Monday, September 25, 2006

Your Concerns Are Important To Us...

TPMCafe updates Colorado District 4 voters on what their mercurial Marilyn Musgrave considers to be the most important matter on the national agenda today - "today" being this past Friday, when The Family Research Council gave the FMA proponent the pulpit at the social-conservative Woodstock, the 2006 Values Voter Summit. Those opposed to values? You will be taken care of: the congresswoman apparently loathes tiny animals as well. (Meanwhile, according to the Colorado Farm Bureau president, the ESA "is broken and it needs fixed". The art of public speaking might 'need fixed' at least as much as the ESA.)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Straight From the Horse's Ass's Mouth

From Andrew Sullivan - a perfect, well-synchronized response to the Pope's recent claims about Islam, from the seat of Muslim officialdom. To put it gently, it's not clear who is resting whose case.

I am neither a scholar of the Koran nor the Bible, but even so I am certain that what Sullivan points out is accurate. I understand the vagueness in the definition of jihad - this is irrelevant, and to argue onward from this is simply callow. The point can and should be simplified to the purely literary. Muhammad, the high prophet of Islam, accomplishes what is conveyed in the Koran, at several turns, through violence and coercion, and I'm aware of no doctrinal effort developing any "interpretation" of this fact. Jesus kills no person in the course of his literary life in the New Testament. This is not a matter of faith or virtue or spirituality, but rather of noticing words on pages. Of course this doesn't mean that to be a faithful Muslim you must morally endorse what the prophet is implicitly agreed, by faithful Muslims, to have done. This is hardly a point worth making. Why Islam cannot lay claim to the "religion of peace" mantle is precisely what Sullivan points to elsewhere - the growing inextricable role of the reactionary reflex in the Islamic world. Tolerant and humane impulses in Islam are increasingly forced into the periphery of its own institutions by those who forge their meaning. Equally true is Sullivan's point about evolution. There is plenty for which the various hierarchies of Christian churches ought to hang their heads in shame, at present, but there is nothing in modern Christianity like the world-historical synthesis of radical Islam and violent tyranny. That this shouldn't be rubbed in every Muslim face on earth goes without saying. But it is anything but civilized to deny what is in front of our eyes. The above remarks of Pakistan's Foreign ministry spokeswoman are archetypal - Islam is peaceful, and I dare you to say otherwise. As I can think of no other way to evaluate a religion's social value system (into which peace and tolerance obviously fall) than the conscious decisions and behaviors of its dominant figures, I can see no real argument to be had in this conflict. We torture ourselves to keep validating the argument that all religions are created equal, any more than this is true of all forms of government or ideology or culture.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Nothing Exceeds Like Excess

From David Weigel, blogging over at Andrew Sullivan's site, a restrained, careful, and substantive defense of the president offered by a blogger at NRO (again, apologies for no hyperlinking):

"[L]ike rain on parched earth" - blog journalism's answer to panegyric verse. It almost feels right to ask if Mario Loyola is truly who he poses as, as opposed to some hacker-satirist Trojan Horse. Where to begin? When a question put to the president asks, "Do you think you're right, or do you think you're right?", it's difficult to say what a courageous response would be. But credulity is, if nothing else, comfortable. And self-sustaining - is he really meaning to contrast this president with some other one whose policies would be defined by incoherence or incompetence or arrogance? Could a White House smell much higher to heaven of these than this one? But, as Loyola suggests, do consider the president's response, and follow that by considering Loyola's response to Bush's response. All Bush said was that he isn't a poll-chaser. It's the new, propriety-driven Bush answering here. And we know this without it being said. He is as extreme opposite of a poll-chasing president as it gets - why it's worth wondering if he cares at all about what any given American voter thinks of anything he does. Or rather, worth it if you're a normal, rational person living under a representative government, as opposed to a professional partisan with a propensity to overdo it. So professional a partisan, in fact, that he easily extols Bush in ways that even his paid functionaries haven't ventured. A mere few sentences, for instance, separate the point of praise over Bush's defiance of popular whim from the point of helpful suggestion that he and the vice president should turn up "every week" in front of press cameras - "if only to strengthen the viability of his agenda." The coda to this symphony speaks for itself:

"But it was not so long ago that Americans could only wish for a president who was obviously trustworthy, upstanding, and principled. And the day is not far off when we will think ourselves lucky to have seen this President defend the honor and integrity of his office—and the American people—for eight years. The times are difficult, and nobody could have gotten through the last five years without making mistakes. But in that station to which God called him, George W. Bush has been himself honestly, and thank God for that."

The president, reading this, might thank God for restraining orders.