Saturday, December 15, 2007

Neo-Cons to Huck: Get Some Faith!

As part of the conservative establishment's jihad against Mike Huckabee, Stephen Hayes wrote an article for the Weekly Standard on Huckabee's supposed ignorance on foreign affairs. But what Huckabee really isn't aware of are the main articles of neo-con foreign policy faith--The Ten (maybe Fifteen) Commandments of the neo-conservatism.

Here's an example. One article of neo-con faith is that Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. But Huckabee showed no hesitation in reminding devate audiences that Osama bin Laden and the global jihadis believe that they were the ones who defeated the Soviet Union.
I think there's some real doubt about that, Wolf. But I want to remind all of us on this stage and the people in the audience that there's a reason that this is such a struggle. And I think we miss it over here in the West. Today's the birthday of Ronald Reagan. We all would believe that Ronald Reagan is the one who ended the Cold War, and Ronald Reagan is the one who helped bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union. But there's a group of people who don't believe that, and that's the Taliban. They believe they brought about the demise of the Soviet Union because of the way they fought in Afghanistan. And what I want to just mention is that it is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog.

Of course, Huckabee's right, but that doesn't matter from the neo-con point of view. For writers like Stephen Hayes, Reagan's victory in the Cold War is a matter of faith rather than reality and Huckabee should know better if he wants to be a contender for the Republican nomination. In fact, the farther the Reagan myth is from reality, the more the neo-cons insist on fealty to the myth. It's like Huckabee himself rejecting 150 years of science when he denied that he believed in evolution.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Competition Good for Hillary

A Research 2000 poll has Barack Obama ahead of Hillary Clinton by nine points in Iowa. This blog supports Hillary and I'm aware that there are other polls showing her ahead or even in Iowa. Nevertheless, I've always thought that stiff competition from Obama would be a good thing for her candidacy. Hillary's top leadership needed to see who could function best when the heat was on and it looks like neither pollster Mark Penn and New Hampshire chair Billy Shaheen have enough game for the general election.

Time for Hillary to promote some better people.

Cal Thomas Puts Guns Before God

One of the remarkable features of the doctrine of Jesus is the extent to which he demands that his followers put their selves last. Jesus not only rejects the way the Pharisees puff themselves up with righteousness, he rejects revenge, personal self-defense, wealth, labor, and anything else that would attach a person to themselves or to the things of this world. What Jesus blesses or sanctifies are those things which convey the emptiness or bereftness of self (Blessed are the "poor in spirit," "those who grieve," "those who hunger and thirst," etc.).

Needless to say, these doctrines of Jesus have nothing to do with the practice of Christianity and probably haven't since the earliest Christian communities.

The intense alienation of Christianity from Jesus was manifested yet again by a column by Cal Thomas today.

Commenting on the church shootings in Colorado last weekend, Thomas argues that
Killers — ones with mental disorders, or terrorists — look for places with large gatherings to amplify their acts. That’s why in recent years they have selected targets ranging from the World Trade Center, to Columbine High School, to shopping malls and now a megachurch. On the rare occasions when an armed person has been on the scene before police arrive, such acts have been stopped before further damage could be done. When no armed person has been present, by the time the police show up the killing is usually over and the gunman has shot himself.
If Thomas had been a follower of Jesus, he would have had enormous sympathy with the mental disorders of the Colorado shooter Matthew Murray. Jesus certainly did. He begins the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3--"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Likewise, Jesus cured many insane people himself by "casting out devils." Even if Matthew Murray had been simply an evil-doer, Jesus would have mandated that people refuse to resist, attack, or seek revenge against him. "But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil . . . Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matthew 5: 39,44).

Much of Jesus' reasoning here is that God somehow blesses the evil-doers as well. "For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good." Moreover, loving and helping evil-doers is much more of a test of one's love than loving one's friends. But the weight of Jesus' message is that people should NOT rely on themselves and what they themselves can do in situations where they are being beaten, oppressed, or persecuted. Rather, the suffering of people should be seen as an opportunity to emphasize their dependence on God and deepen their general sense of love.

Contrary to Jesus, Cal Thomas wants people to rely on their guns rather than their God to deal with conflicts. How un-Jesuslike can one get? Even the guard who shot Matthew Murray, Jeanne Assam, had more of a feel for the Jesus spirit than Cal Thomas.
“I was just asking God, bottom line, this is all you,” she said. “It was so loud. … It was scary. But God was with me. I asked him to be with me. And he never left my side.”
For Assam, the spirit of God protected her and the other people in the church from the mass murder planned by Murray. For Cal Thomas, the only real protection is firepower to match that of the killer and the will to use it. Believing primarily in the spirit of the gun, Thomas brings a godlessness to his politics that is remarkable even for a right-wing Christian.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Agony of Democratic Defeat

It looks like the Democrats are caving again on Iraq war funding, and I have to admit that it's extremely painful to see. Glenn Greenwald captures the humiliation through a series of headlines like these.

Washington Post:

Pelosi backs down in spending battle
By Alexander Bolton Posted: 12/12/07 11:50 AM [ET]
December 12, 2007

Washington Post:

Democrats Bow to Bush's Demands in House Spending Bill
Billions Trimmed From New Requests
By Jonathan WeismanWashington Post Staff Writer Thursday, December 13, 2007; Page A03


Budget deal would probably give Bush victory on war funding

Greenwald's argument is that the Dems caved because they eventually bought into the argument that giving into the Bush administration protects them against accusations of "weakness" and "appeasement."

But I don't think so. By threatening to veto the whole federal budget unless he got his war funding and spending targets, Bush is essentially holding the whole federal government hostage as he faces down the Democrats. In this context, the Democrats aren't giving in because they want to look "strong;" they're caving because they don't believe in shutting down the whole federal government and don't believe they could win a fight over shutting down the government either. Bush has the Dems in a game of chicken and they're the ones who are blinking.

But that doesn't mean that the Democrats should be surrendering to the Bush administration. For some reason, the Democrats seem to believe that they'll be "in control" if Clinton or Obama wins the presidency next year. But if that's the case, the Republican leadership will be itching for more games of "chicken" with the federal budget, judicial appointments, and the military. The Democratic leadership and commentariat keeps thinking that the Republicans will act "reasonably," but they have yet to recognize the strategic and cultural importance of fomenting confrontation to the Republicans.

Sooner or later, the Dems are going to have to call the Republicans on whatever game of chicken they're playing and brave the confrontation. That's when people will think the Dems are "strong," "principled," and "determined."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Smearkrieg No. 12--The Upcoming Huckabee Smears

It seems that segments of the Republican elite are shaken enough by the surge in Huckabee's support that they've decided to coalesce around Mitt Romney as an alternative. Yesterday, The National Review endorsed Romney for President. Other endorsements will certainly follow, but it's too late in the game for the Republican elite to manage the Presidential nominating process in any kind of surreptitious way. They may have to smear Huck to bring him down.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Today's Edwards Mirage

Today CNN came out with a poll which shows John Edwards doing significantly better against Republican candidates than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. In general, the Democrats beat the leading Republicans head to head, but Edwards beats Huckabee and Romney by 20 points and has a big edge over Hillary's share with McCain as well. It's natural that Edwards supporters would be encouraged. Things haven't been going so well for them lately. First Hillary had a surge where her support flirted with 50%. Now Obama's gaining while the Edwards campaign seemed to be stagnating. Maybe the CNN poll indicates that Edwards is going to have his moment in the sun as well.

But the numbers actually work the other way. Edwards is doing well in the horse-race polls because he's becoming less well known not because he's becoming more popular. As the Edwards campaign stumbles along, Edwards is having a hard time keeping himself in the public eye and therefore he's becoming less recognizable to voters as a result. As a result, his poll numbers are drifting upward toward the level of "generic Democrat." Doing well in the head to heads with Republicans is actually a bad sign for Edwards.

That's not the case with Clinton and Obama though. They've also been moving up against the Republicans. But they've been doing so against persistent and hostile micro-scrutiny by the media and the Republicans. In other words, Clinton and Obama are getting their support the "old-fashioned way. They're earning it.

To the contrary, Edwards is just getting the good will that comes with being a Democrat. The same trends work among the Republicans. Huckabee and Romney do poorly in the head to heads because their lack of universal recognition means that their head to head support is more like that of "generic Republican." To the contrary, John McCain does well head to head because he had a reputation that goes beyond being a Republican. Huckabee and Romney catch the Republican legacy of unpopularity. McCain has credibility on his own. If Hillary and Obama were to face the unlikely prospect of opposing McCain in the general election, they would be forced to tar McCain with the Republican brand.

Marching in Horse Puckey

When the Rowan County Marching Band returned to Morehead from the Steve Beshear inaugural, they had a certain smell that wasn't the smell of success.

Instead, it was horse puckey.

Contrary to my daughter's sanguine expectations, the Rowan County Band was not allowed to dodge the horse puckey from the "equestrian units" as they marched in the parade. Not that such permission would have helped. Because several other bands marched before the Rowan County band, the horse poop had already been stamped on and spread all over the road before the Viking musicians got there.

As a result, there was no way to avoid stepping in it and stepping in it a lot.

I heard that Steve Beshear gave a great speech about the need for bi-partisan spirit in the state capital. However, I'm afraid that he's going to find himself stepping in horse-puckey all the time because the Republican leadership likes playing "chicken" much better than it likes bi-partisanship.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Girl Dodging Horse Poop

Tomorrow, my oldest daughter is going to be playing alto sax for the Rowan County High School Marching Band as they march for the Steve Beshear gubernatorial inauguration in the Kentucky state capital of Frankfurt.

According to Katy, the band director told her that it would be an "equestrian parade" and that members of the band would be able to get "out of step" to avoid the horse patties on the street. That band director's a great guy.

So, that will be my daughter out there--playing sax and dodging horse poop. Who says the teen-age years aren't fun--at least for the kids.

For parents, it's another story. We'll have to get up at five to wake her up.

Glenn Greenwald and the Future

THE PASSION OF GLENN GREENWALD. Of all the liberal bloggers, Glenn Greenwald of Salon is the one I respect most. Reading Greenwald's blog almost daily, I especially appreciate his ability to engage in "liberal outrage" without looking weak or whiny. What makes Greenwald especially effective is that he saves his highest levels of outrage for "the bankrupt elite" and Democratic politicians instead of the Bush administration and the right. Not that Greenwald won't bore into conservative apparatchiks like Harvey Mansfield and Frank Gaffney, but it's Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post, Joe Klein of Time, and Senators Jay Rockefeller, and Diane Feinstein who outrage Greenwald the most. As Greenwald demonstrates on almost a daily basis, the Bush administration and their neo-con allies didn't launch the Iraq War, commit crimes against humanity, torture prisoners, corrupt the Justice Department and cover it all up by themselves. They did so with the support, protection, and prior knowledge of Democratic leaders, "liberal" pundits, and the so-called liberal media. In fact, key Democratic politicians like Rockefeller and Feinstein continue to fight a rear-guard battle on behalf of the Bush administration. In many ways, the same is the case with the mainstream media as well. Magazines like Newsweek and Time are still giving prominent gigs to the neo-cons who brought us the war in Iraq while continuing to shut out liberal bloggers like Greenwald.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE FUTURE. However, I don't believe that Greenwald has a full grasp of the implications of his journalism. More Tomorrow

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Are Conservatives the Equivalent of Child Molesters

One of the persistent complaints of the right-wing is the bias against conservatives in academia. In an op-ed piece for the increasingly right-wing Washington Post, Villanova political scientist and registered Republican Robert Maranto claims that Republicans are disadvantaged on several levels. Maranto believes that he himself lost a job at a "prestigious research university" because he had mentioned that he was planning on voting Republican. He also reports on research which indicates that "conservatives and libertarians are outnumbered by liberals and Marxists by roughly two to one in economics, more than five to one in political science, and by 20 to one or more in anthropology and sociology."

Sympathy for conservatives is not a regular feature of Red State Impressions. But Maranto could have had a case if he had framed it differently. For example, I agree with Maranto that "a leftist ideological monoculture is bad for universities, rendering them intellectually dull places imbued with careerism rather than the energy of contending ideas." There are times when I've had a liberal/left ideological monoculture in my classes and I've been bored to death by it. Likewise, I organized several forums on the war in Iraq and often wished that there were more conservative professors on campus who could make the pro-war case. Once I even had to state the evangelical case myself on a church/state panel because nobody else in the group had any sympathy for the evangelical point of view.

But conservatives are largely to blame for the problem themselves.

When I started graduate school at the University of North Carolina in 1976, graduate students thought that half of the political science faculty were Republicans. All of the Republican faculty I knew were pretty moderate and they seemed to be Republican primarily because of their misgivings about the welfare state, support for the Cold War, and doubts about feminism, and race policy. Most of the Democrats on the faculty seemed fairly moderate as well. There were a few people on the left and I studied with all of them because I was on the left myself. I still am. But on the whole the UNC political science faculty was a moderate group.

Since 1976, the left has been strengthened in many humanities fields. The advent of African-American studies, feminism, gay-friendly perspectives, and interest in global studies brought a number of bright young leftists into academics. So did excitement over new methodologies and points of view that were emerging on the academic left including Frankfurt School Marxism, the new social history, deconstruction, Foucauldian genealogy, structuralism, post-structuralism, and post-modernism. Most important of all, left-wing scholars wrote a continuous stream of compelling books and articles that resulted in a general shift of the humanities to the left.

That's not the case with political science where the bulk of professors are still moderates who are suspicious of people on the left, dismissive of new methodologies like Foucaudian genealogy or deconstruction, and generally ignorant of the pervasive focus on "race, class, and gender" in other fields (although political scientists do write effectively about African-American politics).

The issue with political science is that conservativism has moved so far to the right that the moderate professors who might have considered the Republican Party in the past now identify themselves both as Democrats and liberals. We have three junior political scientists in our department who are very moderate in their beliefs (conservative compared to me), but see themselves as "liberals" and vote Democratic or for Nader because they are now repelled by the right-wing which they identify with the Republican Party.

There are other problems with conservatives. Conservatives don't bother to learn any of the new critical methodologies in their fields but haven't worked out compelling alternatives either. Consequently, conservative scholarship has little appeal to anyone who is not already a committed conservative. As a result, the work of conservatives often has a dated quality to it that makes conservatives unappealing as students, job candidates, tenure candidates. In my senior seminar on African-American Thought last semester, one conservative student was uncomfortable with the whole idea of African-American Thought despite the tremendous writing of Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and others. However, the poor student could only write a research paper comparing Martin Luther King to conservative icon Leo Strauss under the assumption that King was a generic thinker rather than African-American per se. I felt bad for the poor guy by the time he had gone through three drafts even though the work on King was pretty good. Unable to make Leo Strauss either more interesting or less rigid, he had a difficult time making the comparison interesting either.

Conservatives also have severe problems with being outside the moral mainstream of academia. Although the claims of the civil rights movement, second-wave feminism, and gay rights have become part of the conventional moral wisdom of our society, the political right-wing is still trying to roll back the clock to the 1920's and Calvin Coolidge. As a result, moderates and liberals both inside and outside academia view conservatives as reactionary and bigoted. That's probably why one of Maranto's friends reported that people at his university treated him "as if I had become a child molester" after he became a Republican. Given that the Republicans have identified with the right-wing and that the right-wing holds many moral views that are repugnant to most non-conservatives, it follows that people in academics would treat him as though he were fundamentally immoral.

The knee-jerk moral hostility to conservatives in academics is reinforced by the right-wing's warmongering, defense of torture, and increasingly by their rejection of science. Like a lot of Americans, academics are looking on conservatives as fundamentally immoral people.

If conservatives want to re-establish themselves in academics, they will either have to rejoin the moral mainstream of the United States or produce compelling new work that shifts the consensus of various academic fields back to the right.

I don't see either of those things happening anytime soon.

Tim Russert Must Be Reading RSI

During Tim Russert's interview today with Rudy Giuliani, he asked Giuliani whether a hypothetical presidential mistress would receive Secret Service protection.
Rudy Giuliani said Sunday that police, not the former New York City mayor himself, had decided his then-girlfriend Judith Nathan needed publicly-funded security during their extra-marital affair . . . . He bristled when asked by interviewer Tim Russert if a hypothetical presidential mistress would rate the same level of protection, saying a Secret Service detail "would not be appropriate" in the absence of a credible threat.

That should be hypothetical presidential "mistresses." Once someone gets into the mistress game, there's no reason to limit themselves to just one. Followers of RSI will know that I posted about hypothetical Rudy mistresses a few days ago in my "Rudy's Next Mistress."

Maybe Russert or the people who do his work for him are following RSI.