Monday, March 26, 2007

Richard M. Nixon or George W. Bush?

Such is the barometer of our times: everyone is now political. What was once a distant echo sounding every election year has now become an all-consuming pastime. With two years to go before the 44th president is sworn in potential candidates are already jockeying for position. I was surprised to find myself engaged with a coworker over who would be remembered as the better president: Nixon or Bush? Strange days indeed.

I went with Nixon of course. Watergate would barely register by today's standards.
Would we even be surprised to learn today that the current administration staged a break-in at DNC headquarters then covered it up with a series of lies? That would be the least of our worries compared with the constant summoning of decrepit behavior over the last six odd years. Alas, what will be said of George W. Bush by future historians?

I will give a little credit--the Bush presidency will be historical. I've always thought that political scientists will study it for years as some sort of twisted model for success. Imagine the Machiavellian genius involved to get someone with the intelligence of a water-cooler elected to the highest office in the land. That is either a severe indictment on the American populace or an incredible feat of black magic. The truth probably lies in tearful a mixture of both.

If anything the Democrats seem to take the electorate too seriously. Why did people hate John Kerry? He was too verbose. Why is Al Gore hated all the more? He is too preachy. Yes, this response from a self-proclaimed nation of Christians: too preachy. The Republicans don't waste time trying to figure Americans out. They go right to the prime motivators of any human: fear and selfishness. They happily exploit the results fueled by emotion and declare harmless rogue nations a threat to "homeland security" and gay and lesbians a plague on marriage and family.

The neoconservative movement is one that works by believing and convincing others there are threats everywhere. They mix that in with a little religious fervor and elections become the perfect crime. Scared white people run to the polls to vote for the party that has vowed to protect them. At its apex the movement managed to staff the halls of congress with sex freaks and scam artists, and put a dim-witted fool in the White House, surrounding him with born again brethren from their ideology.

They scared up enough votes to enact policies that would later prove their downfall. B
elieving threats are everywhere makes it very hard to identify the actual threats. While they dusted off the Iraq war plans in early 2001, Al Qaeda was getting ready to prove that the worst thing is not an insane leader thumbing his nose at the United States but a cabal of motivated, anti-Western followers. Such an idea never even breached the consciousness of neocons consumed with their own superiority. A bunch of peasants living in caves could never strike a blow to the homeland. Or could they?

9/11 proved to be a major blow to neoconservative thinking that nation-states posed the greatest threat to America but even after this their thinking did not change at all. Bush declared a "global war on terror" and proceeded to invade Afghanistan, then moved on to Iraq before finishing the job. Afghanistan is resurgent and Iraq has become the stuff of nightmares. Somewhere Bin Ladden is free. Still, the worst thing any neoconservative can do is to admit failure which is why you see John Bolton still declaring with utter confidence that the only mistake was not taking Saddam Hussein out sooner.

The frighteningly simplistic neoconservative policy you have been witnessing for the last six years is that America should take the opportunity afforded by the collapse of the Soviet Union to move unilaterally in the world against anyone who does not respect our foreign interests. Why Saddam out of all the terrible dictators? Saddam was the thorn in the neocon's side for thumbing his nose at us. Enter our very own tragic figure: the younger Bush ready to avenge the mistakes of the elder. The rest is history.

Even if you take the best-case scenario in each of the administration's massive and consecutive failures the result is still appalling. In each case it comes down to simple reasoning: either they sincerely thought they knew what they were doing, or they didn't know. When either option ends in disaster I'm not sure it matters.

The latest, a string of federal prosecutors fired for political reasons is hardly new or news. Was this a planned act of the administration or something that just occurred? Ultimately, does it matter? Should we be more upset that the administration seemed surprised, or that they knew all along? Is the administration completely out of control or in complete control? In these times, I'm not sure which is the better answer. At least Nixon's crimes were intentional. With Bush and co. you don't know if they planned to ruin the country or if all just happened like a terrible, unforeseen accident. That's the problem with electing people you wouldn't trust to do your laundry to steward your country.

Friday, March 09, 2007

High Infidelity: Falwell Invites Gingrich to Give Commencemnet

Yesterday Newt Gingrich admitted to having an affair while leading the Clinton impeachment. If this struck you as disingenuous, hypocritical, or unethical you're probably not a conservative Christian. Today Gingrich was invited by the Reverend Jerry Falwell to give the commencement address at Liberty University. Falwell, a large, toad-like creature, effectively laying waste to any whiff of Christian integrity, is the president of the Christian school, and a well-funded representative of Christians across the country.

The story of Gingrich's infidelity was revealed in an interview by James Dobson
(who else?). Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, seems to have a penchant for spotlighting people with a penchant for destroying their families (see: Ted Haggard), living vicariously through their sexual exploits. I'll give Gingrich a little credit, at least he picked a woman, a former congressional aide, to cheat on his wife with. The silver lining? He dumped his wife and married that girl (wife number three if you're scoring at home). Maybe it's love.

Gingrich's affairs have been well-known for years, but his recent admission (what some would call "honesty") has led to a well-spring of support among powerful Christian leaders because, well, they don't give a shit anymore and most Christians can't tell the difference. Falwell had this to say about Gingrich: "He has admitted his moral shortcomings to me, as well, in private conversations. And he has also told me that he has, in recent years, come to grips with his personal failures and sought God's forgiveness."

I've had conversations with conservative Christians and I am seriously trying to figure this movement out. They say they are sick of traditional Christian values being under attack, they want kids to have the right to pray in school, and put the 10 Commandments up on the walls, and they don't want to have to explain why two men are holding hands walking down the street. In short: they want to live a sort of sheltered existence and so they seek their warm fuzzies in church where leaders have trouble keeping their hands off little kids, where unfaithfulness is not only common but embraced, and where duplicity is the first rule of law. It's...complex.

I get strange looks when I admit I used to think of the church as a sort of spiritual health-club--you get in-shape by attending and applying what you've learned as a functional exercise. But now I seriously wonder what is being learned. Christians say the church is a "hospital for sinners" but any hospital that rewards its patients with this kind of "care" would find its employees jailed for negligence. The success rate is abysmal, the love is Walter-Reed-like. They treat their patients with so much contempt it borders on spiritual euthanasia, but the real genius is to keep them sedated enough so they don't riot but conscious enough so they turn their money over each week.

They seek power by aligning themselves with a "form of religion" and find shelter in a party that promises to empower them and, in a nice catch-22, protect them at the same time. The symbiosis continues as the hallowed-out and discontent then turn their frustration outward and try to deny people rights based on an array of behaviors their own leaders commit right before their eyes. They are told they are defending marriage while reports flow in of yet another who views infidelity as a higher calling, while a housewife role-plays Donna Reed. Subjugated and lied to, their lives a living metaphor, once in a while one of their women snaps and takes a shotgun to the offending male.

I grew up saying the pledge in school and I learned to believe. Behold, I give to you the new American dream: the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of fruitless and riddled living, as long as you're a Bible believing Christian. The rest of you can only dream of such blatant debauchery. But have no fear, their profane lives have dutifully been spread around as wreckage betraying the rocky shoals of their shallow and dangerous belief, and giving to you a warning: abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bush Mourns Death of Captain America

"He was a vigilant ally in America's fight against tyranny."

Today President Bush mourned the loss of one of America's greatest super heroes. Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America, was shot and killed by a sniper as he mounted the courthouse steps to stand trial after defying the superhero registration law quietly passed as a line item in the Patriot Act. Rogers, who fought Hitler, Tojo, Communism and an array of supervillians was one of America's most famous and beloved icons. His death was reported in the latest edition of the popular comic book Captain America.

"I was stunned when I read the report. I'm sure we all were. Americans have access to the same intelligence reports I do," Bush said, waving a colorful magazine-like pamphlet.

"Today, we grieve the loss of a great American," Bush said in a White House press conference. "Steve Rogers embodied all of the things we love about America. He was a tough, white male, who draped himself in a flag-like costume and warded off evil with a giant shield. America needs more men like Steve Rogers. He was a vigilant ally in America's fight against tyranny."

Bush remarked candidly when asked who would replace Captain America.

"Well, no doubt our intelligence showed he was doing remarkable work against terror cells here and abroad. Every week or so I would get a colorful report showing his latest efforts. I liked to read it first thing in the morning. I liked them so much I kept them all in a shoe box under my bed. But don't lose hope. We still have many superheros in the fight: Superman, Batman, The Green Lantern..."

Captain America is planned to be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery but rumors of a possible resurrection are already circulating around the internet. Superhero resurrections are surprisingly common, and Marvel Comics has not ruled the possibility out.

"He's a superhero. We can do what ever we want with him," said a spokesperson. Peter Parker was unavailable for comment.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ann Coulter's Brave New World

I invite everyone to read Glenn Greenwald's latest column in Salon. Run. Don't walk. Don't waste another moment.

News of Ann Coulter's use of the term 'faggot' to describe John Edwards was hardly surprising. That a woman with such bile was chosen to speak at a "prestigious" conservative convention, and chose to throw a few hate bombs around, is not news. That conservatives like Sean Hannity have defended her doesn't surprise anyone. The typical response was to calm down, she was joking. OK, let's go with that.

Hate crimes are committed against gays every day. How about the old man in Michigan who was beaten to death with a pipe because someone *thought* he was gay? That just happens to be the violent symptom of a disease that breeds this type of "humor." And for every one person who commits a hate crime there are thousands, millions of people who, on some level, view gays and lesbians as odd and unequal. This too is a symptom of the disease and puts "jokes" like this in a sobering light.

To that people will say, "It's just words." Most people who would get offended by me calling Coulter's choice of words indefensible are also probably good Bible believing folks. OK, then remember what Jesus said: from the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Just as Coulter's words represent her inner beliefs, she represents the conservative movement at-large.

I agree with Greenwald 100% that Ann Coulter is just the tip of the iceberg. If she is indeed offensive, what does that say about the people she represents (those who support her "work") ? And why do these "tough" conservatives clamor so much for protection? They seem to be the most scared demographic in America. They're terrified of everything--other races, other religions, terrorism, Canada...
Ann Coulter is popular because she's supposedly a strong woman. She talks tough. She's often seen wearing faux leather. OK, fine.

Here's Ann Coulter, a "strong" woman who willingly cowers to the conservative party because they offer the guise of protection. Let's be honest, isn't that the essence of the conservative party these days: we are not 'faggots' like John Edwards and those other liberals! We will protect you! If Ann Coulter is so tough why does she bow to those offering protection? Why does she cave their false sense of masculinity? She embodies it all so well--a "tough' woman declaring which type of man is strong enough to protect her. How does that work exactly?

I can't respect that. She's like the girl in high school who acted tough, and went to hang out with the boys and smoke cigars, but at the end of the day she just wanted to be loved. OK, fine. You, Ann Coulter, and all of the other conservatives hiding in your caves just want to be loved and by lobbing a few hate bombs you serve the masters who preach protection from terrorism, sexual preferences, immigration, and even France. In doing so, you feed the scared insecurities of millions of Americans who just can't find the strength to rub elbows with someone who isn't a white Anglo-Saxon protestant, and you line your pockets off of book deals and speeches. You're out there on the front lines, fighting off unseen enemies everywhere, empowering, by extension, those scared masses who just handle the fact that life is not like Sunday school, acting brave by giving in to everything that scares you, like the Commander n' Chief himself, that laughable Sunday warrior, and, in the end, staying as far away from reality or the real world as possible.