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Poison Uncontrolled
Christopher Hitchens writes on Slate about how religion poisons everything -- the first excerpt of three from his book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

The mildest criticism of religion is also the most radical and the most devastating one. Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did. Still less can they hope to tell us the "meaning" of later discoveries and developments which were, when they began, either obstructed by their religions or denounced by them. And yet—the believers still claim to know! Not just to know, but to know everything. Not just to know that god exists, and that he created and supervised the whole enterprise, but also to know what "he" demands of us—from our diet to our observances to our sexual morality. In other words, in a vast and complicated discussion where we know more and more about less and less, yet can still hope for some enlightenment as we proceed, one faction—itself composed of mutually warring factions—has the sheer arrogance to tell us that we already have all the essential information we need. Such stupidity, combined with such pride, should be enough on its own to exclude "belief" from the debate. The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

Posted by aalkon at April 27, 2007 10:29 AM

Comments

I'm glad Hitchens is using and popularizing the term antitheist. His 2004 speech on The Moral Necessity of Atheism is in its entirity on YouTube. I highly recommend it for anyone.

Posted by: Joe at April 27, 2007 5:48 AM

First, how the hell did you post this five hours into the future?

Second, regardless your opinion of religion, we can already see the result of post-religious civilization in Europe. They're being overrun by Muslim zealots who are actually getting the native governments to implement sharia for them.

And so godlessness and cultural relativism meet, and Islam kills them both. And humanity regresses 1300 years for its trouble.

Posted by: brian at April 27, 2007 5:48 AM

Joe's link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSmh03pL44o

> how the hell did you...

Hitch has that effect on people... Moves us into the future.

The Slate pieces make the book look like a very long series of short points and bitchslaps, which I hope it's not

Posted by: Crid at April 27, 2007 7:01 AM

My blog software, Brian. I post stuff so it's dated with the right day's date, so I date it ahead since I usually post it at midnight for those for whom it's 9am in the UK, etc.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 27, 2007 7:10 AM

Thanks Crid.

His commentaries on the development of Islam are quite accurate. Similar remarks were made in a talk he gave in Canada in 2006. (Also on YouTube) His "Free Speech" in Toronto, where Hitch was challenging Canada's pc speech codes. Defending David Irving's right to hold unpopular views. Brutalizing the historical inaccuracies and criticizing Mohammed. His talk on free speech:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lBw99RbEyA&mode=related&search=

Posted by: Joe at April 27, 2007 7:20 AM

Joe, did you notice the Hogwart's Hall line in both shows? Man, I want that guy's life... Travel around the world, being fawned over by tenured professors less articulate than you, giving the same speeches, eating their food, flirting with their adoring coeds, then flying off to the next one. Also drinking all the time and being right about everything.

Well, almost all the time and almost everything.

Posted by: Crid at April 27, 2007 7:39 AM

The problem is not religion, it is religious based governments. Religion is philosophy, as is science, not political science.

Posted by: Rusty Wilson at April 27, 2007 7:58 AM

Apparently not, Rusty. Dictionary.com says:

phi·los·o·phy /f??l?s?fi/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation [fi-los-uh-fee]
–noun, plural -phies.
1. the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct

Religion's about faith. The problem with faith is that investigation is unnecessary.

Posted by: Crid at April 27, 2007 8:06 AM

Absolutely, Crid.

My favorite line from the Toronto speech: "If you have a problem in what I am saying? Take a number. Get in line. Be prepared to kiss my ass."

Posted by: Joe at April 27, 2007 8:45 AM

Also drinking all the time and being right about everything.

Well, almost all the time and almost everything.

About his being right, I assume you mean these days, as opposed to his days as a communist sympathizer and opponent of the first Gulf War?

Posted by: justin case at April 27, 2007 11:16 AM

Rusty,

Also, far too many people equate beliefs as if it were knowledge. A body of knowledge is quite different than one full of beliefs. Science is a body of knowledge. Science is a goal. Religion is the opposite. That is why religion and politics go hand in hand. Ever notice how cohesive the 2 are through out history? One propping the other and vice versa.

That is why atheists are critical of religious moderates or as Hitch calls them benevolent deists. They possess a belief system of relying on the ultimate paternalistic figure head. Personally, I call it the higher power concept. That particular belief still leads to an abuse of power in various man made institutions, from governments to the whole 12 step B.S.

Posted by: Joe at April 27, 2007 11:16 AM

Crid,
Religion is attempts by men to explain why we are here, what our purposes are, and where we are going. Clearly Philosophy
Joe,
I have a MS in Geophysics. I can assure you that a PHD is a doctorate in Philosophy. If one were to reread the musings of Thomas Aquinas, one would see that his treste on how many angles can sit on the head of a pin are very similar to modern quantum mechanics. After all, both involve someone trying to reconcile to quanta of energy existing at the same point in time space.
Furthermore, if one were to consider time dilation when one read Genesis, the first thing that would come to mind is that there was no earth in the beginning. If there is no earth then time is relative only to Gods position or the creation point or big bang (you have stated that science is not a collection of beliefs which I am clearly demonstrating as false). Since the first moment of creation was faster than the speed of light, calculating or time to Gods position closely matches the seven days listed in Geneses. What I a saying here is seven days of god time due to the theory of special relativity is 4.5 billion years are time.
Once time dilation is taking in to account the appearance of evolutionary jumps in Genesis correspond closely to what we observe in the rock record.
Science is made up of beliefs. That is why things that were once true, Newton, now are false. Science is ever changing and should not be thought of as facts. Thus it is a Philosophy as is religion.
So I disagree that science and religion are opposites. It is only when religion is made in to government that religion becomes a stead fast static interpretation that in fact is no longer philosophy.

Posted by: Rusty Wilson at April 27, 2007 11:35 AM

You are why Americans hate intellectuals.

Did you do your f(th)eces on Kant?

Do you believe in global warming?

Posted by: Jon at April 27, 2007 11:53 AM

Jon,
You hate me? I am the guy filling you’re gas tank.
Global warming, please. I make my living tracking ancient shore lines in the subsurface. Of course I believe. I have charts that depict global warming and cooling over the last 45 million years. The reason they only cover 45 million years is because that is the section of the rock record that I play. There are charts that go all the way to the Jurassic.
So yes, I believe in global warming and global cooling. How about you Jon, what do you believe....oh did I say believe? Are we now talking about a religion Joe? Is belief the same as faith? Beter get out the dictionary for me Crid.

Posted by: Rusty Wilson at April 27, 2007 12:04 PM

A Ph.D. is a doctorate of philosophy - I have one. But this is more of a way of paying homage to the roots of western education than anything else, and relates back to the time that all sorts of inquiries, science and otherwise, fell under the broad category of philosophy. If one were prone to sophistry, one could still make the argument that philosophy is an accurate label. But it ain't the case that all Ph.D.s use the same methods and standards.

Since we're getting philosophical - science is an epistemology, a way of knowing stuff. Science is a tool for discovering new facts. This is not a property of religious thought. No practitioner of science would EVER EVER EVER say that laws we discover are immutable (I would submit that is the province of religion). What makes science different from religion is that scientific findings and theories can ostensibly be verified by anyone, and when theories are proven to be wrong, new and more complete theories are developed (T.S. Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions does a great job with explaining this process). Science is a progressive discipline; religion - which relies on books assembled by committee thousands of years ago - is a static discipline. A Ph.D. in religious studies doesn't mean you've found new testable insights into what god is and isn't, or what god wants or doesn't want. A Ph.D. in a scientific discipline does mean you've found some new information about how the world does and doesn't work.

Posted by: justin case at April 27, 2007 12:22 PM

And furthurmore... your pretentiousness, Newton's laws are by no means false. Knowledge is contextual.
Learning about deviations from Newton's laws expands our knowledge. Those Einsteinian deviations did not overthrow Newtons laws. The laws are still valid within their context. F=ma still works here on earth. Suprising you don't know that, being a GeoPhysicist.

Posted by: Jon at April 27, 2007 12:24 PM

> I assume you mean these
> days, as opposed to

I can never understand this kind of complaint. It's true: His opinions about a lot of things have changed over the decades. So have mine! We'll get to Hitch's specifics in a second, but I have to wonder at the implicit requests people make with that kind of question. What standard of consistency or constancy do you want to see met? Is everyone supposed to hold the exact same beliefs throughout a lifetime, so you'll be able to remember who's who?

Hitchens has told the story a thousand times, so I can chase it down if you insist, but the outline goes like this: He was travelling in the Kurdish areas of the north in the Spring of '91, still cursing GHWBush for starting the war, but he noticed a lot of people, people who were almost suddenly living in freedom and safety, were naming their kids Boosh. He has an anecdote about riding in a taxi, and expressing concern that those newsmagazine pages taped to windshield might pose something of a hazard, and the driver replied that it couldn't be helped; George Bush's photo was on those pages. Hitchens concluded that you don't always know what good effects come from starting a war. He changed his mind. Did he cheat you somehow?

On C-Span a couple of years ago, he claimed that he might still describe himself as a socialist, except that there was no longer any Commie-ish context in the world where his precise sentiments would be applicable. Socialism as a global force is dead, and he knows it. There, and in the very chat described by Joe above, he again notes that the American revolution is the only one left with any juice.

People change all the time. Jerry Fucking Falwell has spoken frankly about the abject racism of his youth, and copped to it cleanly (paraphrasing): "It was the way were brought up, but we were wrong, I was wrong, and I'm terribly sorry." He doesn't seem to be bashful about it; you're welcome to ask him about it again if you like. Again, were you cheated? Was Amy? Was it more convenient to think of him as a featureless monster?

Until the riots, I had a typically liberal view about gun control. Then I saw friends, very decent and loving people, who were glad to be able to protect their children themselves instead of counting on a famously overwhelmed constabulary force.

Then I began to doubt the famous liberal presumption that "America is the most violent country." Maybe it's not; maybe we're just known for fighting back.

So Hell yes, the town councils and the school boards and the Sherrif's departments in Glenrock, Wyoming and Delevan, New York are more responsive to their citizens than the power structures of comparable villages in China. Over here, you'd better not try to pull any shit, economic or otherwise, because Americans will come into town and fuck you up. Furthermore, I bet there are a lot Cho's in Iran, too... But nobody's interested in telling you about them. And of course, they're far less likely to be immigrants.

So I want people to be free and safe, so now I'm a big 2nd Amendment guy. Was I lying to people when I made fun of the NRA back in 1989, or am I lying now?

Rusty, I agree with you, but let's not pretend that religion is about learning new things: It's only about being taught.

Joe, yes yes, but don't mock 12-step until you can offer something better.

Posted by: Crid at April 27, 2007 12:30 PM

It's fun to poke the Crid!

What standard of consistency or constancy do you want to see met? Is everyone supposed to hold the exact same beliefs throughout a lifetime, so you'll be able to remember who's who?

Has anyone here read Neal Stephenson's book The Diamond Age? There's a great bit in there critiquing society of our age in which the biggest sin is hypocrisy; because when there aren't any sorts of absolute standards, all you can hold people to is the standards they themselves have professed. Seems relevant to this whole discussion. Stephenson's an outstanding writer, by the way.

I get your point - we all have changes of heart about stuff. The point that I was making was really that many people's current infatuation with Hitch (e.g., your comment about his near-infallibility) refers to a very specific incarnation of his thought, and I doubt a blanket statement about his work more generally. When people - especially public figures who earn their living (and an excellent and enviable living at that) from their opinions - have dramatic changes of heart, it does beg the question as to whether they're sincere or pandering. In this case, i think Hitch is sincere, but it's hard to know what to make of very public changes of heart. Maybe Fallwell still hates black people and just knows it's incredibly impolitic to say so. Hard to tell, no?

Posted by: justin case at April 27, 2007 1:05 PM

Justin,
All very true, but if one were to study Philosophy, then one would be studying static books. So it is not the study of anything that is dynamic, only the application. So of course I agree with most everything you have said.
It is only when religion is hindered by an established a governing body, be it Catholicism or Methodism that causes it to be static. Truly though, it is not.
So it is not the weekly practice of an established religion that I refer to. In reality, folks with a PHD in religion ponder and write about these things, which of course makes it a philosophy.
As far your statement here; No practitioner of science would EVER EVER EVER say that laws we discover are immutable, I have to disagree. History is full of practitioner of science who declared that mankind had figured everything out.
My main point here is not to equate the practice of religion with the research of science. I am only saying that if one believes in God, them one has to assume that God accomplished all that he did/dose with a method. Science is the study of that method so therefore they are not mutually opposed. Religion proclaims a creation point and science delivers the big bang, yet religious leaders reject the very thing that seems to support their assertion. It is clearly a failing of religious practitioners on this point. I am not trying to absolve their actions, which are clearly sophomoric.
Speaking of sophomoric, Jon if Newton was right, Einstein laws wouldn’t exist. Of course modern physicists are busy discovering that Einstein’s laws are also wrong. What you re referring to is clearly an argument of scale. I do of course know that Newton’s laws work quite well for large things on this planet. But for the very large, think Galaxies or the very small they don’t.
Crid,
Rusty, I agree with you, but let's not pretend that religion is about learning new things: It's only about being taught. All things are about being taught, but the truth is religion is early mans attempts at explaining every thing. It is where Astronomy, Philosophy and the like originated. The simple truth is there are very few of us that are doing new things. Much of what we know about light was discovered by religious philosophers trying to understand it’s divine nature.

Posted by: Rusty Wilson at April 27, 2007 2:09 PM

Well, I like this here current Hitch, and never paid much attention back in the (socialist) day. Sue, maybe Falwell's concerned about being "impolitic." That's fine! We'll TAKE it! This came up earlier in the week, too: It's better for people to be nice than for them to be cruel, even if what's in their deepest hearts is gruesome rot. Deepest hearts and not the problem we have to deal with.

Posted by: Crid at April 27, 2007 2:11 PM

Justin,
By the way, what is your PHD in?

Posted by: Rusty Wilson at April 27, 2007 2:12 PM

> Much of what we know about
> light was discovered by
> religious philosophers trying
> to understand it’s divine nature.

Absolutely. Listen, I've been hanging around this blog harshing Amy for years now about her rejection with the debt we owe to religion historically, and have recently subscribed to (or stolen) commenter Hrisskopoulos' admiration for "religion as the crazy hippie mother of science, law and philosophy." But if our investigation (that word again!) of light had been confined to the thinkers you're describing, or managed by their superiors thereafter, we'd be in the dark.

> The simple truth is there
> are very few of us that
> are doing new things.

I'll never ever believe this. I think even the life of a consumerist, tivo-loving, seemingly mundane feed salesman in Nebraska has characteristics that advance the human process more than that of a closed-minded but prayerful religious/political functionary in Iran (or wherever).

People in academe, no less than in the seminary, take great pride in imagining that they've distinguished themselves from the loathsome, quotidian masses. Both should be disabused of this fantasy whenever possible, if only because it's so much fucking fun.

Posted by: Crid at April 27, 2007 2:44 PM

Crid,

There are plenty of alternative therapies to 12 steps. Addiction therapy under the supervision of a M.D. and psychologists, REBT centered addiction therapy and ketamine induced coma therapies for people addicted to heroin.

I agree on liking the post Cold War Christopher Hitchens. Except for his attacks on Henry Kissinger. A war criminal? No so. An ego-maniac? Yes, but would Hitch qualify as one too?

Hitch's views on the Iraq invasion were a bit dubious. What were his real motives? A free and independent Kurdistan.

Hell, I would have accepted Bush's Iraq plan if it centered originally on a de-sovereignization of the nation based on tribal boundaries. Instead of the cutting the head off of the snake type of military adventure.

Posted by: Joe at April 27, 2007 2:55 PM

Not so, instead of no so.

Posted by: Joe at April 27, 2007 2:59 PM

Crid,
It was the leaders of the religion that put the quash on the properties of light, not the researchers into the philosophy of religion. That is why they excommunicated Galileo, (and imprisoned him, burned his eyes out didn’t they?) So the Catholic Church basically attempted to kill the advance of Christianity. Fortunately they failed so Christian philosophical thought has continued on all the way to Newton, Einstein, and etcetera.
But of course the Catholic Church across as a ruling body out of the ashes of Rome didn’t they? So the church in it’s zeal to maintain power forced the religion of Christianity to become static.
There are many religions that are static in their nature, such as Islam, but that is another topic.
As far as your other comment, I'll never ever believe this, if this is the case then nothing is static, therefore religion can not be static. Even the Catholic Church has had to amend their views, abet slowly.
I can see though that we are on the same page here. Thanks for the dialog. I enjoyed it.
Amy, thank you once again for posting such an interesting topic. As I promised, I am trying to read your blog more often.

Posted by: Rusty Wilson at April 27, 2007 3:02 PM

Joe - If any of those other therapies worked, or were competitively priced, or not repugnant and wack at first glance ("ketamine induced coma therapy"???) I'd expect we have as many healthy graduates from them as we do from 12 step. But 12 step is champion for a reason, and it's not that it's the pretty boy. If someday my own fondness for screwdrivers or sake crosses a line, I'll hie me to the 12 steppers. (Meanwhile, don't mind if I do, and thanks for asking.)

I particularly admire Hitchens for his dogged attacks on Kissinger. I admire ANYBODY who doggedly attacks Kissinger. It's one of my main reasons for admiring Rumsfeld so much. It's about the only soft spot I have left for Garry Trudeau at this point, that he remembers... Through a marijuana haze, maybe, but he remembers to hate Kissinger.

> What were his real motives?
> A free and independent
> Kurdistan.

How can people smirk about this as if it were incidental or a lowly aim? We have --almost incidentally, almost accidentally-- sheltered and nourished democracy for millions in an ethnic (Muslim!) minority. Why is this described as a backhanded motive? Why do people automatically assume that we can abandon them (again) without moral cost?

Posted by: Crid at April 27, 2007 3:25 PM

Rusty,
If people viewed the science religion question as you appear to, there would be a lot fewer conflicts. The best scientific mind ever (IMO) - Newton - thought that his work was exactly what you seem to be describing: a way to better understand God's creation. But a lot of what we get these days is people calling the science into question when it conflicts with their interpretation of scripture.

I have to disagree. History is full of practitioner of science who declared that mankind had figured everything out.

Yeah, OK. I overstated that one. But any scientist with a decent grounding in the history of the field should know better.

what is your PHD in?

Cognitive psychology. Most of my work has dealt with issues of memory and the brain.

It's better for people to be nice than for them to be cruel, even if what's in their deepest hearts is gruesome rot.

True.

Why do people automatically assume that we can abandon them (again) without moral cost?

This is a point that I find utterly, deeply frustrating. Especially about the left's "Get out now" desires. As I've made previously clear, if the choice had been mine, the Iraq invasion of 2003 never would have happened (not that it wouldn't have happened at some point in time) for many reasons. But we're there now; it's a pointless exercise to debate the whys anymore. Decisions needed to be guided by what's best for the U.S. and the world (in that order). Unfortunately, the policy choice offered by the political class appears to be a binary one: 0) follow the pathetically inept and undermanned Bush course, or 1) follow the morally reprehensible "get out and let millions die" strategy.

The smart choice might be to move all the U.S. forces to Kurdistan to protect against threats to those people (who have their shit more or less together and want us there) and let the rest of Iraq have whatever they want. This seems sensible to me. We have our necessary, permanent military presence in the Middle East, access to some of the best oil fields in Iraq, and there's a bunch of soldiers and equipment right by Iran. I don't see anything better on the table.

Posted by: justin case at April 27, 2007 3:53 PM

> the policy choice offered
> by the political class
> appears to be a binary one

Yes! And as you note, that 'choice' has little to do with our probable involvement over there for the next three decades or so. So why is that the way they want to play it?

I think one reason is that Democrats resent George Bush in a big way, almost more than they did Reagan (but in a very similar manner, and with similar disregard for what voters think of him). They resent the close election after two terms of Clinton's popularity. They resent that votes squandered through Clinton's blowjobs probably covered the margin of the loss. Clinton himself said he wished he'd been in office for bigger times instead of relative peace (not that he handled that peace so well that we'd have wanted him there for crises). Dems resent having to admit that they voted for the war too, and of course they particularly resent Rove's work-a-day ratfucking. But all this resentment is badly warping our response to these problems.

Posted by: Crid at April 27, 2007 4:14 PM

I agree on Rumy's way in dealing with Kissinger. My view is similar to George Kennan's on being a good diplomat.... that no one in the public knows you are a good diplomat. The best diplomacy is through back door channels through professional diplomats and sometimes nongovernmental mavericks. Keep a low profile.

Thats why Cheney picked Rumy for Secretary of DOD... to keep Powell from interfering at Defense and charming George W. Bush into his world view. Remember all those DOD press conferences during Gulf I? Powell took center stage, while Cheney was in the background.

Also, I've always supported a free Kurdistan, since 1991. It was one of the reasons why I became an admirer of Hitchens. I just wish he would have just said the best way to deal with Iraq was through de-sovereignization. Yes, I am being guilty of wishful thinking.

Kurdistan is the key to maintaining stability in the region. I'm not in favor of a complete pull out of US forces in Iraq. Just a tactical re-grouping into a free Kurdistan of a majority of US forces. A smaller leaner force stays in the Green Zone.

Posted by: Joe at April 27, 2007 4:17 PM

I think one reason is that Democrats resent George Bush in a big way, almost more than they did Reagan (but in a very similar manner, and with similar disregard for what voters think of him).

I think Democrats resent G.W.B. far more than Reagan (who also had a much bigger proportion of the voters with him at each election), but I was young enough at the time to miss the details. Many Democrats hate Bush because they couldn't believe that this stupid, inarticulate, habitual bumbler was elected over his betters - twice! (I'm projecting here what I think they think... I don't think Bush is stupid - just not smart and learned enough for the job right now. He didn't sign up for momentous times, and wasn't elected for momentous times. He could have handled 1992-2000 OK).

Rove's work-a-day ratfucking

One of your better phrases of late.

But all this resentment is badly warping our response to these problems.

Right you are. The poisonous climate created by things such as Rove's work-a-day ratfucking (can't use that one enough), bitterly contested elections, the Clinton impeachment, etc. etc. really is biting us in the ass. Everything's a pissing contest - one we all lose.

Posted by: justin case at April 27, 2007 5:09 PM

> this stupid, inarticulate,
> habitual bumbler

Always remember, Bush got better grades at Yale then Gore got at Harvard... And then got an MBA at Harvard. He never ran a successful business without help from Dad's friends, but I think that in America there's no such thing as a failed businessman... Only one who's not grabbed the brass ring yet. Like Gore, he got into politics because it was the family enterprise. But one of the best jokes we ever heard about Clinton was that he's had to spend his life in public-supplied housing. None of these guys is really good for anything in the Biblical sense. All of them put together aren't as useful as Condi Rice. Clinton's bumbles need not be recited here (coughPARDONScough), but they're as grotesque as anything cooked up by Rove.

> just not smart and
> learned enough

I don't get this. Who are these tremendously intellectual politicians from days of yore we're supposed to admire? Who are the tremendously intellectual ANYTHINGS we're supposed to admire? Clinton, inarguably the brightest of my lifetime, will be remembered for his glandular throughput. FDR was bright, but not super-clever. He was alert and flexible. Bush is alert, attentive and inflexible. That combination happens happens not to be good enough. But I don't know how anyone could have anticipated this until the tests came.

Certainly, no one *did*. The people who whine about Bush being a dumb guy seem entranced by the showbiz appeal of it all... Not just in politics, but it life. Booklarnin' just ain't good for all that much.

Posted by: Crid at April 27, 2007 6:27 PM

Crid, I'm happy to simply disagree with you on this. But I am of the opinion that Bush lacked, and lacks the intellectual horsepower (a combination of native intelligence and knowledge about how the world works and how it got where it is today) to make good decisions and call his people out on their bullshit when he hears it. I don't want genius, but brains, good sense, and a knowledge of history strike me as important prereqs for the presidency, especially in trying times. I'm not one to get hung up on grades - some of the brightest folks I know were mediocre students - but I don't see much spark in Bush's intellect and I think this is a bad thing to have at the top.

It's also interesting that you diss booklearning, but love Condi. She's one of them ivory-tower intellectual types, ya know.

It's too bad Clinton will mostly be remembered for his fondness for women and , because I thought he was a pretty solid policy president.

Posted by: justin case at April 27, 2007 7:07 PM

...fondness for women and cigars...

that's what i meant

Posted by: justin case at April 27, 2007 7:22 PM

> She's one of them ivory-
> tower intellectual types

Naw. She's been as wonky as necessary to serve in the highest levels of government. But she was Provost at Stanford, and on the board of directors at Rand (as well as HP, Chevron, Schwabb, etc): She was running the Ivory tower, which is not the same as retreating to it. Her positions at those corporations taught her things that you probably don't learn in the Polysci department.

Posted by: Crid at April 27, 2007 7:57 PM

Don't forget Condi has an oil tanker named after her too.

Posted by: Joe at April 27, 2007 8:05 PM

You'd think she'd have been less of a G.W.B. sycophant then. Where's the indication of a strong, independent presence?

Posted by: justin case at April 27, 2007 11:15 PM

What evidence is there that she's not? Condi's employed by the President... She's on his side. That's how it works.

Listen, when commenting here I've stolen (and coarsely deployed) Jonathan Alter's argument that Bush has a teetotaler's inflexibility which has cost him dear political capital. I think this rigidity amplifies a penchant for loyalty which is [A] probably just part of his nature and [B] a consequence of his close observation of his father's presidency, and the phenomenally popular but under-managed administration which preceded it... We can imagine that Reagan's inattention to those who served him, and the clumsy ventures in his name which resulted, probably rankled the freshly-minted Harvard MBA.

But at that level in a President's circle, even this President's, it's silly to infer that an actor isn't sufficiently independent. The books aren't written yet... We don't know how much of the failure in Iraq is who's fault. For all we know, it's all been Rice's idea; or none of it has, but she's been convinced to go along; or, perhaps she's fought bitterly but privately at every step, and been kept on for her discretion. Or maybe she's decided that Bush deserves her loyalty from having watched how he comes to decisions. Consider again her background, and how high she climbed in the world without help from the Bush family. You don't get put into offices like those she's held without being capable of delivering bad news to both superiors and subordinates.

I remember a senator grilling SecState Schultz during the Iran-contra hearings, saying he should have resigned when he got first whiff of the tomfoolery. Schultz replied that (paraphrase) leaving a sinking ship wasn't responsible public service. Now, of course, such a resignation would have made things much easier for Democrats, wouldn't it?

That's the thing with carping about Condi, or whining about Rumsfeld as people did so bitterly. (The best evidence was that Rummy was against this war! And you'll notice that there've been no great breakthroughs in either Pentagon ops or DOD activity overseas since he left, months ago.) I'm happy to see irresponsible functionaries attacked: I got my licks in on Clarke and Tenet in the other comment today. But I think what's going on is that people are so pissed at Bush --and eager to retain to their Dubya-is-a-dummy cocktail party banter-- that they're missing an important point. This is the George W. Bush administration. A commanding if not handsome personality is very much in charge over there.

It's Dubya's fault, he was re-elected, and Dems (especially) are screwed. And to be honest, this snickering about his associates has an odor of Martin-Sheen-is-a-compassionate-guy fantasy to it. Wake up kids, it's hardball.

Posted by: Crid at April 30, 2007 12:27 PM

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