Monday, January 19, 2009

"Are you ever right?"

Classic John Stewart asking the question that we all ask when reading the NYTimes op-ed page on Mondays.

Tikkun Olam

In this column, Bill Kristol is distressed that Jews haven't recognized their greatest ally. The often baffled columnist writes:

"I couldn't help but reflect that a distressingly small number of my fellow Jews seem to have given much thought at all to the fact that President Bush is one of the greatest friends the state of Israel — and, yes, the Jewish people — have had in quite a while."

I wonder if Kristol is referring to the fact that Jews overwhelmingly voted against Bush in both elections (and 78% voted for Obama). You can see here were McCain got his strategy for campaigning for Jewish votes (just keep mentioning Israel!): Kristol seems to be assuming here that Israel is the only issue that Jews vote on. He's trying to make Israel to Jewish voters what abortion is to Catholic voters: the one issue that is supposed to trump all others. It's insulting and it neglects the reasons why Jewish voters support Democrats and liberal causes. The Hebrew phrase Tikkum Olam means "repair the world," and though like many religious concepts is open to interpretation, it is often used as inspiration for supporting social justice. This concept is dramatically different from the "destroy the world" (not sure what the Hebrew is for that) policy that the Bush administration has been engaged in. 

Oh, and let's not forget that Bush and the other Christian right "friends" of Israel are only friends of convenience anyways. Maybe Kristol is unaware that many Jews may actually find this very disturbing.

"But I don’t think keeping us safe has been Bush’s most impressive achievement. That was winning the war in Iraq..."

This kind of statement comes right from the Kristol playbook: "If I talk like one of my ideas are valid, that's enough to validate it."

As for Kristol's comment on Bill Moyer, I just had to check it out for myself. Indeed, Moyer's biblical scholarship is a bit bizarre (though he does clarify it some here). I don't think that should disqualify him or anyone else from legitimately caring about the death of innocent civilians.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Kristol makes another unsuccesful excursion into the Mideast

I was anticipating that Middle East expert Bill Kristol would be writing about the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Though I'm not about to go through the rights and wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I do think that I can still show the ways in which Bill Kristol is, yet again, wrong.

"Obviously, war is an unpredictable business," says Kristol. What made him come to that conclusion? Oh, maybe it was the dozens of predictions he made about the Iraq War that turned out to be wrong.

An Israeli success in Gaza would be a victory in the war on terror." I don't see how this would be the case. A democratic Iraq that establishes an anti-American government isn't a victory in the war on terror, right? Then I don't think that a Hamas elected government in Gaza was much of a victory, and the fact that Israel has to go into Gaza is proof of that. Even Kristol says: "After all, it’s Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005, not the West Bank, that became a Hamas stronghold." Yeah, it became a Hamas stronghold because Hamas was elected; examples like this always complicates the democracy-spreading fantasies of neo-conservatives (which of course leads one to believe that spreading democracy really isn't the crux of neo-conservatism).

Kristol goes on to say that "there are sound reasons why the United States... will stand with Israel as it fights."
Most reason-headed people believe that it is a two-state solution that the US and Israel should be working towards. Kristol shows no clue of that being the desired goal here, and is more interested in a US-Israeli alliance that would squash the Islamic terror that he talks about here. It's not so much that the Israeli invasion (and Hamas fired rockets into Israel) presents a blockage to a future peace and Palestinian state; it's that Kristol and other neo-conservative, though not necessarily against a two state solution, seem to just be not that concerned about it, and more in love with epic good and evil battle that they (and, admittedly, Islamic fundamentalists) want to engage in.

I think that what also is happening here by Kristol and others (President Bush being one) is a conflation of what terrorism and "terror" are. Hamas firing rockets into Israel is in no way acceptable or justified, but I struggle to see why it is terrorism. even if civilians are targets. Calling them acts of aggression or war makes sense (in wars civilians unfortunately are often targeted), but I think that we have a set of what terrorism is (suicide bombings, hijackings) and Kristol and the president just want to fit these events into the nice little "war on terrorism box" that they've put together this last decade.

"But a defeat of Hamas in Gaza — following on the heels of our success in Iraq — would be a real setback for Iran." Wow, I'm not sure where the delusion begins or ends in that sentence. Wiping out Hamas would be a good thing, though there is no way to tell whether its worth the cost. Looks like Kristol forgot the "war is unpredictable" part of his column. He's already setting the course for what would lead up to a possible showdown with Iran. No worries, though, says Kristol: good thing we're fighting them (al-Qaeda) over there (Iraq) and that Israel is fighting them (Hamas) over there (Gaza) so that we won't have to fight them (?) in Iran.

The Warren Report

I have just a few comments on Kristol's column from last week because I've already addressed his views on Rick Warren in a previous post.

"...having Warren there will, in fact, be a welcome reminder of the strides the evangelical movement and religious conservatives (broadly speaking) have made in recent decades."

Kristol really shouldn't be speaking all that broadly. Warren has asknowledeged that he believes, like many conservative Christian fundimentalists do, that anyone who doesn't believe in the godliness of Jesus Christ is in for an eternaty of damnation. So if you are a religious conservative that is Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or anything else, how is this a a reminder of any strides made in recent decades? I'm not sure if Kristol is pretending, for his own benefit, that non-Christian conservatives are in league with Christian fundimentalists (I'm not too aware of the Jewish and Muslim presence at pro-life rallies), or if he is stealthly trying to incinuate to other non-Christian conservatives that they should be in league with Christian conservatives, who eveidently think that their souls are headed for Hell.

Kristol goes on to reflect on the decline of American culture, sparked by Maya Anglelou's reading of a multicultural poem at Bill Clinton's inauguration. Now that's just stupid.

Kristol then takes notice of Obama using the instance of Washington crossing the Delaware in Obama's radio address. An American president(-elect) using an event from American history for a speech? What must Obama's academic supporters think about this very precidented idea, Kristol muses. Did Bill Kristol think that we were going to hear nothing but MLK and Malcolm X quotations from Obama for the next four years? This was mostly just a way for Kristol to take a shot at academia, which is another way of insinuating an us vs. them political dynamic, even though right-wing academics can be just as egg-headed and irrelevent as left wing academics. 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bill Kristol as Jodie Dallas

It's hard to know where Kristol stands on gay rights. Most likely it's an issue that he could go either way on; just as long as conservatives don't loose support for crazy economics and crazy foreign policy, they'll keep on with the gay-bashing.

I remember reading once about how David Brooks was the most obvious choice to succeed William F. Buckley as the editor-in-chief of the National Review. But alas, David Brooks is Jewish, and William F. Buckley picked someone else. Now, I don't think Buckley was anti-Semitic, but he knew that a valued part of the conservative movement was, and he wasn't about to lose them by making a good decision. Better to go with an immoral decision.

So in this column, I think that Kristol is doing something similar. He isn't really taking a side in the gay marriage debate, but he is going out of his way to make the anti-gay marriage position seem to be the more reasonable and less hostile side of the issue. The argument: "Rick Warren seems like a nice guy! His side of the issue is reasonable. Gay rights groups are mad! Their side is mean." 

What Kristol is ignoring, though, is that when gays and lesbians are told that they are not allowed to be like everyone else (the word "unequal" comes to mind), and that idea gets enforced through the law and gets enforce socially, then that is a form of hostility. So responding to hostility by being hostile really shouldn't be surprising. 

It's interesting what Kristol is doing here: he isn't invalidating either side of the gay marriage argument. In fact, you could say that he holding them on an equal ground. Instead, he's judging the issue on the perceived tone of the two sides. He wants to lead people to believe that the side that has a nastier tone isn't the side you want to be on.

"It's time to welcome him [Obama] into the American mainstream, to salute the president-elect's progress from Reverends Wright to Warren."

So Obama is in the mainstream now because he's gone from a preacher who has preached anti-American views to one that has preached anti-equal rights views? Reverend Wright spouted First Amendment-protected sentiments that hurt people's feelings, while Rick Warren supports legally denying a group of people their rights. That's not progress.

Some of the Tuskegee Airmen are expected to be the inauguration. However, if feels too much like we are will be trying to progress in ending one era of discrimination while legitimizing another one. This is a point that Kristol conveniently avoids. 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kristol phoning it in this week

Kristol tries to make the ridiculous case that Dick Cheney being an unpopular and consistently wrong Republican is better than Illinois Gov. Blagojevich being a corrupt and now unpopular Democrat. At least that's all he seems to be doing in this column, and it's a weakly stated assertion at that. Not much substance here this week, seeing as how a quarter of the column is a transcript from Fox News and another quarter is a Rudyard Kipling poem.

I believe this is what is called "phoning it in."

Hmm... is this a sign that Kristol's days at the NYTimes are almost up?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Parallel theory: Jon Stewart is always right

Bill Kristol being wrong on the Daily Show.

What was interesting was how more wrong Kristol became as the election got closer, as his NYTimes columns of October show.