Saturday, April 28, 2007

Crackdown on Psychics

The obvious joke: They didn't see it coming.

Philadelphia police have begun to enforce an old law against fortune-telling. Now, Father A. holds no brief for these charlatans, and feels a confusing mixture of sadness and contempt for the deluded nitwits who actually make decisions based on this sort of mumbo-jumbo. (And yes, we are thinking of Nancy Reagan and her Vassar-educated astrologer).

On the other hand ... and we really hate to say it ... what about free speech?

Click the link to read a local report on the case. We are especially troubled by the guy who claims that Jesus was a fortune-teller, and that he is himself therefore just like Jesus. *Sigh* Paging Simon Magus.

And if these were the Middle Ages, or some theocratic hellhole like Calvin's Geneva or [insert modern Middle Eastern nation here], rousting a few spiritual quacks would be par for the course. (See under: Michael Servetus). But these are, or at any rate were until recently, the United States of America. Land of the .... you know. And this is Philadelphia, home of that bell. You know the one I mean. Big brass thing, crack on one side. That one.

But we live in a strange new world, in which reporters go to jail for refusing to tell which administration official lied about what; in which the President says "we do not torture," while organizing torture on an international scale; in which wiretapping and eavesdropping are so common that we don't know how common they may be; in which the fairly liberal mayor of New York organized his own nationwide infiltration of church and community groups, a la J. Edgar Hoover. The old verities -- that is, civil and human rights -- seem to be passing quickly away. So it is no surprise that Philadelphia would give up on the First Amendment.

And anyway, in a nation losing its way as quickly as this, fortune-tellers may really qualify as enemies of the state.

Buckley, Jr.: The War is Lost

The White House (joined, as always, by its friends at Fox) has been scathing in its responses to Senator Harry Reid's observation that "the war is lost." I wonder how the President and Mr. Cheney will respond to essentially the same observation from the pen of a man whose name is a byword for conservatism, William F. Buckley, Jr.?

In fairness, Buckley doesn't -- quite -- say the war is lost. Instead, he compares it unfavorably to Viet Nam, in which the enemy at least had a headquarters. And he seems to assume that we will remember that despite this tactical advantage, things didn't go well for us in Nam. (This nuance may be lost on Bush and Cheney, neither of whom had any personal experience of that war. Had they been replaced, at any stage, by combat verterans like Messrs. Gore, Kerry, Kerrey, McCain, Murtha or Hagel, we might not be quite so far into the Big Muddy by now).

Buckley also compares Iraq to Prohibition -- a effort to achieve by governmental force a goal to which the people were obstinately opposed. And most disturbingly, he talks about Christianity and the Roman Empire, when "The generation of Christians moved by their faith overwhelmed the regimented reserves of the Roman state." That's right: in his analogy, we're the Romans and our opponents are the Christians. Making the current President either Tiberius or Caligula, I'm not sure which.

In truth, Buckley's comments -- made quite briefly, in a consideration of the new book by George Tenet -- are more forceful than anything Senator Reid or Representative Pelosi have said so far. We hope the Administration will also note that they are far more damning.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"He Didn't Get Killed"

That's a White House insider's verdict on the Gonzales testimony, as reported to CNN. He didn't get killed.

Talk about faint praise.

So, with senators on both sides of the aisle calling for his resignation, and Gonzales saying that he will only resign if the President asks him to, it looks like yet another opportunity for President Bush to show us what he's made of. Will he show here the same steadfast, rock-solid support for his most loyal soldiers that he showed for, say, Donald Rumsfeld? The same iron-willed refusal to give in to pressure that he has on Iraq?

Probably. And that's a disturbing thought, because Bush's stubbornness on Rumsfeld and Iraq will go down in history books as the defining failures of a head of state as dangerously out of touch with reality as anybody since Louis XVI.

Gonzales is a Weenie

We at the Egg spent some time yesterday listening to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testifying before a Senate committee. Now, granted, the senators were pretty hostile. But "hostile," in this case, simply means that they weren't giving him a free pass every time he lied.

Nor were they ready to accept his other tactic, which boils down to "Why, Senator, I've already admitted that mistakes were made [or: "that could have been handled better"]. Now can't we stop talking about all this and move on?

Gonzales genuinely doesn't seem to understand that the "mistakes" he is trying to blow past are serious. They consist of (a) collaborating in an attempt to turn the Department of Justice into a partisan political organization; and then (b) lying about it consistently, if not convincingly. Now, compared to his stirring defense of torture, this may not be so bad; but it is bad indeed. If we cannot trust the Department of Justice -- justice! -- to be impartial, then what hope for a free society do we have?

By the way, we can usually tell a weenie from a statesman by his use of the passive voice. Trapped in lie after lie, Gonzales can barely bring himself to say "I made a mistake," which is the very least of what he has done. Instead, he says, "Mistakes were made." How Reaganesque. Sadly, however, mistakes are not made in the abstract; they are made in the concrete, by real people. In this case, by Gonzales, as well as the people who pressured him to demean his office and ultimately the person who appointed him to that office. They have all made mistakes, and they should all be held accountable.

Later, talking to the PBS NewsHour, Senators Leahy and Specter seemed to describe the two different ways of looking at Gonzales' testimony. Leahy, a Democrat, suggested that it revealed a systematic effort to undermine democratic institutions. Specter, a Republican, thought this was overkill -- in his estimation, Gonzales merely showed that he was incompetent. While we are prone to side with Leahy on this, if "mere incompetence" is what it takes to remove Gonzales, then so be it.

And on a religious nore, enjoy the irony: the holier-than-thou Bush administration has ignored all those Biblical warnings about "perverting justice." (E.g., Prov. 17:23).

Friday, April 13, 2007

Administration in Flames

Think about it. In today's news alone, we learn that:

+ Paul Wolfowitz, architect of the Iraq disaster, has been caught providing an giant raise in pay to his own girlfriend. If he doesn't lose his job at the World Bank, it can only be because the Bushies simply don't see what's wrong with cronyism, nepotism and the abuse of power.
+ Four YEARS of Karl Rove's email is "missing" -- but may yet show up. Either way, it will prove that the Administration has never troubled to distinguish between politics and government.
+ Surge notwithstanding, America can't pacify Baghdad, or even protect the Green Zone. McCain, who weirdly chose to claim otherwise, now looks fatally out of touch, and will probably drop out in a few weeks.

No president -- not Harding, not Hoover, not Buchanan -- will leave behind a more disastrous legacy. America will be a weaker nation, and the world a more dangerous place, because of George W. Bush's incompetence and bad judgment.