Friday, July 13, 2007

The Seeming Inevitable Lightness of Being an Evangelical

You may have heard of a fellow named David Kuo. He's an evangelical who, at one time, worked in the Bush White House. He then wrote a lightly-regarded book expressing his shock (his SHOCK!) that there were politicians in the White House and that the place didn't run like his high school youth group. (Ok, I made that last part up, but take a gander at the book and don't tell me that he wishes folks around there were singing kumbaya a bit more). The upshot was that David suggested that Evangelicals take a "fast" from politics (just in time for the 2004 elections, naturally). Folks wisely ignored him. So what's new with David? Well, he has a blog over at Beliefnet. Ain't that sweet? And he continues to be perhaps the most vacuous evangelical writer out there. Ok, there are no doubt worse ones around, but he's clearly an exemplar of that species evangelicus ditzus. My evidence? His recent blog posts:

First, there's the pair of posts detailing his shock (his SHOCK!) that the Pope is, well, Catholic. More to the point, he can't believe that the Pope didn't realize that some might take offense at his view that the Catholic Church is, well, the True Church and that the other Christian churches are something less. (For the record, I'm still "Protest"-ing so I didn't get my secret Opus Dei message owl telling me to bash an evangelical on Friday). So the Pope shouldn't say what he thinks because some might take offense and as a follow of Jesus, the Pope should know better, since "no one was more attentive to his marketing and the marketing of his message than Jesus." Yep, that's right, Jesus the marketer. In my New Testament, I seem to recall that same Jesus saying things like "take up your cross and follow me," "no one comes to the father except by me" (darned exclusivity again!), "you brood of vipers", etc. All perfectly focus-group tested and never, ever available for being misinterpreted. Nope, no Christians ever took the words of that marketing genius Jesus and turned them to bad ends. That bad Pope really should take a lesson.

Oh, and then there's the "I miss John Paul II" post. (Actually, it's one of the "Why is the Pope a Catholic" posts, but who's counting?) John Paul II would *never* have done what that mean Benedict XVI did. Or, what Mr. Kuo reads that he did, since he didn't have a chance to actually read the 12-PARAGRAPH DOCUMENT because he's on a "tight deadline" - must be all those blog editors really cracking the whip). Um, I guess if he *had* read it, then perhaps he would have noted that it's a reaffirmation of what some pope in the past had said before in an encyclical named Dominus Iesus. Who was that? Oh, John Paul II. Gosh, really miss him too, David.

Then, and now I feel like I'm beginning to bash just a bit, David lectures us for being cynical about John Edwards' "poverty tour," where Edwards is touring the most poverty-stricken parts of America to draw attention to them - and, maybe, just maybe, his own floundering presidential campaign. What's wrong with our cynicism? Well, at least Edwards is doing "something" about poverty and our cynicism is just a symptom of our "discomfort" with the fact that Edwards is "bug[ging] us." Hmmm....I hear a U2 song coming to mind...funny how Bono doesn't seem to worry about those folks in El Salvador these days...sorry, got distracted. Right, so John Edwards is so darned focused on poverty. Well, bully for him. But for Pete's sake (gosh, am I "Poping" again?) get that head a bit harder, David - the reason people are cynical about Edwards' "poverty tour" is precisely because it's in the middle of a presidential campaign and precisely because it is (cynically or not) designed to improve his chances of becoming president. It won't do a doggone thing to help folks in poverty. If John Edwards wanted to do something about poverty in America, he'd get together with his other gazzilionaire friends and invest in some businesses in those areas - y'know, create JOBS? Instead of piling money into, oh, I don't know, hedge funds, maybe he could start some businesses. But once a trial lawyer, always a trial lawyer - and for Edwards, the equation always is take from those have ill-gotten gains and give to those in need. Oh, and take a hefty cut for yourself in the process.

It's an interesting question as to why evangelicals all too often seem all too earnest and earnestly stupid when thinking in public. Why are we such lightweights? That's a good question.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Universal Health Care Hurricane

So far, the majority of Americans despise socialism. At least the GOP hopes it's still a majority.

But Republicans had better brush up on the health care issue and pronto, because it's going to be a 2008 campaign issue, and bigtime. Costs are slamming the middle class, and then there's the problem of the 470 million Americans without health care.

So I surveyed a passel of my British penpals---National Health Service (NHS): Boon or Bane?

---8 agreed with "I love it. It could use improving, of course, but it's a system that works."

---2 agreed with "I love the idea, but it's broken and needs a major overhaul."

---Zero agreed with "Should move toward privatisation for most, as long as the most vulnerable are protected by gov't," and "Nuke it" probably would have finished at negative infinity.

An unscientific poll to be sure, but it backs the fact is that Brits love their NHS---it's a source of national pride. Everyone's taken care of, at least in theory, and that gives everyone a warm & fuzzy. Even the head of the putatively Conservative Party David Cameron devotes rather large swaths of time condemning the Labour government for the NHS' inefficiencies in practice.

Now, it's fair to say that Brits know little about the reality of the American health care system except the horror stories they're fed by their press, which is sympathetic to anything socialist.

It's also true that all whatever many Americans know about socialized medicine in the UK and elsewhere is the romanticized view given by our own press---and there are more converts to the idea every day as a result of that propagandistic film going around. Not only is it free, they even give you money for carfare!

(We should expect that film will find its way to DVD and cable and to a helluvalot of voters before November 4, 2008.)

Conservatives and libertarians are appalled, but they were also appalled at Bush's drug program for seniors. But it was an idea whose time had come, or at least a bill come due in the 2000 election. Bush was forced to promise a program to compete with Al Gore's. (Perhaps it was foolish for him to keep his campaign promise, but Bush is that kinda guy.)

So what can the GOP do to resist a rising tide of sentiment for single-payer health care socialism, another idea that has come due?

Try to let Americans know the facts on the ground in countries with socialized medicine? A risky proposition, but one woman on talk radio today told her tale of exporting her daughter to the US because the 2-year waiting list in Canada would have left the girl paralyzed. The caller herself had had failed ankle surgery there and warned that if you like handicapped parking spaces, you'll love Canada---there are a lot of spaces and a lot of new handicapped. Their government is not doing right, she said.

I don't know if the truth will work, that it's beyond government to do right for everybody. You won't find a lot of Britons testifying---over there it's still one for all and all for one. As a reasonably homogeneous society, they still believe in their government as representative of their society. Even while they hate whatever blokes populate their government, they love their NHS.

But there's no way the polyglot that is America will put up with waiting lists of a year or two. America hates not only its people in government but government in general, and even the New York Times won't be as mellow as the UK's leftist Guardian at failures in a US universal health care system, even if a Democrat is our president.

We want what we need and need what we want right damn now, and God help whoever's not giving it to us. It's true that Bush screwed up Hurricane Katrina, but imagine Katrina times 1000, for ever and ever and ever.

Americans will want the best care in the world for everybody, and every American will want the best health care in the world for himself and his or her family, which in principle is a reasonable demand.

But in practice, nobody's that good, not an executive, not a legislature, not an administrator. And I suspect that even God can't print enough money to cover their shortcomings. America, unlike the countries of the Old World, was built on the individual and his family, not the esprit de corps that cheerfully allows more handicapped parking spaces and cheerful patriots willing to be put in them.

I admire the civic spirit in other countries that tolerates such shared suffering. They seem to prefer universal suffering to working hard and/or disagreeably to get the dough to insure your family's health care. Americans have so far resisted, but universal suffering may become our fate after the 2008 election, forever and ever and ever.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Global Warming Reality Show

Now that Live Earth bombed like any reasonable person realized it would, I have an idea some enterprising tv exec should jump on. Find some Hollywood star or starlet who likes to spend their time lecturing the rest of us on how we need to change our lives to meet the menace of global warning. (Laurie David, Sheryl Crow, and Leo DiCaprio come to mind) Then ask them to spend a year living in a way that would be "earth-friendly" and film it as a reality show.

Here's what it seems to me would be required. First, they'd have to move to a relatively small place. For a single guy (or gal), that means a 1 BR apartment, maybe 600 sq ft or so. They can get another few hundred square feet for spouse and another BR for a child. They have either to drive a small hybrid or take public transportation everywhere they go. If they travel, they have to fly coach. They have to keep their house cooled only to 80 degrees in the summer and warmed to 60 degrees in the winter.

I'm sure there are lots of other things we could think of, but the idea would be for some prominent person to show us how to live, lead the way in changing our lifestyles. Of course, none of our public scolds would dream of actually taking this up - and that would be precisely the point...

A Court for the Terrorists

This seems like an entirely correct proposal, for Congress "to establish a comprehensive system of preventive detention that is overseen by a national security court composed of federal judges with life tenure." As the OpEd says, it's been nearly six years since 9/11 and we still don't have a robust, stable legal structure with which we can deal with Al Qaeda and the like. Of course, that would require Congress to actually do its job and legislate, instead of hoping that the courts will do their jobs for them. I'm not holding my breath...

Re: His Freddishness

The president of my company---who would vote Dennis Kucinich over Rudy Giuliani, mind you---asked me today who the GOP nominee will be. (I make sure we talk about Dubya as seldom as Americanly possible.)

He has a ton of vetting to get through, and the mainstream media will be happy to oblige (my pal Patterico's on top of it), but my answer was that it's Fred's to lose. Something comes up, the GOP scrambles to Rudy. All I can say about Mitt is that I wouldn't want to Ride on the Roof with Romney*.

*The #4 Rejected 2008 Campaign Slogan


Monday, July 09, 2007

The #1 Rejected 2008 Campaign Slogan

Obama Nation.