Singing the Bite Me Song


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September 11, 2006

Response to Part 1 of the ABC fictionalized "docu-drama" "The Path to 9/11"

I wrote this yesterday, and just now, on listening to the President's speech tonight, I decided to post my thoughts from last night here as well. I have to think and process more on Part 2 and the president's speech, but my immediate thought, upon listening to the ridiculous editorializing of the ABC program, is that the president's handlers coordinated and scripted his address, probably from an advance DVD of the film, or visa versa. But I'll talk more about the ham-handedness of it all in another post. Dear lord, I just watched the film gloss over the delivery of the NIE warning to the president on August 6. And there was just some odd editing with garbled audio over a discussion about how the press disclosed a surveillance system and that has hurt the terrorism fight. (I mean, can you get more ham-handed?)

But first, I need to post this essay below.

I started writing this on an impulse to send it as a tip for media accuracy, at the site MediaMatters. But after I got sorta long-winded, I realized it really isn't the type of thing MediaMatters can pin down and expose.

What this really needs, what I really need it to be, is a visual and aural rhetorical study, a scholarly approach that can reach and persuade a lay audience while holding to the standards of proof and reasoning that good scholarship demands. It shouldn't just be an academic article that rots in an exclusive and unread academic journal.

In other words, I think a grad student somewhere should do this study I propose in general terms below as a seminar paper in a Rhetorical Criticism course or a Visual Rhetoric course, and then, of course, she should post it to her blog, where it can find a real audience.

I dunno. Maybe at some point in the future, I'll have more time to devote to the ideas below. But right now, I offer it here as a heuristic, a rambling starting point of sorts. You go gettum!

Miasma

An Open Letter to Media Matters (mediamatters.org):

Story TIP: The REAL dangers and inaccuracies in ABC's "Path to 9/11"

I had to watch it this evening, to see what made it in the final edit, what was toned down (very little was toned down, that I can see). Good god, this film is awful.

So you MediaMatters guys will run down the inaccuracies, and I count on you for that. But I wanted to alert you to the greater damage this film is doing, very subtle stuff.

I am deeply concerned over a kind of unthinking racism that this film not only reinforces, it also FEEDS it.

I'm referring specifically to the depictions of Muslims and terrorists outside the U.S., what ABC would probably call "cultural depictions," or "realism." It is the deepest propaganda of this film, because it flattens out Muslim cultures, makes them so "other" that the most important audience for this film, the racists and borderline racist people IN the U.S. could even be motivated to commit violences like those shown in the global hunt for terrorists in their extreme fervor and anger and quest for vengeance.

I would not be surprised to see events similar to lynchings, to what happened to Matthew Shepherd, in response to this film, if we were closer to the events of 9/11. Six years of Republicans in power have emboldened the closet racists in our culture to claim hegemony and to thump their chests more openly, by wearing their cultural prejudices and bigotry in public, by preaching them as cultural norms to increase the greater unthinking cultural bigotry in our society with a kind of critical mass (I get the same freaky feeling watching this film as I get from looking at old TV cigarette commercials where doctors tout their favorite ciggies).

I have not traveled much, but I've been to a mixed Muslim/Hindu nation, and around many scenes similar to those setting portrayed in the film in Muslim cultures. I am also an avid watcher of all types of news channels.

I understand that shooting guns in the air is a documented part of of many Middle East and Asian cultures, even at weddings.

I understand there's a different kind of background noise in markets, in cultures where people move around on foot and actually interact with each other outside of the exoskeletons Americans call cars.

But listen to the SOUNDTRACK of this film. Listen to where the background noise loops.

Yes, drumbeats and such are used to dramatic effects in the more even-handed film, "United 93." Calls to prayer are part of the sounds of the culture. Women singing, someone patting hypnotically on small skin drums. Yet ALWAYS, ABC depicts these terrorist camps and bases as utterly chaotic, noisy, almost incomprehensible, sort of like that choreographed "golden calf" idolatry orgy scene in DeMille's "Ten Commandments."

I'm struck in some ways by the caricatures of US military bases in "boot camp/drill sergeant" movies. The bases always have a busy background on camera, with a group doing calisthenics at all times, or jogging and chanting military chants.

And here, "terrorist training camps" always have to have chaotic scenes where Toyota trucks full of turbaned people careen around wildly while the turbaned people yell at the top of their lungs constantly and shoot guns in the air. Activity must always be at a constant fevered pitch. I'm amazed ABC left out a "mad gleam" in every terrorists' eyes, or why they didn't add flecks of spittle at the corners of their mouths, the Muslim equivalent of U.S. early media "black face" films, or perhaps even "Reefer Madness."

Against this backdrop, Americans' racist buttons are being pushed. The Muslims portrayed are consistently shown as "Other." We rarely see scenes from any other point of view than the US soldiers or intelligence operative's POV (apart from the occasional informants' POV, or that of the Northern Alliance leader Massoud).

It's sort of like how stories of British colonial arrogance appear to us now, as in Kipling, Burroughs, or even in Orwell (Shooting an Elephant, a masterpiece): unthinking, unconscious. Not deliberate racism so much as the unthinking arrogance of power and white ascendancy as an unquestioned entitlement.

This is a military recruitment film. It is designed to whip up unthinking gut-level anti-Muslim, anti-brown people racism (see also Macaca incident in VA), and make people who already have those inclinations desire to go overseas and take out their rage on some brown people who chant incomprehensible things in loud and chaotic, incomprehensible cultural spaces.

Yes, it is also designed to whip up fear, make you wonder what bomb-making equipment the brown person in the next apartment is keeping behind drawn shades. But I think anger and violence with racist triggers are an even bigger boogie man in this film than simple fear-mongering.

And I believe the most insidious effect of the film can be found in the background soundtrack in overseas Muslim cultural scenes. The "noise" loop.

I'm reminded of how the Valkyrie scene of the anti-war film "Apocalypse Now" is played to whip up soldier rage before shipping out in the movie "Jarhead." I believe many scenes from this film will have similar motivational uses within the US military as well.

We never see what triggers the Muslim anti-American rage. American soldiers just walk into it and can't comprehend why they are so hated and spit upon.

The answer the film provides is that Muslim rage is incomprehensible and can only be met by trying to humiliate and beat down Muslims.

Instead of fighting terrorism, what we are getting is a religious/cultural race war, with a demonized enemy created by a propaganda machine.

Leni Riefenstahl knew that it was the cultural depictions that mattered most, not just the content of Hitler's rousing speeches. This film does what WWII propaganda did to the depiction of "Japs" as evil, more so than Germans, which were more widely sympathetic in US culture, as was that unthinking gut-level right-wing fascist tilt at that time, in ordinary folks, not just Ford and IBM.

The racism of the film also reminds me of conversations I've had with my neighbors, a family who moved here from an Israeli kibbutz, very nice people. Like many Israelis in the US, they are left speechless at what they call the incomprehensible anti-Israel bias in US media. From talking with them, I can tell their objections exist because the Palestinian (and now, Lebanese) POV is presented AT ALL. They can't figure it out. According to them, the media must be anti-Israeli, because it is such a sharp contrast to the myopic groupthink of Israeli media.

I like and respect my neighbors, and have eaten at their home for Sabbath. But on this issue, there is simply NO other viewpoint that they can hold.

Journalists often say that if two polarized groups complain that you're biased to the other side, then you must be doing something right, as an equal opportunity offender.

But the US media is SO embarrassingly pro-Israel that I've watched repeatedly and counted casualties from news stories on both sides. Yet I've watched television coverage report ONLY the casualties on one side, Israeli casualties, and if reporting Arab casualties, downplaying them heavily in comparison.

Palestinian deaths are as invisible in US media as Iraqi casualties before the Iraqis started killing each other, back when most of the Iraqi civilian deaths were caused by U.S. acts of aggression and war.

So it appears many of the Israeli people, good people, are so steeped in their deep cultural racism against their hostile neighbors, can't even see that what they call bias in the U.S. media doesn't even come close to being bias.

People steeped in Israeli-style racism see their Arab neighbors as subhuman, perhaps made subhuman by their anti-Semitism, but subhuman nonetheless. Any depiction of Arabs as anything but hate-filled and incomprehensibly subhuman is a bias against Israel.

And this film also applies the beginnings of that same subhuman bias to the Muslims in the story. They are portrayed as incomprehensibly evil, incomprehensibly violent.

(Oh, except ABC's ubiquitous heroic correspondent (is John Miller a composite or a real person? Oh, he's on ABC right now, works PR for the FBI. Go figure.), who almost speaks admiringly from his visit with bin Laden, of his religious purity and his charismatic hold over his followers.)

The result seems to virtually guarantee that we will never understand the cultures that spawn Muslim jihad terrorism, and it essentially sets up fascist-style ethnic cleansing (crushing the culture totally, as if that could be done) or some other "final solution" as the only option in a FALSE DILEMMA FALLACY.

Appeasement or violent annihilation are NOT the only two options. In the black and white world of this film, that is the way they're presented.

just something to think about.

Sincerely,

Miasma

p.s. you wanna know how crazy/paranoid the repression inside this country has gotten? I'm actually apprehensive about posting this publicly without some kind of disclaimer, noting that I'm NOT a sympathizer to ANY violent terrorist causes.

WHY? Because so few of the people in power right now, people who make blacklists, budding fascists that they are, actually UNDERSTAND reasoning and rhetoric enough to know what a False Dilemma Fallacy IS, at least enough to actually be able to literally read and understand the point I'm trying to make above.

The biggest problem is that logic and reasoning, uniquely Western cultural constructs, are amazingly absent (or deliberately absent) in the education of the class of people who currently hold (and grab) so much power for themselves and over others. They just aren't very well-read, even of the dead white men conservative literary critics tout as cultural literacy. They seem badly unable to understand any form of thought that doesn't involve blind-trust authoritarianism or fear-driven bigotry.

September 11, 2006 at 10:31 PM in Best Essays, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Orwell, Politics, Religion, Rhetoric, Television, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 16, 2006

Speaking of the brilliance of The Onion...

I've been thinking furiously lately about the growing pandemic of righteous relativism, not even trendy po-mo relativism. This is that odd concoction, AUTHORITARIAN RELATIVISM.

Quick! Go find the ghost of Harvard's William Perry Jr.! Let's do a study! My idea of what he might find with this new category of anti-intellectual development, after this brief word from Holy Writ, The Onion. (can you tell I'm sporting for a fight?)

Link: Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory | The Onion - America's Finest News Source.

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

August 17, 2005   | Issue 41•33          

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

Burdett added: "Gravity—which is taught to our children as a law—is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."

[...]

According to the ECFR paper published simultaneously this week in the International Journal Of Science and the adolescent magazine God's Word For Teens!, there are many phenomena that cannot be explained by secular gravity alone, including such mysteries as how angels fly, how Jesus ascended into Heaven, and how Satan fell when cast out of Paradise.

The ECFR, in conjunction with the Christian Coalition and other Christian conservative action groups, is calling for public-school curriculums to give equal time to the Intelligent Falling theory. They insist they are not asking that the theory of gravity be banned from schools, but only that students be offered both sides of the issue "so they can make an informed decision."

[...]

Proponents of Intelligent Falling assert that the different theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Even critics of Intelligent Falling admit that Einstein's ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis.

[...]

Some evangelical physicists propose that Intelligent Falling provides an elegant solution to the central problem of modern physics.

"Anti-falling physicists have been theorizing for decades about the 'electromagnetic force,' the 'weak nuclear force,' the 'strong nuclear force,' and so-called 'force of gravity,'" Burdett said. "And they tilt their findings toward trying to unite them into one force. But readers of the Bible have already known for millennia what this one, unified force is: His name is Jesus."        

I just love physics humor. Beware of Quantum ducks! Quark! Quark!

Oh, for those who, for no fault of their own, don't know who William Perry Jr. was (no, not the oversized football player), above, here's a link.

Here's a bit from his New York Times obituary (why did the venerable Mr Perry have to have a PAID obituary?) about his famous book:

..."Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years'' (1970) described nine developmental stages. His framework started with a freshman's simplistic adherence to notions of absolute truth and morality, traced the discovery of multiple frames of reference regarding data, and the upperclassman's subsequent growth and eventual achievement of personal and ethical commitment in a relative world. This developmental framework has had nation-wide impact on the theories of the psychological development of late adolescence. ...

Another book that turns Perry's descriptive theories on their ear somewhat is:

WOMEN'S WAYS OF KNOWING The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind. By Mary Field Belenky, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger and Jill Mattuck Tarule. 256 pp. New York: Basic Books. $19.95.

Otherwise known to those of us who use it as Belenky et. al. [grin]

So anyway, Belenky et. al. got to expand on Perry's descriptions of Harvard (male) undergraduate intellectual development in the 1950s, and if they get to do it, I wanna do it too! The Onion is inspiring me!

OK, here's Perry shorthand, for your crib sheet:

You show up in college (if you are male and it's the 1950s) and your world is divided into Right and Wrong. In other words, you are an authoritarian thinker. Authorities tell you what is right and wrong, frequently using the "Because I said so" argument. You get to college expecting more of the same, but if your college is worth squat, they won't let you get away with that, no sir. They actually want you to THINK FOR YOURSELF!

Radical idea, I know. Some people become authorities unto themselves, Egoistic Authoritarians, I guess. Most go the way of Perry. (Oh, btw, Belenky et. al. found that while Harvard men in the 1950s were doing this, many women in the same boat didn't have a voice, and so their intellectual position was SILENCE. As in, they were silenced. They had to break through that before they could gain their authoritarian righteousness swagger).

Now I know Perry breaks it down more finely than I'm going to do here, for the sake of my own silliness, but the thing that comes after Right and Wrong Authoritarian Dualism is a kind of defeat for overwhelmed young intellectuals. They throw up their hands in exasperation and sing (to the tune of "Everything is Beautiful") "Ooooh, Everything is Relative... in its own wa-aa-ay." Simple Relativism, otherwise known as oatmeal mush.

Simple Relativists might say:

We all have opinions, everyone is entitled to their opinions, and would you just shut up and stop making me discuss and argue every single point? THERE IS NO WAY TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN MUSHY OPINIONS ANYWAY, so let's all just go home and eat worms.

Bully for them. Future situation ethicists in the making, all of them. All opinions are interchangeable, one is as good as any other, so if someone says the world is flat, that's just as worthy a thought as if the world were round. Same if the moon is made out of green cheese. What difference does it make?

Overwhelmed people like this haven't learned that there are very good methods for weighing one viewpoint against another, of evaluating points of view and opinions, so for them, the world is simply two monster-shouters in little boxes on the screen on Fox News, each trying to out-holler the other with no way to tell if one argument is superior to another. Fox News wants us all to believe that is true, but then I'm getting ahead of myself.

To succeed in college, you are supposed to eventually think for yourself, and with luck, some professors give you intellectual tools to do things like evaluate arguments. That way you don't have to go around throwing up your hands at a world of oatmeal mush like those poor folks who watch Fox News who secretly want the ones who shout the loudest to be the winners.

So you have to think your way out of Silence, Authoritarianism, Simple Relativistic Mush, and then what happens? You learn to play sneaky little games.

Like what? Brown-Nose Games! College 101, everyone knows, is Brown-Nosing. Listen to what the teacher says and parrot it. I know, that's not sneaky, but it gets better. Brown-Nose games are a variation of Lawyer Games. That's where you learn to argue any side in an argument, and win! There were some Greek guys who perfected this to a fine art, got so good at it, some lawyers were named after them, the Sophists.

Perry would call this sophistry sophomoric, I guess, and instead see how it becomes more Complex Relativism. See, a simple relativist who believes that everything is oatmeal mush wouldn't be able to function in a Brown-Nose Universe. Brown-nosers have to be discerning, intellectual even, to be able to tell apple-cinnamon oatmeal mush from peaches and cream oatmeal mush, in order to use it to their advantage.

Brown-nosers learn the rules of the game in order to play it well. They figure, one set of rules is just as good as another set of rules, so long as they can figure out the rules. With one teacher you flatter shamelessly, another you have to sleep with, another you just learn to parrot. Like a good lawyer who can argue either side of a case, game-players of any stripe don't stop to reflect on whether the game is worthy of them, or if the game is utterly stupid, or even if the game is immoral. They just play. Complex Relativism.

Our friends Belenky et. al diverge a bit here, go off into ways of knowing things, Committed Knowing, Constructed Knowing, Collaborative Knowing (I made up that last one, I think, because I like it).

What Perry's undergrads were supposed to figure out, as their intellectual toolboxes expanded (you know, if all you have is a hammer, suddenly everything needs pounding), is that all games are not created equal, just as all opinions are not created equal. Some are better than others for reasons that we can work out through logic, support, proof, and so on. There are CRITERIA with which we can formally evaluate things and dredge our way out of the mush.

And with such evaluative power, we can argue on behalf of the superiority of certain positions, argumentative stances. We become committed to particular ways of reasoning through an issue, not because a position is RIGHT and another position is WRONG, like those Harvard freshmen, but because we can back up our thinking from a position of considering multiple viewpoints and weighing them against each other.

Of course, around about that time, some postmodernists will show up and call you a "dirty rotten foundationalist" and rant about the "tyranny of the Enlightenment" and all that. That might confuse you for a bit, thinking you had actually wandered back into that oatmeal mush, until you stop for a second and look at your own intellectual processes.

The only reason postmodernists like to call you those names is that they think anyone who jumps up and down on the lumps in their oatmeal is ready to rebuild the rigid edifices of the Inquisition, that vast enforcer of Right/Wrong authoritarianism. Postmodernists think you're the bad guy. They think you are ready to make an authoritarian religion of the ladders of thought you've built into your Committed Relativism. But your mind is more open than that, if you've come this far.

And besides, if you leave structureless, foundation-less postmodernist oatmeal out in the pan too long, it will harden into a big gray rock too, a big gray authoritarian rock of po-mo oatmeal. There are some seriously rock-hard chunks of that floating around in this world too.

But my NEW boogeyman! I want to build on Perry and Belenky et. al. for this NEW intellectual development, Authoritarian Relativism, or RIGHTEOUS RELATIVISM, oppressive relativism, preached by the true believers.

Oatmeal is simply expedient for postmodernists, who are not true believers in anything, on principle, not even in themselves. It's their anti-principle principle, their anti-foundationalist foundation. They get off on watching dogs chase their tails too.

But these new converts to the cause of relativism, they are an odd lot, as exemplified and parodied in the Onion article above.

Ron Suskind knows of these folks, one of whom admitted to him that they controlled the world because they control reality. The people who are confused, this man said, are those who are still living in the "reality-based universe."

Think of it. Conservative Authoritarian Relativists. John Dean has a book out on this topic right now too, but I haven't read it yet. Conservatives Without Conscience. I won't speak to the book much, since I haven't read it, and instead riff off the idea.

I'm not talking about conscience, though. More like I'm talking of the level of discourse that Fox News is norming out into the media landscape, overpowering the intellectual tools we hope people find in college (it's a Hail Mary pass to even dream they'll find it in high school).

The idea? Not just that all arguments about things that can't be measured, counted, or attached to a dollar value are subjective shouting matches where the loudest talker wins, but instead, a RIGHTEOUS DEVOTION to and STRIDENT ENFORCEMENT of the idea that ALL OPINIONS ARE INTERCHANGEABLE.

It's like conflating the Authoritarianism of Perry's first stage, with the Simple Relativism of the next stage, and then instead of learning criteria or ways of evaluating arguments, support, and proof, it instead requires that we must COMMIT ourselves to the idea that NO ARGUMENTS, SUPPORT, or PROOF are sufficient, and if one can do that thoroughly enough, one would have made a case for faith, for God, for the Unknown, the big Out-There. (that last step is a big leap, so I best return to it in a bit)

That's a lot to wrap my head around, so let's try to come at that again from another angle. Look at The Onion parody above. Brilliant, isn't it? Such a finessed spin on Intelligent Design. In doing so, I think it holds this kind of thinking up to the light, by virtue of the apt analogy.

Can this intellectual somersault I'm proposing actually be done? Is it being done? Sure, like John Dean says, there are Crass, Sophistic Conservatives, what we might call the "Lee Atwater School," of which Karl Rove is clearly a graduate. They probably aren't the people I'm talking about, though.

This instead is more akin to an average person, not even an avid watcher of Fox News shoutfests. People could be affected by this changing intellectual climate and not know it, until they try to have a rational discussion with someone they respect intellectually, and that person not only refuses to engage or understand actual proofs or conclusive reasoning and rebuttals, but instead righteously makes a claim that there are NO SUCH THINGS as proofs, conclusive reasoning, or rebuttals, AND that anyone who would claim such a thing is deluded (that last step is important, because folks in this camp put a lot of energy into finding people to exclude so they can deny them the keys to the kingdom).

Disenfranchising the Enlightenment, in other words. Postmodernists would counteract and rebut the Enlightenment, but would they choose to wipe the Enlightenment out of history, out of our memory? Would they long for the "good old days" of the Inquisition, of Church and State and might making right? When authorities told you what to do and think and you obeyed them, not because you thought what they said was necessarily true, but because it was better than the information glut of oatmeal mush inside your own head?

Disenfranchising human intellectual activity, in other words. That would be the overt goal, from the "Lee Atwater School" standpoint. There is nothing in "reality" that is not baldly deniable (see also the Monty Python Argument Sketch), on a national political scale, but here's where it gets scary. This is also happening around the watercooler, over beers, in college coffeehouses. Ordinary interactions are becoming less rational, less thoughtful, less carefully reasoned and weighed.

It is as if the MEDIA AUDIENCE is being deliberately turned into those overwhelmed Harvard freshmen venturing out of authoritarianism, but with the tools to deal with the flood of ideas deliberately withheld from them, so that intellectual retreat is the only response.

I do know that this particular kind of media anti-intellectualism is being manipulated by some to create that overwhelmed retreat (perhaps in the name of sixth grade reading/comprehension levels in mass media), but how does that lead to greater faith in some Supreme Deity? That last step I threw in there above was a bit of a stretch.

It would appear on the surface that righteously-enforced sophism would lead to widespread cynicism, not growing faith. That's why my bullshit detector was going off on my own line of reasoning. Maybe I got it wrong.

Would those of a certain religious persuasion (belief) hold it as a truism that driving people to extreme cynicism will lead them to god? That hardly seems like a reasonable way to go about it, when I suppose there are other ways to induce duress, that "hitting bottom" moment addicts speak of, that foxhole/hurricane need to pray (no atheists in foxholes, or, we would assume, under the screaming winds of a hurricane). Would evangelicals willingly try to fill their pews by deliberately inducing duress? (That's ruling out Charles Colson, of course, who was probably recruiting evangelical Plumbers-for-Jesus in prison and giving them their own brown shirts when they got out)

See, it just doesn't make any sense to me. Not buying it. Maybe Lee Atwaters think that, but preachers in pulpits can't all be that crass.

So that leaves what? How does Authoritarian Relativism (note to self, copyright that phrase) fill up churches? How does it lead to a world that re-creates Inquisition authoritarian castes with no cultural memory that there ever was an Enlightenment?

Maybe I answered my own question. Maybe the goal isn't to create true believers at all. In true Orwellian Doublethink (or a McLuhan-style media reversal), perhaps the goal is to fill the churches up with game-players, sophists adrift in ennui and mush, but not really committed to anything enough to object if they're asked to do any particular thing.

Authoritarian Relativists are far more malleable, I think, even than inclusive, "big tent" ecumenical types so decried by fundamentalists as a sign of the coming of the AntiChrist.

Malleable in the consumerist sense, in that they've been ultra-conditioned to blindly accept marketing messages with righteous fervor and fannish devotion (and fascist violence?) yet the marketing messages are still interchangable and can be substituted one for another at any time. The xenophobic group hate switches from illegal aliens to gays and lesbians, until the next switch. We are at war with Eurasia; we have always been at war with Eurasia.

Authoritarian Relativists are simply buttons to be pushed, in other words. Tools to be manipulated by Sophistic Conservative Authorities.

Maybe that's what's filling up those 20,000-seat mega-churches. They really don't seem to get as nutty as the 1970's charismatics did. They're pretty people who want to sing and wave their hands in a big auditorium and maybe get on TV in their nice clothes (at least that's what we see in the carefully selected video clips), ready to vote the way they're told, believe what they're told, shop in the mini-mall in the church "basement", but not to believe in anything so much that they'd ever cling to the idea of the belief in their own heads all by their own selves, without guidance from those who create and craft their fluid "un-reality-based universe."

July 16, 2006 at 08:01 PM in Best Essays, Privacy & Free Speech, Religion, Rhetoric, Satire, Singing the Bite Me Song, Television, Theory | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 10, 2005

Mark Bill Moyer's words...

What a great speech he gave here... I had to point up the best parts.

Link: 9/11 And The Sport of God.

9/11 And The Sport of God

Bill Moyers
September 09, 2005

This article is adapted from Bill Moyer's address this week at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where Judith and Bill Moyers received the seminary’s highest award, the Union Medal, for their contributions to faith and reason in America. Bill Moyers is a broadcast journalist and former host the PBS program NOW With Bill Moyers. Moyers also serves as president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, which gives financial support to TomPaine.com.

At the Central Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas, where I was baptized in the faith, we believed in a free church in a free state. I still do.

My spiritual forbears did not take kindly to living under theocrats who embraced religious liberty for themselves but denied it to others. “Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils,” thundered the dissenter Roger Williams as he was banished from Massachusetts for denying Puritan authority over his conscience. Baptists there were a “pitiful negligible minority” but they were agitators for freedom and therefore denounced as “incendiaries of the commonwealth” for holding to their belief in that great democracy of faith—the priesthood of all believers. For refusing to pay tribute to the state religion they were fined, flogged, and exiled. In l651 the Baptist Obadiah Holmes was given 30 stripes with a three-corded whip after he violated the law and took forbidden communion with another Baptist in Lynn, Massachusetts. His friends offered to pay his fine for his release but he refused. They offered him strong drink to anesthetize the pain of the flogging. Again he refused. It is the love of liberty, he said, “that must free the soul.”

Such revolutionary ideas made the new nation with its Constitution and Bill of Rights “a haven for the cause of conscience.” No longer could magistrates order citizens to support churches they did not attend and recite creeds that they did not believe. No longer would “the loathsome combination of church and state”—as Thomas Jefferson described it—be the settled order. Unlike the Old World that had been wracked with religious wars and persecution, the government of America would take no sides in the religious free-for-all that liberty would make possible and politics would make inevitable. The First Amendment neither inculcates religion nor inoculates against it. Americans could be loyal to the Constitution without being hostile to God, or they could pay no heed to God without fear of being mugged by an official God Squad. It has been a remarkable arrangement that guaranteed “soul freedom.”

It is at risk now, and the fourth observance of the terrorist attacks of 9/ll is an appropriate time to think about it.

Four years ago this week, the poet’s prophetic metaphor became real again and “the great dark birds of history” plunged into our lives.

They came in the name of God. They came bent on murder and martyrdom. It was as if they rode to earth on the fierce breath of Allah himself, for the sacred scriptures that had nurtured these murderous young men are steeped in images of a violent and vengeful God who wills life for the faithful and horrific torment for unbelievers.

Yes, the Koran speaks of mercy and compassion and calls for ethical living. But such passages are no match for the ferocity of instruction found there for waging war for God’s sake. [...]

[...]

Terrorists plant time bombs in our heads, hoping to turn each and every imagination into a private hell governed by our fear of them. [emphasis mine]

[...]

So over the past four years I have kept reminding myself of not only the horror but the humanity that was revealed that day four years ago, when through the smoke and fire we glimpsed the heroism, compassion, and sacrifice of people who did the best of things in the worst of times. I keep telling myself that this beauty in us is real, that it makes life worthwhile and democracy work and that no terrorist can take it from us.

[...]

The other side of the story:

Muslims have no monopoly on holy violence. As Jack Nelson-Pallmayer points out, God’s violence in the sacred texts of both faiths reflect a deep and troubling pathology “so pervasive, vindictive, and destructive” that it contradicts and subverts the collective weight of other passages that exhort ethical behavior or testify to a loving God.

For days now we have watched those heart-breaking scenes on the Gulf Coast: the steaming, stinking, sweltering wreckage of cities and suburbs; the fleeing refugees; the floating corpses, hungry babies, and old people huddled together in death, the dogs gnawing at their feet; stranded children standing in water reeking of feces and garbage; families scattered; a mother holding her small child and an empty water jug, pleading for someone to fill it; a wife, pushing the body of her dead husband on a wooden plank down a flooded street; desperate people struggling desperately to survive.

Now transport those current scenes from our newspapers and television back to the first Book of the Bible—the Book of Genesis. They bring to life what we rarely imagine so graphically when we read of the great flood that devastated the known world. If you read the Bible as literally true, as fundamentalists do, this flood was ordered by God. “And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh… behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (6:5-l3). [...]

The flood is merely Act One. Read on: This God first “hardens the heart of Pharaoh” to make sure the Egyptian ruler will not be moved by the plea of Moses to let his people go. Then because Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, God turns the Nile into blood so people cannot drink its water and will suffer from thirst. Not satisfied with the results, God sends swarms of locusts and flies to torture them; rains hail and fire and thunder on them destroys the trees and plants of the field until nothing green remains; orders every first-born child to be slaughtered, from the first-born of Pharaoh right on down to “the first-born of the maidservant behind the mill.” An equal-murderous God, you might say. The massacre continues until “there is not a house where one was not dead.” While the Egyptian families mourn their dead, God orders Moses to loot from their houses all their gold and silver and clothing. Finally, God’s thirst for blood is satisfied, God pauses to rest—and boasts: “I have made sport of the Egyptians.”

Violence: the sport of God. God, the progenitor of shock and awe.

And that’s just Act II. As the story unfolds women and children are hacked to death on God’s order; unborn infants are ripped from their mother’s wombs; cities are leveled—their women killed if they have had sex, the virgins taken at God’s command for the pleasure of his holy warriors. When his holy warriors spare the lives of 50,000 captives God is furious and sends Moses back to rebuke them and tell them to finish the job. One tribe after another falls to God-ordered genocide: the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites—names so ancient they have disappeared into the mists as fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, infants in arms, shepherds, threshers, carpenters, merchants, housewives—living human beings, flesh and blood: “And when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them; then you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them…(and) your eyes shall not pity them.”

So it is written—in the Holy Bible.

Yes, I know: the early church fathers, trying to cover up the blood-soaked trail of God’s sport, decreed that anything that disagrees with Christian dogma about the perfection of God is to be interpreted spiritually. Yes, I know: Edward Gibbon himself acknowledged that the literal Biblical sense of God “is repugnant to every principle of faith as well as reason” and that we must therefore read the scriptures through a veil of allegory. Yes, I know: we can go through the Bible and construct a God more pleasing to the better angels of our nature (as I have done.) Yes, I know: Christians claim the Old Testament God of wrath was supplanted by the Gospel’s God of love [See The God of Evil , Allan Hawkins, Exlibris.]

I know these things; all of us know these things. But we also know that the “violence-of-God” tradition remains embedded deep in the DNA of monotheistic faith. We also know that fundamentalists the world over and at home consider the “sacred texts” to be literally God’s word on all matters. Inside that logic you cannot read part of the Bible allegorically and the rest of it literally; if you believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection, and the depiction of the Great Judgment at the end times you must also believe that God is sadistic, brutal, vengeful, callow, cruel and savage—that God slaughters.

Millions believe it.

Let’s go back to 9/11 four years ago. The ruins were still smoldering when the reverends Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell went on television to proclaim that the terrorist attacks were God’s punishment of a corrupted America. They said the government had adopted the agenda “of the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians” not to mention the ACLU and People for the American Way (The God of the Bible apparently holds liberals in the same low esteem as Hittites and Gergushites and Jebusites and all the other pagans of holy writ.) Just as God had sent the Great Flood to wipe out a corrupted world, now—disgusted with a decadent America—“God almighty is lifting his protection from us.” Critics said such comments were deranged. But millions of Christian fundamentalists and conservatives didn’t think so. They thought Robertson and Falwell were being perfectly consistent with the logic of the Bible as they read it: God withdraws favor from sinful nations—the terrorists were meant to be God’s wake-up call: better get right with God. Not many people at the time seemed to notice that Osama bin Laden had also been reading his sacred book closely and literally, and had called on Muslims to resist what he described as a “fierce Judeo-Christian campaign” against Islam, praying to Allah for guidance “to exalt the people who obey Him and humiliate those who disobey Him.”

Let’s go back to 9/11 four years ago. The ruins were still smoldering when the reverends Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell went on television to proclaim that the terrorist attacks were God’s punishment of a corrupted America. They said the government had adopted the agenda “of the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians” not to mention the ACLU and People for the American Way (The God of the Bible apparently holds liberals in the same low esteem as Hittites and Gergushites and Jebusites and all the other pagans of holy writ.) Just as God had sent the Great Flood to wipe out a corrupted world, now—disgusted with a decadent America—“God almighty is lifting his protection from us.” Critics said such comments were deranged. But millions of Christian fundamentalists and conservatives didn’t think so. They thought Robertson and Falwell were being perfectly consistent with the logic of the Bible as they read it: God withdraws favor from sinful nations—the terrorists were meant to be God’s wake-up call: better get right with God. Not many people at the time seemed to notice that Osama bin Laden had also been reading his sacred book closely and literally, and had called on Muslims to resist what he described as a “fierce Judeo-Christian campaign” against Islam, praying to Allah for guidance “to exalt the people who obey Him and humiliate those who disobey Him.”

Suddenly we were immersed in the pathology of a “holy war” as defined by fundamentalists on both sides. You could see this pathology play out in General William Boykin. A professional soldier, General Boykin had taken up with a small group called the Faith Force Multiplier whose members apply military principles to evangelism with a manifesto summoning warriors “to the spiritual warfare for souls.” After Boykin had led Americans in a battle against a Somalian warlord he announced: “I know my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his God was an idol.” Now Boykin was going about evangelical revivals preaching that America was in a holy war as “a Christian nation” battling Satan and that America’s Muslim adversaries will be defeated “only if we come against them in the name of Jesus.” For such an hour, America surely needed a godly leader. So General Boykin explained how it was that the candidate who had lost the election in 2000 nonetheless wound up in the White House. President Bush, he said, “was not elected by a majority of the voters—he was appointed by God.” Not surprising, instead of being reprimanded for evangelizing while in uniform, General Boykin is now the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. (Just as it isn’t surprising that despite his public call for the assassination of a foreign head of state, Pat Robertson’s Operation Blessing was one of the first groups to receive taxpayer funds from the President’s Faith-Based Initiative for “relief work” on the Gulf Coast.)

We can’t wiggle out of this, people. Alvin Hawkins states it frankly: “This is a problem we can’t walk away from.” We’re talking about a powerful religious constituency that claims the right to tell us what’s on God’s mind and to decide the laws of the land according to their interpretation of biblical revelation and to enforce those laws on the nation as a whole. For the Bible is not just the foundational text of their faith; it has become the foundational text for a political movement.

[...]

What’s also unique is the intensity, organization, and anger they have brought to the public square. Listen to their preachers, evangelists, and homegrown ayatollahs: Their viral intolerance—their loathing of other people’s beliefs, of America’s secular and liberal values, of an independent press, of the courts, of reason, science and the search for objective knowledge—has become an unprecedented sectarian crusade for state power. They use the language of faith to demonize political opponents, mislead and misinform voters, censor writers and artists, ostracize dissenters, and marginalize the poor. These are the foot soldiers in a political holy war financed by wealthy economic interests and guided by savvy partisan operatives who know that couching political ambition in religious rhetoric can ignite the passion of followers as ferociously as when Constantine painted the Sign of Christ (the “Christograph”) on the shields of his soldiers and on the banners of his legions and routed his rivals in Rome. Never mind that the Emperor himself was never baptized into the faith; it served him well enough to make the God worshipped by Christians his most important ally and turn the Sign of Christ into the one imperial symbol most widely recognized and feared from east to west.

Let’s take a brief detour to Ohio and I’ll show you what I am talking about. In recent weeks a movement called the Ohio Restoration Project has been launched to identify and train thousands of “Patriot Pastors” to get out the conservative religious vote next year. According to press reports, the leader of the movement— the senior pastor of a large church in suburban Columbus—casts the 2006 elections as an apocalyptic clash between “the forces of righteousness and the hordes of hell.” The fear and loathing in his message is palpable: He denounces public schools that won’t teach creationism, require teachers to read the Bible in class, or allow children to pray. He rails against the “secular jihadists” who have “hijacked” America and prevent school kids from learning that Hitler was “an avid evolutionist.” He links abortion to children who murder their parents. He blasts the “pagan left” for trying to redefine marriage. He declares that “homosexual rights” will bring “a flood of demonic oppression.” On his church website you read that “Reclaiming the teaching of our Christian heritage among America’s youth is paramount to a sense of national destiny that God has invested into this nation.”

One of the prominent allies of the Ohio Restoration Project is a popular televangelist in Columbus who heads a $40 million-a-year ministry that is accessible worldwide via l, 400 TV stations and cable affiliates. Although he describes himself as neither Republican nor Democrat but a “Christocrat”—a gladiator for God marching against “the very hordes of hell in our society”—he nonetheless has been spotted with so many Republican politicians in Washington and elsewhere that he has been publicly described as a“spiritual advisor” to the party. The journalist Marley Greiner has been following his ministry for the organization, FreePress. She writes that because he considers the separation of church and state to be “a lie perpetrated on Americans—especially believers in Jesus Christ”—he identifies himself as a “wall builder” and “wall buster.” As a wall builder he will “restore Godly presence in government and culture; as a wall buster he will tear down the church-state wall.” He sees the Christian church as a sleeping giant that has the ability and the anointing from God to transform America. The giant is stirring. At a rally in July he proclaimed to a packed house: “Let the Revolution begin!” And the congregation roared back: “Let the Revolution begin!”

(The Revolution’s first goal, by the way, is to elect as governor next year the current Republican secretary of state who oversaw the election process in 2004 year when a surge in Christian voters narrowly carried George Bush to victory. As General Boykin suggested of President Bush’s anointment, this fellow has acknowledged that “God wanted him as secretary of state during 2004” because it was such a critical election. Now he is criss-crossing Ohio meeting with Patriot Pastors and their congregations proclaiming that “America is at its best when God is at its center.”) [For the complete stories from which this information has been extracted, see: “An evening with Rod Parsley, by Marley Greiner, FreePress, July 20, 2005; Patriot Pastors,” Marilyn Warfield, Cleveland Jewish News, July 29, 2005; “Ohio televangelist has plenty of influence, but he wants more”, Ted Wendling, Religion News Service, Chicago Tribune, July 1, 2005; “Shaping Politics from the pulpits,” Susan Page, USA Today , Aug. 3, 2005; “Religion and Politics Should Be Mixed Says Ohio Secretary of State,” WTOL-TV Toledo, October 29, 2004].

The Ohio Restoration Project is spreading. In one month alone last year in the president’s home state of Texas, a single Baptist preacher added 2000 “Patriot Pastors” to the rolls. On his website he now encourages pastors to “speak out on the great moral issues of our day…to restore and reclaim America for Christ.”

Alas, these “great moral issues” do not include building a moral economy. The Christian Right trumpets charity (as in Faith Based Initiatives) but is silent on social and economic justice. Inequality in America has reached scandalous proportions: a few weeks ago the government acknowledged that while incomes are growing smartly for the first time in years, the primary winners are the top earners—people who receive stocks, bonuses, and other income in addition to wages. The nearly 80 percent of Americans who rely mostly on hourly wages barely maintained their purchasing power. Even as Hurricane Katrina was hitting the Gulf Coast, giving us a stark reminder of how poverty can shove poor people into the abyss, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that last year one million people were added to 36 million already living in poverty. And since l999 the income of the poorest one fifth of Americans has dropped almost nine percent.

None of these harsh realities of ordinary life seem to bother the radical religious right. To the contrary, in the pursuit of political power they have cut a deal with America’s richest class and their partisan allies in a law-of-the-jungle strategy to “starve” the government of resources needed for vital social services that benefit everyone while championing more and more spending rich corporations and larger tax cuts for the rich.

How else to explain the vacuum in their “great moral issues” of the plight of millions of Americans without adequate health care? Of the gross corruption of politics by campaign contributions that skew government policies toward the wealthy at the expense of ordinary taxpayers? (On the very day that oil and gas prices reached a record high the president signed off on huge taxpayer subsidies for energy conglomerates already bloated with windfall profits plucked from the pockets of average Americans filling up at gas tanks across the country; yet the next Sunday you could pass a hundred church signboards with no mention of a sermon on crony capitalism.)

This silence on economic and political morality is deafening but revealing. The radicals on the Christian right are now the dominant force in America’s governing party. Without them the government would not be in the hands of people who don’t believe in government. They are culpable in upholding a system of class and race in which, as we saw last week, the rich escape and the poor are left behind. And they are on they are crusading for a government “of, by, and for the people” in favor of one based on Biblical authority.

This is the crux of the matter: To these fundamentalist radicals there is only one legitimate religion and only one particular brand of that religion that is right; all others who call on God are immoral or wrong. They believe the Bible to be literally true and that they alone know what it means. Behind their malicious attacks on the courts (“vermin in black robes,” as one of their talk show allies recently put it,) is a fierce longing to hold judges accountable for interpreting the Constitution according to standards of biblical revelation as fundamentalists define it. To get those judges they needed a party beholden to them. So the Grand Old Party—the GOP—has become God’s Own Party, its ranks made up of God’s Own People “marching as to war.”

[...]

The corporate, political and religious right converge here, led by a president who, in his own disdain for science, reason and knowledge, is the most powerful fundamentalist in American history.

What are the stakes? In his last book, the late Marvin Harris, a prominent anthropologist of the time, wrote that “the attack against reason and objectivity is fast reaching the proportions of a crusade.” To save the American Dream, “we desperately need to reaffirm the principle that it is possible to carry out an analysis of social life which rational human beings will recognize as being true, regardless of whether they happen to be women or men, whites or black, straights or gays, employers or employees, Jews or born-again Christians. The alternative is to stand by helplessly as special interest groups tear the United States apart in the name of their “separate realities’ or to wait until one of them grows strong enough to force its irrational and subjective brand of reality on all the rest.”

That was written 25 years ago, just as the radical Christian right was setting out on their long march to political supremacy. The forces he warned against have gained strength ever since and now control much of the United States government and are on the verge of having it all.

It has to be said that their success has come in no small part because of our acquiescence and timidity. Our democratic values are imperiled because too many people of reason are willing to appease irrational people just because they are pious. Republican moderates tried appeasement and survive today only in gulags set aside for them by the Karl Roves, Bill Frists and Tom DeLays. Democrats are divided and paralyzed, afraid that if they take on the organized radical right they will lose what little power they have. Trying to learn to talk about God as Republicans do, they’re talking gobbledygook, compromising the strongest thing going for them—the case for a moral economy and the moral argument for the secular checks and balances that have made America “a safe haven for the cause of conscience.”

As I look back on the conflicts and clamor of our boisterous past, one lesson about democracy stands above all others: Bullies—political bullies, economic bullies and religious bullies—cannot be appeased; they have to be opposed with a stubbornness to match their own. This is never easy; these guys don’t fight fair; “Robert’s Rules of Order” is not one of their holy texts. But freedom on any front—and especially freedom of conscience—never comes to those who rock and wait, hoping someone else will do the heavy lifting.

[...]


September 10, 2005 at 09:04 PM in Democracy, Favorite Links, Politics, Religion, Rhetoric, Science, Singing the Bite Me Song, Television, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 29, 2005

Is George W. Bush a worse president than Nixon?

Historians take an informal survey and 81% rate the Bush presidency a failure.

Is this significant or simply a partisan response? One could ask the same question from other outgrowths of the Middle Ages Enlightenment's response to an authoritarian ruling Aristocracy and Church: does a rigorous course of learning, study, and examination focused on the study of history give one ANY special insight?

If you are inclined to dismiss these results, please that factor into consideration. I'd never argue for the replacement of one dictatorial authority with another for us to blindly follow. I will blindly follow NO authority. But all I ask is: does the rigor of the course of study for a historian, the insight, count for anything?

Link: History News Network: Historians vs. George W. Bush .

5-17-04: News at Home

Historians vs. George W. Bush

By Robert S. McElvaine

Mr. McElvaine teaches history at Millsaps College. He is the author of EVE'S SEED: BIOLOGY, THE SEXES AND THE COURSE OF HISTORY (McGraw-Hill).

Although his approval ratings have slipped somewhat in recent weeks, President George W. Bush still enjoys the overall support of nearly half of the American people. He does not, however, fare nearly so well among professional historians.

A recent informal, unscientific survey of historians conducted at my suggestion by George Mason University’s History News Network found that eight in ten historians responding rate the current presidency an overall failure.

Of 415 historians who expressed a view of President Bush’s administration to this point as a success or failure, 338 classified it as a failure and 77 as a success. (Moreover, it seems likely that at least eight of those who said it is a success were being sarcastic, since seven said Bush’s presidency is only the best since Clinton’s and one named Millard Fillmore.) Twelve percent of all the historians who responded rate the current presidency the worst in all of American history, not too far behind the 19 percent who see it at this point as an overall success.

Among the cautions that must be raised about the survey is just what “success” means. Some of the historians rightly pointed out that it would be hard to argue that the Bush presidency has not so far been a political success—or, for that matter that President Bush has not been remarkably successful in achieving his objectives in Congress. But those meanings of success are by no means incompatible with the assessment that the Bush presidency is a disaster. “His presidency has been remarkably successful,” one historian declared, “in its pursuit of disastrous policies.” “I think the Bush administration has been quite successful in achieving its political objectives,” another commented, “which makes it a disaster for us.”

Additionally, it is, of course, as one respondent rightly noted, “way too early to make a valid comparison (we need another 50 years).” And such an informal survey is plainly not scientifically reliable. Yet the results are so overwhelming and so different from the perceptions of the general public that an attempt to explain and assess their reactions merits our attention. It may be, as one pro-Bush historian said in his or her written response to the poll, “I suspect that this poll will tell us nothing about President Bush’s performance vis-à-vis his peer group, but may confirm what we already know about the current crop of history professors.” The liberal-left proclivities of much of the academic world are well documented, and some observers will dismiss the findings as the mere rantings of a disaffected professoriate.

[...]

Yet it seems clear that a similar survey taken during the presidency of Bush’s father would not have yielded results nearly as condemnatory. And, for all the distaste liberal historians had for Ronald Reagan, relatively few would have rated his administration as worse than that of Richard Nixon. Yet today 57 percent of all the historians who participated in the survey (and 70 percent of those who see the Bush presidency as a failure) either name someone prior to Nixon or say that Bush’s presidency is the worst ever, meaning that they rate it as worse than the two presidencies in the past half century that liberals have most loved to hate, those of Nixon and Reagan. One who made the comparison with Nixon explicit wrote, “Indeed, Bush puts Nixon into a more favorable light. He has trashed the image and reputation of the United States throughout the world; he has offended many of our previously close allies; he has burdened future generations with incredible debt; he has created an unnecessary war to further his domestic political objectives; he has suborned the civil rights of our citizens; he has destroyed previous environmental efforts by government in favor of his coterie of exploiters; he has surrounded himself with a cabal ideological adventurers . . . .”

Why should the views of historians on the current president matter?

I do not share the view of another respondent that “until we have gained access to the archival record of this president, we [historians] are no better at evaluating it than any other voter.” Academic historians, no matter their ideological bias, have some expertise in assessing what makes for a successful or unsuccessful presidency; we have a long-term perspective in which to view the actions of a current chief executive.

The past presidencies most commonly linked with the current administration include all of those that are usually rated as the worst in the nation’s history: Nixon, Harding, Hoover, Buchanan, Coolidge, Andrew Johnson, Grant, and McKinley. The only president who appeared prominently on both the favorable and unfavorable lists was Ronald Reagan. Forty-seven historians said Bush is the best president since Reagan, while 38 said he is the worst since Reagan. Almost all of the historians who rate the Bush presidency a success are Reagan admirers. Indeed, no other president (leaving aside the presumably mostly tongue-in-cheek mentions of Clinton) was named by more than four of the historians who took a favorable view of the current presidency.

[...]

Several charges against the Bush administration arose repeatedly in the comments of historians who responded to the survey. Among them were: the doctrine of pre-emptive war, crony capitalism/being “completely in bed with certain corporate interests,” bankruptcy/fiscal irresponsibility, military adventurism, trampling of civil liberties, and anti-environmental policies.

[...]

EVER: The second most common response from historians, trailing only Nixon, was that the current presidency is the worst in American history. A few examples will serve to provide the flavor of such condemnations. “Although previous presidents have led the nation into ill-advised wars, no predecessor managed to turn America into an unprovoked aggressor. No predecessor so thoroughly managed to confirm the impressions of those who already hated America. No predecessor so effectively convinced such a wide range of world opinion that America is an imperialist threat to world peace. I don 't think that you can do much worse than that.”

“Bush is horrendous; there is no comparison with previous presidents, most of whom have been bad.”

“He is blatantly a puppet for corporate interests, who care only about their own greed and have no sense of civic responsibility or community service. He lies, constantly and often, seemingly without control, and he lied about his invasion into a sovereign country, again for corporate interests; many people have died and been maimed, and that has been lied about too. He grandstands and mugs in a shameful manner, befitting a snake oil salesman, not a statesman. He does not think, process, or speak well, and is emotionally immature due to, among other things, his lack of recovery from substance abuse. The term is "dry drunk". He is an abject embarrassment/pariah overseas; the rest of the world hates him . . . . . He is, by far, the most irresponsible, unethical, inexcusable occupant of our formerly highest office in the land that there has ever been.”

“George W. Bush's presidency is the pernicious enemy of American freedom, compassion, and community; of world peace; and of life itself as it has evolved for millennia on large sections of the planet. The worst president ever? Let history judge him.”

“This president is unique in his failures.”

And then there was this split ballot, comparing the George W. Bush presidencies failures in distinct areas. The George W. Bush presidency is the worst since:

“In terms of economic damage, Reagan.

In terms of imperialism, T Roosevelt.

In terms of dishonesty in government, Nixon.

In terms of affable incompetence, Harding.

In terms of corruption, Grant.

In terms of general lassitude and cluelessness, Coolidge.

In terms of personal dishonesty, Clinton.

In terms of religious arrogance, Wilson.”

[...]


May 29, 2005 at 01:13 PM in Favorite Links, News to Note, Politics, Privacy & Free Speech, Religion, Rhetoric, Singing the Bite Me Song, War/Terrorism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 03, 2005

Something I missed: Herald Sun: Last Fatima witness dies

Link: Herald Sun: Last Fatima witness dies (archived).

Last Fatima witness dies

From correspondents in Lisbon

February 14, 2005

LUCIA de Jesus dos Santos, the last survivor of three children to whom the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared at Fatima in central Portugal, has died, aged 97.

Her death at a convent in Coimbra, central Portugal, was reported by the Lusa news agency today.

She has been described as one of the women to have most influenced Catholicism in the 20th century.

The apparitions made Fatima one of Catholicism's most revered sites.

And here is the report on her funeral and connection with the Pope.

Pope Had Special Bond With Fatima Visionary

Link: Fatima Prophecies.

February 15, 2005

John Paul II expressed gratitude for the support he felt he always received from Sister Lucia's prayers, especially in moments of suffering, Zenit.org reports.

The pope expressed his gratitude in a message read by his special envoy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, at the end of the funeral for the Fatima visionary, held Tuesday in the cathedral of Coimbra, Portugal.

The multitude that filled the cathedral and its surroundings responded with prolonged applause to the Holy Father's message.

Tens of thousands of people had arrived from all over Portugal and from other countries to bid farewell to Sister Lucia and to participate in the funeral for the Carmelite nun. She died last Sunday at age 97.

Most of the faithful had to follow the ceremony from the square and adjacent streets, reported the Italian newspaper Avvenire.

Waving white handkerchiefs, they bid Sister Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart farewell as her coffin passed by from the church to her burial in the Carmelite convent where she lived for 57 years and where she died. In one year, her remains will be taken to the shrine of Fatima.

The funeral was presided over by Cardinal Bertone, archbishop of Genoa, who on several occasions had met with Sister Lucia, the last time in 2003, when the Carmelite gave him her walking stick so that he could give it to John Paul II.

The pope entrusted to Cardinal Bertone a message, addressed to Bishop Albino Cleto of Coimbra, in which he expressed his "profound emotion" over Sister Lucia's death and expressed his "last farewell to this humble and devout Carmelite."

"The visit of the Virgin Mary, which little Lucia received in Fatima together with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta in 1917, was for her the beginning of a singular mission to which she remained faithful until the end of her days. Sister Lucia leaves us an example of great fidelity to the Lord and of joyful adherence to his divine will," wrote the Holy Father.

"I remember with emotion the various meetings I had with her and the bonds of spiritual friendship that, with the passing of time, were intensified," he stated.

"I have always felt supported by the daily gift of her prayer, especially in the harsh moments of trial and suffering. May the Lord reward her amply for the great and hidden service she has done to the Church," the pope added.

John Paul II met with the Carmelite nun on three occasions: on May 13, 1982, and on the same day in 1991 and 2000, the Vatican Information Service recalled.

The first meeting took place exactly one year after the 1981 assassination attempt against the pope in St. Peter's Square. On that occasion in 1982, the Holy Father went to Fatima to thank the Blessed Virgin for saving his life.

He desired that one of the bullets used in the attack be set in the crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, as a sign of gratitude.

The second meeting, in 1991, took place on the 10th anniversary of the attack. The last time that the Holy Father and Sister Lucia met personally was on May 13, 2000.

On that day, the pope beatified the two other visionaries, the little shepherds Jacinta and Francisco, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, read the text relative to the third secret of Fatima.

On the eve of Sister Lucia's death, the pope had sent a fax to her in which he expressed his closeness and assured her of his prayers so that she would be able "to live this moment of pain, suffering and offering with the spirit of Easter, of the passing."

[...]

A nephew of the nun, Salesian Father Jose dos Santos Valinho, said his aunt "prayed until the last moment for the pope and his health," and "when John Paul II sent her a fax message of gratitude" for her prayers, during his recent hospitalization, she wished to hold those sheets of paper.

Even though she was almost blind, she said to her sisters in the community: "'Let me read, it's the pope who is writing me,'" recalled her nephew.

The priest was invited by the Carmelites of Coimbra to preside in the convent at the first Mass for the repose of his aunt's soul.

"When the prioress of the convent would give [Sister Lucia] a message, a communication from the pope, for her it was always a great emotional moment," the priest told Avvenire.

"What was most impressive was the arrival of the last message," he added. "In those dying moments it was as if all of a sudden she recovered her lost strength and her little eyes were illuminated."

And finally, I found this site, which claims to have Lucia's last words. In light of the Pope's death just over a month from the Nun's death, I'm just struck by the similarity between the proximity of the deaths of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa.

But more than that, the Pope regarded the Lady of Fatima as his personal protector, since the early 80s. If she left to take Lucia home, did he feel less strong, less protected?

Interestingly enough, they both died of complications of the flu, the same one that's going around.

People are getting it even if they managed to get a flu shot this year. It starts as a sore throat, but then the virus runs all through your body, leaving you open to infections, rapidly falling blood pressure, fever and extreme cold. It'll knock even a healthy person out for a good two weeks, and a co-worker even had to go to the emergency room when the falling blood pressure made him pass out.

BTW, the two little shepherds who were with Lucia for the visions in the early 1900s also died of the flu, when they were still children.

Link: Lucia's Last Words.

LUCY'S LAST WORDS

By Richard Salbato

Sister Lucy of Fatima died on February 13, 2005 at 97 years of age.  Doctor Branca, a gifted doctor and painter, was at her bedside taking her pulse, and felt her last heart beat. Lucia did not die of any sickness other than a flu that was going around all of Portugal, and most of the nuns in Coimbra had it.  Lucia just died of old age and the flu was more than the old body could take. 

I went to the funeral at the Basilica (flying in from Brazil) and then the following Saturday I was invited to a farewell Mass for Lucia, where I talked with the nuns and Doctor Branca.  At the Mass they passed out for the first time, the last words of Lucia, I assume recorded by the Doctor or Mother Superior at her bedside.   The cards were made quickly just for this farewell Mass, but in the future they will be a mainstay of gifts to anyone visiting the convent.  I knew what the words were In Portuguese, but just to be sure I had a nun translate them into English for me.  My translation was the same and it was evident something very supernatural happened at her death.  I asked some questions and the best I can write (waiting an official report) is this.

Lucia was not going to last long, according to her doctor, as her will to live was gone, and her breathing difficult, so doctor Branca could do nothing except wait for the end.  Then suddenly Lucia moved her head from the right to the left and back again as if wanting to see all in front of her.  She was seeing something and more than one thing.

"For the Holy Father! ... Our Lady, Our Lady, Holy Angels, Heart of Jesus, Heart of Jesus! We are going, we are going.

"Where?" asked Mother Celina

"To Heaven..."

"With whom?" asked Mother Celina

With Our Lord ... Our Lady ... and the little Shepherds."

And she breathed her last. 

It is evident that Lucia was seeing Our Lady, Jesus, Angels, and Jacinta and Francisco, who had come to take her to Heaven, and finally in audible words she said, let "US" go, and not let me go, for she knew they would go up to Heaven together, as they had come down to take her with them.  Jacinta and Francisco had felt sorry for Lucia when they learned that Lucia would not go to Heaven with them right away, but promised to pray for her from Heaven.  Lucia complained that she would be alone without her two little shepherds with her, but Our Lady promised to be with her always to comfort her.  Now her two little friends had come with the Heavenly Host to get her and take her with them to Heaven. Amen.

Earlier Sister Lucia had said, and I wrote, that the story of Fatima is only half done, and so if we think of a 1000 page book on Fatima, this is only page 500 that has turned, and the rest should be very exciting to say the least.  Today the Holy Father is back again in the hospital with a hole in his neck to breathe.  How long he lasts is anyone's guess.  But for the Portuguese people, they have said for years that the world is held up with two hands, the Holy Father's and Lucia's.  When they are both gone, heaven help us.  This is the feeling of the Portuguese, and it may be a self-fulfilling prophesy. 

[...]

Beware when taking this link, as there is nasty anti-abortion and other homophobic drivel mixed in with the interesting stuff. In roaming around today, I hit a few of those sites, claiming heresy for this thing or that thing, making this Cardinal Ratzinger look like Maury Milquetoast.

For all the folks who found this Pope's positions on women priests and gays abhorrent and were willing to condemn the man for it rather than looking at all the other things he did, geez, look at some of these hardcore hothouse nutjobs. I hit some fringe priest site that was claiming John Paul II was the antichrist.

Link: Has Rome Become the Seat of the Antichrist?.

I went digging around to try to find their reasons, and amid all the footnotes and legalistic Vatican blather, I find out that they believe Vatican II to be the grounds of all heresy, of which, any sign of ecumenicism from the Pope merely reinforced.

The horrors they breathlessly announced! He spoke to Muslims! He talked to Hindus and didn't try to convert them on the spot or vanish into a puddle of jello just to be in the presence of their idolatrous beliefs! And ooh, it gets worse! He talked to Jews! Religion after religion, signs of world cultures and mythologies and belief systems, to these nutjobs, a sign of heresy. One should fall over in a dead faint in the presence of a representation of any other religion, esp. those savage heathens who don't have the great benefit of being white and European.

It is part of the infallibility of previous Popes. If Galileo was excommunicated, he must STAY excommunicated for all time, whether the Earth revolves around the Sun or not! To even CONSIDER talking to Lutherans, to talk about the value of the contribution of Martin Luther, THIS is a sign of the antichrist.

I know this Pope slipped up big time on the issue of priests sexually abusing children. But if these racist fucks, these Catholic versions of far right fringe nutjobs, take control at the Vatican, feminists are going to WISH they still had John Paul II around to have civil little arguments about women priests. These wack jobs would probably take such a heretical suggestion as a sign of witchcraft and start gathering wood for a fire.

April 3, 2005 at 01:03 AM in Current Affairs, Favorite Links, News to Note, Religion | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 02, 2005

Looking at Pope John Paul II's astrological chart

Astropope




To the professional astrologers out there, forgive me, as I am just a dabbler, but in meditating today on the Pope's death, I went digging around and found his natal chart, and also looked up some of his planetary aspects for the time before and just after his passing.

Most of this is just stream of conscious rambling about what I see in those charts and aspects. I should note that I got all my data from a personal account at the excellent Astrodienst site at www.astro.com. Times are set to Italy time.

Difficult aspects that could push a sick body over to the other side... anything with Mars, like the opposition to Neptune. The Moon square Mars.

Mars Opposition Neptune exact at 05:47 activity period from 31 March 2005 to 3 April 2005.
Moon Square Mars, exact at 19:48

However, note the Mars Sextile Chiron, exact at 13:03.

VERY interesting. Chiron is an asteroid linked to healing, like the Greek Centaur who trained Hercules. A warrior-healer, see? And sextile is a positive aspect, yet Mars is also a warrior. This is a guy who has fought a good fight, but all those wonderful Moon trines, esp the one with his Med Coeli (directly overhead, career and public calling) say emotionally, he has done all that could possibly be expected of him, and it is time for some well-earned rest. Long term Chiron Trine Moon also says this has been coming on for a while, a larger healing (one book I read calls one sector of life on the other side a "healing room" to recover from our time on Earth).

Mercury Trine Med.Coeli, exact at 21:48
Moon Trine Venus, exact at 07:01
Moon Trine Mercury, exact at 13:15
Moon Last quarter, exact at 02:50
Chiron Trine Moon long-term influence

In the natal chart (seen in the graphic above) there is a portrait of his personality that I find to be pretty uncanny, esp the contrast of Taurus (stable, grounded, stubborn) and Gemini (intellectual, traveling, teaching, communicating).

Note the cluster of planets directly at the top of the circle. The piece of the pie numbered 10 is where we discover if a person is a public figure or could become famous. Saturn is in the 10th house, which tends to say he won't be famous (Saturn being a very difficult influence to carry in that spot... it indicates heavy adversity to be overcome... sound about right?). Saturn is also an indicator of many of the trials and burdens of both his early life under Nazis and Soviets, and later years, struggling with Parkinsons.

But JUPITER is in the 10th House with Saturn. Wow. That means two almost contradictory influences in his public personality. Jupiter in the 10th House nearly ALWAYS conveys a person with a high public profile that seems to come almost effortlessly.

Saturn (the Titan Chronos, the fickle finger of fate) in the 10th adds to that a sense of destiny that he would have carried his entire life, along with those heavy burdens. But Jupiter would have made it seem like, even with the burdens, some things that made him famous just inexplicably fell in his lap. And he would have earned and deserved them, because Saturn makes certain of that. But coming out of nowhere, he would suddenly appear on the world stage and BE perfectly qualified, tempered in the kind of fire we read about in the book of James.

Isn't that just freaky? Oh, and Jupiter is in LEO, while Saturn is in Virgo, a hard-working, idealistic perfectionist. Leo, ruled by the Sun. Virgo, a life devoted to service and work. Like the Malachy prophecy, the LABORS OF THE SUN. De labore Solis. THAT is freaky. And he was born during a near-total eclipse of the Sun over Europe.

The other thing to look at is the 8th House (piece of the pie labled 8). Eighth house is ruled by Scorpio, which sits almost opposite it in the 1st house, the house of self (which also contains his True Node and Part of Fortune: sense of self linked inextricably to his fate/fortune, as well the site of the deepest life lessons).

But dig on this 8th House thing. Mysticism, sure, but also hidden power, and other people's money. (Priests take a vow of poverty, yet he ends up the head of perhaps the richest church ever, built with other people's money?). Split between a solid Taurus head and a wandering Gemini heart? Mercury and Venus in Taurus give the Bull the edge in this tug of war.

Yeah, but Gemini Moon LOVES yakking it up with that Libra rising, yak yak yak yak yak. Oooh, the voices in my head! Should I do this thing or that thing? What does my evil twin have to say about it? Back and forth, abstract city, until Taurus and Virgo step up and say "Hey, let's bring this intellectual BS down to earth pronto!"

Chiron is in Aries. Uh, that would make the idealistic healer-warrior just a tad aggressive ("Be healed or else!" He says to the Soviet Union). Activist always. Make it happen, he says.

But let's talk about his mysticism and artsy side. Pluto hanging out in Cancer. Ok, he's a spiritual dude with a bit of a fixation on issues of life and death, complete transformation (transubstantiation?), the deep secrets of the place beyond death. And if you doubted this, what the heck is MARS doing in the 12th House, the house of deepest secrets and mysteries? (I have Mars there too, and I have no clue what it's doing in the 12th House either. I think it's being kept a secret from me as well) Libra ascendant will balance that out a bit tho.

The Libra rising keeps some of that heavy Scorpio energy nipping up under the horizon from getting too out of control in the first house. He's not so mystical he'd go off to the east and get down with a yogi, attend a seance, or be the Buddha and meditate on the nothing all day. That Taurus Sun demands a practical focal point, and will keep a good rein on watery mysticism, while Scorpio can still work some devious schemes to upset a power player or two.

Uranus in Pisces gives all that water (spirituality) a good jolt of electricity, literally. I bet he was a secret web surfer, btw. Lightning changes in spiritual practices? Using electronic means in service of spirituality? Vatican ring tones for cell phones? Isn't there some phone number you can program into your phone for a direct link to Vatican news?

Incidently, Venus is a VERY happy camper there in the 7th house with Taurus. What is that, exalted, I think? Ruler O Taurus. Yet this is a guy who never got married. True, he may have found love once as a young man, but with WWII and the camps, they could have been permanently torn apart and he never got over it. This is an aspect for a very happy marriage, a wonderful partnership.

For a guy who married the Church. A church that not only venerates Mary, but John Paul has always cited a close spiritual relationship with the mother of Jesus, especially since the assassination attempt, where he said it was an image of the Lady of Fatima on a poster that he turned to look at, that changed the angle of the gunshot and inexplicably allowed him to live (some readers of Nostradamus might argue that he was supposed to die in that attempt, and that Jupiter helped him cheat the fickle finger of fate).

There is also the assumption that the Third Fatima Prophecy contained a warning of something like the assassination attempt. The Fatima Prophecies came to three little children in the early 1900s in a vision of the Virgin Mary.

That sounds like one heck of a successful marriage and deep spiritual relationship to me. Pope John Paul II has been cited, despite all the disparagement of feminists and gays, as the FIRST pope to acknowledge the matriarchial nature of "god."

(Pagans would of course point out that the misogynistic, patriarchial church altered the feminine side of the triune deity to morph the Great Mother into the Holy Spirit, some sort of wafty vapor instead of a fierce goddess, a she-bear for her children. And then there's the bit about the uncanny way all those statues of Mary and baby Jesus resemble Egyptian statues of Isis and Horus. And Isis is directly linked to Venus of classical mythology and the Morning Star)

(However, the Pauline constructions I think feminize the Church as a Bride of Christ and cast Jesus as the Bridegroom, so there's a bit of a gender bend going on all around, methinks!)

Venus in the seventh house indeed!

Miasma

April 2, 2005 at 11:55 PM in Best Essays, Current Affairs, Favorite Links, News to Note, Religion | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack