Sunday, April 30, 2006

How... convenient

Something to think about, particularly in light of Colbert's brilliant satire of the kabuki theatre that is the White House press room.

They rearranged the deck chairs on the Hindenburg, allowing Scott McClellan to spend more time with Andrew Card's children and putting good old Tony (Snowjob) Snow (Faux News) in as the new WH press secretary.

Then today, comes word from Truthout that Karl Rove is now a target, not a witness, in the Plame investigation. (Hat Tip, Shakespeare's Sister)

So, just as we're going to have the press wanting to have some answers from Scott McClellan about what kind of lying he was doing up there on the stage, surprise, surprise, he's not going to be there. All the speculation about why lil' Scottie had to go suddenly take on a new meaning.

There truly is nothing too shameless for these people to try, is there?


Speaking Truthiness to Power

The AP and other news reports of the White House Correspondents' Dinner are very deliberately downplaying or ignoring Steve Colbert's shockingly honest and hysterically funny routine from the end of the show. Why? I suspect because he crticizes Bush and the press in a no-holds-barred manner. Using a persona of a ultra-right-wing TV commentator, Colbert says flat out what has needed to be said for a long time. Helen Thomas, the last honest White House news reporter, joined him in a video send-up of the White House Press Secratary. That went on a bit too long, but it was amusing.

To see the video, go here to Crooks & Liars. I guess this isn't the whole thing, but will give you a good chunk of it.

To read a caption of it, go to this forum post on Democratic Underground. This was taken from the closed caption transcript. You'll get the jokes, but miss the physical comedy.

UPDATE: Here is a second transcript, put together from the colsed captioned material and the actual broadcast. This post is on Daily Kos.

The only people in the audience who really laughed were Antonin Scalia, who laughed at the parody of himself flipping off a reporter, and Joe Wilson & Valerie Plame, who were pointed out in the audience on the way to a Plamegate joke.

Now, if only our reporters were half so honest as this comedian.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Doonesbury - the worst at its best

The title of this post may be misleading.

The worst refers to the subject GBT is covering - the kinds of decisions our troops in Iraq are being forced to make, the ones that lead, as I said they would, to atrocities. Not because a soldier is trying to do wrong. Not even because someone made a bad judgment call. Because there is no possibility of a "right" decision, trapped in a situation where there is only the devil and the deep blue sea.

The best is the way in which he is presenting this. We are now seeing, from BD's perspective, what happened that led to him losing his leg. And it is worse than any words can describe. Only the visual witness offered by GBT will suffice. Today's strip is a single pane, and all that is in it is pain, the moment that BD knows the horror of what will happen and can do nothing to stop it. It is not clear that he can choose the devil or the deep, only that one is going to swallow him up.

Please read Doonesbury. It is the most honest reporting on Iraq you will find.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Think Different? No, Vote Strategic

I've finally figured out who leftist Naderite-wannabes remind me of.

Mac obsessives.

They aren't so much like the right-wing Nazi-wannabes because, unlike the wingnuts, they don't actually want to kill people.

Instead, the "left" (I put it in quotes because these people aren't serious about politics) wants to preen about what a cool apparatus they have sitting in front of them, one they can stroke compulsively and claim is morally superior. It's not enough to prefer their object of affection. They then want to blast the PC users out there, deriding them for being stupid enough to use such a broken and ugly and ineffectual apparatus, and explicitly linking them as willing collaborationists with the Evil Empire because they won't become comfortable upper-middle-class professionals like themselves and shell out the big bucks for pretty toys.

I read last night someone on one of the "leftist" blogs actually sneering that she couldn't just vote for Gore because he was too establishment.

Umm, and exactly *who*, pray tell, are you going to vote for? Oh, someone like Russ Feingold. I like Feingold. I wish I could call him, not Feinstein, my second senator. But he's not going to win a presidential election. Nor, frankly, does he have the deep wonk experience or international standing to pull this country out of the shit-hole the Rethuglicans have dropped it into.

The self-obsessed, "Mac Left" is going to cost the US a future because they can't stop thinking differently long enough to think strategically. They are solidly united with the wingnuts in the fervent belief that "liberals" are the problem, and seem intellectually incapable of distinguishing between political hacks like Lieberman and a political moderate like Kerry.

And, bouyed by their self-righteousness, they will sit out another election cycle when more moderate candidates win the primaries, or else bolt and vote for third party loonies. Hello? We need to get control of Congress? Yoo hoooooo, any sentient being inside that skull of yours? News flash - this is politics, not religion. It's called getting the work done, not worrying if Bill Gates picks up some spare change. Sorry to burst your bubble, but Apple does business in China, too. And all of your darling radical candidates will compromise their principles.

Anyone who says she just can't see herself voting for Al Gore, yet turns right around and howls about the depravity of the current adminsitration, thinks far, far too differently for me.

Time for a reboot.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Good Questions

Via Alterman, I found a link to an open email/letter to the preznit from John Brown. Mr. Brown resigned from the State Department in protest over the decison to invade Iraq. Everything he said was going to happen has come true, much to our national grief and shame. This new missive asks what every journalist worth his or her salt should be asking - "Do you?"
By John Brown

TO: The President

FROM: A former American diplomat

SUBJECT: Waking up in the middle of the night

Mr. President: Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night? Do you? Do you ever wake up sleepless in the middle of the night?

What have you done in Iraq? Do you ever realize, in the middle of the night, what you've done? Do you?

1. You've caused over 2,370 American soldiers to die in an impoverished land that never attacked us. Was that the right answer to 9/11 or the "threat" from Iraq? Do you ever ask yourself that question?

2. Because of your Iraq invasion, thousands of U.S. enlisted personnel are maimed, physically and mentally, for life. What can you tell these victims of your war? That you're honored by their duty towards you, our "mission-accomplished" commander-in-chief?

3. Your decision to go to war has led to the death of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis. Do you have any remorse for this, Mr. President? Or was it that, for you, Iraqis only really deserved to serve as props in "shock and awe" -- your name for your made-for-TV porno/violence program at the beginning of the war, produced and distributed directly into our living rooms by the mainstream media? (Thank you, Fox News.)

4. Will you ever, ever accept responsibility for making torture all-American at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere? And the Statue of Liberty -- why, tell us why, did you allow it to be replaced by that image of an abused, hooded, helpless prisoner on a box? Aren't you the least bit concerned at how America is seen by the rest of the world because of your war -- as a brutal aggressor nation, dismissive of the opinions of mankind?

On Waking Up Sleepless in the Middle of the Night

There are 11 questions in all. Read them. Perhaps more to the point, how many Americans wake up this way? How many even know to ask these questions? If you are not, why not?

If you voted for him, it's your war, too.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Enforcement Where it Belongs

My sister-in-law is Mexican. She came legally to the country, had a baby with my younger brother, eventually married him, and is now a naturalized US citizen, though she still has Mexican citizenship. She and the kids go to visit her folks every year or so, and the kids are being brought up bilingual. Her grandmother was born in Chicago, and her family has many people in the US in various states of citizenship. I look at her and I see a pretty typical immigrant - with strong ties to family and the land of her birth, and no less powerful bonds to her new family here and the land of her choice.

On my mom's side of the family, my great-grandfather was an illegal immigrant. An ethnic German, he fled Russia, was rejected for entry to England or the US (he was probably a Red and possibly a Jew), and came to Canada. From there, he walked across the border and down to Lincoln, Nebraska where he rejoined the Kiev expatriate community. When the Cold War kicked in, he lived in terror of being found out and deported as a "Commie." The other side of her family were Swedes.

My dad's side of the family has an interesting mix of German immigrants (his cousins attended a German speaking public grade school in South Dakota), French Canadians and hillbilly refugees from the Civil War.

With that kind of pedigree (humanity at large), my natural sympathy lies with those who wish to come to America and make the most of things. Populations shift and change over time. Human history is one of migration.

But I also am a believer in national sovereignty and in the rule of law. A nation can and should control its borders to defend the rights and well-being of its current *and future* citizens. Citizenry inhenrently posits an "us" and a "not us", though it should not be allowed to become pernicious. A society of laws and newcomers should have as one of its fundamental functions a clear and fair procedure for moving from the latter group to the former. The latter group should have the designation of "not yet us," presupposing a transitional state from outsider to citizen.

This is why I oppose any kind of guest worker program. The entire purpose of such a program is to create a pernicous "not us" in the heart of the system, purposefully bringing in a class of humans who can be treated as "never us." The guest worker creates two serious pressures on an open society - a permanent threat to comparable workers who are citizens, decreasing their bargaining power vis-a-vis corporations, and reducing the value of humanity as such by eliminating any social aspect to conditions of modern labor.

But I'm also not very impressed by the racist, nativist bullshit kicked up by the hate-mongers of the right about building fences and deporting aliens. They seek to punish the people taking advantage of the employment situation rather than change the situation that brings them here is the first place. Why? Because they are fucking hypocrites. Duh. They want cheap labor that is living in fear and not able to insist on humane treatment and decent wages. I also don't care for the defacto presumption that non-northern Europeans are all suspected criminals, AND that if you've got fair skin and light colored hair, you've got to an A-OK-Murikan. That Ireland and Canada have many illegal professionals in the US is not acceptable to me.

There's no painless way to solve the problem, but there is a way. It's called a national ID card that all Americans, especially the "white" ones, have to carry in order to be employed. Preferably with some biometric check in it like a fingerprint scan. No, I'm not scared of "Big Brother." It's already here, folks, and Equifax owns your ass. Be one with the digital hegemony and make it work for you.

Next, severe, painful penalties for hiring someone not legally allowed to be employed in the US - AGAINST THE EMPLOYER. The biggest offenders are labor agencies that provide large numbers of unskilled laborers to corporate entities, like hotels, meat packers, light manufacturing and agri-biz. I'm talking tax penalties, fines that wipe out a year's profits and jail time for senior management. Next, slap major fines and penalties on people hiring in the cash market, like good old Arianna Huffington and her frickin' nanny.

If someone is in the US illegally and they are here because of family, there's no need to deport. Granny can stay. If someone is here illegally to get work, sorry. Go home. You're not getting employed. We don't have to bother with deportation simply for that because there is no reason for them to stay. If they have legal family members who can support them, I don't care too much. People who commit crimes in the US who are not citizens are up for two penalties. First, jail time for the crime committed, followed by deportation. I got no problem with that.

As for the argument about not sending people back to impoverished countries, look, the third richest man in the world is Carlos Slim, head of the biggest TelCo in Mexico. There's buttloads of money in Central and South America, but it is in the hands of small oligarchies who prefer to export their social problems to being just a littly less filthy rich. If they can no longer offload their poverty to the US, they are the ones who have to deal with their foul and failing social policies.

What about the threat that stuff in the US will become too expensive? Well, how about the counter argument that Billmon presents in this post Why People Think the Economy Sucks - just take a look at the first two graphs. Corporate profits are mega-high and personal income is flat. How about the corporation eating some of those costs and having a smaller profit margin? There's a start. Also, if employers have to offer real wages for real work, enough that it is worth the while regular citizens (i.e., people who would like not to live in gullies and shacks and be in fear of deportation every day) to perform the work, then more people will have more money to spend. You know, the "rising tide floats all boats" argument works when the money goes to the people at the bottom, too.

Yes, this will throw a significant number of migrant workers out of a job and this is going to hurt them most. I'm sorry, but I don't think it is wrong, unethical or inhumane to say employment and the benefits of this society go first to citizens and next to legal visitors. There is a cost to this kind of work migration. Someone is already paying it. It needs not to paid by US citizens at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. It is time for the uber-rich to pay living wages for labor-intensive work, and time for the comfortable middle class to stop averting their eyes from how they benefit from exploitation of migrant labor.


The Suicidal Impulses of the American "Left"

Billmon nails it again. After referencing a very good NYT editorial, Bombs That Would Backfire, by Richard Clarke and Steven Simon (If you haven't read it yourself, you should), he then points out:

The problem, which I'm sure Clarke and Simon fully understand, is that there isn't going to be a congressional resolution this time – in fact I'd be very surprised if the administration gives the leadership of either party more than 24 hours notice before the bombing begins. No marketing campaigns, no debates, no arms twisted in the Oval Office. Just a fait accompli. (That's French for: "Choke on it, suckers.")

It's already obvious: This one's going to be a unitary executive special – right down the line. The administration's vanished political capital leaves it no other way. When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose.

So what, exactly, is there for Congress to ask the "hard questions" about? And what answers would it get, other than: "That's classified," or "That's a privileged executive branch communication"? And how is a rubber stamp Congress supposed to stop a war that officially isn't on the drawing boards? Particularly when the Republican majority hopes – or at least understands – it could be the magic bullet, so to speak, that saves their sorry asses this November?

To ask these questions is to answer them.

This is certainly sobering enough. While I hope that something will intervene in this nightmare, I have come to the conclusion that it will happen. For me, that day will mark the death of liberal democracy in the United States. It's on life support right now, though occasionally it does rally enough to be pushed around in a wheelchair (the immigration rallies of the last few weeks, for example).

Liberal democracy is not some veil of illusion that "Power" deploys to bamboozle "The People." It is a set of very concrete principles and institutions designed from the ground up for a population to use to organize their own power into competing self-interested factions, who then compromise in order to persist. No one gets all they want, and some factions get more than they really deserve, but it works to curb the worst abuses.

In order to function properly, the competing blocks of power must be large enough to counterbalance each other, which in turn means competition and compromise within factions. It's a damn ingenious system, but it has an achilles heel. It assumes that there will be compromise when desires are in conflict. Not in every case, but over the long haul the contest will balance out.

The extreme right refuses to compromise and it has attracted a large enough support base that it can overwhelm alternative voices in its general constituency. It appeals not to principles or even to personal gain (except to the sliver of economic elites - the principle being greed and the gain being their own), but instead substitutes emotion politics - kicking Arab ass and saving the little feotuses for Jesus. It is a cynical, brilliant and ruthlessly effective operation.

What is happening on the left, however, is simply pathetic. Daily, I get to watch the "left's" favorite political activity: forming a circular firing squad. I was on Firedoglake the other day, and ended up removing it from my bookmark list. I read people griping about the fact that the Democratic Party backed candidate, Tammy Duckworth, beat the "real" "grassroots" candidate in the primary, accompanied by threats to not vote for Duckworth *because* she was promoted by the party. Uh, folks? The voters of that area preferred Duckworth. Are you now really going to throw the election to the Republican (a la the Naderites in 2000) because you have a chip on your shoulder over your gal losing the primary? Sounds like it. Or the caterwauling about how Pelosi is poseur scum when she posts to Kos (led by Hamsher herself) because Pelosi doesn't have 24/7/365 to read and respond to each whining, petulant, personally insulting post.

What I see on FDL is repeated daily on other sites where people pride themselves on rejecting the Democratic Party, making "no compromise" into a fetish. Beating up on the people who are facing one of the most savagely effective political machines in history ain't going to get you very far. Saying that unless the party caters to your idiosyncratic view, you can't be bothered to support it is a luxury you don't have anymore. Blaming "liberals" for not being you is simply adding more validity to the anti-liberal rhetoric of the right. Basically, the people at Little Green Footballs and at Daily Kos or FDL agree on one thing: it's the Democrats' fault, and they need to be driven out. They agree that there can be no compromise with these trecherous, un-American Democrats.

There is a very, very small window of opportunity for liberal democracy in the US. It's called the 2006 mid-terms. No, it won't stop Bush. As Billmon notes, he has nothing to lose no matter what he does, so there is no preventing the assault on Iran. It's not about trying to ameliorate a bad situation.It's not about planks in a party platform. It's about trying to wrest control of the government from people who really, truly, honest-to-God want to bring about Armegeddon.

THAT is the only issue up for a vote. I don't give a damn whether Tammy Duckworth is sufficiently whatever for your tastes - she's not a Republican. I don't care if she is the darling of the party dinosaurs - she is another body towards the majority. I don't care if the party votes to censure Bush - I want the party to gain a legislative majority because only that will give even a fighting chance to root out the fascists who are occupying the government right now.

Is it really going to take Bush nuking Iran to get the so-called "left" to act in their own self-interest - that interest being keeping the country from going fascist for a few generations? And, no, I am not impressed with the mouth-foaming hysteria that Reid & Pelosi are *just like* Frist and DeLay, so we're better off without them or they don't get rewards unless they vote the way you want. That's the thinking that got us George Bush instead of Al Gore.

Yeah, I know. It's a lost Kos.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tragedy, Farce, and Armageddon

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Karl Mark
And the third time it happens, we're looking at Armegeddon. Billmon of Whiskey Bar fame is back and better (I use that in a qualified way) than ever. What if we threw a thermonuclear war and no one came? Read the opening:

Maybe it's just me, but I've been at least a little bit surprised by the relatively muted reaction to the news that the Cheney Administration and its Pentagon underlings are racing to put the finishing touches on plans for attacking Iran – plans which may include the first wartime use of nuclear weapons since Nagasaki.

I mean, what exactly does it take to get a rise out of the media industrial complex these days? A nuclear first strike against a major Middle Eastern oil producer doesn't ring the bell? Must every story have a missing white woman in it before the cable news guys will start taking it seriously?

I suppose I could understand it if all we had was Sy Hersh's word that the administration is planning another "pre-emptive" war in the Middle East. After all, we're talking about the same reporter who peddled all those crazy, unsubstantiated allegations about torture at Abu Ghraib prison. You can't be too careful with a journalistic loose cannon like that.

But now that Sy's Iranian nightmare – including the nuclear aspect of it – has been confirmed by the semi-official media, you'd think we could expect a little more ruckus about it from someone other than Helen Thomas. (No disrepect intended to Thomas, but she's probably the media personality the White House would most like to see taking point on this story.)

Even by the corrupt and debased standards of our times, this is a remarkable thing. The U.S. government is planning aggressive nuclear war (the neocons can give it whatever doublespeak name they like, but it is what it is); those plans have been described in some detail in a major magazine and on the front page of the Washington Post; the most the President of the United States is willing to say about it is that the reports are "speculative" (which is not a synonym for "untrue") and yet as I write these words the lead story on the CNN web site is:

ABC pushes online TV envelope

ABC is going to offer online streams of some of its most popular television shows, including "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," for free the day after they first air on broadcast TV.

It appears our long national journey towards complete idiocy is over. We've arrived.

Mutually Assured Dementia

And how. Billmon's mordant and funny look at how Americans (and the world) might react to a nuclear strike by the US on Iran strikes me as the most honest view of the topic I have yet read. On the surface, it won't be seen as any big deal. A substantial chunk of America (the 30-some% who still support Bush) will actually be proud we nuked some brown-skinned people who worship the wrong god. The punditocracy won't know what to say because they don't want to lose their access to the cocktail weenies so they'll just look the other way and pretend nothing has happened.

Somewhere, though, a force will be gathering. Kind of like the way a tsunami pulls water away from the shore, collecting it in a huge wave to send crashing down on the beachcombers who did not understand that an earthquake very far away can have devastating reactions. Or like the way we thought New Orleans was safe immediately after Hurricane Katrina swept through, not realizing what the overtopped and broken levees were doing.

Billmon again:

I've been trying to picture what the world might look like the day after a U.S. nuclear strike on Iran, but I'm essentially drawing a blank. There simply isn't a precedent for the world's dominant superpower turning into a rogue state – much less a rogue state willing to wage nuclear war against potential, even hypothetical, security threats. At that point, we’d truly be through the looking glass.

That's what's so hard. Just what would happen? It's not clear that there would be any reaction, aside from a collective "OhMyFuckingGod" from the rest of the world. Any storm that gathers will be from "out there", not from within the US.

What I'm suggesting here is that it is probably naive to expect the American public to react with horror, remorse or even shock to a U.S. nuclear sneak attack on Iran, even though it would be one of the most heinous war crimes imaginable, short of mass genocide. Iran has been demonized too successfully – thanks in no small part to the messianic delusions of its own end-times president – for most Americans to see it as a victim of aggression, even if they were inclined to admit that the United States could ever be an aggressor. And we know a not-so-small and extremely vocal minority of Americans would be cheering all the way, and lusting for more.
I don't want this to be true, but I fear it is how this country, in its current state of ethical depravity, will respond to war crimes committed in our name. I thought the US wouldn't stand for crude voting fraud, but Ohio has actually passed laws to protect exactly that. I though the US would not stand for torture, but it looks at the photos from Abu Ghraib and yawns. Christians are cheering on the bastardization of their faith, demonstrating their cynical nihilism without the slightest shame, selling their votes like it will make the Rapture come sooner.

Which it very well may. The first Gulf War was a tragedy, an act of hubris and stupidity triggering the needless deaths of thousands. The blame for that lies squarely on the shoulders of Saddam Hussein. I don't give a fuck what "messages" or "signals" the twit of an ambassador gave him, invading another country is wrong. The second Gulf War was farce, though a very bitter kind. It was opportunism and personal psychosis in glorious technicolor. "But we wanna have a war! We've got to get our war on!" The blame for this lies on the Cheney Administration who staged a war so they could line their pockets. There was no justification for invading Iraq. Period.

And the third Gulf War? The one where the US goes nuclear on the world? That, boys and girls, is Armageddon. No, not the Xtian wet dream of being taken up into heaven where you then watch all the people you hate get killed down here on earth, as though God created a snuff film for your delectation. I mean the annihilation of modern civilization by the nihilists who realize that the rules no longer apply. I'm not talking about a backlash against the US (though that might be part of it) as much as the act itself - unleashing nuclear weapons on a civilian population as a "deterrence" against using nuclear weapons against a civilian population. To do that is to engage in the murder both of humans and of humanity.

The Cheney Adminsitration doesn't think rules apply to them. They have placed themselves outside the normal order of human affairs, making exceptions of themselves. Thus far, they have only acted as demi-gods, deciding the fate of millions as it suits them. To utilize nuclear weaponry is to declare that they have the right to decide the fates of all. Which then makes it acceptable for other states to act in a comparable manner. What if Russia decides it's OK to nuke Chechnya? Or China decides to deal with those pesky Tibetans once and for all?

The End-times fantacists have already decided that it is good and desireable that the world should be destroyed ASAP. The rest of us can only try to keep them from dragging the rest of us into their holocaust. You know what really sucks about it all? Since their religion is a fantasy, there will be no hell in which their souls will suffer eternal torment for butchering the world.

I'll let Billmon have the last word:

When a culture is as historically clueless and morally desensitized as this one appears to be, I don’t think it’s absurd to suppose that even an enormous war crime – the worst imaginable, short of outright genocide – could get lost in the endless babble of the talking heads. When everything is just a matter of opinion, anything – literally anything – can be justified. It’s only a matter of framing things so people can believe what they want to believe.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Christ Among the Partisans

Garry Wills writes a must-read op-ed about Christ and politics. It is an unsettling and brutal evaluation of the distance between the radical teachings of Jesus and the attempts to domesticate his message. Yes, Jesus was a Nietzschean before the fact. Some excerpts:

THERE is no such thing as a "Christian politics." If it is a politics, it cannot be Christian. Jesus told Pilate: "My reign is not of this present order. If my reign were of this present order, my supporters would have fought against my being turned over to the Jews. But my reign is not here" (John 18:36). Jesus brought no political message or program.

This is a truth that needs emphasis at a time when some Democrats, fearing that the Republicans have advanced over them by the use of religion, want to respond with a claim that Jesus is really on their side. He is not. He avoided those who would trap him into taking sides for or against the Roman occupation of Judea. He paid his taxes to the occupying power but said only, "Let Caesar have what belongs to him, and God have what belongs to him" (Matthew 22:21). He was the original proponent of a separation of church and state.....

But doesn't Jesus say to care for the poor? Repeatedly and insistently, but what he says goes far beyond politics and is of a different order. He declares that only one test will determine who will come into his reign: whether one has treated the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the imprisoned as one would Jesus himself. "Whenever you did these things to the lowliest of my brothers, you were doing it to me" (Matthew 25:40). No government can propose that as its program. Theocracy itself never went so far, nor could it.

The state cannot indulge in self-sacrifice. If it is to treat the poor well, it must do so on grounds of justice, appealing to arguments that will convince people who are not followers of Jesus or of any other religion. The norms of justice will fall short of the demands of love that Jesus imposes. A Christian may adopt just political measures from his or her own motive of love, but that is not the argument that will define justice for state purposes.

To claim that the state's burden of justice, which falls short of the supreme test Jesus imposes, is actually what he wills — that would be to substitute some lesser and false religion for what Jesus brought from the Father. Of course, Christians who do not meet the lower standard of state justice to the poor will, a fortiori, fail to pass the higher test....

Some may think that removing Jesus from politics would mean removing morality from politics. They think we would all be better off if we took up the slogan "What would Jesus do?"

That is not a question his disciples ask in the Gospels. They never knew what Jesus was going to do next. He could round on Peter and call him "Satan." He could refuse to receive his mother when she asked to see him. He might tell his followers that they are unworthy of him if they do not hate their mother and their father. He might kill pigs by the hundreds. He might whip people out of church precincts.

The Jesus of the Gospels is not a great ethical teacher like Socrates, our leading humanitarian. He is an apocalyptic figure who steps outside the boundaries of normal morality to signal that the Father's judgment is breaking into history. His miracles were not acts of charity but eschatological signs — accepting the unclean, promising heavenly rewards, making last things first.

He is more a higher Nietzsche, beyond good and evil, than a higher Socrates. No politician is going to tell the lustful that they must pluck out their right eye. We cannot do what Jesus would do because we are not divine.

It was blasphemous to say, as the deputy under secretary of defense, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, repeatedly did, that God made George Bush president in 2000, when a majority of Americans did not vote for him. It would not remove the blasphemy for Democrats to imply that God wants Bush not to be president. Jesus should not be recruited as a campaign aide. To trivialize the mystery of Jesus is not to serve the Gospels.

The Gospels are scary, dark and demanding. It is not surprising that people want to tame them, dilute them, make them into generic encouragements to be loving and peaceful and fair. If that is all they are, then we may as well make Socrates our redeemer....

He was never that thing that all politicians wish to be esteemed — respectable... The institutional Jesus of the Republicans has no similarity to the Gospel figure. Neither will any institutional Jesus of the Democrats.

Amen, Garry, amen. Instrumentalizing Jesus is what so many regimes have done throughout the centuries, and every one of them is wrong in doing so. What I read above describes the vision of faith that I was raised in - something that challenged and disturbed the soul, something that was anything but triumphal. The radical interrogation of the heart and mind is precisely what politics cannot, must not, do. It must live on the surface and concern itself with mundane things, that which is of this world. The hubris that one knows the will of God, and can therefore dispense divine retribution upon others, is the fastest ticket to Hell I can imagine.

Read the whole thing.