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Bloggingheads
05-15-2008, 11:33 PM

Big Wayne
05-15-2008, 11:45 PM
Oh God. This should be interesting.

I love listening to arguments about how Christians are the mostest specialest of all Americans.

I read a Jerry Falwell book years ago, and (this isn't well known, but) he actually wanted laws requiring politicians to sign an oath declaring they were born again Christians as a condition to holding public office. Not just a verbal declaration -- but a written, legally binding oath. And not just "Christian," but "born again." (I guess if you are going to Talibanize the country, you might as well go for broke and insist that your narrow sect the one left in control.)

Part of Falwell's (lunatic) argument was that the US Constitution was divinely inspired in the same way as the Bible -- written by God himself, through his earthly agents (the Founding Fathers). The consequence of this principle was to put the Bible on equal legal footing as the US Constitution.

These kinds of Republicans really are like the Taliban. They're dangerous, and they hate American values.

(I haven't watched this diavlog yet, so this is not a comment on either participant.)

johnmarzan
05-16-2008, 12:01 AM
These kinds of Republicans really are like the Taliban. They're dangerous, and they hate American values.

then we should hunt them down and kill them.

Eastwest
05-16-2008, 03:11 AM
I question whether today's politicians would block "establishment of religion" in the heart of government.

"Freedom of Religion" as envisioned here (and I suspect as well in the minds of the founding Fathers) is only freedom to pick and choose from among strains of Old-Testament-centric belief.

I can't imagine, given the current xenophobic climate, a majority of politicians, when push comes to shove, adhering to the Constitution as written to prevent enshrinement of theistic orthodoxy. ("The Ten Commandments" plaques, "Prayer and/or Bible-study before and after School," Congressional Prayers to their own one God, etc.) Failure to refrain from same subtly and overtly peer-pressures into pariah status non-Biblical faiths, namely:

Hinduism;
Buddhism;
Sikhs;
Jains;
Sufis;
Daoists;
Native American, etc.,

(All of which uphold "standards of virtue" referenced in the DV as assumed by the founders.)

Even among the least fundamentalist, one has to wonder whether establishment of religion in government isn't only a very weakly constrained impulse.

Good that Mr. Waldman has clarified the facts about the republic's founders. He does a service in confronting wacko right-wing orthodoxy.

Still, as a Buddhist, the "freedoms" seem only tenuous.

EW

piscivorous
05-16-2008, 06:58 AM
While it may be true that the founding fathers probably didn't have those religions in mind they were not all christens. Some were deists I believe and didn't Representative Ellison get sworn in using Jefferson's copy of the Koran. Not to claim Jefferson was Muslim but they were not unaware of other religions at the bare minimum.

bjkeefe
05-16-2008, 10:08 AM
This was a good diavlog, and I kept thinking throughout that if more religious people were like these two, we'd have a lot less strife in this country, and a lot less need for atheists like me to be as militant as we are.

However, I also thought, many times, that Peter seemed insincere or disingenuous, especially when pressed on details. I refuse to believe, for example, his protestations that he doesn't know what groups like Focus on the Family stand for, or what guys like James Dobson and Tony Perkins are all about. Come on. He worked in politics for more than long enough to know this.

I also found hard to accept Peter's refusal to fully acknowledge the relationship between evangelical Christians and the GOP, and in particular, the sway that leaders from both of these groups had over their flocks. I will grant that George W. Bush wasn't issuing daily proclamations describing Democrats as agents of Satan, but there was certainly an ongoing tone of that, plenty of dog-whistling going on in his speeches, and a real sense that to be a part of the ruling class from 2001-2006 at least, from the occupation authority in Iraq to the bowels of the government agencies from NASA to the EPA to the Department of Health and Human Services, you had to be singing from the exact same prayer book.

I suppose I could interpret some of Peter's bobbing and weaving as manifestations of regret that he sullied (or soiled) himself in the political process, or a growing disenchantment with the way evangelicals were being manipulated by their leaders and the GOP leadership, or a new awareness of how bad it is for a nation to let one brand of religion gain too much clout. If any of this is true, then I could forgive him, somewhat. We'd all like to disavow poor choices and unhappy times in our earlier lives. But he still came off as less than honest about some things that didn't seem like they would be so hard to admit.

piscivorous
05-16-2008, 10:28 AM
...and a real sense that to be a part of the ruling class from 2001-2006 at least, from the occupation authority in Iraq to the bowels of the government agencies from NASA to the EPA to the Department of Health and Human Services, you had to be singing from the exact same prayer book...What is the ratio at will political hires to civil service employees in the departments. And since the at will political appointees are just that, generally with a short term contract, shouldn't a president be able to hire and fire them "at will" so long as their contract isn't violated.

bjkeefe
05-16-2008, 10:38 AM
Pisc:

And since the at will political appointees are just that, generally with a short term contract, shouldn't a president be able to hire and fire them "at will" so long as their contract isn't violated.

Yes. My problem is not that Bush got to hire his own people. My problem is with the Christianist criteria that seems all too often to have been applied.

Big Wayne
05-16-2008, 10:43 AM
Yes. My problem is not that Bush got to hire his own people. My problem is with the Christianist criteria that seems all too often to have been applied.

Oh. That.

Joel_Cairo
05-16-2008, 10:48 AM
Waldman loses points right off the bat from me with this (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/11021?in=00:02:32&out=00:02:44) little smear. Does he know that "ayatollah" doesn't just mean "Islamofascist" or "Iranian hardliner", it's a whole category of cleric.

The easy use of "ayatollah" (which is in the same class as "rabbi", "priest" or "pastor") as a pejorative is stunningly ignorant, and undermines roughly 99% of the rest of what Waldman says. It strips all principle from his position and suggests that his are purely functionalist arguments on behalf of the American Religious Right. I'm frankly very offended by it.

Boo you Waldman.

piscivorous
05-16-2008, 11:26 AM
Well if you were the boss I suppose that you could have set the criteria and only hired the atheists you desire.

bjkeefe
05-16-2008, 11:31 AM
Well if you were the boss I suppose that you could have set the criteria and only hired the atheists you desire.

I would have hired based on competence for the specific job.

piscivorous
05-16-2008, 11:34 AM
I would have hired based on competence for the specific job.so you now disavow all forms of affirmative action it is only competence and qualifications that matter.

bjkeefe
05-16-2008, 01:20 PM
so you now disavow all forms of affirmative action it is only competence and qualifications that matter.

For an important job in the executive branch of the US government? You'd better believe that I would be hiring solely on qualifications and competence.

Is that the same thing as admission into college or grad school, or getting an entry-level position? George W. Bush appears (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/08/politics/08nasa.html) to think (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_D._Brown) so (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/16/AR2006091600193_pf.html), and probably so do some of the Fighting 18% (http://abcnews.go.com/PollingUnit/Politics/story?id=4836138&page=1).

Everyone else would say "No. These are not the same at all. And by the way, this is yet another ridiculous overgeneralization by Piscivorous, who also appears, once again, to be trying to change the argument rather than just admitting to the lunacy of his original position."

Have the last word, if you like. I don't see any reason to carry this thread on any longer.

piscivorous
05-16-2008, 01:55 PM
Janet Reno

Eastwest
05-16-2008, 03:10 PM
However, I also thought, many times, that Peter seemed insincere or disingenuous, especially when pressed on details. I refuse to believe, for example, his protestations that ....

I also found hard to accept Peter's refusal to fully acknowledge the relationship between evangelical Christians and the GOP, and ....

I suppose I could interpret some of Peter's bobbing and weaving as manifestations of regret that he sullied (or soiled) himself in the political process....

I think BJ got this one right. Peter was sounding just too sleazy on this.

Another particular horrifying example from the Bush regime: The turning of the Air Force Academy into a Christian Fundamentalist Organization with zero tolerance for anyone not affirmatively demonstrating active, outward practice of that faith orientation. This is not the only example of establishing religion in the military.

So, yeah, I think the marriage of evangelicals and government during the Bush regime has been a ghastly development. One of the primary reasons why the Republicans have got to go.

EW

Eastwest
05-16-2008, 03:17 PM
While it may be true that the founding fathers probably didn't have those religions in mind they were not all christens. Some were deists I believe.

Good point. Would that the present climate in American politics was at least similarly broad in conception.

Don't want to sound hysterical. Still, this country seems right on the tipping age. It could easily become a very scary place for anyone not pledging allegiance to majoritarian creeds.

EW

Wonderment
05-16-2008, 04:57 PM
The easy use of "ayatollah" (which is in the same class as "rabbi", "priest" or "pastor") as a pejorative is stunningly ignorant, and undermines roughly 99% of the rest of what Waldman says.

Good point, Joel.

In general, I didn't find this dialogue very illuminating, although I'm sympathetic to the spirit of compromising on some church-and-state issues.

However, you run up against the slippery slope problem, which these speakers tend to ignore. For example, I could care less if somebody at a public school wants to teach the 2nd grader music class a Christmas Carol, but I don't see any real way to avoid drawing sharp lines of separation on principle.

The question of what percentage of Evangelicals might go Obama is interesting.

Personally, I think Obama is faking his Christianity. But all politicians do that in this country. The question is how much fakery will Evangelicals buy into. Would they rather have a guy who talks the talk but won't walk the walk (to "pro-lifeism" and homophobia) or McCain who is too clumsy to talk the talk but will really deliver on extremist right-wing judges.

bjkeefe
05-16-2008, 05:35 PM
Wonderment:

... I'm sympathetic to the spirit of compromising on some church-and-state issues.

I am, too, in an ideal world.

However, you run up against the slippery slope problem, which these speakers tend to ignore. For example, I could care less if somebody at a public school wants to teach the 2nd grader music class a Christmas Carol, but I don't see any real way to avoid drawing sharp lines of separation on principle.

Exactly. If it were just the random thing like that here and there, I wouldn't care, either. It's the sense that the hard-core fundamentalists are not looking to compromise, and will never be happy with partial accomplishments.

Personally, I think Obama is faking his Christianity. But all politicians do that in this country. The question is how much fakery will Evangelicals buy into. Would they rather have a guy who talks the talk but won't walk the walk (to "pro-lifeism" and homophobia) or McCain who is too clumsy to talk the talk but will really deliver on extremist right-wing judges.

That's an interesting way to put the distinction, but I think the part about Obama is not quite right. I think it's more the case that Obama's pitch to evangelicals is intended to resonate with those who have decided that there are other, more important issues than abortion and Teh Geys. These might be the "green evangelicals," say, or those more concerned with charity and helping the poor, or with world peace.

I am not sure how much I think he's "faking" his Christianity. I'd like to believe he's completely putting on an act here, but somehow, I don't think he is. I can't really say why, though.

Wonderment
05-16-2008, 05:59 PM
I am not sure how much I think he's "faking" his Christianity. I'd like to believe he's completely putting on an act here, but somehow, I don't think he is. I can't really say why, though.

Brendan, Have you read his book, "Dreams from My Father"? Despite all the hype about Rev. Wright and Obama's "conversion" experience, everything he says in the book is consistent with agnosticism. He didn't find religion in Chicago; he found community and acceptance.

Also, when people get married and start a family, a religious community often takes on new meaning. A lot of families want religious institutions (without being believers) for life-passage events -- weddings, baptisms, funerals, etc.

When I lived in Spain, you had to search far and wide to find someone who actually believed in God, but everyone got married in the church and had their kids baptised (Mexico, where people actually believe in God, is very different).

So my sense is that Obama likes the culture of the black church, but the Jesus-is-my-personal-savior stuff I don't buy for a second.

I would not be surprised if hardcore evangelicals (and Mexican Catholics, i.e., voters in states that he lost, like Texas, California and New Mexico) see through the facade and bust Obama as the liberal "elitist" (read, atheist) that he really is.

Of course, all this is consistent with the Everyone Sees His Own Image Reflected in Obama theory, so I acknowledge I may merely be projecting.

bjkeefe
05-16-2008, 06:32 PM
Brendan, Have you read his book, "Dreams from My Father"? Despite all the hype about Rev. Wright and Obama's "conversion" experience, everything he says in the book is consistent with agnosticism. He didn't find religion in Chicago; he found community and acceptance.

I have not read the book yet, no. I'm happy to accept your interpretation, but I would point out there is no single definition for what it means to be a Christian. Your comparison of Spain and Mexico is a good example. There are so many others that it's just barely an exaggeration to say that you'd get a different answer for every Christian that you asked.

So my sense is that Obama likes the culture of the black church, but the Jesus-is-my-personal-savior stuff I don't buy for a second.

I never thought Obama was a Jesus-is-my-personal-savior type of Christian. I wouldn't be surprised if his primary, even sole, attraction to his church is the culture. I aminclined to think, though, that some of it is, or at least was, political -- good place to network, to build cred, and to meet the community leaders. And I guess I believe him when he says he prays and like that -- he seems so low-key about it (unlike, say, GWB) that he comes off as a lot more sincere. Obama is like, hey, it's no big deal.

The bottom line for me, though, is that his thoughts don't seem to be dominated by magical thinking. That's pretty much all I really care about.

I would not be surprised if hardcore evangelicals (and Mexican Catholics, i.e., voters in states that he lost, like Texas, California and New Mexico) see through the facade and bust Obama as the liberal "elitist" (read, atheist) that he really is.

I won't stipulate that it's a facade. Some will call it this, to be sure. Some will call him insufficiently committed, inconsistent in his beliefs, or whatever. At this point, though, I'm both happy for any evangelicals' votes that he can get, and doubly happy that at least some evangelicals are growing disenchanted with the GOP. I also think that McCain has as much of a problem as Obama does with many evangelicals.

Of course, all this is consistent with the Everyone Sees His Own Image Reflected in Obama theory, so I acknowledge I may merely be projecting.

This is true for all political candidates. I always laugh at how people think this is something new in Obama's case.

Wonderment
05-16-2008, 08:09 PM
This is true for all political candidates. I always laugh at how people think this is something new in Obama's case.

Really? You may be right, but I'm wondering.

I mean, personally, I never thought that Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry or Hillary Clinton agreed with me on core issues. I would conditionally support them on some issues. For example, I'd say, I agree with Clinton on abortion, but I strongly disagree on gay marriage and the death penalty.

With Obama, I find myself (under the spell) of (my own magical) thinking that he really agrees with ME on the key issues, no matter what he says. For example, his opposition to gay marriage isn't "real" opposition. Once he gets elected, he will agree with me. His support of the death penalty is just something he "has to say." Once elected, he will appoint SC justices who oppose it.

I have seen this play out with other victims of Obama charisma, as well.

John Edwards was on CNN today and was asked by Wolf Blitzer whether Hillary's or Barack's healthcare plan was better. He answered, "Hillary's is identical to mine!" but went on to say he was "certain" that Barack agreed with him on providing universal healthcare (which he doesn't).

Susan Eisenhower, lifelong Repub., looks at Obama and sees a man who could win a World War. My pacifist friends think he's secretly against militarism, will defang the Pentagon and abolish nuclear weapons.

Same for black people who see someone who will represent their interests in ways no other Dem. could. (This is where I think Glenn Lowry may actually be correctly warning the African American community about the Emperor's New Clothes.)

No one thought these He's-Me! things about Gore or Kerry. (Prediction: When Gore endorses he will say that Obama is uniquely equipped to address global warmng. )

piscivorous
05-16-2008, 09:17 PM
Yea since I pretty much wish a pox on both the Democrats and Republicans I'm not sure which to fear most. Lately it has been the Democrats because they seem on gaining power by passing laws and issuing regulations that dictate to me what I have to do for the good of the whole. Sounds awful Borgish to me.

look
05-16-2008, 09:25 PM
With Obama, I find myself (under the spell) of (my own magical) thinking that he really agrees with ME on the key issues, no matter what he says. For example, his opposition to gay marriage isn't "real" opposition. Once he gets elected, he will agree with me. His support of the death penalty is just something he "has to say." Once elected, he will appoint SC justices who oppose it.

I know what you mean...I think he's definitely pro-Palestinian.

graz
05-16-2008, 09:30 PM
I know what you mean...I think he's definitely pro-Palestinian.

What might the potential result of your intuition look like?
No pun intended.

Wonderment
05-16-2008, 10:08 PM
I know what you mean...I think he's definitely pro-Palestinian.

So does Hamas They are also under the spell:

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has received an endorsement he might well wish he hadn’t — from the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

Ahmed Yousuf, Hamas’ top political adviser in the Gaza Strip, delivered his endorsement in New York.

“We like Mr. Obama, and we hope that he will win the elections,” Yousuf said.

“I do believe [Obama] is like John Kennedy, a great man with a great principle. And he has a vision to change America, to [put] it in a position to lead the world community, but not with humiliation and arrogance.”

look
05-16-2008, 10:59 PM
What might the potential result of your intuition look like?
No pun intended.Good point. I don't know. Even if Obama puts the issue on the front burner, I think things will toddle along till something big happens. Little by little, I think Israel is being boxed in. Here are some articles I linked to in the 'Coattail' thread:

http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=77541#poststop

Particularly this passage, in the second article:

CIA and Israeli demographers such as Sergio Della-Pergola estimate that in the next 10 years Jews will be less that 45 per cent of the population in Palestine i.e. between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River. This sets up the South African Apartheid model of a minority occupying population ruling the indigenous majority.
According to an Israeli academic who has studied Israel’s 60 year history and the growing conflict between Zionism and Judaism relative to Israel’s future prospects:

“We should have taken Uganda when Britain offered it to our Zionist leadership in 1903. Ben Gurion’s plan took over Palestine in stages. Given the growing strength of the Palestinian Resistance, it is likely to be taken back in the same piecemeal fashion. Every Jew in Israel knows it may cease to exist and have considered what is best for their children — more Israelis are moving to the US where currently over 500,000 are living”

Many US policy makers and Israelis are realizing that the safest place for Jews is in the US and that Israel is the least safe place as it continues to lose international legitimacy. A survey commissioned for the Israeli Interdisciplinary Centre found that 14 per cent of Jews in Israel would likely leave the country if a hostile state acquired nuclear arms.

US intelligence assessments of Israel include pessimistic conclusions based on sentiments by Israeli Jews to the effect that ‘We don’t really believe in this country’s existence anymore and will never be accepted in this region. Americans accept the Jews so why do we need Israel which has been squandering not only the lives of our children but increasingly undermining global respect for Judaism.’

The experienced observer, Robert Fisk, of the UK Independent recently reflected these sentiments to Rachel Cooke of the London Observer. As Cooke writes, “When Fisk first arrived in Beirut, he believed that Israel would survive. Now he is not so sure. The Israeli press is, he says, self-delusional. The army is ’shabby, a rabble; they don’t always obey orders, and they don’t always turn up’. In South Lebanon in 2006, they got ‘chucked out by Hizbollah,’. He wonders whether, if Israel’s borders were really threatened - ‘as opposed to false threats’ … Israel’s best bet (for survival) will be to go back to its international borders”.

look
05-16-2008, 11:01 PM
So does Hamas They are also under the spell:

Wow, that's almost as bad as his Jane Fonda endorsement.

;)

graz
05-16-2008, 11:39 PM
[look]
Many US policy makers and Israelis are realizing that the safest place for Jews is in the US and that Israel is the least safe place as it continues to lose international legitimacy. A survey commissioned for the Israeli Interdisciplinary Centre found that 14 per cent of Jews in Israel would likely leave the country if a hostile state acquired nuclear arms.

While I am no expert on Middle East affairs, I am blown away by that passage.I don't have the time to address this as carefully as I would like.
Thanks for the reply, maybe to be continued later.

Wonderment
05-17-2008, 12:36 AM
A majority of the world's Jews have always voted with their feet , so to speak, by rejecting Israel in favor of other countries.

The Zionist dream of an "ingathering" of world Jewry largely failed. Most Jews ended up in Israel, not as ardent Zionists, but because they couldn't get into first choice nations, like the USA.

Now that persecution of Jews is relatively rare in the rest of the world, Aliyah (immigration of Jews) is a hard sell. Bringing in 1,000, 000 "Jews" from the USSR (approx 1/3 were actually not Jews) was the last great wave of Jewish immigration. Also, few Western countries with large Jewish populations have compulsory military service. Why subject your children to the Israeli draft? Nobody in her right mind wants to die in Lebanon or live under siege in Sderot.

Another factor to consider in the demographics is that a good chunk of the Israeli population is in possession of second and third passports, in case of emergency. Many Israelis -- children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors,-- have recently scored EU passports, another big cohort has US passports, and others still have roots and rights in the former USSR. Even those without passports have relatives abroad, putting them on preferred short lists in some countries. Many, of course, are highly educated and fluent in Western languages, which is another path to a visa.

In case of an emergency, the poorest Jews in Israel would be the most screwed and unable to bail. These are Mizrachi (Moroccan, Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi, etc.) and African Jews (Ethiopia).

There used to be a terrible stigma on leaving Israel, but that has largely receded in recent decades.

So all of those challenges, in addition to a growing non-Jewish population of Arab Israeli citizens (about 20% of the Israeli population), threaten the long-term viability of the Jewish state. Israel needs to end the occupation, a functional Palestinian state must emerge alongside Israel (less likely than ever), and Israel itself must democratize and integrate its Arab population.

Can the Wizard Obama do it? Ha! I doubt that he can even get us out of Iraq, but in any case he will, if elected, have his hands full with just beginning to undo some of the most fundamental idiocies of the Bush years. History is very unforgiving to those who behave as recklessly, stupidly and brutally as the neo-cons. Expect no miracles.

bjkeefe
05-17-2008, 04:33 AM
... but I'm wondering.

How is this new information? ;^)

I don't know how if we're going to be able to come any closer on the issue of whether Obama is unique in the sense of people projecting onto him. I can accept that you find yourself doing this more with him than you did with other recent Democrats, so I'll concede that it may be true in your case, as it may well be true for other individuals.

However, I think it strains credulity to say that "[n]o one thought these He's-Me! things about Gore or Kerry." In the case of Kerry, for example, I remember plenty of anti-war people saying things like, "Oh, he's really for getting out of Iraq. He's just talking tough because he has to, to get elected." In the case of Gore, I'm sure plenty of Democrats thought, "He'll be just pick up where Bill Clinton left off," even as Gore did his level best to distance himself from Clinton. And speaking of Bill Clinton, isn't it commonly asserted that one of the reasons he was successful is that he was able to make people think he "felt their pain?" And similarly, don't many historians go on at length about FDR, JFK, and Ronald Reagan in the same vein, that the people listening to them felt the president was speaking to them and to their concerns and dreams?

And how do you explain GWB's earlier approval ratings, which at one time soared to 90%? Tell me no projection was going on there. I am also reminded of the many stories I saw, especially during the 2004 campaign, of reporters going to a place where Bush support was nearly unanimous and asking people why they liked Bush. The answers pretty much began and ended with, "I like him because he shares my faith."

And what about supporters of Ron Paul? Tell me they aren't completely ignoring a whole bunch of craziness in their focus on some of the good things that he has said.

For myself, I don't agree with Obama on every issue, at least as he has stated them. I don't think it's projection to guess that he's adopted some positions out of political necessity and probably doesn't quite hold these exact views in private. For example, I doubt he really has any personal problem with gays getting married, but sees it as more palatable to the general public to say that he supports civil unions. I don't expect him to push very hard on this issue, either, as much as my dream presiident would.

As for things like the John Edwards statement on health care, I could just as easily explain this by saying that Edwards misspoke, or that he is genuinely mistaken in his understanding of the plan, or that he was shamelessly shilling. In fact, it's hard for me to believe that Edwards, after running against Obama for months and then withholding his endorsement for more months, has any sort of view of Obama as completely agreeing with him.

Don't know what to say about Susan Eisenhower's statement without more context. If you're talking about this column (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/01/AR2008020102621.html) of hers, all I can say is that she sounds like she likes the same thing about Obama as I do -- the feeling that if any of the candidates can help reunify our country, Obama can. She doesn't sound, at least in that column, out of touch with reality.

As for black voters, I doubt there's a unanimous belief that Obama will do more for them, just because they're black and so is he. I think some might believe this, while others might think it's just time to break the color line. Still others might be voting for him out of negative reaction to the Clintons and the right wing noise machine, and/or a feeling of solidarity. And many, if not most, probably just see him as the best choice available, for a whole variety of reasons, differently weighted from one person to the next. It seems to me that if you hold up someone like Glenn Loury as being clear-headed in his thinking in his opposition to Obama, it would be unfair to assume that at least some of those in favor aren't being just as rational.

I will concede that Obama, when compared to Gore and Kerry, makes more people want to vote for him, instead of thinking of their vote in terms of the lesser of two evils. I will also concede that many people are investing some amount of hope in this view. But so what? A big part of what makes a people feel good about themselves, their situation, and the path that their country is headed down is irrational. But if enough people believe, then the right things can start to happen. If people are more optimistic about the economic outlook, then it often happens that the economy does get better. If people feel there's more of a reason to work together, then they do. I look at the way the Obama campaign has grown up in its self-organizing way and I find it inspiring. I look at the way lots more young people perceive the possibility that government can be a force for good, instead of wallowing in apathy and irony, and it makes me feel better about our future. If some of Obama's supporters are kidding themselves about some aspects of their candidate of choice, I say, no big deal, it wouldn't be the first time, and it may well work out just fine.

bjkeefe
05-17-2008, 05:03 AM
And what about supporters of Ron Paul? Tell me they aren't completely ignoring a whole bunch of craziness in their focus on some of the good things that he has said.

For example (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iW5kOB1pmg). And be sure to skim the comments after watching the video.

(via (http://www.oliverwillis.com/index.php/2008/05/16/i-love-crazy/))

look
05-17-2008, 02:34 PM
Thanks for the interesting info. When I first read the article I quoted above I thought of this Spengler article I had recently read:

Why Israel is the World's Happiest Country (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JE13Ak01.html)

It reminded me of the Straussian/neocon idea that a country is healthiest when on a constant war footing.


In case of an emergency, the poorest Jews in Israel would be the most screwed and unable to bail. These are Mizrachi (Moroccan, Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi, etc.) and African Jews (Ethiopia).

Would these Jews get a 'pass' for being Middle Eastern/North African?

Wonderment
05-17-2008, 03:48 PM
You make lots of good points, Brendan, but I still think there is an Obama charisma factor at work that's more powerful than anything we've had in a candidate since the Kennedys.

Part of it is that he's just such an amazing symbol for us on the left. Everyone who has spent a lifetime, like Michelle Obama and me, never being proud of being an American, can finally feel good that we did something redemptive of our racist past.

If some of Obama's supporters are kidding themselves about some aspects of their candidate of choice, I say, no big deal, it wouldn't be the first time, and it may well work out just fine.


It may. Or, when he fails to deliver, it may create a whole new generation of cynics who conclude all politicians and their handlers are corrupt. That too may be just fine. It's fine by me.

The good news is that Obama has a decent chance of winning the White House with a solidly Dem. Congress.

That would mean a decisive end to an eight-year nightmare of one of the most toxic regimes in American history. It would reverse the right-wing-extremist domination of the Supreme Court and US Federal Courts, and it provide an opportunity for a group of experts who are not warmongering maniacs to craft a non-criminal foreign policy.

bjkeefe
05-17-2008, 05:31 PM
Wonderment:

... but I still think there is an Obama charisma factor at work that's more powerful than anything we've had in a candidate since the Kennedys.

Yes, he has a lot of charisma. But there were plenty of people who felt as attached to Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, don't forget.

And to flip it around, each of these people also inspired in many people a deep loathing and a willingness to read the worst into them. I mean, it was correct to feel this way in the cases of Reagan and Bush, but I think you get my point -- people always project.

But I'll wrap this up by agreeing that Obama is an unusual case.

look
05-19-2008, 04:06 PM
Anyone?

Wonderment
05-19-2008, 04:51 PM
Sorry for not answering , Look.

I did try (twice) to get through the "Spengler" article and found myself skimming fo relevant content. I just didn't find it consistent with my knowledge of Israeli/Jewish culture or history, and I found the "chosen people" theory absurd.

It's quite a stretch to characterize Israelis as "religious." The dominant culture is quite secular and anti-clerical. Popular culture is deeply Americanized.

The secular Israeli Jewish majority is not even particularly "Zionist." True, they would like to maintain the Jewish identity of the state, but they would also like a two-state accommodation and are willing to trade land for peace. It's no fun being an international pariah whose only friend is the USA.

The ultra-Orthodox who run the marriage, divorce and funeral rackets are a very tiny minority.

The Settlers represent something like 3-4% of the population and are widely disparaged, resented and blamed for much of the trouble by mainstream Israelis. Sharon was able to exploit them opportunistically by sticking up for the fanatics (and then betraying them).

The Mizrachi populations (Jews from Muslim countries) tend to be poorer and more religious. Generally speaking, they vote with the secular right wing. The success of Likud has been its ability to deliver the Mizrachi vote. Both right and left-wing governments have always had to pay off small religious parties to join their governing coalitions.

No prime minister of Israel has EVER been religious. Not Begin, not Rabin, not Sharon, not Meir, not Olmert, not Ben Gurion.

Israelis feel they are under a state of siege, surrounded by enemies who hate them and who will never accept them. There's a lot of Israeli pride in sustaining this militaristc state for 60 years, through several wars, multiple terrorist attacks, and currently under rocket fire, the threat of Iran and the disapproval of the rest of the world.

So you don't really need a religious-mythical narrative to explain Israeli psychology. In my view, you just need to understand the normal evils of nationalism, militarism and deadly geopolitical alliances.

jh in sd
05-19-2008, 04:54 PM
Is it charisma or a a cult of personality?

bjkeefe
05-19-2008, 05:18 PM
Is it charisma or a a cult of personality?

Unless you want to define the terms more precisely, I ask: what's the difference? Seems to me they speak to the same thing, one with positive connotations and the other with negative. Choice of term depends on feelings for candidate.

jh in sd
05-19-2008, 05:30 PM
bj, If I remember correctly, the phrase "cult of personality" was coined by Winston Churchill in reference to Joseph Stalin; in light of what that implies, there lies the difference.

bjkeefe
05-19-2008, 06:24 PM
bj, If I remember correctly, the phrase "cult of personality" was coined by Winston Churchill in reference to Joseph Stalin; in light of what that implies, there lies the difference.

Doesn't really help. As I said earlier, it just sounds like an insult, and used in this context, particularly absent of precision.

Are you saying you think Stalin got and held power because people liked him? Or that Obama is like Stalin?

In any case, I think you're misguided if you think everyone who likes Obama likes him because they're being mindless about it.

Wonderment
05-19-2008, 06:30 PM
I think it's more like this:

Charismatic leaders run the risk of engendering a cult of personality.

A leader (like Obama) can be charismatic without engendering a cult.

I see no evidence of Barack having a cult following.

Furthermore, democracy is the antidote for political cult leadership.

So what if there are Obama zealots; as long as they don't abuse power, what's the problem?

jh in sd
05-19-2008, 06:31 PM
bj, I am saying that through propaganda an image of a person is cultivated as a means to a political end.

bjkeefe
05-19-2008, 06:34 PM
bj, I am saying that through propaganda an image of a person is cultivated as a means to a political end.

Okay. Then please explain how Obama is any different from any modern political candidate. For example, all the average voter knows about John McCain is: war hero, straight talker, maverick. For another, George W. Bush: man of faith, cuts a lot of brush, has a ranch, plain-spoken, you'd like to have a beer with him.

jh in sd
05-19-2008, 06:43 PM
The facts speak to the fact that John McCain was a war hero. The image that Obama is trying to project is being undermined by certain statements (Bittergate) and associations (the infamous Rev. Wright). So we have supporters who know what John McCain is (war hero) as compared to supporters who believe what Obama tells them he is, despite the contradictions.

bjkeefe
05-19-2008, 06:53 PM
The facts speak to the fact that John McCain was a war hero. The image that Obama is trying to project is being undermined by certain statements (Bittergate) and associations (the infamous Rev. Wright). So we have supporters who know what John McCain is (war hero) as compared to supporters who believe what Obama tells them he is, despite the contradictions.

How can you be sure you're not caught up in a cult of personality? I don't think of John McCain as a war hero. I think of him as a tough guy who survived a stretch as a POW. By that standard, everyone in Guantanamo Bay is a war hero.

Also, he did that 40 years ago. What has he done lately? Besides feed from the public trough and off his second wife, I mean.

And if you want to make a big deal about offhand remarks and dubious associates, I could go on all night about St. Johnny.

jh in sd
05-19-2008, 07:10 PM
Brendan, You jumped to the conclusion that I am a McCain supporter with no real evidence. Also, you made the mistake of comparing the torture McCain endured in captivity to the experience of those held at Gitmo. There is no comparison there.

bjkeefe
05-19-2008, 07:17 PM
Brendan, You jumped to the conclusion that I am a McCain supporter with no real evidence. Also, you made the mistake of comparing the torture McCain endured in captivity to the experience of those held at Gitmo. There is no comparison there.

Sorry about jumping. Most people who insist that McCain is a war hero do support him (obvious political exceptions aside).

Guess we won't agree on the POW/torture question. I think the comparison is there. Maybe a little less obviously physical for those in Gitmo, but certainly plenty of it, and probably more mental.

look
05-19-2008, 11:53 PM
Sorry for not answering , Look.

I did try (twice) to get through the "Spengler" article and found myself skimming fo relevant content. I just didn't find it consistent with my knowledge of Israeli/Jewish culture or history, and I found the "chosen people" theory absurd.

It's quite a stretch to characterize Israelis as "religious." The dominant culture is quite secular and anti-clerical. Popular culture is deeply Americanized.

The secular Israeli Jewish majority is not even particularly "Zionist." True, they would like to maintain the Jewish identity of the state, but they would also like a two-state accommodation and are willing to trade land for peace. It's no fun being an international pariah whose only friend is the USA.

The ultra-Orthodox who run the marriage, divorce and funeral rackets are a very tiny minority.

The Settlers represent something like 3-4% of the population and are widely disparaged, resented and blamed for much of the trouble by mainstream Israelis. Sharon was able to exploit them opportunistically by sticking up for the fanatics (and then betraying them).

The Mizrachi populations (Jews from Muslim countries) tend to be poorer and more religious. Generally speaking, they vote with the secular right wing. The success of Likud has been its ability to deliver the Mizrachi vote. Both right and left-wing governments have always had to pay off small religious parties to join their governing coalitions.

No prime minister of Israel has EVER been religious. Not Begin, not Rabin, not Sharon, not Meir, not Olmert, not Ben Gurion.

Israelis feel they are under a state of siege, surrounded by enemies who hate them and who will never accept them. There's a lot of Israeli pride in sustaining this militaristc state for 60 years, through several wars, multiple terrorist attacks, and currently under rocket fire, the threat of Iran and the disapproval of the rest of the world.

So you don't really need a religious-mythical narrative to explain Israeli psychology. In my view, you just need to understand the normal evils of nationalism, militarism and deadly geopolitical alliances.

Thanks for your considerate reply, Wonderment, all very interesting. I don't see how Spengler can use the word 'happy.'

One more question: you said the Mizrachi would be the least able to bail because of lack of resources. Would outside forces give them a break because they're Middle Eastern or North African?

Also, although I'm an unbeliever, one of my favorite passages from the Old Testament is Psalm 42, which as I understand it talks of exile and coming to understand that God is present, or more real, away from the comfort of Israel. Which is why I find the idea of the Sabbath so beautiful; that anywhere in the world a Jew may create a bubble of time and space that brings him home to his faith.

<< Psalm 42 >>
New American Standard Bible ©

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
BOOK 2

Thirsting for God in Trouble and Exile.

For the choir director. A Maskil of the sons of Korah.

1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
6 O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.
8 The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime; And His song will be with me in the night, A prayer to the God of my life.
9 I will say to God my rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
11 Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
New American Standard Bible Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. For Permission to Quote Information visit http://www.lockman.org.
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Wonderment
05-20-2008, 12:21 AM
One more question: you said the Mizrachi would be the least able to bail because of lack of resources. Would outside forces give them a break because they're Middle Eastern or North African?

Well, they would not be interested in returning to nations of origin, for obvious reasons: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, etc. -- unlike say German Jews who, ironically, might go to Germany, where there is now a thriving Jewish community!

Egypt, for example, expelled 25,000 Jews in 1956. The Egyptian government is not likely to grant them "right of return."

Salaam/Shalom,
Wonderment