Tidying up

Well, it’s happened again. It’s Saturday morning, and I’ve been storing up links all week, hoping to integrate them in meaningful ways. But since they’re getting stale, I’m going to post them all right here.

  • While we all await what many are calling “Fitzmas”, here are a few interesting speculations about successions, big boo-boos that implicate the president, the prospect of presidential pardons, and genuine anxiety at the White House. Oh, and the prosecutor’s office has suddenly launched a web site, often a convenient way of posting indictments, etc., but we’re not supposed to read anything into that.
  • “Pro-life” Republicans grant sweeping immunity to gun manufacturers.
  • Judy Miller’s editor suddenly has regrets.
  • Great Eric Alterman piece, here. It begins:

    Here is the liberals’ problem in a nutshell: More than 30 percent of Americans happily answer to the appellation “conservative,” while 18 percent call themselves “liberal.” And yet when questioned by pollsters, a super-majority of more than 60 percent take positions liberal in everything but name. Indeed, on many if not most issues, Americans hold views well to the left of those espoused by almost any national Democratic politician.

    Read it and see what you think. And as long as you’re contemplating the future of the left, chew on David Sirota’s thoughtful discussion of the left’s lack of an overarching ideology. I’ll just quote the conclusion here, but it’s really worth plowing through the whole article:

    This, in part, explains why the Democratic Party emanates such an image today: It is not only the spineless politicians in Washington who have no compass, but also a large and vocal swath of the base that lacks ideological cohesion as well. The politicians are, in a sense, just a public representation of that deeply-rooted lack of conviction. Put another way, looking at the typical evasive, jellyfish-like Democratic politician on the nightly news is like putting a mirror up to a growing swath of the grassroots left itself.

    Why should this be troubling to the average progressive? First, it is both soulless and aimless. Partisanship is not ideology, and movements are not political parties – they are bigger than political parties, and shape those parties accordingly through pressure. As much as paid party hacks would argue otherwise, the most significant movements in American history did not emanate from the innards of the Democratic or Republican Party headquarters, and they did not come from groups of activists who put labels before substance: They spawned from millions of people committed to grassroots movements organized around ideas – movements which pushed both parties’ establishments to deal with given issues. Without those movements transcending exclusively partisan concerns, American history would be a one-page tale of status quo.

    Second, even for those concerned more about electoral victories than ideology, this Partisan War Syndrome that subverts ideological movements ultimately hurts electoral prospects. Today’s Republican Party, for instance, could not win without the corresponding conservative ideological movement that gets that party its committed donors, fervent foot soldiers and loyal activists. That base certainly operates as an arm of the GOP’s party infrastructure – but few doubt it is fueled less by hollow partisanship, and more by their grassroots’ commitment to social, economic and religious conservatism.

    This is why resisting Partisan War Syndrome and doing the hard work of rebuilding an ideological movement is both a moral imperative and a political necessity for the left. A grassroots base that is organized around hollow partisan labels rather than an overarching belief system – no matter how seemingly energized – will never defeat an opponent that puts ideological warriors ready to walk through fire on the political battlefield. If we do not rekindle that same fervor about actual issues on the left, we will continue living in a one-party country, losing elections into the distant future, and most disturbing of all, watching as our government serves only to protect those in power.

  • Did I link to this before? A majority of Americans favor impeachment if it turns out that Bush lied about the reasons for invading Iraq. (It’s really hard to type that with a straight face.) In fact, support for Clinton’s impeachment (over lying about a blow job) was much lower.
  • Here’s a great interview with one of my favorite writer/thinkers, Barbara Ehrenreich.
  • The Amazonian rain forest is shrinking much faster than anyone thought. Also, read this George Monbiot piece about the devastation caused by Brazilian beef production. You’d think you were reading about the diamond industry, but no… Beef.
  • Winning hearts and minds… By starving and dehydrating Iraqi civilians.
  • Here’s a wonderful James Carroll column:

    (Excerpt)Who is this ”God” in whose name so many diverse and troubling things take place? Why is it assumed to be good to affirm one’s faith in such an entity? Why is it thought to be wicked to deny its existence? Most striking about so much talk of ”God,” both to affirm and to deny, is the way in which many who use this language seem to know exactly to what and/or whom it refers. God is spoken of as if God is the Wizard of Oz or the great CEO in the sky or Grampa or the Grand Inquisitor. God is the clock-maker, the puppeteer, the author. God is the light, the mother, the wind across the sea, the breath in every set of lungs. God is the horizon. God is all of these things.

    But what if God is none of them? What if every possible affirmation that can be made of God, even by the so-called religions of revelation, falls so far short of the truth of God as to be false? Who is the atheist then? The glib God-talk that infuses public discourse in contemporary America descends from an anthropomorphic habit of mind, dating to the Bible and beyond, that treats God like an intimate friend or well-known enemy, depending on the weather and the outcome of battles. But there is another strain in the Biblical tradition that insists on the radical otherness of God, an otherness so complete that even the use of the word ”God” as a name for this Other One is forbidden. According to this understanding, God is God precisely in escaping and transcending comprehension by human beings. This can seem to mean that God is simply unknowable. If so, humans are better off not bothering about it. Atheism, agnosticism, or childish anthropomorphism — all the same.

    But here is where it gets tricky. What if God’s unknowability is the most illuminating profundity humans can know about God? That would mean that religious language, instead of opening into the absolute certitude on which all forms of triumphal superiority are based, would open into true modesty. The closed creation, in which every question has an answer, would be replaced by an infinite cosmos where every answer sparks a new question. If what we mean by ”God” is the living pulse of such open-endedness, then God is of no use in systems of dominance, censorship, power. God is everywhere, yes. But, also, God is nowhere. And that, too, shows in America, especially in its fake religiosity.

  • Bob of I am a Christian Too, puts this nicely, and with more generosity than I can muster:

    The founding meme of this blog is a response to conservative Christians that imply, or even baldly assert, that given my political views I am not a Christian. I refuse to commit this same sin in return. I disagree strongly with conservative Christians on politics, and I differ from them on many theological grounds. But we are saved by God’s grace, not by our works, and justification by politics is just another form of works-righteousness. We are all saved, and not by our own doing, or our political beliefs.

    Conservative Christians are my political enemies, but are still my brothers and sisters in Christ.

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