Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dom Giordano's Talk-Show Urgency

Yesterday, I did the whole 600 miles from Philadelphia to Morehead and would have made decent time if I didn't have to take a couple of naps.

Having listened to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix all the way through Pennsylvania and Maryland, the cd player started skipping somewhere around Buckhannon, WV and I began looking for radio stations. After experimenting with some dreary baseball shows, what I got was radio talk show out of Philadelphia with Dom Giordano, a right-winger who was very concerned about the Iraqi parliament going on vacation this August. Talking from his air-conditioned station, Dom didn't want to hear any more about the 130 degree heat in Iraq, Iraqi parlimentarians suffering under Saddam, or the fact that Iraqis are used to taking vacations in August.

NO EXCUSES, Giordano emphasized. For Giordano, American troops were dying, so Iraqi legislators should be in Baghdad legislating.

Giordano was so emphatic about the Iraqi parliament because he knows the clock is running out on the war in the United States. Giordano divides the world into people who are "urgent" about the war and people who are "patient" about the war. Well, that's how he divides up the 25% of the population that supports the war. Giordano categorizes everybody else as "unprincipled Democrats."

Listening to Giordano though, I got the impression that "not giving in to the Democrats" is his main inspiration for continuing the war in Iraq. Giordano knows as well as I do that it wouldn't make any difference if the Iraqi parliament took a six-month vacation. They still wouldn't get anything done. But "surrendering" to the Democrats by giving up on the war is too intolerable to bear. So Dom's sticking with Iraq.

Otherwise, Dom and the rest of the right-wing would just be moving to the next war.

Friday, July 13, 2007

My George Bush Moment

Thursday afternoon, I attended a talk at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. The speaker was a Georgetown University history prof who gave a great talk on considering the Virginia colony from a global view. Starting with the interesting fact that early Jamestown leaders had served in the Mediterranean, Madigascar, and other parts of the world, she built up a compelling argument about why the "global" careers of these men were important for understanding the early years of the colony. What made the talk particularly impressive was the spirit and enjoyment with which the professor talked about her work. The lecture was filled with an embracing laughter as the speaker discussed her sources and reached out to draw in the work of the other historians in the room. It was all extremely well done and done in a way that made me and everyone in the audience happy that we too were historians.

So, how did I get a George Bush moment out of this? Actually, the speaker was a first year graduate student at the same time that I was a fellow myself at the McNeil Center. Because she was dating another of the dissertation fellows, she was a fun part of the crowd when the fellows got together for seminars, dinners, and generally hanging out.

Yeah, I still haven't gotten to the Bush part yet. Anyway, the guy she was dating was from New Zealand and one night the beer brain in me decided that "Trevor" was not American enough and started calling him "Trev-Bob." And for good measure, I also called her "Muffy." It was the University of Pennsylvania after all, and there was a lot of "muffiness" in the air. There still is. And the nickname stuck so well that she was known as "Muffy" for the whole year.

At the end of the year, people went their different ways and I pretty much forgot my exercise in nicknaming until the speaker inadvertently reminded me after her wonderful talk. It seems that I had written a note on her illegally parked car for the cops to go inside and ask "Muffy" about moving it. Then it hit me. That's exactly what George Bush did with people like Karl Rove, or "Turd Blossom" as Bush calls him. I had been acting just like George Bush which was not exactly a morale boosting comparison.

But then I consoled myself that "Trev-bob" and "Muffy" were the beginning and end of my nicknaming career. Unlike Bush, I was able to stop giving my friends nicknames (although I actually think of Rove more as "doughface").

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The "Save the Surge Movement"

The "save the surge" movement has begun.

The President's out in public giving speeches in Cleveland and holding a press conference today in Washington.

And there's people who know how to communicate in English promoting the surge as well.

The right-wing of the New York Times reporting staff is writing up optimistic comments by generals verbatim. Conservative bloggers like Hugh Hewitt and Glenn Reynolds are up in arms and the talk radio guys are celebrating the "interim report" to Congress about the "wonderful news." Rush Limbaugh is so happy about the interim report that his web site poses him at his "weenie-boy" best with a big American flag over his shoulder.

I never knew that conservatives could so excited about committees. That's because it turns out that appointing committees is the major accomplishment of the Iraqi government since the surge began.

According to the CNN Report Card (sorry I couldn't work the link), the Iraq government has formed a Constitutional Review Committee and has completed its Constitutional review.


But still, appointing even an important committee doesn't make up for the fact that the Iraqi government hasn't "established a strong militia disarmament program to ensure that security forces are accountable only to the central government and loyal to the Constitution of Iraq." In fact, the Iraqi's can't. The Shiite militias are the strongest Iraqi military force and have effectively infiltrated the Iraqi Army and police as well. Any attempt by the Iraqi government to disarm the militias would be political and military suicide.

But there's more.

The report grades the Iraqi government's progress on "setting up procedures to form semi-autonomous regions" as "satisfactory." Like Rush, I'm ecstatic about that. In fact, I've been walking around Philly with a flag over my shoulder just to show my happiness. And I can't tell you how many people have stopped me on the streets to tell me how impressed they are over these new procedures.

But I do wish that better progress was made on "ensuring that Iraq's political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the Iraqi Security Forces" and that the Iraqi government was "providing Iraqi commanders with authority to make tactical and operational decisions, in consultation with U.S commanders, without political intervention, including the authority to pursue all insurgents and militias."

As important as new procedures are, these items seem more significant.

The Iraqi government did spend $10 billion on economic reconstruction and provide three brigades to support the Baghdad security plan.

In fact, however, the Baghdad plan has not changed the situation in Baghdad. Sunni insurgents are still able to carry out car bombings. Shiite militias are still active in death squad work, and the Iraqi government, military, and police are still massively corrupt, riddled with militia members, and incapable of carrying their share of the load--or any share of the load.

I tend to assume that the "save the surge" campaign will have some impact on public opinion. The right is good at public relations. But the Bush administration has generally found that new kinds of bad news from Iraq wipe out their efforts to manipulate public opinion.

It's hard not to believe that this will be the case with the save the surge campaign as well.

One More Day

Today's my last full day in Philadelphia. A stop at the Van Pelt Library of the University of Pennsylvania, a seminar at the McNeil Center, hanging out a little with the historians, and then I start packing.

Hanging out with historians means drinking and last night I split a couple of pitchers with a great guy from Penn State. I don't I had more than 2 or 3 beers all year up to this point.

The sacrifices we make for our careers.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Right's Groundhog Day, or The Boy Who Cried "Gold"

I can't make up my mind whether the right is living a reverse Groundhog Day or a reformulation of the "the boy who cried wolf" fairy tale. Let's start with the Bill Murray/Andi MacDowell semi-classic comedy about a weatherman who couldn't escape Punxsatowney, PA. Murray woke up every day to a rewind of yesterday in Punxsatowney until he stopped being a selfish, preening asshole, retooled his personality, and began to appreciate the town's little quirks.

In American right-wingers wake up every morning and find to their dismay that the country is still opposed to the war by a 2 to 1 margin. Nothing works. First, they believed with Dick Cheney that we would be greeted as liberators. Then that capturing Saddam would turn the tide. After that a constitution. Elections. By now the public was getting tired of optimism and turning against the war. But the right kept believing. There was also the initial success at Tel Afar, the killing of Zarqawi, President Bush announcing all his new plans for clearing, holding, and rebuilding in 2006. I feel like a Billy Joel song here.

And finally, it was Gen. Petraus and the surge.

Here's where the boy crying wolf comes in. The right-wing cried "gold" everytime the Bush administration announced a new "turning point." But everybody except Haliburton and Blackstone Security stopped listening to announcements from Bush.

Then, finally, something good happened. Sunni insurgents in Anbar province have switched sides and are now fighting with American soldiers against al-Qaida. It's definitely forward movement and there are even sharp little promotional nicknames for it like "Anbar Awakening." Perhaps there's the gold.

But Americans are waving their hands in disgust if they're responding at all. "Fool me five times/ I'm not listening anymore." And who can blame them? If they cared, people would ask why the good news in Anbar would be evidence of the surge being successful if the Sunni side switching didn't result from American military action. Wasn't the surge supposed to bring security to Baghdad? Violence has been increasing there again. The Shiite militias are still just as much a threat as before and the Iraqi government is just as incompetent. All the surge has done is move some pieces around on the board. Again! The right doesn't have answers to these questions. They just want to point to "Anbar Awakening" and should "gold" at the top of their lungs.

And that's why nobody is listening to them. The Iraq War is the same one step forward/two steps back that it's been since the capture of Saddam in 2003. The right just doesn't get it or doesn't want to get it and that's why they're waking up to the same reality of popular disgust with the war. And that's what the right will continue to get until they embrace the fact that the war's a disaster and stop being such preening assholes to boot.

Bush Plays Chicken with Republicans

Elizabeth Dole came out against the surge yesterday and she joins Richard Lugar, George Voinovich, Pete Domenici, John Warner, Gordon Smith, and Chuck Hagel as Republican senators who have decided that the surge isn't going to work.

How is President Bush responding.

Of course, he sent Stephen Hadley up to Capital Hill on a "scouting mission" to sound out Republican senators about the war. That's right, the president is now scouting the Republicans as if they were an opposing baseball team, the political opposition, or an enemy army.

Why isn't President Bush friends with Republican senators. Evidently, the Bush administration has been just as high-handed and demeaning in their dealings with Republican office holders as they've been with Democrats.

And Bush's underlying strategy with Republicans in the Senate is the same as with the Democrats. He's setting up a game of chicken where he's daring the Republicans to vote with the Democrats. First, he dared the Democrats to cut off war funding because polls showed that voters did not want resolutions to end war funding.

However, when the Dems caved, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi found out the hard way that cutting off funding was much more popular than the war itself. They're still taking a beating for it.

Now President Bush is daring Republicans to support Democratic resolutions. And it might work for a while. Congressional Republicans have been pushed into a box where anything they do will be unpopular with big constituencies. Supporting President Bush and the war makes them anathema to 2/3rds of the public while opposing the surge ticks off their core conservative support.

But President Bush could also find himself daring Republicans to override his vetoes.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I, David Vitter

There's a scene in I, Claudius where Augustus lines up the staff at his palace and gradually discovers that every man there has had sex with his daughter Julia. That's kind of what's happening to Sen. David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana. Not only was he on the DC madam's phone list, Vitter apparently hung out in the brothels of New Orleans. It may be the case that reporters will have a hard time finding prostitutes who haven't had sex with Vitters.
U.S. Senator David Vitter visited a Canal Street brothel several times beginning in the mid-1990s, paying $300 per hour for services at the bordello after he met the madam at a fishing rodeo that included prostitutes and other politicians, according to Jeanette Maier, the "Canal Street Madam" whose operation was shut down by federal investigators in 2001.

But thank God! Vitters did oppose gay marriage.

Protein Wisdom Bites the Dust

It looks like RSI's encounter with Proteinwisdom was too much for right-wing blogger Jeff Goldstein. He appears to have closed up shop. From the appearance of Goldstein's endorsement list though, it looks like the fluff right is a going concern. Just what the world needs!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Is the Right-Wing a Cancer on Our Country? (revised, expanded, and linked)

Over the last week, I've had a lot of contact with the right-wingers at (which now seems to have gone out of business). It's hard to describe their viewpoint. They're not evangelicals because there's no mention of religion at all. They're not necessarily neo-cons, and they make a special point of disavowing Limbaugh and Coulter. They're supportive of President Bush but don't talk about Bush anymore than Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney. Maybe Bush is taboo. Maybe the Bush brand has gone out of style.

Instead, the main motif of proteinwisdom is making fun of the left and the blog just bristles with little satires, inside jokes, put downs and demeaning little nicknames for people like Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and liberal blogger Glenn Greenwald. Certainly, they think they're hilarious. Blogger Dan Collins emphasized the hiliariousness of it all in a reply to me last night.

But, it's basically fluff. So, the fluff right it is.

However, one of their bloggers, Darlene Click, did get upset with me for referring to the right-wing as a "cancer" on American society. To be fair, I'll be glad to concede that I'm not worried about the fluff right here. They're not active enough and don't care much about anything beyond their own self-esteem to be much of a danger to anybody.

Why then, is the right-wing a cancer on American society?

1. Several prominent right-wing authors have been experimenting with ideas for eliminating democracy as we know it in the United States. These include Harvey Mansfield's justification of one-man rule, Thomas Sowell's yearning for a military coup, Newt Gingrich's proposal to weaken the protections in the first amendment, and another Newt idea to establish military tribunals for domestic war dissenters.

Figures like Robert Bork (for example in Slouching Toward Gomorrah) have been complaining for decades about federal guarantees for First Amendment and due process rights. Others have been critical of the evolution of popular culture, the ethic of tolerance (especially Alan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind), and the further democratization involved in the feminist and gay rights movements. The right is also suspicious of political dissent and there was a lot of talk among conservatives of treason among Iraq war opponents and mounting military tribunals to try and hang senators like Carl Levin of Michigan.

Much as they admire the flag and the military, the right-wing has been dissatisfied with the broad democratizing trends of American society for a long time. Now prominent right-wing spokespeople are talking about taking away fundamental rights and overthrowing democratic institutions. That makes them a threat to American society.

But what kind of threat? Given that the American right is largely a native growth, the right-wing can't be considered an external threat in the manner of al-Qaeda. Likewise, the right isn't exactly contemplating treason (although launching a military coup obviously would be treasonous). Instead, the publications speculating about the overthrow of American democracy suggest that the right is an internal growth that is beginning to pose a threat to the health and the life of whole system.

Cancer is a good word for that kind of growth.

2. The right-wing is pushing for more wars in both the short and the long term. Specifically, the neo-cons at the American Enterprise Institute are pushing the Bush administration to go to war with Iran before their term end. A war with Iran would be a war about nothing. Of course, the right has blown up Iran's nuclear program, the $200 mill they give Hezbollah (we give the Israelis $6 billion), and their accusations of Iranian aid to the Shiite militias in Iraq into the second coming of the Nazi blitzkrieg across Europe. If fact, the Iranians are a military non-entity and would still be a military non-entity if they had the bomb. Iran spends $6 billion compared to our $573 billion on defense. The right's primary idea in invading Iraq was to provide a secure base for intimidating or invading Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. But with the Iraq mission blowing up in our faces, there's no a longer a reason to finger Iran as the next in the long line of Hitlers we have to fight.

Because the right would like the U. S. to be a militarized society in general, there was relief in some conservative quarters (like Andrew Sullivan in his warmongering days) that the 9-11 attacks shook us out of our frivolous lives. The right's warmongering is closely related to its rejection of democracy. The goal of the right as expressed by the Project for the New American Century was for the U. S. to dominate every corner of the world and be willing to go to war with every competitor for regional influence like China, Iran, or Russia. The key is domination. The neo-cons wanted to establish global relations of domination that mirrored the domestic domination of the right projected by Karl Rove and Grover Norquist. What happened is that warmongering made global terrorism stronger while weakening the American military and dividing American society. Much like the demand to dominate American society, the warmongering demand to dominate the rest of the world turned out to be a kind of cancer on us.
3. The final cancerous dimension of the right they oppose the contemporary meaning of "the creed" in Thomas Jefferson's declaration that "all men are created equal." The currently fashionable bigotries are prejudices against Muslims and immigrants. Ann Coulter sums up right-wing religious bigotry succinctly when she demands that the U. S. invade Muslim countries and either kill Muslims or convert them to Christianity. She also captures conservative anger over immigration when she characterizes the United States as a "roach motel" for Mexican immigrants. Nice girl, that Ann. The conservative movement is also the home for white racist sentiment, homophobia, and hostility to women's rights. The worst thing about conservatives on these issues is that they keep finding compelling new ways to package and promote their bigotries. The most prominent packaging effort was William Bennett's repackaging of hostility to African-Americans as "color-blindness." Bennett was so successful that "color-blind racism" has become the dominant form of racism in the U. S. But the same kind of creative bigotry can be seen in the campaigns against gay rights and abortion. In many ways, the right-wing has turned the defense of traditional racial, gender, and sexual-orientation hierarchies into a on-going an on-going crusade against contemporary America.

As the Bush years wind down, the right-wing is beginning to coalesce against American democracy in all its forms. I'm not quite sure that they are an immediate (clear and present) danger to the American way of life and I believe that the failure of the Iraq War has arrested the progress of the right on several fronts. But it's hard for me to see the right as anything but a cancer on American society.

Gotta Love Mother Love

It was definitely hot in Philadelphia today, so hot my mother called me from upstate New York to see if I was okay. She'd heard reports about there being heat alerts here.

Actually, it wasn't quite as hot as I thought it would be. I even cooked in at my B & B although that looks like a mistake.

So, after telling my mom I was fine, we talked a little about the upcoming family reunion where my brothers, sisters, and I (at least the ones talking to each other) get together with our kids.

Then I thanked her for being concerned about whether her 53 year-old son could handle the heat.

Gotta love mother love.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Colin Powell Gives Me That Nauseous Feeling

The Times of London reports that Colin Powell spent 2 1/2 hours trying to talks President Bush out of invading Iraq.
“I tried to avoid this war,” Powell said at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. “I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.”

In that light, Powell should have resigned rather than continuing as Secretary of State. Powell doesn't say whether he spoke with Bush before or after his own dramatic UN presentation that turned the American public in favor of invasion. If he spoke with Bush before the UN presentation, Powell bears enormous responsibility for justifying an invasion he didn't believe in. In my opinion, that would make Powell just as culpable for the war as George Bush, Dick Cheney, or Paul Wolfowitz. In fact, one could argue that Powell would have had a greater culpability because lack of public support might have forced Bush and Cheney to call off their invasion.

Even if Powell talked with Bush after his UN presentation, he still should have resigned. A resignation would have stiffened the backs of the Democrats (who really needed it), given legitimacy to the anti-war movement, and perhaps pushed a couple per cent of the vote to John Kerry in 2004. That's all speculative, but Powell could have given alternative scenarios a much better chance is he had left the Bush administration in protest.

By the way, Powell isn't helping his reputation or legacy through these revelations. Just thinking about it makes me nauseous.

After Maliki, the Deluge

It looks like the government of Nouri al-Maliki is getting ready to collapse in Iraq. An umbrella group called "The Iraq Project" is preparing a no-confidence vote on the Maliki government for July 15. The "Iraq Project" is led by Sunni politicians and probably includes the Kurds and secular Shiites. According to a CBS Report, their basic idea is to put technocrats rather than political party people in charge of government ministries.

CBS doesn't mention this, but there was talk last January and February of the Bush administration trying to ease Maliki out in favor of "a moderate alliance." It sounds like "The Iraq Project" is the same group. The Bush wants a more moderate and secular government in Iraq for several reasons. Perhaps most importantly, Shiite religious parties like Maliki's Dawa Party, Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, and SCIRI (Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council) all have close ties with Iran and would be extremely angry at an American attack on Iran. That serves to constrain American military action against the Iranians.

Another important consideration for the Bush administration is that the Shiite religious parties are barely tolerant of the American military presence in Iraq and will want all American troops out at the first glimpse of stability. The Bush administration views Sunni politicians, the Kurds, and Ayad Allawi's secular Shiites as more friendly to American interests.

Finally, the leading role of the Shiite religious parties in the government has resulted in the infiltration of the Shiite militias into government ministries, the police, and the Iraqi Army. As a result, the government has been heavily implicated in the Shiite death squads that have been targeting Sunni communities around Iraq.

So, replacing the Shiite religious parties with a secular coalition more attuned to American interests would be a good thing. No?

Definitely not! In fact, it would be the biggest disaster we've fobbed off on the Iraqis yet.

First, there would be the decision-making problems. The kind of moderate alliance projected by the Iraq Project would have such a diverse membership and so many conflicting interests that decision-making would be paralyzed the moment the enthusiasm of taking power wore off. If people think Maliki is indecisive, wait to you see his moderate successor.

Moreover, the Iraq Project has almost no popular base. The key asset of the Shiite religious parties has always been that they have a strong political base among the majority Shiite population. To the contrary, the Sunni politicians are not even as much of a force among the Sunni population as the criminal gangs allied with al-Qaeda. Ayad Allawi's party doesn't have much support either. The only part of the Iraq Project that has popular support is the Kurdish segment. Having no popular base means that nobody is going to be loyal to the Iraq Project during hard times.

And what else is there in Iraq but hard times?

Of course, the worst problem with the Iraq Project is that it will result in the alienation of the majority Shiite population from the government. That's bad enough in any case, but there are tens of thousands of men in the militias connected to the Shiite political parties. Because the Shiite religious parties are in power, those men are connected to the government. What's going to happen to the Shiite militias when the Iraq Project is in charge?

Are they just going to lay down their arms?

Not likely. But any attempt to forcibly disarm the militias would create even higher levels of sectarian strife in Iraq. The Shiite militias and the whole Shiite population would lose their stake in governing and gain enormous incentives for armed rebellion. In many ways, the Sunni resurrection has run it's course as Sunni tribal leaders have decided the al-Qaeda is even worse than the American occupiers. If the Iraq Project gains power, there is an excellent chance that the Sunni insurrection will be succeeded by a Shiite insurrection.

The current government is a prescription for failure--The Iraq Project is a prescription for disaster.

1st Year Best of RSI: The Bedtime with Dick Cheney Series

I wrote a three-part response to the Scooter Libby conviction emphasizing my concern, and the concern of everyone on the left, for the health of Dick Cheney. My daughter Katy likes "Kumbaya Dick Cheney" the best, but my favorite is "Sleep in Heavenly Peace."

Good-Night Dick Cheney

Ever since Dick Cheney was attacked in Afghanistan, there have been a lot of reports about people on the left who would rather see Dick Cheney dead.

I don't believe it.

My left-wing friends and I bear bear nothing but good will toward the greatest vice-president since Al Gore. In fact, we at Red State Impressions are so concerned about Cheney's health that I flew to Washington personally to tuck him into bed and read him a story tonight.

Here's some lines I read from the children's classic, Margaret Wise Brown's "Good Night Moon."

Good Night Moon.
In the great green room
There was a telephone.
And a red balloon
And a picture of--
The cow jumping over the moon
And there were three little bears sitting on chairs
And two little kittens
And a pair of mittens
And a little toy house
And a young mouse
And a comb and a brush
and a bowl full of mush
And a quiet old lady who was whispering "hush."

I told the Vice-President that I would be reading "Winken, Blinken, and Nod" tomorrow night, but he preferred "The Three Little Pigs" instead. It's one of his favorites. If anyone has a bedtime story that they want me to read Dick Cheney, please reply below. RSI

Kumbaya Dick Cheney

I feel so sorry for Vice-President Dick Cheney. He's had such a tough time lately. The combination of the bombing in Afghanistan and the blood clot in his leg were bad enough.

Then today, Scooter Libby, one of his closest associates was convicted of four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice. It must be so hard for Dick Cheney to find out that Scooter Libby is a . . . CRIMINAL.

Gracious me!

I'm sure that Dick Cheney's going to have a hard time sleeping tonight and we definitely don't want him to get dependent on sleeping pills like the first President Bush.

So, what I'd like all of my fellow leftists to do is join your hands together while we sing "Kumbaya,"a traditional Gulla song from African-American settlements on the coast of South Carolina and Georgia.

I'm sure Dick Cheney will appreciate this gesture from his left-wing friends. Like everyone from Wyoming, Dick Cheney has a deep appreciation for the Gulla dialect and black culture in general. I admire him so much!

Everybody ready.

Kumbaya my lord, kumbaya
Kumbaya my lord, kumbaya
Kumbaya my lord, kumbaya
Oh Dick Cheney, kumbaya

Someones singing lord, kumbaya
Someones singing lord, kumbaya
Someones singing lord, kumbaya
Oh Dick Cheney, kumbayah

Someones laughing, lord, kumbaya
Someones laughing, lord, kumbaya
Someones laughing, lord, kumbaya
Oh Dick Cheney, kumbaya

Someones crying, lord, kumbaya
Someones crying, lord, kumbaya
Someones crying, lord, kumbaya
Oh Dick Cheney, kumbaya

Someones praying, lord, kumbaya
Someones praying, lord, kumbaya
Someones praying, lord, kumbaya
Oh Dick Cheney, kumbaya

Someones sleeping, lord, kumbaya
Someones sleeping, lord, kumbaya
Someones sleeping, lord, kumbaya
Oh Dick Cheney, kumbaya
Oh Dick Cheney, kumbaya

I'm sure Dick Cheney appreciated our personal touch in revising the song a little bit. And I know that Dick Cheney will always have a warm spot in his heart for all the liberals and leftists who helped him sleep tonight. God bless.

Dick Cheney's Heavenly Peace

Few people know what it's like to be responsible for the suffering, maiming, and deaths of thousands and tens of thousands. I remember reading something once about how WWI flying aces were traumatized by the screams of those they shot down. Think how heavily the deaths of thousands would weigh on our minds, especially when we're asleep and our excuses, justifications, rationalizations, and other defenses are much more relaxed than they are while waking.

While we sleep, the horrors we visit on others haunt us whether we killed by accident, negligence, or according to plan and it would take a super-human evil on the order of Stalin, Hitler, or Mao not to be paralyzed by the dream spectacle of other people's suffering.

Fortunately for our country, Dick Cheney is not such a man. A sensitive man, Dick Cheney feels the death of each of the 3,185 American soldiers who have died or been maimed in Iraq--their being shot, blown apart by IED's as they ride in their Hummers, drowned in the Tigris or Euphrates, or mangled to such an extent that they had to have large parts of their arms and legs amputated.

Knowing that he was largely responsible for sending those troops, Dick Cheney sees American soldiers wounded and dead every night in his sleep.

Shakespeare portrayed everyone killed by Richard III as visiting Richard in his sleep before the Battle of Bosworth Field, reciting Richard's crimes, and telling him to "fall thy edgeless sword: despair, and die!" In the same way, the American men and women killed or maimed in Iraq visit Dick Cheney to remind him of the half-truths and lies by which he promoted the invasion, his refusal to think through the problems of occupation, and the recklessness and arrogance with which he wasted their lives and continues to waste the lives of their friends and comrades.

The same is the case with the more than 50,000 Iraqis who have died as a result of the U. S. invasion. Poor Dick Cheney! There must be spectral riots as the shades of the Iraq War dead fight each other for the opportunity to haunt a little bit of his sleep.

It must be an awful thing.

That's why Dick Cheney needs our help. Unlike those on the right, we on the left also feel the burden that the death and suffering in Iraq imposes on Dick Cheney and all of us. Because our minds are not tied up in rationalizing the war or justifying the Bush administration, the shocking brutality of the situation in Iraq strikes us harder than it strikes the warmongers.

Therefore, it's up to us to help Dick Cheney as much as we can. Some on the left might argue that Dick Cheney's own suffering would be a small price for him to pay for all the suffering he's caused and there's a way I can agree with that. It would be an "eye for an eye" vengeful kind of justice for Dick Cheney to experience some of the pain that he has dished out one way or another in Iraq.

But, in fact, Dick Cheney could never "pay in full" for what's happened in Iraq. One person can never suffer enough for the tens of thousands of deaths that Cheney has helped cause.

More importantly for our own piece of mind, there is a justice of love and mercy that has a higher claim on us than the law of revenge. It's this higher sense of justice that is the most distinctive contribution of Christianity to modern life. The ability to love those who are not "our own" or even the opposite of our own, is what allows us to empathize with our soldiers even if we disagree with the war and feel the suffering of the Iraqi people even though we live a very different kind of life.

The higher law of justice should also allow us to exercise a care even over the Dick Cheney's of the world, especially because he emerged out of our society and our way of life. It's the Christian vision of love and mercy as the highest and truest form of justice that leads me to suggest "Silent Night" as our comforting song for Dick Cheney tonight. Dick Cheney certainly is haunted by those who have died for his war, but we on the left can visit a little "heavenly peace" to his soul by singing him this song.

Altogether now.

Silent Night
Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin,
Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born.

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love's pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

Amen to that!

Good-night Dick Cheney.

1st Year Best of RSI: Jesus and the Refusal of the Dispossessed

Matthew 5:39-41."But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil . . . And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."

Not resisting evil means more than just turning the other cheek; it means giving enemies or evil people more than they seek. Jesus demands that we have a constant will to self-sacrifice and views humiliations such as loss of property or demands for menial service as special tests of our willingness to sacrifice ourselves. Being humiliated in these ways tempts us to reassert our own dignity. To the contrary, Jesus demands that we not only not give into that temptation, but that we go the extra mile in our sacrifice for our opponents and enemies.

In the United States, giving to the poor, downtrodden, and marginal is a particularly difficult test of our willingness to self-sacrifice. In the RedStates and elsewhere, people give gladly for the sake of their companies, communities, families, work, and churches. However, any effort to consider poor people, blacks, gays, immigrants, women, or the disabled is viewed as a special kind of burden. It's like those of us in the white mainstream think of the dispossessed as being thieves and oppressors and are always imagining ourselves as needing to reassert our dignity in the face of their demands.

Whether the benefit is recognition of basic rights, providing access to social status, recognition of employee rights, or providing any kind of material benefit like health care or public assistance, Americans often treat any consideration for the poor and marginalized as the same kind of special burden as Jesus poses in the above quote. And there can be little doubt that we as a nation fail to meet Jesus' standard of giving the dispossessed more than what they ask for.

Much of what specifically characterizes the RedStates is a constant resentment over anything that is sacrificed for those outside the sacred circle of the mainstream. Liberals and the Blue States don't do that much better, but resentment over the prospect of sacrificing for those outside the mainstream is one of the main reasons that the right-wing has so much political success in this region. This is another way in which the RedStates reject Jesus and it is helpful to keep in mind the Christian rejection of Jesus when seeking to understand the conservatism of the RedStates.

1st Year Best of RSI: A Love Song for Kim Jong-Il

This was my first post for Red State Impressions. Obviously, our president hasn't done anything to dispel this suspicion.

A Love Song for Kim Jong-Il

Perhaps it's overly simplistic to look at Bush's intelligence initiatives strictly in terms of the violations of the U. S. Constitution and American Law. Perhaps we should ask ourselves why the Bush administration has been so anxious to violate every American and international law they can find? Why do they specifically ignore their own legal experts and go out of their way to ignore their obligations to Congress? What does Bush get out of it?

My conclusion is that Bush is really engaged in an elaborate mating ritual with Kim Jong-Il, the "Dear Leader" of North Korea. For the last five years, Bush has been sending a wide variety of signals that he's interested in Kim's affection--love songs for Kim Jong-Il, if you will.

There's been the bellicose denunciations of Kim, the refusal to talk, and the withdrawal of aid. Kim eats this stuff up. He doesn't want food aid for his country anyway. Guantanamo? It might not be based on a North Korean model, but it was sure to get Kim excited. Nothing like adding a little torture to your everyday supermax confinement to get Kim's attention. With the Hoekstra letter, it looks like Bush is revealing that he has no more respect for the law than Kim.

Personally, it looks like President Bush is preparing the ground for a move to North Korea after he leaves office. That way, Bush can be with a "man's man," live in a country with a "really strong" executive, and finally escape the "liberal media."