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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Field Narrows

And gets more pathetic.

Edwards and Giuliani are both out now, so my feelings are a mixture of grief and relief. Grief, because Edwards was my last hope for a Democratic candidate who would speak for the poor. (Clinton won't, and Obama doesn't represent either people or values, so far as I can tell -- he represents process. Which is nice, if you are a process.) And relief, because Giuliani was the candidate most likely to become a tyrant of Neronian proportion, blaming the press while Rome burns.

What does this leave Republicans with? Not much. The Huckster and Mom's old boyfriend are still kicking around, but the serious contenders appear to be McCain and Romney. They are not an inspiring pair, and will get less inspiring as the weeks drag on.

Case in point: the headlines about last night's debate read "Romney Accuses McCain of Dirty Tricks." This actually sounds promising. Did he hire Cubans and ex-CIA people to burgle campaign headquarters? Engage in push-polling about ROmney's putative biracial daughter?

Oh, no, my mistake. He attacked his record. Specifically, McCain said that Romney wants timetables on Iraq; Romney said this wasn't true. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Romney called last year for "a series of timetables and milestones" leading to withdrawal.

Okay, let's parse this mess. McCain is telling the truth, and Romney calls it a lie. That's pathetic. On the other hand, timetables and milestones are a very good idea, and the fact that neither man will say so is also pathetic.

Worse yet is the full form of Romney's accusation: that accurately citing his record in a "dirty trick that Ronad Reagan would never have approved of." What, you mean the guy who paid Lee Atwater to run his campaigns? Who lied every time he opened his mouth, most notably on the self-destructive abuse of executive power we call Iran-Contra? Seriously, guys, this is the wrong mantle to wrap yourself in. Reagan's dissidents still hold a grudge, and in the eyes of his acolytes you can only make yourselves look smaller by comparison.

It's gonna be a long year.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Giuliani Is a Jerk

Nothing really new here -- just further proof that the "hero" of 9/11 was really part of the problem.

Saturday's Times reports the release of an NYPD internal memo regarding the strange choice of the World Trade Center for the mayor's emergency headquarters: “Seven World Trade Center is a poor choice for the site of a crucial command center for the top leadership of the City of New York,” said the memo, put together by the police with input from the Secret Service. Why? Because of "the building’s public access, the center’s location on the 23rd floor, a 1,200-gallon diesel fuel supply for its generator, a large garage and delivery bays, the building’s history as a terrorist target, and its placement above and adjacent to a Consolidated Edison substation that provided much of the power for Lower Manhattan."

Simply put: it was an easy target for the people who had already gone after it once. Common sense.

But Giuliani didn't listen to common sense or expert opinion. He wanted what he wanted, and he wouldn't listen to those who thought he was making a mistake. As a direct result, the worst day in New York City's history was made that much worse when the mayor's emergency bunker was rendered useless, not because a clever enemy struck it, but because it happened to be in a really bad place.

Some hero.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Obama Alienates Homophobes, Also Homosexuals

Give him credit for guts. Speaking at Martin Luther King's sometime parish, Ebenezer Baptist, Barack Obama spoke a little unwelcome truth when he told worshipers that “If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community. We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them.”

And this on the MLK holiday weekend!

It helps to remember that, as much homophobia as there may be in church circles generally, there appears to be considerably more in black church circles. This made Obama's remark fairly daring for a black man courting black voters, especially when many of them already suspect that he is "not one of us."

On the other hand, it seems like a great way to impress liberals in the broader electorate, especially those with a strong interest in gay rights. Which is apparently what happened, as the gay blogosphere caught fire -- for a while. "How gutsy," they said; "how daring." And, one suspects, just a hint of "He looks like them, but we know he's really one of us."

Then Obama was endorsed by Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of a huge black church in Texas, the website of which advertised one of those "ex-gay" ministries that work so well and are so deeply beloved of all homosexuals. Even though Caldwell denied any knowledge of the ministry, and removed it from his church website, Obama's flurry of support devolved into a flutter of confusion. "How gutsy is he really?" And, more importantly, "Is he really one of us?"

We like Obama. We really do. He is trying to move the political dialogue beyond tired old identity politics, which is something that absolutely must happen for the good of the nation. But, just as it took Nixon to go to China, so dismantling identity politics might be better accomplished by somebody with a more distinctive identity.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rush Limbaugh Has No Manners

Or, to be accurate, he is ignorant regarding them.

Limbaugh recently blathered on about a photograph of the Democratic candidates, claiming that Senator Clinton was 'the only one sitting there who could not cross her legs." Apparently, in his strange little mind, crossing your legs is a qualification for high office. Go figure.

According to Miss Manners, a lady's "at-ease"position while sitting is to cross her ankles -- which is what Clinton was doing.

Limbaugh later added that his comment had been in bad taste, and that he had 'quasi-apologized, but not really." Wow -- talk about doublespeak. And gutlessness. And ignorance. Reminds us of our old favorite joke from the 90s: How is Rush Limbaugh different from the Hindenburg?

Satan Is Off His Game

According to the carabinieri, Satan-worshipers broke into a Turin church and stole some holy water and a missal. Experts on magic say the holy water has no special value in their rites. The missal wasn't historic or valuable; it was just a typical twenty-year-old altar book. Frankly, there's nothing in it you couldn't download off the Net in five minutes.

Oh, Satan! Is this what it's come to now -- reduced to symbolic petty theft? Remember your glory days? Remember the Black Death, the papal indulgences, the witch-trials, the religious wars, colonialism and the World Wars? Remember AIDS and 9/11 and the Florida recount? Ou sont les malefices d'antan?

Wait a sec. This just in: Satan is doing fine, thanks; it's only his followers who content themselves with silly antics instead of the real thing. Just like Jesus.

Church is Full of Hypocrites

That is what 72% of non-churchgoing Americans believe, according to a recent survey by a Southern Baptist polling organization. And you know what? They are absolutely right.

Churches are full of hypocrites -- every pastor knows this. For the record, so are Congress, the White House, corporate offices, law firms, gas stations, locker rooms, faculty clubs, newspapers, classrooms (except maybe kindergarten), NASA, the military, the EPA, the mainstream media, blogs, yoga studios, ballfields, and your living room.

Any place where you have people you will also have sinners, including hypocrites. What makes the Church distinctive is that it provides an opportunity to admit this up front, and try to do better. Most of those other organizations would rather keep on denying it all.

Giuliani Will Lose Florida

As those wags at Wonkette put it, "Rudy has only ever campaigned in Florida, and now he's in fourth place there."

Now, let's be fair, he's just a point behind Huckabee, who isn't going to win the nomination either. But the Huckleberry has already won a primary, whereas the Nasty Man's whole strategy has appeared to hinge on the Sunshine State. Our best guess is that he has worked out a little New York style under-the-table payoff action to whichever company makes Florida's notoriously accurate voting equipment. Because failing that, the guy is toast.

On behalf of New Yorkers, including those who have relocated to Fort Lauderdale, I say, "Huzzah!"

My Mother Dated Ron Paul.

Only once. But it really did happen, many years ago, when he was in college and she was a prospective student. As far as I know, she forgot about it until recently. Honestly, it wouldn't be worth mentioning now, except that saying "Ron Paul" is apparently a good way to boost traffic to your website.

So. Now that all you Ron Paul supporters are reading the Egg anyway, you might as well stay a while. Look around. You'll find that we like the Constitution, too, although maybe not in that wild-eyed maniacal way you guys do.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Democratic Debate Rigged by Corporate Overlords?

Click to read the suggestion that Dennis Kucinich may have been barred from the TV debate by MSNBC because he is the only Democrat to consistently oppose the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump. After all, MSNBC is owned by General Electric, which makes nuclear power plant generators.

It's just a theory. Sure, it's more likely that MSNBC looked at his dismal results in the early primaries and decided that there was no way in Hell he would ever be the candidate. Whether it was the job of a network to make this decision before the voters did is a legitimate question, but that's not the point. The point is that they didn't toss him because of a corporate conspiracy, they tossed him because of his primary results.

That's an another theory and, conveniently, there's a way to test it. Rudolph Giuliani, who received a smaller percentage of the vote in Michigan than Kucinich, is doing miserably in the early primaries. He is neck and neck with Ron Paul, whom nobody believes has a shot at the candidacy. This makes him a fringe candidate, too, pretty much by definition. So will MSNBC exclude Rudy from their next televised Republican debate?

I suppose it depends what their corporate overlords tell them to do.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Huckabee Loses Gut Check

Stumping in South Carolina, Mike Huckabee has taken to embracing another nation's flag. A nation, now defunct, that existed for the sole purpose of perpetuating slavery. Yes, folks, it's Neo-Confederate time on the campaign trail.

"You don't like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag. ... If somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we'd tell them what to do with the pole. That's what we'd do," he declared to applause at a campaign rally in Myrtle Beach Thursday, according to Thomas Edsall at the HuffPo site.

This is pure politics. Just as the Huckster came out with this new trick, John McCain was attacked by something called Americans for the Preservation of American Culture, with ads that accuse him of calling the Confederate flag a racist symbol. I don't know if he has done this or not, but if he hasn't let me do it for him. It is. And as for APAC, it is run by Mike Crane, who periodically seeks office on the "Southern Party" ticket. Let those with ears, hear.

South Carolinians use the shibboleth "states' rights" (and sometimes "Southern heritage") to defend waving the flag of their defeated insurgency. They never actually say "segregation" or "slavery" (or "lynch mobs" or keeping the you-know-whos in their place"), but those ideas are never far from the debate. Nobody with a commitment to the United States as presently constituted can seriously treat the display of the Confederate flag as a neutral matter.

On the other hand, it is just a flag -- a symbol and nothing more. A politician truly committed to freedom of expression can certainly argue along the lines of "I loathe your flag, but defend your right to display it." Same argument applies to burning Old Glory in protest, because this is really a very similar action.

But for Huckabee, this new direction marks a failure of nerve. He has been running on the basis of his gentle Evangelicalism, summed up by phrases like "I love the Bible but I'm not angry about it." While solidly clinging to Christianist pieties about, say, abortion, he has also appealed to moderates and liberals with his apparent concern for the poor and oppressed. After seven years of Bush, there is some desperation out there for leadership with an a priori commitment to human decency. For a while, it looked as though Huckabee might be that man.

Instead, he has sold his soul to the idea of electability, of "motivating the base," and so forth. McCain made the same devil's bargain in 2000, and has since repented -- whence the APAC ads. Frankly, for those of us who actually like the USA, and are glad it won the Civil War, that pretty much doomed his candidacy at the time. With any luck, this will doom Hickabee's.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"Roncalli Receives Scare from Lutheran"

Relax. It's a Wisconsin high-school basketball story. But admit it: for just a second, you thought that the ghost of Pope John XXIII had been startled when the ghost of Franklin Clark Fry jumped out of a closet and shouted "boo." Didn't you?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

So. Iowa.

Well, Huckleberry looks awfully strong, at least if you listen to the mediacrats, whose take on it amounts to "Ohmigosh, an Evangelical won the Republican caucus! The Reagan Coalition is doomed!"

That's what we thought, until Brian Lehrer reminded us that Pat Robertson also won Iowa, once upon a time. Before going on to get blown out of the water, and spend the rest of his life blaming gays for 9/11 in a desperate bid for attention of any sort at all. And remember that unlike Robertson, the Huckster actually has experience governing.

All Huck's lucky night proves is that there are a lot of Republicans in Iowa who care more about abortion than they do about anything else, including a finger on the nuclear button that can answer basic questions about a trouble zone like, say, Pakistan. (Yeah, I know what you're thinking: a talking finger?! Just go with it.)

As for the Dems, those same mediacrats are this close (see my fingers almost touching?) to declaring Clinton dead in the water. In fact, she is one delegate behind Obama. And, based on the Jackson and Sharpton campaigns, black candidates actually poll better in states with smaller black populations, presumably because there is less racial tension. So watch for a thrill ride in, say, Ohio.

No, the real news out of Iowa is John Edwards. He's one delegate behind Clinton and, with Kucinich out of the picture, represents what is left of Democratic liberal populism. And yet mysteriously, per the Times, he scored best among Iowans who described themselves as "conservative Democrats." We're not sure what that means, but we think it is probably good. This really s a three-horse race, no matter what the talking heads try to tell us. And, just entre nous, that third horse doesn't look bad at all.

Yet Another Gay Anglican Bishop

In a better world, it wouldn't even be news. I mean, "gay" and "Anglican" go together like tea and clotted cream. The problem is that the bishop in question, Lindsay Unwin, is a prominent leader in the CofE's -- ahem -- rising homophobe wing.

Bear in mind, the allegations (posted on a blog by "Dennis," no last name given) are allegations, as in yet-to-be-proven. Still, they are pretty scorching: "we hooked up twice during Holy Week." Dennis knew that his new crush was a priest, and a candidate for bishop, and deeply closeted, and was warned by a mutual acquaintance that Unwin had an unsavory reputation; so he broke it off, left for the US, and never said a word on the subject. After all, whose business was it, really?

Except that, some fifteen years later, Unwin is My Lord Bishop of Horsham, and recently signed a letter of support for the Diocese of San Joaquin following its decision to leave the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA, specifically in protest against PECUSA's whole gay-bishops thing.

Smelling a little hypocrisy -- okay, a lot of hypocrisy -- "Dennis" spoke up. Generally speaking, we at the Egg don't think highly of outing. In this case, it seems warranted.

That said, here are some considerations: (1) The story might be false. Frankly, we would be surprised if it were, for the reason given in our first graf. Still, Christian charity requires that we at least acknowledge the possibility. (2) Unwin, as a commentator points out, is an Anglo-Catholic; in theory, this means that he could just commit the acts, confess them, and move on with a clean slate. In his own mind, therefore, he isn't a "gay bishop;" he is a bishop who has occasionally "done gay things." The point being that "gay" isn't a description of his nature, but of his actions. Fair enough; but if those actions are habitual, one wonders whether he quite got the part about "firmly intending amendment of life." (3) Ultimately, as many conservatives will argue, the issue isn't about the behavior of individual clerics, but abut the public teaching of the Church. And that's at least half-right. Theology is important. But theology isn't just -- or even primarily -- a series of doctrinal assertions. It is also and perhaps above all the experience of authentic Christian living, which includes both the frank acknowledgment of the truth about oneself, and the capacity to treat others with love and dignity. Hiding behavior of which you are ashamed while seeking to punish those who behave likewise is bad theology.