Friday, January 09, 2004

Excellent Washington Post article about religion in politics.
Distorting a candidate's religious views is not a new hobby. In 1800, supporters of John Adams campaigned against Thomas Jefferson on the grounds that he was an atheist. He wasn't. He was a deist, a believer in a God not involved in current human events, but his views were easily caricatured. In his 2003 book, "The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America," historian Frank Lambert documents the smears, including one campaign diatribe that ran: "God -- and a religious president . . . or Jefferson and no God."

Imagine the TV ads that would run today against Jefferson -- a man who actually edited the Bible to cut out the miracles:

(Cue video)Two hands extend out of ruffled 18th-century sleeves. One hand grips a pair of scissors, the other a Bible. The scissors start cutting.

Voiceover: Thomas Jefferson says the Old Testament is full of "dung." He says the Gospels are a pack of "fabrications" put together by "fanatics."He seems to think he knows what should be in the Bible and what shouldn't be. Whom do you trust: Thomas Jefferson or the Good Book?

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Cancelled my New Republic subscription the other day. I was getting tired of reading the same article on the glories of the Democratic Leadership Council over and over. The fact that they were recently bought out by the DLC's guru and a Republican supply-sider didn't really cement my loyalty. My decision was validated today when they endorsed Joe Lieberman.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Yeah. OK then. Dennis Kucinich just tried to explain himself using a pie chart. Over the radio.
Kind of odd that it's a crime against humanity when some guy submits an ad comparing Bush to Hitler in a contest, but it's OK when an editorial in the New York Post compares Hitler to Howard Dean.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Boy, this whole Bush/Hitler ad thing is going nuts. You remember my talking about MoveOn's Bush in 30 Seconds contest? The one where 1500 people submitted 30-second anti-Bush spots, and MoveOn's member base voted on them? Well, among the 1500 entries, there were obviously some really godawful ones, including two making connections between George Bush and Adolph Hitler. Now, it's well known that in all arguments, someone will eventually bring up Hitler. It's a Usenet convention that when Hitler finally does enter the thread, the argument is over, and whoever brought Der Fuhrer up loses. Anyway, the point is, the comparision is stupid as all hell, and the ads ended up with an average rating of about 1.2 out of 5. But for whatever reason, the media has latched on to these ads as if they meant something, following the prodding of RNC chief Ed Gillespie and Abraham Foxman of the ADL (ever-vigilant for anything he can call anti-Semetic.) At the moment, Google News lists 40 articles on the controversy, sourced not only from the expected right-wing organs, but from established members of the "Liberal Media". The SF Chronicle's AP Report and the Toronto Star's editorial are two of the better ones. I just can't figure out where the fire is. 1500 ads were submitted by anyone who wanted to submit an ad. Some of them were patently offensive. They died in the first round. Sounds like democracy in action to me.

As to the ones that did make it on to the, I like some, and others I don't. One of my personal favorites (a collage of various service and industrial jobs being performed by small children, ending with the question of who is going to pay off the Bush Debt) made it, while another one (an earnest-looking guy talking about his troubles but expressing his confidence that the president was working on them, while subtitles revealed reasons why this man ought to put his faith elsewhere) did not. Most of the really shrill ones got killed, thankfully, but far too much triteness got through. Too many of these spots would just piss off Bush supporters rather than get them thinking. Well, it's up to the pros now to pick the winner. Hopefully they'll remember not to preach to the choir with this thing. Either way, though, this was a great and successful experiment in direct citizen action. Hopefully it's a sign of more to come.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Jimmy Breslin of Newsday points out, in reference to the widespread condemnation of Howard Dean for his "old-fashioned notion" that Osama bin Laden should be tried before he is sentenced, that the Nazis all received fair trials at Nuremburg. Breslin quotes attourney David Greenfield on the matter: "This is insanity. I thought everybody knew that no matter how high the crime or the criminal, the punishment phase always must follow the trial. These people, they want off with his head and we'll see if he's fit to stand trial."

Friday, January 02, 2004

The intersection of religion and politics really bothers me. Not necessarily because I disagree with anything they're saying, but because the way they say it makes me cringe. From the public sanctimony of GWB and Joe Lieberman to the newfound faux-religiousity of Howard Dean, these guys just don't get it. They think religion is an all-or-nothing propostion. They think the world is split into pure secularists and religious fanatics, and they pick a side and then try to "reach out" to the other. Folks, it don't work that way. Any of these guys would benefit mightily from a high school level World Religion course. Maybe then they could see that "religion" is not some monolithic concept that you're either a part of or not. My guess here is that your average voter (not all of them, but certainly enough of them) isn't so much interested in having a President who shares their faith as having a President who understands and respects their faith. I think if a guy could walk into a church, mosque, synagogue or buddhist temple at will and discuss how their plans relate to the tenets of that faith, he'd be pretty much irresistable, despite the fact that such a candidate would obviously not be a believer in most, if not all, of those faiths. It seems to me that more people would vote for the candidate who they knew was willing to look at things from their perspective and disagree than the candidate who splits the world into us versus them. You can try to keep everybody happy by constantly shifting the bounds of "us" to fit whoever you're talking to, but eventually you have to fix the lines, or the press and the public will do it for you. Once those lines are carved in stone, it is is well-near guaranteed that compared to "them", your "us" will be a puny group indeed. It's just a matter of whether you picked a better one than the other fellow.