A Curse on Both Houses

An interesting perspective from veteran reporter Michael Scherer on Time’s Swampland blog about the ugly political ads on both sides. It’s not an entirely satisfying observation, and it raises additional ethical questions and stuff that would be interesting to discuss. But still, it’s a thought-provoking observation which rings true to me, though simultaneously distasteful. Scherer, whose writing I’ve liked for some years now, also offers the beginnings of a solution.

“Let us just assume the following: Both politicians in the current race employ political professionals who are paid to use the most effective tactics in their business, often with little regard to ethical abstractions like fairness and honesty. This does not mean that neither candidate has a moral core. It only means that the behavior of his campaign is a poor gauge of his core and that both men, as presidential aspirants, have made peace with the idea that stretching the truth is a basic requirement of the game at this level.

“Now, this does not mean that the fibbing is acceptable. But if we remove the outrage, or at least minimize it, then maybe we can focus not just on the deceptions of the guy we don’t like but also on the deceptions of the guy we like. For in the end, there is only one thing that will force these candidates, their campaigns and supporters to hue a straighter line: Their own constituencies must object.”

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Excuses for the Not-So-Well Kept Home

For all of us whose homes are not usually tidy and ready for unexpected visitors: here’s one I’ve never thought of using. It comes from the late great Phyllis Diller: “If your house is really a mess and a stranger comes to the door, greet them with, ‘Who could have done this? We have no enemies.'” Diller, of course, is more famous for the line, “Housework won’t kill you, but then again, why take the chance?” (With apologies to Mom.)

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A Late-Night Revelation

ABC is moving Jimmy Kimmel into the 11:30 slot to compete directly with Leno and Letterman, and moving Nightline an hour later. Which was a shock to me, because I had to realize: What? Nightline is still on? Who knew?

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Long Lost Treasure

A Tennessee man rummaging in his attic found a taped interview his father had conducted with Martin Luther King, Jr., back in 1960. King talked about the definition of nonviolence: “It is a method which seeks to secure a moral end through moral means, and it grows out of the whole concept of love, because if one is truly nonviolent that person has a loving spirit, he refuses to inflict injury upon the opponent because he loves the opponent.”

A moral end through moral means. As opposed to the more common attitude of “The end justifies the means.”

I’m thinking about ways that might apply to wars and political campaigns and social action and business practices and church life, especially the part about refusing to inflict injury upon an opponent. Sometimes we can believe so strongly in the rightness of our cause that we’re willing to take moral and ethical shortcuts to get there.

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Can’t Be Done

JetBlue is reducing the legroom on coach seats. Thinking of the last time I flew: is a reduction even possible? I had to store my legs in the overhead bin.

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Weird Political Domain Names

Domain names for sale, according to GoDaddy:

  • mitchromney.com ($9000)
  • obamasfauxpas.com ($12)
  • unicornsforromney.com ($800)
  • romney4cannibas.com ($100)
  • romneyrocks ($600)
  • nutsforobama.com ($9)
  • obamaisnuts.com ($200)
  • romneyscandals.com ($999)
  • obamacalifragilisticexpialidocious.com ($50)
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Todd Akin Will Not be Moved

John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Reince Preibus, and various others have called for Todd Akin to give up his Senate race in Missouri, and outside funding groups have pulled their support. Kudos for these Republicans. Even extremists like Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Michelle Malkin agree that Akin needs to go.

But Akin says he’s staying in, and that, “By taking this stand, this is going to strengthen our country.” Can you spell e-g-o?

Akin put out an apology video saying, “Fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy.” Has anyone, EVER, had to publicly state that they do actually believe rape can cause pregnancy? One note of consolation: Stewart and Colbert are off this week.

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Gallows Vs. the Stake

Esther tells about how the Babylonian Haman was hanged on the gallows which he built for Mordecai, a Jew. But yesterday I was reading this passage in the New Living Translation, and it had Haman being impaled on a 75-foot stake he built for Mordecai. I looked it up in my NIV Study Bible, and a note said the word for gallows was actually something like “tree,” so it could have been a stake, and said impaling was a common punishment in that part of the world. The NLT went fully with that interpretation. It was a new, albeit gruesome, twist on a familiar story. Are you not now edified?

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Crying “Nazi!

Well, we have a couple more Nazi sightings.

Marisha Agana, a Republican running for Congress in Ohio, tweeted on August 5, “History has a way of repeating itself: Stalin, Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, and now Obama!!!”

Then there is Dave Mustaine, frontman for Megadeth. After telling a Singapore crowd that President Obama staged the movie theater and Sikh temple shootings in an effort to ban guns, he said, “I don’t know where I’m gonna live if America keeps going the way it’s going because it looks like it’s turning into Nazi America.”

A couple years ago, the term “fascist” was getting thrown at President Obama with reckless abandon. Other labels were popular, too–communist, socialist, Islamicist–and they would sometimes get combined by the clueless fringe in comical ways–like Obama is a fascist communist intent on instituting Sharia law. Nonsense like that. Nazi comparisons were especially popular at Tea Party gatherings. People have backed off somewhat, but Nazi metaphors still get thrown around too easily.

  • Rush Limbaugh said, “Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate,” and spoke of Obama “sending out his brown shirts,” and that Obama’s healthcare plan “mirrors Nazi Germany’s.”
  • When NPR fired Juan Williams, FoxNews chief Roger Ailes said of NPR execs, “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism.”
  • Glenn Beck compared auto bailouts to “the early days of Adolf Hitler,” compared TARP to “what happened to the lead-up with Hitler,” likened White House criticism of FoxNews to persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, and said Obama’s desire to expand the Peace Corps and Americorps was “what Hitler did with the SS.”
  • Newt Gingrich said Obama was threatening America as much as “Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.”
  • Bill O’Reilly compared gun control advocates to Hitler, accused the Huffington Post of using Nazi tactics to demonize people (“I don’t see any difference between [Arianna] Huffington and the Nazis”), accused the media of using the tactics of Josef Goebbels, described the Daily Kos blog as “like the Nazi Party. There’s no difference here,” and described Michael Moore’s power as “what happened in Nazi Germany.”
  • Sean Hannity said using a Quran for a Congressman’s swearing-in was like using Mein Kampf.
  • Ann Coulter called websites like Media Matters “little Nazi block watchers” that “tattle on their parents, turn them in to the Nazis,” and described Obama’s autobiography as a “dime store Mein Kampf.”
  • Mark Levin described Obamacare as “Hitleresque.”
  • Cal Thomas said Obamacare would lead down the same path that produced Hitler’s 1933 Sterilization Law.

It goes on and on.

The same thing happened during the Bush years, when idiots on the left regularly attached “Nazi” to him. Photos of George Bush in Nazi contexts abound (often the same photos now being used with Obama’s likeness). The website “The Right Perspective” published “A Short History of Liberals Using the Nazi Card.”

The words of Inigo Montoya from Princess Bride apply here: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

So what exactly is fascism?

I did some searching (thank you, Google) and came up with these characteristics.

  • Fascism is an ill-defined political ideology that is both authoritarian and nationalist.
  • Fascism emphasizes the right of the chosen people to dominate everyone else.
  • Fascists believe everyone should serve the nation-state as the embodiment of the popular will.
  • Fascism usually arises after a period of political polarization and legislative deadlock.
  • Fascism arises from the middle classes, typically accompanied by economic instability which is more threatening to the middle class.
  • Fascism mobilizes people through discipline, indoctrination, and physical training.
  • Fascists favor eugenics.
  • Fascists try to eradicate perceived foreign influences.
  • Fascists promote the rule of people deemed innately superior, and purge society of people deemed inferior.
  • Fascism emphasizes personal responsibility to the group over individual rights.
  • Fascism emphasizes victimhood, and justifies action without constraint against the victimizers.
  • Fascists, compared to the general population, tend to be younger and better educated–the type of people more likely to have opportunities blocked by economic instability.
  • Fascists use the police and military to enforce order.
  • Fascists, using perceived threats to the nation, approve of ignoring human rights and committing torture, executions, assassination, long incarcerations, etc.
  • Fascists don’t “seize” power, but once in office they consolidate and expand their power through technically legal means.
  • Fascists purge ideas, people, and forces deemed to cause decadence and degeneration.
  • Fascism promotes political violence and war to promote national rejuvenation, spirit, and vitality.
  • Fascists use paramilitary organizations to commit or threaten violence against opponents.
  • Fascists claim their ideology transcends all classes.
  • Fascists glamorize the military, and give the military a disproportionate amount of funding.
  • Fascists are expansionist, looking to spread their power beyond their own borders.
  • Fascists advocate a state-controlled and regulated mixed economy.
  • Fascist governments are mostly male-dominated, and traditional gender roles are made more rigid.
  • Fascists censor the media to protect the nation state.
  • Fascist governments use fear as a motivational tool to control the masses.
  • Fascists are hostile to financial capital, plutocracy, and the power of money.
  • Fascists criminalize employee strikes and lockouts by employers, and otherwise suppress or eliminate unions.
  • Fascists tend to be socially conservative.
  • Fascists have a disdain for intellectuals, science, the arts, and academia.
  • Fascists often give a national police force almost unlimited power, which people accept in the name of patriotism.
  • Fascists make a fetish out of flags and other nationalistic paraphernalia.
  • Fascists don’t tolerate dissent.
  • Fascism is neither a right or left ideology.

As you can see, fascism can’t be tied to either the Republican or Democratic party. Some characteristics seem to fit more with either liberal or conservative ideology; you could go through each characteristic and say, “This is more likely with conservatives” and “This one is more likely with liberals.” But the whole package doesn’t fit anything in the American political scene.

Godwin’s Law, also known as Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies, states that, given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—someone inevitably makes a comparison to Hitler and the Nazis. But Godwin’s Law also applies to political discourse in other areas–on the floor of Congress, on news channels, on radio, in newspapers, on Facebook, and at the office water cooler. To press their point, people can’t help themselves–they just have to make a comparison to Hitler as the ultimate evil.

In so doing, they trivialize what the Nazis did. And they make themselves look stupid.

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The Woman Stranded Beside the Road

On the way to work this morning, I suddenly came upon a pickup truck on the side of the road, its flashers on, and a woman standing by the tailgate with something in her hand. I figured it was a cell phone. By the time I saw her, I didn’t have time to stop, so I continued on.

But I kept thinking about her. Doggone it, I hate it when that happens. When my conscience gets all uppity.

I kept telling myself I should go back. Then I would talk myself out of it. “She had a cell phone. She’s calling somebody. Probably somebody else has stopped by now.”

The whole “what goes around comes around” principle, which is actually biblical, kept coming to me. If I were stranded, wouldn’t I want somebody to stop (a self-centered motive for helping somebody, when you think about it). There was the whole “angels unaware” argument (was I ignoring the angel Gabriel?). I didn’t think til later of the even better argument, “If that was Mom, wouldn’t I want a Good Samaritan to make sure she’s okay?”

So anyway, I knew God wanted me to turn around. It was what a Christian should do.

I was over a mile down the road before I found a place to turn around. I drove back, and saw the woman walking toward Roanoke (still miles away) with a small red plastic gas container in her hand. She was probably 30 yards from her truck. I turned around through the median again and drove toward her.

And JUST before I reached her, a maroon van stopped, and she climbed in.

I continued on, my conscience satisfied. I did consider the possibility that maybe the driver of the maroon van was a deranged serial killer, and I was too late after all. But some things just have to be left to a sovereign God.

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