My Slight Moment of Slight Fame

I’ve mentioned Andrew Sullivan’s site The Dish a few times. He’s an excellent writer and I really enjoying reading him, even though he does occasionally go into drama queen mode.

Sully runs a “contest” every week where people send in “views” from “windows”. It’s known as the “View from Your Window Contest”. Basically the goal is to look at a given picture and figure out exactly what window in the world it was taken from. And, yes, people can and do get it down to the exact window way more often than not.

They also run just general “View from Your Window” articles, where it’s just a nice picture someone took. When I was at Dark Con a couple weeks ago, I took a nice pic and sent it in. To my surprise, they used it for the Window Contest picture this week! I didn’t want to say anything about it until today, when the results were announced. So go take a look at my pic, and go take a look at the article! And Gini, you just got a few thousand more eyes on your name! ;)

Click to embiggen!

Click to embiggen!

Sully on the New Pope

Andrew Sullivan is a gay, HIV positive, conservative (UK-style) Catholic who has lately felt very detached from his church. He looked at the evils done by various people, and covered up by folks like Benny 16 and JP2 and was horrified, as any person of conscience would be. But now he, along with the rest of the world, get to look at Pope Francis, and he, along with myself and many others, are…well…hopeful.

The reports of [the Pope's] press conference today suggest a radically new symbolism for the church. This kind of understanding of the diverse and multi-faith and multi-cultural modernity is something you would never have heard from Benedict XVI:

“Given that many of you do not belong to the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I give this blessing from my heart, in silence, to each one of you, respecting the conscience of each one of you, but knowing that each one of you is a child of God. May God bless you.”

Respecting the conscience of each of you. That might seem to be the bleeding obvious – but it isn’t in the context of Benedict’s theological reign, which was far longer than his pontifical one. Benedict wanted to place conscience below revelation as authoritatively adjudicated by … himself. The central place of individual conscience established at the Second Council was left to wither in favor of a public, uniform religion. He seemed to me to want ultimately to restore the seamless cultural-political-religious unity of the Bavaria of his youth; and if the public square were empty, it had to be filled with religious authority. He tried. In the West, the public square moved in the opposite direction. He hunkered down, hoping for a smaller, purer church. What he got was a smaller one, but beset by scandal and internal division and a legacy of the most horrendous of crimes.

You can read the whole article here, though it might be paywalled to you. If it is, it’s worth plunking down the $20 a year for Sully’s writing. The man is good.

I’m still displeased by the Pope’s views on homosexuality, though at least he recognizes that gays are also people, which puts him a step ahead of many, and pretty much parallel to other men of his age. But there is, in this man, much that I can find to admire, even if I disagree with him on certain fundamental points.

Obama the Conservative

How does one define a conservative in the political respect? Is it someone who proceeds with due caution, careful always in what they do, not making huge changes, bolstering and expanding upon the traditions of what’s gone before, pragmatic and not dogmatic and willing to change when proven wrong? That’s how I’d be inclined to define one, at least in part (I’d define a liberal, for the record, as someone more willing to experiment, to embrace change for the sake of change no matter how big, often overthrowing the old order to bring in a new one, and frequently more idealistic than pragmatic). If I define a conservative in those terms, then I must concede that Obama is a conservative in the big-C British sense of the word.

That’s the conclusion reached by Andrew Sullivan, who wrote a great article on the subject. The whole thing is worth reading, but here’s my favorite part:

On issue after issue, Burke would be with Obama and against Rommey’s theo-political radicalism. The idea that Obama has somehow let down those conservatives who supported him over the McCain-Palin ticket therefore seems absurd to me. Obama has done all he said he intended to do, and almost all of it is a pragmatic response to America’s emergent and growing problems. On almost every question – a stimulus one-third tax cuts, a healthcare reform based on the Heritage Foundation model, cap-and-trade for carbon, and solid support for Israel while trying to nudge it away from self-destruction – Obama is in a right-of-center consensus as of a decade ago. It is his opponent who has twisted himself into a screaming radical dedicated to changing America much more profoundly – largely because Fox Nation is experiencing a cultural panic. As for temperament, the GOP is too consumed with cultural hatred to acknowledge the grace and calm of a man forced to grapple with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression with no help whatsoever from his opponents, a black man who has buried identity politics and remains a family man Republicans would fawn over if he were one of them.

Sully on Obama

His latest article is the cover story of this week’s Newsweek, and while the headline is more than a little silly, the article itself is well worth reading. Go check it out.

Christianity in Crisis

Go have a look at Andrew Sullivan’s latest article on Christianity. It’s very fascinating, even if I do disagree with some of his fundamental points. For example:

The thirst for God is still there. How could it not be, when the profoundest human questions—Why does the universe exist rather than nothing? How did humanity come to be on this remote blue speck of a planet? What happens to us after death?—remain as pressing and mysterious as they’ve always been?

Much as I love Sully, I must disagree here. Of his three questions, we’re not sure of the first one, and we’re quite sure of the second, and the third remains what is has always been: “nothing, unless you can prove otherwise.” These questions are only really mysterious if you want them to be.

Good Stuff from Sully

Lots of good things from Andrew Sullivan today. First off, he’s the writer of the current cover story for Newsweek. The article is basically about how Obama is nothing like the slathering monster the right paints him as and certainly not the savior the left wants him to be. Instead he’s a good, sane, moderate president, and the things the GOP are attacking him on are, for the most part, quantifiably wrong. Liberals like me need to read it to, too, since about half the article is him knocking some sense into us. I don’t agree with every point he makes in the article (I am, for example, far more pissed off about Obama signing into law new rules that basically eliminate habeas corpus), but he still makes several good arguments.

Once you’ve read that, go read the follow-up article on his blog, which has some other good things, including the insane, sadly predictable, overreaction from the right, at least a couple of whom admit they didn’t bother to read his article.

Second, earlier today he posted up a video where he answers a reader question about the good things done under the Bush administration. I can agree with just about everything he says, and it really drives home how far to the right of George W the current GOP really are. In fact, I’d actually mention one thing he didn’t, which is that Bush did his best to try to get our languishing space program back on course.

So there’s your homework for today, kids. Check the video and the articles. :)

*** EDIT ***

Take a look at this video from last night. CNN had Sully on to talk about his article. Fox News won’t do the same.

Some Perspective on Israel

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan:

Imagine, for a moment, that a US ally that is not Israel – say, Turkey – killed an unarmed American civilian on an unarmed ship in international waters by four bullets to the head at close range. And imagine that president Obama decided that we shouldn’t rush to judgment and that Turkey was in an understandable bind, because it was enforcing an embargo on a tiny strip of (say, Kurdish) land it had recently strafed with missiles and bullets, killing over a thousand. The land was home to an elected Kurdish government that was viciously terroristic – even totalitarian in some respects – and wanted to destroy Turkey, even though it had few means to accomplish this. The Kurds, like the Palestinians, had no homeland at all, and were now suffering greatly under the blockade and embargo.

Can you imagine how the Republican right would explode at this example of classic Obama “weakness” and “appeasement”? Can you even conceive that the American right would actually champion and celebrate Turkey’s attack – and be far more solicitous of Turkey’s actions than any of America’s allies? Can you imagine that the conservative British prime minister would be more outraged at this attack on a defenseless ship and the murder of an American citizen than the president of the United States?

Sully is using this as a way of highlighting the double-standard that we have when it comes to Israel. We support them doing things we would never put up with any other countries doing. And if some other country did it to us? Can you imagine the hue and cry?

In the example above, Turkey would clearly be wrong in what they are doing. So why isn’t it wrong for Israel to do the same thing?

Here’s some more from Sully:

To read Charles Krauthammer today is to enter a twilight zone of an alternate reality. A country permanently occupying and colonizing a neighboring region, and treating its original inhabitants as dangerous interlopers, is the victim. An elite commando unit attacking a ship carrying toys and wheelchairs in the hours before dawn are those we should feel pity for. A country with 150 nuclear warheads and the strongest military in its region, the victor in every conventional war it has always fought, is somehow also always fighting for its very existence. A country backed by the sole superpower, supplied with aid by huge majorities in the US Congress, is facing extinction. Self-defense requires not civilly disabling and inspecting the cargo of an unarmed ship but raiding it at dawn and killing nine and injuring dozens. Basic human revulsion at a military that can kill over a thousand people – including scores of women and children in a trapped, impoverished enclave – can only be a function of anti-Semitism. A territory that is being systematically populated with Israelis in illegal settlements in contravention of the Geneva Conventions is merely a “buffer zone”. You need to colonize buffer zones?

Exactly. Israel needs to stop pretending they are always and forever the victim. I’m also tired of people saying they are “surrounded” by enemies. They aren’t. Egypt and Jordan, while not exactly Israel’s best friends, get along with them more often than not.

None of Israel’s behavior, of course, excuses the actions of the terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza. They needs to be rounded up and punished. But Israel needs to stop overreacting because it is not doing anything to make things better for anyone.

Sully on Obama’s First Year

It’s not quite been a full year since Obama took office (that will happen next month), but it’s been close enough that Andrew Sullivan has decided to come up with a list of accomplishments the man has done, and why his first year has been a great success.

He also makes a good point that liberals like me, who are disappointed at the current level of progress, need to keep in mind:

Change of this magnitude is extremely hard. That it is also frustrating, inadequate, compromised, flawed, and beset with bribes and trade-offs does not, in my mind, undermine it. Obama told us it would be like this – and it is. And those who backed him last year would do better, to my mind, if they appreciated the difficulty of this task and the diligence and civility that Obama has displayed in executing it.

Speaking Out Against Ugandan Evil

So props to Rick Warren, who is speaking out against the incredibly evil anti-gay legislation being proposed in that flower of African civilization, Uganda.

Warren, writer of such tripe as The Purpose Driven Life, a made-of-glurge, pro-God, self-help book that from all accounts gives the advice of “accept that you are God’s slave and all will be well”, had apparently inspired the legislation in Uganda. To his credit, he seemed somewhat aghast and moved quickly away from it, calling it, among other things, “un-Christian”.

Andrew Sullivan agrees with this and says:

It is absolutely and unequivocally unchristian to demonize a whole group of people and to threaten them with execution simply because of their sexual orientation and their need for love and sex and intimacy and companionship like every other human being. And for Warren to deploy Christian arguments in defense of the dignity of homosexual persons is a big step forward in this debate. I am grateful to him for staying true to the Gospels.

While I appreciate the sentiment and the constant efforts at being an apologist, Sullivan is completely off the mark here. Yes, under most mainstream modern Christian philosophy, homosexuality is not an evil that must be destroyed. But most modern Christian sects, including all the ones I can think of, continue to include Paul’s various works in their cannon.Paul had some very unkind things to say about homosexuals, and of course we can’t forget the loving joy that the Bible gives to the gays in Leviticus.

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. – Leviticus 18:22

I already had my say on that stupid little quote.

So Sullivan is correct: modern Christians don’t usually have any problems with homosexuality and those that do don’t usually want the gays murdered by the state (there are exceptions). But Christianity is quite anti-gay in its origins and certainly up until, oh, about 200 years ago, most mainstream Christians would have agreed with the idea of rounding up and imprisoning gays, if not just going ahead and killing them.

Not Quite Getting the Point

I like Andrew Sullivan. I really do. He’s a conservative, but much more in the Tory tradition than the current crop of lunatic tea-baggers out there who call themselves conservatives. I don’t agree with him on everything, but he is a good writer and entertaining.

Sadly, like all of us, he has his blind spots. His particular blind spots seem to mostly center around his religion (Catholic). He’s caught a bit of flack for it lately and seemed to feel the need to provide defense for religion.

One form of this defense is an article he posted up today talking about his experience running into a shoe shiner at the airport in Waco. The shiner was an older black man, in his sixties, roughly, who’d lived in Waco all his life and experienced the segregation and inequalities.

From the article:

I asked him how he survived. “Prayer,” he instantly replied. “I just prayed. We all prayed. We’re Christians and we prayed. Couldn’t have got through it without prayer. And prayer for them too.”

He meant, prayer for those who tormented him.

Sullivan accepts that as a good and touching statement and I suppose that it is, if you ignore the fact that the only reason this man had to deal with racism and torment like this was because of slavery. Slavery that was endorsed by the Bible and backed up by Sullivan’s Catholic Church.

To be fair to Sully he doesn’t buy into everything the Church says, and at times seems close to making a leap or two away from the Church, but he still doesn’t understand that for all the good religion brings into the world, it still brings in more suffering and pain. Yes, Martin Luther King, Jr, was a good man and the civil rights movement used religion to help free the people, but it was freeing them from a legacy of slavery backed up by religion. Yes, the Catholic Church helps the poor and hungry in Africa, but it keeps them poor and hungry by telling them not to use condoms or other forms of birth control.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.


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