Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The godly vote

The sinners throw the best parties anyway
There's a meme making its way round that is, I think, the most profound comment on the presidential election:

What would the Republicans have said about Obama had he featured his five children out of three different women?

Family values seem a dead GOP issue. 

Well, for me they always did. I grew up surrounded by Southern Baptists, Church of Christers and similar who were happy to tell me I couldn't be moral if I didn't accept their personal deity, although their own standards of morality were nothing to write home about. Just about all of them were racists, for example.

There has been a change for the worse, though. It began when political evangelicals wanted to vote for the racist Reagan over the antiracist Carter. This required a quick flip, because evangelicals had always said they opposed divorce, and even if their own divorce rates were comparatively high, they enforced the ban against politicians. Few could run successfully in heavily evangelical districts if they had been divorced. 

The flip was easily made. 1980 was the campaign year in which "born again" became a potent political slogan, but what was really newborn was the moral preeners' new enthusiasm for serial marriage. 

Since then, evangelical voters have managed to forgive and re-elect David Vitter despite his  diapered romps with whores and Scott Des Jarlais though he was exposed as having  forced women to have abortions.

Now their John the Baptist is a 4-times married, racist drug addict and their Christ is a philandering racist business cheat.

I think I'd rather hang out with publicans and sinners, like Jesus did (Matthew 9: 10).

For another view of godly politics, read Fivethirtyeight's analysis of the Catholic vote.

The real difference between women and men

I bought some shirts the other day, and as I
You'd wear those in public?
was peeling off the labels, an insight occurred to me:

From time to time, I see a guy on the street in a new pair of pants -- usually jeans -- and you can tell they are new because the long sticky label that tells the inseam size is still on it.

But I have never seen -- and you will never see -- a woman overlook that. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Turkey's Night of the Paring Knives

If the putsch in Turkey was so small, how could it be that so many top people (over 70 governors) were involved?

In 1934, Hitler used a story of a fake plot to purge the leftists from the Nazi Party (and, along the way, to bump off some conservatives who had helped him to the chancellorship but were no longer useful).

(1934 was a bad year for revolutionary leftists elsewhere as well.)

This week, Turkey's medium-strongman Erdogan  used the story of a (possibly confected) plot to purge his country of the remnants of its revolutionary liberalism.

Western diplomats said on Monday that Turkey’s response to the coup attempt suggested that the government had prepared lists of those they believed to be linked to Mr. Gulen’s followers, before the unrest.
A senior Turkish official said that members of the Gulen movement in the military had been under investigation for some time, and that the group had acted out of a sense of emergency when they realized that they might face prosecution.
“There was a list of people who were suspected of conspiring to stage a coup,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, in line with government protocol. “And they did attempt a coup even though many people, including myself, treated the claims as a conspiracy theory at the time.”

Some quarters have proposed that Erdogan staged the coup himself, which would explain why the army -- which knows how to stage coups even if it isn't any good at other army-type stuff --  seemed so feeble and confused. Perhaps but it is as easy to think that some wannabes went off half-cocked and Erdogan just seized an opportunity he had prepared for.

He is, after all, one of the most skilled politicians of the century.

 So far, at least, no one seems to have been murdered in the sweep-up, which differentiates it from the Nazi Night of the Long Knives. It could be as effective, nonetheless.

The comparisons to the Rohm or Kirov purges cannot be pushed too far. For one thing, the liberalism of the Turkish army is sharply constrained.  The liberalism of Ataturk never gained traction in Turkey, one of the most rightwing societies in history.

After his death, what remained was a militant secularism among the soldiers who recognized that  they could never match western (that is, Greek or Russian) armies if bound by the antimodern chains is Islam. (The Ottoman soldiers had recognized this as early as the mid-18th century, which is when they contrived to set up Turkey's first printing press, which for generations printed nothing but military manuals; if the sense of the society had its way, Turkey still would not have any printed books.)

In every other respect, the army was hard to distinguish from rightwing armies on which Uncle Sam has lavished shiploads of modern weapons -- Brazil, South Vietnam, Indonesia etc.

For fear of communism, the United States never challenged the Turks to liberalize. Now it refuses to demand liberal reforms because it wants 1) to maintain Turkey as a member of NATO; and 2) has managed to wheedle some small concessions toward supporting US policies nearby.

What Washington does not realize is that  rightwing dictatorship under Erdogan will never allow Turkey to be used for NATO's purposes.


In the so-called Turkish democracy

How guns make life better

What could be better than this?

Two teenagers were drinking in Chicopee, Mass., Saturday afternoon when they set off to find a friend, according to authorities. Whether it was the booze or the sheer similarity of the neighborhood’s low-slung homes, the teens somehow ended up at the wrong house.
Let the punishment fit the crime then.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

There ain't no such animal

As Turkish democracy.

Turkey is not now and never has been a democracy. It was a disguised military dictatorship. The army was content to permit the forms of democracy (as, for example, the ayatollahs have been content to allow in Iran),  but any time the civil government seemed likely to interfere with something the army could not stand for, the soldiers intervened.

The electorate never accepted the Kemalist revolution (just as the masses never accepted the earlier reforms of the Young Ottomans). Paul Theroux (In "The Great Railway Bazaar") noted that modernization came to a halt on the day in 1937 that Ataturk died.
A leader with no followers

From that time on, the army fought a delaying action aginst the national consensus against secularism.

The religious parties for a lonf time pursued the revolutionary road, and the army repeatedly suppressed them.

Erdogan, one of the most skilled politicians of our time, is a religious nut who noticed that revolutionaries usually ended up dead or in exile; or, if the revolution succeeded, saw it drift away from its principles.

It was his insight that to wreck secularism and restore Turkey to its Muslim social and political statis, it would have to be done slowly, and by boring from within -- by using democratic forms.

The transition from disguised military dictatorship to theological despotism has been obvious for years now and the only question was, when would the army lose its grip. Now we know.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Justice Ginsberg speaks truth to power

And gets kicked for it by the so-called liberal media.

Let's state the obvious.

Trump is a racist, supported by the country's big racist pressure groups (who ought to recognize one of their own) who has attacked the integrity of the courts and said he would, as president, violate the laws.

If ever there was a time a judge is entitled to speak out, this ought to be it. And to criticize a Jewish lawyer for raising the alarm about a candidate who is a racist who disregards legal boundaries is tin-eared. The world has experience of this.

Why aren't the other justices -- and lower court judges --speaking out? Don't they care?

It is also not true that judges shouldn't and don't speak out on political issues. A few years ago I listened to Judge Leonie Brinkema on Maui at a judicial conference: Her theme was that the ordinary courts can and should be the venues for trials of suspected terrorists, instead of military tribunals.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Why do Christians work so hard to deny reality?

Not at all of them, but some of the most visible. Not "bigger than imagination" but bigger than possibility.

Wooden ships cannot be more than 200 feet long; the strength of wood fails when a longer beam (a ship is, in terms of engineering analysis, a beam) is attempted.
Built as big as possible --186 feet
Admiral Nelson's "Victory" was built as big as it was possible to do -- it is 186 feet long at the gundeck.

Some Christians are sufficiently aware of reality to see the problem, but insufficiently sane to accept it.  

“ 'Gopher wood' is not a species, or variety, of wood – but an 'engineering technique.' In Hebrew the term means 'to house in' (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance # 1613). We call this 'structural interlamination.' This means that all the components were joined and laminated together in narrow strips. As an eyewitness, Ed Davis confirmed in an interview with this researcher that the structure he saw on Mt. Ararat was, indeed, laminated together. As our team flew the mountain in 1990 this researcher personally saw a huge laminated beam of wood at the traditional Ark site."