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Thursday, December 29, 2005
 
What Color Is The Sky On Your Planet, John O'Sullivan?
For the Democrats -- at least in terms of being the national majority party -- the beginning of the end took place at the National Democratic Convention in 1948.

Hubert Humphrey's speech calling for the party to back an agenda of racial desegregation in the south began a chain of events that led in time to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Segregation, Humphrey argued, was a moral evil that the Democrats could not in good conscience defend, or even ignore. That the Democratic party had a solid lock on the south made it more important, not less important, that the party take a moral stand on this issue, even if it should prove politically unpopular.

It did prove politically unpopular, of course, which led to Nixon's "southern strategy" and an era of GOP dominance in the region, and therefore GOP dominance nationally.

But at The Corner, John O'Sullivan spins an alternate history yarn that would give Philip K. Dick a run for his money:



If the GOP had not become first competitive and then dominant in the southern states, the region would have divided between the Democrats and a new Dixiecrat ( i.e., Wallaceite) party--the shifting line of division being dependent on how "progressive" the national Democrats were on race. Either the Democrats or the South would then have taken much longer to accept and entrench the civil rights revolution. National politics on race would have been much more disturbed and harsh as a result--which is saying quite a lot. By bringing the South into the realm of two-party politics, the "southern strategy" ensured that the debate over civil rights would take place between two parties that had both a major stake in the region and national reputations to consider. Given the nature of democratic politics--in which you have to persuade your constituents to accept social changes they don't like instead of being able to bully them in an enjoyably moralistic way--both Democrats and Republicans sometimes sounded grudging and reluctant in their acceptance of civil rights. But those were the techniques of political persuasion that effected a revolution without provoking a civil war. Trent Lott was part of this relatively peaceful but inevitably shifty transformation--which is one reason why the attacks on him a few years ago were so mistaken. Equally, Ken Mehlman has internalized the Left's view of the southern strategy and now apologises because the GOP did not leave the South in the control of the party of Jim Crow. Conservatives should stop being defensive on this score.
Pure, undiluted, 200-proof idiocy.

First of all, the conservative position on the civil rights movement is a matter of record. The National Review itself wrote ad nauseum on this subject. Segregation, the NR opined in issue after issue, was necessary to the continued survival of western civilization. In the National Review, blacks were routinely painted as ungrateful children who could not be trusted with the franchise. Anyone who disagreed with that viewpoint was depicted as an outside agitator with communist sympathies or worse. For O'Sullivan to declare that the southern strategy was an attempt by the GOP to advance the cause of civil rights in the south goes far beyond mendacity or self-delusion. It is an all-out Orwellian assault on the fabric of historical reality itself; it is like denying the Holocaust ever happened, or claiming that World War II began because Poland invaded Germany.

Let's be clear about this. The southern strategy had only one objective: to exploit southern hostility to the national Democratic party's abandonment of the Jim Crow policies in the south. It worked pretty well for the Republicans, too: every major segregationist in the south -- from Strom Thurmond to Jesse Helms to George Wallace -- switched from the Democratic to the Republican party. There was nothing heroic about the Republican opportunism in this area. It was a deal with the devil, and the Republicans knew what they were doing when they signed the contract. Let them twist and turn and try to deny it ever happened. But it happened.


Thursday, December 22, 2005
 
Yeah, It's Early, But What The Hell
The latest Rasmussen poll -- completed December 14 -- shows an early lead for the two Dem frontrunners in next year's U.S. Senate race in Minnesota (via Kos):

Klobuchar (D) 48

Kennedy (R) 41

________

Wetterling (D) 47


Kennedy (R) 43

________

Bell (D) 33


Kennedy (R) 45

________

Ciresi (D) 40

Kennedy (R) 43

Ford Bell isn't doing too badly, considering that he isn't well-known outside the world of philanthropy. Mike Ciresi ran a strong primary campaign against Dayton six years ago, but he's not exactly a household name.

Patty Wetterling nearly beat Kennedy for the 6th District seat last year. A lot of DFL muckety-mucks wanted her to run for the open seat in the 6th; she probably would have been a shoo-in there. Instead, she decided to go for the Senate.

Amy Klobuchar is widely regarded as the front-runner for the DFL nomination. She's the Hennepin Country attorney, not well-known outside the Twin Cities, but she has a good resume.

This is a pretty weak showing for Kennedy, considering that he's better-known statewide than his opponents -- and considering the path to the nomination has already been cleared for him by Team Bush.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005
 
The Truth Will Out


"It's been a pretty good year, all in all."

I'll admit it: I have not been exuding a lot of Christmas-esque cheer lately. I've been feeling kinda gloomy, to be honest. As a result, recent posts here at The Lost City have been similarly dour. So my apologies if what you're reading here is giving you a bad case of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

But cheer up, friend! Hoist a cup of grog with me! I come bearing good news!

A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled today that a public school district in the central part of the state cannot require the inclusion of "intelligent design" in biology classes as an alternative to evolution.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, issuing his decision in a case that was heard in the fall, ruled that the school board in Dover, Pa., violated the Constitution when it ordered high school biology teachers to read to students a short statement that cast doubt on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and offered intelligent design as an alternative theory on the origin and development of life....

In his ruling today, Jones said several members of the Dover Area School Board repeatedly lied during the trial to cover their motives for promoting intelligent design even as they professed religious beliefs, the Associated Press reported.

"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID [Intelligent Design] Policy," Jones wrote.

This ruling was enormously important. Jones was appointed to the federal bench by President Bush, and like most people in Dover he is a staunch Republican. The conservatives cannot claim that he was biased against them.

Coming on the heels of last month's electoral purge of the pro-ID school board in Dover, the ruling basically exposes "Intelligent Design" for the pseudo-scientific fraud it is.

Based on the parts of the decision I've read, it wasn't even close. It is unlikely that the ruling will be appealed; even if it is, it's difficult to imagine any federal judge overturning Jones' decision.

So take heart, Lost Citizens; we won a big victory today.


 
"The Dark Prison"
It seems clear now, to anyone who's paying attention, that the United States has been operating a network of secret prisons for years. These are places where "disappeared" persons are held -- people whose imprisonment is officially denied by the government, and who are held beyond the reach of any domestic or international oversight. The primary function of the prisons is to torture its inmates.

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch issued this report about a clandestine prison that our government has been -- and perhaps still is -- operating a few miles outside of Kabul, Afghanistan:

Accounts from detainees at Guantánamo reveal that the United States as recently as last year operated a secret prison in Afghanistan where detainees were subjected to torture and other mistreatment, Human Rights Watch said today.

Eight detainees now held at Guantánamo described to their attorneys how they were held at a facility near Kabul at various times between 2002 and 2004. The detainees, who called the facility the “dark prison” or “prison of darkness,” said they were chained to walls, deprived of food and drinking water, and kept in total darkness with loud rap, heavy metal music, or other sounds blared for weeks at a time.

The detainees offer consistent accounts about the facility, saying that U.S. and Afghan guards were not in uniform and that U.S. interrogators did not wear military attire, which suggests that the prison may have been operated by personnel from the Central Intelligence Agency....

The detainees’ allegations were communicated to Human Rights Watch by their attorneys and are contained in attorneys’ contemporaneous notes. Human Rights Watch was unable to interview the detainees directly, since the United States has not allowed human rights organizations to visit detainees at Guantánamo or other detention sites abroad. However, Human Rights Watch believes that the detainees’ allegations are sufficiently credible to warrant an official investigation. The detainees are of different nationalities and have different attorneys. None claimed to have been detained at the secret facility for more than six weeks at a time, and did not otherwise make extraordinary claims.

Most of the detainees said they were arrested in other countries in Asia and the Middle East, and then flown to Afghanistan. Detainees who arrived by airplane said they were driven about five minutes from a landing field to the prison. Afghan guards told some of them that the facility was located near Kabul. Some detainees who were kept at the facility were transferred at various times to and from another secret facility near Kabul. The detainees said they were later transferred to the main U.S. military detention facility near Bagram, where many other Guantánamo detainees say they were initially held. Benyam Mohammad, an Ethiopian-born Guantánamo detainee who grew up in Britain, said he was held at the “dark prison” in 2004 and described his experience to his attorney in English:

It was pitch black no lights on in the rooms for most of the time.... They hung me up. I was allowed a few hours of sleep on the second day, then hung up again, this time for two days. My legs had swollen. My wrists and hands had gone numb.... There was loud music, [Eminem’s] “Slim Shady” and Dr. Dre for 20 days.... [Then] they changed the sounds to horrible ghost laughter and Halloween sounds. [At one point, I was] chained to the rails for a fortnight.... The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night.... Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off.

The administration is countering allegations like these with a sort of dual strategy. They deny everything ("We do not torture") and, when confronted with the evidence, indignantly claim that what they do is for the security of the country.

But it is important to remember that while administration officials can mock the law, they can't place themselves above it. Any American who has participated in the planning or operation of these clandestine prisons is a criminal who has disgraced our country. And the day will come when they will be brought to justice.

That day may be far off, but it will arrive.


Friday, December 16, 2005
 
They Impeached Clinton For Less...
...A lot less.

President Bush signed a secret order in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite previous legal prohibitions against such domestic spying, sources with knowledge of the program said last night.

The super-secretive NSA, which has generally been barred from domestic spying except in narrow circumstances involving foreign nationals, has monitored the e-mail, telephone calls and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people under the program, the New York Times disclosed last night.

Apparently Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter has alerted the administration that he'll be holding hearings on this matter. When the Republicans want to investigate Team Bush, you know it's serious.

Expect the usual bluster about doing-whatever-is-necessary-to-protect-the-American-people-from-killers, etc. But this sort of thing seems very strange to me.

Remember that in the aftermath of 9/11, the Congress was willing to give Bush anything he asked for (they did, by the way -- the USA Patriot Act, which just died an unceremonious death in the Senate today). So why all the sneaking around? I can think of no good reason, except an ingrained attitude from this administration, that we're quite used to by now -- that the "rule of law" is for saps, and that "men of destiny" do whatever the hell they want and answer to no one.


 
Say It Ain't So, Cato
Well, wouldn't you know! Jack Abrahamoff was even busier than we thought. Not only was he buying Washington lawmakers, he was also buying influential conservative pundits:

Copley columnist Doug Bandow resigned as senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute on Thursday after admitting that he had accepted payments from indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing articles favorable to his clients.

Oops!

Bandow told BusinessWeek Online that he had accepted money from Abramoff for writing between 12 and 24 articles over a period of years, beginning in the mid '90s, with many payments at $2000 a column.

"It was a lapse of judgment on my part, and I take full responsibility for it," Bandow said. A Cato spokesman told E&P that his tainted articles were being "scrubbed" from its Web site.

Abramoff also paid a second think-tanker, Peter Ferrara, a senior policy adviser at the conservative Institute for Policy Innovation who had a high profile in the recent Social Security debate.

Bandow did not disclose any Abramoff payments in any of his columns, or by Cato. Copley News Service did not immediately respond to inquiries from Business Week.

For years, "rumors have swirled of an underground opinion 'pay-for-play' industry in Washington in which think-tank employees and pundits trade their ability to shape public perception for cash," Business Week observed.

Neither Ferrara, nor Tom Giovanetti, president of the Institute for Policy Innovation, expressed any ethical qualms about the pay-for-play. Giovanetti said critics are applying a "naive purity standard" to the op-ed business, adding, "I have a sense that there are a lot of people at think tanks who have similar arrangements."

"Naive purity standard". What a Nixonian phrase. It didn't take long for these guys to become irredeemably corrupt, did it? And it won't take long for their corrupt little sewing circle to come apart, either.


Thursday, December 15, 2005
 
The Best Of Both Worlds
Recently I linked to Andrew Sullivan's excellent reply to the Krauthammer's pro-torture manifesto from the Weekly Standard. As I said at the time, Sullivan's reply is eloquent and worth reading.

Now Michael Kinsley has written a great response to both pieces. He writes in part:

Will you eschew torture even when a few minutes of it, applied to a very bad person, would save a million lives? One answer is that the law wouldn't really be enforced in such an extreme situation. McCain himself has hinted at this, as Krauthammer points out, and Andrew Sullivan fleshes out the point in a reply to Krauthammer published in the New Republic. This may well be true as a prediction, and tempting as a moral argument, but ultimately not good enough. Surely every law should at least aspire to be enforced. Or—an even more modest standard—a law should not depend on unenforceability for its very justification. Furthermore, a law expresses a social norm even apart from its enforcement. If the hypothetical situation ever arises, something will happen. What do we want that something to be?

There is yet another law-school bromide: "Hard cases make bad law." It means that divining a general policy from statistical oddballs is a mistake. Better to have a policy that works generally and just live with a troublesome result in the oddball case. And we do this in many situations. For example, criminals go free every day because of trial rules and civil liberties designed to protect the innocent. We live with it.

Of course a million deaths is hard to shrug off as a price worth paying for the principle that we don't torture people. But college dorm what-ifs like this one share a flaw: They posit certainty (about what you know and what will happen if you do this or that). And uncertainty is not only much more common in real life: It is the generally unspoken assumption behind civil liberties, rules of criminal procedure, and much else that conservatives find sentimental and irritating.

Kinsley's absolutist position seems to me to be more tenable, more reasonable, than the "salami-slicing" proposed by Krauthammer and (to a far lesser degree) by Sullivan and McCain.

Conservative pundits are already trying to muddy the argument by claiming that torture itself is so subjective and so difficult to define that it can't possibly be outlawed (things they claim would be outlawed by the McCain amendment: "belly-slapping", "grabbing prisoners by the lapels" or keeping the detainee in "a cold cell").

Meanwhile, it appears that the military is drafting a "classified addendum" to the Army Field Manual on Interrogations that will allow...well, we don't know what it will allow, exactly. It's classified. So we might end up with two sets of rules: one that we can use to brag about how morally superior we are, and another that torture anyone we like in secret, for any reason.

The best of both worlds, I guess you'd say.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005
 
Supporting A Policy That Must Not Be Named
It's always heartening to see the merry band of dissemblers at The Corner taking the moral high road. Earlier today they were debating whether the McCain amendment to the 2005 defense appropriation bill should be referred to as the "McCain Treaty With al-Queda" or the "McCain Bill of Rights For al-Queda".

Clearly, a debate well-suited to their beautiful minds.

Right now they're discussing how torture might still be allowed if the McCain amendment becomes law.

The McCain amendment, you may recall, stipulates that any prisoner in the custody of the U.S. government must be treated according to standards already set by the U.S. Army Field Manual on Interrogations, which prohibits torture.

But Rich Lowry sees a way around that:

If the Bush administration were really in the mood to keep fighting on the interrogation front, it could exploit a potential loophole in McCain's language. It could write the revised Army manual to make it clear that its interrogation guidelines apply only to lawful prisoners of war. This would leave an undefined (because apparently no one, including McCain, wants to define it) gap between methods approved for POW's and cruel, inhuman, and degrading practices. Unfortunately, it would take a huge effort to make the bureaucracy go along with this approach, and the administration, especially Secretary Rice, want this whole thing just to go away.

That's right, kids. All the administration has to do is change the language in the U.S. Army Field Manual on Interrogations.

Wonder if McCain would notice a cute little trick like that?

And notice how Lowry refers to the "interrogation issue", rather than the "torture issue"? Amazing that such a courageous patriot would be so squeamish about something he supports.


Monday, December 12, 2005
 
The Purge Begins
I've often compared the current Republican political establishment to the old Soviet regime. The two entities just seem to have so much in common! Think of the adjectives that spring to mind whenever you make the comparison: secretive, vindictive, mendacious, rapacious, undemocratic.

I used to be mostly kidding.

Then I was half-kidding.

Now I'm not kidding at all.

The whole Republican dream of a "permananent majority" hinged on making the political playing field so unbalanced -- making access to the political process itself so dependent on fealty to the Republicans -- that the GOP could rule with impunity, and in perpetuity. In the end there would be no branch of government, no avenue of public discourse or channel of political influence, that would not be completely monopolized by the Republican party.

This audacious and naked agenda, which was specifically (and deliberately) anti-democratic, set the Republicans apart from any political majority in American history. In fact it was nothing less than a direct assault on democracy itself -- democracy being, of course, a form of government that conservatives have long held in contempt.

But things fall apart, as the guy said; the center does not hold. And now the shambling monster of pay-for-play government is returning to wreak havoc on its creators.

The arrogance and cynicism of the Republican agenda has corrupted its footsoldiers. The money-laundering indictment against Tom DeLay and the bribery charge against Duke Cunningham are just the beginning; there's going to be a lot more blood on the floor before the 2006 elections.

Yet the new, Soviet-esque political machine is still clanging away, still running on inertia. The Club For Growth PAC -- a sort of poltical komissar for the Party -- is accusing Senator Linc Chafee of ideological impurity. And blaming Chafee for the sins of the leadership:

After 10 years of controlling Congress, Washington Republicans have an identity crisis. It was Republicans who gave us a farm bill that only a Soviet central planner could love; a campaign-finance reform bill that expands government's unconstitutional restrictions on speech; a prescription-drug entitlement program that Lyndon Johnson could only have dreamed of; and a transportation bill with more than 40-times as many pork projects it took to earn Reagan's veto. So, we ask a fair question: Is Reagan's vision of limited government--the fundamental principle that brought Republicans to power--still part of the Republican identity, or has it been abandoned in favor of the seductive power of controlling unlimited government?

....Sen. Chafee has consistently opposed tax cuts. Citing the federal deficit, he opposed the Bush tax cuts that have generated our powerful economic expansion. But his concerns about deficits don't extend to government spending. Bills he has sponsored would add nearly a half-trillion dollars in new spending over 10 years. The National Taxpayers Union gave him a dismal 49% rating for his profligacy with taxpayer money. A close ally of organized labor, he opposes school choice, and just last month voted for a minimum-wage increase. A recent Boston Globe profile describes his ideology as "well-suited for a centrist Democrat."

Chafee has become the GOP's new scapegoat. Never mind that Chafee is not in the leadership; never mind that it was George W. Bush who signed the farm bill and the campaign-finance reform bill and the Medicare drug-benefit bill into law.

No. Forget all that. The Club For Growth -- writing in the conservative Pravda, the Wall Street Journal -- calls on the party to dump Chafee in favor of Steve Laffey, right-wing mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island.

Republicans are now struggling to pass--over the opposition of Sen. Chafee and other so-called moderates--a tiny, mostly symbolic, cut in the growth of future federal spending. And if that were not enough, the Chafee cabal is attempting to block a bill extending the very tax cuts that have given us economic expansion.

The party of Reagan has been reduced to this--which is why it's time for Laffey vs. Chafee, the first skirmish in a very important battle.

Sure. At least as important as the historic battle between Godzilla vs. Megalon. And let's hope this battle ends just as happily for both sides.


Thursday, December 08, 2005
 
Sullivan On The Torture Issue
Andrew Sullivan has posted a rather lengthy reply to Charles Krauthammer's pro-torture essay. Sullivan has been a leader on this issue and does a much better job of addressing Krauthammer's points than I did.

Here's a bit of it:

The infliction of physical pain on a person with no means of defending himself is designed to render that person completely subservient to his torturers. It is designed to extirpate his autonomy as a human being, to render his control as an individual beyond his own reach. That is why the term "break" is instructive. Something broken can be put back together, but it will never regain the status of being unbroken--of having integrity. When you break a human being, you turn him into something subhuman. You enslave him. This is why the Romans reserved torture for slaves, not citizens, and why slavery and torture were inextricably linked in the antebellum South.

What you see in the relationship between torturer and tortured is the absolute darkness of totalitarianism. You see one individual granted the most complete power he can ever hold over another. Not just confinement of his mobility--the abolition of his very agency. Torture uses a person's body to remove from his own control his conscience, his thoughts, his faith, his selfhood.

....[T]he very concept of Western liberty sprung in part from an understanding that, if the state has the power to reach that deep into a person's soul and can do that much damage to a human being's person, then the state has extinguished all oxygen necessary for freedom to survive. That is why, in George Orwell's totalitarian nightmare, the final ordeal is, of course, torture. Any polity that endorses torture has incorporated into its own DNA a totalitarian mutation. If the point of the U.S. Constitution is the preservation of liberty, the formal incorporation into U.S. law of the state's right to torture--by legally codifying physical coercion, abuse, and even, in Krauthammer's case, full-fledged torture of detainees by the CIA--would effectively end the American experiment of a political society based on inalienable human freedom protected not by the good graces of the executive, but by the rule of law.


You'll find the entire essay on the New Republic site. Registration is required, but it's free. And the essay is worth it.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005
 
The Amazing, Accidential Acrostic
The BBC reports that the following inspirational -- albeit bizarre -- poem was found in an English-language textbook for 16-year-olds in the Pakistanti school system:

Patient and steady with all he must bear


Ready to meet every challenge with care,

Easy in manner, yet solid as steel,


Strong in his faith, refreshingly real.


Isn't afraid to propose what is bold,


Doesn't conform to the usual mould,


Eyes that have foresight, for hindsight won't do,


Never backs down when he sees what is true,


Tells it all straight, and means it all too.


Going forward and knowing he's right,


Even when doubted for why he would fight,


Over and over he makes his case clear,


Reaching to touch the ones who won't hear.


Growing in strength he won't be unnerved,


Ever assuring he'll stand by his word.


Wanting the world to join his firm stand,


Bracing for war, but praying for peace,


Using his power so evil will cease,


So much a leader and worthy of trust,


Here stands a man who will do what he must.

Now, this poem wouldn't be accepted for publication in "Dear Abby", so it clearly wasn't picked on the basis of its artistic merit.

All the same, a spokesman for the Pakistani Education Ministry at first insisted that it was simply a coincidence that the first letter of each line spelled out "PRESIDENTGEORGEWBUSH".

That argument flew like an anvil, so the Ministry tried a different tack.

...on Monday they said it may have been downloaded from the internet by a textbook writer, and later approved for publication by the curriculum committee.

But who downloaded it, and from where? Who wrote the thing? Hinderaker at Powerline? (well, probably not Hinderaker -- it isn't nearly fawning enough).

Actually, most anyone could have done it. Why, here's another poem along the same lines. I'm sorry, but I have no idea where it came from. Perhaps I downloaded it from somewhere; I can't remember:

Heroic in visage, in word and in deed,

Our President serves in a time of great need,

Resolute and determined, he fights for us all,

Stopping the killers and creeps when they call,

Every child in the cities, or small towns or farms,

Stand under the shelter of his mighty arms,

He is not just a man, he's a god in disguise,

In a flash he can tell if you're foolish or wise,

Tickle his fancy, he'll pick your nickname

Make fun and he'll break you like Valerie Plame,

You'd think that the bad guys would soon get the hint,

Liberals too, and the French government,

Against all odds our great leader prevails,

Defeating thugs, fresh water, and creatures with tails.


Monday, December 05, 2005
 
Howard Kurtz: Kook, Dupe Or Liar?
Today on Howard Kurtz' washingtonpost.com "chat", Howie got this question from a reader:

Chicago, Ill.: I'm pretty shocked that the White House non-denial of the President saying he wanted to bomb the Al-Jazeera headquarters isn't getting more play in the U.S. Isn't this kind of a big deal?

I hooted out loud when I read Howard's response:

Howard Kurtz: Non-denial? The White House has flatly and vociferously denied it as outlandish.

How to explain this?

Maybe Howard likes being spun by the White House like a cheap Chinese toy. Maybe Howard likes looking like an idiot. Maybe Howard is lazy. Maybe Howard is insane. But anyone who's ever seen the movie All The President's Men knows that the White House didn't deny it. Here was the official White House reaction:

"We are not going to dignify something so outlandish with a response."

That is not a denial.

That is a gilt-plated, textbook example of a non-denial denial. Ironic that the reporter who got totally spun by it works for the Washington Post, which made the term non-denial denial famous during the Watergate era. Not that we needed any reminders of how far the Post has fallen since those days.

Thank God Howard wasn't covering the Watergate scandal. I can see him in the newsroom now: "Gee Mr. Bradlee, both John Mitchell and Ron Ziegler say they won't dignify something so outlandish with a response. So there's obviously nothing to it. Let's just drop it."


Friday, December 02, 2005
 
Merry Christmas, Or Else
It's December, and that can mean only one thing: the annual right-wing orgy of paranoid Christmas ranting is in full swing.

Christmas, as you've probably heard, is under seige. A malevolent group of people, somewhere, is conspiring to outlaw Christmas. They have developed their own sinister code words that mock and deride Christmas -- phrases like "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings". Those seem like innocent words, don't they? But what people really mean when they say them is, "Christmas Sucks!" and "Fear Is Your Only God!"

Ah, how simple things were in the olden days. Back then conservatives accused the Jews of threatening the sanctity of Christmas. In fact they blamed the Jews for just about every problem in the world, real or imagined.

But then the killjoy Nazis made anti-Semitism unfashionable, so a new bogeyman was required.

So these days, it's not a shadowy cabal of Zionists who are threatening to stain the purity of Christmas, it's a shadowy cabal of liberal secularists.

This is the sort of holiday cheer that Bill O'Reilly has been spreading lately, most recently on Neil Cavuto's show on Fox:

O'REILLY: ...[T]he business community says we don't want to offend anybody, so we're not going to say "Merry Christmas." We're going to say "Happy Holidays", all right? That offends millions of Christians, see?

Christians just see red when Perry Como sings that song "Happy Holidays", okay? Because that's offensive to Christians, all right?

Eighty-five percent of the country calls itself Christian. Fifteen percent of the country -- you figure these people could do the math if they're CEOs. Eighty-five percent Christian; they are into Christmas, OK? That's their big day. Fifteen percent aren't. Now of those 15 percent, maybe 1 percent are totally insane. They're nuts.

That's nothing. The percentage of insane radio talk-show hosts is much higher than one percent. Much higher.

They're the ones who are offended. So what it comes down to is that these CEOs and big companies -- big companies, like Wal-Mart, Sears, KMart -- will not say "Merry Christmas" in their stores or advertising to cater to 1 percent of Americans who are insane.

Meanwhile, on Janet Parshall's radio show, John Gibson -- the author of a book called The War On Christmas: How The Liberal Plot To Ban The Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought -- explained how people who practice "the wrong religion" are lucky that we let them hang around in the first place:

GIBSON: The whole point of this is that the tradition, the religious tradition of this country is tolerance, and that the same sense of tolerance that's been granted by the majority to the minority over the years ought to go the other way too. Minorities ought to have the same sense of tolerance about the majority religion -- Christianity -- that they've been granted about their religions over the years.

PARSHALL: Exactly. John, I have to tell you, let me linger for a minute on that word "tolerance." Because first of all, the people who like to promulgate that concept are the worst violators. They cannot tolerate Christianity, as an example.

GIBSON: Absolutely. I know -- I know that.

PARSHALL: And number two, I have to tell you, I don't know when they held this election and decided that tolerance was a transcendent value. I serve a god who, with a finger of fire, wrote, he will have no other gods before him. And he doesn't tolerate sin, which is why he sent his son to the cross, but all of a sudden now, we jump up and down and celebrate the idea of tolerance.

The pages containing Matthew 5:43-48 must have fallen out of her Bible.

I think tolerance means accommodation, but it doesn't necessarily mean acquiescence or wholehearted acceptance.

GIBSON: No, no, no. If you figure that -- listen, we get a little theological here, and it's probably a bit over my head, but I would think if somebody is going to be -- have to answer for following the wrong religion, they're not going to have to answer to me. We know who they're going to have to answer to.

PARSHALL: Right.

GIBSON: And that's fine. Let 'em. But in the meantime, as long as they're civil and behave, we tolerate the presence of other religions around us without causing trouble, and I think most Americans are fine with that tradition.

PARSHALL: I agree.

I suppose there won't be much left of Christmas by the time the wingers get done with it. It will be yet another opportunity for the angry, the embittered and the paranoid to march their political agenda before the glazed eyes of a shopped-out populace. And even the ones who claim to speak for the aggreived Christians will have forgotten what the holiday was about in the first place.



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