enough.
The letter says that “despite false claims to the contrary, the Senate bill will not provide taxpayer funding for elective abortions.” The letter says the legislation also will help support pregnant women and “this is the real pro-life stance.”
From Reconstitution 2.0:
According to the Reverend John Hagee, Adolph Hitler was a “hunter,” sent by God, who was tasked with expediting God’s will of having the Jews re-establish a state of Israel.
Going in and out of biblical verse, Hagee preached: “‘And they the hunters should hunt them,’ that will be the Jews. ‘From every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.’ If that doesn’t describe what Hitler did in the holocaust you can’t see that.”
Yes, Hitler the Hunter came to the Earth to do the Lord’s work. This attitude among Jesusistanis is not an uncommon one; the simple fact of the matter is that most Jesusistanis are more or less open anti-Semites. A lot of people seem to think that the unwavering support the Jesusistanis have for Israel “proves” that they aren’t anti-Semites, but that belief is wholly mistaken. In order for the “Rapture” dogma of the Jesusistanis to come to pass, the Jews have to be in Jerusalem to be burned alive and sent to Hell. Understand that this, and only this, is why the Jesusistanis are such unabashed, staunch supporters of Israel.
Bart Stupak might want to beef up his obstructionism by weighing down the health care bill with the language William Blum suggests below. Go for it, Bart. There are innocent lives to be saved!
About half the states in the US require that a woman seeking an abortion be told certain things before she can obtain the medical procedure. In South Dakota, for example, until a few months ago, staff was required to tell women: “The abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being”; the pregnant woman has “an existing relationship with that unborn human being,” a relationship protected by the U.S. Constitution and the laws of South Dakota; and a “known medical risk” of abortion is an “increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide.”
…I'd like to suggest that before a young American man or woman can enlist in the armed forces s/he must be told the following by the staff of the military recruitment office:
“The United States is at war [this statement is always factually correct]. You will likely be sent to a battlefield where you will be expected to do your best to terminate the lives of whole, separate, unique, living human beings you know nothing about and who have never done you or your country any harm. You may in the process lose an arm or a leg. Or your life. If you come home alive and with all your body parts intact there’s a good chance you will be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Do not expect the government to provide you particularly good care for that, or any care at all. In any case, you may wind up physically abusing your spouse and children and/or others, killing various individuals, abusing drugs and/or alcohol, and having an increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide.
“No matter how bad a condition you may be in, the Pentagon may send you back to the battlefield for another tour of duty. They call this ‘stop-loss’. Your only alternative may be to go AWOL. Do you have any friends in Canada? And don’t ever ask any of your officers what we’re fighting for. Even the generals don’t know. In fact, the generals especially don’t know. They would never have reached their high position if they had been able to go beyond the propaganda we’re all fed, the same propaganda that has influenced you to come to this office.”
Hear this, from the American Family Association:
Chalk another death up to animal rights insanity and to the ongoing failure of the West to take counsel on practical matters from the Scripture…
What about the term “killer whale” do SeaWorld officials not understand?
If the counsel of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed, Tillikum would have been put out of everyone’s misery back in 1991 and would not have had the opportunity to claim two more human lives.
Says the ancient civil code of Israel, “When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable.” (Exodus 21:28)
So, your animal kills somebody, your moral responsibility is to put that animal to death. You have no moral culpability in the death, because you didn’t know the animal was going to go postal on somebody.
But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn’t kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, “the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:29)
…Do we want to live in a country in which the fortunate (medically speaking) accept additional insurance costs in order to provide for the unfortunate? Or do we wish to live in a country in which the fortunate are permitted to separate what happens to them from what happens to the unfortunate? Notice that by “fortunate” and “unfortunate” I do not mean “those who do not get sick” and “those who do get sick.” That would be looking at the matter ex post. I mean by fortunate “those less less likely ex ante to get sick,” and by “unfortunate” I mean “those more likely ex ante to get sick.” We are still talking probabilities here, of course. Even the young and healthy sometimes get cancer and have heart attacks. They just do so much less often. And by the same token, even multiple cancer sufferers sometimes go cancer free for the rest of their lives. But that too occurs much less often.
When we clear away all the bafflegab, all the confusion, all the posturing and bickering and procedural wrangling, all the political maneuvering, what we find is that the Democrats want America to be a country in which the fortunate shoulder some of the burdens of the unfortunate. And the Republicans want America to be a country in which they do not. In short, if I may put it this way, the Democrats want America to be a Christian country, and the Republicans want America to be a Godless country…
Here’s the Word of the Lord from John Hart, who is communications director for famed Christian Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma:
Coburn’s opposition to government programs, Hart said, stemmed from his concern for the poor. “His faith informs everything he does,” Hart said. He went on to say that, in the New Testament, Jesus mentions the poor some 300 times. “He doesn’t view the Bible as a think-tank document.,” Hart said. So, Coburn, before he contemplates a policy, Hart said, first asks himself, “How will it impact the people least able to fend for themselves?”
“He has come to the conclusion that large government enterprises harm poor more than help them,” Hart said, offering Medicaid as an example. He conceded that the government health-care program does help some poor people, but he contends that it hurts others, because “40 percent of doctors refuse to accept Medicaid.” (Coburn is an MD himself.)
Hart said that the expansion of Medicaid beyond the ranks of the “truly poor” will only hurt more people.
And, in a not unrelated story, we learn that, “Only one in four Oklahoma public high school students can name the first President of the United States, according to a survey released today.”
Interesting piece by Michelle Goldberg of The American Prospect:
It’s not, after all, as if the Christian right was something completely removed from the old racist right — rather, as Reed acknowledged all those years ago, they were initially deeply intertwined. The Columbia historian Randall Balmer has shown that Christian conservatives were not, contrary to their own mythology, initially mobilized by their outrage at Roe vs. Wade. Rather, what spurred them into action was the IRS’s attempt to revoke the tax-exempt status of whites only Christian schools, schools that had been created specifically to evade desegregation.
The Christian right was always rooted in an older style of reactionary politics. Before he became a political organizer himself, Falwell — who ran one of those Christian segregation academies — attacked Martin Luther King Jr. for his political activism. (“Preachers are not called to be politicians, but to be soul winners,” he said.) Before Tony Perkins was basking in homophobic interracial amity, he paid Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list. In 2004, David Barton, then the vice president of the Texas GOP, spoke at an event featuring white preachers and ministry workers dropping to their knees before their black brethren to plead for forgiveness. Thirteen years earlier, Barton had twice been a featured speaker at meetings of the Christian Identity movement, which preaches that blacks are sub-human “mud people.” One could go on and on…
From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON – A Senate committee voted Tuesday night to restore $50 million a year in federal funding for abstinence-only education that President Barack Obama has pushed to eliminate.
The 12-11 vote by the Senate Finance Committee came over objections from its chairman, Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana.
Two Democrats — Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas — joined all 10 committee Republicans in voting “yes” on the measure by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.
I am of course terribly upset by President Obama’s plans to indoctrinate the schoolchildren of America next week. It’s just more of the kind of wishy-washy, mushy, feel-good, Kumbaya stuff we’ve come to expect from him. Here’s how you indoctrinate school kids:
…have been surprised by such religious recrudescences as Operation Rescue and the recent murder of Dr. George Tiller. Patriots and Peoples, a blog whose existence I discovered about five minutes ago, quotes the Founding Father:
The Presbyterian clergy are loudest, the most intolerant of all sects, the most tyrannical and ambitious; ready at the word of a lawgiver, if such a word could be now obtained, to put the torch to the pile, and to rekindle in this virgin hemisphere, the flames in which their oracle Calvin consumed the poor Servetus.
You’ve been hearing about the C Street house where Sanford and Ensign and Wamp and many another sinner of the GOP lived and loved and laughed together.
But it’s all a whole lot creepier that you even think, unless you happen to remember Jeff Sharlet’s 2003 piece in Harper’s called “Jesus plus nothing: Undercover among America’s secret theocrats.”
The book which grew out of it, The Family, is just out in trade paperback, and I urge you to buy it. And you will, once you read the 2003 piece. Excerpt:
It is April 2002, and I have lived with these men for weeks now, not as a Christian — a term they deride as too narrow for the world they are building in Christ’s honor — but as a “believer.” I have shared the brothers’ meals and their work and their games. I have been numbered among them and have been given a part in their ministry. I have wrestled with them and showered with them and listened to their stories: I know which man resents his father’s fortune and which man succumbed to the flesh of a woman not once but twice and which man dances so well he is afraid of being taken for a fag. I know what it means to be a “brother,” which is to say that I know what it means to be a soldier in the army of God…
Religious notes from the New York Times:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Some of those seated in the pews of New Bethel Church here Saturday night, their firearms tucked to their sides, saw themselves as modern-day pioneers…
Likewise, Tommy Hillerich, 68, a retired truck driver, and Maya, 58, his wife, a former auto upholstery worker, did not bring their firearms inside but firmly believe in their right to do so.
“I don’t see a thing wrong with having a loaded gun in there,” Mr. Hillerich said. “If the pastor’s in there and he’s got a concealed weapon and somebody comes in and starts shooting people, he can take him out. That’s his right.”
Here’s an old item from the dawn of Bad Attitudes that I just came across. Sadly, it’s still relevant.
The Reverend Michael Bray of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Bowie, Maryland, runs an annual benefit banquet for imprisoned murderers, bombers, arsonists and other criminals in the anti-abortion movement:
“For example, he said, Paul Hill, convicted for the 1994 killings of a doctor who performed abortions and his escort in Florida, sent along a letter listing the ten commandments. Mr. Malvasi’s contributions to the charity auction, Mr. Bray said, included the watch he used as a timing device in a bombing attempt in the 1980s.
“‘You can understand the level of levity here,’ Mr. Bray said. He added that the items sold for amounts up to $100.” (New York Times, March 31, 2001)
Sparky Satori at Shorts and Pants reminds us of a former racist activist on the Supreme Court — Chief Justice William Rehnquist. A superior work of snark, found in its entirety here.
November of last year, it was assumed that the USofA had finally vanquished the lingering ghosts of racism and was poised on the cusp of a new post-racial dawn. The long dark night of lynching and discrimination was finally over. “Huzzah!” bleated the media, smugly self-congratulatory.
But that was then. This is worse. And leave it to the hyper-sensitive Republicans to sniff out whiffs of the new racism being foisted upon the nation by its first black President. GOP stalwarts Newt Gringrich and Rush Limbaugh were quick to alert the country to a leading practitioner of this new racism, Sonia “Maria” Sotomayor ["SoSo" to her non-friends]. But she’s not your average garden-variety racist, according to the GOP braintrust. Per Newt and Rush, she is a “reverse racist,” rarer than even the “Albino Negro.” This alone should disqualify her from sitting on the Supreme Court, which has never, ever had any benchers who suffered from an iota of racial insensitivity…
Here’s a snippet from the Nixon tapes to give you an idea of the vetting process from which Rehnquist emerged. Full transcript here. As always with Nixon, fascinating stuff. Sure he was evil, but nobody ever called him dumb.
RMN: Yeah, all right, call me back when you get it. But remember, let’s figure on the Rehnquist thing. The political mileage basically is the same kind of mileage if we were to go with Smith. The idea being that we are appointing a highly qualified man. That’s really what it gets down to.
[Attorney General] John Mitchell: Yeah.
RMN: And also he doesn’t smack of the corporate lawyer as much as Smith.
JM: No, he’s more of a general practitioner.
RMN: Incidentally, what is Rehnquist? I suppose he’s a damn Protestant?
JM: I’m sure of that. He’s just as WASPish as WASPish can be.
RMN: Yeah, well, that’s too damn bad. Tell him to change his religion.
JM: All right, I’ll get him baptized this afternoon.
RMN: Well, get him baptized and castrated, no, they don’t do that, I mean they circumcise— no, that’s the Jews. Well anyway, whatever he is, get him changed.
Read the whole story at The Wichita Eagle:
George Tiller, the Wichita doctor who became a national lightning rod in the debate over abortion, was shot to death this morning inside the lobby of his Wichita church…
French First Lady Carla Bruni today launched an astonishing attack on the Pope — accusing the Catholic Church of ‘damaging’ countries like Africa with its birth control proclamations.
The Italian-born former supermodel said she was so dissatisfied with the Pontiff that she no longer practised the religion she was born into.
Her outburst, made at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris, caused outrage — not only among France’s millions of Catholics, but also among those who do not believe it is the job of an unelected First Lady to criticise a world figure, least of all the Pope.
Miss Bruni said: ‘I was born Catholic, I was baptised, but in my life I feel profoundly secular.
‘I find that the controversy coming from the Pope’s message – albeit distorted by the media — is very damaging.
‘In Africa it’s often Church people who look after sick people. It’s astonishing to see the difference between the theory and the reality.’
Seriously. Doesn’t the Supreme Court of the United States of America have anything better than this to do?
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday ordered a federal appeals court to re-examine its ruling in favor of CBS Corp. in a legal fight over entertainer Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.
The high court on Monday directed the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to consider reinstating the $550,000 fine that the Federal Communications Commission imposed on CBS over Jackson's breast-baring performance at the 2004 Super Bowl.
From George Orwell’s evisceration of Tolstoy for Tolstoy’s evisceration of Shakespeare:
By nature [Tolstoy] was imperious as well as egotistical. Well after he was grown up he would still occasionally strike his servant in moments of anger, and somewhat later, according to his biographer, Derrick Leon, he felt “a frequent desire upon the slenderest provocation to slap the faces of those with whom he disagreed.” One does not necessarily get rid of that kind of temperament by undergoing religious conversion, and indeed it is obvious that the illusion of having been reborn may allow one’s native vices to flourish more freely than ever, though perhaps in subtler forms.
This from Bristol Palin, for whom I hope all goes well.
(CNN) — In her first interview since giving birth, the teenage daughter of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said having a child is not “glamorous,” and that telling young people to be abstinent is “not realistic at all.”
“It’s just, like, I’m not living for myself anymore. It’s, like, for another person, so it’s different,” Bristol Palin told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “And just you’re up all night. And it’s not glamorous at all,” she said. “Like, your whole priorities change after having a baby…”
The best option is abstinence, the teen said, but added that she didn’t think that was “realistic.”
Pope Benedict just named one Fr Gerhard Maria Wagner as assistant bishop of the Austrian city of Linz.
Fr Wagner is notorious for his extreme views — he has accused the popular Harry Potter novels of spreading Satanism, and described Hurricane Katrina as God’s punishment for the sinners of New Orleans.
He wrote in a parish newsletter that the death and destruction caused by the hurricane in New Orleans was divine retribution for the city’s tolerance of homosexuals and permissive sexual attitudes.
The future bishop said he was glad that Katrina destroyed not only nightclubs and brothels in New Orleans, but also five of the city’s abortion clinics.
Televangelist John Hagee:
I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they are —were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade on the Monday that the Katrina came, and the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing.
The late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi :
[Al Qaeda’s then-leader in Iraq] issued a statement on the Internet calling Katrina divine retribution. “God’s great wrath has hit the head of the oppressors,” the statement read…
In the recording, al-Zarqawi said, “I believe the devastating hurricane that hit the United States occurred because people in Iraq or Afghanistan — maybe a mother who had lost her son or a son whose parents were killed or a woman who was raped — were praying for God and God accepted their prayers.”
And, from the third of the great Semitic monotheisms, here’s Ovadia Yosef…
… a former chief rabbi of Israel and the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas movement, said Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for President Bush 's support for Israel's Gaza pullout.
“Bush was behind the (expulsion of) Gush Katif,” he said. “He encouraged Sharon to expel Gush Katif…we had 15,000 people expelled here, and there 150,000 (were expelled from New Orleans — ed. note)
And speaking of Howard Dean, as I was last night, here’s a clue to why he was frozen out (as if the identity of the incoming White House chief of staff wasn’t enough). It’s by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, writing in the London Review of Books:
Key organisations in the Lobby make it their business to ensure that critics of Israel do not get important foreign policy jobs. Jimmy Carter wanted to make George Ball his first secretary of state, but knew that Ball was seen as critical of Israel and that the Lobby would oppose the appointment. In this way any aspiring policymaker is encouraged to become an overt supporter of Israel, which is why public critics of Israeli policy have become an endangered species in the foreign policy establishment.
When Howard Dean called for the United States to take a more ‘even-handed role’ in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Senator Joseph Lieberman accused him of selling Israel down the river and said his statement was ‘irresponsible’. Virtually all the top Democrats in the House signed a letter criticising Dean’s remarks, and the Chicago Jewish Star reported that ‘anonymous attackers … are clogging the email inboxes of Jewish leaders around the country, warning — without much evidence — that Dean would somehow be bad for Israel.’
This worry was absurd; Dean is in fact quite hawkish on Israel: his campaign co-chair was a former AIPAC president, and Dean said his own views on the Middle East more closely reflected those of AIPAC than those of the more moderate Americans for Peace Now. He had merely suggested that to ‘bring the sides together’, Washington should act as an honest broker. This is hardly a radical idea, but the Lobby doesn’t tolerate even-handedness.
Interesting take by Todd Gitlin on the Reverend Rick Warren flap, via The Rag Blog. I’m staying out of this controversy right now, having noticed that every time I got mad over something Obama did during the election season, he turned out to be right and I turned out to be wrong. It just may be that Obama plays better political chess than I do.
My initial reaction to Obama’s Rick Warren announcement was horror.
After what seems like weeks of intense back-and-forth, but in fact is only a day’s worth, I’m still appalled. It’s one thing to invite the adversary into the tent the better to defeat him with a smile — neutralize him, in colder terms — but it’s quite another to give him a throne, even if a purely symbolic throne. Warren’s political interventions are mostly terrible (AIDS and environment are the exceptions).
The argument that this was crass political calculation — triangulation, as another president once said — comparable to FDR making nice to segregationists and Stalin, falls afoul of the fact that this overture to Warren was unnecessary. To get the New Deal, FDR really did have to make deals with the racist devil. To defeat Hitler, FDR really had to ally with Stalin. It’s history: get used to it.
But I’ve yet to see a single argument to the effect that Obama’s invitation to Warren accomplishes a single practical thing, let along that it was necessary. So I take it as an ugly brush-back: a gratuitous slap at feminists and LGBT’s. I hope it’s ill-considered, impromptu, but suspect it’s actually one of a series — bridge-building to the right on principle.
But meanwhile, some proportion here, people. Other appointments are arguable but some are clearly superb. Harold Meyerson, than whom no one knows L. A. and labor better, says bluntly: “Hilda Solis is great.” (So does every union person I’ve seen quoted.) E. J. Dionne, Jr., makes a firm case for Arne Duncan at Education. John Judis calls Obama’s incoming science adviser John Holdren “the Mick Jagger of climate change,” meaning that “by the end of Holdren’s speech, I was ready to join the world environmentalist crusade.” When I was teaching at Berkeley, I heard Holdren, who taught physics there, give a fabulous talk about nuclear dangers.
Meantime, Obama still hasn’t taken up residence in the White House.
Wes Boyd and Joan Blades had the right idea, back in the fading days of the 20th century, when they started what became the excellent Move On with a simple petition.
Vis-à-vis Clinton-Lewinsky, recall that their petition read: “Congress must Immediately Censure President Clinton and Move On to pressing issues facing the country.”
Censure Obama over Warren — directly, sincerely, viscerally — and move on.
Bad news for Seinfeld freaks and all you freaks at the Westboro Baptist Church:
Washington state officials placed a moratorium late Friday on permitting any more holiday displays inside the Capitol this year.
An atheists’ sign placed near a Nativity scene sparked a controversy after commentators on Fox News drew attention to it. Afterward, Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office was flooded with nearly 15,000 phone calls from people nationwide who opposed the sign.
The moratorium in effect denies space to several requests, including one for a sign that says “Santa Claus will take you to Hell” and a “Festivus” pole. Festivus is a mock holiday popularized by the “Seinfeld” sitcom in the 1990s.
Merry Christmas from the Westboro Baptist Church!
“You’d better watch out, get ready to cry/ You’d better go hide, I’m telling you why/
’cuz Santa Claus will take you to hell.
“He is your favorite idol, you worship at his feet,/ but when you stand before your God He won’t help you take the heat.
“So get this fact straight: you’re feeling God’s hate,/ Santa’s to blame for the economy’s fate,
“Santa Claus will take you to hell.”
From the Associated Press, a Prince of the Church making his priorities clear:
SANTIAGO, Chile – Madonna is causing “crazy enthusiasm” and “impure thoughts” on her first concert visit to Chile, a prominent retired cardinal complained on Wednesday, as he paused in a tribute to a late dictator to denounce the pop star.
Roman Catholic Cardinal Jorge Medina criticized the flamboyant singer during his homily at a Mass in honor of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet, who oversaw the deaths of some 3,200 dissidents during his 1973-1990 rule…
Medina said that some of those who claim to seek justice for violations of human rights under the dictator are actually seeking revenge.
Newt Gingrich on The O’Reilly Factor:
And I think if you believe in historic Christianity, you have to confront the fact. And, frank— for that matter, if you believe in the historic version of Islam or the historic version of Judaism, you have to confront the reality that these secular extremists are determined to impose on you acceptance of a series of values that are antithetical, they’re the opposite, of what you’re taught in Sunday.Brady Bonk, at Ketchup Is a Vegetable:
You see, Newt, it is actually the secular component of our society that GUARDS religious freedom. Without it, religious freedom is impossible. There is either a secular, neutral public square in the middle, or there’s a state-sponsored church-o-god, and you’d better get there every Sunday or the Jesus Police will come get you and throw you in the slam. It is the secular public square that allows our Jewish friends and our Muslim friends, and yes, our Christian friends, to enter their houses of worship and to talk to whatever imaginary friend in the sky they wish.
George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian about one of the great mysteries in American policies — why we prefer stupidity, or at least the appearance of it, in the White House. (Another is why we think adultery disqualifies a man for public office — a bizarre notion that has cost the nation dearly.)
But enough of that. Here are some teasers from Monbiot’s essay:
Like most people on this side of the Atlantic I have spent my adult life mystified by American politics. The US has the world’s best universities and attracts the world’s finest minds. It dominates discoveries in science and medicine. Its wealth and power depend on the application of knowledge. Yet, uniquely among the developed nations (with the possible exception of Australia), learning is a grave political disadvantage…
On one level this is easy to answer. Ignorant politicians are elected by ignorant people. US education, like the US health system, is notorious for its failures. In the most powerful nation on earth, one adult in five believes the sun revolves around the earth; only 26% accept that evolution takes place by means of natural selection; two-thirds of young adults are unable to find Iraq on a map; two-thirds of US voters cannot name the three branches of government; the maths skills of 15 year-olds in the US are ranked 24th out of the 29 countries of the OECD…
One theme is both familiar and clear: religion — in particular fundamentalist religion — makes you stupid. The US is the only rich country in which Christian fundamentalism is vast and growing…
A survey by researchers at the University of Texas in 1998 found that one in four of the state’s public school biology teachers believed that humans and dinosaurs lived on earth at the same time.
Monbiot also has interesting things to say about how the revolting philosophy of Herbert Spencer managed to put religion on the side of reason in the latter decades of the 19th century. Too long to excerpt, though, so read the full piece.
Here’s a great rant from Alicia Morgan, whose enemy you would definitely not want to be.
…George W. Bush, in celebrating his own lack of intellect and curiosity, has made a virtue of ignorance, and by breaking the glass ceiling on stupidity, demonstrated to those who already think this way that there are no limits to where ignorance can take you. He has also demonstrated that governing by ignorance is not only possible, but easily done, and that ignorance can beat intelligence, given the right set of circumstances…
Case in point is the love child of George Bush and Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin. While George Bush is a relative latecomer to the fundamentalist fold, he insisted that “God told him to attack Iraq.” He relies on his ‘gut’ instead of brains, and considers that a completely acceptable, even preferable choice.
Sarah Palin takes those traits to a whole different level. No Johnny-come-lately she, Palin was steeped in fundamentalist principles from birth, and is both far more radically religious and far less educated than George W. Bush. Which, in the Bizarro-World of right-wing logic, makes her...even better! According to the Bush standard, all you need is a mule-stubborn refusal to yield to be a successful world leader, and intelligence just gets in the way of that. Sarah Palin describes it as “you can’t blink.” What she means is “you can’t think.”
This demonization of intelligence is getting worse, not better, as the ignorant and venal are rewarded ever more richly in our society. If the unthinkable come to pass, with a McCain presidency Sarah Palin — would-be book-banner, science-hater, reproductive-rights-destroyer, Rapture-ready end-timer — will be a fibrillation away from being the leader of the free world. One would not think it possible, but she makes George W. Bush look like Noam Chomsky.
Hell, yes, I’m an elitist. You should be, too.
…and so I won’t even try. These are excerpts from Women Against Sarah Palin, the wonderful website to which my sister Pat alerted me, and about which I blogged earlier this week.
Sarah Palin is the classic example of a woman being used by those in power to remove power from women.
I want to love a mother, governor and VP candidate, but Palin horrifies me, she seems to epitomize the American inability to be introspective, to polarize and see everything in terms of black and white, good or evil, right or wrong. This intolerance and inability to get out of a narrow perspective and see the divine spark in all is at the core of the danger America is creating for itself, and feeds the dissension in America. She has a sharp, but not a deep mind fast with the comebacks, but more interested in bullying an argument than in understanding the truth.
Even in this very red state of Alabama, we know the difference between a show horse, a hobby horse, and a work horse. You do not represent working class women, farm wives or single mothers — ALL of whom turned to Hillary Clinton with great hopes. You charged women for their own rape kits when you were mayor in Wasilla. You use housekeepers and nannies to care for your kids. You don’t want sex education in schools, but you let your daughter get pregnant! You do not now, nor will you ever speak for us!
I can hardly begin to express the depth of my anger at hearing Ms. Palin denigrate the many community organizers I worked with and proudly call my friends. Community Organizers make the world a better place, doing God’s work day in and day out, night after night. To hear that convention audience laugh in response to her snide remarks really pissed me off. I didn’t realize just how steamed I was until a dear friend (another longtime community activist) sent me an e-mail with this message: Jesus was a Community Organizer. Pontius Pilate was a Governor.
Sarah Palin represents the slap of the dinosaur’s tail — a deadly, horned swipe of a breed going extinct; quite likely, in her throes of excited thrashing, to kill off many individuals, many careers, many dearly held gains, won since 1963, for which many of us fought with our brains, our convictions, our blood, our time, our eloquence, and our money…
Are we ready to stand idly by while an old, ill man, watches Sarah’s shapely behind, while fingering his wedding ring? Are we ready to give up our time to choose, our right to decide and let this mockery of a modern woman, this poorly educated bigot tramples our civil rights? Are we ready to die if our life is endangered by an unhealthy pregnancy? Are we willing to let Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and the other megalomaniacs at the helm of the Republican party decide the course of our lives, our daughters’ and granddaughters’ lives?
Even the power she gained as the mayor of a town of a mere 5000, immediately corrupted her; her wide swipes through the administration she inherited were so disruptive to that small government entity that an immediate remedy was set in place — an administrator had to be hired to do the job of running the town while she was mayor. And still, the surplus she inherited turned into a deficit — IMAGINE the damage she could orchestrate on a national level.
The Alaskan legislature took to wearing buttons that said, “Where’s Sarah?” because she spent so little time in Juneau. Once again, the GOP is deceiving the American people in a most callous and calculating way — just because they put a skirt on this time doesn’t change a damned thing!
Women in particular should project hope and love and caring for others, and Ms. Palin does none of this, choosing instead to be mean-spirited and accusatory in every single speech and action. I can only hope that with time, people will recognize this and realize that we need someone quite different from her to take us down the road to respect and REAL morality.
But she is not the problem — our problem is the white old men that insist on running this country with their need to control, their archaic laws and ideas. Their lives are based on fear and ridiculous needs to dominate our pocketbook, our bodies and to shoot before thinking and talking. They also have a great need to distort the truth — in other words LYING. This young woman from Alaska is being fooled with — she is their decoy — but she might be elected and then she could be a heartbeat away from being in charge of our lives.
The American people have become distracted. Palin, participating in this election as a trojan horse, has come with phrases that involve animals and lipsticks, bridges to nowhere, and eBay, leading americans in to an abyss of distractions pulling away from the very sobering facts that who she represents and the policies she supports are a complete replica of the current Bush administration, on paper, and without personality mud-slings, the Palin/MCCain ticket represent four more years of the same policies the world has come to hate.
Here we have the ideal ticket for anyone who supports women’s rights — Obama and Biden — versus two people who think women are brainless fools. The fact that Palin wears a skirt doesn’t mean she has respect for women. On the contrary. It just means that she uses her sex to stop any questions about her competence by accusing the questioner of sex-discrimination. Frankly, I didn’t buy that argument when Hillary made it and I’m certainly not buying it from Palin.
This classic bait and switch move has the electorate once again focusing on the culture wars instead of the real ones, on pseudo-feminism instead of tolerance and equality.
Her extreme beliefs regarding abstinence-only education did not work even for her own daughter! and yet she wants to force it on our daughters! We will not have it. We can do better, there are stronger, more thoughtful and fair minded women in this country who are fit to run it.
Is Ms.Palin really the best the Republican party has to offer in terms of a female? I guess there are slim pickings for a woman who will support an antiquated and sexist Republican agenda.
The cruel irony of Senator Clinton blooding herself on that glass ceiling only to have a puppet escorted through on the arm of a warrior…
These people are two loose cannons on a rolling deck and I genuinely fear for the future of our great country. If John McCain is unable to see his term through, Sarah Palin is next in line as leader of the Free World.
“To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.” Really? Because the parents of children with disabilities in Alaska don’t have much of a friend or advocate right now. Even in years of great surplus, she actually cut state funding for special education services and Medicaid — the program that children and adults with disabilities rely on for health care.
Ms. Palin is also well documented as a local bully who tries to fire anyone who disagrees with her. After eight years of an unqualified President who has done everything in his power to position America as a global bully, this characteristic is the last quality we need in the White House for four more years.
Sarah Palin sees the hand of God in a $30 billion Alaskan national gas pipeline. “I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that,” she has stated.
Ms. Palin and I clearly worship very different gods. I see the hand of God not in the wallets of the oil companies, but in the pristine Alaska coastline, its majestic polar bears, whales, and glaciers — all of which Big Oil will despoil. Perhaps Ms. Palin has made the mistake that afflicts a frightening number of our citizens: confusing God with money.
Let’s see you argue with this, from Eye of the Storm:
i’m going to say this one time, and then i’m going to shut up. re: bristol palin. the american liberal is, — seriously, literally — pro-abortion and anti-choice, believes essentially in mandatory abortion. what does the average liberal mom do when her 16-year-old daughter shows up pregnant? drags her immediately to the abortion clinic, whatever the daughter’s (or the babydad’s, of course) misgivings.
the american left thinks that bristol palin having her baby is, actually, morally wrong. and more to the point, it shows something terrible about her mom, who had a moral obligation to make her daughter have an abortion. and one reason for this is that if you have a baby when you’re 16, you will likely slip out of our class. you’ll go live with joey, the kid who wants to be a mechanic. you’ll take classes at the community college instead of heading off to a decent school. you’ll end up in a housecoat with a houseful of wailing babies, listening to faith hill.
what haunts the imagination of the american liberal: my family, in the next generation, will be white trash. maybe it would be more interesting to look at these sorts of motivations than to try to figure out “when human life begins.”
Sarah Vowell, in today’s New York Times:
During a gubernatorial debate in 2006, Governor Palin claimed that if her daughter, then 16, were impregnated as the result of being raped, Ms. Palin would hope that the girl would “choose life,” which is a polite way of saying she would expect a tenth-grader to give birth to her rapist’s baby.
Here’s a not-so-polite fact about the United States: According to Amnesty International, a woman is raped here every six minutes.…
This year, Senator McCain himself didn’t bother to stand up to the right wing of his party to insist that the rape and incest exception be written into the Republican Party platform.
Evidently somebody at the White House knows how to use the Google. From Froomkin:
“Another prosecutor was rejected for a job in part because she was thought to be a lesbian. And a Republican lawyer received high marks at his job interview because he was found to be sufficiently conservative on the core issues of ‘god, guns + gays.’”
The report “found that White House officials were actively involved in some hiring decisions.
“According to the report, officials at the White House first developed a method of searching the Internet to glean the political leanings of a candidate and introduced it at a White House seminar called The Thorough Process of Investigation. Justice Department officials then began using the technique to search for key phrases or words in an applicant’s background, like ‘abortion,’ ‘homosexual,’ ‘Florida recount,’ or ‘guns.…’
It may be that somewhere, sometime, a hate-crazed liberal once shot up a right-wing fundamentalist church, but no such occasion comes to mind.
And as for “acting alone,” where do you suppose the vicious simpleton below got the idea that things like desegregation, a living wage, women’s rights and gay rights were the cause of all his troubles?
Anything come to mind this time? Limbaugh? O’Reilly? Hagee? Falwell? Coulter? Parsley? Robertson? Savage? And on. And on. And on…
From the BBC:
A man accused of shooting dead two people in a Tennessee church was motivated by hatred of liberals and anger at being jobless, US police say…[And — surprise, surprise — here’s a later postscript, from the Knoxville News Sentinel.]
“It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that, and his stated hatred for the liberal movement,” Chief Owen said…
The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church describes itself on its website as working for social change since the 1950s, including desegregation, racial harmony, fair wages, women’s rights and gay rights.
Police say it appears Mr. Adkisson was acting alone.
Inside the house, officers found “Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder” by radio talk show host Michael Savage, “Let Freedom Ring” by talk show host Sean Hannity, and “The O’Reilly Factor,” by television talk show host Bill O’Reilly…
On those rare occasions when Bush is moved to do the right thing, he gets knee-capped by his best friends. If it weren’t so horrible it would be amusing. Consider this unusually ripe specimen:
WASHINGTON — President Bush’s efforts to broaden a widely respected, bipartisan program to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa have faced roadblocks by seven Republican senators.
Bush had hoped that Congress would pass legislation to spend $50 billion to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis primarily in Africa in time for the Group of Eight summit in Japan next month. However, the seven socially conservative senators, led by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., refuse to support the legislation unless spending focuses more heavily on treatment than on prevention.
In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the seven senators — Coburn, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana — criticized the bills’ increased spending over the next five years from $15 billion to $50 billion, the expansion of AIDS funding to countries such as China and India and the inclusion of funding for agricultural-assistance and poverty-alleviation programs.
“The bills’ support would allow morally questionable activities, including advocating with host governments to change gender norms and policies and promoting activities that could include needle distribution to drug users,” the senators wrote.
Vitter, Vitter. Haven’t I heard that name somewhere? Isn’t he some kind of an expert on morally questionable activities? Oh, yes, now it all comes back:
After Vitter’s telephone number was discovered this summer among the records of the so-called “D.C. Madam,” the rumors about his sexual proclivities really started flying. Wonkette and a variety of liberal blogs ran with rumors that he had a diaper fetish and liked to make in his nappy during sexual acts. No one seems to be sure where that rumor originated, so we did our best to get to the bottom of it.
Wendy Cortez (Ellis), a New Orleans-based reformed hooker, said during a press conference yesterday that Vitter stopped seeing her after he learned her real first name was the same as his wife’s. Cortez tells Radar that Vitter never wore any diapers during their sexual transgressions, which she says occurred two to three times a week over a four-month period in 1999.
“That story referred to another client of [mine] and was later misconstrued by reporters and bloggers,” Cortez explained. She also added that Vitter was always “very clean” during intercourse.
How disgusting. How sad. And how predictable. National Socialist, Moslem, or Orthodox Jew, a zealot is a zealot:
Messianic Jews in Israel say they want an inquiry into the burning of hundreds of copies of the New Testament by Orthodox Jews in Or Yehuda last week.
The books were given to the town’s Ethiopian Jews by the Messianic Jews, who believe in Jesus as a saviour.
Or Yehuda’s deputy mayor says he received complaints about the books, and arranged for them to be burnt…
Don Heiny sends this:
Well, I say that the Democratic Party changed. The Democratic Party today was not the party it was in 2000. It’s not the Bill Clinton-Al Gore party, which was strong internationalists, strong on defense, pro-trade, pro-reform in our domestic government. It’s been effectively taken over by a small group on the left of the party that is protectionist, isolationist and basically will — and very, very hyperpartisan. So it pains me. I’m a Democrat who came to the party in the era of President John F. Kennedy. It’s a strange turn of the road when I find among the candidates running this year that the one, in my opinion, closest to the Kennedy legacy, the John F. Kennedy legacy, is John S. McCain.
The speaker is the despicable Joe Lieberman, on ABC this morning. Here is some earlier moralizing from Holy Joe, Likud’s man in Connecticut and soon to be, if his wettest dreams come true, McCain’s man on the GOP ticket this fall:
WASHINGTON — Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman reluctantly acknowledged Thursday that he does not believe waterboarding is torture, but believes the interrogation technique should be available only under the most extreme circumstances…
The difference, he said, is that waterboarding is mostly psychological and there is no permanent physical damage. "It is not like putting burning coals on people's bodies. The person is in no real danger. The impact is psychological," Lieberman said.
Connecticut resident Jerry Doolittle reluctantly acknowledges that he would rather have just about anybody as his senator but Torture Boy Lieberman. In fact I once put my vote where my mouth is.
It was in 2000, when a Republican no-hoper named Philip Giordano was running against Lieberman for the senate seat that Holy Joe was clinging to for dear life while simultaneously dragging down the national Democratic ticket as the vice presidential candidate.
I only knew two things about Giordano. One was that he was mayor of Waterbury, which is significant in Connecticut politics. It signifies that you haven’t been indicted yet, but hold your horses. You’ll get there soon enough.
The second thing I knew was that Giordano wasn’t Joe Lieberman, which left me with no option but to cast the first vote of my life for a Republican.
Meanwhile the FBI had already been quietly investigating Giordano for corruption, a process which is triggered more or less automatically when a new Waterbury mayor takes office.
During “Operation LandPhil,” as the Bureau called it, the wiretappers snapped to attention one day when they overheard Giordano making arrangements with a local prostitute to bring two girls, aged nine and ten, to his office for oral sex. Now the former Marine is doing 37 years in federal prison.
And still I don’t regret my vote. I’d rather be represented in the Senate by a pedophile than by a whiny, smarmy, sanctimonious warmonger with the blood of innumerable nine- and ten-year-old girls on his hands.
The sad thing about the attacks on Senator Obama for things said by his wife and by his pastor is that attention was paid to them by anyone except Jon Stewart. It was as if the Senator were being pilloried for consorting with persons who claimed that grass is green and — the horror, the horror! — that water runs downhill.
Reverend Wright and Michelle Obama may, for all I know, harbor private beliefs as evil as those which lurk in the minds of Richard Cheney, Osama bin Laden or, back in the day, Vlad the Impaler.
If so, however, the fact has not been reported. What has been reported proves only that both the Obama pastor and the Obama wife are guilty of truth-telling in the first degree. For example, anyone who believes that American foreign policy bore no causal relation to the 9/11 attacks is simply a fool.
And as to Michelle Obama’s deplorably recent feelings of pride in her country, I will refer you, as Judy in Canada has referred me, to this efficient evisceration of the whole issue by Rick Salutin of The Globe and Mail. I’ll add only this from Edmund Burke: ‘For us to love our country, our country ought to be lovely.”
The problem of patriotism really comes down to one question: Are patriots permitted to be critical of their nation, or must they be proud and unquestioning at all times? Once that’s answered, the puzzles dissolve.
Take Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, who said: “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback..” That’s Position 1. Candidate John McCain’s wife, Cindy, took Position 2: “I have and always will be proud of my country.”
It’s odd that no reporters put Cindy McCain on the spot, named dubious things the U.S. has done, like its genocidal assault on aboriginals, and asked: Are you proud of that? Michelle Obama is the one they keep saying has dug her and her husband a big anti-American hole, one she still hasn’t got past.
But under Position 1 — criticism allowed — her words imply she is a true patriot, and one with a generous spirit. She didn’t wait for solutions to what presumably blocked her pride in the past: like failure to deal with the ongoing problems of race in the U.S. She was ready to be proud on the fairly flimsy basis of reactions to her husband’s campaign. She’s not just a patriot, she’s an optimistic one.
Under Position 1, the patriot test is: Does she continue to want to be proud of her nation, while demanding it live up to standards. By that test, she is a patriot with no hole to climb out of, and so probably is her pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who has taken a lot more stick than she has.
What did he say that anyone could object to on patriotic grounds — that the chickens are coming home to roost in events like 9/11? That’s just foreign policy analysis, stated metaphorically. You can disagree, but it isn’t unpatriotic. Or: “The government ... wants us to sing God Bless America. No, no, no, God damn America ... for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human.” That is utterly in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
According to the Hebrew prophets, God consigned his beloved chosen people to exile for allowing social injustice, allying with evil nations — i.e., shabby foreign policy — and religious infidelity. (The black church in the U.S. has always had a preferential option for the Old Testament parts of the Bible.)
Another way to put Position 1 is: You cannot say, Blessed is the nation, unless you can also say, Cursed is the nation — they go together under love of nation. As political philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote: “There can be no patriotism without permanent opposition and criticism.”
She said that in 1963, under fire from other Jews for her book Eichmann in Jerusalem. She was a lifelong Zionist but critical of the direction Zionism had taken. In fact, Jews often split into the two positions over loyalty to Israel. It’s odd how that, too, has now been woven into U.S. politics. Candidates for president are required to show unquestioning allegiance to Israel as much, or more, as to the U.S. The same is becoming true in Canada.
Of course, we also have unique Canadian versions of unthinking patriotism. When the “loyal” opposition criticized the handover of detainees by our forces in Afghanistan despite possible torture, Stephen Harper and his instruments replied: Why do they criticize what our troops do? Why do they care more about the Taliban than our brave Canadian soldiers? Got that — it’s unpatriotic to ask if our country did anything to be ashamed of?
Hannah Arendt also wrote about Judah Magnes, a Zionist pioneer and founder of the Hebrew University. “Being a Jew and a Zionist, he was simply ashamed of what Jews and Zionists were doing.” The sense of shame is what can save the honour of the group and the nation. It is what Position 1 patriots provide. If there are no patriots capable of shame for what is done in the nation’s name, so there is only praise and pride everywhere, then patriotism easily slides into stupidity and worse.
Good stuff from Dennis Perrin on the MSM’s current fan-fluttering and attacks of the vapors over Obama’s pastor’s ventures into truth-telling.
In the real world, out where the flag-lapel crowd and the yellow ribbon boys never venture, 9/11 was indeed, as Reverend Jeremiah Wright said, the result of stupid and provocative actions taken by the United States in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Israel.
This is not to excuse the 9/11 attacks. They were evil, murderous and unforgivable. But so had been our own actions in the Middle East and Afghanistan, over many years and many presidents. There are no good guys in this alley fight. This is essentially what Reverend Wright said, and he was right. Get over it, people.
And go read Perrin’s piece on the Reverend, from whence cometh this:
I've been pretty hard on the Obama campaign, and still am; but if anything would soften my view, it's this bullshit furor over Jeremiah Wright. If you are white and don't listen to black talk radio, now would be a good time to start.
Wright's opinions are not deemed crazy there, and you'll hear much stronger denunciations of imperialism and racism than you ever will on a white liberal's show. Sure, some dementia is present: this is America, after all.
But contrast the opinions exchanged between African-Americans to those expressed on the corporate kabuki programs, or worse, white reactionary broadcasts. Which do you think is closer to what's actually going on?
And speaking of white reactionary programs, here’s Rush Limbaugh, who is apparently back on his meds:
Later in the day, Rush Limbaugh dwelled on Mr. Wright in his radio program, calling him “a race-baiter and a hatemonger.”
The most interesting thing among many interesting things in Iowa last night was Mike Huckabee’s speech. He hit all the right notes, and never a false one.
While none of the Republican candidates stands a chance of winning the White House in November, Huckabee showed himself to be the only one who wouldn’t lose in a landslide of Goldwater or Mondale proportions.
This is because Huckabee appealed to the growing number of voters who have become nostalgic for that outmoded New Testament crap. Big mistake, Mike. The cold-eyed moneylenders who own the Republican Party want somebody who can be counted on to understand that them with the gold, rule.
But Huckabee keeps showing signs of believing in that other Golden Rule, that whole Sermon on the Mount thing. As governor of Arkansas he even tried to follow it now and then, by raising taxes to improve schools and other such heresies. Consequently the party bosses are now set to strangle their strongest candidate in the crib.
They will attack Huckabee mercilessly for being soft on crime, for ignorance of foreign affairs, for preferring peace to war, for lying about his theological credentials, for raising taxes, for graft and corruption as governor. And that’s only the charges for which there is some basis, however slender, in fact.
As we know from the sliming of John McCain in the South Carolina primary eight years ago, however, no relation to truth at all is necessary when the GOP grownups get down to the short strokes.
Huckabee could find himself attacked as a queer, an equal opportunity employer, a pothead, a lush, an immigrant lover, a card-carrying member of the ACLU, a sodomizer of Eagle Scouts or Shetland ponies, an atheist. Or worst of all, a raghead, a haji:
“Would it change your opinion of Governor Huckabee to learn that he worships a Moslem prophet?” the anonymous telephone poller whispers to undecided voters just before the primary. (Hey, you can’t blame the RNC if folks don’t know that Moslems consider Jesus a prophet.)
Count on it. Whatever vile measures may be necessary to destroy a Baptist preacher with suspiciously New Testament tendencies and to throw the nomination to an spectacularly unelectable Mormon billionaire, those measures the GOP leadership is prepared to take.
Grunts in Vietnam had a name for this kind of thing. It was called stepping on your own dick.
H.L. Mencken in The American Mercury of October, 1925, on the occasion of William Jennings Bryan’s death:
Bryan came very near being elected President of the United States. In 1896, it is possible, he was actually elected. He lived long enough to make patriots thank the inscrutable gods for Harding, even for Coolidge. Dullness has got into the White House, and the smell of cabbage boiling, but there is at least nothing to compare to the intolerable buffoonery that went on in Tennessee.
The President of the United States doesn't believe that the earth is square, and that witches should be put to death, and that Jonah swallowed the whale. The Golden Text is not painted weekly on the White House wall, and there is no need to keep ambassadors waiting while Pastor Simpson, from Smithsville, prays for rain in the Blue Room. We have escaped something — by a narrow margin, but still safely.
That is, so far. The Fundamentalists continue at the wake, and sense gets a sort of reprieve… But it is too early, it seems to me, to send the firemen home; the fire is still burning on many a far-flung hill, and it may begin to roar again at any moment…
Heave an egg out of a Pullman window and you will hit a Fundamentalist almost anywhere in the United States today. They swarm in the country towns, inflamed by their pastors, and with a saint, now, to venerate. They are thick in the mean streets behind the gasworks. They are everywhere that learning is too heavy a burden for mortal minds, even the vague, pathetic learning on tap in little red schoolhouses.
They march with the Klan, with the Christian Endeavor Society, with the Junior Order of United American Mechanics, with the Epworth League, with all the rococo bands that poor and unhappy folk organize to bring some light of purpose into their lives. They have had a thrill, and they are ready for more.
Such is Bryan's legacy to his country. He couldn't be President, but he could at least help magnificently in the solemn business of shutting off the Presidency from every intelligent and self-respecting man.
Our friend Neddie over at BNJ put up another fine post last week, “An Atheist at Christmas”. Acknowledging and bewailing the manifold sins and wickednesses of the mass emailing lists of friends, he finds particular excess in a recent one.
In sum, the item forwarded to me was simple intellectual pollution, more goddamned dumbness that cloaks itself as folksy wisdom and makes its forwarder feel virtuous for having passed it on.
Besides the slanders and the untruths, and the profoundly irritating conflation of the concepts of "secular" and "atheist," what was most off-putting about the thing was its general aggrieved tone, as though its author were part of some put-upon minority, an underclass of the righteous who loathe the idea that many people don’t take their religion quite as seriously as the righteous think they ought.
If you’ve been reading John Dean recently, you might have encountered the work of Bob Altemeyer, a research psychologist at the University of Manitoba who studies authoritarian personality types. He’s got decades’ worth of survey information and results; other researchers have both added data and extended the ideas.
Authoritarians include followers as well as the power-hungry. Altemeyer defines authoritarianism as the covariation of three attitudes: conventionality, authoritarian submission, and authoritarian aggression. Conventionality involves conforming to social conventions and believing that others ought to do the same. Authoritarian submission means believing in leaders and authority as the best means of keeping society prosperous. Authoritarian aggression indicates the subset of aggressive tendencies that is disinhibited when it’s perceived to be sanctioned by authority, or would help authority maintain its position.
Altemeyer’s Enemies of Freedom is not as famous as it should be. Admittedly it includes a lot of statistical detail, but the detail builds an argument that covers a lot of ground, makes a lot of sense, and seems to provide useful frameworks for understanding some behavior patterns that often occur among fundamentalists and social conservatives in particular.
Dean’s recent Conservatives Without Conscience brought new attention to Altemeyer’s work, and several surprising facts emerge. He’s managed to get this research done without grants, by using his own money and getting a lot of data from his own students, their parents, and their friends. He has a writing style that has you laughing in the preface, and throughout, despite the density of the numbers. Plus, you quickly begin to trust him, because he tells you so much about his thinking and experimentation: what he surveyed for, how he munged the data, how he interprets the results, where ambiguities continue to exist, and on to the next step.
Thus it’s perhaps not surprising that Enemies of Freedom isn’t so easy to find. In fact there were none at Powell’s or eBay, and I was forced to resort to Amazon. Where I discovered two used copies, one $138, the other $154.
Fortunately, as Professor Altemeyer kindly pointed out in an email, he has an updated version of the content, minus the vast majority of the statistical detail, and thus both shorter and easier to read. I’m half-way through it and I highly recommend it. Oh, and The Authoritarians is free.
Among the most interesting issues Altemeyer examines is the question of why people remain in the relatively closed world that authoritarians must inhabit if they wish to maintain their viewpoint. Many, perhaps most, tend to modify at least some of their views and behavior when they encounter new information. But they generally grow up in a heavily circumscribed world that keeps them safe and gives their lives shape and structure, so they have no reason to leave it, or to disbelieve its tenets.
Of course many people grow up in such situations and rebel, or suffer inner dichotomies, or simply lose the ability to reconcile everything and give up. Those whom Altemeyer’s scale labels High Right-Wing Authoritarians, however, feel comfortable there. (By the way, there could also be left-wing authoritarians, who instead of submitting to established authority would submit to revolutionary authority. But there aren’t nearly as many of them as there are RWAs, nor does Altemeyer’s scale directly look for them.)
After looking at several possible explanations, Altemeyer’s data led him to conclude that two factors dominate in the backgrounds of authoritarians. First, they see the world as a very dangerous place, with possibilities for disaster looming around every corner. Second, they see themselves as upholding the Good and the Right as opposed to all those folks who don’t hue to the same high standards they perceive themselves to follow.
Thus they have reason to be frightened, plus aggressive impulses against those who appear to deserve censure, which are inhibited by their strong need to conform to social convention. They need reinforcement to tell them that they’re still in the group; they get a thrill from thumbing their noses at those they figure will in some sense get Left Behind; and they’re often insufferably hypocritical.
Perhaps the most hopeful thing Altemeyer discovered, though, was how frequently such people modified their views with experience, which turned out to be the strongest factor in determining attitudes, stronger than parents and upbringing or religion. For instance, many students entering college are emerging from their parents’ world for the first time, and bring with them the attitudes that worked in that world, and predicted what would happen. They may have been taught that sex is bad, or that homosexual folks are scuzzy and evil; then they have sex, or they meet someone who’s homosexual, and discover that what they’ve been taught isn’t true.
People do change. As Bishop Tutu says, every situation is capable of transfiguration.
It only recently occurred to me that the golden arches on McDonald’s were actually the letter M. So no doubt I am the last person in America who failed to decode the title of Bush’s attempt to destroy public education.
My Duh! moment came a few minutes ago when I read this article on a Christo-porno-violence video game in which our little tykes can roam the virtual streets of New York, killing “Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state — especially moderate, mainstream Christians.”
The game is called Left Behind: Eternal Forces, and it is based on the Christo-porno-violence best-sellers in the Left Behind series — 14 novels written in Christ’s name by two gentle souls named Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye.
For details on these vicious, bloodsoaked novels of the Apocalypse, visit Slacktivist, a blog on which one-time Baptist seminarian Fred Clark undertakes an exegesis of the series. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.
The basic plot line is that good guys like Huckabee and Falwell are zipped up from this earth on a Heavenly Express, leaving behind bad guys like you and me to be forever consumed by flames.
Just as the good child is home- or church-schooled and the bad child is left behind to rot in underfunded, decertified public schools.
Here we learn that crickets in Utah are already living the Republican dream:
But in the deserts of Utah, Dr. Couzin and his colleagues discovered that giant swarms may actually be made up of a lot of selfish individuals.
Mormon crickets will sometimes gather by the millions and crawl in bands stretching more than five miles long. Dr. Couzin and his colleagues ran experiments to find out what caused them to form bands. They found that the forces behind cricket swarms are very different from the ones that bring locusts together. When Mormon crickets cannot find enough salt and protein, they become cannibals.
“Each cricket itself is a perfectly balanced source of nutrition,” Dr. Couzin said. “So the crickets, every 17 seconds or so, try to attack other individuals. If you don’t move, you’re likely to be eaten.”
Mike Huckabee, previously thought to be the closest thing to a humanoid among the GOP hopefuls, has stepped back into line with this:
”Sometimes we talk about why we’re importing so many people in our workforce,” the former Arkansas governor said. “It might be for the last 35 years, we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973.”
Or it might be that trillions of potential lettuce pickers and hotel maids have been washed out of the sheets of American teenage boys by their mothers before the little pre-born tykes could be implanted in high school girls.
Then again, it might be that more than a million additional proles would have been in our minimum-wage workforce if not for the holocaust of True Love Waits. My goodness, Pastor Huckabee’s Southern Baptist Convention alone has extracted virginity pledges from more than 2,500,000 hot-blooded teens.
Unless you subscribe to the Atlantic, you may not know the details of former White House speechwriter Matthew Scully’s hissy fit over former White House speechwriter Michael Gerson hogging the credit for Bush’s silver tongue.
But all you need to know about this inconsequential matter can be found in Sidney Blumenthal’s posting today on The Smirking Chimp. Actually all you need to know can be found in hundreds of restrooms all over America, where poetry lovers have indited these words:
A man’s ambition
Must be small
To write his name
On a shithouse wall.
Or, as Blumenthal puts it less succinctly:
Scully’s memoir is unusual in the annals of Washington tell-alls. Typically, the disillusioned narrator wishes to distance himself from failure, assign blame to others or expiate his guilt. Scully, however, desperately wants to claim his proper share of credit for the Bush catastrophe.
While he accuses the devout Gerson of bad faith, he never quite recognises why Gerson’s credit-hogging has seemed so plausible. Whether or not Gerson wrote what he claimed to have written, the orotund, purple prose that is his style is completely consistent with Bush’s high-flown rhetoric.
Phrases like “axis of evil” mark Bush’s language as a torrent of incoherence, arrogance and fanaticism. But the stupidity of the ideas is no hindrance to the fight over pride of authorship …
The conflict between Matthew Scully and Michael Gerson (below) is a clash between two cardinal sins: the bearer of envy meets the bearer of false witness. Scully is transparently envious of the rewards bestowed on Gerson by the Washington Post Corp — both Post and Newsweek columns — suggesting a payoff to a source, an unreliable one at that.
Gary Wills has written an interesting article in the New York Review of Books entitled “A Country Ruled by Faith”. Two paragraphs in particular struck a chord.
Charles Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote: “We should offer to serve the war effort in any way possible… God battles with people who oppose him, who fight against him and his followers.” Jerry Falwell put it succinctly in 2004: “God is pro-war.” For some evangelicals, this was a war against the enemies of Israel, who are by definition anti-God. The evangelical writer Tim LaHaye called it, therefore, “a focal point of end-time events.” For others, it was a chance to spread Christianity to the infidels. An article syndicated on the Southern Baptist Convention’s wire service said that “American foreign policy and military might have opened an opportunity for the Gospel in the land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, and Marvin Olasky, the inventor of Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” agreed.
This has so many problems it’s hard to know what to ridicule first.
It certainly appears that this is the God of the Old Testament, since it’s difficult to imagine the New Testament God battling with people who oppose him. Earlier, Wills talked at length about General Boykin, famous for his confidence that the US will win the war against Islam because “I knew my God was bigger than his” (which doesn’t explain his failures in the “Black Hawk Down” clash and the 1980 attempted rescue of Iranian-held American hostages — or perhaps God battles Democratic Presidents as well). Boykin has also said that Bush is President despite having lost the vote because God put him in office.
But if Boykin’s God is so big, why does he have to battle human beings? And how stupid do you have to be to believe that bombing people opens their hearts to your Gospel? Stupid enough to support Bush, I suppose.
In any case, I was reminded of Gibbon’s description, in his inimitable quietly sarcastic tone, of holy wars.
So familiar, and as it were so natural, to man is the practice of violence that our indulgence allows the slightest provocation, the most disputable right, as a sufficient ground of national hostility. But the name and nature of an holy war demands a more rigorous scrutiny; nor can we hastily believe that the servants of the Prince of Peace would unsheath the sword of destruction, unless the motives were pure, the quarrel legitimate, and the necessity inevitable. The policy of an action may be determined from the tardy lessons of experience; but before we act, our conscience should be satisfied of the justice and propriety of our enterprise.
Apparently the right-wing so-called Christians have consciences that are easily satisfied, as long as Halliburton and Bechtel are making enormous war profits.
Still, one problem remains.
There is a particular danger with a war that God commands. What if God should lose? That is unthinkable to the evangelicals. They cannot accept the idea of second-guessing God, and he was the one who led them into war. Thus, in 2006, when two thirds of the American people told pollsters that the war in Iraq was a mistake, the third of those still standing behind it were mainly evangelicals (who make up about one third of the population). It was a faith-based certitude.
Those Mississippians who are not actually proud of their state’s legendary backwardness are apt to say, when the subject comes up, “Thank God for Alabama.” In the same spirit, all Americans will be proud to learn that the Turks, it appears, are even dumber than us.
What I think is that we should leave them behind.
I’ve come to realize that my attitude toward the dispensationalists and the reconstructionists is pretty much the same as their attitude toward me: I’m happy to leave them to what they want, while I move on to reality.
They are looking forward to the moment in which their deluded fantasies of hate are actualized by a loving God, so they can laugh as the people who made fun of their stupidity are cast into a lake of fire. This is what their intelligence has distilled from the doctrine of loving your enemy.
In other words, they hate me and want to hurt me, but they have neither the brains nor the balls to do it themselves, so they pray to God to do it for them. (Somehow, I don’t find that particularly threatening.)
Still, amazingly enough, I can’t find it in my heart to want to hurt them. All I want is for them to suffer the consequences of their beliefs.
I don’t want them to starve, or die of preventable diseases. But I wouldn’t give them food, or medicine, or medical care, or even hospice care. Let them grow their own food, if they can figure out how. Let them evolve — oops, I mean intelligently design — their own medical procedures. Let them live the life they imagine, while we construct a just society.
What humanity cannot afford is to have these so-called Christians influencing public policy. Since I’m against capital punishment, I can’t really advocate machine-gunning them, although from the practical point of view that’s the most logical.
But I can feel perfectly comfortable with leaving them behind. If they choose to accept reality — like calculus and evolution and the inherent superiority of intelligence — then they’re acceptable in my world. Otherwise, not.
File this one under “it’s about time”. I really hope this guy wins his lawsuit because Fred Phelps and his flock of homophobes have been behaving disgracefully.
On Friday, July 7, Army 1st Lieutenant Forrest P. Ewens was buried at a respectful ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, which many consider to be the most hallowed ground in the United States.
But the peace was disrupted by protests from members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. In a cordoned-off area by the entrance to the cemetery, they carried signs with anti-gay and anti-American slogans and proclaimed that Ewens’ death in Afghanistan on June 16 was another sign of God’s impeding doom on the nation.
Westboro has taken what it calls “love crusades” to military funerals across the country. The church was not protesting at the funeral because Ewens was gay, but because he died, in their view, serving a country that has incurred the wrath of God by accepting and tolerating homosexuality.
Now the father of a slain serviceman whose funeral was disrupted is suing the church in an attempt to fight back against what he views as the abuse of military families with a message of hate.
Via Capitol Hill Blue.
There are signs out there many Christians aren’t behind the neocon agenda and they’re speaking out. I’ve never doubted the fundies were a small minority of Christians, but now the majority seem to be gaining their voice.
Like most pastors who lead thriving evangelical megachurches, the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd was asked frequently to give his blessing — and the church’s — to conservative political candidates and causes.
The requests came from church members and visitors alike: Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute “voters’ guides” that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn’t the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?
After refusing each time, Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called “The Cross and the Sword” in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a “Christian nation” and stop glorifying American military campaigns.
“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”
Mr. Boyd says he is no liberal. He is opposed to abortion and thinks homosexuality is not God’s ideal. The response from his congregation at Woodland Hills Church here in suburban St. Paul — packed mostly with politically and theologically conservative, middle-class evangelicals — was passionate. Some members walked out of a sermon and never returned. By the time the dust had settled, Woodland Hills, which Mr. Boyd founded in 1992, had lost about 1,000 of its 5,000 members.
But there were also congregants who thanked Mr. Boyd, telling him they were moved to tears to hear him voice concerns they had been too afraid to share.
James Leon Holmes, nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Arkansas, says it straight out in an article: “It is not coincidental that the feminist movement brought with it artificial contraception … To the extent we adopt the feminist principle that the distinction between the sexes is of no consequence and should be disregarded in the organization of society and the Church, we are contributing to the culture of death.” His stated solution is that “ … the wife is to subordinate herself to her husband.”
Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent letter to George W. Bush is an interesting document, very similar in tone to one that Jimmy Carter sent to the Ayatollah Khomeini during the hostage crisis. In both cases, the recipient of the letter is held to be confused about the tenets of his own religion, and so the sender kindly offers to correct him.
This time it is the Iranian who is the passive-aggressive one, speaking more in sorrow than in anger. Ahmadinejad wants Bush to understand that they are both on the same team — intolerant theocrats at heart after all — so why can’t we just hang out together and be pals?
I found myself agreeing with the overwhelming majority of Ahmadinejad’s arguments, and I don’t doubt that most of you will, too. The two presidents are interchangeable control freaks, their religious beliefs an accident of geography. The best that can be wished for each of them is speedy removal from office followed by a long retirement spent in neglect and disgrace.
We’ve finally managed to get hold of a photograph showing George W. Bush, the prominent Methodist, in the actual act of receiving divine guidance. God is shown at upper left.
New poll of college students:
In a finding that surprised the institute, 50 percent said the U.S. government’s response to Hurricane Katrina raised questions of morality.
Now I’m really looking forward to reading Kevin Phillips’s new book, American Theocracy: The Perils and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, a title that veritably rolls off the tongue.
Phillips, you’ll recall, has some credibility with the right due to his past contributions to Republicanism. His 1967 book The Emerging Republican Majority was a must read for early movement conservatives. In recent years he’s become a strong critic of the direction that movement has taken.
In his Washington Post article, “How the GOP Became God’s Own Party”, Phillips displays a bit of the zeal of a convert, but he makes some solid points.
The United States has organized much of its military posture since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks around the protection of oil fields, pipelines and sea lanes. But U.S. preoccupation with the Middle East has another dimension. In addition to its concerns with oil and terrorism, the White House is courting end-times theologians and electorates for whom the Holy Lands are a battleground of Christian destiny. Both pursuits — oil and biblical expectations — require a dissimulation in Washington that undercuts the U.S. tradition of commitment to the role of an informed electorate.
The political corollary — fascinating but appalling — is the recent transformation of the Republican presidential coalition. Since the election of 2000 and especially that of 2004, three pillars have become central: the oil-national security complex, with its pervasive interests; the religious right, with its doctrinal imperatives and massive electorate; and the debt-driven financial sector, which extends far beyond the old symbolism of Wall Street.
President Bush has promoted these alignments, interest groups and their underpinning values. His family, over multiple generations, has been linked to a politics that conjoined finance, national security and oil. In recent decades, the Bushes have added close ties to evangelical and fundamentalist power brokers of many persuasions.
You gotta admit, he calls ’em as he sees ’em.
The American heartland, from Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico to Ohio and the Appalachian coal states, has become (along with the onetime Confederacy) an electoral hydrocarbon coalition. It cherishes sport-utility vehicles and easy carbon dioxide emissions policy, and applauds preemptive U.S. airstrikes on uncooperative, terrorist-coddling Persian Gulf countries fortuitously blessed with huge reserves of oil.
Of the 99 requests at the SF library for a copy of his book, I’m number 58. The web site says they have seven copies, with two more on the way. So it will probably take two to four months for the book to reach me, at which point it won’t be the hot topic any more. I expect to blog about it anyway; for one thing, I’ll already know what lots of other people said, so maybe some new synthesis will present itself.
Anyone else interested in reading the book? If so, we could synchronize our reading of chapters and post a running conversation here at BA.
What a dissertation, by a self-described Messianic Jew at Pat Robertson’s Regent University, looks like. It aims to prove that throughout the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, justices have ruled according to their official religious labels. From the book review:
Sekulow’s reliance on Waite’s faith to prove that Waite was influenced by religion here comes uncomfortably close to the old saw about the rabbi who proposes to prove from a biblical source that Abraham wore a yarmulke: “The Torah tells us that ’Abraham set forth.’ And would our forefather Abraham have set forth without a yarmulke?”
Preposting update: I’m not sure whether Sekulow’s or Mojecki’s individual creepiness is worse, but I sure hope that’s not the denomination Mrs. Batard is dragging Buck to this weekend! (Yes, they want a year of birth and zip code.)
Down in Decatur, Alabama, an editor is incensed:
The headline on a news article in Wednesday’s newspaper said, “Alabama House GOP blocks vote on Bible class bill.”
The headline is correct because Republican House members Tuesday prevented a Democratic bill from coming up for debate that would name “The Bible as Literature” as an acceptable text for an elective course in public high schools.
The bill and vote caught Republicans between the rock and a hard place they are so adept at placing Democrats.
Knowing their usual opposition to issues that mix religion and government, it's difficult to imagine Democrats being serious about the bill.
But Republicans knew that if they joined in supporting it, they would hand Democrats one of their bedrock issues, which they figured is the motive behind the bill.
Thus, Republicans voted to stop it from consideration, which also gives Democrats an issue Republicans laid claim to long ago.
“They are going to take this vote and mail it out and say we were against the Bible,” GOP House member Micky Hammon of Decatur lamented.
Meanwhile, in England, the Guardian muses seriously:
People’s cherished religious values are best not subjected to public scrutiny in the same way that the foibles of public officials and politicians are. This is imprudent for a newspaper known for its undaunted commitment to coverage of grassroots issues affecting minorities and the majority of people in the country.
Fifteen years ago someone wrote seriously:
Schizophrenic individuals who claim to have had a mystical experience are similar to other schizophrenic individuals in that they:
1. do not feel any greater control over their experiences than other schizophrenics;
2. do not experience a greater since of coping ability than other schizophrenics;
3. do not experience any more improvement in their relationships than other schizophrenics;
4. experience terror, fear, depression, and a sense of insecurity.
Schizophrenic individuals who claim to have had a mystical experience differ from other schizophrenic individuals in that they:
1. are more likely to have experienced a sense of unity, oneness, or connectedness in the world;
2. report more of a range of affective experiences, and are more likely to have experienced joyful, peaceful states of consciousness;
3. are more likely to report time-space distortions;
4. experience more of a sense of sacredness or holiness;
5. are more likely to see their experiences as valid and meaningful than other schizophrenics”.
Meanwhile, in America, if a modern day Hitler is ever to rise up, he might just come flying in on Jesus’ donkey rather than his elephant.
Yes indeed. Pigs and Elephants can fly. Maybe Donkeys can too.