Tag Archives: Andrew Stuttaford

God Spelled Backwards Is Dog

Michael C. Moynihan at Reason:

Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist who drew Mohammed as a dog, was recently told that a scheduled lecture on free speech, to be held at Jönköping Högskolan, would be canceled due to “security concerns.” This, of course, is a common evasion, intended to protect the brittle sensibilities of Muslim students while supposedly standing four square behind the right of free speech.

Alas, the administrators in Jönköping had a point. During a lecture in Uppsala today Vilks was attacked by a pack of feral fundamentalists, one of whom managed to headbutt the artist and break his glasses. Police intervened and waged a short battle with the religious nutters who can be heard in the video below, captured by the newspaper UNT, shouting Allahu Akbar! The AP has a quick report, explaining that “Uppsala University spokeswoman Pernilla Bjork said Vilks was showing a provocative film with sexual content to the crowd when the attacker ran up and hit him in the face with his fists.”

Nathan Hardan at NRO:

Here is stunning video footage of Tuesday’s attack on Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, during a lecture at the University of Uppsala. Listen to the students shouting “Allahu Akbar” while Vilks is beaten.

These are the desperate acts of an extremeist movement that is utterly bereft of moral courage, and awash in its own intellectual insecurity. Look at these Western-educatedstudents in their designer clothes, calling down curses on a man who represents the freedom they hate so much, and yet have benefited so much from

Ace Of Spades:

A few points. Vilks’ presentation was, in fact, provocative, as it deliberately juxtaposed pictures of Mohammad (?) and praying Muslims with gay fetish shots.

But, as everyone on the receiving end of artistic provocations for thirty years can tell you — we’re supposed to understand that ideas may incite, and in fact that is the very point of them, and that our right to not be offended doesn’t trump anyone else’s right to give offense.

That lesson was definitely not taught here, as the Violently Aggrieved won the battlefield they turned this university into only on this day, but on future days as well — the university has decided to put an end to this madness, by which they mean they won’t invite Lars Vilks back for any further lectures.

The lesson taught here is, once again, that if Muslims just get violent and criminal, they get exactly what they want.

I’m just curious – I see the police making few arrests here.

If there had been another crowd here — a fired-up anti-jihad crowd, let’s say, which intervened with the jihadists went wild, and started doing their own face-breaking — how many decades of incarceration do you think they’d currently be facing?

Should the law not be changed to reflect the actual law — that Muslims are in fact permitted to create disturbances of the peace and commit assault? Because if you trick non-Muslim citizens into thinking these things are crimes, and then they intervene, believing themselves to be stopping crimes in progress… then you’re locking them up without fair warning, aren’t you?

Eh. They’ve been warned, I guess. Everyone knows what the real law is.

Allah Pundit:

Everything about this is an utter, unmitigated disgrace — the attack on Vilks, the excruciating passivity of most of the crowd, the sheer thuggery of these shrieking, lunatic, barbarian bastards, and of course the killer moment at around 8:45 when they win. Do note, too, how the Aggrieved alternate between vicious threats and civil rights, warning the cops against brutality and reminding them that they pay taxes too. That’s a familiar pattern nine years after 9/11. They’d have torn Vilks apart with their bare hands if they could have but they’re all about proper procedure, you see.

Hamilton Nolan at Gawker:

The fact that so many American media and academic institutions have caved into the imagined fear of such religious fascists is shameful. If the free societies of the world can’t stand up for a person’s right to draw a fucking cartoon without becoming the victim of a multinational assassination plot, well, we lose. And if people’s faith in their god is not strong enough to allow them to laugh off and dismiss an offensive little drawing, they lose. So let’s all get along, or we all lose

Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right:

The disruption was thuggish, and the physical attack on the cartoonist was revolting, but the thing that most struck me about the video footage was the level of  hysteria displayed by some of the protestors, a hysteria made all the more disturbing by the fact that it was not the reaction to some sudden, unexpected shock (the protestors can have seen little at the lecture of a nature that they had not already expected) but was instead a manifestation of a deeper, longer-lasting rage that has long since lost any connection it may ever once have had with rationality.

Michelle Malkin

The Daily Caller:

The home of cartoonist Lars Vilks, infamous in the Muslim community for depicting the prophet Mohammad as a dog, was attacked by suspected arsonists late Friday evening, multiple sources confirm. The apparent plot to set fire to Vilks’ home — which comes just four days after a student attacked him at Uppsala University as he showed a film about Islam – was not successful.

Vilks was not at home at the time, according to the Washington Post, and alert onlookers may have helped put a stop to the home invasion:

It was the latest in a week of attacks on the 53-year-old cartoonist, who was assaulted Tuesday by a man while he lectured at a university and saw his Web site apparently attacked by hacker on Wednesday.

Police were alerted just before noon Saturday, as people passing by the artist’s house noted that several windows had been smashed. When officers arrived, they discovered plastic bottles filled with gasoline and fire damage on the surface of the building. Attackers are also suspected of having tried setting the inside of house on fire, but the flames are thought to have fizzled out.

Vilks has long said he would be ready for such an attack:

Vilks has faced numerous death threats over the controversial cartoon, but said in March he has built his own defense system, including a “homemade” safe room and a barbed-wire sculpture that could electrocute potential intruders.

He said he also has an ax “to chop down” anyone trying to climb through the windows of his home in southern Sweden.

“If something happens, I know exactly what to do,” Vilks told The Associated Press in an interview in Stockholm.

Vilks also owns a guard dog named Mohammad.

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Foreign Affairs, Religion

“You Know, I’ve Learned Something Today”

David Itzkoff at NYT:

An episode of “South Park” that continued a story line involving the Prophet Muhammad was shown Wednesday night on Comedy Central with audio bleeps and image blocks reading “CENSORED” after a Muslim group warned the show’s creators that they could face violence for depicting that holy Islamic prophet. Revolution Muslim, a group based in New York, wrote on its Web site that the “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker “will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh” for an episode shown last week in which a character said to be the Prophet Muhammad was seen wearing a bear costume. Mr. Van Gogh was slain in Amsterdam in 2004 after making a film that discussed the abuse of Muslim women in some Islamic societies.

The new episode of “South Park” on Wednesday night tried to revisit this character, but with the name and depiction of the character blocked out. It was unclear how much of the bleeping was Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker’s decision. In a message posted on their Web site, SouthParkStudios.com, they wrote that they could not immediately stream the new episode on the site because:

After we delivered the show, and prior to broadcast, Comedy Central placed numerous additional audio bleeps throughout the episode. We do not have network approval to stream our original version of the show.

On Thursday morning, a spokesman for Comedy Central confirmed that the network had added more bleeps to the episode than were in the cut delivered by South Park Studios, and that it was not giving permission for the episode to run on the studio’s Web site.

Andrew Sullivan:

I know I’m a broken record, but the two-part 200th episode was about as close to genius – and hardcore fan-pandering – as you can get. Hennifer Lopez, Mr Hat, Mephesto and Stan Tenorman: what more could you ask for? Well: you could ask for a reprise of South Park’s pioneering decision not to pander to idiotic Islamist threats by treating the figure of Mohammed the way they treat every other religious icon. And that’s what Matt and Trey delivered.

They had done it before with no problem. In 2001, they’d already run an episode with the Super Best Friends, Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Muhammed, and Seaman – pronounced SeamAAAn – portraying Muhammed with no fuss or complaints. Then after 9/11, when all media should have been even more insistent on not caving to Jihadist thugs, Comedy Central forbade a reprise in a subsequent episode. Viacom looked really stupid, but that’s hardly unusual.

Then the last two weeks. In the first part of the 200th episode, South Park went to hilarious lengths to have Muhammed but cloaked in various disguises – a U-Haul van, a bear mascot, Santa Claus. But any actual depiction,as in 2001, was covered with a block of black with the word “censored” on it. In some ways, this act of censorship wasn’t too big a deal. It actually helped illuminate the unique intolerance of Sunni Islam among world religions today. SP has long had Jesus and Satan, they have ridiculed Mormonism, eviscerated Scientology, mocked Catholicism and showed the Buddha actually doing lines of coke. None of the adherents of these other faiths have threatened to kill Matt and Trey, but, of course, some Sunni Islamists did so.

Ann Althouse:

Did Revolution Muslim truly threaten Stone and Parker or was it merely warning them? That is, were they indicating that they would commit and act of violence or were they only opining based on their prediction of what others, more extreme than they, would do? Revolution Muslim says it’s just a warning:

In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Younus Abdullah Muhammad, a member of Revolution Muslim, repeated the group’s assertion that the post was a prediction rather than a threat. He said that the post on the group’s blog “was intended in a principle that’s deeply rooted in the Islamic religion, which is called commanding the good and forbidding the evil,” tying the group’s complaints about “South Park” to larger frustrations about U.S. support for Israel and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.They have freedom of speech too, so the question is whether it’s a true threat.

ADDED: I have no end of respect for Stone and Parker. What brilliant artists! What political heroes!


Obviously, Christians — and Sarah Palin fans, and lovers of My Mother The Car — should take heed of this incentive system our modern media is creating. Don’t want things you treasure satirized? Just issue a “prediction” and — voila! Meanwhile, note how entirely real radical Muslim threats and violence are treated as just part of the weather — something you have to adapt to — while nonexistent Tea Party violence is an existential threat to the Republic.

But here’s a warning of my own: Those who have no backbone will do the bidding of those who do.

Allah Pundit:

One mystery lingers: In the final scene, in vintage SP fashion, a bunch of characters gave mini-soliloquies about the moral of the story. The twist this time is that they were all bleeped out — roughly 30 seconds’ worth of airtime, filled with nothing but bleeps. I thought for sure that that had to be a joke — the moral of the story was how absurd censorship can be, and that was a perfect way to show it — but now I’m not so sure. Says the AP, “Comedy Central also censored 35 seconds’ worth of a conversation toward the end of the show between the characters Stan, Jesus Christ and Santa Claus. The network wouldn’t say Thursday whether this contained any reference to the warning [from jihadists].”

New York Times:

The “South Park” creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, have issued a statement in response to Comedy Central’s decision to alter an episode after a Muslim group’s warning:

In the 14 years we’ve been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn’t stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle’s customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn’t mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We’ll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we’ll see what happens to it.

Aziz Poonawalla:

Most other blogs and news sites are not providing a link to RevolutionMuslim.com – which appears to have been hacked, possibly by angry fans of the show – but I think it’s important to let these idiots know that they are being critiqued. And my critique of them is much the same as my critique of Anwar al-Awlaki: they are cowards, who seek to gain publicity for themselves. In a lot of ways, they have much in common with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, except that the latter are at least funny on occassion.

The Prophet SAW has been depicted by non-muslims with respect many times in the past – including a marble frieze of the Prophet as one of history’s great lawgivers, on the South Wall inside the Supreme Court building in Washington DC (photo at right). Muslims themselves, particularly in Iraq and Iran, are fond of depictions of the Prophet, with many public paintings and billboards of him and Ali ibn Talib AS. These are expressions of respect or love, and are not in any way an insult or an undue reverence.

In fact, it is precisely the over-reaction of extremist muslims who wave around threats of violence that leads to more depictions and insults to the Prophet, not less. The right way to inculcate respect for the Prophet among non-muslims is not to act like a barbarian but to simply express ourselves and explain our beliefs – and then excercise our own right, to walk away. It is by their own actions, supposedly in “defense” of the Prophet, that these extremists actually cause greater offense to the Prophet’s legacy than any mere cartoon. After all, the Prophet SAW is judged by non-muslims solely by the behavior of those who profess to follow him.

I don’t watch South Park, and likely never will. But I much prefer their attempt at depiction of the Prophet SAW, which is rooted in a simple need to assert their creative freedom, rather than any genuine intent to defame or insult Islam – quite unlike the Danish newspaper cartoons, which were created with only malice in mind. To understand this, compare and contrast the images of the Prophet as a super hero or a bear, versus a dark figure with a bomb in his turban. The real insult to the Prophet is in refusing to make a distinction at all.

Related: The muslim women lawyer organization KARAMAH visited the Supreme Court to investigate the frieze of the Prophet SAW and have a very nice report on their findings.

UPDATE: A conversation with a reader about muslim sensibilities, assimilation, and tolerance.

UPDATE 2 – it wasn’t Mohammed after all in the bear suit, but actually Santa, according to people who’ve actually seen the episode. This revelation makes me realize that the South Park creators Matt and Trey are, quite simply, brilliant demigods. Well played, sirs. Well played. Of course, that didn’t stop Comedy Central from censoring the episode anyway…

manas at Ijtema:

Fox news seemed to revel at the episode. God forbid, if one of the writers get killed, they get a double bonus. South Park is something they don’t like. Islam too.

It is true that most Muslims believe that the Prophet (SAW) should not be drawn, but drawing him will cause more annoyance than offense or anger. The reason Muslims were offended and angered by the Danish cartoon is not because it drew the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him), but rather because it portrayed him as a terrorist.

When the Muslims conquered Mecca, they forgave the persecuting Quraish. They destroyed all the idols that were there in the Kaaba, which was built (or rebuilt) by Abraham (AwS). However, there was a picture of prophet Jesus (AwS) and his mother Mary (may Allah be pleased with her), which the prophet carefully put away.

Muslims love and respect all the other prophets, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus (AwS). Whenever they are ridiculed, we are hurt too. The difference is, as Jesus (AwS) is “shared” between us and the Christians, so we do not feel we (Muslims)  are being picked on.

The episode of South Park in my opinion was not trying to offend. It was trying to engage/incorporate the Muslim faith into the dialogue the way they know how. That’s the problem. Americans do not understand other cultures, not even European ones, and do not attempt to understand them. They expect them to ‘know what we are talkin’ about.

It just does not work that way. You can’t converse in Bengali with a Chinese.

Personally, I did find the show a bit offensive. One, because it showed the Prophet (SAW) clad in a stupid teddy bear costume. Two, it made innumerate references relating Muhammad (SAW), Muslims and violence. (Three) nor is Muhammad (SAW) immune from criticism. Even Muslims believe that he was a fallible human. We just believe that overall he was an excellent person- an example for all humanity to learn from. We are open to sincere criticism, but we do not like him ridiculed.

So, in short, I am a somewhat offended by, and a bit dissatisfied with the show, but in no way angry with it. I urge my fellow Muslims to engage the larger society- including the media, and use this opportunity to create some positive atmosphere. I urge the media to talk to representative Muslim organizations, and emphasize that they are such, before talking about fringe groups.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat in NYT

Doug J.

E.D. Kain at The League

Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right

Michael C. Moynihan at Reason

UPDATE #2: Glenn Greenwald on Douthat

Daniel Larison on Douthat and Greenwald

UPDATE #3: David Schaengold at The League

Peter Worthington at FrumForum

1 Comment

Filed under Religion, TV

Well It’s Got To Be A Newsmax Jesus

Huffington Post:

Correction: Newsmax’s cover story “The Jesus Question” is from April 2009.

The editors of Newsmax might be getting a little impatient for the second coming of Christ.

The conservative magazine’s latest cover story, “The Jesus Question,” is about the son of god’s return to earth as prophesied in the Bible.

Jesus is no stranger to newstands. Biblical history interests plenty of readers. Just ask a few magazine editors. But the text accompanying Newsmax’s Jesus cover story (“Will He Ever Return?”) seems to strike a more plaintive, are-we-there-yet tone, that differs from those of the general interest magazines.

While the article is posted online, a search of the magazine’s web site yields a bulleted outline that will tell many readers what they want to know.

Obama’s armageddon-inducing health care bill isn’t mentioned, but the president’s “globalist” ways are panned in a section devoted to biblical prophesies

Radley Balko:

I think it’s the hint of exasperation that makes this wonderful.

Alex Massie:

Radley Balko thinks it’s the note of (mild) exasperation that makes this cover splendid. I agree. Jesus: Disappointing You for 2000 Years.

As the man put it:

Estragon: He should be here.

Vladimir: He didn’t say for sure he’d come.

Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right

Steve Benen

Leave a comment

Filed under Bloggy Funnies, New Media, Religion

Flashback To Our Mystic Past

Luke Timothy Johnson at Commonweal:

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all best known as exoteric traditions, each with the full array of formal worship, religious law, sacred books, and codes of morality. Yet each has also contained, from the beginning, a strong element of mysticism. The Judaism that formed in the second century on the basis of a strict interpretation of Torah, demanding observance of all the commandments, including dietary and purity regulations, also expressed itself mystically through the heavenly ascents accomplished by the adepts of Merkabah Mysticism, riders of the heavenly throne-chariot. The earliest Christian books contain a powerful visionary composition (Revelation), while Christian mystical impulses found early expression both in Gnostic literature and among the desert fathers and mothers; and in Islam, the Sufi movement, dedicated to the quest of God through renunciation and prayer, grew together with the exoteric framework of the Shari’ah, the system of Muslim law and observance. It is among the Sufis where we find the passionate pulse of early Islam, as in the words of the female saint Rabi’a al-’Adawiyya (d. ca. 801):

“I love thee with two loves, love of my happiness, and perfect love, to love thee as is thy due. My selfish love is that I do naught but think on thee, excluding all beside; but that purest love, which is thy due, is that the veils which hide thee fall, and I gaze on thee. No praise to me in either this or that. Nay, thine the praise for both that love and this.”

Exoteric and esoteric religious impulses coexist in tension with one another: the mystic’s tendency to derogate the visible can lead to neglect of external forms in the name of purity of heart, while the lawyer’s concern for common standards can encourage the suspicion and even suppression of private devotion. The great monotheistic religions have not found it easy to reconcile their exoteric and esoteric sides. The Gnostics’ esoteric religion posed a direct challenge to the early institutional church, and Irenaeus, the second-century bishop and theologian, responded with Adversus haereses, attacking the “heresies” of such groups with an argument for a public Christianity based on creed, canon, and the apostolic succession of bishops. Eventually the extreme forms of Christian mysticism fled to a more congenial home in the new religion of Manichaeism. The mysticism of the desert fathers and mothers, in contrast, was thoroughly orthodox, and the mysticism that so invigorated medieval Catholicism gladly embraced the exoteric forms of the Christian faith.

Like Christianity, Islam early on faced the challenge of a radical esoteric movement that threatened the authority of the Shari’ah. The earliest Sufis were adventurers of the spirit who sought immediate union with Allah, and some issued statements that pushed the implications of ecstasy to the limits. The Sufi Mansur al-Hallaj was executed for his claims of union with the divine, which outraged the fundamental conviction that Allah has no partners. “I am al-Haqq,” he is reputed to have said, “I am the Truth.” Reconciling the esoteric and exoteric within Islam was the monumental intellectual labor of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058–1111), a man whose absolute devotion to the Sufi way—he said it saved his soul—was matched by his commitment to the Shari’ah as the framework of true devotion: “I saw that Sufism consists in experiences rather than in definitions, and that what I was lacking belonged to the domain, not of instruction, but of ecstasy and initiation.” Al-Ghazali held that the mystic’s knowledge did not consist in new revelations, but in an ever deeper penetration of the truths disclosed by the Qur’an. This principle, once established, helped Sufism flourish at the heart of Islam, becoming at times the dominant expression of the religion.

Of the three great monotheisms, Judaism has proved most successful at harmonizing exoteric and esoteric expression. The masters of the heavenly throne-chariot were among the greatest scholars of the early rabbinic tradition, and demanded of the mystic the punctilious outward observance of Torah. The medieval German chasid Eleazar of Worms (d. 1230) declared, “The root of love is to love the Lord. The soul is full of love, bound with the bonds of love in great joy. The powerful love of joy seizes his heart so that at all times he thinks: How can I do the will of God?” Similarly, practitioners of Kabbalah from the twelfth to the twentieth century assumed as the ground for their speculation a total immersion in the practices common to the community of faith. The early Hasidic movement aroused concern for its apparently antinomian tendencies, yet quickly became integrated in the exoteric tradition, and is found today among the strictest of observant Jews.

The benefits of the exoteric to the esoteric forms of religion over the ages have been clear to see. The framework of law and worship, creed and Scripture, provided both a social meaning and shared social practices that enabled individual mystics to thrive. They shared with their nonmystical fellow believers the public practice of prayer, the study of sacred texts, and the deeds of charity. Their passionate quest for the experience of God through prayer was the more secure because it pursued the God proclaimed publicly in synagogue, church, and mosque. Their asceticism was not an exception to, but rather an intensification of, the strict rules of behavior followed by the exoteric community. Mystics were able to swim freely, and dive deeply, in an ocean bounded by public profession and practice.

In return, mysticism enriched the outer tradition, providing a medium for impulses of passionate devotion, producing generations of saints who represent the best within each religion. By recognizing all visible forms as less than ultimate, mysticism challenges the claims of religious law to total control over humans, and stands as an anti-idolatrous witness within exoteric religion. It makes clear that religion is not simply another version of politics, but a form of faith that in its essence seeks to serve the living God; and that religion’s efforts to stabilize the world are not solely about the assertion of human power, but about the service of humanity. Because everything in religion must be measured by God, mysticism insists, and because God is not a controllable or even a fully knowable entity, religion must always be measured by a reality beyond definition. Asserting the ultimate reality and power of this invisible presence, and willingly sacrificing pleasure in this life for the sake of a future life with God, mysticism reminds the exoteric that it too is called to a service larger than itself.

Ross Douthat in NYT:

Mysticism is dying, and taking true religion with it. Monasteries have dwindled. Contemplative orders have declined. Our religious leaders no longer preach the renunciation of the world; our culture scoffs at the idea. The closest most Americans come to real asceticism is giving up chocolate, cappuccinos, or (in my own not-quite-Francis-of-Assisi case) meat for lunch for Lent.

This, at least, is the stern message of Luke Timothy Johnson, writing in the latest issue of the Catholic journal Commonweal. As society has become steadily more materialistic, Johnson declares, our churches have followed suit, giving up on the ascetic and ecstatic aspects of religion and emphasizing only the more worldly expressions of faith. Conservative believers fixate on the culture wars, religious liberals preach social justice, and neither leaves room for what should be a central focus of religion — the quest for the numinous, the pursuit of the unnamable, the tremor of bliss and the dark night of the soul.

Yet by some measures, mysticism’s place in contemporary religious life looks more secure than ever. Our opinion polls suggest that we’re encountering the divine all over the place. In 1962, after a decade-long boom in church attendance and public religiosity, Gallup found that just 22 percent of Americans reported having what they termed “a religious or mystical experience.” Flash forward to 2009, in a supposedly more secular United States, and that number had climbed to nearly 50 percent.

In a sense, Americans seem to have done with mysticism what we’ve done with every other kind of human experience: We’ve democratized it, diversified it, and taken it mass market. No previous society has offered seekers so many different ways to chase after nirvana, so many different paths to unity with God or Gaia or Whomever. A would-be mystic can attend a Pentecostal healing service one day and a class on Buddhism the next, dabble in Kabbalah in February and experiment with crystals in March, practice yoga every morning and spend weekends at an Eastern Orthodox retreat center. Sufi prayer techniques, Eucharistic adoration, peyote, tantric sex — name your preferred path to spiritual epiphany, and it’s probably on the table.

Mollie Wilson O’Reilly at Commonweal:

Together, Johnson and Mujica’s articles explore some of the questions Douthat raises today. And of course, there’s more on these topics in our archives. Lawrence Cunningham’s February 2006 overview of “Catholic Spirituality” is worth revisiting, as is Luke Timothy Johnson’s own 2006 take on popular religion, “Keeping Spirituality Sane.” Is there anything else you think Douthat’s readers should check out while they’re here?

Rod Dreher:

I’ve always been mystically inclined in my spirituality, but also lazy and impatient. When I’ve hungered for a numinous experience of the divine, I’ve tended to see it as a matter of reading the right book to discover the secret. There is, of course, no secret wisdom that will help you plug in to the divine without much effort. Anything that promises you that is a false mysticism, is a lie. From my own experience, I’ve only been able to have truly transformative numinous experiences after submitting to a prayer discipline of some time. It’s like that with my body, too: in the past, whenever I’d be sick of my slack belly, I’d look for some fad diet that promised to help me shed pounds quickly and easily. It’s all a lie: the only way to lose weight in a healthy way is to both diet and exercise. Similarly, absent a rare road to Damascus moment, you’re not going to experience God mystically unless you seek Him earnestly through regular prayer, fasting and ascesis.

The Orthodox Christian way is the way of ascesis and mysticism. I hadn’t understood this from the outside, but once you enter Orthodoxy and take it seriously, it is not so much a set of rules to be obeyed as it is teaching to bring you to spiritual health. I was reading around in a book over the weekend in which an Orthodox bishop taught that there are no good people and bad people, there are only those who are suffering in various degrees from sickness, and those who are healed (the saints). Orthodoxy is to be seen as the authentic way of healing the soul. From an Orthodox point of view, you cannot really know God unless you know him mystically, through prayer. The word Orthodox theologians use to describe this way of knowing God is “noetic,” meaning, “related to the nous.” This is a good short introduction to the Orthodox mindset, and this from OrthodoxWiki explains what “nous” means in Orthodox spirituality.

In Orthodoxy, we can only be healed (= sanctified) through constant purification of the nous, through prayer, fasting and other forms of asceticism. Ascesis is not considered optional, or something only for monks, nuns and other spiritual athletes. It is, in Orthodox teaching, the normal way of Christian spirituality (though certainly the severe acts of ascesis practiced by monastics, especially on Mount Athos, are extraordinary). Mind you, many, many Orthodox Christians don’t know about this, or don’t care. But to be a normal Orthodox Christian is to be mystically inclined, and mysticism of the soul cannot be separated from “orthopraxis,” or right practice. The exoteric and the esoteric must live in balance. The thing I’ve observed from living and practicing Orthodox Christianity for nearly four years is how absolutely central mysticism is to the life and thought of the Church. You may live as a Protestant or a Catholic and never deal directly with the mystical dimension of the Christian faith, which includes ascesis. But I don’t know how you can do that as an Orthodox Christian.

The book, by the way, for curious laymen to read on this is “The Mountain of Silence” by Kyriacos Markides. It’s a fantastic introduction to Orthodox spirituality, very engaging and approachable.

Jason Kuznicki at The League:

Given that in the meantime our culture discovered magic mushrooms and LSD, I am hardly bowled over. This is not as flippant as it sounds. Research from my alma mater confirms what the hippies were only just discovering back then — that a single dose of magic mushrooms will commonly turn into one of the most important mystical experiences of a person’s entire lifetime. Yes, it really is that easy, as even proponents of the psychedelic experience, like Aldous Huxley, were wont to celebrate. (Not to condemn, but to celebrate. Mysticism for the masses — Huxley wasn’t born in America, but he probably should have been. He sure knew a typically American turn of mind when he saw one.)

I’m not presumptuous enough to rule one way or the other on the sincerity of drug-induced mystical experiences. I’ll just say that in 1962, the vast majority of Americans were either unaware of them or unwilling to consider them legitimate. Now, however, we read of a noted author who had a mystical experience after dental surgery, and it’s not all that shocking to us. Some of us may even have had similar experiences in similar perfectly legal and socially approved settings, and we feel comfortable calling them mystical in a way that our grandparents certainly would not.

And Douthat again, almost as if to prove himself a conservative:

[It may be that] something important is being lost as well. By making mysticism more democratic, we’ve also made it more bourgeois, more comfortable, and more dilettantish. It’s become something we pursue as a complement to an upwardly mobile existence, rather than a radical alternative to the ladder of success. Going to yoga classes isn’t the same thing as becoming a yogi; spending a week in a retreat center doesn’t make me Thomas Merton or Thérèse of Lisieux. Our kind of mysticism is more likely to be a pleasant hobby than a transformative vocation.

I have a hard time seeing anything other than snobbery here. America is a mass-produced society, the first and the most resolute of the type. You want full-time mystics? We do happen to have those by the dozens. You want a weekend — but only just a weekend — of mystical transport? Heck, we invented that trip.

Chris Dierkes at The League:

Whether Ross is being a snob I’m not sure (maybe? partially?); I’ll leave that to the readers to make up their own minds.

But I think a similar or related critique of pop mysticism could be made that wouldn’t be intrinsically snobby.

To wit, Ram Dass (nee Richard Alpert), one of the godfathers of the LSD mystical hit turned pilgrimage to India, author of the magisterially trippy (Remember) Be Here Now (from which the above picture is taken), said the real issue was “altered traits not altered states.”

I would further say (contra Ross and seconding Jason) that the American phenomenon of religion, from its inception, is, as Harold Bloom argued, spiritual experientialism:  Pentecostalism, Revivalism (out of which grew Joseph Smith and the uniquely American religion of Mormonism), The Great Awakenings, The Shakers, New Thought movements, Esalen, William James and the scientific study of mysticism, pre Vatican II “High” Roman Catholic Eucharistic Adoration and Liturgy, Spiritualism, Billy Graham stadium spectacles, and now since the 60s the entrance of Eastern forms of mystical experience.

America , as Jason says, is a mass-produced society and so we mass produce mystical experiences–whether in sports, sex, even cooking.  And of course in various meditation practices, retreats and so forth.  (I’m 2 out of 3 on that scale, which, as they say, ain’t bad.).  And of course drugs as temporary ecstatic states, technically exogenous mystical states (which I definitely have never experienced).  Meditation-induced states are labeled endogenous.

Still, these are all leave open the issue of altered traits, not altered states.  As in, a person can have all kinds of altered states but if their traits aren’t altered, what’s been gained really?

This isn’t snobbery but to ask, “What’s the point?” Or in 1980s language, “Where’s the (transformative) beef?”  Though I’m not sure that later question will go over with a lot of would be seekers, (of the Eastern-influenced variety), given the popularity of vegetarianism in such circles.

Mystical states are generally higher potential capacities of the human body-mind.  I would say they are only “higher” insofar as humans haven’t yet adapted to them as common occurrences as a species.  [You might call that view a naturalized mysticism if you like].  That means they have a relative value and can be good things, but they can also be (as mystics of all traditions have long pointed out), just another source of egocentrism–in fact arguably an even more pernicious form of egocentrism as now you are (as a friend of mine once said), “Enlightened yes, but still an asshole.”

But it leaves open the question of an Absolute Awakening (often incorrectly called mystical/spiritual).  What Ram Dass above calls Absolute Compassion and therefore a changed way of being human at fundamental levels of identity, emotion, speech, bodily action, and thought.  As opposed to temporary groovy experiences or “getting spiritually high” (with or without actually getting high).

More importantly the necessity for such an Absolute awakening to occur in the context of cultures dedicated to life–that’s what I think is missing from the current scene, not that it’s too “bourgeois” or whatever.

UPDATE: Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right

1 Comment

Filed under Religion

“I Go Weeks Without Thinking About Religion Or God. And Why Would I?”

Freddie at L’Hote:

An atheist convention! A bunch of people sitting around not being religious! People brought together by their absence of belief in something! Spending money to hear speakers talk to them about how they can better be not-something and not-believe in the not-deity! Several fun-filled days thinking about God because you don’t believe in him and think he’s a jerk! What could it possibly matter to me if my neighbors go to church? What could I possibly feel towards them because of what I don’t feel? How could a genuine atheism compel one towards anger or bitterness? No, what anger exists is anger at the God you say you don’t believe in.

No. Atheism is not a project.It has no purpose. It proceeds towards no end. It has no meaning beyond the simplicity of absence. It has as little negative presence as positive and demands no philosophy. Sam Harris’s life is dominated by religion. It’s what he thinks about; it’s what he writes about; it’s how he pays the bills. He speaks all over the country about religion, he opines on it constantly, denying it is his constant endeavor. His intellectual and philosophical life could hardly be more centered around religion if he were a monk.

Me? I go weeks without thinking about religion or God. And why would I?

Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right:

With the important qualification that I do spend quite a bit of time pondering the implications of religious belief (to start with, there’s that whole rise of militant Islam business to think about), I have some sympathy for what Freddie is saying, even if I suspect that many of those who have taken the trouble to define themselves as atheists have already spent far more time on this topic than it deserves.

Dan Hallock at A Geek, Observed:

Freddie at L’Hote thinks atheists, despite being right, should sit down and shut up:


My first response is simply to observe that if you go weeks without thinking about religion or God, I’m curious where you live and who your associates are. Religion interjects itself into my life quite frequently.

Patrick Appel posts a reader e-mail:

Regarding your recent post of one atheist claiming bemusement (and, if I’m reading him right, some annoyance) at the apparent contradiction between being an atheist and spending much of your time involved in religion, I must say that I find it a little surprising to see this classic accusation of dishonesty coming from an atheist.

The post is startling in how well written it is as compared to how childishly bad his reasoning is. Apparently, once you don’t believe in a deity, any and all earthly concerns about the real, observable effects of religion in the world we all share become irrelevant.

Since Harris does not believe in a god he should not concern himself over the trifling matter of jihadists flying planes into buildings. Since Hitchens is an atheist the murder of teenage girls at the hands of their fundamentalist fathers, brothers and uncles should be of no concern to him. How indifference towards religion should follow from non-belief in religion is not explained, probably because you can’t get there from here.

Later in the post he makes the almost as ridiculous claim that though of course there are people who would like to force their religious views on the rest of us and this must be fought against (gee, I forget, who are the strongest voices against this sort of thing….Sam something, Christopher someone else) the underlying truth of the religious claims on which policies are formed is irrelevant to the discussion. How someone is supposed to make the argument that a religiously mandated death penalty for homosexuality can be argued against without touching the underlying theology and rationality he does not say.

Freddie doesn’t care and that’s his right, but if he wants to make the argument that none of the rest of us should care either, he’s going to have to come up with a better argument than that.

Freddie responds:

Let’s talk tactics, shall we? This emailer with the terrible reading comprehension and I have as a first goal the same thing, which is keeping religious conviction out of politics, science and medicine. The history of the world teaches us that this is best accomplished not through atheism but through religious moderation. This is something many atheists must come to grips with if they are ever going to grow up: religious moderates do a far better job of opposing extremists than atheists do. Look, aside from all of the “American theocracy” hysterics, this country does quite a good job of keeping the secular and the religious separate. There is much work to be done, but this is not Saudia Arabia, it is not Yemen. And why? Not because of atheism, but because of moderate religious people who have worked to divide theology from governance for centuries. When people express incredulity at the idea that people can both be practicing and religious and yet function in a secular society, I wonder what world they live in. Here on Planet Earth, in America, you interact with such people every day. They seem to have no trouble with it whatsoever.

Look to the Muslim world. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. It has a significant Muslim minority. And yet it also has significant Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities that live quite unmolested. Women wear pants, work in public, vote, hold office. Why? Not because some tide of atheism swept through Indonesia, but because of religious moderates embracing Enlightenment values and liberal democracy. I assure you, the large majority of these people are devout. They simply see no conflict between their religious devotion and their participation in civic life. If denying terrorism or other kinds of religious extremism can come only through the enforcement of atheism– if I am compelled, as this emailer insists, to wish to convert the unfaithful– then the prospects of liberal democracy and Enlightenment values are threatened indeed. Those values defend the religious as well as the areligious.

There is a lot of nonsense in the competing claims of the public face of atheism, but none is more obvious than what claims it is credulous to and what it is overly skeptical about. Many atheists, presumably like this emailer, have overly skeptical opinions about the ability of most religious believers to balance religious and civic life. Again, you probably know many people who believe, go to church, and yet never think to inject their religion into politics. Balanced against that is a frankly absurd naivete about the power of argument to convince people to abandon God or religion altogether. Which do you think is easier? To convince someone who has religious faith to totally abandon that identity? Or to convince them of the righteousness of dividing it from political life? Elementary human psychology teaches me that the more you attack the fundamental basis for someone’s worldview, the more likely you are to earn violent pushback as a result. If you are a liberal, you don’t try to bring a conservative around on a particular issue by asking him to abandon conservatism altogether. You ask him to reconsider the issue at hand, and you do so in a way that demonstrates respect to that larger overarching belief.

This is not fun. You can’t post a vlog about it on Youtube and get people applauding you for it. You can’t posit that you are one of the few brilliant geniuses in a sea of idiocy by doing it. You can’t come up with all sorts of self-aggrandizing narratives with it. But it is the basic task of liberal democracy and it is the path of adulthood.

Leave a comment

Filed under Religion

Looking For Harry Hopkins In All The Wrong Places

Giles Whittell and James Bone in the Times:

Washington refused to endorse British claims to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands yesterday as the diplomatic row over oil drilling in the South Atlantic intensified in London, Buenos Aires and at the UN.

Despite Britain’s close alliance with the US, the Obama Administration is determined not to be drawn into the issue. It has also declined to back Britain’s claim that oil exploration near the islands is sanctioned by international law, saying that the dispute is strictly a bilateral issue.

Argentina appealed to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, last night to intervene in the dispute, a move Britain adamantly opposes.

“The Secretary-General knows about the issue. He is not happy to learn that the situation is worsening,” Jorge Taiana, the Argentine Foreign Minister, said after meeting Mr Ban in New York.

“We have asked the Secretary-General, within the framework of his good offices, to stress to Britain the need to abstain from further unilateral acts.”

A top UN aide acknowledged, however, that Mr Ban would not be able to mediate because of Britain’s opposition.

Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s Ambassador to the UN, said: “As British ministers have made clear, the UK has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands . . . We are also clear that the Falkland Islands Government is entitled to develop a hydrocarbons industry within its waters, and we support this legitimate business in Falklands’ territory.”

Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner:

Obama to Britain: Drop Dead


Well, I’ll say this for Obama: He’s consistent. Whether it’s the Poles, the Czechs, or the Brits, the message is clear. On his watch (too kind a word) longstanding American allies can be expected to be taken for granted, insulted and, if convenient, dumped. Now, every country (including, of course, the U.S.) must do what it needs do in the pursuit of its national interests, and those alone. In foreign policy nothing else should count. But a clear view of what those interests are is indispensable, and that must include a full understanding of what the consequence of particular actions might be. If Obama is again showing that, with him at the helm, the U.S. is not a reliable ally to its friends, then he must learn to expect less from those friends.

Nile Gardiner at Heritage:

Even by the relentlessly poor standards of the Obama administration, whose doctrine unfailingly appears to be “kiss your enemies and kick your allies”, this is a new low. The White House’s neutrality in a major dispute between America’s closest friend and the likes of Venezuelan tyrant Hugo Chavez, Argentina’s biggest backer, represents the appalling appeasement of an alliance of anti-Western Latin American regimes, stretching from Caracas to Havana – combined with a callous indifference towards the Anglo-American alliance.

Over the course of the last year, we’ve seen a staggering array of foreign policy follies by this administration, from the throwing under the bus of the Poles and the Czechs over missile defence to siding with Marxists in Honduras. But this latest pronouncement surely takes the biscuit as the most brazen betrayal so far of a US ally.

As the Obama government is amply aware, the tensions between London and Buenos Aires are escalating dramatically, with British military contingency planning already under way. In effect, Washington declared today that it would remain neutral in the event of another war in the South Atlantic, a stunning declaration to make.

Thousands of British soldiers are laying their lives on the line alongside their American allies on the battlefields of Afghanistan. Yet the president of the United States is either unwilling or too timid to offer a single word of support for the British people, who face a mounting confrontation with a corrupt, populist Argentine government that is threatening a blockade of British territory.

To put it bluntly, the Obama administration is killing the Special Relationship, and the prospects of a recovery look extremely bleak as long as Barack Obama remains in the White House.

Toby Young at The Telegraph:

For this alliance to survive, both countries must recognise their obligations and, from time to time, that involves one of us setting aside more localised concerns for the sake of the cause. Tony Blair would have preferred it if President Bush had been prepared to wait for a second UN resolution before launching the invasion of Iraq, but he decided that Britain should follow America into battle nevertheless. He recognised that the preservation of the Atlantic alliance had to be prioritised above all else, both for our sake and the sake of the world.

In return, we naturally expect America to side with us when it comes to our own territorial disputes — and this element of quid pro quo was recognised by Ronald Reagan when he backed Margaret Thatcher in the Falklands War. It wasn’t in America’s regional interests to side with us, but Reagan knew the terms of the deal: It was your country, right or wrong. You don’t abandon your closest ally in her hour of need.

So it is truly shocking that Barack Obama has decided to disregard our shared history and insist that we have to fight this battle on our own. Does Britain’s friendship really mean so little to him? Do the sacrifices Britain has made in defence of the Atlantic alliance count for nought? Who does he think will replace us as America’s steadfast ally when she finds herself embroiled in a territorial dispute of her own — possibly with the very same motley crew of Latin American rabble rousers? Spain? Italy? France? Good luck with that, Mr President.

You’d think that having made his bones in Chicago, Obama would know the Chicago Code of Honour: When someone picks a fight with a friend of yours, they pick a fight with you.

It is at times like this that I remember the words of Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt’s unofficial emissary to Britain during the Second World War. In our darkest hour, when we stood virtually alone against Hitler, Hopkins was dispatched to Britain to assess our situation. Did we have the will to remain in the fight? Was this a country that America should risk its national interest to defend?

Before Hopkins returned to deliver his verdict to Roosevelt, Lord Beaverbrook gave a small dinner party for him and it was there that he rose to give a toast. “I suppose you wish to know what I am going to say to President Roosevelt on my return,” he said. “Well I am going to quote to you one verse from the Book of Books: ‘Whither thou goest, I will go and where thou lodgest I will lodge, thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.’”


Dan Spencer at Redstate:

Do not let Obama get away with this latest outrage. Call the White House. Call your Senators. Call your Representative. Tell them the American people, if not their current president, back our most dependable and important ally. So should the federal government.

Alex Massie:

The Times overstates the extent of US support during the Falklands War. That is, while said support was eventually forthcoming and, indeed, extremely useful it was far from immediate. Indeed, initially the State Department sympathised with the Argentine position while Jean Kirkpatrick, then Ambassador to the United Nations, openly sided with the Galtieri regime. Better to support a nasty little junta as a bulwark against lefty influence in Latin America you see? And to hell with the interests of your friends. Interests trump alliances, or so the argument went.

And something of that spirit still exists in Washington. There’s no desire to take a public stand on this issue that would irritate other Latin American countries who have no need to be reminded of what they deem US interference in Latin America. Equally, there is a certain view in Washington that the Falklands are a mildly absurd remnant of a long-gone British imperial era and, since the death of that age was a US objective post-WW2 it’s not a great surprise that Foggy Bottom remains unimpressed by the last embers of that once glorious fire.

If push does eventually come to shove then the Americans will, I suspect hope, back Britain. But they’d rather not have to take a decision of any sort. If that means annoying the UK then so be it. And of course, the UK can be annoyed because Washington calculates, not unreasonably, that in the end, Britain won’t do much to frustrate US objectives elsewhere whereas the Latin Americans will in areas of policy in which Britain has next to no interest or stake.

Daniel Larison:

Is the ownership of the Falkland Islands the business of the United States? I have no idea how it could be. This is a matter to be resolved by the British and Argentinian governments. Complaints about U.S. neutrality are misguided. It is probable that the only side that could benefit from U.S. involvement is the side rejecting British sovereignty and exploitation rights.

As a comparison, consider the dispute over Kashmir. A long-time U.S. ally, Pakistan, has pressed Washington for yeas to try to internationalize the Kashmir dispute. As the de facto government controlling Kashmir, India wants to keep the issue between the two neighbors. One of Obama’s early missteps was to suggest publicly that he was open to U.S. mediation of what the Simla accord had determined should be treated as a purely bilateral issue. Since then New Delhi has prevailed on the administration to abandon that idea, and the result is the confirmation of the status quo. As a general rule, leaving bilateral territorial disputes to the two parties involved is the correct thing to do. This is what the administration has done in the case of the Falklands, and unless we want our government to become even more interventionist in its foreign policy and even more meddlesome in other conflicts around the world we should applaud Washington’s refusal to weigh in on either side of the dispute.

UPDATE: Daniel Larison

John Hinderaker at Powerline

1 Comment

Filed under Foreign Affairs, Political Figures, UK

2012 Ain’t Nothing But A Number


Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Republican voters nationwide say former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is their pick to represent the GOP in the 2012 Presidential campaign. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that 24% prefer former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney while 18% would cast their vote for former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gets 14% of the vote while Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty gets 4%. Six percent (6%) of GOP voters prefer some other candidate while 7% remain undecided.

These numbers reflect an improvement for Huckabee since July when the three candidates were virtually even. Huckabee’s gain appears to be Palin’s loss as Romney’s support has barely changed.

Allah Pundit:

The person Republicans would least like to see win the nomination is … Tim Pawlenty? I thought the rap on T-Paw, at least for the moment, is that he didn’t inspire strong feelings one way or another. As for Sarahcuda, on the same day that he took the July poll, Rasmussen ran another one asking if her decision to resign would help or hurt her presidential ambitions. The split was 24/40 — and yet she was still ahead of Huckabee at the time. If it’s not her resignation that’s hurting her now, as I speculated this morning, what is? Too much Levi Johnston freak show collateral damage, maybe? I don’t think most people even know who he is.

Bruce Drake at Politics Daily

Roger L. Simon:

With Obama’s poll numbers down and the hapless Democratic Congress thrashing about for traction on virtually every issue, you would think these would be the glory days for the GOP. But one look at the results of the new Rasmussen Poll, trumpeted as a “shock” on Drudge, leave little to be shocked, or even surprised, about. Despite Huckabee’s mild ascendance, there is not one new face here or one new idea. It’s the same old, same old. Indeed even Palin at this point represents pretty conventional conservative thinking.

Of course on the other side of the ledger it’s worse. Even (or especially) with Obama’s increasingly tedious exhortations for “hope” and “change,” the Democrats aren’t offering us anything the slightest bit original. It’s just recycled LBJ. You would think in our high tech era there would be some thing new, but no. All the creative intelligence in our culture seems to be being invested in iPhone apps these days.

We can’t entirely blame the politicians, however. It is in the nature of that political culture NOT to reward original thought. And the media makes it worse. They don’t seem to be interested in the slightest in the search for new ideas. Everything is a score card. Who’s up? Who’s down? And, of course, in preserving their own liberal status quo. Nothing new there.

Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right:

Palin’s pain has been Huckabee’s gain, it seems, as he appears to have picked up some of her support. Given the selection on offer, it’s probably not that surprising that Mitt Romney emerges as the preferred candidate of the wicked secular right (or at least among those Republicans “who attend church once a month or less”). Meanwhile, Pawlenty’s nod to the Intelligent Design crowd doesn’t (I’m delighted to say) seem to have done him much good so far. He’s the candidate that GOP voters would least like to see as the party’s pick, although I suspect that glorious distinction may in reality simply reflect the fact that Pawlenty is just not that well-known. Perhaps he should try coming out for UFOs next time.

We’re a long, long way from 2012, but there’s nothing in this poll that’s bad news for Obama. And that’s bad news.

Daniel Larison responds to Stuttaford:

Andrew Stuttaford cites a new Rasmussen poll of Republican presidential preferences showing some sizeable support for Huckabee, and he wonders if this means that the GOP will become the “party of Huckabee.” I think this is extremely unlikely. While Huckabee was officially the second-biggest vote-getter in the primaries last year, he achieved this mostly through perseverance and concentrated support from evangelical voters. Had Romney continued to compete and waste his money on what would still have been a losing bid, it is not certain that Huckabee could have managed his second place finish.


Even if it seems irrational, movement activists who are not primarily interested in social issues distrust Huckabee intensely, and they will work to block him and deny him funding just as they did last time. The anti-Huckabee sentiment among movement activists is a useful reminder that all the Republican culture war defenses of Palin during the general election were aimed at mobilizing all the people whose candidate, Huckabee, they had just spent the previous 18 months mocking and ridiculing with all of the same language used against Palin. For turnout purposes, the GOP still finds Huckabee’s people useful, but its leaders and activists will not tolerate Huckabee taking the lead in the party as the nominee.

The effect this will have, as Stuttaford’s post suggests, is that most Catholic, mainline Protestant and secular Republicans will rally to whichever anti-Huckabee candidate appears strongest. This will most likely mean a coalition of voters arrayed behind Romney, who will then be a far weaker draw in the general election than Huckabee would have been. At first, that sounds implausible. Surely the more “moderate,” less “sectarian” candidate should be able to win more support, right? No, not really, because the things that make Romney more attractive to non-evangelicals in the GOP also force him to spend more time trying to prove that evangelicals and social conservatives can accept him. Aside from the complication that his religion introduces into this, this means that Romney has to emphasize social issues, on which he has no credibility, and public professions of religious faith, which are some of the things that so many Republicans and independents find viscerally unappealing about what they perceive to be the norm in Republican politics. Huckabee does not need to do as much of this because he would already have much of the right locked down. Like McCain, Romney will continually be trying to satisfy people on the right who cannot muster much enthusiasm for him, but who will wrongly conclude that he is more “electable.” That could involve another desperate VP nomination to generate interest or a campaign that actually moves right after the primaries are over. Fear of their own evangelicals could lead Republicans to embrace a technoratic wonk whom most voters will not be able to trust and whom most conservatives grudgingly accept because he is not Huckabee.

James Joyner, responding to Larison:

In fact, the 2008 Republican race wasn’t even a contest.  Mitt Romney quit the race during CPAC on February 7 and pledged his delegates to McCain.   Rudy Giuliani had failed to make his push in Florida — coming in way behind Romney, who finished second.  The race was over.

Except that, technically, it wasn’t.  Huckabee stayed in the race, along with Ron Paul, despite no chance of beating John McCain for the nomination.  As a result, they padded their totals as everyone not happy with McCain as the nominee had to vote for one of them.  And, really, since Paul was a fringe candidate, that meant Huckabee.

The results, per CNN, are at right.

The fact of the matter was the Huckabee, a virtual unknown at the beginning of the contest, was mostly a stalking horse.  Huckabee finally withdrew on March 5, once McCain mathematically sewed up the race on his own — that is, not counting Romney’s delegates.   As I wrote at the time:

“But let’s not get carried away, either. He’s a personable fellow who went a long way with very little money, a weak organization, and zero Establishment support. But there was no time in this race when it was plausible that he’d be the nominee. He won Iowa as the “anybody but Mitt Romney” candidate in a contest McCain, Giuliani, and others skipped. He didn’t win again until garbage time, when he was running as “the conservative alternative” to a man who had all but sewn up the nomination.

Huckabee will not win the nomination in 2012. Or 2016. Or 2020. He’d easily win a Senate seat from Arkansas if he changes his mind. But he’s not going to be elected president.”

I  stand by that assessment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Political Figures, Politics

Hang It In The Smithsonian Next To That Picture Of Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A.


This painting is by Jon McNaughton. You can click here for the interactive version.

Andrew Sullivan:

Check out this interactive picture representing everyone who makes up the USA. Jesus, of course, created the United States and is the author of the Constitution

Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right:

Best Painting Ever?

Well, perhaps not, but in its splendid (interactive!) way, one of the more entertaining.

Rod Dreher:

A friend sent me a link to this super-kitschy Christian painting, in which Jesus Christ reveals the U.S. Constitution. Note well the sinners in the lower right of the tableau. Roll your cursor over their faces to see them identified: “Liberal News Reporter,” “Supreme Court Justice,” “Mr. Hollywood,” et alia. What, no smart-aleck bloggers?

UPDATE: Erin Manning has the best line: “This painting is proof of the crying need for a wall of separation between Kitsch and State.”


UPDATE.2: A commenter asks how on earth I missed that the Virtuous College Student in the painting is holding a copy of W. Cleon Skousen’s “The 5,000 Year Leap”. Indeed he is! Good grief. For what it’s worth, he’s probably Mormon. Is this kind of thing mainstream in LDS belief? I’m asking seriously.


The Shortpacked parody version. Karen H. at Common Consent brings the haikus.

And of course, Wonkette has been all over this.


A bunch of you have sent us a link to this painting by a fellow named Jon McNaughton, depicting the divine event that took place during the hot Philadelphia summer of 1787, when Jeebus flew to America from his ice cave on Pluto to deliver the U.S. Constitution to some brat before an in-studio audience consisting of George Washington, Mister Hollywood, Liberal News Reporter, Satan, and others. “Jon McNaughton would like to set the record straight,” we read.

What’s so essential about this Internet painting is that McNaughton has included, for each character, that thing you commenters love so much: Alt-Text. Descriptive Alt-Text.


More Wonkette, with artwork by David Durrett:

Well how about this! Jacksonville artist David Durrett sends this “real painting” (super-sized) to your Wonkette and writes, “I love Wonkette, and was inspired to do an acrylic response to the Jesus painting yesterday! Hope you like it!!” Yes it is very nice! Maybe Obama can steal this one too, for his house. Also, we’re awarding first-time commenter Shortpacked with an “iPhone” for his take, which was quite a hit yesterday, in the comments. What have the rest of you slobs done lately?

And Wonkette brings more artwork:


UPDATE: McNaughton responds

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Bloggy Funnies, History, Religion, The Constitution

The Irish Vote, Yes They Do


Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner:

Battered by an economic crisis, that has left them unwilling to risk alienating any potential source of financial support, the Irish have (at the second time of asking) just voted yes to the Lisbon Treaty, the EU’s ‘non-constitution’ constitution. That’s bad news for Ireland, bad news for democracy, bad news for Europe and bad news for America.

Attention will now turn to Czech president Vaclav Klaus, Europe’s last Thatcherite in office. If he can somehow delay his country’s ratification beyond the date of the upcoming (June?) British election, there’s still a chance that the treaty could be sunk, as, if the Conservatives win the election (as seems likely), they will give the Brits the referendum on Lisbon that Blair-Brown with characteristic dishonesty denied them. If that happens, the Brits will vote no, theoretically derailing the entire process.

I’m not holding my breath, however.

Matthew Yglesias:

Ireland gave the EU the “yes” vote it was looking for on the Lisbon treaty.

The European suprantional experiment is really fascinating. Europeans seem constantly in a state of low-level disgruntlement with the whole thing, but it’s really the most amazingly ambitious and successful liberal project of our time. And grumbling aside, basically nobody wants to get rid of it. Sixty years ago, I don’t think anyone would have believed it would be possible.

Huffington Post

Tony Barber at Financial Times:

No wonder Irish premier Brian Cowen looks like the cat that’s been served the cream (when he and his party are annihilated in the next Irish parliamentary election, he can always say he did the noble thing on Lisbon before perishing).  And no wonder Irish big business is pleased, too.  They were very visible on the Yes side during this campaign and they needed a convincing result to justify the money and effort.

But I wonder what David Cameron, the UK Conservative party leader who is expected to win office as prime minister in about nine months’ time, makes of the result?  Officially, the Tories loathe Lisbon and are committed to destroying it if all 27 EU countries have not ratified it by the time Cameron comes to power.  Unofficially, the Conservatives – or, at least, the more level-headed among them – may be rather relieved by the Irish result.

Because when they take office, they will inherit the after-effects of a harsh recession and one of the worst disasters ever to strike the British public finances.  They will face numerous other difficulties as well – not least, a war in Afghanistan that isn’t going well.

Leave a comment

Filed under Foreign Affairs, International Institutions

I See An Empire State Building And I Want To Paint It Red

Mark Krikorian at The Corner:

The Empire State Building will light up red and yellow today to mark the 60th anniversary of the Communist takeover of China. What’s next — Stalin’s birthday? Unfortunately, they missed the 130th anniversary of his birth last December 18. But next April 17 will be the 35th anniversary of the the Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh — surely that deserves to be celebrated too. Or maybe next February 18, the 605th anniversary of Tamerlane’s death — how about a pyramid of skulls atop the skyscraper?

Empire state building

Jay Nordlinger at The Corner:

Two notes on China and the Empire State Building: A reader says, “Should we now call it the Evil Empire State Building?” That goes a little far, but I appreciate the spirit. And a different reader tells of a letter sent home from his daughter’s junior-high principal:

“October 1st this year is the 60th anniversary of China, and great changes have taken place and people are enjoying their life. In order to celebrate this great holiday, a party will be held . . .”

“People are enjoying their life,” huh? Well, I know of many people in cells and labor camps who aren’t enjoying life at all. In any case, our reader wrote to the principal to say that 2009 does not mark the 60th anniversary of China, which is a very old place, but the 60th anniversary of Communist rule: There is a difference. The principal wrote back that he appreciated the parent’s “perspective.”

Well, that’s something.

Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner:

Mark, Jay, you are of course both quite right about the Empire State Building. Truly a disgusting decision. That said, the fact that the building’s managers are planning to light their property red and yellow might suggest a way in which they could partly redeem its honor. Perhaps they could just remove the yellow — and leave the red as a symbol for the blood shed by a regime with the deaths of tens of millions on its hands.

Empire state red

Michael Goldfarb at TWS:

Hey, the Red Chinese only killed 50 or 60 million of their own people, why not celebrate that achievement with a special lighting scheme. The only question is what colors they use for Stalin’s birthday, since obviously they don’t want people confused as to which genocidal regime they’re paying tribute to on any particular night.

Jake W at Redstate:

This should make no sense to Americans. Why on Earth are we celebrating the founding of Communist China. The ideas at the core of Communist China’s founding are diametrically opposed to the ideas at the core of America’s founding. Remember, of course, that these are the same people who continue their oppressive rule over Tibet; who cracked down on the Tiananmen Square protests all those years ago; continue to oppress various religions (including Chinese Christians); censor the press, speech, the internet, etc.; refuse to recognize the democratic Taiwan; and so on.

Why on Earth are we celebrating this?

It would be interesting to see how many times the building has been bathed in the colors of countries whose ideas and philosophy happen to be more in line with ours. Israel, for example.

new york skyline

Greg Pollowitz at NRO:

Here’s the questionnaire that the Chinese government, presumably, would have had to fill out to get the Empire State Building to honor the 60th anniversary of Chinese communism.  Turn to the last page to see what’s in it for the ESB.  Basically, management wants to know how much China is going to promote the building in its marketing efforts back home. Courting a few extra tourists is worth honoring 60 years of oppression, I guess.

Weasel Zippers

Leave a comment

Filed under China