I see your Hagee and raise you a Kalnins

3 09 2008

Months after John McCain dumped the anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic Rapture-welcoming televangelist John Hagee from his campaign, it appears that his would-be Vice-President Sarah Palin has a Hagee-sized albatross of her own to hang around the neck of the Republican Presidential hopeful. Ed Kalnins, senior pastor of the Wasilia Assembly of God, of which Palin was once a member (and which she addressed as recently as June), has preached that

critics of President Bush will be banished to hell; questioned whether people who voted for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 would be accepted to heaven; charged that the 9/11 terrorist attacks and war in Iraq were part of a war “contending for your faith;” and said that Jesus “operated from that position of war mode.”

[. . .]

“I hate criticisms towards the President,” he said, “because it’s like criticisms towards the pastor — it’s almost like, it’s not going to get you anywhere, you know, except for hell. That’s what it’ll get you.”

Kalnins, who claims to have received direct revelation from God, believes hundreds of thousands will flock to Alaska in “the end times”, and he has “asserted that Palin’s election as governor was the result of a “prophetic call” by another pastor at the church who prayed for her victory.” Thanks to John Evo for the heads-up. Read the rest of this entry »

John Yoo: The smiling face of American fascism

2 07 2008

John Yoo is a Berkeley law professor and one of the architects of the PATRIOT Act and the Bush Administration’s torture policies. Much is being made of an exchange with John Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee, in which Yoo refuses to delimit the possibilities of what a president could do to a suspect, or give a straight answer to a simple question: “Could the president order a suspect to be buried alive?” This has prompted a rather amusing game of “Stump the Yoo” at Pharyngula.

The inventor of that game, Gary Farber of Amygdala, alerts us to a previous interchange with Yoo in which he affirmed that the president had the right to order the testicles of a suspect’s child to be crushed:


Cassel: If the President deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?
Yoo: No treaty.
Cassel: Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.
Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.

In January 2002 Yoo, working for the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, co-authored a memo declaring that the Geneva Conventions and other international laws did not apply to members of al-Qaeda. This prompted a quarter of the graduating class at Yoo’s law school to wear red armbands at their 2003 graduation ceremony in protest of the memo. Earlier this year, a much more comprehensive 2003 document co-penned by Yoo was brought to light in the form of a legal brief authorising the use of extreme interrogation methods, and arguing that wartime powers exempted interrogators from laws banning harsh treatment, and that many American and international laws would be inapplicable to interrogations conducted overseas.

Is secularism about to get its groove back?

5 06 2008

Peter Canellos, Washington bureau chief at the Boston Globe, certainly seems to think so. He’s noticed a distinct trend across the 2008 election primary campaign, which started out with candidates wrapping themselves in the Bible, making antidemocratic utterances about freedom “requiring” religion, and generally embracing anyone able to pronounce the words “Gawud” and “Jeebus” with sincerity, but is “ending with candidates rushing to repudiate them. An election cycle that was supposed to usher in the marriage of religion and politics may be hastening its divorce.” Canellos continues:

From the evangelical ministers who questioned the fitness of a Mormon to be president, to the religious-right activists who denounced John McCain as godless, to the McCain-backing radio preacher who said Hitler was fulfilling God’s will, to Barack Obama’s longtime minister who blamed the United States for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, to Obama’s Catholic adviser who last week mocked Hillary Clinton, the clergy haven’t just made a bad show of it: They’ve behaved like small-minded bigots.These preachers have managed the amazing feat of making all the politicians involved in the campaign seem, by comparison, more tolerant, more reasonable, and less self-interested.

It hasn’t been all clergy, of course. The vast majority of religious leaders have sensibly stayed out of politics – or, rather, above politics, where spiritual leaders function best. But encouraged by candidates and perhaps envious of the religious right’s influence on the Bush administration, many religious figures have sought to weigh in on the presidential election this year.

What they’ve discovered is that once they turn their pulpits into lecterns, they lose the deference that attaches to men and women of God. The rain of criticism has caught many by surprise, more accustomed as they are to nods and amens.

It ought to go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that among mature and enlightened citizens, zero deference should attach to people simply because their names are prefixed by “Father,” “Pope,” “Pastor” or “Reverend.” (Or “Imam,” or “Rabbi,” etc.) Perhaps, if Canellos is right, Americans are beginning to realise this, and are finally growing up. And (assuming Canellos is right) you have to wonder where this is coming from. Despite their (at times) mutual antipathy, secularists and religious progressives have for the past several years been pushing back against that noisome and toxic admixture of religion and politics known as the Religious Right. Maybe, even on the religious side (as journalist Christine Wicker argues), the slit in the burqa is widening, to borrow Richard Dawkins’ metaphor.

Is this how democracy dies?

20 01 2008

TruthNews has sobering footage of a 2002 protest against President Bush in Portland, Oregon. The footage depicts police using various forms of violent action against the protesters, including the indiscriminate use of night sticks, pepper spray and pepper bullets, all on the pretext that someone in the crowd allegedly threw a bottle. Among the injured were infants and their mothers, but what is more worrying is that according to the footage–actually police footage of the event–the attack on protesters by Portland police was a premeditated endeavour to force the protesters away from the hotel where Bush was speaking at a Republican Party fundraiser. It turns out the crowd was protesting against Bush’s new forest fire management policy, though many were there to protest against the impending war with Iraq.

The full video can be seen at MySpaceTV, which does not provide the embedding code to non-members. Below is an extract available on YouTube:

The question is, will the next administration render this kind of brutality an anomaly, or the norm?

Undergoing MyBlogLog Verification

Naomi Wolf: Ten steps to closing down an open society

11 12 2007

Lately I’ve been listening to the offerings at the Canadian left-wing blog Paulitics: Paul’s Socialist Podcast. The latest episode features feminist author Naomi Wolf offering a distillation of her latest book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, in which she draws parallels between historical instances of fascism–especially in Europe in the early twentieth century–and proto-fascist tendencies in contemporary America under the Bush Administration. She notes, for example, that the term “sleeper cell” originated in Stalinist Russia as a propaganda term denoting so-called “capitalist terrorists” disguised as good Soviet citizens and hiding among the general population. She also talks about the Bush Administration’s use of the the “no-fly list” against Bush critics, such as Princeton law professor Walter F. Murphy, and even Wolf herself.

Wolf tracks authoritarian trends in Bush America against a ten-step “blueprint,” which she argues was crafted by Mussolini and adopted by leftist and rightist totalitarian regimes throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. She expands upon these steps in this article, but here’s what you need to do in order to close down an open society:

  1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
  2. Create a gulag
  3. Develop a thug caste
  4. Set up an internal surveillance system
  5. Harass citizens’ groups
  6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
  7. Target key individuals
  8. Control the press
  9. Dissent equals treason
  10. Suspend the rule of law

Do you agree with the comparisons Wolf is making between the drift towards fascism in the twentieth century, and America under Bush (or, for that matter, Australia under Howard)? If so, do you think the results of recent elections in the US and Australia (2006 and 2007 respectively) hint at a trend away from proto-fascism in these countries?

Read the rest of this entry »