Bobo and various other neocons have been on a crusade to get liberals to “admit that the surge worked”. This is part of a larger effort to rehabilitate George W. Bush, the Iraq War, and neoconservatism.

Of course, there’s no doubt that violence did start to go down a great deal in Iraq about six months after the so-call surge began in Iraq. Bob Woodward (here; here) attributes this to strategic operational changes that had little to do with having more troops there. Juan Cole thinks that ethnic cleansing — of Badhdad Sunnis by Baghdad Shiites — played a large role.

Maybe it’s impossible to know for certain, but it seems very unlikely to me that a small increase, percentage-wise, in the number of troops in Iraq could have caused the decrease in violence. But maybe that’s because I hate freedom.

Open Thread

Actually forgot about the Presidential address, so I was accidentally spared the horrors of the post-speech chatter from the bobbleheads.

We have a fourth Fantasy football league:

Go register.

Open Thread: At Home in the World

Change of pace, wind down for the evening. The NYTimes Style section recently printed an article on Mary Catherine Bateson entitled “An Anthropologist’s Take on Homemaking”.

In Dr. Bateson’s parlance, homemaking is not so much about decoration and renovation. Rather, it’s a metaphor for community, for the design of an environment — professional or domestic or societal — that challenges and supports its inhabitants, an ideal closer to the arrangement of a Samoan village than a perfectly appointed living room. “It’s critical that home not just be a place that you use whatever is there, but that it be a place you are truly responsible for,” she said. “It’s not just your home and you get to mess it up.”
Homemaking, she added, is also a metaphor for longevity, a way of looking at the second stage of adulthood that precedes old age — what she calls “adulthood II” — which is the subject of her new book.
“Home is a very important metaphor for me,” she said. “When I was working on ‘Composing a Life,’ I referred to it as ‘my homemaking book.’ How do you make a home when there is discontinuity? You are a single mother, there is a bad marriage, a job change. I started to define the word ‘home’ as an environment in which one grows and learns, rather than just a refuge. Think about where you started out as a little kid and you learned to walk. Sometimes there were things you tripped over. There were people who loved you but also made demands on you.”

I was born in New York City, but my parents took us to visit “Boston” (the Freedom Trail, Sturbridge Village) the summer before my sixth birthday. And for whatever reason, I was convinced that “Boston”, New England, was the place I wanted to live when I grew up. It took more than thirty years and a lot of detours before I actually relocated to New England, but this area — not just the climate, but the views along the highways and the attitude of its inhabitants and the way the light falls in the evenings — feels like home to me in a way that my actual birthplace never did.

Where is home to you? And how do you define it?

Glenn Beck is not the white Malcolm X

There are many things wrong with Reihan Salam’s comparison of Glenn Beck to Malcolm X, and Adam Serwer points to a number of them:

Except for the fact that Malcolm’s father was murdered by white supremacists who were never brought to justice, his memories of the KKK terrorizing his family, his general experience of white supremacist violence reinforced or tacitly approved of by the state, being assassinated at 39 instead of making $32 million a year fantasizing about it on television, Beck and Malcolm…still have just about nothing in common. Both may have had a somewhat bitter reaction to the perception of race-based oppression against their people; only one of them actually lived that experience in any real way or  got a decent book out of it.

That’s not to say that Beck doesn’t act like he believes that white people are living under similar conditions that black people did in Malcolm’s time, it’s very clear that Beck’s particular brew of white racial resentment draws explicitly on an inverted perception of state-sponsored oppression against blacks during Jim Crow.

Adam thinks Reihan is being tongue-in-cheek here, but I’m not sure comparing someone who called the first black president in American history a racist who hates white people to Malcolm X is all that funny, and if it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek I fail to see the point of the comparison in the first place. The likeness is at best strained and at worst contrived, a weird hook with no discernible point except contrarianism for contrarianism’s sake. Or, if the point is to show that Beck is leading some sort of political/spiritual revival, then there are plenty of conservative white guys he could be compared to before granting him the mantle of ‘white Malcolm X’.

Unless the point is to drape as much of the Civil Rights movement over Beck’s shoulders as possible; first with the appropriation of Martin Luther King Day, and now this ludicrous notion that Beck is some chubby, pale second coming of one of America’s most controversial and tragic figures in the fight for civil equality in this nation. Indeed, this seems like little more than another attempt to bestow upon the Tea Parties the same moral legitimacy as the Civil Rights movement, to cast it as part of the same continuum.

The two are not the same and the notion that they are is absurd and offensive, not only to African Americans, but to the history of our nation. The legacy of the Tea Parties belongs to a different era than the 1960’s – an era when tea was tossed over the side of ships by white men dressed as American Indians. An era in which those same white men owned black slaves and for all their good ideas about liberty, couldn’t bring themselves to free them for another hundred years, and couldn’t bring themselves to grant them legal equality for a century after that – indeed, until the time of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

As Adam notes, “The problem is that even if Salam is kidding, a number of Beck’s followers aren’t.” I would add that even if Beck himself is kidding, a number of his followers aren’t. And Beck, I’m pretty sure, is in this for the long con.

(P.S. This is not to say that all Tea Partiers are racist or should be blamed for slavery – only that they are appropriating the wrong history here – not their heritage at all, but rather that of the people whose ancestors were oppressed for generations largely by the ancestors of the Tea Partiers. This is deeply cynical to me.)

Elmer Gantry, ver. 64.2.10

If you’re Glenn Beck, the Lonesome Rhodes path to supremacy is blocked with a Limbaugh-sized… ego. That guy ain’t going away without a fight that would damage both contenders. On the other hand, there’s an opening for Heartland America(tm)’s Most Conspicuous Jeebus Huckster — Franklin Graham just doesn’t have his old man’s charisma, and Rick Warren is tainted by his association with… you know… ‘poor people’, let’s call it. Pious Gated-Community Americans don’t pay tithes to to sit in an un-airconditioned pew next to someone who couldn’t get past their HOA!

Since he’s supposed to have attended a Jesuit school, I’m sure young Glenn flirted with the idea of joining the Fabulous Prado Shoes branch of the Catholic hierarchy, but getting even a decently comfortable monseigniorship can take decades of hard work (look at what all those years of dedicated syncophancy have done to Joseph Ratzinger). However, Joseph Smith, Jr. provided a golden template for an ambitious young American chuch-shopper with a bipolar talent for stagemanship. Hey, it’s not like Willard Romney was going to draw the rubes looking for a little upbeat entertainment with their hate-mongering! The Free Market (all praise be upon it) abhors a vacuum!
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Who are you calling gay, smart guy?

Daniel Larison on the idea that Beckstock was an awesome moment of Mormon-evangelical unity:

In other words, when Mormons and evangelicals are at their worst and are indulging their least admirable tendencies to idolize the country at the expense of their religious teachings, there is a chance for them to find common ground. If you think that a serious religious revival in America might have something to do with a spirit of repentance and humility rather than with an extravaganza of validation and national self-congratulation, that is really a very damning indictment of what Beck is doing. As Joe Carter correctly says, “As Moore notes, the problem isn’t really Beck. The problem is believers trading the true faith for the syncretism of Christian-flavored civic religion.”


P.S. After I mentioned this post to my wife, she said she thought Beck reminded her a bit of Gaius Baltar, and this comparison made some sense. Inasmuch as he is simply validating his audience’s way of life, it does seem to be very much like Baltar’s “we are all perfect just as we are,” which makes the entire exercise that much worse.

That’s what a lot of what modern conservatism is about, taking people’s worst impulses (xenophobia, irrationality, selfishness), wrapping them in a flag, taping the flag to a bible, and telling people that their irrationality and xenophobia are exactly what make Jeebus and America so great. If you don’t agree, then you’re a cafeteria Christian or a God-hating Alinskyite.

I’m not a sci-fi person so I was disappointed to learn that Gaius Baltar was a charater on Battlestar Gallactica and not some obscure figure from early Christianity that I could read more about Wikipedia.

Another PayPal story

I’ve been using credit cards for almost everything for all of my adult life. I have had exactly one instance of fraud on one of my credit cards: someone bought a $500 “all natural playhouse” (I’m not sure what this is) with my American Express card via PayPal two years ago.

Also too: do we need a PayPal category for posts here?