"What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote
in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes
his own self-interest as he sees it... which for the majority translates as 'Bread and Circuses'."
- Robert A. Heinlein

In Roman times, free Bread and Circuses entertained the masses. I hope you find your time
here both entertaining and informative.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

You Defied the Will of the People...

Senator Reid was quoted this week saying: "President Bush defied the will of the American people and crushed the hopes of millions...", yada yada yada.

The issue was stem cell research, but that is neither here nor there.

Our president DEFIED the will of the people in vetoing a bill the majority of American polled support? Good for him. When did our nation become a complete democracy rather than a representative republic? While the common man and the media are quick to remind us of the necessity of checks and balances, they forget that at times they themselves are the ones who need to be checked. The authors of our Constitution knew this, as evidenced by their discussions of the passions of the people in the Federalist Papers. The president's veto is not just to preserve the general will by striking down acts of Congress with which the people are not in agreement, it is also to provide a more judicious voice whose job it is to counter act the caprice and whim of elected representatives who often make their reason and decision-making enslaved to the public attitude of the moment. President Bush's veto is one example of the executive using his authority to balance out the public passions that often run hot and then cold. Plato and Publius would be proud.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Irony of Dangerous Precedents

Army Officer Refuses Participation in "Illegal" Iraq War

And this is exactly why some conservatives' defense of Michael New was the very worse way to oppose the peacekeeping mission in Macedonia, or in fact any UN mission. In arguing that individual soldiers have the moral authority to circumvent decisions of state, New and his lawyers opened a pandoran box of issues with grave implications for the coherance of military efforts in western democracies. They have submitted raison d'etat and the necessity and motivations of uno solo to democratic vote in the minds of the enlisted men, in fact a vote by an Army of One. This approach was, in my opinion, motivated by opposition to the political ends for which President Clinton was using US involvement, rather than a sincere objection on behalf of principle. Accordingly, New et al. questioned the very principles upon which the military is based. To conservatives who would draw a delineation between Lt. Watada and Mr. New, I would ask, did Congress declare war on Iraq?

It is instructive how some conservatives are willing to make any argument to advance their cause or their own political agrandizement, yet oppose the very principles they claimed to uphold when those standards are applied to a cause they find dear to their political power. Always keep in mind the implications of using any technique and justification to combat circumstances rather than addressing overarching principles.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Cult of Coulter

The Coulter Code
-- Jerome Eric Copulsky
Ann Coulter has been much in the news lately. With her recent best-selling tome, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, it seems that the notorious bomb-throwing cover girl for conservatism has turned Grand Inquisitor. The subject matter of her book -- the idea that liberalism is a religion -- merits a sighting here, and not only because it demonstrates the increasingly "religiosecular" ambivalence of our world that Martin E. Marty wrote of two weeks ago ("Religiosecular Meditations," June 19).

"Liberalism," Coulter informs us, is a "church," complete with its own creation myth (Darwinism), priests (public school teachers), doctrines (infallibility of victims), sacraments (abortion), and so forth. Coulter's liberals subscribe to a pantheistic doctrine, renouncing the biblical distinction between human beings (made in the image of God) and the rest of creation, thus rendering biblical morality impossible -- which, she claims, is the liberals' true goal. Tossing aside any pretense to Christian charity, Coulter darkly warns that liberals (or Democrats, which are, for Coulter, one and the same) are Pagans (of the Druid denomination), science-hating Darwinists, and tree-hugging supporters of PETA, intent on killing their babies and their grandparents. Some of her invective, like proclaiming that Democrats make up "the opposition party to God," might make even a Carl Schmitt blush!
A stalwart defender of what she takes to be the Christian faith, Coulter emphatically denies the possibility of any liberal rapprochement with Christianity. Moreover, liberals are theo-political heretics, enemies of the state, "deny[ing] the biblical idea of dominion and progress, the most ringing affirmation of which is the United States of America." (Such statements, of course, raise serious questions concerning Coulter's understanding of orthodox Christian doctrine.) In Coulter's world, it is really the liberal pagans who cause all the trouble ("somehow it's always the godless doing the genocides"), while devout Christians are peaceful, moral, law-abiding folks. (Coulter conveniently omits the gloomy fact that Christians have managed to slaughter many other Christians and non-Christians well into modern times. Her memory returns, however, to attack "crazy Muslims.")

Coulter's inflammatory rhetoric, proclivity for constructing straw men, and reliance on specious and ad hominem argumentation obscures the fact that her convictions aren't new. In a sense, Coulter is merely reiterating the perennial quarrel between Reason and Revelation, Athens and Jerusalem, Enlightenment and faith -- but here in the age of mass media, and for big bucks. Given that the argument of the book is so derivative and so littered with malicious half-truths and insipid humor, the book's popularity might seem perplexing.

But then I considered the book's cover. The dust jacket of Godless features Coulter in a black dress with a plummeting neckline, sporting an apparently diamond-encrusted cross that dangles above the shadowy suggestion of cleavage. (One wonders whether the diamonds represent the indestructibility or the riches of her Church.) Her arm presses upon the final letters of the book's title, "less," as through she might crush them, a one-woman suppressor of the atheistic horde. She gazes at the viewer, wearing a sly half-smile reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa -- an impression further enhanced by the resemblance in pose and garb.

Ah-ha! I thought. This is no mere accident. Perhaps her book conceals a secret teaching, one more shocking than those encountered in a Dan Brown novel, and so inimical to the faithful that it could only be conveyed in winks and nods. Given the American obsession with codes and hidden meanings, I speculated that when Coulter writes of what "all liberals secretly believe," she just may well be hinting to the discerning reader that there is more to her text than what's on the surface.

As one who has studied with people who studied under Leo Strauss, and attuned to the art of esoteric writing, I searched. And I searched. And then I noticed, buried in a footnote, a "clue" to the entire work: "Christians," Coulter writes, "include everyone who subscribes to the Bible of the God of Abraham, including Jews and others." How very gracious of her! But there is a catch: These "Christians" may not include members of the Episcopalian Church -- which, she writes a few pages later, "is barely even a church." HmmÅ 

Why does she go after the Episcopalian Church (aside, perhaps, from the fact that arch-liberal Howard Dean used to be a member)? Here's one conjecture arising from my esoteric reading. The Episcopalian Church developed from the Church of England -- an established Church, a state religion. Is Coulter, then, launching a cryptic attack on the unity of church and state? Given this, as well as her dismissal of the substance of theological differences (effacing, for instance, distinctions between Christians and Jews), and her claim that true Christians are peaceful and patriotic, one might think she is implicitly invoking the ideas propounded by the theological-political treatises of the seventeenth century, ideas like toleration and separation of religious and political authority -- you know, Liberal ideas.
This esoteric reading of Godless is, of course, preposterous, but no more so, in my opinion, than the book's actual argumentation -- and that's the point. I'm afraid that the big secret revealed in Godless is that when it comes to the depths and complexities of actual religion, Ann Coulter doesn't know what she's talking about.

Jerome Eric Copulsky is Assistant Professor and Director of Judaic Studies at Virginia Tech.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

July 4th

It's not about the barbecues.
It's not about fireworks.
It's not about waving the flag at a parade.
It's not about a cool concert on the Capital lawn.

Thank you.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Most Underreported Story of the Year

Someone asked me what the most underrepoted news story, in my opinion, was for the last year. And I think this has to be it:

Large Asteroid Will Miss Earth Tomorrow

You never really do hear about all the bad things that could happen but don't.