There was a period in this country, from the 30's through the 70's, in which government caring seemed to ease away some of the muck. We think of it as the Great Society, and we recall people and politicians who voiced hope for it without irony. It's clearer now that the middle class — the great force that made Dickens's England more benevolent — is in retreat. We are getting back to them and us, in a country that has earned little but shame in its foreign affairs. We are not liked, we are not trusted, we are not respected — and all those shortcomings are eroding our domestic souls. Katrina, that gust of nature, was the rehearsal for the revelation that "they" now have neither the means nor the intent of looking after us. We are on our own...
I usually avoid writing about the Israel/Palestinian conflict for a variety of reasons. I'm not knowledgeable enough to understand all the aspects of it, I'm not smart enough to see a way out of the impasse, I'm not brave (or stupid) enough to venture some half-assed thoughts on the subject. However, the current situation seems to demand some kind of comment.
All I can muster up is the observation that, in the past, one of the factors which served to restrain Israel's response to Palestinian provocations (which themselves were often provoked by Israel's policies towards Gaza and the West Bank) was that the United States was sitting on its shoulder, attempting to fill the awkward dual role of Friend of Israel and Honest Broker to All. American Presidents, to one degree or another, according to their proclivities and politics and their understanding of the region, tried to be something to everybody, and the effort, while never completely successful (since that would be practically impossible) nevertheless served to restrain both parties to some extent.
But just as Bush abandoned support for the infrastructure of multilateral international cooperation, putting us all at a significantly heightened risk of global warfare, under the influence of the rabidly pro-Israel neoconservatives he also dropped the attempt to maintain the American effort to calm the situation in the Middle East by playing to both sides, and tilted strongly, indeed almost entirely, towards Israel. Ironically, with the U.S. no longer having any influence on the Palestianians, their influence on what would normally be considered a client state (Israel) turned out to be minimal as well, because about the only card left to play with them was the reduction of military and other aid, which is not something Bush and the neocons were going to do. So by strongly favoring the Israelis Bush in essence reduced our impact on the conflict to nil.
Now, with Bush having embroiled the U.S. in a pointless war in Iraq, which has turned into an insurgency cum civil war with disturbing similarity to the Israel/Palestinian conflcit, he's in no position to work towards softening Israel's over-reaction to the lastest Palestinian provocations (which were, of course, designed to bring forth just such a reaction), even if he were inclined to do so, which, of course, he isn't.
Just when you think the hole Bush has put us and the rest of the world into couldn't get any deeper or darker, events prove that to be wrong.
Update:Kevin Drum> posted 5 reasons that he doesn't comment on the I/P situation more often. Here are two of them:
2. The fight between Israel and the Palestinians is over half a century old and seems intractable. It follows the same rhythms decade after decade, full of hypocrisy and posturing from both camps, and there seems little to say about it that doesn't eventually boil down to, "Both sides need to ratchet down the rhetoric and rein in their own extremists." Aside from being pointless, there are only just so many ways you can say this.
(NB: This may be a plausible excuse for inaction coming from a pundit or a blogger, but it's worth pointing out that it's not a plausible excuse for a president of the United States. Are you listening, George?)
3. The conflict is fantastically complex, and the partisans on both sides are mostly people who have been following events with fanatical attention to detail for many decades. Ordinary observers can hardly compete in this atmosphere — do you know the detailed history and long-accepted norms of behavior that have developed in the conflict over the Shebaa Farms since 1967? — and this has produced an almost codelike language of its own over the years. One misuses this code at ones peril...
To me, the conflict [between Israel and the Palestinians] has long since come to resemble a war between lunatics, and one doesn’t pass moral judgments on the behavior of the insane, not even the criminally insane.
Just so, and it's to the everlasting shame of our own country that we more and more resemble them.
Can this current situation be contained, or will it expand and combine with the war in Iraq to become the core of another world-wide war? Certainly, it's happened before that a local event precipitated a much larger conflict, and with the weakening of international organizations by Bush's refusal to take them or multilateralism seriously, we have less infrastructure in place now to put a brake on regional warfare than at any time since the end of World War II -- so the possibility of things spreading out of control has to be considered.
In the 1965 psychological thriller 36 Hours, James Garner is a major during World War II who's sent on a dangerous secret mission to Lisbon as part of a plan to deceive the Germans about exactly when the Allied invasion of France (D-Day) will be. Discussing the plan with his superiors, Garner picks up an issue of Time magazine and says "Time says the invasion will be the first week in June. Don't you think that German Intelligence is smart enough to read Time magazine?" (For those who don't recall, D-Day took place on June 6th, 1944 after being rained out the day before.)
One can only imagine if the wingnut blogosphere was around back then, they would be breaking their backs digging up the home addresses of the editors of Time, publishing the schools their children go to and the hair salons their wives frequent, and printing photographs of the best positions to place homemade bombs in their houses.
It's worth noting that D-Day went off pretty much as planned, despite Time's treasonous breach of security.
(36 Hours is about Garner being kidnapped by the Germans and made to believe he's in an American Army hospital in Germany in 1950, after the war, in the hope that he'll reveal the date of the invasion. It's rather Hitchcockian in feel, and not bad at all.)
WHEN Irena Medavoy decided to build her dream home, on two flat acres above Beverly Hills, one thing was really important. "I wanted it warm, cozy, informal," she said, before demonstrating how the living room converts into a screening room. At the push of a button, a 20-foot-wide screen descended from the ceiling and three huge speakers rose from beneath the wood parquet floor. At the other end of the room, a floor-to-ceiling bookcase sank — Batcave-like — revealing a projection room hidden behind it.
By the standards of North Beverly Park, the gated community where Mrs. Medavoy and her husband, the Hollywood producer Mike Medavoy, live, their home — 11,000 square feet in an East Coast traditional style — actually is cozy.
That's because other houses in this intensely private, security-obsessed community for Hollywood potentates, business tycoons and movie and sports stars are even larger, more on the order of small hotels: 20,000, 30,000 or, in a couple of cases, more than 40,000 square feet. When Eunice Kennedy Shriver visited the Medavoys during a reception for President Vicente Fox of Mexico, she said of their spread, "I didn't even know they built houses like this anymore," her hostess recalled.
In an age of gilded real estate excess, massive homes are nothing new. Still, the scale of Beverly Park is striking, with one palacelike home next to another like a billionaires' Levittown. East Coast visitors often react with wonder-cum-horror at the neighborhood, while even in Hollywood's monied upper echelons, some consider Beverly Park to be too much.
"You won't find anywhere a concentration of such large homes," said Joyce Rey, who heads the estates division for Coldwell Banker on the West Side of Los Angeles. "You'll find a large estate in Bel Air, or a few large estates. But you won't find a concentration of houses, and new houses, with such large square footage."
How did it happen? "We've had a concentration of the rich getting richer, and that's really propelled the construction of these homes," she said.
Call me jealous, call me idealistic, call me a socialist, call me an idiot, but I find this grossly excessive display of wealth disgusting. Holy cow, while I guess I'd like to own my own modest home in a nice place, I wouldn't want to live in a place like these monstrous houses. Do the people who live in them do what the aristocratic British did, and support households full of relatives, friends and artists they were sponsoring? Somehow I think not. Somehow I think that not even Grandma and Grandpa live in these house, just one Power Couple with too damn much money and their 2.1 spoiled children.
But it's not the excesses of the very rich which are most disturbing. In the Times Real Estate section the week before I read that people are buying up perfectly nice houses in the middle-class neighborhood called Gravesend in Brooklyn for millions of dollars, and tearing them down to replace them with mansions. In my own hometown, McMansions are springing up all over the place, and plots that had decent-sized houses are now holding ugly and grotesquely over-sized monstrosities.
The trend is not new -- David Owen noted the beginning of it 15 years ago in The Walls Around Us:
As bathrooms have gotten fancier, they've also gotten bigger. As they have, the size of secondary bedrooms shrank somewhat. (That extra square footage had to come from somewhere.) In the floor plans of many new houses, the children's bedrooms seem almost like an afterthought. Very often they have been trimmed, sometimes severely, to make room for the hot tub and the bidet. This trade-off - the comfort of one's children for the comfort of oneself while brushing one's teeth - might not have made sense to an earlier generation. But it is one of the unstated themes of the big bathroom revolution.
Obviously, the next step from the selfishness of stealing space from your kids for your own comfort is to make your houses so big that everyone inside can be comfortable conspicuous consumers, and to hell with the world outside. It's the same impulse that's lead to the profusion of gated communities -- not just super-duper-upper-class ones like North Beverly Park, but plain-old middle class enclaves which sacrifice commonality for the illusion of security.
The gated community, Blakely and Snyder write, is the latest innovation in the suburbanizing trend toward "ever more privitized residential environments." For the zoning restrictions of earlier suburbs, the gated community substitutes guardhouses, physical barriers, and hired security forces. Its governing body, the homeowners' association, constitutes a private "pseudo-government" that supplants or augments the services provided by surrounding local governments: street maintenance, police protection.
...What these people want, the authors discover, is not community, but privacy and security. No matter how affluent they are, they dread the world outside the gates. Guardhouses, electronic surveillance systems and physical barriers provide reassurance but also reinforce the sense that one is surrounded by a disintegrating society. Crime is an obsession, despite (in most cases) the absence of any credible threat.
Like other fortunate Americans in the late 20th century, many gated-community residents are doing better but feeling worse. Tabloid-style coverage of crime and violent mass-market entertainment undoubtedly promote this anxiety. But so does the managerial ethos that governs so much of American life -- the determination to create a predictable, controlled environment even at the cost of sterility. In "Fortress America" what frightens the residents most about crime is its randomness. The retreat into gated communities is a flight from chance.
And with the gated communities and other secure enclaves comes a shadowy, inegalitarian, undemocratic form of quasi-governmental organization which controls many aspects of life inside the community by enforcing the "covenants, conditions and restrictions" attached to the ownership of the property. In Edge City (1991), Joel Garreau documented the scope of the various forms of "shadow governments":
[There are] several forms of private-enterprise governments -- shadow governments, if you will -- of which there are more than 150,000 in the United States. These shadow governments have become the most numerous, ubiquitous, and largest form of local government in America today, studies show. In their various guises, shadow governments levy taxes, adjudicate disputes, provide police protection, run fire departments, provide health care, channel development, plan regionally, enforce esthetic standards, run buses, run railroads, run airports, build roads, fill potholes, publish newspapers, pump water, generate electricity, clean streets, landscape grounds, pick up garbage, cut grass, rake leaves, remove snow, offer recreation, and provide the hottest social service in the United States today: day care. They are central to the Edge City society we are building, in which office parks are in the childrearing business, parking-lot officials run police forces, private enterprise builds public freeways, and subdivisions have a say in who lives where.
These shadow governments have powers far beyond those ever granted the rulers in this country before. Not only can they prohibit the organization of everything from a synagogue to a Boy Scout troop; they can regulate the color of a person's living room curtains. Nonetheless, the general public almost never gets the opportunity to vote its leaders out of office, and rarely is protected from them by the United States Constitution.
...These governments are highly original, locally invented attempts to bring some kind of order to Edge Cities in the absence of more conventional institutions. Edge Cities, after all, seldom match political boundaries. Sometimes they do not even appear on road maps. Few have mayors or city councils. They beg the question of who's in charge. Are these places exercises in anarchy? Or are they governed by other means?
The answer is -- government by other means. ...
...While highly visible institutions took a beating, thousands of low-profile, small -- and sometimes not so small -- regimes filled the vacuum, taking on power and the responsibility for running daily life. To the extent that means for getting things done became highly dispersed, localized and privitized, they were shielded from the damage to public institutions.
Edge Cities nationwide display an ingenious array of such shadow governments. These shadow governments are usually organized like corporations and given names to do not begin to hint at their power. But they can be broadly grouped into three categories:
Shadow governments that are privately owned and operated such as homeowners' associations that can rigidly control residential areas. ...
Shadow governments that are quasi-public institutions but have accrued power and influence far beyond their original charter. ...
Shadow governments that occupy a murky area between these private and public sectors. They are often referred to as public-private partnerships....
What makes these outfits like governments, scholars say, is the extent to which they have the following three attributes:
They can assess mandatory fees to support themselves: the power to tax.
They can create rules and regulations: the power to legislate.
They have the power to coerce, to force people to change their behavior: the police power.
All governments have these powers. What sets shadow governments apart is that they have these three additional attributes:
The leaders of shadow governments are rarely if ever directly accountable to all the people in a general election.
When and if these leaders are picked up in a private election, the vote is rarely counted in the manner of Jeffersonian democracy, with each citizen having a voice. Instead, it is usually one dollar, one vote.
These leaders are frequently not subject to the constraints on power that the Constitution imposes on conventional governments. ...
The powers of the shadow governments derive from the idea that subjecting yourself to one of them is a voluntary act. When a family chooses to buy a particular home, it is legally presumed that they fully understand what such an association means to their lives.
However, once that house is chosen, membership in the community association is not voluntary. Neither is compliance with the association's rules. Embedded in the deed are "covenants, conditions, and restrictions"... that make obedience mandatory. And the enforcement powers are awesome. "Your peers, the community association, have the power to take your house away from you," Kleine explains. "They also have the power to go into small claims court and have the sheriff go after the TV set. And they have the power, usually, to suspend certain privileges -- or rights, depending on your definition -- including the right to vote. It's like the old poll tax. If you didn't pay your tax, you can't vote."
They can regulate how many pets you may have, what size those pets can be, and where you may walk them. They can regulate whether or not you may live with your children. Charles Keating buried C C & Rs in the deeds of one of his most ambitious Phoenix developments, Estrella, that banned "pornographic" films, books, magazines, and devices from a homeowner's bedrooms. ... [T]he First Amendment does not force shadow governments to allow freedom of the press. ...
..."They are setting up internal courts," Kleine points out. "Due process may be desirable, but it is not required. The Fourteenth Amendment does not apply." ...
Defenders point out that homeowners readily obey and encourage shadow governments. And indeed, such units are very successful at what they do. They control nuisances and unpleasantness and keep the community swimming pool clean. Thus property values rise. These disciples further observe that if the larger society finds the actions of these private governments objectionable, it is not without recourse. The power of homeowners' associations is based on the covenants written into the deeds. In decades past, offensive covenants -- such as those prohibiting house sales to blacks and Jews -- have been thrown when challenged in court.
Those supporters also point out that shadow governments devise new solutions to the new problems that Edge Cities face every day. If conventional governments had been doing such a great job, people would not have felt obliged to invent new forms, taking governance into their own hands, this argument goes. Perhaps. But such opportunities as arise, these shadow governments certainly seize.
T]he question [is] whether shadow governments are of, by and for the people. Their rights and obligations are almost always defined by property and ownership and money. They bow less to the notion that all men are created equal that to that equally venerable American aphorism, "Them that has, gits."
These shadow governments are democratic to a point. But they rarely have much use for the principle of one citizen, one vote. If your rent your home in a place with a community association, it is generally your landlord who gets to vote, not you. If you are a spouse or a son or a daughter whose name is not on the deed, you usually do not vote. In condominiums, the property principle can be fine-tuned to five digits to the right of the decimal place. In one such place, the owner of a one-bedroom apartment got 0.06883 of a vote, and the owner of a two-bedroom with den got 0.12350 of a vote.
The old saw of Benjamin Franklin's is that "They that can give up give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," but once people have gotten used to doing exactly that just to buy a desireable house, how can they be expected to understand the price that we, collectively, are paying by allowing the Bush administration to eat away at our civil liberities in the futile cause of illusory security?
But it's hard for me to believe that the people who live in the houses in North Beverly Park give a shit about anything except their own comfort and security. They don't need a guarantee of civil rights, they can afford to purchase them by hiring expensive Dream Teams of lawyers -- if anyone even dares to fuck with them in the first place. So why should they care about the erosion of civil rights, as long as they're not threatened by a terrorist attack? -- which tend to involve masses of people in one way or another, and you can be sure that the people of North Beverly Park don't find themselves on the subway very often.
Republicans sharply criticized Democrats Wednesday for using images of flag-draped coffins and a makeshift grave of a fallen soldier in a new web-based video.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee distributed a link to the video "America Needs a New Direction" on Tuesday to political supporters in a fundraising e-mail.
"I hope you will watch it, forward it on to your friends and family and ask them to join our movement for a Democratic Congress and a new direction for America," DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Illinois) writes in the e-mail letter.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (New York) charged that Democrats are trying to "blatantly exploit the sacrifices made by the men and women of our Armed Forces" for political purposes.
"Regardless of what your views on the war may be, this crosses the line," Reynolds said in a statement released by the NRCC. "Rahm Emanuel owes our troops, their families, and the families of the fallen an apology."
DCCC spokesman Bill Burton said there are no plans to take the video down and accused Republicans of going to "great lengths to obscure the pictures of these brave young men and women who come home having paid the ultimate sacrifice.
"Perhaps if these Republicans had been able to summon up this same level of outrage when President Bush sent out troops off to war without the body armor they needed and the Humvee armor they required, so many wouldn't have come home in flag-draped coffins or with life changing injuries," Burton said in a written statement.
The video shows at least 12 coffins covered with flags inside a cargo plane followed by an image of a soldier staring at a helmet propped up by a machine gun that is stuck in the ground. It also shows pictures of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and successive photos of Bush, a mug shot of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Jack Abramoff and Vice President Cheney.
Republicans will continue to pressure Democrats to take down the video at a news conference today being held in the lobby of the Republican National Committee.
Let the Republicans beef about the ad all they want. Every mention they make of it will lead to more people watching the ad, and more people looking at the flag-draped coffins the Administration has tried so hard to keep out of sight. More complaints! More, please!
The only thing wrong with the video is the featuring of Emanuel, Pelosi and the Democratic Whip in the second half. It turned what was looking like a biting and trenchant commentary on the state of America under Republicans into a blatant commercial for another brand of politicians, about whom nobody really gives a hoot. They should have left those images out entirely, but left in the DCCC sign-up at the end, and certainly leave Clinton (the closest thing we have to a national Democratic leader) in as well.
I have a feeling that political egos got in the way of good advertising showmanship.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the President said we continue to be wise about how we spend the people's money.
"Then why are we paying over $100,000 for a 'White House Director of Lessons Learned'?
"Maybe I can save the taxpayers $100,000 by running through a few of the lessons this White House should have learned by now.
"Lesson 1: When the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of State say you are going to war without enough troops, you're going to war without enough troops.
"Lesson 2: When 8.8 billion dollars of reconstruction funding disappears from Iraq, and 2 billion dollars disappears from Katrina relief, it's time to demand a little accountability.
"Lesson 3: When you've 'turned the corner' in Iraq more times than Danica Patrick at the Indy 500, it means you are going in circles.
"Lesson 4: When the national weather service tells you a category 5 hurricane is heading for New Orleans, a category 5 hurricane is heading to New Orleans.
"I would also ask the President why we're paying for two 'Ethics Advisors' and a 'Director of Fact Checking.'
"They must be the only people in Washington who get more vacation time than the President.
"Maybe the White House could consolidate these positions into a Director of Irony."
Irony, of course, requires for its effect a good feeling for and understanding of the nature of reality, so that the ironic element stands out from the background of real life. Maybe that's why (generalizing wildly here) when right-wingers try to highlight irony, they usually miss the mark. In Bush's case, I'm not sure he understands what irony is in the first place, so rather than a "Director of Irony" they'd need an "Instructor in Irony."
As for "lessons learned," I've yet to see that Bush and his administration, with the possible exception of Rove, are able to learn lessons and apply them to new problems. They tend to simply re-apply the same predetermined "solutions" over and over again. This has served them quite well politically, but has been a complete disaster in every other respect.
Barnard Hughes, Tony-Winning Actor of Da and Prelude to a Kiss, Dead at 90
By Kenneth Jones 11 Jul 2006
Barnard Hughes, the Tony Award-winning actor who starred in Da on Broadway, and began his professional career in 1934, died July 11 at New York Presbyterian Hospital after a brief illness, his family announced.
Mr. Hughes, a Bedford Hills, NY, native, was 90. He was born July 16, 1915, the son of Owen and Madge Hughes.
The kind-eyed actor, who seemed to slide inside the skin of any of the various characters he played, might be best remembered for his humane performance as an Irish father in Hugh Leonard's Da (1978).
For his turn as the curmudgeonly father — "da," for short — haunting the memory of his playwright son, he won the Best Actor Tony Award and Outstanding Actor Drama Desk Award. He later played the role in the film version.
"Da", a play by the Irish playwright Hugh Leonard, was my first Broadway show as a stage manager, and I suspect that I owe that in large part to Barney and the director, Melvin Bernhardt.
We had done the show originally at a very small off-off-Broadway theatre, the Hudson Guild Theatre, where it received wonderful reviews, as well it should have, since the play, the cast and the production were all very good (and what's more it was an easy cast to work with). I was the resident Production Stage Manager there, and when the show was picked up for transfer to Broadway, I began to get worried because no one had told me if I was going to go with it or not. (If they hadn't taken me, they would have been obligated to pay me three or four weeks salary, if I remember correctly.)
When I finally got up the nerve to ask the producer of HGT whether I was going or not, he told me that they were taking me, but not as the head stage manager, the PSM, but as the assistant stage manager. Being rather hot-headed at that time, and a callow youth of 23 who didn't know enough to understand that this offer was reasonable and a pretty good thing overall, I protested that I only wanted to go as PSM.
I don't know precisely what happened from there on out. They wanted to move the show pretty quickly, with a minimal amount of rehearsal, to capitalize on the publicity we'd gotten and be eligible for that year's Tony Awards, so I suppose they were a bit over a barrel and in a bind about whether to hire such an inexperienced stage manager for a Broadway production or to pay me off and go with someone who didn't know the production inside and out, as I did. My assumption is that the Broadway producer (Lester Osterman) asked Barney and Melvin and Brian Murray, who was the other star of the show, if they thought I could do the job and I guess they thought it would be OK. (I was inexperienced, but I think still a pretty fair stage manager.) So, I was hired, and the producers brought on a veteran Broadway production supervisor to oversee the mounting of the show.
(Not too long afterwards, my union, Actors' Equity, changed the rules so that Broadway stage managers were required to have a certain number of years of experience, and I've always thought that was in some respect a reaction to the hiring of a 23 year-old novice -- I was in only my second year in New York and my first as a member of Equity -- as the PSM of a Broadway show.)
My time on "Da" with Barney was wonderful, he was a caring man and really marvelous to work with, both personally and professionally. I stayed with the show after he left it, to be replaced by Brian Keith, and then went out with Barney to tour the country with it for 10 months. His wife Helen Stenborg, a very good actress in her own right, played alongside him on that tour, and his daughter Laura played the female juvenile role. My wife at the time, who had worked as a seamstress and draper in costume shops, and who I met when she did props for an earlier show at the Hudson Guild, went out with us as wardrobe supervisor, which started her on a new phase of her career -- so that tour was definitely a family affair.
(Not only that but I made several long-term friendships while touring with "Da", including the tremendously talented John Didrichsen, with whom I worked on various music projects, including a partnership in a recording studio, for decades afterwards.)
I owe an awful lot to Barney's belief in me 28 years ago, and I'm sorry to see him go.
David Leary, Laura Hughes, Herschel Bernardi, Barney Hughes, myself and Helen Stenborg
backstage at the Colonial Theatre in Boston, celebrating the 850th performance of "Da".
(Bernardi was in town performing "Fiddler on the Roof" down the street.)
Ever since the rise of the religious right, liberals have longed for a religious counterpart on the left. But that notion was always dubious, and the recent turmoil within the Episcopal Church should put it to rest for good. Without the wholehearted participation of the mainline Protestant churches, there can be no religious left remotely comparable to the Christian right in Protestant-dominated America. And churches in the throes of schism hardly have the wherewithal to marshal their resources in the service of battles in the secular political arena.
Are these schisms the result of the intolerance of conservative religionists towards liberal religious ideas? If so, then this answers a question raised in my post about "Bad Religion" -- here is at least one reason why the influence of liberal religion has waned with the rise of militant conservative religion.
Yes, but why is this happening? Because it's a situation that has been specifically and intentionally cultivated, that's why. Because powerful and organized pressure groups have been conducting stealth campaigns in the mainline Protestant churches to accomplish exactly this result. Because the churches -- which were, up until the 1980s, among the foremost voices and forces in the quest for social justice -- have been intentionally shattered by an organized right-wing campaign. And yes, it really has extended overseas, especially in the case of Anglicanism.
The reaction of people like these folks and these and many others has been to get organized, tell the story of what's happening, and start to push back. We're having an effect, too; even the media's beginning to find out about it now. And just at that moment -- Stan tells us not to bother. Nice.
Look -- there's nothing more stupefying than the idea that a "religious left" could or should ever be exactly like the religious right. That was never the point in the first place. The left in general and the right in general are not the same in outlook or tactics. So in that sense Stan is right. She's also right to notice that there's a big battle joined in the churches right now. But where she's wrong is in thinking that the correct thing to do is therefore just to give up on a valuable but embattled institution. The Democratic establishment has done that too many times, especially with unions and progressive activist organizations.
The always great Digby, on the epically wrong "blogofascist" claims emanating from The New Republic and elsewhere in the mainstream punditocracy:
[Jon] Chait claims the blogosphere is paranoid and sectarian and he worries what it will do to liberalism. I'm frankly worried about the paranoia and sectarianism at The New Republic, a magazine I've been reading for 30 years. This notion that Kos is some sort of commander of the blogofascist empire is ridiculous. Kos is a successful, respected blogger, but believe me, I don't take orders from anybody and I don't know any other bloggers who do. The blogosphere is a kind of organism. To the extent there's a hierarchy, it's not manufactured, it's organic, and there is no recognized leadership --- there's readership. This idea of a Stalinist comintern is a misunderstanding of epic proportions. The blogosphere has the most open distribution of power of any human endeavor I've ever participated in. If a certain amount of groupthink occurs, it's certainly no more than what you see at the DLC --- or The New Republic.
People in Washington need to wrap their minds around the fact that this stuff really is bubbling up from below and it's real. Bloggers are merely in the vanguard of a rising leftwing populist sentiment around the country. It is a predictable reaction when a party ceases to be responsive to its voters. Liberalism has been moribund for some time now. This is a chance to at least begin the process of resuscitation and could be used by the political establishment as a useful counter-weight to help drag the country back from the brink of rightwing extremism.(If that's what they want, that is.) Smart politicians will accept this and find a way to use its strength strategically, not fight it.
I would just again point out that the characterization of the "Kos Townhouse" orbit as being a group of "unbelievably crude, overheated and totally unsavvy ... activist-loudmouths" is only partially correct. (I proudly wear the labels, others may not.) But to the extent you believe it's true, keep in mind that it reflects the frustration of millions of politically active progressive citizens who have been scapegoated and derided for decades by the political insiders who now find themselves on the other end of the attack. These people are the base of the Democratic Party. If people think the party can prevail in this modern hyper-partisan era by continuing to insult its most active and ardent supporters, then have at it. But no one should be surprised then when those supporters decide to take matters into their own hands. Democracy is untidy that way.
That the Right-Wing Establishment disdains and derides us was to be expected, but it rather hurts to have people who are supposedly on our side both misunderstand what's going on and at the same time disparage it. Still, it makes some sense. Not only is the rise of influential bloggers a threat to the status of the liberal old media pundits, but I suspect that many of them are on the verge of truly understanding that in the new political era brought on by Republican hegemony, there isn't going to be any sharing of power, no bipartisanship, no working across the aisle, no reasonable pathway to re-establishing a Democratic power base in Washington -- and that New Political Order scares them, as well it should.
Our frustration is that with a few notable exceptions (Krugman, Rich) it has taken them so long to see what we've understand for years now, since the stolen election of 2000.
Marine Major Dan Mori, the uniformed lawyer who has been assigned to defend David Hicks, one of the ten terror suspects in Guantánamo who have been charged, said of the [military] commissions [created by the Bush Administration to try the terror suspects held in Guantanamo], "It was a political stunt. The Administration clearly didn’t know anything about military law or the laws of war. I think they were clueless that there even was a U.C.M.J. [Uniform Code of Military Justice] and a Manual for Courts-Martial! The fundamental problem is that the rules were constructed by people with a vested interest in conviction."
Mori said that the charges against the detainees reflected a profound legal confusion. "A military commission can try only violations of the laws of war," he said. "But the Administration’s lawyers didn’t understand this." Under federal criminal statutes, for example, conspiring to commit terrorist acts is a crime. But, as the Nuremburg trials that followed the Second World War established, under the laws of war it is not, since all soldiers could be charged with conspiring to fight for their side. Yet, Mori said, a charge of conspiracy "is the only thing there is in many cases at Guantánamo—guilt by association. So you’ve got this big problem." He added, "I hope that nobody confuses military justice with these 'military commissions.' This is a political process, set up by the civilian leadership. It’s inept, incompetent, and improper."
In a post about Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, Billmon manages to uncover my deepest existential dread, something which goes far beyond the specific crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush/Cheney administration (which are bad enough, very much so):
In my darker moments, it sometimes seems as if the entire world is in the middle of a fierce backlash against the Age of Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution and the ideological challenges they posed to the old belief systems. The forces of fundamentalism and obscurantism appear to be on the march everywhere – even as the moral and technological challenges posed by a global industrial civilization grow steadily more complex.
It is this view of the state of the world (which cannot be far from wrong, given the evidence before us) which provokes my darkest and most defeatest thoughts, encouraging me to run and hide, hoping that the chaos will pass over me, instead of fighting back with everything I've got.
Of course, it's first things first. The danger of continued Republican political hegemony needs first to be overcome, but at some point, we're going to need an entirely new Age of Reason and a renewed Enlightenment, one that will hopefully take in the Muslim world as well. How that will happen, I'm neither enough of a historian nor politician, philosopher, social psychologist, sociologist or anthropologist enough to fully grok, but it must happen if we're ever going to recapture what we once had, and now have lost.
[W]e tend not to realize it because we live with an illusion of eternal stability, but civil order is precarious, and we’re always in danger of falling back into chaos. Indeed, the political and social structures that we take for granted (the Lieberman-Lamont primary for instance) are built upon an invisible foundation of social stability. That debate wouldn’t be happening if, for instance, the Greenwich clan was pulling the Hartford clan out of their cars and beheading them. But that’s not happening here, at least not since 1865. But that can all change quickly. A terrorist attack here, a hurricane there, a constitutional crisis in a society riven by class — all of these things can make the precarious and invisible foundations that we take for granted come flaming a’ground.
ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.
An explanatory structure which abandons the obligation to explain things "mechanistically" cannot be considered to be science, since explaining how things work is the entire point of science.
One of the unstated reasons why I've been posting less lately is that during baseball season I watch a lot of games on TV, which takes up a fair amount of reading time (both online and off), meaning I have less input to generate ideas and reactions, therefore less to write about. I generally don't post about baseball, thinking that it might not be of interest to other folks, especially since I'm pretty much focused on the New York teams, at least one of which (the Yankees) is The Team That America Loves To Hate, but slip one in now and then. Since we're halfway through the season, at the All Star Break, now is one of those times.
I'd like to address something that's been bugging me for a while. The Yankees' announcers (who I generally like quite well) seem to be hung up on the fact that the New York fans earlier in the season were booing Alex Rodriguez, and the Mets' announcers had the same problem with the boos that met Carlos Beltran while he was in a slump. The question has been returned to again and again, knocked around by all the commentators, and the opinions of guests in the booth have been solicited. All these people -- baseball professionals all -- can't seem to understand why it happens, and ascribe it to jealousy or bitterness.
None of those folks are fans, but I am, and I think I can explain the booing to them -- not because I've done it, but because I've felt it even when I haven't expressed it out loud: it's disappointment, pure and simple, nothing more and nothing less.
A-Rod and Beltran came to our teams as highly touted and highly played players. We have for them (and for us) great expectations of what they will do, and how they will help us -- as we should, because they are very, very good ballplayers. (A-Rod is routinely described as one of the best players in the game.) That leaves very little margin for error in their performance. Nobody in their right mind expects A-Rod to come through all the time, or even in the vast majority of crucial circumstances, but, given his talent and accomplishments and the money he's being paid, in order to stay on the good side of the fans, he must perform more often than not, and at times that has not been the case. Any one who watches a lot of Yankee games has seen A-Rod not come through in pressure situations, and has felt the keen disappointment of that experience. When it happens again and again, how else would you expect us to respond?
I agree that the booing is not particularly helpful, and that a supportive attitude from the fans would probably be better for A-Rod, better for the team, and therefore better for the fans, but I'm afraid that along with the fame and the huge amounts of money comes a certain obligation to the fans to produce, and if the players' personalities are so fragile that they cannot stand the reaction that an inability to produce brings with it, perhaps it would be better for them to forego the money and the adulation and get into a different line of work.
I think most fans are perfectly happy for the best players on the best teams to be well paid (although it has to be said that the money is getting to be pretty damn ludicrous), but that money comes, directly or indirectly, out of our pockets, and we expect results. If we don't get them, some of us are going to show our displeasure, and the rest of us are going to feel very disappointed. That announcers, players and baseball executives don't understand that just shows how far away from the fans they are.
On Panda's Thumb, Mark Isaak tackles the question of what a "bad religion" is:
What is “bad religion”? Everyone has different ideas about what is good in a religion, so it might seem that defining bad religion would be impossibly contentious. But there is one simple criterion which gets to the heart of most religion-related problems and which must be embraced by anyone who accepts the Golden Rule: A person is practicing bad religion if he or she, uninvited, attempts to impose any of their religious beliefs on another. A bad religion is any religion which condones such behavior. Other bad practices and beliefs can appear in religion, but by sticking to that one criterion, we can keep this simple and hopefully less controversial.
On this board, we see bad religion mainly in the form of attempts to ban the teaching of evolution and/or to force the teaching of miraculous creation (aka “intelligent design”). But, as anyone who pays any attention to the news in the United States knows, the battle is far more wide-ranging, covering issues such as putting graven images of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, prohibiting certain love-based marriage, and allowing pharmacists to impose their religious practices on their patients. In other parts of the world, bad religion imposes strictures on every aspect of life and kills people for noncompliance. The problem of bad religion is already widespread, and it appears to be spreading. It must be fought.
Isaak also says, correctly, that "good religion is an ally," which has certainly been true in the past, when liberal religionists were at the forefront of the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement during Vietnam. Unfortunately, the influence of liberal religion has waned with the rise of the religious right for reasons that are unclear to me.
(Incidentally, although I suppose the reference dates me, I would love to have seen Dan Ackroyd's Leonard Pinth-Garnell do a "Bad Religion" sketch on SNL.)
A really excellent and well-written post from Nim at The Ham Hock of Liberty addresses the mainstream punditocracy, especially the folks at The New Republic:
Some people with websites do not hold the reins of governmental power. They do not direct party funds. They don't run the military. They have, in other words, no actual power. What they have are opinions and some facts. Sort of like yourselves.
So, for your own sakes, please consider trying to understand the new media environment a little better. As far as I can tell, none of you does actual investigative reporting, just opinion. Now that instantaneous worldwide publishing is available to just about anyone, you can no longer expect to have an audience simply because of your names, or your employer. There is simply no point in attacking the blogosphere because it speaks out and supports politicians with whom the writers and readers agree, and criticizes those with whom it does not agree. If you continue to perceive this as "fascism" rather than the epitome of "democracy," the next few decades are going to be very unpleasant for you.
That's just a snippet to whet your appetite -- you should click over and read the entire piece.
On June 2nd, an article in USA Today revealed that the Colorado Rockies considered themselves to be a Christian baseball team:
Quotes from Scripture are posted in the weight room. Chapel service is packed on Sundays. Prayer and fellowship groups each Tuesday are well-attended. It's not unusual for the front office executives to pray together.
On the field, the Rockies are trying to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons and only the second time in their 14-year history. Behind the scenes, they quietly have become an organization guided by Christianity — open to other religious beliefs but embracing a Christian-based code of conduct they believe will bring them focus and success.
Now that we're at the All Star Break, it seems like a good time to check in on the Rockies and see how their new model Christian ball club is doing.
By the end of the day when the article was published, one third of the way through the season, the Rockies were at .500 (27-27), in last (5th) place in the National League West, 4.5 games behind the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks. They were in the middle of what would be a six-game losing streak. In the Wild Card, they were in 7th place, 3.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers
Since then, they've played another 33 games, winning 17 and losing 16 for a record of 44-43, just one game over .500. They've moved from last place to third place in their division, 3.5 games behind the San Diego Padres. In the Wild Card race, they've done better: they're in second place, 1.5 games behind the Dodgers.
So, it's a bit of a mixed result. Their devotion to Christ hasn't seemed to help them a lot where the division race is concerned, since they've only improved by 1 game, but God did have the foresight to put them in a very weak division and a generally weak league, and is apparently bent on insuring their success not through direct means (i.e. better hitting, pitching, fielding and generally playing good baseball) but by making the teams they're competing against be bad enough to possibly allow the Rockies to succeed.
There's still a lot of baseball left to play, and perhaps their new baseball philosophy (religion as a determinitive factor rather then those tired old baseball considerations like skills and talent) will prove to be a winner, the next Moneyball for our times -- we'll have to wait and see. If it turns out to be successful, will other teams adopt the Christianball strategy, or will we see Jewish teams, Muslim teams, Atheist teams, White teams, Black teams, Hispanic teams and Asian teams all directly competing with each other for supremacy? How jolly that will be.
Whether empirically proven or not, psychoanalysis works because its practitioners are skillful at spinning a web of belief and enlisting their patients into adhering to a coherent and believable story about why they feel and act the way they do. This exists in an entirely different sphere than that in which you can measure the 'truth', or the empirical validity, of what one comes to understand. It is more akin to faith than scientific knowledge; treatment is more akin to going to church to reaffirm and extend one's belief than going to the doctor's office. Argue as you might about the damage that faith may bring; there are spheres in which it is important, and in which nothing else works.
Eliot is "a psychiatrist with specializations in psychopharmacology, neuropsychiatry, and community mental health." I'm a total layman, but I'd say he's on to something, and I would compare the power of faith (whether manifested through psychoanalysis or religion) to the placebo effect. It's one reason why, although I'm a non-believer, I try not to underrate the power of religion to have a positive influence on people's lives.
TBogg has a pretty exhaustive list of the things that conservatives (specifically conservative bloggers) object to and find it necessary to fight tooth and nail against:
terrorists, jihadis, Islamicists, homosexuals, the UN, Darwinists, the MSM, college professors, Blogofascists, people who read books, people who go see movies, people who don't like Lee Greenwood, people who don't have little yellow ribbon magnets on their SUVs, people who aren't white, people whose primary language is not english, "civil liberty hysterics", Michael Moore, Ward Churchill, Howard Dean, Cindy Sheehan, John Murtha, Al Franken, Arianna Huffington, our Dark and Tempermental Lord Kos, all of those salespeople who didn't say, "Have a Merry Christmas", people who wear hats in movies, people who don't find a song about killing little Iraqi girls the height of wit
[B]eing an atheist is the best way to approach this life. It's like un-wrapping the cotton swaddling from your skull and seeing the bright, beautiful world as it truly is. Our planet, each other, our lives, our universe, they are all so incredibly and wonderfully exciting - all on their own! Why gild the lilly, you know? Isn't it enough to see the mind-blowingly beautiful fog of stars on a clear night - and knowing that our tiny little envelope of air and dirt is embedded in this small part of one of the spiral arms of our galaxy - without attributing it to Jojo The Great God Of The Congo's B.O. or something? I mean, why diminish it like that? I'd rather understand it the way it really is - and not the way that I wish for it to be.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.