Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ron Paul and the Fred Barnes Miracle

Although I am an atheist, I've never denied the presence of the miraculous. How could I? Look at this beautiful world. What were the odds of such a planet being formed out of the big bang? Miraculously high!

And now I have the pleasure to announce that I've been witness to yet another miracle--a miracle that is not nearly as significant as the formation of a life-sustaining planet but something that is awesome to behold nonetheless.

Drum roll please! In what has to count as a journalistic miracle, Fred Barnes has had an idea.

Yes, that Fred Barnes--the guy who's all over the media even though nobody can quite remember what he ever says or writes because it blends in so perfectly with what everybody else is saying and writing. A predictable cipher of the conventional wisdom, Barnes has landed gigs as the executive editor of the Weekly Standard, one of Fox's "Beltway Boys," and as a weekly participant on The McLaughlin Group on PBS. Just as no one thought that Tiny Tim could speak in A Christmas Carol, nobody believed that Fred Barnes was capable of articulating an idea of his own.

But then it happened!

At the end of an article in The Weekly Standard, Barnes notes briefly that Ron Paul might be leveraging his surprising run in the Republican primaries into a Libertarian campaign in the general election.
Come to think of it, there is a credible scenario for Ron Paul. That would mean running as the Libertarian candidate for president in the general election. His scenario would see him winning more votes than any Libertarian presidential nominee ever has. Just not enough to win the presidency.
Authenticators are investigating even as we speak, but I believe this constitutes an original thought. Barnes himself must have been so shocked by the novelty of this idea, or having any idea at all, that he developed a case of the vapors. That's because he didn't notice that Ron Paul winning 3% of the popular vote would doom any Republican presidential candidacy in 2008.

In other words, Barnes not only had an original idea, he had a significant idea.

It's a miracle.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Giuliani, Thoreau, and Wisdom

Ranting with Thoreau. Subbing for the admirable Glenn Greenwald, blogger Chris Floyd takes off on a long rant about the need to sharpen resistance to the Bush administration. Floyd warms my academic's heart by introducing his lengthy post with a quote from Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience:"
How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.
-- Henry David Thoreau

Unfortunately, Thoreau was wrong about just about everything and Chris Floyd is mistaken to take Thoreau as a role model for responding to the crimes of the Bush administration. Thoreau is certainly wrong concerning how to respond to the disgrace of being associated with the crimes of chattel slavery and the Mexican War. Thoreau endeavored to save himself from the disgrace of association with the Polk administration by committing symbolic crimes like refusing to pay his taxes--a crime that did nothing to stop slavery but did represent a severing of Thoreau's ties to the government.

That's much of what Floyd focuses on--urging the Democratic leadership to use impeachment and non-cooperation with the government as a vehicle to signal a refusal to be associated with the Bush administration's pre-emptive wars, refusal to abide by the rule of law, and crimes against humanity.
As I've noted elsewhere, Thoreau's answer should be taken up by every person in public life, beginning with the senators and representatives in Congress. There should be noncompliance, nonrecognition of this illegitimate authority, disassociation from taking part in its workings. No Bush appointees should be approved; indeed, they have already shown their unfitness for office by agreeing to work under the criminal regime in the first place. All legislation offered by the regime should be rejected outright; it is dishonorable to treat with a faction whose unprovoked, unnecessary "war of choice" in Iraq has now killed more Americans than were murdered on 9/11. The only "negotiation" acceptable with such bloodstained wretches is settling the terms of their exit from power.

For above all, impeachment should be moved to the top of the congressional agenda. It should be the overriding, all-consuming priority of the people's representatives. For this is the inescapable, stone-cold truth: nothing, absolutely nothing but impeachment, will stop the Bush-Cheney regime from carrying out its criminal agenda.

But we cannot escape the disgrace of the Bush administration any more than Thoreau could escape the disgrace of living in a slave society. When the invasion began, it had the consent of Congress and was supported by 70% of the population. Even those of us who opposed the invasion bear responsibility because of our inability to convince our fellow citizens that the invasion would be disastrous as well as wrong. Obviously, we war opponents don't bear the same level of responsibility as the Bush administration, the media, or the cowardly Democratic leadership, but we were part of the decision-making process as well. The shame of the awful death toll in Iraq, the crimes against humanity committed by the Bush administration, and the perversion of American government also rests on us.

And it's something that I've felt since the day of the invasion.

The Heir of Dick Cheney. At this point in time, the gestures of non-cooperation recommended by Chris Floyd and like-minded souls are wrong-headed are likely to convince voters that progressives are no more mature and responsible than the right-wing. Instead of eviscerating the Bush administration, such gestures are more likely to convince voters to vote for a Republican nominee like Rudy Giuliani. In other words, the Thoreau approach to the present crisis could result in at least four more years of what Floyd calls "the nation's death spiral into darkness, ruin and dishonor."

And Rudy Giuliani is the man for the job. He's just as bent on war with Iran and Syria as anybody in the Bush administration. Likewise, he's just as contemptuous of dissent, just as contemptuous of international law, just as contemptuous as Congress, and just as contemptuous of traditions of American government as Dick Cheney. If Dick Cheney is the dark presence standing at the shoulder of the president, Rudy Giuliani would be the dark presence sitting behind the president's desk. Of all the Republican presidential candidates, Giuliani would be the legitimate heir to the Bush administration because he would be the most like the most powerful person in the Bush administration--Dick Cheney.

What Little Honor We Can Have. The only positive thing that we as Americans can salvage from the Bush years is the first steps of an alternative path. We as progressives can get to that alternative if we demonstrate that we are wiser, more competent, and more determined than the conservatives holding office. Engaging is a series of high level, damn-the-consequences refusals of any cooperation with the Bush administration is not the way to convince anybody that we are so much better than our opponents. If anything, it would result in the opposite of what we want.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In Search of Islamic Fascism

This week the right-wing is trying to promote "Islamic-Fascism Awareness Week" on college campuses and in the United States more generally.

But they're not doing a very good job. I first read about "Islamic-Fascism Awareness Week" on the left-wing blog Talking Points Memo. And it wasn't until today (Thursday) that I read about it in a conservative source--Ann Coulter's column.

But Coulter doesn't identify what she means by Islamo-Fascism because she's too eager to refer to liberals as fascists.

Evidently, the fingers she uses to type "traitor" were worn out and she had to switch to fascist to avoid "repetition" injuries like carpal tunnel.

But really, who are the Islamo-Fascists? And who are their main friends and allies? Of course, the Big Cheeses of Islamo-Fascism are Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leadership. And bin Laden and the Taliban have certain fascist qualities about them--their reliance on leadership charism as the focus of group loyalty, focus on Islamic purity, focus on the modern West as "the decadent "other," and expansionist aim of establishing a global caliphate.

But the purveyors of the "Islamo-Fascist" concept want to incorporate Iran, the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, and the Hamas movement in the Palestinian territories as elements in a tidal wave of "Islamo-Fascism" that threatens to engulf the world, force us all to become Muslims, and drape "our women" in burkas.

In fact, the prime thrust of "Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week" is to convince people that American women are "that close" to adapting the burka as their primary fasion statement.

Let me count some of the ways in which this is nonsense.

It should be mentioned that neither the Iranians, Hezbollah, or Hamas are allied with bin Laden or likely to become involved with bin Laden in the future. Moreover, none of these parties either have global terrorist ambitions or have taken global terrorist initiatives. Finally, the Iranians, Hezbollah, and Hamas are all much more involved in democracy than our allies in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Jordan.

In other words, there is no Islamo-Fascist Movement outside al-Qaeda in Pakistan, al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the al-Qaeda cells operating in various countries. Likewise, al-Qaeda in Iraq and the various al-Qaeda cells in other countries owe at least 90% of their interest and success to the blundering stupidity of the Bush administration. Instead of bin Laden drawing them to al-Qaeda and global terrorism, the Bush administration pushes them in that direction. Bin Laden may be their role model, but President Bush is their best friend and most powerful source of recruitment.

What threat is posed by al-Qaeda and the various al-Qaeda cells?

Al-Qaeda outlets are capable of launching terrorist attacks, but they are real threats in only two places--Afghanistan and Pakistan. The situation is especially dangerous in Pakistan where people who are committed to global terrorism are spread throughout the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus. If al-Qaeda succeeded in overthrowing the Pakistani government and establishing a Taliban regime in Pakistan, that would be a genuine threat.

Otherwise, al-Qaeda isn't much of a threat. It seems that all the organization around bin Laden is capable of is maintaining correspondence with Iraq and producing an occasional video.

Not exactly impressive.

And that's why my wife, daughters, woman colleagues, and female students aren't buying any burkas despite all the effort going into "Islamo-Fascist Awareness Week."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Morehead State University: Better Than No. 1

In a departure from RSI tradition, I'm posting a comment that is strictly about Morehead State University. This is my analysis of the productivity dimension of Morehead State's "Planning for Greatness" Business Plan.

Morehead State University: Better Than No. 1!

The primary goal of the “Planning for Greatness” Business Plan is to make Morehead State University (MSU) the top-ranked regional state university in the South. “The Business Plan was developed as a financial roadmap to guide Morehead State University in its vision to “become the best public regional university in the South . . .” (Business Plan, 4) Given it’s current position as the top-rated by U. S. News & World Report (Business Plan, 3) regional state university in the South, James Madison University (JMU) of Harrisonburg, Virginia has become a benchmark for MSU.

Specifically, the Business Plan makes Morehead State’s University’s achievement of JMU’s standards for graduating students a cornerstone of MSU’s future success. Currently, JMU generates 24.7 graduates for every 100 full-time enrolled students (FTE’s) where MSU only graduates 16.4 students for every 100 FTE (Business Plan, 8). Thus, JMU seems more “productive” than Morehead State in turning entering students into graduates. The Council on Post-Secondary Education in Kentucky has mandated that Morehead State University increase its annual number of graduates from the current 1,055 per year to 1,799 per year in 2020 (6) as part of its effort to dramatically increase the number of college graduates in Kentucky. To lift the number of graduates to the CPE-mandated target, the Business Plan projects that MSU will need to raise the percentage of students we graduate (or raise our Productivity Index or PI) to a level of 22.3 that is close to that of JMU and increase the number of FTE’s from 7,512 to 11,994.

The Question of University Productivity.
However, productivity for a university is not simply a matter of how many students graduate out of the total pool of full-time students, it is a matter of how many students graduate out of that pool in relation to the expenses the university (and state) pays for educating them. In other words, productivity is also a matter of efficiency.

In relation to the issue of efficiency, the statistics included in the Business Plan clearly indicate that Morehead State University employs its available resources more productively than JMU to help students graduate with undergraduate degrees.

There are two considerations that lead to this conclusion.

First, Morehead State University and James Madison University spend almost exactly the same amount of money per graduating student. Expenditures per graduating student at Morehead State are $78565 which is only 1.27% more than expenditures per graduating student at JMU and might be wholly accounted for by reporting error. JMU spends 32.8% more than Morehead State University per FTE on its students but only gets 33.6% more graduates per 100 FTE’s as a result of the expenditure.

Table 1.

MSU James Madison University University

MSU,16.4--James Madison U, 24.7

Funds per FTE
MSU, $12,886--James Madison U $19,164

Funds per graduate
MSU, $78,565--James Madison U $77,575

Difference in funds per graduate

*numbers for PI and Funds per FTE derived from Business Plan, 16. “Funds per graduate” derived by dividing Funds per FTE by PI.

Table 1 indicates that MSU and James Madison University are equally productive in graduating students in relation to the resources they expend. However, considerations concerning the backgrounds and qualifications of students make it necessary to conclude that Morehead State University is the overall more productive of the two universities. According to a study of educational needs cited by the business plan , 19 out of the 22 counties in Morehead State’s service region have “more critical educational needs” (Business Plan, 12) than the average American county because of their lack of educational attainment, poverty, unemployment, and other factors. In fact, 12 of the counties in Morehead State’s service region are listed among the 100 poorest counties by median household income ( and Kentucky as a whole ranks 46th among the states in median household income (

The Business Plan does not provide information on the educational needs of the region surrounding James Madison University. However, given that Virginia (10th in median household income) is a considerably more prosperous state than Kentucky, it is reasonable to assume that JMU’s immediate region does not have the same high levels of “critical educational needs” as Morehead State’s service region and that students entering JMU have higher scores on standardized tests, more advance placement classes, better overall high school educations, and are generally more prepared for college than students entering Morehead State University. It is noteworthy the SAT scores for students enrolling JMU are in the middle 80% (averaging 1067) ( while the average entering ACT score for Morehead State students is 21, or about the 60th percentile ( Likewise, the Business Plan notes that Morehead State students have a “higher than average number of developmental needs.” (Business Plan, 27)

The relative qualifications of JMU and Morehead State University students are important for considering the “productivity” of a university. Because they are less prepared for college work upon entering MSU, Morehead State students have to make more academic progress to graduate from Morehead State than James Madison students have to make in order to graduate from James Madison University. From the perspective of comparative university analysis, Morehead State University accomplishes considerably more with the $78,565 that it spends for each graduating student than James Madison accomplishes with its $77,575. Because Morehead State brings significantly less qualified students forward to graduation for almost exactly the same cost as James Madison University, Morehead State has to be considered as the more productive university in terms of the outcomes achieved with its resources.

James Madison may be the no. 1 regional state university in the South according to U. S. News & World Report, but Morehead State is a more productive university. In that light, proposals for making Morehead State University more efficient or more productive should not be seen in terms of following James Madison as a role mode. Instead, such proposals should be seen in terms of making Morehead State even more superior to James Madison in terms of “efficiency” and “productivity” than it is now. If anything, James Madison University should be looking to MSU as a model in certain regards.

None of the considerations on “university productivity” offered here are meant to imply that Morehead State University should not seek to grow to a headcount of 12,000 students, graduate a higher percentage of the students we enroll, or employ our resources even more effectively than we do now. However, it is important to recognize that we are dealing with these issues from a position of considerable strength. Given our limited resources, the poverty of Eastern Kentucky, and the relative under-preparation of our entering students, Morehead State University is highly effective at deploying its resources in ways that make it possible for our students to make progress and graduate. This means that Morehead State academic programs, the General Education curriculum, various student support offices, the financial aid office, admissions, and other offices combine to do very well at helping students make progress in their academic programs and graduate. Indeed, we make more productive use of our resources than the No. 1 university of our type—James Madison University of Virginia.

However, I believe that the above comparison with JMU does imply that Morehead State should be careful in its decisions concerning which aspects of its operations need to be changed “at the margins” and which should be thoroughly overhauled or eliminated. Personally, I believe that the general education program at MSU is a successful program that could benefit from tinkering at the margins but might become less effective if it is completely taken apart and re-organized in an experimental fashion. Whether that is the case or not, the University needs to take some care that it doesn’t make its operations less effective rather than more.

The other important point that arises from the comparison with James Madison University is the importance of increasing Morehead State University’s financial resources. There may ultimately turn out to be intervening variables, but it is very striking James Madison spends 1/3 more than Morehead State per student and graduates about a 1/3 higher percentage of its FTE’s. This indicates that we can dramatically revise our programs, but that Morehead State University not going to be able to achieve our goal of graduating about 22.3% of our FTE’s unless we increase our funding by almost 50% above what we have now. We spend $12,886 per FTE at the present point. We’ll have to increase our spending to a James Madison level of more than $19,000 per student if we want James Madison results.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Todd Mayo, More on Jesus and Founding Fathers

There are serious plagiarism questions about the post below by Todd Mayo. Todd and I have not been able to resolve the issue. As a result, I've decidee to leave the post up along with the criticism of an anonymous commenter and my response.

"Todd Mayo wrote a particularly apt comment on my Jesus and the Founding Fathers post. I'm repringing almost all of it below.

"It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt"-Unkown.

This quote perfectly describes Governor Huckabee. I do not know whether he is unaware that his statement is incorrect of not. What I do know is that the men who lead the United States in its revolution against England, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and put together the Constitution were not Christians by any stretch of the imagination. Merely believing in God does not make a person a Christian. I do consider myself a Christian but one of the tenets of my faith is that all people should have the right to "worship how, where, or what they may."

The extreme religious right is trying to rewrite the history of the United States as part of their campaign to force their religion on others. They try to depict the founding fathers as pious Christians who wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, with laws that favored Christians and Christianity. This is patently untrue. The early presidents and patriots were generally Deists or Unitarians.

Some examples:

Benjamin Franklin: "As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion...has received various corrupting Changes." (Benjamin Franklin, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by Thomas Fleming).

George Washington: Never declared himself a Christian according to contemporary reports or in any of his voluminous correspondence. On his deathbed, Washington uttered no words of a religious nature and did not call for a clergyman to be in attendance. (George Washington and Religion by Paul F. Boller Jr., pp. 16, 87, 88, 108, 113, 121, 127).

John Adams in his later years wrote, "Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!" It was during Adam's administration that the Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which states in Article XI that "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." (The Character of John Adams by Peter Shaw)

Also, consider in reference to this the 1797 American treaty with (Muslim) Tripoli, declaring that "the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." The treaty was written under Washington's presidency, and approved by the Senate under John Adams.

Finally here is what Roger Williams,Founder of Rhode Island and a devout Baptist wrote:"The Church and State need not be, Williams insisted, inextricably linked: 'A Pagan or Antichristian Pilot may be as skillful to carry the Ship to its desired Port, as any Christian Mariner or Pilot in the World, and may perform that work with as much safety and speed.' 'God requireth not an Uniformity of Religion to be inacted and inforced in any Civill State,' he declared. Rather, the tares in the field of Christian grain must be left alone; let man hold whatever religious opinions he chooses provided he does not 'actually disturb civil peace."

So there we have it. Over and over again. These people were not hostile to Christianity at all. It is clear that they were hostile to no faith. It is equally clear however that in affairs of state, religion was not to be a consideration and the state was, under no circumstances to interfere with religious observance assuming that observence did not harm others or involve human or animal sacrifices."

What follows is the discussion concerning Todd's post by Anonymous and myself.

Anonymous said...
Actually, I think that it is the height of hubris to copy something from another website, paste it into a blog's comment board, and then, when the blogger thinks it is good, you comment on something you claim to have written. A majority of that post was copied from almost word for word. Changing a word here and there does not make it your own. And posting it on a professor's blog makes that hubris even worse.
5:56 PM

7:52 AM
Ric Caric said...
I thought this comment from "Anonymous" belonged here.

"ok, since the great professor needs some help on spotting the plagiarism a few posts down from a Todd Mayo, I'll help.

Todd's comment says:"The extreme religious right is trying to rewrite the history of the United States as part of their campaign to force their religion on others. They try to depict the founding fathers as pious Christians who wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, with laws that favored Christians and Christianity. This is patently untrue. The early presidents and patriots were generally Deists or Unitarians.

" says:"The Christian right is trying to rewrite the history of the United States as part of its campaign to force its religion on others. They try to depict the founding fathers as pious Christians who wanted the United States to be a Christian nation, with laws that favored Christians and Christianity. This is patently untrue. The early presidents and patriots were generally Deists or Unitarians, believing in some form of impersonal Providence but rejecting the divinity of Jesus and the absurdities of the Old and New testaments."

Todd says:"George Washington: Never declared himself a Christian according to contemporary reports or in any of his voluminous correspondence. On his deathbed, Washington uttered no words of a religious nature and did not call for a clergyman to be in attendance. (George Washington and Religion by Paul F. Boller Jr., pp. 16, 87, 88, 108, 113, 121, 127)."

Site says:"George Washington, the first president of the United States, never declared himself a Christian according to contemporary reports or in any of his voluminous correspondence...On his deathbed, Washinton uttered no words of a religious nature and did not call for a clergyman to be in attendance. From: George Washington and Religion by Paul F. Boller Jr., pp. 16, 87, 88, 108, 113, 121, 127 (1963, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, TX) "

Todd says: John Adams in his later years wrote, "Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!" It was during Adam's administration that the Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which states in Article XI that "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." (The Character of John Adams by Peter Shaw)"

Site says: John Adams, the country's second president, was drawn to the study of law but faced pressure from his father to become a clergyman. He wrote that he found among the lawyers 'noble and gallant achievments" but among the clergy, the "pretended sanctity of some absolute dunces". Late in life he wrote: "Twenty times in the course of my late reading, have I been upon the point of breaking out, "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!" It was during Adam's administration that the Senate ratified the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which states in Article XI that "the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." From: The Character of John Adams by Peter Shaw, pp. 17 (1976, North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC) Quoting a letter by JA to Charles Cushing Oct 19, 1756, and John Adams, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by James Peabody, p. 403 (1973, Newsweek, New York NY) Quoting letter by JA to Jefferson April 19, 1817, and in reference to the treaty, Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Pilgrim by Alf Mapp Jr., pp. 311 (1991, Madison Books, Lanham, MD) quoting letter by TJ to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, June, 1814.

Todd says:Also, consider in reference to this the 1797 American treaty with (Muslim) Tripoli, declaring that "the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." The treaty was written under Washington's presidency, and approved by the Senate under John Adams.

Site says:The Treaty of Tripoli, passed by the U.S. Senate in 1797, read in part: "The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." The treaty was written during the Washington administration, and sent to the Senate during the Adams administration.

Some amazing coincidences there to ignore. Funny how todd has been able to channel this other writer so throughly. Granted there are some word changes, but I would think that a professor wouldn't think that that made it his own work. And then the gloating that he has to be all pious and talk about how stupid it is for someone to do that, WHEN IT'S OBVIOUS HE'S THE ONE WHO DID IT!If you let this slide, then all that stuff you posted about your university and JMU, you can forget it.

8:26 PM
Ric Caric said...
I'm writing to acknowledge the validity of Anonymous' claim that important parts of Todd's post are taken "almost word for word" from What I would like to see happen is for Todd to respond to Anonymous' claim and indicate himself how he developed his formulations. I think it's a very healing thing to be able to deal with these kinds of difficulties when they arise. Until then, I've decided to leave the post up along with the comments from Anonymous and my responses. Until I can see an opening for a more satisfactory resolution, I believe that it's best to just let the whole exchange stand where it is.

Yes, I Have Seen Rain

Tonight, I'm reminded of the lyric from the James Taylor song: "Lord, I've seen fire and I've seen rain." That's because there's a hard, cleansing rain falling in our part of Kentucky. The rain is a thing of beauty in itself. It even smells right if such a phrase can be allowed. But it also improves the appearance of the environment. In a place where much of the beauty of nature lies in the over-abundance of plant life, a hard-cleansing fall rain makes the woodlands and streets even more beautiful by paring down much of the over-growth. When the rain stops, many of the trees will stand out even more because they'll be cluttered with fewer leaves.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Did the Founding Fathers Follow Jesus?

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo gets grumpy with Mike Huckabee because of Huckabee's claim that most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were clergymen.
I've sort of gotten tired of explaining that, no, the Founding Fathers actually weren't all born-agains and bible thumpers. Not hardly. (Probably better to say that the great majority ranged from believers in an entirely impersonal God -- Deists -- to believing Christians who nonetheless viewed popular religious enthusiasm with a polite and paternal disdain.) But presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, himself a Baptist minister, actually told a crowd yesterday that "most" of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were "clergymen."
Actually, it turns out that only one signer of the Declaration was a minister.

But Marshall doesn't go nearly far enough. In fact, it's extremely difficult to imagine Jesus supporting the American Revolution. The British were certainly the leading tyrants of the age, but the Palestine of Jesus' time was occupied by much worse tyrants in the form of the Romans. Did Jesus criticize Roman rule, countenance revolt, or support those who did revolt. Did he value either personal liberty or the liberty of the Jewish people?

The answer is a resounding "no" on all of these counts.

The Revolutionary period in American history began with resistance to the new taxes associated with the Stamp Act--"No Taxation without Representation." To the contrary, Jesus specifically endorsed paying what would have been far more onerous taxes to Rome. "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mark 12:13-17).

Of course, the British committed other kinds of tyrannical acts besides imposing taxes. They tried to set up elites around royal governors, quartered troops in colonial cities, and killed colonial militiamen at the battles of Lexington and Concord.

However, Jesus counseled against resisting these kinds of tyrannies on several levels. If the colonists considered the British to be enemies as Thomas Paine argued they should in Common Sense, Jesus was emphatic in proclaiming that people should "love their enemies."
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse yo, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
Emphatic indeed.

Perhaps the British weren't just our enemies. Perhaps they were evil. However, Jesus says to "resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:39)

Of course, we could argue that the values of freedom for which the American revolutionaries were fighting were "Christian values."

But not if Christianity has anything to do with Jesus.

What Jesus valued and lived in his own life (at least according to the New Testament) was suffering and especially suffering that led to martyrdom for his sake. That's why he opened the Sermon on the Mount with blessings for "the poor in spirit," "they that mourn," "the meek," and "they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness." (Matthew 5:3-6)

From the point of view of Jesus, it's the poor, weak, suffering, and lost who will inherit both the earth and the kingdom of heaven. It's those people who were best suited to follow his own path toward martyrdom.

If Jesus had used the rhetoric of freedom (and there's no record that he did), he would not have meant freedom in terms of protecting liberties, rights, and property or avoiding various kinds of subordination. In other words, Jesus would not have meant the freedom that the colonists fought for during the American Revolution.

Instead, he would have meant the freedom of having nothing left to lose--A "Me and Bobby McGee" kind of freedom.

Let me be clear. I don't mean to criticize the American Revolution here. But Jesus would have been the last person to endorse revolt and revolution of any kind, including the American Revolution.

And Mike Huckabee is kidding himself if he thinks the American Revolution can be associated with either the Christian god or Christianity as a religion.

Another Chance for the Democrats

I'm getting tired of beating up on the Democratic leadership in relation to Iraq. So, this time, I'll pose the issue in terms of "opportunity." The Bush administration is requesting more money for the wars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next year.
The White House has reportedly tacked on an additional $46 billion to its upcoming funding request for Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the total to a breathtaking $196.4 billion for a single budgetary year — and assuming this passes as is, there could even be more supplemental spending bills down the road.
This is another opportunity for the Democratic leadership in Congress to push for a withdrawal from Iraq. Given that President Bush vetoed legislation that tied funding to a withdrawal deadline, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid should up the ante a little more and cap funding in Iraq to those expenses necessary for winding up current operations and withdrawing troops.

And it should be a hard cap as well.

For the Democratic leadership at this point, it's a matter of choosing the way they're going to get pounded. If they pass withdrawal legislation, the Republicans will go after them with every tool in their smearing playbook. If the Democratic leadership doesn't pass withdrawal legislation, they'll be criticized by the progressive wing of the party and discourage Democratic voters more generally. They found that out after the last round of political combat over funding the Iraq War. Democratic voters were tremendously dissatisfied over the failure of the leadership to end the war and registered their disappointment in low approval ratings for Congress.

In the final irony, failure to pass troop withdrawal legislation won't help them with the right-wing either. All Limbaugh, Coulter, and Hannity would do is switch from the accusations of treason they were making last spring to a big round of gloating over the cowardice and ineffectiveness of the Democratic leadership.

Given that they're going to be hammered no matter what they do, the Democratic leadership should just bite the bullet and refuse to fund anything about the Iraq War except the withdrawal of American forces from their current combat roles.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bush Crime Watch--No. 1

There was so much crime news from the Bush administration and it seems like it's going to go on for so long that I'm starting a new series of posts on the Bush crime scene.

1. It appears that the Blackwater security company stole a couple of airplanes from the Iraqi government and refused to give them back. But I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation. Perhaps Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki welched on a Super Bowl bet with Blackwater honcho Erik Prince.

2. Former federal prosecutor Bud Mackay claims that an Inspector General's report fromt he Department of Justice is going to recommend that Alberto Gonzales be prosecuted for perjury before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Will Bush give a pre-emptive pardon? And would that pardon constitute obstruction of justice as well?

3. According to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, American forces killed 15 civilians and wounded 52 other civilians during a raid on the Sadr City section of Baghdad this morning. There are other reports of American troops targeting any and all fleeing cars, a couple of toddler bodies in the city morgue, and a 14 year-old boy being shot while he was sleeping on the family roof. The spokesperson for the military claimed that they weren't aware of any civilians being harmed.

But shooting up a neighborhood isn't just dumb. It's a crime.

Doing Nothing About Pakistan

The MSNBC link to the Newsweek story on Pakistan is titled "The World's Most Dangerous Nation." But it's been that way since 2001. Bin Laden is in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda has significant support in the Pakistani intelligence apparatus and tribal regions. Likewise, the Pakistani government of Musharraf/Benazir Bhutto is hanging on by a couple of threads, and Pakistan has real and verifiable nuclear weapons.

All of that makes Pakistan extremely dangerous.

At this point, most liberal bloggers would say that the Bush administration needs to "do something" about Pakistan.

But I think it's better that the Bush people aren't doing much beyond learning Musharraf's name. Given the Bush administration's competence issues, "doing nothing" is probably the best way to "do no harm."

Gay Dumbledore Enhances Potter Series

Having grown up in an abusive family, I've always been moved by the "paternal" dimension of the Harry Potter series. Protagonist Harry Potter grew up in the abusive household of his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon Dursley, but Rowling created a web of paternity around Harry to help him grow up as he gradually came to confront the threat of Voldemort. Headmaster Albus Dumbledore was the primary paternal figure but there was also his godfather Sirius Black, teacher Remus Lupin, Arthur Weasley, the images of biological father James Potter's family in the Mirror of Erised, and the patronus figure that came to his aid against dementors. Even the phoenix Fawkes had some key paternal moments although the healing, encouraging baum of phoenix song and phoenix tears could also be seen as an extension of Dumbledore's care.

The collective fathering of Harry Potter came into focus in the last few chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as Dumbledore, James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin all (along with Harry's mother) reached from beyond the grave to provide Harry with final instruction, guidance, and encouragement.

Once again, Dumbledore was the key figure, the wisest man despite (or perhaps because of) his limitations and mistakes, the person who helped Harry the most, the one with whom Harry had to reconcile.

But the other father figures were just as necessary even if they were more limited.

It was all that assistance and love that allowed Harry to confront Voldemort and confront him alone when the time came.

Yesterday, J. K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay. I think the revelation of Dumbledore's gayness enhances the whole series. Being gay adds another dimension to the humanity of the Dumbledore character and helps explain his enthusiasm for Gellert Grindelwald and his lack of heterosexual involvement. What adds to the series is that a gay man could take up the burden of providing fatherly guidance for a young boy facing enormous difficulties and be constantly animated by "the greater good" of the boy's welfare.

Much as African-Americans are still associated with stereotypes from slavery, gay people (and especially gay men) are still stereotyped as selfish, immature, inherently pedophilic, and obsessed with sex to the exclusion of everything else. Rowling's Dumbledore certainly had weaknesses, but Rowling portrays Dumbledore's youthful selfishness, ambition, and vanity and his mature errors of judgment as broadly human and shows Dumbledore doing his difficult duty to Harry and the whole wizarding world by taking Harry under his wing.

The fact that he was gay adds a further dimension of humanity to Dumbledore's heroism.