Friday, December 07, 2007

In the public square, part II

Just on the opposite side of the NYT's editorial on Romney's speech this morning is an op-ed by the author of Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Ali's op-ed is prefaced by a quote from the Koran:

The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with 100 stripes: Let no compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. (Koran 24:2)

Hmmm. Wonder what the Judeo-Christian Holy Bible has to say about adultery and fornication?

Leviticus 20:10. "And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death."

Deuteronomy 22:23-24 "If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you."

Here endeth the lesson.

In the public square

As the NYT editorial on the subject pointed out this morning:

The other myth permeating the debate over religion is that it is a dispute between those who believe religion has a place in public life and those who advocate, as Mr. Romney put it, “the elimination of religion from the public square.” That same nonsense is trotted out every time a court rules that the Ten Commandments may not be displayed in a government building.

Is it true, that religion has been eliminated from the public square or that there are people who want to eliminate it from the public square? What is the "public square" and what is religion's role in it?

This got me to thinking about all the hand-wringing that has surrounded the recent release of best-sellers from a spate of New Atheist writers (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens) and the occasional presence of the same on the teevee and in press. The New Atheists are portrayed as particularly angry and why after all are these people trashing religion anyway?

But haven't Harris et al been doing what the New Calvinists say they want? They're putting religious belief front and center in the "public square".

Religionists claim they want their faith, and even faiths they profess not to adhere to, to have a place in the "public square", put on display so that...I don't know. So that people of faith will feel secure? So people will be united (even while excluding those of minority faiths or no faith at all)?

Being in the public square necessarily entails having your ideas the subject of discussion, challenge and debate. But by their shreaks of fear and vitriol, the Christianist religionists are giving ample evidence that they really don't want their faiths challenged or subject to discussion and debate.

Too bad. You want the public square? You got the public square. For better or worse.

Enter Collins

I'm sorry Jason Campbell got hurt last night.

But the only thing he accomplished in the last five weeks was to not win.

And last night's win came with, and despite, a paltry 31 yards rushing. I hope we can begin to dispense now with the idea that Washington must run the ball to be successful. They must punch the ball in the end zone to be successful. And get a few defensive turnovers while they're at it. Shawn Springs' pick at the end of the first half setting up the first TD with 17 seconds to go was huge.

The Problem with Romney

Brooks nails it:

When this country was founded, James Madison envisioned a noisy public square with different religious denominations arguing, competing and balancing each other’s passions. But now the landscape of religious life has changed. Now its most prominent feature is the supposed war between the faithful and the faithless. Mitt Romney didn’t start this war, but speeches like his both exploit and solidify this divide in people’s minds. The supposed war between the faithful and the faithless has exacted casualties.

The first casualty is the national community. Romney described a community yesterday. Observant Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Jews and Muslims are inside that community. The nonobservant are not. There was not even a perfunctory sentence showing respect for the nonreligious. I’m assuming that Romney left that out in order to generate howls of outrage in the liberal press.

The second casualty of the faith war is theology itself. In rallying the armies of faith against their supposed enemies, Romney waved away any theological distinctions among them with the brush of his hand. In this calculus, the faithful become a tribe, marked by ethnic pride, a shared sense of victimization and all the other markers of identity politics.

In Romney’s account, faith ends up as wishy-washy as the most New Age-y secularism. In arguing that the faithful are brothers in a common struggle, Romney insisted that all religions share an equal devotion to all good things. Really? Then why not choose the one with the prettiest buildings?

In order to build a voting majority of the faithful, Romney covered over different and difficult conceptions of the Almighty. When he spoke of God yesterday, he spoke of a bland, smiley-faced God who is the author of liberty and the founder of freedom. There was no hint of Lincoln’s God or Reinhold Niebuhr’s God or the religion most people know — the religion that imposes restraints upon on the passions, appetites and sinfulness of human beings. He wants God in the public square, but then insists that theological differences are anodyne and politically irrelevant.

Romney’s job yesterday was to unite social conservatives behind him. If he succeeded, he did it in two ways. He asked people to rally around the best traditions of America’s civic religion. He also asked people to submerge their religious convictions for the sake of solidarity in a culture war without end.


I don't agree with Brooks that "most New Age-y secularism" is "wishy-washy", but at least Brooks, from his perch on the right-center side of things, appears to recognize the hypocrisy and ridiculousness of Christianism's victim-identity politics for what it is.

The true absurdity of Romney's argument is his claim that religious faith is both essential to political life and American community while it is nevertheless to be exempted from challenge and any form of rational debate.

And if secularism is a religion, even a religious faith, are atheists, agnostics, humanists and other free thinkers therefore equal partners in this community? Romney's derision would seem to indicate not, but the armies of the New Calvinists and their fellow travelers can't simultaneously whine that secularism is a religion while claiming that their religion and all religion--but not the world views of secularists--should be revered and protected by the State.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Pass-the-buck Huck blames the Cletus

I originally missed this part of Huckabee's DuMond defense:

Huckabee said it was the decision by former Arkansas Govs. Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker that made DuMond eligible for parole, and Huckabee declined to reduce DuMond's sentence further.

So, first, according to the anti-Clinton wing-nuts, it was Bill Clinton's fault this guy was prosecuted (and persecuted) at all. Now Huckabee is claiming that it was really Clinton himself who set the wheels in motion for this murderer and seriel rapist to go free? I wish the wing-nuts would keep their stories, and their finger-pointing, straight.

Huckabee--Not Taking Responsibility

Given our current experience with a president and an administration that loaths accountability and avoids taking any responsibility for its actions, Huckabee's claim that he isn't responsible in the case of Wayne DuMond is not encouraging. He certainly wasn't the only government entity involved. But I don't know why he wouldn't own up to his own role and acknowledge his mistake.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hugo loses

I share the irritation of Atrios concerning how Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is reported on by the corporate media and, in contrast, regarded by Chavez's American socialist apologists. Neither perspective is terribly informative about the facts and context of any particular situation.

The largely socialist Democracy Now! reported on Friday of last week that (a) the CIA was working in opposition to Chavez's referendum and trying to stir up trouble generally and that (b) the fact that former supporters of Chavez were against the referendum only served to illustrate the fact that many of Chavez's original supporters were a disparate group of sunshine patriots/corporatists who were really in up to their elbows in some kind of corruption or another and were now turning against Chavez because the reforms would undermine their livelihoods, etc.

Meanwhile, the NYT reported, also on Friday, that the document claimed by the Venezuelan government and Chavez supporters to reveal CIA involvement in the opposition to the referendum was most probably a fake.

Still, given the now acknowledged role the U.S. government played in encouraging and supporting the failed 2002 coup against Chavez, it's not surprising that Chavez and his supporters, in and out of Venezuela, are suspicious of present and future U.S. Government involvement and the words of the American corporate press, which also wrote in support of Chavez's brief ouster in 2002.

The upshot of all this mishmash of biased reporting is to make one more cynical in doubting that any news source can be trusted.

Another Fine Mess

I know a lot of people blew their fuses yesterday afternoon when Joe Gibbs inexplicably called a second straight "ice 'em" time out in the final seconds bringing on a fifteen-yard penalty, a much shorter game winning kick, and ultimately the loss. (I didn't realize it was a penalty either).

But the Redskins couldn't run the ball to save their lives yesterday. Everybody who's been complaining about Portis not getting enough carries hear this: Portis carried 25 times yesterday for 50 friggin yards.

And the Skins defense allowed a third string back to run on them to the tune of 82 yards on 16 carries. That's 5+ yards/carry.

And how on earth does a defense give up a 31-yard pass play in the final minute of the game--on third down no less?

After some efficient first half drives that resulted in FG's instead of TD's, and finally crossing the goal-line early in the third period, the offense just shut down.

But it was a total team loss. While Gibbs muffed up, he manned up at his press conference saying there wasn't anyone to blame but himself. But DC Williams has some explaining to do.