Wednesday, November 30, 2005

There's a Very Secret Plan

Here are some quotes from good old Bill O'Reilly.
I mean, the ACLU and George Soros and these websites don't operate day to day without a plan. There is a plan.

. . . There's a very secret plan. And it's a plan that nobody's going to tell you, "Well, we want to diminish Christian philosophy in the U.S.A. because we want X, Y, and Z." They'll never ever say that.
Yes O'Reilly's right. There is a secret plan. But we, the very secret planners, are so cunningly crafty we have worked Bill O'Reilly right into our plan.

You see, O'Reilly is kind of a buffoon right? He's a dope. So when we get him to decry our insidious plan to destry Christmas, no one takes him seriously. See how evil we are? So go on, keep listening to old Bill O'Reilly. We evil secret planners have nothing to fear from him. Ha ha ha ha ha!

The President and Al-Jezeera

For those of you who don't know, there are reports coming out of England that President Bush discussed plans to bomb Al-Jezeera headquarters in Qatar. The reports indicate that British Prime Minister Tony Blair talked President Bush out of it. I'm not personally sure what to make of this, as a good two thirds of the proof consists in saying that the Bush Administration has it in for Al-Jezeera. Which they do.

But for a good review of this possibility, you might check out this article at Salon by Juan Cole. Personally I am going to wait for more solid information before making up my mind one way or the other.

A Time Table

Tony Blankley's latest article is about the big speech today, outlining our plan to win the war in Iraq. In it he argues that it is immoral and disgusting for us to discuss the political ramifications of such a withdrawal.
. . . to assume that the timing of the exit is for electoral expediency is something very different -- and very evil. If President Bush were to actually make such a calculation (which I refuse to believe he would), then it would undercut every reason for his starting the war in the first place. If he thought that the war could still be concluded successfully but he is willing to accept failure by leaving prematurely if it will save a few House seats, there would be a deep place in Hell for such a man.

Yes, I understand that the anti-Bush lefties always thought that. I don't care what those lost souls think. But if decent people who have supported President Bush begin to buy into this deeply cynical mischaracterization of his calculation, they do him and the country a terrible disservice.
The timing of the original Iraqi War Resolution was timed to coincided with the 2002 mid-term elections. I don't know if it's too terribly beyond the pale to suggest that politics might play into President Bush's war plans, even tangentially.

On the other hand, it doesn't appear that President Bush is going to be pulling troops out any time soon. His administration has released a "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq," and it looks like a continuation of what we are already doing. So this big speech today will probably be more of the same.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Oeuvre of Coleman Francis

All three of Coleman Francis's movies have been covered by Mystery Science Theatre 3000, although only two "Red Zone Cuba" or "Night Train to Mundo Fine" and "Skydivers" are available on DVD. The third, and in my opinion the best, is not, the delightfully insane "Beast of Yucca Flats," staring Tor Johnson!

Anyway, Pop Matters has a great analysis of this author's work, by Bill Gibron, and how it reflects . . . well something. It's good!

Bush to make Major Speech

I know, I know. We've all heard that one before. And then we tune in and it's a glorified campaign speech or reiteration of cliches you didn't buy into the first time he said it. But tomorrows speech at the U.S. Navel Academy might provide a plan for bringing our troops home. Scott McClellen (White House Press Secretary who was just sure that Rove never talked to anybody about Valerie Plame) has announced that an unclassified "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" by tonight. Obviously you can insert your "Better Late than Never" joke here.

Fred Kaplan, of Slate Magazine, has some thoughts on what this speech could mean for the Republican Party.
Brace yourself for a mind-bog of sheer cynicism. The discombobulation begins Wednesday, when President George W. Bush is expected to proclaim, in a major speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, that the Iraqi security forces - which only a few months ago were said to have just one battalion capable of fighting on its own - have suddenly made uncanny progress in combat readiness. Expect soon after (if not during the speech itself) the thing that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have, just this month, denounced as near-treason - a timetable for withdrawal of American troops.

And so it appears (assuming the forecasts about the speech are true) that the White House is as cynical about this war as its cynical critics have charged it with being. For several months now, many of these critics have predicted that, once the Iraqis passed their constitution and elected a new government, President Bush would declare his mission complete and begin to pull out - this, despite his public pledge to "stay the course" until the insurgents were defeated.
This strategy could put Democrats and Leftists in a tight spot. Obviously if we don't completely forgive President Bush and give unquestioning support to this plan, we will be accused of hypocrisy. After all we wanted to withdraw the troops.

On the other hand, we'll be called hypocrites and worse no matter what we do, so perhaps its better to consider this plan on the merits (when we read it, that is).

Personally I think showing a real commitment to getting out of Iraq will be a good move. It will help drain support for the insurgency. That said, we need a smart withdrawal that takes account of our commitments to the Iraqi people.

Should make for an interesting week, at any rate.

Cal Thomas sez - "Our Troops Could Learn a Lesson or Two from the Terrorists."

From his latest article.
The United States is forced to fight differently from the terrorists. The insurgents use torture, beheadings and "suicide bombings" that take the lives of noncombatants. But when someone charged that the United States uses intense, or unusual (whatever that means) techniques to pry information from a captive that could save lives, war critics and the media go wild and suggest the U.S. military is replicating Saddam Hussein's torture chambers.
We aren't winning this war because we aren't brutal enough, apparently.

A few reminders. Many if not most of the people held at Abu Ghraib were determined to have no knowledge of the insurgents. The procedures used on them involved torture. Our choice to use torture on Iraqis has made winning the war harder.

Thomas also notes that the left is seeking political advantage around the Iraq war issue, a situation he deplores. "How sick is that?" It's comforting to know that this disgusts Mr. Thomas given the hundreds of times the President, Vice President and other Administration flunkies have, you know, tried to use the war to their political advantage.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Monday Mail Bag



Hey everybody. Hoped you had an enjoyable Gratitude Day.

Oh that's what Thanksgiving is called in the future. Future generations will change the names of all the holidays; more or less just to screw with Time travelers. That's why in the future Thanksgiving is called Gratitude Day, Chistmas is called Festival of Snow, Easter is called Day of remembrance, and Arbor Day is called Christmas (you should see Time traveler's faces when they figure that one out).

Actually we only had one time traveler on the show - Jungle Mike (episode 3F12 "Gorillas on the Moon"). Which was another show on the network run starring one of those hale and hearty types. Anyway he visited our show one time, and Captain Starfaller visited his show another time (episode 1D23 "Stars on the Savannah").

Let's open the bag of comments.

Our first comment comes from Random Goblin, responding to Bryant's
review of a Molly Ivin's article.
It's such a below-the-belt emotional strategy. It takes some very good things about Americans, our patriotism and our love for freedom and our respect and admiration for our service men and women, and attempts to manipulate those qualities to achieve evil ends.
I have to say one of the nice things about being a Lobster is that we don't wear belts. Makes it very hard to get hit below the belt. Take that puny humans. You think you are so hot cause you got spines? Well try and armored carapace and then see how you do! Lobsters Rule!

I'm sorry I am going through the Ancient Ritual of Osh Gosh Begosh which spontaneously renders me as I was in Junior High. Yes I went to Junior High. Shut up!

Our second letter comes from Elayne Riggs, in response to a
Gratitude Day post by Bryant.
I would strongly advise investing in an adequate electric knife; it makes carving a lot easier. We saved the gravy, along with the trimmings, to do a bubble and squeak fry-up tomorrow; we have lots of deli and pickled stuff for that.
I need a carving nice as well. You'd think with my mighty pincers, I wouldn't, but, if you will recall, I use my pincers for crushing, not for cutting. I can crush meat like nothing; but it all ends up looking like a mush.

Still tastes good though, usually.

Anyway turning to the Mail Bag, we have a letter from Odume Kyari. Mr. Kyari's dad was a general in the Congolese Army and was sent to Denmark to buy some arms. While his dad was out of the country, the President was assassinated. He then cancelled his arms buying mission, and deposited $12.5 million in an attache case with a private security firm. Then he returned to the Congo, attended the funeral of the former President, and was promptly captured and tortured until he had a cardiac arrest and died. Poor guy.

Still you have to mark off a few points for cleverness; attending the funeral of a guy assassinated in a coup? How smart does the new regime have to be to figure that one out. They probably tortured and killed all the caterers too.

Anyway apparently Mr. Kyari needs a business partner. His attorney advised him of that, and apparently my name is well known in the congolese embassy in Belgium.
I got your contact from the commercial section of the congolese embassy in Belgium.Meanwhile, I sincerely ask for your assistance to get this money through your account, Your share for assisting us will be 25% of the total sum, 5% will be use for upsetting all the expenses incurred in the course of concluding this venture and the remaining 70% that will be for me and my family.
As previously mentioned I did spend some time in Amsterdam; but I don't think my actions there would lead people to think I would make a good Business Partner. Rather, I seem to remember saying, on more than one occasion, "Have you ever really looked at your claws?"

Anyway, sorry Mr. Kyari, but you are out of luck. No bank account, and Cheery assures me that the company bank accountcan't be used for this kind of operation. Actually I didn't ask her, because, she just might agree to do it. I'm always looking out for the firm.

We also got an e-mail from Lady Best, which I will reprint in full.
Hello
I am Lady best I will like make a order in your store for some items so pls
i will firstly want to know whether you ship to nigeria where my store
resides,and also
my mode of payment is by my company credit card and my shipping method is by
(UPS 0R FEDEX OR EMS) .so pls i will be expecting your mutual email if you
do ship to nigeria.hope to hear from you soonest and also looking forward to
hear from you
Best regards
Thanks
Lady best
We are not currently producing anything except this website; but if we did make anything we would certainly ship to Nigeria. I am still working out the details for selling my Junior Space Minion of Evil badges, so we might ship a few of those to Nigeria, if I ever get that finalized.

Anyway that's it for another week. Hope you all enjoyed this, and remember, if you face a problem, Crush it with Your Mighty Pincers! Or Spine if you happen to be one of those pitiful humans. Lobsters Rule!

Arguing Made Simple

Arguing with an extreme position is easy. Very easy.

Arguing with a mainstream position is more difficult.

So what to do? Simply assign to your political opponents an extreme position, and argue against that. Much easier than trying to come to terms with what your opponents actually argue.

It's easier, of course, when you are arguing against a large movement like, say, the left.

For a demonstration of this technique, let's check out Jennifer Roback Morse's latest article.
The Left can not accept that we are born as either male or female. You might expect me to say that the Left hates gender. But to say that is to accept their terms for the debate. Gender is for nouns. We come in two sexes: male and female.

The Left hates sex because men and women are so different that they can never be made equal in the way that the Left demands.
You see how that works? Now the nice thing about making it "the Left" is that there probably are some people on "the Left" who have that opinion. Is it a mainstream "Left" view? It doesn't matter! What matters is that arguing against hating the fact that we have males and females is a heck of a lot easier than arguing for women making less money than men for doing the same work.

The Godless Constitution - Final Thoughts

Just read an article by Patrick Hynes called "Time to Rethink the Religious Right Stereotypes." In it Mr. Hynes lists off the benefits of going to church; apparently people who go to church are healthier, happier, and wealthier. Then he explains that being Christian means you voted for George W. Bush. Specifically he notes that 65% of the people who go to church more than once a week voted for President Bush, while only 35% of those voted for Kerry. Or, to make a long story short, to be religious in America in 2005 is to be Conservative.

Hynes' nominal target in this piece is Hollywood; they need to start portraying Christian Conservatives in a more positive light. The actual target is Christian Conservatives, and the message is "Gosh, you guys are great. And anybody who questions you is probably an elitist bigot."

I suppose if I were a Christian Conservative I would like that message. I know that I occasionally laugh at the posters at Free Republic for example, which is more or less the same thing. People who disagree with me are stupid. It's very comforting.

But it's a guilty pleasure, isn't it? Because the whole point to bothering with a Democracy is that there isn't one right and obvious answer to all the nation's problems (if there was, then Bush is right, a Dictatorship would be a lot easier). Good-hearted, intelligent people can disagree on the best way to handle our problems. As comforting as it might be to draw a line through the country and put all the people who agree with me (or who agree with Patrick Hynes, for that matter) on the good side and all who disagree on the bad side, such a division would not only be stupid. It would be dangerous to our democracy, because it essentially ends conversation.

At any rate, I heartily recommend The Godless Constitution: A Moral Defense of the Secular State. It's well written, interesting, and not overly long.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Godless Constitution Chapter 9 - George W. Bush and the Wall of separation

What does it mean to have a President who believes that he is doing God's will?

Can God's will be changed by new evidence coming forward? By scientific surveys? By sociological studies? By foreign intelligence?

By the will of the American people?

If God's will is clear and the President knows that will, how could he allow the voice of the people to override God's will?

Now I don't know if President Bush looks at it this way. I would think in some areas he probably does (the war, for example) and in other areas not as much. But it is something to think about, particularly given the way he has melded his political discourse to a certain religious argument.

The authors discuss how the tight intertwinning of religion and political values has hurt our national discourse. The Republican Right has done what it can to set up "Secular" and "Religious" as opposites, forever hostile to each other. They have also successfully, more or less, made Moral a synonym for Christian Conservatives. They deplore both developments.
We need then to view our moral language as common property, not as something that belongs to people of a particularly religion or to people of no religion. Our state is a secular one, which renders moral debate in the public sphere as something different from a theological inquiry into the nature of God's will. At the same time, self-styled secularists should never imagine that they have nothing to learn from people of faith or that the moral passion of evangelical Christians never speaks to issues that concerns them.
I think this sums up the book; Kramnick and Moore are not arguing that Christians need to be removed from the public stage (despite the paranoid fantasies of a few of them). Merely this is an argument that they are going to have to share that stage with Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Agnostics and Atheists.

The Godless Constitution Chapter 8 - Religious Politics and America's Moral Dilemma's

This was the last chapter in earlier editions of the book. The big wrap up chapter where the authors take their argument and apply it to the modern day.

The authors select three of the current proponents of "religious correctness" to focus on. The three they select are Pat Roberston, Ralph Reed, and Patrick Buchannan. This dates the book a little bit (which is, presumably, why they felt to add a chapter. While both Robertson and Reed are still players and Buchannan is still around.

Pat Robertson is notable for how he blended his religion and his political ambitions. Ralph Reed is notable for how he has successfully marketed the Christian Coalition by downplaying it's specifically exclusionary demands. And Patrick Buchannan is notable for how he combines a sort of muscular Christianity with libertarianism. If Kramnick and Moore were writing the book today, possibly they might switch their focus to Bill O'Rielly, defender of Christmas. They might also reference James Dobson, who's star has certainly risen since President Bush took office.

The section on Pat Buchannen is interesting for how it explains a particular distinction between previous generation's understanding of the phrase "Christian" nation and our current generation's understanding of it. Previous generations might understand our nation as having a sort of national relationship with God. Just like God might bless or punish a person for committing sin, so might God bless or punish a nation for committing sin.

This theory can be used as a rationale for controlling private behavior. It's hard to argue that I should have the right to say you can't drink (assuming you aren't going to drive drunk). How does your choice to drink hurt me? Well in this theory of a national morality, your drinking offends God and weakens our nation's relationship with him. Remember these statements by Pat Roberts.
We have a court that has essentially stuck its finger in God's eye and said we're going to legislate you out of the schools. We're going to take your commandments from off the courthouse steps in various states. We're not going to let little children read the commandments of God. We're not going to let the Bible be read, no prayer in our schools. We have insulted God at the highest levels of our government. And then we say, "Why does this happen?"

Well, why it's happening is that God Almighty is lifting his protection from us.
Patrick Buchannan has, in statements excusing modern responsibility for slavery or the treatment of the Indians, rejected this argument. Frankly it's hard to be a libertarian and believe in this sort of thing.

Of course, it's also easy to point out that the fact that we allow thousands of children to go to bed hungry every night does not seem to bother God nearly as much as removing the Ten Commandments from a court house. At least in the mind of Pat Robertson.

The authors conclude the chapter with a clear statement that religious people need to be involved in the political process, but they do not need to use their religion as a sort of holy trump card that ends debate. Which I wholeheartedly agree with.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Godless Constitution Chapter 7 - Sunday Mail and the Christian Amendment

What accommodations should be made out of sensitivity to the religious concerns of Christians?

Today that question might center around whether or not a Christian pharmacist should be required to dispense drugs or medical products he disagrees with (such as birth control or the morning after pill.

In the early days of this country the question centered around delivering the mail on Sunday. Should post-masters and postal workers, who were assumed to be Christian, be required to work on their Sabbath. What did the government of the United State's choice to ignore the Sabbath Day say about our relationship with God?

But of course there were good reasons for operating on Sunday. For small far flung rural communities, coming into town to attend services was a struggle; why compound the struggle by requiring a separate trip to get the mail. And travelers who used the mail coaches would doubtless seek other transportation options if forced to rest on the Sabbath. And people in the Western part of the country at that time wanted up to the date information in order to make their business decisions.

The authors point out that this debate also centered on the liberal idea of giving people a day off. Forcing the post office to close on Sunday may sound bad, but forcing people to work 7 days a week doesn't sound much better.

In this case the necessities of keeping the mail running won out until such necessities were alleviated by the development of the telegram and the railways.

The chapter also covers the Christian Amendment, which was an attempt on the part of the some to add an amendment to the constitution clarifying that this was a Christian nation. This issue sprang up during the Civil War, when emotions were naturally pretty high. In some versions this would have re-written the preamble, as follows.
We, the people of the United States, humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, The Lord Jesus Christ as the Governor among the Nations, and His revealed will as of supreme authority, in order to constitute a Christian government . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States.
Obviously many non-Christians and even smaller Christian groups (like the Seventh-Day Adventists) saw this amendment as a threat to their religious freedom. And both President Lincoln and the Congress felt no particular haste in addressing this issue, so it was allowed to die a quiet death.

The Godless Constitution Chapter 6 - American Baptists and the Jeffersonian Tradition

This chapter covers the interesting position Baptists held in the early Republic and how that position changed over time. Baptists were dissenters from the Calvinist beliefs of the Puritans, particularly on the matter of infant baptism. Despite having left the Puritan congregations, Baptists in New England continued to pay taxes to support them. Thus they came to the principle of separation of Church and State not through any process of cool reason, but simply because their personal experience had taught them not to trust the state when it meddled in Religion. This lesson led them to staunch support of President Jefferson, for his work in separating church and state.

The chapter also covers the church's' movement into the areas of what we might call moral guidance or social justice? If there was to be this barrier between church and state, in what areas might the various religious organizations properly operate? Some Christian organizations rejected the notion of supplicating Congress for help in approaching moral problems; others chose to embrace this idea.

The chapter ends with a discussion of the Southern Baptists, how they formed (in response to northern abolitionist sentiment in the Baptist churches), and how they have negotiated the political terrain in the intervening years. The authors compare the Southern Baptist position to the Amish position, which is interesting.
If all the religious people in the United States interpreted their religious responsibilities like the Amish, the nation would be in deep trouble. Refusing to join a political crusade to proclaim America a Christian nation is one thing the founders had in mind in writing the godless Constitution. However, regarding one's fellow citizens as sinners who should be ignored is an idea that is not part of our secular state. While it makes unthinkable a political party of religious correctness, it also makes any sort of nation impossible.
This passage makes clear that the authors are not advocating that religious people should be barred from political activities. Of course, they also note that Southern Baptist leaders have made overtures to the Conservative movement; a tendency which has only increased over the last few years.

The Godless Constitution - An aside on Mr. Jefferson

I do want to comment on last night's post on Mr. Jefferson, where my personal religious convictions may have bled into my writings on what he believed. And by may have I mean definitely did.

In other words, I may have overreached by suggesting that my personal beliefs on the experience with the divine aligned with Jefferson's thoughts on the subject.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Godless Constitution Chapter 5 - The "Infidel" Mr. Jefferson

This chapter deals with, you guessed it, Abigail Adams. But it also mentions Thomas Jefferson and that is who I want to focus on. Jefferson is a key figure in the history of Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary America, and he seems to have largely shared the author's point of view. One could argue that their focus on Jefferson is a bit self serving. One Amazon review noted "a failure to discuss any evidence that is contrary to our authors' thesis."

I don't think this assertion is accurate; I've pointed out, for example, the author's see several positive effects of New England intermingling of church and state. That said, this is a book with a point of view, a polemic. They label it so in the first chapter. It is understood that polemic expresses a particular argument; if this Amazon Reviewer wishes an argument in favor of religious correctness, there are any number of sources he could turn. To criticize this book for not presenting completely both sides of the fence is to argue that the authors should have written a different book.

Jefferson believed that religion was a purely private concern. He was a religious person, spending a great deal of time studying the Bible, and described his own creed as "the philosophy of Jesus." Which is, I have to admit, close to what our current President has said. That said, he did not have a great deal of faith in priests or other church leaders. Rather he described them as "mountebacks" and "a band of dupes and imposters."

Obviously these kinds of comments did not endear Mr. Jefferson to the religious leaders of his day; particularly those religious leader who favored religious correctness. But Mr. Jefferson is consistent. If the greatest religious benefit comes from a personal and individual and private communion with God, and if priests or politically ordained religion can distract us from seeking that experience, well then they are obviously harmful.

There is, in the Book of Mormon, an extended parable about a vineyard, which we understand to represent the House of Israel or the Church of God. The Lord of the Vineyard, representing God, tends to his vineyard. At one point he returns to view the one of his vines, and laments it's condition.
47 But what could I have done more in my vineyard? Have I slackened mine hand, that I have not nourished it? Nay, I have nourished it, and I have digged about it, and I have pruned it, and I have dunged it; and I have stretched forth mine hand almost all the day long, and the end draweth nigh. And it grieveth me that I should hew down all the trees of my vineyard, and cast them into the fire that they should be burned. Who is it that has corrupted my vineyard?

48 And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: Is it not the loftiness of thy vineyard - —have not the branches thereof overcome the roots which are good? And because the branches have overcome the roots thereof, behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves. Behold, I say, is not this the cause that the trees of thy vineyard have become corrupted?
This can be read many ways, I suppose. But I've always seen it as a metaphor for letting the trappings of religion distract one from the purpose of religion. The purpose of religion is to place one in harmony with God, which is a very personal process (which is one of the reasons I haven't felt to discuss religion overmuch in this blog). But one can be come distracted by the trappings of religion, the branches, so that one neglects the roots of religion; this experience with the transcendent.

And I believe this is one of the reasons Jefferson was right to describe a necessary wall between church and state.

The Godless Constitution Chapter 4 - The English Roots of the Secular State

This chapter, obviously, covers about the intellectual tradition from which American Secularism sprang from. Specifically it focuses on John Locke, who's writings were extremely influential on American thought.

One revolutionary aspect of Locke's thought was the shrinking of the Public Sphere and the enlargement of the Private Sphere. Under the medieval order, the religious practices of the community were everybody's business; under the new system religious practices were to be private and personal. One might share a congregation with one's neighbors, but one would not be required to share a congregation with one's neighbors.

The chapter also makes the points that the same forces that argued for a rejection of the specifically Christian state also argued for a laissez-faire economic policy. It is interesting that the modern forces of religious correctness have abandoned this policy. They believe in the power of the government to make men good but not in its power to make men good employers.

The Godless Constitution Chapter 3 - Roger Williams and the Religious Argument for Church-State Separation

I think I can do the next two chapters relatively quickly. This chapter covers Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island (your probably guessed that already). In specific it covers his argument against an established church, which was made on specifically religious grounds. It's easy enough to understand why people who aren't religious or people who are of a different religion than the dominant one would be in favor of a godless constitution. But there are valid reasons why you might not favor it even if you are of the dominant religion.

Incidentally, the authors words of praise for the tight intertwining of church and state in several New England states puts further lie to the suggestion that they want a Godless America.

Williams reasoned that the ability to govern, like the ability to farm, was not particularly tied to religion. It implicitly implied that an atheist might be as good at governing as a devout Christian. Of course, we have not had an atheist president and the current political climate makes having one unlikely.

He also noted that politics had a tendency to corrupt religion; the religious feelings and ideals, when appropriated for political purposes, lose their holy trappings and become just another ploy. Given the nature of politics (and I mean politics in all of our history), I can see his point. You can't take a silk scarf into a pig sty and expect it to stay clean.

The Godless Constitution Chapter 2 - The Godless Constitution

Yes, the second chapter has the same name as the book. Deal with it.

To start out this discussion let's check out an Amazon Book Review, of the predecessor to this book.
Kramnick and Moore imply in this book that the founders intended to create a godless nation. Be assured, I am the last person in the world to claim that the United States is a "Christian Nation." If it was a "Christian Nation" I would burn my Bible and become an agnostic! But these authors ignore the deep history of faith that the framers had.
This is a misstatement of what this book (and this chapter in particular) is about. The founders most certainly did not want a Godless Nation; on the contrary many of them believed in the ennobling influence of religion. But they wanted a Constitution that did not reference any particular God.

I don't hold this reviewer all that guilty though; it was clearly a review of the book's title, rather than the book itself. Doing that, you can't help but make mistakes.

At any rate, despite claims to the contrary, the Constitution was clearly intended as a Godless document. This was seen in the debates and attacks on the constitution for failing to exalt the Christian religion into a special place in our society.

Most states at that time (save Virginia and New York) contained some kind of religious test. Deleware's struck me in particular.
. . . in Delaware all elected and appointed public officials were required to profess "faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God forevermore.
Mormons do not believe in the doctrine of the trinity, and so, I assume, would not have been able to take this oath.

Of course that's another dirty little secret about the desires of those who wanted to impose a religious test for holding office; there were lots of Christians they weren't very comfortable with either. Catholics, Quakers, and the like were not desirable in high office.

Those who opposed imposing a religious test for high office pointed out the seemingly insurmountable problem that there was no religious uniformity in the United States.

If that was a problem then, it is doubly a problem now.

The Godless Constitution - An aside

I wanted to quickly expand on something I said in the last chapter, about how believing in a secular politics and a secular government has its roots in our history.

The problem with America is that it is largely founded on a series of disagreements. Our political history is a history of Americans disagreeing with each other. Thus in a confounding way, both sides of many of our national debates have deep roots in American history.

I find the current brand of Conservativism (or Limbaugh conservatism) to be small-minded and mean-spirited, but I can'd deny that Limbaugh is building on a certain American historical tradition (although, as we all know, he would deny that my liberalism has any American roots).

That is one of the reasons why the Right wing's constant attempts to portray their political enemies as un-American is so troubling; it's a denial of the spirit of conflict and discussion that this country's politics have been built on.

The Godless Constitution Chapter 1 - Is America A Christian Nation?

This is a question that has puzzled me many times; particularly when I am presented with somebody asserting vigorously that we are a Christian Nation. My first response is usually something along the lines of what do you mean by the phrase "Christian nation."

Given the tone of such pronouncements, I know it does not in fact mean "Statistically speaking, there are a lot of Christians in the U.S."

And such people are usually quick to deny that it means "Non-Christians should not have the same rights as Christians." The then move to the theory that Christians are persecuted in America (a theory one step removed from "White Males have it tough in this country" on the ludicrousness scale). So somewhere in between those two I would guess?

Kramnick and Moore have a term to describe the philosophy of those who favor the assertion that America is a Christian Nation; Religious correctness.
It [religious correctness] maintains that the United States was established as a Christian nation by Christian people, with the Christian religion assigned a central place in guiding the nation's destiny.
The authors do note the importance of the Christian religion in our nation and in our current culture; but they disagree on the notion that it has a special role in our political culture.

They also believe that the injection of religion into politics hurts both politics and religion. Religious leaders who stand on the public square suffer the same slings and arrows that every other politically active person or movement has to suffer. They quote Alexis de Tocqueville, who asked, ". . . what would become of its [religion's] immortality, in the midst of universal decay?"

I'd also like to point out something on the burden of proof in this book. Obviously Kramnick and Moore believe in the secular state (as do I). But even if you are not convinced that the secular state is the way to go, an honest reader of this book would have to concede that the proponents of a Secular Politics and Government have at least as much of a claim on the American tradition as proponents of religious correctness.

The Godless Constitution

This is the name of a book I read yesterday by Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore. The full title is "The Godless Constitution: A Moral Defense of the Secular State", which is an updated version of a book they wrote in 1996. Which makes sense; it's not like these issues have gone away.

As we are moving into the Christmas season, the time when the Bill O'Rielly's of the world are going to insist that liberals are destroying Christmas, I wanted to read a book that covered Church and State issues. Plus, this website usually shuts down over holidays, and I didn't want to do that this time; rather we will do a sharply focused series of articles about this book and the issues it raises.

I do want to be careful not to simply summarize the book; it's really quite good and you should read it yourself.

I should comment on my biases before jumping into this particular subject. For those of you who do not know, I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; A Mormon. My religious heritage will naturally inform my discussion of this subject. My father was something of a church history buff and I have also been interested in the history of the church, so I have a strong sense of Mormon history.

Mormons believe, and I believe, that the Constitution was divinely inspired. What will be clear, however, is that I believe that the separation of Church and State, the Godless-ness that the authors reference, is, in a paradoxical way, divinely inspired.

So that's the agenda for the next couple of days. Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Gratitude

"Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies."- Charles E. Jefferson

Something to consider on Turkey day.

I made a turkey for the first time and it turned out surprisingly good. Fairly moist. My only problem is that I am not so good at the carving of the turkey; so it ended up looking like something from, well, a movie with really poorly carved meet. Anyway I am reasonably satisfied, despite the fact that cooking said turkey and having it ready by noon required a wake up time of 3:30 (to get turkey out of fridge) and 5:10 (to prep turkey and put in oven). The stuffing turned out reasonably well. I screwed up the gravy; it's not the best. But it's not the worst either, so I suppose you have to take what you can get.

Actually I might use the gravy to make some Bangers and Mash. It might work well for that.

Anyway have a Happy Thanksgiving all!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Lies Lies Lies

Brent Bozell's latest article repeats a lie that we covered yesterday.
On Friday, House Republicans finally showed some spine and did something wonderful. They called for an up-or-down vote on withdrawal, and put everyone formally on the record.

So much for the most "influential Democrat" in the Congress. The House -- Democrats and Republicans -- handed Murtha (and the press) one of the most lopsided, humiliating defeats imaginable. The House vote for withdrawal: three in favor, 403 against. So much for that "growing" public demand for the removal of American troops. The headline should have been "Overwhelming House Majority Votes to Support Bush in Iraq."
Here is the Resolution Congressman Murtha put forward.
The text of the Murtha resolution:

Whereas Congress and the American People have not been shown clear, measurable progress toward establishment of stable and improving security in Iraq or of a stable and improving economy in Iraq, both of which are essential to "promote the emergence of a democratic government";

Whereas additional stabilization in Iraq by U, S. Military forces cannot be achieved without the deployment of hundreds of thousands of additional U S. Troops, which in turn cannot be achieved without a military draft;

Whereas more than $277 billion has been appropriated by the United States Congress to prosecute U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan;

Whereas, as of the drafting of this resolution, 2,079 U.S. troops have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom;

Whereas U.S. forces have become the target of the insurgency;

Whereas, according to recent polls, over 80% of the Iraqi people want U.S. forces out of Iraq;

Whereas polls also indicate that 45% of the Iraqi people feel that the attacks on U.S. forces are justified;

Whereas, due to the foregoing, Congress finds it evident that continuing U.S. military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the people of Iraq, or the Persian Gulf Region, which were cited in Public Law 107-243 as justification for undertaking such action;

Therefore be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

That:

Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.

Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S Marines shall be deployed in the region.

Section 3. The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.
Here is the bill that the Republicans cynically put up that was defeated.
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.
Perhaps you can't see a difference between those two bills. Perhaps you can't see any difference between "immediately" and "at the earliest practicable date." If you can't seen the difference, I am a bit sorry for you.

Brent Bozell wants to pretend that their are only two options; either you want to pull troop out immediately, or you support President Bush's continuing the war for as long as he likes. A vote against this cynical vote is a vote for President Bush. How dumb does Brent Bozell think we are?

Well, dumb enough, I guess.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I Come to Praise Molly Ivins, not to Bury Her

Molly Ivins is really quite good, and her latest article is also quite good. It's about how the Bush Administration is dealing with the suggestion that the pre-war intelligence may not have been presented exactly honestly.
Dissent equals treason. Anyone who criticizes Bush is unpatriotic. According to this pitiful attempt at intimidation, to notice that this war is a disaster is the same as spitting on our soldiers. Stephen Hadley, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush and Cheney have all played this card in recent days.

It's just plain old intimidation, trying to scare people into shutting up -- it's an old, ugly, mean trick, and it only works against cowards.
It's fortunate that there are plenty of people out there, like Ms. Ivins, who do not happen to be cowards.

Anyway the whole article is good, so go check it out!

A Plan vs. A Timetable

Cal Thomas's latest article makes the stunning admission that there are some similarities between Vietnam and Iraq. Specifically, he means that we could drop out of the war earlier than we should because of protesters and anti war types.
Vietnam and Iraq are significantly different, but Iraq could resemble Vietnam, if Murtha's advice is taken. We lost the war in Vietnam when we lost our will and failed to implement a plan for victory.
See Mr. Thomas wants us to implement a "plan for victory." This is different than a timetable for withdrawal. I'm not sure exactly how the two differ, but I am sure that it is so.

Oh I know. A "plan for victory" does not require the United States, particularly those who supported President Bush and this invasion, to admit that invading Iraq was a mistake.

Cal Thomas, unlike many of his colleagues, does at least present an idea of what victory in Iraq will look like.
Quitting before a stable democracy and self-sufficient Iraqi military is in place isn't a strategy. It is surrender.
Seems simple enough. A stable democracy and self-sufficient Iraqi military. Seems like that would take some time under the best of circumstances; but since our very presence drains the government of legitimacy and encourages insurrection, well, I guess Mr. Thomas is in for the long haul.

Oh, in case you didn't know, Republicans put up a measure calling for immediate and mindless withdrawal last week. It didn't pass, and many democrats, recognizing it as madness, didn't vote for it. Here's a parable that might help you understand this little tactic.
Once upon a time there was a magical shop known as Cost No More. An assistant manager by the name of Thor (son of Hiemdall) went and had words with the manager. "Verily oh manager, our marketing plan doth not draw customers as it should. I propose we enact a new marketing plan."

His manager, Thoth son of Orsirus, said, "Look Thor, If you are serious about this, the only thing to do is to tear down the entire store and rebuild from scratch."

Thor was taken aback and said "Nay, varlet. Such a course of action is far to extreme."

Thoth replied, in a quiet voice, "Ah, then there must be no problems."
Simple enough. Liberals favor a timetable for withdrawal. Or a plan if you like that word better. Not just mindless withdrawal.

But of course it's harder to demonize the idea of a timetable for withdrawal.

Dennis Prager and Hatred

Dennis Prager is on my mind a lot this week. His latest article, "The Left Hates Inequality, not Evil," is his standard dishonest mish-mash. It doesn't even live up to that title. I mean he makes an argument that the left doesn't hate evil, but fails to argue that the left does hate inequality.

Indeed, halfway through his article he seems to forget the title.
As noted above, everyone hates someone, and that includes people on the Left. The problem is that because they don't hate evil, they hate those who oppose evil. That is how liberals went from anti-communist to anti-anti-communist.
By the way, it's interesting that Prager basically just accepts hatred as part of the human condition, rather than arguing that his followers try to rid themselves of that pernicious passion as much as possible. But I suppose he understands the implications of his writings and wants to ok hatred of liberals for his followers.

I disagree with conservatives and I find what some of them do hateful. But I try not to hate them and I encourage you not to hate conservatives.

I also don't understand the logic that because we don't hate evil, we must hate those who oppose evil? But whatever. In this cosmic drama that Prager has created, Conservatives are the good guys, and anybody who disagrees with Conservatives is the bad guys.

Prager can't, therefore, acknowledge that many liberals recognize the dangers and the evils in the world, but disagree over how best to handle those problems. He also can't note that there are certain evils, such as Corporate Malfience, that Liberals are willing to grapple while Conservatives look the other way. No when it comes to evil, Prager's little drama requires manly Conservatives to stand up and fight, while evil Liberals stab them in the back. Any situation that doesn't fit this model simply doesn't exist.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Monday Mail Bag



Hey Space Minions!

By the way I found a cache of old Junior Space Minion of Evil badges. You see Captain Starfaller, being a crazy egoist, had a club of kiddies called the Star Brigade. They would get a badge that said "Junior Cadet of the Star Brigade" and it would have their name on it. Anyway, I talked the director into setting up the Space Minions of Evil club, but before we could get it on the air, the sponsor nixed it.

Apparently some of the parents (the closed-minded ones) would think that a club of evil is somehow offensive.

Anyway the director did give me the leftover badges, but attempts to hand them out on my own proved, well, not very good. There were purses hitting my carapace involved. I'm a bit more sensitive to these issues now, and I do have to say that sidling up to a kid and saying "Hey want to join my Space Minions of Evil club?" really doesn't look all that good. Oh well.

I ought to put these on eBay or something.

Anyway on to this weeks comments and letters. Last weeks
Catalogue of Commentators entry (on Dennis Prager) engendered quite a little debate (3 comments!). Bryant participated so I won't, but it's worth checking out.

An article on Brent Bozell's contention that President Bush deserves some credit for keeping us safe summoned forth this response from Random Goblin.
We don't know he has "kept us safe" since 9/11. He certainly didn't keep people safe in New Orleans. ahnd he certainly hasn't kept our soldiers very safe.
This little note, by the way gives a clue as to Mr. Goblin's origins. The adding of an unnecessary "h" to the word and is characteristic of retired British Army Colonels and Bostonians; and I know for a fact that Mr. Goblin is not from Boston. You are left to draw your own conclusions.

As for his comments, I agree. Or I don't. I haven't decided yet.

Being a Lobster, I don't actually have a spine.

Turning to the mail bag, we have a plethora of interesting letters. Let's start out with a letter who's first line could be a shoegazer album title.

Greetings to you, from little Fred Williams
Just Released, Jimmy and Mopes' latest chart topper "Greetings to you, from little Fred Williams." This conceptual album traces the story of a poor little 17 year old from Cote D'Ivoire who has $18,500,000.00 and nowhere to put it. Contains the hit singles "Oh Please Mr. Foreigner" and "Just Give Me your Bank Account Number Already."

We also got a letter from Ghana which starts with this thesaurus bursting sentence.

Forgive my indignation if this message comes to you as a surprise and may offend your personality for contacting you without your prior consent and writing through this unofficial channel.I got your contact from a profesional database found in internet while searching for a reliable and honest person that will assist me safeguard funds into an account.
Let's open up our dictionaries and help translate that first sentence.

Forgive my anger aroused by something unjust, mean, or unworthy if this message comes to you as a surprise and may offend your totality of qualities and traits, as of character or behavior, that are peculiar to a specific person for contacting you without your prior consent and writing through this unofficial wood or steel ledge projecting from a sailing ship's sides to spread the shrouds and keep them clear of the gunwales.

I don't know if that made the sentence any clearer, now that I look at it.


Anyway that's all for today; hope you all have pleasant weeks, and be sure to get your Junior Space Minion of Evil badge, once I figure out how to sell them.

What Kind of Blog is this?






Hi Everybody. : )

For those interested in this question, he's the answer.

Your Blog Should Be Red

Your blog is full of intensity and passion.
You are very opinionated - and people love or hate you for it.
You have the potential to be both a famous and infamous blogger.


Link via The Countess.

God and Science

Suzanne Fields has written an interesting article on the intersection of Scientific Theory and Religious Belief. The only problem is that I'm far from sure what point she intended to make.

Fields starts out repeating an argument by David Sloan Wilson that religious beliefs might be a survival characteristic.
The Wilson argument rests on a Darwinian analysis of what contributes to evolution. Darwin wrote that tribes with a high degree of fidelity, obedience, courage and sympathy, always prepared to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would triumph over other tribes and thus be more likely to survive. This view perceives society as a single organism; since religious men and women historically aim to encourage such traits within their community, Mr. Wilson believes they were favored by natural selection.
I'm not exactly sure how to take this. It seems to suggest that we should build religious society, regardless of whether such religious belief is founded in reality or not. But many, if not most, religious people would argue that their beliefs are based on reality. That's sort of the point, isn't it?

At any rate, Fields larger point seems to suggest that Religion and Science are not as intrinsically antagonistic as some would say. I gather she supports intelligent design, but prefers the more scientifically rigorous versions of that theory. But mostly she wants this argument to stop generating so much heat and noise without accomplishing anything. Not sure I disagree with her, although we would, presumably, disagree on who is responsible for keeping up the pressure.

Christmas chronicles

You can expect me to be all over Christmas stories this year. Or, to be more precise, stories drummed up by the right wing to suggest that Liberals hate Christmas.

Today's article is by Michelle Goldberg over at Salon, and it is a review of a book by Fox Anchor John Gibson called "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought." This being Salon, she does a very good job taking the argument apart and explaining why it's crap.

The basic problem with the argument is that it overreaches. There's no doubt that a few school boards or city councils have made some wrong calls in an attempt to avoid potential legal problems. But does that translate into a "liberal war on Christmas?"

incidentally, Ms. Goldberg points out that the ACLU, the villain in this conservative fantasy, has regularly defended the Christian's right to freedom of speech.
Ironically, when school officials do go too far, the ACLU is likely to challenge them, on the grounds that the government can neither promote nor restrict religious speech. "A lot of the things the ACLU does to help religious people and religious students are not high-profile cases; they don't get much attention," says Haynes. "The Christian student who is told she can't bring her Bible to school, the ACLU gets those kinds of calls, and often it doesn't become a lawsuit, but they will quietly tell the school you can't do this, you have to treat everyone fairly."

Indeed, one case that ACLU president Nadine Strossen loves to talk about is that of Rita Warren, a retired woman who calls herself the "Lone Ranger of the manger" and whose life mission is to put nativity scenes in public places. When she placed a plastic creche on the lawn in front of the government building in Fairfax, Va., the government ordered her to remove it. Warren called the ACLU, and they discovered that the city of Fairfax had allowed others to erect displays on the property. "Once the government allows displays of any kind to be placed on public property, it can't then discriminate against some display because of the viewpoint," says Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. "The government could not discriminate against her religious display any more than it could take specific action to promote her religious display. It has to treat us the same."
Interesting. But don't worry; the correct answer to this argument is that a few moments of clarity don't make up for all the other bad things the ACLU, apparently, does.

Of course Mr. Gibson and Mr. O'Reilly (also very concerned about this issue) are also worried about stores like Wal-Mart and Target choosing to have their employees say "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas."

Wal-Mart could chain their employees to their cash-registers, have people whipping them with asbestoes whips, and Gibson and O'Reilly would defend their right to run their business as they like. But such businesses do not, apparently, have the right to instruct their employees what holiday greeting to give.

Anyway it's an interesting article; well worth checking out.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

New Logo, New Quote!






Hi all! : )

Once again we are changing the logo, but nothing else; just because it's easier. And new quote too. Have a good week.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Round the Horn. An Irwin J. McIckleson Production



Salutations from the desk of Irwin J. McIckleson, fictional 1910's plutocrat. It's snowing today; which is a pity. I had planned to visit one of my plants and randomly accuse someone of stealing from me. That's always enjoyable, and it teaches my workers a valuable lesson. I particularly like to find some bootlooking pretty boy; the look of confusion on his face is priceless.

Actually it isn't priceless, come to think of it.

Anyway since I can't do that, I might as well get started on my weekly exploration of websites that may or may not be members of the Liberal Coalition.

First up is firedoglake,
responding to a speech by a former soldier on the progress of the Iraq War. Or lack thereof. firedoglake suggests that this Representative's war record may allow him to make certain points in a very forceful way.

THE NEWS BLOG also has
information on Mr. Murtha's comments; this Murtha, like any old soldier, doesn't like the idea of seeing people thrown away for no reason. I've noticed in my long life that those who aren't going to have to pay the price are the most eager to incur the bill.

Apparently a radio-phone host by the name of Bill O'Rielly has made threats against those websites who critique his program? Well the gentlemen running LEFT is RIGHT are not afraid of these threats, but are
standing up to them. What I don't understand, however, is why Mike of LEFT is RIGHT would hug trees; surely the sap would get in your clothing?

Rook's Rant has taken this course as well, proclaiming himself "
a proud member of the O'Reilly's Enemies List." And Bryant assures me (over Cheery's objections) that this website would also like to be put on that list; he will be writing an e-mail to that effect in due course and posting it to O'Reilly.

Mr. Rant also has
a piece on an investigative reporter who apparently has more information on this Valerie Plame-Karl Rove-Scooter Libby Fandango. Apparently this reporter, named Woodward, knew of information for quite a long time but chose not to reveal it. Reporters like secrecy I've noticed.

Scrutiny Hooligans
discusses a terror weapon called "White phosphorous" that was used in the Iraqi war. I would have hoped that we might have evolved beyond the need of such weapons, but I guess not. I know there are several men who might well be able to work for my plants producing wealth for me were it not for the use of these sorts of weapons.

I guess I just thought the Plutocrats of the future might have finally put an end to this kind of nonsense.

rubber hose has
a discussion of why Marseilles might have been spared from the recent lawlessness in France. I think it might have something to do with a diet heavily fish based. It has been scientifically determined that eating fish encourages a contemplative attitude.

Speedkill has
the story of a book that is coming out about how Democrats hate Christmas. Future Republicans will apparently say anything to attack their political opposition.

I can inform you that Bryant and Cheery have been arguing about putting up Christmas decorations around the office; Cheery wants to put them up now, and Bryant says we need to wait till December. So far Bryant is winning; but I wouldn't be surprised if Cheery decorated and presented her decorations as a fait acompli.

The Fulcrum has
an article suggesting that Mr. Bush's problems started building around the time that Ms. Sheehan visited his ranch in Crawford, and reveals that she is apparently planning on returning there for Thanksgiving.

T.Rex's Guide to Life has
a discussion of who the people currently running Iraq resemble in their leadership styles.

Rick's Cafe Americain has
the story that future dogs are apparently extremely promiscuous.

Finally, Steve Bates, The Yellow Doggeral Democrat, has a very cute picture of two or possibly three cats cuddled up on some futuristic silk jacket. I am unable to ascertain what the material is; it looks like silk. But it has a sheen to it, and you would never wear a silk jacket I don't think. Anyway the cats are very cute looking.

And that's it for another week. Hope you have an enjoyable weekend.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Update to the Site






Hi All!!! : )

Just letting you know we just made a few updates. An accident a couple of weeks back apparently deleted our links to our Lamp Gallery and our Logo Gallery, so those have been updated. Also we added a link to
slacktivist, which we all read regularly. Particularly his trek through Left Behind, but many of his posts are very good.

A Catalogue of Commentators - Issue 3. Dennis Prager



Hey.

This is Durango; I'm an old timey cowpoke who's a bit touched in the head. Doc reckons I'm part singing cowboy and part squintin' cowboy. Anyway I'm just in from El Secundo. It's been hard dusty trail, and our commentator this week has me riled up. This polecats name is the Dennis Prager and he's in favor of
a second Civil War.
Whatever your politics, you have to be oblivious to reality to deny that America today is torn by ideological divisions as deep as those of the Civil War era. We are, in fact, in the midst of the Second American Civil War.

Of course, one obvious difference between the two is that this Second Civil War is (thus far) non-violent. On the other hand, there is probably more hatred between the opposing sides today than there was during the First Civil War.
I lived through the first Civil War. It's part of what made me the coldblooded snake that I am now. I stay out on the trails because being around other people makes me itchy. I don't know why Prager would root for a second civil war; even if he thinks his side could win.

People need to learn how to get along. Like when we built a chapel for Edwardstown. I got all the ranchers and farmers together, and started singing; soon the feeling of love and happiness filled their heart, and they all wanted to work together. But Dennis Prager seems like the sort of fellow that just enjoys squabbling. I guess it's cause he sees people who disagree with him as the enemy.
America is engaged in two wars for the survival of its civilization. The war over same-sex marriage and the war against Islamic totalitarianism are actually two fronts in the same war -- a war for the preservation of the unique American creation known as Judeo-Christian civilization.

One enemy is religious extremism. The other is secular extremism.

One enemy is led from abroad. The other is directed from home.
The thing Mr. Prager doesn't seem to understand is that we are can all work together to build up our towns and villages. Yeah there are bad guys out there, but equating people who live near you and think a bit different with the enemy, well it just riles people up. I wouldn't be surprised if people who take Prager seriously don't show their following of him in inappropriate ways.

No, that wouldn't surprise me one damn bit. Once you encourage people to hate; you can't get made if they then act out their hatreds. Course Prager isn't focused 100% on building up hatred between Americans. Sometimes he writes about the fairer sex as well. He wrote an article about why married woman vote conservative.
One [reason married woman vote Republican] is that women's nature yearns for male protection. This is a heretical idea among the well educated whose education is largely devoted to denying the facts of life. But it is a fact of life that can easily be proven: Extremely wealthy women almost always seek to marry men who are even wealthier than they are. Actress Jane Fonda had more money than almost anyone in America, yet she married Ted Turner, a man who had even more money than she. Though fabulously wealthy and a feminist, Ms. Fonda nevertheless could not shed her female nature.
I don't know whether Mr. Prager is right; I don't spend much time around woman. Perhaps some filly's have an opinion they'd like to express?

Mr. Prager is a talk show host as well as being a commentator. He apparently broadcasts out of Los Angeles. He's apparently a Jewish feller, and goes around talking about his faith.

Bryant has some comments about Prager too.
Prager is one of those guys who people should pay more attention too. He doesn't use the same kind of inflammatory tone as a Coulter or a Rush Limbaugh; but the content of his articles is very specifically a call to war. He describes Liberals as the enemy in exactly the same tone as he uses to describe our enemies in the "war on terror." We all know what Conservatives want to do with their enemies in the war on terror; so one can easily wonder what Prager wants to do to "America's Enemies" in the war on Liberalism. It goes without saying that I think Pragers work is a greater betrayal of the principles of America than almost anything the left has done.
Anyway here's a few previous commentaries on Mr. Prager's work.

On October 15, 2003, Bryant responded to Dennis Prager's thoughts on the second civil war. Apparently it riled Bryant up too.

On
March 22, 2005, Bryant responded to a theory of Prager's that we build up a moral bank account. If we generally do good, than we should be forgiven for our lapses.

On July 12, 2005, Cheery wrote an angry article (I don't get the impression that lady has much practice at getting angry), responding to Prager's assertion that Liberals do not support the troops.

Well I'm to ride into the sunset; just remember to keep singing and the sun will shine down on you.

O'Rielly Runs Away from a Challenge

We are working on our next Catalogue of Commentators entry, which is proving a challange. In the mean time, archy has the story of big tough Bill O'Reilly and his decision to, well, duck a debate with people who might stand up to him.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Unbearable Burden of Brent Bozell

Brent Bozell is a conservative media critic, which is not a fun thing to be these days. A conservative media critic believes that conservatism is the right answer. A conservative media critic, therefore, believes that a fair and accurate repetition of the facts will provide evidence that conservative principles work and liberal principles fail. So when the news fails to provide this; he naturally is upset at the news for lying.

This is far more than simple bias; Brent Bozell believes, as do many on the right, that America's news organizations are systematically lying to the American people in order to hide the success of conservatism.

Bozell's latest article talks about why President Bush hasn't gotten a lot of credit for having saved us from Terrorist attacks since September 11th.
Perhaps the results are less important than the question. It recognized a fact that no one in the liberal media wants to acknowledge above a whisper: Doesn't Bush deserve some measure of credit for how or why the country has not been attacked again on his watch?
He does deserve a measure of credit; I put it at approximately two and a half tablespoons; but I'm naturally generous. In the long run, however, his steps in invading Iraq may create increased danger rather than lessened.

The underlying critique of the media, however, seems strained. I gather that Bozell would like the news presented in such a way as to underline how we are safe thanks to President Bush. For an example, the question "Do you approve of how President Bush has handled the war in Iraq?" is not as good a question as "Given that we have not been attacked by terrorists since September 11th, 2001, do you approve of how President Bush has handled the war in Iraq?" The second question underlines how President Bush has worked to keep us safe.

But with mountains of evidence piling up against how President Bush has run this country, and with the American people increasingly aware of how things are going; well, it's harder to convince people these days.

Getting the jump on the Competition

Have you ever noticed how people are always accusing others of doing what they themselves are doing? Their crimes prey on their minds, and so they naturally have to accuse others of guilt as a sort of defense mechanism. Well, as I'm sure you've noticed, the Democrats have accused President Bush of lying us into war. But who's really guilty of that crime?

President Clinton told us for years that Saddam Hussein was a threat. Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Kerry, and others all spoke of the danger that Saddam Hussein posed to the United States and to the Stability of the region. They looked at the same information as President Bush and came to the same conclusion. George Tenent, a Clinton appointee, worked up that information that led President Bush and Congressional Democrats to invade Iraq. So who's fault is it really that we invaded?

It turns out it's still President Bush's fault, despite Terrence Jeffrey's article to the contrary. Mr. Jeffrey doesn't go quite as far as I did, but he comes close.

A few points.

1. It's false to suggest that the President's team and the Senate had exactly the same information. The information pool was larger; in particular, doubts about the legitimacy of some information was not passed on.

2. President Bush and his team advocated war; other parties did not. What's the old joke that to the main with a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail? President Bush and his team wanted to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power as far back as the 1990s. Others, like Kerry specifically, wanted to remove the threat; but clearly would have been satisfied with simply removing the weapons of Mass Destruction (or ascertaining that they didn't exist).

Or, to put it succinctly, President Bush pushed for a military solution. He had a hammer and wanted to use it. So he gets the bill when the military solution proved to be more costly than he thought it would be.

3. It's interesting to contemplate what would have happened if in the spring of 2003, President Bush had decided to let the inspectors finish their job. He would have forced Saddam to re-allow inspectors into his country and the increased world surveillance. It would have been a victory; but, I guess, not enough of a victory.

4. Isn't this pathetic, when you think about it? I mean own up to it. Republicans and Conservatives wanted this war, and you know it. The fact that it has turned out to be somewhat of a disaster, well, that's the price you pay (in this case) for getting what you want.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Update on Bill O'Rielly

For those of you who don't know; Bill O'Rielly is preparing a section of his website to document those un-American jerks who criticized his comments on San Francisco. According to Think Progress, he made the following comments;
Some far left internet smear sites have launched a campaign to get me fired over my point of view. I believe they do this on a daily basis. This time the theme is O'Reilly is encouraging terrorist attacks. Unbelievably stupid. Not unusual with these guttersnipes.

. . . I'm glad the smear sites made a big deal out of it. Now we can all know who was with the anti-military internet crowd. We'll post the names of all who support the smear merchants on billoreilly.com. So check with us.
So just for clarity's sake, "smear" in this sense means telling the truth about what Bill O'Rielly said. I'd just like to note that we have also reprinted Bill O'Rielly's words without clarifying that he was apparently only joking. So if he is going to make a list of who the smear merchants are, I'd like to be on that list. Although, I have to admit, that's kind of unlikely, given our particular stature.

It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas

Yes, it's never to early to get in the Christmas spirit, and Alan Sears, former federal prosecutor is all ready to get in that particular Christmas Spirit. You know the one I mean.

Nope, not the one where you try to love your fellow men and wish for peace on earth.

Nope, not the one where you take a few minutes to pretend like you give a damn about the poor.

It's not even the one where you contemplate the Birth of Christ with humble awe.

Nope, the Christmas Spirit Mr. Sears is feeling is the one that leads him to lie and smear Liberals, particularly the ACLU. The ACLU and Liberals hate Christmas (but are in favor of degeneracy and evil and kids being rude to their parents), according to Mr. Sears. Surely with that kind of accusation Mr. Sears would provide some evidence?

Nope, no evidence. Oh wait, there is this line. "We heard of one tax-funded school last year at this time that wouldn't even let the kids wear that color - you know, for what it obviously represents." By that color, Mr. Sears means Green. That's pretty skimpy proof, Mr. Sears.

I heard of some bigoted Republicans who beat the shit out of gay guy once, but I don't think I'd write a whole article condemning all Republicans (particularly if I wasn't providing any of the details).

Still I guess Mr. Sears really he doesn't need to provide any proof. We all know that the ACLU and Liberals are anti-Christmas Bastards; why waste time when you can pack in more "humor."

At any rate, as you can see this particular Christmas Spirit fills me with a Christmas Spirit of my own; namely, unmitigated rage. You can look for a lot of unmitigated rage as we travel through this joyous season.

Wall Street Journal Front Page News

In column 4 of today's Wall Street Journal's Front Page (above the fold) we see the following.
It's White, Gloppy,
Almost Tasteless,
And Malawi Loves it

But Nsima Stocks Are Low
After Bad Maize Harvest;
Yes, We Have Bananas
My current working theory about the Wall Street Journal is that they have a team of five people approving front page stories; four serious journalists and a Regular LSD user suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder.

As it turns out this is a serious story; Nsima is a porridge made of corn (which they, like the Indians, call Maize), and the people of Malawi (which is a country in Africa) don't have enough of it (because of droughts). If you think the description of white and gloppy makes it seem untasty, consider White which has similar properties. And yet Rice can be the base of thousands of dinners or relatively good all on it's own. Anyway I hope they get more rain or more corn from somewhere.

Edited to add: Yeah, what I meant to say was consider White Rice. Rather than consider White. Saying Consider White Rice makes a little more sense (well because Brown Rice wouldn't Be White, would it?). Yeah, I'm kind of a dope.

Give them an Inch

Dennis Prager, in his latest article about how Jordanians deserve to be blown up for being insufficiently angry at Palestinian terrorism, poses an interesting question to those of who oppose the war.
In a previous column, I proposed that supporters of the war in Iraq ask opponents of the war just one question: Without in any way compromising your opposition to the war, would you at least acknowledge that the people we are fighting in Iraq are evil? Virtually every one of the many letters I received from readers opposed to the war was incapable of answering in the positive. By fighting America and George W. Bush, the "insurgents" are essentially inoculated against moral judgment.
A few points.

Who are you talking about when you ask who we are fighting in Iraq? Well some of them are foreign terrorists, who are presumably evil. Some of them are Iraqi insurgents, angry at the foreign occupation of their country, who may or may not be evil.

Consider for a moment; if during the Bill Clinton years, Canada had determined that Clinton was a bad man and had to be removed from power, and had taken successful military action to do so; would you have fought for America's right to determine it's own future. Now I admit Clinton was no Saddam Hussein (although to listen to some of your colleagues on the right talk, you'd think he was pretty close), but you'd think a lot of Americans would fight the Canadians, and I doubt you'd blame them all that much.

Now the choice to indiscriminately slaughter their fellow citizens is evil, no matter how you look at it. But that's not the only tactic these insurgent groups are using.

Pretending that our nuanced position on the Iraqi Insurgents is due solely to our hatred of President Bush is nonsense. And I am pretty sure that you know it's nonsense. And of course pretending we support them (insofar as we do support them)because they fight America is double nonsense.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Monday Mail Bag



Hey all. Lot's of good comments this week, and plenty of mail, so I won't have time to pass on office gossip. But I will anyway.

Puke and Grumbly Muffin have been hanging out here a lot; Puke has cleaned up her act a bit. The office they work in is pretty casual, but not that casual. The Monster doesn't know they are hanging out here; Bryant thinks that if he finds out, particularly about Grumbly, he'll get pretty upset. So potential for drama down the road.

Anyway here are some comments for the last week. The first comes from McIckleson's
last Round the Horn feature. Incidentally, we are considering having me and McIckleson rotate duties for a bit. Anyway Alex, who apparently one of the websites linked to was grateful for the link. But let's put it in his own words.
Thanks fior the mention!
Your welcome Alex, of the SoonerThought, always happy to lend a hand.

Justin replied to a
post presented without comment; which contained the words of the posters at Free Republic.
You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy... we must be cautious.

It's like walking into a nazi-youth meeting and listening to them rail on how other people are horrible and intolerant...

Or I could be more concise and just say "It's like walking into a nazi-youth meeting."
Star Wars. Star Wars is not science fiction. Space Lobsters and Spider Queens of Mars vs. Captain Starfaller; that's real science fiction.

And those Star Wars aliens. Sitting around drinking (not to mention that one hookah contraption, one of the aliens was using)? What kind of example does that set for the youth? I, on the other hand, spent my screen time showing that with a little hard work and gumption with a soupcon of evil, you can almost conquer the Planet Earth on a weekly basis. Yeah, none of my schemes actually worked; but many of them almost did. So who's really setting the good example?

Our final comment comes from perennial favorite, Random Goblin, who responded to
an appreciative link made to a blog that was not his own.
I also posted about this yesterday.
As it turns out, he did in fact post about this on the day before he made that comment. So we duly linked to him as well, and we'd like to say for the record that you should look at Random Goblin's blog constantly.

Moving on to the mail bag, we open with a letter from N. Award.
Please forgive me for invading your privacy; It is with heartfelt hope that I write to seek your co-operation and assistance in the context stated below,which I hope you will give your urgent attention: May I first introduce myself.My name is Sesay D. Massaquoe,I am moved to write you this proposal in confidence considering me and my family's present circumstance and situation.
I'm sorry, Mr. Award, I cannot forgive you for invading my privacy, so you are on your own. I've been hurt too many times in the privacy department; like all those times Captain Starfaller broke into my chambers while I was in the Hyper special Bath and Facial System (or HSPAFS) and made off with the plans I was supposed to be guarding. Jerk. So I can't forgive him, and I can't forgive you Mr. Award. You can just rot in the Netherlands for all I care!

Actually I wouldn't mind rotting in the Netherlands. I understand the wacky tabacky is readily available there.

I got a second letter from an M.K. from Sierra Leone apparently. Here it is.
Dear Beloved

How are you hope all is well with you and your family? I am a girl from sierra Leone, I am 25 years old am a house girl as my profession, but I have this thing to tell you which I believe it can be helpful to both off us.

Like I told you at the beginning that I am a house help am working under a woman but she is dead now and she is a very well know woman and she is a diamond merchant in Ghana but she lives in sierra Leone.
I think you need to open your english books to page 234 and learn a little bit about our annoying friend, the run-on sentence.

Also I do appreciate that you want to ingratiate yourself with me, but unless you have an exo-skeleton, mighty pincers and so on, you probably aren't actually my beloved.

Anyway that's it for another week; hope you all have fun this week, and remember to keep posting those comments and asking for my bank account information.

Al Gore

Just caught a few minutes of Rush's show for today; they have a guest host who mentioned Al Gore has said that global warming is a bigger threat to the world than terrorism.

Yeah, if you believe in global warming, that's pretty much undeniable. If you don't believe in global warming, it's laughable.

The conditions that have created the rise in Terrorism over the last three decades will undoubtedly change over the next three decades. Could get worse, could get better, but Terrorism is largely a social problem. And people can change pretty quickly.

On the other hand, the forces creating global warming (assuming you believe they exist) are environmental factors that may be very difficult to isolate let alone eliminate. And they seem to be operating on a global scale.

Of course the fill in jerk for Rush doesn't believe in Global Warming; so he naturally embarked on a self righteous rant about the families of the 9/11 victims. Apparently believing that global warming is a big threat also implies you believed that global warming is responsible for the twin towers being destroyed.

Um, ok.

The 2004 Election

Was the 2004 election stolen?

Some people would say 100% yes. Others would say 100% no. I would say a 100% maybe. I would certainly put it within the realm of possibility, but as to where it fits (a high possibility? A low possibility?) I cannot say.

Farhad Manjoo, who had written a bit about the potential for election fraud before the election and who had then been taken a lot of crap for declaring the 2004 election more or less clean. Or, to be more precise, he took a lot of crap for suggesting the proof that the election was stolen was much less the an solid.

Well it looks like he's preparing for another batch of crap with his latest article, a review of Mark Crispin Miller's "Fooled Again: How the Right Stole the 2004 Election and Why They'll Steal the Next One Too (Unless We Stop Them)."

Mr. Miller claimed last week to have presented a copy of his book to Kerry, who blurted out that he believed that the election was stolen. The Kerry camp has since denied this memory as a half truth at best. So take that for what it is worth.

Anyway Manjoo's take on the book is that it makes a lot of claims, but when it gets down to brass tacks, it's claims aren't supported by the evidence. Rather Miller is more interested in proving that the Republicans are so driven to seize power (and to keep Liberals out of power) that they wouldn't' hesitate to rig an election.

Manjoo quotes Miller's appearance on Democracy Now!; a quote I find quite interesting.
This is not a criminal case, OK? We don't have to prove guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt. This is our election system, right? This is a system based on consent of the governed. If many, many millions of Americans are convinced that they got screwed on Election Day and couldn't vote, or if 3.4 million more Americans claim that they voted than the actual total of voters -- this is what the Census Bureau told us last May -- this is grounds alone for serious investigation ... We have to have serious investigation.
As Manjoo points out, we do need to have a serious discussion about these issues; certainly there are necessities like Paper Trails that need to enacted in every county in America (and to hell with the expense, this is our Democracy we are talking about).

But to suggest that actual proof doesn't matter, because people think there is a problem? That's not a good standard on which to build a movement or on which to build a Democracy. Rather we should insist on a scrupulous researched, airtight case, before we make accusations of this nature.