Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: December 2009

More jibs from the Jab. Enjoy.


Oral Roberts saw a 900-ft Jesus (he stepped it off himself) and received a new medical wing for his school. Which is odd, considering he could heal with the touch of his hand. (Okay, maybe a dental center given his name was Oral.) But he is now dead, which is odd, considering he and his minions raised people from the dead. The Daily Beast steps off the faith-healer’s dubious achievements:

As one of the first televangelists, Roberts brought Pentecostalism, a demonstrative, magic-filled kind of Christianity that often involves speaking in tongues, faith healing, and prophesy, into the mainstream. He deserves a good part of the credit for the fact that today, Pentecostalism is the world’s fastest-growing denomination. (According to the scholar Philip Jenkins, by 2050 there will likely be more than a billion believers worldwide.) As Roberts’ biographer David Edwin Harrell, Jr. wrote in 1985, “In his nearly four decades of healing evangelism, Oral Roberts has personally touched over a million human beings; several million more have answered his call to ‘accept Christ;’ tens of millions more have heard him preach and pray on radio, television, and in films; hundreds of millions of pieces of literature have been mailed to every corner of the globe from his headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma… a generation of students has been trained at Oral Roberts University.”

Roberts tied Pentecostalism to fundraising in a way that continues to echo worldwide. In the 1950s, in a gambit that’s become common for prosperity preachers, he promised radio listeners that God would repay every dollar they sent to him seven times over. His genius was to market faith like an investment, one that would pay predictable dividends to true believers. Thus wealth became a sign of piety, and poverty a spiritual, rather than a material, condition. This theology has done as much to bolster conservative ideology as the naked politicking of Falwell and Robertson. It’s also ruined a lot of lives.

Howard Dean is leading up the left’s death panel. He says pull the plug on health care reform. If it is going to be this watered down, it’s no reform at all. No cost controls, just putting a gun to people’s heads and saying they have to help the bottom line of the health insurance companies.

Dean defended his “kill the bill” position espoused a day earlier on the network’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann, saying that good things about currently proposed health care reforms are outweighed by “goodies” to insurance companies. “It turns out that insurance companies, in the fine print, can charge 300% more for older folks than they can for younger folks,” said the physician and former Vermont governor.

“Democrats aren’t tough enough,” continued Dean, setting his sights on his own party. “If we were the Republicans right now, this bill would be done through reconciliation.”

That’s what Republicans called Medicare in the 1960s. So don’t be fooled as the try to posture themselves as the benign protectors of seniors’ precious Medicare benefits. They were against improving health care, then. They are against it today. They are the party of “no.” Observe:

Ronald Reagan: “[I]f you don’t [stop Medicare] and I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” [1961]

George H.W. Bush: Described Medicare in 1964 as “socialized medicine.” [1964]

Barry Goldwater: “Having given our pensioners their medical care in kind, why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts, why not a ration of cigarettes for those who smoke and of beer for those who drink.” [1964]

Bob Dole: In 1996, while running for the Presidency, Dole openly bragged that he was one of 12 House members who voted against creating Medicare in 1965. “I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare . . . because we knew it wouldn’t work in 1965.” [1965]

Despite Medicare’s success and the unrealized fears of its detractors, Republican lawmakers are still regurgitating the claim that Medicare would create a “Soviet-style model” of health care. As Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MS), chairman of the GOP Health Solutions Group, explained during a recent radio interview, “you could certainly argue that government should have never have gotten in the health care business…Government did get into the health care business in a big way in 1965 with Medicare, and later with Medicaid, and government already distorts the marketplace.”

Here’s the deal. American troops will not defeat the Taliban. For one, we’re a two-hundred-year-old democracy fighting a 1400-year-old religion. We stand for the Enlightenment’s progressive notions of individual freedom. They stand for the Koran’s notion of a cohesive clan obeying the one true God. But the biggest reason we will not defeat them is they live there. One day, we leave. And Afghanistan people, on the whole, are fine with the Taliban and their Koranic foibles. So calling them evil and us good is simply missing the point. They are traditional and we are modern. And to my calculations, modernity does not equal goodness. Truth will take it from here:

Bush’s religious statements constantly reflected a conviction that good is identified with the United States and evil with its enemies. His final speech to the nation said: “America must maintain our moral clarity. I have often spoken to you about good and evil. This has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in the world and between the two there can be no compromise.”

Barack Obama doesn’t like the Taliban because they oppress women and attack American invaders. I don’t know what the theologians would make of justice in all this, but it strikes me as a huge, mutually culturally ignorant, self-righteous, fanatically nationalist and ideological clash of societies, instead of any war between good and evil.

True enough in principle, but there is in this a trace of something of which any good Christian should be aware, the parable of the Pharisee and the poor man. The poor man took his place in the back of the synagogue, said to God that he was a sinner, and asked forgiveness. The Pharisee placed himself in the front row and reminded God of all the good things he had done, and his rich gifts to the temple, saying that he thanked God that he was not like other men.

Both Obama and Bush were saying in different ways that we Americans are good and Taliban or jihadists are bad. But the reason we are good is that we are we, and we are justified in punishing them because they are they. But the practicalities of the matter are a little different. Americans are the avengers of the fact that the Taliban before 2001 gave hospitality to Osama bin Laden and his people, who had been driven out of Sudan by American demands on the Sudan government

The Taliban government in Afghanistan had no grievances against the United States until Washington attacked Afghanistan in 2001 because the Taliban were observing what they considered their code of honor, to give hospitality and protection. Today they are trying to seize back control of their country from the rival Tajik people (of the old Northern Alliance), to whom the United States in 2002 had awarded Afghanistan, in return for their help in taking it away from the Taliban.Barack Obama doesn’t like the Taliban because they oppress women and attack American invaders. I don’t know what the theologians would make of justice in all this, but it strikes me as a huge, mutually culturally ignorant, self-righteous, fanatically nationalist and ideological clash of societies, instead of any war between good and evil.

The other John McCain would be for this Senate healthcare bill. The one who didn’t have his health benefits provided by the …um…government. The one who isn’t married to a stinking rich heiress. Matt Miller imagines this John McCain from that alternate universe. He probably would also be a Democrat.

Suppose McCain had been voted out of office in 1992 after the Keating Five savings-and-loan scandal sullied his reputation. He was then 56 years old. And suppose that McCain didn’t have his wife’s enormous wealth to insulate him from the exorbitant health premiums a man with his pre-existing conditions would have faced. Or that he couldn’t go back to work and enjoy access to group health coverage at the giant beer distributorship his wife’s family owns (where McCain worked before he first ran for public office). In such circumstances, you can bet McCain would have been grateful for the chance buy into Medicare to protect himself and his family from medical and financial ruin.

If every aging, displaced worker in America had McCain’s incumbency or inherited wealth to fall back on, it’s true—the ability to buy into Medicare would be superfluous. But most Americans aren’t in the Senate or married to an heiress. For most Americans, losing a job (and health coverage) in your late 50s or early 60s spells catastrophe

It’s going to be a long eighteen months. Maureen Dowd observes,

At a joint press conference Tuesday at the presidential palace in Kabul, Hamid Karzai surprised the usually unflappable Gates when he knocked down President Obama’s attempt to get out of Dodge.

Needling his American sugar daddy, the Afghan peacock observed: “For another 15 to 20 years, Afghanistan will not be able to sustain a force of that nature and capability with its own resources.”

Gates and Obama may have wanted to “light a fire,” as Gates put it, under the corrupt Afghan president and warn that the A.T.M. is closing, but Karzai called their bluff. He knows, as do the leaders in Iraq and Pakistan, that America is stuck bailing them out with billions every year, even when they dawdle, disappoint and deceive.

Gates and his generals in Afghanistan talked a lot last week about “partnering” with and “mentoring” the Afghan Army and police. But given the Flintstones nature of the country, it’s more basic. Americans have to teach the vast majority of Afghan recruits to read and write before they can get to security training. It’s hard to arrest people if you can’t read them their rights and take names.

It seems late to realize this, but Gates told reporters he had only recently learned the “eye-opener” that the Taliban were able to attract so many fighters because they paid more. Generals in Afghanistan said the Taliban dole out $250 to $300 a month, while the Afghan Army paid about $120. So Gates has made sure that recruits get a raise to $240.

Lucky thing, Karzai has a rich uncle.

Orrin Hatch made a fascinating statement this week on Capitol Hill:

I dream some day of having the Republicans have 60 votes. I’ll tell you one thing, I think we would finally have the total responsibility to get this country under control and I believe we would.

Didn’t we just see that movie?

My black friends argue that the pathologies of black America are all rooted in slavery. In other words, “White folks made us this way.” While there is a grain of truth in this, it misses a larger point; white folks are in pursuit of a far happier, tamer black America. In fact, white America wants a whole new negro. Clean-cut, articulate and virtually sexless. We think we have it in Obama. We thought we had it Tiger. Our bad. It’s the reason we love the plot of a movie like The Blind Side. Thaddeus Russell explains:

Though raised in Memphis housing projects, he uses no slang and dislikes the taste of malt liquor. Instead of Ecko and Sean John, he wears Charlie Brown-style polo shirts. His table manners are impeccable. He exhibits virtually no sexual desire. He is never angry and shuns violence except when necessary to protect the white family that adopted him or the white quarterback he was taught to think of as his brother.

Though he appears to be made of (large amounts) of flesh and blood, Michael Oher performs miracles for white people.

In other words, Michael Oher is the perfect black man.

Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert joins the garbled Bible thumping that is so popular among the Christian Right. Taxation=Stealing.

“Now, after someone dies and someone comes in and steals from them, we consider that in most society reprehensible. … But when the government comes in, because we have the power to pass laws and legalize theft that otherwise would be considered reprehensible, it’s okay. But it is not okay. … Jesus never advocated the government go steal. He said ‘you do it. Do it with your own money, don’t steal it from somebody else.’ And that is why this should not pass,” – Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX), opposing a 45% tax on estates valued at more than $3.5 million ($7 million for a couple).

If only Jesus had addressed the topic of taxation. Oh, I forgot, he did.

Michael Moore channels Harry Truman in his open letter to the President.

It is not your job to do what the generals tell you to do. We are a civilian-run government. WE tell the Joint Chiefs what to do, not the other way around. That’s the way General Washington insisted it must be. That’s what President Truman told General MacArthur when MacArthur wanted to invade China. “You’re fired!,” said Truman, and that was that. And you should have fired Gen. McChrystal when he went to the press to preempt you, telling the press what YOU had to do. Let me be blunt: We love our kids in the armed services, but we f*#&in’ hate these generals, from Westmoreland in Vietnam to, yes, even Colin Powell for lying to the UN with his made-up drawings of WMD (he has since sought redemption).

A recent study reveals that people’s views of God are simply a bigger version of themselves.

[Nicholas Epley at the University of Chicago] found that when people contemplated God’s opinions, their brains activated similarly to when they were contemplating their own opinions — the same was not true when they contemplated the opinions of other people.

The exception, of course, are people who believe in a revealed religion where a wrathful God often makes them a bit uncomfortable.