Monday, December 11, 2006

Weinsteins Return to the Trough

As an update on my previous post, Harvey and Bob Weinstein, and their distributor MGM's Harry Sloan are releasing a Christmas slasher movie. Apparently a very lame Christmas slasher movie. A remake of a 1970s-era slasher movie.

In light of their recent exploration of creating "Christian movies," there are two arguments to I anticipate:
  1. Don't give box-office money to these guys. They deserve to go broke.
  2. Pay to see their "Christian movies." They need positive reenforcement to make good movies.
I, myself, tend naturally toward argument number 2. But in this case, the Weinsteins have taken up a stick with a nail in it and beaten me to argument 1.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Hollywood Just Don't Get It

Here are two stories that do not bode well:

First, file this under the heading "HOLLYWOOD JUST DON'T GET IT" from
The Prodigal Son Works at Ikea?

Variety reports that Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment have made a deal for Prodigal Son, a romantic comedy that Gigi Levangie Grazer will write with Mimi James. Brian Grazer will produce.

The story revolves around a workaholic single woman who is set up on a date by her mother. Her date, a handsome, kind and caring carpenter who works at Ikea, turns out to be Jesus Christ, who's returned for Armageddon and settled in contemporary Los Angeles.

"It's a love it or hate it idea, but we're not aiming to offend," Gigi Grazer told the trade. "He won't be having sex. It'll be a disarming romantic comedy, a story of unrequited love, sort of like 'Splash.'"
Yow! Is this the price we pay for the de-mythologizing of Jesus!? It may be 'way past time to retire the Jesus, My Soul's True Love-type P&W songs and return to Onward Christian Soldiers. This kind of stuff makes the GodMen thing look reasonable.

Brian, two thoughts:

One, Christians worship Jesus 'cause He's GOD, not 'cause he's the lovable home handyman*

Two: If Jesus is coming back for Armageddon, that's pretty harsh. How does he get by with hanging out at the Ikea? Doesn't he try to warn people of the wrath to come? Or is Brian's version of Jesus not comfortable with that whole "judgmental" thing?

Is this the absolutely lamest idea since Korah, Dathan, and Abiram called out Moses?

The second story is like unto the first:

Bob and Harvey Weinstein, who, while heading their former company Miramax, infuriated conservative Christian activists with films like Kids, Priest, and Dogma, have announced that they are forming a new company to distribute faith-based movies. They said Wednesday that they have signed a production deal with Christian film producer Impact Entertainment. Executives of The Weinstein Company also said Wednesday that they plan to release six theatrical films per year and an additional number of direct-to-DVD productions.
Oh, man. It's those "direct-to-DVD" productions that put the cherry on the Sundae.

Jeffery Overstreet describes some of my reservations:
Since the Contemporary Christian Music has done so much to sidetrack Christian musicians so their music doesn't accidentally end up in arenas where the world might hear it... why not create Contemporary Christian Cinema? That way, faith-related films can play to those who already agree with their messages, and to those who don't want to bother with the challenges of mainstream movies. Meanwhile, mainstream audiences can put even more distance between themselves and films that openly wrestle with issues of faith. They'll spot the "faith" label, feel a shiver run down their spine, and move on to something else.

Walls and boundaries. That's what we want. Neat and easy labels and categories. All the better for judging other people, for staying where we are, for complimenting ourselves on our choices.
Every group that is disaffected from the mainstream produces it's own art that speaks to those disaffected. This is not always a bad thing. This ghettoizing allows fledging artists to find an audience and allows unsophisticated audiences to find art that speaks to their exclusion from mainstream culture. This can nurture artists at the beginning of their careers. But ultimately it is a dead end for the artist and the sub-culture itself. It develops its own vocabulary and conventions, its stereotypes and bogeymen that those outside that group find more or less incomprehensible or excluding.

A sub-culture needs to speak to the mainstream culture and to do so it must speak in a way that is relevant and accessible to that mainstream culture. Artists need to avoid sneering at people who cannot "read" their art because that are not current on the sub-culture's shibboleths.

So, please let us have more Christians engaging in our culture, being salt and light; but please, no "very special" versions of Bible stories.

Two More Blows Against the Theocracy!!

*Hey, Brian if your Jesus hits his thumb with his hammer, what does he say?

Monday, December 04, 2006

2008 Timewaster

An electoral map that lets you pit leading Democratic contenders against a few Republican contenders.

I dispute it's accuracy on several grounds (it's 'way too early for these kinds of polls to make sense), but what fun!

I'll be checking back on this sight throughout the primary season.

Obama Fever! Catch it at Church!

I, for one, welcome our Democratic Overlords:
WASHINGTON — Famed pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren on Wednesday defended his invitation to Sen. Barack Obama to speak at his church despite objections from some evangelicals who oppose the Democrat's support for abortion rights.

Obama is one of nearly 60 speakers scheduled to address the second annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church beginning Thursday at Warren's Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
But seriously, folks, the idea of inviting Barack Obama to speak to Conservative Evangelicals is a great one. It allows those Evangelicals to see the man and verify that he doesn't have horns or a bifurcate tail. It allows Obama to receive feedback from a conservative crowd, which is much better for us all than for him to be stuck in the Liberal echo chamber.

The end result may be a contribution to the moderating effect in national politics.

Speaking of Obama, a great observation on This Week with George was the two possible effects of Barack Obama on the Hillary! primary campaign:
  • It's terrible! He preempts Hillary's tack to the social center!
  • It's wonderful! he's sucking all the oxygen from the room, snuffing out lesser lights!
I tend to go with the second of these perceptions, hence my prediction of a Hillary/Obama ticket.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Who Will Run in '08? Part II

Rich Lowry at National Review Online has a column on Barack Obama as the Anti-Hillary:
...After all this [hate for the names Clinton and Bush], who doesn’t hunger for a clean break? Thus the energy behind the possible presidential bid of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. He is the only presidential candidate from either party about whom there is a palpable excitement. And that is because everything about him says, “I’m not a Bush, I’m not a Clinton, and can we please talk about something else?”

It will be manifestly good for the country if it elects a president in 2008 who doesn’t elicit yowling hatred from the other side...

Hillary would have formidable assets in a 2008 race, but the timing could be against her. Maybe it’s too soon for another Clinton in presidential politics. On the Republican side, the most talented and accomplished Republican officeholder in the country, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is sitting ’08 out precisely because of the baggage that currently attaches to his last name.

At the moment, nothing but sweetness and light attach to the last name Obama. Skeptics note that he is a creation of the media, as if this speaks badly of him. Most politicians would spend millions and go through every exertion to be so created by the media. The more serious, related objection is that Obama has no record of accomplishment during his two-year stint in the Senate. There’s a political trade-off here, though. By the time he does anything in the Senate, he will probably be thoroughly acclimated to the institution, making him just as unappealing as the dozen other senators who consider running for president every four years.

The genius of Obama is that he has a pure liberal voting record — a 100 percent rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action in 2005 — at the same time he appeals to independents and avoids seeming noxiously partisan. No doubt, some of this sheen will be lost the day he were to announce for president. But it also reflects something real. Obama is willing to say that Republicans are wrong, not evil — a very basic concession that nonetheless takes some bravery in the blog-besotted fever swamp that is much of the left right now. He has shown that he can speak the language of religious believers in a non-focus-group-tested, genuine way. And he has charisma, an invaluable asset that can’t be bought or faked.
So, Obama looks good. But in my estimation he looks good for a failed presidential try--which is not a bad thing. Even a failed primary campaign will give him national exposure and let him step up to the ultimate big league of politics. Everybody on the Democratic side has at least one failed primary campaign (Kerry and Edwards have a failed general campaign behind them) except for Hillary, who has lots of experience with her husband's campaigns.

So here is why I said what I said in my earlier post on this topic: Hillary has the experience and resources, while Obama has the "juice." If they could reach a modus vivendi they could link the reliable donors of the Democratic party to the excitement that, frankly, grim Hillary lacks.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Who Will Run in '08?

Sure it's early, but that's OK. James Lileks has settled the question:
National issues do not have the usual appeal at the moment. It is hard to describe how little I care about presidential handicapping at this point. It’s going to be Guiliani / Rice v. Gore / Obama. Move along, please.
That's not a bad guess.

I don't think it'll be Gore, though. Maybe Clinton / Obama.

I'm just saying...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Duty to the Republic

I am a self-confessed Old Guy, so I like to actually travel to my polling place on election day to cast my vote. Today I dropped by on the way to work and encountered a uncrowded community hall, staffed by the lovely white-haired ladies whe are, to me, as certain a fixture of American Democracy as the Capitol dome.

So some brief observations:

When I showed my ID to the woman with the polling book list, I announced my address. The woman at the next table called out, "What house do you live in?" When I said that I was the next-door neighbor of G____, she said, "Oh yes! Your wife pet-sits dogs!" By our fruits are we known.

I was half-way through marking my ballot when a woman who had come in after me went up to the poll workers and started asking questions about the candidates on the ballot. They told her several times that they could not, by law, do anything more than hand her the ballot. I called out to her that if she was too confused she could just copy my completed ballot. That got a chuckle from the workers. They pointed out that copies of the the state-printer voter's guide were available across the room, but she dismissed them as "too complicated."

Finally this woman asked why her ballot didn't have the candidates Dave Reichert and Darcy Burner. (These two candidates have been flooding the airwaves with ads for the last three weeks.) She was informed that they were candidates for District 8 (which encompasses Seattle and the highly populated I-5 corridor. We were in District 2. This did not molify her, nor did it explain to her why she was not allowed to vote in an election that would affect all of Washington state.

God Save the Republic!

UPDATE: Let me acknowlege that Taleena of Sun Comprehending Glass called and offered to drive my wife to the polling place later today. She was also offering to baby-sit for moms that wanted to get to the polls. Large snaps to her.

LATER UPDATE: Here in Western Washington, heavy rains, caused by a series of low-pressure cells, over the North Pacific have caused flooding in Washington's I-5 corridor. I will be interested if this affects voter turnout in the liberal heart of the East/West Conservative/Liberal divide in Washington state.

Man, that Rove and his wacky weather machine!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One Cosmos

As if I didn't have enough on my plate, new books, articles, and blogs keep appearing.

A new read (for me) is One Cosmos, a very funny and almost surrealistic walk through the mind of a thoughful supernatualist.

So many words, so little coffee.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Build Your Own Theocracy

In a previous post, I quoted Rick Garnet on the conservative conspiracy:
...he can only report that they advanced their cause in those years by founding magazines and think tanks, seeking funding for both, associating with conservative forces within the Catholic Church, and forging ties between conservative Catholics and conservative Evangelicals.

This is all very cunning, I expect, but I believe the customary term for such methods is "democratic politics"
There is a very readable column in The Nation about Progressive Democrats trying to emulate this consarned, newfangled technique:
The time had come for the donors to think differently about how to spend their money, just as conservatives had done forty years earlier when they launched a counteroffensive against liberalism and pushed the Republican Party far to the right. The meeting was led by Rob Stein, a former official in the Clinton Administration, who'd spent the last year and a half developing a PowerPoint presentation vividly mapping the rise of the conservative movement. He'd convened the meeting to encourage progressives to emulate the conservative funders by investing in the "guts" of politics--leaders and ideas and institutions that would last beyond one election. A month later the Democracy Alliance officially came into existence, as an exclusive collective of donors and one of the progressive community's most ambitious undertakings yet.
So, are we a theocracy yet?

But, give them credit, Rob Stein and Ari Berman (the article's author) are aware that it's more than just the forms they need to find:

Almost two years along, the Alliance's 100 donors have distributed more than $50 million to center-left organizations and activists--a lot of money, yet still largely symbolic given the deep pockets of its members. Even as the donors pour millions into a new political infrastructure, however, problems have emerged that mirror many of the problems of the Democratic Party today and the progressive movement in general.

The first is determining what, exactly, the group stands for and wants to accomplish. Unlike the money guys who underwrote the right, members of the Alliance seem to lack strong ideological conviction about what the future ought to look like. And they do not have the militant perspective of outsiders eager to disrupt and overrun the party establishment. The right-wingers developed a core set of principles and stuck to them with an insurgent sense of persistence and aggressiveness. The wealthy liberals, in contrast, are still debating among themselves how to spend their money. Do Alliance members just want to be in the club or do they intend to change it? Do they want to stick with the party's stars--Bill and Hillary Clinton and their cadre of influential aides, who are preaching "moderation"--or are they ready to listen to new voices? Are they really committed, and prepared, to fund long-haul change?
So, is the Democrat's 2006 situation comparable to the Republicans back in 1964?

In 1964 the conservative wing grabbed the steering wheel of the Republican Party and swerved. They rejected the party's establishment and candidate (Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton ) and nominated Barry Goldwater. At the nominating convention, Nelson Rockefeller was booed when he tried to speak.

The conservative's reward? They took a monumental pasting in one of the most lopsided presidential elections in United States history. (Unmatched until Reagan swept 49 states in 1984.)

Conservatives saw that they were not connecting with the Main Street America. The institutions of communication (newspapers, radio and television) were either pro-Democratic or pro "Rockefeller" Republican.

So conservatives began to build the institutions that would allow them to speak to the American people. But they were not just trying to swing an election, they were communicating commonsense conservative ideas.
Of all the lessons from the right, the Alliance has forgotten arguably the most important: It takes both money and conviction to achieve victory. "It doesn't make sense to develop a strategy without a vision," says James Piereson, longtime executive director of the John M. Olin Foundation, which was one of the key half-dozen funders on the right. "It's a mistaken analogy that conservatives succeeded because of our tactics. I always thought conservatives were successful because of the ideas we were trying to sell."
The final, most difficult lesson that must be learned from the Conservatives is that you have to distance yourself from your crazies. From the late 1950's, William F. Buckley and the Conservatives started purging the party of Ayn Rand, the John Birch Society, and other extremist elements.

I don't think that the Democratic Party has the grit to show the Kos Kids and the 9/11 conspiracy theorists the door.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Dramatic Reconquista

Wretchard notes over at The Belmont Club:
One of the more curious gaps in popular history is the lack of a first rate account of the Spanish Reconquista, the name given to the 800 year campaign by Christian kingdoms in Spain to expel Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula. Writing a dramatic history of the Reconquista is hard because it went on for so long. So long, in fact, that both sides had changed character over the intervening 8 centuries, one side morphing from the tribal Visigoths to the kingly state of Ferdinand and Isabella and the other going through a succession of Islamic regimes.
There is, of course the The Poem of the Cid which I haven't read, and the movie El Cid which I have seen. However, the most exciting and dramatic fictionalization of the Reconquista I have encountered is The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. I wait eagerly for the movie version.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The "Come to Jesus" Story

Back in the late 1980s, there was a fascinating political indicator. It became very easy to tell which Republicans had presidential ambitions by listening to their "Come to Jesus" stories.

What I mean is, everybody on the Republican bench was going around Lions and Kiwanis meetings giving much the same old rubber-chicken speeches of yesteryear, but adding a section where they described the moment they had become "born again." It was startling to read transcripts of Bob Dole, Alexander Haig, and many more telling how they had (figuratively) walked down that sawdust trail.

Well, what is old in new again. John Kerry has trotted out his redemption story, and he's not alone:
Kerry is the third high-profile Democrat to give a reflective, deeply personal speech on religion and politics in recent weeks, following Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Robert P. Casey Jr., the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.

The addresses fit into a broader effort by liberal religious groups and Democratic candidates to appeal to religiously motivated voters in November's midterm elections.
I welcome this new thread of discussion to American politics. I only hope that none of these men develop a facial tic from frantically winking to their secularist supporters.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Specter of the Theocracy, Part VIII

Mirror of Justice, provides a snippet of an outtake of a review of Damon Linker's book " The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege."
...If I follow Linker's story—stripped, that is, of its bombast—it goes rather like this: There is a group of articulate and influential thinkers in America who believe firmly in liberal democracy and free markets and things of that sort, but who also believe that the principles underlying modern democratic order are derived from a long history of European Christian thought regarding human authority. They are, moreover, convinced that the notion of the inherent dignity and worth of every human being is grounded in something older than liberal tradition. They also think that an impermeable "wall of separation" between public policy and private faith is an extra-constitutional and misguided principle. They believe that the lives of the unborn ought to be protected in law, and that the Supreme Court's decisions pronouncing abortion a constitutional right are a collection of willful jurisprudential fictions. They regard the traditional family as a desirable institution, believe marriage to be the union of a man and a woman, and are somewhat anxious concerning the drift of modern culture towards an ever greater coarseness and ever more pronounced indifference to innocent life.

Now, whether one agrees or not, none of these convictions is, by any sane measure, "extreme"; they all fall well within one of the broad main currents of American political and social thought. Nor are any of the historical claims involved particularly fantastic (though Linker knows too little of the history of ideas to see this). Nor, surely, is it any secret that persons holding such views have supported George Bush in both of his presidential campaigns, and that some of them continue to offer him advice. Nor, as far as I can tell, has anyone among the "theocons" made any attempt to keep it a secret. If these men are in fact "radicals," they are far and away the most unadventurous radicals ever to have appeared on our political horizon...

When Linker actually describes the methods employed by the theocon conspiracy, it turns out that they consist principally in encouraging Christians to vote for conservative politicians who will use legislation, referenda, constitutional amendments, and court appointments to frustrate the secularist agenda. Moreover, though Linker speaks of the decade 1984–1994 as the period of the theocons "stealth campaign" to seize power, he can only report that they advanced their cause in those years by founding magazines and think tanks, seeking funding for both, associating with conservative forces within the Catholic Church, and forging ties between conservative Catholics and conservative Evangelicals.

This is all very cunning, I expect, but I believe the customary term for such methods is "democratic politics" (though I am prepared to be corrected on this)...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bizarro World

I don't think I am alone in feeling that I have become trapped in some kind of Bizarro World. Three items:
  • Grand Mufti Sheik Mohammed Rashid Kabbani: "The pope's remarks emanated either from ignorance and lack of knowledge or were deliberately intended to distort Islam. Reason is the substance of Islam and its teachings ... Islam prohibited violence in human life."
Maybe the Grand Mufti Sheik could spend a few moments to condemn his co-religionists from murdering helpless women.

I really don't think that this kind of behavior can be accomodated. I don't think that you can blame the rest of the world for the loony, murderous acts of these people.

We must condemn it. We must not excuse it. We must not say that it is in any way justified.

Friday, September 15, 2006


I'm having to mediate a dispute between Blogger Beta and the corporate firewall. So here are some blog posts that have been langushing.

The Work of Optimism

Of the anniversary of 9/11, James Lileks writes about the upcoming movie The Path to 9/11:
Just so you know: 9/11 reset the clock for me. All hands went to midnight. I'm interested in what people did after that date, and if the movie shows that before the attack one side lacked feck and the other was feck-deficient, I don't worry about it. It's like revisiting Congressional debates about Hawaiian harbor security in November 1941. Y'all get a pass. The Etch-A-Sketch's turned over. Now: what have you said lately?
And on pessimism in our culture:
The news is never good. If the economy's up, there's an expert on hand from the Institute of the Possible Downside warning about unforseen pressure on the bond market, softening housing, hardening tensions, turgid wage growth, and explosive release of inflationary pressures. Have a cigarette. Was it bad for you?

TV news gives me the same impression, which is why I avoid it. All those earnest faces. Good evening, we're deeply concerned, and powerless to do anything about it. Although we hope you infer from our brows the need to contact someone, and urge action on this issue. Now here's a baby giraffe.

The formulation seems simple: The continued existence of problems at this late date in human history implies that we're regressing. We're screwing up, we've lost it, and we wander confused amongst the morass of the malaise and vice versa. Hard times, brother. Hard times. I'm not saying they should pretend we live in the Republic of Happy Bunnies Who Pee Champagne, but for God's sake, sometimes you'd think the bread lines snaked from the Hoovervilles to the soup kitchens again. I'm probably confusing the sugar-coated recollections of early youth with actual history, but I grew up with a sense of optimism and confidence in the country. That really makes me sound like Mr. McFartus shakin' a whittlin' stick at the jaunty-hatted younguns, I know. But the icons in my dim early youth, either by absence or presence, were JFK and Humphrey. They weren't defeatists, and they didn't give off that rank stink of anger.

Of course, someone who's angry about different things is always unbalanced, right? I'm sure I'm regarded as a delusional tool because I worry more about Islamicists than global warming. But it comes back again to that theme I blathered about a few weeks ago, the idea of the eternal adolescent strain in American culture; to the adolescent, the cynic is the truth-teller. The optimists are the fools. (It takes an adolescent to think that people who believe in nothing are the best judges of those who believe in something.) It's all a pose, for the most part, but after a while it feeds on itself. Pessimism produces its own coal, stokes its own furnaces. Optimism is harder. Optimism takes work. You have to roll your own.

People don't seem to remember the gloom of the late 1970's when it seemed that we were trapped in "stagflation," suffering from malaise, and waiting for Japan to eat our economic lunch (cf. the book and movie Rising Sun.)

Into that gloom came Ronald Reagan. Admirers and critics alike recognized his sunny optimism. And that optimism carried him into two terms in the White House. Are there any Democrats lining up for 2008 who are optimistic? Heck, are there any optimistic Republicans?

Not Imperial Enough?

Wretchard comments on some re-thinking of the War on Terror:
The genuine tone of amazement in the WSJ is a reminder of how poorly understood the military role of the War on Terror has been, especially in Iraq... The point is that from the beginning the Administration's War on Terror was never primarily military; it was always -- even from the days of the First Fallujah campaign -- fundamentally a political war and continues to be to this day, as the continued existence of Moqtada al-Sadr illustrates.

...The military's prosecution of a politico/military campaign can be viewed as an attempt to compensate for the failure of other aspects of American power (diplomatic, development and informational) to project themselves into the field. It's a Band-Aid to compensate for the absence of institutions which America, if it were truly an imperial power, would have had. But America will never have a BBC, which was itself the evolutionary product of Imperial Britain. Yet America has its own sources of strength, including media industries which enabled it to dominate the popular culture of the world. The most serious question posed by the WSJ article is not whether the politico/military approach is the correct approach, but whether such a broad campaign can be prosecuted by so limited an agency as the US military without the rest of America's "soft power" behind it.
Perhaps we need to do is to go full-out Imperial and appoint some aristocracy. Hillary Clinton for Duchess of Bagdad?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Oh, Jeeze...

Via Day at a Glance:
Anglican dean compares terrorist bombers to the 'violent passion' of Jesus

The Anglican Communion - seen by many Christians as being a sort of Huffington Post of Christendom - apparently has added another clerical eccentric to its ranks. After a series of well-publicized rifts, including some led by bishops who deny the Resurrection and at least one who is a practicing homosexual, the latest controversial pronouncement comes from the Rev. Canon Philip Gray, chaplain to the Bishop of Blackburn, who compared the actions of the London tube bombers to Jesus:
We cannot simply ignore the violent passion of Jesus cleansing the temple with whips. We are never told of the collateral damage possibly resulting from his actions. In the Christian tradition we rejoice over the passionate commitment and bloody deaths of numerous martyrs.

We need to consider deeply the fact that the same religious passion and spiritual single-mindedness lies at the heart of a London bomber and a Christian crusader.

According to the Yorkshire Post, Gray's remarks appeared in the Blackburn diocesan newsletter.
It seems that there is no end of professing "Christians" who are eager to trivialize their own beliefs and the suffering of people.

I mean really. "Collateral damage?"

Proximate Causes

The Constant Reader will know that I trace the decline of the Democratic Party to 1968. However, the recent crack-up of the party has a more proximate cause.

The declining trend in the Democratic Party from 1968 to 1998 forced a crisis. The result of that crisis was the election of George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000, the Republican gain in Congressional seats in 2002, and the re-election of G.W.B. over John Kerry in 2004. The trend led to the crisis; the crisis led into the crack-up.

So what were the trend, the crisis, and the crack-up?

The trend was the Democrats gradualy slipping from being the majority party. The crisis was the collapse of the Clinton Presidency. The crack-up was the descent of the left-wing of the Democratic Party into conspriacy theory paranoia.

David Limbaugh's new book, Bankrupt: The Intellectual and Moral Bankruptcy of Today's Democratic Party, Mr. Limbaugh dissects the decline of the Democratic Party and discusses the trend, the crisis, and the crack-up. He is interviewed at National Review Online:
It's hard to pinpoint an exact date, but I think the party sold its soul during the Clinton years, when it circled the wagons around a felonious president instead of doing the honorable thing. It embraced, rather than repudiated, a thoroughly corrupt president in exchange for holding on to political power. It seems that the party's electoral successes were tied to Clinton's cult of personality. He was able to keep them afloat temporarily, but ultimately it was their dependence on him that sunk the Democrats.
Note: I am completely convinced that had Al Gore in 1999 made a "more in sorrow than in anger" speech where he distanced himself from Clinton's behavior while embracing Clintonian centrism, he would have taken the presidency by a 7-10 percent margin. His unqualified embracing of Clinton ("our greatest president") exposed his shallowness and opportunism.
The party is not about the centrism Clinton pretended to champion. It is about advancing a far-left agenda. Poll after poll reveals that liberalism is a minority position in this country today — not the equal portion of a 50/50 nation that liberals still pray it is. As I discuss in the closing pages of my book, even James Carville has virtually reconciled himself to the reality that for now, at least, the Democratic party is a minority party.

Herein lies the key to answering your question. The party's unmitigated angst is largely tied to its loss of power. It simply cannot abide having lost control of the legislative branch it ruthlessly dominated for four decades. But even more, it cannot accept consistently losing the executive branch, especially after Clinton's eight years gave them reason for such optimism. Their conviction of their majority status and their entitlement to the executive branch gave way to collective shock and disbelief after the 2000 election results. How could they possibly have lost given Clinton's reputed record of peace and prosperity?

The Democrats rejected the loss in 2000 and put the country through hell trying to manufacture reasons to discredit the results in Florida, and thus the national results. In the process, which I meticulously document, they further debased themselves. In their utter failure to steal the 2000 election and to vindicate themselves finally in 2004, they have become completely embittered. Today they are driven not by an alternative policy agenda, but on a singular, myopic hatred for George W. Bush. I have retraced the unfolding of these events, including highlights of their unforgivable behavior in 2000, not to refight old battles, but to provide some insight into what has driven this party to utter distraction and aimlessness when it comes to policy.
So what will the Democrats do in 2008? Could they possibly try to "run against Bush?" Well, it's said that generals always fight the last war. Democrats need to shake off the netroots and not run the presidential campaigns of 2000 and 2004 over again.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Belief and Non-belief

As a follow-up to the story about the kidnapped journalists being freed, Mark Steyn muses on the importance of the conversion itself:
It's striking how, for all this alleged multiculti sensitivity, we're mostly entirely insensitive to other cultures: We find it all but impossible to imagine how differently they view the world. Go back to that video in which Fox's Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig announced their conversion to Islam. The moment the men were released, the Western media and their colleagues wrote off the scene as a stunt, a cunning ruse, of no more consequence than yelling "Behind you! He's got a gun!" and then kicking your distracted kidnapper in the teeth. Indeed, a few Web sites seemed to see the Islamic conversion routine as a useful get-out-of-jail-free card.

...for the Fox journalists and the Western media who reported their release, what's the big deal? Wear robes, change your name to Khaled, go on camera and drop Allah's name hither and yon: If that's your ticket out, seize it. Everyone'll know it's just a sham.

But that's not how the al-Jazeera audience sees it. If you're a Muslim, the video is anything but meaningless. Not even the dumbest jihadist believes these infidels are suddenly true believers. Rather, it confirms the central truth Osama and the mullahs have been peddling -- that the West is weak, that there's nothing -- no core, no bedrock -- nothing it's not willing to trade...
Mrs. Islander and I were talking about this subject the other day. Knowing that the terrorists would never release a video of my unbowed head--that without explanation my body would be found dumped by the side of some dusty road--that there would be no monument nor rememberence in this world to my defiance--would I stand firm?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Good News / Bad News

I awoke this morning to the good news that Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, the two kidnapped American journalists had been freed, were unharmed, and preparing to return home.

Always one to find the ant at the picnic, I am troubled by one aspect of there captivity. It is contained in two terse, disjunct paragraphs in the New York Times coverage:
Earlier today, their captors delivered a video showing the two men in long Arab robes reading lines from the Koran to indicate their conversion.

Mr. Centanni said the men were forced to make videotapes decrying American policies and converting to Islam. “There were times I thought I’m dead, but now I’m not,” he said.
I am not an expert on Islam, but as I understand it, forced conversions are valid conversions. From such a viewpoint, I ask three questions:

1) Are the conversions of Mr. Centanni and Mr. Wiig considered "valid" by CAIR and other moderate Muslim groups in the United States?

2) If these conversions are invalid, will we hear condemnations of the conversions by the leading voices of moderate Islam in America, Europe, and even in the Middle East?

3) It has been shown that the imams in even "moderate" states such as Turkey and Egypt consider conversion away from Islam an offence punishable by death under sharia law. If Mr. Centanni and Mr. Wiig renounce their conversions as invalid under duress, do they fall under that death sentence?

CAIR and other Islamic organizations have claimed to be voices of moderation. Now they can show that moderation by rejecting the practice of forced conversions and refusing to sanction sharia death penalty for conversion away from Islam.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Specter of the Theocracy, part VII

News comes of the disintegration of the Christian Coalition:

Three state affiliates have severed ties with the Christian Coalition of America, one of the nation's most powerful conservative groups during the 1990s but now buffeted by complaints over finances, leadership and its plans to veer into nontraditional policy areas.

"It's a very sad day for our people, but a liberating day," said John Giles, president of the coalition's Alabama chapter, which said Wednesday that it was renaming itself and splitting from the national organization. The Iowa and Ohio chapters took similar steps this year.

Giles said he and his Alabama colleagues have "a dozen hard reasons" for the action but would elaborate on only one: a perception that the coalition's leadership was diverting itself from traditional concerns such as abortion and same-sex marriage to address other issues ranging from the environment to Internet access.

Giles predicted further defections.

There goes our chance to rule the world!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tracking Rudy

I am going to be reading Night Blotter regularly for the a while. The author, who styles himself as a New York City cop*, has a close-up view of Rudy Guliani and has determined to follow his presidential campaign.

From his first Rudy posting:
As some readers may have noted, I predicted w/o reservation that Giuliani is not only going to run for U.S. President, he is going to win. Nonetheless, there is a lot of road between now and 2008--and fascinating road it is--particularly since many of those involved have their roots in the NYPD.

As someone who has watched many of the New York characters who are soon going to assume the national (and international?) stage, I'm going to endeavor to track Rudy's candidacy as it develops (a bit) on the site, for a simple reason: While many NYC cops dislike Rudy because he was very tough on salary negotiations, he "gets" the terrorism issue--he is no Jonathan Zimmerman (see Friday's blog post).

Rudy is socially somewhat liberal, but fiscally and internationally conservative--a profile that I think mirrors the nation's mood fairly accurately. He's also been saying many of the right things lately--particularly when it comes to alternative fuel development.

That said, I see three issues so far that can de-rail the Giuliani Express...
*On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Theocons Triumphant

Big thanks to Taleena over at Sun Comprehending Glass for pointing out this great review by Ross Douthat on the current crop of "Theocracy Mongers." She quotes a few paragraphs and encourages the Constant Reader to, "As always, read the rest." This is good advice.

I have several friends who have ben reading and passing around Kevin Phillips's American Theocracy and gushing over its accuracy and truthfulness. Hmmm....

One of the life lessons that I have learned through the years is to check out what people in media and letters say against my direct knowledge of a subject. I recommend this as an exercise for the Constant Reader. Whether your area of expertise is arts, sciences, law enforcement, garbage collection, or enviromental law, read the general press coverage of events in that area and compare that coverage with your certain knowlege of the facts. Charitably, one can say that issues are often simplified to the point of being incorrect; uncharitably one cna say that the press wants first to sell a sensational story, facts be damned.

People Left, Right, and Center will curse the stupidity of the press when they are covering their own area of expertise, but will gullibly swallow the same stupidity when it is about some issue upon which they have little knowlege.

The Constant Reader knows of my contempt of the idea of an impending Theocracy.

But, as Taleena recommends, read the rest. Bonus point to Ross Douthat for linking Margret Atwood to Robert A. Heinlein.

Is the Political Center Up For Grabs?

I switched on the news this morning and saw a report about Joe Lieberman's defeat to Ned Lamont in the Connecticut Democratic party primary. The news anchor blabed on over a repeating loop of Joe coming out of a polling booth and Ned standing on a stage at his victory party, almost lost in the press of people trying to crowd up against some success, hoping that some of that success will rub off on them.

There, behind Ned's right shoulder was Al Sharpton; behind his left shoulder was Jessie Jackson. Two race-baiters who have between them have never won any elective office.

Though this is a blow for President Bush's Mideast policy, this may also be the high-water mark for the resurgent anti-war left. John McLaughlin points out this victory's surprising fragility:

These Connecticut Democrats were opposed to the war and unfavorable to President Bush by about a 4 to 1 ratio. Joe Lieberman stood up to the antiwar radicals Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and found out he can’t count on Hillary Clinton. However, as the intellectual activists and radicals of the Democratic party left him, working class, small-town, and moderate Democrats rallied and voted with Senator Lieberman. It’s a very important lesson for Republicans who must win in blue states. The Democrat center is available. The political descendents of George McGovern are excommunicating the heirs to Scoop Jackson. As Ronald Reagan embraced anti-Communist Democrats, anti-terror Republicans should embrace Lieberman Democrats.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hispanic Dynamism

A topic much discussed in conservative circles a few years back was the dynamism of the Evangelical church in Latin America. Back then National Review had cover artwork showing Billy Graham in a sombrero. (Discerning Evangelicals knew that the Latin American Billy Graham was Luis Palau.)

Here is a link to an example of that dynamism coming to the United States:

Spreading the Word--Fast
A new system makes church membership grow exponentially.

Friday, July 28, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

At one of his recent Sunday services at the Heavenly Vision Center in the Bronx, N.Y., the Rev. Salvador Sabino asked all the "leaders" in the room to rise. He was shocked to see an elderly woman named Sonia among those who stood up. She was one of the quietest people he had ever known--he had once even wondered whether she was mute. Mr. Sabino then asked: "Will all the heads of a cell rise?" The woman remained standing. He later found out that, despite her withdrawn personality, Sonia had at least 48 people under her guidance. Beneath that shy exterior was a true passion for leadership.

For the other 1,400 (mostly Hispanic) attendees at the Heavenly Vision Christian Center, a nondenominational evangelical church, leadership has become a key concept in their lives. Not only are the congregants expected to mentor 12 disciples--newcomers to the church--but they must also encourage the disciples themselves to become leaders. This cascading structure, called G-12--or Government of Twelve--has proved to be a good way of gaining members while keeping the old ones engaged. The idea is to imitate the delegated leadership of Jesus' 12 disciples. In North America, more than 380 churches have registered to use the G-12 system.

The Wharton business school couldn't have designed a better growth strategy. According to the imperatives of G-12, leaders have to follow four steps--win new adherents, strengthen the adherents' Christian beliefs, take them on as disciples and send them off to replicate the process--to complete the nine-month program called "The Ladder of Success." Each leader meets with his "cell" (often in his home) apart from larger Sunday services. Disciples learn fundamental Christian doctrines as well as techniques for problem-solving, teamwork and leadership.

I find two things interesting about this strategy: First, it didn't originate in the United States:

The system was first imported from Colombia five years ago. It was created by the Rev. Cesar Castellanos in the early 1990s, after a trip he took to South Korea (where Christians account for more that a fourth of the population). In Seoul, Mr. Castellanos met David Yonggi Cho, founder of the Yoido Full Gospel Church, the largest congregation in the world, now with more than 800,000 members, meeting in a number of satellite locations.

Second, it is affecting Latin America far beyond the church's doors:

In Colombia, Mr. Castellanos's wife, Claudia, who is also a pastor, has expanded her influence beyond the church. She thinks that the G-12 model should change not only lives but nations as well. In 1991, Ms. Castellanos became the first Christian senator in her country, and she has been a staunch opponent of abortion and euthanasia in Colombia ever since. Pastors from G-12 churches in Peru, Argentina, Mexico and Canada are already following her footsteps by taking on active careers in politics. Ms. Castellanos is also promoting an entrepreneurial network, under G-12 principles, to foster small-business creation.

While I will forgive Ms Tunarosa her faux pas (I believe that Ms Castellanos was the first Evangelical senator elected, and that the Catholic Church are still Christians), this is very big. As was pointed out a few years back, this is the biggest shift in Latin American culture since the Conquistadores arrived back in the 15th century.

And this may also point out whay so many Republicans are anxious (even to their short-term detriment) to cultivate the Hispanic vote. Latin American immigrants may be the most socially significant cultural group in the US in the next couple of decades.

Given the vitality of this this group, the question may not be, "How can we assimilate Hispanic immigrants into our culture?" But rather, "How can we adopt and assimilate the cultural vigor of Hispanic immigrants?"

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Okay, Now I Really Don't Believe in "Global Warming"

The Constant Reader knows that I have many reservations of the validity of "Global Warming."

However, noted theologian, presidential candidate, gym monkey, and ur-idiotarian Pat Robertson seems to be making the connection between this week's weather and global climate change:
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- The Rev. Pat Robertson said he hasn't been a believer in global warming in the past, but this summer's record-breaking heat is "making a convert out of me."

On his "700 Club" broadcast, Robertson said, "It is getting hotter, and the icecaps are melting and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air."

Switching sides on an issue that divides evangelical Christians, Robertson said, "We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels."

The religious broadcaster told viewers, "If we are contributing to the destruction of this planet, we need to do something about it."
That just about tears it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"She's Not Ann Coulter. She's Not Insane"

Another in a series of efforts by liberal media people trying to understand, portray, and make money from conservatives:

'Ally McBeal' Star to Play Conservative Pundit in New TV Series

NEW YORK ABC reportedly has huge hopes for a new series to air this fall called "Brothers & Sisters," which will follow the hit "Desperate Housewives" on the schedule. Calista Flockhart, best known as Ally McBeal, plays a conservative radio host turned TV pundit. Others in the high-powered cast include Patricia Wettig, Rachel Griffiths, Ron Rifkin and Sally Field.

Flockhart recently explained, "I really want to go back to work. It just seemed like the perfect time and the perfect project."

Asked to describe the pundit, producer Ken Olin (formerly a star of “Thirty Something’) said, "She's not Ann Coulter. She's not insane."Writer Jon Robin Baitz added, "No, I think she's a thoughtful conservative. She's ideologically, in some respects, very much in mind with the older parts of the party, the sort of Eisenhower Republican, the William Buckley conservative. She's also a humanist."

She's not someone who is apologetic about being a conservative. But it's very, very interesting and compelling to us to try and understand this, to leave behind some of the smug presuppositions of the two coasts, . . . to look at evolving patriotism and evolving traditionalism," he said, according to an article by Dave Walker of New Orleans’ Times-Picayune.

"For years and years, the left has looked at the right in complete incomprehension and felt, 'We just can't connect.' And maybe there's an effort in the show to try and bridge that in some way.”

Sally Field plays Flockhart’s mother.

I dunno. Could be good. Could be a stinker. I was not an Alley McBeal fan, but I'll be TIVOing the first few episodes.

It's interesting that they are attempting to skirt the social conservative issue (smart move in my opinion) by writing the lead as an "Eisenhower Republican." It does cause a big hit in the series's premises's believability. How many "Eisenhower Republicans" are hits on the talk radio venue?

I wonder if they will be able to capture the motivation of a conservative without descending into farce or lame parody. I wonder how they will portray the tension between the "Country Club" and populist conservatives?

There are a lot of funny conservative people out there, such as Jonah Goldberg, Rob Long, P.J. O'Rourke, et cetera. I wonder if they are going to tap into these rich veins, or go for the predictable yocks. What makes me think that this is going to be a sitcom rather than a series drama?

It would be a gutsy move to write a conservative character that the either loves and identifies with or hates to love (in the mold of Dabney Coleman's Buffalo Bill) , but the former would threaten their concept of their audience and the latter would threaten their bottom line.

As an aside, how many overtly politically conservative roles have there been in American television?
Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) on Family Ties.
Ainsley Hayes (Emily Procter) on West Wing.
Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda ) on West Wing.

Three names and all start with "A." I can't think of many more.

UPDATE: Someone over at The Corner makes some points about the series's cognative dissonance that I am too young to remember:
Re: the new ABC series that has Calista "Ally McBeal" Flockhart playing a "conservative radio host turned television pundit." I think it's uproariously funny to see how the entertainment industry portrays conservatives. The show's writer Jon Robin Baitz says that she's a "thoughtful conservative" and that "[s]he's ideologically, in some respects, very much in mind with the older parts of the party, the sort of Eisenhower Republican, the William Buckley conservative. She's also a humanist." Uh, last time I checked Bill Buckley didn't think much of Eisenhower, Jon-Jon. And no respectable conservative who came of age during the Reagan Revolution would ever describe himself as a "humanist." Other than that, it sounds like a riveting series. Will anyone give me odds on whether this show actually lasts an entire season? See all of you "humanists" later!
Are we looking at another Commander in Chief? I fear so.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Three Men in a Boat

I have just returned from a brief trip through the highways that comprise the "Cascade Loop," a delightful drive through alp-like peaks in northern Washington state. This is the first real vacation that I've had in many years and its occasion caused me to return to this review of my all-time favorite travel book, which I consider the funniest book in the English Language:

Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the Dog), by Jerome Kappa Jerome, is a pure delight. Through repeated re-readings it never, never palls. Written as a travelogue serial for a magazine at the turn of the century (1898 must be specified as we have past the turning of another century), the book takes the framework of a road story and hangs upon it a series of misadventures, remembered anecdotes, and observations about life. I have been told that since it's first publication, it has never been out of print.

The three men are George, Harris, and J. (Jerome himself). All three work in The City (London) and feel that that it is time to leave the rat race behind and spend a fortnight on holiday. They decide to take a small boat up the Thames, bringing with them only essential supplies and the fourth member of the group, Montmorency the Fox Terrier.

I first heard of this book as a boy, reading Robert A. Heinlein's Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. In that book the protagonist (Kip) goes to his father to ask something of him. The father is reading Three Men in a Boat, which Kip remarks that his father has read so many times that he must have it memorized. The father, in answer to Kip's question, begins reading the story of the Pineapple Tin. Kip sneaks away. I wondered, what kind of book could stand such repeated re-readings? And what was the story of the Pineapple Tin?

I searched libraries and book stores for years without luck until I moved to Portland Oregon, home of Powell's, which has to be the biggest new-and-used book store in the world. There I found a copy of the book, printed in England in the 1960's.

I was surprised that the book seemed to hold up so well. Even though the story was written over 100 years ago, the jokes are funny, the travelogue engaging, and the life observations as true as ever. I enjoy other British writers but it seems to me that Jerome's book is a mother-lode from which has been mined much "British Humor." P.G. Wodehouse, The Goonies, and Monty Python owe much to this truly funny writer.

Everyone who read this book has a favorite part. A scene where thay must lay the book down and laugh out loud. I must admit to being helpless because of the cheese episode and Harris's adventures in the Maze. Read the book and you'll understand.


I have recently read Connie Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog. She dedicates the book to Robert Heinlein from whom she, too, first heard of this wonderful book.

A couple of years ago I read another book by Jerome, Three Men on the Bummel. It returns to our three heroes ten years later as they decide to escape the joys of wedded life (for all three are now married) to take a bicycle tour of Germany's Black Forest. Bummel wasn't nearly as funny as Boat (nothing could be), but it is another engaging travelogue with a large dose of humor. (The story about buying phrasebooks tops my list.)

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Five Pillars of Aristocracy

I grew up in Southern California and saw (and still see) the idolization of motion picture actors as the kind of déclassé thing that is done by tourists who buy maps to the star's homes, and dream about encountering their big-screen heroes walking down the street in Hollywood.

Hollywood is an industry town; and the industry is movies. When I was a teenager, my goal wasn't to to be a movie star, it was to play horn in a studio orchestra.

So why are people whose main talent is pretending to be other people so celebrated?

John Adams in a letter to Thomas Jefferson defines the basis for aristocracy:
The five Pillars of Aristocracy, are Beauty, Wealth, Birth, Genius and Virtues. Any one of the three first, can at any time over bear any one or both of the two
Rick Brookhiser comments that this applies to Hollywood stars:
The stars of Hollywood have beauty, and genius of a kind. Hence they are aristocrats in a media age.
Which reminds me of the scene in Back to the Future where Doc Brown realizes that when television becomes ubiquitous, the President of the United States will be a movie actor.

Many people love to joke about Ronald Reagan' status as a B-level actor being a poor preparation for the presidency. Many of these same people wet themselves when an actor who agrees with their political stance makes some inflammatory public statement.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Fake but Accurate--1955

Yesterday was the 81st anniversary of the Scopes trial. American Heritage is running a 20 question quiz on the "trial of the century." What is amazing is not what you don't know--it's what you know that ain't true.
Q. So what you're saying is that Inherit the Wind, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's 1955 play based on the Scopes trial (which was made into a film in 1960), in which a defeated character based on Bryan breaks down and cries on the witness stand, is alternative history?

A. Exactly. The only difference is that if someone writes a play in which the South wins the Civil War, everyone knows it's fiction. With Inherit the Wind, all too many people seem to think it's fact.

Inherit the Wind has become an iconic movie in American culture. It tells the story of the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial" that repudiated creationism and freed educators across the land to freely teach Darwinian evolution.

Except that it didn't.

Scopes set out to break the law as a test case--and he lost. National figures tried to use the courts to circumvent the democratic process.

Inherit the Wind tells the story the way many people felt that it should be told. In this way it resembles the correlation between the Clinton White House and The West Wing.

The climactic scene in Inherit comes when Spencer Tracy puts Frederic March on the witness stand and poses a long string of meaningless conundrums. He finishes with a challenge about Joshua's Day--the day when the Bible says that God stopped the sun to let Joshua continue fighting a battle in daylight. He gets March to agree that the sun did not stop moving, but that the earth paused in it's rotation.

He then says that this would have caused oceans to splash out of their basins and mountains to crumble from their inertia.

Even as a child I thought that that was the lamest argument that I had ever heard. Surely a supreme being who created all things, and who can stop the Earth's 5.97 * 1024 kilograms and then restart it isn't going to be unaware of the conservation of momentum.

And yet Frederic March gobbles and gasps for a few minutes and the viewer feels sorry for him.

But that's not what happened. But in the eyes of those with the money, talent, and time to make this movie that is what should have happened.

You know, "Fake but accurate."

Friday, June 30, 2006

The "Southern Strategy" and the "netroots"

So what do we hear from Democratic "netroots" regarding a Southern culture? (a key to implementing the "Southern Strategey" as described by Dave "Mudcat" Saunders) Why, let's listen in:
The Peckerwood era in the south were good ole days for southerners, or at least as good as it got after Lee's crying uncle and throwing in the towel to the hated Yankees. They still had the Negroes to kick around and could freely exercise their domestic version of Apartheid, (`least till dose meddlin' hippie college boys began stickin' dere noses where day didn't belong and stirrin' up a ruckus) until that long avowed day when the south would rise again, and rising is just what it is doing in 2005 with the help of Jesus and the GOP (Good Ole Peckerwoods)...

This is the reality of the situation: deep south bible belt whites, mainly poor, increasingly hostile and always Republican now own a disproportionate amount of political power in America and they are determined to wield it. They will use it in order to drag the country backwards through time to a dark place in our history that had apparently been buried in the past. They seek to return to the days where the American south was mired in the smothering blackness of a festering, hateful and corrupt parallel universe to the more progressive states above the Mason Dixon Line, trapped like a dinosaur in a tar pit. It was only through the courage of the civil rights movement and federal anti discrimination laws that the roaring beast was able to be semi-tamed to a point where it would be able to interact with decent folk. With the ascendancy of a red state evangelical movement the south is back for blood revenge, thundering a bastardized version of Christianity from pulpits, preaching hatred and bigotry and the end times and drawing the masses of the disenfranchised into ever growing mega churches and mobilizing armies of activists. The southern regressive fervor has infiltrated the United States government itself, controlling both houses of congress, the executive branch and now is on the precipice of seizing control of the supreme court as well, engulfing all of our democratic institutions like a malignant strain of alien kudzu.
Hateful? Check!

Historically ignorant? Check!

Sure to drive moderates into your opponent's arms? Check!

Mission accomplished! Bring on the next election!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Authentic Voices

The Constant Reader will know that I have a bone to pick with Democrats who put on Christianity like a magic hat to try and convince us dumb old fundamentalists that they, too, get this "God thing."

Well, the Democrats have one national figure who "gets it." Barack Obama gave a very thoughtful speech the other day:
For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest "gap" in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don't.

Conservative leaders have been all too happy to exploit this gap, consistently reminding evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design.

Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that - regardless of our personal beliefs - constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, there are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word "Christian" describes one's political opponents, not people of faith.

...over the long haul, I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in people's lives -- in the lives of the American people -- and I think it's time that we join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.

And if we're going to do that then we first need to understand that Americans are a religious people. 90 percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion, 38 percent call themselves committed Christians, and substantially more people in America believe in angels than they do in evolution.

...That's a path that has been shared by millions upon millions of Americans - evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims alike; some since birth, others at certain turning points in their lives. It is not something they set apart from the rest of their beliefs and values. In fact, it is often what drives their beliefs and their values.

...And that is why that, if we truly hope to speak to people where they're at - to communicate our hopes and values in a way that's relevant to their own - then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse.

Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome - others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.
And how was Senator Obama's speech received by his most outspoken fellow Democrats?

It's Bill Clinton's Fault!
But this bullshit from Barack Obama is Bill Clinton’s fault. The greatest victory of the radical right wing has been to train Democratic politicians to disrespect, mischaracterize and run against their base in the progressive movement. And that is Bill Clinton’s fault.
Man, that netroots thing is what's gonna keep Republicans in power for the next 20 years.

Unsolicited Advice I

If Democrats were asking me (which they are most certainly not) they'd be listening to Dave "Mudcat" Saunders.

One of Mudcat's myriad cris de coeur (besides the lament that Democrats "have no testosterone" and are unable to "get through the culture" of the South) is that his party can't count. "Politics is about addition, that's all it is. It's not difficult," he says, giving me a primer on Mudcat math. "If I go get a white male," he asks, "how many votes do I get?" One, I reply. "No," he says impatiently, "I get two. Because I just took one away from Republicans."

It is the most elegantly simple precept, he says, one that could end the Democratic drought, and yet they don't see it because they think targeting Bubba males alienates their base and smacks of racism. "No it doesn't," he says. "My African-American friends want to win as much as I do. . . . Democrats are insane. They say Republicans are insane, but they win. I don't see anything insane about winning."

When he and Jarding approached the Democratic National Committee about sponsoring a NASCAR truck decked out with fire-snorting donkey nostrils--as they'd done successfully with Warner, and as everyone from the NRA to the U.S. Navy has also done, as a way to start cracking the culture--he says they were rebuffed. "It wasn't the demographic they were going for." I ask what they were going for. "Fat women from New England," he snaps.

It's going to take more that running a NASCAR entry, though. The Democrats are going to have to have their Sister Souljah moment with Michael Moore and his ilk:

...You know in my town the small businesses that everyone wanted to protect? They were the people that supported all the right-wing groups. They were the Republicans in the town, they were in the Kiwanas, the Chamber of Commerce - people that kept the town all white. The small hardware salesman, the small clothing store salespersons, Jesse the Barber who signed his name three different times on three different petitions to recall me from the school board. Fuck all these small businesses - fuck 'em all! Bring in the chains. The small businesspeople are the rednecks that run the town and suppress the people. Fuck 'em all. That's how I feel.

If that's how you feel, Michael, Okay. You were the one that got invited to sit in former President Jimmy Carter's box at the Democratic Convention.

The Paranoid Style of Netroots Politics

It's become a common observation among conservatives to note that Richard Hofstadter's essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," more and more closely describes what is happening among the warring factions of the Democratic party. Hofstadter's comments about conservative criticisms of the Korean war now apply to Liberal criticisms of the Global War on Terror:
...Any historian of warfare knows it is in good part a comedy of errors and a museum of incompetence; but if for every error and every act of incompetence one can substitute an act of treason, many points of fascinating interpretation are open to the paranoid imagination. In the end, the real mystery, for one who reads the primary works of paranoid scholarship, is not how the United States has been brought to its present dangerous position but how it has managed to survive at all.
The group that was the banner carrier for the paranoid politics about which Hofstadter wrote was the unhinged John Birch Society of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Society was more than a collection of "old ladies in tennis shoes," as they were often characterized. Members included high-technology aerospace workers in Orange County, California who sent Richard Nixon to congress.

Josh Trevino writes a nice comparison between the "netroots" campaigns of sites like DailyKos and MyDD and the John Birch Society:
...Its leader was one Robert Welch, Jr., an erstwhile Massachusetts manufacturer who looked at the past quarter-century of statism’s march, and saw relentless conspiracy. He was not alone in his analysis: surely this sea change, counterintuitive and counter-American as it was, could never have succeeded simply by the will of the people. Surely it was not a function of the mere zeitgeist. Surely it was not coincidental. No: forces were at work. The Birchers meant to identify them.

And identify them they did. In the classic manner of the conspiracy-minded and the cultist, having arrived at the effect — which is to say, their own relentless marginalization by hidden forces — they set out to identify causes and agents. One obvious agent was international Communism. Fair enough: it had an objectively-verifiable existence, acknowledged by its own participants. Less obvious were the American agents of that agent: the secret Communists advancing the cause within our very nation. And here the Birchers went astray....

Hofstadter characterized their alienation this way:

...But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell has put it, feels dispossessed: America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high.

How do they compare with the "netroots" crowd? Josh Trevino writes:

Consider the average member of this group. He (or she) remembers the era of leftist dominance of American politics — and he remembers the beginning of its end, on election day 1980. He is around 50 years old. He is professional living in a coastal enclave, mostly on the Pacific coast or the northeast. His political consciousness was formed by the McGovern and Carter campaigns — and of course the American retreat from Vietnam. He may have grown up in Iowa, or Texas, or Missouri, or Utah — but he went to college elsewhere, and fell in love with the people in California, or New York, or Boston, who were so much more progressive and intellectual than the hayseeds back home. His initial concept of conservatives, which he’s never really abandoned, was formed by Nixonian malfeasance: they’re all crooks and corrupt, in his mind. The ascent of Reagan in 1980, and later the 1994 revolution, came as a profound shock — how could America forget so soon? He is well-off: and the bulk of his working career — and hence the font of his personal prosperity — was spent in the boom markets of the 1980s and 1990s, under Republican national governance in one form or another. He doesn’t think about the implications of that much.

But for all his generally good circumstances, he’s been on the political and cultural losing side all his adult life. He’s tired of it. And he’s found a website which, at last, makes him feel empowered. He is, in short, the typical member of the so-called netroots: the left-wing movement, organized around blogs, that seeks to “take back” this country from its usurpers. The netroots is a movement born of desperation and a sense of embattlement at being on the losing side of historical forces. It sees itself as the inheritor and the guarantor of true American tradition and identity, and it seeks to restore those things to their rightful primacy in national life. Critically, it choose to not merely fight its foes, but emulate them. It sees the prime virtue of its enemies as their ability to win, and if they can just crack the code — if it can grasp the very methodology of victory — then they will turn the tables, and victory will be theirs.

Sound familiar? It is — to us. To the left, it’s all very exciting, and all very new. And so we see the self-proclaimed netroots go through a trajectory very much like what the Birchers went through, albeit in highly compressed time. The elements are all there: the resentment, the conspiracy-mindedness, and especially the leaders with stupefyingly poor judgment married to Napoleon complexes.
This knd of thinking ends up in with self-appointed leaders condemning other, older leaders for lax ideological purity.

So how did the political right deal with its own wingnuttery?
...but the beginning of the end for its place in American conservatism came the preceding year. Nearly concurrent with its founding was the founding of the National Review, and in the beginning, there was much overlap between the personnel of each entity. Under William F. Buckley’s aegis, the National Review did what the Birchers did not: specifically, it eschewed the foe rather than mimicking it; and it inculcated within itself and its fellow-travelers a basic optimism about the American people that the Birchers, with their dark Weltanschauung of dupes and proxies, found utterly alien. Buckley in particular wrestled with the problem of Welch’s unhinged theories, until publicly concluding in the seminal February 1962 NR essay, “The Question of Robert Welch,” that the Birchers’ leader was simply a paranoiac who had to be ejected from the still-nascent conservative movement.

The gravity of Buckley’s action cannot be overstated. Conservatism was still on the ropes. Its declared adherents were few, and it would shortly suffer a crushing rejection from the American electorate in the 1964 election. In this circumstance, many argued that to turn away any ally was a fool’s act, bringing division in dire straits where unity was paramount. Mercifully, the National Review rejected this in favor of doing what was right rather than what was seemingly pragmatic. Considering the probable resulting alternatives in the modern day — a conservative movement twisted by a dark vision of paranoia and loathing, or no conservative movement at all — we owe a debt of gratitude for this simple essay in winter 1962.

Will the leaders of the Democratic Party find the courage to dump the "nutroots"?

Their inability to keep from slobbering all over race demagogues like Al Sharpton do not give me much hope.

Moving to the Right

Mona Charon muses on the reasons she is a conservative and quotes one of the finest bon mots I have ever read.
...He has reminisced about moving to Washington in the 1960s. Paraphrase: “I was a young, brash Barry Goldwater conservative. But in the intervening years, I’ve matured and grown and moved steadily to the right.”

Jim Baen, R.I.P.

After suffering a stoke, publisher Jim Baen has died. While I will write more later, David Drake has written a wonderful obituary.

UPDATE: Just Barking Mad reminds us that Jim remembered when he was a young soldier:
The final, and perhaps the most important thing to me, is that Jim never forgot the serviceman. Once a lowly private on the Bavarian border Jim would later send tens of thousands of first run books to soldiers, seaman, airmen and Marines around the globe at no expense to them. Naturally there were some who decried this a publicity stunt. I know that it was not…Jim cared. He was honored when they thanked him. Letters from service members took place of pride on his website.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Democratic Disconnect

It's like falling through the looking glass. Howard Dean likens 2006 to 1968:
"We're about to enter the '60s again," Dean said, but he was not referring to the Vietnam War or racial tensions.

Dean said he is looking for "the age of enlightenment led by religious figures who want to greet Americans with a moral, uplifting vision." . . .
Baby, the last thing the Democratic Party wants is a to be led by a religious figure with a moral vision.
Alternating between references to the "McCarthy era" of the 1950s, which he accused the Bush administration of reviving, the decade of the 1960s and the current era, Dean explained that he was "looking to go back to the same moral principles of the '50s and '60s."
Man, are we back to that 50s "Happy Days" nostalgia again?
That was a time that stressed "everybody's in it together," he said. "We know that no one person can succeed unless everybody else succeeds." . . .
Leave No Child Behind!
Before leaving Tuesday's conference, the DNC chairman thanked those in attendance for giving him "a big lift."

"I came in the wrong door when I first got here," Dean said. "I came in the back, and everybody was talking about praising the Lord, and I thought, 'I am home. Finally, a group of people who want to praise the Lord and help their fellow man just like Jesus did and just like Jesus taught.' Thank you so much for doing that for me."
Howard, if saying "Praise the Lord" makes you feel at home, I know a lot of gun-toten' rednecks that you'd feel real cozy with.

James Taranto seems to characterize this best when he says:
But there's something bizarre about the head of the Democratic Party yearning for a return to the 1960s. After all, 1968 marked the beginning of the Republican ascendancy in American politics. Richard Nixon's narrow victory in that year's presidential election began an impressive 7-for-10 GOP streak, and of course the Republicans eventually broke the Democrats' congressional majority too. For a Democrat to long for a return to the '60s is the equivalent of a Republican looking back wistfully on the glory days of the Hoover administration.

The Silence of the Dems

Christopher Hitchens has written about the silence of the Peace Movement when it comes to actually..., you know..., doing something more that pounding drums.
...may I propose some ways in which those who don't want to be associated with Michael Moore, George Galloway, Ramsey Clark, and the rest of the Zarqawi and Saddam apologists can make themselves plain? Here are four headings under which the anti-war types could disprove the charge of bad faith.
He lists the four things:
  1. Promote the ban on land mines.
  2. Human shields to protest the tageting of Iraqi civilians by terrorists.
  3. Reaffirm the condemnation of sanctions against Iraq.
  4. Re-start the drive to allow homosexuals to serve in the US armed forces.
I don't have much to say about number four. This seems to be kind of tacked onto the whole Iraq thing, like a senator placing an earmark for his home state in a highway appropriations bill.

But look at number one. Remember Princess Di? Patron saint of the tabloid? She was making some waves, lending her image to a very large movement to ban the use of landmines. As Hitchens points out, news about the ban has been displaced by news of casualties caused by terrorists using IEDs which are homebrew land mines.

And look at number two. What about those crazy human shields? Weren't they loveably kooky? Yep, they hung around Bagdad until it looked like the shooting was really about to start, then, "Oops! Sorry guys, but I've gotta get back for a....a.... drum circle! Yeah, that's the ticket! I've gotta get back to my drum circle and help drive that evil Chimpy McHallibushitler outta office. Email me!"

And number three. The lament of some, back in the 1990s was that the sanctions against Iraq were causing the death of half a million children, between 1991 and 1998. The alternative to war wasn't some utopia where, "They had flowery meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate, where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles. " It was a totalitarian regime where death was brutal and common.

What do these three things have in common? I think that they show that the "Peace" movement isn't primarily concerned with peace. It's concerned with a desperate attempt to delegitimize the actions of people with whom they have style issues at the cost of suffering and misery of people that they don't want to acknowlege.

Theocratic Crack-up?

Russell Cobb over in Slate writes about the appearance of cracks in what is usually seen as a monolithic American Christian Nationalism. In this article he counters the alarm-crying of cultural observers such as Kevin Phillips and Michelle Goldberg.

I have written about my own differences with the National Association of Evangelicals over their stance on Environmental issues.

What astonishes me is that anyone who has 1) any knowledge of church history and 2) access to a newspaper would conclude that Christians--especially American Christians--would be able to form some sort of long-lasting, all-encompassing political coalition.

The branch of the church that seems to have observers such as Michelle Goldberg exercised is the Fundamentalist/Evangelical branch of Protestant Christianity. Let's take a look at this unity:

Christianity hasn't been monolithic since, least seven years after its founding when the Apostle Peter baptized a Roman commander, scandalizing what had been a Jewish church.

In the 11th century the Church split between Rome and Constantinople. In the 16th century we have the Reformation with the Protestant church splitting away from the Roman church--a fragment of a fragment. Then in the 1500s, the non-conformists (Presbyterians, Congregationalists, etc.) broke with the Church of England, becoming a fragments of a fragment of a fragment. Some of these fragments separated themselves from their mother churches by fleeing to the American Colonies.

American Christians have a propensity, nay a delight, in schism. There are a dizzying array of church denominations in the United States. Along with the churches that were transplanted into the colonies, many more have sprung up. Methodists, Anabaptists, Amish, Mennonite, Restorationists, as well as others seen as completely heterodox: Christian Science, Mormons, Jehovah's Witness. A drive through almost any American urban or suburban neighborhood would show a kaleidoscope of denominations.

And this doesn't mention the tensions between American Catholics and Rome.

Politics has been the "art of the compromise." People who are the recipients of Divine Truth cannot compromise that Truth for mere political gain. No compromise--no political gain.

The question has never been, "Will the Christian Right split?" The question has always been, "How and when will the Church set aside earthly power and turn their hearts to God?"

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