Nicholas Kristof writes in "Hug an Evangelical" that liberals should be more tolerant of conservative Christians.
Sensitive liberals who avoid expressions like "ghetto blaster," because
that might be racially offensive, blithely dismiss conservative Christians as "Jesus freaks" or "fanatics."
Take Ted Turner. He has called Christianity a "religion for losers" and once
ridiculed CNN employees observing Ash Wednesday as "Jesus freaks." Later, he apologized.
Then there are the T-shirts: "So Many Right-Wing Christians . . . So Few Lions."
I wasn't aware that Ted Turner is representative of liberals. Further,
Kristof assumes that people who diss evangelicals because of their beliefs are political liberals, but I don't
think that's necessarily so. Nor do I think evangelicals are disliked primarily because of their beliefs. I think there
are a lot of people of myriad political beliefs who intensely dislike evangelicals because of past experiences they've had
with evangelicals, who can be damn obnoxious.
I've worked to get over my own resentments, which began when, as a child of the Bible
Belt, I was repeatedly told I was going to hell because I had been sprinkled instead of dunked (baptismally speaking). So
I prayed to Jesus for wisdom, and Jesus wisely shoved me in the direction of Buddhism. And the Buddha taught us not to be
reservoirs of resentments, but to let negative stuff go. So now I have no resentments toward evangelicals because of their
However, they'd better stay out of my face with their dadblamed politics.
Kristoff also says that "on many campuses, it's easier to find people who can discuss
the Upanishads than the "Left Behind" books about Jesus' Second Coming." That's as it should be, son. The Upanishads are among
the world's great spiritual texts and have guided millions of humans through the centuries. The Left Behind books are
pop novels. (I started to write "crappy pop novels" but, since I haven't read them, I shouldn't be judgmental.)
BTW -- I want one of those T-shirts.
BTW2, there are Buddhist American soldiers dying in the Middle East --
see photo of burial at Arlington in today's NY Times.
Here are two remarkable — and remarkably discordant — numbers from the Washington
Post poll: six out of 10 respondents say the United States is bogged down in Iraq, but Bush’s approval rating stands at 51
percent. [MSNBC, April 23]
A new poll shows that 57 percent of Americans continue to believe that Saddam
Hussein gave "substantial support" to al-Qaida terrorists before the war with Iraq, despite a lack of evidence of that relationship.
addition, 45 percent of Americans have the impression that "clear evidence" was found that Iraq worked closely with Osama
bin Laden's network, and a majority believe that before the war Iraq either had weapons of mass destruction (38 percent) or
a major program for developing them (22 percent). [Frank Davies, Knight Ridder, April 22, 2004]
On April 21 I wrote, "Amid news
of escalating violence in the Middle East -- about eighty dead in Basra and Riyadh -- comes a Washington Postpoll showing that Bush's approval numbers have improved, particularly in regard to security. To which one can only say, wtf?"
But if 57 percent of Americans still think that Saddam Hussein was in some
way connected to September 11, in spite of the fact that he wasn't, then 57 percent of Americans must think that the war in
Iraq has a purpose beyond generating defense contracts. This would account for some small percentage of flaming idiots who
actually rallied to the President even as the situation in Iraq deteriorated.
There's also considerable grumbling at John Kerry for not demonstrating a "better way."
(A better way to what, I ask? Starting World War III?)
Joan Vennochi wrote in the Boston Globe,
Despite media hype, the general public doesn't take books such as those by
Clarke and Woodward as gospel. The grandstanding, opinion-page writing, interview-granting members of the 9/11 Commission
also gave the public reason to question its members' credibility and objectivity. While the media fixated on Bush's refusal
to apologize or admit mistakes during his recent press conference, the public heard a rationale for war with Iraq. And the
war, even if going badly, is not going badly enough for the majority of Americans to want to abandon it. [April 22]
Vennochi quotes Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd,
"from the beginning, the public had a realistic attitude. They understood this was not a short-term solution."
Solution? To what? Iraq was not a threat to the United States. Iraq had
nothing to do with September 11. Iraq had no WMDs. Iraq was not a "problem" to be solved. Before the invasion Shrub's
saber-rattling had gotten UN inspectors back into Iraq, which was all the solution that was required. Iraq
didn't become a "problem" for the U.S. until we invaded it.
Now it's the Mother of All Problems. And that's Shrub's doing.
Of course, you can't explain this to the mouth-breathers. Say "Saddam was not
a threat to the U.S." and you get a succinct response, such as "BWAHAHAHAHA!" Idiots are such a jolly crew.
The situation in Iraq is deteriorating so quickly that, IMO, by the time we pry Shrub
out of the White House in January it will be unsalvagable. Any "solution" candidate Kerry comes up with now probably won't
be applicable then. Still, right now Kerry should be having long talks with Wesley Clark, the person most qualified
to effect the best possible outcome. Clark for Veep?
Atrios has an outstanding rant on the Religious Right. Go there. Then come back.
It's scary out there, people. The Catholic Church is embroiled in a debate over
whether Sen. John Kerry, who is pro-choice, is "fit" to be given communion. There may yet be a showdown between the Church (an institution hardly in a position to make
judgments on moral purity) and Sen. Kerry. If so, watch the GOP and the Xtian fundies pile on.
More than 40 years ago, Catholic candidate John Kennedy had to make repeated assurances
that he would keep his Catholicism separate from the job of being President. Now Sen. Kerry is being skewered because he keeps
his Catholicism separate from his job as Senator.
I was raised in the Bible Belt. The fundies I knew all too well were five-alarm Catholic
bashers. Catholics, it was believed, were not "real" Christians. They worshipped idols and had spooky and possibly satanic
rituals. The fundie version of church history tells of a devoted underground of "real" Christians who kept the "real" gospels
alive through long, dark centuries of Catholic oppression. So it's remarkable to me to see fundies join forces with Catholics.
Catholics, however, might be advised to watch their backs. Fundies are not their "real" friends.
You always have to watch your back around people who believe they are on the side
of Good. Acts of great evil are nearly always committed by people who believe they are doing Good. If I believed in a literal
Devil I'd think the Devil tempts some people by masquerading as Righteousness.
Below is my favorite verse from the Tao Teh Ching. Translations vary; I understand early Chinese does not translate into English, and translators have to use imagination
to convey the meaning. Most translations I've read use "virtue" where this one uses "power." ("Superior virtue does not emphasize
its virtue, and thus is virtuous.") I substituted "virtue" for "power" in one section because the lines don't make sense otherwise.
Still, this is a pretty good translation:
38 Superior power does not emphasize its power, and thus is powerful. Inferior
power never forgets its power, and thus is powerless. Superior power never interferes nor has an ulterior motive. Inferior
power interferes and has an ulterior motive. Superior humanity takes action but has no ulterior motive. Superior morality
takes action and has an ulterior motive. Superior custom takes action, and finding no response, stretches out arms to
force it on them.
Therefore when the Way is lost, [virtue] arises. When [virtue] is lost, humanity arises. When
humanity is lost, morality arises. When morality is lost, custom arises. Now custom is a superficial expression of
loyalty and faithfulness, and the beginning of disorder.
Foreknowledge is the flowering of the Way and the beginning
of folly. Therefore the mature dwell in the depth, not in the thin, in the fruit and not in the flowering. They reject
one and accept the other.
Former Democratic strategist (what is that, exactly?) Philip James writes in The Guardian that another Bush term would cement the power of the Christian right. We can expect abortion and
gay marriage, not to mention civil unions, to be criminalized. And it would mean "four more years of Middle East policy influenced
by the evangelical belief that the Messiah will not return until Israel rebuilds a temple on the site of the al-Aqsa mosque
Whoopee! We all gonna die!
He dispelled any doubts about the strength of his Christian faith during his
last press conference on Iraq, when he made it clear that God was personally directing him to fundamentally reshape the Arab
(Messiah complexes, also known as "pathological grandiosity," are
symptomatic of many personality disorders. But I bet you knew that.)
As surely as fundamentalism has kept much of the Islamic world in a state
of cultural regression, so the fundamentalists of the US threaten to do the same thing in the States.
John Kerry should steal a powerful line from Bush's speech on Iraq and rephrase
it thus: "Now is the time, and America is the place, where the forces of fundamentalism are arraigned against the forces of
He should make this election about a choice between two visions: one that
wants to take the country to a dark, puritanical tyranny, as opposed to one that wants to restore the US as a light unto nations,
a place of freedom, diversity and opportunity.
While skipping between right and left blogosphere, one can't help but notice the
disconnect. It's as if bloggers of the left and right are commenting on two entirely different planets. It isn't
just that opinions differ; often we don't comment on the same stories. A story picked up by one side of the sphere as Greatly
Significant may be ignored by the other.
For example, there was a great yawning silence on the Right about Bob Woodward's
new book. Go to Technorati and search for "Woodward," and mostly lefty blogs come up. (One exception quotes Charles Krauthammer saying that Americans prefer Bush over Kerry because "Americans are a serious people." That Chuckie
K. is a hoot!)
On the other hand, the UNSCAM story is all over the Right but mostly ignored on the Left. I haven't been paying much attention to it, either, and don't know how much there is
to it. But, clearly, a story about corruption in the UN vis à
vis Iraq is one that fits nicely into the Right's worldview but seems irrelevant to the Left.
Another example: Last winter a story about people crushed to death by crowds at the Hajj in Mecca was commented upon by every dadblamed right-wing blog I could find. This news was grasped by the Right as just one more example of how substandard those Muslims are (unless
they are pro-American Iraqi Muslims, in which case they are at least worthy of our concern; the phrase "White Man's Burden"
did come to mind). But this tragedy was pretty much ignored on the Left, possibly because we were wrapped up in the Democratic
presidential primaries at the time.
Strange but true.
Coffingate? Newspapers all around the nation today
carry the story of Tami Silicio and how she got fired for taking a photograph. And the story, of course, is accompanied by the photograph. The First Amendment lives. There's good commentary by Josh Marshall, Atrios, and Kos.
Any mention of this story on the Right,
Later today or tomorrow, maybe: Comments on Bush/Kerry poll numbers, plus the smearing
of Kerry's war record.
The Pentagon deleted from a public transcript a statement Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld made to author Bob Woodward suggesting that the administration gave Saudi Arabia a two-month heads-up that
President Bush had decided to invade Iraq.
At issue was a passage in Woodward's "Plan of Attack," an account published
this week of Bush's decision making about the war, quoting Rumsfeld as telling Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador
to Washington, in January 2003 that he could "take that to the bank" that the invasion would happen. ...
Amid news of escalating violence in the Middle East -- about eighty dead
in Basra and Riyadh -- comes a Washington Postpoll showing that Bush's approval numbers have improved, particularly in regard to security.
To which one can only say, wtf?
I'm guessing the Faux News/Rush Limbaugh axis of drivel must be responsible. It can't
be the result of actual current events.
John Kerry, please get fired up. Now.
And as the Middle East becomes more unstable, Bush is cutting back on
funding for domestic security:
Bush stands proud - shoulder-to-shoulder with heroes of the NYPD in photo-ops
and campaign ads - while at the same time depriving the local finest of the necessary federal funds to do the job: Keeping
us safe from not just external terrorist threats but from common street crime as well.
In a classic case of money-vs.-mouth
hypocrisy, Bush says he supports the officers in blue uniforms who patrol the streets of New York and elsewhere just as much
as those in green uniforms in Baghdad; but his funding priorities say otherwise.
The Bush budget proposal for fiscal
2005 would decimate federal programs on which local police agencies have depended to supplement limited local resources. Under
Bush's plan, the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program would be slashed to a paltry $97 million from $756 million,
according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
And if you're not depressed enough already, be sure to read "The Real Nuclear Danger" by Nicholas Kristoff in today's NY Times:
North Korea is potentially more dangerous than the mess in Iraq. It probably
has at least 1 to 3 nuclear weapons already, it is producing both plutonium and uranium, and it is on track to have close
to 10 nuclear weapons by the end of this year.
Yet because President
Bush's policy has failed in North Korea, Washington is determinedly looking the other way. When we next focus on North Korea,
after the election, it could be a nuclear Wal-Mart.
It must be tiresome for the young folk -- anyone under age 30 -- that
we on the edge of geezerhood are still arguing about Vietnam. It is absurd for us to be arguing about whether Iraq
is another Vietnam instead of just dealing with Iraq. On the other hand ...
I was extremely annoyed with a Glenn Reynolds blog of April 14, which begins,
VIETNAM ALL OVER AGAIN?
President Bush responded impatiently to suggestions, in
Tuesday's press conference, that Iraq was like Vietnam. And militarily, he's right, of course. As Ramesh Ponnuru
It's just like Vietnam . . . Except that we've
captured Ho Chi Minh, we've taken Hanoi, there's no draft, and the boat people have mostly come back.
Get one thing straight: Saddam Hussein is not and never was Ho Chi Minh. Not even
close. The Iraq situation does not have a Ho Chi Minh, although one may yet emerge.
But with or without Ho Chi Minh, is Iraq another Vietnam? In its beginnings, Vietnam
wasn't Vietnam -- meaning, it took some time after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution for the situation in Vietnam to blossom into
Vietnam as we remember it.
The Vietnam War officially lasted nine years, although in fact it took us
two additional years to withdraw. We are only just past the first year of Iraq.
One year into Vietnam, we thought
we were crushing the North Vietnamese and victory was close at hand.
In 1965, the first year of combat in Vietnam, we lost only 63 U.S. soldiers. We lost ten times that number in the first year in Iraq. And the word "escalation" is creeping back into the national vocabulary.
Our objective now is bigger than in Vietnam. The objective for Iraq, as
I understand it, is to make Iraq a cornerstone of democracy in the Middle East, from which the blessings of liberty will spread.
In Vietnam, all we wanted to do was stop the Communists from taking over South
If, in the next few months, we find ourselves propping up a government of our choosing
against a widespread popular insurgency, which seems to be where we are heading, that sure as shit will be just like
Vietnam. We're already in the "destroying a village in order to save it" mode; see also the April 13 Hot Links. But let's go back to Glenn Reynolds ---
... it's like Vietnam in another sense, which is that the so-called "anti-war"
people are, in fact, rooting for the troops -- the ones on the other side. It's gotten bad enough that New York
Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is disturbed by the e-mail he's getting from "peace" advocates.
One of the enduring myths of the Vietnam era is that most of the anti-war protesters
hated U.S. soldiers and wanted a North Vietnamese victory. This is not true. Instead, most people against the war hated the
military and the government for snatching up our young men and sending them to their deaths in a war that
made no sense. Most people against the Vietnam war did not wish for U.S. soldiers to die, because those soldiers were our
friends and brothers and sons and husbands. In fact, as the war went on, more and more antiwar activists were returned Vietnam
veterans. They certainly did not want their brothers-in-arms to die.
However, the Right Wing of the 1960s told themselves that the only reason
people could be against the U.S. war in Vietnam was sympathy with the Communists. It was just like a year ago, when in wingnut
minds the only reason people might be against the invasion of Iraq was sympathy with Saddam. And, unfortunately,
among the vast number of American patriots opposed to the war in Vietnam there were always a few jerks who would
show up at marches waving North Vietnamese flags. This "proved" to 1960s hawks that all antiwar protesters were pro-Communist.
Today, it seems there is a small but vocal fringe of jerks who are rooting for the
insurgency; see the April 11 Mahablog, plus Nicholas Kristof's NY Times blog for March 28. I am certain that these people represent only a tiny portion of those opposed to Bushie policies in Iraq.
However, in Glenn Reynolds' mind, they not only represent all opposition
to the war; they also represent the Democratic Party.
The link above is not to the testimony of some Democrat about how ashamed he is,
but to a right-wing screed on the degeneration of the Democratic Party. Frankly, I haven't seen so many people proud
to be Democrats since before, well, Vietnam. And I'm sure the extremist jerks so offensive to Glenn (and to Nicholas
Kristof and me, as well) are not acting on behalf of the Democrats. They may not even be registered to vote
as Democrats, for all we know.
This kind of thing nearly destroyed the Democratic Party in the Vietnam
era, and saddled Democrats with a reservoir of distrust where national security matters are concerned that continues to dog
Not exactly. I don't have the energy to do a restrospective of
Cold War history, but the meme that Democrats are soft on national security goes back to the days of Joe McCarthy (ca. 1950).
And it wasn't true then, either, but Republicans kept repeating it until it was believed. One of the reasons Lyndon Johnson
sent troops into Vietnam was to prove he wasn't soft. He was thinking about his political future, and if South Vietnam
had fallen to the Communists, the Republicans would have skewered Johnson for it.
Of course, a Communist South Vietnam would have been no
more a threat to the security of the United States in the 1960s than Saddam Hussein was in 2003, but never mind ...
But there are a lot of people among the Democratic Party's activist
base who feel this way. For these Democrats, it's Vietnam all over again. Will Kerry be able to find a way out
of this quagmire?
If memory of Vietnam is a bigger canker on the Democratic soul
than the Republican soul, it's because Democrats are more willing to admit the war was a mistake. By the time it was
over Vietnam was a truly bipartisan mess; it may have been "Johnson's War" at first, but Nixon took full ownership of it and
continued the blundering for several more years. But IMO Republicans over the years have done far less soul-searching over
Vietnam than they should have. One still hears them say the war could have been won, ignoring the question of why there was
a war at all.
But now I'm struggling to grasp what Reynolds implies here. I think he is
saying that Democrats and others opposed to the war are sinking into a quagmire of self-loathing and nay-saying because they
(mistakenly) see parallels between Iraq and Vietnam. We must assume that the Righteous who support the war can stand tall
and proud and not ask too many questions.
But the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. It was not a mistake because of some
analogy with Vietnam; it would be a mistake had there never been a Vietnam. It was a mistake on its own merits. And our occupation
of Iraq has been a series of blunders and miscalculations. And now we're stuck there, and we'll be there for a long time,
and the best we can hope for is to leave Iraq with a government that is not entirely militant Islamic totalitarian
And it would be so, protests or no protests; Vietnam analogies or no Vietnam
analogies. As we used to say in the 1960s, it is what it is.
One of the things I remember from my time in the service many years ago was
the ubiquitous presence of large posters with the phrase, in big block letters: Know Your Enemy.
This is a bit of military wisdom that seems to have escaped President Bush.
The United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, by Al Qaeda, not Iraq.
Today the Left Blogosphere is a-twitter over Woodwards' "Sixty Minutes" appearance. Bob has come a long way toward redeeming himself for the kiss-ass Bush at War. I did a quick
skip around the Right Blogosphere, however; Woodward is nowhere to be seen there.
If you missed "Sixty Minutes," here are the highlights:
In July 2002, the Bushies siphoned $700 million from a supplemental appropriation
for the war in Afghanistan and used it for Iraq War preparations. This was kept secret from Congress. This was unconstitutional.
On January 11, 2001, Cheney and Rummy briefed Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador
to the U.S. about the decision to invade Iraq. This was two days before Colin Powell was told about the decision
to invade Iraq. Bandar was shown a top-secret map of the plan that was not supposed to be shown to foreigners.
As a quid pro quo, the Saudis promised Bush they would lower oil prices this summer
to help Bush's re-election efforts.
Rummy ordered Gen. Tommy Franks to plan for war with Iraq in November, 2001. Several
times over the next several months, Franks denied to reporters he had any such order.
Dick Cheney was pathologically obsessed with Saddam Hussein.
CIA Director George Tenet told the Bushies the case for WMDs in Iraq was a "slam dunk."
Dick Cheney and Colin Powell don't speak to each other.
Bush is a pathologically flaming idiot who believes he is doing God's work.
Previews of Bob Woodward's new book indicate that there was virtually
no discussion within the Bush Administration of the pros and cons of invading Iraq. Shrub just decided that's what
he wanted to do. Must've sounded like fun!
The real news ... is not that Bush was secretive about his war planning,
but rather that there was so little consideration of the consequences. In Woodward's telling, Bush was deeply involved in
the details of the invasion plans from the moment he first grabbed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's elbow in November 2001
and asked, "What kind of war plan do you have for Iraq?" But at no time did the president sit down with his war cabinet and
debate whether the war on Iraq would distract from the war on terror—or whether the risk of postwar Iraq's becoming a failed
state outweighed the reward of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. ...
Bush was so free of doubt about going to war that he didn't even ask most
of his top advisers what they thought. Bush explained that he already knew that Vice President Dick Cheney was gung-ho, and
he decided not to ask Powell or Rumsfeld. ...
In his interview with Woodward, conducted over two days in December of last
year, Bush displayed no second thoughts about Iraq's postwar miseries or the failure to turn up any WMD. "I haven't suffered
doubt," he told Woodward. When the author—quoting Bush's political adviser Karl Rove—suggested that "all history gets measured
by outcomes," Bush "smiled," reports Woodward. " 'History,' he said, shrugging, taking his hands out of his pockets, extending
his arms out and suggesting with his body language that it was so far off. 'We won't know. We'll all be dead'."[Evan Thomas, "I Haven't Suffered Doubt," Newsweek, April 26, 2004]
Speaking of dead, according to Ron Harris of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
yesterday five U.S. Marines died in a day-long battle near the border of Syria.
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the
president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is
morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918
The War Prayer
I come from the Throne -- bearing
a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be
your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like
unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.
"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has
he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of
Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....
"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered
part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you
in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these
words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into
those pregnant words.
"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also
the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our
hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved
firesides to smite the foe.
"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody
shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown
the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;
help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their
little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the
sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of
the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter
pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded
feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset,
& seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor
& glory now & ever, Amen."
(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire
it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."
· · · · · ·
It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic,
because there was no sense in what he said.