Thursday, February 26, 2004
As suspected, Dowd went bonkers over The Passion of the Christ and found a way to tie Mel Gibson and George W. Bush together in the same Christian Homophobic NeoFascist Phalange.
She is, quite frankly, my least favorite columnist. Paul Krugman has an excuse: he's an academic. They don't live in the real world, they live in Academic World, where the most vicious fights occur over the least significant things. Dowd is supposed to be a part of the workaday world of news reporting, yet her columns are characterized by flights of fancy disguised in shallow wordplay.
When reading Dowd, I'm always reminded of what Truman Capote said upon reading his first truly awful script: "That's not writing; that's typing!"
While we are on the subject of The Christ and his Passion, I should point out that Andrew Sullivan has decided that the film is Gibson's psychotic attempt at pornography. Money quote:
GUTTING THE MESSAGE: Moreover, the suffering is rendered almost hollow by a dramatic void. Gibson has provided no context so that we can understand better who Jesus is - just a series of cartoon flashbacks. We cannot empathize with Mary fully or with Peter or John - because they too are mere props for the violence. The central message of Jesus - of love and compassion and forgiveness - is reduced to sound-bites. Occasionally, such as when the message of the sermon on the mount is juxtaposed with the crucifixion, the effect is almost profound - because there has been an actual connection between who Jesus was and what happened to him. But this is the exception to the rule. Watching the movie, you can see how a truly powerful rendition could have been made - by tripling the flashbacks and context, by providing a biography of Jesus, by showing us why he endured what he endured. Instead, all that context, all that meaning, has been removed for endless sickening gratuitous violence.
Sullivan, a Catholic, has a doctrinal difference with Mel Gibson, the director. Gibson contends (and I say this not having seen the film but having read Ponnoru and others in NRO) that Jesus' central message is the suffering of the Passion, the sacrifice on Calvary, and the Ressurection. From my reading of Sullivan's take, Andrew believes that Christ's central message of love and compassion (as outlined in the Sermon on the Mount) is what one should take from Christianity. Gibson's is a much more orthodox view, and is wrapped up in Christ's choice to suffer when he need not have. What Sullivan considers as pornographic, Gibson considers as absolutely necessary. Again, for the Tory take on all this, head on over to NRO (see links below).
I suspect that a lot of what is going on with Sullivan has to do with the fact that Gibson is, more than likely, on Bush' side of the entire gay marriage issue, but that's just my snarky self. More likely is the proposition that there is a deep divide among Roman Catholics between reformists, who have accepted Vatican II, and the minority of more orthodox Catholics, such as Gibson, who reject Vatican II and the movement to extinguish the Latin Mass.
It all gets down to what you did in Church, I suppose. I was an altar boy at an Episcopal Church in Pompano Beach back in the early Seventies. But the Episcopal Church got away from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and got into Guitar Masses, women priests, gay priests, and anything else that was Hip and Aware. Having watched the ECUSA leave the Gospels, I left the ECUSA as it became yet another Harlot of Babylon (btw, how Condi Rice remains a Presbyterian after what's gone on over at that funhouse is beyond me...). I'll probably end up as a Blood and Soil Roman Catholic like Mel, content to send some coin to Opus Dei now and again.
So what to do with this Jesus business? Well, years ago, I was watching the 11 O' Clock News Sports Final. This was in 1998 or 1999. During the broadcast, they were reviewing what went on at the Little League World Series playoffs. They showed a kid who hit a line drive over the left field wall. Beyond the fence was a guy in a gorilla suit who chased down the fly ball and caught it on the run. Shortly afterward I spoke to my cousin and told him of the broadcast. I wondered aloud to him about something that hit me. What if Christ had ministered to the Hebrews while wearing a gorilla suit? Not, "what if he came to us as a gorilla?" No way, Jose! What if Jesus had conducted the Sermon on the Mount while wearing a gorilla suit. What if, instead of the loaves and the fishes, it had been bananas?
In Pilate's waiting room...
Would anyone have taken Jesus seriously? It depends on whether or not you put more stock in the crucifixion or the Sermon on the Mount. I think that that is the choice Gibson is asking us to make, ultraviolence and all.
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
...until I have had the common decency to actually see the film. I owe Gibson that much. Meantime, go over to NRO to get the take of political Catholicism. I would, especially, recommend reading Michael Novak's reaction.
Naturally, the film got a ruthless panning from the New York Times. Methinks they prefer this Jesus...
No 39 lashes here!
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
I tried to tell people that this would happen, but no one would listen. Of course, no one cares about what i write, with the possible exception of my family and the nine other people who read this blog.
Oh, I forgot Barney, Domo-kun, and Jesus. They care....
So, aside from burning his bridges with Andrew Sullivanand Roger L. Simon, what did Bush do and why did he do it?
Bush aligned himself with forces in Christian and Orthodox America which were very uneasy and, indeed, angry that the institution of marriage had been caught up in the gay revolution of the 1990's that carried over into this century. Now, lay aside Bush's evangelical nature. He's smart enough a politician to have wanted to avoid this fight. Gay marriage is divisive. Indeed, as one of my relations remarked, it's one of those relatively unimportant issues that distract from the prosecution of the war. However, Bush had to act precisely because others forced his hand. The gay community in this country wanted to have rights created without going through the legislative process of creating them. So, they went to the Court in Massachusetts. That Court created a new right and directed the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to write law according to this ruling. Set aside separation of Powers, the citizens of the Commonwealth had no say in this decision. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the Gay Community and local politicians hardly paid so much as a by-your-leave to the law. Mayor Gavin Newsom blithely remarked that he had to follow his interpretation of the California State Constitution.
In two instances, the rights of state legislatures to set marriage laws were ignored. In each case, the public was not allowed to have its say. In the case of California, the marriage statutes may have been ignored. Personally, I don't give a rat's ass if two guys get hitched for life. That's their business. However, if one wants to change the marriage laws in a state, one is supposed to do so legislatively.
Bush did not want this issue on the plate, even though it helps him with his base. However, I suspect that most voters don't like it when their desires are ignored, and I suspect that Bush will be the beneficiary of a solidified base. The bottom line is how Bush is able to keep this discussion on a civil plane while the Evangelicals throw fire and damnation and the Gay Community warns of concentration camps for gay people. That's a tall order.
If Jesus were here, He'd understand.
Oh, I forgot, He is with us....
Monday, February 23, 2004
Well, it took him long enough.
George W. Bush came out fighting tonight, and the thing is, the President fights smart. It was the right place to start swinging, as well. But tonight's speech to the Republican Governor's Association fundraiser in Washington, D.C., showed all the hallmarks of a man with an incredible sense of pace and timing.
Tonight's speech (full text here) had several different elements that I will touch on, the foremost of which is national security and the foundation of Bush's economic program: tax relief.
First, allow me to comment on his demeanor. One of the things that Ray Malone taught me is that in a television age, where the medium is the message, the man who speaks to the room is the man who is guaranteed to turn off the larger audience of voters. Howard Dean failed to remember that. He jazzed up the room but good. As time went on, however, and as the larger audience of viewers became all too familiar with the former Vermont governor, the more Democratic voters wanted an alternative.
Senator John F. Kerry (D-MA) has been speaking to the room, as well. A slightly larger room, perhaps. Bob Shrum has to be one of the best wordsmiths in the business, but he hasn't been able to really get Kerry beyond the base. So Senator Kerry is speaking to a larger audience, but because he is still trying to put John Edwards away, he can't commit himself to a truly national audience just quite yet.
Bush can, and that was what he did tonight.
The central question in people's minds has been Iraq. Though Saddam has been captured, and the military campaign there is going exceedingly well, people are still somewhat uneasy about the conflict. They recognize, in the main, that it was a good thing to depose the Middle East's last Stalinist regime. They also understand that the weapons of mass destruction cock-up was just that, a cock-up. Bush gets blamed for that, but only somewhat, I suspect. People do not buy into conspiracy theories such as those popularized by the likes of Michael Moore and Moby.
Bush answered his critics directly, and in so doing, offensively:
In 2002, the United Nations Security Council yet again demanded a full accounting of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. As he had for over a decade, Saddam Hussein refused to comply. So we had a choice to make: Either take the word of a madman, or take action to defend America and the world. Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time. (Applause.)
Others would have chosen differently. They now agree that the world is better off with Saddam Hussein out of power; they just didn't support removing Saddam from power. (Laughter.) Maybe they were hoping he'd lose the next Iraqi election. (Laughter and applause.) We showed the dictator, and a watching world, that we mean what we say. Because our coalition acted, Saddam's torture chambers are closed. Because we acted, the Middle East is more peaceful. Because we acted, Iraq's weapons programs are ended forever. Because we acted, nations like Libya have gotten the message and renounced their weapons programs. Because we acted, an example of democracy is rising at the heart of the Middle East. Because we acted, the world is more free, and America is more secure. (Applause.)
Here is the heart of Bush's critique of the Democratic party, its probable standard bearer, and its foreign policy apparatus: they temporize all too much. One of the things Bush will do this year is contrast John Kerry's Hamlet to Bush's King Harry.
King Henry V summons up his courage to hit the chicken dinner circuit...
Here is Kerry's vulnerability on Iraq: in his haste to flank Howard Dean on his left last year, the Senator voted against Iraqi reconstruction. In the runup to the Iowa Caucuses, Kerry morphed into an antiwar candidate to keep Dean from runnig away with the base voters and their money. Now he has to offer solutions to that question that differ from those of the President without opening himself up to charges of hypocrisy. Implicit in Bush's remarks is an assertion that a President Kerry will not act. I happen to share the President's sense that Kerry is vulnerable here. How else can one explain Kerry's gyrations over the weekend claiming that Bush was attacking his service record, when the President was manifestly silent on the whole affair?
The bolded section of Bush's remarks are a mildly caustic critique of the entire liberal line of thinking about the buildup to the Iraq campaign and that conflict's aftemath. Either the Left is for democracy in Iraq and for the liberation of Iraq or it is against democracy in Iraq and against the liberation of Iraq. To insert my own pidgin brand of Marxian thinking here; the Left cannot be for democracy in Iraq and still opposed to the liberation of Iraq: in the real world case of Iraq in 2003, the antecedent required the precedent to bring the desirable end (democracy in Iraq) about. Or, as Bush so rightly stated: "Maybe they were hoping he'd (Saddam) lose the next Iraqi election."
The economy is addressed with one, simple big idea: make tax relief permanent while slowly squeezing government spending to let revenue catch up with expenditure. Bush's central thesis is the following:
Our opponents have their own plan for these tax cuts -- they plan to take them away. They will use that money to expand the federal government. I have a better idea: To keep this economy growing, we will have fiscal discipline in Washington, D.C. To keep this economy going, the tax cuts must be permanent. (Applause.)
Now Bush is smart to press home just this point. If you go to John Kerry's website you'll find that there's a lot about deficits, but nothing concrete about deficit reduction. This is because John Kerry presides over an unruly coalition of demanding interest groups that each want their cut of the swag. John Kerry has proposed that the tax rates on wealthy individuals be raised back to their old levels. That's a wedge that Bush can exploit. If one recalls the Clinton package in 1992, the one thing that got dropped like a bad habit when Clinton got to Washington was the "middle class tax cut".
Even during the era of the surpluses, neither party concentrated on how to pay down the National Debt. Both parties had different ideas for what to do with the projected surplus. None of it involved a sinking fund. If voters think, for a moment, that "soak the rich" makes sense, it will be Bush's job to tell them what is going to happen to their money.
What satisfied me was Bush's demeanor and his sense of timing. There was neither bombast nor red meat; that is all to the good. Bush was speaking to the wider television audience. He came across as graceful, yet somewhat rough and ready. His sense of timing is perfect: Kerry is just about to wrap things up, but the Senator from Massachusetts has no money left for commercials. Bush has 150 million dollars. Bush has been taking a beating from the press and the Democrats for two months, so much so that I suspect some of Kerry's people were already arguing over office space in the West Wing.
Tonight, Bush told John Kerry that he has an uphill battle at hand. One, I suspect, the Bush will win, and handily.
...on Lisa MacFarquhar's devotional to Michael Moore, as well as the title of Sean Hannity's book (as well he should-the title of Hannity's book is reprehensible). Read his take on "The Two Extremes".
Sunday, February 22, 2004
...has one of the funnier political satires I have read in some time. Go to his page here and take his Political Beliefs Assessment test.
This is a howler.
"The media keeps telling you that this election may be decided by who gets out the base. But it is not the Republican base they are concerned about. Kerry will get out the Republican base for us. He scares the heck out of Republicans. Bush does not scare a lot of Democrats. But once Kerry is the nominee Bush ads will see to it that some of the Democrat Base is not all that unhappy with Bush. In addition Bush ads will make some Democrats be unhappy with Kerry.... especially veterans. It is the Democratic base that may not come out."
...can be maddening. Anyway, Good Sunday Morning to all.
...to figure out that John Kerry is a vain, if clueless, bungler.
Earlier today, the Associated Press reported that John Kerry sent a letter to President Bush. It was one of those open letters that gets released to the press before it reaches the White House mailroom. Typical Washington boosheet; it happens on K Street all the time. This kind of thing has been perfected by D.C. con men to make constituents believe that they actually care enough about the voters to send outraged letters to the President. Anyway, Kerry got all postal on GW over a conference call arranged by the RNC for Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA). During the call, Chambliss criticized Kerry's voting record on national defense and intelligence.
Senator Kerry got busy, and got petulant:
"As you well know, Vietnam was a very difficult and painful period in our nation's history, and the struggle for our veterans continues. So, it has been hard to believe that you would choose to reopen these wounds for your personal political gain. But, that is what you have chosen to do."
Kerry set up a straw man argument: that Chambliss, speaking for Bush, was attacking Kerry's service record. In fact, Chambliss said the following:
Sen. Saxby Chambliss said during a conference call arranged by the Bush campaign that Kerry has a "32-year history of voting to cut defense programs and cut defense systems."
Chambliss said nothing about Vietnam. He's not that stupid. Neither is Bush. That didn't stop Kerry from pretending he did, however. The AP story goes on, however:
When Kerry responded later, at his side was Max Cleland, a triple-amputee Vietnam veteran who lost his Senate seat to Chambliss in 2002 after being portrayed as soft on homeland security.
He said the president "decided once again to take the low road of American politics."
"Saxby Chambliss, on the part of the president and his henchmen, decided today to question my commitment to the defense of our nation," Kerry said in Georgia, one of 10 states choosing electoral delegates on March 2.
Oh, you think? Kerry made sure to trot out poor old Max Cleland again to emphasize that Kerry and Cleland were real men, while squalid little draft dodgers like Bush and Chambliss were, well, squalid little draft dodgers.
Later, in a televised interview for ABC's This Week with George Stephanopolous, Kerry didn't hesitate to emphasize the chickenhawk meme:
"I don't know what it is that all these Republicans who didn't serve in Vietnam are fighting a war against those of us who did," the Massachusetts senator said.
Yes, Senator, for the last time, we know you served in Vietnam.
Never has a man advertised his weaknesses to his enemy so many times in so short a period.
John Kerry voted against almost every major weapons system during the Reagan buildup, including:
-the B-1 Lancer bomber.
-the M1-A1 main battle tank
-national missile defense ("Star Wars")
-the Aegis fleet missile defense cruiser and its component systems.
-the F-14D Tomcat follow-on
When he ran for Senate in 1984, he advertised the fact that he was foursquare against the Reagan buildup. "Diotima", one of my fellow graverobbers over at FreeRepublic.com got her hot little hands on a Kerry for Senate handout from that campaign. Two of the more interesting pages are reproduced below:
Let's just say that his subsequent voting record pretty much followed this bill of particulars. There's an entire mountain of stuff like this out there, and then there's the Congressional Record.
So when John Kerry wheels poor old Max Cleland out to make sure that some of Cleland's heroism rubs off on John Forbes, Lord Kerry is signaling that he doesn't want Bush to make an issue of his record. When Kerry plays the "chickenhawk" card on national television, he gives Karl Rove the Road Map to Victory. Kerry is either foolish, stupid, or both. He is signaling his weaknesses, and he is too bloody vain to realize it.
I'm not sure that I'm ready to nominate the Senator for the First Annual "Flaming Ronald" Award,
....but, let's just say that he's in the running.