The Hermeneutist of Suspicions

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I've Moved!

Come and visit me! This world has ended... Blame it on

Monday, March 21, 2005

Maybe you don't, but I find this kinda surprising.

Bacardi 151
Congratulations! You're 134 proof, with specific scores in beer (120) , wine (100), and liquor (104).

All right. No more messing around. Your knowledge of alcohol is so high
that you have drinking and getting plastered down to a science. Sure,
you could get wasted drinking beer, but who needs all those trips to
the bathroom? You head straight for the bar and pick up that which is
most efficient.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 64% on proof
You scored higher than 96% on beer index
You scored higher than 92% on wine index
You scored higher than 92% on liquor index
Link: The Alcohol Knowledge Test written by hoppersplit on Ok Cupid

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

While I was Out....

A bunch of stuff happened. So now, with a moment between grading papers and indexing the book, some thoughts about a few things hitting close to home.

First off, full props to my man, Dr. Howard Dean, new chair of the Democratic National Committee! I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Give 'em Hell, Howard!

Second, the issue of academic freedom has been in the news quite a bit recently. I'm not going to deal with the remarks on women's advancement by the President of Harvard University, because I find the whole controversy minor and boring. But if you want to see what my dad has to say about it, and my response in the comments, then click here!

More important are the controversy over the essay by historian Ward Churchill, and the legislation promoting an "Academic Bill of Rights" in Ohio. Both of these stories strike at the very heart of what it means to be in the academy, but for quite different reasons.

Academic freedom plays a role in both, to be sure, but I believe that it applies to Dr. Churchill only insofar as no one should ever be fired because people were offended by what you wrote. That is the very definition of academic freedom and the very justification for the protections of tenure. My university had a University Conference today, in fact, on "Liberal Arts for Civic Engagement," in which the keynote speaker and Baldwin Lecturer, Donald Harward, stated quite accurately that the job of the academic in the liberal arts is to be an "engaged contrarian," constantly challenging society's preconceived notions about itself and the world. Not comfortable stuff, to be sure -- hence America's anti-intellectualism and generally low opinion of educators (while, paradoxically, making a great fuss about the value of education).

That said, though, academic freedom is not license to be an idiot. In fact, being an "academic" means you're not allowed to put any old crap on paper and call it analysis. Churchill's essay in question, "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," is the sort of thing that gives both academics and liberals a bad name -- and I would have graded it very harshly had it been submitted in even my 100-level survey course. The central point I agree with, too: the 9/11 attacks were in response to decades of American foreign policy that, whatever else it achieved, created the conditions of both real and perceived injustice for innumerable people in the Middle East. Of course, immediately after 9/11, any discussion of the specific complaints that peoples of this region have with the U.S., especially concerning Israel, was verbotten. "You're sympathizing with the terrorists!" Fox-watchers would scream. "You hate America!" No, not at all. I just think if you are going to respond to an attack, you should try to understand the reason for the attack. "They hate freedom" is not the reason. "They would like the same freedoms we have but ensure they don't have" is closer to the mark.

So what's wrong with Churchill's essay? We can all agree it's this: not only blaming the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center, but calling them "little Eichmanns, " a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who oversaw Hitler's Final Solution against the Jews. Here is a case where Godwin's Law applies -- named for Mike Godwin, who observed
"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." Usenet tradition then held that whomever invoked the Nazis or Hitler automatically lost the argument. It's a way of saying that comparing anyone or anything to the Third Reich is an incredibly easy and incredibly lazy way of scoring rhetorical points, without advancing any kind of actual argument or demonstrating any real analysis at all. Boom, Nazi trump card! Game over.

This is exactly what Churchill does. Those people who died were Nazis, so they deserved what they got, and we don't have to feel sorry for them. Case closed.

Excuse me, my professor brain thinks, who's a Nazi? Just the people in the WTC? Not, by your reasoning, everyone in America? My, wasn't that convenient for them all so have shown up there on the same day. Was there some sort of foreign policy Nazi convention at the WTC on 9/11? I don't think so. So what's your argument, Ward? In a democracy, we are all partially responsible for our government's actions? Certainly that's true in an abstract sense, but 9/11 demands specificity, not abstractions. Those nearly 3000 lives lost were not abstractions. How many among them had possibly fought for justice in that region of the world? How many had opposed those policies? How many were not American? Were they also "little Eichmanns" just by virtue of being in that place at that time? And what of those who either didn't know anything about American foreign policy in the region, or who supported administrations -- Republican and Democratic -- who executed those policies? That's the exact equivalence of personally overseeing the murder of 6 million Jews? There's no difference to you between direct action and tacit complicity? Here's an analogy of my own: If the police catch a serial killer, and he's sentenced to death, would you advocate that the state execute his whole family too, since they supported him, even if they didn't know what he was doing? They still made it possible for him to commit his crimes, so they're complicit, right?

It's embarrassments like this that give rise to the sentiments behind Ohio's proposed "Academic Bill of Rights." Ostensibly, it is to prevent egghead professors from "presenting opinions as fact or penalizing students for expressing their views. Professors would not be allowed to introduce controversial material unrelated to the course." But the comments from the bill's sponsor say a lot more...

"'I see students coming out having gone in without any ideological leanings one way or another, coming out with an indoctrination of a lot of left-wing issues,' said bill sponsor Sen. Larry Mumper, a former high school teacher whose Republican party controls the Legislature."

"Mumper said he is concerned universities are not teaching the values held by taxpaying parents and students. He questioned why lawmakers should approve funding for universities with 'professors who would send some students out in the world to vote against the very public policy that their parents have elected us for.'" [Emphasis mine.]

Deep breath. Sigh. So much for "engaged contrarians." So much for college students as adults who can make up their own minds. So much for the free market of ideas. Nope, apparently a univerisity's job is to deepen a student's appreciation of the rightness of the status quo, and how mommy and daddy were never wrong about anything ever. Because, you know, if you don't want your kid's 18 year old ideas about the world challenged, by all means send 'em to college. And make sure it's a good liberal artsy one. 'Cause they're not there to learn anything new, apparently.

And once again, I'm happy not to live in Ohio.

[Boy, was that the longest and best linked post ever from me?!]

Monday, January 31, 2005

Bill Moyers: Too Important not to Post

I had seen part of this speech Bill Moyers gave upon receiving the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School excerpted in Salon's War Room blog, but it was just e-mailed to me in full. Bill gets the big picture. What Democrat (besides Howard Dean and possibly the new and improved Al Gore) also does? (Note: despite the environment being his baliwick, Nader doesn't get it either).

Bill Moyers on what's happening - "There is no tomorrow"

>>One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the
delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat
of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our
history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.
>>Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold
>>stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally
>>accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring
are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters
>>and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.
>>Remember James Watt, President Ronald Reagan's first secretary of the
>>interior? My favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging
Grist, reminded us recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that
>>protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent
return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony he said, "after the last tree is
>>felled, Christ will come back."
>>Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking
>>about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the
>>country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true --
>>one-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate.
>>In this past election several million good and decent citizens went to the
>>polls believing in the rapture index.
>>That's right -- the rapture index. Google it and you will find that the
>>best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the "Left
Behind" series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious-right warrior
>>Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology
>>concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took
>>disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has
>>captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.
>>Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George
Monbiot recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to him for
>>adding to my own understanding): Once Israel has occupied the rest of its
>>"biblical lands," legions of the antichrist will attack it, triggering a
>>final showdown in the valley of Armageddon.
>>As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will
return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and
>>transported to Heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they
>>will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of
boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.
>>I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've
>>reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West
>>Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel
called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's
why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and
>>backed up their support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion
of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations
where four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released
>>to slay the third part of man." A war with Islam in the Middle East is not
>>something to be feared but welcomed -- an essential conflagration on the
>>road to redemption. The last time I Googled it, the rapture index stood at
>>144 -- just one point below the critical threshold when the whole thing
will blow, the son of God will return, the righteous will enter Heaven and
>>sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.
>>So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go to Grist
to read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist Glenn Scherer --
"The Road to Environmental Apocalypse." Read it and you will see how millions
of Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental destruction is
not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed -- even hastened -- as a sign
>>of the coming apocalypse.
>>As Grist makes clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe
lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress
>>before the recent election -- 231 legislators in total and more since the
>>election -- are backed by the religious right.
>>Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th Congress earned 80 to 100
>>percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian right
>>advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Assistant
>>Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum of
>>Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker Dennis
Hastert and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only Democrat to score 100 percent with
the Christian coalition was Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted
>>from the biblical book of Amos on the Senate floor: "The days will come,
>>sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land." He seemed to
be relishing the thought.
>>And why not? There's a constituency for it. A 2002 Time-CNN poll found
that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the book of
>>Revelations are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible
>>predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country with your radio tuned
>>to the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations, or in the motel turn on
>>some of the 250 Christian TV stations, and you can hear some of this
>>end-time gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the
spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry
>>about the environment. Why care about the earth, when the droughts,
floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the
>>apocalypse foretold in the Bible? Why care about global climate change
when you and yours will be rescued in the rapture? And why care about
converting from oil to solar when the same God who performed the miracle of the
loaves and fishes can whip up a few billion barrels of light crude with a word?"
>>Because these people believe that until Christ does return, the Lord will
>>provide. One of their texts is a high school history book, "America's
>>Providential History." You'll find there these words: "The secular or
>>socialist has a limited-resource mentality and views the world as a pie
... that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a piece." However, "[t]he
>>Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is
no shortage of resources in God's earth ... while many secularists view the
>>world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth
>>sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all of the people."
>>No wonder Karl Rove goes around the White House whistling that militant
>>hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers." He turned out millions of the foot
>>soldiers on Nov. 2, including many who have made the apocalypse a powerful
>>driving force in modern American politics.
>>It is hard for the journalist to report a story like this with any
>>credibility. So let me put it on a personal level. I myself don't know how
>>to be in this world without expecting a confident future and getting up
>>every morning to do what I can to bring it about. So I have always been an
>>optimist. Now, however, I think of my friend on Wall Street whom I once
>>asked: "What do you think of the market?"I'm optimistic," he answered.
"Then why do you look so worried?" And he answered: "Because I am not sure my
>>optimism is justified."
>>I'm not, either. Once upon a time I agreed with Eric Chivian and the
Center for Health and the Global Environment that people will protect the natural
>>environment when they realize its importance to their health and to the
>>health and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure. It's not that I
>>don't want to believe that -- it's just that I read the news and connect
the dots.
>>I read that the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
>>has declared the election a mandate for President Bush on the environment.
>>This for an administration:
>>• That wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the
>>Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and animal species and their
>>habitats, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires
>>the government to judge beforehand whether actions might damage natural
>>• That wants to relax pollution limits for ozone; eliminate vehicle
tailpipe inspections, and ease pollution standards for cars, sport-utility vehicles
>>and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment.
>>• That wants a new international audit law to allow corporations to keep
>>certain information about environmental problems secret from the public.
>>• That wants to drop all its new-source review suits against polluting,
>>coal-fired power plants and weaken consent decrees reached earlier with
coal companies.
>>• That wants to open the Arctic [National] Wildlife Refuge to drilling
and increase drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest stretch
of undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great coastal wild
land in America.
>>I read the news just this week and learned how the Environmental
Protection Agency had planned to spend $9 million -- $2 million of it from the
>>administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council -- to pay poor
>>families to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These pesticides
have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an
>>end to their use, the government and the industry were going to offer the
>>families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to
serve as guinea pigs for the study.
>>I read all this in the news.
>>I read the news just last night and learned that the administration's
>>friends at the International Policy Network, which is supported by Exxon
>>Mobil and others of like mind, have issued a new report that climate
change is "a myth, sea levels are not rising" [and] scientists who believe
>>catastrophe is possible are "an embarrassment."
>>I not only read the news but the fine print of the recent appropriations
>>bill passed by Congress, with the obscure (and obscene) riders attached to
>>it: a clause removing all endangered species protections from pesticides;
>>language prohibiting judicial review for a forest in Oregon; a waiver of
>>environmental review for grazing permits on public lands; a rider pressed
by developers to weaken protection for crucial habitats in California.
>>I read all this and look up at the pictures on my desk, next to the
>>computer -- pictures of my grandchildren. I see the future looking back at
>>me from those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us, for we know not
>>what we do." And then I am stopped short by the thought: "That's not
right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying
their trust. Despoiling their world."
>>And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are greedy?
>>Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain
>>indignation at injustice?
>>What has happened to our moral imagination?
>>On the heath Lear asks Gloucester: "How do you see the world?" And
>>Gloucester, who is blind, answers: "I see it feelingly.'"
>>I see it feelingly.
>>The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a
>>journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be
>>the truth that sets us free -- not only to feel but to fight for the
future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for
>>cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those
>>photographs on my desk. What we need is what the ancient Israelites called
>>hochma -- the science of the heart ... the capacity to see, to feel and
then to act as if the future depended on you.
>>Believe me, it does.
>>© Copyright 2005 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Not so surprising

You are a Deconstructionist! Everything is
relative, stretched along an unending chain of
signifiers. You cannot even read a take-out
menu without deconstructing and destabilizing
the meaning of the text. You are one of the
chosen few who understand the writing of
Jacques Derrida! You delight in making meaning,
and taking meaning, trashing meaning and
bashing meaning, slaying meaning and playing
meaning. And you also like green eggs and ham.
No one understands you or really likes being
around you, but you don't care; they may not
exist anyway.

What kind of literary critic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Sunday, January 16, 2005

In case you were wondering

I am nerdier than 24% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Monday, January 10, 2005

For what it's worth...

Hello out there in the blogosphere! I apologize to you few brave souls that have missed my rantings on this site, but I was finding it hard to give a damn after the election. Still am. But it's time to emerge from my self-imposed exile -- until moderate left intellectuals such as myself are rounded up and sent into actual exile...

Heh heh. Just kidding. Or am I...?

Anyway, you can see the mood I'm in. The fact of the matter is that, with the clear public -- and federal -- rejection of decision making based on "fact" and "reality," it's hard to see on what grounds ideologues and theocrats can be challenged. If you want to see what we're in for, look no further than Pennsylvania and the battle over evolution in school science cirricula.

And even though the election was still a close one, and really nothing radically changed in terms of the Republican/Democrat, rural/urban, conservative/liberal divide, what was ratified was the state of things: There may be a divide, but one side of it has ALL the power.

That means no checks and balances anywhere, including and especially Congress. But what I find bizarre, still, is this: Regardless of your politics, if you are in Congress, your role is to be separate from the Executive Branch and to exercise oversight over it. Yet from No Child Left Behind to the War in (on) Iraq to the Medicaid drug benefit, the Bush adminstration has flat out lied to Congress, embarrassed its members, shamed even its allies. Bait and switch. Cook the books.

So why, when it comes to confirming nominees, such as Alberto "The Geneva Conventions are Quaint" Gonzales, or looking to destroy Social Security as we know it, does Congress believe ANYTHING this adminstration tells it? It should have zero credibility; and yet, as if the election wiped out all of the criminality of the first four years, Republicans and Democrats both can wait to support any whim that is placed in the President's head.

Face it. If democracy depends on informed citizens and an open and often contentious debate of ideas in the governing bodies, we have reached the end of democracy in America.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Got advice?

Here's my response to Terry McAulffe's request for feedback for the Democratic party:

I am a professor of Religious Studies in a liberal arts university in a Red State (Truman State University, Kirksville, MO).

I teach critical thinking and a deep understanding of religious traditions, including fundamentalism and apocalypticism. I think the Dem. party has to get attuned to BOTH the ways these traditions view the world, and how these ways are basically un-democratic and un-American.

The number one motivator of these groups is a sense that they are under attack by secular society. They dismiss information from the secular world: journalists, scientists, academics, and informed politicians. This is a problem for how American politics has been conducted in most of the histor of this society.

If Democrats are going to take back the more high ground, they have to defend something unimpeachable: the tradition of the informed voter, the tradition of individual freedom, not imposed by the govt. or the church, the tradition of open and accountable government.

The Republicans have ceded being the party of small government and personal liberty -- Democrats MUST sieze on this. Hypocricy is not moral. Supporting an unjust war launched for false reason is not moral. It is a sin.

If you want a Biblical model for how Democrats effect change now without betraying their traditional values, look at the Old Testament prophets, who railed against a corrupt King and Priesthood, who led the nation into bloody wars and in comfort while their people, their widows, their orphans suffered.

Just as important, the great fear of liberals and progressives is that this Bush Administration will tell us, and the whole country, what we can do and not do -- the same fear that conservatives have had about liberals for half a century. They didn't like it when it affected them, but they'll love it when they can do it to others.

Of course, the hypocricy here is that Democrats as liberals wanted to increase freedoms. Conservatives are not for freedom; they are bothered that people are free to do things they disapprove of.

The moral values the Democrats stand for, and MUST make relevant in EVERY campaign:

Liberty for all, and accountiblity for those in power, both in goverment and in business.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Day After


There's lots I could say, but you're probably saying it all too. But if you thought this was a long four years, just wait...

Often, it's best just to quote "The Simpsons":

"This stupid country!"
-- Mayor Quimby

Monday, November 01, 2004

Nomenclature is Destiny

Okay, now it's crunch time:

I have two Presidential predictors that will either be affirmed or wrecked tomorrow (or whenever the vote counting stops):

1) Incumbent Presidents with 4-letter last names do not win re-election (or in Ford's case, election).

2) The candidate with more "n"'s in his name wins. If neither has an "n," then the one with more "r"'s wins.

By both counts, fate dictates that it's Kerry's day tomorrow....

Of course, by #2, Gore should have won against Bush. Of course, he actually did. But he would have lost in 2004 -- perhaps against McCain?

If Kerry wins, he's in trouble in 2008 against McCain or Gulliani. But if he doesn't, Hillary Clinton takes 'em both!

And She's the Democrat

Apart from the Prez race, there's another important race that will affect me directly, the one for Missouri's governor. As faculty at a state school that has seen its share of financial stress the last three years -- largely due to the Republican legislature's determination to cut taxes everywhere, and then tie its hands when new revenue is needed -- my colleagues and I will be in more trouble if we don't have a governor who gives a rats ass about higher education.

The Republican is a 33 year old product of nepotism, Matt Blunt, currently Mo's secy of state. In short, shallow and incompetent. The Democrat, Claire McCaskill, knocked our sitting governor, Bob Holden, out of the running in the primaries, largely because he withheld millions from education when his budget, which included tax increases to make up for budget shortfalls, was rejected by the state legisature. Same old story -- can't raise taxes, but then people get cranky when you cut funding for their services.

So, after being largely absent in Adair County, Claire finally puts in an appearance at Truman State. Some advice to you all, if you ever consider running for this office:

1) If you are speaking to a college after a tumultuous couple of years of funding (an issue you ran on in the primary), it would be wise to mention "higher education" at least ONCE. More talk about schools and less talk about old folks homes is a good rule of thumb.

2) If you tell a long anecdote about how you will take questions from anyone on radio call-in shows and your opponent won't, it's good form, then, TO TAKE A COUPLE OF GODDAMN QUESTIONS FROM YOUR AUDIENCE!!!!! Especially if you bill the event as a "Town Hall."

She hasn't earned my vote, but she'll get it, because I trust a Democrat with education (and every other issue) over a Republican any day. But note to Green Party: The Libertarians have a candidate in the race. The theocratic -- and ironically named -- Constitution Party have a candidate. I have been waiting for you to run good candidates in important races that you could actually win since college. Instead, in 2000 you think that Ralph Nader would actually be a good executive for the entire country.

If you want to change things, get in positions to do it. That means doing the hard work of getting legitmate experience, showing results, getting people to like and trust you, raising money, and applying it smartly. That's how the Christian Right took over the Republicans. Tired of the Democrats acting like the GOP? Put up a better candidate, take over the Dems from the inside, or shut up.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Let me get this straight....

Bush says, concerning the 380 tons of explosives gone missing in Iraq: "If Senator Kerry had his way ... Saddam Hussein would still be in power, he would control all those weapons and explosives, and could have shared them with our terrorist enemies."

So.... Before the invasion, we knew where these explosives were, the UN's international atomic energy watchdog group were keeping track of them and warned the US to secure them in the course of the invasion....

But.... The Bush Administration ignored these warnings and after the invasion, the explosives go missing, and are now definitely in the hands of "our terrorist enemies"....

And now.... Somehow we are better off regarding those explosives than if we hadn't invaded?

Needless to say, I don't get the President's point. As he himself points out:

"A political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander in chief."

You better believe it, W. That's why you're fired November 2.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Finally, Someone's Said It

You know, I used to respect the compromise that the Electoral College represented. Now I see who it gives an inordinant amount of electoral power to, and I say, fuck 'em. Let the majority rule!

Oddly, I don't think a single Democrat offered a Constitutional amendment eleminating the E.C. after 2000....

Once again, from Salon's War Room:

Are people who live in cities real Americans? NRO says no!

Of all the Republican arguments for maintaining the Electoral College, the one that Gary L. Gregg makes today in the National Review Online is both the most honest and the most appalling. Gregg's piece, titled a "Counting the Real People's Vote" argues that without the electoral advantage given to small, rural red states, American elections would be dominated by "a metropolitan elite who distain the cultures and values of middle America." In other words, the urban vote needs to be diluted because it's so Democratic.

It's perfectly fair to argue that the Electoral College is needed to protect the interests of minority voters against the tyranny of the majority. But Gregg's argument is more sinister. By separating voters into "real people," whose votes should be given extra weight, and the "secular urban base" who don't quite count as fully legitimate citizens, he reveals one of the driving forces behind the modern Republican party -- a party which professes to embody Americanism while hating a great part of America. "Al Gore demonstrated in 2000 that the national popular vote can be won by appealing to a narrow band of the electorate heavily secular, single, and concentrated in cities," Gregg writes. This is an amazing statement -- if this band is so "narrow," how can it also be a major part of a popular majority? The answer, in the right-wing imagination, is that only a certain kind of citizens constitute real Americans, and thus are implicitly deserving of power despite the fact that they're a minority.

"The electoral college is a democratic way of electing presidents that has produced good and moderate candidates in the past and gives some voice to the men and women who serve in the military, raise our families, and keep our communities of faith vibrant entities," he writes. Herein lies a central assumption that has infected America's political discourse -- that people in the so-called red states are somehow more virtuous, more hard-working and more patriotic than the decadent coastal elites. This assumption is why George Bush can so cavalierly insult Massachusetts -- a state that, as president, he ostensibly represents as much he does Alabama -- while John Kerry must genuflect before heartland culture of guns, NASCAR and beer. It's why the patriotism of people on the coasts is considered suspect while the loyalty of the red states is regarded as unquestionable, despite the fact that so much of Southern culture is devoted to celebrating the region's Confederate treason.

Although the self-loathing media perpetuates red-state chauvinism, there's no factual basis for it. As the Economist reported in 2002, despite the American heartland’s reputation for self-reliance and entrepreneurial zeal, "Sadly, its true characteristics are not vigour and independence but economic decline and government handouts. The small communities that are supposed to embody the American spirit are, in fact, haemorrhaging jobs, people and wealth." Meanwhile, the kind of poverty and moral decay that the original neoconservatives lamented in America’s inner cities are even more endemic in the middle of the country. "What about the heartland's much-vaunted moral qualities?” The Economist asked. "Here again the image of small-town piety bears little relation to reality in rural America. The states that Mr. Bush won in 2000 boast slightly higher rates for murder, illegitimacy and teenage childbirth than the supposedly degenerate states that voted for Mr. Gore."

But the argument that red staters deserve more power because of their virtue would be pernicious even if they were, in fact, virtuous. As Richard Hofstadter tells us his "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life," Hiram W. Evans, the Imperial Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, wrote in 1926 of the struggle between "the great mass of Americans of the old pioneer stock" and the "intellectually mongrelized 'Liberals.'" The language has changed, but the idea remains. Like other Republicans, Gregg seems to believe that some Americans, because of their racial or spiritual authenticity, have the right to rule others. There's a name for that, but it's not democracy.

-- Michelle Goldberg

Friday, October 22, 2004

UofC Divinity School to the Rescue!

Finally, my Ph.D. Alma Mater swings into action! From Salon's War Room:

Hitting Bush high and low

Bush may not be in touch with "the reality-based community," but he dresses up good. First he donned that manly flight suit to swaggeringly pronounce that we had kicked Iraqi ass -- in those happy days when his belief that there weren't going to be any casualties was still operative. Now he's draped himself in the spotless robes of Christian piety, preaching that the Iraq war is part of God's righteous plan to spread freedom throughout the world.

Alas, not all the nation's divines see the war, or Bush, in quite such a holy light. Today, 31 faculty members of the University of Chicago's Divinity School released a statement blasting Bush for invoking religion to justify the war. "It is often observed that the flag is a scoundrel's last resort, and that even the worst policies can successfully be wrapped in Old Glory. We believe the Bush administration is making similar misuse of religion in its attempt to justify the debacle in Iraq," the statement opens.

The academics continue: "Of greatest concern to us, the President maintains that America's sole interest in Iraq is to establish freedom, thereby serving God's plan for humanity. Thus, in his convention acceptance speech he described America as called to lead freedom's cause, freedom being God's gift to the world. And in the third debate he proclaimed: 'I believe that God wants everybody to be free. That's what I believe. And that's been part of my foreign policy.'

"We are persuaded that motives for the war were more varied and more questionable than the President acknowledges. Geopolitical calculations, desires for vengeance, military opportunism, and corporate interest (most notably greed for oil) all accompanied, and at times overshadowed the religious and moral considerations. To package this motley collection under the heading of 'freedom' is deliberately misleading: an offense to language and reason, but a familiar political strategy. To justify it as God's will, however, seems little short of sacrilege.

As faculty members of the University of Chicago Divinity School, we deplore this attempt to wrap failed policies in religious rhetoric. We call for the repudiation of Mr. Bush's war and his misuse of religion to defend or sanctify it."

Et tu, theologians? And the fact that this blow comes from the University of Chicago, home of the Strauss disciples who are heavily represented in Bush's administration, makes it an even unkinder cut. Still, Karl Rove and Co. probably aren't rushing into emergency session. Even if a new Council of Nicea was convened, pronounced Bush anathema and had him ritually burned in effigy as the Antichrist, Team Bush wouldn't much care unless it cost them a swing state.

Monday, October 18, 2004

How Great is This?

Not only is it a light bulb joke attributed to John Clesse, but I got it from William Gibson's (Neuromancer, Virtual Light) blog!

"How many Bush administration officials does it take to change a light bulb?

None. There’s nothing wrong with that light bulb. There is no need to change anything. We made the right decision and nothing has happened to change our minds. People who criticize this light bulb now, just because it doesn’t work anymore, supported us when we first screwed it in, and when these flip-floppers insist on saying that it is burned out, they are merely giving aid and encouragement to the Forces of Darkness."

-- John Cleese