Tuesday, November 22, 2005


The Potemkin* President

Not quite. See the boldface and the * below.
A Texan Gets a Friendly Reception on the Steppes


ULAN BATOR, Mongolia, Nov. 21 - If you are an American president in need of just a few hours of temporary political asylum - no debate about Iraq, no Chinese leaders resisting the American agenda and plenty of adulation - here is an approach: Come to the endless steppes that Ghengis Khan made famous.

When Air Force One descended low over the barren but breathtaking landscape here, few Mongolians had ever seen anything like it. None of the previous American presidents had made the journey while in office.

And so Mongolians came into this tattered post-Soviet capital, past what will soon be a monument celebrating the spectacular victories eight centuries ago, when the Mongol empire stretched from the Yellow Sea to Baghdad, to hear George W. Bush tell them that today, "Mongolia and the United States are standing together as brothers in the cause of freedom." If it was gratifying for Mongolians to hear that message from the leader of a country that billboards here proclaimed a "third neighbor" - not Russia and not China - their reaction was probably even more gratifying for President Bush.

At home, there may be questions about the war in Iraq, but there are not many here. Mongolia recently sent its fifth rotation of troops to Iraq - it sends roughly 160 at a time.

There is something else that seemed to thrill Mr. Bush about Mongolia: presidential entertainment is vivid.

As his limousine raced across the steppe, a team of Mongolian warriors - carrying spears and shields and wearing the body armor that Ghengis Khan used to subdue territory that Mr. Bush is still grappling with 800 years later - suddenly appeared and galloped alongside.

Gone from Mr. Bush's face was the let's-get-on-with-it look he had at Gigkakuji, the famed temple he visited in Kyoto, Japan. He talked with the warriors and stepped around camels and yaks to make his way into a quite luxurious ger. Sitting by a wood-burning stove, he chatted with a family of herders. (The Mongolian government says the herders were the real thing, but they live 100 miles out of town, and were brought in to lend some authenticity to the small village erected for Mr. Bush's benefit.)

* Prince Grigori Aleksandrovich Potyomkin (1739-1791) was a Russian general-field marshal, statesman, and favorite of Catherine II the Great. He is primarily remembered for his efforts to colonize the sparsely populated wild steppes of Southern Ukraine. He was also a lover of Tsaritsa Catherine II ("Catherine the Great").

He also legendarily built fake villages on the courses of rivers Catherine was going to travel down so she would be fooled into thinking her realm was more prosperous than it really was. In actuality, all he did was have existing villages cleaned up a bit before she got to them. But the term "Potemkin Village" has persisted.

Friday, November 18, 2005


Right-wing Christian churches, good. Democratic government, bad?

What is it with writers named Brooks?
'Faith talk' and Tammany Hall

by Rosa Brooks

DEMOCRATS SHOULD be wary of jumping to conclusions in the wake of Democrat Timothy Kaine's Virginia gubernatorial victory. Kaine didn't shy away from discussing his religious beliefs during his campaign, and this seems to be leading party strategists to conclude that Democrats can win in culturally conservative states if they talk about deeply held religious beliefs.

But imagining that red-state voters will turn blue if only Democrats talk more about faith misunderstands the role of conservative evangelical Christianity in American politics. Conservative evangelical churches played a big role in delivering voters for George W. Bush in 2004 — but neither that nor Kaine's victory prove that red-state voters are simply hungry for "religion" and will reward whichever candidate speaks most convincingly about his or her personal faith.

Conservative evangelical churches were able to deliver voters for Bush in much the same way, and for much the same reasons, that labor unions and political machines like New York's Tammany Hall were once able to deliver votes for the Democrats: They offer material benefits to people with nowhere else to turn, and that is easily parlayed into votes at election time.


To be sure, progressive and moderate Christians need to speak out against right-wing attempts to hijack Christianity. But if Democrats — religious or not — hope to win back the large slice of middle America that today takes its cues from conservative evangelical Christian churches, they need to get back into the business of creating institutions that provide tangible help to ordinary, struggling Americans.
Um...Rosa...they've spent two centuries doing exactly that...it's called "government" - you may have heard of it? What's more "tangible" than Social Security? What's more "tangible" than Medicare? What's more "tangible" than deposit insurance and Pell Grants and Section 8 housing vouchers? The Republicans have spent most of the last 50 years ceaselessly trying to demolish the Democrats' "institutions that provide tangible help to ordinary, struggling Americans" so that they can replace them with their "commit to Jesus or starve" church-based programs and their failed attempts to privatize everything.

Where the hell has this Rosa Brooks been? What country has she been observing? It's okay for the right wing to help people their way, but not okay for Democrats to help people their way? Why the hell not?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


David Brooks Apologizes to Hillary Clinton!

Shorter David Brooks:
It does take a village to raise a child!

We now spend more per capita on education than just about any other country on earth, and the results are mediocre. No Child Left Behind treats students as skill-acquiring cogs in an economic wheel, and the results have been disappointing. We pour money into Title 1 and Head Start, but the long-term gains are insignificant.

These programs are not designed for the way people really are. The only things that work are local, human-to-human immersions that transform the students down to their very beings. Extraordinary schools, which create intense cultures of achievement, work. Extraordinary teachers, who inspire students to transform their lives, work. The programs that work touch all the components of human capital.
Now, I know that David Brooks didn't actually apologize to Hillary Clinton. That would require honesty, which we know is beyond most so-called "conservatives" these days. So, Brooks didn't apologize to Mrs. Clinton.

But he should have.

Friday, November 11, 2005


David Brooks is rolling in his grave

For GOP, 2006 Now Looms Much Larger

In a season of discontent for the White House, Tuesday's election results intensified Republican anxiety that next year's midterm contests could bring serious losses unless George W. Bush finds a way to turn around his presidency and shore up support among disaffected, moderate swing voters.

Democrats captured the two governorships at stake Tuesday, in Virginia and New Jersey, where Sen. Jon S. Corzine ran away with the race after a nasty campaign. Democrats also buried four ballot initiatives in California championed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and ousted the mayor of St. Paul, Minn., Democrat Randy Kelly, who had betrayed his party by endorsing Bush in last year's presidential election. Democrats failed in their effort to pass a package of political retooling measures in Ohio.

Republican hopes for a quick morale boost had centered on conservative Virginia. Instead, the gubernatorial results there raised concerns among some Republicans that Bush's favored political strategy of mobilizing conservative voters by dividing the electorate on cultural and social issues may have prompted a backlash among voters in inner and outer suburbs who were vital to Bush's reelection in 2004.

"It's not just that they lost these elections," said Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin, "but that none of their old tricks worked that they've relied on to give them the edge in close contests."

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) said the GOP's reliance on cultural issues, popular with rural voters, "are just blowing up" in suburban and exurban communities. "You play to your rural base, you pay a price," he said.
But I thought those "heartland" "values" voters were the only real Americans, the only ones whose values mattered.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?