January 24, 2004


Is The Passion of Christ anti-Semitic, as the Anti-Defamaiton League charges?

I don't know since I haven't seen it, but if Mel stuck close to his sources, The Passion cannot be anti-Semitic. It just can't.

The Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John--were written by three Jews and probably one Gentile (Luke). They were written about a Jewish carpenter turned rabbi, whose earliest followers were almost all Jews. The tapestry woven of the four Gospels portrays a variety of actors, some sympathetic in spite of their weaknesses, others less sympathetic, some malevolent and some ambivalent, and some a mix of all. Women play prominent roles, an extraordinary thing when you consider when these texts were written. They also describe one who is perfect. The perfect one is a Jew, and so are his earliest and most ardent followers, male and female. So are his chief accusers. His killers are Roman, but the origins of the plot to kill him are Jewish. Some of followers also turn out to be Roman, and some of his followers turn out to be Jewish. The Gospels spread both the blame and the sympathy around.

But of Mel's Passion, the ADL fails to mention one fact that argues strongly against their charge.

Mel Gibson directed the film and wrote the script. He does not star in it, but he does make a cameo role. What role did he choose?

As the film's director and financial backer, he could have chosen almost any role. He could have been a disciple, either one of the twelve or one of the others who followed Jesus closely but didn't enter his central group. He could have been a sympathetic Jewish leader, like Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea. He could have played nearly any role, since he was calling the shots.

According to an article that appeared in Relevant magazine recently, Gibson's cameo is very brief, no more than a few seconds. Viewers never see his face. All they see are his arms.

One arm clasps a nail. The other clasps a hammer. Of all the roles Mel Gibson could have played, he chose to play the role of a Roman soldier hammering a nail into Christ's outstretched arm.

Theologically, Gibson's role is more than appropriate. Foundational Christian doctrine teaches not that any group--the Jews, the Romans, or any other ethnicity or polity--is responsible for killing Christ. Basic Christian doctrine teaches that we all crucified Him with our sin. No one group is guilty, because we all are. Gibson put himself in the role of hammering in the nails because, theologically, he did. And so did I. And so did you. How can you find narrow anti-Semitism in that fact--that movie star Gibson put himself in the role of Christ killer?

That's the whole point of the film--to show what we did to Christ, and what He did for us. Theologically no mainstream Christian today believes any of the medieval anti-Semitic tripe that was used to justify the pogroms that spread across Europe during that age. That was a different time--most Christians had to rely on their local priest for all scriptural interpretation, since the Church kept the Bible under lock and key, and since most people could not read it for themselves even if it were available. The priests used one or two verses to justify persecution of the Jews in order to steal their possessions and instill a perversely unifying fear of the "other" in their midst. No responsible Christian today would follow such nonsense. If any religious leader tried to foster an anti-Semitic movement now, the most conservative Protestants and Catholics would be among the first to condemn it and him or her. It just wouldn't fly.

Yes, it flew with Hitler, but Hitler's holocaust wasn't driven by religion. It was driven by racism and nationalism, mixed with socialism. Hitler himself may have been nominally Catholic, but in reality he was a mad cultist obsessed with power. It's possible that such a mix and such a madman could start up a second holocaust today, but not because of Mel Gibson's film. Remember, Gibson put himself in the role of Christ killer. Would Hitler have done the same?

I don't know why the ADL has chosen to dog Mel Gibson and his film. First they blasted him and it based on stolen scripts which turned out to be early drafts that included all kinds of material that didn't make it into the final film. Then they snuck into a screening under false pretenses, and blasted it again. For some reason it seems to me that the ADL just doesn't want Christians and Jews to become too friendly. Beats me why. Maybe the ADL's Abraham Foxman sees some small problem with Christians, or cannot bring himself to criticize the much larger problems with militant Islam for political reasons, and so has to find something to complain about and has settled on The Passion. I'm not going to pretend to read his mind.

But I do know this: Mel Gibson made himself the Christ killer. As far as I'm concerned, that's all anyone needs to know to understand what The Passion of Christ is really about.

Posted by B. Preston at 10:43 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack


How do you make sense of a city that re-elects a crackhead for mayor, but may recall another mayor just because he supports school vouchers for the poor and closed a poorly run hospital?

If DC ever wanted to be a state, the mere fact of this recall against Mayor Anthony Williams is a powerful argument against it.

Posted by B. Preston at 09:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004


Supposing this is true...:

"The Al Qaida of the 9/11 period is under catastrophic stress," State Department counter-terrorism coordinator Cofer Black said. "They are being hunted down, their days are numbered."

Black's assertion, made in an interview with the London-based British Broadcasting Corp. on Thursday, is based on U.S. intelligence community estimates that about 70 percent of Al Qaida has been neutralized, officials said.

...would it make Howard Dean and Wes Clark believe we're safer now than we were before 9-11?

Posted by B. Preston at 01:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


I was going to post the Good Blog last week but, well, stuff happened. So I'm posting it this week, and it's Earthly Passions.

Mark Pierce's Earthly Passions is just a good-looking blog. Nice color scheme that's easy on the eyes, well-designed layout, and solid writing. And he runs his church's blog, which I think is pretty cool.

So EP gets a link over in the Good Blogs section. And all nominees are still in the running for the next one, which will get posted, um, before Easter.

Posted by B. Preston at 08:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 22, 2004


In my opinion Howard Dean is, basically, finished. His YEEAAAGGHHH moment got so much play that it became a pair of concrete shoes. And he's on a high dive.

Yeah, he could come back in New Hampshire. Anything's possible.

But take a look at his attempt at damage control. One line from it tells you all you need to know:

A humbled Howard Dean said Thursday, "I have my warts. I sometimes say things that get me in trouble," but argued Thursday that voters will see through the flaws and rally to his troubled presidential candidacy.

"In other words, I lead with my heart and not my head. That's the only chance we have against George Bush," Dean said as he sought to recover from his third-place Iowa finish and the fallout over his scream-filled speech on caucus night that raised questions about his temperament. (my emphasis)

What on earth does that mean? How does leading with the heart as opposed to the head help against George W. Bush? Maybe some liberal will come along and 'splain it to me.

As I see it, the last thing on earth we want is a president who leads our war effort with his heart and not his head. After 9-11 a president who led with his heart would probably have just pulverized Afghanistan indiscriminately. He would have sensed the national mood and just struck out at al Qaeda in a blind rage.

What we got instead was a president who led with his head. He patiently waited for the Pentagon to draft sensible and effective war plans, and patiently led the execution of those plans to victory.

Leading with one's heart is not leading--it's just following blind emotions. Dean's "lead with the heart" statement is just one more in a long line of his remarks that should disqualify him from the presidency. We don't need an emotional train wreck with his finger on the button.

And as long as I'm trashing Democrat candidates, did you see Wes Clark's little chat with the gay mag The Advocate? Was it just me, or did he look like he'd gone for the Freddie Mercury look? Just wondering how far he's willing to go to pander.

On substance, the Advocate interviewed Clark about gay marriage, which he gave his full support. Sort of. He supports it, depending...

(interviewer) I know your son was married recently. If your son had been born gay, would you want him to have the same rights that he enjoys today?

Clark: I would want him to have the right to have a stable relationship. But whether you call it marriage or not is up to the church or the synagogue or the mosque. And it’s up to the state legislatures. I think marriage is a term of art. It’s a term of usage. But the legal side of it is not: It’s not negotiable.

Marriage is a "term of art?" I guess that depends on the meaning of "marriage," "term" and "art." That's about the most Clintonesque answer I've heard since, well, the last time Clinton himself answered any question in public. No wonder he was such a popular figure around the Clinton White House (until "character issues" forced Clinton to fire him. Yeah, Bill Clinton had to fire somebody because of character issues. Ironic, no?). Clark and Billy Jeff are like two peas in a pod.

Anyway, here's another fun tune from General Clark:

So you support Massachusetts’s calling it marriage? Yeah, absolutely.

How do you think Congress would react to that?
Well, they’ll love it. This is exactly what they’re looking for. Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay and all those guys are looking for a real hand grenade to throw into the Democratic Party. It’s an absurd issue, and it’s one of the reasons I’m running. No one can accuse me of being soft on defense, and no one can accuse me of not knowing about what the armed forces are about. And when I say, “It’s OK,” then it’s OK, period. But elections aren’t always about common sense. And I think [Republicans] would love to frighten people.

First off, somebody should tell the General that Newt Gingrich hasn't held public office in years. He's not likely to pair up with DeLay to toss hand grenades at anyone.

And second, that whole "when I say it's OK, then it's OK, period" line is a bit autocratic, dontcha think. Clark is waaaay too accustomed to being able to tell people exactly where to go and what to do. Life doesn't work that way if you don't have stars on your shoulder. Clark apparently hasn't learned that yet. He will, when the voters of New Hampshire don't march to his orders.

Posted by B. Preston at 10:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


Our burgeoning friendship with Japan has gone largely unnoticed by the mainstream press. Instead, our allies in Iraq, of which Japan is one, get sneers from the likes of Maureen Dowd and pretty much ignored by everyone else.

Why is this?

I think some of it has to do with pure, unadulterated ignorance. Most Americans simply don't understand our relationship with Japan, its relationship with us, and what has kept our nations on more or less the same path for the past decade. Most Americans, truth be told, probably can't even find Japan on a map, and tend to think of it only in terms of what it makes for us--Sony, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and so forth. They don't realize that we more or less wrote the constitution that governs Japan today, or that we have much of a role there beyond basing our troops on its soil. They never consider why our troops are there, or why after all these years Japan still wants them there. Most Americans just never think of Japan as a country at all.

But of the Americans that do think of Japan beyond Honda, most seem to divide into two groups. One group sees Japan as an economic rival, a latter day yellow menace that wants nothing more than to buy up all of our industry and real estate. To the extent that close allies compete economically, it's true that since the 1970s Japan has become a vigorous competitor for us. Japan's economy is second only to our own in vitality in spite of its decade-long recession. Though it is roughly the size of California, Japan has the industrial output to outclass most of Europe combined. But it owes much of its economic strength to American protection, and American advice. Our troops have remained there since the end of the occupation for three very good reasons: China, Russia, and North Korea. A fourth was the possibility that Japan could on its own have slid into Communism in the post-war era. But suffice it to say that our presence there has done much good over the years, and the vast majority of Japanese sense this. Some will even tell you if you ask them. But even if Japan is an economic rival to us, it is mostly on the losing end. While Sony may own Columbia Pictures and lots of other industry here, Wal-Mart has become the 800-pound gorilla of Japanese retail, having bought up Seiyu, Japan's largest department store chain. Think Safeway and Wal-Mart stores combined in a multi-floor mini-mall, in nearly every town in Japan--that's Seiyu, now a subsidiary of Wal-Mart Inc. Not far from Haneda airport in Tokyo sits one of the largest warehouses in Japan. It's a Sam's Club depot the size of a small town. We own far more of Japan than Japan owns of us. We meet in Hawaii where we split the difference--we run the place according to our laws, while Japan owns most of it.

The second group that thinks of Japan is largely, like me, Japanophilic. I've lived there, and I like the place. I like the people. I like the culture and the food, and even the idiotic game shows. I like the anime. Ghibli Studios makes movies that Disney can't touch for beauty, quality and storytelling. I don't like some things about it--the ubiquitous porn and the utter lack of parking spaces come to mind--but in general I like Japan. I have family there, which probably influences my thinking too. But most Japanophiles tend not to see the US-Japan alliance. We just see the trinkets.

But the US-Japan alliance is important, and it is growing, though not without some cost to its present leaders. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, best known for his wild pompadour and his flambouyant manner, has come under fire for sending Japanese troops to Iraq. They won't get into any combat intentionally, but may have to engage the nativist/Islamist guerillas at some point, and will probably have to return fire. They may take casualties, a post-war taboo.

Koizumi's critics want him to step down as PM, arguing that in dispatching troops to Iraq he is violating Japan's pacifist constitution, even though he isn't. The Japanese public remains deeply ambivalent about its Iraq deployment, but still gave Koizumi's government a strong electoral victory last year. His party, the Liberal Democrats, remain the dominant party throughout the country. But a serious loss of blood could change that quickly. Koizumi is taking a considerable risk to stand with us, because he and his cabinet believe it is the right thing to do. It's just what allies do--they stand with each other, and watch one another's back.

Many, many on the left grouse that America is now without allies, thanks to Bush administration hamhandedness. Josh Marshall hits that theme every week or so, and the press laps up that sort of talk from the Democrats running for president. The fact that it doesn't square with reality doesn't seem to bother them. They can by willfull omission pretend that we don't have more than 30 countries in our coalition, or that we don't have a major naval alliance working quite multilaterally to cage up Kim Jong-Il, or that Japan is an integral part of it all.

We have allies, strong ones that understand our reasons for war and support us. We have former allies who opposed the war for various reasons, but to the left it's the former allies that should get our attention while our current allies--allies actually risking blood and treasure to stand with us in Iraq--get sneers. Why should we care what France thinks, when it did everything it could to oppose us, and when an even stronger ally thinks we did the right thing? Why should we care what Germany or bankrupt Russia think, when the UK, Japan and Australia, not to mention South Korea and nearly three dozen other states are with us--and they are not stagnant states wallowing in some glorious but mythical past? Why should we put ungrateful European former allies ahead of current and consistent grateful Asian allies?

Is the left guilty of ignorance? It's not hard to make the case that it is, about a whole lot of things. Is the left guilty of racial bias, preferring the Europeans to the Asians based solely on some sort of perceived kinship? Is the left operating on a "fight the yellow menace" paradigm? I'm finding it harder and harder to believe otherwise.

Why else would MoDo and her ilk go out of their way to sneer at an ally that has a larger and more capable military than most of Europe could muster together? Why would she call the Land of the Rising Sun a "poodle" or a "lackey?" I'd put that poodle up against most of the rest of the world, any day of the week. Our friends in Tokyo deserve better treatment than our left seems capable of giving them.

(hat tip to USS Clueless, who got me to thinking about some of this stuff)

MORE: And our Japanese allies may turn out to be the salve for Arabia's self-inflicted wounds. Having Japanese contact with Arabs could be very useful to the one power that defeated the former in the past and is more or less fighting the latter in the present.

Posted by B. Preston at 05:43 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 21, 2004


I hadn't seen this before, but maybe you have.

Go to Google's home page, and type "french military victories" into the search window.

Hit "I'm feeling lucky."

Posted by B. Preston at 05:41 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


That's former senator Alan Simpson, reviewing Howard Dean's meltdown? rant? on Monday night in Iowa.

It's a little to early to tell, but it sure looks like Dean's Smackdown impersonation is going to cost him:

You know your speech bombed when:

• Only hours after you deliver it a late-night comedian plays it for his guffawing audience and then declares you a “crazy man.”

• The next morning, it not only gets worked over by the cable news pundits, but audio clips of it also circulate in e-mails for yuks.

• The mere mention of it to political insiders starts hoots of derision.

Read the whole thing (though free registration is required). It's good for a laugh...


Posted by B. Preston at 12:57 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 20, 2004


I suppose I'll be happy if Bush doesn't morph into a liberal Democrat in front of our eyes. Given his spending habits the past couple of years, that's not a far-fetched fear.

And yeah, I guess I'm still blogging. Can't think of anything better to do.

ABOUT THE SPEECH: Eh, I liked it for the most part. The Iraq section was brilliant, appropriately combative toward the fence-sitters and weenie-wonks. I liked the Patriot Act move, the way he let the Dems react inappropriately and then cut them off with the "terrorism won't expire" bit. He pulled that move a couple of times; I think the other was on the tax cuts. It was a nice way to draw out a distinction between himself and the moonbats on the left.

I didn't like the micropolitics stuff, but that's just a reality of the times we live in. Any president has to send some sort of "I care" message to the squishy middle, and he did that. Fine. Whatever. It won't gain my vote, but it won't cost him my vote either.

I liked the marriage section. Sulli is fisking it this morning, but Sulli's not much of a fisker and his points fall flat. I could probably score better lines fisking Sulli's lame fisk, but why bother?

He backed away from his amnesty-by-another-name proposal. Good. He didn't kill it though, so there's still work to do for those of us who actually think the nation's borders have a purpose.

In general, not bad. It felt like the moment--after a war but in the middle of continuing threats that must be met, and gearing up for a vital campaign. He looked like he's ready to fight for his job, and knows which buttons to push to get the Dems to hang themselves. He's going to be fun to watch this fall.

THE DEMS: I didn't watch the Democrat response, but after reading a few reactions to it I wish I had. The Dems put Nancy Pelosi and Tom Daschle up after Bush? They must've drawn the short straws. "Sheets" Byrd must have been busy sewing himself a new satin hood. Ted Kennedy must have been sleeping off a dozen martinis. Hopefully somebody woke him up and called a cab for him after the speech.

Even though I didn't watch it, I can pretty much tell what was said and how it came off. Pelosi had that perpetual death-mask look that never moves. Daschle looked disappointed. Neither one made much sense, and told lies about how the war starved this or that program that actually grew a bazillion percent under Bush. They're both second-rate actors in this whole thing anyway.

But here's a thought--if you could somehow combine Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry, you might get something approximating a normal face. Kerry would lose the melting sleestak look, and Pelosi's skin might not look tighter than a snare drum head. Anyway.

SO AS I WAS SAYING: All in all, not a bad night for the President. He delivered the mostly ho-hum speech pretty well, but like Clinton, Bush is lucky in the quality of his enemies. With the exception of Joe Lieberman, whoever winds up with the Dem nomination is going to be a target-rich opponent for Bush, and Lieberman would just bore everyone to death. Bush looks likely to win in the fall, though the Dean collapse probably means we're looking at another fairly close election. But I'd be surprised if Bush gets less than 53% of the popular vote this time around.

Posted by B. Preston at 08:38 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack


He who lives by the Internet, dies by the Internet.

Posted by B. Preston at 05:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Congratulations to the Democrats, who seem to have gotten themselves a strong cup of black coffee, looked at their scary disheveled selves in the mirror and sobered up a bit. Out goes the weirdo you've all been smoking crack with for the past year, and in comes a couple of voices resembling sanity. You've just had an intervention, and come through it okay (so far).

Good for you guys. Really. I mean it. Even if Kerry or Edwards were to go on to win the whole thing, this country would be better off than if Dean came out of the gates tonight under the impression that unbridled anger aimed at the President (but not at the terrorists he's attempting to stop) is the way to win. A Dean run as the Dem standard bearer is not good for the country, imho. Yeah, I'd like to see Bush trounce him, but I don't like the looks of the other side of that cliff--a country so bitterly divided that we cannot face off with the barbarians at our gates. We'd be Rome, after the death of Marcus Aurelius. The Dems who bested Dean tonight in Iowa at least take the terrorist threat seriously, even if they seem to waffle around a bit on what to actually do about it.

But watch your backs, Dems. Dean's mad as heck now. Did you see his reaction to losing? The Spitzer Space Telescope detected the infrared radiation coming off his forehead from its position five million miles from earth. The guy is not happy with his fellow Dems, and I for one don't expect a demagogue like him to go down without a fight. He may just try and take the party down with him, or if he doesn't get his way, he'll take his precious organization and split off George Wallace style. So watch out. Your hard left is angry, and tonight they're angry with you guys for rejecting their guy.

UPDATE: Yikes!

Posted by B. Preston at 12:04 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 18, 2004


We interrupt this career crisis to note the humiliating defeat of the Philadelphia Eagles at home, 14-3, to the surprising Carolina Panthers.


Eagles fans: We'll see you in Dallas next year. One more NFC Championship loss in a row for you guys, and you're the Buffalo Bills of the new millenium.

Posted by B. Preston at 10:13 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack