Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Good Morning!  

I had the most amazingly beautiful dream last night.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Blog Against Theocracy: Meet The Theocrats Part I  

by tristero

This Easter weekend, there is a blogswarm going on called Blog Against Theocracy. My contribution is a bit idiocsyncratic, namely a series of posts consisting of numerous excerpts from a book advocating theocracy entitled With Liberty & Justice for All: Christian Politics Made Simple by Joe Morecraft III. There will be a lot of material but if you are worried about the “religious right” – what I call christianism - I hope that you will take the time to read it all.

Important note to new readers: As many longtime followers of my work know, my respect for all forms of genuine religious expression is a matter of long public record. Theocracy, however, is not religious, but political expression. Privately, and within his church and congregation, Joe Morecraft is entitled to worship (or not) as he sees fit.

However, Morecraft is not entitled to immunity from criticism, let alone tolerance, when he heaps contempt on American democracy, distorts American history, and openly advocates the overthrow of the US government and its replacement with a sadistically violent totalitarian state. When he does so by appropriating biblical iconography and texts - which he arbitrarily and perversely interprets as providing him and his pals with a monopoly on the truth of God's will - it is Joe Morecraft, not I, who deeply insults all Christians.

Why I Am Doing This

For the most part, I will try to limit my comment on these excerpts to brief explanations that attempt to clarify the text. I will also point to echoes of this text in other theocratic writings. For the most part, while my bias is clear, I will not try to refute anything said. Why? Well, for one thing, I have spent some four years doing exactly that, on this blog and on my own, Tristero, and in numerous comments, public talks, lectures, and papers. Detailed refutations of specific theocratic arguments – say, that the US was founded as an explicitly Christian nation - are very easy to find, by me and others. There’s little point in saying all that again. For another, I think it’s important to encounter theocratic texts for yourselves and develop your own objections.

I’ve noticed that, aside from commenting on one or more obnoxious soundbites, few of us liberals bother to attend to the full spectrum of what theocrats say and do. And it’s no wonder; it’s genuinely unpleasant reading. But the problem is that those provocative, isolated soundbites provide a terribly distorted picture of what theocrats are up to. If you encounter short excerpts of Rushdoony or North, they sound crazy. But when you read a lot of their thoughts, you gain a much more detailed and accurate impression of a fascistic, demented and frightening mentality. More importantly, if you encounter only one or two theocratic arguments you may be left with the impression that modern American theocracy is a religious idea or a religious movement. That is a serious mistake. I think if you take the trouble to read all the excerpts I post here, chances are likely that you’ll conclude, as I have, that christianism is a highly influential and extremely dangerous political movement that is more mainstream than you might imagine.

In order to understand what American theocracy is - and why those of us who are worried about it are worried sick over it - you need to encounter it in context and that means reading beyond deliberately tendentious soundbites like, “9/11 is God’s vengeance on a corrupt United States.” You need to see how the various pieces of their arguments are developed and interconnect. You also need to see how the theocrats deliberately manufacture opportunities to create coalitions with non-religious extremists. And you need to see how theocratic ideas have become not only more acceptable, but actually become mainstream topics of political discourse.

In short, if you want to understand how to confront theocracy – and with a lot of effort on our part on a lot of different fronts, I think it can be re-consigned to the ugly margins of American public discourse - you need to find out not only what they think, but how they think. And that will take examining what theocrats say in context.

Morecraft's book is useful because it is stylistically consistent and short. Also, Morecraft is unusually blunt and direct both in his language and his intentions. That said, it is not, repeat NOT, “the Christianist Manifesto.” It’s not even close. There probably is no such thing. The theocrats, for many reasons, simply don’t work like that. For one thing, there is so much they intuitively agree about, there’s no reason to bother. For another, they are way ahead of us. They know what they want; their focus now is on implementation, not theorizing.

But the excerpts from Morecraft’s book will give you an excellent introduction to their genuinely bizarre mindset. It’s my hope that these excerpts dispel a lot of liberal misconceptions about the theocrats. For example, what theocrats like Dobson and Donohue mean by “religious freedom” and “tolerance” is very different than our understanding of the terms. By getting a clearer view of their rationales, deceptions, distortions, and obsessions, I think we will be better able to craft more effective ways to fight them.

God knows we need all the help we can get.

Later today, I will post excerpts from the introduction to With Liberty & Justice for All which was written by R.J. Rushdoony, the founder of Christian Reconstruction. Over the weekend, I will post excerpts from the book proper.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Paranoia Strikes Deep  

Via Digby comes an article on the strange death, from friendly fire, of sports star and soldier Pat Tillman in Afghanistan. Bottom line: the article implies and Digby explicitly conjectures that Tillman, a vocal opponent of both the Iraq war and Bush, could have been fragged because his fame made him too dangerous to the powers that be.

Personally, I doubt it. I seriously doubt Tillman was fragged; the article makes a very slim case for believing anyone proactively caused Tillman's death.* But if more evidence accumulates and the case fattens up, it would come as no surprise. To believe that some Bush supporters would resort to cold-blooded murder of a fellow American if they thought it would serve their cause takes very little imagination.

Not after seeing "joke" hunting licenses targeting liberals. Not after Coulter said the only problem she had with McVeigh is that he didn't target the NY Times building. Not after opponents of the Iraq war were repeatedly labelled "objectively pro Saddam." Not after Bush opponents were labelled apologists for terrorism by some of the most prominent politicians, media sources, and pundits in this country.

And certainly not after "extraordinary rendition," Abu Ghraib, and all the other tortures, murders and Bush-perpetrated horrors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

*True, what concerns Digby and led to his speculation of fragging is far more substantive than the nonsense that caused Falwell and others to accuse Clinton of murder, drug running, and the like. But it still falls short, as I read it, of leading to plausible suspicions of deliberate murder. One more reason to marvel at how outrageous the rightwing charges against Clinton actually were.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Living In An F State  

Surprise, surprise.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Michael Totten Needs His Real Friends. NOW.  

(Links added, content slightly revised.)

Michael Totten is, to be sure, not a man I either like or whose judgment I respect. But now, he is about to do something incredibly stupid and his clueless supporters are more than prepared to let him go ahead and do it.

According to his blog, Michael intends to move to Beirut soon, ignore State Department warnings, see what he can see amongst the Hezbollah and the Palestinians, go inside Syria, and tell us all about it on Tech Central Station. I kid you not. Needless to say, Michael has no real experience as a foreign correspondent, no real knowledge of the area outside his reading of neocon fantasies, and no idea of how to judge the character of the people he encounters.

Michael's real friends need to talk sense to him. Immediately.

Let's be up front about this. Michael Totten is trying to get himself killed. Why, I have no idea. While I don't like Michael's politics in the slightest, I have no desire to wish him personally ill. No way should he go to Beirut.

It is difficult to paraphrase the sheer madness of Michael's plans, so here is some of what he wrote:
The first places I’m going to visit after I secure my apartment are the very places the State Department tells me not to go anywhere near: Hezbollah’s militarized state-within-a-state in Beirut’s southern suburbs, and the wretched Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla. Then I’m going to Damascus so I can experience a real live Baath Party police state up close and in person.
A "real live Baath Party police state..." What the hell is he thinking? This is not how a knowledgeable man describes his interest in observing up close a dangerously repressive government.

Perhaps Michael believes he is 10 years old and he's going to the circus and he'll get to hold a real live boa constrictor which will provide a suitably controlled frisson of danger. Or maybe he's consciously echoing Tom Friedman's notoriously idiotic lede from a column penned in the early months of the Iraq fiasco: "It isn’t often you get to see a live political science experiment." Did Michael think he was being cute, or funny, or maybe hip and cynical when he wrote this? Whatever, dude. What he lets slip, as Friedman did, is that he has no idea whatsoever what he is fantasizing about.

Michael continues:
I am not an unbiased observer, and I have no intention to write bloodlessly neutral 'he said, she said' AP-style wire pieces.
Indeed he won't. There very well will be plenty of blood around. His own.

Why on earth is Michael doing this? He explains:
I’ve had enough of opinionated bloviating for a while...
In other words, he's going off to get himself killed because he's tired of talking. That is simply nuts.

And then he immediately continues:
... and I’m looking forward to adding to the world’s knowledge, even if ever so slightly, rather than merely adding to the world’s noise. "

As if a blogger, with no experience as a foreign reporter in a war zone, with no deep knowledge of the area he will be covering, a man who cannot speak the languages he encounters, who knows almost no one in the area, is in a position to impart anything resembling knowledge. That is equally deluded.

Now here's what will happen to poor Michael if someone he respects doesn't shake some sense into him.

The best case scenario is that Michael lands in Beirut and, using connections from his neo-con online buddies (and who knows, maybe a CIA agent or two), merrily goes about interviewing third rate bureaucrats and attending embassy parties, naively reporting middle east propaganda as if it is really deep insight into a country's soul. Occasionally, he'll exchange deeply felt passionate expressions of peace with those ubiquitous paragons of street wisdom, the cabbies who drive him back and forth to his flat. Michael will learn nothing he couldn't learn from a trip to the local library, see nothing dangerous, and come back to the US with exotic stories, some great hummus recipes and little else to mark his time in the Middle East except perhaps a bad case of the runs.

But if Michael actually decides to do what he says - ignore State Department warnings, and go about his biased ways into the heart of the Hezbollah - even money says he will end like poor Danny Pearl. Because let's not forget, Pearl was smart as a whip, talented, knew what he was doing, had experience, and while a committed reporter, was no idealistic fool. Michael Totten has none of Pearl's obvious advantages. And Michael is going into an area just as dangerous as Pakistan.

Perhaps Michael thinks he can pull off a cynical career breakthrough, reasoning that if he can hobnob with mediocrities and merely appear to do something bold and dangerous rather than actually do it, he will come back to the US with a rep that he can parlay into a role as a genuine expert, a true TV-ready pundit. He can't. His chances of meeting anyone important, unless he has serious connections, are zero. Even if he has those connections, the chances that anyone important will tell him, a total novice, anything interesting are also zero.

But really, I hear the romantics riposte, who knows? Maybe Michael's naivete will work to his advantage and he will really do something important to help advance our knowledge of the Middle East,

Well, I know. And I am telling you that if you are a friend of Michael Totten's, you should stop reading this, call him up, and talk some sense into him.

If Michael wants to learn something and do some good, he should go to school, learn Arabic or Persian, get a degree in poli-sci, and join State. Or join the Army. Or just simply keep on blogging.

Okay, I've done my bit. I urged Michael in his comments to his post to stop his foolishness. He deleted my comments. I sent him a letter urging him to find an excuse and not go. No response.

I repeat, I don't like him very much, but I see no reason why he should go blithely off in search of some faux-Hemingway epiphany, urged on by brain-dead sycophants. If you are his friend, please contact him and talk him out of this incredibly bad idea.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Global War On Nature  

What now? Is he going to pray to God to come and part the waters? Declare a Global War On Nature and pre-emptively attack the Atlantic winds in order to end all natural disasters in our lifetime? Why not? It makes as much sense as the End of Evil his advisers talked about for some four years.

And so finally, the scales are starting to fall. Unfortunately many of us were right: it took the tragic deaths of thousands of Americans before the country would start to get it. Little did we know, however, that those deaths would come not in war, or from terrorism, but from an utterly pointless, utterly avoidable, utterly inexcusable neglect of his oath in the aftermath of a predicted and well-tracked natural disaster.

But there he now stands in the harsh light of the Louisiana afternoon, smirking and joking his way through his photo-ops tour, his treasured vacation tragically cut short. But this time, no one except his paid acolytes have a kind word left for him.

Some of the reporters seem shell-shocked, not only by the horrors they witnessed but by the sheer awful failure of the Bush government to meet this huge, yet manageable, crisis before it descended into hell. As he swaggers and blinks and mugs for the cameras in the hot sun, hardly anyone's buying his cheap act for a second. And to many, who are seeing him as he really is for the first time, the sight of the real George W. Bush is as horrible and as grotesque as the rotting corpse of a poor lady in a wheelchair abandoned in a ruined city once known for its proud, joyful zest for living, its music, and its charm. The newly awakened shake their heads and wonder aloud:

The safety of my children and my country depend on this man?

Welcome to reality in the late summer of 2005.

Friday, May 20, 2005

There Is No Compromise Possible  

Jeralyn over at Talk Left urges all liberal bloggers to speak out against a compromise that would permit the likes of Patricia Owen to get confirmed by the Congress. So I am breaking my blog silence to say that I fully agree that no compromise is possible on this issue.

The Republicans have framed this in the typically fascistic manner that they've used since Bush entered the White House. They are prepared to tear up the Constitution in order to appoint mediocrities, incompetents, and extremists to the courts without opposition from anyone who is not a party member.

There is no conceivable compromise with such tactics, as it would no longer permit the United States to have a government of the kind that Jefferson, Washington, and Franklin -to name just three- had in mind. Regardless of whether the Republicans succeed at this one, however, the restoration of any kind of genuine democracy after the havoc Bush has wreaked on our system will take years to repair, if it happens at all.

Two predictions: If they lose now, they will surely try again -and probably succeed- when Bush nominates someone far to the right of Scalia to the Supreme Court. While I don't know his health, but assuming it's ok, I suspect Bush may try to nominate Bork, even if he is 78 or so.

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