Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I was particularly fascinated by Larry Elder’s attempts to turn the table on Democrats. Appearing on Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN, the conservative Black talk show host noted that it was the Democratic “party that was opposed to the 13th, the 14th, the 15th amendment. The party that founded the Klan.” According to Elder, “If you want to go over the history of the party, the Democratic Party is a party, historically, that has been antithetical to black history.” What Elder failed to mention was how Ronald Reagan stole that mantle for the Republican Party during his 1980 presidential campaign by announcing his support for “states’ rights” at the Neshoba County Fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi; the scene of the 1964 murder of three civil rights workers.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Robert Kennedy: His Life / by Evan Thomas. A fascinating character who grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, enthusiaticly supported Joe McCarthy, and wound up as a crusader for the poor and downtrodden.
The Conscience of a Liberal , Paul Krugman. A very well written explanation of why everything is the conservatives' fault.
The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too, James K. Galbraith. Another very well written explanation of why everything is the conservatives' fault.
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, James W. Loewen. Excellent.
Chain of Blame: How Wall Street Caused the Mortgage and Credit Crisis, Paul Muolo, Mathew Padilla. There is truly plenty of blame to go around although Bill Clinton's support of the Community Redevelopment Act had nothing to do with it.
The Coldest Winter : America and the Korean War, David Halberstam. Fascinating book on a little known war. Truman stands up to MacArthur, the arrogant general who never spent a night in Korea during the entire time that he commanded the American forces there.
The Great Upheaval : America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800, Jay Winik. The French Revolution, Catherine the Great and George Washington's administration all packed together.
The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, Alan Greenspan. Although he is much more candid and clear than he was in his days as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Greenspan has a gift for making the most tumultuous financial events utterly tedious. I had a feeling that this was going to be a snorer when the library called me to tell me it was available. There had been seven people ahead of me when I reserved it and I got it three weeks later.
The End of Prosperity: How Higher Taxes Will Doom the Economy--If We Let It Happen, Arthur B. Laffer, Stephen Moore, Peter J. Tanous. A defense of supply side economics. Although I am only half way through, I notice that the authors only seem to make comparisons to the 1970's. They conveniently ignore the 1950's and 1960's when the United States was the dominant economic power in the world and the top marginal tax rate was as high as 90%.
The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, Jane Mayer. I saw Philadelphia radio talk show host Mike Smerkonish telling Chris Matthews the other day that he had no problem with using any means necessary to extract information from Al Queda suspects. He figured that the CIA's best interrogation specialists must have figured that waterboarding was the best way to get the information. The only problem is that the CIA did not have any interrogation specialists; the FBI did but they were cut out of the loop because they did not believe in using torture.
Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, Michael Isikoff and David Corn. The facts were there but Bush and Cheney weren't interested in them.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Here are two simple facts for the right wingnuts to consider:
(1) Rod Blagojevich is a first class douchebag. He is such a douchebag that he wishes he had George Bush's approval ratings. If George Bush and Sarah Palin had a child together, that child might be as arrogant, stupid, and incurious as Rod Blagojevich--but only if Bush and Palin were first cousins.
(2) Barack Obama, on the other hand, is really really smart. If he really is as complete a fraud as the wingnuts think he is, then he is an evil genius on a par with the love child of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.
Conclusion? Obama is not going to be brought down by Blagojevich.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I think the Obama campaign recognized long ago that Blagojevich was a ticking time bomb and they made the decision that the risk of dealing with him on any level outweighed anything that could possibly be gained. I suspect that a concious decision was made long ago that no deals would be made regarding Obama's vacant senate seat. My guess is that everyone on the Obama team was instructed to tell Blagojevich that he should use his best judgment in filling the senate seat. They could tell Blagojevich who Obama liked, but they never had any intention of offering the governor anything in exchange for any pick.
I think that Obama campaign manager David Axelrod's comments to FOX News Chicago on November 23rd make sense in this context. "I know he's talked to the governor, and there are a whole range of names, many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them." If it had been planned for months that Obama would tell Blagojevich who he liked for the seat and nothing more, Axelrod may simply have assumed that the conversation had taken place at some time.
I think that Blagojevich's behavior makes sense in this light, too. The complaint describes the governor becoming irate with consultants who told him to “suck it up” and give Obama the senate candidate he wanted for nothing. I suspect that the consultants had put out feelers on behalf of Blagojevich and been told Obama wasn’t interested in any deals. The consultants would not have been as blatant as Blagojevich and Axelrod or Rahm Emmanuel would have been smart enough to cut them off long before they reached the point of suggesting a quid pro quo.
What is more interesting to me is what the Obama guys knew about Blagojevich eighteen months ago that made them decide to freeze out Blagojevich from the start. I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama gets away without ever answering that question as the right wingnuts are going to make themselves look silly trying to trump up some improper contact between Blagojevich and the transition team.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
While I did not think it fair to blame Obama for what Blagojevich and Jones were doing, I realized that it was not unreasonable to expect him to express his support for the bill. Obama’s ability to stay clean in the cesspool of Illinois and Chicago politics was one of the things that most impressed me; however, his endorsement of Democratic hacks like County Board President Todd Stroger had disappointed me. On the other hand, I thought that getting involved was a no-win proposition for Obama. If he was successful, it would carry little weight outside Illinois—a state that he already had locked up. If he failed, he would look ineffectual across the entire country and give Republicans tons of ammo.
To my surprise, Obama decided to call Jones and Jones agreed to call the Illinois Senate back into session to pass the ethics bill. Blagojevich whined that Obama was falling into a GOP trap. “Let me be clear: I don’t think he (Obama) should be asked to be involved in any of this. He’s busy running for president,” the governor said. “It’s the Republicans who dragged him into this issue. They’re the ones who called on him to call on Senate President Jones to act on the ethics bill.” Nevertheless, the bill passed and will take effect in January.
It is apparent that Obama’s phone call indirectly sparked Blagojevich mad cash scramble. According to the criminal complaint filed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, after passage of the bill, Blagojevich “accelerat[ed] his corrupt fund raising activities to accumulate as much money as possible before the implementation of ethics legislation on January 1, 2009.” This led Fitzgerald to seek court approval to tap Blagojevich’s office and bug his phone. Like the contestants on Supermarket Sweep, Blagojevich was desperately filling his shopping cart with cash in the allotted time.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Appalled by the casualties and lack of preparation, newspapers and politicians throughout the North called for Grant to be sacked, but Abraham Lincoln declined to do so. Speaking to one Pennsylvania congressman, President Lincoln said "I can't spare this man. He fights!" This is not the most famous thing Lincoln ever said, but it is pretty well known. It is recounted by James McPherson recounts in Battle Cry of Freedom, by biographer Jean Edward Smith in Grant, and by many others.
The only problem is that Lincoln may never have said it. According to William Marvel in Lincoln's Darkest Year: The War in 1862 and Brooks D. Simpson in Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865, the Pennsylvania politician, Alexander McClure, did not tell anyone about Lincoln's comment until several years after the war. The record shows that Lincoln relied on Grant's superior, General Henry W. Halleck, to determine whether Grant had acted properly at Shiloh, and that Halleck gave Grant a hard time over the next several months.
There are also questions about Confederate General Robert E. Lee's statements on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg after the Union forces had repulsed Pickett's Charge. According to Shelby Foote in The Civil War: A Narrative, Lee rode among his troops saying "It's all my fault" and "The blame is mine."
To [General Cadmus] Wilcox, who was about as unstrung as [General George]It is considered to be one of Lee's finest moments.
Pickett in reporting that he was not sure that his troops would stand if the
Federals attacked, Lee was particularly solicitous and tender. "Never
mind, General," he told him taking his hand as he spoke. "All
this has been my fault—it is I that have lost this fight, and you must help me
out of it the best way you can."
In this case, the problem is not so much with what Lee said as to who he said it. According to Michael Fellmen in The Making of Robert E Lee, Lee had taken responsibility in order to rally his discouraged brigade commander Wilcox, but
"[t]here is no evidence to corroborate the legend that Lee rode among the commonHe encouraged his foot soldiers, but Fellmen considers the generalized mea culpa unlikely.
soldiers and confessed his failings . . . . It would not have been
in his aristocratic character, nor would it have made good sense in terms of
discipline to have made such a confession to all and sundry, an act that Lee
would have found unacceptably humiliating."
Any Civil War buff worth his salt is probably aware of dozens of cases where the evidence is pretty thin that a famous quote is actually the product of the person to whom it is attributed. Stories about Lincoln and Lee were as likely to be told and retold over the years because they reflected popular understanding of these men as because they accurately reported what really happened.
Evangelical Christians like to tell themselves that unbelievers are unreasonably skeptical about the historicity of the gospels, but no responsible historian takes any written report at face value. They look for corroboration and always recognize the possibility that a story got passed on because it was a good story rather than because it was true. One needs to look no further than the story of the woman caught in adultery to know that this happened in the Bible.
Monday, November 24, 2008
I was saying that Ehrman's skeptical standard would undermine ordinary knowledge
if you applied it to ordinary cases. Ehrman thinks that you can't know anything
if there's any possibility that your belief is wrong. The mere possibility that
any textual reading we've got was changed with no manuscript evidence of the
original reading is enough for him to say that we have no knowledge of the
original text, even though we've almost certainly got the overwhelming majority
of the original text. I don't think it's very likely that I'm in the Matrix, but
there is that possibility. I can't rule it out for sure. If I applied Ehrman's
standard to that, then I'd have to say that I don't know my wife exists or that
what I remember doing yesterday even happened.
Wow! A skeptic's doubts about the integrity of first century copying is comparable to believing that people live in pods providing nutrition for machines. That seems like quite a stretch, even for apologetics.
What I think Mr. Pierce misses here is that certainty and skepticism are functions of the available evidence. When a classicist speaks of being "confident" that something was written by Plato, we don’t interpret him as meaning the same thing as a Civil War historian who is "confident" that Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address. With Plato, we cannot fix the day and time that any particular work was first made public. We cannot trace Plato’s movements in the preceding days. We have no reports from contemporaries who saw him working on it or who discussed it with him. A scholar’s confidence that Plato wrote some particular work is not confidence in any absolute sense, but confidence relative to the surety we can have about anything that happened that long ago.
To be skeptical about whether or not Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address may start to implicate some Matrix-like doubts about our ability to know anything about the past. However, to acknowledge the limitations of our knowledge of who wrote Plato or the New Testament, or how the manuscripts might have been altered during transmission is nothing more than mere rationality. The evidence that Mr. Pierce's wife exists is (I suspect) substantially greater than the evidence that the New Testaments writings were not corrupted during copying in the first couple centuries after they were written.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Would a classicist utterly and completely dismiss the possibility that the works of Plato were not really written by a man named Plato? If it could be demonstrated that the works were actually written by a brilliant but unknown philosopher living twenty-five years after Plato died who used a more famous person’s name simply to get his works read, would it in any way make anyone feel hopeless about the security of ordinary knowledge? I doubt it. Given the scarcity of ancient documents, most thinking people would acknowledge the possibility that this could have happened. However, no one is concerned about this possibility because the cultural and historical significance of The Republic does not depend on whether it was actually written by the man we think of as the historical Plato. It is the power of its ideas that has influenced philosophers throughout the ages.
The books of the New Testament, on the other hand, present an entirely different situation for the conservative Christian because their theological significance is wholly dependent on who actually wrote them. We are told that one of the key criteria for the early church in deciding which books belonged in the New Testament canon was apostolicity. A specific group of historical people, the Apostles, had a special relationship with a specific historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, which causes conservative Christians to believe that they wrote under the special inspiration of God in a way that no other human being has ever written since. While the impact of The Merchant of Venice and Othello does not depend on whether they were written by Francis Bacon or William Shakespeare, the theological authority of the Gospel of Mark depends crucially on whether it was a factual account written by a companion of the Apostle Peter or simply a work of fiction by an unknown writer. No one in the world is bothered by the possibility that the words attributed to Socrates weren’t really spoken by the historical Socrates, but the beliefs of millions of Christians are completely false if the words attributed to Jesus weren’t really spoken by the historical Jesus.
I don’t think that my reservations about the historicity of the Gospels and the transmission of the early texts are any greater than those that most scholars have about the transmission of other ancient texts. In fact, I doubt that they are any greater than the reservations that conservative Christians have about ancient documents other than the Bible. However, the reservations that are utterly trivial with respect to any other ancient text become extremely important to conservative Christians because their beliefs and practices are contingent on the authority of their scriptures and that authority depends on that extent to which the words of scripture can be attributed to specific historical persons.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
As much as I enjoy watching the Republicans tear each other apart, the story I am most eager to hear is how Palin came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to sell Alaska's proximity to Russia as foreign policy experience. From what I can tell, the first person to float this idea publicly was Fox News' Steve Doocy on August 29th. The first I heard of it was when Cindy McCain brought it up in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on August 31st. At the time, I thought it was just silly and I could not imagine that anyone would take it seriously.
I was stunned when Palin trotted out this argument with Charles Gibson a week later:
GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple ofWas that really the best she could do? Wouldn't it have been better simply to say that as a governor, her attention had been focused on running her state, but that mastering new areas of knowledge and new challenges was part of her skill set?
weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?
PALIN: They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.
A couple days after the Gibson interview, on September 13th, Tina Fey unleashed her Palin impression on Saturday Night Live with a wonderfully ditsy delivery of "I can see Russia from my house."
Despite a week and a half to come up with a better answer to the foreign policy question Palin went to the same well in her interview with Katie Couric:
It’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia.This led to the following line on the September 27th episode of Saturday Night Live:
As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of
America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is
from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on
this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right
next to our state.
COURIC(Amy Poehler): How do you do that exactly?
PALIN(Tina Fey): Every morning when Alaskans wake up, one of the
first things they do, is look outside to see if there are any Russians
hanging around. If there are, you have to go up to them and ask "What are
you doin' here?" And if they can give you a good reason, if they can't,
it's our responsibility to say, you know, "Shoo. Get back over
Not surprisingly, it was this interview that caused even conservatives to start questioning Palin's competence.
For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Palin stuck with this. Unlike her dubious claim about saying "No thanks" to the bridge to nowhere, claiming that proximity to Russia gave her foreign policy experience wasn't going to fire up the base. On the other hand, it made her look foolish to independents, moderates, and even some previously reliable culture warriors like Kathleen Parker. Moreover, Palin knew what the reaction to this claim was going to be before she ever uttered it because it had already been run up the flag pole by both Steve Doocy and Cindy McCain.
I couldn't begin to guess what Palin really knows about Africa or NAFTA, but I find it hard to believe that a reasonably bright person couldn't have answered a question about foreign policy experience with something better than Alaska's proximity to Russia. I also wonder what was going on with her advisers within the McCain that they decided to let her go ahead with that answer. Did they try to get her to give some other answer or was she simply so stubborn and unteachable that they figured that was as good as anything they could hope for?
I would love to hear the story behind this.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I certainly would not argue for the complete absence of bias in the media, but the American people decided to go with the Democrats in 2006 and 2008 after many years of preferring the Republicans. One must at least consider the possibility that there might be some objective basis for being more critical of the Republicans.
Friday, November 7, 2008
I am frankly disgusted by the weasels in the McCain campaign. They deserve scorn if they are just trying to cover up for the failures of their candidate and themselves. They deserve even greater scorn if they really knew that Palin was that stupid and they did nothing to stop her from coming within a heartbeat of the Presidency.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
America elects a pro-choice candidate and suddenly my fellow Christian brothers
and sisters head for the hills screaming the world has come to an end. Are not
abortion rates much higher in several other countries? Why aren't we just as
concerned about "life" in those countries?
America elects an economically progressive candidate and people are screaming
"socialism" preparing for a Rapture. (An mid-1800's invention of conservative
Christian theology). Doesn't America know that Democracy is one of the youngest
political philosophies to be employed? Why do we think the fate of the world
depends on the success of our economical and political philosophies
America is struggling economically, and Jesus is now coming back to rescue his
2000 year old church from this difficult tribulation. Doesn't America remember
that its only 232 years old? Why does God's blessing equate with monetary
Why do American Christians constantly tie the end of the world to the "demise"
of America? Isn't America only 5% of the world's population?
I've said it before, I will say it again. Christians in America are moreI doubt that Scott and I would agree on many issues, but I think maybe we can agree that we are all Americans.
American than they are Christian. God forgive us for being so earthly minded.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
A just-unearthed 2001 interview with Obama on Chicago public radio reveals as much. Then a law school instructor and state legislator, Obama offered an eloquent indictment of the Warren Court for not being radical enough. While the court rightly gave blacks traditional rights, argued Obama, "the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth." Unfortunately, according to Obama, "it didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution."The only problem is it JUST AIN’T SO!
Obama criticized neither the Constitution nor the Supreme Court in the aforementioned interview. If anything, he criticized the civil rights movement for focusing on litigation to the exclusion of political action that might have achieved more of the movement’s goals. Here are Obama’s comments as quoted on World Net Daily:
If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be OK.
But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.
And that hasn't shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court-focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.At this point the YouTube video of the interview carries this dishonest caption: “Yes he just said it’s a tragedy the Constitution wasn’t radically interpreted to force redistribution of wealth for African Americans.” NO HE DID NOT! There is no criticism of the Supreme Court or the Constitution there. The tragedy, according to Obama, was the failure of the civil rights movement to pursue change through the political process. He is acknowledging that the courts were not the answer to all the problems.
Obama made this point again when asked whether legislation or litigation was the appropriate way to bring about change:
The court's not very good at it. I'm not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. You know, the institution just isn’t structured that way. You start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues, the court … engaging in a process that essentially is administrative.Once again, no call for changing the courts or the Constitution.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
The three women in the car thought that the story was shocking, but I found it very encouraging. I have no illusions about the existence of racism, but it is nice to think that people can overcome it sufficiently to see where their economic interests lie. My father was fond of saying that Ronald Reagan’s genius was in convincing a lot of members of the middle class that they could afford to be Republicans.
Speaking of the crazy things that people believe, I just started reading Matt Taibbi's The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, & Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire. His take on Pastor John Hagee's support for Christian Zionism is brilliant:
[I]t was unmistakably an ingenious solution to the problem of how to rallyPart of Taibbi's research involved joining Hagee's Cornerstone Church and learning how to vomit demons into a paper bag at a weekend retreat.
southern conservative Christians a few generations removed from their
cross-burning Klan days to the cause of Israel. If it turns out that it was
dreamed up by the same guy who figured out how to get laid-off Midwestern
factory workers to whoop for free-trade Republicanism by plastering the airwaves
with French-kissing men, I have to say, that guy deserves some kind of special
medal—a Triple Order of Satan, or something like that.
I could not help but think of Sarah Palin as I read Taibbi's assessment of the possibility of rational political discourse with such people:
By the end of the weekend I realized how quaint was the mere suggestion that
Christians of this type should learn to “be rational” or “set aside your
religion” about such things as the Iraq war or other policy matters. Once
you’ve made a journey like this—once you’ve gone this far—you are beyond
suggestible. It’s not merely the informational indoctrination, the
constant belittling of homosexuals and atheists and Muslims and pacifists, etc.,
that’s the issue. It’s that once you’ve gotten to this place you have left
behind the mental process that a person would need to form an independent
opinion about such things.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
The McCain supporters I encountered were much friendlier this week than they were two weeks ago. In Hales Corners, the Republicans seemed angrier. One elderly lady asked "How can you vote for him?" A middle aged man said "We're not fans of that guy." This week, one guy came to the door swearing at his dogs, but smiled warmly when he saw my Obama button and said, "We're voting for McCain, but good luck with that socialism." His neighbor two doors down said he was voting Republican, but he thanked me for my "enthusiasm."
I can't help but think that the warmer attitude I encountered this week reflected a sense of resignation. Over the last two weeks, the bad economic news had not slacked, the McCain campaign has careened from issue to issue in the hopes of finding a message, and high profile Republicans have been abandoning their party's nominee with unprecedented frequency. With the McCain campaign giving up on a state that the Democrats barely carried in 2004, the Republicans I encountered in Janesville may just be demonstrating the good sportsmanship of people who know they have been beaten fair and square.
Next weekend I am heading down to Indiana to see whether the Hoosiers will vote Democratic for the first time since 1964.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
However, today Farrell absolutely nailed the hole in Alan Greenspan's deregulatory philosophy:
The problem with the models is that it does assume rational behavior. As
far as an institution protecting its equity, which is what [Greenspan] said,
institutions don’t protect equity, people protect equity. The people in
those institutions saw huge bonuses by pumping this stuff out. So if you
want to call that irrational behavior, it’s irrational as far as the economy
wound up going, but it is very rational for their self-interest. There is
no institutional self-interest. . . . [Greenspan] still just doesn’t get
As I noted in my recent post on Corporations and the Free Market, corporations are imaginary people. They are creatures of law. They do not have instincts like fear and self-preservation. If the regulatory scheme is not designed to tie the compensation of the executives to the long term health of the company and the risk of loss, there is nothing in the nature of the corporation to deter those executives from risking catastrophic losses that will fall on society as a whole in order to earn returns that they will enjoy.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
That quote struck me deeply when I first read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance thirty years ago and I have been pondering it again recently. The McCain campaign is stirring up its base by identifying them as “real Americans” from “the real America” or “the real Virginia.” Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachman wants a new McCarthy style witch hunt to smoke out members of Congress who might harbor “anti-American” sentiments. While part of the GOP playbook since 1968, the “us-vs-them” strategy seems to be the entire GOP game plan this time around.
In a parallel vein, I had an amusing experience with some deleted comments on the blog of evangelical Christian Roger Bearse. Roger had written a post arguing that it was reasonable for conservative Christians to view liberal scholars like Bart Ehrman and members of the Jesus Seminar as “attacking Christianity.” What particularly struck me was the following question: “Can anyone really believe that Christians are not entitled to self-definition, of who is or is not a believer, which beliefs do and do not form part of the apostolic teaching?” I could not help but think that he was might be less concerned about defining himself than he was about defining others.
So last night I posed what seemed to me to be an obvious and civil question:
How do you sufficiently define “Christian” in order to decide who gets to
participate in the self-definition?
This morning I found an e-mail notice of the following response from Roger:
I don't think that there is any genuine doubt as to who the Christians are!
When I went to Roger’s blog to post a comment, however, I found that Roger had deleted both my comment and his own. I was a little surprised because, but I still left a response:
If there were no “genuine doubt as to who the Christians are,” there would
be no need for self-definition.
My response was deleted within an hour.
I am usually not surprised when my comments are deleted because I know when I have intentionally been a smart ass or when I have raised issues that the blogger does not want to deal with. However, this time I was a little taken aback. If you are going to assert the necessity of separating the wheat from the chaff, I don’t think you should be surprised if someone asks you about your criteria.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Many Americans say they're uneasy about Obama. He's pretty new to them.We
can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a
dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he
rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the
Democratic Party's nominee for president.
Talk about your commie pinko claptrap!
Saturday, October 18, 2008
In November 2007 John McCain appeared on the radio show of unrepentant Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy. McCain has appeared on that show many times before and since. While Obama has repudiated Ayers radical activities, McCain says of Liddy, "I'm proud of you, I'm proud of your family. It's always a pleasure for me to come on your program, Gordon, and congratulations on your continued success and adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great."
As Stephen Chapman of the Chicago Tribune asked:
Which principles would those be? The ones that told Liddy it was fine to breakTalk about palling around with terrorists.
into the office of the Democratic National Committee to plant bugs and
photograph documents? The ones that made him propose to kidnap anti-war
activists so they couldn't disrupt the 1972 Republican National Convention? The
ones that inspired him to plan the murder (never carried out) of an unfriendly
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
He was publishing books on education, helping lead a charge to get grant money for school reform and being honored as Chicago's Citizen of the Year in 1997.
Today, some say this was an outrage. Ayers should have been shunned and marginalized, loudly criticized, not embraced, by the city's political and academic establishment.
But the record shows he just wasn't a very controversial figure. Aside from Royko's "I still think he's a jerk" column in 1990, I found only two objections to Ayers' civic rehabilitation in the decade's news archives: a 1993 letter to the Tribune and a 1999 guest commentary.
If there were protests or organized efforts opposing Ayers, the papers didn't cover them.
If any of Mayor Richard M. Daley's feckless opponents tried to use his approval of Ayers as an issue in the 1990s, I can find no evidence of it.
And if any of the pillars of society who helped oversee the Chicago Annenberg Challenge education grants ever resigned or otherwise tried to distance themselves from Ayers, who played a key role in securing those grants, the available historical record is silent on the matter.It appears that during the period that Obama encountered him, Ayers literally was "just a guy in the neighborhood."
On the other hand, during the years that Todd Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence Party when Sarah Palin attended one convention and addressed another, the AIP openly advocated giving Alaskans the opportunity to vote themselves out of the United States. I suspect that the Palins encountered a lot more open hostility to America than Obama ever encountered with William Ayers.
Monday, October 13, 2008
He doesn't share Rev. Wright's poisonous views of race nor Ayers' views, past and present, about the evil that is American society. But Obama clearly did not consider these views beyond the pale. . . . [F]or the years in which he sat in Wright's pews and shared common purpose on boards with Ayers, Obama considered them a legitimate, indeed unremarkable, part of social discourse.Charles Krauthammer, October 10, 2008
58,000 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam. More than 150,000 were wounded. The South Vietnamese army may have lost more than 250,000 soldiers while 1,100,000 died fighting for North Vietnam. Civilian deaths might have been as high as 2,000,000.
Surely a discussion of whether the United States’ actions in Vietnam were justified is a legitimate part of social discourse. Certainly this discourse can include consideration of the immorality of different methods of opposing that war, but consideration of the morality of the war itself cannot be “beyond the pale” in a country that claims to embrace freedom of speech.
In 1953, the CIA overthrew the legitimate government of Iran and installed the Shah in its place. This led to the 1979 Islamic revolution and the taking of American hostages. During the 1980’s, the Reagan Administration provided support to both sides in the Iran-Iraq war depending on its perception of the United States' interests at the moment. After the first Gulf War, the Bush 41 administration urged the Kurds and Shia to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein and then turned a blind eye as Saddam viciously suppressed them. Over the years, the United States has supplied the arms that kept the Saudi monarchy in power while that same monarchy funded the Wahabbist sect from which Osama bin Laden sprang.
Is it really beyond the pale to consider the connection between the foreign policy of the United States in the Middle East and the 9/11 attacks? Is the very suggestion that “America’s chickens came home to roost” on 9/11 so outrageous that anyone who dares to articulate that possibility must be shunned from all polite society?
Why is Krauthammer so eager to paint these issues as illegitimate subjects of discussion. Could it be because he was one of the biggest cheerleaders for the War in Iraq? Could it be that he simply wants to quash all discussions of the consequences of America’s military adventures in order to avoid discussing the morality of his own positions?
Sunday, October 5, 2008
[T]he defining moment of the debate was when a young governor from a remote, sparsely populated state strode confidently across the national stage, stuck out her hand for a firm handshake, looked a silver-haired senator of 36 years' tenure squarely in the eye, and said: "Nice to meet you. Hey, can I call you Joe?"
At that moment, the champagne bubble of the elites popped. For millions of viewers (but almost no national pundits), the juxtaposition telegraphed a clear message: "She's not one of them, she's one of us. But she isn't awed by him. She's not afraid."I cannot help but think that this goes a long way towards explaining the threats of violence directed towards Kathleen Parker after she suggested that Sarah Palin should step down as John McCain’s running mate. After all, if the defining moment for you has nothing to do with experience, intelligence, knowledge of the issues, ability, or qualifications, what possible response can you have to someone who points out Palin's shortcomings in those areas other than vitriol and threats.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
First Draft offers some terrific insights into Parker's predicament:
Honestly, what did you think?
These are the people who called 9/11 widows grief pimps . . .
These are the people who laughed at the idea of Timothy McVeigh making a detour to the New York Times Building. . . .
These are the people who said Pat Tillman's family should shut up and go away. That Cindy Sheehan was a whore. That Valerie Plame was a criminal. That Richard Clarke was a monster.
Did you think it would be different because you've written favorably of their pet causes in the past? The past doesn't exist to these people. There is no yesterday. There is no last week. There is no last year. There's only today, and you're with them or you're not. . . .
Friday, September 26, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Suppose you start a bank by selling $10 worth of stock and taking $100 of deposits. It invests $100 in a bond issued by XYZ corporation. Your bank's balance sheet would look like this:
|Cash||$ 10||Liability to depositors||$ 100|
|XYZ Corp. bond||$ 100||EQUITY|
|Shareholder Equity||$ 10|