Monthly Archives: October 2012

George W. Bush Won This Debate – The Daily Beast

Viewing the world through an out-dated prism. It’s even worse for some folks, for whom the movie “Red Dawn” is still a good distillation of what they fear will happen to the US.

Barack Obama didn’t win tonight’s foreign policy debate. Neither did Mitt Romney. George W. Bush did.Bush won it because the framework for understanding the world that he put in place after Sept. 11 still holds, even though it wildly distorts the world that the next president will actually face.

[. . .]

To be sure, Obama and Romney don’t want to approach those countries in the same way that Bush did in his first term. We no longer have the money or will to launch ground wars. Today, the preferred options are military training and aid (Afghanistan, Syria), drone strikes (Pakistan, Yemen) and perhaps a full-fledged air war (Iran). But the “war on terror” still largely defined which countries received attention. And as a result, the candidates spent an inordinate amount of time talking about weak, dysfunctional countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria and barely any time talking about fast-growing, increasingly powerful ones like India, Turkey, and Brazil. The only country in sub-Saharan Africa to receive a mention was one of its weakest and most remote, Mali, because they have some al Qaeda there.

George W. Bush’s core mistake was his belief that because al Qaeda had bloodied us, it was the 21st-century version of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. It never was, because in the mid-20th century, what made Moscow and Berlin genuine competitors was their economic strength. The true successor to those once fearsome powers is not the mud-hut totalitarianism of al Qaeda, but China, and perhaps India and Brazil, countries that are becoming economic models for billions in the poor world.

via George W. Bush Won This Debate – The Daily Beast.

The Dangerous Alliance of Big Government and Big Business | Front Porch Republic

The most important political conversation Americans need to have is about how the old conversations no longer matter. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party—called the one-and-a-half party system by former Republican Senate staffer Mike Lofgren—largely serve the same interests. The cheap drama of their respective conventions had well-trained actors reciting lines from a tired script. The Republican version claims that an overly regulatory, punitively taxing government never responsible for the slightest good is ready to install padlocks on every business door, detain every CEO, and erect shrines to Karl Marx on top the rubble of every decimated Chamber of Commerce. The Democrats counter this storybook narrative with one of their own: They champion a generous, arbiter of fairness, superhero government that will serve as America’s last line of defense against a vampiric, predatory corporate world of cannibals in Brooks Brothers suits.

Regardless of what millionaire cheerleaders on MSNBC and Fox News chant in synchronicity, the dichotomy between big business and big government is now a false one. The old story that the interests of big government and big business collide is antiquated and outdated—a product of a less sophisticated age when mainstream debate still had relevancy, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” had concrete definitions, and the people who wore those terms had real arguments about the substance of governance. Recent revelations and ongoing developments prove that, with few exceptions, there is no collision between big business and big government. There is collusion. Their interests often coalesce, and together they form a nexus of centralized power. A bureaucratized billionaire Goliath then swings his club against the David of human scale community—the David whose job at the slingshot factory was outsourced years ago, and whose rocks were confiscated by the State rock collecting agency.

via The Dangerous Alliance of Big Government and Big Business | Front Porch Republic.

Thoughts on Statesmanship in a Season of Dearth | Front Porch Republic

One may notice in this election cycle a certain amount of talk about statesmanship – primarily because each of the candidates is thought to lack it. The latest issue of the Economist refers to “unstatesmanlike” remarks made by Romney. Cornel West says of his “dear brother” President Obama: “I thought that he was going to be a statesman like Lincoln and Roosevelt. It turns out he’s a politician like Bill Clinton.” I choose these examples not in deference to their acumen, but because in each case the judgment comes from a source one expects to be in fundamental sympathy with the candidate criticized.

via Thoughts on Statesmanship in a Season of Dearth | Front Porch Republic.

BBC News – Electric cars ‘pose environmental threat’

I’ve wondered about this. In a region where coal power is not only consumed, but has a noticeable impact on the environment (hello East Tennessee Coal Ash Spill) one would think the cost–environmental as well as the bottom line–would be talked about more in conversations about electric vehicles. I’ve thought about greener alternatives to my 98 Tacoma, but the most planet friendly thing I can think of, is just to drive it as long as I can. -JBH

Electric cars might pollute much more than petrol or diesel-powered cars, according to new research.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology study found greenhouse gas emissions rose dramatically if coal was used to produce the electricity.

Electric car factories also emitted more toxic waste than conventional car factories, their report in the Journal of Industrial Ecology said.

However, in some cases electric cars still made sense, the researchers said.

Big impact

The team looked at the life-cycle impact of conventional and electric vehicles.

In essence, they considered how the production, the use and the end-of-life dismantling of a car affects the environment, explained co-author Prof Anders Hammer Stromman.

“The production phase of electric vehicles proved substantially more environmentally intensive,” the report said, comparing it to how petrol and diesel cars are made.

“The global warming potential from electric vehicle production is about twice that of conventional vehicles.”

via BBC News – Electric cars ‘pose environmental threat’.

Saved by fiction: Reading as a Christian practice | The Christian Century

We could all do far worse than a life raft made of books.-JBH

Over the course of my life, I have taken on all manner of spiritual practices, from now-I-lay-me-down-to-sleep to centering prayer. I have prayed with the Psalms, with the rosary, with icons. I have picked up practices and put them down. Some still discipline and nourish my praying life.

But of all the spiritual disciplines I have ever attempted, the habit of steady reading has helped me most and carried me farthest. Of course, reading scripture has been indispensable. But reading fiction—classics of world literature, fairy tales and Greek myths, science fiction and detective novels—has done more to baptize my imagination, inform my faith and strengthen my courage than all the prayer techniques in the world.

For as long as I can remember, even before I could read, I have loved books. The heft and smell of them, their implicit promise. The magical way they hold riches beyond measure, like chests of pirate gold. The way they open doors to other worlds. The house I grew up in had floor-to-ceiling bookcases in nearly every room, books piled on tables, books stacked in the hall and lining the stairs.

I still remember the shock of amazement and delight when I first learned to read by myself: the alchemical moment when random hieroglyphics on the page leapt into meaning, forming pictures in my mind. From that magic moment, I took off like a rocket. I read fairy tales from Germany, France, Russia, Denmark, Scandinavia; I read Arthurian legends and Golden Books, Andrew Lang and George MacDonald. I went steadily through everything the home shelves and the public library’s children’s room had to offer.

My passion for reading alarmed my father; by the time I was in the third grade, he was worrying aloud about bluestockings and bookworms, mournfully predicting myopia and spinsterhood. But my mother, amused and pleased, encouraged me.

In fact, I realize now that my mother carefully crafted my love of books from my earliest childhood. Like an Argonauta, the mysterious many-tentacled deep-sea cephalopod known since ancient times for the beauty of its fragile egg cases, my mother launched me on a paper nautilus of her own creation. As though she knew that she could not stay with me, and that I would not survive in the dark depths for which she was bound, she carried me up to the sunlit surface of the open sea and left me there, in a life raft made of books.

via Saved by fiction: Reading as a Christian practice | The Christian Century.

Baptist again: Going back to church | The Christian Century

In a Baptist church at age seven I “accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior”—an emotional and powerful experience that I have tried to respectfully write about in fiction. Sixty years later, I sometimes think about what drove me toward that decision. My mother influenced me, that’s for sure. So did the total experience of the church and its embrace of me.Back then I believed that something substantial existed up beyond the blue sky—a place as solid and touchable as the nearest Dairy Queen. That was heaven, and I was headed there.Heaven was no less certain than ice cream, but if I was bad I could never go there. This part got complicated: I would go there only if I were forgiven for my sins—which happened when Jesus died on the cross. In spite of that death on the cross, I had to confess my sins or I wouldn’t make it to heaven. Finally, with an acceptance of Jesus Christ as my personal savior the question was settled.At 18 I left home for the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, about a 30-minute drive from where I lived. When I came home on weekends I’d attend church. One Sunday the preacher talked about what an evil place Chapel Hill was. I was coming to love Chapel Hill. I thought the preacher was wrong to assign evil to a place, but I was not brave enough to tell him so.And at about this time, in the early 1960s, the civil rights movement was beginning to shake the earth around me. One Sunday in a church business meeting a member of our church asked what the church should do if a black person other than the janitor came to the church door and asked to enter. After some discussion an answer was reached: “Inform him that he has his own church.” I remember sensing that the person who asked the question was in trouble. I’ve always wondered if he agreed with the answer he was given.

via Baptist again: Going back to church | The Christian Century.

A review of the TV series Rev. | The Christian Century

[Note: I love Rev. and think it is a fantastic show. I've posted about it before, but if you're not offended by a few choice words every so often, or a random view of a actor-as-construction worker's backside, and can see the heart of the characters and the story they're telling, then this show is for you. I particularly love the depiction of The Rev. Smallbone's prayer life, and Colin is one of the most well written characters I've seen on TV in a long time. On the whole, I feel like Rev. does for the ministry what a show like Parenthood does for family life--distills the joys, sadness and just plain bizarre into an inspiring and enjoyable package. Parenthood and Rev. are certainly different genres--Parenthood is definitely not a comedy of any sort--but they both get at the heart of difficult issues.]

The Rev. Adam Smallbone

I turned to Rev. belatedly, having ignored friends’ praise and a British TV audience nearing 2 million. I feared it would reprise the mid-1990s sitcom The Vicar of Dibley, which portrayed with saccharine sweetness a woman vicar in a rural parish. Episode one of Rev. (available at Hulu.com) set me straight.

The Rev. is one Adam Smallbone (played by the wonderfully blinky Tom Hollander), a pastor who responds to lewd gestures from construction workers by carefully taking off his collar, fixing his gaze on the workers and shouting, “Why don’t you just fuck off?” This is a pastoral portrait drawn in a post-Christendom world: we see a tow truck drag away a hearse that is parked directly in front of the church—and this happens during a funeral.

The makers of Rev. seem to get church life. St. Savior in the Marshes is a struggling city parish willing to try new things, but members get nervous when evangelicals from elsewhere in the diocese pull out pews, hire a DJ, install a smoothie bar and impugn women’s ordination:

via A review of the TV series Rev. | The Christian Century.

Matt Miller: The audacity of Romney – The Washington Post

You only needed to look at the faces of MSNBC’s pundits or Democratic officials in the spin room to know what everyone professionally involved in politics believes — Mitt Romney won big in this first debate. We’ll see how the public digests it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the polls draw close in the next week and that thereafter this race — as was always likely — goes down to the wire.

I’ll let others assess in detail Romney’s assertive presence and demeanor, and the obvious toll it took on the president, who, in split screen shots when he wasn’t speaking, often looked irked or working a bit to suppress frustration or anger.

What interests me most is Mitt’s audacity. Wednesday night at long last came the full-throated return of the Rockefeller Republican many suspect is Romney’s true political nature, if indeed he has one. With one fatal exception I’ll note in a moment, on taxes, health care, education, regulation and more, Romney came across as deeply informed, experienced and reasonable, and as a powerful and articulate critic of the economy’s weaknesses on Obama’s watch.

Romney’s macro theory of the race has always been that in a time of high unemployment and economic anxiety, being a credible alternative would suffice. Until tonight, the polls suggested that strategy was falling short. Now, it looks much more plausible, especially when combined with the iron political law that every presidential campaign eventually obeys: Do what you have to do to get the nomination, and then appeal to the center once its locked up. I expected Mitt to turn to the middle right after he became the de facto nominee, or at least at the convention, and not wait until now. If he wins, of course, Romney and his advisers will be hailed as geniuses for their timing, for bonding the party faithful to the ticket with the choice of Paul Ryan and a conservative-themed convention, and then dashing to the center for the home stretch.

via Matt Miller: The audacity of Romney – The Washington Post.