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Religious Books -- Not Fundamentalist!
The Fundamentalist Xtians should not be allowed to hijack the language of Christianity. They are at least as much heretics to Christianity as the Arians and Gnostics of early Christian days.
Biblical inerrancy is not possible.
The books both above and below show the limitations of language and the impossibility of Biblical Inerrancy.
How can language be misused? Using General Semantics, this book was Written to explain Nazi propaganda and still used as a textbook
Books - Popular Math, Post Enlightenment & Science
This book explains why the above books on Christian Fundamentalism are politically important in America today.
Modern Society measures risk & predicts possible futures. The book below is a higly readable history of insurance, statistics and modern financial instruments.
Compare this to religion, in which it is presumed that the perfect society was known in the past and all that is necessary to do is to return to that perfect society.
Fascinating, highly readable and fun book on modern mathematics and its limitations. If you are interested in ideas, this is your book!
This is a collection of Hofstader's Scientific American articles. Again, a very fascinationg and highly readable book, requiring no mathematical background. (Buy it used - it is one of the books that will keep disappearing.)
Older, very fascinating book on mathematical ideas. Did you know there are three kinds of infinity?
The Bush-Cheney strategy to fight "Terrorism" is based on a delusion, and Digby pulls the data that shows it together. Here is the beginning of her post:
Bush (Cheney actually) based US strategy on the trash talk and recruiting fatwas of fundamentalist freaks rather than a real assessment of their capabilities and goals.
Either Bush is making strategy based on a delusional goal of his opponent, which is idiotic; or he's saying he believes his opponent has the capability of achieving this delusional goal, which is idiotic. Neither bodes well for the republic.
Well, Bush and Cheney are delusional themselves, in different ways, so we have been dealing with a triple whammy. And to make matters even worse, their strategy is based on a delusional goal of their opponents (which isn't even as delusional as they say it is) and they believe they are capable of it. Mushroom Clouds! Drone Planes! No wonder the whole world has a headache.
Why is the Bush administration so unsuccessful at foreign policy? Because it is all based on delusion. It has no connection to human reality. They pull imaginary levers, nothing happens, and they get frustrated and angry.
One obvious reaction many of the right-wingers suffering from these delusions will resort to is looking for scapegoats to blame. That's what the "We were stabbed in the back" rhetoric we are hearing from the dead-ender right-wingers is all about. There is also no limit to what they will do to create the society of their delusion. They are "true-believers" and consider it their mission to convert the deluded to the path of righteousness which only they, at this time, know and understand.
If you want to understand where the delusions delusions maintained by individual members of such a movement come from, that is the central idea of Paul Berman's book Terror and Liberalism. His key point is that there are delusional organizations, and those delusional organizations include Fascists, Marxist-Leninist Communists, Nazis and religious fundamentalists. The Moonies are another such delusional group. The core idea or "Ur-Myth" for each movement may be different from that of the others, but the groups all use such similar methods that they will work as allies. An example is the way the Moonies (owners of the Washington Times) are allies to the American conservative movement.
Each of the delusional organizations is built around the idea of a utopia of some sort. Berman calls those utopias "Ur-Myths." (They are also called "memes" by many of us, but "Ur-Myths" are memes with a specific function in delusional organizations.) The members of those movements design social systems to recruit new members and transmit belief in those "Ur-Myths" and the methods of maintaining and enforcing those Ur-Myths on the new members.
The most rigidly authoritarian of these organizations are strongly hierarchical and limit the permissible information available to their members. That can be done either by putting certain publications on a blacklist, by getting them removed from libraries and schools, or by training the group members to be extremely anxious when the start to get information that is forbidden to them, while providing approved sites for information that are "safe." FOX News, the Weekly Standard and National Review On-Line are all such "safe" sources of political news. In the religious organizations, the Bible and the Koran are safe sources because each has a massive educational organization behind them to explain to believers what those books really mean. The attacks on any book based on Evolution are a method of setting up personal anxiety in true-believers when they encounter books and ideas that are different (even if not directly opposed to) the accepted interpretations of the "Inerrant" Bible.
The logic of those attacks does not matter. What matters is the conflict and the resulting anxiety created in true believers when they encounter the forbidden ideas. Emotions trump logic every time. When a person become anxious every time they encounter an idea or a fact, they will avoid and dismiss that idea or fact out-of-hand. The few true believers who find themselves personally forced to overcome that anxiety cease to be true-believers, and if they allow the other group members to know of their change of heart, they will be one of the rejectees who provide examples of what is acceptable belief to the other true-believers. This is what happened to Trotsky when he rejected the beliefs Stalin deemed acceptable. He was expelled from the party and from the USSR, and when he continued to be a threat to Stalin, he was murdered.
A group defines itself by who it expels. Generally just expelling dissidents can solidify the group and harden the authorized beliefs of the individual members. The Amish practice this. One who abandons the Amish beliefs will be cut off from contact even with the closest family. Attacking non-believers, physically or otherwise, also works to solidify group cohesion and individual beliefs. Violence can be used, but is usually only necessary for those who fight back or who effectively oppose the group and its Ur-Myths. Then, like expelling the occasional dissident, violence is an example to the groups of what is acceptable. That is why it is rarely needed.
All of these delusional organizations recruit individuals likely to be amenable to adopting the Ur-Myth of that movement and acting on it. People who reject recruitment are not required, and again, they help define the beliefs of the members of the group. Then, once inside the movement, promotions and rewards go to those who best display belief in the Ur-Myth (or ideology.) Free speech and free transmission of information is a major threat to such organizations. That is why neither was permitted in the USSR, why Putin is taking control of the major media in Russia, and why the Communist Party USA was placed on the banned list in the United States. It is the usual reaction of any organization when they feel under attack. But it is also the breeding ground for delusional authoritarian organizations like the John Birch Society, the American conservative movement and the protestant evangelists who adopted the doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy.
It is my belief that the American conservative movement is one such delusional organization, and that the John Birch Society was an earlier one. The similarity between the hierarchical structure and the authoritarian methods of those organizations and the structures and methods of their greatest enemies, Marxist-Leninist Communism and more recently the Islamic fundamentalist Jihadist organizations like al Qaeda is to be expected. The organizations have different Ur-Myths but they function socially the same way. Each is based on the same kind of group-induced delusion-based behaviors, and each either has become or is becoming a delusional authoritarian movement consisting of members trained to pass on the delusions.
The Ur-Myths behind each movement are very different, but that doesn't matter. Whatever the Ur-Myth, each Ur-Myth performs the same function for its respective movement. It really doesn't matter if the Ur-Myth a movement is based on is the Communist Utopia, the Muslim Caliphate, Free Market Capitalism (Ayn Rand provides the best myth of that type) or the Biblical God who is the Lord Jesus Christ and who speaks through the inerrant Holy Bible. It is enough that there is, in each case, a catechism for the members to recite to each other. After that, the authoritarian methods of maintaining the Ur-Myth and the methods of maintaining the movement based on it are the same. [*]
This is a rough summary of the group source and purpose of the delusions displayed by so many individuals in cult-like organizations or movements. Click through to Digby's post for more evidence of the individual behavior of the American conservative movement versions of this delusional set of group and individual memes.
[*][My apologies to Paul Berman if, in attempting to summarize his ideas and melding them with my own, I have severely misstated any of his concepts. I don't think I have, or I would have corrected them.]
John Derbyshire at NRO boosts Ron Paul for his efforts to promote a conservatism that the young William F. Buckley would have very much agreed with.
Look at those policy positions! Abolish the IRS and Federal Reserve; balance the budget; go back to the gold standard; pull out of the U.N. and NATO; end the War on Drugs; overturn Roe v. Wade; repeal federal restrictions on gun ownership; fence the borders; deport illegals; stop lecturing foreign governments about human rights; let the Middle East go hang. What’s not to like?
We-e-ell. We all have nits to pick, though we wouldn’t all pick the same ones. The gold standard? Wasn’t it going off the gold standard that gave us full control over the wilder swings of the business cycle? Which was, like, a good idea? I am by no means as willing to surrender to the collective wisdom of modern economists as Bryan Caplan wants me to be, but — the gold standard? Come on. And stopping the War on Drugs? Where would that take us? — Philip Morris brands of crack cocaine available over the counter at Walgreens? You pick your own nits.
That’s not the point, though. Nits aside, the broad outlook there is conservative in a way we don’t often see from a presidential candidate. It is, in fact, conservatism of exceptional purity. Reading through those policy positions, an American conservative can hear the mystic chords of memory sounding in the distance, and hear the call of ancestral voices wafted on the breeze: Hayek, von Mises, Rothbart, Nock, Kirk, John Chamberlain... Unlike the product in that automobile commercial, this is your father’s conservatism — the Old-Time Religion. What is there among Ron Paul’s policy prescriptions that the young William F. Buckley would have disagreed with?
Go back to my earlier post showing how the Bush administration is enacting the core elements of the John Birch Society platform. The central beliefs they were pushing, and what Cheney has enacted are:
1. The abolition of the graduated income tax.
2. The repeal of social security legislation.
3. The impeachment of various high government officials,
4..The end to busing for the purpose of school integration.
5. The end to U.S. membership in the United Nations.
In other words, these are the people who want to take America back to the days of the robber Barons, segregation enforced by law and by KKK terrorism, and repression of labor. If they could, they'd go back to before the Civil War. Keep them in office and they will.
josh Marshall, in response to the frantic warnings given by Bill "O'Goebbels" O'Reilly about the yearly convention of the extreme left hate site Daily Kos, offers to personally attend that convention in Chicago and expose all the viciousness that goes on there. Go watch Josh's video.
[I wonder if Josh will take his son to Chicago. Kos has a son only slightly older, and both look really cute in pictures. Maybe they can have a "cute-off?" Probably depends on whether Mrs. Moulitsas and Mrs. Marshall permit it, of course.]
This, by the way, is my 2,000th post at this site since I started it in September 2004 under the name "Politics Plus Stuff." It's been fun, and very educational, although I have not yet learned to write short, pithy posts.
I will probably learn to write those short, pithy posts about the same time I get my life organized, and I realized a while back that will occur roughly three days after my funeral.
I'm glad that Josh Marshall sees this also. When the Right-wing starts a war and it goes badly south on them, they can't just chalk it up as an effort gone bad and move on. They are really emotionally invested in their wars, and instead of admitting they are lost they have to find a scapegoat to blame. We are seeing this now with the Dead-ender Republican war-supporter right-wing.
What I'd like to focus on though is the increasingly clear and no less disturbing trend for the president's defenders to ape the tactics, rhetoric and strategy of the post-WWI German revanchist right, which laid the groundwork for and in many respects evolved into the Nazi party.
An inflammatory comparison? Yes. But the inflammatory nature of the comparison shouldn't scare us into ignoring how strong the similarities are. You see it in the explicit 'stab in the back' rhetoric and the effort to cover up their own authorship and prosecution of the role by blaming their own failures on the critics of the war.
And then perhaps the most telling sign, from an American perspective: As the dead-ender right's plans and dreams about Iraq come under greater and greater strain from the alternative universe of reality, and as the president's popularity wanes further and further, there's a growing tendency for them to think about and write about domestic American politics in terms of violence and extra-constitutional action.
The Dead-ender Right-Wing is refusing to recognize the reality in Iraq and instead trying to sell the fiction that the war in Iraq has been lost because of the powerless rhetoric of criticisms of the war here in America. This is the classic "We lot because we were stabbed in the back by the" SocialistsLiberals rhetoric used by the German right wing and ex-military after WW I.
The fact is that the last two years of WW I were fought under the total command of Germany by Ludendorf and Hindenburg, they tried everything they could, and when the final, last-ditch effort in Spring of 1918 failed they realized that the war could not be won, so they (the Generals, not the government) surrendered.
Iraq is as unwinnable for the Americans today as was "The Great War" for the Germans in 1918. But the right-wing which in both cases was responsible for starting the two wars refuses to take any responsibility for their own actions. Instead the search for domestic traitors who stabbed the nation in the back was (and is) used to avoid responsibility by those truly responsible.
More from the John Marshall article:
As the war for faux-democracy looks more and more like a debacle, the lure of authoritarianism at home becomes greater and greater for the war's dead-end defenders. And as redeployment looks more and more likely, they have to keep raising the stakes on the consequences of doing so. Apparently our whole future, our honor, destiny, certainly our safety from the Iraqi insurgents who will restart the insurgency in the US -- all of this is in the balance. The stakes must keep rising because that is, paradoxically, the only way for them to avoid taking responsibility for their failures.
This is a fantasy, and like most right-wing political fantasies, it is nasty and self-serving. But like the similar right-wing inspired military fiasco in Vietnam, this one will ring through American politics for the next generation.
Where is Buffy the Vampire-Slayer? Now that her show has been canceled she should have plenty of free time. We need her and her stakes to impale in the hearts of the right-wing dead-ender "Undead" before they again rise up to try to kill everyone around the Hellmouth at Sunnydale and in the rest of America.
The media has again demonstrated its refusal to research personal history of the people it covers. Case in point - when did Ken Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon become War Critics and Bush opponents? This is truly 1984 thinking. Black is White, Up is down and war supporters are actually war critics. Glenn Greenwald does an excellent job of dissecting their actual views of Iraq and the Bush administration.
Think Progress has an interesting article on Tucker Carlson's defense of Pollack and O'Hanlon, particularly naming Glenn Greenwald and slamming "hysterical bloggers." Hey, that's what Carlson does. He earns his living as an administration cheerleader, and Pollack and O'Hanlon are the propaganda flavor of the day!
“Given the difficulty of discussing classified matters in public, I think it is preferable to have a letter addressing that question [of Gonzales’ veracity] from the administration … by noon tomorrow, which will be made available to the news media,” Specter wrote in the statement. “The administration has committed to producing such a letter.”
Specter expects the letter clarifying the attorney general’s testimony to be addressed to himself and Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who declined to comment on the matter.
Sen. Specter is rather clearly upset with AG Gonzales' testimony to the Senate, but since he is a Republican he has not appeared free to directly challenge the administration. His personal conflict has been played out in public. He has made statements challenging Gonzales, but continues to vote with the Republicans on the committee.
This demand for a letter appears to be another effort to resolve his conflict without abandoning the Republican Party. It appears to be a dramatic move, but probably will have no real effect on the situation.
I can't say I feel especially sorry for Sen. Specter. He is just another enabler of the radical right-wing Bush Cheney regime, but unlike (for example) Ex-Rep. Tom DeLay and Sen. Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. Specter doesn't seem to get much pleasure from the antics, idiocy, and misuse of power by members of the Bush Administration. He just doesn't do anything to stop them. As I say, he is a Bush/Cheney enabler.
Iraqi corruption, much of it run from various offices of the Maliki government, is a major barrier to Iraqi development. The Mahdi Army is in control of the Health Ministry and diverts drugs into the black market to finance its operations. In the meantime, investigations into government corruption elsewhere have been stalled when the Prime Minister, Malaki, has stepped in to protect his supporters. MSNBC has the story.
This provides confirmation to an earlier report that says Iraqi 'government' refuses to take control of Iraq. There is no widely accepted single nation of Iraq and no strong-man government to force people to work together, so there is no nation-level cooperation for rebuilding Iraq. Instead there are separate tribes with militias of their own and all kinds of individuals out to line their own pockets, probably more as a survival process than from pure greed or evil intent.
Given the existing Civil War in Iraq, how likely is it that the problems of corruption can be solved? Can the Maliki government be replaced by a government with better prospects for success as a government?
Right now the very existence of the Maliki government depends on the presence of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq. How can the U.S. responsibly pull out of Iraq? What happens when (not if) the U.S. leaves?
Getting into Iraq was a Bush - NeoCon idiocy. I wrote at the time that we were grabbing the tar baby and wouldn't be able to let go. Sure wish had had been wrong. Two things are very clear, however. First, the solution to getting the U.S. out of the disaster in Iraq will not be found by the Republicans or other idiots who got us into this mess. Second, whatever the solution is, it will not be a result of American military operations. It will be political and will come from cooperation with a bunch of people the current administration does not like and will not cooperate with, almost certainly including Iranians and Syrians.
Sunnis in Iraq especially have every reason to be very, very afraid. The only thing standing between the Sunnis being treated like the KKK treated freed American slaves after the Civil War is the U.S. military, and al Qaeda in Iraq is trying hard (generally successfully) to make that not work. Al Qaeda in Iraq is also doing everything possible to fan the flames of Sunni - Shiite civil war, again with a great deal of success. Iraqis and American soldiers and Marines will continue to be getting killed and wounded for the foreseeable future, and the absence of an effective Iraqi government is a major contributor to the set of problems.
Can you say "Gordian Knot?" Unfortunately, the idea of a clear, simple bold stroke that will resolve the set of problems ("Cut the Gordian Knot.") is what got the NeoCon-inspired idiots in the Bush/Cheney government into this mess in the first place. Bush is no King Alexander, and Iraq is no fairy tale legend. The future for Iraq looks bleak, as does the future for America in Iraq.
GOP: Want a Reagan? Look to Goldwater Michael O'Brien at Politico suggest that instead of modeling on Reagan, the Republican candidates for the Presidential nomination might do better by modeling on Goldwater.
Mikey strikes again Jonathon Martin at Politico points to the anemic fundraising reported by Fred Thompson and suggests that he is not long for this campaign.
Novak Laura Rozen links to the traitor Bob Novak who describes a risky Bush covert action trying to suppress Kurdish Guerrillas in order to keep Turkey from invading Iraq. Laura describes it as a PR leak to Novak designed to assuage Turkish feelings of being ignored.
Cheney Big Brother? Laura Rozen published in Mother Jones - was it Cheney rather than Bush who sent Gonzales to strong arm AG Ashcroft into approving from his hospital bed the domestic spying program that then acting attorney general James Comey had refused to reauthorize?
The Cambodia Card Rick Perlstein debunks the right-wing myth of the Cambodia "Killing Fields" as an example of Leftist politics.
Destroying The GOP's Congressional Approval-Rating Spin Republicans really, really want to ignore Bush's truly rotten approval ratings. This is another of their "Don't look at the little man behind the curtin" crap. Bob Geiger does a good job of debunking the conservative crap.
Impeach Gonzales? Jay Inslee (D-WA) to drop the resolution asking the Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
When an Interview Is Definitely a Blow-Job EmptyWheel expresses her disgust at the apparent avoidance of real contact with the Press when faking an interview to describe his performance as Federal Reserve Chairman.
The Rubber-Stampers’ Latest Contortion The Congressional Republican fake resolution introduced so that they can look like they are voting to get out if Iraq without in anyway forcing Bush to get out of Iraq. The original article is quoted and then debunked. Bush won't move to leave IRaq, and the Republicans won't vote to force him to leave. How do they run for reelection? Vote for fake withdrawal proposals.
Yesterday from Jim Hoagland we got another defensive meme from the conservative Republicans who lost power in the elections last November. He buried the meme deeply behind a warning that in spite of the many, many scandals in professional sports this summer, cynicism is not the answer. Things change, and rules change. People who use such changes to attack 'serious people' and take pleasure at the destruction of individual reputations and careers need to be avoided. Those who do that, like Bloggers, are just trying to build their own reputations on the gravestones they use to bury the currently established leaders and representatives of the status quo. Here is the core of his lament:
The most vindictive bloggers and many others eager to push the mainstream media, established politicians or other remnants of the status quo off a stage that they want to occupy smash reputations with abandon to call attention to themselves. What do they have to lose in the unpoliced badlands of the ether? They contribute to a general deepening of cynicism in the land at no perceived cost to themselves.
But deeply polarized nations that devote an inordinate amount of their time and energy to hunting and prosecuting both real villains and convenient scapegoats -- at the expense of failing to recognize and respect heroes and helpers of the common good -- do pay an enormous collective price. Such nations descend into easily manipulated despair and resentment that inevitably lead to ever greater destruction. Americans would do well to ponder that in a summer of doubt and division.
His concern seems to be that if we destroy all the negative elements of the status quo, we will also be destroying the things that maintain stability in our nation. He says "nations," but I see no indication that he looks outside the U.S. borders.
Well, if he is trying to defend the existing mainstream corporate owned media and pundits such as himself as valued defenders of the status quo, how much defending of the "status quo" (example: "America does not conduct unnecessary preemptive wars") was he dong when he was uncritically feeding the NeoCon line to the public to urge the War in Iraq? Hoagland himself was a stenographer for the NeoCon Iranian agent Ahmed Chalabi, publishing disinformation directly from Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. At the time he was publishing their propaganda, the CIA and the Department of State had already refused to deal with Chalabi. Hoagland, like so many pundits being published in the Washington Post, remains a cheerleader for the status quo - even though the status quo is presently the most radical regime America has ever suffered under.
Hoagland is warning us against an orgy of investigations and destroyed reputations and careers because it could be destructive of the status quo. Yeah, that idea worked so well (for the Republicans) after both the Nixon debacle. The Nixon Pardon by Ford was to prevent loss of public acceptance of the legitimacy of the government. The Pardon for Nixon was to prevent social disruption - and prevent the public from learning how bad the Nixon regime really was. The lack of full investigation into the Nixon administration allowed the conservative cancer to continue growing on the American body politics. Because they were not exposed the same idiots like Lee Atwater kept coming back like the undead without stakes in their hearts. The same excuse was used after Iran Contra. Pardon the worst, ignore the rest, and stop the damned investigations that would destroy careers and reputations. The cancer kept growing until we got Bush 43, Rove, Cheney and Rumsfeld. Hoagland wants to avoid anything that will keep the conservatives from being recognized as the greatest danger to American values since the Confederate States of America revolted. If they aren't investigated and exposed, they will be back again. This time we need to put a stake through the heart of conservatism. That will require that what they really have done be exposed, and that will destroy some careers and reputations of those who have been trying to destroy the American Constitution.
The solution this time requires in-depth investigations and truth commissions that expose what has happened to America in the last 50 years. It will require that kind of effort to get to the truth at the bottom of the nightmare the American conservatives have brought to America. That kind of effort WILL destroy reputations. But it will do so in the interest of trying to bring America back to some form of consensus as to what America is and how it should be governed, not for the personal gain of those who expose the evil-doers.
This solution, honest open exposure of the illegal actions of the current radical regime, is not the one that Jim Hoagland recommends. Instead he suggests that we protect those currently in power with good reputations as an effort to protect American stability. He blames "...vindictive bloggers and many others eager to push the mainstream media, established politicians or other remnants of the status quo off a stage that they want to occupy smash reputations with abandon to call attention to themselves."
He personalizes the destruction of the status quo, looking for someone to blame ("vindictive bloggers and others") and glorifies a non-existent status quo. The first part of his article, in fact, makes a point that the status quo in sports is no longer any form of stability. I would suggest to him that he reread the economist Joseph Schumpeter's description of Creative destruction.
His own newspaper industry is a great example of creative destruction. Newspapers are dying because of competition from radio, Television, as well as the shift from downtown department stores that advertised to attract customers to WalMarts, Targets and K-Marts that place stores closer to the customers and compete on low prices instead of advertisements. More recently, the Internet offers news that dispenses with the newspaper gatekeeper-on-the-news function. Gatekeepers protect the status quo, good or bad. Individual choices as facilitated by the Internet are more likely to lead to a generally acceptable consensus than hidebound gatekeepers. Is it any surprised that the Washington D.C. news gate-keepers are screaming like stuck pigs as they are displaced and disrespected? But let's look at this "status quo" that we have to protect if we are to maintain "stability."
Currently the so-called status quo consists of two American world-view competing for political domination of America. One set fears the future and wants to be protected from it. They are out to gain control of the military, police and judicial powers of government to stop the changes they fear and hate. The other set is apprehensive about the future, but does not believe that we can be protected from it, so they want to know about it and be able to take advantage of whatever elements there are to take advantage of.
Jim Hoagland fears the future, but it is coming right at us anyway. It is dangerous and highly unpredictable, but it is coming at us whether we like it or not. Our choice is to either let the old-line news gate-keepers hide the facts from us and feed us a feeling of normality and safety, or to open up the news channels and let each of us get ready for the inevitable as best we can.
Such preparations will require a great deal of government planning and organization. Government can't stop the future from happening, but it can prepare us to deal with it. The government couldn't prevent Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but there was a lot that could have been done to limit the damage they did and help people recover.
The recognition of the total failure of refusing to prepare for the inevitable future will include a lot of destroyed reputations and careers. Tough. There are a lot more Michael Browns and yes, Jim Hoaglands, who need to be exposed and disposed with. Failures ion both government and the media need to be dealt with, including dealing with the responsible people. The old-line news gate-keepers need to recognize the elements of creative destruction and try to get out of the way while the rest of us start living in tomorrow.
Oh, and why do I call Hoagland's meme a Republican one? Because they are the ones who want to hide from the future and deputize the military to defend themselves from it. That is what Cheney and the NeoCons (including Hoagland) were trying to do in Iraq. It didn't work and couldn't work. As Hoagland's article points out, the future is showing up in sports all over this Summer. It is also showing up in prices at the gas pump, in the transfer of high-paying jobs from the U.S. to India and China, and in the dangerous foods entering the world market from China.
The future starts one-second from now and can't be stopped. Only our adaptation to the new future can be prevented. It is stopping that adaptation that is the core of American conservatism, as if by some magic (or miracle if you are fundamentalist) by hiding from the evidence of future and refusing to adapt to it, it can be somehow stopped.
The fall-out for the Republican Party failure is now showing up in the election booths. They lost control of Congress in November 2006, where they were trying to cram their failed solutions down the throat of America using votes of 50% plus one vote and totally removing any opposition from power. They really think that they will regain power because the only possible solution they can see is to ignore the future, refuse to prepare for it, and use the military to keep the rest of the world under their control.
Since they expect to return to power, they are now pushing the media to demand that Democrats and vindictive bloggers avoid destroying the careers and reputations of people whose only sin is to protect the status quo. Another media meme that the Republicans are pushing is that 'serious people' should act in a bipartisan manner, giving equal respect to conservatives. Both of these memes, if listened to, will have the effect of leaving the conservatives with some power to prevent preparations for the inevitable changing and very frightening future.
Both of those memes should get the trash-can treatment they deserve. To the extent that either is adopted, it will be as dangerous to America as the War in Iraq has been and remains. Neither has any value. If the conservatives want to get on the band wagon to the future, they have to do as an addict does. they have to recognize that they have reached rock-bottom and decide themselves to change and adapt. They should not expect the rest of us to be protective of their insanity.
The Washington Post has decided to publish an article on one of the burning questions today rolling through and over the city of Washington D.C.
Whether Gonzales has deliberately told untruths or is merely hampered by his memory has been the subject of intense debate among members of Congress, legal scholars and others who have watched him over the years. Some regard his verbal difficulties as a strategic ploy on behalf of a president to whom he owes his career; others see a public official overwhelmed by the magnitude of his responsibilities. [Snip]
Gonzales told senators earlier this year that allegations that he had been untruthful "have been personally very painful to me." But Gonzales's critics on and off Capitol Hill say he has had trouble with the truth for more than a decade, pointing to a controversy over Gonzales's account of why Bush was excused from jury duty in 1996 while serving as the governor of Texas.
The article does a lot of reporting on what has been said by both Gonzales' supporters and his detractors, so there is a lot of "On the one hand... then on the other hand..." type statements. But it is very difficult to conclude that the Truth can be found by taking the arguments from both sides and splitting the difference. Consider his history.
Alberto Gonzales spent, two years at the Air Force Academy, then resigned and went on to graduate from the single finest University in Texas, Rice University of Houston. Then he went on to get a law degree from Harvard, joined one of the top law firms in Texas (Vinson and Elkins) where he became a partner. This is not the career pattern of a man with memory and verbal problems.
...scrutiny of Gonzales increased dramatically this year as a result of Democrats' aggressive investigations into the Justice Department's firings of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006. Gonzales has particularly come under fire for his shifting explanations of his role in the dismissals and for his statements that he could not recall a host of details about the firings.
At a Senate hearing in April, for example, Gonzales said more than 60 times that he could not recall events or facts related to the firings, including a final, high-level meeting in his office at which the dismissal plan was formally approved.
Lying successfully requires an excellent memory and a thorough understanding of whatever is being lied about. Without knowing what is really going on, good lies cannot be crafted that do not give themselves away through contradictions. Gonzales does not appear to have been caught in any extremely obvious personal contradiction, though a lot of people have come forward to disagree with his statements. If he is lying, then he is carefully preparing to lie by making sure that he has plausible deniability for most of what he says. Again this strongly suggests that his errors in testimony are intentional, not accidental or the result of a memory or verbal impairment.
Did he suffer some mental disease such as Alzheimer's since then? He left Vinson and Elkins in 1994 to become Bush's General Counsel when Bush was elected Governor of Texas and he is now age 51. If he has some memory or verbal problem which has developed since 1994 it has only become noticeable when he walked into the Senate for hearings after he was confirmed to the job of Attorney General.
There is an attempt to pass the problems off by saying that "Gonzales's strengths 'may lie elsewhere, but they are not in management.'" While Attorneys are notoriously poor managers, and Gonzales has clearly demonstrated that his management skills lie in the low range for that profession, his statements to the Senate are a result of his strengths as one of the better Attorneys in the nation acting to give testimony. It is much more likely that he has structured his job in order to make what he says to Congress more credible or more difficult to disprove than it is that he is a poor manager.
Or to say it another way, he may be a poor manager, but it is because he has structured his job to provide that as an excuse for those lies he gets caught in rather than poor management being the reason for his refusal to tell the truth to Congress. It takes an extremely bright, competent and well-trained attorney to build a large structure of lies and then build - on top of that structure - systems of plausible deniability.
His only remaining excuse might be mental illness. But if that is the case, it demonstrates itself only when he sits in the Senate witness chair. I don't think that medicine has identified a Senate-specific memory or verbal illness. I see no way to draw any conclusion other than that he is lying to protect himself and Bush.
Once again Digby describes the reality of the Republican Party.
Remember, Racism is a thing of the past, so Rudy can't be obviously anti-Black. He is also not in a position to run in the South based on religion, choice and gay rights. What's left? Remember - can't run in favor of segregation any more.
Check on Digby's explanation of how he is running on the Racism ticket.
Anyone else notice that the media suddenly started demanding that the Democrats act in a bipartisan manner right after the Republicans lost big in the midterm elections?
I have found the idea utterly insulting. The Republicans have ruled this government on the basis of 50% plus one vote since before Bush as appointed to office. When they controlled both houses of Congress they didn't even invite Democrats to the committee meetings to reconcile legislation between the House and the Senate. "Bipartisanship" was a bad word in Tom Delay's House of Representatives. The Republicans took control of the Texas House in 2004 and rammed redistricting through without any hint of bipartisanship.
But now that the Republicans are out of control of Congress, suddenly bipartisanship has become the All-American virtue, and the absence of it has become somehow a failure of the Democrats!
Sorry. I don't want compromise with Fascists, Communists, or Republicans. They have all proven that they are out to screw me and America over, and they should all get their punishment - like Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Jack Abramoff have. Bipartisanship with untrustworthy people who are out to get you is a very bad idea!
Digby reminded me of what a really, really bad idea bipartisanship is. So does watching Joe Lieberman play footsie with the gutter slime Republicans.
The "Bipartisanship" meme is just another effort by the Republicans to avoid losing power after the voters have rejected them and everything they stand for.
Elizabeth Warren describes the manner in which the highly paid defender of the current health care status quo defends the present lack of system against all attacks. He ignores any study he disagrees with, refuses to acknowledge a powerful individual story of personal disaster caused by the current system as "single-anecdote photo opportunity" and offers no research of his own to refute the research he rejects.
Americans can hope that he is beginning to find it harder to earn the large sums of money the Insurance industry is paying him to be an 'expert witness' and defend their profits.
Not sure you are eligible to vote after moving to a new address? Don't even try to register! If you get it wrong, the Republican Party's so-called 'Department of Justice' will prosecute you for any error, no matter what your intentions.
In fact, they will prosecute you even if you just register improperly and don't vote. Oh, and it is a crime to be registered twice, so if the voter administrators from your previous place of registration fail to cancel your registration, YOU will be prosecuted for vote fraud. It's all about suppressing Democratic voter turnout stopping Vote Fraud.
Bush and AG Gonzales fired former U.S. attorneys David Iglesias of New Mexico and John McKay of Seattle because they failed to respond to pressure from local Republican politicians to bring federal cases in alleged Democratic instances of voter fraud. That failure was especially heinous since both U.S. Attorneys actually had the gall to not bring such dubious cases to trial right before an election so that the election would be influenced. Those U.S. Attorneys actually tried to follow the guidelines written in the Justice Department's election crimes manual!
Of course they deserved to be fired! They weren't U.S. Attorneys! They were Republican Attorneys tasked with winning elections for Republican candidates! How DARE they refuse to bring political prosecutions and even act in accordance to their written guideline! Who were they working for? The American People or the Republican Party?
The Department of Justice has solved the problem of those pesky guidelines Iglesias and McKay were fired for following. They have rewritten the guidelines and eliminated those instructions. TPM Muckraker has the story. The instructions now say that every minor registration or voting error will be prosecuted, no matter what the registrant's or voter's intent was, or even who was at fault in the case of administrative error. From now on, all likely Democratic voters who can possibly be indicted errors in the process will be prosecuted, even if they are not related to any conspiracy to change an election.
No surprise there. The Republicans have been desperately searching for proof of Democratic conspiracies to steal elections and have not been successful.
All those 'good news' stories out of Iraq in which schools and hospitals have been rebuilt have left out the end results. From the New York Times via TPM:
...of 2,797 completed projects costing $5.8 billion, Iraq’s national government had, by the spring of this year, accepted only 435 projects valued at $501 million.
Of the projects taken over by the Iraqi government, the Iraqi's have not been able to operate many of them.
In one of the most recent cases, a $90 million project to overhaul two giant turbines at the Dora power plant in Baghdad failed after completion because employees at the plant did not know how to operate the turbines properly and the wrong fuel was used. The additional power is critically needed in Baghdad, where residents often have only a few hours of electricity a day. [Snip]
In fact, in the first two quarters of 2007, Mr. Bowen said, his inspectors found significant problems in all but 2 of the 12 projects they examined after the United States declared those projects completed.
This problem is not going to get better.
So far, the United States has declared that $5.8 billion in American taxpayer-financed projects have been completed, but most of the rest of the projects within a $21 billion rebuilding program that Mr. Bowen examined in the report are expected to be finished by the end of this year. Some of that money is also being used to train and equip Iraqi security forces rather than finance construction projects.
This does not indicate any likelihood at all the the U.S. will find it possible to 'win' in Iraq. The current Iraqi 'government' cannot succeed in gaining control of Iraq, and the Republican Administration cannot manage Iraq by itself. Under these conditions there is no possibility of bringing any form of stability to that nation.
In short, American success in Iraq is impossible. That is true no matter how success in Iraq is defined! There is no effective Iraqi government (outside of Iraqi Kurdistan) that Americans can depend on, and for the U.S. to adequately occupy Iraq would require at least half a million troops or more along with a U.S. draft to supply those troops. All of that is true even if the international repercussions of an attempt by the U.S. to actually gain and keep control of Iraq were ignored.
Those conditions are impossible to meet. Knowing that, the Bush administration has not even tried. The only question is when the U.S. troops will leave Iraq.
New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a powerful member of the Democratic leadership, said Friday the Senate should not confirm another U.S. Supreme Court nominee under President Bush “except in extraordinary circumstances.”
“We should reverse the presumption of confirmation,” Schumer told the American Constitution Society convention in Washington. “The Supreme Court is dangerously out of balance. We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts, or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito.”
Schumer’s assertion comes as Democrats and liberal advocacy groups are increasingly complaining that the Supreme Court with Bush’s nominees – Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito – has moved quicker than expected to overturn legal precedents.
Senators were too quick to accept the nominees’ word that they would respect legal precedents, and “too easily impressed with the charm of Roberts and the erudition of Alito,” Schumer said.
“There is no doubt that we were hoodwinked,” said Schumer, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The current situation is a disaster already. It may require something like impeachment of people like Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts.
Something like FDR's Judiciary Reorganization plan might also be considered. The problem now is not the age of the justices, however. The problem now is Justices who consider their ideology more important than the Constitution and precedent, and who lied to the Senate when they were confirmed.
The so-called conservatives of today are the direct descendants of the John Birch Society members who in 1964 were shock troops for the Goldwater campaign. Go ahead. Look at this set of goals:
1. The abolition of the graduated income tax.
2. The repeal of social security legislation.
3. The impeachment of various high government officials,
4..The end to busing for the purpose of school integration.
5. The end to U.S. membership in the United Nations.
As you can see, these goals, which were, 40 years ago, the platform of an extremist group on the fringes of American politics, are the all but spoken platform of the Bush administration and the modern Republican party. We have seen numerous attempts to eliminate the income tax; Bush has proposed changes to Social Security that will send it down the road to extinction; Bill Clinton was impeached and Governor Gray Davis of California removed from office; the busing issue has morphed into an intense focus of the easier-to-frame affirmative action; and the Bush administration, on the issue of Iraq and in many other ways, great and small, has worked assiduously to bypass the United Nations and make the actions of the UN worthless (see this notorious article by Perle for a neo-Bircher perspective.)
As Tristero over at Hullabaloo points out, these were key goals of the Bircher's, and again are key goals of the current Bush Republicans.
The Bircher's were conspiracy-driven crackpots who, when elected to office, performed as poorly as the current Republicans do. Nelson Bunker Hunt was a well-known Texas Bircher, and a close friend of George H. W. Bush. Hunt was a model for the right-wing extremist multimillionaires who have financed so mush of the modern Republican Party.
One of those right-wing extremist multimillionaires in Texas has been Bob Perry, famous as the founder and funder of the Swift Boat organization that savaged John Kerry in 2004. I don't find that he was a Bircher, but he is quite as extremist at they are and knows a lot of them. His organization is Council for National Policy, a group of wealthy ultra-conservatives and Texas Theocrats Nelson Bunker Hunt is an ex-President of the CNP.
The John Birch Society represents even today the extremist right-wing fringe in America. The Council for National Policy carries forward the goals and methods of the Birchers, and is a nexus between the older Birchers and the ultra-right-wing Social Conservatives.
Oh, and Ron Paul knows a lot of John Birchers and considers them well-educated and good people.
For further ideological connections among the descendants of the John Birch Society, see:
There is little doubt that the military covered up something about Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan. Now the Associated Press has gotten documents about the medical reports from his body that strongly suggests that Tillman was murdered.
SAN FRANCISCO -
Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
"The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described," a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.
The doctors - whose names were blacked out - said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away. [Snip]
_ In his last words moments before he was killed, Tillman snapped at a panicky comrade under fire to shut up and stop "sniveling."
_ Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.
_ The three-star general who kept the truth about Tillman's death from his family and the public told investigators some 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn't recall details of his actions.
_ No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene - no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.[Snip]
The documents show that a doctor who autopsied Tillman's body was suspicious of the three gunshot wounds to the forehead. The doctor said he took the unusual step of calling the Army's Human Resources Command and was rebuffed. He then asked an official at the Army's Criminal Investigation Division if the CID would consider opening a criminal case.
"He said he talked to his higher headquarters and they had said no," the doctor testified.
The stories the military told have already varied.
"The military initially told the public and the Tillman family that he had been killed by enemy fire. Only weeks later did the Pentagon acknowledge he was gunned down by fellow Rangers."
That means that it took a while for the military to decide on a safe story and coordinate it among various parties involved in the cover-up. It also means that it had to be coordinated at a high level in the chain of command, or someone would have told a different story. It had to be someone high enough to keep the story from the doctor under wraps until recently. And the story that they put out? A friendly fire incident as part of an ambush? Where are the enemy bullet holes in the American military vehicle? Why did the military burn Tillman's uniform and battle armor? Especially, why did the military close down all communications for several weeks from Tillman's unit after Pat's death?
Three rounds from an M-16 in the forehead? The shooter had to be almost close enough to kiss Tillman. The shooter had to know who he was shooting. The "friendly fire" story is a crock.
There is no question that whatever happened to Pat Tillman was known up the chain of command in Afghanistan. What was covered up is closer now to being exposed. There is a question regarding how deeply the White House was involved in the cover-up.
Glenn Greenwald discusses what it takes to be considered a 'serious person' in today's hothouse Washington, D.C. pundit climate.
Then, Joe Klein, himself a well-known 'serious person' but more importantly, one who bestows that accolade on others, responds to Glenn. He explains what he thinks he means by the term 'a serious person.'
To my mind, being a "serious person" means the following: you study the facts on the ground, you study the history, you take into account opinions on all sides--not just your side--and then you come to a conclusion. Essentially, that's what I try to do, and also the people I admire across the political spectrum (including many who reside in the blogosphere).
But that is not, in my opinion, the way he uses the term. When he says someone is 'a serious person' he is saying that they have a well-known reputation for deep and long-term involvement in what could be considered serious issues. Those are, of course, issues of war and peace and in legislation on well-known very important domestic issues.
Such people are normally found only in Washington, D.C. and are well-known to the other 'serious' people who reside and operate there. An MD and small-state governor who runs for President and claims that the Washington, D.C. 'serious people' are badly infected with insider bias and group-think cannot be considered 'a serious person.'
Joe's description of the alleged characteristics of 'a serious person' would be pretty good if he actually checked for those characteristics before he bestowed the title 'a serious person' on to someone, but Joe doesn't do that. He operates on gut instinct and determines whether someone is part of the insider Washington, D.C. aristocracy, and on that basis bestows the title 'a serious person' on them. Along with that title also goes the presumption that 'a serious person' has "a well-known reputation for deep and long-term involvement in what could be considered serious issues."
The possession of those characteristics is presumed to accompany membership in the Washington, D.C. aristocracy. No one from outside the aristocracy who dares to attack the aristocracy can be presumed to have those characteristics, so they cannot be considered to be 'serious people' unless they adopt the group biases and conventional wisdom of the inside-the-beltway serious people. You cannot be part of the aristocracy if you aren't well-known to the rest by reputation (and preferred, by family) and if you are attacking the conventional wisdom of the aristocracy. You have to behave like the aristocrats to be one of them. Only then are you presumed to be a person who has "a well-known reputation for deep and long-term involvement in what could be considered serious issues."
So of course, Glenn Greenwald responds to Joe's reply. He adds detail, but I like my response a bit better.
Apparently investors have been looking at the recent reports of trouble in the mortgage market and have suddenly decided to ignore the politically motivated "Great Economy! Rah! Rah! Rah!" that has been coming out of Washington, D.C.
Thursday July 26, 4:22 pm ET By Joe Bel Bruno, AP Business Writer
Stocks Plunge on Lending Worries, Dow Industrials Plunge More Than 300 Points
NEW YORK (AP) -- Wall Street suffered one of its worst losses of 2007 Thursday, leading a global stock market plunge as investors succumbed to months of worry about the mortgage and corporate lending markets. The Dow Jones industrials closed down more than 310 points after earlier skidding nearly 450.
Investors who had been able for months to largely shrug off discomfort about subprime mortgage problems and a more difficult environment for corporate borrowing finally decided it was time to sell after the Commerce Department issued another disappointing home sales report.
Feeding the plunge were concerns that higher corporate borrowing costs will curb the rapid pace of takeovers that had driven stocks higher this year. Investors also feared the sluggish environment for home sales and continued defaults in subprime loans would spur debt defaults and weigh on corporate earnings.
While stocks plummeted, investors poured money into the safe haven of the bond market. The soaring price of Treasurys pulled yields lower, and the rate on the 10-year note plunged to 4.79 percent from late Wednesday's 4.90 percent.
"Worries that have been out there for the past couple of years are coming to a head right now," said investment strategist Edward Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research Inc. "It's show time."
The fact that the economy is not too stable is not surprising news, but the recent reports of trouble have all come at the same time.
"Wall Street continues to walk a wall of worry," said Ryan Larson, a senior equity trader at Voyageur Asset Management. "The housing market continues to be a story, and nobody knows when it will rebound. But, the real concerns are about credit and oil pushing higher."
Also stunting stocks was the Commerce Department's disappointing durable goods report. Though sales of big-ticket items increased by 1.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted $217.07 billion, durable goods excluding transportation equipment had an unexpected drop.
The Labor Department reported that jobless claims fell by 2,000 to 301,000 in the week ended July 21, slightly better than analysts' expectations.
Investors also reacted negatively as oil prices climbed to almost $77 per barrel during the session, stoking the market's worries about inflation. However, crude pared gains in the afternoon when a barrel of light sweet crude fell $1.23 to $74.95.
The stock market moves largely based short term reaction to new reports. That is what we are seeing here. The theory is that anything that is a long-term prediction for the market is already built into the market behavior, so short term moves do not create a long term trend. But the lack of large, sudden movements of the market can also indicate that the short-term traders are failing to recognize long term changes that will go against them. A sudden flurry of mostly negative reports from different sectors of the market will create a short term drop like the one we have seen yesterday and today, but the drop itself signals that a lot of people need to get their heads up out of day-to-day trading and look at the longer term trends.
We have just seen the short term market reaction (and very likely will see more Friday) but we have not yet seen the results of reexamination of long term economic trends. We may see example of those longer term evaluations on the market after the weekend.
I can't say that I see the longer term prospects for the market are going to look especially attractive, but I'm just one person with the limited information I can find, limited time, and other interests. Now that the market has gotten the interest of the professionals, they are parking their investment money in less risky locations (the bond market) and we are going to get some idea of what the longer term prospects for the money-makers and money-lenders really are when they have begun to decide what, if anything, has changed. They are right now collecting information from sources they don't look at on a day-to-day basis, and over the weekend they are going to be discussing those results among themselves. That's why I think the first real indicators of how they will invest their money will really start after the weekend.
My personal bet is that the increasing stock market is over for a while. But that is only a bet, not sure knowledge. I don't like the long-term trends, but I have no clue right now whether the short-term traders will try to build a rally or will try to get their money to safer locations. That is psychology more than economics.
We'll begin to get real hints early next week. Tomorrow is almost certainly further down as more money goes to less risky locations. But as I say, that is my bet, not my certainty.
Church and state have always been a dangerous combination. Religion is a major way that people determine who their enemies are, and the state fights wars against those religion-determined enemies. Part of the genius of the U.S. Constitution has been its enforcement of the separation of church and state, but this separation is currently under major attack. So what is the human basis for religion and what makes religion so different from government that the two must be kept apart?
Religion is older than government, so we should start there. Religion also existed before churches did. Religion is, at its very core, human beings attempting to understand the Universe and their place in it, and then discussing what they have learned with their fellows.Religion, then, is intimately bound up with the very characteristics that make people uniquely human. The urge to understand the Universe is a natural result of complex human language and the innate need of human beings to share their understandings with each other in the form of stories. What we today call religion is a natural outgrowth of being a human being. Religion is based in language.
Language in humans has two particularly interesting characteristics. First, the motivation to learn a language is inherited. The process is laid out in our genes, and can be watched in the development of any healthy child. Each child begins by listening to the language around them, and as the brain connections develop between the hearing center and the speech center, they begin to try out making sounds. This is first babbling, which grows into words and then sentences. The same process also leads children to telling stories, beginning sometime between age 2 and age 4.
The second interesting characteristic that is if importance to religion is that human language is a set of symbols that are not tied directly to specific individual sounds. Where a monkey may make one sound-symbol to warn of snakes on the ground and another sound-symbol to warn of hawks in the sky, humans combine a series of individually meaningless sounds into each meaningful symbol. This means that instead of the symbol set of a language being limited to the number of individual separate sounds that can be made (Is it true that a cat can make between 50 and 70 different meaningful sounds?) the symbol set for human language is infinite. It is also recursive - that is, we can create language symbols that point at other language symbols and use these things meaningfully.
Sentences, syntax, narrative and stories
Which leads to sentences, syntax and narrative. All of these are required to tell stories. Language and the higher forms of human thought required for storytelling are learned, but the urge to learn them is hard-wired into each human individual’s development. These abilities are the clearest characteristic of what distinguishes human beings from our nearest primate cousins.
Sentences are a series of words used together to express a specific meaning to other people. Syntax is a set of rules for word use in sentences that tells which objects are acting, which are being acted upon, and what actions are being taken. Syntax is a set of patterns that determines the form sentences in a given language take, and the rules of syntax communicate much of the context surrounding the words in any sentence. Narrative is the manner in which language is used to explain what is happening to someone else. Narrative communicates meaning from one person to another.
A narrative consists of a series of cause-and-effect events linked together. When those events are told to another person with a beginning and an end, they are stories. Stories have been the central method people have had for communicating meaning to each other since people first existed sometime between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago.
When Peter Berger wrote "religion ... [is a] ...humanly constructed universe of meaning, and he explains, ‘Worlds are socially constructed and socially maintained,’” he was discussing stories. Telling stories is the method of constructing and socially maintaining that universe of meaning. At its base, all religion is social meaning communicated through stories, and language is the medium on which those stories are built.
All religions are based on stories to carry the meaning and teach it to others. The very structure of the stories makes people ask certain questions. One such question is what started the chain of events (humanity) and another is what happens when someone dies.
Signifiers and metaphors to communicate meaning – the limitations of words
The narratives of linked cause-and-effect events that make up stories sometimes include a true understanding of what caused something else to happen. For example, the dam stored water behind it, but then it broke and caused the flood. In this case the cause of the event – the flood – is known and can be expressed in clear words.
But how does the storyteller fill an unknown gap n the narrative if the cause an event is not known? How does a storyteller communicating meaning structure a story that explains what happens to a person after death? An explanation of the nature of the Universe and its relationship to Man, for example, is quite beyond the ability of clear words to explain. That gap cannot be filled with a clear, definitive set of words of the type that can be used to tell an engineer how to build a dam or a bridge. So storytellers switch to metaphor.
The reason that some subjects can only be described in metaphor is that language is limited. For some subjects, language can be specific enough so as to adequately explain the subject, but other subjects (Man in the Universe) are quite beyond language. It has to do with the nature of words as symbols. Words are signs that the community using the given language agrees signify or points to something specific. Then ever time an individual uses a word, that word describes something by excluding everything else. If a word does not do this exclusion trick, it is not a meaningful description.
That works well as long as the word is pointing at something that can clearly be separated from the things surrounding it. But what does a language user do to signify something that cannot not be seen, measured or fully understood and cannot be separated from everything else that surrounds it. Something infinite like the Universe cannot be described since the object to be described is limitless. No word is possible that points at the object described. Language deals with this problem by resorting to metaphor. The word “God” is built on such metaphors, since no definition of “God” can fully capture whatever it is that people are attempting to point to and to understand.
When a person uses a metaphor, he is saying "I can't point directly at the item I am discussing, so I will point at something else that is in some manner similar." When the original subject under discussion and investigation is infinite or too large to be understood, then the metaphors of necessity will be things that, at best, are similar to only part of the main item.
Metaphors allow us to talk about the unknown in a somewhat meaningful way. If the metaphor is really similar to the ultimate item under discussion, it may actually provide some elements of shared meaning. But metaphors are not the actual unknown item, so a metaphor cannot provide clear and certain directions and instructions about how people should behave or act in the way the instructions for building a bridge can tell the Engineer what to do. The metaphor is always incomplete and subject to revision when a new, better metaphor is discovered or developed.
Religion and language
Since religion is essentially a human quest into the nature of the infinite, the stories we tell about God and the Universe must all be metaphors. Oh, and to use the word "God" means that you are looking at those aspects of the Universe to which you can ascribe human-like characteristics. That might be saying that God is less than the Universe - except that if both have the characteristic of being infinite, to say that God is less than the infinite Universe because certain parts are left out would be the same as saying that the infinite set of all even numbers is smaller than the infinite set of all natural numbers - clearly not true. [Though there are three different types of infinite numbers with different sizes, but that is another issue.] So religion is a set of stories used to communicate what finite people know about a subject which is infinite, or well beyond the finite understanding of humans. By the very nature of their subject, those stories are based on metaphor rather than precise language.
Written religious stories
Religion was a human practice when all humans were hunter-gatherers. About 12,000 years ago somewhere in the Middle East some humans settled down and learned to live together in one place, creating towns that included people from more than one family for the first time. Those settled humans developed agriculture and established the first governments. The development of governments was accompanied by the development of hierarchies of rank and aristocracies. An aristocracy is a small group of people who perform a coordinating function for society rather than working to produce their own food. They have to be supported by the food-producers in society. The aristocracy of religious leaders and the aristocracy of administrators were small, so they consisted of much the same families. The stories told by the religious leaders justified this social invention of an aristocracy. The aristocracies, both religious and administrative quickly became hereditary, since training was done in the family. This is in contrast with the aristocracies in hunter-gatherer societies in which the best and most experienced people were the religious or war-band leaders.
Something strange happened in towns in the Middle East about 5,000 years ago. Writing was invented. One of its first uses was to write down the stories that explained and justified the society and its ways of life.
All kinds of stories were written down. They included local histories, stories and myths from neighbors and conquerors, and anything else that seemed important to maintain the culture. Writing was something the aristocrats took advantage of, since it made them able to direct people to do things at a distance and over time. The religious leaders wrote the stories told by earlier religious leaders since written stories and myths can be retold in an unchanging manner. The religious stories were the ones that were kept over time (how long do you keep business records?), leading to the oldest books in the Middle East – the Old Testament and Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad.
There is a subtle danger to writing down the metaphors that are the basis of a religion however. Metaphors are used by religions to explain and pass on an understanding of things that cannot be made explicit. Written documents, however, are not limited to such metaphorical subjects. In fact, writing probably developed first as a way of transmitting specific directions over distances and time to others who were to carry out those directions, and only later was adapted to recording the metaphors that are at the core of the religious experience. Individuals who performed both governmental duties and Priestly duties would be used to taking explicit directions from written documents.
The danger is that religious leaders who gained that status because of inheritance or family connections and the ability to read and write would have insufficient understanding of the religious mysteries that they were handling to know that metaphors were necessary for religious subjects and that metaphors are not directive language Such men would begin to take the metaphorical language and use it as a basis for religious directives to direct and limitmen’s actions. In short, the mixture of organized religion and its offshoot, government would lead to inappropriately turning religious metaphors into literal instructions that "God" said had to be followed.
Writing down the religious metaphors also damaged religion. The written document provided a false certainty to what should have been a tentative understanding ofreligion. With written stories as the source of the stories that communicated the meaning of religion the narratives were permanent and inadaptable to the understanding of the audiences. The permanence of writing the stories separated them from any connection to the immediate reality perceived by the audience.
Metaphor became easier to confuse with things that could be communicated literally and precisely. Writing the stories down may have made the words permanent and easily reproducible, but since they were metaphors that only resembled the religious subjects being discussed, that false appearance of permanence was achieved by a loss of the ability to adapt the stories to the current reality. That led to a misuse of the stories and myths on which religion is based.
That confusion made it easy for Priests in the religious hierarchy to use the written documents to intimidate parishioners with false directives that seemed to be as precise as the written word itself. Such religious directives are not the essence of religious meaning, however. They are political documents used to direct the behavior of the people in the congregation. Until the European Religious Wars were over, government used its police and judicial power to enforce such religious directives. King Charles II was replaced by the British Parliament because Charles did not understand the futility and destructiveness of attempting to enforce religious beliefs using government police and judicial powers, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 led the American founding fathers to write the separation of Church and State into the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
When religion is confused with the powers of government
This confusion of religion and of government is not over yet.
When the Pope claimed the other day that religions which are not Roman Catholic and part of the traditional Catholic hierarchy are less than fully Christian, he was making a political statement and a power-grab. The Pope was not making a religious statement. He was demanding to be acknowledged as the top ranking Christian in the world. But hierarchical power is political, not religious.
Evangelists and Fundamentalists claim that all religion flows from their book, but which one is it? The Bible? Which Bible? Or is it the Koran? Each chooses one of the books and asserts that to be 'Christian' (or Muslim) you must accept their doctrine. When they make that assertion, they are making a power grab similar to what the Pope just did. What they are doing is not religion. They are not communicating social meaning about humanity and the Universe. They are playing politics and demanding that you choose them as your hierarchical leader to support.
Those political actions establish a hierarchy of coercion, not a communication of meaning. There is no religious meaning in a hierarchy of Priests or Preachers, just a choice of political leaders.
The doctrine of “Separation of church and state” separated the religious hierarchies from the government ones, and took the power of coercive enforced law away from religious leaders. Enforced law is a part of governance by the government, not a part of religion. Coercion does not communicate meaning. It forces approved behavior and punishes unapproved behavior. That's government.
If this concept of religion is communicated to the politicians in robes trying to take over the state, this nation will be a lot better off - and so will the religions. The religions can focus on explaining the unexplainable meaning of the Universe instead of coercing everyone to behave and dress as they demand.
Rick Perlstein presents another excellent video from Max Blumenthal. Here are Rick's comments:
Every Jew who believes they have a friend in the evangelical advocates of Israel needs to watch this video. They earnestly wish to see Jews who do not covert incinerated in Jesus's cleansing fire (Tom DeLay is on camera hoping it happens "tomorrow"). They believe the politician who "forces" a peace treaty in the Middle East is for that very reason the Beast prophesied in Revelation.
As you watch this video, ask yourself how much evidence-based rationality you see displayed there.
These are the people who have a direct line into the White House - and the White House doesn't listen to any of their critics. If we get dragged into a war with Iran, it will be a war based on the Evangelist misinterpreation of a book over two thousand years old mixed with the paranoia of Dick Cheney.
Addendum 4:11 CDT Rick Perlstein added this highly informative addition to his report.
Click through the link and see if you can puzzle out the meaning of Premillennial Dispensationalism.
This is a cult ready to send America to war in order to gain entry to Heaven for themselves. Most member of the cult are, of course, too old to go to war themselves. But they need the war for them to go to Heaven.
The rest of us are expendable. They aren't going to miss their ticket to heaven, and if the rest of us won't join them, then we are their cannon fodder. We pay for their ticket. Since their God has preordained that, they aren't going to ask us, either. They are just going to do what they can to start the war so they can get their ride to Heaven.
We hear a lot of blather from the D.C. pundits that Democrats need to act in a more 'bipartisan' manner. To my real regret, we also hear this from Barack Obama. But the Republican Party is well on its way to destroying the Constitution of America and turning this country into something that Americans cannot recognize as the American Republic. Do David Broder and Barack Obama really expect America-loving Democrats to collaborate with the very people whose goal is to destroy the great idea that has been America? Should Democrats really collaborate with the enemy?
Did the American soldiers and sailors in the Pacific look for ways to collaborate with the Japanese on December 8, 1941? Any who did were traitors to America and should rightly have been lined up against a wall and shot.
The Republican Party, which has failed to prevent 9/11, then attacked a nation that was not involved in 9/11 while refusing to put the needed resources into capturing or killing Osama bin Laden, the party which has created an international gulag with its headquarter in Guantanamo in violation of all laws, which has picked up people it declared enemies and secretly imprisoned them, which has dispensed with habeas corpus (the cornerstone of Anglo Saxon law) and which is now asserting that the President is the source of law rather than Congress - This Republican Party is more of a danger to America than the Japanese Navy was in 1941.
I find no value in collaborating in a 'bipartisan manner' with this dangerous Republican Party. To do so places bipartisanship and collaboration with those out to destroy America above support of the Constitution of America.
I am an American Partisan. I will not collaborate with the enemies of America, and right now the biggest enemy of America is the Republican party.
The biggest cheerleaders for Democratic collaboration include David Broder on the editorial page of the Washington Post. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, has sent this letter to the Washington Post. The anti-Communist right-wing had a description of the supporters of America's enemies. They were 'fellow-travelers.' The Washington Post editorial pages are filled with either Republicans like the Editorial Page Editor Hiatt or fellow travelers like David Broder. They have chosen to go along with America's enemies, which makes them also enemies to our nation.
I think we are now moving into a situation where the White House, on various fronts, is openly ignoring the constitution, acting as though not just the law but the constitution itself, which is the fundamental law from which all the statutes gain their force and legitimacy, doesn't apply to them.
If that is allowed to continue, the defiance will congeal into precedent. And the whole structure of our system of government will be permanently changed.
I think Josh is highly intelligent and very sensible. I generally take political positions that are a little more extreme than he does. So I am really happy to see him catch up to me here. What I regret, and I am sure he does also, is that we have both come to the conclusion that Bush is working to destroy American Constitutional democracy.
The Bush administration is a rogue Presidency. It is out of control and has been since 2001. There has been a series of events that each should have been considered a Constitutional Crisis, but politicians and journalists have been afraid to call the Bush people on it, while the Republicans who have had control of the Congress until January 2005 have reveled in it.
Andrew Johnson, who became President when Lincoln was assassinated, did everything he could to prevent the freeing of the slaves after the Civil War. His impeachment was well deserved, and the failure to convict him in the Senate allowed him to remain in office where he did immense damage to America. The damage he did lasted until the period of the Civil Rights movement.
But it could have been worse. Congress learned after he survived the impeachment trial to work around Johnson and isolate him so that he became the next thing to a eunuch in the office of the Presidency.
Reid and Pelosi need to understand what was done to Andrew Johnson and apply those lessons to the single worst President American has ever had - bush.
One thing about Johnson, though. He did not have much scope for mischief making in international affairs. It is in that area that Bush and his puppet master Cheney have had their worst effects. That, too, must be considered.
America as a nation under the U.S. Constitution is in grave danger from Bush and the Republican Party as created by Goldwater. We have to stop them from destroying America, and when we accomplish that, we really need to hope that a semblance of America remains.
The rebuilding, if possible, will take decades at best.